Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Unsung Hero Blogathon: Ed Harris in Sweet Dreams

By Sati. Thursday, March 9, 2017
...because when I suddenly find a blogathon that I can still participate in and it gives me an opportunity to write an unscheduled post about Ed Harris (you know, other than usual Friday praying to him while perving verbally posts) I'll do it.

KG's movie rants blog, which I just found via Dell has this blogathon going on and here are the rules:

1a. Create a blog post about an actor’s individual performance that you feel deserved an Academy Award OR…
1b. Create a blog post about an actor’s body of work that you feel qualifies them for an Academy Award
2. Comment below with what actor/actor’s body of work you’ve decided on.
3. In your post link back to this one.
4. Use one of the banners that I’ve created or one that you’ve made on your own. If you decide to make your own just include the pertinent information (my blog title, the name of the blogathon and the dates).
5. Publish your post anytime from Monday, the 6th of March to Friday the 10th of March 2017.
6. After posting your thoughts on who The Academy robbed, come back to this post and comment below with the link to your post.
7. To make this a truly Unsung Hero blogathon please only choose actors who have never received an Academy Award in the Acting category. For example, Matt Damon has an Oscar for screenwriting but he’s never won an Oscar for acting so he’s alright; while Leonardo DiCaprio was for a long time Hollywood’s Unsung Hero, he now has an Oscar so he no longer qualifies as an Unsung Hero.

Ed Harris has 4 Academy Award acting nominations so far in his 39 years long film career. That is a laughably small number of nominations and don't even get me started on the fact he has no Oscars. His nominations were for Apollo 13 in 1996 (lost to Kevin Spacey in Usual Suspects), Truman Show in 1999 (lost to James Coburn in Affliction), Pollock in 2000 (lost to Russell Crowe in Gladiator) and The Hours in 2003 (lost to Chris Cooper in Adaptation).

I'm not gonna sit here and talk about how he should have won with these people (cannot speak of Coburn because I haven't seen this movie) because there are bigger crimes the Academy committed here. Those performances were at least nominated. Ed Harris has not been nominated for an Academy Award for FOURTEEN YEARS now. And they had, during that time, omitted two of his incredible performances - in Gone Baby Gone and The Way Back. Hell, if William Hurt was nominated for History of Violence, how the hell Harris wasn't?!

But what is worse here is that, for me, they haven't even nominate the best performance he gave.


I'm already doing 1b of this blogathon's rules on my own as I am planning to write about all of Ed Harris' performances since 1978 and that will be 4 posts. With every week I'm getting closer and closer to having seen all of his films (the first post should be up in March). BUT even though I have about 20 movies of his left to watch and he continues to blow my mind in most of the new to me ones I see (I saw Paris Trout this week and just....wow) there is one performance among all of his brilliant performances that I can confidently call the best one. And that is his work as Charlie Dick in 1985 film Sweet Dreams.


Academy members have seen this movie - Jessica Lange was Oscar nominated for her role of Patsy Cline. So there is no excuse for not nominating Harris.

While Lange was great and there were times when they go head to head in terms of the quality of a performance, Harris just kills in so many scenes. The film follows Patsy's career as a singer but in equally large part it shows her turbulent marriage to Charlie. Harris gets to do so many things here - and most impressively he blends the two qualities he pulls off effortlessly - charming and intense. There are so many performances he gave where he only has the opportunity to be either/or with these things, and so many where he only fleetingly gets to mix one with the other, but here they are balanced out. His Charlie goes from villain to a victim, from intimidating to vulnerable from scene to scene and the entire movie you know you should condemn him, but you just can't.


The film begins when Charlie sees Patsy for the very first time and falls in love with her and we see a series of scenes where they are so in love and so happy. But there is darkness in this man - when Patsy is pregnant the first major argument breaks out and she slaps him. He slaps her back. She does so too. And then he hits her so hard she falls on the floor. Immediately there is such remorse on his face, but it's too late. You can't turn back time.


They are a typical toxic marriage - hurting each other but being like magnets, unable to separate. The film throws at us many scenes of abuse contrasted with moments so sweet that if any lesser actor played that part we would say no man can be this extreme and go from someone so low they would hit a pregnant woman to someone who literally cannot bear a thought of a world without her. There is a moment, when after her car accident Patsy is in the hospital and her mother walks into the room in their house and finds Charlie on the floor, sitting like a child with his face close to record player, listening to his wife's voice while she is singing.


The film reveals, near the end, the source of Charlie's demons in that when he was a small child he witnessed his father's suicide. It's such an incredible moment where the camera focuses just on Harris' face as he hauntingly reveals his story to fellow prisoner. He is at the same time seemingly detached but also in so much pain. The strong surface hiding anger, frustration and inability to change and stop hurting those he loves. And we saw that frustration and that pain hiding in plain sight, him revealing his character's suffering ever so subtly so many times during his incredible career, like in the scene where he is about to start his epic rant inn Glengarry Glen Ross or the many short and subtle moments in his two show stealing scenes in The Hours. But we never saw it like this. I don't think anyone out there does this better than he can.


(Incidentally when he was snubbed in 1985, Ed's wife Amy was nominated so at least he attended the ceremony)

It just always amuses me, the Oscars. You look back at those things happening like performances like this one not being nominated or the one I always cite as the most incomprehensible thing the Academy has done - awarding Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive over Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List and it's just so outlandish. That every year, we as the movie goers, fans, bloggers KNOW exactly how many incredible people are robbed - in case of Harris for decades - yet for some reason Oscars still hold significance. I'm not sure if my admiration for this performance is even 1/000000000 as nice as the Oscar but at least now there is a whole blog post devoted to it.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, please do. You won't regret it.

17 comments:

  1. I just want to say thanks for participating in my blogathon. I coincidentally just finished watching a film with Ed Harris - A Beautiful Mind. It's one of those films were he's only allowed to be intense. I think he certainly deserves more praise than he receives. He has a great natural instinct to his acting which I love. I haven't seen Sweet Dreams but I'll definitely put it on my list of movies to see. Thanks again for joining in the fun with this passionate post.

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    1. Thanks so much for hosting it! I loved his work in Beautiful Mind - it wasn't incredibly written part but Howard made a brilliant call in casting an actor so charismatic - he makes the part memorable even if he only has few scenes in the movie

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  2. I haven't seen this film so I can't speak on the performance, but now I want to see it.

    Tommy Lee Jones over Ralph Fiennes though....lawd.

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  3. I haven't seen it either and I'm afraid to say I don't recall seeing many of his films.. I mean, not as many as I should have seen by know for sure. But I will try to catch this one, just so I can come back, and agree.

    Also, I keep wondering, has Ed Harris found your blog yet... like does he Google himself? I bet 99 out of a 100 hits would bring him to your blog though. :D

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    1. Well with your no rewatch rule you should check some of his films out!

      I hope not, he could sue me so hard :D

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  4. Great post! I saw this movie so long ago I barely remember it, but I agree that this was a believable portrayal of a toxic relationship. Maybe I'll rewatch this soon.

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    1. It's definitely worth a rewatch! So glad at least someone here saw it :)

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  5. Boy I haven't even heard of this film Margaret. But I can see why you love it, look at cutie young Ed! :D

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    1. Yeah he is extremely handsome in this. And charming. It's such a contrast to what his character does in many scenes. Very layered performance and brilliant casting

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  6. Great work, I haven't seen Ed Harris ever give a bad performance, that's how good he is.

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    1. Yes! He is so good even in horrible movies

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  7. Mark me as another one who hasn't seen this one. No doubt he's awesome in it. He usually is.

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  8. Hey at least Ed has four noms! :P I think Kubrick only ever got one, for the FX on 2001. If that doesn't show the idiocy of awards then nothing will!!

    I keep missing out on these fun blogathons. You'll have to tweet me or something when you find them, cos I always like them as they are a nice break from reviews.

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  9. I'm getting the movie now too :D I've always liked Ed but have never seen him in much stuff

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  10. This is like the one Ed Harris movie I haven't seen, and I fucking own it. So lame of me. Will watch ASAP!

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