Movies of 1998 Bracket Game: The Big Lebowski Vs. Pleasantville
Well, here we are in our 1998 bracket final four! Are these the four best movies of 1998? Mehh…maybe not, but it looks like we’ve got a good chance at a championship round that will well represent how we feel about the movies of the year twenty years later. After a general review of the origins and reactions to each movie in the first round, followed by some inspection of the music involved in the second round, I’ll be covering some of the supporting performers who helped make these movies as deep and well-rounded as they are. These are the faces and voices that continue to pop up over and over again, but maybe never become full-fledged stars all on their own. As a modicum of consolation, we’ll be honoring four of them here at LeBlog over the next couple of days.
For all intents and purposes, what we have here is the championship match for the comedy portion of our 1998 bracket. At the same time, I don’t think there’s much debate that one of these movies is funnier than the other. The Big Lebowski is a goofy slacker comedy filtered through classic noir and western tropes and directed by the Coen brothers, while Pleasantville is set up with a comedic premise, but then evolves into an examination of more serious themes. But of course, we’re not here to decide based on the constraints of a given genre, simply based on our perception of the quality of what we’re seeing. Join us in taking a look at a couple of the veteran actors who show up in these two excellent films.
In yesterday’s first semi-final we had what was one of our most lopsided results in recent memory, with Out of Sight handing Disney’s Mulan a pretty humbling defeat. Our Disney readers appeared to take the day off – – or maybe most of them just like Out of Sighta lot. Next up, we find an opponent for George Clooney and company in tomorrow’s final.
It has been said at times that Sam Elliott is an actor who was born too late or that he is “the last of the cowboy actors.” His rugged visage, deep voice, and drawl have undoubtedly led to his casting in a long series of blue collar and rough neck parts, including, at times, as a cowboy. In fact, one of his first credits was as “Card Player #2” in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. For a good fifteen years following that appearance, Elliott made most of his bones on television westerns, crime dramas, and other action-oriented shows. He even had a recurring role on the fifth season of Mission: Impossible and played the lead in a television miniseries based on the novel Once An Eagle in 1976-77. It wasn’t until his supporting role alongside Cher, Eric Stoltz, and Laura Dern in the Peter Bogdanovich-directed drama Mask in 1985 that Elliott began to become widely known as a presence on the big screen. He parlayed the attention from that role into parts in flimsy movies like Fatal Beauty and Road House, but patience paid off nicely when prestige struck in the early ’90s with Rush, Tombstone alongside Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, and Gettysburg in which he got a truly substantive scene and just about knocked it out of the park. Take a look.
His credentials were now set as the go-to guy if you needed a grizzled cowboy or soldier, and the Coen brothers couldn’t have found a better choice for the role of the Stranger in The Big Lebowski if they’d actually reached into the past. The movie’s cowboy narrator lends western flair to the stylistic confusion the brothers so carefully orchestrated.
Although Joan Allen had popped up in small roles in major motion pictures like Compromising Positions, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Manhunter, she really made her big first impressions on the stage as a member of the famous Chicago theatre company Steppenwolf, joining in 1977 on invite from John Malkovich and helping to make up the core of the company along with Gary Sinise and Glenne Headley. By the end of the decade the group was drowning in awards and accolades, including a Tony Award for Best Actress in “Burn This.” Directors appear to have been lining up to cast Allen, as she in short order worked with Francis Ford Coppola, Norman Jewison, Steven Zallian, Oliver Stone, Ang Lee, and even John Woo. It seemed that overnight she became the sort of veteran actress that had always been great, and nobody blinked when she was heaped with three Academy Award nominations. A quick look back at a scene from Manhunter supports this opinion.
Unfortunately, she also was apparently given a single chance at a true lead role in The Contender in 2000 and was then relegated largely to supporting roles after that film failed to make back its budget. Over the following fifteen years her most notable roles were in films like The Notebook, two of the Bourne sequels, and The Upside of Anger. She appeared to make a bit of a comeback with an excellent supporting turn in the Oscar-nominated film Room, but her following television series The Family, received underwhelming ratings and was cancelled after just a single season. That was two years ago, and IMDb isn’t showing any coming projects for Allen, so we can only hope that we will get to see her again soon.
Allen and Elliott actually appeared together in The Contender, but this time only one of them can have the outcome they’d hope for. One of these movies is going to face Out Of Sight in the final tomorrow. Vote here and tell us about how much you like these two excellent actors in the comments section.