THE SEVEN AGES OF HARRISON FORD

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

-William Shakespeare

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Hello and welcome to the second edition of The Seven Ages of.

A few things to keep in mind, inspired by Shakespeare’s words I am endeavouring to relate the trajectory of a career and lifetime of an artist through these seven ages. Whether it is where the actor was in their career and where the character was in their life will be the criteria.

Effectively for the purposes of these posts the Seven Ages will refer to these criteria.

  1. Infant – This could be an early role of little note when the actor just got their foot in the door or their first starring role.
  2. Schoolboy – Yearning for freedom and adventure but still reliant on the protection of their elders. Perhaps where the actor shows raw talent or does a terrible film or still works under a more esteemed mentor. If not fresh faced and young then still a relatively new quantity to the audience.
  3. Lover- I think Shakespeare intended this age to reflect lust, hot air and a lack of awareness that comes with youth. For the sake of this I might consider that or just put it down to their most romantic role.
  4. The Soldier – Essentially the age while still relatively young somebody decides on their code and goes out into the world to conquer it and being highly competitive to do it too. For an actor this maybe the moment where they truly define a persona for themselves that will stick. If they’re already a star it might be where they re-invent themselves and perhaps not without controversy.
  5. The Justice – maybe the height of someone’s stardom where they’re aged but established. Powerful even if coasting on their achievements from when they were the age of the soldier. Reflection comes to them too now and with it wisdom.
  6. Pantalone – Now the inevitable decline begins. Still in the world but it is passing them by. For a star who is smart this will often see them partnered with a new up and comer or Lover or Schoolboy if you will.
  7. Old Age – For most actors this may be a pitiful last appearance which only embarrasses old memories or it may be a performance of a character at this stage of life. At death’s door what will be their parting wisdom, their learned lesson?

This hopefully will be an ongoing series and I fully intend to do Gene Hackman (as soon as I see Night Moves and I Never Sang for My Father, c’mon Netflix Australia!), stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood like Stewart, Gable, Davis, Bogie, Hepburn, Tracey, and actresses who often struggle to find relevant work post 40. It is proving difficult to track down all classic films of bygone eras even from my community’s libraries so some will have to wait. Baby boomers are proving easier but the scope will hopefully expand to a Jack Lemmon or a Deborah Kerr in time. Harrison Ford is chosen this month because I’ve seen most of his films. When I was a teenager Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford were my two favourite movie stars and their movies informed me on the standard of being a man onscreen even if I rarely set the ambition of living up to it. The hope is I pick the film that represents the age and not a personal favourite but take a look and see if you have to keep me honest. If you think other ones will be a better pick for an age feel free to chime in. Do you have a landmark role for each decade Harrison Ford has been on the big screen? Let’s dig in.

SPOILER ALERT – There will be spoilers in this post!!!!!!

Image result for harrison ford AMERICAN GRAFFITI

1. Infant – American Graffiti (1973)

Harrison Ford first film appearance was as a bellhop in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round in 1966. That could be arguably be the infant age but if we’re talking about the first film where he made an impact it was American Graffiti. A teen film, the perpetually always younger looking Ford played a drag racer at the age of 31. He only has two scenes, talking smack with racer John Milner (Paul Le Mat) and then actually racing. He serves as an antagonist to be defeated but Ford already adds layers. He seems all business with a female passenger at the start of the race but is that because he’s hiding fear that he’s about to lose or something else? Either way it’s that shit eating grin and good looking face under that cowboy hat in his first scene that made the impression and what an impression it was. For a more matured and nuanced performance you can’t go past his role in The Conversation a year later. Effectively a well-dressed polite heavy, Ford decided he would make the character gay and at no point does he telegraph it because the script does not require it. It was an early example of Ford being his own man and adding layers to a performance so that nothing was lazy or by the numbers. Still I think Bob Falfa got everybody’s attention before Martin Stett.

Runner Ups: Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, The Conversation.

Image result for harrison ford STAR WARS

2. Schoolboy – Star Wars (1977)

The Conversation could fit here as an actor starting to get good work but still learning a lot from a talented director in the form of Francis Ford Coppola. As a man his career didn’t take off until he was nearing middle age and as an actor he has always shown an independence of thought and maturity in his choices. Yet if there is one final moment where Ford was not yet a movie star and still naturally brought the charisma of such a being it is in his first go around as Han Solo. Every little boy wanted to be Luke Skywalker, then they grew up and they wanted to be Han Solo. George Lucas with script polishes from Gloria Katz and Wilard Huyck can take some credit but it is Ford who made Solo the rogue so lovable. Effortlessly cool slouched in a seat at gunpoint, slyly grinning as boys act tough and Princesses remain uninterested. Those who think Ford can’t act should compare Solo to Jack Ryan and think again. Ford apparently doesn’t like to watch his old acting performances – with Solo he’s got no idea what he’s missing out on.

Runner Ups: Heroes, Force 10 from Navarone, Apocalypse Now, Raiders of the Lost Art, Blade Runner

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3. Lover – Presumed Innocent (1990)

Cheating once again with the rules of the seven ages, instead of covering a character full of hot air and enthusiasm or a part of an actor’s career where he resembles this we’re going to refer to the sexiest role Ford ever did. There’s a few to choose from, World War II love story Hanover Street, his great chemistry with Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark, his born again husband in Regarding Henry, his cuckolded cop in Random Hearts getting it on with Kristen Scott Thomas, his socially awkward Linus swept off his feet from Julia Ormond’s Sabrina. His most successful romantic comedy remains the 80s yuppie career film Working Girl with Melanie Griffith. Wasn’t even sci-fi Blade Runner at heart all about love and what one can truly feel explored in some part by Ford and Sean Penn? Yet they all pale next to Kelly McGillis and Ford’s stare downs in Witness. Scenes that were made for the term “tension you can cut with a knife” but Witness is to feature somewhere else so that leaves Presumed Innocent. This is not a romantic role, Ford plays a husband who cheats on his wife with a power hungry woman but lawyer Rusty Sabich is haunted by his former colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi in fine form) in the way only a lover can be. Drawn into investigating her murder and then potentially seen as guilty of it the one thing that is never in doubt is that Ford is obsessed with her. In one scene his wife is seen off-screen asking why she matters so much and Ford breaks down in tears. It may not be love but it is certainly the passion of a lover and it remains one of Ford’s most unique and brilliant performances.

Runner Ups: Blade Runner, Random Hearts, Sabrina, Regarding Henry, Six Day, Seven Nights, Working Girl, Hanover Street.

Image result for harrison ford WITNESS

4. Soldier – Witness (1985)

The 1980s is a rich era for Harrison Ford, it begins with the greatest sequel of all time in The Empire Strikes Back, Ford’s first turn as a cop in Blade Runner, gives us the classic Indiana Jones trilogy, his tortured performance in The Mosquito Coast, Frantic hints at the Ryan persona of the 1990s with a middle aged doctor caught up in a thriller but dares to show Ford get beat up and pretend to be naked with girls half his age (Jack Ryan thrillers wouldn’t dare). These are real characters each with their own tics and foibles, they play like something more authentic and complicated than the mainstream hits from the 90s. Smack bang in the middle of the decade though is the closest thing to a prototype of the 90s star persona of them all in Detective John Book with important distinctions. Ryan is a family man, Kimble a widow, Book is a bachelor and hard edged cop where the others are historians and doctors. Book is dangerous in a way the others aren’t, he’s not a good man driven to violence, he’s a violent man driven to goodness. Which makes it all the more powerful when he is reluctant to fight, or tenderly sits with a boy or he shrinks from the gaze of a topless woman he is falling for hard. The only time Harrison Ford was ever nominated for an Academy Award it remains arguably his greatest performance. Solo and Indy endure, Blade Runner is so much richer because of his Deckard and Presumed Innocent and Working Girl were the successful changes of pace but Witness’s John Book is the Harrison Ford performance to see. John Book fits as a soldier personality too but more importantly this is essentially where Ford in his career established his reputation, proved he didn’t need to do genre work for the rest of his career and created the blueprint for what he would ultimately make a lot of money doing in the 1990s.

Runner Ups: Blade Runner, Frantic, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Fugitive, Presumed Innocent, Patriot Games

5. The Justice – Clear and Present Danger (1994)

There is a wealth of choices for this age from Harrison Ford, the age of the justice was the age that Ford played best and he became in a way the Jimmy Stewart for a new generation. After Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the 80s, Ford gave us the American hero for the 90s. Smart, urban if not urbane and a family man – just don’t fuckin attack him or his country. As a cop in The Devil’s Own he came face to face with Brad Pitt as a terrorist even if the film didn’t play it so cut and dry. Playing the President in Die Hard on Air Force One in… Air Force One almost seems inevitable in retrospect but Ford showed his boredom even before the decade closed pursuing a romcom in Six Days, Seven Nights with Anne Heche. Hey I liked it. With dwindling box office he returned to this type of film in Firewall (2006) but sadly that film was not as good as the 90s output. The Fugitive was the biggest hit and a damn fine film but Dr Jack Ryan has it over Dr Richard Kimble. In Patriot Games, Ford has his best moments when he sees his wife Cathy Ryan (Anne Archer) and child Sally (Thora Birch) in the hospital. His line delivery of the word spleen will cause any parent to tear up. His famous finger point is greatly satisfying in the next scene but Clear and Present Danger puts Ryan in a better film and features an equally good performance. Jack Ryan plays many notes here, a middle aged man fearing the death of his father figure (James Earl Jones as Admiral Greer), an analyst out of his depth in the field, and an arc that takes him from nervously advising his President to telling him where to go. For the kids who don’t know Ford was the master of awkward fight scenes, his facial expressions always moving from fear to rage with every punch and he would physically throw his body around. They’re not streamlined like a martial arts fight but they’re spectacular in a regular guy kind of way and probably owe a great deal to Ford doing a lot of work himself. You feel the fights. Conflicting reports range about how involved he was in his stunts but he sure seems to be close to some pyrotechnics in the lauded ambush scene of Clear and Present Danger.

Runner Ups: Patriot Games, The Fugitive, The Devil’s Own, Sabrina, Air Force One, Six Days, Seven Nights, What Lies BeneathK-19: The Widowmaker, Presumed Innocent, Regarding Henry, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Frantic.

Image result for HARRISON FORD MORNING GLORY

6. The Pantalone – Morning Glory (2010)

Ford came to stardom later in life and he was still box office king in his mid-fifties but sooner or later you’ve got to slide into supporting roles and pair yourself up with a younger kid. Ford proved game but as the 21st century dragged on the films he made just weren’t that good or just weren’t successful. After pulling out the old fedora again in 2008 he followed up with two films, the 2009 ensemble piece Crossing Over and the 2010 comedy Morning Glory hoping to capitalise on that momentum. Neither hit gold but he has enjoyed more success with the interesting premise of Ender’s Game and mentoring Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) in 42, both in 2013. Morning Glory was made by some of the same team that only a couple of years earlier had major success with The Devil Wears Prada the film belongs to Rachel McAdams who here didn’t play a love interest but an actual career woman. As a TV producer Becky Fuller she hires Ford’s revered but benched anchor-man Mike Pomeroy. The film belongs to Becky who does have a boyfriend played by Patrick Wilson and interacts with a cast of individuals at their morning program Daybreak. The heart of the film though is her relationship with Pomeroy. The elder newsman doesn’t want to do morning television but is running out of options and coming to terms that after a lifetime of putting career first over family he now has neither. Ford plays proud, stubborn, hurt, funny and most importantly capable of supplying a bran doughnut or perhaps even a frittata for someone special. For years Harrison Ford struggled to get a great role for this age – in 2010 he got one and you should see it.

Runner Ups: Hollywood Homicide, Cowboys & Aliens, Ender’s Game, 42, The Devil’s Own.

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7. Old Age – The Force Awakens (2015)

I watched The Age of Adaline recently to see if it was Ford’s best work in years as some have said……. I think I’ll leave it there. Ford may not have a great performance for this age just yet. There’s time, we’ve got Blade Runner 2049 coming out later this year which is bound to deal with mortality and then most likely a final Indiana Jones performance. For now though it is Ford returning to a galaxy far, far away from a long time ago in The Force Awakens. It is not great acting; Han Solo has no big lessons to pass on in this story. What Ford does though is show that old men can still be young at heart, that Solo didn’t really grow up but he did become wiser. He passes on some advice to both Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) about life and in the third act he does exactly what Han Solo did all those years before near Yavin IV and the first Death Star. He goes into the danger to rescue someone, to do the right thing and that is why we always loved the scoundrel smuggler. When he confronts his son his last act is to show that he still does and always will love him. Maybe he does have one big lesson left to impart.

Runner Ups: The Age of Adaline, The Expendables 3, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Well that’s the list; can you believe Indiana Jones isn’t in there? It’s arguably the greatest role he ever played! What’s going on?! Where’s Deckard?! Well let’s discuss and feel free to put forward your own picks in the comments below.

-Lloyd Marken

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JURASSIC WORLD: A CROWD PLEASER THAT LIVES UP TO THE TITLE

Jurassic World either thinks it’s a lot more cleverer than it is or is actually a lot more clever then we give it credit for. It’s usually a fine line between the two. Regardless Jurassic World essentially remakes Jurassic Park lacking the Spielbergian touch and iconic tension building scenes he gave us. There are no shaking glasses of water or torches flashing the eyes of a monster as it looks directly at you. The closest we come is raptors running alongside a hero on a motorcycle. Like all sequels World goes bigger not better but it also playfully acknowledges dare we say criticises these conventions. The every man scientist replaced here by a Navy hero, the corporate career woman takes centre stage in the finale not a side plot, the hubris of the CEO here leads to an action scene not a quiet moment of regret and the signature monster of the piece is both the cause of so much carnage and also a reflection of our own unhealthy desires for corporate excess and new unnecessary products, the kids are not just smart and cute but kinda hurting due to their parents divorcing, the treacherous human here is neither the instigator of the crisis nor in it purely for profit but he is far more evil as well. There is also restraint displayed in the use of the dinosaurs with a handful of species gradually coming into the narrative for their respective scenes, only the popular raptors and chief monster star throughout. That last minute reveal made me break out in a grin. The plot might be uninspired but the riffs on the original formula are and create some good will towards the film. What can I say? I liked it and so did the world. The film currently holds various opening weekend records and is the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. The Force Awakens might give it a run for the money but the film’s comparative success would suggest it’s time to tap into 90s nostalgia far more so than 70s or 80s nostalgia themed vehicles. . Alas nobody told Adam Sandler and Arnold Schwarznegger.

As the trailers intoned The Park has opened twenty years after the disastrous events of Jurassic Park. In fact it’s been running for some time without incident but wouldn’t you know it-all hell is about to break loose. Claire Mitchell is the operations manager of the park with her two nephews Zack and Gray being dispatched there for a holiday under her care while their parents’ divorce. I’ll allow that they probably correctly predict emotions will boil over from the negotiations in the law offices and wanted to spare their kids while giving them a distraction before the hammer falls. Not my idea of how to play it but I’ve never experienced the trauma of divorce first hand so as plans go maybe it’s a good idea. The park, the only of its kind in the world, is seeing dwindling interest in the phenomenal and unique novelty of dinosaurs existing in the modern world!!!!!!! So they genetically engineer a monster dinosaur called Indominus Rex or I-Rex for short (that can’t be coincidence and kudos to the writers) made out of all of the demands of focus groups who want a bigger meaner deadlier dinosaur for the sequel-I mean park. Thankfully Burt Macklin, FBI himself is on the island training raptors and looking positively bad-ass with a leather vest, rolled up sleeves and a motor bike. I won’t spoil the break-out but you know one is coming. The film thankfully sets things up in a call back to old school blockbuster by leaving the first act relatively action free. We get introduced to the characters and their relationships to each other. Then we get a sense of the scope of the park and then we are suitably unnerved by the new monster that immediately seems like a bad idea. Once all those things are ticked off the film lets the proverbial hit the fan.  If there is one criticism I can’t shake it’s the lack of an immediate lock down the second a dinosaur is on the loose but distance from the break out and the main park gives the powers that be confidence they can recover the creature with minimal PR damage. I guess. Look if your business relies on patronage and you’re sitting in a control room with dozens of employees who are aware of your decisions in a crisis I’d be putting the customer’s safety first but maybe that’s just me. Maybe even a 10 second phone call to the nephews to make sure they’re secured even if you don’t care much about the general populace no?! Yes I know that would kill the plot but I don’t like dumb decisions from characters I’m supposed to being rooting for. By the way, notice how cool Chris Pratt looks when he sensibly says “Evacuate the island.”

Jurassic Park 22 years ago starred a relative unknown handsome Sam Neil as Dr. Alan Grant making palaeontologists sexy but whose occupation immediately positioned the lead as an everyman albeit one whom had knowledge and enough wherewithal to get through a crisis. By contrast Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady is a man of action whom is both emotionally adolescent around his fellow humans and stoically in tune with the true nature of animals. He hasn’t been studying dinosaurs for years; he’s been training them like a lion tamer for a little while after leaving the Navy. The focus on work over family and the awakening of paternal instincts of Grant are now saddled with the female lead which may seem stunningly retro until you consider that nobody would cry boo if that arc was handed to a male character. Maybe we all just need to chill.

Bryce Dallas Howard is arguably the main character of the film as Claire. She’s basically running the park and is a successful career woman mostly office bound having to liaise with clients and potential sponsors. It’s not impossible to imagine she would wear heels or find herself still wearing them outfield (albeit I know plenty of career women who always have a pair of joggers under their desk but I digress) but it has certainly been the source of much mocking over this American summer. I’ve run in heels (hey I was a drama student once upon a time) and it is not easy but not impossible as clearly displayed here by Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory. Howard is great in the role, her first real go at a blockbuster since her M. Night Shymalan films really and clunky dialogue aside she grounds the film well. We’re not really given much reason on the surface to like her at first. She’s ignoring her nephews (although I’d say she selflessly took them on for her distant sister who clearly doesn’t understand how busy her job is) and prattling on about sales and assets and not liking Chris Pratt who is sooooo cool but if you stop and think about it for a second long before her closing kick ass moment she’s the most sensible and consistent character in the film. She’s a professional doing her job, she is trying to spend time with her nephews despite clearly big things happening in her workday and she sets out to find them when it becomes obvious the situation is dire. I found the heaving bosom in the pink singlet top distracting but the girl has to breathe and when you fall you might go down on your hips and push up with your arms. If that means you look like you’re striking a swimsuit calendar pose then maybe some people just have a wild imagination. Nobody would complain if Chris Pratt had pulled off his shirt sleeves to dress a wound and showed off the Hammer Brothers but sadly it’s only Claire Mitchell who sheds clothes to transform from buttoned up corporate busy body to Aunty Bear Bad-Ass. Maybe that’s because it’s well established that Chris Pratt is so much more in tune with nature and basic biological instincts that Claire has repressed for too long or so the movie would have you believe. In 2015 maybe we should be more celebratory about a female character that is successful professionally and doesn’t have to be defined by how she relates to children but one female character in one blockbuster doesn’t have to answer every aspiration for her whole gender. We’re all unique and complicated individuals and the move for equality will survive a female character that in the end prioritises family over career especially if she gets to save everyone.

The two kids who the primary audience will identify with are probably not as great as Lex and Tim Hammond from the original film but they feel more modern in a way. Tim and Lex were hanging out at Grandpa’s work, suitably terrified by the turn of events but remarkably capable too. By comparison Gray Mitchell is still wonderfully enthusiastic about his holiday but far more emotional about the reality of his parent’s divorce. Zack Mitchell his older brother like all teenagers coats his pain with outward indifference and frustrated hormones. Leaving a smitten girlfriend behind at home he stares at the smorgasbord of members of the opposite sex on holiday in the park. What a dick you might judge. Except why would a kid value a relationship when his parents are about to throw in the towel on theirs. Plus as the story moves on his real affection for his little brother comes to the fore. Like most older brothers. These kids are hurting with something far more terrifying than a raptor and as the divorce rate stands at 40-50% in the U.S. there are certainly a lot of kids in this film who are going to find it relatable.

Irrfan Khan played by Simon Masrani is both a cheerful and likeable CEO if not a maker of smart decisions and Vincent D’Onofrio is suitably slimy as Vic Hoskins -head of security. A smile breaking out across his face halfway through the film seals his fate and when it comes it is wonderfully satisfying. Vince you can play scumbags any time you want buddy but I do like you as heroes, maniacs and lead villains too. The cast is filled out by very talented actors who mostly get at least one moment to shine but these are the main hitters.

One of the smartest decisions I think the filmmaking team have made here is the characterization of the dinosaurs themselves. The I-Rex keeps pulling out a new surprising capability long after somebody-anybody should have thrown Dr Henry Wu up against the wall and made him spill everything but as monsters go he looms large as a threat for the whole film through several encounters and that is pretty impressive.  The Raptors being given names if not personalities (except you Blue, you’re my boy Blue) and getting to be used for good is also a nice development. The film boasts likeable humans thank God but nobody forgot that some good dinosaur on dinosaur action holds massive appeal.

But I’ve dissected the film like an adult looking for double meanings and narrative originality. This is a big kid’s film and after watching an interview with director Colin Trevorrow claiming he directed the whole film as if from a child’s sensibility-immediately the film shot up in my estimates. The repetition of the words Animals and Assets that Honest Trailers picked up, the bickering between the female and male lead at the beginning, the stolen kiss later on, the set pieces, the inexplicable lazy fat security guard for the I-Rex’s enclosure, the overtly long staring at girls from Zack and pretty much every characterisation is informed by this viewpoint and all for the better. In particular the seriousness and lack of silliness in the scenes referencing the divorce become more poignant too. In the American summer of blockbusters this year Jurassic World made more money than Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. In my humble opinion those four films are better films and better blockbusters but Jurassic World I suspect made more money for a very good reason. Maybe Jurassic World doesn’t think it’s smarter than it is. Maybe I do. Go see it, only a fool wouldn’t enjoy it.

-Lloyd Marken