Tag Archives: Ethan Hawke

Seymour: An Introduction

Seymour Bernstein, master pianist and renowned music teacher, ponders the link between a person and his creative self. Director Ethan Hawke, himself a creative artist, first met Seymour at a dinner party just as he was looking for meaning in his own life and craft, and the spell was cast.

168654_origSeymour is the kind of old man you could sit and listen to all day: the reminiscences are legendary, and when they’re occasionally tinged with tiny thorns or barbs or resentment or hubris, we’re reminded of his vitality, of why we’re listening to him in the first place.

Hawke has past Bernstein protogees interviewing their formidable teacher, and the result is a thoughtful piece on craft, authenticity, artistic bravery, and the thing Bernstein seems to revile the most, commercial success (he retired from a successful career in order to dedicate his life to teaching). I’m not sure if Hawke ever gets the answer to his questions on how to achieve his life’s purpose through acting, but he does come up with a work of art in the process, and I guess that’s something.

Watching this, and wondering why Ethan Hawke would be drawn to 827402a0-83c9-47fe-b876-164ebbe83a18make it, has made me reflect on his career a bit. Who is Ethan Hawke? He attended Carnegie-Mellon University to study theatre for about ten minutes before landing his breakthrough role in Dead Poets Society.

aid this thing during the Q&A earlier that when you’re playing well – he’s talking about playing piano – you don’t feel like you’re playing; you feel like you’re being played. Somehow, it’s like you’re not breathing; you’re being breathed. And the first time I ever had that feeling was with Robin Williams. We had this scene, “I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.” And it’s etched in my brain as him standing in front of me, writing “yawp” on the chalkboard, and he said, “Todd doesn’t think he has anything of value inside him.” That scene is pretty much shot in one take. It’s cut a little bit, but Peter Weir shot it on a Steadicam spinning around us. I regal-dps-cast-jpgmember Robin hugging me after that scene was over. It’s a high I’ve been chasing the rest of my life.”

Hawke never finished his degree, but did wind up at NYU studying English before dropping out again for another part. He may not have diplomas but he did earn a Tony nomination for his work in theatre, and he published some novels, and wrote some screenplays along the way.

But mostly he’s been acting. Gattaca and Training Day are among his most-viewed, most-loved parts, but Hawke has struggled to find a place for himself outside the mainstream. “To be a contemporary movie actor, you have to kill people – that’s basically it. If you don’t cock’n’load’n’fire a Smith & Wesson at some point in your film career, you’re not going to have a film career.”

“It’s eye candy, just violence and sex. Definitely lots of sex, people making out or showing their tits, which is always fun, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I tried it – I tried doing this Angelina Jolie movie, a popcorn movie, the first movie I did that’s about nothing. And I didn’t like it, because I do ultimately feel there’s enough crap like this. It’s so much more fun and harder and more challenging to try to make something that’s entertaining but isn’t wasting your time.”

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an Ethan Hawke fan, but I am a fan of the Before trilogy – Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Before Midnight. Those are frequent collaborator Richard Ethan Hawke Julie DelpyLinklater’s babies, but Hawke (along with co-star Julie Delpy) has received writing credits on the last two, and Oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay both times. I think those movies really reflect his sensibility. They’re satisfying because they’re nuanced, because the characters are fully-formed, because the dialogue feels authentic even as it’s breaking your heart.

Hawke’s IMDB list is studded with indie efforts (we saw him in Maggie’s Plan at TIFF and will see him in Born to Be Blue at Whistler Film Festival) but there’s not much in the way of directing. “Directing? You know, I don’t know that I have the necessary skill set to be a good genre director. The movies that I want to direct are too weird. We’d just turn it into an art film somehow.” So we may not see him behind the camera too often, but we’ll always have this little 90s ditty by Lisa Loeb to console ourselves with, directed by none other than Mr. Ethan Hawke.

(That’s Ethan’s cat, by the way)

Sequels

TMP

When I was a kid, I loved Back to the Future and Home Alone and, when I first heard about sequels, I couldn’t believe my luck that there would be more of exactly the same. Home Alone 2, Back to the Future II, and Back to the Future III were predictable in the best way possible with virutally every scene from the first being pretty much recreated in some way in the sequels. As much as I loved the familiairity of sequels in those days, i’ve come to expect a little more. Here are three that aim a little higher than giving us more of the same. Please visit Wandering Through the Shelves to see what sequels some of our favourite bloggers love.

terminator 2

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)– Director james Cameron seemed to realize that Arnold Schwartzenegger, who had starred in several hits in the seven years between Terminator movies, was a tough guy to root against. As imposing a villian he was in Terminator, Arnold is just more fun as a hero in Terminator 2. With those sunglasses, that bike, that jacket and those one-liners, he brings a lot of charisma to the role of a robot. Other improvements include a tougher Sarah Connor (who Linda Hamilton is more than up to the challenge of playing), imaginative effects, and an altogether more epic approach to the story.

before sunset

Before Sunset (2004)– 1995’s Before Sunrise seems like an unlikely beginning to a franchise. It was low-budget and SO talky. I actually hated it when I first saw it. I found it to be boring and a little pretentious and it started in me a hate-on for Ethan Hawke that has lasted to this day. Nine years later, when Celine and Jesse reunite in Paris, they have matured just as the actors have and are much easier to root for. Their conversations, which seemed so trite to me in the first, are loaded with subtext in the second. They’ve spent nine year wondering what they would say to each other if they saw each other again and the weight of this moment is felt through every minute of this beautiful film.

The Raid 2 (2014)The Raid: Redemption, although awesome, was little more than a brilliantly executed bloodbath. Director Gareth Evans raises the stakes for The Raid 2 with even more carnage and well-choreographed fights but we get so much more. While the first was set almost entirely in a crackhouse with dialogue only when absolutely necessary, the second weaves a much more complex crime story with our hero going undercover in an organized crime syndicate in the middle of a turf war. Some of the best action filmmaking I’ve ever seen.

Oscars 2015: Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress

In recent years, you can burn out on online Oscar debates before the nominees have even started writing their speeches yet but in 1995 all I had was Siskel and Ebert and Entertainment Tongith. I was 13 years old and hadn’t seen most of the movies but the way they talked about Oscar night, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I laughed through Letterman’s monolgue (probably pretending to get some of the jokes), had strong opinions on Pulp Fiction and Shawkshank Redemption without having seen either one, and celebrated when my two favourites (The Lion King and Speed) each took home two statues. Awards season has been like Christmas for me ever since.

Now, I watch all the movies or at least as many as I can. No category is too minor for me and have sat through more shiity movies than I can count just because they were nominated for best Costume Design or Makeup. I don’t always agree with the winners and have found myself yelling at the tv more than once but I’m back every year with a renewed- and delusional- hope that this time justice will be done.

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall- The JudgeWhiplash script

Ethan Hawke- Boyhood

Edward Norton- Birdman

Mark Ruffalo- Foxcatcher

J. K. Simmons- Whiplash

This category has been one of the surest bets of the night for years now. Recent winners include Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men, Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight, Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds, and Jared Leto for last year’s Dallas Buyers Club. Even before the nominations were announced, no one had a chance against any of these guys and with J. K. Simmons as an undisputed frontrunner, this year is no exception.

He deserves it too. I finally got around to seeing Whiplash a couple of days ago and was on edge almost every time Simmons was on screen. He’s intimidating even when he’s not being overtly mean and scary even when he’s making you laugh. Best of all, he’s unpredictable, which is more than I can say for the Best Supporting Actor race this year.

It’s not that his competition is completely unworthy. I’m not sure anyone in the world is more irritating to me than Ethan Hawke is but even I had to admit that he was likeable and believable as the still maturing father in Boyhood. He’s in most of my favourite scenes in the movie- my personal favourite being his awkward safe sex talk. And of course there’s Edward Norton, one of the better performances in one of the best acted films of the year.

How Mark Ruffalo was even considered for a nomination is a complete mystery to me and I’m still not sure I understand how it happened. Channing Tatum would have made more sense.

Finally, I have nothing bad to say about Robert Duvall. All other things being equal, he’s by far the best actor in this category but there’s only so much that even he could do to elevate the hokey writing and uninspired directing in The Judge.

J. K. Simmons wins. Anyone else would be a huge upset.

Best Supporting Actress

Lately this has been the Academy’s chance to show us how much it celebrates diversity, doing its best to make up for an obvious caucasian bias in the other acting categories. Recent winners include Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Monique for Precious, Octavia Spencer for The Help, and Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave.  The list of nominees this year are not nearly as diverse- or as interesting- as it had been in recent years.Patricia Arquette

Patricia Arquette- Boyhood

Laura Dern- Wild

Keira Knightley- The Imitation Game

Emma Stone- Birdman

Meryl Streep- Into the Woods

I think we could have done better.

Dern, for Wild, seemed to come out of nowhere. I’m not sure I heard even a hint of speculation that she’d be nominated. I don’t get it.

Neither Knightley or Stone are able to stand out in their own movies, let alone among the other nominees. Knightley plays an important part in The Imitation Game and we learn a lot about Alan Turing from his relationship with her character but the movie belongs to Benedict Cumberbatch and to give anyone else in it an acting award would be bizarre. As for Stone, I thought she seemed to struggle with the demands of all the dialogue that she had to memorize in Birdman. She mostly rises to the occasion and has some fantastic moments but she’s really not in the same league as Michael Keaton or Edward Norton.

Meryl Streep’s nomination makes sense. She can’t help being amazing in almost everything and has some of the best scenes in Into the Woods. But do we really want to see her up there again acting like she had no idea she was going to win? She’s already been honoured three times for better performances.

This leaves, by process of elimination, Patricia Arquette. I’d have no problem with a win for her and Boyhood was possibly my favourite movie of the year. I still struggle with the idea of calling this the best supporting performance of the year since Richard Linklater went to great lengths to try and make us forget that we were watching a performance. Her work in the film is still impressive and she’s likely to take home the Oscar.

For an asshole’s discussion on the parts available to women in Hollywood, click here.