Today is Tom Hank’s Birthday. In celebration of one of the most talented actors ever (and there are 2 Academy Awards to back up that claim), here are some of his cinematic achievements, in no particular order (and because I haven’t seen everything such as “Castaway” and “Cars” and "Philadelphia" is just too depressing):
Volunteers (1985): As Laurence Bourne III, the spoiled rich kid who joins the Peace Corps to avoid a gambling debt, Hanks makes us care about a character so unlikable, even the local drug lord seems more sympathetic. While his Peace Corps cohorts are busy providing medicine, clean water and fancy book-learnin’ to the villagers, Hank’s character sets up an eponymous night club. I always thought that was very cool.
Big (1988): You completely believed Hanks to be the 12 year old Josh inside the body of his adult counter part. He played it wish an innocence that was both funny and charming, from playing the giant piano with Robert Logia, to his “keep-away” fight with John Heard. When he turns back into the little boy, you can still see Hanks walking away.
Apollo 13 (1995): Perhaps one of the best movies ever made, Hanks’ portrayal of real-life astronaut Jim Lovell is as gripping as it is subtle. I know how the story by heart but I watch it every time I come across it on TV.
Saving Private Ryan (1998): Perhaps one of the best war movies ever made: realistic without being sentimental, violent without being gratuitous. Hanks plays the school teacher turned captain who has subsumed his personality in order to survive the brutality and mindlessness of war. As kids seem less engaged in November 11 ceremonies, I make mine watch this film – even more powerful than a reading of “Flanders Fields”.
You’ve Got Mail (1998): Ah, romantic comedy. Hanks is funny and sardonic as discount box shop owner Joe Fox as he courts meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly. The romance is much more enjoyable than ‘Sleepless in Seattle” since the two characters actually spend some time on the screen together.
Toy Story (1995): Hanks comes through as the voice of Woody, completely filling out the 2-dimensional computer animation. Great for kids of all ages (no matter how trite that expression is).
A League of Their Own (1992): Washed up major leaguer Jimmy Dugan coaches a women’s league team during the war. Hanks manages to sober up enough to impart these snippets of wisdom:
“Did anyone ever tell you, you look like a penis with that little hat on?”
“Start using your head. That's the lump that's three feet above your ass.”
“There’s no crying in baseball”
Forrest Gump (1994): Gump is a simple man who maintains his sense of who he is through some of the most significant events of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. You keep wishing for him to become intelligent, but in the end, are happy he hasn’t changed one bit.
Splash (1984): “All my life I've been waiting for someone and when I find her, she's... she's a fish.” The film that broke it for Hanks and John Candy and set Ron Howard on the path to directing fame. However, it didn’t seem to do much for Darryl Hannah.