Woody Harrelson gets some quality ink

Posted by · 3:25 pm · January 9th, 2010

Woody HarrelsonOf course I’ve been singing Woody Harrelson’s praises in “The Messenger” since day one, and thankfully, after a shove into the race with National Board of Review recognition, he’s been on a relatively solid track as of late.  And as I mentioned in Friday’s Oscar Talk, there is some chatter around his potential for a win in the Best Supporting Actor race.

The best thing about that scenario?  Few would argue with it.  He is one of our most under-valued actors, on a trajectory similar to the career of Jeff Bridges, lurking with solid work, both as a character player and in a leading capacity if need be.  Wouldn’t it be quite the breath of fresh air if they both walked away with Oscars this year?

In this today’s LA Times, Harrelson gets the flattery treatment from critic Betsy Sharkey, quite the commodity in the thick of an awards race, with ballots in hand and a Screen Actors Guild ceremony a couple of weeks away.  This is how it happens, especially in a race that is a bit more up in the air than many seem to think.

Writes Sharkey:

With critical notice for his performance stacking up — Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations thus far and Oscar buzz, well, buzzing — the role also serves as a reminder that Harrelson is one of the most underappreciated actors of his generation. It is the reason, as well, for my lament that richly demanding characters like Tony, ones that would keep Harrelson top of mind, don’t come his way more often. Perhaps “The Messenger” will change that.

The problem is that we, and I mean that in the largest sense — fans, filmmakers, the guys who greenlight movies — simply don’t tend to think of the 48-year-old in these terms. On the face of it, Harrelson is never an easy choice. Not handsome in the hunky way of Brad Pitt or possessing that sense of latent brilliance you see roaming around inside of Robert Downey Jr., what Harrelson has is an earthy Tom Sawyer aura, the Midwest version of the boy next door rather than the casting director’s.

But the piece is much more robust than the usual appreciation and manages to offer both the expected perspective and insightful nuggets here and there.  Give it a read here.  And check out my interview with Harrelson from earlier in the season here.

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31 responses so far

  • 1 1-09-2010 at 3:33 pm

    Casey Fiore said...

    Great news to be sure Kris, but I’m not sure I quite get this part
    “The best thing about that scenario? Few would argue with it.”
    Are you inferring that Woody is favored by a lot of people or that most people think he deserves the win?
    It seems to me that not only does Christoph Waltz remain very much the favorite, but that most people seem to consider him the deserving winner.
    If you meant simply that most people would like to see Woody win regardless of the situation then I’d definitely agree but I don’t quite understand the meaning of the statement

  • 2 1-09-2010 at 4:09 pm

    Alex in Movieland said...

    I myself am thinking that the voters might want to go with “someone from home”, not an unknown European actor who does gives an excellent performance, but still… I thought it was gonna be Tucci, considering his popularity inside the actors branch especially, but Woody might also happen.

    Plummer could’ve been a shoe-in here, but I am not hearing ANYTHING about The Last Station lately, which makes me consider that Helen Mirren might not make it for a nomination or that her 5th spot is seriously threatened (by Laurent, i’d say)

  • 3 1-09-2010 at 4:27 pm

    JR said...

    I also agree that Walz is probably a lock, but I’d still love to see Woody win. The Bridges comparison is apt. They’re both phenomenally gifted actors, capable of anything, who are not showboaters. Regardless of the material, they always step up, often rising above it.

    I still believe Harrelson was robbed when he was up for Larry Flynt. That performance remains one of my favorites of all time – from the pure joy, humor and palpable grief. The final scene, where he’s watching Althea on video, is crushing. On the other hand, few films have made me laugh as hard as Kingpin.

  • 4 1-09-2010 at 4:31 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Casey: Basically I’m saying, much like with Bridges, few would argue with Harrelson winning an Oscar.

  • 5 1-09-2010 at 4:55 pm

    Megan said...

    I have every ounce of respect for Woody Harrelson and the long way he has indeed come, but I will accept nothing less than Christoph Waltz walking away with that Oscar.

    I’m sure people are growing weary of my shameless exhaltaion of the guy, but I simply can’t remove that performance out of my head.

    He made Anton Chigurh and the Joker look like characters from a PBS Kids lineup.

  • 6 1-09-2010 at 4:57 pm

    Speaking English said...

    ***He made Anton Chigurh and the Joker look like characters from a PBS Kids lineup.***

    Considering Anton Chigurh is essentially death incarnate and seemingly invincible, I’d have to say… uh, no.

  • 7 1-09-2010 at 5:43 pm

    Adam M. said...

    I’m not sure how you arrived at the conclusion that the supporting actor race is more open than most are thinking. Waltz has it in the bag. He’s the most honored nominee from ANY major category along the precursor circuit this season. Unless Harrelson makes an 11th hour rally with BFCA, the Globes, and SAG (it won’t happen), his chances with Oscar seem next to none. I think Mo’Nique’s statuette in the supporting actress race is more likely up for grabs (though also, admittedly, pretty much locked in). Unlike Harrelson, Anna Kendrick has managed to pick up enough traction with the precursors to at least keep her in as a dark horse. Or that’s how I see it at least.

  • 8 1-09-2010 at 5:46 pm

    Adam M. said...

    Also, Megan– No way is Waltz better than Bardem in ‘No Country.’ Col. Landa talks a pretty good game, but Anton Chigurh doesn’t even have to open his mouth– maybe not even move at all.

  • 9 1-09-2010 at 6:20 pm

    Megan said...

    “Also, Megan– No way is Waltz better than Bardem in ‘No Country.’ Col. Landa talks a pretty good game, but Anton Chigurh doesn’t even have to open his mouth– maybe not even move at all.”

    I’m sorry, but I think he was. You can all quote me on that. And I am fervently, viciously fond of Bardem’s performance.

    The very best villains are the one’s who barely have to lift a finger. Just remember that.

  • 10 1-09-2010 at 6:27 pm

    Megan said...

    “Considering Anton Chigurh is essentially death incarnate and seemingly invincible, I’d have to say… uh, no.”

    Oooh. I forgot something.

    Omniscience > pressurized cattle tazer.

    Just remember that, also.

    Megan: 2
    You guys: Nil


  • 11 1-09-2010 at 6:30 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Adam: Because I talk to Academy members.

  • 12 1-09-2010 at 6:49 pm

    daveylow said...

    I’d be very happy if Harrelson won so more people would see the excellent film The Messenger.

  • 13 1-09-2010 at 7:05 pm

    daveylow said...

    Kris, thanks for posting the link to that article, which was a fine assessment of Harrelson’s work. Besides Zombieland and 2012, he’s also good in the comedy Management.

  • 14 1-09-2010 at 7:10 pm

    Speaking English said...

    ***Omniscience > pressurized cattle tazer.***

    I really don’t understand what you’re getting at. Are you implying Chigurh isn’t omniscient or omnipotent? Again, he’s death incarnate. The grim reaper. He’s certainly as evil as they come.

  • 15 1-09-2010 at 7:38 pm

    Leone said...

    Harrelson deserves it – he’s brilliant in the movie.

  • 16 1-09-2010 at 7:39 pm

    Megan said...

    “Are you implying Chigurh isn’t omniscient or omnipotent?”


  • 17 1-09-2010 at 8:56 pm

    Mike said...

    I would rather see Harrelson or Plummer win simply because they have been around fir a while and have given many goo performances previous to this year. Christoph Waltz gave an awesome performance, but a year ago no one knew who he was. And I definitely think Bardem and Ledger were scarier than him.

  • 18 1-09-2010 at 10:31 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I’m confused at everyone here who wants Woody Harrelson to win because “He’s a great actor,” or “He’s been around for so long,” or “He’s such a nice guy.” I thought we all bitched about Oscars being given to actors for sentimental instead of meritorious reasons.

    If you think Woody’s performance in The Messenger legitimately deserves to win, that’s great, more power to you, but saying that he’s due for some sort of a “career honor” seems…strange to me.

  • 19 1-09-2010 at 11:46 pm

    Megan said...

    “Christoph Waltz gave an awesome performance, but a year ago no one knew who he was.”

    And how is that anything approaching a legit argument as to why someone else should win?

    “And I definitely think Bardem and Ledger were scarier than him.”

    I didn’t at all. I loved all three of them dearly; but, so far the Colonel is the top rooster.

  • 20 1-09-2010 at 11:59 pm

    Nigel Bridgeman said...

    I’ve been saying for about a month or so that Harrelson will win Best Supporting Actor. I’m going purely by gut instinct – I haven’t seen the film so I don’t know if he deserves to win or not.

    Still, I’d be perfectly happy if Waltz won. I like seeing performances that are instant classics win (something that happens all too rarely these days).

  • 21 1-10-2010 at 6:34 am

    voland said...

    “Christoph Waltz gave an awesome performance, but a year ago no one knew who he was.”

    Depends. Waltz is doing theatre, TV and movies since 30 years, in Germany and Austria he is pretty well known, he’s no one-hit-wonder. And if you want to award the best performance, theres no need to argue, Waltz gave the best.

  • 22 1-10-2010 at 11:11 am

    Aaron said...

    Totally agree Robert, I’m sick of all the sentiment for awards going around. I was sick of it last year when Kate Winslet won, and I’m about to get sick of it with Meryl Streep this year (although I have to agree that she’s given my favorite female performance this year, so it’s not as bad as last year).

    I like Woody Harrelson just fine, but I don’t want him to win just so it can reward this “underappreciated” actor. I really do hope Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique win this year–they are undoubtedly deserving.

  • 23 1-10-2010 at 12:10 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Waltz vs. Harrelson is a simple case of cartoonish villainy vs. authentic inner turmoil. I’m sure there are avid fans on both sides of that line, but the former tends to win a supporting race.

    That having been said, a moratorium on all the authoritative “so and so is obviously the best supporting performance of the year” attitudes would be greatly appreciated. It’s reeking in here lately.

  • 24 1-10-2010 at 12:12 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Also, what is “omniscient” about Waltz in Inglourious Basterds? What the hell point are you trying to make with that dubious commentary anyway? I don’t get it.

  • 25 1-10-2010 at 6:35 pm

    Patryk said...

    Let’s not forget 1997. Juliette Binoche won Best Supporting Actress for “The English Patient” from the National Board of Review. Everyone on the planet phoned in the same old prediction that Lauren Bacall had the Oscar in a walk.

    2009: Woody Harrelson wins Best Supporting Actor for “The Messenger” from the National Board of Review. Everyone on the planet is phoning in the same old prediction that Christoph Waltz will take the Oscar in a walk.

    I am in no way comparing the great Waltz performance with the wooden one from Bacall. However, Woody could and should win this one.

  • 26 1-10-2010 at 8:46 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Yeah, I’m confused – how is Hans Landa in anyway omniscient? That makes no sense.

  • 27 1-10-2010 at 8:58 pm

    JR said...

    The comparison to Bridges is perfect. I can think of some less than great movies Woody’s done, but he’s never given a less than great performance. An Oscar win would never be simply a career award, as his performance always stands on its own.

    That said, he was robbed of the statue for Larry Flynt. To me, at least, that remains one of the great underappreciated performances. Did Woody make it look to easy? The sheer range is phenomenal – from comic swagger to heart-stopping grief. The scene at the end – where Flynt watches Althea on video – gets me every time.

  • 28 1-10-2010 at 9:14 pm

    head_wizard said...

    While I did enjoy Harrelson and thought it was one of his best performances and he is due. Waltz was great on so many leavels being sinsiter when need be and funny (sometimes uncomfortably). Harrelson would be a very close second but being overdue isn’t enough.

  • 29 1-10-2010 at 10:22 pm

    Judy said...

    It is unfair that somebody can think that Woody will won only because “he is a nice guy”, or because “he is so underappreciated”, his caracter in the Messenger is dificult even when is not so showy as “Col. Landa” but Woody gets a performance very solid and really: his high points are more impressive than Waltz´s highs points.

    I am a great fan of Woody in “Larry Flint” but his performance still had some of himself but now in “The Messenger” his performance is strong and totally detailed.

    I only hope that not win the caracter itself. With Waltz vs. Woody we have a very showy caracter with a very good performance vs. inner caracter with a solid and detailed performance.

    My feeling is a little bit more with Woody, no actor in 2009 achieved his body of work and I think that this will have recognition winning the supporting actor race.

  • 30 1-11-2010 at 12:30 am

    SHAAAARK said...

    Woody Harrelson has become one of my favorite working actors this year, with his strong work in Zombieland and The Messenger. And I saw Natural Born Killers for the first time in November, and he was electric in that. It feels like people take him for granted, but they shouldn’t. An Oscar would be richly deserved. Besides, aren’t we a little sick of villains dominating the Supporting Actor category?

  • 31 1-12-2010 at 8:56 pm

    Jim said...

    I’d prefer if Waltz won performance wise, but with Zombieland and The Messenger, Harrelson is having one helluva year and delivering some of his best work in some time. He is always good down to the smallest role.