Saturday, January 8, 2011

Another Recent Child Actor

I also took a look at Haley Joel Osmet (b. 1988) as I was writing my last post, on Macaulay Culkin.  Osmet may have fared a bit better than Culkin, but only time will tell.

Osmet began his career as many child actors do, in commercials.  His first movie was Forrest Gump (1994) where he played the son of Gump, played by Tom Hanks.  This was a big movie, and a good break for Osmet.  If you get the Gump DVD with extra features, it includes part of Osmet's screen test.  It is easy to see why he became a popular young actor.

Quite a few movies and TV series' followed, until he got his real breakout role, The Sixth Sense in 1999.  Haley's performance in the M. Night Shyamalan (b. 1970) film is incredible.  He was nominated for an Academy Award for his effort.  It is not easy to upstage Bruce Willis (b. 1955), but I think most people remember Osmet as the star of this film.

In a similar role, he starred in the 2000 film, Pay It Forward.  He exudes a sad appearance, with the look of his eyes and a slightly odd characteristic in his voice.  He was perfectly cast again, and his co-stars, Helen Hunt (b. 1963) and Kevin Spacey (b. 1959), also have the necessary qualities to make this movie work without trying to take anything away from Osmet.  It was not a movie about successful people, it was about regular people and their struggles to just get through life.

The next year he has a starring role in Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence.  Just barely a teenager, Haley has already had a dream career.  He has also had quite a few voice-over roles for animated films and video games.  The next ten years of work bring his total title count to about 45 roles.

IMDb now lists, in pre-production, a comedy called Sex Ed, due to be released later this year.  Osmet is now in his twenties.  Is he trying to break out of his child actor cage?  As with many child actors, he has had some incidents in his life that he probably regrets.  I hope he finds his place in the entertainment industry, and I wish him all the best.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Newer Child Stars

I have written in previous posts about some child stars in the earlier years of moviedom.  (Is that a word?)  I bumped into a pretty bad movie last weekend called Sex and Breakfast (2007) starring...are you ready?...Macaulay Culkin (b. 1980).  The movie stunk (That IS a word!) but it got me thinking about Culkin's career and the turns it has taken since his early days as a child star.

Culkin's fifth movie made him famous.  He starred in Home Alone (1990) when he was just ten years old.  That movie was a hit and grossed $235 million in the USA.  The sequel released two years later called Home Alone 2: Lost in New York did almost as well.

He was also in Uncle Buck (1989) and My Girl (1991).  Those four movies established him as an actor in demand.  Of course, his voice hadn't changed yet.

More starring roles followed.  The Good Son (1993), The Pagemaster (1994) and the title role in Richie Rich (1994).  But now he's a teenager and the cute kid roles won't work anymore.  And I don't think he is much of a hunk that the teenage girls will line up at the theaters to see, either.

Culkin was basically burned out at age 14, but he was also very rich from his success.  He took a seven year break from acting, partly due to a lengthy divorce battle by his parents.  Back in movies in 2003, I suppose he was trying to change his image with something more adult.  Enter Sex and Breakfast in 2007.

This movie had no plot, but it did put two young couples in a sexual situation where they are contemplating having a group sex encounter to help solve their various personal dilemmas.  Don't bother seeing it, because I just gave you all the details.  It was also interesting that it was rated R for sexual situations, but contained no nudity.

The bright spot was the two women, played by Eliza Dushku (b. 1980) and Alexis Dziena (b. 1984).  Dushku played the daughter of Arnold Schwarzenneger in True Lies (1994), and has 38 roles to her credit.  Dziena has 24 roles listed so far.  Both are charming and beautiful, and they can act.  Culkin just seemed to be out of place.

I think Macaulay Culkin with 28 titles on IMDb, will forever be a Bit Actor who was once famous as a child star.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Boys Town

I finally got around to ordering Christmas in Connecticut (1945) with Barbara Stanwyck.  Great film, don't miss it.  The DVD package I ordered included the 1938 movies A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen, and Boys Town starring Spencer Tracy.  Little did I know that Boys Town was on a double sided DVD and Men of Boys Town (1941) was on the flip side. 

Just to freshen your memory, Boys Town is the story of Father Flanagan (1886 - 1948) who started an orphanage in Nebraska.  I guess that doesn't sound very exciting, does it?  Mickey Rooney adds plenty of excitement.  The movie depicts Rooney as a boy on his way to delinquency, and Flanagan's attempt to save him.

The energy that Rooney brought to the role is amazing.  Tracy won the Oscar for Best Actor, and I believe he deserved it, but you should see the way Rooney handles his part.  Boys Town also won the Oscar for Best Writing and was nominated for three others, including Best Picture and Best Director.

It is said that some of the residents of Boys Town were actors in the film.  The main roles were played by actors, and Rooney wasn't the only standout.  The real Boys Town A Cappella Choir does appear in concert.

I particularly liked Pee Wee played by Bobs Watson (1930 - 1999).  Bobs was his father's nickname for him, so he wouldn't be confused with Bobby Watson (1888 - 1965) another actor of the era.  Bobs has 54 titles on film and TV, and he eventually became a minister, while continuing to act.  In 1941 he reprised his role as Pee Wee in the sequel, Men of Boys Town

Rooney's older brother (and bank robber) Joe Marsh was played by veteran actor Edward Norris (1911 - 2002).  Norris' first movie was Queen Christina (1933) starring Greta Garbo.  Norris went on to play in 87 titles through the 1950s and on TV into the early 1960s.  Most of his movie roles were in B pictures.  He was a solid Bit Actor. 

Another wonderful actor is Henry Hull (1890 - 1977) who played Flanagan's friend, Dave Morris.  Hull has 111 titles on his list.  I knew I had seen him before, and then I saw some of his titles; Stanley and Livingston (1939), Babes in Arms (1939), High Sierra (1941), and Lifeboat (1944).  All great movies with great leading stars. 

Maybe there was a little over acting in Boys Town, but it was made in 1938, when drama was very important and there were a lot of child actors to use.  Tracy excels in his understated performance, a complete opposite to the frenetic performance by Rooney.  No matter, you should see this film.

Boys Town is still in existence in Nebraska and other locations around the country, serving over 21,000 boys and girls directly, and helping over 1.4 million every year through their services.  In 1984 the Village of Boys Town was designated a National Historic Landmark District.