Tuesday, March 1, 2016

24 Hours of Movies: Hanks for the Memories

by Patrick Bromley
It's March 1st, so let's kick off another month of 24 Hours of Movies!

Last March I started an ongoing series called "24 Hours of Movies," inspired by the fact that I love to program movie marathons for my birthday and wanted to plan a bunch of them around different themes. The columns were great fun to write (and hopefully to read?), so much so that I didn't keep them confined to just the one month and instead returned to them a few times over the course of the year. Well, it's March again and they're back. Let's plan some hypothetical marathons so we can hypothetically watch movies until we hypothetically die!

The theme for this marathon was suggested (sort of) by Rob DiCristino (@RobDiCristino). Thanks, Rob! If you've got an idea for a 24 Hours of Moves theme you'd like me to try this month, leave it in the comments below or email us at fthismoviepodcast[at]gmail.com.

I love Tom Hanks. Like, loooove Tom Hanks. I know I said in a recent 24 Hours of Movies piece that Kurt Russell is my favorite actor, and he is. But Tom Hanks is not far behind. Kurt Russell is masculinity personified. I identify much more with Tom Hanks, who is lanky and geeky and goofy. When I was a little kid, the two people I most wanted to be were Michael J. Fox and Tom Hanks. I eagerly watched every episode of Bosom Buddies, patiently waiting through all of the scenes of him dressed as a woman (not because I had an issue with crossdressing but because I didn't think it was funny) until he could go back to being cool, funny Kip. He's a guy who went from starring on a pretty dopey sitcom to becoming a comedic leading man and eventually to a multiple Academy Award-winning actor and the biggest movie star in the country. Tom Hanks' ascent through the ranks of the movie business is evidence that sometimes the good guys win.

Programming 24 hours of Tom Hanks movies isn't hard because he has so many movies I will gladly rewatch, but there are challenges to it because he has a lot of movies that are either similar in style or which don't lend themselves to being watched this way. I have no doubt I have omitted your favorites, be it Big or Forrest Gump or The Money Pit or Saving Private Ryan or Turner and Hooch. Take heart that you can always program your own Tom Hanks marathon. This is mine.

10 a.m. - Splash (1984, dir. Ron Howard)
Tom Hanks' first big screen leading man role served as instant proof of his endless reserves of nice guy charm. Playing a heartsick store owner who falls in love with a mermaid, Hanks was far from the conventional romantic lead of the day -- his bushy head of curly hair, his lanky build, his oddball humor -- but the sincerity he brings to his performance goes a long way towards selling the movie's fantastic premise. Tom Hanks became a movie star in the span of a single film.

Noon - Toy Story 2 (1999, dir. John Lasseter)
A lot of Tom Hanks' movies fall under the categories of fairly lightweight comedies and pretty heavy drama -- both of which are very difficult to marathon -- so in the interest of mixing things up I thought I'd program one of his Pixar movies now. If nothing else, it's early enough that my kids can still join me. I love the Toy Story films more than the majority of Pixar's output (most of which is incredibly great; I just really love the Toy Story films) and Toy Story 2 is still my favorite. I love the energy, I love the inventiveness, I love the storytelling. The two minute "When She Loved Me" sequence covers the entire emotional spectrum of Toy Story 3 in about 1/50th the time. And while I can't say for sure that Woody is my favorite Pixar character just because he's voiced by Tom Hanks, I can't say that's not the reason either.

1:45 p.m. - A League of Their Own (1992, dir. Penny Marshall)
Hanks reunites with Big director Penny Marshall with a character actor performance that's every bit as good as his leading man turns. He plays Jimmy Dugan, the drunken manager of the women's baseball team The Rockford Peaches, and his grouchy misanthropy gives the movie a lot of its biggest laughs. The arc of his relationship with Geena Davis, in which they slowly develop mutual respect for one another, gives the movie much of its soul -- if Jimmy Dugan is taking these athletes seriously, everyone should. I still think this is Penny Marshall's best work and one of my favorite sports movies of all time.

4 p.m. - Bridge of Spies (2015, dir. Steven Spielberg)
Trying to balance out the comedies with Hanks' dramatic movies can be a challenge in the context of a 24-hour marathon because so many of his dramas would kill the momentum dead. Saving Private Ryan might be a great movie, but would anyone feel like watching 18 more hours' worth of movies when it ends? Or Captain Phillips? Or The Green Mile? Bridge of Spies manages to be substantive without being an intense downer, with Hanks giving great Jimmy Stewart as the lawyer of an accused spy (Academy Award winner Mark Rylance) and eventual negotiator with the Soviet Union. This is classical filmmaking in every sense of the word: Spielberg expertly directs in a way that feels effortless, Hanks is decency personified and there is a very old-fashioned sense of optimism that is lovely and wonderful.

6:30 p.m. - Joe Versus the Volcano (1990, dir. John Patrick Shanley)
Part of me wants to program this film much later in the lineup so it can act as a reward for having gotten through 20 hours of watching movies, but that would be unfair to my own enjoyment of one of my favorite movies of all time. That this film was a box office disappointment in its day I can understand but hardly forgive; that it continues to be overlooked as a masterpiece is more than my brain can comprehend. Playwright Shanley's feature directing debut is a beautiful, eccentric and perfect movie -- a formalist comic fantasy that's more profound than 50 Oscar winners and featuring great performances from Hanks, Ossie Davis and Meg Ryan in three different roles. My only concern with placing it here is that I won't want to continue watching the rest of the lineup, instead opting to rewatch Joe Versus the Volcano for the next 14 hours. That wouldn't be so bad.

8:15 p.m. - Apollo 13 (1995, dir. Ron Howard)
One of my favorite things about Tom Hanks (besides everything) is the way he either makes movies about stuff he's super nerdy about or nerds out on the stuff he makes movies about. It happened with WWII around Saving Private Ryan and it happened here with Apollo 13 (in both cases he helped create and produced beloved series about each respective topic for HBO). Reuniting with Ron Howard -- the director who gave him his start in the movies -- Hanks leads a great cast through this insanely tense true story of the peril-fraught Apollo 13 space mission. This is still Ron Howard's best movie, and he deserves a ton of credit for making a movie this suspenseful despite us already knowing the outcome. A big part of that has to do with the casting of Tom Hanks. He brings with him so much goodwill that we are immediately invested in his plight even without having to set up a great deal about his life on Earth or what's at risk. We care because he's Tom Hanks.

10:30 p.m. - You've Got Mail (1998, dir. Nora Ephron)
After the emotional drain put on us by Apollo 13, we'll need to kick back with something lighthearted and fun before settling in for the overnight stretch. Hanks' third and final teaming with Meg Ryan and their second with writer/director Nora Ephron (RIP) is one of the better romantic comedies to come out of the '90s and a really great New York movie. It's less technically accomplished than Sleepless in Seattle, a movie that's both better looking and more emotionally nuanced, but You've Got Mail is so winning and actually one of the best movies I've seen about modern American business, in which giant retailers and big box stores put smaller shops out of business. That it manages to weave that stuff into a very charming romance is just one more reason to miss Nora Ephron.

12:45 a.m.The 'Burbs (1989, dir. Joe Dante)
If you've been reading these 24 Hours of Movies pieces over the last year you already know that I try to program horror and weird genre movies overnight because that's the best time to watch that stuff. Hanks has very little of it on his resume, especially his major studio output (which makes up almost all of his filmography). His most horror-adjacent title -- save for the one we'll be watching next -- is Joe Dante's great black comedy The 'Burbs, in which Hanks plays an ordinary suburban man who suspects his neighbors are committing grisly murders. Though the movie changed a lot during production (the Arrow Blu-ray from the UK offers an alternate cut), I still love the satire and dark, absurdist humor of the theatrical version. Tom Hanks has never shied away from being silly with a streak of weirdness, and that's exactly what The 'Burbs is. RIP Rick Ducommun.

2:45 a.m. - He Knows You're Alone (1980, dir. Armand Mastroianni)
Having exhausted the closest thing Tom Hanks made to a horror movie in his days as a movie star, let's go all the way back to the beginning with with this little-seen slasher from 1980. It's his first movie role, and from what I understand just a supporting performance. I've never seen it, so this is a great opportunity to check it off the list. I hope he survives to the end. I have a hard time watching Tom Hanks die in anything.

4:30 a.m.Dragnet (1987, dir. Tom Mankiewicz)
One of the more underrated comedies with which Hanks has been associated (to everyone but its fans, of course) is Dragnet, a truly offbeat adaptation of the famous TV series in which Dan Aykroyd plays Sgt. Joe Friday as a parody of a fast-talking square and Hanks is his loosey goosey partner, the excellently named Pep Streebek. It is the first of only a few movies directed by the great screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, famous for his work on Superman and several Bond films, and it never shies away from being really out there. There are Pagan cults and human sacrifices and Dabney Coleman and the virgin Connie Swail and Dan Aykroyd really driving the engine with his machine gun delivery and parody of an uptight lawman. Hanks' role as his partner is essentially thankless, but he has a lot of fun playing against Aykroyd's rigidity . Plus the movie gave us rapping, dancing Tom Hanks, for which we must forever be grateful.

6:30 a.m. - Road to Perdition (2002, dir. Sam Mendes)
I'll be honest: I saw Road to Perdition twice when it was released and haven't seen it since, but it left me pretty cold both times. I'm programming here a) so that I can watch it again and b) because I want to put a drama here to break up the comedies and this one at least affords me the opportunity to see Tom Hanks do something very different. My memory is that there are some very good scenes, that Conrad Hall's photography is stunning and that Sam Mendes' direction is...stately? I hope it's not a mistake to slot this in so late in the marathon.

8:30 a.m. - That Thing You Do! (1996, dir. Tom Hanks)
There are a lot of movies that could go into this penultimate slot, because it's really my last chance to plug in one of the many titles I can't bear to leave out. But the thought of leaving Hanks' directorial debut That Thing You Do! out of the lineup is more heartbreaking than I can bear. This is a perfect movie, one which works as a fun musical, a romantic comedy, a coming-of-age story and a piece of early '60s nostalgia that still manages to say a lot of really smart things about the music business and the act of creating versus selling art. This movie -- which Hanks also wrote, because he is literally the best -- is so perfectly observed and slyly funny and the music is so great and I'm so in love with everything about it that I could not wait for his follow-up as a director. Larry Crowne, you broke my heart.

10:15 a.m. - Cloud Atlas (2012, dir. Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Tom Tykwer)
The only way that programming the sprawlingly ambitious three-hour epic Cloud Atlas into the marathon works is if you put it last, which is exactly what I'm doing. Regular readers/listeners know how much I love this movie (I chose it as my favorite of 2012) as much for its ambition as for its execution -- I love that it even exists. I love that Tom Hanks saw something in the material that he was willing to take a chance and star in the movie, because it's a big risk for a star of his stature. He gets to play a number of different roles and is essentially at the center of the whole massive story, as it's a movie that traces the progression of his soul from rotten (a thieving doctor who is poisoning his patient so he can rob him) to someone who may not be totally enlightened and selfless but is learning to be (the post-apocalyptic Zachary character in the true-true section). Knowing that more than 24 hours of movies will build towards the final moments of Cloud Atlas is enough to bring me to tears just thinking about it.


  1. Love it! I'm slightly obsessed with seeing He Knows You're Alone now that I've heard of it. The 'Burbs wins forever, but I will probably never watch Perdition again.
    Personal note: I played the drum part from That Thing You Do almost every time I sound checked for like ten years. Nerd.

  2. Ahh but you missed Bachelor Party which could so have been just another male fantasy 80's comedy BUT it has Hanks and he brings a sweetness to it that nearly all those films of that time lack...

  3. Great choices, Patrick! Thanks for taking my suggestion! Personal shame trigger warning: I've never seen Joe Versus the Volcano. I know, I know. I'll rectify that soon.

  4. Like the choices but I have to watch Forrest Gump, so Im gonna!

    1. I'm convinced Patrick left that one out so he doesn't up singing the song to himself for days afterward

  5. Don't worry, I have a blast reading these! There are so many great Tom Hanks movies and performances that this seems like an impossible task, but you've come up with a good line up! I especially want to revisit Apollo 13.

    In terms of another marathon suggestion, I just finished rewatching Source Code and it got me thinking, have you featured a marathon of Chicago movies yet? I can't remember if you have or not. If not, and there is enough material for such a thing, please consider that my suggestion for a future marathon!

  6. I just watched Dragnet the other day. Might be the movie I've seen the most in my life just by virtue of being on cable constantly one summer when I was a kid. Surprisingly, it hasn't been released on blu-ray.

  7. I can think of a lot of different themes but can see if you're gonna watch movies for 24 HOURS, then picking favorite actors is a good way to go. I don't think any of my other theme ideas are strong enough for 24 hrs. Even if it was a broad theme it couldn't keep me watching. Thanks for the Joe Vs Volcano rec. Tom Hanks is so...Tom Hanksy!

  8. Just thought of 24 Hours of Movies with robots that look human.

  9. Great lineup with a perfect ending with Cloud Atlas, which is also my favorite movie of 2012.
    I´m happy to see Joe versus the volcano on the list, which is such a sweet little gem.
    I would skip Dragnet, You´ve got mail and Toy Story 2 from your list and watch Saving Private Ryan, Philadelphia and Catch me if you can instead....but that would stretch the marathon way over 24 hours.
    And I love Road to perdition which is endlessly watchable for me, having seen it maybe 10 to 12 times since it´s release in 2002.

    1. 10 or 12 times??? What did you like about it? I didn't know what to think of it, myself.

    2. Well, I like the story, the bittersweet relations between Hanks and his son and between Hanks and Newman, being the kind of guy Newman wishes his own son would be. I like how little dialogue there is and that it´s a very visual movie, gorgeously filmed by Conrad Hall. I love Thomas Newman´s score....I like pretty much everything here, except maybe Jude Law´s killer.
      To me this film is kind of hypnotizing...but that doesn´t have to work for others, of course.

  10. I like your 24 hour movie marathon columns, if only because I get to read about your thoughts on a bunch of movies at once. Tom Hanks really is the best. I haven't seen Dragnet, so I'll be seeking that out out.

  11. So many good Hank's films, I love the piano scene in Big, and The Burbs, I still don't know how you stay awake this long? Epic line up

  12. Overall a great selection of stuff Patrick, I think if I had to sub in one of your movies though I'd take out A League of their Own and replace it with Catch me if you Can, the rare movie that makes him the antagonist and also has him galavanting around the globe chasing after Dicaprio, also its the last damn near flawless movie Spielberg has made.