A wise woman once said, “Never write a series of blogs in which you promise to be done in 12 months because it will definitely take you 15.” That wise woman was the voice in my head as I saw my self-assigned deadline looming with 20 years’ worth of movies to go and a life to lead! So, yes, it took me 15 months to complete my “year” of Hanx. But, here we are! Completed! We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve cringed. But, mostly, we’ve had a great time celebrating a man whose career has brought much joy to the masses.
I've never mentioned this, but Tom Hanks reminds me of my dad. They don’t look much alike and my dad made a living as a computer programmer at an engineering firm until he retired. Or something. I don’t really understand what my dad did for a living but he definitely was not an actor. A strong sense of humor, an interest in WW2 (only slightly surpassed by an interest in the moon landing), pragmatic and sensibly inclined, with a love and appreciation for traveling are all traits they both share. Tom Hanks brings a feeling of comfort to me and these past 15 months have been like a little security blanket in DVD form…. For the most part. As with every family member, there were uncomfortable observations along the way.
You know how Hollywood celebrates older men and shuns older women? Well, they’re still doing it and it sucks. Women age out of films at an astounding rate and watching someone’s 40 year career over the span of 15 months really shines a light on this. Meg Ryan? Gone. Audrey Tatou? Au revoir. Shelley Long? Long time no see. Something I noticed in my viewing, however, is that the “older” women may have been put out to pasture, but Hanks is not accepting roles where his 65 year old self is falling in love with a 20-something. Not that there is anything wrong with a consenting romance between adults at any age, of course. But, I appreciate this about him and it keeps his nicest guy in Hollywood reputation in tact. Another observation I, and probably everyone, has noticed is that Hanks seems to have quit making comedies. It's a shame. His comedic work still contains many of my favorites, resulting in a lot of my favorites coming from from his earlier days. That brings me to one of the final things I’ve learned: when an actor starts making films that aren’t your preferred genre (Oh, god, there's a western?!), you may feel like completing your challenge is insurmountable. But, fear not! You will find the way— and that western was pretty good!
I watched so many movies in the past few months, I cannot review them all here. But, a few of the standouts are as follows:
Paul Newman’s final movie before his death had me wondering, “Do I actually like gangster movies?,” and I mean, probably not tbh but I did like this one! Tom Hanks plays a mob guy whose son witnesses him murdering some people and things go downhill from there. Intense and dark, Hanx plays the role well, with a subtle, taking care of business anger. The film also stars Daniel Craig as Paul Newman’s meathead son and Jude Law as a suspicious, weaselly little photographer. A lot of eye candy, is what I’m saying… and talent!
This movie with Tom Hanks as a defense attorney for a Soviet spy during the Cold War had me wondering, “Do I actually like spy movies?,” and I mean, probably not tbh but I did like this one! Hanks is in the autumn of his career and taking on projects with more umph. He seems to be making choices that interest him, not necessarily choices that might win over a big audience. I like this about him, even though he's abandoned comedies. His movies and characters are depending less and less on leading ladies, too. But, as I’ve mentioned, that could be because his leading ladies are aging out of Hollywood at the ripe old age of 35.
Another standout! Juuuuust kidding. This movie is terrible. I guess it stands out in that way.
Also based on a book by Dave Eggers (like The Circle above) but this one is good! Call me a bad librarian but I’d never heard of this movie or book and I was suspicious of it because after watching (and reading) The Circle, I didn’t know if I was really in the mood do deal with another one of Eggers’ works. Dave Eggers is a celebrated author and for good reason but his subject matter doesn't always age well. I'm sure if you read The Circle when it was published 10 years ago, it felt like a cautionary tale of how social media will destroy our lives. Reading it now feels like just another lecture we don't need. We've succumbed, Eggers. Leave us alone. The best thing to come from The Circle is the reality show on Netflix, let's be honest. Shoutout to my boy Shooby!
Anyway, A Hologram for the King is literally about hologram software Hanks' company is trying to sell to the king of Saudi Arabia. Picture a zoom meeting but your boss is like a little Princess Leia on your desk. Or on a stage because she’s a king. She's there but not really there, is what I'm saying. Also, there is a very age appropriate romance between Hanks' character and a Saudi doctor mesmerizingly played by Sarita Choudhury. A solid flick!
If you hate Baz Luhrmann or Elvis, this is definitely not for you. I love them both and I thought this movie was incredible. Haters will say it’s a mess with too many cuts and edits— that the film is fiction posing as a biopic. They’ll say, “they really glossed over the whole part about Elvis falling in love with a 14 year old.” They will be right. But the movie is still next level so what can ya do? There's a scene where teen girls are discovering the movement of a young man's pelvis for the first time that will live in my mind's top ten perfect movie scenes list for years to come. Tom Hanks plays Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis's exploitative manager) and he’s disgusting. He's meant to be, of course, but sometimes it's distracting it's so gross. Austin Butler as Elvis is p e r f e c t i o n. Long live the king.
Once upon a 15 month ago time frame, I vowed to watch every single live action Tom Hanks movie he had ever made. I have completed this challenge, but with a caveat: I have completed this challenge to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, there were a few I wasn’t able to see. The library's copy of The Post is long overdue and not available for free anywhere else I could find, so I had to skip it. Then there was Inferno, which I also wasn't able to see. When I say I wasn’t able to see it, I mean my body was not physically capable of watching this movie because I had watched The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons and there was no way I was going to suffer through another one of those! How. Were. These. Movies. Greenlighted. Instead, I watched this YouTube video of Hanks being interviewed on Good Mythical Kitchen which was delightful! In the interview, he mentions his coffee brand (simply called Hanx) which gives all profits to charities that help veterans in some way. I bought two flavors of Hanx coffee to make up for the fact that I was unable to watch these movies. Each morning, I take a sip of Hanx and feel a little less guilty that I didn’t subject myself, nor will I ever subject myself, to a viewing of Inferno. For an added boost, I'll sometimes watch David S. Pumpkins videos as well. There's my comedic Hanks! More David S. Pumpkins, less Dan Brown please!
We've been through a lot this round but if you'd like to read any of my previous Hanx blogs, you can find them here. It feels weird ending this without a list of all the movies I've watched and ranking them best to worst with a little blurb for each one. That's how this thing should end, right? We made it all this way and we don't even get a listicle?! Well, maybe I have one more Hanx blog in me. 12 months of Hanks becomes 15 months of Hanks becomes 18 months of Hanks. Long live the king.
To be continued.
-Sarah Mathews is an Accounts Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.