Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Jack Thompson


One of my favorite actors for years, Jack Thompson turns 69 today. The Australian actor first came to my attention years ago in Bruce Beresford's Australian football film The Club. Shown on a seemingly continuous loop on Showtime back in the early eighties I must've watched it a dozen times. Up There Cazaly is as familiar to me now as any movie song out there. And Jack Thompson made a hell of an impression: Strong, rugged, commanding. His was a presence that did not go unnoticed. It's currently available as an import DVD in the PAL format but I'd love to see it get a full release here in the States by Criterion, a wish I'm sure will go unfulfilled.

The very same year Thompson made The Club with Beresford the two worked together on the more notable effort Breaker Morant, for my money every bit as good a film as Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick's examination of military justice meted out in war that mirrors many of the same themes. Breaker Morant is a stunning film that rewards the viewer upon multiple viewings with a depth not normally present in courtroom dramas, in part because it resists many of the standard cliches associated with the genre. And again, Thompson as the courtroom defender of three Australian officers (two of which are played by Edward Woodward and Bryan Brown) is simply terrific, displaying the same strength he had in The Club.

Thompson never became the star in America or Europe that he was in Australia but his career never lagged as a result. He's made dozens of films and if you're unfamiliar with his work I heartily recommend both The Club and Breaker Morant. You won't be disappointed. So Happy Birthday once more to Jack Thompson. Here's hoping there are many to follow.

45 comments:

Rick Olson said...

Thanks for the reminder about Thompson, Greg. I'd forgotten about him. I quite agree with your assessment of "Breaker Morant." A fine film.

Greg said...

I watched Breaker Morant again recently and what a beautiful haunting film. Beresford is a great director, truly.

bill r. said...

I frickin' love Breaker Morant. And Thompson is indeed great in it, but Edward Woodward must have some sort of curse on him, in the sense that he's a great actor who's in some classic films, and no one ever talks about him, unless they want to reference The Equalizer.

Is your banner from Delicatessan?

bill r. said...

If you encounter any Boers
You really must not loot 'em,
And if you wish to leave these shores
For pity's sake don't shoot 'em!

Marilyn said...

It has been years since I saw Breaker Morant. Such a sad movie. And yes, Beresford is a great director.

Greg said...

Bill, yes the banner is indeed Delicatessan and yes, Breaker Morant is a great movie. Edward Woodward has done some incredible work but a popular tv show will overshadow that so much of the time unfortunately.

Greg said...

Marilyn, Beresford is a favorite of mine. The way he combines quiet landscapes with inner turmoil of the characters is a signature of his I never grow tired of. And I'll have your meme response ready this week.

bill r. said...

I haven't seen either in many years, but two more very good Beresford films are Mister Johnson and, most especially, Black Robe.

Marilyn said...

It's all the same to meme (I don't think that this one's going around the world; dance just ain't that big a thing).

I haven't contributed to your epic discussion on Inglourious Basterds because I haven't seen it. But I think I might have to. Rod gave it a good review, as are most people I know and trust.

Rick Olson said...

What do you think of "Tender Mercies?" He battled Duvall and apparently screenwriter Horton Foote, but I think what came out of it is a small gem.

Marilyn said...

I think Tender Mercies is a wonderful film. I like it much better than a similar film he directed, Driving Miss Daisy.

Greg said...

Bill, believe it or not I never saw Black Robe and until you just mentioned it I had completely forgotten about it. I'll queue it up.

Greg said...

Marilyn, Facebook has taken the air out of memes and blogathons. If I had done my Ed Wood blogathon just a month or two later I don't know if it would have had the same response. Now everyone expects to be tagged for these things on Facebook.

Rick, I'm with you and Marilyn, I think Tender Mercies is another beautiful Beresford film, perhaps the best use of his quiet open landscapes played against the inner conflicts of the characters. I love it.

Greg said...

I almost forgot, Driving Miss Daisy never felt like a Beresford movie to me, more like a Ron Howard movie. It's one of his disappointments for me although I still think it has many wonderful moments and two great lead performances.

Marilyn said...

Driving Miss Daisy is a writing failure, not a filming failure. Alfred Uhrey's just too sentimental about the subject matter to make these characters indelible, rather than just merely likeable.

Rick Olson said...

Yeah, I'd forgotten he did "Driving Miss Daisy" as well. Not one of my favorites of his.

bill r. said...

What about Her Alibi??

And Greg, just a littler bit of interesting information: the novel Black Robe was written by Brian Moore, who also wrote the novel that was turned into one of your favorite films, The Luck of Ginger Coffey. Trivia!!

I've never seen Tender Mercies OR Driving Miss Daisy. Beat that!

Greg said...

You're probably right Marilyn. As written I suppose Beresford does as good a job as he can.

Bill, you really should see Tender Mercies. And looking at Beresford's 80's output (re: Her Alibi) it does appear he sort of lost his way for a while there.

Greg said...

And The Luck of Ginger Coffey is finally getting a good DVD release! Hooray!

Arbogast said...

I saw The Club about a dozen times in college.

"He's been up his mum and his legless sister and he thinks he's killed his old man!"

bill r. said...

Hey, everybody, it's Arbogast! Hi, Arbogast!

Greg said...

I can't quote the scene but I love Jock smoking the joint and talking about strong the cigarette is and later when Jock says he was the best forward the team ever had "and they'll still be saying that in a hundred years."

And like Bill, I welcome you back from the dead Arbo. Good to see you again.

Fox said...

The only Bruce Beresford movie I've seen is Driving Miss Daisy... and that was a long time ago.

I would like to see some of the films you guys have mentioned, but I especially want to see Last Dance because I kind of enjoy watching Sharon Stone being the worst actress of all time.

bill r. said...

You thank I wan dah? I don' wan dah!

Greg said...

Fox, see Breaker Morant, you won't be disappointed.

Fox said...

Fox, see Breaker Morant, you won't be disappointed....

Will that also help me understand what Bill is talking about in comment #24 of this post?

Greg said...

No. I'm assuming he's quoting Sharon Stone from Last Dance though I've never seen it myself. The more I think about it - what the hell happened to Bruce Beresford anyway? He does seem to have some real stinkers to his credit.

bill r. said...

Yes, I'm referencing Last Dance, although I've never seen it myself. I just remember seeing the commercials and taking note of Sharon Stone's Oscar-grubbing and Hicktown accent.

Beresford, I think, is one of those guys who likes to work, but only gets the chance to make his own movies very sporadically. Rather than sit idle, he keeps going, maybe hoping one of those for-hire jobs will hit big, and give him more room to do what he wants. That's just my guess. He's got three four movies in the works right now.

Fox said...

It looks like he has a film coming out this year called Mao's Last Dancer, which I'm presuming isn't a sequel to Last Dance.

Greg said...

Wasn't Donna Summer Mao's last dancer?

Fox said...

Hmm... I was thinking it was Tina Turner. She did it for money.

bill r. said...

No, it was Edward Woodward. That guy can move.

Greg said...

He's the great equalizer of the dance floor.

Patricia said...

I also enjoyed seeing Jack Thompson in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

Greg said...

Me too Patricia, even if I wasn't too wild about the movie. The cast however was good all around.

Rick Olson said...

He was in "Midnight"? I musta' missed him. I liked "Midnight" better than most, though ... I just wish they'd seen the same film as I.

Seriously though, I thought Eastwood was an odd choice to direct that film.

bill r. said...

I kinda liked Midnight in the Garden.... Not Eastwood's best, and he WAS an odd choice, but I don't get why people came down on it so hard. I thought Cusack was really good, and I thought it was an engaging little movie. Also, Eastwood's daughter is smokin'.

Greg said...

I didn't think it was bad, just that it wasn't very adventurous. Pretty straightforward, kind of like an HBO movie. Not bad, just not what I kept expecting for years after seeing Unforgiven.

Marilyn said...

Midnight in the Garden is a pretty mediocre movie, actually, which was my conclusion after trying to watch it again a month or so ago and having to turn it off. But it has one of the very best death scenes I can remember seeing.

Greg said...

I like the guy with the pet flies around his head.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Bruce Beresford? You mean the guy who filmed Richard Gere dancing in an oversized diaper in King David?

See Puberty Blues if you have the chance. Or just find some excuses to use the title. Also, the HBO film about Pancho Villa was pretty good.

Greg said...

Bruce Beresford? You mean the guy who filmed Richard Gere dancing in an oversized diaper in King David?

The mid to late eighties were not good for Bruce. Not good at all.

Tony Dayoub said...

Did anyone catch Thompson's extended cameo in Australia?

Not a great film, but I fell under its spell enough to call it a guilty pleasure.

Greg said...

No I never saw Australia and didn't even know he was in it until you just mentioned it.

sivajitv said...

Hi.. its nice man...
Thompson has to give more films..
do good..