Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oscar Overlooked: Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins

Welcome to Oscar Overlooked, my spotlight on criminally underrated performances. It's no secret that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is notorious for not rewarding genre films and their makers. Comedy, action and science fiction score big with audiences but usually not with the voting board. Sure every now and again they'll rally behind a James Cameron that can mix spectacle and story but for the most part, big crowd pleasing films have to bask in their financial success and word of mouth rather than critics or awards. By 1988, former Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion Arnold Schwarzenegger had been acting full time for nearly 10 years. Films like Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator cemented his arrival to Hollywood but he was still only seen as an overdeveloped freak show good at playing brutes and robots. 1987's Predator was a potent mix of action, horror and sci-fi while giving The Oak more dialog than usual. It would be his highest grossing film to date with a $60 million domestic haul but subsequent returns for futuristic sci-fi actioner The Running Man and buddy picture Red Heat wouldn't keep the momentum going.

Rather than repeat himself with another bloody affair, Arnold lined up Twins, a comedy about genetically modified brothers meeting each other for the first time as adults. Showing business savvy and belief in the project, Arnold, co-star Danny DeVito and director Ivan Reitman forfeited their upfront fees, feeling that studio Universal was taking all of the risk. Settling for 20% of the back end, the film's budget was a moderate $16 million. Why is Arnold's portrayal of the naive, seemingly perfect and educated Julius Benedict worthy of praise? Because Arnold convincingly portrays a naive virgin! If that's not acting, you tell me what is. Long known for his boisterous personality and love of women coupled with his tough, "one man army" screen persona; seeing Arnold play a childlike, literal nice guy who doesn't like to fight, never gotten pissed off, drank beer or had sex in his life was something audiences had never seen or expected. The film was a huge hit, grossing $111 million in the U.S. alone and another $104 million overseas making it the 5th highest grossing film of 1988. All in, Arnold's percentage deal netted him a reported $35 million bucks. Like Clint Eastwood before him who lampooned his own tough guy image in Paint Your Wagon and Every Which Way But Loose, action stars have trying to soften their image ever since from then rival Stallone in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot to Vin Diesel in The Pacifier and The Rock in The Gameplan and The Tooth Fairy.

Reviews weren't overly good for Twins but Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars and the film netted a handful of music nominations and awards from the Golden Globes and People's Choice Awards. During Oscar season, usual suspects and subjects like an autistic Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Gene Hackman as an FBI agent investigating racially charged murder in Mississippi Burning and Edward James Olmos as an inner city school teacher who won't give up on his class in Stand and Deliver were lauded for Best Actor. Surprisingly, Tom Hanks was also nominated for his portrayal of a kid turned into an adult for comedy-drama Big. Twins was now Arnold's highest grossing vehicle yet and follow up sci-fi action flick Total Recall made even more followed by another well received comedy, Kindergarten Cop before mammoth money maker and cinema changer Terminator 2: Judgement Day would be nominated for half a dozen technical Oscars.

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