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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 11, 2003 - Issue 78


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Graham Greene receives Spirit Best Actor Nomination for "Skins"

by Roscoe Pond

Graham Greene (left) and Gary Farmer in "Skins"Graham Greene has received a Best Actor nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards for his portrayal of Mogie Yellow Lodge in the film "Skins".

Directed by Chris Eyre (Skinwalkers) Graham portrays a tormented Vietnam Veteran who has earned three Purple Hearts but cannot put down the alcohol. He is watched over by his younger brother Rudy played by Eric Scwheig (Big Eden) as they both are trapped within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The LA Times calls "Skins", "A wrenching, uncompromisingly bleak film" and it's Stars, "Scwheig and Greene are actors of strong physical presence. Each has emotional range and intensity that demolish movie stereotypes of Indians as stoics".

This nomination is an overdue tribute to Graham Greene and his work in Movies and TV. Like many, I've followed his incredible career after he portrayed Eddie Mills the brother of Olympic runner Billy Mills in the 1983 film "Running Brave". Robbie Benson had the title role, but it was Greene who carried the heavy as Eddie who overlooks his own jealousy to show Billy their rich Indian heritage. This role was just the beginning of Graham's presence on film.

Over the years, Greene has given us true indelible characters that we see on every Indian Reservation. The stuttering Vietnam Vet in "Pow-wow Highway" 1989, the no-nonsense Walter Crow Horse in "Thunderheart" 1992 and that same year as the harsh revenge consumed Militant in "Clearcut". Greene is the every Indian man who has given us characters we all can understand and relate to.

Graham GreeneAs an actor, I've studied Graham Greene to see what he does next and he never disappoints me. I like the fact that he performs comedy really well. The crazy silly chef in "Christmas in the Clouds" 2001, the wise cracking cop in "Die Hard III: with a vengeance" 1995, the kind Indian in "Snow Dogs" 2000 and the hilarious best friend of Mel Gibson in "Maverick" 1994.

Graham has made a great transition onto Television where he has found another empowering presence. Check out "The Last of his Tribe" 1992, "The Broken Chain" 1994, episodes of "Northern Exposure" CBS 1990-95 and "Wolf Lake" UPN with Lou Diamond Phillips 2001. My favorite performance was an episode he appeared in on the NBC series "LA Law" 1991 called "Dances with Sharks". He portrayed a hard bitten Indian lawyer who fights to keep a half breed Indian child from white society. He loses in the Navajo courts even though the judge is Indian played by Floyd Westerman.

Graham Greene will be forever remembered as Kicking Bird in "Dances with Wolves" 1990. He recieved a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for that part which really could have been the lead. I watched that film many, many times but mainly to see him at work. It really is his best as a visionary man who only wants to protect his Indian people from the onslaught of white soldiers. There are great moments he has with Kevin Costner (John Dunbar) and my favorite is when he has to say goodbye at the end of the film. But, right before he desparately searches for a present that he wants to give John that will represent the most respect. Through his anger you see that he is saying goodbye to his best friend and he doesn't want to. John Dunbar wasn't just a white soldier. He was a human being who grew to respect the Indian people and they in return. But, none more than Kicking Bird. Truly, a wonderful performance by Graham.

My favorite role of his was as Arlen Bitterbuck in "The Green Mile" 1999. He has very brief scenes as a convicted man on death row in the 1930's. Before Arlen is about to be electrocuted to death he talks about when he was most happiest. In that moment, you can see volumes of emotion in his eyes. I can see the woman he loves and him lying naked in the moonlight. A fine performance in a small cameo role which has less than five minutes of screen time.

Graham Greene has made over 40 Films and most of them are Independents from Canada and the U.S. So, it is fitting that the Independent Spirit Awards have nominated him for Best actor. It pays tribute to a performer who has carved out a wonderful career. The Spirit Awards will be held on March 22, 2003 under a tent on the Santa Monica beach in California. There may be a small chance for a Best Actor Oscar Nomination, but there's no harm in trying. Graham Greene has my vote.

From Hollywood,
Roscoe Pond

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