Oscar History

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Monologue: Sterling Archer, Burt Reynolds & Dead Bodies

Have you ever watched Archer? I had tuned in here or there but hadn't ever committed. This weekend I binge watched about 10 episodes and now I'm madly in love. I'm beginning to think it's one of the great sitcoms, each character is so fully defined and there are jokes of so many varieties, not just verbal but visual and physical and recurring and always true to character. One of my favorite recurring gags is Archer's obsession with Burt Reynolds. In the Season 2 episode "Pipeline Fever" he keeps talking about Gator (1976) since he and his ex-girlfriend/coworker are going to the swamp. They're arguing about the element of surprise when Archer gets distracted.

Which is why mobility is key. And how will we achieve mobility, huh? An airboat, Lana. Just like Burt Reynolds in White Lightning. Not to mention Gator! Which... even though it's a sequel I think it's the stronger of the two films.

Remember Jerry Reed's character in Gator? McCall? No? Well, whatever. Check this out, I stol--borrowed it from Woodhouse? RIGHT! It's just like in Gator.

Archer has blown their cover by pulling a gun and an air marshall is now pointing a gun at them. Later in the episode he shows up in an outfit that read suspiciously like Burt's insanely memorable rubber vest from Deliverance (1972) though it's not remarked upon.

Which brings us to a Burt Reynolds speech from that great 70s picture

What to do with a dead body... what to do? That's always a (movie) question. Fifty-three minutes into the classic Deliverance (1972), the shit has hit the fan or, rather, the men have already squealed like pigs. Four increasingly unhinged friends are now freaking out over the fresh corpse in their midst. Drew (Ronny Cox) in particular wants to be done with their time in the woods and turn things over to the law. Burt Reynolds has the answer in his greatest pre-Boogie Nights role (the one he was famously Oscar snubbed for).


You let me worry about that, Drew. You let me take care of that. You know what's going to be here, right here? A Lake! Far as you can see. Hundreds of feet deep. Hundreds of feet deep!

Did you ever look out over a lake? Think about something buried underneath it. Buried underneath it!

Man, that's about as buried as you can get.

It must have been tempting to film Burt's take-charge moment entirely in tight sweaty closeup. That's exactly what a modern filmmaker would do, beholden as they now all are to constant closeups and the TV-centric emphasis on the dead center of each frame, as if stardom can't be grasped if more than one person inhabits any frame. Thankfully, director John Boorman, his Oscar nominated editor Tom Priestley and the great cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond trust that alpha male star Burt Reynolds doesn't need any help in seizing a scene.

Instead we get a riveting and creepy mix of longshots, closeups, and slow pans which never let's us forget any of the players, their specific relationships to one another ...and especially the unsettling constant presence of that intruding dead body, draped inelegantly across a tree branch.


previous monologues


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Reader Comments (19)

Danger Zone!

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Archer is the best. But I can't decide if Lana or Archer are my favorite character.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I just discovered Archer in the last month or so. I had confused it with Arrow when people said they liked it. It's been a while since I laughed so much at anything I've seen on TV.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Was he FAMOUSLY Oscar snubbed? With apparently no precursor support, I wonder if he even was in the conversation even though he should have been. I mean, with accurate category placement - i.e. Marlon Brando in The Godfather and Paul Winfield in Sounder as supporting - even I am not sure if I could nominate him in such a strong year for supporting male thespians. I'd definitely go with Winfield, Joel Grey in Cabaret and two of the Godfather guys (Marlon and Robert Duvall). This leaves Burt, Eddie Albert in The Heartbreak Kid and James Caan in The Godfather battling it out for the fifth spot, and I just don't know. But Burt Reynolds without mustache looks so much like Brando that I'm inclined to say that one Marlon spot is enough in 1972's Best Supporting Actor lineup.
In any case, Burt's take-charge moment in Deliverance always achieves the impossible for me: I do wish that he'd accepted the Bond role.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

In an episode of The Golden Girls, Blanche remarks that Burt should have won the Oscar for Deliverance, and that the Academy are just jealous.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

willy - i think so. people have certainly talked about it a lot since then. also it's important to note that precursors were not at all how we think of them now. There was only the Golden Globes and the holy trinity of critics awards (LA, NY and NSFC) essentially so a lot of people were once nominated without precursor support.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The voicework on that show is quite something. It's the best role Judy Greer has every played (and that's sad).

And the writing is amazing.

Mallory is such a kickass diva. STEEEEERLING! DANGER ZONE!

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Love Archer! And Lana. Lana. LANAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Willy: Uh...I think it's a stretch to identify Brando in The Godfather as "supporting". It's a very long movie and he's the dominant figure of the entire first half. (Pacino in supporting IS fraud, because he dominates the second half of the film.) I have no view on appropriate placement on Paul Winfield because I have never seen Sounder. But Burt in Deliverance as supporting? Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty, no question, but BURT? No, I'd say he's the take charge co-lead along with Voight.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Volvagia, I always wonder what kind of movies you see. Brando and Winfield in Sounder are in the same position: their movies are about their son and they are mostly absent because they're either shot or arrested about one quarter - and not, as you wrongly imply in the case of Marlon, after "the entire first half" - into the film. Supporting in terms of both story and screentime is supporting by my definition. Reynolds in Deliverance is absent for nearly all of the famous rape scene, then gets wounded about halfway into the movie, steps back and leaves the rest of the film to Jon Voight and, to a lesser degree, to Ned Beatty. I concede that something like the recently discussed Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker is on the line and could be reasonably placed as either lead or supporting, but Mary Badham in To Kill A Mockingbird, Marlon Brando in The Godfather and Burt Reynolds in Deliverance should be obvious to anyone who has actually seen the movies.
Nat, some people are still nominated with little to no precursor support (like Tommy Lee Jones in In The Valley Of Elah). And there was BAFTA even though it is possible that the early 70s were the time when they came after the Oscar ceremony. Either way, five other awards are nothing to scoff at I think and - unlike you - I've never heard of a huge "Reynolds wasn't nominated for Deliverance" outcry. He might have been seen as a possible contender, but I doubt that many people in late 72/early 73 expected him to be a surefire nominee even after the Oscar campaigns for Marlon Brando and Paul Winfield shamelessly placed them in the wrong category and made room in a still extremely strong supporting actor field.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

WILLY -- i firmly believe the BAFTA awards were after the Oscars at that point in history but it hardly matters either way. I've been Oscar obsessed since the early 1980s and trust me that nobody *ever* talked about BAFTA stateside back then. It was only the Globes and the Oscars that people cared about until the internet popularized awards season mania in the late 90s / early 00s.

I have heard the controversy about Burt Reynolds not being nominated my whole life, mostly in connection to his nude spread in Cosmopolitan which some say cost him not being taken seriously as an actor.

HENRY -- it's a tough call right? The best thing about the show is that every character is a delight in their own sick way.

March 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm so glad you've discovered Archer and now love it as we all do. I agree that it's one of the best sitcoms currently. The writing is incredible, which was honestly not what I was expecting from yet another adult cartoon starring an asshole as the main character. By all logic, the current season should suck, since it's a genre reboot that attempts to shoehorn its characters into a new unfamiliar setting in order to keep the show fresh (looking at you, Weeds). But because the comedy is so grounded in character and timing, they could set it on a desert island in 2020 and it would still be hilarious.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

"It's a very long movie and he's the dominant figure of the entire first half."


March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

While I always felt that Burt was close to a nom, the competition was just too fierce that year. And though I think he's highly underrated, all the trashy movies he made did him no favors in trying to gain respectability. And his whining on all the talk shows about how he was robbed of a nomination really soured me on him.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

What exactly is the concept of Archer for us newbies?

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHannah


Get Smart + Mr. & Mrs. Smith + Frisky Dingo + Arrested Development + Drawn Together + nearly HBO levels of adult content = Archer


March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I love love love Archer. Him and Lana may be my favorite characters.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngelica Jade

So so happy to hear you love Archer! It is not for everybody, very mean spirited - like 'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia', which I love but always can understand when people don't like it.

@Paul Outlaw - hah. You are great. I always read your comments and hope you sleep on a pile of money with many beautiful people of your gender preference.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

@Rebecca: That is the nicest (and most welcome) thing someone has wished me in...ever. From your keyboard to... Thanks!

March 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

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