100 Years, 66 Villains: #66 – #61
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 22, 2008
“So, shall we leave it at that then?”
Ian / Ray, High Fidelity
Played By: Tim Robbins
M.O.: Ian was the rebound boyfriend of Laura, the latest of the many exes of Rob Gordon, John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity, and he’s the ultimate “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” guy. Though I still think Rob should be thanking his lucky stars that his beloved Laura has chosen to follow him up with someone so obviously short term (what, would Rob rather she be sleeping with a French supermodel with a self-deprecating sense of humor?), it’s not hard to see why he lets Ian get in his head so much. Robbins only gets one full scene in the movie (linked to above), but just the sight of him, with his ponytail, tinted sunglasses and smug “It’s cool, I’m just fucking your ex” smile–that right there could drive a sane man bizz-erk.
Sympathetic Reading: When you get down to it, he’s arguably still a more likeable character than the shallow, self-pitying, and superior Rob. And while we’re at it, what the hell is so great about this Laura chick that everyone cares so much about who she is and isn’t screwing?
Jacy, The Last Picture Show
Played By: Cybil Shepherd
M.O.: No one really gets out clean in The Last Picture Show, which is one of the reasons why Jacy isn’t higher on this list. Still, there’s no question that Cybil’s ahead-of-her-time manipulative teen bitch character was the movie’s ultimate antagonist, aside from mabe that rich kid who refuses to sleep with Jacy due to her virginal status (my, how standards have changed since the 50s). She ditches Duane (Jeff Bridges) after using him for some unsatisfactory Out-Of-The-Way sex, then connives to get his best friend Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) to fall in love and even marry her before revealing it as a ruse to get attention from her parents (or something), breaking his heart and alienating him from Duane. At least Jeff Bridges got some sex out of it, Bottoms has to go crawling back to old Cloris Leachman–nothing against the MTM alum, but even Ellen Burstyn was way hotter in that movie.
Modern-Day Analogue: Tyra Colette on Friday Night Lights, before they decided the character should stick around for a while and was toned down from a high school Scarlett O’Hara to a slightly more intelligent Summer Roberts.
Jesus’s Entourage, He Got Game
Played By: Bill Nunn, Rosario Dawson, Arthur J. Nascarella, Misc.
M.O.: As Ray Allen goes on what may very well become his first-ever championship run, it’s important to remember the little people that helped get him where he is today. Like Coach Cincotta (Nascarella), his High School mentor who bribed and essentially tried to blackmail him into tipping him off as to where he was planning on going to college. Like Lala (Dawson), his high school girlfriend, who cajoled him into taking counsel from the poisonous big-league agent D’Andre Mackey, whom she also happened to be cheating on him with. Like Uncle Bubba (Nunn), who when Ray most needed guidance, was more preoccupied with the car he would be receiving when Allen finally got paid. And hey, let’s not forget pa Jake (Denzel Washington), who pressured him (albeit for slightly more pressing reasons) to choose to go to Big State based on his own selfish needs. Really, it’s a miracle he ever even made the Pros.
Still Preferable To: Gene Pingatore, Arthur Agee’s real-life basketball coach in Hoop Dreams. An unsupportive, self-serving hardass, if real-life villains were eligible for this list, he’d be a top 20 for sure.
Sarah Mitchell, A Simple Plan
Played By: Bridget Fonda
M.O.: You could call Fonda’s ranking here as being sort of representative of all the Lady MacBeth figures of recent film, narrowly edging out Laura Linney in the overrated Mystic River and Rachel Miner in the, uh, less psychological Bully. Fonda’s performance is by far the sneakiest of the three, anyway–she seems the harmless little librarian until she starts taking too much of a vested interest in hubby’s (Bill Paxton) financial affairs. Her machinations (including her big monologue, linked to above, which somehow failed to net her an Oscar nomination) end up leading to the death of just about everyone in the movie, but her only emotional outpouring comes in the final scene of Paxton burning his dirty money. If NO MA’AM ever held a film festival to show why housewives should never be allowed out of the kitchen, this’d have to make the bill.
Sympathetic Reading: I suppose when you’re married to Bill Paxton, someone in the relationship has to take charge.
Agents Big Johnson and Little Johnson, Die Hard
Played By: Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush
M.O. The ultimate “Not Anymore You’re Not!” villains–the unwanted higher-ups brought in to handle a delicate situation by pouring gas on it and then shooting it with a bazooka. Federal Agents Johnson and Johnson perfectly exemplify incompetent upper management, fucking things up for John McClane as much as possible and even coming close to shooting a couple times, all while playing perfectly into the hands of the two-steps-ahead Hans Gruber (“You ask for miracles, Theo, I give you the F…B…I…!”) Driving headfirst into stupid decisions for no particular reason (“Hey–lose the grid, or you lose your job!”), they even make Paul Gleason–the second-biggest stock authoritative asshole of the 1980s–look like one of the good guys. Wow.
Classic Villain Exchange:
Big Johnson (Shooting at Terrorists/Hostages): “HA HA HA!! Just like fucking Saigon, eh Slick??!?!”
Little Johnson (Chuckling): “I was in Junior High, dickhead.”
Taylor Vaughan, She’s All That
Played By: Jodi Lyn O’Keefe
M.O.: I don’t remember Taylor Vaughan’s character having an equivalent in My Fair Lady or Pygmalion, but I guess that explains why She’s All That won so many more Oscars than either of those movies. The character of Taylor is hardly a unique one, but bravo to Jodi Lyn O’Keefe for really sinking her teeth into the role, as if she knew that a decade later, I’d have to google her name three times to write this article because I kept assuming she was someone more famous. She exudes bitchiness out of every pore, looking just hott and just psychotic enough to be a shoo-in for Prom Queen while secretly being despised from every corner of the cafeteria. Watch her just destroy Rachel Leigh Cook at the climactic party scene–“Honey, look around you. To everyone here who matters, you’re vapor, you’re spam, a waste of perfectly good yearbook space, and nothing’s ever gonna change that. Oh…you’re gonna cry, aren’t you??” I don’t know if any of the mega-popular girls at my high school were quite as vicious as Taylor (I also don’t know if we had an R&B megastar acting as our official school DJ, or if we had synchronized dance sequences at our senior prom), but I think I’d be kind of disappointed if they weren’t.
Not Without Precedent: Bennie in Pretty in Pink had a similarly unchecked mean streak, and even sort of looked like Jodi Lyn. Too bad she had to contend with James Spader.