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Archive for May, 2008

Clap Clap ClapClapClap / Eugoogly: The ’07-’08 San Antonio Spurs

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 30, 2008

Hi-o Silver, Away

I do vaguely remember in my sports-blackout period hearing about the San Antonio Spurs winning a championship or two, and it surprised me at the time. I didn’t remember them seeming like a team destined for greatness when I was paying attention in the mid-90s, and unlike the three-peating Lakers, where I knew about Shaq and Kobe and understood completely how they could become dynastic, I couldn’t name a single player on the Spurs, and had no idea what they were supposed to be about. I figured that they were just one of those teams that sort of lucked into a championship due to luck and a weak pool of competition–it seemed to happen all the time in baseball, anyway–and didn’t have anything near that sort of legendary caliber, certainly nothing necessitating use of the D word.

Now that I’ve been paying attention and learned a little bit about the last ten years of basketball, I can’t say that the Spurs make any more sense to me. You’re telling me that a team centered around a perpetually sullen power forward who seems like he’d shy away from a fight with Tiger Woods, a French point guard who looks like a dead ringer for The Brain (cartoon mouse, not anatomical organ), and an Argentinian bench player that’s already going bald–you’re telling me these guys have won four of the last nine championships? All right, the team’s evolved a little over the last nine years, the first one was more about Duncan and David Robinson, and players like Stephen Jackson, Avery Johnson, Speedy Claxton, Sean Elliot and Glenn Robinson have all played parts passing through their championship runs. But when people think back on the Spur superpower of the last ten years, it’ll be Tony, Timmy and Manu that immediately come to mind. And that’s just weird.

The Spurs’ activity during the Western Conference’s arms race in the second half of the season told me everything I really needed to know about the team. While the Jazz and Rockets were sliding their final pieces into place, Lakers were stealing all-stars from the Grizzlies, and the Suns and the Mavs were mortgaging their futures on ancient future-Hall-of-Famers, what did the Spurs do? They added Damon Stoudamire and Kurt Thomas–two solid, reliable veterans that probably weren’t going to add anything to the team but fundamentals and stability. And that, I realized, was the San Antonio Spurs. No flash, no risk/reward, no headlines, no fun. Just results.

The New England Patriots were the obvious point of comparison for me–another perennial title contender constructed with factory-like precision and role delegation. This is especially apt when considering the coach/puppeteers of both teams–both are cold, no-nonsense, do-what-it-takes figures that always seem to be a step or two ahead of their red-blooded brethren. But I didn’t realize just how similar Gregg Popovich was to Bill Belichick until I saw Popovich signaling for the Hack-a-Shaq in game three of the Suns-Spurs series, and I got flashes of The Emperor, which happened at least once a game when I was watching the Pats in the post-season.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure the comparison is completely accurate, because the feeling of threat I got from the two teams was quitnessentially different. When I was watching the Patriots, it felt like they were always going to win. When I was watching the Spurs, it felt they were never going to lose. And there’s a difference there–the Patriots were a team that wowed, a team that regularly had blow-out wins that felt like they were never going to end, a team that obviously had the most talented roster in the NFL and by all rights, should win every game. The Spurs, on the other hand, didn’t really wow, barely ever blew out the other team, and often seemed outskilled by the competition–I remember a game this year when they were down three with seconds to go to the fucking Knicks. But they came back to win in that game, just like they always seemed to come back to win. I never understood it, I never wanted to believe in it, but it always seemed to happen–cemented recently by their Game 7 victory in New Orleans, after being down 2-0 and 3-2 earlier in the series. Couldn’t anyone put these guys away for good?

This really must be the Lakers’ year, then, and Kobe’s specifically. The Spurs are the team that’s supposed to come back from 17 in two different games in the same series to win squeakers–hell, they did it earlier this postseason against the Suns, which was like the basketball equivalent of watching Barack Obama lose close margins in several key states to a suddenly steamrolling John McCain. And yet somehow the Lakers were able to turn the tables on the Black and Silver, thanks mostly to two titanic second-half performances by Kobe Bryant, who re-affirmed his MVP status and then some in this series, closing in a way even the mighty Chris Paul was seemingly unable to do. Before the playoffs, everyone was talking about the possibility of a Celts-Lakers finale, but I never believed it would actually happen, especially with the league’s worst-case scenario–another Spurs/Pistons finals–still an all-too-feasible possibility. Now the C’s are one game away from making the dream a reality. Maybe it all just had to happen like this.

I’d like to believe that this loss signals, as some have suggested, not only the end of the Spurs’ season, but the end of their reign in general. And with most of the team seemingly in their 50s, the ascending teams in the west (Jazz, Hornets) strong and getting stronger, young teams like the Warriors and the Blazers possibly poised to take the next big step in ’08-’09, and now the Lakers looking like an emergingĀ  NBA superpower, it seems like the changing of the guard might finally have arrived. But despite the loss here, I’ve learned my lesson this year about counting the Spurs out. Or before you know it, we could be talking about five of the last eleven.

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Posted in Clap Clap ClapClapClap, Eugoogly | Leave a Comment »

Qlassic Qliches: The Indiana Jones Map Scene

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 29, 2008

Pack up, but don’t stray

So yeah, in what must be a record for me in recent years, I saw a second new movie within the space of a week. That record-breaker of a cinematic release would happen to be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, fourth release in the Indiana Jones franchise. Can’t say I really had high expectations going in, nor did I really have particularly high hopes, even–much as I love the Indy franchise, I don’t think any of the movies are particularly remarkable on their own all the way through. I knew the dialogue was probably going to be on the dull side, I knew the chemistry between him and Karen Allen (and him and Shia LaBoeuf) was going to be forced, and I knew that the plot was probably gonna make no sense whatsoever. I just demanded two things of the movie, both of which it delivered:

  1. It had to have at least one chase / escape scene of double-digit minute length, with multi-part sets, multiple different villains, and a bunch of different fights going on at once.
  2. It had to have one of those scenes where Indy flies somewhere and you follow the route taken on the map in the background.

I don’t really know what it is about these scenes that I love so much, but for whatever reason, I just can’t imagine an Indiana Jones movie without them. For me they sort of personify the entire adventurous spirit of the movies, in which there’s so much travel and excitement packed into the movie that they need to reduce the actual voyage of their world-trekking to a few seconds of a continuous red line. Plus, they also usually mark the moment in the movie where things are really starting to kick into gear–when the background work has already been laid out and the shit is really starting to go down. We’re not at university anymore, it’s time for sword fights and deadly insects and nazi face-melting.

Also, I think it must’ve been these scenes, more than anything, that completely fucked my sense of geography at an early age. It made trans-continental flight seem like something that could be accomplished in a matter of seconds, like people regularly took flights from Quebec to Qatar like it was no big deal. Additional confusion was provided by the way it makes it seem like countries are just differently-shaped slabs of brown–fairly clevelry parodied in that Family Guy where Peter and Brian balloon over the Middle East and see the land beneath as an Indiana Jones map, and Brian observes “Huh, so that’s what it looks like from up here.”

Mad points to the then-Puff Daddy, by the way, for parodying the IJ map scene in the forgotten classic video for “Been Around the World.” with joke-towns like “Koffee Kake” providing the layover cities. Let it never be said that the Diddler didn’t pay attention to pop culture details.

Posted in Qlassic Qliches | 3 Comments »

100 Years, 66 Villains: #24 – #19

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 27, 2008

Catching up on S3 of Weeds edition…

#24.


Cal Hockley, Titanic

Played By: Billy Zane

M.O.: Titanic was not a very subtle movie, and Billy Zane was not a very subtle villain. You think of some of the other Great Love Affair movies made in recent years–The Notebook, The English Patient, The End of the Affair–and the Other Guy is usually at least slightly sympathetic, if not exactly likeable. Billy Zane is pretty much a prick from the jump in this one, though–he hates art, he hates fun, and he definitely hates any whiff of uppity femininity. As the movie goes on, it’s sort of impressive how he drops any sort of pretensions to non-douchiness, just framing people for murder and using kids as life-preservers left and right. Best part? The dude gets away with everything! Never let it be said that it James Cameron was just a crowd-pleaser.

Partner-in-Villainy: Ruth, Rose’s domineering mother, played by Frances Fisher. As far as cold, business-first mums go, it’s hard to get too much bitchier than marrying your daughter off to some rich chode to save your family’s rep. Especially when you’re as creepily pale as Fisher.

#23.


Karen Crowder, Michael Clayton

Played By: Tilda Swinton

M.O.: “For such a smart person, you really are lost, aren’t you?” Tilda Swinton’s Oscar-winning turn as a rising star in shady agricultural corp UNorth who acts a little too far over her station is one of the all-time great despicable big-business performances. I feel like in most other movies, a character like Karen–who calls for hits on several people deemed a risk to UNorth’s prosperity, seemingly because she thinks it’s just what people ion her position are supposed to do–would be played like a confident, cold-hearted monster. But under writer/director Tony Gilroy and Swinton’s guidance, she’s just a thoughtless, shoot-first thug, and worse because you know there’s no way that she’d be capable of doing her own dirty work. It’s what makes Michale’s climactic triumph scene over Karen (up there with the There Will Be Blood denouement as the best scene of 2007) and that final shot of her, doubled-over, wondering what the fuck just happened, so amazing.

Not Without Precedent: Diana Christensen, Faye Dunaway’s similarly Academy-baiting role in Network, set the standard for conniving, murderous businesswomen. She doesn’t make the list, though, because I have no problem believing she could clean up her own mess if need was.

#22.


Shooter McGavin, Happy Gilmore

Played By: Christopher McDonald

M.O.: Few villain molds are as blissfully one-dimensional as that of the Adam Sandler villain. Bradley Whitford’s character in Billy Madison, Glen Goulia in The Wedding Singer, Peter Gallagher’s character in Mr. Deeds, the dude with the big dick in Anger Management–all selfish, insensitive assholes next to which Sandler can shine as a Christ-like beacon of righteousness and coolness. Of course, none of them can compare to Shooter, the ultimate badass of sweatered aggression. Cheatiing on the tour, sabotaging Happy, referring to himself in the third person…the man is an unstobbale force of snobby despicability. Even the way he walks–as if it was designed to show off just how much of a tight-ass he is–is pitch-perfect.

Impressive Resume: Some people just have one of those faces you want to distrust. If McDonald ever played anything resembling a likeable character, I’ve certainly missed that part of his filmography–the closest thing I can think of is Matthew Lillard’s dad in SLC Punk, and that guy was only sympathetic because he was fairly honest about what a middle-upper class leech he was. Ruining the purity of game shows as the host of Twenty-One in Quiz Show might go down as his greatest act of well-coiffed destruction.

#21.


Jo, Rounders

Played By: Gretchen Mol

M.O.: My father always cites Barbara Hershey’s character in Hoosiers as the ultimate Sports Wife villain–the kind of simpering, unsupportive partner who can’t, won’t, or just doesn’t want to understand the important part that sports plays in her man’s life. Fair enough, but I haven’t seen that movie since I was maybe five, so I gotta go with what I know here, and that’s Gretchen fucking Mol in Rounders. Her motivations, generally speaking, are pure–she loves Mike McD (Matt Damon), sure, and she probably is just looking out for his best interest when she makes him promise to quit rounding. But her complete inflexibility, her complete lack of faith, and her sheer unwillingness to forgive or understand why it’s poker and not law that’s in his blood makes her the Barbara Hershey for my generation of sports movies, and then some. She ain’t worth it, man–especially with a sex-starved, poker-loving Famke Janssen waiting in the wings.

Partner-in-Villainy: Despite being one of the best performances from the guy I’d probably quote as being the best actor of his time, Worm (Edward Norton) isn’t really much better a friend to Mike than Jo is a girlfriend. Up until the point where he shows up at the Sherriff’s card game and tries to force Mike into working their two-man mechanics on a bunch of cops, his many transgressions are forgivable, but at that point, Mike’s absolutely right to cut Worm out of his life. Why he refuses to do this with Jo is the movie’s real mystery.

#20.


Ruth Fowler, In the Bedroom

Played By: Sissy Spacek

M.O.: The slap heard ’round the world. As with Jo, Ruth’s villainy is far from incomprehensible–Nick Stahl, still best remembered by me as the title character in Bully, does a surprisingly compelling job as Ruth’s loveable first-born Frank. When his death comes at the hand of the ex-husband of his girlfriend, who she never approved of in the first place, her grief, and her ensuing chilliness is more than understandable. Hell, so are the mind games she plays with hubby Matt (Tom Wilkinson), even when she sort of ends up manipulating him into playing vigilante after the ex-husband (William Mapother, a personal Villainous That Guy fave) gets light sentencing. But it’s that slap–dispensed at the expense of the girlfriend, one Natalie Strout (Marissa Tomei), after she essentially begs Ruth for forgiveness for her unintentional part in Frank’s death–that cemented her place in this list, and earned deserved Oscar nods for both.

Impressive Resume: In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been a little while since Sissy played the loveable innocents she originally made her bread and butter in movies like Badlands and Coal Miner’s Daughter.
Her role as Jim Garrison’s wife in JFK is the political equivalent of the Barbara Hersehy/Gretchen Mol sports wife archetype.

#19.


Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary’s Baby

Played By: John Cassavettes

M.O.: What would be really interesting, I think, would be an epilogue showing what Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy’s relationship is like after she gives birth to the anti-christ. Is the institution of marriage strong enough for her to forgive Guy for selling her womb out to the Devil, letting Satan rape and impregnate her in exchange for some better theatrical roles? Admittedly I’ve never experienced the frustration of being an unemployed actor in New York–maybe my freshman-year roommate would have greater sympathy for his plight–but I dunno, the two of them seemed to have a pretty nice apartment, and before she cuts her hair and starts looking like a walking skeleton, Mia Farrow is a pretty good catch. Letting your wife unwillingly bring about the end of times doesn’t quite seem like the next appropriate career step to me.

Small-Screen Equivalent: Those idiot fucking Reaper parents who sell their first-born’s soul to Satan in exchange for the father’s sickness being cured–fair enough at first, since they thought the husband was sterile, but why not get an abortion, instead of just going “ho-hum, I guess our son is just gonna have to spend eternity in damnation,” once the mother is actually impregnated? Or, y’know, just use birth control in the first place to be on the safe side.

Posted in 100 Years 66 Villains | 5 Comments »

HOT ONE: Weezer – “Pork and Beans” (video)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 25, 2008

You’d hate for the net to think that you lost your cool

One of the theories I’ve been proffering recently to anyone that will listen is that the internet, as a collective entity, should be recognized as a state, or at least as some sort of republic, in the electoral process. When it got big in the 90s, you could argue that the net was little more than a bunch of amateurish individuals still recovering from the revelatory powers of emoticons, but as the world wide web came of age around the turn of the century (around the term “world wide web” stopped being used altogether, I suppose), it has evolved and congealed into a network powerful, influential and unified enough to certainly at least measure up against some of the jobberier states out there (I’m not going to name names, but suffice to say that if you have a directional in your name that isn’t “North,” your clout is probably somewhat comparable). As for who the delegates would be to represent this increasingly streamlined superpower–look no further than Weezer’s “Pork and Beans” video.

I think we all knew that we had something special to expect from this video. It’s no coincidence that this is my third time writing about the band in the space of a month or so–after a half-decade or so of relative non-committance, Weezer appear to be gearing up to once again be the Band of the Moment, and amidst their none-too-impressive amount of viable competition, they already seemed to be well on their way (“Pork & Beans” quickly jumped to #1 on the Modern Rock charts, and is currently in its third week on top). And as anyone with even a passing interest in Weezer knows, their musical success has always been inextricably tied to a series of creative, playful, and instantly iconic music videos, whether it be the Happy Days mash of “Buddy Holly,” the sumo “T&A” of “Hash Pipe” or the Playboy Mansion crashing of “Beverly Hills.” Clearly, if Weezer were really prepping for one last stab at Rock God status, the “Pork and Beans” video was going to have to have something to do with it.

Well, 2.3 million viewers within 48 hours of the “Pork and Beans” video debuting say that this vid indeed might have something to contribute to a Weezer power play. In case you haven’t watched the link yet and haven’t been linked to it a thousand times elsewhere, let me ‘splain: Weezer has congregated nearly all of the most esteemed internet representatives for a singalong, a love letter to the YouTube sensation, among whose ranks “Pork & Beans” will no doubt soon be able to count itself. Some of them I had never heard of before (Sex Advice Girl, Charlie the Unicorn, Will it Blend?), some of them I had heard of but never actually bothered to watch (Leave Britney Alone, Lightsaber Guys, Miss Teen South Carolina), some of them I had seen but not in years (Diet Coke and Mentos, It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!, All Your Base are Belong To Us) and some I had seen fairly recently and fairly frequently (Shoes, Chocolate Rain, Dramatic Chipmunk/Gopher). There are some big ones missing–you can read ten of ’em here, and that still doesn’t even mention Rick Astley, My New Haircut or 2 Girls 1 Cup–but this is probably as close to an internet meme canon as has ever been organized in popular culture.

That said, it’s not the first time such a thing has been attempted. South Park fans will no doubt note a coincidental similarity to something recently attempted in the show’s “Canada on Strike!” episode, in which the boys end up in the midst of a fight-to-the-death between many of the phenomena included here. And indeed, Canadian frat-rock torch-bearers Barenaked Ladies got there first even in the music video realm, with 2006’s little-seen “Sound of Your Voice,” also including appearances from the Numa Numa guy, the Diet Coke & Mentos scientists and the History of Dance dude. These precedents, however, do little to dull the impact of “Pork and Beans’–the South Park scene seems forced (surprise, surprise) and lazy, and the BNL vid, while perfectly nice and chuckle-worthy, feels slight and maybe a little pre-mature (though to be fair, I suppose the fact that I have no idea who the fuck Barats and Bereta are might have something to do with that).

Maybe it just took until 2008 for enough of these phenomena to properly materialize before they could be documented so brilliantly in music video form. And truly, Weezer were the perfect band to do it–the video functions, along with ’95’s classic “Buddy Holly” and ’02’s underrated Muppet melee “Keep Fishin’,” as a sort of third arm in a Weezer-inserted-in-Popular-Media trifecta. And like the other two, it’s not the clever references or subtle innovations that make the video so enthralling, it’s the sheer enthusiasm they display for the source material, a like-mindedness that when coupled with the generally good vibes of Weezer’s soundtracking, makes all of pop culture feel like one warm, fuzzy family. In real life, it’s possible that in five years no one will remember who Chris Crocker and Tay Zonday are, but in the world of “Pork and Beans,” they’ll always be rocking out with Daft Bodies, sipping experimental margaritas by the Will it Blend? guy. Nice to know.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of “Pork and Beans,” though, will be as the signifier of the moment that the internet officially replaced TV as the homeland of the music video. Back in the day, a video of the magnitude of “Pork and Beans” would have had a specific, much-hyped premiere on MTV, and its popularity would be measured by its ranking on shows like TRL or the weekly Top 20 video countdown or something of that ilk–now, the moment of its leaking to YouTube is its de facto premiere date, and the number of hits is the popularity indicator. But even more tellingly, you remember how there used to be music videos that specifically made fun of other music videos, like David Lee Roth’s “Just a Gigolo / I Ain’t Got Nobody” and Blink-182’s “All the Small Things“? Well, this is the 21st-century equivalent, in which music videos are no longer popular or iconic enough to justify such a mocking pastiche–people that aren’t home in the three hours a day when videos are shown on basic cable might not recognize references to the latest Rihanna or JT videos, but everyone can instantly recognize the Dramatic Chipmunk and the Sneezing Panda. Sad for a former MTV junkie such as myself, but possibly promising for the future of the medium at large.

As for Weezer, now with the entire state/republic of the internet on their side–if this doesn’t make them as popular as they ever were before, then absolutely nothing will. Until the “Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” video, at least.

Posted in Hot One | 4 Comments »

The Good Dr.’s Reasons Why Not: Iron Man

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 25, 2008

“The truth is…”

First, let me square with you guys here: 24 hours ago, I didn’t know a single fucking thing about Iron Man at all outside of what I saw in the previews for this movie. In general, I don’t know squat about anything comics-related outside of ways they might be represented in other mediums–in other words, unless they made a movie or TV show about it, comics are up there with geography, carpentry and love in terms of the subjects on which I feel the least qualified to express opinions. So all I had to go on going into Iron Man was the Black Sabbath song, the Ghostface Killah alias (which is actually “Tony StarkS,” which confused me greatly for the first half-hour of the movie) and the fact that Robert Downey Jr. looked like kind of a dick in the movie. Who he was, how he got there, what he can do and what he actually does–all mysteries to me.

So bear this in mind when I discuss why Iron Man, and its plot, specifically, left me so flustered and unsatisfied. And also bear in mind that I would hardly say this movie is a complete waste of time–though given the fact that I go to the movies like a half-dozen times a year, and that I had the choice to see Street Kings were I so inclined, it probably wasn’t the best choice. But the performance of Robert Downey Jr. alone (in the part he was born to play, but honestly, which of them isn’t?) alone made it worthwhile, plus a couple decent action sequences and YouTube-worthy moments of ridiculousness helped out a little, so I’m not complaining too much. But the reviews and fan reaction of this movie seemed to place it as being on the level of the still-peerless Batman Begins, and to quote the man himself: I respectfully disagree.

Now, the obvious argument against my following points (aside from pointing out all my misrememberances and factual errors, anyway) will be that arguing about a lack of realism in a comic book adaptation is roughly analogous to arguing about a lack of suspense in Andy Warhol’s Sleep. Fair enough, but Iron Man seemed to me an attempt at the mold established by Batman Begins (which, rightfully or no, will be the movie I compare all comic-book adaptations to from now until the unlikely event that a better one comes along), in which a sort of “well…what would it look and sound like what if this ridiculous stuff actually happened in the real world?” attitude replaces the usual alternate-universe vibe of most superhero movies past. And to fit this new ideal, in my eyes at least, maybe you can stretch credulity a little, but you have to be essentially logical. And not too much of this movie felt logical to me.

Most of the problems for me started when Robert Downey Jr. was captured by The Ten Rings, or whoever those dudes were. Before that, it’s just Robert Downey Jr. being an alocohol-guzzling playboy with a flexible conscience and a limitless budget, which could have made up the whole two hours for all I cared, since the man is so compulsively watchable. But let’s break this plot development down for just a few seconds. These guys take out a couple of military Humvees, occupied by soldiers that likely know their stuff, without Stark suffering fatal injuries. So they’re clearly at least fairly competent, decent-planning individuals. And yet, while imprisoning the man:

  • They let Tony canoodle the entire time with an English-speaking sympathist, who also happens to be a brilliant doctor and presumably an OK scientist. What, no second cell in their entire mountain bunker?
  • They put a couple cameras in Tony’s workspace / holding area for peace of mind, and leave it at that, not wanting to waste manhours on in-guard cells. Never mind that they’ve just supposedly given the scientific genius all the tools he needs to create some megasuperweapon, I guess they figure a bit of blind-spot prone surveillance in a room that, given the response time to the first guards Tony and helper kill, is probably about a half-mile away from their hub, ought to do the trick.
  • Clearly the leader dude can speak English, but in the meantime, isn’t there one other guy in all the Ten Rings that he can deputize to hang around negotiations with Tony and helper to make sure that they aren’t plotting in English the entire time right under their nose? I don’t even let my best friends talk in mutually-spoken foreign languages at my house just in case they’re gossiping or plotting a fast one on me or something, but this guy’s willing to let two geniuses chatter the day away unmonitored?
  • The last part, and by far the most ridiculous part–the Ten Rings leader guy (yeah I know I’m sure he’s big, but I don’t remember his name, and I don’t plan on retaining the info long enough for it to be worth learning it) comes into Tony’s cell as he and helper (same deal) are almost done building the proto-Iron Man suit, sees that not only are they obviously not building anything resembling a missile, but in fact are building some sort of metal super-suit (he even finds the blueprints for the fucking thing, jeez). And what does he do? He gives them just one more day. He doesn’t ask about the supersuit, he doesn’t confiscate any of the pieces, and you better believe he doesn’t assign a guard to keep an eye on any new developments. He doesn’t even kick ’em in the nuts or something to show what a fear-worthy badass he is. The cherry on top: He even hits them with one of those “Do you think I’m stupid?” type supervillain brags when explaining how brilliant he was to figure out that gosh darn it, the two probably weren’t trying their hardest to build a supermissile for their captors.

Sorry, I refuse to believe that there are any terrorist cells out there that are quite that amateurish–Commando-era Arnie would’ve quashed the whole thing in about 40 seconds, tops. From there, the movie gets a little smoother–though it’s never as much fun as it is in that first half-hour, and all the bantering with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, who doesn’t do a bad job but isn’t given much but “Oh Robert Downey Jr.” type swoons to do) feels pretty forced most of the time. But just before the movie’s climax, we get to another pair of plot holes that bother me just as much.

OK, so we get to the scene where Gwenyth Paltrow finds out what a badass Obediah Stane (Jeff Bridges, who actually is a pretty rockin’ badass in the movie) is, hacking into his computer on minimal instructions from ol’ Irony (glad to know that hack0rz skillz is on the list of employee requirements for personal assistant positions these days, by the way). Despite like the least smooth playing-it-cool ever from Pepper, the brilliant but apparently extremely psychologically imperceptive Obediah lets her get away from his clutches before realizing that she knows about his badness.

Now, at this point, it would be safe to assume that the next destination of each would be to pay Tony a visit–Pepper wanting to warn him about Obediah’s nefarious deeds and Obediah wanting to kill him before Pepper can warn him, and before he can suit up and take down Obediah on his own. But first, Obediah goes back to his lab to check on his super-extremo-Iron-Man project and go into a hissy fit at his assistants for not having figured out the secret to making the suit run yet. And yet, despite this detour–which depending on traffic, could’ve taken hours–he STILL beats Pepper to the punch, who must have taken forever debriefing the SHIELD dudes before remembering “oh shit, this might mean Tony is in danger too” and giving him a panicked phonecall to make sure he’s OK, by which point Obediah has settled up next to the Ironist with his nifty but far too short-term paralysis dealie. And this woman still has a job at the end of the movie??!?! Unbelievable.

I don’t mean to give the movie too much shit–it does do some things right, has the correct spirit a lot of the time and paves the groundwork for what could possibly be some superior sequels. But the movie’s real problem, of course, is that the action isn’t good enough, and Downey doesn’t stay charming enough, for me to turn my brain off to all this shit. By the time the movie got to its exceedingly predictable four-word concluding statement, and its accompanying titular soundtrack, I was already thinking ahead to how much better The Dark Knight was probably going to be. The sight of a beyond-the-grave Heath Ledger giving it the business in creepily appropriate The Crow makeup should go a long way towards covering for any potential plot gaps in that one anyway.

Posted in Reasons Why Not | Leave a Comment »

Listeria: The Ten Best Moments from Home Movies’ “Bye Bye, Greasy”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 23, 2008

“I wanna sing, I wanna dance…let’s make it happen.

Maybe my own elementary school-era experiences in musical theater (Winthrop in The Music Man and Randolph in Bye Bye Birdie, if you must know) have something to do with it, but “Bye Bye Greasy” is one of my favorite episodes of Home Movies, almost certainly my favorite outside of that golden first season. To have Brendon do a musical was a natural development for the show, since due to the real life Brendon Small’s talent, the show’s music (whether incidental or directly plot related) had always been exceptionally strong–the show soundtrack disc that comes with the Season Four DVDs is almost worth the set’s price in itself. And the episode doesn’t disappoint–the hilarity comes so fast and furious, especially once the musical actually starts, that it might be the single best Home Movies episode for non-fans to get into the show. Plus, musical theater can always stand to be taken down a peg or two, even at the grade school level.

Ten best moments:

10. Coach McGuirk’s typically encouraging consolence to Brendon on the play’s difficulties:

“This play is completely sucking, Brendon. Do you have any control on what’s going on? It’s kind of a disaster….like, a historic disaster. And that’s good…in a way…because you’ll be sort of famous, for putting on the worst play ever in this elementary school.”

9. The lyrics to the spacey Angela’s audition song for the lead role:

I’m not the girl you thought I WAAAAAAAAAASSSSS… / I’m just the girl you want me wish, was not, was were / Cause thou must think’th I / was not, once was, was not / but a girl…”

8. Mrs. Small’s unlikely confirmation of Melissa’s paranoia over her newly discovered kiwi allergy:

Melissa: “I think I smell kiwi. Does anyone else smell kiwi?”
Brendan (frustrated): “Relax, there’s no kiwi around here! Don’t worr-”
Mrs. Small: “Well, no, I made Kiwi Pie. It’s for the scene where [Melissa’s character] eats the pie.”

7. The extremely unmetaphorical lyrics to “If You Were a Car”

If you were a car, instead of a boy / You’d have headlights instead of eyes / And tires instead of feet…”

6. Mr. Lynch missing the point of theatrical breakthrough of suspended bully Shannon as Maloney, the play’s tough guy protagonist:

Mr. Lynch: “WHAT?!? Is that Shannon? Defying my suspension?!?!?
Brendon: “That’s not Shannon, Mr. Lynch…it’s Maloney!
Mr. Lynch: “It’s Shannon! You can tell by his…thing!”

5. Brendon instructing Melissa to sing-talk her way through her part, Rex Harrison style:

No-I-don’t-have-a-date-to-night-but-thanks-for-ask-ing / Lena….

4. Mrs. Small getting too creative with the play’s background set:

Brendon: “Listen, Mom, when somebody says an outdoor background, you don’t have to jump to the conclusion that it must be a winter.”
Mrs. Small: “Brendon…why don’t you just make it winter?”
Brendon: “Why don’t I make it win–?!?!? Because…th-there’s a cookout scene! There’s a 4th of July scene! There’s a big independence song!!!”

3. Jason lacking improv skills when taking over Brendon’s part at the last mintue (pictured above):

Brendon (whispering, off-stage): “Tell her that you know she’s seeing Maloney!
Jason: “Oh, oh yeah…” (To Angela): “So…you’re not seeing Maloney…”
Brendon (still whispering off-stage): “No, you know that–”
Jason (repeating to Angela): “You know that–”
Brendon: “No, you know! You know!–”
Jason (to Angela): “You know, Lena…Lena, you know that–”
Brendon (moving onstage, conspicously using a bush for cover): “No, you know that! Not her!”
Jason (to Angela): “No, you know that! Not her–” (Breaking character): “I’m sorry, Brendon”
Brendan: “No, you know that shee’s seeing Maloney!”
Jason: “Oh.” (To Angela): “I know that you’re seeing Maloney! The guy Brendon is playing…”

2. Brendon describing Coach McGuirk’s character to him

Brendon: “You’re probably familiar with the character Quick Rick.”
McGuirk: “The drag racer.”
Brendon: “Then you know he’s like, the coolest guy in the whole play, hello.”
McGuirk: “There are no cool guys in musicals.

1. McGuirk’s Springsteen-Meets-Sondheim Street Racing Anthem:

And I’ll race / to feel the wind in my face / And I’ll race / to feel alive / And I’ll race / to feel like I own this place / And I’ll race until I die / And I’ll race against the other racers / And I’ll race with one big shout / And I’ll race against the clock / And I’ll race against MYSELF / And I’ll race…”

Posted in Listeria | 3 Comments »

Mixed Emotions: “The Betrayal” (i.e. The Backwards Seinfeld Episode)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 21, 2008

“Still don’t know what that means…”

Without a doubt, “The Betrayal” is one of my all-time favorite Seinfeld episodes, a top tenner for certain. It’s got plenty of hilarious Frustrated George moments, especially as he calls out for reparations from Jerry in the form of sex with Elaine (“That doesn’t punish me, it punishes Elaine,” Jerry points out in his most characteristically condescending tone, “And cruelly, I might add”). It’s got one of the great one-off Seinfelders with Kramer’s friend-cum-death-wisher FDR (Franklin Deleanor Romanosky). It’s got some of the all-time classic Newman quotes, goading Kramer that he wasn’t invited to his all-Postal Employee birthday party because his invite must’ve gotten “lost in the mail!” and explaining an inside tip to his birthday-wish-supermodel-girlfriend about Zip Codes (“They’re meaningless!“) It’s even got Sue-Ellen Mischky, the braless wonder, and the all-time last appearance of Susan, supplying George with his hysterically meaningless catchphrase-to-be.

But my emotions about this episode remain mixed, for one simple reason: I don’t really get why it has to be backwards. It’s a fascinating gimmick, sure, especially in the pre-Memento era, but according to Wikipedia, it’s not a unique one, as Sci-Fi series like Red Dwarf, Voyager and The X-Files have all attempted the “Backwards Episode” before. The explanation for the creative choice would most likely be tied to the fact that the episode is titled after and I suppose roughly themed after the Harold Pinter play “The Betrayal,” with Sue-Ellen’s fiancee even being named after the playwright. And sure, there are a couple decent reverse chronology-jokes, like Elaine being Schnapped three seconds before we see her confessing to Jerry her previous Scnhapps-spill to George, and of course the episode’s final/first scene, in which Kramer’s general mooching tendencies are explained by a too-inviting Jerry upon first moving across the hall to the big man.

But really, minus this closing/opening scene, would the episode seem at all weird or out of place if it were put back in the correct order? If you think about it, it’s basically just like every other Seinfeld episode, and some jokes that would’ve been good if they were found at the end of the 22 minutes (Nina explaining she knew about George’s faux-heightening all along, Elaine’s acrimonious re-split with Sue-Ellen) just don’t make sense at the episode’s beginning. And unlike in Memento, in which the character’s amnesia was thematically echoed by the fragmented, constantly re-starting backwards chronology, there aren’t really any such themes to be found in this slight (albeit not particularly so by Seinfeld standards) episode for it to be seen as anything but a gimmick.

There are two defenses I will consider for the ep’s backwardness, one of which is intentional and one of which is circumstancially coincidental. The intentional one, and one which comes pretty close to justifying the ep’s backwardness on its own, is that of Kramer’s lollipop, pictured above. It’s never really explained why he has it in the first place–I guess he acquired it at FDR’s birthday party, though I’ve never been at a party in New York cool enough to give out giant lollipops. Watching the thing start out as having been nearly licked down to the nub at Kramer’s second confrontation with FDR, and watching it inconspicuously grow back to full size as the episode regresses is one of the episode’s greatest and most subtle triumphs.

And the second thing which nearly justifies this creative gambit to me, and a benefit that I don’t see how the episode’s creators could possibly have predicted, is the way it ends up commenting on the way people like me that mostly know Seinfeld through watching the reruns watch the show. I’d wager that of all the Seinfeld episodes I’ve seen, I’ve maybe seen about a quarter all the way through at any one point. Instead, I’d tune it at 6:47 and catch the last thirteen minutes, then catch the ten minutes before that about a year later, and maybe three years after that, I’d finally see the opening scene. “The Betrayal” was no exception to this, and consequently, I essentially saw the episode like it was any other TV show–maybe one of the only Seinfeld episodes where I first saw the beginning, then the middle, and then the end. Freaky.

In any event, I’m sure the Pinter play doesn’t have an exchange nearly as hilarious as when Kramer and Newman negotiate their birthday-wish bartering (“Your next…fifty birthday wishes.” “48!” “49!” “Done!“)

Posted in Mixed Emotions | 2 Comments »

In a Perfect World: “Waffle House” Would Be Legit Musical Sub-Genre

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 18, 2008

Jukebox heroes, grits in their eyes

I’m not sure if I’m weirded out that the phenomenon of the Waffle House Jukebox exists, or if I’m shocked that it’s not more common a practice. It’s certainly not something I’m used to–sure, I’ve been in plenty of other restaurants that have their own jukebox (it’s one of the things that I miss most about the lack of retro diners in my regular restaurant rotation), but I don’t recall any of them having an entire column or two of songs with subject matter devoted entirely to their establishment. The songs, with titles like “Waffle Do Wop,” “Last Night I Saw Elvis at the Waffle House,” and “844,739 Ways to Eat a Hamburger” (some clips of which can be heard here) sound much like the other rock, country and pop selections to be found on the rest of the jukebox’s selections, but just happen to be generally breakfast (and specifically Waffle House) related. And at the price of six for a dollar, you can certainly afford to pepper a couple of these songs in with your regular musical selections.

How these songs happened to come into existence has never been properly explained (to me, anyway), but apparently many of the performers are part of or relations to the Waffle House family–Mary Welch Rogers, for instance, who appears most often in the WH section of the jukebox, was the wife of Joe Rogers, founder of the esteemed chain. But indeed, the culture of the connection between popular music and Waffle House would be a rich one even besides the jukebox, thanks to numerous references in hip-hop songs (including The Fixers and DJ Quik’s super-underrated “Can U Werk Widdat”) and two different rock albums entitled Scattered, Smothered & Covered (a popular slang-y way to order hash browns, as Unsane and Hootie & the Blowfish are no doubt both fond of), among others. Clearly, music and Waffle House are drawn together in a way more inextricable than say, IHOP or Denny’s (though if there’s no rapper that’s ever turned “Moons Over My Hammy” into some sort of sexual reference, that’d be truly shameful).

So my question is this: Why don’t more artists take advantage of this phenomenon? I mean, I don’t know what the demographics are, but I’d imagine a healthy percentage of diners on the low side of the Mason-Dixon (and even some above) eat at a Waffle House at least once every six months or so, and you gotta figure that even if all of them won’t make jukebox selections themselves, most will be in the establishment when others choose songs. If say, The Shins decided to record an EP’s worth of Waffle House-related material, they could either make some sort of deal to sell them to Waffle Houses across the country (who would no doubt be grateful for the new material), or they could release the EP commercially, recoup modest sales numbers for their efforts, and then license the songs to the Waffle House chain for free, where they will receive free publicity from now until virtually the end of time. Where’s the downside, exactly?

But hey, lets not even stop there. If the Waffle House is really an inspiration to musical creativity, why shouldn’t everyone, regardless of genre, get in on the action? Instead of doing a covers album, like everyone else in their genre is doing, why doesn’t Cinderella or Winger come back with an all-Waffle House LP? Now that Kanye has Graduated, can he spend an hour Killing Time at the Waffle House? When will we get to hear the sonorous tones of Brian Eno’s Ambient No. 5: Music for Waffle House? And let’s not even get started on how lax recent country stars have been lately in their lack of Waffle House acknowledgement–c’mon, people, show some pride in your culinary heritage!

Of course, I can’t say that this really has too much of an effect on me one way or the other–living in New York, I only pass Waffle Houses on road trips, and doubt I’ll ever go more than two or three times in a year. But next time I’m there, I want to see a little variety in the jukebox’s WH-related selections. Ludacris. Taylor Swift. Come on, The Flaming Lips!!! Let’s set a precedent here.

Posted in In a Perfect World | 3 Comments »

Popcorn Love: Bill Murray in Wild Things (1998)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 18, 2008

“Well, it’s sort of a good news, bad news situation….”

Have I really never written about Wild Things here before? Shameful for any number of reasons, especially for a movie that had so much to do with my filmic and personal development. The first time I saw Wild Things was on a Friday night where I had to get up early the next morning to go to a Bar Mitzvah, and I was able to stay up just late enough to see the movie’s first big plot twist, in the form of the Matt Dillon-Neve Campbell-Denise Richards three-way scene which still goes down in my book as the hottest sex scene ever to appear in a mainstream American film, and which I’ve seen enough times since that I could sketch it frame-by-frame from memory. It killed me to go to bed not knowing how the movie ended, and what possibly even hotter scenes laid beyond the horizon, but I mostly figured that was it, the main hook of the movie, and it’d be pretty by-the-numbers after that.

Well, not exactly–that year at summer camp, someone who’d stayed till the end of the movie described to me in surprisingly patient detail what happened afterwards, and I didn’t believe a word of it until I finally saw it with my own eyes later that year. Three more plot twists to follow, along with countless shifts of protagonist and antagonist, and one more sex scene of considerable note (though its full glory would not be seen until the release of Wild Things: The Unrated Edition on DVD a few years later). As a middle-schooler at the time, it was all utterly mindblowing–murder, turmoil, betrayal, and sex, all beyond that of any neo-noir I had ever seen before.

And then there’s Bill Murray. Now, I’ve preached before about the glories of casting where certain actors don’t really seem to notice what kind of movie they’re performing in (or, in some cases, that there’s even a movie going on at all), but as attorney Kenneth Bowden in Wild Things, Murray takes it to a new level of ridiculousness. Now, I know Murray’s career wasn’t exactly at it highest point in early 1998–two years after his villainous turn as Big Ern in Kingpin, and a few months before his performance in Rushmore would act as an unlikely resurrection of his career as an art-house darling–but how they got him to agree to what basically could be described as a generous walk-on cameo in this movie is beyond me.

Ken’s character in the movie is that of attorney to Sam Lombardo (Dillon), a low-class ambulance chaser who is the only person in the Louisiana town of Blue Bay willing to take on the powerful Van Ryan family in court, on the charges that Sam raped Kelly Van Ryan (Richards). Ken could be called the movie’s comic relief, I suppose, but the rest of Wild Things is so overdramatic that his few moments of levity–when he shows Sam that his neck injury is actually just to fake an insurance claim, or when his incompetent secretary answers his intercom message to her by standing up and shouting back–just seem kind of surreal. Meanwhile, Murray seems to be having the time of his life in the movie, hamming it up at every opportunity, especially the scene where after reaching a settlement with the Van Ryan family, he startsĀ  furiously rubbing the agreement all over his body in excitement, yelling “See you at the club!” to the family’s attorney.

And maybe the strangest part of Murray’s character in the movie, as well as the most overlooked part of all the movie’s twist endings, is that it appears that his character was in on the scam all along. When Suzie Toller (Campbell) finally turns out to be the mastermind behind all that preceded, Ken shows up as her lawyer, saying “Boy, I hope I never make you mad”–more or less implying that he knows of all the vengeance murders she’s recently orchestrated, including that of Lombardo, his recent client. In addition, he tells her that of the eight million he’s deposited for her of Sandra Van Ryan’s money, he’s deducted “his usual fee”–which I would think means that this isn’t even the first time she’s pulled shit like this with Ken acting as her bank. Bill Murray, you sly dog.

See now, I knew there was something separating this one from its two direct-to-TV sequels/ripoffs, Wild Things 2 and Wild Things 3: Diamonds in the Rough.

Posted in Popcorn Love | Leave a Comment »

100 Years, 66 Villains: #30 – #25

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 16, 2008

All-the-time-in-the-world edition

#30.


Bill Lumbergh, Office Space

Played By: Gary Cole

M.O.: I’m not going to pretend like I have any personal reason to shudder at the very mention of Bill Lumbergh. Fact is, I’ve never really had that horrific office experience–in fact, if there’s one complaint I could have about my current internship at Sirius it would be that there aren’t enough AAFs (Asshole Authority Figures) for me to sort of wink at my co-interns about, bonding through our mutual hatred. And even considering that, I’d always rather have a boss that I knew for a fact was more clueless than I was–better that than the other way around, right? Still, even if I don’t have that personal connection, it’d be extremely remiss of me to not include Lumbergh on this list, just for the iconic status that he’s achieved, becoming the very image of Boss-From-Hell upper-managment incompetence, sucking any sort of energy or creativity out of the workplace with every “Peter, hey….what’s happening?” God willing, I’ll never have to relate to this one on any level other than “man, good thing I don’t know anyone who wears suspenders.”

Classic Villain Quote: “Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too…”

#29.


Mitch Hiller, Enough

Played By: Billy Campbell

M.O.: “You wanna fight? I’m a man, honey. It’s no contest.” No abusive husband in cinematic history has laid down the law quite like Enough‘s Mitch Hiller, played by multi-medium That Guy Billy Campbell, perhaps best known to recent audiences as the prophetic Jordan Collier in recently cancelled sci-fi series The 4400. There’s a brief honeymoon period as he courts wife-to-be Slim (Jennifer Lopez), but soon she’s catching him cheating on her, and he decides that rather than go through the trouble of sneaking around and lying to her, it’d be easier just to show her the backside of his hand (or front side of his fist) when she complains. Slim goes on the run, and the stakes quickly get raised to life-or-death, as J. Lo realizes she has had the titular amount of Mitch’s shenanigans.

The classic moments come fast and furious as the two duel, but there’s one I’ve never understood–when Slim high-tails west with her old college boyfriend Joe, the wimpy dude who’s obviously still in love with her, and Mitch suddenly tracks her down and comes careening violently into the picture. “DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND,” he advises J. Lo, “THEY’LL BE FISHING HIS GUTS OUT OF LAKE WASHINGTON!” This would clearly seem to imply that Mitch has killed Joe (and violently disposed of his corpse), and indeed, as Slim struggles for her life, he is nowhere to be found. But in the last scene, Slim hooks up with a perfectly-fine-seeming Joe again, with no explanation given whatsoever. So what did Mitch do to him in that scene, exactly? Kidnap him for a few hours? Give him a couple of bucks and send him McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin while he takes care of business? And does a decidedly unconcerned-seeming J. Lo somehow sense that he’s lying when he says this, or does she just not care all that much? Very strange.

Not Without Precedent: I’ve still yet to see 80s TV Movie classic The Burning Bed–they don’t show it on IFC much, for some reason–but from the I Love the 80s clips, Robert Greenwald’s character probably taught Mitch everything he knows.

#28.


Mrs. Lisbon, The Virgin Suicides

Played By: Kathleen Turner

M.O.: I guess there’s no saying how anyone would react to the suicide of their youngest daughter–especially when there seems to be so little in the way of explanation–and until Lux (Kirsten Dunst) gives it up to Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) on the football field after prom, Mrs. Lisbon keeps her more insane impulses relatively in check. But once she starts imprisoning all her daughters after Lux’s indiscretions, you know that it’s only a matter of time until the film title applies to all five girls (well, maybe not the virgin part quite so much in Lux’s case, but the important part). The scene where she burns all of Lux’s records as she sobs on the staircase is particularly painful–although why any girl would cry so much for lack of Kiss is somewhat beyond me. The worst part is that James Woods’ father character really seems like he’d be a pretty good guy–just a typical dorky Science dad–without Turner’s stern, ultra-conservative influence overruling his more mild-mannered opinionating.

Impressive Resume: Hard to believe based on her steely performance here, but Turner was nothing less than the reincarnation of Barbara Stanwyck back in the 80s, playing fatale-ish roles with varying levels of seriousness in Body Heat, Prizzi’s Honor and The Man With Two Brains.

#27.


Rose Chausseur, The Ref

Played By: Glynis Johns

M.O.: “What is the matter with you? I thought mothers were sweet, and nice, a-a-and…patient! I know loan sharks who are more forgiving than you!” Gus’s (Dennis Leary) reaction to Lloyd’s (Kevin Spacey) mother is understated, if anything–Rose is pretty much the nightmare mother, and even moreso as concerns Lloyd’s wife Caroline (Judy Davis), the textbook nightmare mother-in-law. Domineering, manipulative, and completely unsympathetic, she constantly henpecks at Lloyd’s masculinity and undermines Caroline’s authority, making an already-memorable Christmas (in case you’ve missed it on TBS the last 15 December 25ths, burglar Gus is holding couple-on-the-rocks Caroline and Lloyd hostage while the couple try to host a family Xmas) a legendary disaster. Lloyd and Caroline get the last laugh, getting to tie her up and gag her while Gus prepares his escape route, but you get the feeling that that’s just going to make things that much more awkward come next Thanksgiving. (And as for having two crum Mums in a row…don’t worry, we got plenty of bad Dads coming up too)

Small-Screen Equivalent: Pure evil matriarch Livia Soprano, who not only would be assured a place on this list were TV roles acceptable, she’d be pushing for top honors.

#26.


Cobra Kai Dojo, The Karate Kid

Played By: Martin Kove, William Zabka, others

M.O.: You know the deal–hell, if you grew up even the slightest bit dorky in the 80s, you probably had nightmares about ’em, chasing you down in their “Around the World”-esque matching skeleton costumes. You definitely remember the quotes–“Get him a body bag!” “STRIKE FIRST! STRIKE HARD! NO MERCY!” and of course, the Order 66 of 80s teen film, “Sweep the leg!” But what you might not remember, and what I didn’t remember until watching the movie again recently, is how darn likeable that Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is. Even before Mr. Miyagi (Noryiuki “Pat” Morita) turns him into a crane-kicking machine, he’s not just some simpering nerd–he’s an athletic, affable, sympathetic guy who loves his mother and just had the misfortune to accidentally cross some bad dudes early in his California stay. He’s not Anthony Michael Hall, where even if you felt bad for the guy, you sort of understood that bullies risked runing their reputations if they didn’t pick on him at least a little. He’s just a good guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, up against a bunch of real assholes.

But for all the attention that Billy Zabka gets as lead bully Johnny Lawrence–and certainly he deserves it, personifying priviliged insider High School villainy to a T with his blond hair and arrogant demeanor–it’s really Martin Kove as dojo Sensei John Kreese that gives you the heebie jeebies in this one. He just seems so motivationless in his villainy–at least Johnny has turf to protect, and an ex-girlfriend to act jealous and entitled around. What’s in it for Kove to have his students beat up on some high schooler, cheating in their fights to the point of practically crippling him? I mean his Dojo has a rep for winning, sure, but is that win-at-all-cost-of-human-life mentality really the sort of thing that really got a Dojo good publicity out west in the 80s? Too bad it wasn’t Kove who would go on to appear as similar characters in Just One of the Guys and Back to School–he could’ve been an immortal.

Lesser-Known Knock-Off: The gang of bullies in 1992’s Sidekicks, torturing poor little Jonathan Brandis so much that he went and killed himself a decade later.*

#25.


Heathers, Heathers

Played By: Kim Walker, Shannon Doherty, Lisanne Falk

M.O.: Probably would be safe to say that most girls in the 80s would’ve rather contended with the Cobra Kai Dojo than with their female equivalent, the Westerberg High clique known as the Heathers (the shared first name of the three primary antagonists, Mrs. Duke, Chandler and McNamara). There was certainly no beating these Heathers by symbolically taking them down in a tournament–as J.D. (Christian Slater) found, the only way to stop the Heathers from spreading their villainy against Martha Dumptruck and her ilk was to actually kill them. Yet arguably the real innovation of Heathers was showing how despite their villainy, they still attracted people like Veronica (Winona Ryder), otherwise a well-meaning free-thinker, with their promises of hallway respect and college frat parties. (Scene cut from Karate Kid: Daniel, wishing for acceptance from the Cobra Kai crew, is encouraged to slip a roofie into Elisabeth Shue’s character’s coke while mini-golfing and date-rapes her inside the 15th hole windmill).

Lesser-Known Knock-Off: I thought Jawbreaker was gonna be so badass when I first saw the previews back in ’99, far before I first caught Heathers on Comedy Central. “Hm, that Rose McGowan is pretty right on,” I remember thinking. “But I can’t shake the feeling that this has probably been done somewhere before…and probably not quite so terribly…”

Posted in 100 Years 66 Villains | 3 Comments »