100 Years, 66 Villains: #42 – #37
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 4, 2008
Weekend edition, bitches
David Bedford, Blind Date
Played By: John Larroquette
M.O.: Now, I haven’t seen Night Court, the show where John Larroquette literally had to stop asking to be given Emmys for playing caddish prosecutor Dan Fielding, in far too long to remember a thing about it. But for some reason I saw Blind Date about a dozen times when I was a kid, and I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. Something about that Blake Edwards zaniness, plus the sheer thrill of watching a successful Bruce Willis character devolve over the course of the film into the hungover loser he usually starts movies as–I just couldn’t get enough of it. And a large chunk of the credit for that has to go to Larroquette for his performance as Kim Bassinger’s extremely tenacious ex-boyfriend, stalking her and Willis for the duration of their titular first rendezvous, gradually driving Willis to the point of madness. The hair and the bowtie give him a head start, as does his increasingly disshevelled costuming over the course of the movie, but his true achivement in villainy is the way he switches between calm and manic at a moment’s notice, often far creepier and more hilarious in the former role. Movie’s best moment comes when Willis, drunk and passed out on a stranger’s bed, opens his eyes to see a a beaten-up but heavily undiscouraged Larroquette standing above him: “You didn’t think you were going to get rid of me that easily, did you?”
Modern-Day Equivalent: William Mapother played a similarly jealous and psychotic ex-boyfriend in In the Bedroom, with less endearing results.
Ronny and Donny Blume, Rushmore
Played By: Ronnie & Keith McCowley
M.O.: “Never in my life did I dream that I would have sons like these.” Not that Herman Blume (Bill Murray) is himself much of a model parent, but few fathers if any deserve heirs as despicable as Ronny and Donny. Their appearances in the movie are few and somewhat limited, but they always make an impression, whether embarrassing Dad on the wrestling team, yelling at him to “get [his] head out of [his] ass” when he suggests inviting Max (Jason Schwartzman) to their birthday party, or locking him out of the car at an emotional low point for no particular reason (and cackling evilly in the process, no less). Obnoxious, spoiled, and dually devious the way only similarly-named twins can be, it’s too perfect that Ronnie and Keith are brothers in real-life, and that neither appeared in another film again.
Partner-in-Villainy: Stephen McCole as Magnus Buchan (which up until this very moment, I would’ve sworn on my life was actually Bupkin–very disappointing). Bullying, deceitful and purposefully antagonistic, were it not for his and Fisher’s seeming alliance at the end of the movie (“I always wanted to be in one of your fookin’ plays”), the cauliflower-eared wonder would’ve been a lock for the top 20.
Jonathan Poe, Searching for Bobby Fischer
Played By: Michael Nirenberg
M.O.: Not the first time (or the last time, in all likelihood) that I’ll write about Jonathan, one of the best characters in maybe the most underrated movie of the 90s. To sum up, Jonathan is to kids sports movies what a certain homicidal Russian juicer is to adult ones, a cold, unfeeling machine of an athlete, utterly ruthless and completely devoid of remorse. The contrast with Josh Waitskin (Max Pomeranc), a sensitive, well-rounded, and strikingly mature young athlete, is face-slappingly obvious, but it goes so far deeper than your typical “us-good, them-bad” kiddie sports rivalry (think Becky vs. Spike in Little Giants–riveting, of course, but little deeper analysis to be had there). Director Stephen Zallian uses Jonathan as a cautionary tale of the joylessness and ultimate hollowness of being a one-dimensional, sport-is-life, win-above-all-else kiddie athlete, and the perils of leaving your kids around uncaring, ax-grinding coaches like Robert Stephens (credited only as “Poe’s Teacher”). I bet Nirenberg still wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wishing he had just taken that draw, and not only saved the match, but his humanity as well.
Classic Villain Quote (Recurring, After Finishing Move): “Trick or treat.”
Bernie and Joan, About Last Night…
Played By: Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins
M.O.: That pic above sort of says it all. About Last Night (based on David Mamet’s Sexual Perversion in Chicago, oddly enough) primarily tells the story of Debbie (Demi Moore) and Danny (Rob Lowe), two young-ish urban professionals attempting to have a lasting relationship amongst the pressures of the modern world and the perils of dating. But the much more interesting story in the movie is happening on the wings, with the pair’s respective best friends, Bernie and Joan. Though no specific motivation is given in the film, the two seem absolutely deadset on poisoning the two’s relationship, each giving their friend nothing but discouragement and terrible relationship advice when asked on for support and guidance. Jealousy? Fear of abandonment? Repressed homosexuality? And of course, all of this leads to the deeper, more disturbing question: why the hell did I ever watch About Last Night in the first place?
(More) Modern Day Equivalent: Banky (Jason Lee) in Chasing Amy, though at least Kevin Smith has the balls to root his sniping at the relationship of Holden (Ben Affleck) and Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) in his obvious romantic jealousy of Holden by the movie’s end. That David Mamet, always sugarcoating things.
Joanna Kramer, Kramer Vs. Kramer
Played By: Meryl Streep
M.O.: I honestly can’t imagine what it must’ve been like when Kramer Vs. Kramer was first released. Today, you hear the general plot summary–swinging single / business-focused, neglectful parent is blissfully happy in their selfish, immature existence, until oh noes! I NOW HAS KID TO LOOK AFTER–and you chuckle smugly to yourself, as memories of Life With Mikey, Kolya, Mostly Martha (or to you Americans, No Reservations), and short-lived Taye Diggs series Kevin Hill dance in your head, among countless others. But apparently, back in 1979, this plot skeleton was considered revolutionary enough to award the movie the best picture Oscar (over such lighter, poorer-dated fare as Apocalypse Now) and to get Meryl Streep the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the thoughtless, self-centered, abandoning mother who jets on hubby Ted (Dustin Hoffman), leaving him to look after kid Billy (Justin Henry) for the first time. My least favorite part about Streep’s character in this movie is that unlike all the other movies mentioned, in which the singles generally get stuck with the kids because someone dies, not only does Joanna not die, she comes back with a self-righteous attitude once Ted has actually matured and somehow gets the kid back, temporarily. SPOILER ALERT: Kramer ends up winning after all.
Not Without Precedent: Minus the kid, this is basically the same shit that Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) pulls on Kay (Diane Keaton) in the first Godfather. This part of the movie always blew my mind–Michael makes business decisions that end up forcing him out of the country for years, doesn’t tell serious girlfriend Kay about it, and ends up marrying Apollonia (Simonetta Stefanelli) without a second’s thought. She goes kablooie, Michael returns to the US, and then a year after he comes back, he meets up with Kay, and without a second’s mention of his disappearance, his years in exile or his doomed marriage, proposes to her. And, like Joanna, he totally gets away with it. Amazing stuff.
Principal Ed Rooney, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Played By: Jeffrey Jones
M.O.: If you were a principal in the 1980s, I’d have to think that you’d be a little bit pissed off at the way your profession was being portrayed in film. The most positive portrayal that I can think of is Jim Hainey as Principal Donney in Pretty in Pink, who was merely out of touch and ineffectual. More common were Paul Gleason as the vindictive, insecure Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club, Jim McKrell as the bitter, vengeance-obsessed Vice Principal Thorne in Teen Wolf, and most definitively, Jeffrey Jones as the clumsy, hateful Ed Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. All these principals seem to be taken from the teen’s point of view–that of the sadistic disciplanarian whose only interest in teenagers is that they not get the better of them–and no one personifies that view quite like Rooney. Going the extra mile to actually stalk Ferris all around the city of Chicago, just to make sure that he isn’t off having fun on company time, despite the significant abuse his person receives in his quest…do we have any doubt that our High School principal would do the same? Well, actually, my HS principal was a perfectly genial dude who got the school’s No Discman policy reversed and often displayed an affinity for Coldplay and John Mayer. But, you know, different times.
Sympathetic Reading: If I was a lonely, isolated, aging principal in a decade where it seems like no one did anything in class but watch Afterschool Specials and goof off, I’d probably make it my life’s mession to not let some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind as well.