100 Years, 66 Villains: #48 – #43
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 4, 2008
Played By: Elisa Donovan
M.O.: As far as evil teen girls go, Amber seems fairly harmless, even quaint by the standards set by some villainesses still to come in this list. Her villainy is far more contained than her followers–she doesn’t go quite out of her way to destroy the lives of those underneath her, and she doesn’t even function as the film’s primary antagonist, simply responding to the film’s central events as they come. Perhaps her lack of cartoonish evil is what makes her such a hateable character, though–most of the bitchy popular girls in high school were never outright destructive, they just subtly cut people down with dismissive comments, made obnoxious and irritating statements in class, and dressed in a way that made you wonder how anyone could really take their opinion all that seriously. Like a Kathy Griffin in training, Amber just sort of made you shudder at the very sight of her, and what more of real-life villainy could you possibly ask?
Classic Villain Quote: “What…eh-verrrrr…..” (Doesn’t work as well without the “W” sign, I suppose)
Warden, Escape From Alcatraz
Played By: Patrick McGoohan
M.O.: Bon Gunton’s Warden character in The Shawhsank Redemption has nothing on Real Deal McGoohan. Weirdly idiosyncratic even in his hero role in 60s cult TV show The Prisoner, in Escape From Alcatraz he takes his enigmatic, emotionally distant persona and gives it a cold, near-sociopathic twist. Alcatraz‘s Warden is like the Nurse Ratched of lockdown, sadistically crushing his inmates’ spirits (destroying their flowers, removing their privileges, scowling a lot) without ever breaking too much of a sweat. He doesn’t even seem to care about having pretensions to Christianity or good works the way Gunton does in Shawshank–getting to screw with the heads of Clint Eastwood and that dude who thinks it’s “too hot to fuck” in Do the Right Thing is more than enough for him.
Impressive Resume: Casually throwing his son’s gay lover out of a castle window in Braveheart definitely makes for one of the most unintentionally hysterical moments in modern film villainy.
Various Artists, Eight Men Out
Played By: Clifton James, Michael Lerner, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Rooker, Richard Edson, Kevin Tighe, John Anderson, Don Harvey
M.O.: We watched parts of Eight Men Out in my 11th grade lit class as part of our unit on The Great Gatsby to show us how the Black Sox Scandal help set the tone for the book by showing that there were no real heroes in America anymore. Disillusioning an entire country–not bad in a day’s work of evil. Really, there’s only a handful of people that get away clean in Eight Men Out—John Mahoney, John Cusack, D.B. Sweeney and maybe David Straitharn. The rest are all villainous to various extents, from the players who organize the dumping of the games (Rooker, Harvey), to the mid-level players who co-ordinate it (Lloyd, Edson), the money men who bankroll it (Tighe, Lerner) and the big bad businessmen of baseball (James, Anderson) who prompt the whole thing.
Impressive Resume(s): 8MO lays claim to one of the greatest assemblages of That Guy Villains in history, with Rooker (Sea of Love, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Tighe (Freaks and Geeks, LOST) and Lerner (Newsies, Blank Check) ranking among the scummiest.
Laura Lizzie, The Craft
Played By: Christine Taylor
M.O.: I hold out hope that one day The Craft will be acknowledged as the stone, across-the-board 90s classic that it is. The cast is like a who’s-who of 90s C-list teen actors (Faruiza Balk! Skeet Skeet Skeet Ulrich! Breckin Meyer…again!), the soundtrack is full of quintessential 90s bands covering new wave classics in a faux-goth manner (in itself a pure 90s trademark), and the number of lines that sounded awesome at the time that somehow sound even more awesome in decade-retrospect is just too high to count. Without a doubt, though, the movie’s high point comes with future-Stillerfucker Christine Taylor as a private school bitch who decides to make the life of swim teammate Rochelle (unfortunately forgotten That Girl Rachel True) a living hell. Most of it can be viewed in the YouTube clip above, including this exchange that still makes me chortle in shock and delight whenever I catch it on USA:
Lizzie: “Ugh, there’s a pubic hair in my brush! Oh, wait, no…that’s just one of Rochelle’s little nappy hairs!” (Lizzie and friend chuckle)
Rochelle (hurt): “Why are you doing this to me, Laura? Do you really think you’re funny?”
Lizzie (serious): “Do you really wanna know why?”
Rochelle: “Yes. I really wanna know why.”
Lizzie (pausing): “…Because I don’t like negroids. Sorry!”
The smugness of Taylor (whose performance here dwarfs by far all those she’d actually come to be remembered by later) and the expression on True’s face afterwards (like the audience, something along the lines of “wow, that was much more disturbing than I expected”) make this scene a textbook O-Watcher, in a movie that probably has a handful of ’em.
Not Without Precedent: The most unexpected, thin-line-between-hilarious-and-unsettling use of the N word (err, one of the N words) in previous cinema has to be in Trading Places, when a hiding Billy Ray overhears the Dukes talking about what to do now that their bet is over. Randolph suggests leaving the successful Billy Ray in charge, and Mortimer responds “Do you really believe I would have a nigger run our family business?” It seemed like such a nice little comedy.
Janey Carver, The Ice Storm
Played By: Sigourney Weaver
M.O.: I was talking with Victor recently about how when we saw The Ice Storm on TV when we were growing up, we thought it was gonna be some action flick about people trying to survive the titular natural disaster. I certainly didn’t expect the joint coming-of-age and mid-life crisis movie that it delivered, with the ice storm being more metaphorical (SHOCKER!!!) in the way the characters treated each other than literal in its meteoroloical effects (though Elijah Wood does kind of get owned by it, not quite the breakneck suspense I would’ve expected to go with it). In any event, despite the lack of special effects, Sigourney Weaver does bring the motherfuckin’ thunder–her affair with Kevin Klein seems like more of an attempt at existential revenge than an act out of any particular desire of her own, and the way she taunts him by going off with another, (presumably) more attractive 70s dude in front of him (and his wife, who he has no choice but to humiliate himself in front of) at the swinger party is particularly remorseless.
Partner-in-Villainy: David Krumholz’s character, who for some reason is sexually experienced enough to cockblock Toby Maguire’s character from getting with Katie Holmes in his grand seduction attempt (in one of her most adorable, pre-crazy roles, no less). Maguire’s clumsy pass on her once she’s seconds away from passing out drunk is still one for the ages, though.
George Willis, Jr., Scent of a Woman
Played By: Philip Seymour Hoffman
M.O.: Scent of a Woman could really make a strong case for being the dumbest movie ever to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. I mean, sure, you get some classic shouty Al Pacino moments, and in fact you could even argue that this was the true beginning of the Classic Shouty Al Pacino Era, soon to be crystallized in all its glory with Heat and The Devil’s Advocate. But really, the whole thing with Chris O’Donnell’s prep school, and his moral crisis over whether to hand some prep school fucks over to the authorities for pulling some delightfully naughty!!! prank on Dean James Rebhorn–it’s intelligence-insulting padding to a movie whose main hook (It’s Pacino!! And he can’t see anything!!!) is super-lame to begin with. Only the early performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman as the slimy George, who throws Charlie under the bus when they both witness the prank and Charlie has too much INTEGRITY to rat his non-friends out, makes the movie worth a damn, because we’d never really get to see Hoffman so blankly douche-y again.
Sympathetic Reading: If I had the choice between dropping dime on my buds or spending a weekend with Al Pacino yelling thigns at me, I’d be Grand Jurying that shit before you could say “Hooo-ahh!!“