Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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100 Years, 66 Villains: #24 – #19

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 27, 2008

Catching up on S3 of Weeds edition…


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

5 Responses to “100 Years, 66 Villains: #24 – #19”

  1. Sonja said

    “I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!”
    “You eat pieces of shit?”

  2. MBI said

    No offense, man, but I thought that the end of Michael Clayton was one of the worst scenes I saw in 2007. I don’t think Karen Crowder counts on this list because she’s kind of sympathetic, right, I mean, every time we see her she looks like she’s on the verge of throwing up, to the point where it’s easy to wonder how she got that far to begin with.

  3. Seth said

    I believe McDonald also played Ward Cleaver in the LITB movie.

  4. Erick Bieritz said

    “Best part? The dude gets away with everything! Never let it be said that it James Cameron was just a crowd-pleaser.”

    I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I’m pretty sure present-day Rose’s narration near the end of the movie mentions Cal losing his money in the stockmarket crash and committing suicide, which was probably meant as a delayed comeuppance for his douchebaggery.

  5. townhouses to rent…

    […]100 Years, 66 Villains: #24 – #19 « Intensities in Ten Suburbs[…]…

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