100 Years, 66 Villains: #18 – #12
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 3, 2008
Earline and the Rest of the Fitzgerald Clan, Million Dollar Baby
Played By: Margo Martindale, Others
M.O.: I originally had Clubber Lang from Rocky III slotted for this spot, but Clubb’s a bit too bad-ass to be strictly despicable. So I went with another villain from a boxing movie instead–Maggie’s (Hillary Swank) family in Million Dollar Baby, maybe the least supportive family in movie history. When Maggie, freshly flush from her boxing winnings, buys her momma a house, all she can do is complain about the ramifications to her welfare, and express deep shame at having a chick pugilist as her progeny. Fair enough, there are plenty of movie parents that just didn’t understand, but once Maggie goes down for the count in a very real-life sense, you’d think they’d maybe have a little more sympathy to dispense. Not so–rather, not only does Momma make it abundantly clear that she’s only visiting Maggie to get her to sign an agreement giving the family all her shit, not only does she not attempt to disguise the fact that she took the family to Disneyworld before visitng her dying daughter, she calls Maggie a loser for not winning her last fight! Never mind that she lost on an extremely illegal cheap shot that almost certainly should have won her the fight by disqualification–Momma’s seeing her daughter for maybe the last time, and she still can’t even fake a little enthusiasm? That’s just bad business.
Partner-in-Villainy: That crazy-eyed evil boxer, Billie “The Blue Bear”. Made scarier–and she was already scarier than all but maybe one or two male boxing villains in film history–by the fact that she’s played by a real-life boxer, Lucia Rijker, who seems like the part wasn’t all that much of a stretch.
Coach Jack Reilly, The Mighty Ducks
Played By: Lane Smith
M.O.: Martin Kove might have laid the groundwork in The Karate Kid, but it was Lane Smith’s work in The Mighty Ducks that truly set the standard for evil kids sports coaches for years and years to come. At least in The Karate Kid the competitors were already in high school, but in Pee Wee hockey, the ruthlessness becomes even more bone-chilling. Constantly deriding student-turned-rival Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) for missing his big shot in the championship game way way back and then quitting hockey after his dad died, Coach Reilly really lets his villainy be known by calling for his only little leg-sweep of an illegal play, having his enforcer sideline the prodigious Duck defector Adam (the regrettably forgotten Vincent Larusso) in the final minutes of the big game. “What’d you do??” a horrified teammate shouts at the enforcer. “My job,” he coldly responds. And a future Reilly/Belichick/Popovich is born.
Modern-Day Equivalent: Robert Duvall’s character in Kicking & Screaming, who similarly demeans and condescends to his protegee (or in this case, son)-turned-rival Will Ferrell like he’s the Bear Bryant of elementary school soccer. He might turn out to be a good guy after all though, I can’t remember how the movie ends.
Jack Lopate, Sideways
Played By: Thomas Hayden Church
M.O.: Might get some weird looks for this one, since not only is Jack not a villain in the conventional sense, but a lot of people probably don’t even think he’s such a bad dude. But THC (heh) turned my stomach repeatedly in this one–really, I can’t think of too many film characters generally attribtuable as “the friend” that are more selfish, insensitive, and just all-around despicable as Jack. Let’s see–he uses a road trip with Miles (Paul Giamatti), supposed to be a bonding experience between the two before Jack gets married, as an opportunity to nail Stephanie (Sandra Oh), which he frequently ditches Miles to pursue. Then after making Miles lie to new squeeze Maya (Virginia Madsen) about the wedding, and after she breaks up with him as a result (and Stephanie very violently breaks up with Jack), he ditches Miles again for a fat waitress. Then after he leaves his wallet and wedding band at the waitress’s house and realizes what a mistake he made cheating on his fiancee, he makes Miles go back, break into the house and steal his stuff back. Then, to top it all off, he crashes Miles’ car, without asking, with Miles inside, in order to explain to his fiancee the broken nose Stephanie gave him. This is supposed to be friendship?
Sure, he gets Miles laid, which eventually helps him get over his ex-wife, and he deserves points for that, yeah. But does anyone actually think his assistance actually came from the goodness of his heart and a desire to see his buddy happy, rather than because he just hoped it would make Miles stop whining for long enough that he can continue his affair with Stephanie? And even after Miles gets with Maya, and he’s happy for the first time in ages, when he doesn’t immediately cop to it to Jack, what’s his conclusion? “You’re a homo!” If this is what friendship–real friendship–is supposed to be all about, then the second I get engaged, I’m cutting all non-sexual and non-familial relationships out of my life forever.
Classic Villain Quote: “Listen, man. You’re my friend, and I know you care about me. And I know you disapprove, and I respect that. But there are some things that I have to do that you don’t understand. You understand literature, movies, wine… but you don’t understand my plight.” (Before leaving to fuck the fat waitress)
Walter Peck, Ghostbusters
Played By: William Atherton
M.O.: Yuppiedom must’ve been so pervasive in the 80s that anyone who wasn’t actively seeking to be part of the establishment feared that such people had no purpose in life except to destroy any possible threat from the non-squares to the status quo and thus, their Yuppie lifestyle. And so we got William Atherton. Choosing just one movie to represent his wide ouevre of thoughtless, condescending, simpering villainy in the 80s (and to a lesser extent, 90s) is a difficult task, but Ghostbusters will probably do. The guy shuts down the Ghosbusting enterprise seemingly out of resentment for not being one of the cool kids, nearly bringing New York City to the brink of collpase in the process. For his efforts, Atherton earned a lifetime association with the adjective “dickless,” and that seems fair enough.
Impressive Resume: Real Genius? Die Hard 1 & 2? BIO-DOME? This guy’s own mother probably couldn’t look him in the eye by the end of the century.
Stephen Glass, Shattered Glass
Played By: Hayden Christiensen
M.O.: Anakin Skywalker could never be half this creepy. I don’t even know what it is, really–there are far greater crimes in my book than journalistic fraud, and Glass’s villainy isn’t really at the expense of anyone (besides JOURNALISTIC ETHICS I guess but who cares). It’s just something about his false humility, about the he uses his own poutiness and the sympathy of his female co-workers to hide from any sort of criticism, and the way he’s willing to lie to protect his story no matter how unreasonable the lie and how flimsy the story. And it’s about his glasses–ordinary, everyday glasses to be sure, but ones that somehow add that extra level of skin-crawling smirk to his overall persona, combined with his downright evil-looking smile. It’s amazing that Peter Saarsagard’s character made it out of the movie alive.
Small-Screen Equivalent: David Simon more or less ripped this one wholesale for the Scotty Templeton subplot in S5 of The Wire. The principal difference was that Templeton used his hair, not his ocular wear, to visually symbolize his patheticness.
Beth Jarrett, Ordinary People
Played By: Mary Tyler Moore
M.O.: Who can turn the world off with a frosty, withering glare? There’ve been a whole bunch of Cold Moms on this list, but Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People puts them all to shame. “Playing against type” doesn’t even begin to cover it–if you’d never heard of Mary Tyler Moore before, this’d still be an Oscar-worthy performance, but if you’re familiar with the show, we’re starting to talk All-Time here. There is absolutely no compassion in this woman–you look for it to inevitably crack a little in her face, in her voice, somewhere, but it’s nowhere to be found. While her marriage begins to crumple and her son reaches the verge of suicide, she stays completely expressionless, unmoved. It’s your mom giving you the silent treatment for the rest of your life, for something that wasn’t even your fault. And it chills.
(My main problem with the movie, though: When Donald Sutherland eventually does break up with her, couldn’t he have slipped something in there like “I’m sorry, Beth…I just don’t think we’re going to make it after all“?)
Sympathetic Reading: Smiling so much on the MTM show for seven years must’ve gotten pretty exhausting. I’d pretty much want to do the exact opposite after that, too.