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That Guy Salute: Jim Joyce, Umpire of Baseball’s Credibility

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 3, 2010

Over the next few days, you’re going to hear a whole lot of hubbub about a controversial call that took place in last night’s game between the Tigers and Indians. Facing catcher Jason Donald with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one retired batter away from a perfect game, a feat to ensure his place in baseball immortality. As Donald grounded sharply to first and Galarraga rushed to cover the bag and take infielder Miguel Cabrera’s throw for the sure put-out, the accomplishment looked to be in the books. But umpire Jim Joyce ruled Donald to have beaten the throw, granting him a base hit to ruin the perfecto. Showers of boos rained from the Comerica Park stands as what at first looked to be a questionable ruling turned out, upon replay, to be just a straight-up blown call, as the ball clearly beat Donald by a good half-step. Tigers color man Rod Allen (always one of MLB broadcasting’s more entertaining figures) memorably lamented upon review: “Oh! my! goodness! Jim Joyce, nooooo!!!!

Instantaneously, Jim Joyce reached such a level of infamy that quizzes like “Detroit Tiger Fans Worst Umpire,” “The Worst Umpire in the World,” and my personal favorite, “Perfect Games that Jim Joyce Has Blown,” all popped up on Sporcle within about a half-hour, and the comparisons to Don Denkinger ran so rampant that the Denk briefly became a trending Twitter topic. And as much as we’d like to defend his ruling–that it was a bang-bang play, that Donald wasn’t that far off, that maybe it was close enough to a tie and the tie always goes to the runner–there’s really no sugarcoating it: Dude blew the call. But while Joyce may have destroyed what should have been a career-making night for Armando Galarraga, he ended up saving (whether consciously or not) something much more important: The integrity of the Major League Baseball perfect game.

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That Guy Salute: Unimpressed Girl in Greyson Chance Video

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 27, 2010

By now, you have no doubt seen or at least heard about the video of oneĀ  12 year old Greyson Michael Chance, a.k.a. Little Lord Gaga, performing Ms. Gaga’s 2009 smash “Paparazzi” on piano at some sort of sixth-grade music festival. (I feel comfortable assuming you already know about this, because I know about it, and these days it takes a long fucking time for the YouTubes to trickle down to my level.) It is of course a stunner of a performance, and Chance is obviously an incredibly musically talented individual (it’s hard enough for me just to figure out how to sing and play Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” on the guitar at the same time), as well as something of an odd duck–I imagine the number of Oklahoman middle-schoolers who believe it would be in their own best interest to perform an operatic cover of a Lady Gaga song in front of an audience of peers to be a relatively small one (and even smaller would be those whose own musical compositions included a song about an old couple taking turns dying of cancer). If he goes on to challenge The Bieb for pre-adolescent hearts and BET Awards, more power to him.

But it’s not Chance that I’m interested in for the purposes of this article. Rather, I am fascinated with his rapt audience, a cadre of young females (was Greyson the sole male representative at this music festival? Or was the church it took place in separated by gender, and an equal number of drop-jawed happened to be on the other side of the camera?) unaware of the fact that they were about to become part of music history. I hope that as much celebrity has been afforded Chance as a result of this video’s success, a fraction of it goes to the girls who helped make it happen as well. Mostly, I hope it goes to Unimpressed Girl.

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That Guy Salute: The Helicopter “Get Out” Guy in T2

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 12, 2008

Classic action movies are always mostly going to be about the big action sequence–the twenty-minute chase, the climactic one-on-fight, the extended shootout, you know the deal. But often in these movies, it’s not the big set pieces that stick in your head as much as the miscellaneous, almost tossed-off moments of levity or seemingly meaningless wanton destruction (or both). They’re the moments that maybe don’t even really stand out until the fourth or fifth time you see them, or not until it pops into your head randomly months after you last saw it, at which point you realize that they might be the best part of the whole movie.

T2 has classic action sequences to spare. Most movies of its sort would be lucky to have one unforgettable extended, multi-layered, hugely suspenseful and technologically innovative set piece, and T2 has at least three, the last of which lasts about a half-hour. If you wanted to call it the best action movie ever made, I probably wouldn’t disagree. But my favorite part of the movie comes right at the cusp of that amazing climactic action sequence, where Sarah, John and the Terminator have escaped from the police siege of SkyNet in a SWAT van. The T-1000, late on the scene in his trademark cop gear and motorbike, emerges from the smoke of the recently exploded SkyNet office, and jumps his bike off the 20-somethingth floor and onto a police helicopter, in which he punches a hole (with his head, of course) and slinks his way through. To the present helicopter pilot, he delivers simple instructions:

“Get out.

And it’s the sheer compliance of the helicopter pilot that kills me. The T-100 kills a lot of people over the course of T2–John’s foster parents, some cops holding Sarah, a couple random bystanders who might slow him down a couple of milliseconds by continuing to breathe, and probably about a dozen people over the course of the movie. But he doesn’t even waste the energy to kill the helicopter pilot in this scene. Instead, he scares him into (presumably) killing himself, scaring him so unbelievably shitless that he’s more than happy to take the maybe 20-story jump–he nods in agreement, and rushes his way out the helicopter without even removing his headphones–rather than to continue chilling in the copter with the T-100. And you know, if some dude jumped a motorcycle onto your helicopter, headbutts it in, and then morph-slithered his way through the hole, you’d probably take your chances with gravity and concrete as well.

Oh yeah, and the actor who plays the helicopter guy? Well, they didn’t bring in just any jobber for such a delicate role. They farmed it out to stuntman/actor/second unit director triple-threat Charles A. Tamburro. Check out this resume–Rocky III, Scarface, Die Hard, True Lies, Se7en, Heat, even 2 Fast 2 Furious. Don’t know exactly how big the role he plays in these movies is, but now whenever I watch one of these movies, I’m gonna have to keep an eye out for this guy–he could end up being a bigger action movie That Guy than Ernie Hudson.

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That Guy Salute: Stephen Lea Sheppard

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 3, 2007

“I’m not colorblind, am I?”

There’s something to be said for being a two-hit wonder. It’s not quite enough to establish a legitimate career, and it lacks the cultural cachet of being a one-and-done, but it means you don’t have to spend your whole life wondering how your life could’ve been different if you hadn’t done that one thing. It’s enough to prove that you’re not a fluke, but also enough to prove that you probably couldn’t have done too much better. And given the enduring legacies of some of our culture’s greatest two-hit wonders–Donald Faison, The Romantics, J.D. Sallinger, and so on–you’re not in such bad company, either.

There’s something even more to be said for being a two-hit wonder that did nothing else besides those two hits. Stephen Lea Sheppard’s two definitive roles–Harris Trinsky, the nerd Yoda of McKinley High, in Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s short-lived cult series Freaks and Geeks, and Dudley, the mentally loopy patient being studied by Bill Murray’s Raleigh St. Clair in the Wes Anderson classic The Royal Tenenbaums–are also his two only roles. As in, ever. Look at his IMDB resume: 1. The Royal Tenenbaums, 2. Freaks and Geeks. No direct-to-video horror sequels, no guest spots on Without a Trace–the dude is like the teen nerd equivalent of John Cazale. Pretty impressive.

Harris is certainly the more noteworthy of the two roles–the “We Like to Party” to Dudley’s “Boom Boom Boom Boom,” if you will. Appearing in half of the 18 Freaks & Geeks episodes, Harris was the closest thing to a legitimate father figure that Bill, Neil and Sam had, given that their fathers were missing, cheating, or the “Ya JACKASS!” guy from Happy Gilmore, respectively. The sage advice he presented on matters of life and love would’ve sounded unfounded and immature from a lesser actor (especially given that Harris couldn’t have been more than a year or two older than the boys himself, but from Sheppard the words sounded undeniably matter-of-fact and seemed to actually dwell from legitimate life experience. Plus, his one-line summation of James Franco’s Daniel DeSario pretty boy character–“You’re not a loser ’cause you have sex, but if you weren’t having sex, we could definitely debate the issue”–possibly goes down as the series’ highlight.

Sheppard gets less of a chance to show off his chops as Dudley in Royal Tenenbaums–the great majority of his mentions in the script were most likely something along the lines of “(stares blankly with mouth agape)”, and he has maybe a dozen lines the whole movie. But he does more without words–his silent scream reaction to discovering a bloody, unconscious Ritchie in the bathroom, the flipping down of his shades later at the hospital–than most actors could do with a part twice as long.

Plus, even when he’s not doing anything, he’s still almost always there–even when it makes little sense plotwise, as in why he would be showing up at Royal’s funeral, given that they exchange 0 dialogue the entire movie (and likely their whole lives). Let’s just bring him along, why not, all he’s gonna do is stare blankly with his mouth agape anyway.

There’s something to be said for three-hit wonders too, though–hey, one better is one better–and now that the Apatow ‘verse is reaching new galaxy-conquering proportions, I feel Sheppard is due a #3. Buddy cop movie with Jay Baruchel, anyone?

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That Guy Salute: Rory Cochrane

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 26, 2007

“THAT’S what I”m talkin’ about, man, yeah!”

I like it when the roles actors pick over the course of the career sort of spell out a potential non-Hollywood alternate-universe narrative for their lives. The definitive example of this is with the career of John Cusack. He started out a confused teenager, unsure of what he wanted to do with his life (Better Off Dead, Say Anything), then once he got out of college, he tried a variety of diverse careers, like theater writing (Bullets Over Broadway), puppeteering (Being John Malkovich) and even professional killing (Grosse Point Blanke) but found satisfaction in none. Finally, he decided to buckle down and settle into a more ambitious job that actually satisfied his need to be a productive member of society (High Fidelity). Now, his only problem is finding a life companion to match (Serendipity, Must Love Dogs).

That’s why I was so glad to see that Rory Cochrane had finally found his place in life. When we first met him, he seemed to be enjoying himself all right, but it was more due to the truly superhuman amounts of pot he smoked as Ron Slater (Ron? Did they ever actually mention that in the movie?) in Dazed and Confused than any true direction in life. He was happy, sure, and he was certainly excited to go to college (due to the copious amounts of girls that, unlike the girls at Lee High School, were gonna finally start putting out), but he was probably too lazy to fill out the complex applications for the more prestigious schools, and most likely ended up going to some nearby community college, majoring in English or Communications.

When we next saw Rory two years later, as Lucas in Empire Records, he had grown up a fair amount. He had cut his hair, swapped out his weed-endorsing t-shirts for some dignified black turtlenecks, and adopted a far more philosophical, far less aggressive approach to life. Clearly, much of this new intellectualism was still pot-fuelled, but career-wise, it was definitely a step in the right direction. However, Cochrane still had a long way to go towards adulthood–he was being too irresponsible, taking too many chances, making poor decisions like gambling (and losing) his boss’s business savings away in Atlantic City, and then not bothering to apologize or even cover up for it. Things turned out OK–The Man was damned, and The Empire was saved–but if he hoped to make it in the real world, Rory had much maturing to do.

We didn’t hear from him for a while after that–most likely while he was out travelling the world, or finding himself, or working at a local fast food chain or something–but a few years ago he returned, well-dressed and clear-eyed, as detective Tim “Speed” Speedle on CSI: Miami. As one of Horatio Caine’s best and brightest, it looked like Cochrane had finally put his intellectual creativity to good use, no longer wasting it on theories about George Washington’s toking habits or ways to hook up his romantically estranged co-workers. He had finally found his place in life.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite to be. Cochrane’s old habits poked up again, as he quit the show and his character was killed off, finding TV’s shooting schedule too strenuous for his liking. When we last saw him, in Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, he was a drug-addled, unemployed, suicidal derilect, a half-step away from absolute depravity. Apparently he wasn’t quite ready for the working world quite yet, and his attempting to put on a brave face and pretend like he was a regular 9 to 5 guy nearly killed him.

But I wouldn’t count Rory Cochrane out of it just yet. Sure, he’s in a rough patch right now, but I know he’ll bounce back–maybe a couple puffs to put him back at ease, and he’ll be as ponderous and delightful as ever. He’s gonna make it after all–hell, if John Cusack could do it, anyone can.

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That Guy Salute: Kevin Tighe

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 8, 2007

“You know what you feed a dray horse in the morning if you want a day’s work out of him? Just enough so he knows he’s hungry.”

A smile came over my lips watching tonight’s episode of The 4400 (still good, by the way, though not as interesting as it is marathoning the DVDs, for some reason) as I saw Kevin Tighe’s name listed as being among the ep’s guest stars. He played a senator (or some type of politican, anyway), who despite his former anti-4400 policies, showed up trying to recruit 4400er Shawn Farrell to run for city council, eventually succeeding. It’s the kind of role Tighe always seems to play–the shady dude in a position of wealth and power, who always looks like he knows more than he’s letting on.

Tighe’s been awesome in a couple movies, most notably as Sport Sullivan, one of the main gamblers behind the Black Sox Scandal in Eight Men Out, and as Frank Tilghman, the Double Deuce owner trying to recruit Patrick Swayze to clean up his establishment in Road House. But mostly, he’s recognizable from his TV work, including guest spots on Freaks & Geeks as drummer Nick Andopolis’s military-minded father and on LOST as Locke’s estranged con-artist pappy. He also apparently starred as Roy DeSoto on 70s firefighter drama Emergency!, which I’ve never heard of, but apparently ran for over half a decade and looks sort of like Hill Street Blues in red.

From the kind of roles Tighe specializes in, you might expect him to fit into the asshole authority figure mold, akin to a William Atherton or James Rebhorn type. And he is, sort of, but even though he can be an asshole up there with the best of them, he’s never nearly as inherently hateable as Atherton or Rebhorn are. That’s because even though he’s old, set in his ways, and more often than not extremely villainous in a sneaky, insidiuous way, he somehow manages to still be kind of…well, kind of badass.

And that’s at least 90% due to Tighe’s smile. The guy has one of the most expressive smiles you’ll ever see on the big or small screen–usually saying far more than whatever dialogue Tighe’s character is spouting at the moment. And what it says is this: Listen, you little shit-eating, pissant motherfucker. I was ripping shit up and fucking people over while you were still in Keds and overalls. You may think you know me, but you actually know fucking balls. So keep staring at my blindingly white teeth while I school you on a thing or two, son, ‘coz by the time I’m done with you you’ll be lucky if you can even remember how to chew right. I know, it’s a lot. It’s a really good smile.

Hope he sticks around on The 4400 for a while. I’d love to see how they work the smile into his inevitable super-power.

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That Guy Salute: Larry Sellers in The Big Lebowski

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 3, 2007

“And yet, his kid is a fucking dunce…”

Picking a favorite character from The Big Lebowski, arguably the funniest movie ever made and inarguably the best stoner detective / Jewish veteran secuity system salesman psychedelic buddy noir western comedy ever made, would be like choosing which child of yours was your favorite–it’s likely doable, but you don’t want to piss off everybody else, and thinking about it for too long would probably give you a headache anyway. And even if I was forced to choose, it’s probably doubtful that I’d pick Larry Sellers –not in a movie with The Dude, Walter, Maude, Jesus, Jackie, Uli, Knox, and the Chief of Police of Malibu, among literally dozens of others vying for the title. So we’re not going to make this distinction here.

I will say, however, that Larry is by far the most economic character in the wide world of Lebowski. Like many of the movie’s other peripheral characters, he has just one scene to his credit–roughly 90 seconds of screen time–and like most of the movie’s other scenes, it’s some of the funniest shit you’re likely to ever see. But unlike most of the other supporting characters, who fill up their scenes yammering about goldbrickers and fixing the cable, Larry spends his entire tenure in The Big Lebowski totally mute. And not just audibly–throughout his 90 seconds, the character expresses absolutely nothing in any wayh whatsoever.

The character of Larry is introduced in another of the movie’s funniest scenes–when The Dude finds his D-grade report on The Louisiana Purchase (“Spelling,” “Use a Dictionary,” and “Who is He?” are his Social Studies teacher’s comments) in a crevice of his recently stolen car’s front seat. Deducing that Larry must’ve stolen the car–and the briefcase with a million dollars that The Dude left inside it–he and Walter decide to brace Larry, in the hopes of finding the missing money and meeting Larry’s father, Arthur Digby Sellers, who turns out to have been the primary writer for the TV show Branded.*

They show up at his house, and are let in by the Sellers’ confused but polite maid, who introduces them to the currently Iron Lung-bound Arthur and calls Larry to come downstairs. He does, and Walter and The Dude instantly start in with the questioning. As in most of the movie, the two their hand at being detectives, and fail miserably–despite their presented evidence (Larry’s homework assignment, neatly sealed in a Ziploc bag), their good cop / bad cop routine (with Walter improbably as the Good Cop, at least at first) and their multiple recycled threats (“We’re going to cut your dick off, Larry!”), Larry just sits there with a thoroughly blank look the entire time, totally devoid of any reaction. Even when Walter decides to go to “Plan B“–taking a crowbar to all parts of what he perceives to be Larry’s hot brand new car, while screaming the now classic phrase “DO YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS, LARRY? DO YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FUCK A STRANGER IN THE ASS!??!?!” (or “WHEN YOU FIND A STRANGER IN THE ALPS!??!?!,” depending on what channel the movie’s on)–Larry is totally unimpressed, emotionlessly observing the occurence from his living room window as if he were just watching the grass grow or an episode of What About Brian or something.

It’s not a terribly demanding performance, I suppose–though I imagine keeping the straightest face you’ve ever kept while John Goodman is making comedy history only a few yards away is probably at least somewhat demanding–but it’s one of the most perfect performances in the whole movie. It’s the Coen Bros’ snide commentary on the extreme detachment of kids from their surorundings during their teen years, and it’s spot fucking on–fact is, there are plenty of teens out there who probably would’ve reacted in a totally similar way to such a generally surreal experience.

I can’t help feel sort of bad for Jesse Flanagan, the actor who plays Larry, though. Not only did he go on to do almost as little the “Bitches, Man” kid from Say Anything (at least Flanagan has a minor role in Art School Confidential and a guest spot on Malcolm in the Middle to his credit), but he can’t even really milk his Big Lebowski for much either. He’s got no cute quote, no funny expression, nothing to go on except that blank, deer-in-moderately-shaded-headlights stare. Even the stoner chicks probably aren’t too impressed with that.

Ah well, it’s still more than most of us could say. At the very least, he can probably parlay his definitive role into free White Russians and saspirilla at bars nationwide.

*By the way, for you TV acolytes out there like me that are too young to know without using Wikipedia, Branded actually was a real Western TV show (and the theme The Dude drunkenly sings in the back of a cop car later in the movie is its actual theme), but Larry Sellers wasn’t one of the writers, and the show didn’t run for nearly as long as Walter implies, lasting a mere two seasons.

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That Guy Salute: Amanda Seyfried

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 12, 2007

Lacey Chabert: still sucks

I tried watching the second season premiere of polygamy melodrama Big Love the other night. I still find the show’s existence sort of jarring, since it doesn’t appear to have any particular audience–it’s too weird and culty for religious people, too slow for Sopranos fans, too staid for soap watchers and too dorky for hipster approval. The only people I know who watch it did so because it directly followed The Sopranos, now without even that, who knows what kind of people are going to be tuning in. Personally, I think the show’s sort of interesting–I mean c’mon, what a premise–but still a little too puzzling and obscure to be really involving in any way.

However, the show does ahve one big draw (besides the consistently kickass Harry Dean Stanton, who makes anything watchable) in the form of the ridiculously hott and slightly spooky Amanda Seyfried, who plays Bill Paxton and Jeanne Tripplehorn’s conflicted daughter Sarah. I’m not totally sure what her character’s deal is–I missed most of the last season, and all I really got from this episode is that she isn’t digging the whole Mormonism (or whatever it is they call it on the show) thing so much any more–but Seyfried remains a compelling presence regardless.

It’s not so much that she’s a great actress, or even a particularly good one. Seyfried just happens to have a particular skill when it comes to playing wild, vapid party girls–maybe not so much on Big Love, but certainly in just about any of her other roles. She broke out in in 2004 by playing Fourth Plastic Karen Smith in Mean Girls, more or less holding her own against Lindsey Lohan and Rachel McAdams, but shortly afterwards landed the role she’s probably best known for, Lily Kane on Veronica Mars. Lily, who was murdered before the first episode, and whose mystery was the impetus for most of the first season’s events, became a sort of 21st century Laura Palmer, and Seyfried was a pretty worthy successor to Cheryl Lee–beautiful, wild and appropriately haunting.

Since then, she’s had a bunch of similar roles, from guest spots on House and Wildfire (though not even Seyfried could get me to watch that fucking show) to supporting roles in films like Nine Lives and Alpha Dog, in most of which she plays variations on Karen and Lily. It’s unlikely that once her education years are over that we’ll see her doing much graduating to roles like college professors and troubled mothers, since I sort of doubt she has the range of someone like McAdams. I am sort of looking forward to her wild college years, though–sign her up for the next Brett Easton Ellis film adaptation or something.

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That Guy Salute: Busy Phillips

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 17, 2007

An actress who gets biz-zay: Consistently, and thoroughly

Last week’s fine episode of “Entourage” reminded me of one of my all-time favorite fourth-tier actresses. Phillips played a dog lover getting macked on by Turtle, who throws him into a moral dilemma when she starts talking shit about Turtle’s dog Arnold (ultimately, Turtle chooses to defend the dog’s honor, much to the chagrin of Drama, who loses his shot at nailing Phillips’s friend). Bummer, though I’m sure the guys made up for it over Spring Break (while poor E had to endure an extended weekend of no sex with a pissed-off Sloan in Aspen or something).

Anwyay, it’s the kind of role Phillips always plays–the moderately, but concievably, hot party girl with an intimidating and easily brought out mean streak. Phillips has played this type, to varying degrees of success, in various roles which would make you smack your head and go “Oh, right! THAT chick.” This includes Audrey, Pacey’s occasionally alcoholic (and compared to the roster of other girls Pacey somehow managed to bed, not quite as impressive) girlfriend on “Dawson’s Creek,” one of the titular caucasian females in White Chicks, and the lead role in goddamnit-should-be-a-cult-classic-by-now female revenge flick The Smokers. Apparently, she also wrote the story on which Blades of Glory is based, though having yet to see it I’m not sure if that’s a positive or negative.

But all of this–the looks, the acting chops, the repertoire–is ultimately irrelevant when discussing Phillips’s legacy. The one, and essentially only, thing you really need to know about Phillips is this:

Her name is Busy Phillips.

That’s right. I don’t know how whoever happened to brand Philips as such got “Busy” out of the first names Elisabeth Jean, but bravo to them on such a gutsy, appropriate and ultimately rewarding choice. I can’t think of a single celebrity name that I prefer off the top of my head–it just rolls of the tongue, sounding at once sexy, aggressive and hopelessly fucking lame. It makes me seriously hope that the girl eventually graduates to big league status, or at least a role in some legitimate indies or something. I think if I ever heard the phrase “Academy Award Nominee Busy Phillips” uttered by anyone, all other humor would be completely dead to me.

Apparently, Phillips was also in a 2001 TV Movie entitled “Spring Break Lawyer.” How that never managed to take off is beyond me.

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That Guy Salute: The Creepy Kid from Every Movie of the Last Three Years

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 16, 2007

Paying tribute to those nameless and occasionally faceless supporting characters that nonetheless provide the broth for the rich stew of Pop Culture.

It might come from my own deep-seated fears and insecurities, but nothing is more unsettling to me than a pale eight-year-old kid. In general, I fear young kids the same way i fear large animals, lifesize wax statues and the henchman with the sunglasses at the end of Scarface–anything that looks like it’s capable of talking but never does, I gotta assume that it must be plotting my own demise (or that at least, in the words of David Byrne, it’s gonna laugh at me). Sure, I guess there are like two or three OK ones–Lisa Simpson and the “YOUUU’RE GOOONNA LOOOOSE!!” kid from A League of Their Own come to mind–but the great majority of them are evil, horrific little bastards, not to be trusted under any circumstances.

The latest crystallization of my paranoia comes courtesy of recent kid star Cameron Bright. Cameron’s already 14, but he doesn’t look a day over nine, and part of me doubts that he ever will. Now when I say “kid star,” it’s really something of a misnomer–Ricky Schroder was a kid star, Patrick Renna of The Sandlot was a kid star, Cameron Bright is one of a rare breed–the kid actor. This is partly because of the seriously shocking number of mainstream movies he’s been in–The Butterfly Effect, Birth, Running Scared, Ultraviolet, Thank You For Smoking, X-Men: The Last Stand, among others–not a single one is really even slightly kid-focused in nature. Despite Bright’s large roles in each, these are all adult (or at the least, adolescent) focused movies, and he isn’t really a star in any. Which is why, even though you’ve undoubtedly seen him in at least two or three of these movies, you have no idea what his name is (and you’ll instantly forget it when you’re done reading this entry).

His face, though–if you’ve seen it once, believe me, you ain’t never gonna forget it. Now, the creepy kid has been a horror movie staple ever since Linda Blair stabbed herself in the crotch back in 1973, and over the years, it’s only gotten stronger–Damian, the twins from The Shining and the Children of the Corn, up to those kids in The Ring, The Grudge and Identity. These kids are all a million times more frightening than Freddy or Jason, and I think it’s for the same reasons I mentioned at the beginning–little kids are supposed to be mostly sweet and innocent, but I think everyone secretly distrusts them at least a little bit, so when they turn out to be genuinely evil, it confrims a lot of deep seated fears.

In 33 years’ worth of creepy kids, however, I don’t think there’s ever been one as creepy as Bright. And the weird thing is that none of the movies he’s been in have been straight horror movies–in fact, with the possible exception of The Butterfly Effect, he hasn’t even been an antagonist in any of them. But that face–those sallow, pale blue eyes, that even paler white skin, those unnaturally high cheek bones, that bulging forehead–he looks like a kid all right, but the most demonic little prick to ever set fire to his third grade art project. He barely ever talks, and he never fucking smiles.

And even though they’re not horror movies, his projects still reflect and emphasize that disturbing edge–except for X3, these are really not the sort of movies that young kids should be appearing in. Running Scared and The Butterfly Effect, two of the grittiest, most world-weary mainstream movies of the last few years (and don’t scoff at The Butterfly Effect until you see it, really), wouldn’t be half as unsettling if it wasn’t for Bright’s pivotal roles in each. Just taking a look at this kid, you know something’s not right–maybe he’s this instigator and maybe he’s the victim, but you know there’s some serious fucking troubel afoot. He’s not going to be appearing in MVP 4: Most Verisimilitudinous Primate any time soon.

It’ll be interesting to see if Bright can graduate from Creepy Kid to Creepy Adolescent (and perhaps even the rarely-attained Creepy College Kid) status–Robert “A.J.” Iler was able to do it, sorta, but it’s a lot easier to make the transition when you’re playing the same role once a week for almost ten years. But even if he’s not gonna be appearing on VH1 kid specials in any time soon, it’s good to see a kid actor carve a niche for himself without having to resort to snappy catchphrases or precocious transcontinental adventures. For that, anyway, he’d probably have to smile at least once.

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