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That Guy Salute: The Barfly in Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 3, 2007

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

I caught Sex, lies and videotape on IFC a few nights ago. SL&V is one of my favorite movies to catch on TV because I know it well enough to remember the vague plot outline while always forgetting the specifics–so I almost always end up watching the whole thing to remember how the dots get connected. Plus, creepy-but-sympathetic Spader, eyebrow-heavy Peter Gallagher, hotter-than-everLaura San Giacombo, surprisingly bearable Andie McDowell, and of course, the best ever Steven Soderbergh script.

And also, there’s this guy. I always sorta assumed that he was Cameron Crowe–he looks like Cameron Crowe, right? Actually, though, it’s actor/producer/director/screenwriter Steven Brill, in his first ever role (after his debut in Adam Sandler flop vehicle Going Overboard). Apparently Sandler is a lifelong friend, and got him simlar gigs later in his life, including roles as “Glenn’s Buddy” in The Wedding Singer, Ted Castelucci in Big Daddy and “Violin Player” in Mr. Deeds (the latter of which he actually directed, along with Sandler’s ’00 disaster Little Nicky). If those ventures don’t seem too impressive, Brill also wrote and had in cameos in all three Mighty Ducks movies, officially making him an integral part of 90s pop culture. Other roles include “Gothamite 1” in Batman Returns, “Dishwasher Man” in Edward Scissorhands and “Cop at Crime Scene” in Joe Dirt.

Perhaps you can see the seeds of these somewhat failed comic ventures in his role as the barfly plaguing Cynthia Bishop in SL&V, continually making bad jokes and puny come-ons to anyone who’ll listen (who in this movie, is basically nobody). While the love triangle between Cynthia, John and Ann (or love square if you wanna count Graham) runs its course, this guy just keeps showing up, as if he was meant to offer Greek Chorus-type commentary on the action but instead just decided to quote Apocalypse Now and make drunken pick-up attempts (“OK, OK–you’re wearing blue, and I’m wearing blue. This is just too much!”).

All throughout Brill’s unimportant ramblings, none of the characters even really seem to acknowledge his existence. Cynthia smiles at him maybe once, and Ann, whose attempts to have heart-to-heart moments with her sister are constantly interrupted by his flirtation attempts, does her best to ignore him. Eventually, she asks him irritatedly, “do you live here?” It’s actually something of a worthwhile question.

Brill’s character is one of the things that makes this movie so imminently re-watchable–by no means an integral part of the movie, but one of the little things about it I’m always happy to be reminded of. I’d love to see Soderbergh make a spin-off movie with just this guy and San Giacombo–almost 20 years later, he’s probably still at that bar, quoting Fight Club to whoever’ll listen.


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That Guy Salute: The Coach in Teen Wolf (1985)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 30, 2007

The That Guy Salute pays tribute to those nameless and occasionally faceless supporting characters that nonetheless provide the broth for the rich stew of Pop Culture.

I wasn’t alive in 1985, but I still feel resolutely confident that if someone were to time capsule a movie to encapsulate what the 80s felt like, Teen Wolf must be the best choice available. Obviously, this is because its a paradigmatic 80s teen movies by just about any standards–the voluptuous blonde with a ’50s-style name and hairdo, the asshole principal with a personal vendetta, the platonic-but-could-be-more-best-friend-with-a-goofy-name at the center, and most importantly, the humongous, ridiculously elaborate house parties that the entire school seems to attend, all essential elements of any High School flick of the time. But more importantly, it’s the attitude of the movie that makes it utterly impossible to transfer to any other decade of the 20th century–the idea that this teenager could unexpectedly “come out” as a werewolf, and not only would he not be whisked away by the government for years of torturous studies in an underground bunker somewhere, but that the entire school would get set up in Wolfmania and make him the most popular kid in school (and seduction target for previously mentioned 50s babe)–is gloriously reflective of the “Go with it” attitude that was so pervasive in the 80s, or at least as it was portrayed in teenaged film.

Still, it’s not The Wolf, platonic-but-could-be-more-best-friend-with-a- goofy-name, asshole principal or even 50s babe that emerge as the most memorable and definitive characters of Teen Wolf. That would belong to the characters played by two That Guys of Legend, Jerry Levine and Jay Tarses. Levine plays Stiles, Fox’s party-crazy, entrepreneurial best friend–the kind of guy that teen movies would like you to believe existed in yours and everyone’s High School, but probably didn’t–who sees the emergence of The Wolf as a get-rich-quick opportunity, selling Wolf merchandise (hats, t-shirts) to underclassmen, because of course it is socially acceptable and totally normal for dorks to wear clothing advertising the school’s cool kids. Today, though, we’re focusing on Coach Bobby Finstock, played by Jay Tarses.

Unlike the great majority of Teen Wolf characters, Coach Finstock is something of a rarity in 80s teen movies–the adult authority figure who seeks neither to inspire or oppress the youth under his command. He is not motivated by a desire to teach, nor is he looking to project the failures of his own adolescence unto the kids he’s teaching. In fact, Coach Finstock doesn’t seem motivated by much of anything–he even seems fairly uninterested in whether the team wins or not, which as a Teen Movie coach, should really be his only concern. When Fox goes wolven on him in the middle of the game and ends up going on a three-minute scoring montage, he seems only slightly impressed, later, when Fox reveals that he wants to play the climactic game against the Evil School as a human, he seems only slightly miffed. “It doesn’t matter how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose. And even that doesn’t make all that much difference” is the closest thing to an inspirational speech he can give the team.
Really, Coach Finstock doesn’t even seem to understand that his storyline is not in any way central to the movie, as he frequently offers asides that have little to do with anything and have absolutely no bearing on the rest of the movie. When noticing pre-Wolf Scott Howard is going through some troubles, he offers him this pearl:

“Look Scotty, I know what you’re going through. Couple years back, a kid came to me much the same way you’re coming to me now, saying the same thing that you’re saying. He wanted to drop off the team. His mother was a widow, all crippled up. She was scrubbing floors. She had this pin in her hip. So he wanted to drop basketball and get a job. Now these were poor people with real problems. Understand what I’m saying?”

“What happened to the kid?”

“I don’t know. He quit. He was a third stringer, I didn’t need him.”

This is the second closest Coach Finstock comes to giving Scott the heart-to-heart he so desperately wants. The closest comes when at one point in the movie, a post-Wolf Scott, who has just won a big game with his ball-hogging and showing off, makes the mistake of asking the Coach why his teammates are giving him the cold shoulder. The Coach offers Scott these words of wisdom, which I would consider to arguably be the greatest quote in all of film history:

“Listen, Scott, there are three rules that I live by: never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese. ”

Turns out that Jay Tarses actually had a fairly diverse illustrious career in TV before and after landing his definitive role. Aside from guesting in high-profile shows like St. Elsewhere’s and Teen Wolf, Tarses was a producer and writer for shows like The Bob Newhart Show, Buffalo Bill and the highly classy Black Tie Affair (a.k.a. Smoldering Lust). Perhaps this gave him enough of a rep to get cast as the totally extraneous Teen Wolf coach, though it was the only movie he ever acted in.

Our loss, I suppose. At least we have this one definitive 80s bit role to remember him by.

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That Guy Salute: The “Bitches, Man” Kid in Say Anything

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 17, 2007

The That Guy Salute pays tribute to those nameless and occasionally faceless supporting characters that nonetheless provide the broth for the rich stew of Pop Culture.

Few scenes from any movie from the last 20 years have been as firmly ingrained into not just pop culture, but American culture at large, as the famous “In Your Eyes” boombox scene from the 1989 Cameron Crowe classic Say Anything. The Wikipedia Page lists dozens of references to the movie in things ranging from TV to Music to even Fashion, and almost all of them have to do with someone blaring Peter Gabriel outside a paramour’s window in some sort of romantic gesture. Of course, this scene deserves to be as well remembered as it does–few movie images could hope to be as instantly iconic as watching Lloyd Dobler hold up that (ridiculously heavy looking) boombox with a look of stone determination on his face, with one of the great love songs of the 80s reminding us of the pasison the two recently shared (though I feel like I must note that of the 17 years of apparently devoted Say Anything viewers, no one seems to notice that this method in fact does not work–Diane looks a little guilty, sure, but she basically just says “oh, how about that,” rolls over and goes back to bed, not returning to Cusack until singificantly later in the movie).

The danger with a movie scene being as firmly canonized as this one is that people tend to start to forget how great the rest of the movie is. In fact, I wouldn’t consider the boombox scene to be the best or even the most memorable in the movie, necessarily–for me that honor would probably go to the scene of Lloyd’s ill-advised Saturday Night trip to the Gas n Sip, in which he briefly attempts to connect with some guys for post-breakup advice. The scene features one of those great movie devices that you sort of wish could exist in real life, where you pan down a line of people, and one at a time, they each give you their words of wisdom on the situation at hand without interrupting or commenting on one another. The first guy, Joe, tells him “no babe is worth it,” and “hang with us, we’ll teach you”. The second, Howard, says women can’t be trusted because “they spend all your money, and they tell their friends everything.” The third, Denny, advises Lloyd to “find a girl just like her, nail her, and then dump her”. The fourth, Mark (I swear, none of these names are ever actually mentioned in the movie–thanks IMDB) comforts Lloyd that his “only mistake was that [he] didn’t dump her first.” And then, the fifth, a tweve-year-old-looking kid apparently named Luke, sums up with two words, not only Lloyd’s current dilemma, but an entire male generation’s worth of romantic and sexual frustration: “Bitches, man.”

John Green, Jr., the actor who plays Luke, has no other lines in the movie (well, after imparting his wisdom, he gets a page or something and says “I’d better bail, see you later.”) In fact, according to IMDB at least, he would have no other lines in anything ever, as his role in Say Anything was apparently a career peak too high to ever hope to follow up, and he never appeared in another movie. The only other movie he is listed as appearing in on either IMDB or the All Movie Guide was as Bernard is the AMG two-star rated 1989 Mimi Rogers / Gary Busey thriller Hider in the House.

Looks pretty good, but I guess it wasn’t enough. Meanwhile, Google turns up nothing for John–I can’t even find anything that confirms how old the guy is. Still, with two words, he will be forever immortalized in the annals of teen movie culture, if not quite on the same cross-culture level as Lloyd’s ridiculous wrist stanima. Here’s hoping that the “Bitches, Man” kid is out there at this very moment, using his line to try to pick up doey-eyed emo girls at a community college somewhere.

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