I’ll have you know that I’m writing this while assuming the “down on one knee” stance–the silent statement that cries out and continues to grow in popularity among athletes and celebrities and other people of conscience throughout this great land of ours. Many of the other contributors to this issue of the Troubadour wrote their own pieces while in the same position but won’t admit it, fearing for their own safety and that of their loved ones. President Von Clownstick is this close to signing an executive order calling for the arrest and execution of anyone who refuses to stand at attention during the playing or performing of our national anthem–so who knows what’s next? While watching him on television? When speaking his holy name or that of his trophy wife? This guy’s not gonna stop until the entire world acknowledges him as King of the Sandbox and All-time Ruler of the Playground, but in the meantime his list of atrocities grows and just when it seems it can’t get any worse, our attention is diverted by some new natural disaster or psychotic killing spree. Our outrage has become fickle.
Just as the kneeling calls for racial harmony and justice and attention to the myriad crimes against equality, it becomes clear that we also need a concrete sort of stance that we can all assume to protest the very presence of Von Clownstick on this planet at this time. When he goes off to get stroked by his zombie armies at his frequent Hitler-like rallies, people with brains protest outside with their signs and placards–this is better than doing nothing. But I will suggest another option–one that will, like the kneeling, accomplish its goal silently and with an amount of dignity commensurate with its target:
The prez, an ardent student of Hitler and his methods, would certainly be startled and would probably begin to achieve tumescence if he were to notice a crowd facing him, all members with their right arms stretched straight out and slightly upward. At first he’ll perhaps think he’s suddenly created heaven on earth and his natural greatness has finally turned all the stubborn fools toward the Triumph of Trump. But then he’ll notice that the hands at the end of those arms–our arms–are clenched into fists turned upward to the sky, with all the middle fingers extended outward like little radio transmission towers, now broadcasting a message straight into the rotting cheese that is his brain. It is us, the people, silently reminding him of his inability to ever physically accomplish the one thing he desires more than anything in the entire universe.
While I totally despise the sociopathic creep, he still can’t stop scaring the hell out of me. This is one deviously powerful mo’fo. I prefer my villains to be fictitious, and over the years the cinema has shown me some real doozies–characters who are frighteningly realistic and exquisitely portrayed by some of the greatest actors in the world. I’ve been reviewing a lot of these baddies lately when the state of our country and the world has really gotten me down, and I’d like to share with you some more of my Favorite Things, in this case my all-time favorite villains of the silver screen. Remember, I believe it’s perfectly all right to love these characters, since they’re all quite fake and will never really do any harm to anyone. If by any chance they influence and spur some damaged soul to commit antisocial acts, you will forget you ever read this. You will forget. You will forget. You will forget….
Martin Sheen and Tony Musante are so believably vile in the little-seen The Incident (1967) that when they finally get their just desserts at the film’s end the viewer is left with a feeling of cathartic exhilaration, despite the unexpectedly graphic delineations of their fate: Beau Bridges, portraying a wounded Army grunt on leave, delivers a nearly fatal kick to Sheen’s groin (and the pain just won’t stop) before thoroughly bashing in Musante’s head with the plaster cast over his own broken arm. Thank you for your service, Beau.
In 1971’s Dirty Harry, Andy Robinson damn near steals the picture from Clint Eastwood, who was in his prime. Robinson’s Zodiak is a racist, sadomasochistic, pedophilic serial killer. He is not a nice person, either. He calls one big bruiser of a character “…you black son of a bitch” before the big bruiser beats and kicks the living daylights out of him, which is exactly what the creep wanted, and even paid for! This guy’s the life of the party, and set the template for all other cinema psychos of the ’70s, none of whom could match Robinson’s dedication and immersion in this role, which should have resulted in a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His eyes scream “crazy.” His lips define “crazy.” His freakin’ chin… oh, man, Andy Robinson deserves our respect. Attention must be paid…
Director Hal Ashby’s last film was 1986’s 8 Million Ways to Die and there are a number of things wrong with the picture but the acting of all of the leads is certainly not among them. Jeff Bridges, Patricia Arquette, Alexandra Paul, and Randy Brooks are all fine–none have ever been better, in my opinion, but the standout of this show was an actor I had never known of before. I walked out of the Center Three Cinemas in Mission Valley convinced that this Andy Garcia was going to be going places. Andy’s Angel Maldonado is underplayed as a venomous snake beautifully in repose but primed and ready to strike as fast as the blink of an eye… totally composed, totally prepared to murder anyone who might harm his burgeoning cocaine empire. When Bridges, after much tribulation, gets the upper hand and begins to literally blow up that empire, Garcia suddenly unravels. To watch him lose it is to witness a thing of beauty. The snake has run out of venom but is determined to live long enough to destroy Bridges somehow. You’ll never see maniacal frustration as naked as this. Did I say that Andy Garcia is amazing?
Now to the nineties and 1994’s Rob Roy, a glorious film you should watch (or see again) if only to marvel at Tim Roth’s attractively repellent Cunningham, who, underneath his foppish dress and manners, is a brilliantly vicious swordsman and an unrepentant murderer and rapist. Your hate for this character grows as the story progresses and you marvel at how easily he is able to deceive nearly everyone he encounters (hmmm… sounds familiar). In one audacious scene, we are shown how he can be awakened from a deep sleep without a touch or a sound. It is a moment to treasure .
I have witnessed no screen villains since 1994 who approach the greatness of those noted above. The great villains of today are all real and plentiful and desperately dangerous. When it all gets too much I’ll just immerse myself again in these Hose Hall of Fame performances where at least I can comfort myself by truthfully repeating it’s only a movie…
Too much negativity? There will be no more, dear reader. Next month I’ll see out the year with love and hope and thanks aplenty; one final “Hosing Down” before I ride off into mystery.