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Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Monday’s “That Guy:” Pruitt Taylor Vince

In Movies, That Guys on September 22, 2009 at 12:00 am

I know, I know.  I often bring up actors in this section whom have excelled at playing a certain type of character to a rare art form.  I feel like I have often showcased actors with the specific gift to play a certain type better than anyone.  Today, I feel like my “that guy” this week brings that to a whole new level.  Why?  Because his type involves a specific disorder, nystagmus.  This causes one’s eyes to move involuntarily and often very quickly.  Could this be a disturbing trait in a certain type of character?  Absolutely.  Does Pruitt Taylor Vince, the “that guy” of this week use this quirk to amazing effect?  Well, he wouldn’t be in this column if he didn’t.

A still picture really doesn't do this guy justice.  His prescence inspires an amazing mix of emotion.

A still picture really doesn't do this guy justice. His prescence inspires an amazing mix of emotion.

First of all, I hate to sum up an actor’s entire ability into a neurological eye twitch.  He is an excellent actor with intense facial features and an intimidatingly lumbering physical quality that works amazingly.  I remember when I first saw him in Jacob’s Ladder.  He gives this really weird, dark grin right before the car he is in explodes.  I remember it being really chilling and one of the most memorable moments in a film filled with nightmarish images.

I also remember him from the cheesy thriller Identity where he plays the schizophrenic serial killer very effectively.  Watching his eyes dart around creates a tangible sense of imbalance.  The performance never feels gimmicky despite being in a movie that is actually all gimmick.

Vince was a regular on Deadwood, creating a special place for him in my heart forever right next to actors whom worked on The Wire, You hear that Dominic West!  You’ll never lose my affection, despite your many attempts to do so.  Also, Deadwood is the best counter that people in the past were not as dirty as they are often portrayed, Zach.

Oh, back to Pruitt Taylor Vince.  Sorry, “that guy.”  My inability to blog everyday is causing all my geek wires to cross and muddy the process of these posts.  I apologize for marring your time to shine, Pruitt.  The last movie I will mention is one that has gotten a lot of attention on this blog, Constantine. His portrayal as Consteanu’s priest ally, combined with Tilda Swinton’s Gabriel, makes me wish I could watch that movie again with them as the main stars.  I guess my fan fic will have to be enough…for now.

So, I recommend you check out Pruitt Taylor Vince and his amazing eyes at your earliest convenience.  You’ll be amazed to what he brings to any table.

Utterly filthy

In Movies on September 16, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I’ve written about my interest in fantasy anachronisms before, so the news of this new movie Vahalla Rising: Le Guerrier silencieux has got me suddenly excited.  What is it about?  Not sure, exactly, but it might have something to do with Vikings, the New World, and axe-fighting, and a one-eyed Mads Mikkelsen.  This movie has me interested in a way that something like Pathfinder never could.  Why?

Well, for one, it looks utterly filthy.  The characters seem encrusted with dirt, soil, mud, earth, sludge, and dirt again.  I enjoy when movies portray older times with commonality of filth before the modern era.  They guys have never known shampoo, deodorant, or toilet paper.  They probably smell like week-old corpses rolled in fish entrails and Garbage Pail Kids cards.  This goes a big way for helping me get into a setting.  It’s why Deadwood will always be one of my favorite pieces of entertainment.  I don’t want my settings “lived in” as much as “shit in.”

Mads contemplating the fact that, while being an international star,  he is best known for smacking Daniel Craig's balls with a knotted rope.

Mads contemplating the fact that, while being an international star, he is best known for smacking Daniel Craig's balls with a knotted rope.

Secondly, the movie doesn’t seem much in the way of being stylish.  Do these guys have cool armor or flashy, over-sized weapons?  Maybe, but it more looks like a bunch of guy in worn out leather and wool with worn, beat-up iron axes.  No elaborate sets that I can see; just some rocky hills and maybe a boat or two.  Maybe the medieval world isn’t so much a grand wonderland but a lethally banal, soul-crushing place.

Thirdly, the fighting looks fast, brutal, and bone-crushingly painful.  Combat isn’t a dance, but a deadly exercise in knocking the other guy down then finishing them quickly.  Combat isn’t a spectacle, but a means to survive in a tough time to be alive.  I like action as much as the next guy, but I sometimes like when combat has high stakes and diminished bullshit.

Fourthly, this whole column is intended for Michel so she can hear about this Mads Mikkelsen movie.  Her love for him is known, and I wanted to be the one to bring it to her attention.  I hope I was successful.

Monday’s “That Guy:” David Paymer

In Movies, That Guys on September 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

I apologize again for the slowdown in productivity on this blog in general and this category in particular.  I will be attempting to get back near my daily output but only time will tell if I will be successful in that pursuit.  This week’s “that guy” is an excellent choice, if I do say so myself.  After getting killed by Jonathan Banks a few weeks ago, I’ve been feeling down in the dumps about my ability to bring any insight into this topic.  I mean, I found myself struggling to remember Bill Paxton’s name the other day.  That’s when I knew I had hit rock bottom.  So, besides my student teaching, I have been hitting the obscure films from my past regimen.  I just finished a Dabney Coleman doubleheader, for instance, with The Man with One Red Shoe and Cloak & Dagger.  But this all has nothing to do with my choice for this week.  This week came to mind as I was bouncing actors off of projects, linking Michael Rooker from Tombstone to Michael Rooker in Slither to Gregg Henry in Slither to Gregg Henry in Payback to my “that guy” from Payback, David Paymer.

I would pay money to see this guy as an action movie star.  How transcendingly awesome would that be?

I would pay money to see this guy as an action movie star. How transcendingly awesome would that be?

Paymer is excellent at being some version of the same character.  First of all, he is the embodiment of the neurotic east coast Jewish cliche.  I can think of no one, Woody Allen included, that does it better.  He seems to excel in these roles, however, adding a degree of depth that a lesser actor would easily not include.  I do find that this is the one element he has never even attempted to take out of his roles.  He is typecast by his sheer natural talent for it.

Other elements of his work are more interchangeable, however.  First he does smart and competent pretty well.  The first thing I remember him from, City Slickers, allows him to very believably show himself as a success.  In Redbelt, as well, he comes across as the kind of guy in the know.  Someone who knows the rules of getting by by keeping his head down, not pissing off the wrong guy, and backing the right person.  Whether in Nixon, Amistad, City Hall, or The American President, he is the type of guy working behind the scenes, reacting as things bigger than him continue to happen.

Paymer also does pathetic very well.  The best example I can think of his role in Payback as the small timer continually getting between Mel Gibson’s Porter and a series of dangerous, motivated people.  A true bottom feeder, his role of Arthur in that movie is so sleazily pitiful that he really makes that movie for me in every scene he finds himself in.  Or, in Mr. Saturday Night, he seems so sad as the guy keeping the wheels on the cart as his brother steals his spotlight.  Or how about in Ocean’s Thirteen, when he is the neurotic (what a surprise) hotel reviewer whom gets abused by the gang to give Pacino’s (Whooa, I own a casino) place a shitty review.  He just seems so horribly uncomfortable and utterly powerless to escape the torment.  He does it so well.

So, like one of those excellent journeyman “that guys,” David Paymer does a very narrow type of acting really better than anyone.  I look forward to seeing him do what he does so well in the near future.  With the depth of his work, I know I will not be waiting long.

Geek youth

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Sorry I’ve been away.  This blog has been a whole lot less daily than it should be.  My apologies for those whom count on it for 2-3 minutes of wasted time a day.  I have been busy with a new demanding endeavor: student teaching.  I’ve been starting early, going all day, then preparing for the next most of the evening.  Any other time I try to spend with my wife and our new TV addiction.  So, this blog has suffered.  I am sorry.

So, the topic today are some of the young people I see around me on a daily basis.  I feel like I can spot the fledgling geeks pretty easily.  Whether it is a dragon T-shirt, an intelligent but awkward demeanor, or even a Twilight sticker on a binder, I feel like I can pinpoint those students my 8th grade self would have gotten along with.  Unfortunately, I feel it is impossible to communicate with them about it.  Here’s why.

For one, as much as I would like to think it would make me “cool,” I’m pretty sure it would make me lame.  Like, if I said “Hey, are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?” to a young lady, it would no doubt be met with a “um…whatever” versus the “awesome, Mr. Brown gets me.  What an inspiring teacher!”   It’s true.  No matter how great I think I am, to these kids I am old and lame and they are right to think that.  It’s pretty sad to try to look good to a bunch of middle-schoolers.

Secondly, even if I thought it might be nice for a geek student to be “gotten” by an adult in their life, I wonder if the seal of approval from a teacher is really any good.  I’d like to think I can be a good role model for my students but it shouldn’t be because I like their taste in video games.

So, I leave it alone, so far.  I’m working on trying to be a better teacher for everyone, not just a better geek for some.  This is why my posts might be a little further and far between,  Time will tell.

Terminator 2: The Sequel That Changes All the Rules

In Movies on September 7, 2009 at 10:26 am

Sometimes a movie does a few things to mislead the viewer to make the whole experience more satisfying.  Setting up a big twist or presenting a red herring (and not the kind from A Pup Named Scooby Doo) are examples of this kind of thing.  Terminator 2, a pretty great movie for some of its flaws, attempts to do this with the presentation of the two terminators in the beginning of the film.  Arnold shows up like last time and violently acquires clothing and transportation just like last time.  A smaller, less threatening man shows up and tangles with the police like the last movie, too.  Clearly, the movie wants us to think Arnold is the baddie and Robert Patrick is the new Kyle Reese.  Only, there is a problem.  It was pretty well publicized prior to the film release that Arnold was going to be the good guy this time around, ruining the deception that the film puts in place.  Unfortunately, this setup also messes up a hard and fast rule in Terminator lore.

The big thing about the Terminator universe is that no non-organic material can go back in time.  The only way the first terminator can go back in time is to be surrounded by a barrier of living tissue.  So far, so good.  My question is how can the liquid metal, entirely inorganic T-1000 go back in time?  It appears to have zero living parts on it.  So, it’s coming through time poops on one of the most basic rules of terminatorhood.  I can’t think of a good way to get around it.  So that’s that.  Fine, I can get over it.

Secondly, if you are entirely metal and can look anyway you want, why appear in the past naked?  It’s all the same metal whether you make it look like skin or clothes.  This goes back to my original point.  The T-1000 comes back in time naked because it wants to mislead the audience.  It is trying to manipulate the audience, not for any logical narrative reason.  I think that is some flawed screenwriting in a work I generally respect.

Show me the organic material on this robotic nudist.  Better yet, don't bother.

Show me the organic material on this robotic nudist. Better yet, don't bother.

Oh, and here is a possible No Prize.  The T-1000, due to its advanced mutability, is able to simulate organic material.  By appearing naked, it’s entire surface simulates living skin so completely that it fools the time travel machine into accepting it.  Nice?  Well, no, actually.  The T-1000 is incapable of creating complex machines or devices.  The creation of artifical DNA, blood vessels, skin cells, etc. is clearly beyond its technology.  The T-1000 can create an illusion, plain-and-simple.  So, again, kinda silly on Cameron’s part.  What say you?

Larry Elmore revisited

In Books, Roleplaying Games on September 2, 2009 at 9:44 pm

I’ve been lightly re-reading the Dragonlance: Legends series recently.  I’ve been on a fantasy kick recently and just finished Joe Abercrombie’s excellent yet somber First Rule series.  I’m in need of some light, junk-food reading while I’m student teaching.  Something familiar and pleasant but not something that will suck me in.  I haven’t read the Legend series in quite a while so…why not?  Okay, I feel like I am apologizing a bit for such a adolescent pick, but whatever.  I find the prose has suffered a bit and I’m not exactly digging the character interaction as much as Chronicles, but it’s doing its job of entertaining me just fine.  Looking at the books, however, has made me re-examine the work of Larry Elmore, the artist of the original Dragonlance novels and all-around TSR company man.

Elmore was my first favorite fantasy artist.  When I was younger than ten, I remember looking at my older cousin’s Dragon Magazine.  It has a weird color comic by David Trampier called Wormy about a cigar-smoking Dragon and his efforts to play wargames in peace away from the annoying adventures always messing with him.  It was awesome but I was more drawn to a black-and-white serialized comic called Snarf’s Quest, a comedic adventure about a long-eared, snouted warrior-in-exile, his robot sidekick, a hot warrior love interest, and a surprisingly relatable brain leech.  It was by Larry Elmore and I loved the hell out of it.

My brother had this collected edition years ago.  I wonder if it holds up.

My brother had this collected edition years ago. I wonder if it holds up.

But Elmore continued to impress me as I got into Dragonlance.  I found that his work blew away anything Jeff Easley or Keith Parkinson did for the world.  His portrayal of the characters was what I thought they looked like at the time.  The faces of his figures were unique and were instantly recognizable for me.  Though I question some of his design choices, such as the scantily clad Caramon and Tika on the Dragons of Spring Dawining, I still have a very soft spot in my heart for that fantasy art, cheesy as it may be.  Elmore changed his style through the 90s and into the new century.  I can’t put my finger on it.  Maybe I’m older and more critical of new stuff, while still looking at the old stuff through the eyes of an eleven-year-old.

I guess pants were not in-style in Krynn during the War of the Lance.  But I suppose bedazzling leather, collarbone armor was.

I guess pants were not in-style in Krynn during the War of the Lance. But I suppose bedazzling leather, collarbone armor was.

I’m trying to look at his work (and not just these amusing examples) with the harder, sarcastic sensibility that I have developed in the last twenty years.  It’s not really working.  I have no desire to undo those positive feelings.  I wonder do any of you have cheesy shit from your early adolescence that you are unable to tear down.   I’m tired so that will be all for now.

Geekiest thing I’ve done in a while

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Tonight, I am preparing one to engage in one of the silliest, geekiest things I have done in a while.  You might find this unlikely, considering I write a daily blog about the minutia of my interests.  You see, everyday I continue this mockery should be the geekiest day of my life, using Office Space logic.  As a rabid player of games video and tabletop, a lover of science fiction, and person whom could have a long conversation only using Simpson quotes, what activity could I be talking about.  Well, let me tell you.  I and some of my associates are having are picking real-world millionaires from a prepared list to make an imaginary team whom will be squared off against other people’s teams using the results of the rich guy’s job peformances to determine an winner of the fictional conflict.  Yes, I am preparing to play some fantasy football.

I wrote about the subject of sports as a geek interest before in this post, but what I am engaging in takes it to a whole new level.  This is shit is huge right now and if I, the most marginal of sports fans, is involved, you know it’s pretty popular.  For those who don’t know, my draft consists of me picking NFL players over the internet along with the other people in my league.  I have the 6th pick, so I will be picking 6th, 15th, 26th, and so on.  When my team is finished, then the game begins.  During the weekend, all my individual players will play their games and will have statistics connected to their performances.  Those statistics have points assigned to them.  So, I add up the points, compare them to the other player I’m playing that week, and see who wins.  Pretty simple concept, really.

Oh, Adrian Peterson with your +5 speed and improved evasion, you are not destined to be mine this draft.  I'll have to settle for some other elite RBs.

Oh, Adrian Peterson with your +5 speed and improved evasion, you are not destined to be mine this draft. I'll have to settle for some other elite RBs.

So, how is this different than a tactical RPG or a CCG (collectible card game, not sure we’ve talked much about them) like Magic: The Gathering.  Instead of preparing a party or a deck, I’m preparing a team of football players.  Instead of chance coming from dice or the luck of the draw, it’s coming from the real-life performances of the players on the field.  Like these types of games, it is a flawed simulation of the real thing.  It is tactical exercise requiring a ton of research and analysis to be successful.  As much as anything geekish, it is flight of fantasy; a creation of the imagination.

So, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  This is my first time at this.  Much like a newcomer cracking the PHB for the first time, I am overwhelmed and intimated but also excited about the prospect of a good time.

Monday’s “That Guy:” Jonathan Banks

In Movies, That Guys on September 1, 2009 at 12:06 am

Sorry about last week.  It was my first week off from my summer job and it didn’t dawn on me that it was Monday until it wasn’t anymore.  So I skipped last week but I have a doozy to make up for it.  This guy is the perfect guy to cast if you are looking for a world-weary, no bullshit, often grumpy, and probably sleep deprived son of a bitch.  Maybe an exhausted police detective who has no interest in the case, just in busting the balls of the protagnist.  Or perhaps an under appreciated henchman with a mean-spirited sense of humor.  For this type of role, you not only want, you need Jonathan Banks, my “that guy” of this week.

Everytime I see this guy in a movie, I feel like he wants to kick someone's ass but doesn't because it would involve too much energy.

Everytime I see this guy in a movie, I feel like he wants to kick someone's ass but doesn't because it would involve too much energy.

Like many people on this list, he seems to do the majority of his work on TV, getting guest star stints on pretty much everything.  I mean, this is why you feel like you recognize “that guys” in the first place.  You seem them everywhere but can’t put a finger on it.  Mr. Banks is no exception.  Many may know him from his role on Wiseguy, a rare regular role for him as Ken Wahl’s superior fan.  Besides that, however, he is on almost everything, yet no Law & Orders that I can see.  This doesn’t seem possible.  Maybe he accidentally ran over Dick Wolf’s dog.  Actually, replace “accidentally” with “repeatedly” and “dog” with “son.”  But now that we have that out of the way, let’s dig into some films.

First film that comes to mind is Beverly Hills Cop, which I watched today and inspired my choice for the week.  He played the evil lieutenant to the movie’s art dealer/smuggler/drug pusher main bad guy.  He was the dude whom executed Axel Foley’s friend and really set the movie in motion.  If only he had bothered to put a bullet in Pluto Nash’s head, he would have saved the entire 90210 from all kinds of banana-inspired hijinks.  He has a great scene where he gets thrown into a buffet by Eddie Murphy and has to finish the rest of the scene dripping with food.  There is no way to look cool in such a scenario but Banks never loses his pissed off intensity.

That’s the one I saw today, but here comes the kind of embarrassing part.  I was hard-pressed to remember him from my head from other projects.  He was so familiar; so recognizable I assumed I would recollect another film project.  When that didn’t happen, I cheated by checking imdb.com.  Would you believe, no really good memory jogs for me.  Sure, he was one of the cops in Gremlins, which I can now remember.  Or one of the evil henchman in the best forgotten Freejack.  And I kinda remember him as one of the corrupt cops in Dark Blue.  But this is a tough one for me to admit.  I really can’t expand much on how you know this guy.

So, this is awkward.  You might have come here to learn more about actors you might recognize and I have let you down.  I considered starting from scratch and picking someone else but A) it’s late, B) I’m tired, and C) maybe some people just need to remain “that guys.”  Their careers resist any easy clarification or explanation.  I mean, I can picture this guy playing a type of character, but it’s tricky to pin down the specifics.  So…maybe my failure is the best compliment I can give to Jonathan Banks.  Maybe he’s the best “that guy” so far.  Or maybe I just wasted your time.