After having taken a detour for my full-length barrage of hate against Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe, we are back to covering the 1970’s and 1980’s. I am realizing that 4 posts in is testing my ability to say different things for each character and I feel like I am retreading a lot. Hopefully I can manage to keep this list interesting considering that we have 2 more posts to go after this one.
Jennifer Cavalleri – Ali MacGraw – Love Story (1970)
We kick off this installment with easily the most infuriating character within this select bunch of dodo birds. I despise Love Story; every ounce of it. One of the worst films these two eyes have ever seen, this piece of idiocy is headlined by the all-time least likable romantic lead. What is meant to be a tearjerker quickly morphes into an shameless countdown to MacGraw’s much-deserved demise.
Literally the entirety of my memories from watching this crap film consist of Ali MacGraw’s unrelenting love for the words ‘preppie’ and ‘bullshit’. I have nothing else to offer except that I found her to be unendurable. There are no words for how painful watching this film became due to her onscreen presence.
This is the only film with Ali MacGraw I have seen. My question is this; is this the way she is in every film? Do others find her across-the-board annoying? I just want to get a sense of whether or not this is what could be expected from her in any eventual outing I choose to watch her in. If this kind of performance is what MacGraw usually brings to the table, I may have to avoid her at all costs for the sake of my sanity.
Note: If I had to pick out five characters from all the installments combined (including the characters in later posts), she would be in the Top 5.
David Mann – Dennis Weaver – Duel (1971)
This entry is less hatred and more the simple fact that Spielberg’s Duel, and Dennis Weaver’s performance within it, had me irrationally rooting for the death of our protagonist at the hands (and wheels) of an anonymous semi truck-driver. There are horror films, which I submit that Duel loosely falls under, that thrive on the audience secretly wishing that tragedy would befall the folks onscreen. But this is Steven Spielberg we are talking about; clearly he wants us rooting (at least a little) for our increasingly powerless hero, even if we are meant to see him as a doofus.
Weaver’s David Mann is the domestic emasculated everyman; a plight I have no sympathy for. His grossest offense is that the guy is lame. Just look at him. I’m not talking about the character, but the actor. Anyone else playing David Mann would have elicited sympathy from me despite the whole ‘poor me; I’m not the head of my house’ malarkey. Dennis Weaver is not helped by such superficial detractors as super-70’s sunglasses and a mustache that time cannot make transcendent. Plus, his voice will never not sound like incessant nagging. Dennis Weaver is just not someone I can bring myself to care for; he is the quintessential unappealing leading man to my apparently picky senses.
Paul – Jean Pierre-Leaud – Last Tango in Paris (1972)
I finally got around to seeing Last Tango in Paris for the first time last year and was immediately taken by it. It fully embraces its own art-house proclamation complete with steamy sex and grief-ridden angst. I have no problem tolerating any of the content in this film (including the infamous butter scene), except for one painfully unwanted appendage; Jean-Pierre Leaud.
It aches me to make that statement about an actor I consider one of my favorites. But its true; his scenes are agonizing to sit through. Bertolucci is making a sort of joke out of the hip French New Wave devotee, but it is a joke that goes overboard, with the director overindulging to an extreme. It takes time away from the central relationship, so much so that the film comes to a screeching halt during Leaud’s screen time. It is clear that Paul has clouded his relationship with Jeanne in a self-enclosed world of superficiality; Bertolucci successfully gets his point across. These scenes seem to go on for ages in order to make a point that feels unworthy of the time it takes to put it there. In this case, the end did not justify the means. Paul is insufferable; end of story.
Dr. Everett Scott – Jonathan Adams – Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Why do I hate Dr. Scott? This is a vague entry to say the least because I have no concrete answers. He is the only character whose entrance semi-deflates the film. “Eddie’s Teddy” is my far my least favorite song in the film; the only one I do not care for.
There is one moment that is really the tipping point. Its such a minuscule thing but it is enough to be a random personal buzzkill to everything else happening in the scene. The scene is the “Wild and Untamed Thing” portion of the Floor Show. So Frank, Brad, Janet, Rocky and Colombia have got this delightful post-pool orgy choreography happening. Then there is Dr. Scott sitting in his wheelchair, with his high-heel-and-tights combo that he revealed during “Don’t Dream It, Be It”. While the simple Follies-like choreography continues, Dr. Scott needlessly wheels behind the group, kicking his leg up like the idiot that he is. Then there is this saxophone solo, with this one shot of Dr. Scott with his legs out, awkwardly clicking his heels together as his face goes….cross-eyed? I hate everything about it. Everything. It fills me with a rage I didn’t think possible with something so innocuous. And I cannot explain it; the irrationality of it reaches an incomprehensible apex. There may be no random moment that pisses me off more than this one.
Sandy Olsson- Olivia Newton-John – Grease (1978)
Does anyone like Sandy? Danny Zuko has the undeniable late 70’s Travolta charm that makes him incredibly endearing. Sandy has a gift for sucking the fun right out of the room. She represents the goody-two-shoes archetype that is constructed to be immediately recognizable. Grease, and the Broadway musical it was adapted from, make Sandy innocent to a fault. Who would want to hang out with this killjoy? While her reactions to some situations are entirely justified, her character type is hammered in too deep. “Hopelessly Devoted To You” is atrocious despite Newton-John’s wonderful vocal performance.
I could have picked many characters from Grease for this list; Doody, Sonny, Patty Simcox, Jan, the list goes on. I really do not care for about half the characters despite liking the film a lot (the songs, Travolta and Channing do it for me). I chose Sandy though because she is the co-lead and her purity is a suffocating display.
Cousin Eddie – Randy Quaid – The ‘Vacation’ Movies
Outside of National Lampoon’s Vacation, I get limited enjoyment out of the Vacation series. The humor just is not what I tend to gravitate towards. Cousin Eddie in particular is the antithesis in what I look for in comedy. Randy Quaid fully inhabits his role which, it cannot be denied, is perfectly performed. Clark (a character that also tends to annoy) is vexed to the high heavens by Cousin Eddie; his behavior is supposed to be irksome.
Yet there is meant to be a disconnect from Clark and the audience in what they get, or don’t get, out of Eddie’s presence. Where Clark feels displeasure for his unwelcome guest, we should be delighted by Eddie’s unconventional way of life. The audience is ultimately meant to be amused by Eddie’s wacky antics. But I never am. Without fail, I just want him to walk out the door he came in from and never come back.
Ran spends a decent amount of time focusing on the ‘humorous’ but telling songs, tales and dances of the fool. Where others tend to feel he adds an idiosyncratic touch to Ran, for me it only took away from the proceedings. I cannot recall if the fool’s screen time comes close to the parallel character in King Lear or if Kurosawa expanded. Despite preferring most of the other Kurosawa’s films I have seen, Kyoami did not ruin Ran. Yet unfortunately he almost does.
Kathryn Fairly – Lea Thompson – SpaceCamp (1986)
Jinx – voiced by Frank Welker – SpaceCamp (1986)
I like to think that I am alone in having a film list that goes from Kurosawa’s Ran to the 1986 guilty pleasure extravaganza SpaceCamp. Some people may not think this is something to be proud of, but I certainly do. Despite enjoying this film in all its addictive absurdity, there are two characters that are grating to the point where I have to remind myself ‘Katie; calm down. You are getting angry….at characters from SpaceCamp…”
Lea Thompson plays Kathryn ‘I’m going to be the first female shuttle commander’ Fairly, an All-American over achiever whose persistence prevents her from being in any way likable. Her self-righteous attitude is there for a reason; she has to learn that all members of a team are important; not just the frakking shuttle commander. But for characters as unsurprisingly archetypal as those in SpaceCamp, Thompson plays one starry-eyed note of oddly dazed enthusiasm for 2 hours and it is painful.
Jinx. Is there a more annoying robot that came out of the 1980’s robot-character trend? To start with, Jinx is freakishly accommodating. He overhears Joaquin (then Leaf) Phoenix say he wants to go to space and single-handedly makes it happen by hacking into NASA’s mainframe. Whoever programmed this thing sure as hell made his voice creepy as fuck. Surely a robot with this kind of agency could be given a less dangerous-sounding voice. Not that his voice has an ominous quality to it; far from it. But watch the scene(s) where Jinx creakily draws out his pledge to Max; “Friends…..foreeeevvvvvvvvveeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..”. Tell me that Jinx doesn’t suddenly attain a slightly foreboding quality.
All in all Jinx is responsible for setting this preposterous scenario into motion. While SpaceCamp is too goofy and cheesy to hate, Jinx is dripping in earnest ‘let’s make an iconic character’ ambition; it does not pay off. Jinx remains the true shake-your-head-in-shame embarrassment element of SpaceCamp.