Posts Tagged ‘Welcome To Collinwood’

Many of you might remember Michael Jeter as the senile prisoner in The Green Mile who adopted a mouse called Mr Jingles. The fact is he had earned himself a living for nearly two decades playing wimpy, damaged characters. Bug-eyed, psychologically sprained and perennially anxious, he often acted like he channelled Woody Allen as much he did Clint Howard; a diminutive fellow sporting a comfortably un-Malayalee-like brush-tache who could act circles around the puddles of machismo that A-listers left around him. He could also evoke as much sympathy as an orphaned Lhasa Apso would from fans who “like” the ‘Blue Cross’ fanpage on Facebook.

In Terry Gilliam’s Fisher King, he turned in a brilliant essay as an homeless, HIV-infected and barking mad cabaret singer. In one of the film’s highlights, Jeter launches into a rendition of an Ethel Merman classic so passionately unstable that rumour had it that Robin Williams’ chest hair fell out, one by one, in sheer envy. Gilliam brought him back for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in which he was Professor L. Ron Bumquist – a speaker at the Las Vegas police convention on drugs, which Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) attends (on drugs). He gives a fiery anti-drug sermon, looking askance and volatile simultaneously; so much so that we can’t be entirely sure if Depp weaseling his way out of the convention was part of the script or merely instinctive for someone under the influence.

Skip Woods’ Thursday had him playing a psychiatrist engrossed in a sweaty conversation with Dallas (Paulina Porizkova), the psychotic seductress. In a particularly memorable scene, she leans over to him, asking if he has ever seen a porn film to which, he instinctively gulps several years of repressed sexuality, squirms a bit and replies, “Yes, I’ve heard stories”. The awkwardness he oozed was tremendously funny and when spliced with Paulina’s bloodcurdling charisma it worked better than Indian techies would have for the US of A.

Now, Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile would have been acceptable if it were 30 minutes shorter and had less of Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan and their plasticized zombie-like presence. Thankfully, Michael Jeter as Del Delacroix, a death row inmate, along with Doug Hutchison playing the sadistic prison guard, saved this film from absolute torment. A few of his scenes with Mr Jingles were saccharine enough to make girl scouts weep a ballet of tears, but he gave the character more depth than it deserved. In the first few scenes, his eyes were filled with derangement and abandon as he leered through the prison bars. Once the stupid mouse appeared, they glowed a quiet admittance of fate. Even his hyper-kinetic wailing (when Hutchison stomped the hell out of it) was inappropriately great. Bless his mongrel heart for having stayed true to his craft despite all the lounging he did with waxworks and glory hounds in and around mainstream cinema.

Michael Jeter’s swansong as an actor (after which he did voice overs for two animated films) was his finest too; a meaty role in Russo brothers’ ensemble comedy –  Welcome to Collinwood. He played Toto, the antsy carjacker who joins a inept crew of thieving buffons. His scenes with William Macy, Isaiah Washington and Luis Guzma were some of the funniest stuff that tickled American cinema in 2002. Even when the the script relied on burlesque homo-eroticism for cheap giggles, Jeter found a way to draw genuine laughs. In one such scene, a visibly disgusted Leon (Isaiah) insists that Toto “put his pants back on” to which a morbidly crestfallen Toto whimpers, “I can’t, I’ll catch pneumonia”.

Now, some IMDB user has used an exclamation mark at the end of his sentence on the film’s quotes page, which might make you go, “hey, isn’t that a Rob Schneider punchline?”. Cleanse your minds, minions, because Michael Jeter never delivered punchlines. He never shared an on-screen kiss with anyone attractive either. Matter of fact, everything he said and did, as preposterous as it might have sounded to the casual cinema-goer, lacked the “punch” that pompous old men with Citizen Kane’s dialogues tattooed on their foreheads spent years trying to imbibe in film students.

People might say he played the same character for two decades or whatever, but they would whistle and pretend to be distracted if someone else made the same argument about Samuel Jackson or Clint Eastwood, so let’s ignore these people mmkay?

In fact let’s lure these people with cheap porno magazines into an abandoned godown and force them to sit through five Al Pacino performances (Dick Tracy, S1m0ne, 88 Minutes, Righteous Kill, Scent Of A Woman).

We’ll just sit back and relish cinema’s underdogs, actors who simply can’t be replaced by textbooks and templates, actors like Michael Jeter.

(Jeter died from an epileptic seizure in 2003 and isn’t nearly as fondly remembered as he should be)

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Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee: Shane Meadows has quietly gone ahead and revolutionized the medium of cinema as we know it. He has created one of the best indie  comedies ever in five measly days. Five fuckin’ days, people. James Cameron must have spent five weeks, feeling the roughness of the Avatar’s prosthetic skin against his cheek. Kollywood directors would spend at least five months convincing veteran actors that nobody in their fan club has ever heard of male pattern baldness. Chances are Paul Haggis will probably spend the next five decades, researching the impact of racism on zebras. Here, Shane Meadows has given us a million outrageously funny one-liners, fantastic music, cameos by Arctic Monkeys and a brilliant performance by Paddy Constantine (who has previously worked with him in several films).

Shot in the vein of An Incident At Loch Ness (in which we get the impression that only half the crew are aware that it is a work of fiction), it is a mockumentary that chronicles the adventure of Le Donk (Paddy), a self-obsessed roadie/failed musician who has delusions of grandeur and Scor-zay-zee (Dean Palinczuk playing himself), a white rapper he saves from a cholesterol fatality, that ends up on the main stage of an Arctic Monkeys concert. Paddy Constantine’s timing is off the hook and makes every gag look funnier than it ever could; fewer times has plain disdain for any sort of decorum seemed funnier. Even the all-too convenient feel-good factor that plays peekaboo towards the end is pleasantly digestible. Shane Meadows and the rest of the crew deserve every bit of praise they’ve been getting for this one. In case somebody has anything harsh to say to them, they can just snicker, “Fuck you, man…we shot this in 5 days.”

Men Who Stare At Goats: George Clooney suddenly becomes watchable when his character loses his mind, and finds a moustache. The films in which he’s not terrible – Welcome To Collinwood, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind and Oh Brother Where Art Thou – have him playing moustached weirdos. Grant HeslovMen Who Stare At Goats is no different in the sense that it uses facial hair and many wonderfully weird characters to divert our attention from Clooney’s mediocre acting. The storyline is so absurdly enjoyable that you would have to be French or seriously miserable in life to dislike it. It has a foolhardy reporter (Ewan McGregor) teaming up with a former psychic spy (Clooney) to fight military oppression, governmental secrecy and an evil-as-fuck Kevin Spacey. The film epitomizes how absurdist humour cuts an actor down to size and enemas (can that be used as a verb?) the A-list aura right out. McGregor, Clooney and Spacey, actors I normally laugh at and not necessarily along with, are all funny; and it isn’t that they have witty dialogues to work with, it’s just that watching grown men do elaborately silly things is a hoot.

Men Who Stare At Goats would have stayed quiet in the “you can watch it once” category if it weren’t for the lately awesome Jeff Bridges. He plays Bill Django, leader of the New Earth Army, the man who once vowed to fight the war with love, yogasana and drugs and he is absolutely fucking funny. He channels the Big Lebowski character in all its glorious hippiedom, only this time dropping LSD stamps instead of guzzling white Russians. His “join me in this vision” look is a thing of beauty and should be stored alongside Steve Buscemi’s “I loved my wife like a mother and a hooker” face in The Imposters and Bill Murray’s “I’m sick of these dolphins” expression in Life Aquatic to serve as a guide to future comedians. Entertaining film this is; come for the silliness and stay for Jeff Bridges.

Daybreakers: Vampires fascinate me. Charming, heartless, and focused fuckers. They have even made me sit through many soulless Hollywood films that promised a bite or two. As I sat through Michael Spierig’s Daybreakers in its entirety and lit a cigarette when an ugly black getaway car and Placebo’s Running Up That Hill brought the film to a screeching end, I realized that this was the second-worst vampire film I have ever seen. It sucked because I had gone in with lots of expectations. When a film promises a post-apocalyptic wasteland of vampires, mutated and otherwise, a villainous Sam Neill, and Willem Dafoe in vigilante mode, I expect it at least save itself from this level of crap. No such luck here; Daybreakers, with its quasi peace propaganda and stunted storyline, is just horrid. Irritatingly fast-paced, unimaginatively shot and emotionally-jarring without an ounce of respect for continuity.

The ending makes no sense and is just an excuse for the director to incorporate some John Woo-style action to aesthetically elevate his passive patriotism (seriously, who the hell does that?). The film is so bad that even Ethan Hawke can’t be blamed for it despite being on the screen for 90% of film’s duration. Having said, he still miserably fails as a vampire. Reality bites, Ethan…I welcome you to the club for Uncharismatic Actors Who Suck The Life Out Of Vampire Films…Population, you and Hugh Jackman.

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