From “The Movie Uncyclopedia,” an ebook I had the pleasure of contributing to. In it, our tribe of movie nuts dubunk, explore, offer theories, and otherwise obsess about cinematic matters. Please consider buying it.)


Stewart, James: Mr. Smith Did Not Always Play A Nice Guy

I grew up thinking that Jimmy Stewart was the guy I should be.  Unlike Cary Grant,who was too smooth for me to ever be, Stewart-like humanity seemed achievable.  If we set our hearts and minds to it, any of us could be as good a man as It’s a Wonderful Life‘s George Bailey or the dude from You Can’t Take It With You.  If it turned out we were a bit loony, well, we could aspire to be as lovably loony as the guy who gets chummy with the titular invisible rabbit in Harvey.

But take a look a little deeper in the Stewart cannon and you’ll see that Mr. Nice wasn’t always so nice.

I’m not talking about the way he reams out his kid’s teacher—and her husband—in It’s a Wonderful Life.  Or the way he slugs the newspaper guy in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or slams Dan Duryea’s head into a saloon counter in Winchester 77.  Or, for that matter, his nutso-kookiness that leads to Kim Novak’s death in Vertigo.

No, I’m talking about After the Thin Man in which Stewart plugs three people in cold blood before (surprise!) Nick and Nora Charles finally peg him for the murders.

Yes, I just ruined After the Thin Man for you. Sue me.



Myers, Mike: Very Good Performances Are Not Always in Very Good Movies


I’m glad Mike brought up Mike Myers in the previous chapter.

I was disappointed, though, that he didn’t say much about my favorite Mike Myers performance. I’m not talking about his turn as the delivery boy in the TV movie John and Yoko: A Love Story.  Stop being silly.  And stop using so much.  You’re not fooling anyone.

No, I’m talking about his performance as disco entrepreneur Steve Rubell in the 1998 film 54.

In it, Myers borders on brilliant. But I still don’t recommend you watch it.  Because the rest of the movie is godawful.

This happens.  And it must be even more frustrating for the actor than it is for us in the audience.  We only devoted two hours and maybe twenty bucks to the thing (thirty if you include popcorn).  They, on the other hand, gave months and even years to the project.  Not only that, while they were putting their all into giving an Oscar-worthy performance, they could have been in a better movie giving an Oscar-worthy performance. One that might actually be nominated for Oscars.

In the case of Myers, the crapitude of the film could easily lead Hollywood power people to believe that nobody wants to see Myers in a dramatic role when the actual message is that nobody wants to see Myers in a dramatic role in a bad, bad movie.

There’s a difference.

Myers, I should make clear, is not alone in this.   Consider one of Marlon Brando’s greatest performances as an oil company chairman in 1980’s The Formula.  It’s no wonder that he was cynical about the movie business.  Here he was creating a fully realized, unique human being while the writer and director were creating dreck.

Or consider the grossly underrated David Paymer as Billy Crystal’s brother in Mr. Saturday Night.  Or the grossly underrated David Paymer in the Speed rip-off Chill Factor.  Or just about anything that David Paymer is in.

I also believe that Sally Field is probably great in Not Without My Daughter.  I just can’t drum up the energy to find out for sure.

Although I would have if Mike Myers were in it.