Monday, April 6, 2009

Icon Loyalty

These are people I just can’t say no to. I watch everything of theirs I can get my hands on. Well, that’s a bit strong. Makes it sound like I’m feverishly searching for every last morsel or bootleg copy. It isn’t that bad. Let’s just say, if one of their lesser offerings airs on Lifetime or Hallmark, I record it. This point was driven home this week by something currently in my DVR queue, which leads me to the first icon…

Anthony Michael Hall
He will always be the poster child for my inner sense of self thanks to his part as Brian the nerd in Breakfast Club. I’m pretty sure I saw that before Sixteen Candles, so it was the first image to burn on my brain. I related so well to his desire to fit in and make friends in spite of his lack of ability to do so. All of us growing up at that time would have to agree that whether it was Rusty in Vacation or Gary in Weird Science, he was our guy. Sadly, it all went very very wrong with Johnny Be Good (1988). Not only was that a lame movie, but his character was the stud! It went against everything he stood for and everything he meant to us. AND, to make matters worse, his “cool guy” personality, which he hasn’t shed since, was off-putting and unlikable. Sadly, he’s never shown the signs that he’s still the guy we all related to 25 years ago when he was Farmer Ted, nor has he chosen to utilize the comedic talents that made him the youngest cast member of “Saturday Night Live” in history. He doesn’t even look the same. His face looks like it’s been Mickey Rourke’d. Where his mouth used to have a certain horse quality to it, now his upper lip is always curled into a smirk and seems indented under his nose. Plus, his eyebrow looks permanently cocked.

This week I recorded some made for TV movie he was in two years ago called Final Approach. Whether it’s good or not isn’t the point. I don’t even care what it’s about. I just want to support him. Btw, seeing him have even a small role in the Dark Knight was one of my proudest moments of 2008. It wasn’t much, but it beats made for TV movies like Final Approach, I’m sure.

Justine Bateman
Shouldn’t she have gone further? One day she’s the hot, clueless older sister on “Family Ties” and the next she… disappears. She had so much more going for her than Tina Yothers did, yet she exacted the same fate. How did this happen? And don’t say it’s that terrible movie she did, Satisfaction. I just watched it again recently and it wasn’t all her fault. Julia Roberts and Liam Neeson were in that too, and they made it out unscathed.

Aside from some bad made for TV movies, all of which I watch if I see they’re coming on, including something currently on the DVR called To Have and To Hold, she’s been long gone. Maybe a little too much Leif Garrett rubbed off on her after their relationship ended in the early 90s. The sad thing is she’s aged beautifully! I purposely stuck it out with "Men In Trees" because she was in a few episodes. Also, she was in a very good, but totally forgotten, Showtime mini-series called "Out of Order" with Eric Stoltz a couple years back and showed her boobs! Why was Mallory Keaton getting naked not on the front page of the New York Times? Plus, her persona these days is very cool. She seems like this very smart, very accepting, kinda bohemian type that would always greet you with a hug. I like that. She’s a much deeper actress now with some miles on her than she was in the 80s. Time’s been good to her.

Her brother Jason is enjoying a renaissance thanks to “Arrested Development” (which she guest-starred on) so isn’t it about time for a Justine revival too? The guys at “Psych” might be keyed into this because she recently made a cameo, even though it didn’t remotely showcase her like it should have.

Curtis Armstrong
One word: Booger. That role in Revenge of the Nerds alone grants you the key to the city! Add to that Risky Business, Better off Dead, and One Crazy Summer and you have someone deserving of an 80s movie Mount Rushmore. If he never made another film, which many probably assume he hasn’t, he would live for eternity on those alone.

But, he’s still kicking. He had a small role in Ray (another one of those proud moments for me), and a decent little mainstream movie called Akeelah and the Bee. Most of it has been B-movie stuff though that plays on his 80s image. He did have a recurring role in “Moonlighting” back in the day. Too bad someone hasn’t casted him in a series that could play to his strengths as comic relief and as a good actor. Not the star, but the amusing sidekick. Think Paul Giamatti. He also showed up in an episode of “Psych” recently. I believe the Psych guys and I need to become BFFs because it’s clear we share the same brain.

I’ve always had a surefire idea for a TV series revolving around L.A. therapists called “Shrinks”. Think of it as the Melfi scenes from “the Sopranos” mixed with “Nip/Tuck”. You have an office of 3 or 4 therapists and sit in like a fly on the wall on the crazy lives of their patients, as well as how they manage their own lives which, naturally, are often more messed up than the people they treat. The contrast between their work and home mixed with the neuroses of L.A. wannabes sounds bullet proof, no? You also mix in legitimately academic prognoses like House does. HBO’s “In Treatment” is along the same lines, but way too highbrow. This is L.A., home of the self-possessed! Well, my idea was to have at least one actor playing himself as a patient and my ideal would be Curtis Armstrong. I think his bottled mania and roller coaster resume makes him the perfect person to have his id diagnosed every week. You’ll laugh with him, you’ll cry with him, you’ll feel bad for him, and you’ll root for him. I’m telling you, it can’t miss. Now, someone get me a meeting with Universal and show me how to copyright this idea so no one steals it.

Elisabeth Shue
The crush just never went away. From those first glimpses on the beach in Karate Kid, I’ve been as spellbound as Ralph Macchio was (remember him standing there staring at her for like 30 awkward seconds while the soccer ball goes whizzing by? Still can’t believe she dated him after that!). Her career slowly progressed from there with the occasional success popping up like Adventures in Babysitting (one of the few 80s movies I should like and don’t) until it topped off at it’s apex with an Oscar nom for Leaving Las Vegas in 1995. Sadly, it fell into freefall after that when she was unable to attract a following that paid money at the box office. She tried with roles in big films like The Saint and Hollow Man, but neither of those were quite big enough. And, the films that hung directly on her new movie star shoulders (Molly, Palmetto, Cousin Bette) tanked. Of course, this didn’t stop me from watching some terrible thing called First Born from 2007 that she was in and I recorded off Oxygen or something. Hey, she still looks great, even if her movies blow.

These days, she only works occasionally. I don’t know if that’s by choice or not. Her husband won the Oscar for Inconvenient Truth and they have a family. Plus, she produced a little seen movie called Gracie about girls playing soccer, so maybe she’s more of a behind the camera type now. It’s too bad, she should still be working. Maybe you don’t bankroll a 50 million dollar film with only her name attached, but guys from my generation wouldn’t mind seeing more of her. Until then, we always have our DVDs of Leaving Las Vegas which, blessedly, shows A LOT more of her.

Tim Matheson
He’s fairly new to the list and I can’t even give you a good reason why. Maybe it’s the fact that I bought Fletch on DVD a year or so ago and was reminded what a great flick it was. It certainly isn’t anything to do with Animal House. I don’t get the appeal of that movie at all. Or, maybe it’s that he’s been directing and appearing in episodes of “Psych” (see what I mean?!) and “Burn Notice” lately. Whatever it is, he’s just someone who has the kind of screen presence that puts me at ease. I see him and it’s like seeing my favorite uncle.

Because of this, I’ve been gobbling up all kinds of obscure films of his. Weird movie channels like Plex and Fox Movie Channel play some of his made-for-tv movies from the 70s and 80s and, of course, I sit through all of them. One, called Dreamer from 1979, depicts him as a small town bowler with a dream to make it big on the circuit. Yes, they made a movie about that and showed it on TV and I watched it. One thing I’m finding out now that I’m paying attention is that he’s been in the biz almost his whole life. He was in a couple episodes of "Leave it to Beaver"! The guy’s resume is a mile long. And, like Kevin Bacon who has that same uncle quality, most of what he’s done just isn’t very good like Drop Dead Fred and Black Sheep. Still, he’ll always be the “hey, I like that guy” guy. I guess that’s something to build a career on.

Ione Skye
She’ll always be Diane Court in Say Anything, my, at the time, dream girl. The funny thing is, that character is the anomaly. She followed that up with getting naked in The Rachel Papers (excellent British romantic comedy from the 80s) and in Gas, Food Lodging, and Four Rooms, the list goes on. Clearly, Diane Court was not who she was in real life. And, she was married to a Beastie Boy! It’s kind of like Mandy Moore now marrying Ryan Adams or Natalie Portman and Devandra Banhart. Your persona may say clean and sweet, but clearly you like the drugs, especially the weed. Now she’s married to Ben Lee, which makes absolutely no sense. He looks 12! I can’t deny there’s a part of me that feels like I missed out. You know when a hot chick marries a gomer, it’s natural to say to yourself, “man, if I’d known she was that desperate, I would have tried harder!” We don’t know each other, obviously, but I’m pretty sure she’d dig me because I KNOW I could take Ben Lee!

Another weird thing about her is she kind of disappeared too. After Say Anything, I only see a couple movies on her resume that were even a blip on the radar and she had small roles in them (Wayne’s World and Fever Pitch which was almost 15 years later). She also showed up in “Arrested Development”, but not much else. Where’d she go? Did she let her Beastie Boy do all the work? Is she going to tour with Ben now and leave celluloid behind? She looks as good as Justine does now too. Someone create a show where they play sisters in Berkeley or Austin or Savannah that own an antique second-hand store and the goings on of locals in an arty town. Kind of like "Northern Exposure" mixed with … something where hot sisters run a store in a cool town. Something like "Men In Trees" or "Gilmore Girls". I’d watch. Course, that doesn’t mean much. Obviously, I’ll watch anything.


Seth said...

Didn't you see Elizabeth Shue playing "Elizabeth Shue" in Hamlet 2? She was really funny -- especially when telling the class about how awesome love scenes are.

Marilyn said...

Great post, Jon. It's great to hear about these folks - I liked all of them, too. Your formative years were my formative years, too, as I experienced those times through your pop-culture eyes and opinions. Thanks for the memories . . .
Love you! Mom

Rachelle said...

My husband has always been an Elizabeth Shue fan...wasn't she in Cocktail?

As I've said before, your blog is fab! You have a great talent for writing and keeping your audience wanting more!

Ryan said...

And who can forget Ione Skye in River's Edge alongside Keanu Reeves and of course Dennis Hopper and Crispin Glover - has a more eccentric pairing graced the silver screen?

AnnieB said...

Ha! I love the "blasts from the pasts" Speaking of that, where's Alicia Silverstone? I totally agree with you on everyone. Anthony Michael Hall lost it as soon as he became a stud. Wasn't he the jerk on Eward Scissorhands? He left his geeks behind and it didn't suit him.

Um, Why aren't you on the next plane to L.A. to pitch these ideas? I'd totally watch Shrinks.