Sunday, February 24, 2019
The Seventh Annual SKELLY Awards
Well, the Academy Awards are airing Sunday night, and that means it's once again time for me to peruse the nominees in the four acting categories and see who'll win this year's SKELLY Award for most embarrassing prior role.
Since many of this year's Oscar nominees are past Skelly nominees, they're ineligible, for the practical reason that I've already noted their worst roles, so why repeat myself? If they were eligible, the clear winner would be Christian Bale, because, with the exception of the winner, none of this year's contenders made anything approaching the level of "What the fuck did I just watch?" insanity of Swing Kids. I feel oddly apologetic for this, and for the short list. But let's dive in, shall we?
4th Place: REGINA KING
Regina began as a child performer, most notably on the sitcom 227. She's matured into a compelling dramatic actress -- I especially liked her badass detective on Southland (a series seen by so few people, I found myself wondering if I just imagined it). So far, she's won three EMMY awards, and she's the front runner in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. Like past winner Viola Davis, most sane people wouldn't object to her winning an Oscar. And, also like Davis, she's been saddled with a few thankless supporting roles before finally getting the respect she deserved, including parts in not one, but two dumb sequels, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blue. Confession: I haven't actually seen either of them. I'm just assuming they're dumb, based upon the simple fact that, while not all sequels are bad, there are some movies that just don't need a sequel. If any of you have seen both, perhaps you can tell us which was the greater waste of King's time and talent, and also tell us if either was a stupid as the rom-com with Courtney Cox that Viola Davis was trapped in.
3rd Place: SAM ELLIOTT
Sam's been appearing in movies for over 50 years -- longer than most of this year's Oscar nominees have been alive. He's also been seen as the face of many internet memes, probably because has the look of a guy who's about to tell you why you're an idiot, and he's probably right. Like many veteran actors, he's had his share of highs and lows, good and bad...and one movie that's good and bad: the camp classic Road House.
I was kind of on the fence about including this one, because, as preposterous as it is, it's also kind of entertaining. It's one of those movies you enjoy in spite its badness, or possibly because of it. But then I realized that most of the movie's fans know it falls in the "It's so bad it's good" category, and might well be disappointed if it wasn't in the running for a Skelly.
2nd Place: GLENN CLOSE
She received an Oscar nomination for her very first movie, The World According To Garp, and has racked up a total of seven in all. She's never won, but that might finally change this year. She's considered the favorite to win Best Actress for her turn in The Wife. It's one of her many portraits of tough, no-nonsense women. But before she established herself as a leading lady who wasn't to be trifled with, she landed a starring role as woman who was all nonsense -- two characters actually, in the comedy flop Maxie.
This fantasy film centers around a yuppie couple, Jan (Close) and Nick (Mandy Patinkin) who move into a house and discover one of its previous residents was an aspiring actress, Maxie Malone, who died in the 1920's before getting her big break. They view an old movie showing Maxie's screen test, which somehow revives her spirit, which occupies Jan. Hijinks are supposed to ensue, as Close keeps switching back and forth between playing Jan and Maxie, and we keep waiting and waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) for something truly outrageous to happen, but nothing does. Or as Roger Ebert put it, this is the kind of movie where, if Maxie had any brains, she'd appear as Jan, take one look at the script, and decide she was better off dead. To add insult to inanity, the filmmakers couldn't even be bothered to create a fictional screen test, and used old footage of Carole Lombard, a great star who died tragically young. Lombard was known for her roles in fun screwball comedies of the type that Maxie desperately wants to be. They couldn't revive the spirit of those films any more than they could resurrect Carole Lombard.
What could be sadder than that? Well, that brings us to this year's SKELLY Winner: RICHARD E. GRANT
His first film role was in a 1983 live-action short titled Essences. After nearly 40 years in films, he's finally received his first Oscar nomination (overdue) for his supporting role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? -- a question he no doubt asked many times regarding his worst film role -- a movie so bad it's in a different stratosphere from the other bad movies I just listed. I'm speaking, of course, of HUDSON HAWK.
I managed to avoid seeing this movie until just this year when I had to, for the purpose of this column. I was a bit curious to see if it was as bad as its reputation, and was shocked to find it was much, much worse. How bad? Well, have you ever been in the presence of an aggressive drunk who was convinced he was the life of the party, demanding everyone pay attention to him as he knocked over things, behaving like an obnoxious ass, oblivious to the fact that everybody wants him to just shut up and leave? Well, if a movie could get drunk, Hudson Hawk would be in blackout mode. It centers around a cat burglar (Bruce Willis) who times his burglaries based on the running length of pop songs. (Willis also co-wrote the screenplay, and he writes exactly as well as he sings.) His efforts to go straight are derailed when he finds himself roped into performing one last job by a number of baddies, including a husband and wife team played by Grant and Sandra Bernhard, who chew up the scenery and spit it out, like a pair of bulimic psychotics. (Originally, this couple was conceived to be one character, a woman, and Audrey Hepburn was offered the role. She turned it down due to prior commitment -- namely, her lifelong commitment to avoid movies that are unwatchable garbage.)
According to Grant, who devoted a chapter of his autobiography to his experiences on the film, Bruce Willis kept injecting new ideas throughout the production. That probably explains why the movie is such a jumbled mess, and has so little story continuity. It also explains why the picture went way over budget. It not only didn't earn back that cost, it bombed so badly it bankrupted the studio, making it the Heaven's Gate of comedies, except that Heaven's Gate was funnier, and more coherent.
Despite being a spectacular failure, Hudson Hawk actually does have its defenders. Richard E. Grant met one such fan, who admitted to liking the film. Grant's response: "It was a stinking pile of steaming hot donkey droppings, and you are an idiot." Which is funnier than anything in the movie. And, for that, Richard, I can say on behalf of all your fans, Yes, we can forgive you. Good luck on Oscar night!