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Mickey Rourke (#110 of 8)

Sorta-Summer of ‘87: Angel Heart: The Misplaced Summer Masterpiece of Pulp

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Sorta-Summer of ‘87: <em>Angel Heart</em>: The Misplaced Summer Masterpiece of Pulp
Sorta-Summer of ‘87: <em>Angel Heart</em>: The Misplaced Summer Masterpiece of Pulp

The summer of 1987 gave us some great films—Predator, The Untouchables, The Lost Boys, and Innerspace—yet within this wealth of exciting, eccentric cinema, it’s easy to miss one of the greatest of them all. This may be partly due to the fact that it didn’t come out in the summer, which I suspect to be some sort of production misjudgment-cum-cosmic mistake. This film is Alan Parker’s pulp horror shocker Angel Heart, and in its stylish badness, its trash sensibility elevated to aesthetic perfection, it represents one of cinema’s great overlooked singularities.

The true core triumph of Angel Heart is its artful nastiness, its commitment to its depraved pulp pedigree. Ultimately, that’s what you should see when you step back and take in the whole of the film. But we can get to that later. We have to start with the details, the connective tissue: Three actors, all at different places in their careers, all setting the stage for their future histories, coming together to make Angel Heart’s sick magic. You could probably step outside of Angel Heart and write a whole study on how the actors involved related to the film and to one another. I don’t have that kind of space, but I’ll certainly still mention it on the way to more fundamental things.

A Movie a Day, Day Two: Iron Man 2

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A Movie a Day, Day Two: <em>Iron Man 2</em>
A Movie a Day, Day Two: <em>Iron Man 2</em>

I know, I know; I’m late on this one. I liked Iron Man enough to be a little nervous about the sequel, especially after seeing the film’s star, Robert Downey Jr., marooned in Sherlock Holmes, which reached for that same mix of cool special effects, kinetic camerawork, clever dialogue, and mildly kinky characters and missed by a mile.

I didn’t even plan to see the sequel yesterday. I’d set out to see Everyone Else, but my train got stuck in the station, delayed by an investigation down the line. So I walked upstairs and down the block to another theater, where Iron Man 2 was starting in 15 minutes.

As he did in the original, director Jon Favreau tells a story as streamlined as Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit. The premise is set up and the hero (Stark) and nemesis (Ivan Vanko) are introduced before the credits finish rolling. The pace never slackens or bogs down in tangents or tedious exposition, though a couple of the fight scenes feel superfluous or overly familiar.

Comics Column #5B The Fragrance of Nostalgia (20th Century Boys)

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Comics Column #5B: The Fragrance of Nostalgia (20th Century Boys)
Comics Column #5B: The Fragrance of Nostalgia (20th Century Boys)

I want to talk about an interesting comic book movie today, but first I guess I should talk about Iron Man 2.

“Doing too little with too much.”

In the third installment of this column, I said this about Jon Favreau’s first Iron Man film:

Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions Actor

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Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Actor

In this corner, Mickey Rourke: winner of countless critics awards for his performance in The Wrestler, who has apparently pissed off more people than Perez Hilton, who called Perez Hilton a faggot and no one gave a shit, whose Hollywood story mirrors that of his character, who won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA and who doesn’t have an Oscar to his name and may never be nominated for another one again, whose fans are fierce but respectful of the other guy’s posse. And in this corner, Sean Penn: winner of countless critics awards for his performance in Milk, who has ostensibly pissed off more people than Fidel Castro, who said that Fidel Castro was good for Cuba and no one gave a shit, who has come a long way from being married to Madonna and being scared of the dick to swapping saliva with James Franco the same year Prop 8 passed in Oscar’s home state of California, who won the SAG and the BFCA, whose fans are fierce but respectful of the other guy’s posse. Flip a coin or follow our logic: Yes, you empathize more with Rourke’s character, but we’re of the opinion that this undervalued actor’s “story” is being talked up more than his actual performance. That’s not to say voters aren’t being swayed by that story, but does Hollywood as a whole really feel it owes Rourke anything? We know Penn already has an Oscar, which definitely matters in a year where an acting race is this close, but whatever votes Penn will lose because of this will be countered by any ones he’ll inevitably get from those guilt-tripped into thinking by the shrill Brokeback Mountain cult that a vote for Crash a few years ago was one against gay rights. It’s a nail-biter for sure, but we have to give this one to the veteran whose completely transformative performance enlivens the milquetoastiness of a movie that’s creepily in sync with our volatile contemporary political moment.

Oscar 2009 Nomination Predictions: Actor

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Oscar 2009 Nomination Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2009 Nomination Predictions: Actor

You can write Brad Pitt off right now—not because his performance presumably owes some debt to the wizardry of makeup and hexadecimal code (let’s face it, actors frequently flat-out win this category thanks to wonton latex appliqué), but instead because this category is owned by the assholes. Make that old assholes, otherwise Leonardo DiCaprio’s devolution in Revolutionary Road from smooth but sensitive breadwinner to sniveling, tantrum prone boy-in-man’s-body would probably be every bit the contender Kate Winslet is. DiCaprio’s still got a shot, but we prefer the odds on Richard Jenkins (who underplays his crusty role to the extent that The Visitor becomes less an example of white liberal guilt and more an endorsement of well-timed white liberal rage), Frank Langella (whose Richard Nixon resembles the former president only in the same sense that Joan Crawford resembled Medea), and Clint Eastwood. Granted, Eastwood’s probably got the toughest obstacles to surmount because, though his character (potential spoiler alert) achieves a dignified and easy moment of total redemption, and even though he coughs up more blood than Camille, Satine, and Ratso Rizzo combined, there is the small matter of how delicately Eastwood the director allows Eastwood the scowling matinee idol to walk the line between absolving him of his grumpy-old-coot racism and valorizing him (it. But we can easily imagine there’s a big enough bloc of Academy members who now stroke their own cocked fingers while glaring at their minority of choice. That all said, the category’s two undeniable frontrunners—Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke—are admittedly not so much assholes as they are calculating and callous, respectively. Rourke’s biggest dick move (forgetting to go out (dinner with his estranged daughter) would normally be forgiven in the second act of a family sitcom. And Sean Penn’s ruthlessness as a politician is easily rectified by the film’s firm knowledge that he’s in the right; in other words, slightly dirty politics are A-OK if they light the fire under the asses of the well-meaning do-nothing-ers. Like Nixon said, when Harvey Milk stabs Dan White in the back and all but blackmails George Moscone, it’s not illegal.

Will Be Nominated: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Should Be Nominated: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Redbelt), Michael Fassbender (Hunger), Ben Kingsley (Elegy), Sean Penn (Milk), and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.

Gone Away, Come Back: Mickey Rourke

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Gone Away, Come Back: Mickey Rourke
Gone Away, Come Back: Mickey Rourke

It hasn’t been easy for Mickey Rourke fans over the last 15 years. He’s given us much cause for complaint, and even despair. He has forced us to defend the indefensible, and say things to our scornful friends along the lines of, “I think there’s a lot to like in Exit In Red.” I have grasped at straws, I have seen terrible straight-to-video movies and soft-core porn, I even suffered through the abysmal Another 9 1/2 Weeks which actually caused me pain because of how tired and defeated he seemed. I have stuck up for him in the face of dwindling evidence of his genius, but I am not a fair-weather fan. Fifteen years of badness is difficult to withstand. His early promise was such that it galvanized an entire generation of young actors, making them want to do better, push harder, take more risks, and then, it felt like overnight, he left us. Where did he go? The details are coming out now, and much was obvious at the time as well. He flamed out publicly. He got involved in a crazy-making tabloid-frenzy marriage. He hated acting, became bored with it, so went back to being a boxer (his first love). Then followed the strange (and tragic, to me) morphing of his face into something unrecognizable. He had multiple operations on his face due to his boxing, but I think there was a little lip-and-cheek-plumping action going on before that. Something happened to him in the early 90s, and you can see it unfold if you watch his films in chronological order. It made me really sad at the time.

5 for the Day: One and Done

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5 for the Day: One and Done
5 for the Day: One and Done

This one’s not just about cameos—brief walk-ons in movies—but more specifically, cameos that add an intangible but palpable something to the films they grace.

That’s why the following list includes Mickey Rourke in The Pledge—incarnating the grief and rage that power the movie’s plot—but not Barbara Billingsley in Airplane!, who was funny as hell, but definitely just one kernel in Zucker-Zucker-Abrams’ popcorn machine. Just so we’re clear, I’m giving myself and commenters some wiggle room as far as screen time. A couple of my own choices are not, strictly speaking, one-scene parts; the character is seen elsewhere, albeit briefly and in a capacity that’s not central to the scene or the movie. The important thing is that the cameo player occupies center stage in one vivid, sustained scene that’s integral to the film’s plot or themes. I’m looking for a cameo that is not mainly a sight gag (like legendary mime Marcel Marceau’s cameo in Silent Movie), but that strengthens a great film, improves a good one, or briefly makes a bad film bearable.

Veronica + Logan 4-Ever

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Veronica + Logan 4-Ever
Veronica + Logan 4-Ever

UPN’s teen detective series Veronica Mars, which airs a strong new episode tonight at 9, at times seems unaware just how much of its energy is bound up in the relationship between Kristen Bell’s title character and her ex-boyfriend, the wealthy, Byronically depressive antihero Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). This second season has been frustrating in a number of ways, but I keep tuning in each week hoping for one more scene between Veronica and Logan, who share one of the weirdest, deepest bonds on network TV.

“Brilliantly played by Dohring, who has the young Mickey Rourke’s self-aware swagger, Logan is one of the anchors of UPN’s Veronica Mars, a drama about a high school student in fictional Neptune, Calif., who moonlights as a gumshoe with help from her dad, Keith, an ex-cop turned private eye,” I write in today’s Star-Ledger. “Logan is Veronica’s chief antagonist and perhaps her true soul mate. Like the tough dame Veronica, who navigates the town’s treacherous social ladder to solve crimes each week, Logan is a teenager with an old soul, tragically aware of how cruel people can be, including himself. Veronica and Logan’s prickly relationship holds this show’s plot-crazy second season together even when it threatens to scatter like a jigsaw puzzle hurled against a wall.”