Tag Archives: Jack Warden

George Miller’s The Aviator

George Miller’s The Aviator (not the Mad Max George Miller, before you ask) is a fantastic piece of melancholic escapism, a simple and resonant story set during the formative decades of human flight, when planes were a lot more picturesque, and ironically far more flimsily built. This one is very special because it showcases Christopher Reeve cast way against type; he’s the guy I remember as Superman from my childhood, a sterling beacon of heroism, but here he plays a moody, haunted Air Mail pilot who is damaged both physically and emotionally from a tragedy years before. This is the only time I’ve seen him take on a role like this and let me tell you he rocks it uncannily well, from the anguished blue eyes glowering out past that crop of windswept hair to the introverted stasis he grounds his mood in. He’s tasked by his US air mail boss (Jack Warden, a pillar of well spoken gravity) to transport a wayward teenage girl (Roseanna Arquette) across the mountains to live with her aunt. When the aircraft develops mechanical failure, they make a forced crash landing in a vast, remote mountain canyon and must rely on each other for survival. I don’t mean that lightly either, he later on tells her that if it wouldn’t have been for her with him, he probably would have gave up and surrendered to the elements the first night. This is fascinating because at first they can’t really stand each other, he has shut himself off from human connection and she is young, still learning how to properly engage, and the arc they embark on together is really affecting. Arquette plays the role like a lost puppy with a fragility under all that snappy talk. There is of course a gradual romance between the two, but it’s treated with far more restraint, subtlety and realism than Hollywood can usually muster up. Their only hope for rescue lies with Reeve’s fellow pilot (Scott Wilson), who flies high above them on Warden’s orders, trying to spot the wreck. I really like how de-glamorized this is as far as survival stories go, the whimsy and adrenaline you’d often find here is replaced by a straightforward, almost downbeat mood. The script is character based, thoughtful and full of well written human interaction instead of an action sequence every few minutes. Set in the American Northwest but filmed in lush, rugged Yugoslavia to give the landscape a beautiful look that’s speckled with golden deciduous trees and craggy, snow dusted mountain walls. A fitting combination of elements that make for a wonderful film.

-Nate Hill

Gary Fleder’s Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead

The 90’s was a heyday of hard boiled, ultraviolent film noir, a ripple effect that can undeniably be traced back to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, however it’s silly to say that they all are derived from that film, because plenty of them have their own distinct groove and flavour. One such flick is Gary Fleder’s Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, a mouthful of a title that serves as harbinger to one of the most idiosyncratic, verbally flamboyant scripts Hollywood ever produced, penned by Scott Rosenberg. They scored the cast to back it up too, for a beautifully melodramatic neo-noir pulp opus that should be as legendary as any of the household name films to come out of that era. Andy Garcia is the definition of slick as Jimmy The Saint, an ex mobster on the straight and narrow who’s pulled back into the game by The Man With The Plan (Christopher Walken) his former employer and the most dangerous crime boss in all the land. Hired to scare the piss-ant boyfriend who stole Walken’s son’s girl, Jimmy rounds up a crew that shouldn’t be trusted to watch a junkyard. Pieces (Christopher Lloyd, brilliant) is a diseased old porn shop owner, Easy Wind (Bill Nunn), tough guy with a heart of gold Big Bear Franchise (William Forsythe) and Critical Bill (Treat Williams) the psychopathic wild card who uses his day job at a mortuary as an anger outlet by pummelling the corpses like punching bags. Of course they royally fuck up the job, and Walken places scary, symbolic ‘hits’ on each of them. The clock ticks as they all try to either leave town or face the music, but Jimmy is the one with something to lose as he’s fallen in love with elegant, posh rich girl Dagney (Gabrielle Anwar). The script could have easily gone for just colourful carnage and glib posturing, but there’s real, palpable gravitas to the character relations, especially between Jimmy and Walken, who’s history is hinted at and brought to complex life by the two pros. This is Walken at his weirdest and wildest, confined to a spooky wheelchair and locked up in a guarded, dimly lit estate like Count Dracula. There’s a touching subplot involving wayward hooker Lucinda (Fairuza Balk, always terrific) that brings out the dormant humanity in hardened Jimmy. The cast here really is a marvel, and includes Don Cheadle and Glenn Plummer as a couple of loudmouth criminals, Jack Warden, Jenny McCarthy, Tiny Lister, Marshall Bell, Bill Cobbs, Michael Nicolosi, and Steve Buscemi as a freaky hitman named Mr. Shhhh, because he shoots first and doesn’t ask any questions at all. The dialogue is unique and flows from the actors like urban Shakespeare, it’s one of the coolest scripts ever written, and serves not just to be slick for the sake of it, but use jive and jargon to bring forth character naturally, and effortlessly provide buoyancy to the story. One of the great hidden gems out there. Boat Drinks.