Tag Archives: Scott wilson

William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration

William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration is tough to encapsulate in a review and pretty much impossible to tether to any specific genre. Picture a gum-ball machine full of primary coloured spheres and a few speckled throughout that are multicoloured and not just that but the colours seem to shift, migrate and elbow each other around the tiny globe like a scintillating oil spill. That’s not to say that the vast majority of single colour orbs don’t represent films that defy genre or think outside the box, it’s just that the multi hued mystery flavour ones head so far out past the stratosphere of genre playgrounds that they almost create a plane all their own. This is most definitely one such film.

Somewhere in the misty mountains of the Pacific Nortwest (actually filmed in Germany and Hungary) a giant, gothic castle plays host to a group of American ex-soldiers, committed to mental health treatment for PTSD and a host of other issues but left to roam free and act out their delusions more than anything else. Among them are Captain Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson), a once great astronaut who wigged out and lost his shit minutes away from a moon voyage launch, Frankie Reno (Jason Miller) who is recreating Shakespeare plays using all canine actors and a whole team of others with their own set of eccentricities. Together they are a classroom full of clowns who at first appear to be irreversible loonies, but as we know in human beings, that is ever solely the case. Stacy Keach is Colonel Vincent Kane, a distant, disturbed psychiatrist brought into treat them and he uses methods that range from complacent to empathetic to just as bizarre as their behaviour. I’ve just described general plot but that does nothing in imparting the dense, deep and often elusive philosophical ideas this wondrous film has to offer.

Blatty we all know as the author of The Exorcist, and he’s made it very clear that this is the spiritual sequel to that story. It’s a tough film to digest and unpack but infinitely rewarding for a few key reasons: He is adapting his own novel here, and as such we get an unfiltered glimpse of his creative ideas that cuts out all middle men and is the purest form of his work on the page. This was mostly financed by Pepsi of all people, who made a deal with him that if he filmed at least part of it in Hungary (where they had landlocked funds) that there’d be no interference on their part on anyone else’s. This allows a difficult, unconventional but extremely rewarding experience to unfold onscreen. Wilson is brilliant as the spooked astronaut, hiding his true nature behind a barrage of nonsensical banter and getting as down to earth as anyone could in a heartbreaking monologue that outlines exactly why he wouldn’t go to the moon and pinpoints a good portion of humanity’s collective existential dread in the process. Keach is hauntingly detached as Kane, a man obsessed with duality and the nature of good and evil in our world, it’s a tough character to nail down but the arc is secure in his hands. This is one of those ‘like nothing you’ve ever seen before’ films that can actually say it’s earned it. Part psychological thriller, part cerebral mood piece with touches of dark comedy, sympathy for the afflicted and ambition to understand the turmoil and alienation of the human spirit. Absolutely brilliant film.

-Nate Hill

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Scott Wilson Performances

Scott Wilson was one of those actors who showed up on screen and before you even heard him speak you wondered what thoughts, feelings and history were behind those introspective features. Whether playing cowboy, cop, criminal, family man, mayor, general or anyone else he always brought a measured, contemplative grit and grace equilibrium to his his work and consistently stood out. Here are my top ten favourite performances!

10. Frank Reasoner in FX’s Justified

Amidst a rogues gallery of fantastic character actors playing criminals, creeps and rapscallions, Scott stands out as a senior citizen tethered to an oxygen tank with one last heist in him, do or die. He’s essentially a decent guy whose plan goes pretty disastrously and he’s inevitably collared by Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) after a, shall we say, leisurely chase. He wistfully outlines his intentions, regrets and and eventually concedes to the law in a very memorable one episode guest arc.

9. General George C. Marshall in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour

He’s basically here in a cameo delivering military exposition to President Roosevelt (Jon Voight), but it’s one of the first things I remember seeing him in as a kid, his grave demeanour and poised line delivery steals the scene from a room packed with venerable talent.

8. Abel Johnson in Netflix’s The OA

This was his last role before passing on and indeed he can be seen in one last season two episode that aired in 2019 a year after his death, which is a nice touch. He and the great Alice Krige play adoptive parents to protagonist Prairie Johnson (series co-creator Brit Marling). Their journey is a complicated, elliptical and metaphysical one that’s often sad and fraught with suffering but he blesses this character with a gentle paternal energy. I’m still so pissed that they cancelled this after only two seasons but that’s another story.

7. Hershel Greene in AMC’s The Walking Dead

Sometimes you don’t get international acclaim and ComicCon level attention until you’re in the vicinity of like 80 years old but hey better late than never. His stoic, vulnerable yet badass turn as farmer and family man Hershel blew up his career as an actor, prompting him to make many visits to conventions all over the world, including my city of Vancouver. I was able to meet him and he was every bit the gentleman, sage and class act I always knew he’d be.

6. Horton/Last John in Patty Jenkins’ Monster

Another brief cameo but one that speaks volumes. Serial killer Eileen Wuornos murdered many men in her spree, some that probably deserved it and others that were total innocents. Horton is just an old man driving across country to visit family when he has the unfortunate luck to run into her. His tearful pleading and telling her he has children is one of the most haunting, heartbreaking scenes of the film and even brings out a note of chilling complexity in Theron’s performance too.

5. C.O. Salem in Ridley Scott’s G.I. Jane

One of the all time great drill instructors in cinema, Salem is a sassy, back talking prick with a wry sense of humour and an unwillingness to take shit from anyone, even a manipulative bitch senator (Anne Bancroft) who tries to give him the gears. With a snappy comeback for everything and no shortage of attitude, he’s tough but ultimately fair on Demi Moore’s character who has quite the gauntlet of a character arc to get through.

4. Norman in Krzysztof Zanussi’s Year Of The Quiet Sun

This melancholic postwar romance sees an American soldier (Wilson) stationed in a decimated Polish village sometime after WWII where he falls in love with a local woman (Maia Komorowska). They seem destined to meet yet challenged by circumstance and the still felt affect of the war. He approaches this character dutifully, quietly and with care, it’s worth seeing as it was one of his only romantic lead roles.

3. Eugene in Phil Morrison’s Junebug

This small town family drama sees him play a quiet husband and father who exists mainly in his own headspace, and in his secluded woodworking shop. This is during a time when things begin to change for the clan and his son (Alessandro Nivola) brings home his new wife (Embeth Davidtz). The dynamic is fascinating but most so in Wilson’s work, especially when he makes a wood craft for his daughter in law, doesn’t end up giving it to her and leaves us wondering what it’s like for him internally. One girl at the convention I was at asked him about this part of the arc and his response was as astute and intuitive as this perfectly calibrated performance is, an answer which I’ve provided a YouTube link below so that you might hear it from the man himself:

2. Dick Hickock in Richard Brooks’ In Cold Blood

Based on Truman Capote’s infamous true crime novel drawn from knowing these two real life killers for a time, Wilson and Robert Blake have magnetic, chilling chemistry as these two wayward men who commit an unforgivable crime seemingly because they just have nothing else better to fill their time up with. Blake is the intense one while Scott brings a sort of breezy, nonchalant vibe that just barely masks the raging turmoil beneath.

1. Judd Travers in Shiloh, Shiloh 2 and Saving Shiloh

This is the performance I grew up watching and the one that made me such a fan of Scott’s work. Judd is a mean, broken down man with a drinking problem, a violent streak and no end of troublesome behaviour in him. But he’s also an abuse survivor himself and as this surprisingly mature and adept trilogy of children’s films unfold we see the man at his worst and also what’s left of his best, we see how local kid Marty Preston and his dog Shiloh can somehow find some kindness and compassion in Judd by showing him some of their own. It’s a tragic, overlooked performance in American cinema and perhaps the most affecting work he did his whole career.

-Nate Hill

Harley Cokeliss’ MALONE

 

Malone Burt Reynolds 1986

They sure do not make them like Burt Reynolds anymore, do they? After maxing out being a movie star, and before getting resurrected in the role of a lifetime in BOOGIE NIGHTS (“Jack Horner, filmmaker.”), Reynolds starred in what could and should have been a JOHN WICK-esque action vehicle, MALONE, a very lean and action-packed extravaganza that has a formulaic story with an excellent cast and a magnificently satisfying climax.

In typical Reynolds fashion, he plays a mysterious drifter on the lam from his past, whereby fate, his Mustang (of course) breaks down in some small town and befriends the mechanic and his daughter, and by happenstance uncovers a sinister plot of a deep state takeover. Seriously.

As noted, the ensemble is terrific. Lauren Hutton plays a maturely sexy government assassin sent after Reynolds. She’s either his former protege or lover, but probably both, and in typical style, she’s a total badass in the film, and is a lot of fun; think Dafoe in JOHN WICK. Cliff Robertson’s combover and bronzer perfectly compliment his character, which is one of deep-rooted and misguided “patriotism” who has bred and nurtured a following of homegrown extremists ready to take the government back. Rather timely.

Tracey Walter is a polished redneck goon, and he’s wonderful. A good precursor to his role as Bob in BATMAN. Scott Wilson is the town mechanic, who has backed and stood by Reynolds’ ultra cool and machismo antics, Cynthia Gibb as Wilson’s daughter and Reynolds’ just too young to be his love interest, and the film does a very smooth way of acknowledging that fact. Dennis Burkley, Cliff Gardner, and Kenneth McMillan all play their respective typecast and do it exceptionally well.

Malone VHS

The narrative is lean, almost too lean. While the story is very formulaic, which totally works, some of the snappy dialogue gets lost in translation being used on underdeveloped (or undercast) characters. Everything about Reynolds in this film is gold, though. From smoking cigarettes to his alpha vernacular, right down to his rather apparent toupee, it all works so damn well.

The third act is the payoff. After a series of melodramatic events, it comes down to Reynolds versus Robertson and his WASP brotherhood of weekend warriors. And yes, absolutely, this film snap, crackles, and pops into an overly satisfying showdown that is squib city and practical explosions that will set anyone’s chest hair on fire.

The film itself plays it like an “edgy” contemporary tale of a ronin from some old black and white Kurosawa flick (just supplement Toshiro Mifune’s man bun for Reynolds’ toupee), and a western like SHANE (supplementing Alan Ladd’s mustang with a mechanical one). It’s not quite neo-noir, nor is it a time capsule piece of the era either. It just exists, in an almost forgotten yet certainly undervalued way; in a decade that most will bypass or fail to acknowledge.

There is a lot of good stuff from the 80s, and a bounty of those films paved the way for the big budget 90s adult, R rated dramas that are held in such nostalgic fashion in the current era of CGI and regarded thespians rendering themselves into superheroes. There was a time before, there were no boxes to check or poorly dated popular music featured in the film, for it was a time of cigarette smoke and stuntmen and movies that did not get a sequel; MALONE is one of those films.

Opening the doors of perception: Netflix’s brilliant and undefinable The OA Part II

When season one of Netflix’s The OA aired back in 2016, it went by largely unnoticed. This was due to the network doing little to no marketing, fanfare or ads and it kind of just attracted its own little fan base without creating the whirlwind that say, Stranger Things has. It’s sort of a shame and sort of not, because it’s by far the best original content that Netflix has produced and one of the most intricate, challenging and cosmically investigative pieces of storytelling out there (with an emphasis on ‘out there’). Season 2 has recently aired, again with little hubbub surrounding it, and the leaps, jumps and creative epiphanies that series creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij have made in the three years since are both staggering and revolutionary in the SciFi/fantasy genre.

Anyone who isn’t caught up should heed a spoiler warning regarding Season 1 right about here and stop reading as I’d like to discuss certain story beats. When we left our characters after the ambulance chasing cliffhanger of S1, we weren’t sure what became of The OA/Prairie Johnson when the school shooter got her and she seemingly died. S2 opens with a slow burn episode as we follow a gruff ex FBI private detective (Kingsley Ben-Adir, phenomenal) as he searches for a missing girl in a version of San Francisco that’s just a bit removed from the reality we know. This is the reality that Prairie has travelled to after dying in the dimension she came from, for the Movements related to near death experiences explored in the first season are a gateway to endless parallel dimensions and subsequent travel between them. Confused? That’s nothing, I’ve barely described the season opener so far. This new dimension is a fascinating one, full of futuristic tech, underground ‘games’ ruled over by an unseen force and even more intangible metaphysics that we got the first time around. Prairie is stuck in this new plane with Dr. Hunter Percy, the unorthodox rogue scientist played with startling compassion and chilling resolve by the great Jason Isaacs, who is just wonderful here in a role that lets him flex his talents. Prairie leaves her friends in the previous dimension behind to wonder where she went, including Steve (Patrick Gibson), Buck (Ian Alexander), Betty (Phyllis Smith), French (Brandon Perea) and Jesse (Brendan Meyer). The new reality thrusts her forth into a frightening situation with her old friends Will (Scott Brown), Renata (Paz Vega), Rachel (Sharon Van Etten) and Homer (Emory Cohen) the love of her life. It’s a ton of characters to keep track of, each playing at least several versions of themselves and there’s even more new additions that show up for this part of the story including The Florida Project’s Bria Vinaite and an appearance from Zendaya as a mysterious girl with ties to the forces around all of them.

Marling and Batmanglij are light years beyond most artists writing original content right now, their level of storytelling and drive is sort of unparalleled in the sense that they reach out to ask questions that are difficult in the context and boundaries of television, or any filmed medium. The first season hinted at life beyond death and took its time getting to the initial breach between worlds that might open up new possibilities. This season dives headlong into the implications and ripple effect of what came before, has no patience for laggers and hurtles along at a sonic pace, blasting us with ideas, emotion, tricky concepts, psychological labyrinths, new wave cyber software, bizarre biological phenomena, a rose stained glass window with untold power and a telepathic Octopus named Old Night. This is either a show that is ‘too weird’ for most who aren’t open to unconventional thinking or have no capacity for abstraction or it will be the favourite thing out there for those of us that eat this stuff up. Prairie says of her travels and revelations that she’s ‘looking for a border’ that’s hard to define, and the same can be said about the show itself. This isn’t something that is just SciFi or just fantasy or even both, it’s an organic piece that feels like elemental forces at work rather than constructed artifice spin for entertainment.

With this story, all the creative forces work together to open the doors of perception and stretch the nature of what is possible in storytelling. Brilliant characters abound who we care about, are funny and seem like genuine, fleshed out human beings, a specifically distilled visual aesthetic that Sci Fi lovers will go gaga for, fantastic original music by multiple artists including Danny Bensi, Saunder Juuriens and Van Etten herself, haunting complexity in narrative arcs and an overall desire to strive for something new, something we haven’t seen before and that may expand our perspective on the world around us, and those beyond. I’m hooked on this and can’t wait until we get a Part III.

-Nate Hill

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

Rob Schneider’s Big Stan

You’d hardly ever catch me giving praise to a Rob Schneider movie as he’s usually intolerable, but Big Stan deserves a shout out, both because it’s almost quality comedy and it has gotten less than half of the publicity given to other Rob flicks, which are all just terrible (remember The Hot Chick? Ew). Schneider is probably the least appealing, most irritating little mole rat out there, so you have to kind of grin and bear it here, but the comedy itself is kind of worth it. As Stan, Rob is a selfish, fraudulent little bastard real estate salesman who is busted selling faulty deals and given a three to five year in prison. When an ex-con bar patron (Dan ‘Grizzly Adams’ Haggarty looks like he can’t believe he agreed to say the dialogue in his script) scares him with tales of rampant rape in the joint, Stan sets out to become ‘un-rapeable’ before his sentence, with a little help from King fu guru The Master, played by a chain smoking, growly David Carradine in a parody of his former career. Armed with skills and sweet karate moves, Stan gets processed and pretty much almost incites a riot the first day, until the prisoners realize there’s no fighting him and he’s pretty much big boss. Abolishing prison rape, setting some new ground rules around violence and introducing salsa dancing are just a few of the changes brought on by him, and the prison sequences are the best of the film. Stan has a sidekick in Henry Gibson, locks horns with the obligatory evil Warden (the great Scott Wilson) and it all parades by with necessary silliness and some semblance of a life lesson that ultimately gets lost in aforementioned silliness. As you can probably surmise, it’s about the farthest thing from politically correct humour as well and very much milks its R rating, so put your thick skin on if you give it a go. Also starring the likes of Jennifer Morrison as Stan’s wife, M. Emmett Walsh as an enthusiastically crooked lawyer, Kevin ‘Waingro’ Gage as the head guard, Randy Couture and others, it’s surprisingly well casted for a such a small movie that almost feels like it was funded by Schneider himself, as he directed it too. Usually I’d be the first to just rip into this guy and his awful, near self destructive output (remember The Animal? Or the Deuce Bigelow sequel?? Fuck), but this one really isn’t all that pitiable, but you’ve been warned, it’s cheerfully in bad taste and if you’re easily offended by off colour humour, steer clear.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Femme Fatale

Femme Fatale is a gong show, and not in a good way. I’m not talking about the De Palma film of the same name, which is a gong show in a good way. This thing is a sad, no budget little tv flick from back in the day starring Colin Firth, who has seen better days than he has here. It’s a strange psycho sexual ‘mystery’ in which none of the plot points really make sense and each scenario gets a little more ridiculous than the last. Firth plays a fairly meek dude who’s recently married a mysterious girl (Lisa Zane) that he doesn’t know much about, and she turns out to be someone different entirely, leading him on a dull goose chase across the country to find out just who he tied the knot with. Zane is Billy Zane’s sister by the way, and speaking of him he’s on this too as Firth’s eccentric friend, which is a hoot because you get to hear him refer to his sister as a ‘diesel dyke.’ The central mystery involves several identities she takes up and more than a few multiple personalities brought by by unconventional therapy from a shady psychiatrist (the great Scott Wilson in a hammy extended cameo), but ultimately its hard to care about a story this loosely threaded, far fetched and just plain silly. Watch for some gem cameos though from the likes of Danny Trejo as a worldly tattoo artist, Catherine Coulson (the beloved Log Lady on Twin Peaks) as a nun who delivers some exposition and then peaces out and character actor Pat Skipper as a rowdy henchman who steals scenes like nobody’s business. Overall it’s a fairly useless piece of fluff though, painfully average and inconsequential.

-Nate Hill