Tuesday, August 21, 2012

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #72 Dean Stockwell

72. Dean Stockwell
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: American
Peak of Hotness: The late 1950s through the mid-1960s
Best Known For: Child actor at MGM who made the transition into adulthood with Long Day's Journey Into Night then into a character actor in Paris, Texas and Blue Velvet.

Will, a fellow Stockwell enthusiast, joins me once again to help me discuss this rarely discussed acting legend.

Dame James: When did you first encounter Dean and, if it wasn't love at first sight, when did you fall in love with him?

Will: I'm sure I saw him guesting on some television show in the '90s, but the first time I remember him making an impression was in Paris, Texas. I think he's a pretty fantastic, under appreciated character actor (which you can also see in something like his WEIRD turn in Blue Velvet), but I wouldn't say I fell in love with him until I saw him in Long Day's Journey Into Night. He's not a horrible looking older guy, but he pretty much checks every box in Long Day's Journey. He's sad and thin and romantic in a tragic sense.

It's like Simon Amstell says, "Thin and ill looking is my type. I like the idea I could go on a date with him and it could be his last."

Plus, it must be said, he-like me-has a strong brow line, and I love that. The only person we have today who comes close in that department is Dave Franco.

I wanted to weigh in on him basically based on my love of him in Long Day's Journey. I'm a little embarrassed to say I haven't seen a ton else of the movies he made when he was younger, so I was curious about his other roles. I know you have an affection for him doing a more rakish character in Sons and Lovers. You seem to have more of an appetite for 1950s melodrama than I, which is what he worked in a lot back then.

DJ: Make that another for Long Day's Journey Into Night. I'm pretty sure I saw that early on in my movie infancy, but Dean's prettiness made quite a vivid impression on me. I love that Simon Amstell quote you use because it's so true, and Dean fits that bill so well in Long Day's Journey. With each terrible cough, he becomes that much more pathetic, and that, for whatever reason, only makes him that much more attractive. Plus, we can't discount the fact that he's playing an Emotionally Damaged Boy, another strange turn-on in my world. With a drug addict mother and a cold, uncaring father, Dean's character is screwed up only in a way I could love.

I haven't seen much of his early work either, actually. He was a child actor in the late 40s and 50s who was one of the lucky ones to transition into adult roles. Apparently, I've seen him in Gentleman's Agreement, where, I'm guessing, he played Gregory Peck's son. Yeah, that one left a vivid impression. Sons and Lovers was great because it played up his sexiness without turning him into a dumbass beefcake, which he clearly wasn't. He plays an intelligent, sensitive guy, who just happens to be really, really horny. Clearly, this was an ideal movie for me as he was not only working his sexiness but he was also at the peak of his prettiness.

Stockwell in heat in Sons and Lovers
I saw Compulsion years ago and I remember liking him a lot in that. He plays one half of a Loepold & Loeb-esque duo who are on trial for murder. I remember lots of homoeroticism, especially on Dean's part, which is always a plus for me. Even if you aren't as into 1950s melodrama as I am, you may want to check it out for that. And this leads me to my next question: Dean Stockwell (and his eyebrows) asks you to help him murder someone. In exchange, he'll have sex with you just one glorious time. Do you do it?

W: A pretty, young, AND evil Dean Stockwell? Be still my heart. What else could I say to that proposition but yes?

I had never heard of Compulsion, but all the clips I just looked up from it seem to indicate his character is the bottom in that relationship. Also, it looks like there are extremely long sequences of a halfway-to-Paul-Masson-champagne-commercials Orson Welles delivering court room speeches. I'll have to look it up. Thanks for the recommendation!

DJ: What can I say, I'm a giver.

W: It's a little weird to be talking about the hotness of an actor who is now, like, 75 years old, I must admit. But, If I can bring it up for a second, I wanted to touch on what a strange and interesting career he's managed to carve out for himself. As he got older, he didn't exactly age into a conventionally attractive leading man. That's sad for us, but I think it might have served his career a lot better. He became, ostensibly, a character actor (or as close as you can really be with two Cannes Best Actor prizes under your belt). Rather than getting left behind when the type of actor Hollywood became interested in changed in the late 60s, it seems like he got more and more comfortable subverting audience expectations of a former contracted kid actor from the old studio system. I mean, how many of the hot pieces of unattainable ass you're profiling in this series ever had the balls to go as weird as Stockwell did in something like, say, Blue Velvet?

Can you imagine a current kid actor in transition like Logan Lerman running towards the camera while screaming The Lord's Prayer in Pig Latin for David Lynch in 30 years? I'm sure we can both imagine Logan Lerman doing many things, but I'm not sure about that one.

DJ: His career was certainly a wild ride, starting at MGM and ending up with Wim Wenders and David Lynch. I think it was to his benefit that his period of sexiness was so brief and so early in his career. Hollywood doesn't like pretty character actors and he never would have gotten a chance to thrive as one if he had remained a pretty boy into his 40s. And I say good on him for taking advantage of this. Look, as you have seen and will see in this countdown, prettiness doesn't last forever. It's great to take advantage of it while you have it, but you can't bank on it forever. Dean was one of the smart ones who said, "I won't be a leading anymore. Fuck it. Now is the time to do whatever I want." Looking through my list, the only other actor who even comes close to Dean's career trajectory is Jean-Pierre Leaud, but his auteurial works were "weird" and unexpected in a far different way than Dean's.

See, I can actually imagine Logan Lerman doing oddball stuff later in his career. Granted, I don't know much about him, but from reading interviews with him, he seems like he has a genuine respect for the cinema and could surprise us one day. But I could be totally wrong (as I have been in the past) and your point is a valid one. There are very few child actors I can see doing Lynchian films at any point in the future. Then again, would anyone have predicted in the 1940s that cute lil' Dean Stockwell would be in a film as (amazingly) perverse as Blue Velvet?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #79 Ryan Phillippe

79. Ryan Phillippe
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: American
Age: 37
Best Known For: Late 90s teenage heartthrob who grew up to become Mr. Reese Witherspoon for a time and a pretty decent actor (Stop-Loss).

The first of the Lost Entries of the 100 Hot Men and a Dame series makes its debut today! Perennial contributor Dave helps me out again to discuss DILF Ryan Phillippe. I'm presenting the post as it was originally written months ago, but it should be noted that I have now seen Cruel Intentions properly and not only is Ryan's ass damn fine but it's probably the crowning achievement of his acting career. Severely underrated.

Dame James: When did you first encounter Ryan and, if it wasn't love at first sight, when did you fall in love with him?

Dave: I first saw Ryan in Cruel Intentions. I was only 10 or 11 when it was actually released, but thankfully for my lustful hormones, I didn't see it until a few years later, which meant I FULLY appreciated him in it. I mean, that butt shot is still the talk of the gays over twelve years later! I mean, it may actually be the most perfect bum of them all, and you know I was going on about Rafa's when we discussed Andy Roddick (who also has a nice bum. OH GOOD LORD.). I know we're going into more cerebral reasons behind attractiveness here, or at least less shallow, but pure horny attraction to physicality is undeniably the driving force behind this countdown and well, with Ryan, it mostly is about the robust, muscular curves of his bottom and arms and chest and oh I'll be back in a moment...

ANYWAY. Looking at Ryan's filmography, he hasn't actually been in that many films of much interest - when The Lincoln Lawyer is your most prominent credit of the last three years, you can see he's lost interest in acting. But he was superb in Stop-Loss - finally proving that he has a vulnerability and depth to him, which was rather a revelation, although I'd wager that his cruel game-playing with Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions was almost as much of an acting coup, because not everyone can do it with such panache.

I'd also like to note how, despite the perfection of the arse circa-1999, Ryan seems to have really found his sweet spot around recent years. The behind might have been fine, but I always found him a bit off somehow - perhaps it was the Justin Timberlake hair. But photos in the past few years have just shown, to me, human perfection - a sculpted, relaxed face, strong shoulders, and a musculature that's not overdeveloped but still screams "MAN!"

DJ: I'm pretty sure I first saw him in Cruel Intentions in the severely edited version they show on TV, and I was never that into him. He was rather frail with features that were perhaps a touch feminine; in other words, he was a true teenage heartthrob. He also had that late 90's vibe around him which is great for nostalgia but maybe not the sexiest look ever. But perhaps if I had gotten a VHS copy and saw the butt scene for myself, maybe I would have come around on him sooner. I've still never seen the scene for myself, but I have seen stills, and Holy Jesus what a glorious ass! I love how it stands out and makes a statement against his (then) skinny frame. It's not ridiculously large but it's big enough that it makes you go "Dayummmm" every time you look at it.

It wasn't until the time of Stop-Loss that I realized I was attracted to Ryan. You talk about how this countdown is designed to discuss attractive men and what makes them so desirable beyond their surface features, and for the most part that's true. But when it comes to Ryan, there are no cerebral reasons why I'm attracted to him: it's pure, animalistic lust. He was fine in Stop-Loss and I'd wager as well he's probably a lot better than we ever gave him credit for in Cruel Intentions. But besides Igby Goes Down, where he really turns up the preppie rich boy machismo, there's really not much of note in his filmography. It's mostly a lot of mediocre rolls in would-be prestige pictures. Without the work to back him up, it's all about that ass. But I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. It is better to be famous for something superficial than to not be famous at all.

D: That photo is absolutely transfixing. Yes, let's abandon pretense - I'm going to focus on the physical details. The nipples there are just so small and alive! The six-pack that isn't outrageously defined but enough that you know you could probably punch it and your hand would hurt. The vague stubble. And he's clearly in the middle of a 'fuck you' walk where he ignores everyone in his path. (I do those a lot. Sadly I never look like this while doing them.)

Looking at other photos, I think he really needs the stubble - he looks too small without it, a bit meek. I think it really gives him that extra swagger. I'm glad he figured out that the curls in his hair really don't suit as well - short back and sides really work here (hence the perfection of being cast as a soldier).

DJ: I believe that it was after he divorced Reese Witherspoon that he got super hot. I'm really starting to think she is the Devil in human form because she not only held him back from reaching his full hotness potential, but she also stunted Jake Gyllenhaal there for awhile. What is her problem, exactly? Do you think she doesn't get enough satisfaction from her millions and resorts to taunting us little people to pass the time?

D: Ryan and Reese were kind of a nice normal couple to look at while they were together, but I never really thought about them at all. And you're right, it really was once they split that he came to proper fruition. Almost as though she was holding him back in those teenage roles, so only when he broke away from that did he figure out he was all grown up. I don't know what it is about her, there must be something in that chin...

DJ: Once he ditched his late 90's pretty boy look, I think he truly discovered his sexiness. Which is a rarity, as only a select few men find their hotness peak as late in their career as Ryan did. I guess fatherhood and ditching the Pointy Chined One (seriously, her chin must have been named in the divorce suit as one of the causes for irreconcilable differences) really suited him in the looks department.

D: I see Ryan's going to be making a move usually reserved for prolific actresses and heading for TV - a guest spot on Damages! It probably would've be a better move if the show hadn't been forced to move channels, but I hear they can swear on DirecTV? So maybe he'll take off some clothing. I may have to catch up.

DJ: I had not heard he was appearing on Damages! How positively exciting! I haven't seen the fourth season yet, due to it moving to a channel I don't get, but I was absolutely enthralled with the first three seasons. And the show has a great track record with late 90's teen stars transitioning into sexy maturity, particularly in the second season when they had Matthew Davis and Timothy Olyphant (sigh) on the show. He's actually a brilliant choice for the show, as his penchant for preppie upper class snobs is a perfect fit for Damages. And if he's even half as sexy as Olyphant was on that show--and trust me, Damages objectified Olyphant brilliantly--then watching it will be time well spent.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Crazy 80's Project: Fame

"I'm gonna live forever!" cries a euphoric troupe of artistic high school kids during the chorus of Fame's legendary title song. Who would have guessed that 30 years later, even after an audience-pandering, dumbed-down, sanitized remake that this original easily takes a diarrhea dump on, Fame still feels as alive and relevant as it ever did? Starting with a ballsy script focusing evenly on a good dozen character, which, in its best moments, feels Altmanesque, Fame feels far more mature than nearly every high school film made before or after it. From the way the film lends credibility and urgency to the problems facing these teenagers, it's easy to see Fame's influence on the Brat Pack movies (most notably The Breakfast Club) later on in the 80's. But this maturity also contributes to the film's biggest weakness. Unlike The Breakfast Club, the problems plaguing these teens, revealed in long, dramatic monologues, are decidedly situations most teens will find hard to relate to. And to make things even more unrelatable, director Alan Parker films these monologues in highly self-conscious long takes, trying to make them High Art. Sure, this may make Fame more intriguing to adult audience members who aren't interested in the "petty" concerns of teens, but it takes the film out of its natural environment. A shame, really, as Fame thrives in this environment, appearing against all odds to live forever. B+

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Best Actress Bar Crawl

If Twitter is good for nothing else, it's a fantastic place to share silly ideas with people and watch them blossom into something completely different and unexpected. After watching her on a talk show being her fabulous, charismatic, over-the-top self, I innocently commented on Twitter that my dream in life was to go out drinking with Gabourey Sidibe. My birthday twin Will jokingly responded that we were free to meet him and Jennifer Lawrence for happy hour. This spawned its own conversation as we imagined this outing which somehow grew to include a party bus and Zayn and Harry from One Direction stopping by at some point. During this fun, however, a wonderful hypothetical question came to my mind: which recent Best Actress nominees would I like to go with on a one night bar crawl? In its own way, this is a great way to get to know people, whether they are your oldest friends or a complete stranger. You can certainly tell a lot about a person who would pick Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet over Catalina Sandino Moreno and Samantha Morton (anyone who picks Renée Zellweger is certainly not to be trusted). So, in the spirit of getting to know me better--as if my life isn't already an open book--here are the five Best Actress nominees since 2000 I'd love to have a drink with:

Gabourey Sidibe
If you've ever seen Gabby on a talk show, particularly the fast and loose Chelsea Lately, you will understand where I'm coming from on this one. This girl knows how to have a good time. Plus, she's admitted that she loves to drink and she's an endless fountain of 90s trivia. What can possibly happen with her except the best damn night of drinking ever?

Jennifer Lawrence
Yes, I'm stealing this answer from Will, but once he mentioned her, I knew she had to come along as well. Jennifer may seem like an odd choice as she usually appears to be Ms. Serious Actress after Winter Bone and The Hunger Games. As with Gabby, though, if you have seen her on a talk show, you will know that this girl knows how to have fun. Besides, how can you say no to a woman who will photo bomb her own boyfriend:

I rest my case.

Anne Hathaway
As one of the only three women I would switch teams for (Penelope Cruz and Christina Hendricks being the other two), it's only fitting that I invite Anne along so that maybe we can drunkenly make out a little bit. And, unlike Penelope, there won't be any language barrier, so she'll get to be her fun, witty self all night long (Although I like to imagine that Penelope speaks better English when she's drunk).

Helen Mirren
This bitch may be 67 years old, but you know she would be able to drink everyone in the bar under the table and still be classy/sexy enough to make out with someone a third her age without looking like a desperate, pathetic cougar. God bless this Dame.

Sandy Bullock
Who else besides Sandy, with her trademarked deadpan sense of humor, is going to make fun of the losers all around us at the bar with me? If we go to the gay bar in my town, we will definitely more than enough targets to launch our barbs on.

Now, more importantly, which lovely ladies would you pick?