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George The Tyrant

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George The Tyrant

Post by laetval on Wed Dec 07 2011, 08:26

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George Clooney as the Tyrant
On playing bad: ‘‘I picked Captain Bligh because I liked his hat. Bad guys don’t think they’re bad guys. In film, the best evil performances are when the actor remembers that.’’

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The Hollywood Issue: Our Own Worst Enemies

Alex Prager for The New York Times

Published: December 6, 2011
Earlier this year, one of the defining villains of the age met his end. A generation of children grew up frightened by his legend and haunted by the image of his face. More than just an evildoer, he seemed at times to be the embodiment of evil itself, the ruthless leader of a vast and shadowy network whose very principle was terror. His death was unsurprisingly violent, widely celebrated (with a few qualms expressed here and there) and also curiously anticlimactic. His diabolical charisma — the power of his name alone to inspire shudders of dread and revulsion — dissipated almost instantly. Life resumed its ordinary, anxious course.

Voldemort was gone.

Yes, him. Parallels between the malefactors of fantasy and their real-life counterparts are always suggestive, even if the alignment is never exact. Osama bin Laden and the demonic artist formerly known as Tom Riddle were both wayward sons of privilege, but the convergence of their careers is simply a historical accident, or perhaps an example of the kind of serendipity that takes on significance only in hindsight. Bin Laden was active in the early and mid-’90s, before J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels became a global sensation, but Bin Laden himself only achieved that status with the Sept. 11 attacks, which occurred two months before the release of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first of eight feature films.

The last one, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” arrived in theaters this July, just between the Navy Seal raid in Abbottabad and the 10th anniversary of the attacks. And while there is no obvious causal or allegorical relationship between the war on terror and the turmoil in the wizard world, it does seem that 2011 marked the end of an era of evil.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that the death of the actual Bin Laden and the fictitious Voldemort confirmed a shift — a temporary vacillation or an epochal pendulum swing — in the character of American nightmares. Whether or not we are wired, as a species, to dream up boogie­men, we are habituated, as a culture, to seeking them out in shapes that conform to our collective anxieties. The scale of Voldemort’s ambition and the perfection of his depravity made him one of the exemplary movie bad guys of his time — the slithery Satanic verve of Ralph Fiennes’s noseless performance certainly helped — but by the final installment in the franchise, his imperial, metaphysical badness had lost some of its negative sublimity. His cruelty to his followers made it hard to credit the intensity of their loyalty, and the way his baleful powers seemed to multiply and dissipate at the same time was a source of confusion as well as dread.

The grand, Manichaean battle between Voldemort and Harry had to be seen to its conclusion, of course. But more memorable and more moving than their final confrontation were the secondary conflicts and supporting characters that were the true lifeblood of the series. The denouement of Ron and Hermione’s seven-year mutual hate-crush. Mother Weasley’s dispatching Bellatrix Lestrange. The fractious politics at the Ministry of Magic and among the Hogwarts faculty. And above all, the unquiet life and noble death of Severus Snape.

“Deathly Hallows” might have been Voldemort’s Götterdämmerung, but it was Snape’s apotheosis. Ambivalent, vain, a target of bullying who grew into a bully, Snape, played with such subtle mastery by Alan Rickman, was a brilliantly gray exception to the black-and-white moral scheme of the Potter universe. Snape’s dalliance with the Death Eaters may have been unforgivable, but his lifelong grievance against James Potter proved to be justified, and the intensity of his mixed motives was a source of perpetual unpredictability and, in the end, tremendous pathos.

Severus Snape is more in tune than Voldemort with a popular culture that seems, at least for the moment, to prefer ambiguities instead of absolutes. Over the past decade, we have become accustomed to agonized or shadowed heroes, including Tobey Maguire’s moody Spider-Man, Christian Bale’s brooding Dark Knight and the strangely melancholy James Bond incarnated by Daniel Craig. Even Harry Potter had his moments of anger, moroseness and ill humor. But the grimness of these heroes arose less from the moral defect of being tempted by evil than from their intimate knowledge of its depths. They could be lawless, vengeful, guilty and tormented, but only because the enemies they faced were so utterly beyond the reach of compassion or reason. Fiennes’s Voldemort represented one face of this kind of unredeemable vileness: grandiose, totalitarian, obsessed with power. The other side — whimsical, chaotic, devoted to destruction for its own sake — was brought most vividly to life by Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight.”

There were a few stabs at this kind of villainy on screens this year, but they seemed more cartoonish than awe inspiring. Red Skull, the nemesis of Captain America, was a creature of comic book retro-kitsch, so over the top in his fiendishness that even the movie’s Nazis felt he went a bit too far. And the heavy-metal, supermean Decepticons? They’re toys, so lumbering in their belligerence that any 8-year-old knows better than to take their threats seriously.

In the fantasy and superhero realm, the most chilling and compelling villain of the year was surely Magneto, who in “X-Men: First Class” is more of a proto-villain, a victim of human cruelty with a grudge against the nonmutants of the world rooted in bitter and inarguable experience. Magneto is all the more fascinating by virtue of being played by Michael Fassbender, the hawkishly handsome Irish-German actor whose on-screen identity crises dominated no fewer than four movies in 2011. In addition to Magneto, Fassbender was Rochester in Cary Fukunaga’s “Jane Eyre” (a romantic hero who for much of the story wears a plausible guise of gothic menace); the psychiatrist Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s “Dangerous Method”; and the sex-­addicted protagonist of Steve McQueen’s “Shame.” All of these men are studies in ambivalence, divided against themselves and soliciting, at best, a wary sympathy from the audience.

Magneto, more than the others, also evokes a curious kind of self-reproach, because his well-founded vendetta is, after all, directed against us. (And the worst of us is represented by Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw, the nemesis behind the nemesis.) Magneto’s tragic beginnings give him something in common with Caesar, the chimpanzee who transcends his species-based oppression to become a simian Spartacus in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” There is nothing malevolent about Caesar at all: he is the underdog we are expected to root for, even if as a consequence we are rooting against ourselves. The bad guy in “Planet” — the greedy Big Pharma C.E.O. played by the British actor David Oyelowo — is more of a scapegoat than an agent of evil. His indifference to the well-being of his company’s research subjects is not really what dooms humanity to decimation by virus and enslavement by our primate cousins. The true culprit in that regard is Will Rodman, James Franco’s serious, sensitive scientist, an unwitting Prometheus whose experiments give the apes the genetic boost they need to take over the planet.

Will’s motives, throughout, are irreproachable: he wants to cure his father’s dementia and also to nurture Caesar, his pet and protégé. But the consequences of his good intentions are catastrophic, making “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” one of quite a few movies released in 2011 that might have drawn their tag lines from an old Pogo comic strip: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

“Us” may not be how we would prefer to think of the investment bankers in J. C. Chandor’s “Margin Call,” who scramble for damage control after unleashing destruction on the world economy. In the current idiom of political outrage, these guys — Demi Moore is the only woman in their circle, which also includes Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey — are the nefarious 1 percent, divided from the rest by their greed, ruthlessness and lack of accountability. But not so long ago, the sharks in suits were exactly who the rest of us were supposed to aspire to be, and the queasy brilliance of “Margin Call” is that it leaves the attractive patina of ambition and power intact while exposing the ethical ugliness beneath it. Some critics have faulted Chandor’s film for being insufficiently condemnatory of Wall Street, but to my eyes it is all the more devastating by virtue of its refusal to move outside the bubble of rationalization and self-regard that makes the world go around.

Until, that is, it stops. This was a banner year for apocalypse, whether man-made or cosmological or some scary combination of the two. Human life, life on earth, the earth itself — these were threatened by disease (“Contagion”), freaky weather (“Take Shelter”) and a rogue planet summoned by Kirsten Dunst’s bad mood (“Melancholia”). The prevalent dangers are metaphysical and systemic. Rottenness pervades the Sweden of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” but while that movie, like its source novels, is full of horrible people — a sociopathic social worker, a family of serial killers — they are less figures of self-contained Voldemortian demonism than emanations of a cruel and corrupt social order. The terror that Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist fight against is all the more frightening because it has no single cause or agent. It is hydra-headed, viral, atmospheric: the inevitable byproduct of pervasive and perfectly ordinary misogyny, avarice and contempt for the weak.

And such evil is hard to defeat, even with a few sequels in store. Outsize devils like Voldemort may be unspeakably scary, but they are also comforting because they can be identified, named and then vanquished. The sins that seem intrinsic to the human condition are unlikely to be so easily beaten. War, racism, inequality, the abuse of authority — we can imagine small, partial victories against all of them, but nothing like the cathartic deliverance of the kind we crave from our stories.

Which means that the old demons are likely to return eventually, at least as metaphors for the desire to be free of the stubborn, invisible ills they represent. But right now it does not seem so easy to picture them or to envision their final defeat. Even at the movies, things are a little more complicated, a little more unsettled and inconclusive. We may not always love our monsters — apart from the studly werewolves and dreamy vampires — but we know them too well to hate them completely. They are us, after all.


Last edited by Katiedot on Wed Dec 07 2011, 09:43; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added text)

laetval
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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by Katiedot on Wed Dec 07 2011, 09:35

That's George?!!!! Eeek! He's unrecognisable. Nice find, Laetval!

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by fluffy on Wed Dec 07 2011, 10:46

Oooooooo! swashbucklin Gee!!! Well shiver me timbers, he can hoist my main sail anytime!!!!! He does grumpy sooooo well!!! Censored

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by Dexterdidit on Wed Dec 07 2011, 11:17

Not sure I'm too keen on that look he actually reminds of my dad! I think it would be nice to see George play a really bad guy. Not a good bad guy but a really, really bad one. Just to see how he goes!

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by it's me on Wed Dec 07 2011, 12:52

great idea those clips

Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by it's me on Wed Dec 07 2011, 13:12

was there when G broke is arm?

cmq bravo G
different

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by laetval on Wed Dec 07 2011, 16:03

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by Katiedot on Wed Dec 07 2011, 17:58

And the text:

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Home wrecker. Madman. Sociopath. Menacing dummy. Vixen. Hothead. Tyrant. Vamp. Asylum nurse. Fire starter. Invisible man. Outlaw. Tycoon.

That’s your lineup of character types in “Touch of Evil,” the latest edition of the magazine’s annual Hollywood issue. There are probably some pretty good parlor games to be made of that wild bunch — like, what single screen role amalgamates the greatest number of these parts? Or, which actors have played the most types? (I’m pretty sure old “Six Degrees” himself, Kevin Bacon, has scorched his way through more than half of them.)

In years past, the Hollywood issue had no real unifying concept beyond whatever aesthetic sensibility the photographers brought to the task of capturing our chosen performers in still pictures. But once we decided to move into video, our subjects had to have something to do. So last year Kathy Ryan, the magazine’s director of photography, asked them to act out classic, recurring moments in film: man pulls out gun; man flees unseen forces, femme fatale undresses at home after a night out; and so on. This year, Arem Duplessis, the magazine’s design director, suggested having the actors play baddies.

To start, we filled an office wall with what Ryan calls “mood boards of villains in movie roles to get the creative juices flowing” — you can get an idea of what she’s referring to here. Then, with our deputy photo editor Joanna Milter coordinating all — she deserves not only an executive producer credit, but also points on the back end, or whatever it is the power players get in Hollywood — we brought in our artist filmmaker-photographer and started talking to the actors. Sometimes we pitched a role to them, and they accepted; sometimes they had their own villain in mind. (Whereas our impulses tended toward the archetypal, the actors were more likely to propose particular roles in particular films — Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” for example.) But Ryan emphasizes that wherever the original inspiration came from, “basically Alex had strong ideas of what she wanted to do” and took over, adding her own “weird twists.”

That’s Alex Prager, who shot our photos and directed our videos. Prager, whose work is held in the collections of MoMA and the Whitney, among other museums, describes the Hollywood issue as “the dream project” for her, and not just because our mogul Ryan gave her so much freedom on the set. Ever since Prager expanded her 2008 photographic series “The Big Valley” into a short film last year (“Despair”), she has been “slightly obsessed with moving pictures,” as she puts it. (Fittingly, when I spoke to her by phone recently, she was in her car in California — on the freeway, I would like to think, with the Santa Anas stirring things up — going to meet with an actor about a film she’s directing.) And that made her the dream image-maker for us.

These days, the videos we publish online drive the production of the Hollywood issue in print. “The still photography is secondary,” Ryan said. “About 90 percent of the time is spent filming, and only about 10 percent is spent shooting the still photo, because filming is so much more complicated — you’ve got sets, cinematography, costumes, full-on hair and make-up, etc.”

You’ve also got extensive rehearsals with stand-ins beforehand, and then the acting itself. On that score, here’s Ryan with one example: “We were in awe of Glenn Close, so determined to get it just right. She kept asking to do another take to try to perfect it. She came to the shoot on a Sunday night at 6:00 p.m., straight off a plane, and stayed until 11:00 p.m., despite having a call time for her show at 6:00 a.m. the next morning.” After that, Ryan says, “the photo is almost icing on the cake.” (Still, to hear Prager tell it, the icing tastes better thanks to the cake. She says that by filming first, her actors built up their characters, and she got a lot more out of them that way.)

There is at least one familiar type of villain that we did not include in the Hollywood issue: the Overbearing Film Director. Francis Ford Coppola dragging everyone into the Philippine jungle. Werner Herzog dragging everyone into the Amazonian jungle. James Cameron dragging everyone into the Pandoran jungle. And I’m happy to report that from all accounts our directors, Ryan and Prager, brought no hint of tyranny to their sets. Go back to the top and look at that first photo: does it look like Prager is about to pull some cruel Hitchcockian prank on Kirsten Dunst? And the one below that: is Mia Wasikowska suffering some millionth Kubrickian take?

Hardly. Viola Davis never complained about the ladybugs crawling all over her. Adepero Oduye only did three takes as Bonnie Parker. (We only had three dresses rigged with explosives, anyway.) Ryan Gosling paid to take home the painting made for his video by Vanessa Prager, Alex’s sister (see below). George Clooney “was having a ball doing his Captain Bligh thing,” in Ryan’s words. From her perspective, the actors “have a lot more fun doing this than just sitting for a portrait.”

There’s that. And then there’s the sheer appeal of playing the damned. As William Blake (Madman category?) famously noted, John Milton wasn’t at his best when versifying about angels in “Paradise Lost” — he was, in Blake’s view, “a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it.” In other words, Lucifer makes for better art than the heavenly host; villainy is more seductive than virtue. That goes for Hollywood too: the bad guys get the better lines, and they get to chew more scenery (or potato flakes, if you’re George Clooney channeling Captain Bligh in Prager’s snow).

The pleasure they took in their craft was felt by all those who worked with them for the magazine. As Don Cheadle’s character, Basher Tarr, puts it at the beginning of the “Ocean” movies, it’s “nice working with proper villains.”

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by janieb on Wed Dec 07 2011, 20:02

WOW!!!! I didn't recognize him!!!!

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by Missa on Wed Dec 07 2011, 20:41

Dexterdidit wrote: I think it would be nice to see George play a really bad guy. Not a good bad guy but a really, really bad one. Just to see how he goes!

I agree! The best "bad guy" actors are the ones who usually play good guys, and who seem to be decent guys in real life. Somehow it makes is creepier when they play against type like that. I think George would be great as a character like Denzel Washington's seriously rogue cop in Training Day.

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by Guest on Wed Dec 07 2011, 23:35

Wow! I hope he is not a method actor. I would hate to be around when he is preparing for an act like that.

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Re: George The Tyrant

Post by it's me on Thu Dec 08 2011, 00:33

nice smiley!

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Re: George The Tyrant

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