Tag Archives: Michael J. Pollard

The Set of 400: #196 – My Favorite Faceless Villain

Today! Because for a tough guy you do a lot of pansy things –

Dick Tracy (1990)

Directed by Warren Beatty

Starring Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Madonna (x2), Glenne Headly (x2), Charlie Korsmo, Dustin Hoffman (x3), Paul Sorvino (x2), Mandy Patinkin (x2), Seymour Cassel (x2), Charles Durning, William Forsythe, James Tolkan (x2), James Caan (x2), Michael J. Pollard (x3), Kathy Bates (x3), Dick Van Dyke, Ed O’Ross, R.G. Armstrong, Catherine O’Hara (x2), John Schuck (x2), Charles Fleischer (x4), Henry Silva, James Keane, Frank Campanella, Allan Garfield, Colm Meaney (x2), Bert Remsen (x2), Estelle Parsons

Look, we all wanted Dick Tracy to be the second coming of Batman in the summer of 1990, and no one more than Warren Beatty. They were using these hyper-stylized, primary color posters and design schemes, and they packed the film with movie stars from the smallest bit roles to the leads. And so what if the movie doesn’t 100% work – there is so much obvious effort in every inch of this film that you can’t help but be impressed as hell.

It’s a film exploding with color, and bullets

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The Set of 400: #227 – My Favorite Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Today! Because I’m sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples –

Scrooged (1988)

Directed by Richard Donner (x2)

Starring Bill Murray (x6), Karen Allen (x2), Bobcat Goldthwait, David Johansen, Carol Kane (x3), Robert Mitchum (x3), John Glover (x4), Michael J. Pollard (x2), Alfre Woodard (x2), John Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray (x2), John Forsythe, Mary Lou Retton, Lee Majors, Buddy Hackett, John Houseman (x2), Jamie Farr, Robert Goulet (x2), Mary Ellen Trainor (x3), Kathy Kinney, Tony Steedman, Anne Ramsey (x2), Joel Murray, Mabel King (x2), Pat McCormick, Bruce Jarchow, Jack McGee, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Wendie Malick

A Christmas Carol isn’t an inherently funny story, and yet there have been many, many attempts to make it so. Most are musicals, and that helps to lighten the mood, but anything attempting an even halfway accurate recounting of the book usually ends up relatively straight. Even the excellent Muppet version devolves into a typical Christmas Carol about halfway through. There has been better success on television, but usually they take the story pretty far afield to find jokes. The terrific British series Black Adder has probably the funniest rendition (it helps if you’re a little familiar with that show to begin with) which turns the whole plot on its head, making Rowan Atkinson’s Scrooge character the nicest man in the world, who is shown how things were for his evil ancestors by Robbie Coltrane’s Marley/Ghosts figure. Mr. Magoo’s is one of the best straightforward musical versions, but it relegates its Magoo-esque humor to the framing scenes.

“Well, bless my ten toes!”

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The Set of 400: #275 – My Favorite Bye Bye Blackbird

Today! Because they didn’t burn down Rome in one day – you got to keep pluggin’ –

Melvin and Howard (1980)

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Starring Paul Le Mat, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Michael J. Pollard, Gloria Grahame, Robert Ridgely (x2), Charles Napier, Jack Kehoe (x2), Pamela Reed, John Glover (x3), Dabney Coleman, Elizabeth Cheshire

A very deceptive movie in its marketing and general awareness, Melvin and Howard ostensibly is about when milkman and all-around blue collar shlub Melvin Dummar met billionaire/eccentric/nutcase Howard Hughes in the desert one night and gave him a lift home. This is the scene that opens the film, and then isn’t mentioned again, for about an hour. And because of the bookending of the film with constant Hughes intrigue, not only did that become the focus of the movie, but everyone tends to forget the middle hour, as we watch the daily employment and marital struggles of Melvin, which is the key to the whole story.

Grizzled!

Otherwise, what really are you left with? Sure, Robards makes a great Hughes, but he’s in the movie for about ten minutes, and then is just mentioned endlessly, making it feel like he’s a much larger character. In fairness, the movie should’ve been titled Melvin and Lynda, as Mary Steenburgen has far more and trickier acting to handle, and rightfully won an Oscar for her efforts. The spurious will and debate is intriguing, and knots the whole film together, but (and this shouldn’t be much of a spoiler) with Melvin never really having a chance at the Hughes fortune, the dramatic heart of the movie defaults to Melvin’s good-natured bouncing from one setback to another across the story. You might be more an American Graffiti fan, but for my money, this is Paul Le Mat’s best work. Melvin could come off as a doofus, or a con man, or just super pathetic, but Le Mat’s delicate balance between these shades make for more of an endearing character than he probably deserves. Steenburgen and Robards got the lion’s share of attention, but it’s Le Mat’s steady work that drives the movie. Continue reading

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