Saturday, February 28, 2009

compact men

Last night on TV I saw 1989's Leviathan, which stars Peter Weller (RoboCop, Naked Lunch) and Richard Crenna and is essentially Alien transferred to an underwater setting. The screenplay is credited to David Webb Peoples and Jeb Stuart; Peoples cowrote science fiction classics like Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys and wrote Clint Eastwood's Best Picture winner Unforgiven, and Stuart's screenwriting credits include Die Hard and The Fugitive. But from what I saw last night, Leviathan isn't in the same league as those movies. In fact, it's 20,000 leagues lower. (Oh, hush. You knew that was coming.) It was directed by the late George P. Cosmatos, who had previously helmed the Sylvester Stallone blow-'em-ups Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra, so maybe he's the one to blame.

I've heard that most leading men are around 5'8". In Leviathan there's a shot where you see Weller walking toward the camera, and I got the feeling he wasn't that tall. Then I remembered walking past him in Chicago two years ago when he was starring as Frank Lloyd Wright in Frank's Home at the Goodman Theatre. I noticed he was my height. And I'm not tall. Therefore I should be a leading man.

I've also heard that many movie stars appear to have larger heads than the average nobody if you see them in person; I can't remember Weller's head looking that big as I walked past him, but on screen it's quite an impressive orb. On the fifth season of 24, in 2006, it looked even larger now that his hairline has receded. Side note: Did you know Weller earned his master's degree in Renaissance Art History in 2004 from Syracuse University and has taught a class there on "Hollywood and the Roman Empire"?

At the end of Leviathan, Ernie Hudson, a.k.a. the black Ghostbuster, is one of the three crew members who survives the monster attack. When he reached the surface with Weller and Amanda Pays (who plays a character named Elizabeth "Willie" Williams—it's important to amp up the homoerotic quotient in action movies by giving "the girl" a male-sounding nickname) after they'd blown up their underwater mining station and escaped, I thought, "Good for the black character surviving all the way to the end. That's rare in bad horror movies." But since it is a bad horror movie made in the '80s, of course there's one last attack. I was in the other room when it happened, but when I returned Hudson was no longer there, so the monster must've gotten him. You're never safe, black characters. President Obama, please address this problem.

Here's something I wasn't expecting at the very end of the movie, though: Weller and Pays are approached by a haughty female executive (Meg Foster) who tells them how glad she is they survived. Without having seen her earlier in the film, I knew she was there to fill the slot of the Paul Reiser character from 1986's Aliens, who values money over people. I jokingly said to the screen, "Punch her!" And Weller did! I was kidding, you jerk! At least let "the girl" punch her. Short guys like Peter and me are still angry these days (why is this stupid post taking me so long to fact-check?!), but 20 years after Leviathan there are at least fewer scenes of men punching women in mainstream Hollywood movies.

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