August 27, 2003
Two weekends ago, my parents were in town for a visit. So, as usual, my Dad spent most of his time playing my husband's computer games and my Mom and I settled in for a couple of days of Scrabble games and bad movies, if you can actually consider "bad" to be a genre, which I would contend that you surely can. To us, there is really no better way to spend a weekend, which is why, when asked who my best friend is, I usually name my Mom. When you find someone else who doesn't mind skipping the Academy Award winners and running straight for the dreck, you know you've got a keeper. Although we also eventually get around to the good movies too. Later. When we're really bored.
Anyway, we had each taped a bad sci-fi movie off television the preceding week (like minds think alike, you see), and saved them until we could watch them together, so that's where we started off Friday evening. One of the two was about an underwater polar research lab attacked by giant electric eel alien things -- delightfully awful, but not starring anybody particularly noteworthy. The other one, however, called "Alien Hunter," was not only pretty darn good, but it even featured this week's Boyfriend, James Spader, in the title role. A very pleasant surprise!
The movie is about a group of scientists at the South Pole (did I also mention we both love movies that involve snow? Because we do.) who discover something big and metal frozen deep under the ice. They dig it up and are in the process of thawing the ice off around it when they realize it is sending out some kind of radio beacon. So, they fly in a cryptologist, played by a very dapper looking James (okay, so "dapper" probably isn't really the right word to describe him. Ever. But he did have really cute hair in this one, which is close enough for me), to see if he can figure out what the beacon is trying to tell them. He used to work for SETI, by the way, which is what makes him an "alien hunter."
As the last bit of ice finally melts away, they immediately can see that the object is some kind of space craft. But just as one of the guys grabs a crowbar and cracks the door open, James deciphers the beacon, which, as it turns out, consists of a single, simple phrase being repeated over and over.
The phrase? "Do not open."
The movie? Surprisingly good! Good characters, good acting, intriguing plot, refreshingly original spin on the whole alien-invaders thing (although the alien still just looked like a human with a funny head, which is an extremely presumptuous, not to mention tired, design for a creature from another world). However, the most important thing about this movie -- the thing that made it one of the best movies I've ever seen -- is the fact that it was the film that finally pulled me out of the biggest slump I've been in in a looooong time.
For the last month or so, I've been trying to put together a write-up on Ron Livingston, star of two movies I've really enjoyed, "Office Space" and the "Band of Brothers" miniseries. Ron Livingston makes me laugh and he's great fun to watch in his various roles. But even though I really wanted to feature him, try as I might, I just could not muster up the necessary crush. The days kept passing and I kept starring at a blank computer screen and sighing. Then weeks were passing and I was making lame excuses (oh please, "I had to do my laundry?" Put me on the Lame Train to Loserville, U.S.A.). I was starting to get cranky, too. Stupid web site. Stupid Boyfriends. Stupid DreamWeaver. Stupid stupid stupid. Ptew!
All hope was almost lost, actually. And as everything else in my life was getting busier and busier and more rushed and more rushed with every passing moment, I literally started to think about just taking a year off and going on sabbatical to Hollywood. Hollywood Video, that is. (All I'd need is a cot in the back, really -- I could live off popcorn and Diet Coke for a year with no problem). But then along came, of all the craziest things, "Alien Hunter." And as I was settling in, enjoying the creative sci-fi ride, I suddenly had the most extraordinary epiphany. Ron Livingston, nuthin'! Holy crap, I still haven't featured James Spader!
Now, I have been madly in love with James (who actually prefers the nickname "Jimmy," so let's start using that) ever since "Pretty in Pink" came out in 1986. And even though he's made a career out of playing yuppie scum and sexual deviants, there's just something so totally irresistible about his yuppie scum and sexual deviants. They are so much more than the sum of their derogatory adjectives. They've got style. They've got grace. "Jimmy Spader gave great face. . ." Not to mention great hair, great arms, great hands, great legs, a great back, great height (5' 11"), and a grrrr-EAT voice. Ooh, that voice. Humina humina.
(Oh, and I apologize, by the way, if you'll now have Madonna's "Vogue" stuck in your head all day. But, seriously, it could've been a lot worse. It could've been RHINESTONE COWBOY.)
Now, where was I? Hold on a sec, let's recap. Okay, so, Ron is out, I did laundry, I saw an alien, it looked silly, crush since 1986, yuppie scum. . .Oh, right! Yuppie scum! And/or sexual deviants. It's almost uncanny, actually, how often Jimmy's roles fit into one or the other of those two categories. Think I'm exaggerating? We-heh-hell, I'll show you a thing or two. Just check this out:
1. Pretty in Pink (1986): Yuppie Scum.
Now, of course, anybody who hasn't actually seen this movie shouldn't even be reading this web site -- you should be at home catching up on the career of John Hughes, because you'll never get anywhere in this world without the Brat Pack. And I'm not even kidding. This one was, by the way, the first Jimmy Spader movie I ever saw, and his yuppie scum character here really set the prototype for many of his similar roles later on. The sneer on that man! I mean, honestly, I have never seen a yuppie sneer with so much sneerful intensity. I get chills just thinking about it. And I don't even like yuppies. Or sneers, for that matter.
2. Mannequin (1987): Yuppie Scum.
Okay, it was a bad movie. A REALLY bad movie. But in 1987, I was in the seventh grade and I wasn't all that particular when it came to plot. I was primarily only interested in how many cute guys filmmakers could cram into a single movie. (Some things never change, eh?) And since this one reunited Jimmy with Andrew McCarthy, who I still had a crush on from "Pretty in Pink," it pretty much signaled my lovesick doom. I've not only seen it a dozen times since 1987, but my family even owns it on video. And as if that weren't bad enough, the video we own it on is a BETAMAX video. I think that's about as 80's you can get, without going house with the hairspray. Anyway, this one is still good for a laugh today, and James is, of course, divine.
3. Baby Boom (1987): Boy, Howdy, Now THAT'S Yuppie Scum!
Totally one of my favorite movies of all time, this one stars Diane Keaton as a super-yuppie who quits her job in advertising and moves to the country. There, she falls in love with ex-Boyfriend Sam Shepard, and they share one of the best first-kiss scenes in celluloid history. James Spader plays, again, a yuppie, and of the worst variety this time -- the yuppie who spend 95% of his time kissing up to other yuppies. If he weren't so cute, he'd be totally gross in this one. But, ooh, that little yuppie sneer is back! I just love that sneer!
4. Less Than Zero (1987): Yuppie Drug-Dealing Scum.
Totally one of my least favorite movies of all time. I mean, if there's anything less interesting than a bunch of yuppies and their cocaine addictions, I have yet to stumble across it. Though this movie was pretty popular in its day (the 1980's were swarming with yuppie coke addicts -- they could relate), a recent rental of it shows that it really hasn't aged well at all. And not just because the hair is atrocious, although, that too. It's just totally stuck up. Absolutely nothing redeeming about it, except for the presence of James, of course, and future Boyfriends Andrew McCarthy and Robert Downey Jr. This movie is just plain yeech. It should be burned at the stake, along with Jami Gertz's entire wardrobe.
5. sex, lies and videotape (1989): Sexual Deviant.
Here's a movie I actually broke the law to see -- the MPAA law, anyway. I was about 15 when it came out and it was, of course, rated R. But my friend talked me into sneaking into it anyway (this was Elyse, Mom -- you knew she was trouble), and with a pizza and six-pack of Diet Coke hidden under my jacket, no less. Now, to this day, I gloat about the pizza. I mean, it takes some serious skill to successfully smuggle a large pepperoni into a multiplex, what with all the concession stand watch-dogs and the secret agents they stash in the theater seats to scan the crowd for homegrown snacks. So, make sure you make note of this: Meg is da bomb. Because I'm still quite proud of this incredible feat to this day.
The movie, though. The movie is absolutely terrific. But it's definitely not one you want to watch with your parents, unless you really enjoy awkward silences. James plays an impotent voyeur in this one, with shaggy hair and a lot of black tee-shirts. He totally swept me off my feet. Even though he's just a little bit on the creepy side. Okay, a lot bit on the creepy side.
6. Wolf (1994): Yuppie Scum.
I haven't seen this one since it was in the theater, and the only thing I really remember about it is that Jimmy made a great nasty publisher guy. Total yuppie scum. With a vengeance. And a great dastardly twinkle in his eyes. Oh my knees, they weaken.
7. Crash (1996): Sexual Deviant.
While I do understand what they were trying to do with this movie (and the novel it was based on), I was too icked out to watch the whole thing. James plays a guy who discovers he is sexually aroused by car accidents, particularly when people get injured in the crashes. He quickly finds a group of like-minded people, who take his fetish to new heights. Or lows. Depending on who you ask. But, like, it's just so, ehhh, just. . .I mean, just, no, people. Just, really, no. But thanks.
8. Critical Care (1997): Semi-Yuppie, although not really scum.
This is sort of a comedy, except it's not really funny. It's about a doctor who is tricked by a young woman, the daughter of one of his patients. James is the doctor, which automatically grants him yuppie status, but he's not so much scum as he is just plain stupid. Still, costarring Helen Mirren, who rocks, this isn't a rental completely devoid of any redeeming qualities. It's worth the three bucks at Blockbuster. If you're bored. And desperate.
9. Secretary (2002): Sexual Deviant.
Another totally fantastic film, this time about a sad young woman who takes a job as the secretary for an odd lawyer (played by James). Their relationship quickly goes from professional to personal to EXTREMELY personal to whips-and-chains kinda personal. And then they have a falling out. And then the woman figuratively ties herself to his desk for a few days of starvation protest. And then they fall in love. It sounds weird, but it's actually really great. Well, and also weird too, of course. Don't watch this one with your parents either, by the way.
So, hey, that's kind of it for the sexual deviants/yuppie scum breakdown (at least for the movies I've seen). But there are some movies that don't fall into those two categories that I wanted to give quick honorable mention here. Here's the list: Supernova (a sci-fi movie that's pretty bad, but Jimmy takes his shirt off so who cares about plot?), The Stickup (not great, but pretty entertaining -- it's about a bank robber. Sort of), 2 Days in the Valley (a great movie that starts with a professional hit, but ends up tracking the people involved all over the place, across a wide variety of subplots -- this one is funny as well as entertaining, and I really liked it a lot), and Stargate (another sci-fi one, but this one is well above par in terms of quality. Plus, Jimmy plays an anthropologist with shaggy hair, which is just the most damnably sexy thing ever).
Is that all of them? I think it is, for now anyway. I've seen a few others, but they don't really rate mention and besides, this is getting long and I know you guys are antsy to see it on the site. So, let's move on.
Okay, quick bio. Jimmy was born on February 9, 1960, in Boston, MA (one of my favorite cities, by the way). Though his parents were both teachers and James has made a career out of playing smartie-pantses, he actually dropped out of prep school to pursue his career in acting instead. He moved to New York and took a series of odd jobs (including yoga instructor -- oh, how I wish I could've taken one of his classes) while he studied at the Michael Chekhov theater school.
In 1978, he made his debut in "Team Mates," and you pretty much know what happened from there on. "Pretty in Pink" got him widely noticed for the first time, but his greatest critical success was "sex, lies and videotape," for which he was nominated for the Best Actor award at Cannes.
James is married, but it's okay because not only am I married too, but I am married to a man named James. I'd make a joke about how I have an active fantasy life, but I think that, based on the number of write-ups in the archives here, my husband probably is already well aware of that fact. A joke of that nature at this point would only make him roll his eyes and sigh. And I get enough of that already. (Love ya, honey!)
Up next for Jimbo is a starring role on the television drama "The Practice," and while I would usually be very excited about something like that, I have to confess that I recently saw an ad for the new season and not only did he look terrible, but I wasn't all that impressed with his character. We're back to Yuppie Scum again, but he just didn't seem to be giving the role his usual amount of scumming oomph. Now, I actually quit watching "The Practice" about two years ago, because it was becoming tedious. But I'll probably check in a few times this season just to see James do his thing. Let's hope my first impression was wrong and that he can rescue the show, because if not, I predict this will be it's final season. And that's too bad, because it used to be one of my favorite programs.
In the meantime, clip and save the handy film list from above and hit your local video store (or Netflix.com). Have yourself a little James Spader film fest on me. Well, okay, on you, but I at least get credit for giving you the idea. By the way, if you see a great one that I didn't list, let me know just in case I missed it?
MacGyver Factor Score: 96.82%. Okay, while I was surfing the web for information about Jimmy, I came across a web site that said that he greatly admires the work of Charles Laughton, an actor whose heyday was in the 1940's and 50's. I don't have anything against Charles, he was great in "Mutiny on the Bounty," among other things. But I have to deduct points anyway, because I don't think any fan of Warner Brothers cartoons could ever even think the words "Charles Laughton" without immediately following them up with the word "hasenpheffer" and a maniacal giggle. That the quote from James does not contain the word "hasenpheffer" just leads me to suspect he is no great fan of Bugs Bunny, and for that, I must deduct points.
Points back, though, because Bugs Bunny or not, he is one darn sexy dude.
Unofficial James Spader site
Kelster's James Spader Page
James's IMDB Page