Monday, May 27, 2013

Movie Web Monday: William Sadler

Movie Web Monday: Each week, I'll look at a specific actor's roles across three good movies. The third movie will in turn tie into the first movie of the next week's actor, whose third movie will continue the pattern. I will go through actors and movies at this rate, with the following limitations in mind: every movie(or television show) invoked will be one I either own, or wish to own; no movie or actor will be invoked twice. So sit back and enjoy as you fall into the nerdery's movie web. (Oh, and I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, telling you just enough to know if you'll enjoy the movie)

Today's entry in the Movie Web is William Sadler. A great actor with a long pedigree of powerful supporting roles, he most recently showed up in Iron Man 3 as President Ellis. You probably are more likely to recognize him from Die Hard 2 as Colonel Stuart, though. The movies I've picked for him today, though, have him run the gamut from convict to sheriff to a broken man leading a lynch mob. Yeah, he rounds the bases of the D&D alignment system, I guess.

William Sadler: Lawful-Go-Round

Movie: Shawshank Redemption (Own it)

While Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman's characters take up all the limelight of the Shawshank Redemption, they are supported by great performances and key supporting characters. Not the least of which is William Sadler as Heywood. While Freeman's character Red is the plain-spoken cynic and man of means in the story and Robbin's Andy Dufresne is the spirit of hope, Heywood comes to the fore of the supporting characters as the most believably constructed of the inmates. Red and Andy are the salt of the earth in two very different ways, both essentially pure and useful in the plot of the film. Opposite them are conspirators, murderers, and rapists. It'd be easy to dismiss the movie as a bipolar and ham-fisted reality tale if it weren't for Heywood and the other inmate friends of Red and Andy he tends to frontline. Heywood is crass and funny, thick and selfish, and pathetically under-educated. From the get-go he's intense and shows a cruel streak as well as an angry sensitivity, as he sways to angry, loud threats at Andy after chirping happily:

Sadler's realization of Heywood--for me, anyways--is one that is much more reasonable and genuine feeling than many of the other almost allegorical characters. In some scenes he seems like the scum of the earth, and in other he's a quivering reactionary trying to protect himself or follow the lead of Red and Andy. And, perhaps most importantly, there's a consistency to his character that doesn't require a neat explanation for what has happened to bring him here. Sadler's Heywood is the perfect support--a believable part of the background, but also a snappy and self-actualized character.

Television Show: Roswell (Rent it)

Alright, let's get this out of the way right now: yes, I watched Roswell. I'm even (gasp!) enjoying re-watching it via Netflix Instant Watch. My mom got me into it when I was thirteen, and I gotta say, when you're a young teenage boy and your mom tries to get you to watch a vaguely sci-fi show starring young Katherine Heigl and Emilie de Ravin, you don't argue. You just enjoy the show and capitalize on being one of the only freshmen in your high school to actually be willing to gossip with girls about the latest episode. Also, I totally thought Tess got a bum rap and they should've had her end up with Max instead of retconning her into a monster. And for those of you who don't know: Roswell was an angsty teen-oriented show in 1999-2002 based on a book series that followed unusual kids who happened to be the survivors of the famous crash in New Mexico.

With that out of the way: Tess' ridiculous and unbelievable transformation aside, William Sadler's character--Sheriff Jim Valenti--was by far the show's most dynamic and well-developed character. As a local law enforcement officer and shamed son to a known alien-hunting kook, Valenti begins the show as a sort of above-board antagonist. While a lot of the plots involved conspiracies and layered secrets, he tried to pin down the paranormal out of a jaded need to wrench the truth out of Roswell in an unspoken need to validate his father. It worked really well, and as the show progressed he became something of a white knight for the teenage protagonists to rely upon. The transformation came in quickly at the end of the show's first season, but it flew really well as Valenti's frustration with official cover-ups and deception pales in the face of his own instincts as a father. When head alien embrid (that's emo-hybrid) Max saves Valenti's son, he realizes that the truth is far less important than his beloved son:

Sadler's single dad portrayal is wry and endearingly pathetic in a middle-aged sort of way. Some of my favorite mundane moments in the show (other than alien bruiser Michael's love affair with the movie Braveheart) was when Valenti would showcase his band of fellow 40-somethings: the Kit-Shickers. That, and when he became a surrogate father to double-outsider Tess, he perfectly played up the awkwardness of a father and long-time bachelor trying to cope with having a darling princess in his life. It was sweet and adorable, and they shouldn't have ruined her character by suddenly having her be a Lannister-esque brain-melter. Dumbdumbdumb. They ruined at least half of their characters in that badly-devised plot twist and all just to justify the stale Max-and-Liz-forever romance that couldn't carry itself in light of Tess' importance.

Alright, I need to stop now. Valenti: good. Tess: adorable. Liz: dumb interstellar dynasty-wrecker.

Movie: The Green Mile (Why the heck don't I own it?!)

The Green Mile is another prison-movie masterpiece based on a novel by Stephen King--I mentioned that Shawshank Redemption is based on a Stephen King novella, right? Oh well, it is. Starring Tom Hanks, David Morse, and Michael Clarke Duncan, it's another beautiful installment the roster of movies about human hatred that nonetheless elevates the spirit. Man, that sounds like a crock if you haven't seen it. But it is true. Set in the 1930s in a death-row cell block, Tom Hanks' character guides his fellow guards through their duties with a certain amount of pomp and dignity that helps give doomed men hope, and all of that before they receive an inmate convicted of disgusting crimes with a supernatural aura. It's funny in a I'll-kill-him-right-after-a-punchline sort of way, leaving you feeling almost guilty for how much you enjoy some moments of such a tear-jerking melodrama.

William Sadler's role in The Green Mile is brief, and you probably don't remember him in it unless you have a celebrity NavComp AI for a brain. Like I do. The father of the two murdered girls that gets pinned neatly on the simple John Coffey, he has to play a huge variety of emotions in a short span. Breathless exhilaration as he assembles a search team and irritably coordinates with his wife. Helpless defeat as he realizes that they're already too late. And blind, futilely-misguided rage at a man more hurt by being close to damned innocence than mere beating could ever achieve.

It's an understated note to leave the Movie Web on, but considering William Sadler's laundry list of supporting roles, that's probably exactly the right way to end things.

Until next week.

(I think I mean that literally--I think I'll continue the blog sprint through this week and next. But don't freak out if it's not there after all.)

Movie Web Monday will continue next week with a new actor, picking up with some other prolific player from the last movie listed above.

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