Wednesday, February 20, 2008


With Sylvester Stallone once again donning the Stevie Nicks look to reprise his second most serialized alter ego John Rambo, it became apparent to me that this character held some enduring popularity (I dug the first flick First Blood in 1982 but generally found the other two unwatchable). Since the masses seemed to miss Rambo, but I didn’t, It got me thinking... well, who are some of my favorite retarded characters of film.

I was saddened to realized... I don’t like most retards in movies

Bear in mind, I may be using the word incorrectly (I’m not a doctor, well just a doctor of love, but these uppity collages don’t offer a degree in that). I tend to lump crazies, mutes, autismees and slow-folks all together, let’s just call ‘em SPECIAL.

As a kid I was into special people, I recall crying my eyes out reading Of Mice And Men and while I was watching the TV Movie version with Randy Quad as the dimwitted Lenny (also starring Italian food connoisseur Robert Blake as George). I was also devastated by a pair of sweet mutesAlan Arkin in The Heart Is  A Lonely Hunter (recently released on DVD for the first time) and Jackie Gleason in the 1962 flick Gigot directed by Gene Kelly (and never released on DVD or VHS).

But most heart-tuggers annoy me. 

Have you ever seen the horrid feel-good lightweight goo I Am Sam (2001) with Sean Penn and the that freaky moppet Dakota Fanning? Not since Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) has a movie made the wonderful tunes of The Beatles more excruciating.

Hey Penn got an Oscar nomination for it! As did Arkin and so did Leonardo Da Caprio for What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993). Many actors have even won those Oscar things for doing the ‘dah-role’, Dustin Hoffman for Rainman (1988), Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump (1994), Geoffrey Rush for Shine (1996) and Cliff Robertson for Charley (1968). 

DEEP BACKGROUND: Before Charley got the operation that sent him from being a lovable idiot 

to a snotty MENSA member, I played one of his mean co-workers who picked on him in the 

Theatrical play (of the same book) Flowers For Algernon, back at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

Also nominated  for an Oscar one of my favorite ‘special people’ was Billy Bob Thornton as the country-fried killer Carl in Slingblade (1996). I like it when the ‘special person’ is also scary or unlikeable or complicated. 

Or when a ‘special person’ just pops in for a supporting turn and isn’t explained to made enduring for the audience like the banjo kid in Deliverance (1972) or the goony Beeno lumbering around the third-act of Mad Max (or the bottom half of the Master Blaster in the third Mad Max).

Speaking of religious a-holes, (though Apocalypto is a masterpiece) the same year he first played Mad MaxMad Mel Gibson played a hunky ‘special person’ in the boring Australian weepy Tim. I bet ol’ Tim would hit it off with jock-babe Elisabeth Shue’s lovable Molly  in the aptly titled Molly (1999). 

Molly is one of those ‘special people’ movies that reeks of ‘Lifetime Channel’ like the so-so A Dangerous Woman (1993) with Debra Winger. And of course the retardo-riffic camp-classicThe Other Sister, with real-life retard Juliette Lewis and ‘retard looking’ Giovanni Ribisi (similar to Adam Sandler all Ribisi’s characters seem to have at least a touch of possible retardation in them). 

Oh but aren't they adorable? Like the ch-ch-ch-charming Cuba Gooding in Radio (2003) or that kid Bruce Willis has to protect in Mercury Rising (1989) or Tom Hulce in Dominick And Eugene (1988), they make the freaks in Gummo (1997) or poor slow, horny David Warner in Straw Dogs (1971) look like the creepy fiends.

On TV, I’ll take South Parks’s Timmy over the more celebrated Gomer Pyle or Corky Corky (of Life Goes Onany day.

The tube also brought us Mickey Rooney old n’ special in Bill (1981) and a retarded dude who comes back seeking revenge disguised as Ray Bolger in the 1981 TV movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

Some times people pretend to be ‘special’ like Nicholson does briefly in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) before the doctors really make him 'special’. But when it’s revealed in Something About Mary that the crippled guy is faking it, the comedy of that flick was ruined for me. If you like ‘fakers’ you may dig Lars von Trier’s bizarre The Idiots (1993) where a group of ‘actors’ run around pretending to be ‘dense’ then return home for all out orgies. 

Sex is the last thing on my man Chance Gardner's mind in Being There (1979), maybe that’s what draws us to ‘special’ people, life would be easier if all we wanted was to watch TV. 

WAIT that sounds like most of us! Are we all special?


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