Skip’s Quips: Top (or Perhaps Bottom) 10 Worst Miscastings in Cinema

Blog Sketch 082813Yes, I’ve been thinking of this. There certainly has been a host of miscasting throughout the years in the movies. Yet none so much, to my mind, as the ones that follow. Here they are in descending order of badness; take a look and see if you agree.

10) Robin Williams as Peter Pan in Hook: A dreadful performance by the usually hilarious Williams as the now-grown-up Pan in a horrid reimagining of the classic tale. This is one that belongs in Neverland.

9) Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon in Nixon: Mr. Hopkins can do almost anything, but Tricky Dick was beyond his ken. Then again, it wasn’t completely his fault; a more tiresome, overblown film you’ll hardly find.

8) Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia: Just put on a bizarre accent and roll, right? Isn’t that the way to portray the seminal TV chef? Nope. It sure seemed like that was the plan in this awful film, which plodded its way to the ending like one staggers through an Escoffier-planned meal. Let the diner beware.

7) Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments: I never bought this one, despite its relegation to “classic” status. Not in my tablets. One has to wonder if Moses’ jaw was really that square. Surely his acting wasn’t.

6) Mel Gibson as Hamlet in Hamlet: At one time, I tried to convince myself that Gibson’s performance as the titular Shakespearean hero was interesting. Ah, those were the (naive) days. Really, it was a mannered, tedious portrayal in an otherwise decent film. Why, Franco Zeffirelli, why?

5) Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland: Stop the insanity! I’m not sure if this backstory-driven reimagining of the Lewis Carroll book was director Tim Burton’s idea or not, but it didn’t work. Especially dreary was Depp’s misguided portrayal of said Hatter as a tragic figure. Repeat after me: Aargh! This was not frabjous casting.

4) Tony Curtis as the Viking Eric in The Vikings: A Viking by way of the Bronx. Can you say: “Riiiiiggghht.” Sorry, Tony, we love you, but not in this.

3) Nicol Williamson as Merlin in Excalibur: What a wrong, strange performance this is. Excalibur‘s an otherwise intriguing film, but I’ve always been puzzled by Williamson’s peculiar, sometimes–quiet-sometimes-loud-and-always-bizarre acting decisions as the legendary wizard. Odd and unconvincing portrayal.

2) Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in, what else, Cleopatra: Do you have a hard time getting through this picture? Don’t worry; everyone does. Central to this issue is Taylor’s performance. Ah, the grandeur that was Hollywood.

1) John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror: Need I say more?

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Pitching the Prowess of Classical Music

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613The best thing The King’s Speech ever did was remind people that Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is a brilliant piece of music.

Yes, it’s a good movie. Well-scripted, well-acted. But without that majestic second movement boosting the oratory at the end, it’s just another serviceable biopic.

Which leads me to wonder why filmmakers don’t use the strains of the immortal Ludwig van—or, for that matter, any great classical composer—more often.

Sure, that second from the Seventh had a precedent—John Boorman’s confused and often frustrating sci-fier Zardoz. And there’s no shortage of Beethoven in A Clockwork Orange.

But there’s a host of cinematically appropriate works out there by classical masters, and it’s a marvel that Hollywood hasn’t mined this trove thoroughly.

Schubert lieder. Stravinsky ballets. Brahms symphonies.

Boorman at least had the right idea, and his use of Wagner’s Parsifal and Götterdämmerung in his Arthurian epic Excalibur made up for his Zardozian miscues. Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola also hit the mark with their application of Cavalleria Rusticana in Raging Bull and The Godfather Part III, respectively. Even Woody Allen rang true with all that heady S. Prokofiev in Love and Death—though it assuredly was in homage to the master musician’s collaborations with Eisenstein.

I want to see more directors do this. There’s plenty of classical pieces out there that can have a symbiotic effect: enhancing a motion picture considerably while renewing interest in the music. It would be deserved interest, too, and perhaps save these works from being confined solely to connoisseurs’ quarters. Plus, it would expose more folks to these compositions, sell more soundtracks and prevent people from thinking Alex North’s scores should’ve replaced the tunes in films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Would every film have the impact The King’s Speech had? No. But it would be a smart beginning, and the potential benefits are significant.

As long as Hollywood doesn’t get its hands on any Mahler symphonies, that is.