Bayside resident Mark Metcalf is an actor who has worked in movies, TV and on the stage. He is best known for his work in "Animal House," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Seinfeld."
In addition to his work on screen, Metcalf is involved with the Milwaukee International Film Festival, First Stage Children's Theater and a number of other projects.
He also finds time to write about movies for OnMilwaukee.com. This week, Metcalf weighs in on three films from last year --"Waitress," "Perfect Stranger" and "The Reaping."
When you know that Adrienne Shelly, the writer / director and one of the stars of "Waitress," was murdered by a man who was working in her building, who stole from her and strangled her when she accused him of it and started to call the police ... when you know that and watch the movie, it becomes a very sad experience.
The movie itself is very lighthearted, fun, sensitive and caring. It is perceptive of the human condition and ironic enough to be funny with a great sense of theatrical style. It is really a nice movie with a good performance by Keri Russell in the middle. It makes it very sad not just because of the stupid murder of a young woman and mother, but also because the film is good and she is a director that you would want to see develop and do more work.
She was murdered before she heard that her film had been accepted at the Sundance Film Festival. And her 3-year old daughter plays the part of Russell's daughter at the very end of the film. It's a wonderful film. As I said, it is very lighthearted and upbeat, and not in a sappy way. And, she was murdered by a thief. If you're not sad now, you should look at some pictures from Darfur or try to imagine how to extricate the U.S. from the morass of Iraq. But, watch the movie. It's a lot of fun.
PERFECT STRANGER (2007)
I watched this movie twice and was three-quarters of the way through the second time before I realized that I had been there before. That's how memorable and good it is. Is not -- that's what I'm trying to say. It's not good, except for Giovanni Ribisi, who gives a good moment-to-moment performance as a computer geek obsessed with Halle Berry, in a script that makes very little sense. It is not worth watching even once.
THE REAPING (2007)
Again, a movie was created and I'm not sure why. The central character is a woman who was an ordained minister, but lost her child and her husband to religious zealots in the Sudan and lost her faith. She then went very far in the other direction and became a scientist who debunks religious phenomena.
In this film, she goes to a small Southern town that appears to be experiencing the 10 Biblical plagues. During the crisis, she regains her faith, loses her best friend, tries to kill, but then adopts, a child who may or may not be the child of God and discovers she is, somewhat mysteriously, pregnant with the child of the Devil's human emissary.
Is that enough plot for you?
Hilary Swank is the woman and she is either dressed in semi-transparent dresses or in very tight tank tops and jeans throughout the movie. There are a lot of special effects, of course, since they have to replicate the 10 plagues. There is also a good deal of blood -- an entire river of it, in fact. And, the device that is now common to most Hollywood movies, the classic misdirection.
We are led to believe one thing and the opposite, or nearly opposite, turns out to be true. And all they have to do is tell us. Things like plot logic are unnecessary. That is especially true in a Biblical story, since we are dealing with miracles most of the time and miracles, by definition, defy logic. We are surprised, shocked, stunned and don't know why we couldn't have figured that all out sooner.
If we had, of course, there would be no need for the movie. Which brings me back to my initial question: Why does a movie like this exist? I think the only answer is: to frighten us. Do you need more fear in your life? I don't.
Mark Metcalf is an actor and owner of Libby Montana restaurant in Mequon. Still active in Milwaukee theater, he's best known for his roles as Neidermeyer in "Animal House" and as The Maestro on "Seinfeld."
Originally from New Jersey, Metcalf now lives in Bayside.