Winning losers

Overhearing a discussion on best film quotes on the radio earlier, I got to thinking about a few of my own favourites. “No fucking Merlot”. Now, there’s one I managed to misquote and rapidly rip the arse out of by converting it into an annoying euphemism for a grave warning against any activity requiring a grave warning. Weddings. Work. Worshipping. And other activities possibly beginning with W. Weeding. Waxing. Weight-watchers etc.

That thought led to another that had me mentally flicking through my favourite losers on film:

Paul Giamatti in Sideways

Our man with the original irrational objection to a certain grape whose name we’ll not risk repeating. If ever a gong were to be given for best hang-dog face, Giamatti would be hangover head and shoulders above the competition. He was already a serious contender with his turn in American Splendour. But it was as Miles, the down – and almost out – aspiring writer, he was crowned King of the anti-heroes. Poor Miles. His pleading eyebrows at risk of being upstaged by his mournful hairline. Suffering the ignominy of another rejected manuscript. Devastated to learn his ex-wife is about to get re-married, he seeks sanctuary in glass after bottle after crate of the only faithful partner in life – wine.

His unbearable sadness is stemmed in the closing scene by an answer machine message that leaves a spaghetti junction of tears down my face every time I watch it. Everything is going to be OK, Miles. I hope.

Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine

Most gong-giving ceremonies are a load of cack, but the omission of Ryan Gosling from the short-list for his performance in this was a serious miscarriage of justice. He had already nailed the mixed-up modern day village idiot tenderly in Lars and The Real Girl. At times, he was hellish to watch here. The forwards/backwards chronicling of his disintegrating relationship with Cindy (Michelle Williams) meant he essentially had to play two different people throughout the film. We go from Dean, the charming ukulele serenading seducer to Dean, the receding hair-lined fugitive from drive and ambition, with a fondness for an evening beer over breakfast. Dean externalises his feelings, therefore doing double the work required of the more reticent Cindy. Bagging a pair of puffy black eyes from a brutal beating was not enough to keep her.

Richard E. Grant in Withnail & I

No further words of appreciation can be awarded to this tweed-coat wearing icon that haven’t already been uttered in a hectic scramble to get in first with the quotes. So I’ll leave it there. OK, just let me have the one – “Monty! You terrible cunt”

David Thewlis in Naked

It wouldn’t be a list of losers without a Mike Leigh creation featuring in the mix. So many to choose from. Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies. Timothy Spall in All Or Nothing. But there’s really no-one to rival David Thewlis’s Johnny in terms of eloquent speechifying, overbearing nihilism, reckless provocation, and self-destruction. Johnny erupts on to the screen to do his darndest to push everyone away including the audience. He would succeed, if he wasn’t such compelling viewing. Like the mumblings of that old drunk who rummaged through the bin next to the chipper where I once worked, his diatribes are shot through with moments of lucid brilliance. Like Johnny, it wasn’t hard to guess a thousand let-downs in his life shoved him out of safety onto a city street with a bench that became his bed.

Thewlis went on to appear in Harry Potter. How the damaged have fallen.

Bill Murray in Lost in Translation

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Bob Harris….”

Feel free to add your favourites…

3 thoughts on “Winning losers

  1. With you on Richard E Grant. Does Mo from “The Simpsons” count??! I’ve always felt sorry for Tom in the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons when Spike the bulldog is in them, he doesn’t stand a chance. In fact I have a memorable image of hapless Tom on my pinboard at work. Note to self – why can I only think of hapless cartoon characters…..

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