Bruce Dern Scene-Chewing Hall of Greatness
1. The Laughing Policeman (1973) – A weird little movie. There’s possibly two people reading right now that have seen it. Dern plays Matthau’s short-fuse, talk-the-paint-from-the-walls partner. Contains what is easily the best line of Dern’s career: (to an overweight cop) “I see that you’ve been putting in some overtime with the ‘ol knife and fork.”
2. The Driver (1978) – Nothing beats Dern as an obsessed cop, and he played a lot of them. If you’ve yet to see a good Walter Hill film, here’s a great place to start. Good example of the tail end of great American 70’s cinema. You can have your French New-Wave (granted, probably the biggest influence on American 70’s cinema), your post-1990 indie bullshit, and whatever quasi-intellectual concerns that you don’t understand but claim to. In the 70’s, with a year or two of before-and-after wiggle room, American directors, writers, and cinematographers created the greatest genre/period of film EVER. Disagree? Welcome to WRONG MOUNTAIN, start climbing! Wow, that was a stupid closing line.
3. The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) – Dern is the only redeeming quality of this misguided (and unofficial) Five Easy Pieces sequel.
4. Silent Running (1972) – My favorite Rated-G movie. Not sure it’s ever a good idea to confine a mouthy character actor alone in a space station.
5. Coming Home (1978) – Next time I get tempted to watch this Vietnam vet emotional holocaust, I’ll stick my head in the oven instead.
6. Black Sunday (1978) – The blimp-over-the-stadium scene still kills. As paranoia films go, this has a 50% hit-rate.
7. “Big Love” (an HBO original series, coz!!) – I once said that a show with Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Paxton, and Bruce Dern must be VERY bad to keep me away. That definitive comment has since met with some trademark Earles apathy. I am not passionate about it. That last sentence serves to state that there ARE television shows that pull the passion right out of my stomach, leaving the butterflies to deal with the bleeding peptic ulcer (no brown/tree liquor, no gin, no rum, no tequila…..conversely, vodka, beer, wine, and some liqueurs make the cut). Well, there’s one, and it’s called “The Wire.” Communicating any degree of distaste for “The Wire” gets one a coupon for a free exit from my life. There are those that do, and those that don’t. What all of this means is….I’ve watched and enjoyed 6 or 7 episodes of “Big Love.” It lacks, or I lack, that very special something.
8. Thumb Tripping (1972) – Bad Movie + Dern = Watch It!! (Remember this equation)