Thursday, January 14, 2016

Five Curtain Calls

Sir Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman): "You're just going to have to figure out what it wants. What is its motivation?"
Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen): "It's a rock monster. It doesn't have motivation."
Sir Alexander Dane: "See, that's your problem, Jason. You were never serious about the craft."
Galaxy Quest (1999).

Noting the passing of Alan Rickman.

"It's our favorite Christmas movie!" my daughter noted as we discussed the death of actor Alan Rickman. She was, of course, talking about Die Hard, the quintessential tough guy movie starring Bruce Willis as the good guy, and Rickman as the slick, amazingly bright and deviously murderous bad guy. Having hatched an ingenious plan to break into an impenetrable safe in the Nakatomi Building, his team is foiled by one last locking device. Fortunately, federal law enforcement intervenes. Rickman's Hans Gruber says with characteristic irony "You ask for a miracle, I give you the F...B...I."

If one picture is worth a thousand words, Rickman could make one word conjure a thousand images. In the first Harry Potter movie, playing the sublimely sinister Professor Snape, he puts the already-famous Potter on the spot with a question the protege cannot answer. "Pity," Snape says. One would run out of synonyms for the word disdain before the true depth of a single utterance received its due.

It was in the movie Galaxy Quest that the Greer family discovered Rickman's best voice. "A treasure trove of movie lines" is how our daughter described his performance. His character, a Shakespearean actor forced into a Spock-like role in the truly mediocre Sci Fi series, laments an oft-recited, tiredly maudlin line. Until, the cast of the TV show is thrust into a real-life space battle. A crew member lay dying. Dr. Lazarus (Rickman) says, gravely, repeating the hated phrase - "You shall be...avenged."

Only Rickman could extract such a deep, abiding affection with crisp diction, deep and supple voice and convincing delivery from such high camp. He was a supremely convincing actor of enormous breadth. He was a criminal mastermind, starship crew member and professor of "Defense Against the Dark Arts." Or, as has been universally noted by coworkers - a true professional who was also a good man.

Farewell sir.

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