Oh That Guy #6
Europe smells bad. Or, to put a less dopey spin on it, let’s say that those of you who have travelled overseas to the Old World, may have noticed that things smell a bit differently over there. No actor on the “Oh That Guy” radar screen personifies the smelliness of European cities like Peter Stormare does. “Eurotrash” is a derogatory term for people who look like Stormare, and who possibly smell like him too. Greasy hair, sunken eyes, and a skin pigment suggesting a lack of health and hygiene will cue viewers in as to what I mean.
The word “nerd” has undergone a metamorphosis in popular culture. It is now almost taken as a compliment to be labeled as a nerd. Trying to pull a similar reverse-demonization with a term like “eurotrash” will be more difficult, but let’s give it try anyway, because Stormare is an actor who deserves the effort.
Armageddon: “Armageddon” is a ridiculous movie, as I said in my blog about William Fichtner. It is filled with the some of the most laughable nonsense to ever be captured by a production company. But this is not to degrade its entertainment value. “Armageddon” may be the greatest of entertaining, bad movies. In it, Stormare plays Lev Andropov, an underpaid, unappreciated, overworked, and isolated space-servant of the former Soviet Union. Now, I love my country and consider myself an American Patriot, but we have excesses of moronic thought and ignorance in this country. “Armageddon” plays to crowds who are so afflicted, and silliness permeates through every thing and every person in this movie. Lev is a disheveled, hungover Russian, constantly plagued with malfunctioning equipment. He is a caricature, in other words. But, Stormare portrays this caricature with ease, and has as much fun as he can with the role. Lev will not remind viewers that Russians have made significant contributions to civilization. In “Armageddon” world, Russians are bungling drunkards, not classical composers, gloomy novelists or exciting hockey players. “Armageddon” is about saving civilization, but not understanding it. Fair enough. What else should we expect from Michael Bay?
Fargo: You can almost smell the foul potpourri of cigarette smoke and body odor when the vacant killer, Gaear Grimsrud (Stormare), is in frame in the very odd “Fargo.” Swedes like Stormare often have such a natural command of English, that their accents are scarcely detected, if they are detected at all. This is the case in “Fargo”, and Stormare brings the darkest shades of humor to this dark comedy, which is no small task, given that Steve Buscemi is his co-star. Stormare is a master of the blank stare, and he uses it with great skill in “Fargo”, concealing black thoughts behind black eyes. Possessing little dialogue in the film does not prevent Stormare from portraying Grimsrud as a person who is endlessly disgusted with human beings; a character trait that would probably be helpful in criminal careers. “Fargo” showed audiences that wood chippers can have...multiple uses. Stormare uses. Hilarious, amoral, Swedish uses. Uses that make the wood chipper scene in “Fargo” an icon of unsettling, gruesome humor. A fine achievement. But the most hysterical scene that uses Stormare’s patented hollow gaze is found elsewhere in the film, and can be seen below.
The Big Lebowski: This movie is a victim of its own success. On its own, its pretty good, but due to endless quoting sessions and excessive shoutings of “shut the fuck up, Donny”, “The Big Lebowski” has been tainted by dudes incapable of shutting the fuck up themselves. There are plenty of movies that suffer a similar fate. “Scarface”, “Reservior Dogs” and “Seven” are all great movies that people are simply tired of hearing about. Stormare has avoided this trap, however. As Karl Hungus, Stormare introduced nihilism as a concept into popular culture, and ferrets as weapons into bathtubs. Porn lovers are familiar with the shocking ugliness of the male performers in that very valuable industry. In fact, some male porn stars are so hideous, that it distracts from the beauty of a Jenna Haze or a Tori Black. Stormare portrays such a performer in “The Big Lebowski”, and while Stormare would not be a distraction from the vixens listed above, he wouldn’t enhance a scene’s sexiness either. Germans are no longer known for starting world wars, but for bad haircuts and music dominated by obsolete keyboards. This is the kind of German Karl Hungus is. A Deutsch nihilist, clad in black tights, revealing an oddly proportioned physique. Nihilism is an unpleasant concept, just as nihilists are unpleasant people. Karl Hungus is an unpleasant person to behold, but not to quote. It would be nice if we could say the same for the rest of “The Big Lebowski.”
Europe is a rich, wondrous place, filled with delightful people and monuments to the world’s finest thinkers. I loved spending time there, and you will too, if you are yet to make the journey. You may also see a condom floating in the Seine river; an item that would come in handy after an evening on the Parisian brook, but probably not during. You may also see a man frantically spraying diarrhea on the sidewalks near the Vatican. Say what you will about the Catholic Church, but the Vatican is a beautiful structure and the shades of brown found in human waste just do not go well with ornate marble columns. This is the essence of “eurotrash.” So, while I may have failed in rescuing that impolite term in this blog, I hope I did not fail in pointing out Stormare’s value as an actor. He appears to be an incredibly friendly and unassuming man, as most Swedes are, which defies the misanthropy of his characters. “You can’t imagine what a great actor this guy is. He is nothing like that character. Nothing.” This is how Larry David apparently attempts to persuade others of Jason Alexander’s talent. It is probably safe to say that Stormare is nothing like Lev, Karl, or Gaear. However, he certainly is the kind of person we think of when we hear “eurotrash.” I can’t turn this term into a compliment, but perhaps Stormare can.