Why I Love... Kevin Costner Movies


24th August 2005

We all have dirty movie secrets, don't bother to deny it. Maybe you like watching romantic comedies when nobody's looking, or perhaps you harbour a secret love of MGM musicals of the 1940's and 50's. Maybe you even have a secret appreciation for the ass-clenchingly awful movies of Steven Seagal. It doesn't matter what your shame is, we all have one buried deep within our mind. So with that, I shall step fully out of the closet and admit mine in a strident, ringing voice and damn the consequences.


There, I said it and I feel better for it. But before you pelt me with fruit, search deep within yourselves and consider. And I'll bet you slowly realise that you too share my pain. But why the trauma and stigma attached to this most wholesome of wholesome? There was a time when the world loved his receding little head and garnished him with Oscars for Dances With Wolves - the film that single handedly invented white-guilt towards injuns, and made us call them Native Americans. In fact, research shows that since the film's release, sales of dreamcatchers to pudgy Caucasians have risen by 30.4%. James Cameron proclaimed himself "King of The World" when he won loads for his shitty boat film, yet Noble Handsomeman (as we shall now call him) merely smiled and said "thanks" before forming his own production company called TIG (backwards provides many a ho-ho for internet wags).

Yet now the world appears to sneer at Noble, call his films twee and suggest he has never really been that good. And you're nodding aren't you? You're saying "Yep, Handsomeman irks me." But check this list of films and see how many you actually quite enjoyed: The Untouchables, Tin Cup, Perfect World, Open Range, Wyatt Earp, Field of Dreams, JFK and No Way Out. Sure he's made some clangers, but so has Christopher Walken, yet he's regarded as the pantheon of cool. Why the hate for Handsomeman? It's just fashionable. The guy has never raped a dog, nor robbed a cripple so leave him be. Some of these films are classics.

Field of Dreams. If you don't like this film then you have no soul and probably like to dance in women's panties eating fruit. It's a sports movie with a heart. It's a movie it's okay for guys to get a lump in the throat over, because it's a manly sort of emotion to want to play catch with your long-dead father you never apologised to for offending. It's about following your heart in the face of all rationality, giving in to that nagging voice that everybody else is saying you should ignore. It has comedy ("Ray's hearing voices again!" "One!...just...just one..."), pathos, James Earl Jones saying "Back, back to the sixties!" and Ray Liotta not being a maniac in eyeliner. I defy anybody to not think of moments in their own lives when Earl Jones delivers his "Oh they will come, Ray" speech on the home-made bleachers. And Handsomeman hits the right note between cynicism and a willingness to believe, and never once does he degenerate into weeping Oscar-plea acting (Liam Neeson, I'm looking at you here with your "One more Jew, I could've saved one more" fuckage).

How about Bull Durham, another sports movie not about sports? Handsomeman is Crash Davis, an ageing once-pro ballplayer brought in to train and calm the hotshot pitcher Ebby "Nuke" Laloosh. Davis and Laloosh both have the hots for Susan Sarandon's character, who takes one player per season and trains them in her own ways of baseball (which involve reading them poetry amongst other things). It's an intelligent, witty adult romantic comedy that doesn't rely on the clichés of this genre for one moment, and it's full of memorable quotations ("You couldn't hit water if you fell out a fucking boat").
And Handsomeman plays it note-perfect again. Jaded, tired, witty, warm, sarcastic, off-hand, resigned to his fate yet furious at never quite getting where he should've been.

No one admits it, but Waterworld is a fun movie - Handsomeman as a half man/half fish? What's not to like? Dennis Hopper being his lunatic best, little girls being thrown overboard and Jeanne Tripplehorn in the nude... it's all good. No CGI, just huge explosions and a soggy Mad Max plot that thunders along and isn't ashamed to make Joey faces as it lumbers across the oceans. Everybody slates this film and I don't know why; there are far worse blockbusters out there that attempt far less and do a lot worse. If you can't enjoy a one-eyed Dennis Hopper calling Handsomeman a guppy, then you can go back to your subtitled Frenchy films and soy-milk mochachinos.

Tin Cup, another sports movie - what is it Handsomeman and sports movies? Handsomeman is a going nowhere ex-pro stuck in the middle of the desert with a busted-ass driving range, Cheech Marin for company and a nemesis in the oily shape of Don Johnson. The love interest comes from the mature-yet-fucking-sexy Rene Russo, the comedy from playing golf with a rake... it shouldn't work at all (golf does not translate well to cinema) but even the most golf-a-phobic of you will be silently clenching your fisties for the "He's gotta make this shot with his next ball" finale that does exactly what you don't expect it to do. A laconic, crass and boorish Handsomeman, plus it has Johnson being nasty to a kid - fabulous.

Forget Shean Connery'sh pish awful Irish cop with Scottish akshent and just enjoy The Untouchables. Here we have De Niro in the days he still mattered, that nerdy one from American Graffiti with a shotgun, the Odessa Steps sequence "homage" (De Palma you sneaky thief bastard), Frank Nitti's white suit, the horseback charge against bootleggers, the baseball bat dinner scene and many more. Again, another example of Handsomeman's ability to be in thoroughly entertaining films.

That's enough for the examples of individual films, because I can't be arsed to do them all. But yes, even the Robin Hood one was good fun. Sure, I don't remember Robin Hood being American, but Alan "Cancel Christmas" Rickman makes this film and almost, almost excuses that awful, awful theme song that housewives and gay men bought to keep at number one for months. So whilst you may not like Handsomeman per se, you can no longer deny that you enjoy his movies. Take a moment to think back and you'll surprise yourself when you think the following: "I can't stand the man. But I did like... and that one was quite good actually..." and so on and so on and so on.

More:  Why I Love
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