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MFF Special: Bill Paxton = Awesome

March 1, 2017

Bill Paxton has always been one of my favorite actors and between Tombstone, Aliens, Near Dark, A Simple Plan, Edge of Tomorrow, Frailty, Apollo 13, Twister, Weird Science, Club Dread and Edge of Tomorrow he has been in some fantastic films that I can watch over and over. When the news broke that he passed away I started thinking about his filmography and how great it was. The following post praises all things Paxton and hopefully introduces you to his wonderful filmography.

1. Frailty is the Bomb

Frailty is a fantastic horror film that is totally earnest and powerful. I love that it has built up an audience and some are claiming it is an unheralded cult classic. If you are looking for a powerful movie that was directed with love by Bill Paxton you need to see Frailty. I was going to write more about it but Roger Ebert summed it up perfectly:

Perhaps only a first-time director, an actor who does not depend on directing for his next job, would have had the nerve to make this movie. It is uncompromised. It follows its logic right down into hell. We love movies that play and toy with the supernatural, but are we prepared for one that is an unblinking look at where the logic of the true believer can lead? There was just a glimpse of this mentality on the day after 9/11, when certain TV preachers described it as God’s punishment for our sins, before backpedaling when they found such frankness eroded their popularity base.

On the basis of this film, Paxton is a gifted director; he and his collaborators, writer Brent Hanley, cinematographer Bill Butler and editor Arnold Glassman, have made a complex film that grips us with the intensity of a simple one. We’re with it every step of the way, and discover we hardly suspect where it is going.

Check out this Frailty clip. You will see Paxton did a great job of acting and directing.


2. He Had to Deal With a Predator, a Terminator  and a Lot of Aliens. 

Bill Paxton didn’t have much luck against angry creatures or robots. He met his end against a Predator (Predator 2), a Xenomorph (Aliens), a Groundhog Day alien (Edge of Tomorrow) and most likely suffered a concussion from a badass robot (Terminator). However, the role that he is most remembered for is Hudson in Aliens. What makes Hudson works so well is how he is justifiably freaked out by the xenomorphs. If I was stuck in a life-or-death battle with aliens with acid blood I would become a realist like Hudson too. However, he hung tough to the very end and I love that he went down swinging.


3. Coconut Pete is the Best

Sonuva, sonuva bitch. Mother, mother, f**ker

I am one of the few people on this planet who still fights for Club Dread. It is immensely watchable and Bill Paxton is a big reason why it is so fun. His Coconut Pete character is a somehwat famous musician who has always been overshadowed by Jimmy Buffet. You could tell that Paxton loved every second of playing Coconut Pete and that is why the performance just gets better and better. I love Coconut Pete’s songs and hopefully people will know what I’m talking about when I quote Pina Coladaburg.


4.  Dude Was a Great Slimeball (True Lies), Jerk (Weird Science), Dirtball (Nightcrawler) and Jerky Vampire (Near Dark)

I love that Bill Paxton could play a whole lot of dirtbags differently. He could grow a sweet flatop and be a massive jerk  in Weird Science, or he could somehow slime Jamie Lee Curtis away from the massive Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies. Bill Paxton’s slimy characters will never not be awesome and you will keep finding more and more layers to his jerkness.  If you haven’t watched Near Dark or Nightcrawler  I totally recommend you check them out. You won’t be disappointed.


5.  A Simple Plan is a Perfect Thriller

Thrillers don’t get any better than A Simple Plan. Sam Raimi’s noir is damn near perfect and Bill Paxton’s descent into violence was excellent. I love how blue-collar it is and you can’t help but feeling terrible for all the characters. Once again Roger Ebert wrote a great review about the film and I had to quote it. 

“A Simple Plan” is one of the year’s best films for a lot of reasons, including its ability to involve the audience almost breathlessly in a story of mounting tragedy. Like the reprehensible “Very Bad Things,” it is about friends stumbling into crime and then stumbling into bigger crimes in an attempt to conceal their guilt. One difference between the two films is that “A Simple Plan” faces its moral implications, instead of mocking them. We are not allowed to stand outside the story and feel superior to it; we are drawn along, step by step, as the characters make compromises that lead to unimaginable consequences.

The performances can be described only as flawless: I could not see a single error of tone or feeling. Paxton, Thornton, Fonda and Briscoe don’t reach, don’t strain and don’t signal. They simply embody their characters, in performances based on a clear emotional logic that carries us along from the beginning to the end. Like Richard Brooks’ “In Cold Blood” (1968), this is a film about ordinary people capable of monstrous deeds.

Check out this awesome interview between Ebert and Paxton and watch the clip below. You will love it.


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