Friday, January 25, 2008

If it's not Scottish, it's craaaaaap! A speculative fiction tribute to Robbie Burns Day

Around the world, Scots and those who want to be Scots, at least for a day, are celebrating Robbie Burns Day. (Being part Scottish, like many Canadian mutts, I once attended a Burns Day dinner and chatted with the host, who proceeded to rattle off the names of about two dozen countries where the day was honored. Locally, here in Vancouver, in addition to the more traditional Burns Day suppers, we also have events marrying the classic celebration to other cultures, such as Gung Haggis Fat Choy – uniting the Chinese with the Scots. But I digress.) On this day devoted to celebrating Scotland’s National Poet and, by extension, all things Scottish, we see plenty of scotch go down (and sometimes, if enough scotch has gone down, sometimes the kilts do too). So, while downing a glass myself earlier this evening, I thought it fitting to do a salute to the Top 5 Scots of SF film and television.

5) Robbie Coltrane – For those who haven’t followed his hilarious stand-up comedy routine and comedic acting (not to mention his solid dramatic talent and his superb “Coltrane in a Cadillac” documentary), Coltrane is popularly known these days for his role as Haggrid the half-giant in the Harry Potter movie series. He makes the top 5, edging out some on the honorable mentions list, on the basis of bonus points for having made it through the movie “Krull” (a poor flick indeed) with his self-respect intact, most especially since he was sporting one of the worst-looking buzz cuts in cinematic history throughout the film.

4) Ewan McGregor – Say what you will about the Star Wars prequel trilogy, McGregor did one hell of a job of breathing life into Obi Wan Kenobi. At times, his impression of Sir Alec Guinness was so spot on it was eerie.

3) Dennis Lawson – In playing Wedge Antilles in the original Star Wars trilogy, Lawson presented the face many a fanboy could identify with – and one that was living a fanboy’s dream – the geeky lookin’ guy who became top gun and a galactic hero when he jumped into the cockpit of an X-Wing starfighter. Oh sure, Ewan McGregor’s uncle may have played a character who was a bit cautious about hitting a target as small as two metres in the Death Star’s trench, and sure he may have been made to look like a bit of a dweeb by that sword-wielding, wamprat-splattering farmboy during the mission briefing, but there was no better pilot in the Rebel Alliance than Red 2 – later Red Leader. And he didn’t let his hotshot status get in the way of handing out complements to his gunner on Hoth for a job well done. Classy guy.

2) David Tennant – The best Doctor since Tom Baker. ‘Nuff said.

1) Sean Connery – What can you say? I mean, he’s friggin Connery. The Bond films alone get him the top spot. Add to that great performances in “Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade”, “Dragonheart”, “Robin & Marian”, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (a one minute performance by Connery makes a 90 minute performance by Kevin Costner look soooooo bad), “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (say what you will about the movie, Connery represented himself well), “Time Bandits”,” Outland” and you have to admit the man has excellent SF credentials. Okay, he may lose a few points for “Zardoz”, “First Knight”, “The Avengers”, Disney’s “Darby O’Gill & The Little People” (eesh) and the truly awful “Highlander II” (okay, he may lose a lotta points for that steaming pile), but that’s the law of averages – you make a lot of movies and some are going to suck. That being said, he more than makes up for the losses with bonus points for “Highlander”, where not only did he give a good performance, he also showed great tolerance as a Scotsman playing an Egyptian-Spaniard opposite Christopher Lambert – a mumbling French actor who could hardly speak English playing a Scot. (how convoluted is that?!)

Honorable mentions:

-Billy Connolly (who only lost out to Coltrane for the number 5 slog because Coltrane kept his head high despite that buzz cut)
-Gerard Butler (a great job in “Beowulf & Grendal” and a competent enough presence in a number of other films wasn’t enough to outweigh the cheese factor of the entire production of “300” or the downright bad “Dracula 2000”)

And let’s give a hand to some honorary Scots in TV and the Movies:

-James Doohan (originally from Vancouver, BC and lived near Seattle, Washington) – Scotty. Again, ‘nuff said.

-Mike Myers (Toronto, Ontario’s own) – Shrek, Fat Bastard, and let’s not forget Stewart from the SNL “All things Scottish” sketch (not SF-related, but pretty damn funny)

-John Cleese (about as English as they come) – forget the explosions, Tim the Enchanter was enough of a bad-ass that he reduced Arthur and his cronies to nervous, self-conscious wrecks with an impatient glare in “Monty Python’s The Holy Grail”
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