The Double-Bill Divide

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The Double-Bill Divide

The tuxes have been returned to their wardrobes, the dresses have been handed back to their designers and – if there’s any justice in the world – some underpaid catering temps are now swigging down whatever’s left of the overpriced champagne. That pompous orgy of self-congratulatory excess that’s otherwise known as the 81st Academy Awards is now officially over and I, for one, am glad to see the back of it.

It wasn’t such a good night for Mickey Rourke, of course. Despite all the rumours and speculation beforehand he didn’t walk away with the Best Actor award. Was F. Scott Fitzgerald right when he said “There are no second acts in American lives”? Maybe, maybe not. You’d have to ask him. If you had to ask me, I’d say that the Academy judges have never really forgiven Rourke for Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Can’t say I blame them.

But let’s not feel too sorry for Rourke. He may look as odd as a shark’s knee, but at least he got a nomination. That’s more than some actors could ever hope for. Lets spare a thought, then, for that class of screen performer who will never get the opportunity to raise that famous gold geezer, blubber like an idiot and Thank the Academy. They’re the forgotten few, they’re Hollywood’s underclass, the people the Oscar judges would like us to forget.

They are, of course, the kings and queens of straight-to-video action movies.

Jean-Claude Van Damme. Steven Seagal. Chuck Norris. Cynthia Rothrock. Dolph Lundgren. Their names have launched hundreds of “high-octane action extravaganzas.” Their fists have bust a thousand faces. They often do their own stunts. And yet, not one of these people has ever received an Academy Award nomination. To the Oscar judges they’re no better than ex-porn stars or struggling screenwriters. If they ever got invited to the Academy Awards it’d probably be in order to beef-up the security, or possibly sweep up the stage.

The gap between the Oscar-hopefuls and the Oscar-hopeless has never seemed greater. There seems to be an unbreachable celuloid ceiling that divides the Academy-sanctioned A-Listers and the stars of such classics as Kickboxer 2 and Red Scorpion. But is that really the case? By embracing the methodology of the popular movie geek parlour game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon – in which an elaborate daisychain of film roles and co-stars is constructed between actors – it soon becomes apparent that the gap between the Kates, Brads and Angelinas of this world and the Chucks, Dolphs and Jean-Claudes is narrower than you might think.

In fact, they’re rarely more than two films apart…

Kate Winslet and Dolph Lundgren

She starred in the most successful movie of all-time, has been Oscar-nominated no less than five times and was the winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Actress; he is the star of such classics as The Punisher, Dark Angel and Universal Soldier. What possible connection could there be?

Well, Winslet appeared 2005’s Romance and Cigarettes alongside Christopher Walken, who appeared in crap 80s Bond-flick A View To A Kill with Dolph Lundgren.

Sean Penn and Chuck Norris

Penn is a left-wing political activist who won his second Best Actor Oscar in this year’s ceremony. Norris is a right-wing political activist who has won countless martial arts trophies. Penn was once married to Madonna, while Norris looks better with a beard.

Sean Penn appeared in Barry Levinson’s What Just Happened (2008) alongside Mark Ivinir, who appeared in the 2005 direct-to-DVD Chuck Norris flick, The Cutter.

Meryl Streep and Cynthia Rothrock

Meryl Streep has won the Best Actress Oscar on two separate occasions (for Kramer vs Kramer in 1979 and Sophie’s Choice in 1983) and has been nominated by the Academy a staggering 13 times. She is considered by many to be the finest actress of her generation. Cynthia Rothrock is the star of China O’Brien, Irrisistible Force and Lady Dragon. She is considered by many to be the finest martial artist to appear in China O’Brien, Irrisistible Force and Lady Dragon.

Meryl Streep appeared in the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate which also featured Darrell Larson; he appeared in Eye for an Eye (1996) alongside Cynthia Rothrock.

Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme

Jean Claude Van Damme is known as ‘The Muscles from Brussels’ because of his well-toned physique and the fact he was born in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe district of Brussels; Brad Pitt has never had a colourful nickname or kick-ass sobrqiuet because he’s so famous he doesn’t need one. (And he was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, which doesn’t rhyme with anything.)

Pitt was Oscar-nominated for David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which also featured Elton LeBlanc, who appeared in the Van Damme’s 2007 actioner, Until Death.

Angelina Jolie and Steven Seagal

What can be said about Angelina Jolie that hasn’t been said in countless supermarket tabloids? How about this:

Angelina Jolie appeared as herself in 2008’s Confessions of an Action Star which also featured Peter Jason; he appeared in the 1996 Seagal actioner The Glimmer Man.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Lambert

The first is a highly-respected charactor best known for his powerful, nuanced portrayals of often complex characters; the second is best known for his powerful, nuanced portrayal of a decapitation-averse, dubiously-accented Scotsman in the Highlander movie series.

Hoffman appeared in Todd Solondz Happiness (1998) alongside Jon Lovitz, who appeared in Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (2006) alongside Christopher Lambert.

Finally, I’d like to pass on a personal message to Oscar-nominated Frank Langella. Dolph sends his regards. He thought your performance as Tricky Dicky in Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon was “really good” and he’s sorry to hear you didn’t get an Oscar.

But never mind, eh? You’ll always be his Skeletor.

(Thanks to The Oracle of Bacon and its handy movie-link finder for making this post far less labour-intensive than it might otherwise have been.)


About the Author:

My name is Tom Lennon and I'm a freelance writer who specialises in humour at the geekier end of the pop culture spectrum. I'm based in Birmingham, UK, and my work has recently appeared in BuzzFeed and Time Out.

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