The Boyfriend of the Week


July 17, 2000

If you read last week's write-up, and you are savvy enough to make the connection, you know exactly what this week's selection for Boyfriend of the Week is doing here. Want a clue? Ethan Hawke and James Cromwell were in a movie together that I just saw. And loved. Want another clue? The title of the movie starts with "Snow," ends with "Cedars," and has a "Falling On" in the middle.

Great work! You're correct! Ethan played the main character in "Snow Falling On Cedars," [Call Me] Ishmael Chambers. The lovesick reporter (my favorite kind) who has to battle between his emotions and his sense of right and wrong. Poor guy. I hate battles like that. I'm absolutely abominable at them.

Anyway, the timing worked out well, as I've actually been kind of a reluctant fan of Ethan Hawke's ever since I was a youngin' and have unconsciously been looking for an excuse to put him up here. Of course, the movie that started the entire crush was, duh, "Dead Poets Society," in which Ethan plays a totally lost little literary lamb (la la la). Do not even attempt to tell me that movie didn't make you fall head-over-sneakers in love with Ethan too. Because if you say you did not, you are SUCH a big fat liar and everybody will know it. In fact, a quick look at Ethan's IMDB page tells me the truth is I've loved Ethan in 8 of his 22 movies and only can't say I loved him in the other [x=22-8] (you do the math) because I haven't seen them OR because they were "Reality Bites," which I have to dispise on principle.

And while we're on depising things on principle, I will admit that one of the big things Ethan had going against him in my book was HIS book. But I'm not actually going to make that an official declaration because, as a librarian (and thus being very anti-censorship), I am 100% against despising anything you haven't seen (here, read) with your own two eyes. No banning books you haven't read first (and, really, no banning at all, but ESPECIALLY if you're going on hearsay). No badmouthing movies you haven't seen (yes, I've seen "Reality Bites"). etc. etc. But still, I heard (which doesn't count officially yet does factor in) that it's very "Generation X" and, as a member of the group who has been classified by that hideous and totally used-out-of-context phrase (jeez, did the guy who started that even READ the Coupland book?), I have to stand categorically against anything described by it. Thus spake Megathustra.

I promise I will right now this very minute go put it on reserve at the library, though, and report back to you after I've read it. Please feel free to email me in the meantime to tell me I'm a big stupid jerk and am totally and completely wrong about the book in every single way. Well, maybe you could leave out the big stupid jerk part.

The problem with hating Ethan for his novel is twofold. First, the root of this disdain lies not only in the Gen-X crappola, but in the fact that I hate everyone who is approximately my age and has published a novel. The root of this hatred lies in the fact that it makes me extremely jealous and mad at myself. Because, you see, nobody's published MY novel, mostly due to the fact that I haven't written one. But still, I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from, right? The second problem with hating Ethan is that he's just the most incredibly typecast underdog in the biz. I actually cannot think of a single role in the movies I've seen where Ethan does not play the sheepish, naive, loser-y type underdog. Even if ultimately he comes out on top (like in, say, "Alive" or "Gattaca"), there's no questioning the fact that he's a total dweeb on the way there. And, as you know, I cannot resist dweebs. They are just SO cute.

Even Ethan's appearance just screams "I'm a dork! Love me!" Yes, he's very very cool. He's married to Uma Thurman, for pete's sake. Does it get any cooler than that? But the coolness is all a cover, in my opinion. Ethan is every character he's ever played (and this is why he makes the perfect "Hamlet," if you ask me -- Hamlet's the biggest loser-y underdog EVER). When he gets that, "But I don't understand. Why don't you LIKE me anymore?" expression on his face (the pained one), I just want to grab him and smooch him all over.

But let's talk about something more interesting (more interesting than smooching Ethan Hawke all over? This had better be good.). Here's a little background about our favorite loser (OFL). Hawke was born in Austin, TX in 1970. His parents, who were teenagers when he was born, split up when he was still a toddler and his mother then spent the next seven years carting him around from place to place all over the country. Why this is such a big deal, I don't know. My parents didn't get divorced but they spent EIGHTEEN years carting me all around the country. And look at me -- I turned out just fine. (Shuddup.) Anyway, when Ethan's ma finally settled down, it was in Princeton Junction, New Jersey. Between that and age 14, there doesn't seem to be much info about what went on. But we all know that at the ripe old age of 14, Ethan Hawke made his screen debut in the sci-fi flick "Explorers" (with, you may remember, River Phoenix).

River Phoenix quickly went from there to stardom (the two were best pals until RP died in '93, by the way), but Ethan's career stalled and he spent the next few years doing high school plays and trying not to pout too much. After high school, he signed on to study acting at Carnegie-Mellon, but that didn't last too long (kicked out on the first day -- dunno why, though it's got to be pretty interesting since it's usually a lot harder to get kicked out of college if you are paying your tuition bills on time and by the first day of class, you still have at least a week to get that check in). Lucky for him, though, "Dead Poets Society" came along just as things were starting to look their bleakest, and it scooped him right up just like Dumbledore did to Harry Potter. Rescuing Ethan from his very own life full of stinky spoiled Dudleys. And thank god for that, too.

Because "Dead Poets Society," a movie aptly described as "terrific," was a huge hit and it jumped started Ethan's career, even though almost every movie he made after that was a flop (an undeserved flop, but a flop nonetheless). Examples: "Midnight Clear" (terrific), "Waterland" (haven't seen), "White Fang" (loved it). When "Reality Bites" came along, though, Ethan not only helped make it the disgusting success that it was, but he also got Gen-X'd, which means he was suddenly transformed from a cute kid into a maudlin slob who, as he will admit himself, "can sound so unbelievably pretentious."

Lucky for him, he went on to make a few more movies that have helped him shake that image a bit (plus, marrying the super-cool Uma was a smart move). "Gattaca" and "Snow Falling on Cedars" did wonders for him in my book (meaning they got me to stop sneering and start paying attention). And I hear "Joe the King" (co-starring Val Kilmer) is pretty cool too.

Films aside, Ethan has also done a TON of other stuff. He wrote a novel for one (jury still out), but he also directed a music video for pal Lisa Loeb and co-founded a New York theater company called "Malaparte" (with fellow Dead Poet Robert Sean Leonard). He's attempted to go back to college for a degree in literature a few times but keeps getting a movie deal and has to quit. Tough life. In 1998, however, Ethan took on the hardest role of his life. Cuz that's when his daughter Maya Ray was born. Though I have to admit, it's pretty hard picturing Ethan as a responsible father-figure. Still, I assume that since the family is still together and eveybody's still married, he's doing a pretty decent, if not fabulous, job. Go Ethan!

It looks like "Hamlet" is the only thing Ethan's got for the year 2000 so far. I'm a little reluctant about it, mostly because of all the Shakespeare plays, Hamlet is the one I've read the most times, seen the most times, and heard about the most times. And I've never really liked it all that much. However, a trusted source of film review information tells me it is pretty good and that the variation of setting makes it well worth putting aside my Hamletaphobia. May not run right out and slap down $7.50 for it, but I'll rent it when it hits video. In the meantime, if you've seen it, feel free to email me with your two-cents worth. And let's hope Ethan doesn't take too long a break between this and whatever's next because now that I've admitted to myself that he's a dreamboat, I'm going to start getting kind of antsy.

MacGyver Factor Score: 94.5%. I took points off because I read a few interviews with Ethan on-line and he really does have a tendency to sound kind of snotty. Oh, I'm sure it's just the dorky shy bit, but one can never be too careful about these things. In any case, it's not like I'd really want to do anything that might upset Uma since she's about a foot taller than me and has nails that look like they could seriously scratch my eyes out.

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