The Boyfriend of the Week

July 11, 2000

I've been thinking about running James Cromwell for a couple of weeks now -- ever since I rented "L.A. Confidential" back when I was researching Russell Crowe. But I knew it was a sign from the Great Boyfriend Diety (GBD) when he showed up in three things I saw last week. It just doesn't get anymore cosmically clear than that. Sometimes the GBD is about as subtle as a chainsaw.

The first James Cromwell Message From Above took the form of the movie "The Green Mile," which I rented two weekends ago when I was home by myself. Now, this movie is no "film," as a friend of mine would say, but it's not nearly as bad as you think it is (and that goes for those of you who haven't seen it as well as for those of you who have). I'm sure you're all aware by now that I'll watch just about anything (research), so I wouldn't take this endorsement as an actual endorsement. But you CAN take it as a reason NOT to email me telling me you thought it was the best movie EVER and how dare I slam on it so hard. Likewise, the opposite holds true (you can't slam on me for not slamming hard enough on it). I like to keep all exits open and ready for business.

Now, James has relatively small role in "The Green Mile," but his character is a total heartstring-tugger -- he plays the husband of a woman who is dying a painful, slow, agonizing death from cancer. He's totally madly in love with her and he knows he's going to lose her. Ugh. I really have very low tolerance for cute guys who are very, very sad. It just kills me to see it. But, luckily (and one must continue to remind oneself of this from time to time), it's all just acting! (Brilliant! Thank you.)

You know, now that I think about it, the second James Cromwell sighting was also kind of depressing. Early last week Cromwell turned up in the "Little House on the Prarie" storyline on TBS and was in a few episodes, playing a guy that Almonzo's spinstery sister (Eliza Jane) falls in love with. He was an absolute sweetheart on the show -- a boyish man who was a close friend of Almonzo and started to join the two for dinners. After dinner, he often let Eliza walk him to his buggy. There they would talk about the stars and their futures and all kinds of romantic stuff. These talks led to two very important revelations (one per character). Happily, Eliza Jane's revelation was that she was madly in love for the first time in her life (with James). Unhappily, James also realized he was in love for the first time, only the objet d' his amour was a chick back in Mancato. Crikey.

By the end of the episodes following this plotline, I tell you, my heart was just as broken as poor Eliza's. Because, as I'm sure you all know, nothing sucks worse than when you love somebody very super incredibly much and they just don't love you back. Ugh, I say again. However, (education time!) as Harry in Faulkner's "If I Forget Thee Jerusalem" says, while crushing his cyanide tablet against the bars of his cell's window, "Between grief and nothing, I'll take grief." And I guess I will too. Better to have loved and lost and all that jazz.

But, man, what a bummer this is turning out to be. Gads! New topic! So, anyway, I was eating breakfast one morning (LHotP is on every morning here at 6am) and I looked up to see who the charming new guy on the show was and lo and behold, it was James Cromwell! And I thought, "Hey, that's James Cromwell! Go figure." Then I finished my breakfast, set the tape to catch the episode that comes on at 7, and went to work. And thus the seed planted by Russell Crowe and Stephen King began now to bud.

It burst into full bloom, though, when last weekend my mom and I rented "Snow Falling on Cedars" and who should show up as the judge but (you'll never guess) JAMES CROMWELL! It was at this point that I finally sat up and started to pay attention to the signals from the Great Boyfriend Diety (who must be getting really tired of the fact I don't respond well to gentle hinting, since now s/he is just coming right up and smackin' me in the face) (although this sure makes my life a lot easier, I must say). Yes, oh Diety of the Boyfriends, I hear thee and obey!

Now, truth be told, I was a little bit wary of "Snow Falling on Cedars" because I absolutely loved the novel and this can often mean I'll think the movie is a total disaster. However, despite the fact I thought it was maybe a little too drawn out for the average movie-goer to appreciate, it was absolutely BEAUTIFULLY made. The filmography was stunning, the acting terrific, and all the right things (and none of the wrong) were left out of the book's story to make the movie fit into its considerably shorter amount of space. Great work, troops! Also, I have to say I was incredibly moved and impressed by the amazing visual motif that ran through the picture, though I didn't notice it right away and will need to go back and watch it again paying closer attention this time. In case you have NO idea what I'm talking about, did you notice how many scenes were shot through glass? Windows, mostly. And also, the main character and his father spend a LOT of time moving their eyeglasses around -- holding them, taking them off, putting them on, etc. It was something that wasn't in the novel but which very effectively (in my opinion) got one of the major themes across -- there are many ways to see things and what you see them through (say, your own personal issues, for example) can have a distorting effect on how you perceive and respond to them. Just masterful and beautiful and all that good stuff and yay!

Oh, and did I mention James Cromwell was in it? (Choo-choo!) (That's a reference to last week's "train of thought" paragraph.) He has a pretty small role again -- the judge in the trial -- but it was sure nice to hear that voice. That voice is one of my absolute favorite things about James. It's such a kind voice. A "gentle-giant" sort of voice, if you know what I mean. And so effective in all the various roles I've seen him in. First as the farmer in "Babe" (boy, did he look good in overalls or what?), then as the rocket scientist in "Star Trek First Contact." Then as the police chief in "L.A. Confidential," though I really thought his accent in that movie wasn't as solid as it could've been. Then in Little House, then in Snow Falling, and etc. Even when he's playing a bad guy, his voice is perfect because it tricks you into trusting him. But since he's usually playing a good guy, you're tricked into trusting him and then everything turns out swell, which is always nice.

Incidentally, according to his IMDB page, James (and, not coincidentally, James' wonderful voice) has been in about a billion movies and a million television shows (including "All in the Family," "Law and Order," "Star Trek: Next Generation," "MASH," "Life Goes On," and, of course, everyone's favorite, "Knight Rider"). But, James says it wasn't until he made "Babe" that he really decided to stick with the career. He was getting burned out on bit parts, sort of feeling like he hadn't lived up to his potential (all three parents, mom dad step-mom, are famous and successful theater people). Then "Babe" hit, the crowd went wild, and James was suddenly giving interviews about what it was like to be nominated for an Academy Award (which he didn't win, but who cares?). Thank god (or even GBD) for "Babe," too. Not only is THAT a terrific movie, but it jump-started Cromwell's career and we are now reaping the rewards, la la la!

On an interesting trivial (as in, "it is trivia" not "it is unimportant") note, James, who is a vegan, recently had the opportunity to save a real live piggy from the slaughter (not to suggest that Babe isn't a real piggy or anything, but you know what I mean). Apparently, a school in his town had a group of kids who had raised a pig for a 4-H project and then were forced to auction it off at a school fair. It was bought by a bacon-maker (yee-gads!) and the kids nearly had a heart attack. But PETA swept in and paid the bacon-guy off. James Cromwell heard about what was going on and offered to take the little pig in (well, actually, it was probably not very little). And now the kids can go visit their baby whenever they want to. Isn't that just the nicest thing EVER? What a total sweetheart!

And, not only is James a vegan pig-rescuing talented actor, he's also a cartoonist and is in the process of writing a science fiction novel (which won't be much of a stretch considering how many Star Trek episodes he and/or family members have been in). James has gone on the record saying he firmly believes in non-terrestrial intelligence (me too, James!) and so maybe them aliens out there heard that and are channeling a really cool story through JC right now as we speak. I cannot wait to read that novel! The secrets of the universe unveiled! Oh boy! (Oh, brother.)

Anyway, as you can see, James Cromwell is really a jack-of-all-trades. He acts! He draws! He writes! He rescues 4-H projects from certain death! And everything he does, he does well. And everything he does well he also does very cutely. And everything done cutely scores you major points in my book. Which is why James Cromwell is my Boyfriend this week. The End.

MacGyver Factor Score: 94.8%. Points off because I have a cold and am cranky.

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