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Flying High?

Friday 1 February 2013, 16:50

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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The big movie released this week is Flight with Denzel Washington as a pilot with an alcohol problem. This seems like the perfect time to list my five most memorable screen drunks - but what are yours?

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Mark reviews Flight

Denzel Washington interviewed by Simon Mayo

Denzel's Top Five

 

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    Comment number 81.

    [this comment is for the site's web guru's: this post appears to be on the wrong date, at the time of this writing you have it down as posted Wednesday 2nd January 2013, it was either posted Wednesday 30th January, or, more likely, Friday 1st February 2013]

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    Comment number 82.

    Oh, as for my two penneth worth, much agreement with many of the posters above, especially those championing the sadly overlooked Ironweed and Cutter's Way / Cutter and Bone.

    Just to add a more obscure Hollywood treasure, which I stumbled over while researching names for puppies (don't ask). Star of Midnight (1935) is a William Powell / Ginger Rodgers vehicle which clearly aims at establishing another Thin Man franchise, and it nearly seems to succeed with Powell as a bon vivant lawyer and amateur sleuth, Ginger Rodgers as a sassy sidekick and effervescent as the champagne dialogue. Maybe it was too similar for them to continue, or audiences didn't warm to the December-May Powell-Rodgers relationship, with Powell seemingly oblivious to Rodgers crush on him as an older man. Powell is rarely seen without a drink in his hand throughout, and barring the absence of lighter fluid, a drinking game based on this one would be almost as deadly as Withnail. You won't ever find more charming portrayals of functional alcoholics than Powell's.

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    Comment number 83.

    5. Steve Buscemi in the Wedding Singer - Very brief but hilarious cameo
    4. Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles - "yeah, but I shoot with this hand"
    3. John Belushi in Animal House - "Toga"
    2. Concurring with no.18 above - Drunk dad in Rita, Sue and Bob too.
    1. Jonny Depp in Fear and Loathing - there's many things contributing and drink is certainly one of them.

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    Comment number 84.

    I guess neither of these performances were sophisticated nor convincing, but they were memorable:
    Jack Nicholson - Easy Rider.
    Lee Marvin - Cat Ballou
    Betty Davis played an excellent drunk, and a psychotic one at the least.

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    Comment number 85.

    Oliver Reed's Bill Sikes in Oliver! is one that stands out. Charlize Theron in Young Adult should also get a mention.

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    Comment number 86.

    Mickey Rourke in Barfly

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    Comment number 87.

    Withnail!

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    Comment number 88.

    Oh easy one this. Charles Laughton in Hobson's Choice - hilarious.

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    Comment number 89.

    Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson in Ironweed.
    Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles.

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    Comment number 90.

    One of the greatest I've seen in recent years would be Peter Mullan in My Name is Joe.

    Of course, Joe spends most of the film sober, but when he lapses, Mullan is able to demonstrate the vicious unpredictability of a blind stupor.

    Honourable mention must also be made for the wee mouse sentenced to death by Professor Ratigan in Basil the Great Mouse Detective. He's so drunk that he's completely oblivious of the fact he's about to be eaten by the big fat cat.

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    Comment number 91.

    Peter Mullan in Tyrannosaur. A beautiful but brutal performance in a film which shows the destructive influence alcohol can hold over an individual whilst at the same time acting as the triple-distilled glue holding the local community together as shown in the wake scene.

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    Comment number 92.

    The single greatest portrayal of a drunkard is without a doubt the career-best performance as given by Cuba Gooding Jr in 2003's, RADIO. At least I think 'drunk' is what he's shooting for...right?

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    Comment number 93.

    Billy Crudup - Almost Famous

    Not just for the line "I am a Golden God" but also, because when hungover, it's the only realistic and funny performance of a hungover man I've ever seen. Even though he's on drugs, there's definitely a mixture of alcohol in there, and the end result is essentially the same. Every time I hear "I hurt the flower" I always laugh. Anyone else would just make that line seem like a desperate attempt to prove their drunkenness but Billy Crudup's mannerisms, outside of the character of Russell Hammond, are spot on.

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    Comment number 94.

    Pablo Sandoval in The Secret in Their Eyes. He's a brave and noble alcoholic, who makes a supreme sacrifice for friendship. Rocking!

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    Comment number 95.

    I second the choice of willie ross in rita sue and bob too. A fantastic performance in a vastly underrated film. I would also recommend david bowie (which is not ssomething I do very often) for his performance as the increasingly sozzled alien in Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth.

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    Comment number 96.

    Damn, beat me to it. I registered just so I could suggest Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart) in Harvey. Oh well, at least it's done.

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    Comment number 97.

    Withnail is the best - "We demand cake and the finest wines known to humanity"

    I'll nominate The Dude for his White Russians - but then have to take the nomination as he's more high than drunk.

    Got to say I'm liking Joe's call out for Robert Shaw in Jaws.... Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies....

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    Comment number 98.

    RoboCop, the drunk at the police desk... "I-I'm what you call a repeat offender. I repeat, I will offend again! I get my orders from a higher source."

    very funny.

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    Comment number 99.

    Errol Flynn, playing his mate (and fellow drunk) John Barrymore in Too Much, Too Soon

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    Comment number 100.

    Neither are lighthearted, but both Peter Mullan in My Name Is Joe and Paul Giamatti in Sideways remain near-definitive (the latter because it gave Sideways something resembling a plot).
    Jon Hamm's drunken rant in Friends With Kids remains the drunk scene that I didn't predict coming and as a result glued me to me seat in the cinema (although the rest of the film struggled to equal his bitter vitriol as a result). It's quite fitting, given alcoholism's effect, that the best performances can infect a film and drain any lightness from it.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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