Sunday, June 21, 2009

PAPA, CAN YOU HEAR ME?

Today is Father's Day in both Argentina and the United States. It's a rare instance of identical non-religious (and non-market driven) holidays being synchronized in both countries. Always second class to the more A-list Mother's Day, Father's Day is usually off my radar (and in the U.S., most everyone else's), but for some reason, this year it's somehow sneaked on. It might have something to do with how porteños make such a massive deal about every holiday, no matter how D-list it is. This morning at the panadería, the cashier even wished me a "feliz dia de papa." Imagine that! I've never considered myself a particularly paternal-looking (or acting) guy, but if I already look the part, perhaps some day I'll learn how to act it as well.

In honor of the Day, here are five of my favorite onscreen dads (in chronological order -- and note the emphasis on my favorites, not on the best). Keep in mind that I'm far more interested in actresses and female characters, so cinematic dads are generally as second-class to screen moms as Father's Day is to Mother's Day.

  • Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer The incredibly selfish and self-involved mom played by Meryl Streep only serves to make Ted look far better than he might have otherwise, but watching him slowly bond with his son (Justin Henry) is thoroughly satisfying, cinematically and emotionally.
  • Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt in About Schmidt Granted Schmidt, one of my all-time favorite Nicholson characterizations, is a hot mess. But I'd say his reservations about daughter Hope Davis' choice of husband (a for once memorable Dermot Mulroney, memorably white trashy) are more than warranted.
  • Bill Murray as Don Johnston in Broken Flowers My dad never calls me on my birthday, so it's hard not to admire the tenacity with which Don Johnston searches for the 19-year-old son he never knew he had and possibly might not actually have.
  • Felicity Huffman as Bree in Transamerica I don't care much for the film as a whole, but my favorite thing about it (besides eye candy Kevin Zegers, above, with onscreen mom/dad Felicity Huffman) is how even as pre-op transsexual Bree begins to warm up to the son she never knew she had (yes, that again -- tellingly, a recurring theme in Hollywood fatherhood), Felicity Huffman's thespian approach never lapses into anything resembling sentimentality.
  • Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler Yes, he totally sucks as a paternal figure, but despite his shortcomings, it's obvious that "The Ram" truly cares about his estranged, possibly lesbian daughter. (The lesbian part is not explicit, but that is how I interpret Evan Rachel Wood's subtle, delicate performance of an under-written role.)
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