Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sid and Nancy

Sid and Nancy
from Jenny's video collection
circa 1997

LAMB Acting School 101 is a regular event in which LAMB bloggers discuss the work and career of a given actor. This month's subject is
Gary Oldman. The complete list of posts for this month will go up March 24 at the LAMB site.

Punk rock! The first time I was exposed to punk was in high school. It was the Ramones. It took me a little longer to really appreciate punk though, since this was also the period where I discovered classic rock for the first time - although now I suppose the Ramones are considered classic rock by some.

Jenny has been a punk rock diva for as long as I've known her. She's been the lead singer and co-lyricist of at least two different punk bands that have played around the city (one of them an all-girl band), and I've seen both of them play live on multiple occasions. To be honest, Jenny will never be mistaken for Pat Benatar or Ann Wilson in terms of singing ability, but with her it's almost besides the point. She's all about putting on a stage performance. She's been known to wear a "devil" costume, complete with a plastic pitchfork, and prance around the stage, gyrating sexily while screaming her songs. Not exactly Lady Gaga, but for what it is, it's pretty funny and entertaining. And she loves it, she absolutely loves the thrill of making a spectacle of herself in the name of rock and roll.

So it was with more than a little measure of excitement that I first saw Sid and Nancy with her, at her old Alphabet City apartment. Jenny's lived all over the city; this was one of many apartments she lived in and perhaps the one I associate most with her. The Sex Pistols definitely embody the things she strives for as a rock star, at least on-stage. I've always been of two minds about them: I dig their music but Johnny Rotten's voice can grate after a certain point. There's a story about them that pretty much sums up not only themselves, but perhaps punk in general: the original bassist was a big Paul McCartney fan, but made the mistake of letting that fact slip in front of the others. When they found out, they kicked him out of the band! His replacement: Sid Vicious, who was no Paul McCartney, to put it mildly.

Gary Oldman plays Sid, and he captures the manic, frenzied energy of the man perfectly. Oldman has always been an outstanding actor, mostly playing either bad guys or crazy guys - or both. Sid and Nancy, though, is one of the few films where he's been center stage. He's an acting chameleon, disappearing within his roles completely, and maybe that's one reason why he's not a bigger name. Many superstar actors, it seems, develop an on-screen persona that shows through from one role to the next, and I think audiences find comfort in that. When you see, say, Adam Sandler in a movie, chances are you know more or less what to expect from him. That's not always true with someone like Oldman, but that's okay because he's so good.

Besides Sid and Nancy, I've seen him in the following: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, State of Grace, JFK, Bram Stoker's Dracula, True Romance, The Professional, Immortal Beloved, Murder in the First, Basquiat, The Fifth Element, Air Force One, Lost in Space '98, The Contender, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I think my favorite performance of his is Immortal Beloved, where he plays Beethoven.

Previously in LAMB Acting School:
Natalie Portman


  1. Really? Ha! That's my favorite role of his, too, and not just because I watched that movie obsessively for the costume reference. Oldman's one of my absolute favorite actors; I sure as heck wasn't watching BB for Christian Bale. Hated Oldman in 5E,though. I think I'm in the minority on that one, though.

  2. His character was silly the way the whole movie was silly. Either you were willing to go with it or not. But I could how that movie wouldn't appeal to you.

  3. It wasn't the silliness that did it -- for me it was the one time I felt his chops weren't up to the task. You could hear his accent falling in and out, and his intensity seemed... not so much over the top, but just misplaced. I wouldn't have batted an eye if it'd been anyone else, but Oldman's so darn flawless, it jumped out at me.

  4. His accent, huh? I never noticed that.

  5. Why then should anyone of sane disposition wish to see the film? Because it is still a love story, and a very touching one at that. Oldman and Webb's performance are what makes this film so fascinating as well. Good Review!

  6. Touching? I suppose, though that's not the first word that comes to mind for me.

  7. I have yet to see this film though I've heard good things about it. I'm not a huge Sex Pistols fan but the whole "punk rock doomed romance" thing is interesting, and I dig Gary Oldman. You're right, he doesn't seem to star too often so it's cool he's front and center here. That's great you got to watch it with a rock star in her own right!

    So far my favorite Oldman performance is probably Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which is just such an excellent movie all around and one of my favorite plays.

  8. Alex, I think I've gotten enough of a handle on your taste in film to say that you would totally go for this movie. It's definitely not just about the music.


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