Thursday, January 13, 2011

Remember Woody Harrelson?

As I was driving in to work this morning, I was listening to the continuing coverage of the Tucson shooting on NPR. A reporter was talking to an anchor and referenced a previous shooting in which a judge was also killed, carried out in 1979 by a man named Charles Harrelson.

Charles Harrelson, as you may know, was Woody Harrelson's father (he died in 2007). In order to introduce this fact, the reporter asked the anchor "Remember Woody Harrelson, the bartender from Cheers?"

"Oh sure," returned the anchor.

At least he said "oh sure."

I find there to be a couple things wrong with the question "Remember Woody Harrelson, the bartender from Cheers?"

1) There's no need to "remember" Woody Harrelson. He's going strong. But more on that in a moment.

2) I'm sure Woody Harrelson would be disappointed to know that after a long and fruitful career, he's still known as "the bartender from Cheers."

Sure, Harrelson did not have a real busy 2010, appearing only in the little-seen superhero movie Defendor. But just look at his 2009. He appeared in one of the higher grossing films of the year (2012) and the highest grossing zombie movie of all time (Zombieland). Oh, and did we mention the little detail that he was also nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor, for the superlative feature The Messenger? In fact, because I was a better-than-average fan of 2012, all three of his films were in my top 30 for the year. He also appeared in the film that won best picture in 2007, No Country for Old Men.

I just think "remember" was a bad choice of words.

And because he's prominent enough, I don't think you need to say "the bartender from Cheers." Maybe there's no role more widely associated with him, since he hasn't tended to be in movies with sequels -- in fact, Zombieland 2 will be his first sequel ever -- but Cheers ended nearly 20 years ago now, and he's been a feature film actor a lot longer than he was a TV actor. There's a whole generation of NPR listeners who may never have even seen an episode of Cheers.

If you weren't sure it would be enough to say that "Charles Harrelson was the father of Woody Harrelson," you could hedge your bets a little by saying "Charles Harrelson was the father of actor Woody Harrelson." If Harrelson isn't enough of a household name just to call him by his name without any further clarification -- and I think he might be -- then "actor Woody Harrelson" should certainly cover it.

It may seem overly particular to harp on the spontaneous phrasing chosen by a reporter on live air, but that's just what we do around here.

And to get even more particular for a moment, the anchor did him no favors with his "oh sure" response. On the one hand, it indicates that Harrelson is easy enough to remember. On the other, however, there's something about it that suggests that a light bulb was going off in his head. Like "Oh yeah, I hadn't thought about that guy in years, but I do remember him." "Of course" might have been a better response.

Woody, you do good work. I'm just looking out for you.


Nicholas Prigge said...

This is so weird. One of my friends just a couple weeks ago at a mention of Woody Harrelson said "That guy hasn't done anything in awhile" to which I, of course, replied "Uh, he got nominated for an Oscar last year." Why does everyone think he's vanished off the face of the earth?

Although I must admit I had no idea there was to be a "Zombieland 2." That actually saddens me. I loved the first one. I'd be ok if it was the only one.

Vancetastic said...

Yeah, the buzz about it has been that it's going to be in 3D. To which we should probably say, "Of COURSE it is."

I agree that you'd think it would probably be hard to dig deeper into the apocalypse and figure out how these four characters are STILL going to be alive at the end of the second movie. Because the people you like can't die in a comedy, can they?

Vancetastic said...

I should say, "the people you like not named Bill Murray can't die in a comedy."

The Movie Snob said...

It is very odd how most people don't realize how many things he has been in recently. I can't quite pinpoint why that is... baffling.

But I bet if you asked 10 people, 7 of them couldn't name his last 5 movies. Hmm...

Vancetastic said...

TMS - I know, weird. However, asking anybody to name any five consecutive movies in anybody's career is a pretty tall order ... ;-)