Stuff That's Underrated

You knew it was coming... 'cause I told you it was. But let's stop being such Negative Nancies, talkin' 'bout shit that's overrated, and make a list of people and things that deserve more acclaim or credit than they get.

1) Who would you say is an underrated actor?

Tough one. I still watch General Hospital, and think it's kind of a shame that the woman who plays Alexis (Nancy Grahn, IMDB tells me) isn't famous-- she brings a level of plausibility even when she's forced to pretend to develop a multiple personality out of the blue or dress up like a man to infiltrate the Quartermaines' mansion. Also, James Callis (Dr. Baltar on the new Battlestar Galactica) is really, really good, but is often overshadowed by the two Academy Award winners on the show who, frankly, aren't as good as he is.

2) What would you say in an underrated movie?

Probably Gods and Monsters. It's not that anybody seemed to dislike the movie, but it just seems to have been forgotten despite the fact that the script was really tight, the acting was fantastic (even Brendan Fraser!), the soundtrack was moving, and the visuals were really impressive. How can you not be moved by the scene where James Whale (Ian McKellen) has his flashback to the wild, more carefree days, when the naked young men would cavort around his pool, begging for his attention, contrasted with the reality of his solitary, only partially-mobile old age? It should be on more people's top ten lists, I think.

3) Who would you say is an underrated author?

Tough one. I've got so many friends, students, co-bloggers, and multiple personalities who deserve more attention and acclaim...

I think, though, I'm going to say David Griffith-- I just really, really loved his book A Good War is Hard to Find-- and Bob Cowser-- who's my friend but is also a really great writer. His book about football, Dream Season was good, but his essay collection Scorekeeping was just great-- particularly the title essay. And the new book he's been working on is some of his strongest stuff yet, from what he's showed me, and should have found a publisher by now.

Oh, and Maureen Stanton is probably the best essayist you've never read. She doesn't have a book (yet), but her work has been anthologized and has won many-a-contest. You ought to look her up.

4) What would you say is an underrated book?

Well, the Griffiths and Cowser essay collections should both be read by a wider audience, no question about it. But I think I'm going to go with Tobias Wolff's In Pharoah's Army, which-- again-- isn't a book that anyone seems to really dislike, but it's often overshadowed by Wolff's other memoir, This Boy's Life, which was really successful and made into a movie and is quite good on its own. But In Pharoah's Army is better.

5) Who or what else needs to be given more respect and accolades?

Norm MacDonald. John Cale. Richard Russo's second novel The Risk Pool. Gene Pitney (but only in my household). Grant Morrison's comic book work. This year's Saturday Night Live cast-- particularly Kristen Wiig. Cartoonist Evan Dorkin. Steven Church's nonfiction. Teh Portly Dyke. Anyone who wears earthtones at the MLA conference. The Color of Money. Filmmaker Mary Harron. Biography and biographers (and scholars of the form).

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