National Post (Ca), August 26, 2000

Oh, that thing he does!

So what if critics sneer at Keanu Reeves. They've never looked past his wooden screen face to his other attributes

by Dorothy Cummings

Single for six months, I went to see The Replacements starring Keanu Reeves. As a nice union girl, I don't approve of strikebreakers as a rule, and I know little about football, but I thought it would be nice to lay my tired computer-strained eyes upon Keanu's comely face and form. Besides, the reviewers of my local alternative press, as if in revolt against the inevitable mainstream sneers at Keanu's talent, had all warmly praised the film. Thus bolstered, I bought my ticket, took my seat and prepared to admire the man who inspired my high-school essay, Platonic Love in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

The film began well. It was funny, the motley crew of replacements sympathetic, Keanu had grown out his hair. The cheerleading Love Interest was intrusive, but sweet; my jealousy was mixed with cheerful resignation. The vomiting scenes I was prepared to put up with. All well and good. And then -- I'm not sure exactly when it was, perhaps when he went to see the Love Interest at her bar after quitting time -- anyway, there, on the screen, as I watched, Keanu did that thing with his head.

How can I describe it? I can't. I can only describe its effect on me. I gasped; I swooned; I sighed; I cursed a universe in which Keanu Reeves would never be mine; I mourned a life in which I would never be able to catch Keanu doing that thing with his head at odd and sundry domestic moments: diluting the orange juice concentrate in the morning, shopping for hinges at Canadian Tire on a Saturday afternoon, explaining how he totalled the Porsche on the way home Friday night. Curses! What a world.

On my way home, I tried to reason with myself. I didn't really want the actor Keanu Reeves. Keanu was a construct invented by Hollywood and my own fevered imagination. Was it possible that I could ever find happiness with a very busy California-based movie actor with no post-secondary education? I hope to begin work on my Can Lit doctorate next year. Would I find a good thesis adviser at UCLA? Would Keanu consent to move back to Canada and confine himself to Cronenberg, Egoyan and the CBC? No, no, and not bloody likely. What I wanted, I realized, what I needed, was the rush I got from watching Keanu do that thing with his head. But, due to various domestic catastrophes, I have no TV and no VCR. I chewed my bottom lip in frustration.

Then I was struck by a distant memory. I remembered girls, pre-teen girls, in my schoolyard, swapping copies of glossy picture-studded magazines with such names as Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine. I had been forbidden to buy them but sneaked guilty peeks at the stars of the day: John Stamos; Matt Dillon; Scott Baio; C. Thomas Howell; Ralph Macchio, the Karate Kid. Therein, I realized, lay my salvation. Surely the preteen girls of today would be pinning Keanu to their walls. I donned sunglasses and slunk to Smithbooks.

Suffering agonies of embarrassment, I stared at the movie-star mags. The titles Tiger Beat and 16 were nowhere to be seen. Instead I saw a confusing display of acronyms and exclamation points, bright slashes of colour and pictures of, well, children. I flipped through a few of the gaudy publications, skimming over the unfamiliar names. Jason? Jason who? Jeff? Who were these people? Why were there so many pictures of Freddie Prinz Jr.? And where was Keanu?

Keanu was nowhere to be seen. I moved on to the celebrity magazines for grown-ups and met with better success: a tiny picture of Keanu, scruffy and unshaven, in People. He wasn't doing that thing with his head, though. He looked thin, saturnine and not at all like, um, himself. It dawned on me why he no longer appears in cuddly pin-up magazines: too scary looking, too vulpine, too adult. Perhaps, I philosophized, he does not possess a static beauty, that it would take the genius of an Annie Leibowitz to capture the beauty of that thing Keanu does with his head in a still photograph.

My next recourse was my sister Anne who, at 17, has the good taste to prefer Ioan Gruffudd and other adult actors to Freddie Prinz Jr.

"Keanu's on the cover of Rolling Stone this month," said Anne.

I was chagrined. "How do you know?"

"My job at Loblaws. I've been staring at magazine covers all summer. Hey, guess what? Bill Clinton said Tipper Gore was fat!"

I rushed to the milk store. Yes, there was Keanu on the cover of Rolling Stone, short-haired, alas, but shirtless. Definitely shirtless. There was no sign of t. t. he does w. h. h., but the shirtlessness was nice.

Until I read Chris Heath's article.

I will not attempt to reproduce it here, except to say that it gives the impression of the actor as an intensely private, well-read and thoughtful man. I began to feel uneasy. What if I were wrong about the Keanu-as-Hollywood-construct thing? There is something intrinsically bad about objectifying somebody who has read and enjoyed Jean Baudrillard. And his enthusiasm for Shakespeare seemed provocative and sincere.

My dismay reached new heights when I reread Keanu's response to Klaus Kinski's assertion that he would rather have been a streetwalker than an actor, "selling my body, than my tears and my laughter, my grief and my joys."

Keanu laughs. "Selling my ... Is that what a streetwalker does?" he asks. "Isn't that what an actor does?"

I flipped back to the cover photograph. The actor looks glumly out of the magazine, thumbs hooked in his jean pockets. He looks like a man who has come to terms with the fact that people want him to take off his shirt for photographs but still doesn't like it. The photo credit states it was taken on Alcatraz Island. How appropriate.

I had been planning to rip off the cover of Rolling Stone and tape it to my fridge, but somehow I didn't have the heart. Even screen idols deserve better than to be made into eye-candy, and it appears that Keanu Reeves does more with his head than move it in just the right way to interest a tired (and single) union girl.

And if Mr. Reeves ever needs company with whom to discuss this and other weighty topics while shopping for hardware at Canadian Tire, I would be happy to oblige him.

Article Focus:

Replacements, The


Replacements, The , Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure


Well... (2009-05-02 15:55:21)
 Not overly excited about the title the thing is hung with, but it's a decent article :). - and I love her end decision regarding the 'fridge ;).

Bravo young (I assume anyway) Dorothy for allowing that Keanu may indeed be human after all.

Anakin McFly
My sentiments exactly (2009-05-02 16:07:48)

And I also like how I have that article she mentioned. :|

(Chris Heath is a brilliant writer and interviewer. I love all the pieces he wrote.)

You are just.. (2009-05-02 16:15:09)
 ..getting the biggest kick out of disorienting us, aren't you? I popped back to the main page and almost freaked - it was deja vu, Knet all over again!


Anakin McFly
wait what? (2009-05-02 16:18:24)

What did I do? :
Well.. (2009-05-02 16:21:35)
 ...the front page isn't the front page I saw not all that many minutes ago ;)

I mean it's ok - it's just a little disorienting to keep finding myself in different spaces without any effort on my part :D

t. t. he does w. h. h. (2009-05-02 23:02:46)
 a new expression was coined. ;) :))

<< What if I were wrong about the Keanu-as-Hollywood-construct thing? >> this is quite the question, isn't it ? ;)

Anakin McFly
(2009-05-02 23:26:13)

I'm not even sure what t.t. he does w.h.h. is. : I have a vague idea, but it might not be that.

And yeah. What is real? How do you define real? ...

RuthieI cursed a universe in which Keanu Reeves would never be mine (2009-05-03 23:04:13)
 Dorothy said it well. I do like her assessment of the pic. Poor K.
GuestThanks All (2009-05-27 05:30:49)
 Dear me, I didn't know my article was on the internet. Well, thanks for reading! And Keanu Reeves although is still not mine, the universe is not so bad.
GuestDorothy Speaks (2009-05-27 05:32:49)
 Er, I wrote that bit above.
GuestAnd Incidentally (2009-05-27 05:33:27)
 I didn't write the subtitle. That was no doubt a sub-editor. Sub-editors constantly write subtitles I don't like!
Anakin McFly
heh (2009-05-27 10:32:08)

Thanks for dropping by! And thanks for the article.

Pity about the sub-editor; at least now I know that article authors might not be responsible for everything in it.

P.S. - What exactly is t.t. he does w.h.h.?

GuestAnswer to t.t. he does w.h.h. (2009-05-28 04:33:35)
 People asked me that quite often when the article came out, and all I can say is that you have to watch "The Replacements". One can only appreciate t.t. he does w.h.h. on an experiential level. It cannot be explained in words.

Meanwhile, I'm glad to have helped the reputation of authors everywhere: we don't usually get to pick our titles and we have no control over subtitles and final editing.

Br0nz18 (2009-05-28 14:28:43)
 although i'm not sure what t.t. he does w.h.h. is exactly I feel that Keanu does the majority of the acting with his eyes...he says so much with them...very nuanced...makes rewatching his movies a real joy.
GuestDorothy says something else (2009-09-07 06:42:06)
 This is a seriously impressive website. It must have taken weeks to set up and it must take hours to keep it up to date.
Anakin McFly
(2009-09-07 10:26:49)

Thanks! :D

The main defending-Keanu bit of the site took just four days to set up, and the initial articles archive with its original lot of 840 articles took 40. The rest of the work and organising the archive was spread out over the later months; it's been educational, though, since I'm studying Communications & New Media and this is new media.

...You wouldn't happen to have a copy of 'Platonic Love in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure', would you?

(2009-09-08 10:02:34)
 I agree with what Bronz18 said, he talks with his eyes in a lot of movies he does, for example that scene in SK when Wander and Biggs are arguing in Biggs's office, Keanu as Tom stands over to the side, not saying a word but really saying volumes through his eyes and his reactions.

And this is a great article btw, and so is the one Chris Heath wrote about him.

Even with that part when K's asked about fatherhood and he answers "I miss it." It breaks your heart to read it 'cause you can just imagine the pain in his eyes when he says it.

Nice article (2010-08-16 23:43:22)
 I never read this article before. Wow, I thought I'd read just about everything. Well worth reading, and I agree that t.t. he does w.h.h. is something you can't explain or describe. You just have to see it, I guess. Another reason to watch his movies over again. :-)
Thanks (2010-08-19 23:40:24)
 Nice article, thank you :) I really don't think he's wooden though . . . a very finely incised white stone or quartz, maybe but . . . lol. . .j/k. Anyway, next time I watch one of his movies, I should most assuredly be watching wide-eyed and with steadfast expectation for t.t. he does w.h.h.
I think I know what t.t. he does w.h.h. is (2010-08-20 05:03:22)
 The Replacements - bar scene - he's about to leave the bar - Every Breath You Take can be heard in the background - then Falco reaches the door but decides to go back on his steps - a few seconds and there you have it: t.t. he does w.h.h.
Just before the kiss.
(2010-09-01 12:24:10)
 He does it in Constantine twice when speaking to Gabriel . . .

"Like pulling demon's out of little girls," dramatic pause to do t.t. he does w.h.h., "who's that for?"

Then again after throwing the book on the floor, full of hurt, fear and confusion, he does t.t. he does w.h.h. then whispers, "you're the one who should go to hell, half-breed."

(2010-09-01 23:22:53)
 ... you just gave me a pretext to watch that movie AGAIN. :D :D
Anakin McFly
(2010-09-01 23:35:39)


Hmm. Have we done that one yet?

(2010-09-02 02:05:54)
 Connie/Sylar? not sure . . .

Yes let's both watch it again :)I don't even know how many times I've seen Constantine by now, and I'll still dive into it like a pint of Ben and Jerry's topped with Prozac and Vicodin. Keanu, in the word's of Lady Gaga . . . "loving you is cherry pie" :D

(2010-09-02 03:14:04)
 I hadn't noticed t.t. he does w.h.h. in Constantine! Well, not a bad pretext to watch it again! ;)
(2010-09-02 03:24:37)
 Ani - no, 'we' haven't. not a bad idea, though. just leave the cherries out of it :D

Adrianna - well, Constantine is the only movie I've watched four times in 24 hours. Not even The Matrix could do that.

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