All but the keenest viewers may have missed the many ballpoint pen cameos on screens big and small over the years. Ballpoints are regulars in Hollywood productions, and not just as desktop set dressing or in pocket protectors. Sometimes the tone of a scene is expressed by a character's inattentive ballpoint doodling. Those doodles may expose important plot points. For roles where real drama is required, the pen itself can become a weapon, wielded with sinister intent by an antagonist or coming within reach of the protagonist to save a life in a nick of time.
How To Spot a Bunny Boiler
・Fatal Attraction 1987, directed by Adrian Lyne.
Michael Douglas stars as Dan Gallagher, a successful, happily married lawyer in New York City. 'Happily married' in movies, of course, usually only means unless-or-until opportunities arise. Glenn Close co-stars as Alex Forrest, editor at a publishing company and, as is soon made apparent, an unstable predator just waiting to pounce. I always thought Close was scary enough, even with a smile on her face and not holding a bloody steak knife...
On FILM & TV, chronologically by year, most recent at top.
Cobain: Montage of Heck 2015
Creative talent often manifests itself in many forms at the same time. This documentary shows music and visual artistry were manifested in rock star Kurt Cobain.
(Read the ARCHIVED article )
Fringe (TV) 2014
Fringe Division agents use ballpoints to draw bar code-like identifying tattoos on their faces to infiltrate a secure enemy location.
Red Lights 2012
Paranormal-debunker Tom Bunker (Cillian Murphy) pushes a ballpoint pen through his bottom lip to illustrate psychic trickery to a student in a diner.
Crude doodles interspersed throughout the closing credits appear to be ballpoint pen, reversed to become white on black. Art credited to the film's director, Spencer Susser.
(read the full article BELOW).
Fringe (TV) 2010
Season 3 Episode 3; as a plot device, ballpoint pens are employed by antagonist to cause chain reactions leading to a series of murders. (Read the ARCHIVED article)
originally posted February 3, 2015
Pen in the Neck
And the Academy Award for Film with the Best Supporting Prop in a Dramatic Role goes to… Girl, Interrupted (1999, Directed by James Mangold, based on the novel by Susanna Kaysen). The scene, involving a ballpoint pen wielded by Angelina Jolie as the institutionalized, "diagnosed sociopath" Lisa, plays out something like this...
STARPOINTSARCHIVE by K. Rie originally posted April 3, 2015
Fully AcCREDITed Doodles
Around an hour into the film, nurse Margie is making her rounds checking on the girls of the psychiatric hospital's day room. Lisa (Jolie), having already antagonized fellow patients, attempts to divert Margie for chit-chat but the nurse insists she's got to continue her rounds.
"Taking five minutes for me would be a dereliction of duty? Huh? What if I had a punctured artery? What would you do? You'd just keep going about your rounds? Ignore my wounds?"
"Lisa stop it…"
The drama escalates with Lisa grabbing the pen from Margie's clipboard and holding it at her own neck.
"Go ahead, take one fucking step and I'll jam this in my aorta; go ahead!"
A head nurse (Whoopie Goldberg), having noticed the exchange from the nurses' station, comes to Margie's aid.
"Lisa, your aorta is in your chest."
After a pause and a sly look, Lisa relinquishes the pen.
"Good to know. I'll make a note of that."
2001: A Space Oddysey 1968
En route to a space station on a space jet, a ballpoint (space?) pen floats free from a passenger's pocket, then fetched and returned by a space stewardess.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 1964
Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) pores over the nonsensical notepad doodlings of a commander who snapped and set into a motion a chain of events leading to widespread destruction. Making sense of earlier cryptic comments ''Purity Of Essence'' & ''Peace On Earth'' made by the commander, Mandrake deducts the emergency ''recall'' code to be ''OPE'', averting nuclear annihilation.
All movies confirmed by The Ballpointer. More to come. Send candidate movies to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy) is nervously doodling on to his ''I (Heart) Golf'' memo pad, squiggly patterns and the like, when police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) enters to inquire about a stolen car. He is using what appears to be a classic chrome-bodied Birome ballpoint.
Ernest Goes to Jail 1990
No drawing here, just a cautionary tale about chewing on ballpoint pens as acted out by famed idiot Ernest P. Worrell.
(Read the ARCHIVED article )
Field of Dreams 1989
Kevin Costner's Ray Kinsella doodling "ease his pain" and more in ballpoint pen on newspaper during a community rally against book-banning.
Rain Man 1988
Dustin Hoffman's Raymond Babbet shown doodling in ballpoint in his notebook in a motel room as they wait for a rainstorm to pass.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 1974
Transit Authority police lieutenant Garber (Walter Matthau) is guiding a group of Tokyo Metro bigwigs on a tour of New York's subway command center. Describing it as the ''nerve center'' even as workers are obviously killing time, he singles out as ''our artist in residence'' an officer doodling onto a coffee cup in ballpoint pen.
Harold & Maude 1971
Maude (Ruth Gordon) declares during one of her playful rants ''We have World War Two to thank for the ballpoint pen'', referring to their earliest widespread usage by RAF pilots in the UK, proving the pens' versatility.
The Men Who Stare at Goats 2009
Reporter Bob Wilton's (Ewen McGregor) mindless ballpoint doodle (pictured above) is later revealed to have foretold the logo of a goat-starer's (George Clooney) troop.
World Trade Center 2006
In the film's opening montage, Port Authority police officer Antonio Rodrigues (Armando Riesco) is briefly shown sitting on a commuter train on his way to work in New York City the morning of September 11, 2001, drawing in ballpoint pen onto a pad on his lap.
William follows the instructions of big sis' strategically inserted note, to "listen to Tommy with a candle burning, and you'll see your entire future", kicking off an elaborately layered film montage anchored by hypnotic spinning record labels (vintage Decca, pictured) accompanied musically by the trippy intro chords to The Who's "Sparks". The sequence also conveys an age jump, cinematically and biographically, beginning with young William staring into the candle flame. Close-up pans of a looseleaf binder show doodles of teenage affection, obsession or allegiance; in William's (Crowe's) case Lester Bangs, Black Sabbath and the like. All the while, the Decca labels (several layers worth) spin round and round, closing with a ballpoint pen adding the final touches to a Led Zeppelin logo (pictured), leading to William a few years older (Patrick Fugit)...
All the era-appropriate references — the vinyl records, the soundtrack, the familiar blue, canvas-like, hard-cover looseleaf binder — amounts to a vivid early-1970s flashback. Crowe himself has described the film as "blowing a kiss" to the music industry in which he came of age. Seeing as this film's reel-life follows Crowe's real-life entry into music, it's easy to imagine Crowe himself doodling all-the-above onto his own grade school looseleaf binders. If Crowe could've fit a second ballpoint segue within the popular "Let's Deflower the Virgin" scene, the film would've been complete・
Almost Famous Coming-of-age montage stills, showing ballpoint pen doodles a la 1970s-era loose-leaf binder. © 2000 Copyright holder
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2005
Ballpoint doodles drawn onto the title jeans.
Veronica Mars (TV) 2004-2007
The television show's opening credit sequence employs ballpoint-on-looseleaf writing as part of its design motif.
Kate & Leopold 2001
Hugh Jackman's time-travelled Duke Leopold squeezes ballpoint pen inks from their reservoirs so he can write an apology to Meg Ryan's Kate using his quill pen. Why he didn't just write in ballpoint goes unexplained.
Almost Famous 2000
Rock band logos et al, doodled onto main character's school binder (pictured below), demonstrating the seeds of aspiring ballpointers everywhere (read the full article BELOW).
Girl, Interrupted 1999
Ballpoint pen as a threat. Institutionalized Lucy (Angelina Jolie) holds a retractable ballpoint pen to her throat during an outburst intended to antagonize a nurse.
(read the full article BELOW)
STARPOINTS IN-BRIEF continues at right...
The Company Men 2010
Tommy Lee Jones' senior executive character Gene McClary doodles during a boring meeting (pictured ).
Teen nerd gets one step closer to his new superhero persona by doodling himself a worthy costume design.
(Read the ARCHIVED article )
Anvil; The Story of Anvil 2009
Heavy Metal band Anvil's drummer Robb Reiner is shown doodling in ballpoint pen during a recording session.
Evil opportunities arise after crossing paths at a publishing party. For Dan, wife is out of town. For Alex, well, she's just plain nuts. Borderline personality disorder nuts, if not flat-out psychopathic. After a couple of wild nights together Dan's wife comes home, but Alex won't back off. She stalks, and self mutilates for attention. While tending to Alex at her place, Dan leafs through some documents piled up on a tabletop and comes across some disturbing ballpoint pen doodles...
The doodles could've been produced by the film's slacker antihero Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but they are, in fact, the work of Susser, himself. As "art", these doodles are as grade school as they come. Body parts, ejaculation, scatology, gastronomy, bongs; everything you'd expect to see on a stoner classmate's folders, flipped from black-on-white to white-on-black. In service of this film, therefore, perfect. In-your-face parting shots to an in-your-face film. Requests for confirmation from Susser as to whether these are actually drawn in ballpoint are as yet unanswered. Regardless, were you to find doodles like this in your own child's notebooks, we recommend: seek help immediately, call the authorities, or run・
Director Spencer Susser provides an eyeful of ballpoint buffoonery in his 2010 film Hesher, using edgy doodles to decorate the end-credit scroll. These are credits you'll want to sit through; worth the wait, and, although you first have to sit through the whole movie to view them, Hesher is also worth your time. Susser also provides an earful, using the aural onslaught of Metallica's 1983 heavy metal classic Motorbreath as musical accompaniment. The film fades to black to the song's opening drum rolls, kicking off the credit scroll which runs the full length of the three-minute song, ending on the final crunch of the guitars...
It's an in-your-face cautionary tale about the consequences of infidelity. Dan should've run as soon as he came across those jagged ballpoint scribbles. You should, too, if you come across the same! By the end of the movie, Dan doesn't look so stable either. Hey, wasn't this around the time, along with appearing in Basic Instinct, when Michael Douglas also made headlines by seeking help for sex addiction? ・
＊Read more K. RieSTARPOINTS below
INPRINT posted June 12, 2016
originally posted January 23, 2015
Almost Famous Doodles
Cameron Crowe's high-profile auto-biopic film provides a low-profile glimpse at the humble origins of ballpoint brilliance. Early in the film, the transformative power of music marks a pivotal moment in a pre-pubescent boy's life. Young, impressionable William Miller (Michael Angarano, in a characterization of Crowe, who began a career as rock journalist while still a teen) is directed by flying-the-coop sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) to a pouch full of vinyl-era record albums left under his bed as a present. As William leafs through the contents, examples of classic rock album cover art are shown; Led Zeppelin ll, Axis: Bold as Love (Jimi Hendrix Experience), Wheels of Fire (Cream). Art and music conspiring to literally rock impressionable minds...
Angie nabbed the Supporting Actress Oscar by stealing the show from Winona Ryder in the starring role, but she couldn't have done it without that pen. Jolie's performance must've been an easy paycheck for the actress, who'd been estranged from her movie-star father (Jon Voight), married and divorced in 60 seconds (Jonny Lee Miller), experienced lesbian love (Jenny Shimizu), worn another lover's blood in a vial around her neck (Billy Bob Thornton), lip-smooched her brother on live television upon winning her Oscar, and now overcompensates for it all by adopting every child who catches her fancy, including Brad Pitt.
Product placement was already accounting for its fair share of screen time by the 1990s, so its surprising that there wasn't a brand name prominently visible on the pen. But the future Mrs. Brangelina brandishes it well, clicking it anxiously to expose and retract its ball point held to her neck during the antagonizing of poor nurse Margie. How else is an on-the-edge, institutionalized gal to entertain herself on the inside? (8 years in, as per expository movie dialogue.)
A later scene shows Ryder, playing the is-she-nuts-or-not aspiring writer Susanna, doodling late at night, but those doodles — including the ironic phrase "If you lived here you'd be home now" — appear to be drawn in pencil. Ryder in real-life will have her own is-she-nuts-or-not moment two years later, getting caught shoplifting in Beverly Hills・
Since 2014・Volume 5
Take a good look at those jagged, erratic lines. Psychologists have written on the subject, identifying them as a sign of possible psychosis; jagged, erratic thoughts. Along the way, Alex undermines Dan's happy marriage, borrows his daughter and goes on the attack. Oh, she boils a bunny, too, in a scene which introduced bunny boiler as cinematic slang describing obsessive, spurned women...