happy birthday,

gene hackman!

Gene Hackman! Academy Award winner! Recipient of the Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement award! And #2 on my personal list of greatest goddamn actors of all time. Plus, it's his birthday (Jan 30)! But instead of celebrating "Gene Hackman Week" by regurgitating his most-viewed movies (The Poseidon Adventure, Superman, Hoosiers, Crimson Tide, The French Connection, The Conversation, Unforgiven, and Antz), let's explore some of the lesser-known gems in the Hackman oeuvre.

•The Birdcage (1996)--Seventeen years after the first film version of La Cage aux Folles was produced, Hollywood finally hopped on the homo bandwagon with this remake starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, and the irrepressible Hackman as a stodgy Senator who dislikes all things gay. Funnier than you may expect, and best of all, Hackman gets gussied up in DRAG (an affectation that unfortunately wouldn't fool a blind man with both his hands cut off).

• All Night Long (1981)--Hackman and... Barbra Streisand? You betcha butt, bubby! In this overlooked dramedy, the Hackman is suffering from one hell of a midlife crisis thanks to a naggy wife (Diane Ladd) and a rebellious son (Dennis Quaid). Rescue comes in the form of sexy, blonde-haired Babs who teaches Hack how to love again!

• Night Moves (1975)--A great example of the dark '70s noir directed by Arthur Penn... dense and surreal, with a truly shocking ending. Hackman is terrific as a down 'n' out detective sent from Hollywood to Florida to track down a teenage Melanie Griffith, but (whoopsy!) stumbles on to a deadly smuggling ring.

• Prime Cut (1972)--In this bloody, gangland classic, Lee Marvin (#1 on the greatest actors list) is playing clean-up for the Mob, and travels to Kansas to settle a debt with evil cattle rancher Hackman (whose character's name is Mary Ann?!?). How evil is Hackman? Well, he grinds enemies into sausage, and sells poor Sissy Spacek into prostitution! Goddammit, Gene! If it wasn't your birthday, I'd... WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY