southern accents

no, not the tom petty album. i watched a time to kill last night on ondemand. this was the movie that was supposed to make mathew mcconaughey into a gigantic star. the less said about the film the better, probably (though i am confounded by the fact that janet maslin gave it a rave review in the ny times when it came out)–but it made me wonder: which are the worst, most laughable southern accents ever committed to film? now, i’m not even from south india so i clearly am no authority on speech patterns from the american south but i think i can tell the presence of a bad dialect coach when i hear it. this film has a few bad ones–kevin spacey, for example–but only one (actual southerners may differ) truly laughable one: oliver platt. donald sutherland doesn’t seem like he’s trying particularly hard. however, platt’s doesn’t even approach what i think is the absolute pinnacle of faux-southern elocution: nicholas cage in con air, especially in the voice-over section that plays over the opening credits.

please add your own nominations.

8 thoughts on “southern accents”

  1. The worst southern accent I can remember (and I am southern by birth and approximately 31 of my 43 years have been spent in either Kentucky, North Carolina or Tennessee) is Dustin Hoffman’s work in another cinematic Grisham travesty Runaway Jury.

  2. I know it’s trite to bring him up, but how is Keanu’s accent in The Gift? It’s a film I’ve meant to watch – supposedly quite decent – but I can’t imagine Keanu pulling it off.

    Kermit the Frog in the first Muppet movie keeps his citified Sesame Street accent – which worked quite well as a spot reporter when he worked for Muppet News Flash. But in the film we find out he grew up in a swamp – far from the Brooklyn streets that we first heard and saw him in his trenchcoat and fedora. So something is fishy there. I suppose it’s ok that they didn’t TRY to teach him a southern accent… My guess is that Kermit never lived in a fucking swamp. It was all a fucking pose!

  3. How about Wilford Brimley doing Cajun in Hard Target?

    My personal gripe is Mel Gibson’s American accent. It has the same effect on me as fingernails on a chalkboard, or would have if I knew what that sounded like. It sounds so fake to my ears that I can’t understand why actual Americans would not be even more appalled.

    Go back and watch any of the Mad Maxes, or Galipoli or Year of Living Dangerously, and compare (setting aside the difference in quality of movies).

  4. Mauer, Kermit prolly did what I did and used the tv news to practice losing the accent (mine being Boston, which you can only hear when I say “Boston”).

    These are the only accents that I can tell are bad. (Don’t get my sister started on Blown Away; that dialect coach should be SHOT.) Actually the whole of New England speech isn’t done well AFAIC. Maine *is* different from Mass, dammit.

  5. you mean, that’s not what cajuns sound like?

    australians, americans–what’s the difference? i keed, i keed. i must say i’ve never noticed gibson’s accent. i guess i don’t really have a strong sense of an “american” accent and so aussies, canadians, new zealanders and brits doing un-inflected, generic “american” doesn’t bother me as much as when i hear bad southern or bad new england accents (marisa tomei in in the bedroom anyone?). most american films–whether blockbuster or indie–don’t see to care about regional accents or inflections, unless they’re set in the south. i guess that’s true of tv as well. hollywood stages “american” by removing regional american accents. and so maybe gibson’s faux-american is not so far from this hollywood dream of a common accent.

    one of the few interesting things about the island was listening to the two ewan mcgregors talk to each other; the original with the scots accent and the clone with the generic american accent. (oops, i just gave the movie away!) pete’s impersonation of a texan rancher is also quite impressive. strangely americans can’t seem to do brit accents very well (sorry, gwyneth!) though jim carrey does do a mean australian accent in dumb and dumber. as far as i can tell to do a canadian accent you only need to add an “eh” at the end of every sentence.

  6. I thought Jesus’ southern accent in Gibson’s Passion of The Christ was ridiculous; I mean he sounds like he comes from northern Kentucky whereas everybody knows that Jesus was born in Mobile. I mean, what gives? You’d think Jesus of all people could get a decent dialect coach.

    as for Kermit, everything he does is a lie. He’s been in the closet longer than Patty Hearst.

    (cuz she was kept in a closet for a long time by the SLA. ha ha).

  7. John Turturro in O Brother Where Art Thou?. This New Yorker should have taken Kermit’s cue and skipped the pretensions to accuracy.

    And, regardless of authenticity, Larry the Cable Guy’s like rusty nails on a chalkboard.

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