Actor Mather Zickel Talks Books & Butchery With GeekFeed.com

Actor Mather Zickel Talks Books & Butchery With GeekFeed.com

(Picture Credit: ManUp)

Odds are you’ve seen actor Mather Zickel in something along the way. His IMDB credits boast some of the funniest films and TV shows out there. Most recently he’s in the hit HULU series I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman playing her hilarious sidekick and you might have caught him in How To Be A Latin Lover or Suburbicon. He’s one of the most underrated straight men of our generation and his he’s got acting chops that far exceed any role he’s played on film or television thus far.

A recent article in Decider reporter Brett White describes Mather’s career thusly:

Did you see Oscar-nominated feature film Rachel Getting Married? Then you saw Mather as best man Kieran. Obsessed with Adult Swim programming? Then you know Mather from Delocated (where he played Rob), or Childrens Hospital and its spinoff Newsreaders (where he played Louis La Fonda). What about network sitcoms? He was a regular on the short-lived ABC show Man Up! and did an episode of CBS’ Mike & Molly. What about network dramas? Four episodes of Bones and one of Elementary. Cable dramas? ESPN’s The Bronx is Burning and Showtime’s House of Lies and Masters of Sex. Oh, cable comedies (non-Adult Swim division)? Party Down, Better Things, and Younger. If you’ve seen him on five of these things, then congrats, you just won Zickel Bingo!

GeekFeed did some digging and found out a few things about Mather. He has four rescue dogs, grew up in New York but lives in Los Angeles now, is an avid reader and a lover of horror films. He’s even in one of our favorite horror films of recent years Southbound! Since he’s so passionate about books and horror films we decided to reach out and ask Mather for a few book and film recommendations to share with you.

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Here’s what Mather sent to us:

Books

1. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

This hardscrabble odyssey through the post-Civil War American West isn’t just a minutely detailed account of life on the frontier at that time. It is also a warm, moving, and often violent story of two aging Texas rangers and their attempt to lead one last epic cattle drive from the Rio Grande to the snowy reaches of Montana. The plot ties in the stories of over a dozen characters, each struggling to survive in the hostile wilderness of the Great Plains. The members of the cattle drive grow into a tribe whose trust, honor, and sacrifice are increasingly threatened by a cold Western ethos of everyone-for-themselves, across a landscape that feels abandoned by God. A truly great adventure that you will miss immediately after the last page is turned.

2. Murther and Walking Spirits, by Robertson Davies

The historical and cultural landscape of any Robertson Davies novel is a joy to experience. This man’s knowledge of 20th century Toronto history, class structure and social mores can make for the perfect walking tour of that northern metropolis. Davies loves to tell a rousing good tale filled with deeply unique, quirky characters while also satirizing (with love) such institutions as the University, the Press, the Church, Medicine, and Art. And he does it with a stroke of phantasmagoria. His Ontario includes parallel realms populated by ghosts and daemons who guide, influence, and tempt their earthly counterparts. This novel begins with the protagonist being murdered on page one and proceeds to follow his trip through the afterlife, represented by a never-ending series of movies at the Toronto International Film Festival. As reel after reel unspools, he learns secrets about his family and how he became the man he is.

3. The Once and Future King, by T.H. White

Truth be told, I haven’t read this since high school, but I’ve picked it up again. Also, I must admit to a life-long fascination with the Arthurian legend in all forms: as a British cultural Ur-myth, to a guidebook on chivalric values, to a doomed quest to create paradise on earth. Also, I wanted to be a knight when I grew up. White’s source material is Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, a 15th Century attempt to aggregate just about all the popular Arthurian tales handed down through the ages to that point. But if the plot sounds familiar to those who know the old story, the parallels end there. This is a thoroughly 20th century treatment of the tale. And while it is not set in modern times, White narrates the story with the irony of one who knows where human society has gone since the dusty romanticized Middle Ages. The Once and Future King is actually a collection of four novels, each dealing with a different aspect of the tale and seen through a different characters’ eyes, notably Arthur, Guenever, and Lancelot. The first book, The Sword in the Stone, tells the early tale of Arthur’s boyhood, education, and mysterious lineage. It reads like a comic children’s tale full of talking animals, enchanted silverware, and silly old knights who have trouble staying mounted on their steeds. It’s no wonder Disney made a cartoon of the same name. But from there things ripen in unexpected ways. The style of each book becomes less whimsical and more introspective as it explores the inner lives and emotional turmoil of Britain’s most famous king and queen and their Gallic champion. The final novel ventures into darker and more tragic tones as Arthur struggles to establish an idyllic just society as the glorious walls of Camelot begin to crumble.

4. The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt

Well, this isn’t what you would call a fun read, but considering our current political climate people would do well to familiarize themselves with it. First published in the early 1950’s, Arendt’s attempt to dissect the Holocaust and the Stalinist purges has seen a new spike in sales since the 2016 presidential election. Origins is broken into three sections, first diagramming the history and causes of Antisemitism, then explaining the corrosive effects of 19th century Colonialism, and concluding with the nightmare of 20th century Totalitarianism in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. She describes an era when liberal democracy was on the ropes; where citizens lost faith in their leaders and institutions and were seduced by militarism and nativism.  Sound familiar? Most frightening, she dispassionately illustrates how a relatively lawful, peaceful democratic society can be transformed into a mass movement of spies, informants, torturers, and murderers.  It’s dense, it’s academic, but it’s also meticulously reasoned and never veers into doomsday hysteria. Hannah Arendt has seen the enemy and they are us.

5. The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann

Got some time? Like, a LOT of time? Perhaps you’d enjoy a nice lengthy retreat up to one of Switzerland’s most lavish sanitoriums? It’s an institution for tubercular patients and even if you aren’t consumptive when you arrive, you will be in short stead. I’m not going to lie. This book is long and glacially slow. And although this novel is steeped in symbolism and allegory I still found it surprisingly moving. It tells the story of Hans Castorp, a young German man who comes to visit his ailing cousin in the years before the First World War and winds up staying for seven years. And those seven years are practically narrated in real time. In fact, time is one of the dominant themes in the Magic Mountain and I have never been more cognizant of it in relation to a book. The plot consists of the collection of pan-European characters following the humdrum quotidian routines of the hospital and their relationships. They all seem a bit mad, but wouldn’t you be if you were watching your life pass by, moment by moment, high in the Alps while the regular world churns on way down in the Flatlands? Can one penetrate the mysteries of the universe while lying prone on a snowy balcony, wrapped in blankets, with a thermometer in one’s mouth? This is Mann’s comic take on the coming-of-age novel and young Hans is transformed by his budding curiosity about health and disease, love, psychology, radiology, botany, political philosophy, death, and the afterlife. Just don’t take comic too literally. Mann’s old Teutonic sense of humor might not strike you as funny, but if you submit to the Magic Mountain’s spell it can transport you to a rarefied height from which you might be able to spot your own tiny life on the map far, far below. It can’t be described, only experienced.

Horror Movies!

Pieces, 1982

When I was a teenager, my best friend and I were determined to see every D-grade slasher movie that was available at the video store. This was our favorite. Capitalizing on the success of the seminal Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Pieces picks up the same weapon and hacks the tree of good taste down to a stump. Beginning in the 1940’s, a young boy assembles a jigsaw puzzle of a naked lady. When his mother catches and punishes him, he responds by chopping her in the head with an axe. Cut to 40 years later, where the maniac is loose on a Boston college campus and is attempting to reconstruct the nudie puzzle with body parts that he chainsaws off a series of female students. The police are baffled, the dean is determined to keep the murders out of the papers and the hunt is on. I guess plot-wise, Pieces is a murder mystery suspense thriller. But, Jesus, it’s gross and rape-y with full on nudity and heavy violence. Also…hilarious if you go in for this brand of schlock. It contains some of the most inappropriate, ludicrous storytelling and dialogue I’ve ever enjoyed. Filmed largely in Spain, the cast’s dialogue was entirely dubbed, giving it a disorienting, Spaghetti Western feel. And what a cast! Rat Patrol’s Christopher George as the cigar-chomping Boston P.D. Lt. Bracken; George’s real life wife, Linda Day-George as tennis pro/undercover detective Mary Riggs; British star of stage and screen, Edmund Purdom as the Dean; European horror stalwart, Jack Taylor as Prof. Brown. And, of course, the intimidating Paul Smith as Willard the groundskeeper. You might know him also as Bluto in Robert Altman’s Popeye. Of course.

The Tingler, 1959

This is a loopy, campy, gimmick of a movie from the late 50’s when kids were still crowding into the local movie house for cheap thrills. To be fair, this movie cannot be fully appreciated at home on your couch, as it was designed to be experienced in a theater with Percepto vision provided by producer/director William Castle. Castle introduces the film himself with a direct address to the audience. The seats of his specially rigged theater were wired with secret buzzers to make audience members jump and scream. There were props… Nonetheless, this movie is still delightfully bizarre to experience. It stars the legendary Vincent Price as a mad scientist who is experimenting with human reaction to fear. He discovers that fear can build up in the human nervous system like a disease and that if it is not released through the act of screaming, it can metastasize into The Tingler; a lobster-like parasite that will wrap around your spine and kill you. And that includes YOU, dear audience member. This diagnosis, plus the use of electrified theater seats were enough to ensure choruses of shrieks throughout the film. In addition to this wacky premise, there are plots of murder, poisonings, drug-induced hallucinations (in which the film briefly switches from black and white to color) and similar mayhem. A truly unique product from the great era of monster movies, this is one to invite friends over for.

Jacob’s Ladder, 1990

Jacob’s Ladder legitimately gave me the creeps when I first saw it in the early 90’s. The special effects it employed were disturbing and novel at the time. They may not seem so startling in this day and age, but this is still an unnerving horror-thriller that reminds me that there is nothing quite as scary as your own brain. It plays as a serious, rather downbeat drama about a Vietnam vet named Jacob Singer, compassionately played by Tim Robbins. We follow him in the years following his combat service where he lives in Brooklyn, works as a postal carrier and spends time with his girlfriend played by Elizabeth Pena. His life seems simple and relatively happy except that he keeps having…visions. Weird ones. Things that he often just catches out of the corner of his eye. Jacob wonders whether he is having a post-traumatic reaction to the war when he is contacted by fellow veterans from his unit. They too are having frightening hallucinations and it becomes revealed that the Army might have secretly been testing a highly potent form of LSD on these troops, code-named Ladder. As this conspiracy comes to light, Jacob’s buddies mysteriously start disappearing. Are they committing suicide? Are they being hunted by the government? Meanwhile, the hallucinations are getting longer and more explicit. Pretty soon both Jacob and the audience are lost as to what is real and what isn’t. And that’s where I will leave this description. This is a surprisingly complex nightmare of a movie that deserves a watch with the lights out.

Be sure to check out I Love You, America on Hulu!

Give Mather some social love and let him know what you think of his recommendations. He’d love to hear from you!

Twitter: @MatherZickel

Instagram: @matherpzickel

Facebook: Mather Zickel Fan Page

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