Raindrops on Roses & Whiskers on Kittens

As I get older, I find myself less and less inclined to harp on about things I hate.  From mild annoyances like new music radio to that asshole who cut me off at that intersection in Winter Hill and gave me the finger to people who don’t understand the beauty of Echo & the Bunnymen’s second LP… I no longer feel the urge to lease space in my head for such things.  I don’t listen to radio stations that don’t have static as a primary feature, I’ve accepted the fact that I live in MA and no one here but me and my girlfriend can drive, and people who don’t like Heaven Up Here are going to hell anyway – I can’t be fucked to care.  I’ve mellowed in my old age, is what I’m getting at.

It’s only recently that I’ve realized this – and frankly, I’m proud of myself.  I’m damned proud that I’ve grown up in this respect and feel like a better person for it.

And so, with that in mind, today I’d like to forgo a proper post and instead focus this kind of zen I’ve found and present a few of my favorite things.  Just for the hell of it.  Continue reading

>Movies With Criminially Underused Supporting Characters

>Aaaaaand we’re back. 

Did not mean to take a month long hiatus, but that’s sort of what happened, just the same, I suppose.  I ran out of ideas and took some time to find me you know?  I took up yoga and the ancient art of tai-chi.  Got way into the music of Cat Stevens and read this great book on the organic food movement that I’d like to discuss with you guys today.



I exclusively wear these now.

 Kidding.  Here’s a list of movies that are pretty good, but have some truly badass characters right in the background that just don’t get the screen time they deserve. 

These aren’t your Boba Fetts or your Witch King of Angmars – those guys had their screen time and their incompetence is plainly seen.  The characters on this list, are waaay better than whoever the filmmakers elected to follow instead.  With these guys running the show, things would run a lot smoother and murder mystery after vengeance plot after intense political drama would be wrapped up inside of about twenty minutes.

Marky Mark The Departed

The other night, speaking to some friends, I actually realized what I’d already secretly suspected: I’m a huge Mark Wahlberg fan.  At some point after dinner, the conversation turned towards stupid actors we hate and I brought up Marky Mark – for a few minutes, I bemoaned his “acting” ability in his “films”.  My argument was that he completely sucks in absolutely everything.  The exceptions of course, being The Departed… and The Fighter… and The Other Guys… and Four Brothers… and The Italian Job… and I Heart Huckabess… oh and Three Kings – did you see that shit?  That was fucking boss, when dude was all in the desert with the guns and he was all like –

And there it was.  I could no longer deny it.  “This is who I am,” I thought to myself.  I still don’t know how I’m going to tell my family.

In each of those movies listed, Marky Mark plays the lead.  Except for the Departed.  In that movie, he has a total of, I don’t know, seven minutes of screen time?  Maybe eight?  But in those precious few moments, he completely eats the scenery around everyone.  Including – no, especially, Leonardo DiCaprio.  Wahlberg plays the ultimate dick cop, Sgt. Dignam.  In one scene, he not only makes Leo’s character so angry he starts to cry, he mimes farting on his head before he gets bored and walks away.

But that’s nothing compared to this:

Dignam: This is unbelievable. Who put the fuckin’ cameras in this place?
Police Camera Tech: Who the fuck are you?
Dignam: I’m the guy who does his job. YOU MUST BE THE OTHER GUY.

With Dignam in charge, Frank Costello would be in a federal pen before the credits finished rolling.  I’d just be “IMMA A SAILOR PEG AND I LOST MYYY-” jump cut to Jack Nicholson getting hand-cuffed on the hood of a cop car .  Matt Demon just bleeding out in the background and Martin Sheen totally still alive, off to the side, giving Mark Wahlberg a thumbs up.

Steve McQueen – The Great Escape

Here’s a beloved film that, in the decades since it’s release, has really wanted you to forget the fact that Steve McQueen is not really the main character.  No, this is an ensemble of the purest sort – with some incredible acting from McQueen, for sure – but he is not pulling the lead, here.

Despite the fact that he’s on the poster twice

In this classic, you’ve got James Garner.  Charles Bronson.  Richard Attenborough.  James Coburn.  Then, towards the back for 78% of the movie, is McQueen.  But seemingly, the only person who knew how fucking awesome Steve McQueen is was Steve McQueen. 

McQueen took the role on two conditions: 1.) he be given the same amount of lines as James Garner and then 2.) they work motorcycles in somehow to their WW2 POW camp period piece.  Which they did.  Based on Steve McQueen’s ego, we get one of the coolest freaking scenes of all time.

At the end of the movie, when the Escape is crumbling and the freed men are being captured or executed all around, McQueen steals a Nazi’s Triumph Bonneville (which gearheads will note is totally not a German bike in any way, shape or form) and rides for fucking freedom.  It is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history – the downed American airman leaping over the walls of a Nazi POW camp.

“AAAAAAAMERICA”

It’s a real triumph (pun intended) of the human spirit type moment.  By the time it comes around, you are rooting for Steve McQueen harder than you’ve ever rooted for anything in your entire life.  The music is swelling, the mountains swoon majestically in the background (mountains swoon, right?) and amid a hail of German gunfire, he clears the fuck out of that wall.  He makes that wall his bitch.  That wall was owned so hard, you guys.  But again, that guy is not the lead.  He does not get away either, he’s not special – instead, he promptly crashes into some other barbed wire.  Then is captured.  And sent back to the camp.

It’s a total fake-out – I’ve already suspended my disbelief to allow for the fact that there’s a motorcycle jump, you don’t have to reign it in with some realism and have Steve McQueen sent back to prison to die.  The first part of the movie, we see the respect the Germans have for their Allied prisoners.  But that cannot be expected after the escape.  How do you think the Nazi’s are going to treat him when he’s sent back as the sole surviving architect of a colossal PR fuck up?  I’m sure they just tussled his hair a bit and locked the door a bit more carefully behind him.  Boys will be boys, das Fuhrer will understand.

Yeah, that’s what happened. 

Peter Postlethwaite – The Town

This feels like a complete cheat because I’ve never seen a movie with Peter Postlethwaite and thought, “Jesus, I could really have used less of that guy.”  The sad fact is that every movie the man was in didn’t use him enough.  His penultimate film, The Town, was no exception. 

Pete played the film’s villain – for lack of a better term – Fergie Colm, the brains and money behind the successful bank robberies coming out of Charlestown.  Also, he runs a florist’s.  Why not. 

When Ben Affleck’s character is ready to give it up and settle down with a nice girl, Colm won’t let him.  He recognizes that Doug MacRay is an asset and he’s not going to just let him go.  Affleck gets indignant and raises his voice, threating the old man.  While cutting down roses, Colm quietly explains that he castrated MacRay’s father and got his mother hooked on dope before she killed herself.  A huge plot point of the movie is that Doug has been under the impression his entire life that his mother just walked out on them when we has a kid.

Son, I knew your daddy. He worked for me for years. Years. Then he wanted his own thing. You play the horses? You know they either geld the horse with a knife or with chemicals. When your Daddy said no to me, I did him the chemical way. Gave your mother a taste. Got the hook into her. Ahh, she doped up good and proper. Hung herself with a wire, on Melnea Cass. And you, running around the neighborhood looking for her. Your daddy didn’t have the heart to tell his son that he was looking for a suicide doper who was never coming home. If there’s a Heaven son, she ain’t in it.

That’s his big scene and it is absolutely chilling.  This unassuming little Irish florist is presented, in about ten seconds flat, as evil incarnate.  It’s like the air get sucked out of the room, the monologue is so goddamned good.  But ultimately, the whole scene is just transitory – it exists to propel Affleck into accepting the film’s last heist.  So he folds, says he’ll do it… and that’s it.  Now, I don’t know about you, but imagining a Boston bank robber flick where Peter Postlethwaite’s character has a resonating presence that is truly felt, an undercurrent driving the main character into violence after splintering his family when he was just a boy – the idea of that movie gets me eighteen types of hard.  And it’s almost there – except for the presence part.  You don’t forget about Pete Postlethwaite – but the film does. 

The Town is a great movie, but goddamn, what a missed opportunity, there.

Tommy Flanagan – Braveheart

The Glasgow Smile is not makeup.

Flanagan’s character Morrison is a great parallel for Mad Max’s William Wallace.  As the men reading this already know (not that women don’t like this movie, it’s just that a man will watch Braveheart more times in his life than he will utter the word “and”), the bitch-ass king of England, Edward the Longshanks, wants to keep the rowdy Scots in line amid whispers of a rebellion.  So he institutes the right of Prima Nocte – allowing any nobleman the right to shack up with a lady before her husband on her wedding night.

“F1111RST!”

Martin Riggs’ wife is murdered after an Englishman tries to get his Nocta Prima’d and she attacks him (Christ, that is like 19-19 for films in which Mel Gibson has a wife but she is ultimately murdered).  But that’s way after Morrison’s wife gets bedded about five and a half seconds after they’re officially wed.  Lord Bottoms (tehehe) just rides up on his horse, calls dibs, and takes her away. 

In the ensuing chaos that Ransom delivers after his wife’s death, Morrison finds Lord Bottoms.  He’s tied to a post and as Morrison stamps towards him with a knife in his hand, the nobleman whimpers, “I never did any harm!  It was my right!”

To which Morrison replies, “Your right?!  Well, I’m here to claim the right of a husband!” and stabs him in the motherfucking throat.

The next four hours of the film involve Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome hacking Englishmen in half, and yet it all pales in comparison to the sheer badassery of Morrison’s revenge-kill.  In charge of the rebellion, I imagine he would have had London burning inside of like, a day and by now, most of the world would be speaking the gnarled, slovengingly tongue the Scots call a language.

>Six Bands in the Life of the Author (part one)

>

I’m not going to set up a false pretense for this post.  Last month, Jasper posted something on the Triumph I found especially fascinating, 6 Books in the Life of the Author.  Firstly, I was compelled because I’ve known Jasper for years and was intrigued to see my friend track the most important books in his life.  Secondly, holy shit how can you only pick six??

And that is the inherent genius of the task.  I think it’s a fantastic exercise – a worth way to spend one’s time.  Here, I’d like to do the same thing for the first non-sports related post on this site.  But far more important to my development has been music.  Presented here are the six most important bands in my life (ages 15-22).  I stress the word “important”.  Listing your six favorite bands may be a challenge but I think this is more rewarding, personally.  I stress the ages 15-22 because prior to the age of 15, I didn’t listen to a damn thing that wasn’t the Beatles.
Without further ado: Six Bands in the Life of the Author… part one.
…It’s okay to steal if you readily admit you are thieving, right?
“Yes.

Motley Crue 

Here’s a band I found at exactly the right time in my life.  I was burnt out on punk (and also disillusioned, something that is likely not at all uncommon amongst music fans with quote-unquote “punk” sensibilities) and needed something to replace it.  Going into the summer of my seventeenth year, my personality was pretty rocky to begin with.  I heard a friend say once that junior year was a time where their notion of self was vaguely defined.  The sketch of a person was there, but the outline was all blurry.  I think this is a terrific sentiment but one that doesn’t apply to me.  My outline wasn’t blurry, it was painfully vibrating.
Now, as trite as this may sound coming from a man born in 1988… enter Motley Crue.
Wait, shit.  I have to be clear here.  When I say “Motley Crue” I mean Motley Crue.  I don’t mean the cleaned up reissue from a few years back.  I don’t mean the 40-something Motley that went on tour with Aerosmith.  Even though I like that version fine and I thought 1998’s “Bitter Pill” was a fine song.  
But that incarnation doesn’t actually mean that much to me.  Or anything at all, really.  When I was sixteen years old, I fell in love with the dope addled, drunk, misogynistic, mean, fucking violent Motley Crue.   
This one.
Motley was the perfect band for me at one imperfect time of my life.  That summer, those records were truly my soundtrack, not just the noise that was playing in the background.  I literally crashed my car to Music to Crash Your Car To – it’s why I have a painful aversion to overpasses to this day (and why I suck down drammine before heading into any semi-mountainous region of the United States).  I go through really obsessive phases with my music – months passing listening to only one band.  Presently, I am exclusively listening to the Rolling Stones.  Over the winter, I only listened to the Mountain Goats.  When I was seventeen, I didn’t listen to anything that wasn’t written by Nikki Sixx.
As an aside, I was living with my father at this time.  He had hated my punk phase but when I started blasting Shout at the Devil out of my bedroom, it gave us a common ground we’d been missing throughout my adolescence.  Not that Motley Crue saved my relationship with my dad – said relationship has always been terrific.  It’s just funny that several arguments about the merits of the Sex Pistols ended in doors slamming, but we could both very easily agree that “Kickstart my Heart” was the greatest song ever written.  And it may well be, I lack the data at this time to support or refute that claim.
Most Important Memory: were I to be sticking with Jasper’s formula, Motley Crue’s The Dirt would make my list as one the six most important books in my life.  I easily read that book six times over that summer.  I do believe Sebastian Bach of Skid Row said it best with, “You know… the Bible is a pretty good book… but it is not better than The Dirt.”
It’s really not.
The Libertines 
Noel Gallagher is a great one for quotes.  I truly do appreciate his songwriting, his musical ability and his vocal stylings.  But that man’s greatest contribution are his interviews.  He could be painfully funny – as during the Get Behind Me Satan era of the White Stripes, he said Jack White looked like “Zorro on Donuts” (you know he was right).  But he could also be remarkably insightful.  Of the Libertines, Noel once said something to the affect that they were the rare type of band that comes along every twenty years or so and just changes the way people dress, talk, act.  Of course, the man behind the good parts of Oasis was referring to the cultural shift that occurred in Britain in the early years of the 21st century – something I was very clearly not a part of.  But the Libertines did have a similar effect on me.
The Libertines not only changed the way I dressed, talked, and acted, they changed my standards for rock and roll.  I’ll beg that you pardon the cliche here, but I truly had never heard anything like it before.  
In a post-Libertines consciousness, I needed clever songwriting.  Pete Doherty, the monumental fuck up he can be sometimes (at the time of this writing, he was just sentenced to six months in prison for cocaine possession) is possibly the high water mark for intelligence in this era’s rock and roll.  Educated at Oxford, Doherty could write about doing lines in a bathroom just as easily as he could name-drop Oscar Wilde in his lyrics or discuss Dostoevsky with a stunned Rolling Stone journalist.
Carl Barat, on the other hand, was very likely the heart and soul of that band’s musical direction.  Carl plays like a speed freak.  He’s fast as all fucking hell but he never seems to loose it.  His chord progression is logical without being rigid.  His solos are maniacal yet always in key.  It’s essentially punk rock, but by a guy who knows his instrument.
With the Libertines’ disintegration – and it is absolute folly to call it anything else – the principal identities of the band went on to form two new bands.  But the most common observation of Doherty’s Babyshambles and Barat’s Dirty Pretty Things is also the most accurate one.  Each band sounds precisely like the Libertines sans the other member.  As such, there is always something lacking in those records.  Personally, I’ve grown to be more of a DPT fan, but after a few listens, I ache for something with more substance.  But listen to Babyshambles, and six tracks in you are dying for someone to do fucking something clever with a guitar because honestly, I can’t fucking hear C-G-C-A more than say, four times on a given album.
Most Important Memory:  Easy.  Listening to the eponymous second LP with Jasper over and over on the first night we hung out together. 

Echo and the Bunnymen
Were this list to be chronological, Echo&Co would likely top the list.  This band mattered to me more than probably any other.  The first song I heard was (I’m positive) “The Killing Moon” but the effect would not be immediate.  At one point, I was utterly convinced there was never going to be any other band I’d ever need.  Most of their songs could be classified as “post-punk love songs”.  In fact, I think that might be the only way to describe “Lips Like Sugar”.  But it’s a disservice to the group to leave it at that.
Heaven Up Here is moody.  Or, actually, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the album is bitchy.  
Now, on one of the 80’s post-punk spectrum, I’d like for you to envision the Cure.  On the other, we’ll put Jesus and Mary Chain.  You’ve got the swooning, sorrowful music of Robert Smith, on the other, the drug fueled Reid brothers.  Somewhere in the middle, I’d put Echo – often recalling the embraces of old loves but holy shit, they could really make some heavy tunes.
 
Heaven Up Here, the band’s second record, a pure example of this can be found.  The guitars are heavier, Ian McCulloch is, I think, septuple-tracked and doomed drummer Pete de Freitas (who would not live to see twenty eight) provides an absolutely haunting back beat.  
I think it’s a perfect record, I really do.
Most Important Memory:  Seeing the music video for “The Puppet” for the first time.  I vividly recall it being three in the morning on one of those VH1 Classic block.  I was in a state of shock for a while there.  Just like… “what did I just see??”