I will return to my fall TV pilot preview in a later post, but in the meantime I want to address an interesting dilemma (at least twice as interesting as the film The Dilemma) that a comment by reader Greg Gilbert brought up. In the previous post I referenced actor BD Wong to the film Sixteen Candles, while Greg insisted that he will always associate Mr. Wong with the role of Dr. Henry Wu from Jurassic Park. This got me pondering about actors who have played multiple iconic roles. Some actors have had the opportunity to play an iconic part and for the rest of their lives are forever associated with that part; for example, Christopher Reeves as Superman and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. There are a select few actors though have had the privilege of playing multiple iconic roles. In this post, which will surely be controversial, I plan to give my take on which roles of certain actors should get first “billing” when discussing an actor’s career.
Robert DeNiro- Jake LaMotta (Raging Bull) vs. Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver)
Ironically, Jake LaMotta is #10 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time, while “You talking to me?” was voted as the #10 movie quote by the American Film Institute. So already it’s a tough decision. DeNiro won his first Oscar for Raging Bull, and the story of him gaining 60 pounds to play older Jake LaMotta is legendary. His performance in that film is raw, unhinged, powerful, demonic, and will be looked to as a model of “method acting” for generations. As the mentally deranged Travis Bickle, DeNiro is also incredibly powerful. Diving into method acting once more DeNiro actually worked twelve-hour days for a month driving cabs before the shoot. DeNiro made the character of Bickle, a psychotic murderer, actually likable. If I have to choose one performance though to represent his legacy….I choose Bickle, by a hair. While DeNiro certainly made LaMotta his own, I feel like because you can call Raging Bull a fantastic “boxing movie” or “biopic,” it belongs in multiple conversations. When you think about Raging Bull, you think about a lot of elements, whereas with Taxi Driver, all you can say about that movie is, “Wow. Robert DeNiro. What a performance.” That seals the deal for me.
Winner: Travis Bickle
Al Pacino- Michael Corleone (The Godfather Trilogy) vs. Tony Montana (Scarface)
Many cinemaphiles will tell you that as Corleone, his first major role, Pacino gave the best performance of his career. His descent from family golden boy into ruthless, fratricidal Don is a marvel of tightly clenched intensity. Pacino was also nominated for the Oscar (losing to Cabaret’s Joel Grey) and The Godfather is also ranked #2 on the AFI’s 100 Years….100 Movies list. Then you have Scarface, a character and film which has become a cultural icon, especially in the hip-hop community. The poster and image are still immensely popular appearing on everything from t-shirts to bedsheets to baby bibs, to shoes to teeth. On the other hand, the movie and performance itself was ridiculed. Leonard Maltin said, “[Scarface] wallows in excess and unpleasantness for nearly three hours, and offers no new insights except that crime doesn’t pay” and another top critic noted, “[Pacino’s] efforts expended on the flawless Cuban accent and the attempts to flesh out a character cut from inch-thick cardboard are hopeless.” But critics be damned because the line “Say hello to my little friend” is one of the most quoted lines of all time. So while Michael Corleone may be the better performance, at the end of the day though, in my opinion, when you think of The Godfather, you think of Marlon Brando, and the entire scope of the film (ie. the cast, the music, the direction etc.). When you think of Scarface, you think of Al Fucking Pacino. And vice versa.
Winner: Tony Montana
Harrison Ford- Han Solo (Star Wars Trilogy) vs. Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones… Movies)
Harrison Ford is the box-office champion of all-time. Combined, his movies have grossed more than any other actor, and most of those dollars come from his two giant franchises: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Han Solo is many Star Wars fans’ favorite character. He’s handsome, rugged, sly, sarcastic, clever, and rebellious and his “journey” into deciding to be more selfless and fight for the cause is one that carries the trilogy. Coincidentally, Indiana Jones is also handsome, rugged, sly, sarcastic, clever, etc. Examining both characters by themselves, maybe Han Solo is a little more entertaining and special because he came first, and Indiana Jones is a bit derivative. However, personally, when I think of Star Wars, I think of Darth Vader, Yoda, the force, Luke, Chewy etc. Han is an integral part of that universe, but he’s just a part. The Indiana Jones trilogy is Indiana Jones, who is played by Harrison Ford. At the same time though, it’s Star Wars, the single most culture-seeping franchise of all time. The fact that Harrison Ford helped create that gives Han Solo the upper hand for me. I know this is reverse logic from the reasoning I took with Pacino, but this isn’t The Godfather. It’s Star Wars, and in 100 years, Star Wars will still be relevant. I can’t say the same for Indiana Jones.
Winner: Han Solo
Ron Howard- Opie (The Andy Griffith Show) vs. Richie Cunningham (Happy Days)
Both are television classics for sure, but whenever I hear people talk about the career Ron Howard has had, they always begin by mentioning Little Opie. As in, “Can you believe Opie went so far and is now a big time director? Or “Can you believe that Opie made such a shitty movie as, The Dilemma? (Alright! I get it! It’s not a good movie! Get over it Ethan!) Plus, we all know that Happy Days belongs to Fonzie. At one point the network even wanted to change the show’s name to Fonzie’s Happy Days. How do I know this? Because when I was sick one day when I was 11, I watched a Henry Winkler biography special on E!. To this day I’m amazed by how many Winkler facts I’ve retained from that day. What do I remember about the Gold Rush? Not much.
Will Ferrell- Frank the Tank (Old School) vs. Ron Burgandy (Anchorman)
Marlon Brando- Don Corleone (The Godfather) vs. Stanley Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire) vs. Terry Malloy (On the Waterfront)
AND MORE! Send your own suggestions in!
Day 49- I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but there is going to be an Oscar Winner in "Soul Plane!"5
Last Wednesday night, a gift was given to me. This gift wasn’t a material object. Twas no car, no book, nor temporary tattoo. Twas no gummy bear, no basket, nor CD-Rom. The gift I was given was HBO showing the 1978 film, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” last Wednesday, at 2 in the morning. I had kind of knew of this film’s existence because I had read a tiny blurb about it in a magazine when “Across the Universe” came out, but as I was watching this movie, I was shocked that no one had ever really spoken about it to me before as this movie fills satisfies two of my most major interests:
1. The Beatles
2. Crazy ridiculous comedy (intentional and unintentional)
Let me go into more depth about why I was shocked that I had never seen or been referred to this movie. As a Beatles fan/buff I figured I was at least familiar with all things even remotely Beatles related. I know all the Beatles stories, I’ve seen every episode of the Simpsons that had featured a Beatle (there are 3), I saw the Cirque del Soleil Beatles LOVE show, and I even took a pilgrimage to Liverpool last summer for crying out loud. (The picture on the left is me at John Lennon’s childhood home). So why hadn’t any person, book, or retrospective told me about ANOTHER movie that featured exclusively Beatles songs.
As a comedy fan, I am always on the lookout of things that are funny, and I think I do a pretty thorough job of finding all the funny in blogs, mustaches, books, comedians, movies, silly objects etc. And as much as I love intentional comedy, I sometimes equally love unintentional comedy. For example, I love old records with hilarious covers, I love Bushisms, Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Teen Wolf, and pretty much anything that is hilarious because of how dated it is, or because of how serious it was supposed to be taken. (The picture on the right is what I found when I googled “unintentional comedy.” The one getting stretched is former NBA point guard Sam Cassell.
So you can imagine my delight when I began watching “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” about 1/3 of the way into the movie. By now you’re probably asking, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS MOVIE?! Why do you like it so much?! Why do my parents hate me? While I can’t help you with answering the last one, I will surely address the other two.
“Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” is a 1978 musical starring Peter Frampton and the BeeGees (who by themselves rate about a 9.5 on the unintentional comedy scale). This is the first hilarious part about this movie. What could the producers of this movie have possibly been thinking?
Producer 1: God I love the Beatles!
Producer 2: Who doesn’t?
Producer 1: Communists. That’s who.
Producer 2: Alright Producer 1 take it easy.
Producer 1: Sorry. Hey you remember those earlier Beatles movies? Like A Hard Days Night, and Help?
Producer 2: Sure. Those movies were the best!
Producer 1: Ok, well what do those movies have in common?
Producer 2: Are you serious?
Producer 1: Just go with me on this!
Producer 2: They both had the Beatles.
Producer 1: Aaaaaannnnddd…..
Producer 2: Aaaaaannnd what? This is stupid.
Producer 1: Aaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnddddd………
Producer 2: Alright I give up, just tell me.
Producer 1: AAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNDDDDDDDDDD……..
Producer 2 (pulls out a gun from his desk drawer): Say AND again! Say AND again!
Producer 1: Fine. I’ll tell you. They both feature Beatles MUSIC!
Producer 2: Well….yea. What else are the Beatles gonna sing?
Producer 1: Well, what if we could make a NEW movie featuring Beatles songs!
Producer 2: The Beatles broke up 8 years ago! They aren’t going to want to do another movie!
Producer 1: So we’ll get another group to sing their songs!
Producer 2: That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Who wants to hear anyone other than the Beatles sing their songs?
Producer 1: (Does line of coke) I KNOW! We’ll get the BEEGEES!
Producer 2: You’ve just done way too much coke. The BeeGees?!
Producer 1: Everyone loved their music in Saturday Night Fever (which I produced).
Producer 2: Well that’s because it was THEIR music. Why would the BeeGees even agree to do this movie?
Producer 1: Let’s just say there are some pictures Robin Gibb would not like the public to see.
Producer 2: You’re insane!
Producer 1: Oh I’m not insane! It will be a crazy psychedelic adventure! We’ll get Peter Frampton in it too!
Producer 2: Peter Frampton?!
Producer 1: Yea, and Alice Cooper! And Earth Wind and Fire! And we’ll put Steve Martin in it!
Producer 2: That stand up comedian?! He hasn’t even been in a movie! I dont think he sings!
Producer 1: And then George Burns will narrate!
Producer 2: George Burns! Why the hell would he agree to do this movie?
Producer 1: Lets just say there are some pictures George Burns would not like the public to see.
Producer 2: You’re crazy. You’ve done way too much coke today. Maybe you should lay off it a bit. Relax. You’re out of your mind!
Producer 1: CRAZY! I’m not CRAZY! (Pulls out a gun from his desk drawer)
Producer 2: Hey Producer 1, what are you doing?
Producer 1: I’m craaaazy all right! Crazzy like a fox!
Producer 2: Put down the gun ok. It’s not a toy.
Producer 1: You’ll see! You’ll all see! This movie will rule I tell you! I’m back baby! I’m back! Ma! Look at me! I’m on top! Haaaa haaaaa! MAMMA! LOOK AT ME!
Producer 2: Alright that’s enou–
(SHOT GOES OFF! Producer 2 looks down at his chest. Presses two fingers against his ribcage. Pulls them back and stares slowly at them. They are tainted with blood. He looks down. There is a bloody patch on his shirt that is growing. He looks back up at Producer 1. Producer 1 just stares back at him. Fade to black).
Alright. Now that we got that covered let me tell actually give you all some more detail about this movie. Here are some highlights that made me feel like this movie was made for me at that moment I was watching it.
1. Only 15 minutes before I was in my room where I have a hilarious BeeGees Record “Children of the World” taped up to my wall. I turn on the TV and there are the BeeGees! They are on top of a roof. BUT FROZEN LIKE STATUES. A girl gets off of a bus coming from HEARTLAND and stares at them. Then the camera cuts back to the girl. And back to them. Each time the camera cuts back to the girl we get closer and closer for no reason. Then the music starts. On top of an adjacent building we see 3 “Dreamgirls.” They begin to sing a really slow trippy version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Then, the main girl gives each Bee Gee Statue a stare, and they COME TO LIFE. Then magically they are transported to the Dreamgirls rooftop, about 5 meters away (!!). After about a minute of elbowing each other and looking happy and turned on by how “hot” the Dreamgirls are, they rush over and start to dance with the Dreamgirls. Again more weird close-ups of the girl. Did I mention Barry Gibb’s hair is out of this world.
2. Another scene had a mad scientist Steve Martin singing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” in his crazy laboratory and then zapping the BeeGees with lasers as they try and steal a silver Trombone. Did I mention that the BeeGees never talk the entire movie. George Burns narrates and the BeeGees just sing in falsetto and make knowing glances at each other. At the end of the scene, Peter Frampton gets tased good.
3. After that, the girl (from the weird close-ups) takes unconscious Peter Frampton into her arms and starts singing Strawberry Fields Forever to him. The tears that swell up in her eyes during the song end up dropping on Peter Frampton. The tears also each have a different picture of the girl in them. Peter Frampton wakes up and he and the girl hug while the girl continues to sing. Then they look at each other, her still singing. Then they hug again. They do this for the rest of the song. Repeatedly looking at each other and then hugging. No kissing. Then she wouldnt be able to sing! It’s as if the producers said: well we spent too much money on the last scene, lets just not do anything during this song.
4. Alice Cooper sing-speaks “Because” in front of a bunch of people he is brainwashing. Think that scene from Zoolander where Mugatu makes that crazy video that tells Zoolander to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. This video is crazy trippy animation mixed with Alice Cooper, and the words “We Hate Love. We Love Money.”
5. The BeeGees decide to participate in a PARADE! They’re on a float singing and dancing to “For the Benefit of Mister Kite!” with elephants, clowns and jugglers! They’re all wearing ridiculous costumes too. Then suddenly…GEORGE BURNS APPEARS (sans his trademark cigar). He joins the procession and gets his own verse in the most insane musical numbers I’ve ever seen. It’s a parade. With the BeeGees. And Peter Frampton. And George Burns. And all wearing ridiculous costumes. And they’re singing Beatles songs. And they’re all smiling.
That’s all I’m going to give you. I IMPLORE you to watch this movie. To be honest, in a later viewing I watched the movie from the beginning, and the beginning just so bad and ridiculous (as is the plot–if you though the plot of “Across the Universe” was weak…) that I urge you to watch the movie halfway through with no idea what is going on. It’s much more fun that way.
I’ll leave you with one more nugget of hilarity. Apparently, Robert DeNiro had was cast in one of the lead roles in Edge Of Darkness (the new Mel Gibson movie). But sources claim, “he was fired because he didn’t memorize his lines”. Now, Robert’s people would not confirm nor deny this statement. HOW CRAZY is that?! Robert DeNiro! One of the best actors of all time! Decided “fuck it, I dont want to memorize my lines.” This supports my theory that Robert DeNiro simply doesnt give a shit anymore. He made his good movies. He’s happy with them. Now he’s content to win lifetime achievement awards, and earn fat paychecks. Look at his imdb page and explain to me why every movie he’s made since 1997 is horrendous (save for Meet the Parents. I love that movie). Rocky and Bullwinkle? Showtime? Hide and Seek? Stardust? Righteous Kill? Ok, maybe he was swayed by Pacino on that, but FUCK THAT. When the third actor on the call sheet is 50 Cent, I think you have to know that you’re not making an actual movie. Is DeNiro waiting for his pal Martin Scorcese’s obsession with Leo DiCaprio to subside? DeNiro just changed agencies, so maybe this can be a good thing. All I’m asking is for one more awesome performance before you die Robert. You’ve become a parody of yourself now, it’s time to shape up. I know you’re old. But c’mon. Gimme one more. Please?
Oh, and just a reminder–Mel Gibson still hates Jews. Just because some time has past doesnt mean he hates us less.