Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Michael Jackson, History

So I was going through some old folders on the hard drive and found this thing I wrote the night Michael Jackson died. I never posted it because it's self serving garbage, but I re-read it and I kind of like it through the scope of 6 months. So I'm posting it.

Michael Jackson is dead.
That cute as a button kid who danced in front of his brothers and kicked out some funkiest shit known to earth in the 70's, the young man with a scowl, moon-walking in a red leather jacket and studded glove through the 80's, the increasingly pale fellow who started donning masks, married Elvis' daughter, dangled his baby off a balcony, and had painfully uncomfortable encounters with children whether he touched them or not, all those guys are gone.
There is surely an avalanche building as we speak of horror stories that will start coming out over the weeks, months and years to come. Books by those close to him. Lawyers, Doctors, Agents will all have stories about the complexities of this man as well as tales of weirdness on an epic scale.
I mean the stuff that got out while he was alive, like the Jesus juice, the oxygen tanks, and bigger than life Peter Pan complex, was weird enough, but there is surely some buzzard just waiting to expose the dirty secrets of this poor bastard after the initial grieving period is over.
Right now everyone fondly remembers Thriller-era Michael.
Michael Jackson was the 80's just as much as Elvis was the 50's. In the end the King of Rock'n Roll and the King of Pop might have turned out to be a little more alike than originally thought. While Elvis might have been more extroverted, even in his declining years playing shows and making light of his appearance, Michael amidst court cases,controversies and mutations, hid in his ranch/amusement park until the government took it away. Both of them were on top of the world, and indisputably the best, and most innovative in their field in their prime, and both saw their creativity and popularity wane in later years and began showing signs of erratic behavior. Elvis shot television sets and filmed young girls in their underwear having pillow fights, Michael had slumber parties with kids and fed them wine. And of course was accused of other daliances.
So why are there people crying in the streets doing bad accapella versions of his songs? Leaving flowers outside of the Apollo Theater? Why has a cynical bastard like me, who can't remember the last time I even thought about Michael Jackson beyond maybe blasting Billie Jean or Thriller should I hear it on the radio care? (I should also confess that I always really liked The Way You Make Me Feel off Bad too, that would probably be my Top 3 not including Jackson 5 material Michael Jackson songs). Alright maybe I might have done the Thriller Dance (badly) at Halloween parties.

I think some of it comes down to age. I can remember 1984 a little. Not vividly but enough to know that certain things burned themselves into my psyche: Ronald Reagan was President, and Michael Jackson was the biggest musician in the world. It's why, even though I later learned shitty things about Ronald Reagan I felt a little sad when he died. It wasn't so much being sad for the man, maybe just a sick realization of "that was fucking 20 years ago". Some people suggest it might have something to do with a part of your childhood being gone, and I think I bought into that for about 10 minutes, but in the end that is probably just neurtoic armchair psychiatric bullshit. I think I do buy into the "realization of one's own mortality" neurotic armchair psychiatric bullshit much more.
So I don't want to watch the news or any of the entertainment shows that will surely keep this feeding frenzy going for the next 20 years, beating us over the head with unearthed EXLCUSIVES. Surely the following sentence will be uttered in the next week: Michael Jackson "What you didn't know!" And who would be suprised if this turned out to be some kind of elaborate hoax? It won't be long before the "Michael faked his own death and is living as a waffle maker in Belgium" rumors start spinning.
But there's bigger things going on in the world than the death of a pop star. Iran is shooting protesters and North Korea is claiming they want to reign down hellfire on everybody. There's big things going on.
But Michael Jackson was big. Big enough for the networks to clear their schedules for the evening, big enough to block out news that Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon died this week too. I mean the title of this thing is a lyric from a U2 song. That's pretty big.
Ultimately he was a great entertainer who turned into great entertainment. He morphed from the biggest pop star in the world into a rolling punchline for hack comedians and an endless blood supply for vampiric pseudo-journalists and while I'm sorry he died I have no intention of drinking a beer or lighting a candle or spouting some kind of over-earnest sentimental garbage about the man. He was a singer who was also a weird queer who may have had the best of intentions but couldn't help but come off creepy over the last 15 or so years. The real sad thing is that he may have never even realized it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

NIc Cage is the Best Medicine

Nicolas Cage is in a new movie called Bad Lieutenant: Port Of New Orleans, or something like that. Now if you've ever seen Bad Lieutenant, with Harvey Kietel you know it was a weird, violent, insane little movie whether you liked it or not. So you can imagine my queasiness at finding out some remake with Cage and his Ghost Rider flame Eva Mendes is about to come out, produced by no less an eternal spring of creative integrity than MTV. Even the fact that Val Kilmer was lending his Jim Morrisoness to the project did little to make me think it was going to be any good.
Well I haven't seen the movie, but I read Ebert's review, and beyond what he thought of the movie (he gave it four stars) he told a few things Cage's character does in the film: namely robbing drug dealers, shooting heroin (I think it was heroin), and raping a suspects girlfriend, which pretty much convinced me that at the very least we weren't dealing with some crisply shot, shoot em' up "This guy is a BAD Lieutenant" remake or reimagining or whatever scummy designation they want to give it to cover up the fact that it's a regurgitation. To be honest I don 't know why they needed to pull the name off Kietel's little gem from almost 20 years ago, but whatever, I'm not here to talk about franchising rights. Maybe there'll be Bad Lieutenant combo meals at Arby's; that's none of my business.

However, it did remind me to a point, this movie that I haven't seen only read a review about, that when he wants to, Nicolas Cage can act. This is a lesson I re-learn every once in a while when I notice the dusty copy of Adaptation sitting in my DVD shelf. "Oh yeah" I'll think as skip right by it and pop in a George Carlin disc yet again.

But whatever, that's not the point either I'm not here to shit on Nicolas Cage or call him a sellout or say he's wasted his talent and has been secretly controlled for the last 12 or 13 years by an alien that lives in his hair piece. Oh no. I'm here to sing his praise and thank him.

Perhaps I should preface this. I've probably written something along these lines before but bear with me. Actually hold on for a minute I have to cancel an appointment with my eye doctor tomorrow morning.

Ok. So I have a whole criteria for movies that can render them a second chance in my life as a "Going to Bed Movie". It took a while for me to find exactly what made a good movie to act as white noise while I drift off into the terrible terrible dreams that haunt my sleep. Early movies that didn't make the cut were films that I really enjoyed "Seven" "Rushmore" "Taxi Driver" "The Royal Tennenbaums" nothing worked. I'd hit a certain point in the film and I'd be hooked.

But then I found the Muhammad Ali of Sleep Movies, Roland Emmerich's beautiful gift to mankind: Independence Day. My comprehension and near obsession with this film could probably be seen as one of the reasons why I usually don't have a girlfriend, but fuck that these things need to be studied and if I have to sacrifice some hoo-hah so that future generations have a better understanding of art, then so be it.

I fucking hated Independence Day when I first saw it. Great they blew up the Empire State building. The Capital and Capitol Records (what devious irony). Will Smith provided a nice, safe black man, a RAPPER, for white children to look up to and emulate. Jeff Goldblum showed how funny Jewish people can be, and as far as I can tell Randy Quaid played himself.

But let me tell you something, no film, none, has ever felt like a warm blanket protecting me from the evil night like this shit bomb. In the last 5 years I wouldn't be surprised if I've seen this movie, in pieces, at least a hundred times. If they took this show to Broadway, and stayed to true to the source material, I guarantee I could handily win either Robert Loggia's or Judd Hirsch's role over the most seasoned of thespians.

I can fall asleep at any point in the film, however if it's just started I prefer to be out by the time those poor bastards in the helicopter with the flashing lights get blown out of the sky by that menacing turquoise light, because I tend to find myself trying to decipher exactly what those flashing lights could possibly mean.
Otherwise, they could replace every actor, every special effect, every moronic piece of dialogue, with digitally enhanced sheep jumping over a fence because it has the same effect on me, but that is only because I can turn it on at any point and either watch it all the way through, or fall asleep because I know the biggest thrill I'm likely to get out of it is the feeling of an ice cold cringe starting in my ass and shooting to the back of my neck when Randy sacrifices himself to save the dullards who managed to survive and yells "Alrigth you alien assholes, in the words of my generation UP YOURS"

So yes, I'm simultaneously shitting on this movie and praising it, because somehow, Emmerich, who has never before or since shown any capability of doing much of anything, has here managed to make a film that finds the exact balance of something that is just entertainingly shitty enough to pay attention to, and a garbled, cliche-drenched mess that can be ignored.

Independence Day may be the all time heavyweight champion but Nicolas Cage is the pope of sleep movies. His early ground breaking work in this genre would be his late 90's/ early 00's Trilogy of "The Rock" "Con Air" and "Gone in 60 Seconds". Now, I know what you're thinking: No National Treasure? No National Treasure: Book of Secrets? No, no, no my friend, I haven't forgotten about these mud covered diamonds. But I think we all know there will be a third National Treasure, assuming that Helen Mirren didn't smother Nic, and the rest of the heroes to death with her tits at the end of Book of Secrets, since I have yet to make it to the end of that one I can't say for sure. But there's no way that happened. If I even sensed that there was a chance of Mirren-tit I would have hung in there.

So surely National Treasure: The Secret of Thomas Jefferson Bastard Children can't be far off. So I'm not getting into that right now, though they are important films in the Cage Canon.

Yes, it took a 4 day jag in the ICU for me to re-appreciate the original Cage-Trilogy. But being, unnecessarily confined to a bed on a Saturday night, knowing there is a world out there that doesn't include an old man in the next room, who only seemed to wake up at night, yelling "help" in a wheezy gasp, gave me some perspective.

You can imagine my excitement finding out that USA was going CAGE CRAZY (my words not theirs) with all three films, and even though bastardized with edits and commercials I couldn't really ask for more.

Gone in 60 Seconds started it off, this is a movie I would go as far to say I kind of like. Sure it's really nothing more than a group of guys confusing cars for pussy (admittedly "confusing cars for cunts" was a nice alliteration, but I'm trying to be classy here). There is a lot of soft porn dialogue about classic cars, they even name the cars with stripper names, and no less than Angelina JOlie, fresh off an Oscar, and pre-raising a small African Village in West Hollywood, is the only thing not gas powered that can get ol' Nic's dick stiff. But it's even got Robert Duvall, and I have a hard time hating anything he's in. It's kind of a happy little ridiculous movie.

I almost have the same synopsis of the Rock. I saw it in the theater and I liked it. It's completely stupid but I like it. Everyone has a friend that's an idiot and this is mine. I've seen the Rock alot. I owned it on VHS;stolen from West Coast Video in New Milford from the $7.99 bin. But it is a stupid movie. The first scene we meet Cage's Dr. Stanely Goodspeed in he's uber-excited about the $600 original pressing of Meet the Beatles he's ordered and this really sets the tone. He even goes as far to overstate the point when questioned about the lavishness of this purchase: "I ordered it for two reason, 1. Because I am Beatle Maniac and 2. because these (LPs) sound better". This is supposed to make him instantly likable to us. "HEY THIS GUY LIKES THE BEATLES! HE PREFERS LP'S! HE'S AN OLD FASHIONED KIND OF GUY TRYING TO AVOID BEING SWALLOWED UP BY MODERN TECHNOLOGY! I IDENTIFY. I FIND THE MUSIC OF THE BEATLES AUDIBLY PLEASING AS WELL! I AM GOING TO ROOT FOR THIS FELLOW NO MATTER WHERE THIS ADVENTURE TAKES HIM!" Yes, thank God Sean Connery shows up and says things like "Losers try their best, winner's go home and fuck the prom queen". Ed Harris broods for an hour and half before getting his guts blown out and in what I honestly believe must be a Michael Bay penned line passes through the mouth of the man who took home the Best Actor Oscar the year before: "how in the name of Zeus' butthole did you get out of your cell?" Yes. This one is magic. I liked it. Fuck Transformers, fuck Bad Boys and really fuck Armageddon, (it's actually amazing that I haven't included that fucking dumpster sludge of a movie in this conversation, but it isn't really a going to bed movie, I tried to do that twice and both times I stayed up and watched the whole 2 hours plus and listened to Aerosmith cry all over the credits and stayed up the rest of the night questioning life.)

And then there is Con Air. I probably should have started here because I feel like I might have burned myself out. Ok, this might be all I have to say about Con Air: "Why wouldn't you put the bunny down?". Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Dave Chappelle. Never before has such talent been assembled for whatever the hell happens here. For starters it's the only movie John Cusack has ever been in that he isn't longing over a woman. He also wears sandals and socks throughout. Steve Busemi plays the voice of reason/child killer and we're supposed to get all happy because he gets away at the end because he managed to cure himself by having a tea party with a little girl without skinning her. I guess I could go on but who gives a shit? The real star of this movie is Nicolas Cage's one-chromosome-short-of-drooling-on-himself slow southern drawl. It wears on you almost immediately, as the opening sequence unfolds he's reading his fucking crayon scribbled letters to his stupid daughter, slinging cliche ridden drivel in his borderline Forrest Gump accent. And the aforementioned bunny line. That was like his tough guy moment? However, the fact that someone watched that and went "Perfect! We got it. Great take Nic" makes me think maybe I'm beng too harsh. Then there is my favorite moment at the end, no not when Cyrus "the Virus" somehow gets thrown from the main drag of Las Vegas to a rock quarry that is apparently somewhere between Cesars and Ballys, no that's perfectly fine, I mean when Cage tells Cusack that "now there's three men I trust" and they shake hands. This is a callback to an earlier scene where Cage tells him there are only two men he trusts: "One's me the other's not you" so now at the end, after all they've been through, there are three men he trusts: Himself, Not John Cusack and John Cusack. I think that about sums it up.

So as I lay in my hospital bed, turning down the nurse's offer for a Xanax to help me sleep and trying forget about the insane tab one accumulates while being hooked up to heart monitors and brought drugs every hour you might ask: did I make it through all three? You bet Helen Mirren's sweet tits I didn't.