Sunday, July 25, 2010

global warming? you betcha! plus, a couple of favorite actors

Okay, it's 11:31 PM and it's 94 degrees. It was 102 for most of the day. Sure, it's July, but we're in Brooklyn, NY, not the fucking equator, not even Arizona or Texas. Yesterday, there was a tornado warning for all of the boroughs of New York except Staten Island, and a guy in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, got hit by lightning. This is not New York City weather. We do not have tornadoes here. We generally do not have violent thunderstorms. We might get a bunch of days in the 90s in July, but it doesn't go over 100 around here. And we've now had something like 15 days over 90 for the month of July. Just sayin'...I don't care how many sex massages Al Gore may or may not have had -- he's on the money about global warming.

Today I watched some of The Buddy Holly Story (I've seen it a million trillion times), and Walk Hard-The Dewey Cox Story with the commentary track. (Had to watch it while Barry was napping, because he doesn't like commentary tracks. I *adore* them!) Of course, these movies are somewhat related, since Walk Hard parodies the musical biopic genre, and the WH early-career-bad-recording-session comes right out of the Buddy Holly movie -- though like much of the BH movie, it's a fictional event.

There's a lot of made-up shit in the Buddy Holly movie, including fake Crickets (they couldn't get the rights from the real Crickets, so the movie has two fake "Crickets" named "Jesse" and "Ray Bob." It has unsupportive Holley (original spelling) parents, which is untrue. And it has the rejection from the country recording session bit, which is also not true -- Holly did record some bluegrass material early on.

The redeeming quality of this film, and it's a big one, is that Gary Busey not only does his own singing and playing, but it's recorded *live*. (Don Stroud as Jesse and Charles Martin Smith as Ray Bob also do their own playing and singing, also live.) What I love is that Busey definitely has the Holly posture and vocal mannerisms down, but he's not performing "off the record." He's performing live *as* Holly, and it's pretty mesmerizing, since there's very little actual film of Holly playing. It's also the best thing Gary Busey ever did, far and away.

In Walk Hard, John C. Reilly as the fictitious music legend Dewey Cox, does his own singing, though it's prerecorded. Since it parodies so many biopics and portrays a long career, Dewey passes through many musical styles and Reilly sings them all. There's an R&B song, an early-Elvisy song, some Bob Dylan-type songs (really, really funny), a Brian-Wilson-Good-Vibrations number (also funny for the visuals of the recording session), and of course a Johnny Cash number. But the one that blew me away was the faux-Roy Orbison number, because Reilly was maybe 95% of the way to singing exactly like Orbison. And Roy Orbison had one of the most astonishingly beautiful and unique voices in pop music. *No one* sings like Roy Orbison! David Hildalgo (Los Lobos) is in the neighborhood of Orbison, as is the guy from The Mavericks, but no one sings like him, and I've never heard anyone imitate his singing so successfully.

So the actors in question are John C. Reilly and Charles Martin Smith.

I *adore* Charles Martin Smith. Like pretty much everyone else, I first saw him in American Grafitti as the consummate nerd (and one of the first depictions of that then-newish stereotype). But what really got my attention was Never Cry Wolf. See it if you haven't. He plays a scientist studying wolves, who lives out in some snowy cold place (was it Canada?) for months and months to study them. He's all by himself, and goes a little native to better understand the animals. He not only stars in this movie, which is all too rare for character actors, but he basically carries the whole thing, start to finish. It's mostly just him, period. There were probably one or two people in the first few minutes (and maybe at the end, don't remember), but it's basically just him. How many actors do directors trust to do that, basically act a solo film, and how many actors carry it off? After that, I looked at CMS extra hard whenever he popped up in a movie. Never had a part that big again, but apart from The Buddy Holly Story, he had some decent parts in The Untouchables and Starman.

John C. Reilly is something like the next-generation Gene Hackman, but I actually think he's even better than Hackman. Hackman is a great character actor and can be funny, but Reilly is a great character actor, a great improvisor, a great singer and he's truly, truly funny. First noticed him in Boogie Nights, which is probably in my top five movies. I love the period (late 70s), love the acting, and it's unbelievably funny. Best thing Mark Wahlberg ever did, for sure. In addition to Reilly, it was the first time I ever saw Phillip Seymour Hoffman, another amazing character actor, but we'll get to him some other time.

I remember in the commentary to Boogie Nights, director Paul Thomas Anderson said something along the lines of, "You just point a camera at Reilly, and something amazing is going to happen. I never know what it's going to be, but it's always incredible." After Boogie Nights, Reilly did some non-comedy parts, including Chicago (where he sang, and was my favorite thing in the movie), but then someone rediscovered that he was funny -- someone from Planet Apatow, I believe -- and put him in Talladega Nights with Will Ferrell. That's probably where a lot of people first saw him. He was *really* funny -- you have to be, in a movie with Will Ferrell (not to mention Sascha Baron Cohen, who is one of the funniest people on the planet). So he's now well-known as a comic actor, and got to star in Walk Hard. I don't know how well that movie did, but I find it wildly funny. Planet Apatow again, with Jake Kasdan directing. (Jake is the son of Lawrence Kasdan, best known for directing Silvarado and The Big Chill.) Oh, by the way, Reilly can also dance, and though he doesn't exactly dance in Walk Hard, he has really incredible stage chops when he's performing the songs.

He also speaks Yiddish in one scene in the movie. Gotta love it.

The other thing that makes Walk Hard so much fun is all of the uber-cool cameos and bit parts. Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly, for some bizarre reason. Jack Black as Elvis. The Beatles: Jack Black (Paul), Paul Rudd (John), Justin Bartha (George), and Jason Schwartzman (Ringo). Harold Ramis as one of the Jews controlling show-biz, who in this movie are all Hassidic. Jonah Hill. And I've recently become a fan of Margo Martindale, who plays Dewey's mother (and is done up to look a good deal like Elvis' mother). The cast is all stellar, really.

Some of my top movies, in no given order -- and I'm not sure how many I can pin down just now -- are: The Right Stuff. Boogie Nights. Apollo 13. Godfather II. A League of Their Own. Auto Focus. Hairspray (the original, non-musical one). My all-time favorite unintentionally funny movie is easy to come up with: Showgirls. Favorite midnight movie: The Harder They Come. (Used to see it in an actual movie theater, The Elgin, actually at midnight. "Midnight movies" is more of a genre name now than it signifies movies you actually see at midnight in a theater. Same as B-movies, which used to be the second, less-good movie on a double bill, since no one shows double-features any more. I used to see double-features. I also saw double-header baseball games. I believe I'm dating myself.)

I also watched a bad movie today (Big Bad Mama) with an awesome soundtrack (David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Richard Greene).

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