Like Rocks For Chocolate

I ain’t much for popular opinion.

I can’t remember the last time I fully trusted the tally of a widely held opinion. This isn’t a contrarian gallivant, myopic bent or some degenerative condition that rhymes with Larry King. Nah, it’s just the truth in my lovely bones. A truth that cannot shut up, even when it really . . really should.

Every now and then, I say something that perturbs the proclivities of a heretofore popular vote gone final. Like . . for instance, when I suggest that I ain’t down with the idea that Forrest Gump is a great movie.

I discussed this opinion with a friend of mine recently, and the results . . they were predictable. And shit! If it ain’t safer to stand in the middle of Pyongang and call Kim Jong Un a cocksucker than it is to suggest that Forrest Gump isn’t the greatest story ever told. Because her response was uglier than a Charles Manson welcoming committee. More inhospitable than Elton John after a bad spa day. It was meaner than a shit faced Bethany Frankel, a sober Tucker Carlson . . more hell bent than Trump in a KFC drive-thru whilst waiting on a big vote.

So if you have a problem with it, you ain’t telling me anything I ain’t heard already. But please notice I make a point to say Gump ain’t great, I’m not saying it’s not good. Maybe even really good. Not that it matters to Gump Nation.

The IMDB 100 Greatest Movies of All Time lists Forrest Gump at Number 16 . . . of all time. Take it for what it’s worth, considering they put Gladiator at 34- a flick which is basically the cinematic equivalent of a bacon cheeseburger; easy to love, but not to be mistaken with a filet mignon. The American Film Institute is a tad more realistic in their top 100 ranking, listing Gump at 71.

There is alchemy to ranking systems, in that they are able to transform the factual into something much sexier than that. Forrest Gump happened into the right time and the right place. America was in a funky place in 1994, having hired a President it wasn’t fully sold on to make good on a Kennedy myth that we knew was never present. We were struggling through a racial divide that was only getting more complicated with the arrest of O.J. Simpson. Terrorists had bombed the Trade Center the year before and taken down the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City only months earlier.

Forrest Gump was a simple piece of American pie served to the hungry masses. The first weekend’s box office bite quenched a hunger, after which the film’s producers upped the marketing ante and every other fucking commercial and movie ad was Forrest Fucking Gump . . and I know because I was there. Sooooo . . . good became something else entirely, in an Andy Warhol manner of artful speak. You can win a pot with an okay hand but it requires selling the table, and man . . did they sell the table. After which it had everything movie goers pined for. It offered big names, a popular director, simple dialogue, kitschy catchphrases, paint by the numbers history lessons and a killer soundtrack. It was a political movie that wasn’t political, and who doesn’t love that?

My top 5 reasons why Forrest Gump Love bugs the shit out of me? Sure . . .

5- Too Much Information- You know those restaurants where the menu is a novel, featuring everything from chicken pot pie to paella so you always end up ordering an omelette or a burger? Yep, that’s Forrest Gump. It’s too much, without really being enough of anything.

4- People Love The Every Man- In movies. Everybody loves Forrest Gump when he’s a fictional character. But in real life . . ain’t nobody showing a dude with a crew cut and an IQ of 75 much love. Especially not Robin Wright.

3- Peeps Even Get The Lines Wrong– People are always plugging Gump lines into every day conversations, but when pressed for the best of ’em . . they can’t get it right. It ain’t “a box of chocolates” or “stupid is as stupid does” or even “run Forrest run!”. It’s “sometimes, there just aren’t enough rocks”. And it’s not even close!

2- Musical Seduction- The soundtrack seduced those peeps who were on the fence into going along with those peeps who were head over heels for the movie. Because really . . you can close your eyes and just listen.

1- Tom Hanks Did A Job . . But . . Just ThatNever mind that, because back in the day, he was the silver screen’s sultan. There’s a reason why Hollywood has an A-list. Those peeps bat four in the lineup and yes . . they are expected to clean up. Hanks did his job . . but that doesn’t mean this was a great job!

It’s funny, because when I had this ‘disagreement’ with my otherwise agreeable pal, she had to pull the Fargo card on me. As in “You love Fargo . . so what do you know?”. And it’s funny because she was trashing my opinion in order to make hers. Which isn’t the same thing . . at all. I mean . . I didn’t trash her sports teams or her choice in a husband (who happens to be a Red Sox fan), and I didn’t even trash her love for the sitcom Roseanne, which is a show whose popularity I will never understand.

Oops.

 

 

Taking the Reboot to Godfather III

Having grown up in John Gotti’s neighborhood, I am admittedly a fan of the wiseguys. And as such, mob movies have a special place in my cold, dark heart. Specifically, the Godfather franchise. Based on the Puzo novel, Francis Ford Coppola created a genre which helped set the standard for mob movies. Until his rush job with the third installment effectively killed what should have been the triumphant conclusion to a hall of fame collection.

Many would argue that Godfather III wasn’t horrible, and they are completely missing the point. No, it wasn’t horrible. In fact, as a stand alone mob flick, it was fine. But here’s the thing, fine isn’t what made the first two pictures all timers. Fine is what Casino is. And that, is just not good enough.

I blame Coppola, who took the money and ran. He had resisted a third go round for more than a decade before finally agreeing to it in the late ’80’s. I wish he would have left plenty well enough alone. To those of you out there who remember the great Willie Mays, Godfather III was the New York Mets version of the Hall of Famer. Not the same.

For one thing, the story line was hard to swallow. Michael Corleone wanting to go legitimate by getting in bed with the Catholic Church? So . . he stops doing dirty by doing business with more dirty? Come on! And the poison canoli scene . . how do you subject sister Connie to that kind of Murder She Wrote ridiculousness?!

The casting was another miss. Not bringing back Duvall because of the money is just plain dumb. Made all the dumber when they switched him out with George Hamilton. And Sofia Coppola, bless her pretty little heart, was no substitute for Winona Ryder. The first two movies were packed with Academy award winners, and so will this reboot.

A quick summary . . .

The year is 1986 and the Italian mafia finds itself at a crossroads. The Corleone family, while still prominent, is no longer the most feared crime syndicate. Their power structure has eroded for a variety of reasons- no legitimate ‘heir’ to the empire, the rise of other crime organizations and an Attorney General who is banking his political future on taking down the mob.

The other players are intent on taking their time with Corleone, who is more negotiator than enforcer now, out of necessity. The Barzini family rules the original five families, led by John Sangiovese, who takes command after assassinating the Boss outside a Manhattan restaurant on Christmas Eve.

Edgar Donovan is the new face of organized crime. Rising from the tenements in the Bronx, he has gained a foothold in the drug trade. But it is his control of the political machinery that once belonged to the Corleone family that proves most troubling to Michael. Donovan is the voice of reason, the bridge to how organized crime bosses do business in the present day. He doesn’t fly off the handle, he simply gets shit done. He is perfectly content to join forces with certain of his enemies in order to gain traction in the ever expanding world of crime syndicates.

Add to this an Attorney General hell bent on bringing down the mob, a former consiglieri (Tom Hagen) who turns state’s evidence, an estranged nephew out for revenge and a rising news anchor who happens to be in bed- literally- with the enemy, and things are looking grim for Michael Corleone.

Enter John Sangiovese. He is a fashion plate gangster every bit as ruthless and cunning as a young Michael Corleone. If he bears a remarkable resemblance to the late John Gotti, that’s because he is that guy- in fictional splendor. He belongs to the Barzini crime family- the new king of the five original families. And he’s coming for Michael Corleone.

Sangiovese has a button man who also serves as his second in command. And here’s where things get spicy. His right hand man- Salvatore Corleone- is the illegitimate son of one Fredo Corleone. So yeah, there might be a Hail Mary or several in Michael Corleone’s future.

And if you’re looking for the Luca Brasi character in all of this, that would be Nicolo Stassi. He is on Michael’s speed dial for a reason.

Here then, the cast of Godfather III. 

Al Pacino

Michael Corleone- I won’t be standing for the crew cut look Pacino sported in the original 3. No, in mine he goes with the parted, longer locks. He’s a more studious looking individual, but he’s still a python.

Leo

John Sangiovese- Leo is the guy. Reason being, he’s got the Al Pacino effect. You understand he is a monster, but he is so fucking cool about it that you can’t help but appreciate his blood lust.

Denzel

Edgar Donovan- Denzel made his bones in the mob movie genre with his turn in American Gangster. He is the face of the modern day gangster in that he will take your ass out before finishing his breakfast. But he would rather do business, seeing as how blood is a really big expense.

Robert Duval

Tom Hagen- Robert Duval’s character- Tom Hagen- is the character who goes legit. He turns state’s evidence and quickly becomes a media darling. He scores a show on cable as a talking head and retires to Connecticut to write his mob memoirs.

Sandra Bullock

Victoria Sangiovese- Sandra Bullock as Mafia Milf. What’s not to love? She will be the wife of the new Boss; a tough, great looking mob mom who doesn’t meddle in the family business unless it concerns her children. In which case, hell ain’t hath no kind of fury like hers.

Michael Shannon

Nicolo Stassi- Michael Shannon is a fucking crazy man. Like him or loathe him, you can’t say he doesn’t bring it to every single role. He is the perfect modern day Luca Brasi. As the Corleone button man who replaces Brasi in the late seventies, Shannon’s character will go rogue after Michael is taken out. He will lurk in the shadows . . waiting for his opportunity.

Daniel Day

Peter Greco- Daniel Day as the fictional Rudy Guiliani. He looks quite comfortable dressed in sharp suits and political ambition. It’s easy to see him in the role of Mob Slayer with dreams of a Mayoral run in the offing.

San Sebastian Film Festival: Steve Buscemi

Salvatore Corleone- Steve Buscemi as button man in Leo’s rise to the top? Hells yeah. He may not be the imposing figure that Sammy Gravano was (Believe me, I know first hand), but he is a reckoning in his own right. As my pal Dale remarked when we chatted about Buscemi, God was in a bad mood when he created him. Oh yeah, this guy is plenty capable of making peeps disappear.

Anne Hathaway

Savannah Kelly- What self respecting mob flick doesn’t feature a hot side dish? Which is what Anne will be to Denzel. Theirs is the tightly sealed affair that is borne out of a subcommittee hearing in which the two meet. She, the fiery upstart representative from Manhattan and he, the bullet proof gangster. They use each other to get to the top, because in the eighties . . if it ain’t greed, it doesn’t lead.

My Godfather III is set in the ’80’s and as such, it will have a killer soundtrack. Blondie, Phil Collins, Prince, Billy Joel, Falco, Laid Back, Talking Heads, The Sugarhill Gang, John Lennon. I could go on and on.

When the original came out in 1990, it was quickly trounced at the box office by Goodfellas, which boasted a better cast, story line and soundtrack. Well guess what? The Godfather is taking it back. And so, let’s start with this tune, to open things up.

 

Santa’s wish list just got more interesting . . .

White DoomsdaySome people are born to create. It’s a compulsion; a deep-seated reckoning that stirs and follows and haunts the individual. Their minds are in constant upheaval as they preside over the revolution of ideas that fill their brains- transforming the mystic into a crazy train of thoughts gone loud.

Mike Lombardo is one of these people. His big talent is on display for all to see as the result of a self professed ‘compulsion’ that won’t let him be. It’s really quite simple with Mike. There’s the work and then there’s misery. He’s been throwing some mean ass heat at the former since he was old enough to get in real trouble. And it’s our great good fortune that Mike is able to harness his madness into stories, like the one me and Linds took in last Friday night at the Lancaster International Short Film Festival.

Hollywood blockbusters are all well and good, but every now and then you hit upon a piece of work that may not be getting that big town pub but is every bit as mighty. And in my humble opinion, infinitely more satisfying.

I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday is Mike’s first full length movie. A quick bite? Why hells yeah . . .

The scene is set in a bomb shelter at the end of the world as a young family struggles to survive. The calendar is closing in on Christmas and it’s the apocalypse, so yanno . . . the mood is bleak. Still, Mike allows us tiny sips of hope throughout: First when the father ventures out to replenish their dwindling store of supplies, and then later when mom follows. And then there’s Santa in a gas mask, who Mike introduces in snippets throughout the movie; trudging across the wasteland in a gas mask. Is he going to save the day? Welp . . you gotta find that out on your own because I ain’t spoiling the dark and twisty tidings.

Mike wrote Doomsday with the idea that it would be a short film and the next thing he knew, it became something else entirely. Thank Santa for happy accidents, because the film is nothing short of brilliant. It’s sorta like two vastly different flicks got to shagging and the baby they created was equal parts The Road and A Christmas Story. Crazy fucking beautiful.

Me and Linds were talking about Mike a few weeks ago when she remarked “He’s going places,”

Fo sho.