Unselfconscious Love

July 26, 2011

This is a small followup to the Harry Potter post I wrote last week. In that post, I mentioned that to be truly great at anything you have to love it unconditionally and unselfconsciously. Earlier this week, Cate sent me a link discussing whether or not it is conceivable that Bruce Springsteen could become the governor of New Jersey if he chose to enter politics. At the bottom of the article was a link to a Time cover article on him from 1975. There was an interesting piece of information in that article.

At the time it was written, Springsteen was big and getting bigger. Born to Run was the album that made him known to the world. It was in the top ten and would peak at number three. At the moment of the article, he was living in a standard apartment and making $350 a week. If you inflation adjust that, you will find that he was making teacher money (his pay matches my own almost exactly). This is unselfconscious, unconditional love. What better evidence could there be? He didn’t care about getting rich. He didn’t care about being famous. He had enough to eat and pay his rent and he got to play music. What more do you need?

Yesterday, Clarence Clemons passed away. His death alters one of the great American bands in a way only Springsteen’s departure could surpass.

Many people are, to put it lightly, not fans of what Clemons brought to the table. His saxophone playing has been described with every negative descriptor you can conjure. Cheesy, clich├ęd, overblown. Pick one. All of the people who used those words were terribly, terribly wrong.

The music of Bruce Springsteen has always been about being bigger than big. Its roots in the feelings common to every teenager from a tiny, crappy place. It is a rejection of the drudgery of the status quo. Clemons was vital to that.

The saxophone may be the most human of instruments. The most like the voice and the most able to summon forth the basic human emotions. The saxophone can whisper. It can scream and wail. That’s what Clemons did. He screamed and wailed. Springsteen, especially early in his career, was about raging against the machinery bent on pigeon-holing him. Clemons saxophone, once Springsteen found it, was what provided the appropriate backdrop to the overblown poetry of Springsteen’s words. That wail came from an earlier time. From the beginnings of rock and roll. It was the sound of the music of their parents. It was Clemons who provided the vital ingredient that allowed Springsteen to rail against an older generation with their own musical language. Clemons, more than any other band member contributed to the sound that made Springsteen unique. It’s possible that, without the Big Man, none of us would have heard of the Boss.

The Reader

January 23, 2009

I’ve had several blog ideas percolating this week, but I haven’t had time to get to them until now, so expect one or two entries a day for several days…

Academy Award nominations are out and a lot of people seem to be up in arms about three movies: The Reader, The Dark Knight, and Slumdog Millionaire. For The Reader everyone seems supremely angry that it is nominated for anything, for The Dark Knight everyone seems upset that it didn’t get more nominations, and for Slumdog Millionaire everyone just seems to be generally wetting their pants over how wonderful it is. I do not understand any of these reactions.

The Dark Knight is extremely overrated. It had no story, no climax, and only two characters that were even moderately developed (The Joker and Harvey Dent/Two Face). Additionally, the last 45 minutes feel entirely tacked on. Why couldn’t Two Face get his own movie? I really don’t get the hoopla. Yes, Heath Ledger was great. And yeah, it’s violent, if that’s your thing, but even the action scenes, in my opinion, were poorly filmed (I hate action scenes that are intentionally confusing and have lots of jump cuts. Let me see what’s going on, okay?). A lot of people are make the excuse that the story was developed in the first movie. I totally agree. I really like Batman Begins, but that does not mean that you can get away with having no story/character development in the second movie. If you want me to call a movie great, you have to give me more than one great performance and a bunch of sloppy action scenes.

Slumdog Millionaire is good. I really enjoyed it, but it is not as great as everyone seems to think it is. After about forty-five minutes, it is totally clear what is going to happen. The plot is EXTREMELY formulaic, and that’s okay. Like I said, I really like the movie. It does a good job making a formulaic plot enjoyable, but it is not the best movie this year. I don’t think I would even put it in my top five. I think this is getting so much attention because of the happy ending, but that’s not enough for me.

The Reader is fantastic. I did not see a better movie this year. Many, many people seem to have a real problem with the story and an inability to relate to the characters, and I just don’t get it. The main character seems especially relatable to me. I watch him and totally understand everything he does. Kate Winslet’s character is also really interesting and complex. What must it have been like to be 20 years old in Nazi Germany? Wouldn’t it have been hard not to go along? And what do you do after? To quote one of the characters, “everyone knew”. No one was really innocent, so of course you pick up the pieces and try to live a normal life. I understand everyone in this movie and I relate to them AND the story is not predictable. I was riveted through the entire movie. Cate had to use the bathroom for the last half of it, but wouldn’t get up because she didn’t want to miss anything. Aside from Mickey Rourke (maybe), Kate Winslet gives the best performance I’ve seen this year, but there isn’t a weak performance in the entire movie. I really don’t understand the problem people have with this movie.

So that’s it, I have no idea where people are coming from with these three movies, especially the reader. If someone wants to try and enlighten me, please feel free.

P.S. Do you know what is the biggest fucking injustice of all? The song category. Peter Gabriel and two songs from Slumdog? Really? Have they heard the track Springsteen recorded for The Wrestler? The Gabriel track is fine, and clearly written to win a Grammy. I can’t remember any of the music from Slumdog, which says a lot, but the Springsteen song has been in my head since I walked out of the movie almost a month ago, and not in a bad way. It’s so haunting and evocative. I do not understand how it didn’t even get nominated.