this ain’t the summer of love…

before i get into the proceedings this week, i just want to make it clear that this week’s title is a) topic-appropriate and b) a callback to a conversation i had with the Irishman about rock bands with ridiculous song titles (possibly inspired by 3 Inches Of Blood), in which we discussed how Blue Öyster Cult is a championship contender when it comes to crazy song titles. “Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll?” “Transmaniacon MC?” “Workshop Of The Telescopes?” “Flaming Telepaths?” “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love (obviously)?” “Tattoo Vampire” (and, to a lesser extent, “Godzilla”)? “Golden Age Of Leather?” “Veteran Of The Psychic Wars?” these guys are/were insane, and i rest my case. i think they also did a song about the Marshall Plan. BUT I DIGRESS.

anyway, with summer having finally ended, we’ve surely all noticed the large number of celebrities (including minor celebrities and pseudo-celebrities) that have dropped off over the summer. people are very emotional about this, since the more money some makes, the better they are (as Worthington’s Law tells us, more money = better than), and so there have been a lot of tears and emotional statements and internet articles about some kind of celebrity summer of death.

i am now going to take this to the next level of classiness by rating some of the deaths of consequence this summer. let’s put this on a scale of 1-5 stars of sadness.

JANKLOW’S RANKINGS OF HOW SAD WE SHOULD BE OVER THE DEMISE OF VARIOUS PEOPLE WHO DIED IN THE SUMMER OF 2009

but first, a note: David Carradine died on June 3rd, which is not summer 2009, and thus he should never be included on lists like this. i’m just saying.

Ed McMahon
all i’m saying is that when you’re appearing next to desks with gold toilets on them, it may just be time to pack it in

Ed McMahon (June 23rd)
okay, he seemed like a fairly lovable guy, and a lot of people loved Star Search and the Tonight Show (not me, but i admit it’s true), but let’s be honest: his life had taken kind of a downward turn as of late. he somehow broke his neck in 2007, he spent the entire year of 2008 having ridiculous financial trouble, and i’m pretty sure i saw the man pitching one of those “cash for gold” sites in television ads. in some respects, this may have been for the best. 3 stars.

Michael Jackson (June 25th)
part of the problem here is that people got SO worked up over this and did SO many ridiculous things (let’s use as a prime example the fact that LA spent good money on his funeral while simultaneously carping about budget issues) that it feels like we’ve been too sad about this. and then there were the sexual abuse allegations and, more proven, decades of flat-out weird behavior; when you live so ridiculously, people start expecting your death at any moment. but all that being said, the man made Thriller. THRILLER. this album is worth any amount of ridiculous behavior. 5 stars.

Farrah Fawcett (June 25th)
so there’s a small group of people out there that feels it’s unfair that a) Fawcett died on the same day as Michael Jackson and b) that her death was overshadowed by said death. they may not admit to the former, but i suspect that deep down they think it, because they hate creepy MJ and love their precious Farrah. but here’s the thing: she DESERVES to be overshadowed. what the fuck did Farrah Fawcett ever do? one season of Charlie’s Angels? posed for some posters? it’s claimed she was critically acclaimed for her work in some off-Broadway plays, which is just sad. 1 star.

Billy Mays (June 28th)
this is a tough call, because i legitimately know many people who seem affected by Mays’ demise, but at the same time, i’m not sure why. the man made ridiculous television ads (this is probably the most likely cause for the esteem) in which he sold, among other things, putty that i object to on the grounds that i hear it doesn’t work. where do you get off selling putty that won’t actually allow me to pull a truck, Mays? you can’t rip people off for their hard-earned putty cash and expect kind and loving memorials on the internet! 2 stars.

Alexis Argüello (July 1st)
i’m going to admit this: this has nothing to do with his solid boxing career, and this has nothing to do with his political career in later life. this has everything to do with his name reminding me of that Warren Zevon song “Boom Boom Mancini,” and so when i hear it, i smile a little, and then i get a little sad. and you should too, because that’s a pretty cool song. plus, Ring Magazine ranked him #20 on their list of 100 greatest all-time punchers. 4 stars. that also brings us to:

Arturo Gatti (July 11th) and Vernon Forrest (July 25th)
they had solid careers and all, but let’s be honest: unless you’re a boxing fan, you mostly remember they because a) they’re part of a trio of boxers that died this July and b) they had weird deaths, what with Gatti possibly being choked to death with his wife’s purse strap and Forrest being shot after a robbery and weird chase. this is unfortunate, because no one should really be most notable for the weirdness of their death, but it happens. 2 stars for each of them.

Karl Malden
what can you say about a man like Karl Malden? probably something like “well, he just wasn’t very good-looking, now was he?”

Karl Malden (July 1st)
he had a solid career (A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, Patton), but ultimately, he was not a very good-looking guy, and that’s what really gets you the outpouring of sadness from the older ladies when you finally die. Dean Martin and Marlon Brando? outright tragedies (although in the case of Dean Martin, his religious status does affect that), whereas Karl Malden most gets remembered these days as the guy Family Guy made fun of for having a massive nose. still, very good in Patton. 3 stars.

Steve McNair (July 4th)
on the one hand, he’s a classic tough-guy football player and he was known for ridiculous things, such as being on fire at a young age and not being fazed (whoa) or going out of his way to purchase the sword used by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart (double whoa). but here’s the thing: even if i was a massive Titans or Ravens fan, and i’m neither, i’d still have to temper my sadness with the fact that you got yourself into the situation whereupon your crazy young girlfriend shot your married ass to death. not too classy. 2 stars.

Walter Cronkite (July 17th)
he’s an icon of the broadcasting world, but honestly, how old is the youngest person from the generation(s) that really saw him on television and was affected by it? i mean, i’ve obviously heard of him and i can think of reasons we he’s well-regarded and noted… but it’s not like he’s the voice of the news i grew up on, and i’m no spring chicken anymore. so i think some of this sadness is sort of forced, and so i want you all to know that it’s okay to not be THAT sad about it. at this point i’m just trying to remember if Rather and Brokaw are still alive. 4 stars.

Frank McCourt (July 19th)
i didn’t read Angela’s Ashes and i have no real stance on whether or not McCourt was actually a good reader. i’m not sure if anyone i know has actually ever read anything by him. still, this is part of my campaign to point out that writers contribute as much to the creative and/or entertainment world as actors and directors do, and so i’m going to make a note of his death here. all that being said, i still can’t think of anyone i know who really felt depressed about his death. 1 star.

Corazon Aquino (August 1st)
i’ll keep this short: what do you think the percentage of Americans who could tell me who this is without looking it up on the internet is? i’m guessing 4%. 3 stars.

John Hughes (August 6th)
this one was sort of overlooked: i do recall some tributes in the wake of his death (some legitimately touching, actually), but at the same time, his lack of recently output seems to have doomed him to the B-list of celebrity deaths, despite the fact that his filmography was stacked with hits (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck) and that EVERYONE loves Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. seriously, that film is a classic and i don’t know anyone who’s watched it and disliked it. 5 stars.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver (August 11th) and Ted Kennedy (August 25th)
it wasn’t really surprising that brother and sister both died in the same month (they weren’t young and, especially in Ted’s case, they weren’t well), but it IS surprising that Ted Kennedy died in the same month as some guy named Ted Kennedy who was a major star for the Toronto Maple Leafs died (on August 14th). i mean, come on, i think we all know that that is just plain weird. anyway, i wasn’t a major fan of Ted’s, but i guess Eunice did some good (Ted probably did too, but he just makes it so easy to dislike him). 3 stars for Eunice, 2 stars for Ted.

Jim Carroll
all right, kids, sing along: “those are people who died, died, those are people who died, died, they were all my friends, and they died”

Les Paul (August 12th)
apparently, he’s one “of a handful of artists with a permanent, stand-alone exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” and it’s probably clear to the average guy that the man had something to do with the guitar as we know it in the modern world, and i KNOW the guitar aficionados were all broken up about this death. plus, i hear he made “rock-and-roll possible” with his innovations, so even if i dispute that and give most of the credit to that Marty McFly guy i saw in that documentary about travel, it’s still pretty sad. 4 stars.

Robert Novak (August 18th)
well, the man was a big-time conservative, and even embraced the nickname “Prince Of Darkness,” for crying out loud. so he probably wouldn’t want us to shed many tears over him… which will work out nicely, because again, find me some average Americans who even know who he is. man, i will never, ever get tired of making fun of the intelligence of the average American; the jokes practically write themselves, and damned if they’re not satisfying. 1 star.

Kashin (August 24th)
it’s sad when famous elephants die, because elephants are awesome. 5 stars.

Dominick Dunne (August 26th)
for a long, long time, i thought Dominick Dunne was a woman. and i don’t mean “a long, long time” as in “when i was a kid, i thought that, but then i learned the truth,” i mean it as in “i’m pretty sure i still thought he was a woman up until the moment of his obituaries hitting the papers.” and i feel kind of bad about that, so even though i can’t claim to be a connoisseur of the man’s work, i’ll force out a fake tear or two. 2 stars.

Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein (August 28th)
i guess some kids like him and feel strongly about his death, but they have to compete with the fact that a) old people don’t consider DJs to be people of consequence and b) the man was in Crazy Town. CRAZY TOWN. it’s probably more surprising that someone hadn’t already killed him by now. does no one else remember that “Butterfly” song? terrible, just terrible. i mean, i don’t want to pile on now, because the man has died and we shouldn’t be too harsh… but that song was TERRIBLE. 2 stars, which brings us to:

Anthony “Roc Raida” Williams (September 19th)
for some reason, this death matters a lot less to people than that of DJ AM, probably because AM appeared in numerous gossip magazines every now and then, while Roc Raida just won a DMC World Championship and also made a bunch of excellent records. well, i feel a little sad about it, even if part of the reason for that is to drive J.Miles crazy that i worked a hip-hop death into this update and he probably didn’t even see it coming. ha! 4 stars.

Jim Carroll (September 11th)
i’m not a massive fan of the Basketball Diaries, but i know some people who are, so that’s got to count for something, right? but i do think this: a guy who’s well-known for making a song called “People Who Died” has just died, and while that song might know be seen as ironic (all though it’s not like we’re not ALL going to die at some point), it’s mainly just sad because that song is awesome and now the guy responsible for it has died. 5 stars.

Patrick Swayze
9/14 NEVER FORGET

Patrick Swayze (September 14th)
very tragic, and we already talked about this in detail, and i think i’ve already rambled on long enough this week. 5 stars.

so there it is. if anyone else of consequence dies, it won’t be in the summer of 2009! and remember, kids: you could wake up dead tomorrow. good night.

“pain don’t hurt”: in loving memory of Patrick Swayze

this past Monday, your humble narrator janklow was out on the town celebrating the anniversary of the birth of his younger sibling when we heard the news: legend of the silver screen Patrick Swayze had succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 57. we became sobered (momentarily, anyway) and drank a generally serious toast in memory of his passing, and that’s when my colleague J.Miles leaned over and said “i think we need a tribute to Patrick Swayze this Friday.” and i said “okay.” and that is the story of this update. and now, for the actual update:

JANKLOW’S 13 FAVORITE PATRICK SWAYZE PERFORMANCES

Patrick Swayze in Steel Dawn
yeah… not really sure what’s going on here… all i know is that it’s after some kind of apocalypse and Patrick Swayze has a dramatic sword of some type and his hair is UNTAMED

13. 1983: the Outsiders (as Darrel Curtis)
actually, i’m not sure i’ve seen this entire film, and i know i didn’t like the book very much. Ponyboy? Sodapop? what kind of a gang is this supposed to be? still, this film is very popular for reasons like its ridiculous 1980s cast (aside from Patrick Swayze himself, it includes C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, the incomparable Ralph Macchio, pre-sex-fiend Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, and Tom Cruise at his most heterosexual) and… uh… well, like i said, i don’t think i saw this entire film, but i know a bunch of people out there like it, so i’m including it here for you.

12. 1987: Steel Dawn (as Nomad)
i didn’t see this either, and i admit we’re probably not getting off to the most impressive start to this list, which should maybe have been titled “janklow’s 13 favorite Patrick Swayze moments that he didn’t actually watch.” but have you seen the promotional art for this film? Swayze in a headband staring emotionally at a post-apocalyptic frontier? defending settlers and their water from a gang, Mad Max style? this is one of those films that i periodically notice and think “i need to watch this IMMEDIATELY” and then forget completely about when i see a really cool slug in the driveway to play with or something. still… since the man just passed away… i should probably get to watching this immediately… although i did see a wicked toad in the driveway this evening…

11. 1990: Ghost (as Sam Wheat)
terrible, terrible movie that janklow was forced to watch several times in his youth, much like Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. it’s just such an awkward concept: Patrick Swayze’s a ghost and he’s trying to avenge his death… only he’s really more awkwardly trying to convince people to avenge his death for him. the supporting cast is Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, for crying out loud. it’s supposed to be romantic, and maybe i just don’t “get” movies about love or something, but what’s the romantic angle, that he’s dead but is hanging around being helpful? he’s dead, this can’t work? anyway, it’s this high on the list because it’s proof that Swayze can make a movie like this and not have me think any less of him and, of course, because it’s popular with the ladies. ladies LOVE Ghost. side note: Sam Wheat is a terrible, terrible name for a character.

10. 1998: Black Dog (as Jack Crews)
this is one of those “let’s keep making the scenario more ridiculous” kinds of films, what with Patrick Swayze being an ex-con who happens to be driving a truckload of guns across the country, only to have the government and a crime syndicate start fighting over everything, and maybe there’s a magical dog in there somewhere (i forget how magical it really is, but film dogs are generally filled with mysterious skills). but why do they need Swayze to drive these guns if they can spare people to keep an eye on the guns? i’m sure they explained this in the film at some point, but i don’t recall the answer. maybe i need to watch it again. Meat Loaf is also in this movie, if that kind of thing does anything for you.

Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing
so i think we all know there’s really no way i could have written anything about Patrick Swayze and NOT have posted a ridiculous photo from Dirty Dancing

09-08. 1985-1986: North and South/North and South, Book II (as Orry Main)
this gets bonus points for being one of the things that (supposedly) gave Patrick Swayze his break into the world of acting; i’m not a Civil War buff, so this work never meant that much to me, but i DO think it’s pretty excellent that his name is Orry. Orry! man, sometimes Swayze gets cursed with a terrible fictional name (like Sam Wheat)… and then sometimes he gets one that’s solid gold! anyway, we learn that North and South can work together to build America despite our differences or something, and then Swayze’s character gets murdered before (or at the start of) Book III, as it only features him in archival footage. tragic.

07. 1991: Point Break (as Bodhi)
so, to be fair, Patrick Swayze gets completely overshadowed by two of the most ridiculous men ever to have starring roles on film: Keanu Reeves (who tries, but, you know, look what he has to work with) and Gary Busey (who is literally INSANE). so while he’s a completely flip, surfer-slash-bank-robber with the terrible name of Bodhi who should according captivate you, he’s having to fight for attention for his flowing locks and saucy presidential mask because you cannot look away from Busey chewing the scenery and Reeves trying really, really, REALLY hard to be serious about this acting thing. but Swayze does a great job. he deserves some credit. some people seem to think there’s a serious bromance going on here, but i always thought that Reeves maybe had a crush on Swayze, but that Swayze was strictly for the ladies. am i wrong?

06. 1981: M*A*S*H season 9 episode Z-421, “Blood Brothers” (as Pvt. Gary Sturgis)
as many of you out there now, some years back, i went on an exhaustive quest to view episode after episode of the preachy, Alan-Alda-heavy comedy series M*A*S*H until i had seen the episode guest-starring Joe Pantoliano, as a) he’s a favorite actor of mine and b) i was wont to be awake from 3 to 4 in the morning without much else to watch on television. now this is where Swayze comes in: i happened randomly upon another episode wherein Swayze plays Gary Sturgis, who desperately wishes to give a wounded comrade blood, only to learn he has leukemia. now, this wasn’t Patrick Swayze, established star, making a guest appearance on the show (as many established actors had done), this was youngster Swayze out of nowhere, like an unpolished diamond gleaming in a mine in Arkansas. like the one you can just go there and pick free diamonds at? you need to be aware of this mine for this reference to w- ah, forget it. it’s a solid episode.

05. 1987: Dirty Dancing (as Johnny Castle)
much like Ghost and, as always, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, i was forced to watch this movie a couple of times in my youth. and yet you may note that i’ve ranked it much higher, even though it’s fundamentally about a lot of ridiculous dancing and singing and romance. for starters, the previous notes apply: Patrick Swayze making this film didn’t decrease my respect for him (and again, i HATE romantic movies) and ladies LOVE the hell out of this movie. additionally, there’s a lot of sassy interactions between Swayze and Jerry Orbach, and everyone loves Jerry Orbach. third, this movie does have the occasionally interesting “let’s point out that everything in the idyllic 1960s actually was disgusting and terrible” thing going on which, okay, occasionally gives us jokes like that one about the Fountainhead that i don’t think the target demographic for this film gets. in fact, i am going to grill my mother about this and see if she does. final point: this is the film that gave us “nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

Patrick Swayze in Road House
Swayze’s expression indicates his belief that you are, in fact, too stupid to have a good time

04. 2001: Donnie Darko (as Jim Cunningham)
so Patrick Swayze does an excellent job here and everything, but this is really more about the role than the man: the contrast in casting beloved-of-America Swayze as a motivational speaker … who happens to be a pedophile (with a “dungeon of child pornography”) at the same time. so you can imagine the challenge of watching a film where you really shouldn’t be rooting for Patrick Swayze. it also helps that in many respects this is just a better film (internet praise/hatred for it aside) than the average work Swayze has done (i mean, i’m sorry, but Youngblood and Tiger Warsaw are simply NOT masterpieces of the modern cinema). still, if you’ve been turned off by, you know, the internet nerds… don’t be, just watch it.

03. 1990: that Saturday Night Live sketch where Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley are auditioning to be Chippendale dancers
i probably don’t really need to elaborate as to a) what i am talking about or b) why this is AWESOME. it’s a funny skit in its own right, Patrick Swayze proves he’s willing to be ridiculous to make a skit work, and Farley always brings it when the comedy is physical. and plus, Swayze’s got just about the fiercest mullet he would ever have. i’d love to be able to hand you off to a video of this… but you know how NBC is. so let’s try one of terrible quality and we’ll see if that satisfies you.

eh, probably not. but it’s still a great sketch.

02. 1989: Road House (as Dalton)
our obsession with this film around these parts is well-established: i’ve often stated i will always finish watching it if i randomly come across it on television, J.Miles co-signs its excellence, you’re a quote unquote “fucking Communist” if you don’t like it, and i’m pretty sure i’ve posted about why you should watch it before. why, i might just quote myself:

“actually, i understand that there’s a fine line between a bad movie and a movie that’s no darling of the critics that’s still just fun. this is the latter. i suppose after my affection being lavished on Sam Elliott (well-deserved) and Patrick Swayze (which must always be defended) that you think i’ll make this all about them, and i probably could (well, about Sam Elliott, anyway)… but that’s really beside the point, because i could put them in some period piece with tights and they would turn that motherfucker OUT. though, to be fair, i’m not sure what exactly happens in cinematic terms when you turn a motherfucker out, but i’m sure it’s great stuff. what it means to me is that you should tune out the nagging part of your brain that made you appreciate Amadeus and enjoy it when the smirking villain declares to Swayze that “i used to fuck guys like you in prison!” and it’s really a very solid mindless action movie: people get wailed on, but not in crazy unreal ways; one-liners get dropped, but they tend to be appropriate and almost funny; Keith David puts in an appearance. i mean, if you’re a film snob, you can make excuses, but if i catch you watching some shit like Commando, then Road House better be on your list.”

Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn
WOLVERINES

01. 1984: Red Dawn (as Jed)
because it’s goddamn RED DAWN. i used to watch this movie every year as a little kid; i’ve grown up to have a sticker on my car promoting my film and an AK in the closet in case, you know, Cubans and Russians try any kind of funny invasions of the US (although in the film’s scenario, i would probably have been nuked when DC was). and, once again, i’m pretty sure i rambled on about this before:

“so i probably don’t need to elaborate on how much i love Red Dawn; suffice to say that it’s great and it’s sort of the inspiration for my life and it’s DEFINITELY the reason why i am always spray-painting the declaration “WOLVERINES” onto things. along with “Road House,” it’s one of the Patrick Swayze films i will always, always stop and watch…
now, i can get serious and debate the actual merits and flaws of this film: for example, it’s pretty dependent on backstory that’s never really explained beyond references here and there, and some of that backstory (the US suffering some tactical nuclear strikes, but Russia being able to mobilize and transport a large military force without suffering the same in response) is sometimes a little iffy, in my humble opinion. i know they say the concept is based on actual strategic thinking and US weaknesses at the time, but, hey, i’m just one man. but that being said, it’s still a film where i get to watch a bunch of random Soviet goons, be they Russian or Cuban, get mowed down by angry Midwestern teenagers with AKs. and that’s something pretty awesome.
plus, Family Guy once had a bit about a musical version of this film… which i would pay a large amount of money to actually see in person. if it was real. which it’s not. which makes me sad.”

the only flaw in this being my favorite Swayze moment is that he’s not the one to shout “boys… AVENGE ME!” but avenge Harry Dean Stanton he does. frankly, if this lame Red Dawn remake comes to fruition, i’m going to have to seriously consider the notion that Swayze died when he did so that he’d never have to see them bastardize his legacy like that.

so there it is. i recommend some people watch Road House and Red Dawn immediately if they haven’t already done so. also, if you’d like to read more ridiculous memorials of Patrick Swayze, i recommend the following:

7 Life Lessons We Learned From Patrick Swayze: this one might have embedded a better version of the Chippendales sketch i reference above, so check it out there if you lust for better quality.

Patrick Swayze Tribute: Ten Things “Roadhouse” Taught Us About Fighting: because you really can never get enough of Road House. seriously, i’d think you guys would realize by now how serious i am about this notion.

Why Patrick Swayze Was The Second Best Movie Star Ever: yes, basically everyone hits the same roles and all; i just hope i’m not stealing anyone’s jokes.

“he’s the toughest dancer i’ve ever seen”

DISCLAIMER: originally, this post might have been about Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II and how it’s the best hip-hop album of the year, but then i remembered that that would make J.Miles sad. so if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s phenomenal and you should go purchase it. now let’s move on.

so the other day, i was looking up videos of various fighters wrecking other fighters in notable fashion (there was a reason for this, but as it’s not springing to mind, let’s go with “eh, this is what i do in my down time” for now) and i happened across a highlight video for Anderson Silva that a) was excellent in terms of watching guys be brutalized by Anderson Silva and b) referred to Silva as “the toughest dancer i’ve ever seen.” and to this i could only think “what a weirdly specific way to comment on Silva, even if he clearly loves to dance.” and that’s why we have a random dancer-themed update this week.

A BRIEF COLLECTION OF JUST PLAIN RANDOM REFERENCES TO DANCERS

John Belushi and/or the Blues Brothers
this is admittedly not the John Belushi dancing film i’m actually about to reference, but it’s not like this dancing did anything more to keep him alive

that “Don’t Look Back In Anger” SNL skit with John Belushi
in 1978, Saturday Night Live (affectionately known to people who watched it when, you know, it was GOOD, but don’t watch it anymore as SNL) ran a short film by Tom Schiller called “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” where Belushi plays himself as an old man visiting the graves of his former cast members, with him being the only remaining survivor. this is funny now because of the irony of him being the first to die (death is HILARIOUS), but funny at the time because in the film, he asserts that his longevity is due to the fact that he’s a dancer, and then proceeds to dance on the other cast members’ graves. i’m not sure if it’s supposed to be ironic on that level (the whole dancer = dancing on graves thing) or just a random and thus funny claim (the dancer thing being apropos of nothing), but i prefer the latter. and yes, this is what i mean by “just plain random references.”

Final Fantasy V
i don’t know who this “Lenna” character is or why she’s so obsessed with the “White Mage” character class, but the fact is that it’s the Dancer class that we’re about to discuss

Final Fantasy V
some time back, i made a post (which i think no longer exists on this site) about how my motivation for declaring FFV to have been the best game of the series had nothing to do with common or “reasonable” arguments (the job system, the specific story, the “wheee, wasn’t released in America for a very long time” factor for the Japan-loving nerds), but rather because of one reason that topped the others: DANCERS. in fact, if i might quote myself on this topic:

“this means your entire party can be FOUR DANCERS, which is absolutely RIDICULOUS, and yet, these dancers are able to kill EVERYTHING. “hey, look, it’s a new random adversary! quick, everyone start DANCING!” boom, enemies die, dancers win. and let me make one thing clear: i don’t want to hear the nonsensical debate that says “well, some other FF games have bards,” because bards aren’t dancers, they’re warrior poets or whatever. FF5 has fucking DANCERS in belly-dancer outfits that attack by performing some spastic version of the Watusi, and it makes people DIE. … FF5 and its swarm of gyrating player characters will always hold the top spot. well, unless they make a Final Fantasy game where you can have FIVE dancers at the same time. but i don’t want to think about that, because i might DIE of excitement.”

they’d vaguely attempt similar notions at later points (a character would do some dance-based thing, or something along those lines)… but it would never be the same.

Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling
i… i… i don’t have any words that make the title of this film make any more sense

that whole “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling” thing
so Richard Pryor’s one of the funniest comedians of all time, and in that capacity has been responsible for many further generations of comedians as well; remember when Eddie Murphy was ridiculously funny? however, as his turbulent personal life showed us, he was not immune to making mistakes, and i’m not talking about his filming of the Toy or even the time he lit himself on fire. no, we’re talking about the time he made some movie called Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.

now, Pryor claimed this film about a comedian (the aforementioned Jo Jo Dancer) who grew up in a brothel, beat the odds to become a successful comedian, got into serious drug use and womanizing, and then seriously burned himself in a drug incident was not autobiographical. ha! but more to the point, i’m not sure why Pryor named the character who is clearly Pryor himself “Jo Jo Dancer.” and while i’m a little curious, i’m not about to watch this movie to find out, because i doubt it will truly answer that question. and i say this as a fan of Pryor and Paul Mooney, both of whom are funny and who worked on this film. so, you know, it remains a mystery.

also, for anyone reading this, please don’t tell my sister that i implied the Toy was a tragic error of a film. if she finds out i said that, it won’t go well for me. thanks.

Anderson Silva
keep on being ridiculous, Anderson, you’ve earned it

Anderson “the Spider” Silva
i don’t know what more there is to say: Anderson Silva wrecks everyone with all the knees and the punches and the kicks and even the chokes and then he dances. he clearly loves to dance, and frankly, when you’re smashing guys into submission left and right, you’re basically allowed to do all the dancing you like. hell, here’s the highlight video that inspired this whole mess. if you take nothing else away from it, enjoy the RIDICULOUS kick at 1:52 that caused Silva to be disqualified and lose to Yushin Okami. that kick should get you an award for outstanding achievement in the field of excellence.

once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…

so after some delays thanks to various promised off-day favors and medical appointments and ulcer-related traumas (ugh), i can finally say that i managed to get out to the local cinema and watch Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering: Inglourious Basterds, the film what with all the Nazi-killing and poor spelling as part of the title. and thus, we can now talk about it a little. this is where i would give a SPOILER ALERT for people who haven’t seen it, but intend to one day, but then again the readership of this site (J.Miles) has seen the film. so we’ll talk freely!

but what’s interesting (perhaps only to me) is that every time Tarantino makes a film, i’m always afraid i’ll be disappointed or the film will be a failure; the former is never true (the latter, eh, maybe), and yet it still happens to me every time he releases something. this is perhaps best illustrated with a brief timeline?

Inglourious Basterds
generally, when these Tarantino films are in the production phase, i have no idea how to feel about them; Inglourious Basterds was no exception

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TARANTINO’S FAILURE TO DISAPPOINT JANKLOW

Reservoir Dogs (1992): in fairness, i couldn’t have been disappointed because i had nothing to go on, but in the end i wouldn’t have been; Reservoir Dogs is an excellent crime caper with snappy dialogue and a solid cast that includes the awesome Lawrence Tierney and only suffers due to the inclusion of one Tim Roth. it pretty much gives us the diagram for all the films that will follow in terms of dialogue and soundtrack. i should probably watch this again, as it’s been a while.

Pulp Fiction (1994): if you needed any proof of how good this film is, it makes John Travolta look like a competent actor with screen presence. oh, i NEVER get tired of bashing Travolta! still, to some extent it’s just a fancier version of Reservoir Dogs: good cast, plot unstuck from time, lots of snappy dialogue that’s not really related to any of the matters at hand; you can even see some of the replaceable parts being changed: the excellent supporting actor (Jackson for Buscemi), the gruff voice of doom (Rhames for Tierney), the douchebag (Travolta for Roth). it’s also the start of a mild Uma Thurman obsession for Tarantino, but this is a mild transgression.

Jackie Brown (1997): this is the most nondescript of all Tarantino’s films; it’s not bad at all, it just fails to capture people like the previous films. yet i wasn’t disappointed because i don’t think i was expecting too much from it and, frankly, it’s not a bad film at all, it’s just kind of there. THIS is actually the film i need to watch again. and it’s still got a great cast and good dialogue and that’s what Tarantino’s really about, right? honestly, the only thing about this film i can call outright disappointing is that he got De Niro in this film and didn’t seem to fully capitalize on him.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004): so this is where i started to worry for Tarantino, as things got more experimental. a martial arts epic slash Western starring Uma Thurman? and one that’s going to be broken into two parts intentionally? this isn’t Lord of the Rings, Quentin? still, the film’s still got our hallmarks (good cast, even with all that Madsen, and good dialogue) and it’s crazy enough that it works: limbs get chopped off left and right, Shogun Assassin gets some screen time, Carradine is somehow involved.

Death Proof (2007): i alluded to economic failure earlier because we all know that Grindhouse didn’t do that well, and probably for the same reasons i was concerned that i would be disappointed here. except that the fake trailers were awesome and Planet Terror was awesome (it’s packed with zombies AND it’s hilarious? Rodriguez at his best) and those two things alone tell us that the economic failure was just a tragic failure on the part of the movie-going public. but more to the point: Death Proof itself is a good film… it’s just not as good as Planet Terror. it’s not as good as previous Tarantino films either, to be frank, but given the degree of shit i heard about it… i was not disappointed in the end. every film should end with Rosario Dawson beating someone to death before “Chick Habit” comes blaring out of the screen. no, seriously, EVERY film.

which brings us to…

Inglourious Basterds
i love it when a plan comes together!

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)

see, in the run-up to this film, i heard many things that sounded a little bad; this was perhaps to be expected, because it’s a Tarantino film and the man is clearly talented but INSANE, but i suppose you’d say that these criticisms sounded more “legitimate.” the word on the streets internet was that the script seemed exceptionally weak, that Pitt seemed like poor casting, that the Weinsteins were having such money trouble as to doom the production, and so on. hell, even the intentionally-misspelled title had us all nervous. and your humble narrator was, in short, wary of being disappointed; after all, EVERY director seems to eventually drop the ball a little. case(s) in point: i adore Scorsese and Kurosawa, but i’ll bet you we could agree on at least one film in their respective filmographies that we see as sub-par.

but i digress, because it turns out that i was completely wrong. Inglourious Basterds was awesome. i shall now elaborate to some extent:

plot: you really need spoiler alerts for this, but the face that Hitler (and Goebbels) were repeatedly shot in the face was ruined for me without remorse. and the plot of the film is sort of an expanded version of that: it seems like a bad idea (what with this having no sound historical basis), but it works completely for the kind of crazy, bloodthirsty, spaghetti-Western-in-WW2 film this is. plot is a loose construction, because we’re back to the same old “caper goes haywire” concept that powered every film but Kill Bill; as long as we have crazy scenarios and snappy dialogue, it doesn’t matter.

snappy dialogue: if you don’t like Tarantino’s constant pop-culture tangents, then this film will work better for you; if you like Tarantino’s ridiculous nature, then this film will work for you. “i don’t speak any Italian.” “right, that’s why i said third-best.” again, you don’t have the big, wordy discussions that are often very funny but, in fairness, can drag his films down (Death Proof is probably the best example of this, as we have to wait too long for Rosario Dawson to be- well, we have to wait too long to get Rosario Dawson in the film, period).

Inglourious Basterds
yes, it’s a Tarantino film, so you KNOW some ridiculous nonsense is going to constantly be occurring

cast: so Pitt does a good job, but i should have suspected that, because he’s a good actor. as some have said, Christoph Waltz is awesome as Col. Landa, but he’ll never really get acknowledged for it because he’s playing a despicable Nazi villain… but he really is phenomenal. Eli Roth was such a weird choice to be cast, but he really makes this work (and i don’t know if that’s on Roth or Tarantino). the rest of the cast is equally good, but of less consequence, though i will make three notes:
01. it’s awesome that Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel snuck in for uncredited voice-overs;
02. Mike Myers out of nowhere as General Fenech was excellent, and i would add that the scene in question (he and Hicox being super-British) had me cracking up, and yet NO ONE even hinted at it occurring;
03. Til Schweiger is this dude that plays Hugo Stiglitz (who’s awesome just for his little title shot alone) and i always like seeing him in films whenever it happens. i like to refer to him as “the guy that makes watching SLC Punk not be a waste of my time.”

miscellaneous: because some things escape my ability to categorize:
–there’s a lot of seen but unmentioned back story in this film: Aldo Raine’s neck scar and the names on Donowitz’s baseball bat are the best examples. showing this stuff while NOT feeling compelled to tell it is something i like in films.
–one thing i realized was how much of the trailer’s shots were from earlier in the film. while this wasn’t the case 100% of the time, considering how much modern trailers give away, i had to make a mention of this, even if it’s just an erroneous notion of mine.
–having Ennio Morricone do so much of the soundtrack is a) awesome and b) a good indication of that “spaghetti-Western-in-WW2” thing again, even if b doesn’t matter so much because of a. plus, all the non-Morricone stuff that has no place in a period film is completely worth it. how appropriate is the usage of David Bowie’s “Cat People?” only the most appropriate! seriously, though, “Cat People” rocks, so much that i bet my audience (again, J.Miles) has no idea what i’m talking about.
–so i really liked the sequence where Zoller acts like a dickhead and Shoshanna shoots him, because i was afraid he’d be a humanized Nazi (which happens all the time)… and Tarantino didn’t do that and it was great. whereas Shoshanna being a little oddly concerned for his demise (especially since she shot him) is a nice touch to make HER craziness seem like appropriate revenge. and her getting shot was just a crazy “what the fuck” moment that worked.
–also, i am pretty sure that Shoshanna was packing a Colt or FN M1908 Vest Pocket, which a) i love to spot in films (see also: Heist) and b) i own one of. and we all know i love to spot crazy guns in movies.

Inglourious Basterds
alright, Diane Kruger, i forgive you for appearing in Troy. now just get the Weinsteins to straighten out this DVD nonsense

in short, i summed this viewing up by telling someone, as i walked out of the theater, that i wished i could walk right back in and watch it again. it’s good and it’s fun. in the end, i don’t know why i expect to be disappointed by Tarantino… except…

01. there’s this shady DVD issue with his films that keeps me from owning a complete collection of them. i never bought Kill Bill on DVD because i refused to be made to double-dip, only for the two Kill Bills to STILL not be released as one film; i am still resisting buying Grindhouse as two separate DVDs for the same reason. i don’t blame Tarantino for this… but it’s disappointing.

02. you know what i think Tarantino will never do? make a good, SERIOUS film. it doesn’t matter if he does or not, but the thing is, i know he’s a raging film nerd, so you have to suspect that he’d like to as some point. he’s not that old and he’s got much more film to make, so, you know, it might yet happen.

in closing, so see Inglourious Basterds. there it is.