Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-Three

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-Three: Film That Inspires You:

Slacker (1991)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Richard Linklater, Stella James, Marc Weir

Slacker was another one of those glorious accidental discoveries. I couldn’t sleep, I switched on what I believe was IFC, and there it was. The movie had just started. Had just opened on that wonderful, completely random scene of a man (writer-director Richard Linklater, who has almost always managed to blow me away) getting in a cab, rambling through some story about how he should have stayed at the bus station. There’s more to it than that, but I won’t go into it, if you haven’t had the distinct pleasure of seeing it for yourself. Describing and much of the movie is difficult. Impossible in the sense that it’s immensely tricky for me to relate with words what you should see for yourself.

For example, wouldn’t you like to know which one of these guys has probably been drinking a bit too much coffee?

Obviously, I’m going to try and relate my love of this independent (back when that meant something, or at least back when it meant more than it does now), but I’m just saying that it’s going to be difficult. It might help if you take my word for it now, see the movie and then get back to me.

Maybe.  It couldn’t hurt. This is one of those times when I feel as though I can only write for the people who have already seen it. I’ll try to keep the rest of you in mind.

Anyone who has ever successfully managed to listen to me for more than five minutes without running me over knows that the eventual goal of all this writing I do is to eventually get a chance to make a film. Hopefully, you’ve been paying attention to these rambling thoughts on films, but if you haven’t it might be worth noting that my greatest creative passion through the years has been filmmaking. I’ve never been to college (and there’s a good chance I probably never will get to go), so I’ve tried to give myself the best education possible with the vocation I’d like to spend the rest of my life in. Acting is fun, but I want to put the whole thing together. I watch movies for pure entertainment, but I also try to pay attention to the ones that really blow my hair (what little of it there usually is) back. Should I ever get an opportunity I want to at least have a rough idea of what I need to do. It’s an overwhelming, intimidating vocation. I barely know where to begin. Just writing the scripts I’ve written has had a difficult learning curve going for it.

Film inspires me for all kinds of different reasons. Some encourage me in the whole ridiculous thing of making a movie. Slacker has been a fixture on that last since seeing it in on TV that night. It was around 1999, and it’s unreal how much time has just flown past me since. The film is certainly a product of its time in certain ways (the way Austin was at that time, the whole Generation-X vibe), but in its most important ways, it doesn’t seem like something that belongs in a time capsule. This is largely due to the fact that I know people like this still exist. Slacker captures a long-gone time and place, but people like the character’s of the film’s world haven’t gone anywhere. Take out the inspirational aspect of the film, and it’s the characters that I love the most about Slacker. I know people along those lines. I’ve known a couple of guys like the Kennedy fanatic. I’ve seen friends compel a buddy to hurl something that belonged to his ex-girlfriend over a bridge (it was a moving car in my experience). I’ve run into people trying to sell things eerily similar to a piece of Madonna pap smear.

I’ve encountered dozens of real-life counterparts for the wide array of wonderful, believable and engaging personalities that make up Slacker. They’re one of my favorite things about traveling so much. Linklater uses non-actors and unknowns to bring them to life. That helps considerably with the realism and strength of their portrayals. Almost every performance here gets me in some way. A few are more interesting than others, but all are memorable.

Slacker is one the films I’ve paid the most attention to as an on-again, off-again unofficial film student. It’s also served as a long-standing influence on not only the few screenplays I’ve written but also on a great deal of the other things I write. It’s living proof of function winning out over form. At first glance it looks like a two-hour vacation film. Everything about the movie suggests a concept that just barely managed to be realized. Linklater is still going strong as a filmmaker. He would use this loose, multi-character story structure again in Dazed and Confused. He then moved from that to make a startling range of films. His resume includes the surreal adaptation of A Scanner Darkly to the straight-forward, commercial remake of The Bad News Bears. Slacker is still the reigning champion for my favorite of his filmography. It was not the first film to use this kind of wandering structure, giving us one character’s life for a moment, and then switching to another when they pass someone on the street. Not the first, but it’s one of the best. I think that’s because Slacker represents a mindset and culture unique to not only its era but to the city in which it was filmed. There aren’t twenty or thirty films exactly like Slacker (although I know there are numerous films and documentaries that certainly seek to evoke a similar spirit).

As far as I know, this is the only one.

That doesn’t automatically grant it greatness, and there will always be some who just can’t get into a movie like this. Slacker feels like the sort of thing in which a camera just happened to be around by coincidence. That kind of thing can annoy tastes that prefer stories to be a bit more linear and focused. Slackers is pretty easy to follow, and it has a linear form of sorts, but it’s not the kind of linear everyone tends to expect from their movies. To some Slacker may just seem like a whole lot nothing. Nothing in the way of the point and nothing in the way of a real story or meaningful, deep characters.

The structure, story (such as it is) and characters work just fine for me, and it seems to work pretty well for a lot of others. Slacker opts for a far-less traditional breed of storytelling and filmmaking at almost every turn. Less-than-traditional, but it works as both a compelling, funny and strange story, and as a lesson to anyone who wants to make movies on their own time. It proves that a good story, a great cast and an endless amount of creative enthusiasm can potentially override anything else that might be working against you. There isn’t a suggestion of a guaranteed artistic victory, but at least it conveys the fact that it can be done.

Slacker comes out of a different filmmaking era. This is very true. It’s also true that a whole lot more has to happen than what I listed above for a movie to go from idea to finished cut. I keep this mind, and I still choose to consider Slacker an inspiration.

I’ll watch Slacker because it’s just a great movie. My favorite scene remains the one in which a young man (Michael Laird) has his life changed by breaking into the home of an old anarchist (the great writer and Philosophy teacher, Louis H. Mackey). It’s the most appealing scene in the film, and one that had a tremendous impact on me. That kind of thing can indeed happen in the real world, and it perfectly illustrates a fundamental about Slacker that nothing in its celluloid world is artificial. Coincidence can change someone’s life, and we are sometimes most altered by the random. I’d love to know what happened to that burglar the next day.

I love this movie, but I continue to pay the most attention to its biology. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance someday to see if I can create something worthwhile out of what’s available to me. Filmmakers are out there doing that right now. That gives me a steady line of hope. It reminds me that it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either.

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Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-Two

Think we’ll get to thirty before the end of this year?

That’s the plan, so be kind enough to forgive a little repetition. I’ll try to break things up with a poem.

2012 is breathing down my neck, and I’m not going for a mixed bag kind of year (like this one). I hope that will be most strongly be reflected in what I do creatively.

We’ll see. I’m vicious and optimistic these days, or at least I’m more of those two things than I have been for a long time.

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30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-Two: Film You Wish You Could Live In:

Blade Runner (1982)
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Blade Runner is a great movie. I want to say I first saw it on TV as a kid, but the truth is that I just can’t remember the time or place. I don’t know the time or place matter to me. I guess I just like to trace the chronology of when I first saw a movie to what I think of it now. That’s the only explanation I can think of. People love to define things, create timelines, and I like doing with even the most casual or mundane things.

I don’t remember the where and when of Blade Runner (as is the case with a good portion of the movies I’ve chosen for this list), but I remember being sucked into the world of this film about a minute in. I think the biggest reason why I’ve seen it so many times over the past twenty years is because of that strange, beautiful, terrifying and contradictory city. It’s a weird, chaotic mash-up of film noir, futurism, New York, Gotham City, Hong Kong, Hell and probably a wide array of other influences that are lost on me. I’m not shocked that the famous “Nighthawks” painting was part of that visual influence on the film. I’ve spent most of my writing career trying to recreate. I don’t think I’ve ever come close. I don’t have the budget, but it also doesn’t help very much that I also don’t have the imagination. That’s not meant to be a self-deprecating comment. It’s just a question of limitations. I can only watch a movie like Blade Runner, be completely spellbound by its universe and then carry that over into my own creativity as best I can. I don’t mind failing. Being engaged that strongly by sometimes is enough for me.

Don’t  worry. There’s still Build-a-Bear Workshops.

Blade Runner is quickly approaching its thirty-year anniversary.  It will have passed the mark by this time next year. I don’t see those thirty years as much as I possibly should. It could be a bias on my part that I’m rarely aware of what age may or may not have done to my favorite films. Is that a bad thing? Does it hurt my opinion to see a movie the same way I saw it ten, fifteen or even twenty years ago? I really can’t say. That’s likely a question I should try to answer through the essays and reviews I write about film, but I’m not sure how to go about that. All I can do is watch something again, and see what parts of my standing opinion have held up, it and what might have changed.

This one is no exception to that, and very little about it has changed for me. I don’t think it’s shown very much age at all, if any. That could be due to the noir plot, one of the more enduring story arches out there. It’s been said that Robert Mitchum was originally the guy in mind when the script was being written by co-author Hampton Fancher. I don’t have a lot of trouble believing that. Mitchum was a legend of the noir films. The fact that the script was written for that kind of actor and persona reflects not only the casting of Harrison Ford (who is phenomenal) but of the film’s grim, rainy atmosphere as well. It’s also reflected in the other characters represented throughout. The movie is, of course, tied pretty strongly to science fiction roots as well, and those two genres exist in almost every character. Science fiction has leant itself well to noir on many occasions. Strong supporting performances from Sean Young (as the noir dame in distress), Rutger Hauer (who doesn’t need to work very hard at making me believe that he is at all times moments away from a killing spree), Daryl Hannah (the hard-luck gal for this story), M. Emmett Walsh (as the sleazy cop), William Sanderson and Joe Turkel round things out. Style aside, it just wouldn’t be a great movie without their performances with the support of a great screenplay. I’d probably still watch it though. Having these other things just enables me to love it on more than one level.

It’s not a detriment that the great screenplay comes from an even greater story, by the iconic Phillip K. Dick, whose stories continue to find relevance long after his death (and Dick reportedly approved of the script before passing) constructed the blueprint for everything this film is. The heart and humanity within his story survived to make its way into the movie adaptation, and that has helped Blade Runner be more than just a dated science fiction movie.

The cast (especially Ford) and writing have large roles in Blade Runner’s endurance. I’m grateful they exist to give the movie depth and soul, but I suppose I always come back to the city. The tone and visual impact of the movie is the biggest reason why I can be pulled into this turbulent weirdness as though it’s the first time. I occasionally feel like we’re beginning to see little bits of pieces of Blade Runner in the world today. I know, I know. We still don’t have those cars, but I do feel like we’re getting closer to this kind of cold, garbled and confused reality. We’re not too far off from having cities that match Blade Runner in terms of size, scope and dangerous eccentricity. I’ve kicked around the country enough to have the suspicion fueled and inflated. Travel is one of my great passions. It’s on that small list of things I’m relatively good at. Getting lost in the shuffle of the film’s neon dementia would be a hell of a fun way to spend a few years. I might want to leave after that, but I kind of doubt it.

The fact that this is such an amazing film in every regard helps watching it for the twentieth or thirtieth time considerably, but the infinite potential for imagination that can be found in its backdrops would keep me watching even if the rest of the movie failed to compare. There isn’t another movie I can think of that has so beautifully captured the contradiction of a city that is both a technological marvel and a hopeless throwback all at the same time. Those familiar with my writing know it’s my kind of town.

Reportedly, director Ridley Scott is at work on a sequel. That’s fine. I’m sure today’s technology could take what Blade Runner showed us and multiply that dazzle by a thousand. It might be a worthy successor, or it might not be. I’m sure I’ll go see it, and I’m sure I’ll hope that it’s a successful continuation of not only Blade Runner’s great writing, directing and acting, but of this universe that is critical to my own creative leanings as ever before. I can still be amazed.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-One

I can definitely promise that my next non-movie review will not be poetry or short fiction.

Or it definitely will be.

I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see how that tricky mood thing is treating me in a few days.

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30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-One: Movie with Your Favorite Actor:

Lost in Translation (2003)
Directed by: Sophia Coppola
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi

Really, I could have gone with just about any Bill Murray performance. Certainly he’s lent his talent to some awful movies, but I would argue that he has never once failed to deliver a memorable performance. In some cases he’s been the sole saving grace of an otherwise disastrous couple of hours. The consensus amongst a lot of people I know seems to be that Murray made his big comeback with Wes Anderson’s brilliant Rushmore (a movie I don’t think I will ever get tired of). Certainly, Rushmore was the first movie in years to showcase Murray’s comedic genius under the best circumstances possible (and the whole movie itself is wonderful, too). I would venture to say that you can find brilliant gems from Murray in lesser vehicles like Larger than Life and The Man Who Knew Too Little. You can even find great moments from the man in questionable choices like Space Jam or Wild Things (okay, well, besides the other reason why some people still remember that movie).

The later-career classics though have come in the years since Rushmore. His association with Wes Anderson has proven to be very good to him, but arguably his biggest success since Rushmore is Lost in Translation. I don’t mind that. It’s probably not my favorite Murray film, but it’s pretty high along the list. Lost in Translation will always be one of those rare films in which my expectations were met and even succeeded. I wouldn’t be unhappy if that happened more often.

It was also difficult to choose just one actor. I have quite a few favorites that seem to be perennially tied for first. Bill Murray gets the nod. Simply because he was the first actor I ever remember really, really liking, and this was roughly twenty-two years ago, after seeing Ghostbusters for the first time (it’s insane what I remember sometimes–I can’t tell you what I did for Christmas five years ago, but I can vividly recall the first time I saw Ghostbusters).

I’m going with Lost in Translation because to me it’s the definitive Bill Murray movie. In the sense that it’s the one I would likely to show to someone who had never seen one of his movies before. My favorite Bill Murray movies are not necessarily the ones I would try out on someone straight away. It cemented that late-90’s comeback, and it gave him one of the most compelling roles of his career (so far, because he’s still surprising me even now).

I’ll never understand the opinion that this is simply a typical Murray performance. It’s true that a lot of what people like about the guy as an actor can be found throughout, but I’ve always believed his performance went a little deeper to display a subtle but profound range, within the general sort of character Murray most often plays. Murray’s character, Bob Harris, is very much in the vein of those personalities he played throughout the 80’s and early 90’s. A lot of that is very much in place, but I would suggest to anyone who either hasn’t seen the movie or hasn’t seen it in a while that they maybe pay a little more attention.


Those who do pay attention will receive a Japanese plush toy from Murray himself.

Bob Harris is older, far less manic and far more aware of how quickly everything has passed him by. His jokes in Lost in Translation come with a great sense of weariness, of realizing that very little of what he’s done in his life up to this point has come to mean much of anything. Humor can save your life on many occasions. It can lend something very essential to getting through the day in one piece. Unfortunately, that particular type of salvation can become more and more difficult to revisit as one gets older. That has always struck me as the heart of Harris when we first meet him in the film’s opening moments. It’s still funny, but in a quiet, minimal sort of way. There’s also a lot going on beneath the surface of that humor. That’s true of Murray’s performance, and it’s true of the film in general.

Sophia Coppola proved without question here that she’s a much better director than she is actress. She doesn’t strike as being as aggressive a director as her father. For the most part she simply hangs back, and lets the gorgeous Tokyo backdrop (I love movies that effortlessly romanticize the possibilities of a seemingly endless city of lights, buildings, people and thousands of sounds crashing together at once) and a terrific cast do what they do best. That’s not to say she doesn’t deserve credit. Someone still had to direct the kind of movie where the scenery is breathtaking, the pacing perfect and performances fantastic.

Nobody move, or they will become alert, and they will most likely flee into the woods.

Lost in Translation may star Bill Murray, but it’s not just his movie. This is still far and away my favorite Scarlett Johansson performance. She strikes a perfect balance with Murray, and the result of that is one of my favorite love stories. You can also just look at it as a depiction of a great, multi-layered friendship. Coppolla’s direction and Murray and Johansson’s performances leave plenty of room for ambiguity and interpretation for what exactly Murray and Johansson’s characters are thinking, and what they take away from their time together. Murray is an actor in Tokyo to shoot a whiskey ad. Johansson is a newlywed desperate for purpose. Everything else is a leisurely, wandering bit of storyteller that comes together at the end as something that only answers its questions if you look at the movie that way. You might not. You may just feel that things wandered around, characters interacted, nothing really changed and the movie came to an end. If that’s how you look at it, that’s fine, because you may still love it. The story doesn’t pound out plot point. It’s a style perfectly to actors like Murray and Johansson. Anna Farris (who I actually do like sometimes) and Giovanni Ribisi (as Johansson’s stunningly oblivious husband) round things out quite nicely.

Lost in Translation is likely to be the only time Murray ever scores an Oscar nomination. That’s too bad, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. It’s not going to stop him from lending something brilliant to anything he happens to appear in. I have a feeling that when it’s all said and done, people will be more apt to remember actors like Bill Murray, and not necessarily the guys who got the accolades he should have received. I could be wrong, but it already seems like more people remember Murray in Lost in Translation than Sean Penn in Mystic River. That’s just how it looks though. I guess history will have to pick up the slack. Something tells me history will be kind to Murray, and they will be especially kind to a role and movie as phenomenal as Lost in Translation.

Cohorts and Collaborators (Pt. 2/2)

There’s not a whole lot else to say about these collaborations, so it makes more sense to just let these last three collaborations speak for themselves.

I suppose the next couple of entries will be movie reviews, as I’m still looking to be finished with that damn challenge by the end of this month.

It’s time to move on, ladies and gentleman. It’s time to see what the hell else is out there. My life has seen better fortunes than usual over the past month. Some momentum is actually coming my way, and it would be nice if I could use it to actually accomplish something a little more substantial. Some risks ought to be taken, and I need try a little harder at keeping and maintaining an open mind.

It’s weird that I actually feel as though those things are possible at the moment. It would be nice if these thoughts hung around long enough for me to do something with them, and I suppose that falls into my arena of control.

Let’s just see what happens, and let’s try to enjoy that good fortune. There are still things that are probably making the tumor in my brain bigger with each passing hour, but right now the good is in better shape than usual to potentially outweigh the bad, and I love that.

I’ll do what I can with it. It helps considerably to have a fantastic woman in my corner, but I won’t embarrass her by naming names. That’s not the only reason why I’ve been feeling better lately, but it’s definitely in the top two or three.

Remember that my contributions to these pieces are still marked with a “-“

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Six Steps Back (w/ Ava Blu)
By Gabriel Ricard

-Let’s clean up this mess,
figure out who keeps which books
and who deserves to make it
to the West Coast first.

-We can’t keep a room together long
enough to play chess with our antiques,
so we may have to settle for checkers.

-I don’t know. It’s times like this
when I’m usually very,
very quiet.

We can burn our old bibles to make room.
We can play by candle light
and take a drink every time the open window
blows out the candle.

I’m usually not up for conversations like this.
I’m usually not one to talk
during a game I know I can’t lose.
I need the quiet to be able to feel the heat
grace my cheek.

I need to figure out how to keep you
away from San Francisco.

-Well,
it goes without saying
that I’d love to be there before I’m thirty,
but I always imagined you would be the first
between us to make it with time to kill.

-Those California artist types
will love you first and then themselves,
and some of them can even make it through
the entire morning without taking a drink.

-I’ve always admired that.

They’ll fight over guessing which flavor of tea I prefer
and I’ll somehow seem phased over it.
I’ll wait for my tea to cool while they yell profanities
in languages I’ve yet to learn.

Damn hipsters.

I won’t offer you a place to stay
until you send the book you bought.
I know you use it as leverage to get me to say
I’m ok with you dating a mutual friend;

I’ll never be ok with it.

-That’s fine. I may just wait until the morning
I wake up in some foreign country.

-With nothing to my name but twenty dollars,
a pamphlet promoting good mental health
through spirituality, and a bride that thinks orange juice
gets in the way of vodka,
and already can’t stand the sight of me.

-You’ll be in California,
and I do hope you’ll be happy.

-I don’t have the necessary patience
to be cruel or sarcastic about that thought anymore.

I don’t feel sarcastic anymore either.

I think the day we met to have one last fuck
eluded to how today would go.
I think you should’ve known I
could never not want to bring a knife to bed.

I don’t understand why I can’t be
the bride choking on choices. I
don’t wanna know why you would
settle for a woman who laughs when
you write a line about death over one
who can fuck you sideways and still
make the most delicious eggs
in the morning.

Yeah, I wanna know why you
can’t look at my dark hair, pale skin
and green eyes and say you still love me,
you still miss the way we fit along our spines.

-It’s on my to-do list.
It’s a long assortment of things I plan to do
when my back gets better
and God gives me the go-ahead
to find enough candles in enough churches
to burn this town halfway to the ground.

-The other half might well bring us back
to the good-old days.

-And if it turns out instead
that nothing’s left,
then I guess we’ll live with that as best we can.

-I think we could pull it off.
we’ve lived under more trying circumstances before.

I think the day won’t come soon enough
to salvage the brokenness between us.
Our days became numbered as soon
as we met one last time.

I think the only thing we can pull off now
is the occasional dirty joke about the blood
we’ve shared and how you still hit on
every mutual friend we’ve ever had.

One of these days we’ll realize
the only place we belong
is with each other.

-Let me think about that
and get back to you.

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Shorthand Shuffle (w/ Samantha Bagley)
By Gabriel Ricard

-It was a dangerous time to be alive,
but I guess we were pretty good
at knowing and moving along anyway.

-We thought the speed limit
was more of a guideline than an actual law.
We got lost so often as kids
that there was actually a few years
where we thought Cleveland went on forever.

-You used to smile a lot more
back in them days.

Not that either of us know
much about that anymore. It seems
that the days of bad lines about
teeth and daisies are far behind us.

Still, something about notes the solar system makes,
the color red, the sting in our eyes –
I suppose that means that something is there.
Of course, something could be subjective
or subliminal or nothing at all. Your call.

Seems now our hands are bound,
there’s not much left to endless
much less forever.

-When we were kids
you were in the habit of wearing your Halloween costume
in late-September and telling anyone who was half-listening
that your attic was constantly at war
with the basement for which one was the most haunted.

-Somehow
you’ve managed to get old
and apply that idea to every grocery store, church and dance hall
in a world where the population is six million strong
and two million helpless.

-Sometimes
you drink a bottle of wine,
break the same window twice
and chase young men for days at a time.

-I sew steel plates into my leather jacket
and check my watch whenever I cross the street.

It’s still funny how the past is always brought up.
The somehow, the sometimes, but not
the who and when and why. You forget what
a curious creature looks like; we find a habit,
healthy or not and cling like hell as if
it won’t be back with the sunrise tomorrow.

What I’m getting at other than
to tell you to knock it off is that
you never know what you get
when catching the cat’s tongue.
There’s something to be said for caught
versus loose and what that does for ambiguity.

I’m still baffled by the looks we give
as if we could never reach the other,
two feet apart, almost bigger than
the waves, bigger than the tide pools
left in my eyes.

Life has taught us plenty,
enough standing still.

-It sure has,
and I say that with what little sarcasm
as the good Lord provides me with.

-I don’t find humor in everything anymore.
When I laugh it’s either because it was funny
a few hundred times before,
or it’s some kind of terrible I haven’t run into before.

-You could say that more and more now,
I’m holding onto my best. I assume without question
that the grand finale is coming up soon,
and that it might just have the capacity to last two years.

-If not five.

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Unrepentant Cigarette Enthusiasts (w/ Meghan Helmich)
By Gabriel Ricard

-I borrow the best music in town,
steal inspiration from shelved classics,
give strange women directions to my friend’s house
and ask everyone to love me unconditionally.

-Asking you for some company
tomorrow afternoon
should be the easiest thing I’ve done all week.

-I could be wrong.
You could be even meaner than I am.

The meanest thing about me?
I fancy myself somewhere between
a spitting vixen and a cautious redhead
with nothing to lose but patience.

And for the record, I’ve been waiting for an invitation
since you opened your trap and baited the damn line.

You’re really not asking too much.

-I ask for a lot eventually.
Money for mean-spirited misadventure
is just the half of it. There was one time
when I borrowed the car of a decent man,
and played the most satisfying game
of Bumper-Cars in history with his garage.

-It wasn’t some effort to sell books later on.
Stress just sometimes makes people do funny things.

-Some of my friends have been around for every last bit of it.
Their patience is the last virtue on Sarasota Street,
and I regret every nice thing they’ve ever done for me.

-I’d be thrilled
if you and I could settle for a cup of coffee
and a sandwich.

We would have to take a long walk
to get to the right cafe —
the one with the Chinese dragons hovering
over the entrance.
I once met the owner’s third cousin
and I’m sure we can get some extra
fortunes for cheap.

They let the customers dip their hands in primary colors
and leave prints on the back wall
so you and I can live forever no matter what the papers tell us.

-Living forever is for hippies and 1930’s suckers.

-I’d rather we walk through Times Square
as though neither one of us
has ever been there before.

-It’s been said that the nine a.m. rush
of humanity is a world different
from what goes down at eight fifty-two.

-That kind of thing has always appealed to me,
but it’s exhausting keeping up with it alone.

Surely someone somewhere once told you
that the Big Apple was scripted for a duet?

I pay no attention to the time since my watch stopped
its shivering march. I just stare at the sun
when I need an itinerary.

Give me your hand.

We can take the subway until the track runs out,
run like fools the last five miles,
And when we arrive out of breath
you can make the sailor’s kiss look like a handshake.

-I’ve been to some of those happenings,
at the point just after those tracks disappear.

-They take beer with their morning coffee,
callously mock the living
and never really had much love or interest
in the likes of me.

-Maybe I just didn’t bring the right cohort along.

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Cohorts and Collaborators (Part 1/2)

I started writing poetry around 2001, 2002. I have to credit a couple of people like that, but the biggest credit I have to give is to my longtime friend, Rhea McJames. Rhea and I go back about eleven, twelve years at this point. We’ve never actually met, but that almost doesn’t matter to me at this point. She’s one of the all-time greats. One of those people I would absolutely, completely trust with my life and health (what little of it I pay attention to).

I haven’t the faintest clue why she continues to put up with me, and her poetry is a large reason why I finally made the leap in 2001/2002 and added poetry to the rest of my writing.

A lot of things have come along to influence and mess around with my poetry since then. This includes people, places, travels, bad calls, good decisions, weird circumstances and a whole mess of things I can’t even begin to try and remember now.

There’s no question that the website Pathetic has been a pretty big influence. I joined the site in 2003, and in the years since (almost ten? When the hell did that happen?) I’ve been very, very fortunate to meet a wide range of talented, strange and relentlessly fantastic people. I couldn’t even begin to list them all, and what their work and friendships have meant to me. I won’t try. I’m instead going to focus on one of those most positive things I’ve gotten out of my time there.

Pathetic is big on collaborations. It’s not uncommon for two or even three people to get together and come up with some kind of poetic middle-ground for their respective voices. I’ve had countless chances over the years to work with some of the best writers I’ve ever known. Collaboration in poetry is always intimidating to me. I always feel the struggle to keep up with these extraordinary people. But I suppose that’s a good thing, right? I’ve learned from it, enjoyed every second of it and have never, ever felt as though it was wasted time or motion.

I’ve collaborated on dozens of poems over the last eight or so years. I have them all somewhere, but I’m not going to dig that far into the past. What I’d like to do here is focus on a few of my favorites from the past three years. I won’t get into a lengthy dialog about how I perceive my work, but I will say some of the most significant changes to my poetry have occurred over that stretch of time. A lot of that has come through the day-to-day business of my life, but I also think a lot of it has come from being able to work with such a wide range of writers. With their kind permission I’m going to share some of them with you here.

Laura Doom is usually much too smart for the likes of me, but I’ve loved her work for years, and I’ve loved that I can pitch just about any general concept to her, and have her be completely on board for it. I never know where the hell our poems are going to go, but I trust her judgment on the direction completely.

Vince Blake writes some of the best imagery I’ve ever seen. We’ve never met, but I’m pretty sure we could bring a town or two to its knees, and get some great writing out of it in the bargain.

Ava Blu has a knack for the kind of honesty that makes your knees buckle. She and I have come up with some unbelievable narratives.

It has been a pleasure to see the evolution of Johnny Crimson’s work over the past several years. His poetry takes me right into the heart of the absolute, best kind of madness. He’s another one who keeps me on my toes.

Samantha Bagley doesn’t write often, but I’m grateful when she does. I wish she’d give herself a little more credit though. Her voice is considerable.

Meghan Helmich
can devastate me in just one line. She’s that good.

A few people are being left out of this entry. That’s not a slam on them. I’d like to run every collaboration I’ve ever done, because all of them have been brilliant, but I can’t. I hope they believe me (should they read this) when I say that I love them just as much.

And this may well be the longest introduction to date, so let’s stop screwing around, okay?

I could ramble forever, but you’ve probably figured that out by now. I’d say it’s better if we just get this thing off the ground.

And if you write poetry? Get your ass over to Pathetic and sign up. It’s a good place to hang up the hat.

Just watch out for romance.

And note that my stanzas are marked with a “-“

**********
In The Talons of the Nighthawks (w/ Vince Blake)
By Gabriel Ricard

-I don’t have a lot of sympathy
for the people who are too drunk
to stop dancing. The ones who are just insane
are a different story altogether.

-God knows why I’d come here
any old night of the young week
let alone Friday. This is the absolute worst
of the underground cartoon cavalcade, and there’s thousands of rooms
just like this one to have to look through.

-At best I’ll be around thirty before I’m actually ready
to face who I’m looking for.

and at worst, i’ll be wading through the same cesspools
with the rest of the late-night,
bleach-burned,
lounge-singer gestapo
until i catch their disease,
and kill myself as remedy.

but i suppose i’m selling the sin a little short,
and perhaps the merits of being this demented
might warrant more of tonight’s masochism
than i have been so far able to admit.

-Because it’s the entertainment district
you gotta watch out for. Those lounge acts are known
to carry guns, assume every woman is a whore
and wave handfuls of guns around whenever
a cell phone starts to ring.

-The slot machines take cash, wedding rings
and whichever arm you can learn to live without.

-It’s definitely not a good idea to be broke
if you’re in love or have dangerous people looking for you.

-Around here you write that story after they send you
to the morgue in a new suit.

which is not to say that the new outfit
was gonna cost anyone half as much
as the things they’d have bought for themselves
with cash snatched from your pockets
before your body hit the floor on a good night,
or any fraction of the royalty checks
they’ll be banking on that story of yours.

but legends don’t come cheap,
and around here,
they come with asterisks even then.

-They come with cups of coffee,
bad knees and stories about meeting Dean Martin
when he came of entertainment age
during the greatest heartbeats of Atlantic City’s
early days of glamour and corruption.

-I’ve been in these tunnels and rooms for years,
and I’ve carried a sinking feeling for just as long
that no one here has ever met anyone of substance.

-Unless you count acid flashbacks
and dreams that wake you up with more adrenaline
than you can take.

-I’ve got all that going for me,
and I’m pretty sure loved ones are starting to notice
when I magically come back from the dead six days
after I left with good intentions.

but although damnation ain’t exactly in short supply,
giving a damn ain’t hardly the same as “noticing.”
and that’s not even to mention the facts
that iron-clad alibis
have never once matched steel-toed boots
impression for impression,

or that our spines curve for a reason.

**********
Beneath the Oaks (w/ Johnny Crimson)
By Gabriel Ricard

-I don’t want to sound cruel,
but I’ve seen better productions of King Lear
in taxi cabs where the addicts have nothing to lose
but the words to their favorite song.

These were the digital eyelid
imprints of a ten-second release
and she keeps a counter for every
fucked faint intrusion.

-But I guess you learn to live with what
when you give children guns, cough syrup
and a list of every bloodthirsty lawyer in New Orleans.
I guess you learn to live with trading in sincere Catholic candles
for sympathetic ears under long raven hair and a lot of bad ideas.

Trading pixie sticks for blow
and squeezing whatever begs for it
under the dim neon light pouring from the church windows,
they caught an EVP of the sucking sounds and the loose change in his pocket.

-It’s not as bad as it sounds though. In the end it’s just a lot
of weird music from the glory days. You just have to keep your head down
and spend as little time as possible wondering why there’s more
fast food restaurants along the Armageddon boulevard than anywhere
else in town. Don’t stick your hands out the window when you’re best friend
gets desperate and guns the car up to a hundred and eighty.

Plead with us in the backseat
as the brain matter tickles her freckled jaw.
Let us teach you the meaning of eating your nerves.
This is the discontent of a generation,
the fever goes up and we leave the thermometer inside you.

-They take good care of you when you’re sick,
but lots of luck finding smooth hands to bless what’s left
of you when you’re too old to get to the top floor
and finally get the welcome home party you deserve.

We bathe in the unforgiving cake mix
of a hot-glue pasted surprise.
These are merely remnants of what actually happened to you,
the proof has been lost in the tides of Hunter Lake,
yet her skirt still rests atop the flagpole.
With mission complete and cigarette packs in our t-shirts
we flip leather jackets over our shoulders and whistle the walk to school.

-Sometimes there’s too many people wandering around
in bathrobes looking for their loved ones,
so I hitch the first moderately dangerous ride to come along,
use my cell phone as collateral and assume payday
will be in the mailbox by the end of the afternoon.

Shaking tiny slides in front of the light
and bending the plastic between my fingers
I remembered how flexible you once were.
What we did to you was fine and believe me the credit is shared,
but I can’t get the image of you winking me over
to your corner of the boys and girls club out of my mind.

**********
Go Ahead, Talk about Our Son
By Gabriel Ricard (w/ Laura Doom)

-Tuesday is our day of rest,
and I’ll be dammed
if we’re going to let that be ruined
by your faith,
in the notion that one person is not enough
to knock down your fears of sleeping alone.

-Why don’t you just marry the Mormons from 3H?

-Their orgies will top my winning smile
every single time.

And that would be the messianic ‘we’;
the pronoun that pronounces a smile
to frame a portrait in mime?

Did I hear that right?

I can take the myriad of stares
that shift your eyes to eulogize
the vices of love, a shimmer of blind lament
that’s wasted on the virtuous.

But if lust is the chicken that came home
to rut, then love is the egg
that scrambled my faith, and I can’t see
there’s a whole lot riding on the result.

-Well, Hell’s bells,
why didn’t you tell me from the start
that we are nothing but fantastic gestures
of kindness. Terrible motions
that trouble our friends, annoy the spirits
and guarantee we’ll be together for thirty more years.

-I think that’s what you’re trying to tell me.
I’m only half-listening,
because you’re only trying to get the skin
off my back with about half of your usual enthusiasm.

-I’ve also got the TV on,
and I really think George C. Scott
is going to run away with Diana Rigg this time.

-Sweetheart,
it’s not that I’m unhappy.
It’s just that I’d rather see us accept old age
before we actually get there.

-We’re not dramatic teenagers anymore,
and people are starting to stare.

Or maybe they’re busy shooting each other
to pay for the upgrade
from hospital to network;
staring at walls, dancing
round those fatal floors.

Meamwhile, we are gaining morals
and losing morale with every passing option
sold off to the silent majority
screaming democracy and breeding
provincial minorities that roll their eyes
at compromise.

For them it’s just business, as usual
but we can’t afford to buy time, or spend
our Mondays window-smashing. It pains me
to say it, but you are far from cost-effective
and I like to conduct my affairs
with economies of scale in mind.

-I’m cost-effective plenty,
you stupid, half-drunk, all-gorgeous,
all-kinds-of-unhinged broad
from the Island of Transferred Souls.

-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.

-Blame the old woman in 5G.
She does this non-stop Popeye impression,
and uses it to scream the headlines of the day.

-Who the hell gave her a computer?
Who the hell is even aware she’s alive?

-I ask too many questions. You don’t.

-You assume the water-tower is half-empty,
and that the cops will never figure out
what you said to make that friend of mine cry,
and drive her car right through the only florist I know,
who still has a pure heart.

-You wouldn’t know morals,
if they mounted you from behind
and sang your favorite Leonard Cohen song
in your perfect ears.

-Don’t take that the wrong way.
Sweetheart. Red-light-of-my-life.

You know, when that tongue’s not tied
it sure is spiked — I’ve had death-threats
less intimidating than your back-handed compliments.
Just because you give good tail
there’s no excuse for losing your head.

How many weeks have we been living
one year at a time?

Take it from me, I have answers
to which you’ll never find
incredible questions; the woman in 5G?
Her son stole that laptop from a pole dancer
working the Arctic 24/7 scene. He prefers
to stay out of touch that way, since
the luxury cruise off the coast
of Somalia, and her subsequent
incontinence.

It’s better this way; insomniacs sleep
on a need to be ignorant basis.

If it wasn’t for that arid humour
that has me wetting myself
before you lay a finger on me
I’d be on the next caravan to Carnal City
kicking up a desert storm.

Besides, you are the one eccentric constant
in my otherwise mundane chaos.
And who will be there for you
to take out your frustrations on
once I’m impaled on your prurient pedestal?

-Jane Russell is coming back from the dead,
and assuming Bob Mitchum isn’t right behind her,
I might just give her a ring instead.

-I kid. I love. I drink, watch and reference
the same five movies, no one under forty
cares to remember.

-Remember,
when I fed those stray cats you stole,
While you were out realizing
that women can be just as bad in bed as men?

-I think that speaks volumes,
but I’m notorious for grasping at chewed-up bendy straws,
so it’s your call
and your fantastic, low-cut wardrobe
for all apologetic occasions.

-What can I say?

-It’ll be twenty years at half-mast before long.

-You say it better than I ever could, anyway.

-I don’t mind,
because sometimes it makes me brilliant by default,
and because I firmly believe
that the gashes on the back of my head build character.

-Like shoveling snow for a bloody August dance-a-thon.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty

The upshot of a slow weekend?

I get more work done than usual.

It’s still just a lot of running in place for a few hours (while simultaneously dicking around on Facebook), but I’d like to think I used the fact that I didn’t go anywhere or see anybody to pretty good ends. I probably could have gotten through the day just watching Batman cartoons and bothering people at random, but I probably wouldn’t have been as satisfied with the end-result.

I feel like I used to be a lot better about time management, but I don’t know if that’s really true. I wrote a journal entry, edited five pages of that second novel and wrote the below review. That strikes me as a pretty good output for work. I may even try to knock off a poem, and read some more of a book I’m planning to review for Unlikely Stories. I guess we’ll just see how the evening goes. I’d sure as hell rather be irresponsible, but then I remember that this is how I’m trying to make a living (it’d be awfully nice to sell that book, when the son-of-a-bitch is finally finished), so that keeps the motivation to actually do something my time running pretty high.

Being creatively pleased with what I do is iffy. There are fantastic days, and then there are many, many, many days when I wish I taken up that offer from Satan to sell my soul in exchange for a degree with some kind of theoretically useful potential behind it.

Yeah, I know, the economy is a fiendish orgy of despair, but I still wish sometimes I could go to college.

I’m fortunate. I get to concentrate on artistic gigs, but I don’t always derive any personal pleasure from them, and I rarely feel like I’m doing something useful with my life. When I do it’s magic, and I guess that’s one of the big things that keeps me alive.

Reckless misadventures keep me alive, too, but we already knew that.

You know, I don’t set out to write mournful, depressing introductions. I really don’t.

I’m just saving my knock-knock jokes for the next time I go out.

People love those.
**********

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty: Movie With Your Favorite Actress:

Bandits (2001)
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett

There’s nothing really remarkable about the 2001 movie Bandits. It’s immensely enjoyable (Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton together can sustain even the weakest plot), but it’s not a classic by any means. Director Barry Levinson does have a few films under his career that many would consider classics. Diner might be one (I’m inclined to think so). A lot of people hold The Natural in pretty regard (I’ve honestly never seen it). His career is one that’s included films like Tin Men, Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man, Toys (I still think that movie is an underappreciated gem), Sleepers (the one movie I used to win every single Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon challenge, ever), Wag the Dog and several others. His last movie, the HBO original You Don’t Know Jack has one of Al Pacino’s best performances in a decade. All in all it’s an interesting, diverse filmography. You have some great films, some dreadful ones and a few that are solid, forgettable ways to deal with a couple of empty hours the easy way.

Bandits is a decent, little movie, and it’s not much more than that.

This isn’t about Barry though. He’s a talented filmmaker, but he wasn’t the reason why I watched this, and he certainly wasn’t the best thing I took away from it.

I don’t even think this is my favorite Cate Blanchett performance. I could probably make a case for any number of brilliant performances she’s given over the years. After all, she’s got a few Oscar nominations going for her, has already picked up one Oscar, and will probably win another, is enough of a star to carry a movie on her own, and never seems to settle into just one type of character.

Even so, I thought about it, and still chose Bandits over anything else.

Hear me out. I think there are two reasons behind this. At least, two reasons that I’m aware of.

This was the first movie I had ever seen her in, and I was struck by her performance more than anything else. It stood out. An actress of lesser talent wouldn’t have done anything significant with the role of kidnap victim-turned-accomplice. On paper it’s not the most exciting part in the world. Blanchett is the kind of actress who can take on any role and make some memorable of it. I figured this out after Bandits, and she’s reminded of this in roles since. She’s done this with difficult characters, weakly written ones and roughly everything else from one end of the character spectrum to the other. There’s little for her to do in Bandits beyond playing off Willis and Thornton. She does that, and it’s quite wonderful just how far she goes and how frequently she upstages them.

That’s not easy. Willis and Thornton are good actors, and they tend to dominate the scene when around. They’re also pretty good at taking some bland material, and making it several times more enjoyable and interesting. Both are fine in this. Willis is a badass, and Thornton is the eccentric with hypochondria and a host of other low-grade mental illnesses. They’ve made a good team before, and this is the most fun of their appearances. They break out of prison together, go on a series of clever (within the context of the movie) bank robberies, pick up Blanchett along the way, fall for her, fight over her and spiral on down towards one last, desperate job. It’s good, and they’re good, but none of it amounts to anything you absolutely must see.

I think Cate Blanchett is the exception to that, and that’s a huge reason why Bandits wins out.

And the other reason?

It’s purely cosmetic, and it’s as simple as that entire sequence where she’s lip-syncing to Bonnie Tyler, dancing and cooking dinner all at the same time. It’s not some great moment of intense, powerful acting (she’s got a lot of those). It’s a few moments in the movie, and it doesn’t mean much to the overall film. It was just a gorgeous woman in a nicely-shot sequence.

I also blame that red hair. After seeing Bandits, it finally made sense to me, why so many think she could double for Tori Amos. If you believe that, then this movie will probably help your argument.

Seriously, I actually rewound the movie, the first time I saw it. I might have been even lonelier than usual at the time, but it still made that kind of impression on me. Sexiness in movies is hard for me to find, so I tend to be mildly, briefly obsessive about the scenes, actresses and even characters, who send my jaw to the floor, and then pour cement in my mouth to keep it there for a while.


Other people are in this movie, apparently.

But gorgeous actresses are pretty common-place. Porn has a ton of them. The overall package for unbelievably sexy actresses isn’t complete, until you throw in the fact that they’re unbelievable at their craft. Cate Blanchett is that entire package. She makes even a relatively minor movie like Bandits better. Very few people can single-handedly enhance a movie like that for me.

Bandits is worth mentioning again, as a movie that is not going to be some kind of life-changing experience. But it’s good enough. A good cast can always go a long way with an average story, and Levinson knows how to wrangle a few surprises and nice touches (Dylan’s “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum” over the opening credits being one of those nice touches) out of things. You’re probably going to feel like you had a pretty good time, but it’s also unlikely, you’ll be demanding Criterion give it a corner spot in their hall of fame. Everything in the movie is just fine, and nothing more involved than that. Except of course, Cate Blanchett. You could do a lot worse than watch this on a rainy afternoon. It probably should have been better with this much talent involved, but we won’t dwell on that.

And that red hair.

My goodness.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Nineteen

Is it completely unfair that I’d like to get some more comments?

I’m not begging. It’s just a thought that’s occurring to me. Part of me is deathly afraid of feedback. That’s natural. No one wants to work forever at something, and then find out everyone hates it. All the acting, writing, performing stuff I do firstly for myself, but I also like to know sometimes that other people are enjoying it.

That’s natural, too.

Has this been the theme of another blog opening already? I don’t remember. I write these in about ten minutes, because I guess I feel like some kind of introduction is always in order, and I’m usually at a loss for anything interesting to say.

I’m finally circling the wagons on some more variety for this thing, but I think it’s gonna wait, until this movie review series is finished. We’re getting there. Just eleven more to go.

What’s in a Friday night? I wish I had plans. I wish that “Tonight, I’m gonna burn this town down” as Springsteen puts it. That’s not in the cards. It’s going to be one of those many lonely nights I seem to be entertaining these days. I’m going to work for a while longer, eat dinner and run movies from now to three or four in the morning. Having no choice but to spin your wheels in the middle of nowhere doesn’t leave you with a lot of options sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done alright for misadventure over the years. The problem is that I’m selfish for that kind of thing. And a quiet Friday night in a quiet room is a quiet, miserable prospect every single time.

I’m not particularly depressed though. No more than usual. I’m just restless, and that continues to become a stronger and stronger feeling.

I’m ready to go, and I’d give anything to be out in the larger world right now. There’s all kinds of trouble I could be getting into.
**********

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Nineteen: Movie That Made You Cry The Hardest:

Rocky (1976)
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers

I didn’t actually see the first Rocky until I was about fourteen. In my childhood I had managed to see II, III and IV, but for whatever reason I didn’t get around to seeing the first (and easily the best of them) until I was well into high school. Who knows why. I’m not going out of my way to be stubborn about seeing one movie or another. I’m sure I had plenty of opportunities to watch the first Rocky. I might have even caught it on TV as a little kid. I don’t remember actually watching it until I bought it at a yard sale. The sequels had things like giant, Russian steroid monsters, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. I guess those were just more memorable things to me.

I still dig the sequels, but I’m more apt to watch the first, if I’m in the mood for one of these movies .

I can’t say this movie has ever left me sobbing at the end, but I’ve gotten pretty close sometimes. Getting a strong emotional reaction from me isn’t impossible for a movie to do, but crying tends to be a different matter. I don’t think I’m above it. I just don’t express sadness with tears very often. The ones that do manage to draw that response from me are pretty strange when grouped together. I can’t say there’s a pattern. Sometimes a movie just has the power to kick me in the stomach (in a good way) over and over again. That kick can be pretty severe. So much that crying is just a matter of time. The reason for why a movie can accomplish this seems to vary wildly from film to film.

With Rocky I suppose my reasons for responding to it the way I do are the same as a lot of people’s. There’s a good love story (keeping in mind we’ve established the fact that my idea of love is hopelessly weird, and should not be held as a reasonable example for all humankind). You know it’s there from the moment Stallone meets Talia Shire’s mousy, painfully shy Adrian at the pet store we know he visits every day (under the guise of buying food for his turtles). The love story of Rocky is not some kind of wild ride. It’s not going to have a lot of surprises. Those are not requirements to be unforgettable though. Some of my favorite love stories succeed through simplicity in story and likable, memorable characters. Rocky gives me that story and those characters. Stallone is never going to be in my top-ten actors list (but I do think he’s a lot better than he gets credit for), but his chemistry with Shire is perfect. It sells the romance, and makes it absolutely impossible for me to think of its execution as anything less than perfect.

There are memorable, classic performances from everyone involved. I couldn’t pick a favorite secondary actor in a million years. Carl Weathers is obviously channeling some Ali here (and there was even a mock showdown between Stallone and Ali at the Oscars, when Rocky took home the Best Picture prize), and he’s fantastic at it. Rocky is largely about strong performances and chemistry, going back to the love story between Rocky and Adrian, and I’m glad Weathers was worked into most of the sequels. He plays off Stallone as a definitive rival and later friend. Burt Young and Burgess Meredith are two of my all-time favorite character actors. They played well off just about anyone (and Burt Young still does). In Rocky they’re as memorable to me as Rocky, Adrian or Apollo Creed. Meredith should have won something just for the sheer power of the scene, in which he all but begs Rocky to take him on as a manager.


I have to wonder how many people broke their hands trying this.

The build-up to that big championship fight between Creed and Rocky would never be done so well again. Is it ridiculously corny that Rocky knows his chances of winning are nil, and that all he wants to do is go against Creed from opening bell to last? Yeah, but I’ve never had a problem with it. Maybe, that’s because the fight is loosely based on a Chuck Wepner/Muhammad Ali bout, which saw an unknown Wepner survive an entire fight against Ali. That might be part of it. I also like how much of Rocky’s desire to succeed with such modest, almost pathetic dreams mirrored Stallone’s own life. He was a bit player before Rocky. Everything he hoped to accomplish in his career rode on his determination to play the character, and be an integral part of the movie’s creation (the studio that finally accepted the script, saw it as a possible vehicle for someone like James Caan or Robert Redford). It worked, but the success of Rocky remains one of the most unlikely success stories in film history.

I’m sure the guy who hands out those Golden Raspberry awards is still bemoaning that fact. I think this aspect adds a nice layer to the movie.

All of Rocky culminates in one of the most emotionally satisfying endings I can think of. It gets me every single time, and I love how that never gets old. Again, it’s a pretty simple story, but as Stallone would prove later on it wasn’t so simple that it could easily be duplicated. None of Rocky‘s many sequels would even come close to resonating with me as strongly as that first one did. The last one came close though.

It’s not just the movie itself. Too many scenes stand out, and kick around my head even when I haven’t seen it for ages. These scenes inevitably bring me into my own thoughts and memories, because the kind of movies that draw this kind of emotional response me usually do so by means beyond just the story and characters. All of that in Rocky can still work its charm on me, but it’s always more than just the specifics of the movie itself. There’s always some kind of memory to contend with, or some weird, seemingly random thought that occurs to me every time I watch that particular movie. I won’t go into the memories and thoughts unique to my viewings of Rocky, but I will say they’re potent. Enough that I can be drawn to the film by merits other than the fact that I think Rocky is beautifully done in every way.

What makes Rocky the clear-cut winner in this category? Other movies have that one scene that completely destroys me, breaks down any and defenses and gets those stupid eyes misting up. Some might even have two or three of those scenes. Rocky has several. I don’t want to be such a sucker for easy sentiment, because Rocky is not necessarily the absolute saddest film I’ve ever seen, but it’s pointless to pretend I’m invulnerable. Rocky is my emotional kryptonite, and I’m okay with that. I guess there are worse things to be than an easy target for a certain kind of movie.