Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Brief Eulogy for James Gandolfini

                                                                       Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

With the passing of James Gandolfini, most will remember him for The Sopranos, a show certainly worthy in television history; but I remember him for a lesser role, one which did not earn any awards and barely, perhaps, a credit. I remember him in True Romance as Virgil, a wise guy, one of Vincenzo Coccotti's (Christopher Walken's) hired thugs feverishly in pursuit of Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette), as they flee a murder with a bag full of cocaine. Arquette plays a call girl hired for Clarence's birthday, Slater an employee in a comic book store, Dennis Hopper his father and retired cop, and Val Kilmer the image of Elvis who tells Clarence to kill Alabama's pimp (Gary Oldham). The film, directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino, is ripe with other cameos, including Michael Rappaport, Bronson Pinchot, Tom Sizemore, and Brad Pitt. It is a film in which the male audience members are supposed to fall in love with Alabama, the females, sorry for Clarence, admitting they would also sleep with him on his lonely birthday, and all parties vehemently loathing Virgil for the manner in which he assaults Alabama.

When Virgil finally catches up with the couple in their hotel room, Clarence is out. Virgil begins with pleasantries before unloading his massive strength upon her face, which includes throwing her body from her throat across the room and tossing her through a glass shower door. The fight climaxes as Alabama, with blood streaming through her teeth, stabs Virgil in the foot with a Swiss Army knife, torches him with a flaming aerosol can, and shoots him multiple times in the chest. It is Tarantino violence in a way that only Tarantino can make violence. Of course, the couple escapes in the end -no spoiler alert necessary since the movie is twenty years old and I imagine those who have not seen it yet are not going to see it now- a happy finale and the beginning of the couple's new life together. 

As a teen, I loved this movie and, sadly, never thought much of Mr. Gandolfini's character or acting prowess until now. I always felt he was type casted: it was not a difficult challenge for him to play a gangster. In retrospect, though, I imagine it was nearly impossible to play a role in which he so badly beats a woman likely only a third his size. I am no media critic but I imagine that in many ways, those brief abusive moments in True Romance demanded more from Mr. Gandolfini than the entire six seasons of The Sopranos. I also imagine that will be a fairly unpopular statement, with many readers deeming me a motion picture lightweight. I also do not care: anyone, even me, can pull out their best mafioso I-tal accent and pretend to be a wise guy. It takes a truly inspired actor to play a part that no one could possiby like. Virgil loses from the start and, at 51, Mr. Gandolfini loses too early. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"I Am A Hitler Teapot..."

Photo courtesy of New York Post

It is a good time to revisit this subject now that we have all had a chance to blow off a little steam.

If ever I were to buy a teapot that looks like Adolf Hitler, surely it would be this teapot. Clearly, its cutesy, abbreviated mustache top and swooping combover handle offer security of liquid containment and optimal pouring comfort when one desires a fresh cup of Nazi java. The teapot is professionally attired in black-tie, raising a gold whistle bell salute to der F├╝rher, and ready for the cover of a quippy New Yorker cover

A magnificent marketing scheme, J.C. Penney. Perhaps, I should not judge this editing mishap. Maybe the time is right for a new line of hip, minimalist teapots designed in the likeness of deceased dictators. A stand mixer wobbling with Stalin's military garb and pot belly? Or, a slow-cooker with receding hairline glasstop resembling Kim Jong-il? Who's with me?


I wonder if the teapot still looks like Hitler when turned spout forward or if it is just pareidolia. 

Oh, Adolfo, how you have managed to stay with us for nearly 70 years! You are the nutty great-grandfather no one wants to invite to family functions but who inevitably manages to arrive, always whining about the Jews and wearing the same sweater from last year's Christmas and the same style of facial hair, just a little thinner. You have left little bits of posthumous memorabilia and, even generations later, we cannot seem to abolish your ghost from our daily lives. If, now, we see you in teapots, tomorrow we may see you in our coffee mugs, our favorite reading chairs, the printed text we read, even our stool. This is societal post-traumatic stress of epic proportions and we just might need a giant dose of talk therapy to help regulate our emotions.