Listening to Marlon Brando

DATELINE:  Method Man

Marlon Brando Fires Point Blank.

With its odd title, you may have trouble discerning what exactly is being told to whom.  Yet, Listen to Me Marlon is an affecting and striking documentary Showtime documentary about the legendary star of The Godfather, Streetcar Named Desire, and Reflections in a Golden Eye.

We wrote extensively about Brandon in Troubles in a Golden Eye, our movie biography, done with Hollywood master, Jan Merlin.

Intensely private and hostile to the press in the second half of his life, Brando made dozens and dozens of audio tapes of his philosophy, problems, and feelings. He clearly wanted to be remembered.

At the last he even had a digital map of his talking head so that it could be used sometime in futuristic movies.

In the meantime, we find many unusual photos and recreations of his unpleasant childhood in Omaha that he idealized. Though you see photos of associates and workmates, there is no gossip talk of colleagues. He speaks most admirably of Stella Adler, his acting teacher.

He does discuss his tortured children:  one committed suicide after her half-brother murdered her boyfriend. Christian died of pneumonia a few years after his father died.

He is thoughtful and sensitive, clearly appalled more and more by the money, profits, and legalities of movie-making. He worked three months a year for enormous salaries—and grew increasingly difficult to work with (ask Francis Ford Coppola).

A mutual friend of ours once told that Marlon was not like his public image: he was much, much softer. And that clearly comes across in his tapes.

Brando even rehearses how to die, which is chilling. He calls life the real improvisation and acting merely a deception of truth.

If you are a fan of Brando, or ever wondered about him, there may never be a more accurate depiction of his life—if only through his own distorted vision of self.

Jan Merlin & William Russo wrote Troubles in a Golden Eye, nonfiction about making the John Huston movie version of Carson McCullers’ novella Reflections in a Golden Eye. Brando and Elizabeth Taylor starred.

 

Stalin’s Death as Farce and Burlesque

DATELINE: So-so Soviet

 

buscemi & tambor

Krushchev & Malenkov at Stalin’s funeral.

Maybe we missed the lesson of the Cold War in which the ruthless homicidal dictator killer was surrounded by fawning idiots like extras and operetta buffoons. The Death of Stalin makes a point that defies historical truth.

Indeed, the opening minutes may strike you as a Monty Python-style farce (compounded with the appearance of Michael Palin), with a posse of dunces dancing to the whim of Stalin. They must entertain him and do his bidding, lest they end up like everyone else:  on a hit list.

Their cruel inaction over the dying Stalin as he lay on the floor in his odeur is the nastiest of political satire. Jeffrey Tambor is Malenkov, the weaking second-in-command and under heavy pressure from Krushchev (Buschemi).

The film features endless background executions in a variety of appalling ways, carried out ruthlessly, to the gallows humor of men like Nikita Krushchev, played in thin fashion by Steve Buschemi.

Most of the Communist comrades speak with British accents, jarring at first, ridiculous in deliberance.

What starts as a black comedy set in 1953 becomes more and more disturbing, despite pathetic Vasily Stalin and sister Svetlana, horrified and fearful at what might befall them with their despot father’s death.

From the early antics of a Monty Python, the film devolves into The Godfather, as these small-minded committee commies become more frightful and violent. We can almost fully believe there is more political truth than satire here. This is Swiftian justice meted out by the Lilliputians.

The evolution of Nikita Krushchev from second banana to dangerous rival to the predatory Beria, Stalin’s child molesting henchman, is truly the centerpiece of this political free-for-all. Buschemi’s performance is ultimately a marvel to behold.

Fast-moving and surprising, it is a film to put on your viewing list.

Tom Brady on the Yellow Brick Road

 DATELINE:  On the Road to Federal Prison

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When last we left our story, L. Frank Baum was crying like a banshee from the Great Beyond.

Yes, Tom Brady turned to Gronk and said, “I don’t think we’re in the NFL anymore.” Indeed, as the two continued down the Yellow Brick Road, they encountered more weird doings than flying monkeys. Deflated footballs flew with psst coming out of them.

Brady was joined by Belichick the Tin Woodman, who was so stiff they didn’t have enough oil to loosen his jaw pins. He wants a heart. Also along for the long journey is Krafty the Scarecrow whose pronouncements against the Commissioner don’t scare anyone. He wants a brain. And no one in this story has the courage of his convictions.

Trump, the Good Witch of the North, had urged Brady to go to see the Wizard who trumped the Commissioner’s power. And so, the Munchkins of Patriot Place waved him away.

He has been stopped several times by the Wicked Witch of the West, also known as Goodell the Bad. He wants his Super Bowl trophies returned tout suite.

It’s a long journey to find the Wizard of the federal courts. It may take Tom as much as four games to find the place. It’s located in Canton, Ohio.

The main problem with this script is that Goodell the Bad thinks he is playing the Godfather, not a wicked witch. Brady thinks he is Superman, and Gronk thinks he is dancing for the stars.

In fact, this script will be a Kubrick production entitled How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Long Bomb, or 2015: A Strange Odyssey.

Bad Dreams: Heady Cubs’ Fan Beheads a Goat

DATELINE: HUMOR!

 

Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts did not awake to find a goat’s head in his bed.

 

No, the poor animal’s head was delivered in a box to the Wrigley Field offices. This makes Wrigley Field the “Field of Nightmares.”

 

As far as known, Don Vito Corleone is not a suspect. Neither is Al Capone, nor any public enemy in Chicago’s legendary mob.

 

Because the curse of the Cubs has been centered on a goat, police likely will investigate the fan-base, a dedicated mob of miscreants who regard the famous field as a holy shrine, never to be desecrated by the likes of ownership and Theo Epstein, once a Red Sox GM, but now the man behind the curtain in Chicago.

 

The Cubs organization is on the verge of renovating the ancient field, placing a giant scoreboard before the bleachers across the street. People are angry to see their ruins rebuilt.

 

If you build it, dead goats will come.

 

Yes, Ray, like an army steamrolling across history, the Cubs fans are likely to come to blows over changes to their loveable losing Cubbies.

 

Though a few mythomaniacs may believe this is an attempt to lift the curse on the losers, most others of a rational bent see this as a negative vibe. There is nothing friendly in decapitating a goat for the cause of winning a World Series.

 

The legend depicted in The Godfather is that the Hollywood producer denying the Frank Sinatra clone a movie role was made an offer he could not refuse.

 

The right of first refusal shall now fall to Tom Ricketts, but we suspect he will press charges when the culprit is discovered, even if it means another losing season.