Friday, January 23, 2009

Everything I Own

The Blues Brothers (1980)

For those of you that have not been paying attention, I am a bit of a media junkie. I love collecting television on DVD, movies, and music. I have a decent sized movie collection limited only by the fact that I have no money to nourish it properly and by that a few years ago I was stupid enough to believe that love was more important that having every season of Futurama on DVD. So, in a fit of emotion and hormone fuelled stupidity, I sold about 200 movies and shows online and to friends that took advantage of my situation.
What did I learn from all of that? Never give up your loot for a dame. At the end of the day you’ll just be alone with no woman and no copy of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or Wild Things.
I’m sure there are lots of guys that would agree, including my idol Nicholas Cage who, in a brief moment of weakness, sold a great chink of his very rare and expensive comic collection because Elvis’ daughter told him to.
I don’t know what Lisa Marie was like in the sack, I couldn’t even guess. Unless she had a womb made of cotton candy and one-hundred dollar bills, there is no way that she was equal to or even slightly comparable to owning a near mint copy of The Amazing Spider-Man issue number one. I know my half-witted ex-girlfriend wasn’t, and she wasn’t even remotely related to Elvis or any celebrity, sports star, or person that had ever done anything worth note.
My point is I have yet to meet the girl worth giving up my current stuff for. Trust me, I’d love to be proven wrong on this point, and soon. But, Chances are I’ll never give up my stuff again. In the immortal words of everything in the Lillian Vernon catalog, love me love my mess.
And that’s why I’m writing this article- my beloved stuff.
Periodically I plan to give you folks a heart felt look at some things that I own and cherish as a way to give you a glimpse inside the mind of the coolest black guy you’re probably ever going to know, seeing as Lando is still only fictional.
Or, if you like, you may think of this as a sort of retro-active critiquing; you will learn about things you may have not known exist, and you’ll learn exactly how I feel about them.

The Blues Brothers
It only makes sense that we start off this experiment in controlled semi-narcissism with my most favoritest of inspirational flicks.
The Blues Brothers fits snuggly into the trilogy of reasons I want to make movies- Goodfellas inspired me, Dawn of the Dead showed me that anything can have deeper meaning, and Blues Brothers taught me that you can never have too many elements if you know the pattern.
The film is based on the characters created by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi during the so-called glory days of Saturday Night Live. They were popular enough to have an album, A Briefcase Full of Blues, a full three years before the release of the film.
The film is flawless. I don’t mean that there aren’t a few noticeable gaffes here or there. The film existed long before the days where everything could be CGI’d into a dead sheen of perfection. I mean that in my mind, as I’ve watched the film hundreds of times in my lifetime, I can find no fault within its tight 133 minute running time.
This is a beautiful thing, especially due to the fact that by during time the film was being shot, Belushi had become the coke fueled comedy and party machine he’d be when he died. But you could never see this onscreen- probably because the duo wears sunglasses for all but 30 seconds of the film.
Here is the formula for what made the Blues brothers such a great film: Credits, song, mission, car chase, song, build a team, song, car chase, song, car chase, song, car chase, song, song, car chase, complete mission, song, credits.
Change any of these elements, and you have a failure on your hands. As an experiment, Chris Columbus tried this formula but replaced all the car chases with AIDS. The result was Rent, and it was an epic failure.
“One Hundred Thirty Five Minutes/how do you measure/measure a waste of time?”
Philadelphia? Success. Why? No singing and gallivanting around. You see my point- some elements just don’t mix.
John Landis discovered the perfect formula and format to tell the tale of two criminal orphans on a redemptive mission from God, and wrapped it up with the classic Landis styled “No holds barred/bat-shit fiasco” climax he’d started to perfect with Animal House, and later toned down a bit with American Werewolf in London.
I love the Blues Brothers. When I was younger I had the poster in my room bearing one of the most famous quotes from the film, you know, the one about cigarettes, sunglasses, and the distance to Chicago. If you don’t know you’re more than likely some sort of pinko and I have no use for you. I truly do not.
The Blues Brothers are the reason I only wear white socks when I wear a black suit. The Blues Brothers are the reason I know the address to Wriggly Field (1060 West Addison). The Blues Brothers are the reason I want to make movies.
I only own a copy of the film on VHS. While there have been many special releases of the film on DVD, I choose not to own it. Why? Because even though I have a lot of movies that are in normal rotation, the Blues Brothers always comes as a happy surprise whenever I’m flipping through the channels and notice that it’s playing. It’s like finding a five dollar bill in a pair of pants you haven’t worn in a while. Being surprised by a Blues Brothers showing is better, to me at least, than being able to see it whenever I want. And it doesn’t matter how far into the film the showing is, I almost always have to stop and watch it to its touching and controversial end.
As I said, I do have a copy on VHS; a ratty semi dead copy that looks just as grimy and film-like as the day it was released almost thirty years ago. This is the way it should be seen. It’s the equivalent of loving the pops on a vinyl record and listening to Led Zepplin through one speaker- this was the way it was originally presented- this was the way I learned it.
I once made the mistake of buying a re-mastered copy of Night of the Living Dead on DVD. The case boasted that you could now see all 175 shades of grey! I didn’t want to see all this clarity in my 40 year old zombie parable. I grew up with the version sporting one shade of white and one shade of black. This was the version I loved, and believe me when I tell you that it is scarier this way.
There have been a few people in my life that have not shared my love of two orphans from Chicago on a mission from God. In High-School my English teacher snarled that the only thing ruining the Blues Brothers as a film were the Blues Brothers themselves.
Recently, while having a conversation about favorite movies, my confession of love for Jake and Elwood was met with a frown from the person I was talking to. Of course, I just had to ask what this person considered to be her favorite film. Her answer was a confident and embarrassment-free “Willow”. You remember, Willow: the midget fueled Ron Howard directed film written by George Lucas following his failure to procure the rights to make a movie based on the Hobbit. I won’t take any time here to bash Willow, for time, box office receipts, and the occasional intelligence of the of the American movie public has done a better job than I could ever try to.
As far as the person in question, see any other articles I’ve written about my taste in women (READ: comparable to RENT- sickeningly terrible).
Anyway, I think you’re picking up what I’m laying down- I love the Blues Brothers and it is an inspiration to me. See it if you haven’t. If you have seen it, see it again. If you don’t like it, I’m sure Netflix has plenty of copies of Howard the Duck for you to enjoy.

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