Saturday, February 16, 2008

One crazy ride

Hi gang.

Sorry it's been awhile. Felt bad. Nasty cold. Glad it's over. Good to see you in here this morning. Pull up a seat. We gotta get caught up.

I tell ya, life is one crazy ride. People talk about life being nuts to the point of cliche. But it's true.

I've had a lot of ups and downs this week, but in the end, things just always seem to work out for the best. If I've learned anything these last (nearly) 30 years, it's that the worst isn't nearly as bad as it seems and the best -- those amazing, wonderful highs -- make the ride worthwhile.

Got off late from work last night. After blabbing on the phone for a couple of hours, I flipped on the TV. Lo, and behold, two of my favorite movies were playing back to back. Perfect way to end a wild week.

First up, there was John Wayne, riding tall in the saddle one last time in his final picture, "The Shootist."

Poignant as it is, I've always loved that film. Big Duke faces the Big C (ironically the disease that would kill the actor in real life three years later) with dignity and class. And, fitting the life of a famous gunslinger, Wayne's character, John Bernard Books, goes out with a bang.

I enjoy "The Shootist" because it quietly allows for character development -- and for an engaging story to unfold. There isn't much action until the end, no explosions, no mind-numbing CGI special effects. No, this is an old-fashioned story told with sophistication and plain ol' talent.

After the final curtain fell on the Duke, Turner Classic Movies began showing another favorite, Robert Altman's "Nashville." It's difficult to watch in some ways, but talk about character development.

Altman worked a mosaic like no other director before or since. These characters bump into each other, they live their lives, and we learn a lot about them, and ourselves and our culture during the nearly 3 hour running time.

And, as Roger Ebert has observed, they are indeed characters; they feel so darn alive, sometimes a rare sight in the Hollywood dream factory.

"Nashville" was released in 1975, but if ever a film is still relevant, it's this one. Altman was years ahead of his time in connecting politics and entertainment and making comments about what all that means. And while some of the music is absolutely dreadful, some of it is pretty darn good.

The performances are nothing short of wonderful. Henry Gibson is dead-on as a Porter Wagoner-esque aging country crooner. Lily Tomlin, Keenan Wynn and Ronee Blakley (who channels Loretta Lynn nearly as well as Sissy Spacek did a few years later -- and she was trying) top the list of this superb supporting cast.

I won't give away the ending for those who haven't seen it, but I don't think I've ever been more "shocked" by a film's conclusion than what happens at the Music City's Parthenon just before the credits roll (not counting a cheap trick ending like "Planet of the Apes"). If you love well-done cinema -- in the best sense of what that means -- put "Nashville" on your Netflix list. You have to work at it, but it's worth the effort.

I wanted to keep watching last night, but knew I couldn't possibly hang on until 5 a.m. So I clicked off the tube about 30 minutes into Altman's masterpiece, turned out the lights and marveled about this nutty journey just before slumber shut down my thoughts for the night.

You know, it's funny. Life takes its twists and turns, and I guess part of the fun of this vida loca is that we never quite know what lies around the bend.

All I know is the best thing we can do is laugh as much as possible -- through the joy and the pain -- turn the radio up when your favorite song comes on and in general have as much fun as the law allows.

Cause life is good, folks. And it's too damn short to waste.

Peace out. I'll see you soon.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea, Jake. Glad you're back!

3:27 PM  

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