Tuesday, June 26, 2007

100 Greatest Human Beings Who Ever Lived: #67 Francis Ford Coppola

He has directed The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now. Those four movies alone ensure that he is in the Pantheon of Great Directors and puts him on this list. The reason that he's not any higher on this list than 67? Jack. What an abortion of a movie that was. See I bet you thought I was going to say The Godfather Part III. And yes, that was terrible and nearly ruined the series. But, as Meat Loaf (or, as the New York Times calls him, Mr. Loaf) once sang, "Two out of three ain't bad."

The first two Godfather movies were possibly the two greatest films ever made and both are almost certainly in the top five, if one was being particularly harsh. Interestingly, Coppola was almost fired from directing the original because Paramount, and Robert Evans specifically, was unhappy with some of his casting decisions. In particular, Evans hated the casting of Pacino as Michael Corleone and referred to him as "that midget, Pacino." Let that sink in for a moment.

It is staggering to think of who MIGHT have played Michael in the film:

  • Ryan O'Neill
  • Robert Redford
  • Robert DeNiro
  • James Caan
  • Dustin Hoffman
  • Martin Sheen
In fact, just watch.

Also considered to play the role of the Don, were Spencer Tracy and Laurence Olivier. Luckily, Coppola stuck to his guns, casted Pacino and Marlon Brando, and created a masterpiece.

Now that I have established his greatness, I must proceed to rip Francis Ford Coppola a new one. I mean, there's Jack, a movie about a boy who ages at four times the normal rate. So the protagonist, at the age of ten, looks like Robin Williams (poor kid). An abomination, it pushed Robin Williams toward making more sentimental drivel like Bicentenial Man, which, if you think about it, is just Jack but the opposite. For this alone, Coppola deserves some scorn.

And then there is the thorny issue of Godfather Part III. It wasn't a bad movie. Really. It just didn't live up to the expectations created by its predecessors, which were two of the greatest films ever created. Still, Coppola deserves some criticism for casting his daughter, Sofia, in a central role as Michael's daughter Mary. To be fair, the first two films were made with a measure of nepotism when Coppola cast his sister, Talia Shire in the role of Connie. The difference is that Shire is a competent actress and, despite the fact that Sofia had been in the original film as the baby in the baptism scenes, well Sofia Coppola was a gawdawful actress. Her woodenness more or less ruined the movie and Francis Ford Coppola deserves a big wagging finger of shame for that.

On the other hand, according to George Lucas, Coppola is the inspiration for the character of Han Solo in Star Wars. So that's some redemption.

Also at the Oscars this year, in the picture above, Coppola wore a blue tie with his tuxedo and somehow managed to make George Lucas look well-dressed, which is a real accomplishment.

Next on the list, one of history's true Renaissance Men-- an artist, engineer, mathematician, inventor, and musician. Sadly, of late his name has been appropriated for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a shitty novel, and a shittier Tom Hanks movie.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"I've got a bad feeling about this ..."

P and F are getting married. After knowing each other a grand total of six months. The headline says it all people. At least if they get divorced in a few years, F will have a close friend who is an attorney. That is if they last to summer of 2010 when I (hopefully) pass the bar. Jesusfucking Christ this is a terrible idea.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

50 Cent scares me....

I was just at Blockbuster and saw the above magazine cover staring up at me. It was absolutely frightening. I felt the need to share this with you. Why is 50 so angry? It's like he doesn't even really want to be on the cover of Vibe and would much rather prefer showing off his lovely garden on the cover of Redbook.

100 Greatest Human Beings Who Ever Lived: #68 Ian Fleming

I like James Bond alot. But there's no way I could have done this post justice. So I asked one of my close, personal friends, Grorx, who is a huge Bond fan to do this post. Here now, for the first time, a special guest writer on HialeahCrimson. Enjoy and thanks to Grorx for doing this one!

Alexander Fleming is best known for his most enduring creation: Penicillin, which has saved countless lives in the struggle against bacterial infection. His discovery has saved millions of lives in only a few decades, and thus he certainly deserves find his place somewhere
amongst the 100 greatest human beings ever.

However, it is Ian Fleming that jumps in at the number 68 spot. I am not aware if Ian and Alexander were somehow related, except that their creations are both much more famous than either of them probably ever will be by themselves. Ian is best known for arguably one of the most important fictional characters of the later 20th century: British Secret Service agent, James Bond. [Editor's Note: Alexander Fleming will not be on this list. This should tell you something about this blog.]

While this claim may come as somewhat of a surprise, it is well known that James Bond is nothing short of a cultural icon. His career began with the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, published by Fleming in 1953. It became a large success for its day, and was followed by 13
other books and collections of short stories. But the phenomenon didn't end there. In 1962, James Bond became big in a way Fleming never would have imagined with the release of Dr. No.

James Bond has since become a worldwide phenomenon, with over 20 feature films (and more in the works) starring the character. It is currently the longest continually running english-language film series. If you adjust for inflation, these films have grossed over $11 BILLION, a number certainly fit for a madman's ransom of the world. The character has been so durable, that other authors have taken up Fleming's mantle and continued writing about the character in new novels, adapting what was certainly a Cold War creation to changing times and political realities. He has also appeared in comic books, radio shows, and video games, not to mention the immeasurable influence he has had on other characters and writers of the spy genre. Even the parodies based on Fleming's work, such as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, have become cultural phenomena.

Why has it struck a tone? I think the answer to this lies within the Western psyche, and a full response would probably include more bullshit than Djmmm46 would be comfortable with, especially since graduating. Suffice to say, the saying goes that "Men want to be him, and women want to be with him." He has been said to define cool, suave masculinity, and is both tasteful and refined yet fiercely loyal to his passions and not afraid to do what he has to do to get the job done. He is arguably THE Western Hemisphere's 20th Century hero AND anti-hero, as one commentary I read on him said he was the kind of guy you wanted on your side but wouldn't necessarily bring home to meet the family. Part cowboy and part playboy, He is flawed and perhaps unloved except for his usefulness as a tool.

Despite the women and the gadgets, Bond is presented as an exceedingly lonely man, especially in the more introspective and darker-themed books. The character is someone based on Fleming's own life, born into a minor aristocratic family and sent away early to boarding school, bouncing from school to school and job to job. Though he did not participate in many of the James Bond-type adventures of the Second World War, he did work with British Intelligence services. There he met men who would serve as the models for James Bond, and spent his post-war life going between England and his home in Jamaica, named Goldeneye, where he wrote. The closest he got to living out real James Bond adventures can be seen in a somewhat-fictionalized film about his life, in which he is played by the son of another high ranking Greatest Human Being of All Time.

Furthermore, Fleming also wrote the beloved children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was made into the famous movie starring Dick Van Dyke.

Go figure.

Next on the list, at #67, one of the great film directors of our time, who nearly self indulgently ruined the greatest film series ever by casting his incompetent daughter in a key role in the final film of the trilogy. He would otherwise be much higher.

100 Greatest Human Beings Who Ever Lived: #69 Ron Jeremy

This should surprise no one. Ron Jeremy is, bar none, the most famous and beloved (is that REALLY the right word?) porn star in the world. Some interesting facts about Ron Jeremy:

  • He holds a Master's in, get this, Special Education. He used to teach Special Ed kids before becoming a porn star.
  • He went to high school with Carl Winslow
  • He can ejaculate on command, which is pretty amazing.
  • He is a brown belt in Kung Fu. In other words, Ron Jeremy can probably kick your ass.
  • He was in Boondock Saints and has tried to expand his career into mainstream acting, bad standup comedy, and apparently, condiments.

Note that I had to perilously Google "Ron Jeremy hot sauce" to find that, so appreciate this post. Also if you haven't seen Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, I strongly recommend you give it a go. The film itself is not pornographic. It's a pretty standard documentary and Jeremy comes across as an extremely sympathetic figure.

So there it is-- Ron Jeremy, the 69th Greatest Human Being Who Ever Lived. If you're not happy about this you're probably either a feminazi or a fundy Christian. Either way this blog is NOT for you, so fuck off.

Next on the list, number 68, the creator of the very definition of cool, the suavest fictional spy ever beheld by man. That's gotta count for something.

Friday, June 22, 2007

100 Greatest Human Beings Who Ever Lived: #70 Abraham Lincoln

If this blog was serious, I'd say Abraham Lincoln was the Greatest President this Republic has ever been lucky enough to elect at just the right time, put him in the top three and call it a night. But we don't do serious here, and so here he is at number 70, sandwiched between a baseball writer and .... well let's just say you won't be surprised by who comes in at #69. So take this all with a grain of salt, people.

George Washington was, as I have noted, incredibly important to the United States. If he'd been slightly different, perhaps more ambitious, the country and government would likely be completely different in its form. Having said that, Lincoln was a "greater" president because of the circumstances. While Lincoln's reasons for prosecuting the Civil War had less to do with freeing slaves and more to do with keeping the country together, it doesn't diminish his accomplishments. At the end of the war, the slaves were free, and the Union was preserved. This IS a big deal.

Let's not forget that Lincoln inherited a country in REALLY bad shape. I mean, you think the Democrats were pissed at Bush in 2000? Lincoln was elected with merely 40% of the popular vote and wasn't even on the ballot in nine of the states. NOT EVEN ONE LOUSY VOTE in the then nascent GOP's column in those states. Then people got so pissed off they took up arms against the government. The magnitude of this situation cannot be overstated.

Lincoln rules though because he was more than just the best leader this country has ever seen. He was an amazing writer, and the Gettysberg Address is still extremely eloquent and something of a humorist in addition to a remarkably cunning politician. On top of all of this, this man was probably a manic-depressive who with the weight of the world and the fears and hopes of a nation pressing down upon his shoulders somehow managed to buckle down during this country's darkest hour and keep from putting a bullet in his own hea.... oh damn, that was inappropriate. Well uhmmm.... they named Lincoln Logs for him.

Anyway, next on the list #69. 'Nuff Said. Just you wait for it.

100 Greatest Human Beings Who Ever Lived: #71 Peter Gammons

I start law school on 13 August, 2007. Can I get this done before then without sacrificing quality? We'll see.

Peter Gammons checks in on this list at #71. He is the best sportswriter I have ever read not only because he is a good writer and is probably the best connected person in Major League Baseball. He is incredibly enthusiastic about the game and it really comes across, not only in his columns but also in his on air presentations on ESPN. Also he plays guitar, loves indy rock, and cut an album to benefit the Jimmy Fund, which is kind of cool and random in and of itself.

And now let's jump into the Way Back Machine for Personal Anecdote Time!!!

It was October of 2003, and I was covering the ALCS at Fenway Park for Harvard radio. I got to the park extra early, maybe three or four hours before the scheduled first pitch and I saw Peter Gammons in one of the concourses of this empty ballpark and he was working. He was making calls, writing emails, and generally trying to get things done. In between calls, I approached him and timidly and meekly asked if he'd give me a few minutes of his time for an interview. He politely told me that he was very busy and on a deadline at the moment but would be happy to talk to me a little bit later.

He kept his promise and, it just so happened that the game was rain-delayed. As we were waiting to get word as to whether the game would be played that night (it was eventually postponed) he allowed me to interview him in the Boston Red Sox dugout. He spoke knowledgeably, enthusiastically, and articulately about baseball and sports journalism and when he was done, he recorded a small promotional legal identification for our radio station.

None of this was unexpected. After all he was a major contributor to the World Wide Leader in Sports and eventually would be honored by the Hall of Fame for his writing. However what did strike me was something that I did not think about until later. At the beginning of the interview, when we exchanged the standard pleasantries of the radio interview, i.e. "I'm here with Peter Gammons. How are you today, Peter?", he replied that he was fine but that he really was hoping the game would start. He was disappointed that it was raining.

Lest you think I am making a mountain out of a molehill, bear in mind that this man has covered Major League Baseball games for thirty years. He is at the World Series every year and has never appeared to be in awe by the superstars of Major League Baseball. Still, he was disappointed. Here was a man who should probably be jaded, who has forgotten more about professional athletes than any of us know, and yet he was still enthusiastic about what it was all about.

Peter Gammons is not only the best at what he does. He is a man who appears to truly love what he does, and seems to recognize how lucky he is to do it. We should all be so lucky.

Next time, the 70th Greatest Human Being Who Ever Lived, the signer of the Emancipation Proclamation, Liberator of the Slaves, Savior of the Union, and, most importantly of all, the Eponym of the Lincoln Logs.

Pentecostals disturbing me...

As readers of this blog will know, I am a committed atheist. I believe that all religion, superstition, and belief in the paranormal is a crock. I also feel that if you want to believe something stupid that's your own problem, so long as you keep it to yourself. Having said that, I have some concerns that I hope to vent a little on this blog.

I have a very close and personal friend (close enough that I don't feel my concern is a result of my being nosy) who is dating someone who is a practicing Pentecostal. Let us call the friend "F" and the Pentecostal significant other "P". F was raised a Roman Catholic and has often stated that they are not particularly religious and don't really feel a need to participate in organized religion. Recently (about six to seven months ago) F and P started dating. P got F to go to church with P and P's family and now F is attending church with P several times a week including Sunday services that last three hours. This church is pretty standard Pentecostal fare and, I am told, includes speaking in tongues and people passing out in the aisles. If you're interested in learning a little more about this sect of Christianity, read more here.

Now all of this is good and well and I wouldn't even mind normally because, hey it's something to make fun of. However, I recently learned that this church encourages tithing and F is donating ten percent of their paycheck to this church every week. For the record, F is a full-time student who works a decent paying job part-time and lives with their parents. In other words, F is far from self-sufficient. I find this development profoundly distressing and am not sure how to approach it. I've REALLY thought this through and have concluded that my concern is far from nosy and is merited.

So I appeal to you, my dear readers, to guide me. I know I've been incredibly delinquent in updating to this blog, but please, if you have any advice on how I can best approach my dear friend, please post an anonymous comment. It would be much appreciated. Thanks for reading, and apologies for excising gender-specific pronouns, as I think this may have made my writing a little awkward, but is well worth it to protect the identities of the parties involved.