Saturday, August 24, 2019

Brad Vs. Leo, Redux

After my recent post comparing the careers of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, the subject of "who's actually the better actor?" got me thinking more.  Here's my list of the best 12 performances from each man, and note that I'm only focusing on their specific performance, not how good or bad the movie was as a whole.

12. Fight Club
11. Babel
10. Inglourious Basterds
9. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
8. Seven
7. The Tree Of Life
6. True Romance
5. Ocean’s 11 (and somewhat by extension, Ocean’s 12 and Ocean’s 13)
4. Snatch
3. Moneyball
2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
1. Burn After Reading

12. Romeo + Juliet
11. The Revenant
10. The Great Gatsby
9. Inception
8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
7. The Departed
6. The Aviator

5. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
4. J. Edgar
3. Titanic
2. Catch Me If You Can
1. The Wolf Of Wall Street 

It's an interesting list for both guys, one that might make you think twice a bit about the general feeling that DiCaprio is a better actor.  I think part of that feeling is due to the fact that Leo simply makes fewer movies, so whenever he appears in a film, it feels like more of an event.  Pitt is more apt to sign on for a pure box office hit like World War Z, Troy, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, etc., and those types of films drag down his overall batting average.

The flip side of that, as I alluded to in my last post, is that DiCaprio's interest in taking challenging acting roles every time out also leads to some misses from a pure miscasting standpoint.  I don't think he was really a fit for Gangs Of New York, Blood Diamond, or (this is kind of a hot take) Django Unchained, to name a few.  Pitt has more than few roles where he's sort of just "there" as opposed to being a real key factor in a movie being better, but I also can't think of any instance off the top of my head where I left a theatre thinking "wow, they really should've cast someone besides Brad Pitt."

So when it comes to acting range, Pitt usually stays in "variations on the same laconic persona," as I wrote last time.  But does he have less range than DiCaprio?  It's hard to say.  Maybe it's just because he still has something of a baby face, but I still have issues buying DiCaprio in any type of real
"grownup" parts, even though he's now 44 years old.  It probably isn't accidental that most of his best work is when he's playing a young guy, or at least an adult in something of a state of arrested development.  Even though he has played older versions of J. Edgar Hoover and Howard Hughes, OUATIH's Rick Dalton might be the first DiCaprio character to really deal with the idea of middle age, or moving from a prime into older age, even though Rick Dalton is very much still a man-child.

Pitt has the advantage of being 11 years older than DiCaprio (side note: can you believe Brad Pitt is 55 years old?  Where does the time go), though the age gap notwithstanding, it's always been easier to buy Pitt in more adult parts, like when he's playing a dad, or an authority figure.  Cliff Booth in OUATIH is also a man-child in many ways, but there's more of an accent on the "man," whereas Rick Dalton leads more towards "child."   In that same vein, Pitt is much more easily able to play a believably tough guy (if not necessarily a "can go toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee" tough guy), whereas DiCaprio is not.

Here's an interesting experiment --- how many of those 12 Pitt roles could Leo have played, and how many of those 12 Brad roles could Leo have played?  We're accounting for age here, so magically pretend you could send 31-year-old DiCaprio back in time to be in Seven, rather than have have the 20-year-old DiCaprio of 1995 as Morgan Freeman's partner.

Leo As Brad
* Hard no: Tree Of Life, Snatch, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
* Wouldn't have seemed quite right: Moneyball, Inglourious Basterds, Babel, Ocean's 11, The Assassination Of...
* Maybe?: Burn After Reading, True Romance (These are two wild cards since we've seen so little of DiCaprio in flat-out comedic roles.  It would be really interesting to see DiCaprio throw everyone a total curveball and just decide to be a dopey bro in a film.)
* Would've worked: Seven, Fight Club

Brad As Leo
* Hard no: Romeo + Juliet
* Wouldn't have seemed quite right: Titanic, Aviator, J. Edgar
* Maybe?: What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Departed, Catch Me If You Can, Wolf Of Wall Street
* Would've worked: Inception, Great Gatsby, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
* Would've been better: Revenant

The age gap is also a factor here, given that Brad Pitt didn't start to really become a star until he was 30, so we have no real conception about what a teenage Brad Pitt was like as an actor, let alone if he could've handled a difficult role as DiCaprio did in WEGG.  We even have to stretch to imagine a 23-year-old Pitt as Jack Dawson, wooing Rose on the deck of the Titanic.  On paper, however, I can see Pitt in DiCaprio's filmography much more cleanly than I see Leo in Brad's roles, since I think DiCaprio would've only really excelled in the "young Pitt" era of Seven and Fight Club.

It's also interesting to think about them in the direct contrast of their Once Upon A Time In Hollywood roles.  There's no way DiCaprio could've been Cliff Booth, but I can very easily see Pitt as Rick Dalton.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Oh No

So I had an idea for a post about a list of songs that aren't really "songs" in the way we think of them, as they've been so co-opted for use in various shows, movies, commercials, etc. that they've become a jokey reference point.  For instance, every time I hear "Bad To The Bone," I don't think of anyone who's actually bad to the bone --- it's just grandmothers in leather jackets, or a baby in sunglasses or something.

One of the songs under consideration for the list was "Day Day Bow" "Oh Yeah" by Yello.  I'm sure almost everyone alive has heard this song, either from Ferris Bueller, or any other scene involving something being considered cool but in an ironic uncool way.  And it occurred to me, I didn't actually know the song's title, the band's name, and I hadn't even ever actually listened to the entire song start to finish.  So I surfed onto YouTube, looked up the original music video, and...

....dear god

Was I prepared for a video ostensibly about sun and moon worship starring, by all appearances, golf star Miguel Angel Jimenez, some guy who's a combination of four notable comedians*, and (*Stefon voice*) A CHILD?  No.  No, I was not.

* = depending on the angle, this guy looked like some mixture of Rob Delaney, John Mulaney, Paul F. Tompkins, and Jay Johnstone.

Is it amazing that this song (which has been used a thousand times over as an ironic musical shorthand for excess) has an official video that was apparently made on a budget of about $30 bucks?  Absolutely.  Is it amazing that these two weirdos made an intentionally goofy song, then an intentionally goofy video, and yet have made an unreal amount of money from this track over the years?  Positively.  Is it amazing that this video may have spawned everything in the history of Adult Swim?  Surely.

Two questions.  Is the sun, in fact, more beautiful than the moon?  And where is Duffman in all of this?

Monday, August 19, 2019

Leo Vs. Brad

After watching "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood," I got the idea of pitting (no pun intended) DiCaprio's 10 best movies against Pitt's 10 best movies to see whose best work stacks up better.  The results....were unexpected.

10. The Revenant
9. The Aviator
8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
7. Django Unchained
6. The Wolf Of Wall Street (this gets my vote as his best performance)
5. Titanic
4. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
3. The Departed
2. Catch Me If You Can
1. Inception

BRAD’S TEN (I didn’t include Being John Malkovich since he only had a cameo)
10. True Romance
9. Seven
8. The Big Short
7. Moneyball
6. Burn After Reading (this is Pitt’s best performance, and if wasn’t for Dark Knight also being released in 2008, I’d say Pitt was robbed of a supporting actor Oscar)
5. Snatch
4. 12 Years A Slave
3. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
2. Ocean’s 11
1. Inglourious Basterds

So right off the bat, I found myself reaching to fill out a list for DiCaprio, since Aviator and Revenant have both not aged particularly well for me.  Now, I haven’t seen a few of the quintessential early Leo works (Basketball Diaries, This Boy’s Life, even Marvin’s Room) but a lot of his later work is pretty dodgy.  Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island, Great Gatsby, Gangs Of New York….all varying degrees of messes.  I’ll throw in a mention of J. Edgar as well, since while that movie was also nothing special, it’s actually one of DiCaprio’s most underrated performances.  Hell, it even won him a Markademy Award back in 2011!

In Pitt’s case, I had a few honourable mentions at least (Megamind, Fury, even Ocean’s 13) and Thelma & Louise is the most notable of my “never seen it” Pitt movies.  But you’ll also notice a lot of Brad’s most notable films aren’t here, since I’m in the camp that thinks stuff like Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Fight Club, Benjamin Button, Babel, and Tree Of Life all fall into that range of dull to pretentious garbage.  Unfortunately for Pitt, I can’t count his producer-only credits, since his list perks up considerably if Moonlight and The Departed join the fray.

It creates for an interesting parallel between the two guys, who both have a reputation of generally striking to more prestige-type stuff, though Pitt works a lot more and is more open to commercial stuff.  DiCaprio also has the reputation as the better actor, but….hmm, let’s think about it?  I think he has more range than Pitt, but I can also off the top of my head think of several roles that DiCaprio simply kind of whiffed on.  The buzz on Django for months was that DiCaprio was going to knock it out of the park and win a supporting actor Oscar, but then his cartoonishly evil racist was more or less blown away by Samuel L. Jackson’s much more fascinating role and performance (now there was a case of someone being robbed of an Oscar).  Likewise, in Gangs Of New York, I realize that acting against Day-Lewis is a tall order, but DiCaprio just looks out of his league.

Pitt is more content to stay in his lane when it comes to acting, mostly sticking to variations on the same laconic persona.  One big point that Pitt has over DiCaprio, however, is that Pitt is an underrated comic actor.  DiCaprio doesn’t do comedy in general, give or take that incredible quaaludes scene in WoWS and some sections of Once Upon A Time…, whereas I think being funny is Pitt’s best strength.

Anyway, stay tuned for when I watch Murder Mystery, for the comparisons of Jennifer Aniston’s movie career against Adam Sandler’s movie career.  The results will shock and amaze you!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Great Caesar's Ghost

If you're Julius Caesar, which would you prefer to be named after you --- a caesar salad, a caesar cocktail or a caesarean section?

I'd guess it's probably the salad. A Caesar cocktail is perhaps better known as a 'bloody Caesar,' which would no doubt bring back unpleasant memories for the ol' Roman dictator. And surely there's blood involved in a C-section....or wait, maybe there's not, if the doctor is doing it right. I really have no idea. I spent most of grade school health class passed out.

Now, fun fact, the caesar salad isn't actually named after Julius Caesar. It was allegedly invented by a San Diego restauranteur named Caesar Cardini, so I guess you could argue that it isn't a tribute to old orange Julius himself. Oh schisse, wait, is Orange Julius named after Julius Caesar?!?! Nope, never mind. All things being equal, he'd probably appreciate Shakespeare's play as the biggest existing tribute, once it was explained to him who Shakespeare was, and once Caesar got over his snobby "well, Terence was better" attitude.

Given the twin legacies of Caesar Cardini and Julius Freed, someone really needs to create an orange-heavy salad called the Cardini Freed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Brushes With Greatness?

I'm standing in line at a pizza place the other day, and I'm behind a guy who I thought was one of the guys from Sloan. It might not have been him, though, since he didn't react at all when I started humming 'Money City Maniacs' (minus the opening siren part, of course -- that would've been just weird to hear some dude start making a siren noise out of nowhere when all you want is a delicious slice of pizza pie). 

While in line at that same pizza place, I was also behind a guy who was continually flipping a coin.  I only saw him from the side, so it's quite possible he was indeed Two-Face.  Then again, Two-Face is a fictional character, so I have my doubts.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019


My parents recently bought a new fridge, one that (unbeknownest to me) beeps when the door is left open for too long. 

Tonight, I was getting some milk and putting a new bag into the plastic container,  only to have this easy task extended by the fact that the kitchen scissors --- for the cutting the bag open, you see --- weren't in the proper drawer.  So while I was looking for the scissors, the door was left ajar just a bit too long, and suddenly I heard a beep.

My response?  "FRIDGE, YOU CAN TALK!"

Anyway, we're starting a podcast.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Spidey Day

Why did nobody tell me that yesterday was National Spider-Man Day?  I blame you for this!  "No, you're to blame!"

Anyway, happy....uh, day to my childhood comics hero!  And maybe still kind of my hero?  Far From Home was a terrific movie.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Two Ronnies, "Mastermind"

This is such an ingenious, airtight premise for a sketch that knowledge of the actual people mentioned is irrelevant.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Why So Serious?

Some years ago, I was driving through Lambeth and was stuck behind an impossibly slow driver.  Like, five km under the speed limit slow.  I couldn't just change lanes due to traffic, so I had no recourse but to grin* and bear it until I could finally find an opportunity to pass.  Needless to say, I had some choice words for this terrible driver, including, most notably, "what the hell is this clown doing?" out loud.

* = no pun intended, given the rest of this story 

Finally, some room opened up in the other lane and I could pass the slow car.  As I was driving by, I couldn't help but take a peek at the driver to put a face to my pain, was an actual clown.  Full makeup, green suit, everything.  Maybe the slow speed was due to makeup running into his eyes or something?  Who knows.

It's a good thing I don't suffer from road rage, since if I had confronted him, 15 other people would've come out of his car and kicked the hell out of me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Late Night, Years Later

It was exactly a decade ago that Conan O’Brien was in the midst of his abbreviated run hosting the Tonight Show.  Released over a year after the fact, Bill Carter’s “The War For Late Night” chronicles the entire story behind how Conan inherited the show from (a more-than-slightly-unwilling) Jay Leno, only to have NBC give Leno his own nightly bomb of a primetime show, to the whole fiasco of Leno re-inheriting the Tonight Show over the irate objections of Team Coco.

Carter’s book is a fine page-turner, and I can even recall all three times I’ve read it.  The first time was just days after the initial release, as I eagerly pounced on the first copy available at my local library.  (In hindsight, it’s pretty unusual that they had a brand-new available for rent so quickly, but whatever, libraries are the best!)  The second reading took place about four years ago, when I saw the book available on a $5.99 rack at Chapters and decided what the hell, let’s put a few coins in Carter’s pocket.  It was the least I could do.

My third read took place just a few days ago, and while I found the book as entertaining as ever, it was interesting how my view of the situation has changed over time.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still solidly in Conan’s corner, though the third through, my analysis has shifted.

The first time, it was almost a horror story, from a Conan fan’s perspective.  The palace intrigue, the short-sightedness of the NBC executives, and the “man, why didn’t Conan have an 11:35 start time in his contract?!” all-timer of a negotiating gaffe looming over everything.  The dominant passage was really the opening chapter, detailing an NBC event for sponsors and affiliates that featured a stinker of a Jay Leno performance, painting Leno as an out-of-touch performer NBC was unwisely attaching itself to in just about the strongest possible way.

The second time, it was one of the passages in the last chapter that really stuck out to me.  It was a quote from Jerry Seinfeld, questioning one of Conan’s primary arguments throughout the whole dispute.  Conan was so honoured to be taking the mantle of The Tonight Show and felt the whole matter was an insult to the legacy of Johnny Carson, Steve Allen, and Jack Paar.  Seinfeld’s rebuttal was simply that the Tonight Show model Conan grew up loving was gone, since it was specifically Carson’s show.  The exact line was something like, “who even calls it the Tonight Show?  It’s always ‘did you see Leno last night?’ Or ‘hey, did you see what Letterman said in his monologue last night?’ Nobody ever calls it The Tonight Show, or Late Night, or The Late Late Show.  (If you read this in a Seinfeld vocal cadence, don’t worry, I did it too.) The point was that the actual name or timeslot of the show didn’t matter, as long as you had a show.

And it’s an argument that makes a lot of sense.  Paar’s show differed from Allen’s, which differed from Carson’s, which differed from Leno’s, which differed from O’Brien’s (and now, differed from Jimmy Fallon’s).  The only thing these “Tonight Shows” had in common was the general name, and billing as NBC’s headliner for late-night television.  Now, where I don’t agree with Seinfeld is that he felt Conan should’ve just stayed at NBC at 12:05 behind a new Jay Leno program, which I don’t agree with — who can blame Conan for feeling jerked around by the network at that point.  To put it in perspective, imagine how Seinfeld would’ve felt if NBC randomly moved his own show off Thursdays after a season and put it back on Wednesdays to lose to Home Improvement in the ratings.  One suspects Seinfeld wouldn’t have just cavalierly shrugged and figured, hey, we’re still on TV.

And my impression on the third read?  While my broad view of the situation didn’t much change, it did strike me how this all felt like it happened a million years ago, rather than just last decade.  Television, let alone late-night TV, has changed so overwhelmingly that all these arguments and disputes over who hosted the Tonight Show ended up being more or less irrelevant by 2019, since network TV itself seems more or less irrelevant by 2019.

YouTube was already a thing by 2010, as Carter addresses in his book how younger audiences were simply consuming late-night shows in highlight form online the next day — catching a sketch here or an interview there in videos, rather than staying up the night prior to actually watch the show start to finish.  Personally speaking, I don’t think I’ve watched any late-night show in its entirety since Craig Ferguson’s last episode.  I know what if there’s a funny bit from Conan, or Colbert, or Fallon, or Kimmel, or James Corden, or Seth Meyers, or Insert Random Show Host here, I can just watch it on YouTube.  Why bother watching an entire show with the same tired talk show format?

Fast-forward to 2019 and Letterman is gone, Leno is gone, Ferguson is gone, Jon Stewart is gone, and Conan remains in somewhat altered form.  He still officially has a talk show, though now it’s only a half-hour long, and I feel like Conan’s best outlets these days are his Conan Without Borders travel specials — which I feel have been watched by literally everyone I know who has a Netflix account — and his podcast, which has immediately become a big hit.  I don’t ever see Conan ever stopping his TV show (Conan O’Brien can’t stop, after all), but I can certainly see him making the podcast his most primary vehicle.  I can foresee a future where his podcast becomes essentially a zany cross between his own show and something like Comedy Bang Bang.

I’ll keep this post in mind when I re-read Carter’s book again in five years and recall with nostalgia about when people used to watch shows on televisions.