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May 2014 Archives

May 3, 2014

Bob Hoskins

One of the greatest joys of moving from Akron, Ohio, to Washington, D.C., in 1980 was the ready access to foreign and indie movies--movies that wouldn't necessarily reach Midwestern multiplexes. (Note to younger readers: this was LONG before streaming, DVDs or even VHS.) One of the very first foreign movies I saw in Washington was a then-new British gangster film, "The Long Good Friday." I knew Helen Mirren, the film's leading actress, from a couple of Masterpiece Theatre productions, but the lead actor, Bob Hoskins, was totally unknown to me.

By the time I finished watching the movie, Hoskins had become one of my favorite actors. I had never seen any actor quite like him before: squat, bullet-headed, with an accent that made Bill Sikes sound posh, Hoskins projected an overwhelming, terrifying power as Harold Shand, a London crime boss who suddenly finds his organization attacked by persons unknown. But along with that was a vulnerability that was strangely coherent with the more brutal side of his character. Harold could tenderly embrace his mistress Victoria (Mirren) in one scene, then cut a man to pieces with a broken bottle shortly after. The only remotely comparable performances before that, at least in my experience, was James Cagney in "Public Enemy" and "White Heat." (I woiuldn't be at all surprised if James Gandolfini watched "The Long Good Friday" a few times before playing Tony Soprano.)

For weeks after seeing "The Long Good Friday," I annoyed friends and family with my imitations of Hoskins' Cockney accent, delivering some of Harold's best lines"

"Lads--try to be discreet, eh?"

"The only decent grass is the grass that grasses to me!"

"Poor Mother--she went to church to say her prayers, not to get blown up!"

"Diabolical naivete!"

Though Bob Hoskins had more famous roles--including his Oscar-nominated, Cannes-winning performance in "Mona Lisa" and his delightful clowning opposite Roger Rabbit--"The Long Good Friday" was for me his masterpiece, indeed one of the greatest performances ever recorded on film. His final scene in that movie--in which, finally cornered by his enemies, he seems to go through the seven stages of grief in less than two minutes--deserves to be screened forever in every acting class in the world. It is pleasant to think of this performance as the accomplishment of a kind and genial man, universally beloved by his colleagues, who loved life and lived it to the fullest. It is unbearably sad that his life ended far too soon.

May 26, 2014

Remember the Fallen

Today is Memorial Day, and this morning I found a post on Facebook from my friend Kevin Pachas: "An actor dies from a drug overdose. All over the news. A soldier dies protecting our freedoms. Not even mentioned."

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I've written plenty in this blog about Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and other actors who died because of drugs. I am not ashamed of writing about Ledger or Hoffman, who were great actors who deserve to be remembered. But I do most bitterly regret having said nothing up to now about those hundreds of thousands of men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so that people like me can write their blogs and have their comfortable lives.

I never served in the military; the Vietnam draft effectively ended six weeks before my eighteenth birthday, and although I registered, I was never called. Had I been called, I would have gone, because that's what boys from Sugar Grove, Ohio, did. I know myself well enough to know I probably wouldn't have lasted two weeks In Country. But as the son of Staff Sgt. Russell E. Moore, who fought in the Battle of Okinawa, and 1st Lt. Dorothy L. Camp, who landed on Utah Beach as part of the 108th Evacuation Hospital, I would have gone.

Mom and Dad came home, married, raised my three sisters and me, spent 53 years together. Dad was a post commander of both the American Legion and the V.F.W.; Mom came to Washington for the dedication of the Women in the Military for America Memorial. Neither ever talked much about the war; that was typical of World War II veterans. The enormity of the conflict they fought in, and the memory of the brethren they left behind, stilled their tongues.

Newspapers and news broadcasts list the names and show the pictures of those killed in action. Except for those we knew personally, or those who died in an unusually well-documented attack, it is difficult to remember each name. But seeing that parade of strong, resolute young faces, and knowing the sacrifice each has made, reminds me there are some debts I can never repay. Nor can this country.

Seeing the post from Kevin--who is a veteran of the First Persian Gulf War, and was a first responder at the Pentagon on 9/11--brought it all home to me today. What is required of us is simple and heartbreaking: Remember the Fallen.

About May 2014

This page contains all entries posted to MDM in May 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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