Harvey Pekar, author of the comic book series American Splendor, died Monday at the age of 70. He had been battling cancer and severe depression for many years. His stories, many of which were illustrated by R. Crumb, detailed the grim, day-to-day lives of ordinary working people. The way he wrote about the mundane drew comparisons to such literary giants as Anton Chekov. R. Crumb said this about Mr. Pekar in 1994: “He’s the soul of Cleveland. He’s passionate and articulate. He’s grim. He’s Jewish. I appreciate the way he embraces all that darkness.”
Despite swearing up and down that I would not tune in for ESPN’s one-hour “Decision” special, Thursday night I still somehow found myself huddled around the television awaiting what I felt was the obvious resolution of what had been one of the most over-hyped and narcissistic off-court spectacles in the history of sports: Lebron was staying with the Cavs. I figured that most of the show would be filled in with footage of James visiting his high school gym, one of the nine or ten hovels he lived in growing up in Akron, the locker room at Quicken Loans arena, etc. It’d be sentimental and trite, but it’d be a furthering of his image of the homegrown savior that he and his handlers have so skillfully crafted over the last seven years. However it played out, I was convinced that he was staying Cleveland. Because the idea that Lebron James and his coterie of hangers-on could possibly, in good conscience and with sound business sense, orchestrate an elaborate and painfully awkward nationally televised one-hour special only to announce that he would be leaving Cleveland was, I thought, unthinkable. It just seemed too cruel, too oblivious–not to mention, just too damn stupid. I realize that athletes and other celebrities are often deluded and self-absorbed, but this—teasing along your hometown fans for weeks and weeks, having them hang on every rumor, to then turn around broadcast the betrayal—just didn’t seem at all possible. So, I watched, though uncomfortably, confident that I already knew what would happen.
But then, after what seemed like an eternity of inane softball questions from whatever is left of Jim Gray’s credibility came the words: “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” Stunned.
[guest blog by M. Scott]
“I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have a bad game here or there, you’ve had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it’s easy to point that out.”
I’m not a Cavs fans and I don’t like LeBron. And I certainly didn’t like his comments after the Celtics embarrassed him and his team on their home court Tuesday night. It really just adds to my distaste for all things Cleveland. So you’d think I’d be enjoying this. Unfortunately, I’m not.
The only thing more infuriating than Mike Brown’s illogical and seemingly random substitution decisions is reading articles and blog posts criticizing LeBron’s “commitment” or his “passion for the game” by people who just a week prior were lining up to shine his, uh, shoes. These writers and bloggers and fans have spent the past few years lauding the man, extolling the many virtues of his game, calling him the “King,” and now, when the chips are down, want to turn on him, do an about-face, and question his desire to win, his ability to come through in the clutch? As far as the sportswriters are concerned, it’s just hack journalism–just trying to stir up controversy. For the fans, though, well, that’s classic Cleveland for you: short-sighted and without class. FIY: Not a good idea to boo the man that’s made your city relevant again a few weeks before his impending free-agency. With fans like that, why would he ever want to leave for New York?
“The wolf is made the way the world is made. You cannot touch the world. You cannot hold it in your hand for it is made of breath only.”
[guest blog by Mark Scott]
A few months ago, Bob Dylan released his 33rd studio album, Together Through Life. While not as strong as his last few records, Together Through Life definitely has its moments: “Beyond Here Lies Nothing,” “Life is Hard” and “It’s All Good” stand out. The album, as I understand it, came about as a result of French director Julian Dahan (La Vie En Rose) commissioning Dylan to compose songs for his upcoming film, “My Own Love Song.”
This is the first video from the album. It was produced by IFC films and directed by a stuntman (Nash Edgerton). If nothing else, it says what I’ve been saying for years: that even if you lock your woman in a squalid apartment, pump her full of sedatives, slam her head through a television, and she smashes a bottle over your head, whacks you in the face with a frying pan, stabs you in the gut, and runs you over with a car, none of that means the two of you don’t really, really–deep down–truly love one another.
[Guest blog by Mark Scott]
Wes seems to have the music side of things pretty much on lock-down, so I thought I might take a crack at film.
The term film noir gets tossed around quite a bit by film critics and scholars, as well as pretentious hipsters loitering around the entrance to “adult” room at North Campus Video, but press either of those people to define film noir and you’ll likely find that no two people quite agree. Part of the reason is that the term itself was coined and applied, for the most part, retrospectively by a French film critic who noticed a number of similar themes and moods in a lot of American films made during the 1940s and into the 50s. Most of films considered as classic film noir tend to be crime dramas and mysteries. Attempts have been made to lay out some of the elements or themes of film noir: the heavy contrast of light and dark images (chiaroscuro photography); a protagonist–usually, but not always a private detective–with an ambiguous moral code; a femme fatale, a seductive woman who leads to the protagonists downfall; and an urban setting. That many of films labelled noir do not fit all, if any, of these parameters has lead many critics to view noir more as a style, rather than a genre.
But this is all kind of bullshit. Essentially, they’re just dark films–both in terms of lighting and theme/mood. The men are usually hard-asses; the woman are sexy, seductive and dangerous. Everybody smokes a ton of cigarettes. There’s crime and double-crossing all over the place; and one of –if not both–the lead characters usually ends of dead. Unfortunately for Steve, Shia Labeouf is in none of these movies.
So, without further ado, I present to you, loyal Grip reader, my all-time top 5 favorite films noir (in no particular order):
1. Night and the City (1950)
Richard Widmark stars as Harry Fabian, a hustler who tries to become a pro wrestling promoter. His plans are derailed when he runs afowl of gangster, and rival promoter, Kristo, played by Herbert Lom. Directed by Jules Dassin, Night in the City is considered one of the absolute classics of the noir era.
2. The Big Sleep (1946)
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in film based on a Raymond Chandler novel (adapted for the screen by William Faulkner)–what else is there to say?
3. The Third Man (1949)
Perhaps the last great film of the period, The Third Man is as close to a perfect film as I’ve ever seen. It stars Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, though, Wells doesn’t actually appear on screen until about two-thirds in. Graham Greene wrote the screenplay, which he eventually turned into a novella of the same title. The plot is way too complicated to describe, so I’ll simply end with the film’s most memorable quote: “Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”
4. Pickup on South Street (1953)
Richard Widmark also stars in this Samuel Fuller picture, this time as a pickpocket who ends up with a microfilm of government secrets. Jean Peters also stars as Candy, whom Fuller fought hard to get after turning down stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Ava Gardner. Fuller said he knew he had to have Peters as Candy because he said he liked how she walked: slightly bow-legged, like a lot of prostitutes.
5. The Killers (1946)
The first third of the movie is based on a short story by Ernest Hemmingway of the same title. Two hit men walk into a diner in a quiet suburban town looking for a man they call the “Swede” (Burt Lancaster). They quickly find him in bed at his rooming house and gun him down. The rest of the movie follows an insurance investigator piecing together the details of the Swede’s life in attempt to catch the men responsible. Hemmingway said that this film was the only film based on his work that he could “genuinely admire.”
[Guest Blog by marklawrencescott]
Not quite the Shapely-Curtis debate, but Kobe v. Lebron has in recent weeks reached something of a fevered pitch. For the most part, the dividing line falls between statistics and aesthetics: those backing Lebron cite his superior numbers, while Kobe supporters point to the grace of Bryant’s more polished and refined game. But this oversimplifies matters; as the debate has raged on, all sorts of questionable metrics and rubrics have been employed in pursuit of some kind of definitive answer: who’s a better teammate; who’s more likeable; how many rings have each won; who’s prettier; who raped a white girl; etc. Thus far, every compelling argument for either player has an equally compelling counterargument. There really is no way clear way to settle it, which only further entrenches each side into their respective positions.
I can’t say for certain who is better; I’m not an expert, I’ve never played the game. I don’t know what is the true measure of a player’s greatness. And I get the feeling by reading what the “actual” experts are saying that they don’t either. Jerry West says Lebron has “surpassed” Kobe; Jeff van Gundy says he’d take LBJ for the first three quarters, but Kobe for the fourth; and so on. So, for me, it comes down to personal preference, and I prefer Kobe. Simple as that. I simply enjoy watching Kobe play much more than I enjoy watching Lebron. But don’t get me wrong, I definitely find Lebron exciting; he’s an amazing athlete that has each year worked on and improved nearly every aspect of his game. He’s absolutely tremendous: the blocks, the dunks, the passes, the step-back forty-footers, all of it. However, his game is clunky: it’s a combination of his linebacker-like lumbering and his slightly clumsy duck-footedness. He lacks that smooth balletic quality of a Dr. J or a Jordan. There’s something almost post-apocalyptic about how Lebron plays, the way he moves. Like he’s John Connor come back from a bleak and ravaged future to prepare us for the world that awaits us. A savior who offers no redempiton. Or Snake Plisken playing for his life under strange and confusing rules:
Kobe, on the other hand, moves with a kind of total finesse that forces you to look in new and exotic places for comparison. His is the sort of game, that when you picture it in your head, is always in that dramatic kind of super-slow motion–maybe with that annoying piano number from the playoff commercials. With his seemingly limitless arsenal of moves, Kobe expands and clarifies the grammar of the game: a prescriptive grammar: the way the game should be played, but tremendously difficult for many people to understand or to follow.
But all metaphors aside, the thing that really draws me to Bryant is an almost childlike belief that whenever he’s on the floor, I’m going to see something incredible, something near-impossible. Like anytime I watch a Lakers game I feel like I might be watching the greatest game ever played. Not that it always is, or ever has been, but it might be. He elicits that kind of belief. Who knows when he’ll drop another 81.
Often times greatness is associated with composure under pressure, delivering the goods when it counts. And Kobe in fourth quarter of a close game is must-see. Kobe in the fourth is the closest I get to religious; I believe–at times irrationally–in his ability. Lebron in the fourth, however, is often under-whelming, if not outright infuriating (why can he still not make clutch free-throws?) Kobe has that “killer instinct.” Lebron doesn’t. Not yet, at least. That’s why I’m a Kobe man: he’s greater when it matters most. And while James likes to cast his persona in a thin veil of biblical references, Kobe is much more the humanist: fuck Salvation, I’m creating a heaven here on Earth.