Monday, April 20, 2015

The Tears of a Clown

There's this song that's helped me through some dark times about how you have value and nobody can tell you different:  "Beautiful" by Eminem.  I wish I could share it here, but some of the lyrics are pretty vulgar.  Oh wait....

You're welcome.

There's a certain point in the song that really stuck with me because I can relate to it.  Minus the cuss words, that section says, "I don't need no man servant Trying to follow me around, Laugh at every single joke I crack And half of them ain't even funny like "Ha!, Marshall you're so funny man, you should be a comedian!" Unfortunately I am, but I just hide behind the tears of a clown." 

I have been thinking about this concept for awhile now.  To me the "tears of a clown" idea is about how you've become known as a joker in a group, whether it's your group of friends, coworkers, or fellow activity people.  People just know you as the guy who has the best jokes or one-liners, so they know they can count on you for a laugh when they need one.  However, it gets to the point where you start to feel that your humor is the only reason they keep you around.  I've already talked before about how insecure I can get, so maybe this is just that talking, but I'm sure anyone else who's become the group comedian knows what I'm talking about.  They like you because they make you laugh.  So much so, that they don't really know the real you.  They don't know that the comedy may be just a way of disguising things like insecurity or depression.  And, when you really do have something serious to talk about, people probably won't take your concerns very seriously.  Again, this may just be me, as I have had a problem getting people to take me seriously pretty much my whole life.  But, I'm kind of not thinking so.  There are at least two other guys that you have probably heard of that would know what I mean.  If only they were still with us...

One was Chris Farley.  He was known for being the funny, fat guy on Saturday Night Live and in movies like Tommy Boy or Billy Madison.  This man truly had some "tears of a clown," though.  This guy suffered from severe insecurity, depression, and a serious drug problem.  He never knew if people were laughing with him or at him, which I am very familiar with.  He even got in a physical fight with David Spade once because he felt left out of Spade's night of fun with Rob Lowe.  He eventually died of a drug overdose on October 25, 1997.  

The other, of course, is the Captain himself, Robin Williams.  I believe he summed up my point better than I could with this quote:  

This man is one of the funniest men who ever lived.  That's not just my opinion, that's a fact, Jack!  But, I think the world now knows at least a small part of who he really was.  He had severe depression, which his fellow actors now confirm that they were suspicious about for a log time.  Ethan Hawke, who acted with Williams in Dead Poets Society, now says that he could always tell that Robin wasn't happy, and it made him sad because Williams gave them all so much joy, but he felt like none of them were making him as happy as he made them.  He committed suicide last August, and I think his death was the saddest I've ever been about a celebrity death.

At first, I assumed I was sad because the world had lost such a great comedian and actor.  I had just seen Patch Adams shortly before this happened and wondered why he couldn't take his own advice.  But, now I know the truth.  I can relate with him being the funny man who tries to hide his pain inside.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not really sure why I'm writing all of this down.  Maybe I'm just trying to vent.  But I also want everyone to think about the people they know and think twice before they pin a label on somebody.  You probably don't know half of who they are.

Still, as a clown, I feel obligated to finish with something funny here, but I can't think of anything right now, so I'll let the master do it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Top 10 Movies

Yes, I am well aware of the fact that I have already talked about my top 10 movies, maybe not on here, but on Facebook or something.  So, some of you may have seen the link to this and wondered why you should bother reading this long blog when you've already seen the list, you know what I like and you know how this ends.  So, why should you read this?  I have absolutely no idea.  Just listen to me banter...

So, if you don't know me, then you should know that I seriously love movies of all different sorts.  I try not watch movies that will dumb me down to the level that Hollywood would like.  I like to watch movies that are artistically done, but without becoming one of those snobs that's always like "Oh, I would never watch that movie.  I appreciate movies."  It's a delicate balance, but one I try to maintain.  I can watch a movie like Napoleon Dynamite and appreciate it for what it is.  I'm not sure where I've set the bar for what entertainment I will and won't partake in, but that's another post for another day.  I've gotten really off track here...

Moving right along here, I will list my top 10 favorite movies and why I like them.  And, yes, I am already aware of the fact that I cheated by combining movies in some of these cases, but it's my blog, so I can do whatever I want.

Before the list, here are a few (actually, quite a few) honorable mentions.

The Passion of the Christ, Star Wars original trilogy, Bruce Almighty, The Big Lebowski, Stand By Me, The Avengers, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Napoleon Dynamite, Mud, The Sandlot, The Green Mile, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, almost every Christopher Nolan film (the other one made the list), Cinderella Man, Braveheart, Gran Torino, Raging Bull, Casino, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Perks of Being a Wallflower (shut up, it's good), Toy Story films, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Veggietales, Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Chariots of Fire, Rounders, American Sniper, Slumdog Millionaire, A Few Good Men, and I am so done with this list...moving on to the top 10.

10.  Tie-Mr. Holland's Opus and Dead Poets Society

I don't think I have to explain too much about why I like Dead Poets Society.  That has been covered elsewhere on this blog.  I like this movie simply because I find it inspiring.  (And Robin Williams, of course.)  Often, when I find myself in a situation where I am reluctant or afraid to take action, I remind myself to Carpe Diem.  Sometimes, that can lead to disappointment, but at least I play a hand.  Don't settle.  If you have a chance to do something extraordinary, go for it.

Mr. Holland's Opus is another inspiring, feel-good movie that holds a special place for me.  I don't know too many other people my age who have seen this, which is a shame.  For those of you who don't know, this movie is about a man who wants to write an epic piece of music but must take a job teaching music at the high school to pay the bills.  He is initially unhappy about this position, but he starts to see that he can really have an impact on the students' lives when he puts his mind to it.  This movie actually has some sentimental value to me, as my dad once used it as part of a learning experience for our family.

9.  The Departed

As strange as it may sound, I am a fan of the gangster movie genre, and almost nobody (maybe not anybody at all) can do it as well as Martin Scorsese.  This, in my opinion, is his second best gangster film.  (I'll get to his best one in a bit.)  Scorsese described this movie as his only movie with a plot when it was first released.  The movie tells the story of two rats, one in the police force, the other working with a crime boss, and their race to find the other guy out.  The suspense in this movie is non-stop, and the outcome is never certain until the end of the movie.  The movie does a good job of showing the exhausting toll that a double life can have on a person.  You will probably experience the same exhaustion during the movie, but it's a good exhaustion.  The movie also boasts an all-star cast (Matt Damon, Leonardo Dicaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and best of all, Jack Nicholson).  The soundtrack is also amazing (pretty much always playing either Irish rock or Rolling Stones songs, but it works).

8.  Fight Club

Lots of testosterone in this one.  In this film, Edward Norton plays a nameless narrator who tries to fill holes in his life by buying things and going to support groups.  Eventually, he meets Tyler Durden, an anarchist/terrorist who helps him start up a group called Fight Club, which eventually escalates to full-blown terrorism.  (Spoiler alert) Ed Norton eventually finds out that Tyler is only the other side of his split personality, so he realizes it's up to him to stop the madness.  So, this movie has become known as THE movie for the alienated males.  It does not advocate passivity or mindless rebellion, in my opinion.  It asks you to search for some middle ground.

7.  The Aviator

I've already mentioned that I am a Scorsese fan, and this is one of his most underrated films, in my opinion.  Not too many people are familiar with the story of the genius-turned-paranoid-madman Howard Hughes, but I believe Martin Scorsese does an excellent job of bringing the story to life.  I love movies, so it was fun to see a movie about a movie maker that also became a plane designer.  Unfortunately, the combination of a plane crash, and opposition from a lot of people around him drives him slowly insane.  Hughes, though, becomes somebody anyone with high aspirations continually being hampered can identify with.  So, this movie has definitely earned its spot on my list.

6.  The Dark Knight

The best superhero movie ever made and that's a fact, Jack!  Unlike other films in this genre, the movie doesn't want to be just another action-filled shoot 'em up superhero smack-down film.  This one actually has some depth to it.  It provokes a lot of philosophical and spiritual thought and could definitely open the doors to some great conversations when the movie is over.  And Heath Ledger gives the most convincing super-villain performance I have ever seen.

5.  Lord of the Rings (entire trilogy)

What can I say, really?  This is, objectively, the best trilogy of all time.  It just gets better as it goes, and the end of it is fully satisfying, albeit very long, which will make it hard to hold your pee.  This series has everything:  great fantasy action, great visuals, great characters, great story, and even some great symbolism.

4.  Goodfellas

THIS is Martin Scorsese's best gangster film.  We follow the story of real life mobster, Henry Hill, as he works his way through the hierarchy of the mob and experiences a crushing downfall in the end.  What's interesting about this in addition to its realistic and gritty portrayal of the mob life is the fact that these characters all manage to be interesting and entertaining even though you know they're evil.  The three lead actors do a great job in this film and are totally convincing.  I like how this movie purposefully plays with your reaction to it.  At first, you might think the mob life sounds pretty appealing because of everything he has, but some of the downsides will definitely make you reconsider.  Anyway, great flick.

3.  The Godfather (Parts I and II)

This was what I meant when I said Scorsese might be almost the best gangster movie maker.  These films are without a doubt the best mafia movies in existence since the beginning of humanity.  Even though both of these films are around the 3-hour mark, they still manage to keep your attention for the whole thing, which is not easy to do.  These movies probably do the best job I have ever seen of making you care about the bad guys because they continually switch from their business life to their family life, until the two finally become one.  These movies are not meant to glorify crime, though, as Michael Corleone in particular falls hard.

2.  It's a Wonderful Life

Another classic film about how your life impacts so many others, even if you can't always see that.  Jimmy Stewart is my favorite actor of all time, and this was probably his best film (maybe Mr. Smith, I don't know).  Anyway, I always enjoy watching this film every year around Christmas time.  George Bailey's monologues always do it for me, and I always finish this film feeling better than when I started.

1.  The Shawshank Redemption (duh)

I think I've probably beaten this dead horse enough on this blog, so I'll just say it's an inspiring and hopeful film with a payoff that always leaves me feeling better about life in general.  To go more in depth on this movie, I have written an entire post about it elsewhere, so go read that if you haven't already.