Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The 10 Coolest Famous People w/ First Names that are the Same as the Last Names of the US Presidents

Yeah, that's right! It's a convoluted title, but I'm sure ya'll get the idea. Famous people whose first names are the same as the last names of some of our esteemed (and some not so esteemed) former US Presidents. I say former, because there are not many famous people with the first name of Trump (thankfully for them). For that matter, one could probably exclude such Presidents as Eisenhower, McKinley, Van Buren, or Obama, as well. I suppose Adams is out due to that last letter. But what about all those Washingtons, Jeffersons, Roosevelts, and Jacksons out there? Yeah, they may just make the list. And sorry Taylor Swift, but you just aren't cool enough to make the list. Same goes for you Jefferson D'Arcy. All the Married With Children fans in the audience know of whom I speak. And sorry, but there is no love for you, Arthur Treacher. A fine actor indeed, and I loved your namesake fish & chips, but you too, are a no go. And alas, poor Jefferson Airplane, I knew them, Horatio, but they are a band, and not a person, so away with them. But enough of these no shows, howzabout we get to the ten who did make the list. Oh, and with one special mention as well.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Special Mention: Carter Liotta

Now since this list is (conveniently) meant to look at the famous names of the title, I will relegate my good friend to the special mention slot. Carter Liotta, probably not named after Jimmy Carter, is a doctor, pilot, filmmaker, world traveler, and self-proclaimed man of leisure. Is there anything this guy can't do? Well, hold his liquor, I suppose is one thing (which may be able to be seen in the above pic), but let's not dwell on the so-called negative. Carter Liotta may not have been named after our 39th POTUS (though he may still enjoy some peanuts now and then), but his first name gets him a very special mention here.

10. Ford Prefect
When the world is destroyed, to put in an intergalactic bypass in its place no less, you could not have a better BFF than Ford Prefect. At least for Arthur Dent, the one human Ford saves before the aforementioned demolition. An alien journalist (a native Betelgeusian, to be more precise on his alien origins) and field researcher for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford's actual given name is only pronounceable in an obscure Betelgeusian dialect, but for the purpose of our little ole list here, we are going with his adopted Earth name, which incidentally was created well before Gerry Ford ascended to the presidential throne. Above are two of his filmic portrayals. And please remember, always bring your towel.

9. Washington Irving
Possibly named after our first president (he was born at a time when George Washington, though not yet president, was a national hero), Washington Irving came to international fame with the 1819-1820 serial, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.. You haven't heard of it? Really? Well, two of the stories from this collection are Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Oh, now you know of what I speak. Irving also wrote a multi-volume biography on his possible namesake. So yeah, Washington wrote about Washington.

8. Pierce Hawthorne
Technically, Chevy Chase's Community character's first name is Pierceinald (that's right, bitches), but to keep the illusion going here, we are going by his nickname of Pierce. Granted, this one is named after one of the more obscure presidents (Franklin Pierce was our 14th Commander-in-Chief, for those lacking in American history knowledge), but he is a character on one of my favourite shows of recent times, so obscure reference or not (and Community likes the obscure references), real first name or not, Pierce Hawthorne, late heir to the Hawthorne moist towelette fortune, is right here at numero ocho!

7. Wilson Pickett

In the Midnight Hour. Land of 1,000 Dances. Mustang 'Freakin'' Sally. These are just a few of the songs that Wilson Pickett made famous back in the day. Wilson Pickett is a legend of music history. Born and raised in Detroit (as so many music legends have been) Pickett was a member of the famed Stax Records crew, back in the mid 1960's, and is now a member (and rightfully so!!) of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Granted, Pickett probably wasn't named after Woodrow Wilson, but they were both integral in helping to change and modernize their chosen professions.

6. Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier

 Rosey (and yes, his real first name is Roosevelt, the last name of not one, but two presidents) is probably best known for his NFL career. A New York Giant for a while, before becoming one of the LA Rams "Fearsome Foursome," Grier retired from pro ball in 1966. Rosey would later write several books' including Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men. Yeah, I wouldn't mock the guy for it, either. Nowadays he is a Christian minister, helping inner city youth. What a lot of people probably do not know, is his hand in the world of a wouldbe president. As a bodyguard, Rosey could not stop the assassination of Bobby Kennedy (who would have become president over Nixon!) but he did manage to subdue the assassin. You go Roosevelt. Oh, and when you get the chance, check out the 1972 film, The Thing With Two Heads. You will not be disappointed. Well, you might be disappointed, but you'll still have a good time at it.

5. Truman Capote

A famously eccentric author, Truman Capote (not named after Harry S. Truman, our 33rd president) was known later in life as an amusing talking head, and prolific talk show celebrity (he often told elaborate stories of his past celebrity encounters, such as his friendship with Garbo and a sexual dalliance with Errol Flynn, that were just not true), but back in the day, he wrote some pretty great books too. His most famous is Breakfast at Tiffany's. Granted, Hollywood vastly altered the book for their movie version (in early 1960's America, Hollywood wasn't ready to make a big mainstream film about a gay man and his fag hag) and Capote hate hate hated the adaptation. He was also pretty well known for his true crime book, In Cold Blood, as well as being the model for Harper Lee's character, Dill, in her To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee and Capote were friends their entire lives, and she even aided him on the research for In Cold Blood.

4. Grant Morrison

 One of only two non-Americans on this (kinda) American list (especially funny, since his name is that of US Grant), the Scottish born Grant Morrison, was a member of the so-called British invasion in the comic book industry back in the 1980's. Morrison, who always puts a more philosophical bent on his superhero tales, has written everyone from Batman to The Doom Patrol, from Animal Man to the JLA, from The Fantastic Four to the New X-Men. And he didn't just write these characters, he gave them all new life, and is often thought of as the quintessential writer of several of these characters (Animal Man and Doom Patrol, especially). He also wrote, along with artist Frank Quitely (whose artistic interpretation of Morrison can be seen above), my all-time favourite Superman tale, All-Star Superman. He is currently turning DC's Multiverse on its proverbial head with his Multiversity mini-series.

3. Jackson Pollock

Technically, Jackson Pollack's first name was Paul, but his nom de plume (his middle name was Jackson) is how everyone knows him, so it is Jackson we are going with. And Andy Jackson has always been my favourite historical president. Pollock is known, of course, as one of the greatest artists of modern times. He died quite early (at 44, due to an alcohol-related car accident) but before that, his so-called action paintings, helped him to become one of the most important figures in my favourite artistic movement, Abstract Expressionism. His paintings, often criticized in his day, as much as they were praised, are brilliant abstract pieces of art, splattered with a crazed fury of passion. Yeah, that's right.

2. Tyler Durden

 Nobody ever remembers poor John Tyler (he was our 10th commander-in-chief, becoming president after William Henry Harrison died, a month into his own presidency) but most people in today's world know who Tyler Durden is. Played by Brad Pitt (sorta) in the David Fincher film, Fight Club, Tyler Durden is one of the most iconic film characters of modern cinema. Yeah, I think there might have been a book too, but I can never spell the author's name so...just kidding, it was Chuck Palahniuk. But hey, the firs rule of Fight Club is that we don't talk about Fight Club, so I'll shut up about Tyler Durden now, and move on to our numero uno pick.

1. Harrison Ford

First off, he has both a first AND a last name that matches a president. Technically three presidents, since there were two Harrisons (William Henry and his grandson Benjy) to go along with Gerry Ford. Secondly, and more importantly, he is Harrison Ford. He is Han Solo. He is Indiana Jones. He is Captain of the Millennium Falcon, and did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, and as everyone knows, parsecs are a unit of distance not time, so that in turn makes him a freakin' time traveler. Yeah, that's right. Do the freakin' math people. Not only was Han Solo the man who shot first, he was also a time traveler. And that is who Harrison Ford is. He is Han and he is Indy too. He is BFF's with a Wookiee. In his spare time, he flies helicopters on fire rescue missions. Yeah, that is Harrison Ford. End of story. He is number one. Huzzah!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Best Damn TV Show of 2017 or: How David Lynch is Still One of the Best Damn Filmmakers Working Today

I first fell in love with the cinema of David Lynch at the tender age of nineteen. It was the Fall of 1986, and this was when I first saw that sexy beast of a film called Blue Velvet. Over the previous year or two, thanks to the booming new home video market, and the likes of Kurosawa, Fellini, Chaplin, Bergman, and other art films and filmmakers falling into my lap, I had transitioned from casual moviegoer to budding cinephile. Lynch and his Blue Velvet, which I was lucky enough to get to see in a darkened theatre, on the big screen, made that budding cinephile explode with cinema-loving glee. Granted, it was a somewhat uncomfortable cinema-loving glee, as that is the emotion Lynch most aspires to, but glee nonetheless.

Lo these past thirty some years since, this budding film freak has transformed into a downright expert on the history and technique of cinema. As far as my love of Lynch goes, it has more than merely deepened over the decades. Going back and discovering Eraserhead and The Elephant Man and the criminally undervalued Dune. I was working as a projectionist in a now long defunct local movie theatre, in 1990, when Lynch's brilliant batshitcrazy Wild at Heart came out. I think I watched that film at least a dozen times over its two week run. I remember also getting in an argument with the local newspaper's film critic (back when local papers still had film critics) about the film. She hated it!? Sacre bleu! Anyhoo, next came ABC's Twin Peaks, and Lynch went to a whole other level of batshitcrazy brilliance.

With Twin Peaks being an episodic television series, Lynch was able to go deeper and further down his own perverse rabbit hole. Sure, network television may have limited some of the more openly perverse things in said rabbit hole, but the long form format of an entire season (or two) of storytelling, allowed for a wider and deeper swath of good old fashioned Lynchian melodrama. To this day, even with the present being a truly golden age in TV making, I would still list Twin Peaks as one of the best shows to ever appear on the small screen. And now, after 25 years, a big screen prequel to Twin Peaks (Fire Walk With Me), and several movies made in the meantime (17 years in, Mulholland Dr. is still the best film of this century so far), and with the majority of the original cast back (where have you gone Lara Flynn Boyle?), Lynch brings his Twin Peaks back to episodic television.

Now on Showtime (as well as Hulu and Amazon), Twin Peaks: The Return, picks up the aforementioned batshitcrazy Lynchian nightmare narrative, right where we left it so many years ago. Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is stuck in the Black Lodge, while his doppelganger (also MacLachlan, in long hair and extra crispy tanned skin), possessed by the ghost of Bob, is out causing trouble in the so-called real world. It is Cooper's redemption, and his way back to the real world, that is the crux of the new series. And MacLachlan is just the tip of the iceberg, as most of the cast has returned, from Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer to Russ Tamblyn as the mysterious Doc Jacoby, doing strange things in the woods. We even get to briefly see Catherine Coulson as Margaret, The Log Lady, who filmed her scenes in the weeks leading up to her death back in 2015 (leave it to Lynch to bring the dead back to life). We also get a slew of newcomers to the show, including Naomi Watts, Michael Cera, Jim Belushi, and Laura Dern. Even Lauren Tewes, aka Julie McCoy of Love Boat fame, is set to appear at some point.

I gotta tell ya, everything about this new series (or is it season three?), from the episode one opening (I truly got goosebumps when that theme music first clicked on) through to the full four episodes aired so far, says it is every bit as good, and every bit as uncomfortably Lynchian, as the original. Everything from the acting (or one might say non-acting) to the super lo-fi special effects in and around the Black Lodge (these scenes, including the fascinating first ten minutes or so of episode three, some of the best minutes in television today, are like the most brilliant student film ever made, or at least since Lynch himself was a student filmmaker) to those uncomfortable weird silences and eerie music, Twin Peaks: The Return is easily the best show on what we call TV these days. It is surely going to take one hell of  a show in the second half of the year, to topple this one from atop my inevitable Best of 2017 list (I'm lookin' at you Stranger Things, season two).

To say I can't wait for the next episode (and all of the ones after that) is quite the understatement. I may just explode in the meantime, and this being a Lynchian mindset I am in right now, that may not just be figuratively speaking. But alas, the wait just makes the outcome all that much more satisfying. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.