I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Death is a motherfucker

tn_36thchamberI don’t always post about every great person that dies, but we lost a bunch of ’em this week so I might as well do one post to reflect on three in particular.

First, of course, the unexpected death of the great James Gandolfini. A real bummer to movie fans since he was still great and very productive. Just last year he was in one of my favorites of the year, ZERO DARK THIRTY and was also the clear highlight of my most frustrating movie of the year, KILLING THEM SOFTLY. Even as a serial TV-misser who has somehow totally missed The Sopranos I was able to enjoy lots of brilliant work by Mr. Gandolfini. Favorite performances I would point you to would be as the voice of the neurotic monster Carol in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, the victim in the great underrated Coen bros picture THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE, and of course that epic hotel showdown in TRUE ROMANCE.

Then it was one of the great geniuses of genre writing, Richard Matheson. I remember not too long ago they were trying to figure out how to make a sequel to I AM LEGEND, and somebody wrote about how mad Matheson would’ve been if he was alive. Of course he was alive, and had sold the sequel rights himself. Now I’m afraid you can make that argument. I’m a big fan of Matheson’s original novel, as well as the three differently enjoyable movie versions LAST MAN ON EARTH, OMEGA MAN and I AM LEGEND. He was also a really prolific writer of movies and television. For example he wrote several of the Roger Corman Edgar Allen Poe movies, and a bunch of Twilight Zone episodes including the famous one about the monster on the wing of the plane. More recently THE BOX and REAL STEEL were inspired by some of his short stories.

Also we lost a great director, choreographer and performer of martial arts movies, Lau Kar Leung. This guy directed a bunch of my all time favorites, including THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, HEROES OF THE EAST, EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER and DRUNKEN MASTER II. He was also the fight choreographer for MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE and – why not? – appeared in THE SCORPION KING.

It would be in poor taste to turn this tribute to a political discussion, so I’ll delete the part I wrote about the deaths of The Voting Rights Act and the Defense of Marriage Act. But they died too. You win some, you lose some. That stuff is important, but let’s set it aside for the moment. For all of us here, the great work done by writers, directors, actors and musicians is a big part of our lives, something great and immeasurable shared with us by people few of us even get the chance to meet, but it stays with us anyway. A couple days ago I realized that it was the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, which always bums me out. I put my iPod on shuffle and it played two of his songs in a row, and it made me smile. A couple songs later, another one.

You know what that means? Ghosts. Or that I have alot of his shit on my iPod. But I mean it hardly ever happens so that it happened at that moment proves ghosts, right? Either way let’s all enjoy the great works left behind by these three gentlemen, let them inspire us to strive for excellence ourselves and to enjoy life and art while we got it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, June 28th, 2013 at 4:49 pm and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

16 Responses to “Death is a motherfucker”

  1. A visual genius in his own right, although in a completely other field, Mark Fisher died this week too. Most famous for helping stage Pink Floyd’s THE WALL into arena rock legend, working with U2 on the ZOO TV tour (and subsequent jaunts to that), also worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel and the Stones as well. More recently he was part of the committee that put together the opening and closing ceremonies to last year’s Olympics.

    Gandolfini’s a tough one because I’d hoped he would have found a defining movie role as iconic as on the show but I quickly realized that that alone is a once-in-a-lifetime thing he did. I was never a big fan of the show, but I totally understand it’s place in TV history as a game-changer. And if that wasn’t enough, the day after his death, Bryan Cranston and Michael Chiklis said flat-out on Twitter that without Tony Soprano there would have been no Walter White or Vic Mackey. Legacy-wise, you can’t really get any better than that.

  2. The death of DOMA was a highlight this week.

  3. James Gandolfini was one of those celebs who was such a class act and so down to Earth, you can’t help but feel like you kinda knew the guy personally, so losing him is not just losing someone talented, it felt like losing a friend

  4. also, I’m not much of a TV watcher either and I didn’t see the entirety of The Sopranos, just the odd episode here and there, save for the final season, which you better believe I tuned in to watch, I was there for the infamous “don’t stop believing” finale when it first happened, man

  5. I’ve started watching THE SOPRANOS from the beginning again, as a tribute to the great Gandolfini. And it’s nice to see that the series not only holds up, but it defends it’s place on the 10 Best TV Shows Ever-list.

  6. I was surprised by how much Gandolfini’s death affected me. I always enjoyed his work, and he was pretty damn brilliant on The Sopranos, but I think I also took him for granted as an actor, which is unfortunately the case with some character actors. But when I heard he had died, I was in complete shock. I think part of it has to do with what Griff said. He seemed like such a down to earth person, like someone you might be neighbors with.

  7. I had never seen even a single Shaw Brothers joint until I watched Heroes of the East last week. Ironic that as soon as I found out what I was missing that we’d lose such a great director as Lau Kar Leung. At least I can say that I appreciated him while he was still alive, even if only barely.

  8. Dikembe Mutombo

    June 30th, 2013 at 3:15 am

    I honestly think Gandolfini was one of the most brilliant actors on the planet. I also think “brilliant” is a word that gets thrown around way too much, but I just can’t see any way it didn’t apply to him. Tony Soprano was the role of a lifetime and lord did he own it, but I feel robbed of all the film work he had ahead of him. (I guess that’s a selfish way to think about it – by all accounts an extremely generous and warm man has left us way way too early, and that’s worth mourning as much as the loss of a great artist.) He mostly played supporting roles in movies, but it’s crazy how many of those movies I can point to and confidently identify him as the best thing about them. It’s a shame he never got the lead (movie) part that did his talent justice. If you want to see a killer Gandolfini performance, he has some scenes of incredible power in last year’s NOT FADE AWAY, directed by David Chase (a movie I thought was underappreciated).

    Richard Matheson was one third of the original trio of writers who did the bulk of episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. That right there would be enough of a résumé for any writer, but throw in I AM LEGEND and BORN OF MAN AND WOMAN a lot of badass teleplays – c’mon, it’s ridiculous how good this guy was.

    Lau Kar Leung feels like the most relevant death to this site. I haven’t watched as much Shaw Bros stuff as I should, but everything I’ve seen involving Leung was fantastic. I have a lot of affection for TIGER ON THE BEAT, a buddy cop movie with Chow Yun Fat, Conan Lee and Gordon Liu. Check out Chow Yun’s moves here… gun-fu!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QN1Fp46So84

    How many chainsaw fights have you seen before??

  9. I also liked Gandolfini in IN THE LOOP, the political comedy where he plays a General opposed to a military invasion in the middle east and has a great back and forth with Peter Capaldi in one scene.

    Matheson seems like I name I should be more aware of, but I do like a number of the things mentioned there.

    Not seen any of those movies of Lau Kar Leung except SCORPION KING, but I have seen LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES that he choreographed for. So my shame is mitigated slightly.

  10. Sadly, Jim Kelly from Enter the Dragon just passed away too.

  11. And the original Doink The Clown (Matt Bourne)

  12. nabroleon Dynamite

    June 30th, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Watched ‘True Romance’ last night!!

    R.I.P. Jim Kelly!!

  13. well guys, speaking of death being a mother fucker, one of my cats died, whom I’ve had since 2001 :(

    I’m really gonna miss that guy, I feel awful, a lot worse than I even expected as a matter of fact, it’s got my whole family really down

    a pet becomes such a constant in your life that it’s really hard to believe when they’re gone, I keep thinking I see him in the corner of my eye

  14. Aw man, that sucks. My cats died in 2006 and 2008 and I’m still not really over their death. I remember how bummed out I was during the first few weeks, whenever I came home and I wasn’t greeted by my fluffy fellows.

    People always say “They are just animals”, but honestly the death of a pet can hit you as bad or even worse than the death of a friend or family member. Sorry to hear about your loss.

  15. That really sucks. Farina was a big part of Team Michael Mann — great in Crime Story, great in HBO’s Luck, and got cast in a bunch of other Mann-related joints.

    He was a manly man who embraced not being a pretty boy. In fact, today he died at age 69 but he’s looked like he was about 69 grizzled years old for the last 30 years.

    If you ever get a chance to see at least the pilot episode of Crime Story (directed by Abel Ferrara!), you’ll be rewarded with some real badassery.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=nQS16P2m2Lc#t=292s

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>