For any of you morbid types out there, maybe there's a chance that you've read a book by Chuck Klosterman called Killing Yourself to Live. It's basically an autobiographical road-trip manifesto, with the author traveling cross-country to various sites where famous musicians perished. To mention a few, we visit the site where Buddy Holly's plane crashed, the Skynard swamp, and the remains of the club that hosted a Great White fire, killing ninety people. The book isn't worth reading, it mostly just serves as an excuse for Klosterman to say what's on his mind, and using a collage of musician's death as a backdrop for self-indulgent musings is pretty shitty, even for a pop-culture essayist, but somewhere in the murk there is a point, even if it is a sub-one. It can be summed up by one sentence included in the book:
This is why he stuck around?
"Remember, before Cobain died, lots of people preferred Pearl Jam to Nirvana".
For the record, I still know a lot of people who prefer Ten to Nevermind (me not being one of them, although I do prefer Vitalogy over anything in Nirvana's short, albeit brilliant, catalogue), but I know what the guy was getting at. Sometimes, dying is the best career move a band can make. Think about it, if Cobain didn't decide to off himself, how would Nirvana have succeeded with the electronica movement of the late nineties? Would we have seen a Nirvana/Prodigy collaboration (undoubtedly entitled Smack My Drum Kit Up)? Maybe they'd just disband and we'd be subjected to a horrendous, acoustic-based Cobain solo disc. Either way, there's no way to know but it certainly is tough to envision a future that actually helps cement their legacy, as opposed to cheapening it.
I'd like to take that notion, and shift it over to the film industry. It's truly a shame that certain directors, and actors just don't see the gross profits that can accompany a totally unexpected death, preferably by suicide or drug overdose, but really, I'm nitpicking here. It's just not something that's been embraced by the movie world, and that's surprising, considering it's such a capitalistic trade. There are countless examples where an actor, or a director should have sucked it up and punched their ticket to the great gig in the sky, in the name of a legacy, goddamnit! I mean Brandon Lee understood this. Before we look at three examples of potential legacies being tainted by longevity, we have to examine the three methods one can go about creating this post-humonous legacy.
There's the traditional overdose, which is always a classic. Then we have the suicide route, which will always get you those sympathy suckers chiseling inspirational mementos on your gravestone. Finally, there's the accidental route. All of these will help your struggling career, but to varying degrees, so it's important to understand where your position is prior to undertaking this fairly irreversible career decision. Killing yourself to live really isn't that hard, and lets take a look at three people who clearly don't understand why Nirvana is so popular today.
When you think of Ben Affleck, what sorts of things do you conjure up? Now I won't pretend to guess exactly what comes to mind when I mention this douchbag, but I certainly can narrow it down to two options. You either a)Recall him as the main player in one of the worst cinematic experiences of your life, ie that thug jackoff in GIGLI or b)Just basically assemble a vast collage of all of his pathetic on-screen inadequacies, kind of like that purification scene in CLOCKWORK ORANGE. The thing you have to understand though, is it didn't
have to be that way! The name Ben Affleck could symbolize The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, as detailed in 1983 by Todd Rundgren. Seriously! We could be mentioning him in the same esteemed regard as other disturbed, oh-so-misunderstood pop icons, I'm talking high company like Val Kilmer, Morrissey, and even Trent Reznor! Well maybe not Morrissey, but you get the idea.
Does this look like a man with living options?
GOOD WILL HUNTING wasn't a life-altering movie, but it certainly did allow us to perceive Ben as a pretty artistically bummed out guy, since after all, he did write the movie, a movie about pain, and filtering that pain into something positive (textbook tortured-artist shtick). That's definitely something to work with, but Ben decided to be Mr.Durable, and now we had to see him in what seems like, a never-ending stream of complete shit, which only goes to show, sometimes quitting is a great move, if you're ahead, which is what he was after that GOOD WILL HUNTING thing.
So now the question is, how should Ben have threw in the towel? Since it's obvious that he should be catering to the pained artist approach, I think he should have went with the massive drug overdose route, and I'll explain why. It's the ultimate irony, and us pop fans love irony. GOOD WILL HUNTING was a movie about persevering through adversity to become something bigger then people expect from you, something that Ben did accomplish with his debut flick, but ultimately that's what caused his untimely demise. It could have played out perfectly, with the success of his movie creating adversity that his tortured soul was just too fragile to handle, and with that comes the inevitable heroin addiction.
Naturally, the only logical next step is being found with a rusty needle shoved up his tattoo-stained arm (I choose to believe his GIGLI tattoos are real). He never does PAYCHECK, he never inspired legions of masochists to applaud his efforts in DAREDEVIL and SURVIVING CHRISTMAS. Instead he's just a guy, who couldn't come to grips with his inner chaos, ending a young life so full of artistic promise. See how easy it is to be poetically dramatic when there's a drug overdose involved?
Francis Ford Coppola
So, the bad news for us is we can't use the whole suffering performer thing, since he just doesn't have the look. The good news is, death would still have aided this man's career, we just have to approach it differently then Mr.Garner's situation. Coppola is generally not considered one of the directing elite, most don't believe he should be mentioned in the same breath as the Scorsese's, Spielberg's, and Kubrick's of the industry, but he's only a small step below. It's kind of an odd place for him to be in, I guess one could lump him in with Brian De Palma, in absence of a more appropriate example (maybe Friedkin). On a good day he could reach up and touch the bottom of Martin's flip-flops, but on a bad day those three can be seen shitting on him and everything he now represents.
It kind of sucks for me to say all this, because APOCALYPSE NOW is one of my favorite and most watched movies I've ever seen, and I know that man put his blood and tears into every frame of that flick. Not to mention those GODFATHER flicks, those aren't bad either. Now, Francis has not toiled in complete absurdity like Affleck has, but his unwillingness or inability to create anything remotely as powerful as even the smallest aspects of his seventies masterpieces has rendered him a harmless leviathan, a bumbling industry giant who does still lumber about and can throw his weight around but generally is just seen as a relic of
previous achievements. It didn't have to be like this!
There's a name missing on here.
John Lennon was killed in 1980, right after the release of APOCALYPSE NOW in 79', so Coppola really can't use ignorance as an excuse. Lennon was painted as a martyr. That assassination was so damn effective, everyone even forgot about the abortion that was the Unfinished Music anthology. Whether or not Coppola saw Mark David Chapman as a capitalist in the purest sense of the word is beside the point, he should have at least noted the rampantly increased frequency of radio airplay Lennon got following his death, I mean I'm assuming Coppola has a car.
If you look at his subsequent film-offerings, it's actually not that bad. It's not that good either. The way I look at it, I think a suicide would have been the way to go with Francis. Anybody who has seen HEART OF DARKNESS, knows the kinds of absolutely horrific hardships the entire cast had to go through during the making of APOCALYPSE NOW, with Coppola undoubtedly facing the brunt of it. If he hung himself immediately following the release of APOCALYPSE NOW, that movie would transcend the overdone war-picture drama, it's now his triumphant swan song that literally drove a man to his grave. By that point, he had already done the first two GODFATHER'S (obviously the two best ones), and if he hosted his own private necktie party, there's no way that APOCALYPSE NOW doesn't win the Best Picture Oscar. Everybody wins.
Cuba Gooding Jr.
A guy with script judgement as atrocious as Cuba really should have been more of a realist. I know he doesn't have a crystal ball, but just the mere possibility he'd agree to a future endeavor like BOAT TRIP, should have sent him running to the closest tall building. He sure picked a good one with BOYZ N' THE HOOD, and really didn't make a fool of himself until his next strong performance in JERRY MAGUIRE, but after that it's just a complete shitstorm. Cuba would never have had a legacy, even if he croaked before movies like BOAT TRIP and PEARL HARBOR, but sometimes dying can be the best form of self-preservation. He'd be respected. Maybe not celebrated as one of the most pristine actors of his generation, but he'd sure not be as reviled as he currently is.
I'm thinking reviled might be a strong word here, he doesn't warrant such a strong reaction, he's like an injured puppy who nobody has tried to nurse back to health because it's his fault he's now a cripple. So in the case of Cuba, it's all about damage-control. He needs to go, there's no question about that, especially after subsequent viewings of BOAT TRIP (are you starting to see just how much I hate that movie yet?). But how, that's truly the question. I'm gonna go with plane-crash. There's no way a suicide would paint him as anything but just that black wacko from JERRY MAGUIRE, and an overdose would just tarnish his aw-shucks-every-day-is-the-best-day-of-my-life appeal. A plane-crash would give him the victim image, and that way, he wouldn't have to star in the visual equivalent of such a tragic event, which is essentially what BOAT TRIP was. It's too late now for Cuba, he had his chance, but there's no denying that everything could have shaped up a lot better for him, if he just sucked it up and dove six feet under.
I heard this theory is called The Tupac Theory, but I'm reluctant to use that, since there were many pioneers before him that saw the business potential that can flourish with a big step towards the bitter end. Hey, if it can work with Jim Morrison, it can work with ANYBODY, and I just think it's high-time Hollywood got on board.
email this column to a friend
Comment on this Column:
|Sorry, you must be a member to add comments to columns.|
Join or Login.
Subscribe to MatchFlick Movie Reviews through RSS
|Anti-Hero: Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life|
Every other Wednesday
Raging Against the Machine: Film musings from a Canadian who can do a Rubik's cube much faster then you can.
Jeff is a columnist who lives in Saskatchewan, and if you can't pronounce that properly, he'd prefer you not read anything he writes.|
If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jeff Thiessen by clicking here.|