Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sports: Victory, Thy Taste Is Sweet

Step right up and greet your 2006 National League East champions. The New York Mets become the first team to clinch a spot in the post-season. Thus cementing the Amazins’ status as the second greatest product of Flushing, New York, after Rosemarie but far outpacing Ron Jeremy.

Movie: Round Midnight (1986)

I first saw Bertrand Tavernier’s movie years ago, when I decided that I was going to be the kind of guy who was into foreign films and jazz. (Just call me Hef Junior.) At the time I didn’t know much about either, and that no doubt affected how I responded to the movie. I liked it but wasn’t sure why, as if I’d heard the notes but not the music.

After a summer in which I spent considerable time on a stool in Seattle’s finest watering hole, being schooled in the nuances of rye whiskey and jazz, I wanted to revisit the movie. And discovered that I’d heard the music just fine the first time around. What was unfamiliar to me then – and what I relish now – is the concept of a “mood piece,” where feeling becomes the story.

Midnight is inspired by events in the life of Bud Powell, but also includes autobiographical elements borrowed from star Dexter Gordon. Long Tall Dexter plays an American jazz legend fallen on hard times who takes refuge in Paris. There he falls in with a devoted fan, whose attentions help restore him to glory.

There’s fantastic, wall-to-wall music, provided by Herbie Hancock, and a titanic performance by Gordon, growling out his lines and sporting a beret like only the truly cool among us can. The movie contains a generous dollop of wish fulfillment; who wouldn’t want to become friends with an artist whose work is an inspiration? It’s also a tribute to the power of appreciation, showing that an artwork in any medium isn’t complete until someone responds to it.

In 1992 Tavernier made L.627, one of the greatest policiers of the past two decades. It’s a Gallic forerunner of HBO’s The Wire, a grimly funny and heartbreaking look at a unit of French cops enforcing complex and misguided drug laws in largely immigrant neighborhoods.

Should you find yourself in the Zig Zag CafĂ©, be sure to drop my name. It won’t do much for you, but it’ll work wonders on my reputation.

Miscellaneous: Links

Two articles joined at the hip. Slate on why everyone is trying to be funny, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine on how no one takes anything seriously.