Monday, January 4, 2010

That's a quite a playlist, and actor.

When I started this blog, over 18 months ago now, I never really had an idea of what subjects I'd write about. Hence, that's how the word lazy got into the title for this archive. And at first, I struggled to come up with something to put into it. The more I tried, the less that got in. So when I got frustrated enough, I swallowed my pride and went to the wife and asked her what should I scribble about. She took about 10 or 20... milliseconds, before answering with a simple question in response. "What do you like?" Damnit! How does she come up with this! Honestly, I think there must be some sort of double secret, double-X chromosome, married woman by-law which states:
When asked by your lesser-half about something he clearly doesn't conceive of, or understand, always respond with the answer that is, a) straight to the point; b) obvious to everyone, but him; and c) is an answer that makes him feel like a menso.

Out of Sight Movie Poster
So, that's what I've been doing ever since. If I like it, it's in--as long as it's greater than 140 characters in length. That, and I learned to stop whatever I'm doing at the moment to write about a subject whenever synchronicity came into play. That's why actor, producer, and author Don Cheadle is pictured and the subject for this post. Jung's concept arose again when, first, blogger J.D. final post of 2009 mentioned 15 of his favorite soundtracks/scores from the past decade. And two of them, Ocean's Eleven and Swordfish, have one thing in common (besides the great music scores)--Cheadle stars in both. Next, I got into a discussion with a friend about last month's post from Mr. Peel highlighting Steven Soderbergh's The Limey in a movie review. My friend asked, "If The Limey is almost your favorite Soderbergh film, then what is?" I said, Out of Sight, for so many reasons. Its Elmore Leonard story and adaptation, the David Holmes soundtrack, cinematography, and an absolutely fantastic cast doing splendid work. None more chilling in the supporting role than Mr. Cheadle as Maurice Miller. And finally, as I was stumbling around the iTunes Music Store today, I found the man's own Celebrity Playlist from September 2008 (recreated below). So here I am again, typing away.

Cover of "The Rat Pack"Cover of The Rat Pack

I guess I'm like many that discovered this great talent of an actor with his work in film and cable TV in the mid-90's. His turn as the scary Mouse Alexander from the 1995 adaptation of Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress was nothing less than stunning (for which he was justly nominated for supporting actor by The Academy). And as good as Denzel was in the film, I found Cheadle's portrayal closer to Mosley's sadistic and trigger-happy character from that Los Angeles-based P.I. book series than Washington's turn as Easy Rawlings (he was still good, though). And from that, I recalled his small roles in Hamburger Hill and Colors from the late-80's. The HBO original movie, Rebound: The Legend of Earl "The Goat" Manigault, was another of his I couldn't help but notice. His Buck Swope, for me, was the most sympathetic character from Anderson's Boogie Nights. The man is just a human chameleon with his ability to become whatever character on whatever medium he appears on. But when he followed Out of Sight with another HBO movie, The Rat Pack, I was very much blown away. I really wondered if the guy could pull off the Sammy Davis, Jr. role. Would it be caricature or parity? Needless to say, I should have known better by this time to have doubted the man. IMO, he was easily the most believable of all of the actors taking on the rat pack parts, and he deservedly won the Global Globe for his performance (and I reckon that dance number sealed the decision).

Save DarfurImage by marrngtn (Manuel) via Flickr

Nothing this actor does surprises me anymore. I expect nothing but excellence whenever he's on the screen. Even if he's in a bad movie, like After the Sunset, he's remains at the least very good. He never looks like he's 'mailing it in'. I don't think the guy knows how to coast. Crash and Hotel Rwanda in 2004, and Talk To Me in '07... 'nuff said. And for being one of the best things in 2008 for the too little seen, Traitor, the man is already a legend by my thinking. And while I'm already looking forward to his Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes/War Machine action movie role in the upcoming Iron Man 2, I have to ask: why doesn't he have an Oscar as yet? Add to all his actor/producer work, Cheadle has done philanthropic and writing work for those in Darfur. Amazing. The man's acting repertoire can have me be inspired by or sympathizing with his character, love or hate him in a role, or be scared as hell by the guy. How the heck does he do that?!? To me he's one of kind. But, if I was forced to name a comparable, outstanding great actor, he is this generation's Robert Duvall. And when you take into account his all-embracing music tastes in his iPod's playlist, in his own words, I think I've discovered another facet of this man worth exploring [note: iTunes still carries no Beatles tracks, as yet]. What do you think?
Don Cheadle's iTunes Celebrity Playlist:
  1. Black Cow - "'On the counter, by your keys, was a book of numbers and your remedies...' Donald Fagan and Walter Becker proved you can have jazz, rock, funk and cool. Love the arrangements, the lyrics, the vibe..."
  2. Can't Hide Love - "The all time Junior High School grind jam, second only to 'Always and Forever'. Walk off the dance floor and drape your jacket over your lap. How do you pick up one EWF song? Damn you, iTunes."
  3. I Want to Spend the Night - "All love. What a pure soul. He sounds like he really means every word he's singing. That's pretty rare."
  4. Spectacular - "The name of the tune says it all. When I got pseudo-serious about my sax, before I got into Charlie Parker, I would spend hours after school transcribing this Cannonball solo to figure out what he was doing. One of my all time favorite musicians."
  5. Continuum - "A master. He created a style and sound on the bass that changed the game forever. All bass players who followed have been judge against the standard set. A one man paradigm shifter."
  6. Giant Steps - "The Heavyweight Champion playing one of my favorite solos ever recorded. Sublime, rich, passionate, complete, incomplete, jagged, raw like his un-cut soul is being piped directly form his solar-plexus."
  7. Misty Mountain Hop - "Like any of the artists I've selected, I could have picked 10 songs for this band alone. Greatest Rock Band ever? Damn close. I especially love the way Robert Plant slides all over this one: 'And baby, baby, bady, do you like it...?'"
  8. You Got It Bad Girl - "So cool, so smooth, so right. The only person that had me tongue-tied just from being in his general proximity. Always my go to 'desert island' answer. Super-naturally prolific. His music gets into my marrow."
  9. A Little Priest - "Come on, I had to put a show tune on there. But this one is twisted fun. Great lyrics, music (Stephen Sondheim) and two perfect performances."
  10. I Will Not Apologize - "This title could be the theme for my (thought I'd better include a song from this decade, though). I love this group, and this beat. Especially how Black's cadence lays behind the track. It's good to nod your head and rattle some thoughts around in there while you're doing it too."

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  1. If push came to shove, OUT OF SIGHT is my fave Soderbergh film as well for the reasons you so eloquently stated. There is such a looseness and confidence to Soderbergh's direction in this film, which I have felt is the best Elmore Leonard adaptation to date. It was also the film that George Clooney really came into his own and showed that he could carry film and he had genuine movie star charisma. Hell, J Lo is even good in it!

  2. This was a fun post, Michael! I enjoy Don Cheadle, too, but never analyzed him in quite this manner. Good stuff! :)

  3. You're so right, J.D. I'd add that it was a demarcation of sorts. There's the Clooney before Sonderbergh's Out of Sight, and there's the Clooney after it that went on to be the star he is now (along with adding more great things to his filmography). I think J Lo, too, could have gone on to so much more, but somehow... didn't. I still scratch my head on that one.

    Thanks for kind words and thoughts, J.D.

  4. You are always so kind to me, Jen. But, I really enjoy Cheadle's work. Thanks so much.

  5. Great tribute to a very cool dude indeed. Out of Sight is one of my fave films by any director, not just Soderbergh. (The book is also one of my favorites in Leonard's canon.)

    Your bemoaning his lack of an Oscar made me think about all the brilliant actors--like Julianne Moore!--who still don't have one. WTH?!

  6. He is one cool dude, alright. Plus, all the really sophisticated folk (like those commenting here) know how great Out of Sight is, PCN ;-). OoS is due for another viewing by me soon. You make a good point on how good Leonard's source book is, too. I've got its sequel, Road Dogs, as a upcoming audiobook read/listen, as well.

    And you're so right about Ms. Moore being one of those deserved and brilliant actors who still don't have a statue (and she and Don co-starred in Boogie Nights). The Academy as a penchant for ignoring truly worthy folk, then screwing another actor's performance so they can make it up to that actor for their myopia.

    Thanks very much for your comment, PCN.

  7. I'm still wondering what happened to J-Lo as well. She had the best chemistry with Clooney of any of his leading ladies.

    I haven't seen all of those movies you named, but I became a believer in Don Cheadle with Hotel Rwanda. Nothing against Foxx's turn as Ray, but Cheadle would have had my Oscar vote for his performance in Hotel Rwanda.

  8. After watching Out of Sight again last night, you're so correct, Naomi. Do they ever sizzle on screen! And, I agree very much Don Cheadle was so great in Hotel Rwanda. Foxx was great, too, in Ray (the much more showy part), but Cheadle kept up with him in the more subtle role (and that tells you a lot about how great he was in it). Thanks for your comment, Naomi.

  9. I have to agree with everyone here. First, I do think Don Cheadle is one amazing actor. I love Hotel Rwanda and couldn't believe the subtlety with which he plays not only that role, but every part he's given (at least every one I've seen).

    And about the Oscar, the Academy does have that tradition... sadly, there've been quite a few actors awarded due date, and not always for their best performance (Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger, or even Morgan Freeman), and the same with the directors (Martin Scorsese). But I think we could never make everybody happy, could we?

  10. Good point, Poncho. If the Academy suddenly stopped now, there would be those never rewarded because the make-ups ceased. And now that we've been talking about it in his performance, I need to schedule Hotel Rwanda again. Thanks, Poncho, for your comment and insight.

  11. Top post. Cheadle is a bit spiffy, eh? Out Of sight is a joy.

  12. Cheadle is that, Paul. His next film, Brooklyn's Finest, looks pretty good. Seen the trailer? Thanks for stopping by, my friend, and leaving a comment.