Tag Archives: The Right Stuff

Movie Wisdom – Levon Helm Edition

7 Apr

Last night, I was flipping through the channels and stopped on a movie called In the Electric Mist. Tommy Lee Jones plays a Louisiana detective who is trying to catch a serial killer. Along the way, he runs into some great actors.

John Goodman

Mary Steenburgen

Ned Beatty

It was surprising to see such performers in what I would consider a B Movie. I kept thinking that it was an excuse for a bunch of friends to get together and have fun in New Orleans.

It was also surprising to see a couple of famous musicians in the movie. Namely, Buddy Guy and Levon Helm, who played a ghostly character.

As I watched the movie, I thought about a post that I wrote about Levon Helm. It would be great if you read it. That post is about his music, but it is also about his movies. In the Electric Mist was the last one in which he appeared.

It has been a long time since I wrote a Movie Wisdom post. Now, it is a good time to discover the words of wisdom that can be found in the movies of Levon Helm.Levon Helm

From Coal Miner’s Daughter

I thought “horny” meant cuttin’ up and acting silly!

What we got to do next is figure out what to do next.

From The Right Stuff

No bucks, no Buck Rodgers.

From Shooter

Sometimes to catch a wolf you need to tie the bait to a tree.

From In the Electric Mist

Venal and evil men are destroying the world you were born in.

Don’t compromise your principles or abandon your cause.

There’s two ways of looking at the idea of understanding. One is if you don’t look you never will see. And the other is, if you look a little less you’ll understand a hell of a lot more.

A Blue Jay don’t sit on a Mocking Bird’s nest. The Mocking Bird will whoop the Blue Jay’s ass every time.

BBC, Movies and Me

22 Jul

There are a ton of lists about the greatest things that ever were. Books. TV shows. Cars. It goes on and on. Recently, BBC added to the list of lists by announcing the 100 greatest American movies of all time. According to the article, film critics from around the world provided their opinions.BBC

To create this post, I decided to list the movies I have seen and include my favorite line from each one.

97. Gone With the Wind – Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn96. The Dark Knight

91. ET: The Extraterrestrial – I just hope we don’t wake up on Mars or something surrounded by millions of little squashy guys.

90. Apocalypse Now – Charlie don’t surf!

84. Deliverance – Sometimes you have to lose yourself ‘fore you can find anything.

82. Raiders of the Lost Ark – Bad dates.

78. Schindler’s List – There will be generations because of what you did.

76. The Empire Strikes Back – Never tell me the odds.

75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Einstein was probably one of them.

74. Forrest Gump – Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.

73. Network – I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

66. Red River – Well, I don’t like to see things goin’ good or bad. I like ’em in between.

65. The Right Stuff – Hey, Ridley, ya got any Beeman’s?

61. Eyes Wide Shut – Life goes on. It always does, until it doesn’t.

56. Back to the Future – I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.

55. The Graduate – Plastics.

52. The Wild Bunch – We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.

46. It’s a Wonderful Life – Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people.

45. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance.

42. Dr. Strangelove – Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.

41. Rio Bravo – If I ever saw a man holdin’ a bull by the tail, you’re it.

38. Jaws – Well it proves one thing, Mr. Hooper. It proves that you wealthy college boys don’t have the education enough to admit when you’re wrong.

36. Star Wars – Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

34. The Wizard of Oz – That’s a horse of a different color!

28. Pulp Fiction – There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”

21. Mulholland Drive – I got the pool, she got the pool-man.

20. Goodfellas – Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.

16. McCabe and Mrs. Miller – I got poetry in me!

14. Nashville – Who do you think is running Congress? Farmers? Engineers? Teachers? Businessmen? No, my friends. Congress is run by lawyers. A lawyer is trained for two things and two things only. To clarify – that’s one. And to confuse – that’s the other.

13. North by Northwest – In the world of advertising, there’s no such thing as a lie. There’s only expedient exaggeration.

10. The Godfather Part II – If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.

9. Casablanca – Everybody comes to Rick’s.

5. The Searchers – That’ll be the day.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey – It can only be attributable to human error.

2. The Godfather – Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

1. Citizen Kane – Those are the only terms anybody ever knows – his own.

That makes 35 out of 100. Looks like I need to watch a few more.

Levon Helm

29 Sep

The latest edition of American Songwriter has a great story about the late Levon Helm, which made me purchase my first ever copy.

Like a lot of other people, I read about Helm’s passing earlier this year, and, for some reason, it struck me enough to read more about who he was. As it turns out, I knew all about him before I knew about him. Doesn’t make sense? Then, I’ll put it this way. I had been enjoying the talents of Levon Helm all of my life and never realized it.

To me, the most entertaining songs are the ones that tell a story and allow me to direct a scene in my mind. Two songs that attracted my attention as a kid were performed by The Band and, unknown to me at the time, sung by Helm. One was “The Weight“, with lyrics that took me into a world that was just a little different from the real one. My favorite part went:

I picked up my bag and I went lookin’ for a place to hide

When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side

And I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on, would you go downtown”

And she said, “Well, I gotta go but my friend can stick around”

The entire song is great, but that line always stuck with me. The Band also performed “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“, a song about the destruction caused by the Civil War. Maybe, it’s because I live in the South. Maybe, it’s because I am a historian. But, I agree with the magazine article that this song should be played for every class about the Civil War. It is a haunting song with lines like:

Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me

“Virgil, quick, come see, there go the Robert E. Lee”

Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good

Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest

But they should never have taken the very best.

As I read about Helm’s career, I realized that there was one thing I needed to do to honor him. I had to see The Last Waltz, the movie about the last concert of The Band that is considered to be the greatest concert film ever made. Luckily, the Belcourt, Nashville’s historic theater, was going to give me the opportunity. As the movie played, I realized a couple of things. Helm was the soul of The Band, and Robbie Robertson thought he was the soul of The Band. The movie focused on Robertson and missed the real story. No wonder the two men never got along after its filming.

But, here’s the thing. I had seen Helm in movies before and never realized it. I have seen The Right Stuff numerous times and never realized that he narrated the movie and played Jack Ridley, the best friend of Chuck Yeager.

He also play Mr. Rate in Shooter, a movie where Mark Wahlberg is framed for the assassination of the president. I know that it sounds dumb on the surface. However, I promise that it is good, Helm plays in the most memorable scene.

As I wrote, I knew Levon Helm before I really knew him. He sang some of my favorite songs, and he acted in some of my favorite movies. It was only after his death that I realized that he was more than a singer and an actor. He was the foundation of one of the greatest bands ever assembled. His talent altered music. In short, he was Levon.