Randy History

TV: The Tudors — I call this Showtime series The Hooters for its bodice-ripping revisionist history in which Henry VIII sets up court at The Playboy Mansion for an English-accented “Masturbate Theater.” Yet I can’t … stop … watching it. And I’m not sure why. Just finished season two (love that On Demand) and the series still elicits both mild horror and an unshakable fascination in me. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays King Henry with the same five or so notes—screaming “I’m the King!” like a brat who wants his Maypo is the worst—to the point where they have gone past flat to painfully off-key, and we’re not even halfway through the tale. Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn went from charmingly cute and fetching to an almost eternal just-ate-a-lemon pursed lips look that made me cheer on the executioner to chop off her head, please, now! (I guess that does at least parallel the real story in some way.) The usually brilliant Peter O’Toole sleepwalking his way through his role as Pope Paul III still outshines much of the rest of the cast, save Jeremy Northam’s Sir Thomas More, which actually has enough dramatic chops and nuance to merit a better vehicle. But if you know a randy teenaged Sex & The City fan that you’d like to interest in history, this could be just the ticket. And since the show is only just hitting wife three as the last season ended, maybe by Katherine Parr I’ll figure out why this trash draped in faux class show that’s more guilt than pleasure keeps me watching it.

Documentary Film: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream — The notion of a three-hour-plus movie about even one of my favorite bands was daunting at first blush. But director Peter Bogdanovich has likely made, as befits the greatest disciple of Orson Welles, the Citizen Kane of rock docs, creating a standard by which all others should be measured. Due credit goes to Citizen Tom — in the truly populist and not Welles’s ironic meaning of “citizen”—Petty, who has remained the regular guy rocker even as he rubbed creative shoulders with such icons as Dylan, Beatle George and rock legend Roy Orbison while traveling outside The Heartbreakers as a Wilbury. There’s much to recommend in this flick, but for me the tale of retaining genuine integrity in the headily corrupting upper reaches of rock’n’roll stardom, remaining true to the music that inspired them in the first place, and the merits of being a genuine band, albeit one with a clear-cut leader who is far more enlightened than despot, all help explain how TP and the guys have lasted for a stunning three decades of wondrous and continual creativity (it even prompts me to revisit and reassess the initially disappointing The Last DJ album). I’ll gladly give it three hours again sometime soon because it reconnects the lifelong rock’n’roll acolyte with a music that for me remains, as the kids say, the shiznit, and Petty is truly My Dawg and well as The Bomb.

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2008

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