Sunday, March 22, 2009

The relativity of genius

For the record, the genius of the concluding episode of The Sopranos wasn't the final, unexpected cut to black. That was merely clever. No. The genius of the thing was the sequence with Meadow, running late--Tony, Carm and Anthony Junior already in the diner--trying to parallel park her car and get across the street. Now that was excruciating. DePalma-esque. Hitchcockian. Coppolish. I remember thinking Crikeys, they're not gonna waste little Meadow, are they? Genius.

That said, really, genius ain't what it used to be. People call me a genius all the time--an event that makes me frequently squirm but mostly just makes me reflect on how the term has experienced a bit of deflation. Or inflation--whichever means that it ain't what it used to be.

Me? I prefer the term idiot savant. Calling me a genius is like calling a shrimp jumbo. C'mon.

That said, I wonder how Frankie Coppola takes it when people call him a genius. I just finished watching both Godfathers (1 and 2) and I am here to tell you he is. A genius, that is. An unremitting fucking genius. Relentless. Like that Marshall Mathers song that he won the Oscar for.

Have you ever seen Casablanca? It's a movie. Anyway, one of the amazing things about it is that there doesn't seem to be a wasted minute in the 90 or 100-so that comprise the film. I was sitting there watching those Godfather movies thinking that, given the five or six-hours of combined running time, there was barely a hint of fat on the bones.

Which, oppositionally--if that's even a word--leads us to David Chase and The Sopranos. Not so much the genius part--there were numerous moments of genius in The Sopranos (like Drea De Matteo's projectile vomiting in the FBI office, or Uncle Junior saying "I got the Feds so far up my ass I can taste Brylcreem", Christopher telling Furio (maybe) that, after carving a dead guy up at Satriale's, he wasn't going to be ordering any sausage from them anytime soon, and Meadow's closing scene). But, push comes to shove, there was a lot of fat on those bones.

I never thought the level of excellence for which The Sopranos was touted justified the extended production schedule. I thought it was, instead, an act of selfish indulgence. I mean, you could argue that Battlestar Galactica was a vastly superior product than The Sopranos on a number of levels, and they churned the seasons out at about two times the speed with about half the sense of self-importance. And they were full of special effects!

How many Sopranos scenes do you think James Gandolfini shot against a green screen?

Likewise, while we're carping, the abandonment of Catholicism in The Sopranos thinnned it a bit. Once Carmela decided not to make out with Father Tim (or whatever his name was), they pretty much left the religion for others.

Whereas Coppola? Oy gevalt, do you know what Fredo's last words were, sitting in that little boat on the lake?

Before watching the video, write your answer here: ____________________

It's the Hail Mary, if you're not familar. I rest my case.

I love this one. I wonder if people are going to be looking at my religious paintings in 2276 (which is the same number of years into the future as we have to look backwards to find the Madonna by Pompeo Batoni pictured above).

All of which brings me to this afternoon. With a few things pressing on the back of my mind I arrived at church early. I sit about fifteen rows back on the inside of the right aisle. I'm listening to Missa Solemnis, Beethoven's sublime Mass in D Major. It, along with with Bach's Mass in B Minor, is thought to be the most significant mass in the popular canon. Whatever that means.

Anyway, so I'm sitting there, having arrived early, listening to The Big B on the headphones, reflecting on what I'd said to my friend Shannon earlier that same day. "Shannon," I said (approximately), "the cool thing about Mass at St. Xavier's is that the choir is full of frustrated Broadway singers."

So the Mass starts and I, of course, take off the Beethoven and start listen to the general goings on. The Cantor is the cutest little button this side of that girl from Wicked. 'Cept when she opens her mouth and starts to sing I get the feeling like, if I close my eyes, it's the Little Mermaid singing. Or Belle from Beauty and the Beast. One of those Disney sopranos.

Agnus Dei, I say to myself. Or Madre Dei--whichever is the one you don't eat with haricot verts. Which, parenthetically, always makes me think of that Bob Dylan song about her sister Peggy. First Disney takes over 42nd Street. Then they grab hold of Catholicism.

Me? I liked it better when it was all in Latin. Now that was genius.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Genius??? If you're a genius, I'm the queen of England.

10:24 AM  

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