The Pitt of Despair

Published on February 7th, 2012

Alex writes about a number of topics, including Brad Pitt and the Super Bowl.

I’m sick of this Brad Pitt character people keep talking about. Yes, I recognize that he is a generally good-looking gentleman, even though all of those years of smoking are kind of starting to show in his skin. He tends to have good taste in picking movie roles, and I’m confident that if he and I were to exchange lists of our favourite films, there would be at least some thematic overlapping. But I’m tired of him. I’m tired of the façade that he does good work in good movies, when that statement is only half-true. He does work in good movies, but he doesn’t do good work in them too much anymore.

Moneyball is the latest good movie that Brad Pitt tries his best to ruin by constantly eating loudly, smacking his hands together at ridiculous times, and throwing what seems like a ridiculous amount of furniture (if they’re trying to pinch pennies by making players pay for Pepsi, shouldn’t Billy Beane be more cautious about all the Oakland As property he’s destroying?). It’s a really entertaining movie, but almost every small choice Pitt makes with his performance is ridiculous. Nobody would ever spit that gross juice from chewing tobacco out through their fingers, and nobody would do a fucking Popeye the sailor dance for no fucking reason after a meeting with his team’s manager. These things don’t make him seem like a good actor; they make him seem like he’s far worse than he actually is.

Pitt is a capable actor in the right type of movie. He’s great when he’s allowed to go over-the-top, as shown in Burn After Reading, Snatch, and Fight Club. He’s also great in more serious movies when he’s not the lead in the movie; he’s pretty good in The Tree of Life, probably because he realizes that the kids and the cinematography are the real stars of that film. But when a good movie relies on his performance to reach its full potential, like Moneyball, or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, his performances get as awkward as those last two titles. At those points, he is aware that he is adding something into the Iconography of Pitt; these are the roles that will be mentioned first in any discussion of his career, because the movie revolved around him. Which leads to some unfortunate things.

Our boy Brad is in love with his image. The reason he looks so much like Robert Redford in Moneyball has to be at least partially intentional, as was his choice to costar in Spy Game, a shitty 2001 movie where Pitt’s character is mentored by Redford (HOW META!). Pitt wants this type of image; he wants to be remembered playing Billy Beane like Redford is remembered for playing Bob Woodward. But in attempting to do this, Pitt becomes everything that I hate about people; he is constantly conscious of his image, and this makes him a douchebag. Pitt is the guy at the backyard party who throws a bottle 10 feet in the air for no reason other than to punctuate his sentence. Or he’s the guy who awkwardly molests his own face with his hand for no reason, or he’s the guy that snaps and points at somebody in a totally unnatural (and dickish) way when he is looking for an answer to his query. Basically, he’s the guy who is so influenced by Hollywood cool guys that he is actively trying to act like one.

Of course, the worst part of this is that Pitt doesn’t need to do any of these things. He’s one of the biggest stars in the world, despite the fact that his only huge box office hits are ensemble movies. He’s a cool person, and almost everybody not named Jennifer Aniston agrees with this. Hell, even I do, and I kind of hate him. I wish he would accept the truth, though: he is cool. I just want him to stop trying so damn hard at it.

The Boss is a Boss

There has never been, and never will be, a more exciting sight than sitting down on a streetcar at 2:30am and seeing a drunk, middle-aged person sitting by themselves. Now, I’m not saying that the idea of a lonely, drunk, middle-aged man on a streetcar fills me with joy, but something about them makes me happy. Primarily because those guys don’t give a fuck.

I don’t know what it is about these guys, but they will talk to anybody: male or female, conscious or not. It’s a bit of an extension of people generally being more jovial when they’re wasted, but these middle-aged men and women don’t seem to be constrained by our occasionally odd societal norms. Do you have a burning desire to tell the 25 year old drinking a Slurpee behind you about how boss Grand Funk Railroad is? Go for it. You want to talk about the period in history when you thought Bruce Springsteen really meant something? Now’s the time! These people remember a world where The Godfather was in theatres, and tonight they’re more than happy to tell you about it, whether you care or not.

I suppose my fascination with these people is mostly inspirational. I enjoy how little they care; Eminem talks the ‘not giving a fuck’ walk, but Gordon from Markham drunkenly stumbles that walk right into my face. And despite normally hating having to talk to strangers, these people are extremely interesting.

I always imagine middle-aged people as having so much to do with their lives: I can’t picture a 45 year old version of myself stumbling home at 3am and passing out while watching a Michael Bay movie after explaining to somebody half my age how excited I am to do just that. I assume by that point I will have some sort of lawn to mow in the morning, and have fallen asleep ten minutes into the second period of the west coast Hockey Night in Canada matchup. And most of the people I do see are like this: they have their lawn, and they often fall asleep before Jarome Iginla notches a point. But tonight they’re not thinking about those things. Tonight is the night into which they have to inject all of their remaining youthful enthusiasm. They don’t go out every week anymore, and they wouldn’t want to if they had the chance. So now, when they do have something that pulls them into a more stereotypical, partying kind of night, they want it to be great.

It seems like every time I go out, I see somebody crying. Since I’m both an expert eavesdropper and a total dick, I generally try to figure out what’s going on. Often it seems like the person with water streaming out of their face has been insulted by a potential romantic partner in some way, or they simply haven’t seen their night through in the way they wish they had. And it would be false to say there aren’t countless other people who feel the same way about their evening, minus the tears. They should have kissed that person they didn’t know who walked up to them and said, “Will you kiss me goodnight?” They shouldn’t have done that extra shot. Or they should have just done that shot before that unknown person asked the question.

When an old guy starts to talk to me about the merits of The Boss, I don’t see a sad old-ish drunk guy. I see a guy who knows what his life is about, and how he refuses to let anything stand in the way of enjoying his night. He’ll be hung over and watching the Bills game next to a bucket and some Aspirin tomorrow, but tonight is his night. Tonight he is in control. And I can’t wait to be comfortable enough to finally stop caring like this guy. After all, the kids need to know what Wu Tang Clan really meant to 1990s hip-hop, and we need somebody to spread that gospel.

Tip Your Cashiers

Sometimes you meet somebody who is extremely interesting, and you only meet them once. You might only meet them at a barbeque and have an interesting conversation about the soap opera Passions, or you might meet them a couple times through a friend. Or you might meet them for less than a minute and they blow your fucking mind.

Last summer I was with a friend, buying a pack of Nibs from a grocery store outside of my neighbourhood. When the cashier asked me how I was doing, I said that I was well, as I always respond to questions in the way my Grade 10 English teacher taught me to. To this, the cashier responded with a common joking response, saying, “Oh, you’re well?”

“Yeah, I get asked that question so often that I figured it was time to start answering it in a grammatically correct fashion.”

“Well actually, language is adaptive, so maybe you should be saying that you’re good instead.”

“Wait, what?” I understood what she was saying, but I was exasperated from all the obvious truthiness she was dropping on me at one time.

“Language changes with time as people change, so maybe we should reconsider whether or not the answer ‘I am well’ is grammatically correct. I mean, nobody talks like they’re in the Great Gatsby anymore, do they old sport? That will be $3.49.”

“Holy shit.” I paid her.

“Have a good night.”

As I was literally pulled away from the checkout by my friend, I immediately began telling said friend how interesting the cashier’s point was. My friend was not amused, but that could just be because she isn’t interested in talking to strangers who aren’t really, really good looking. We walked away, although there was somebody behind us in line, so it’s not like there was going to be a fully fleshed out conversation happening or anything.

I doubt I’ll forget that conversation any time soon. Since I was working overnights that summer, the lack of sleep hugely affected my memory, and that this memory has lasted a year is already amazing. I hate tipping bad servers at a restaurant simply because it’s custom, but I do so. However, I would love the option to take all of the money I ever gave those shitty servers and give it to this cashier. Society will continue to tell us what to do, but I would rather listen to the actual people in it who have interesting things to say. I’m well when I respond to social norms, but I would be much happier if I was good.

Dammit, Wes!

Most of my friends hate sports, and the ones that don’t are into them because we once lived together and my love of sports Bogarts the television for ten months of each year. That doesn’t matter on the first Sunday of February, though. That is truly a day of days. It’s the only day of the year where I know I’ll be able to talk about the only subject I really want to talk about, and the one day when nobody thinks my more American tendencies are ridiculous*. The Super Bowl truly is a North American sporting event unlike any other, if only because it’s the only one we all watch.

*I’m basically just a polite American. The only things I think about on any given day are basketball, football, and Michael Bay movies, I don’t like maple syrup, I’ve consumed more 7-11 Slurpees and hot dogs than you’ll ever see in your life, I often yell at televisions while sober, I never watch hockey on those televisions at which I yell, and I gorge myself on chicken wings every week as a part of my self-imposed Meat Sweat Mondays challenge.

The thing I find most interesting about my relationship to sports is that I care far less about specific players and teams than I used to, likely due to the fact that watching 82 games a year of the Rafael Araujo-era Toronto Raptors will crush anybody’s ability to dedicate themselves to a team. I still feel emotion watching a big game, but now I mostly feel for the people playing the game, as opposed to getting so angry that I want to punch my roommate because Morris Peterson clanked a game-tying three. If I don’t hate anybody involved in any given professional sports match-up, I just tend to end up feeling kind of shitty. I don’t care about the Baltimore Ravens, but I felt bad for Billy Cundiff, a man who has to deal with people hating him because of Lee Evans’ inability to hold onto a touchdown. Similarly, the San Francisco 49ers mean little to me, but I feel infinitely bad for Kyle Williams, returning punts because Ted Ginn Jr. couldn’t. In both conference championship games this year, the team I was rooting for won, but I still couldn’t help but feel horrible for the losers, and a comparable feeling happened on Sunday. Despite enjoying each player similarly, I’m going to remember Wes Welker’s drop in the Super Bowl more than I’ll remember Eli Manning’s perfect pass to Mario Manningham. I doubt Manning will spend much time thinking about that pass, but I know Welker will think about his drop every day for the next decade. Success feels great for a little while, but failure crushes you forever.

I don’t totally understand why some of my friends will only watch one game of any sport in a given year, although I would imagine the reasoning is similar to why I decided I should see Twilight. We might not be interested, but there’s something going on there that we want to understand. We want to know why sparkly vampires, or Welker’s drop of a poorly thrown Tom Brady pass, is such a big deal to so many people, even if we never really understand why. But what we see in the Super Bowl is everything that is good about sport. It brings people together, it gives us something to collectively experience, and it allows us to witness the happiest and saddest moments of people’s lives, if they’re players or die-hard fans. It’s how Friday Night Lights managed to be a great television show based around football without ever really being about football itself. It’s not so much the game, but what the game means to the people who are attached to it. Despite not sharing similar opinions, we share the fried chicken, and we’re all watching the same thing. We see Manning’s goofy smile, but we also have to see Welker looking like he’s about to die from heartbreak. The people we want to win do so sometimes, but as with all in life, that rarely happens. When it does, it’s nice, but when it doesn’t, it’s still alright. It’s just good to know that there is something that everybody I know can take one day to acknowledge something as ‘interesting,’ if never really essential to one’s existence.

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