I once had the sheer audacity
To swear off of telling all lies.
Far too often my mendacity
Was ruined by my too honest eyes.
When asked for my honest opinion,
I would often give the reverse.
My eyes, not under my dominion,
Made my dishonesty worse.
So I decided to speak only truth,
And damn any bad consequences,
Though honesty’s sometimes uncouth,
I never had to run for the fences.
Though sometimes the truth hurts a bit,
I never incurred any wrath.
Who can hate that a man will admit
His true feelings, and defy aftermath?
I got out of doing things annoying,
I could be lazy and freely admit it.
I stopped doing what I wasn’t enjoying
If I didn’t like something, I quit it.
My new life was going quite splendidly.
Honesty was such utter bliss,
Until my loved one did ask me,
“Honey, do I look fat in this?”
“Honesty is the best policy”,
Or so I have often heard said.
But honesty was revealed as sheer idiocy,
When she beat me about my head.
Trumpeters live rough lives. That is the message I got from watching two movies about famous trumpeters today.
I went to the Sun-Ray to see MILES AHEAD, the pseudo-biopic of Miles Davis. It was co-written by, directed by, and starred Don Cheadle as Miles Davis. Cheadle also plays a lot of the trumpet parts in the movie. He does great work as Davis. He doesn’t completely disappear into the role, but he fairly embodies it. The centerpiece of the movie is a fictional “interview” gone awry with a Rolling Stone writer named Dave Brill, played by Ewan McGregor. This interview never actually took place, and there was no Dave Brill working for Rolling Stone, so this was an odd choice to make, story-wise. However, the interactions between the two actors are entertaining, which is something that a lot of biopics aren’t. If you think of the movie as not a true biopic, but a movie featuring the character of Miles Davis, that happens to include biographical elements (Sort of along the lines of last week’s ELVIS & NIXON), you may find something to like in the film. You may also discover Emayatzy Corinealdi as Frances Taylor, Miles’s ex-wife. She is beautiful and will hold your attention each moment she is onscreen. She stands toe to toe with Cheadle in their scenes together. I hope to see her in many more movies. The film shows how the celebrity lifestyle, including drugs of course, can take its toll on a marriage. If you can throw away a woman like Frances, it is understandable that you might go into a virtual exile for years, which is Miles’s status at the beginning of the movie. He hasn’t recorded in 5 years and people are pressuring him to get something on tape. There are plenty of examples of Miles’s music all throughout the film, mostly in mere snippets. We get a taste of his music while getting a picture of the man. If you enjoy rough movies about musicians, and movies that are not linear and jump around in time a bit, you may like MILES AHEAD.
My second movie about a trumpeter was BORN TO BE BLUE, which is more of a straight biopic about Chet Baker, one of the pioneers of West Coast cool jazz. I caught it on demand from Comcast. In addition to being a great jazz trumpeter, he was also a rather decent vocalist. Ethan Hawke plays Baker as the white trumpeter looking to impress Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and trying to live up to the musical influence of his idol, Charlie Parker. After playing a gig at Birdland in 1954, Miles tells Baker to come back after he’s lived some, meaning that Miles thinks Chet is a little green. Then the movie movies forward to 1966, after Baker has done a little more living and then gets viciously beaten by drug dealers, who knock out his teeth, making it extremely difficult to play trumpet. Baker loved his heroin, you see, much like Miles Davis loved his coke. Baker recuperates under the loving care of Jane. a beautiful, light-skinned actress played by Carmen Ejogo (she played Coretta Scott-King in SELMA). Baker dated multiple black women in the 50s and 60s, but this was not touched on as being all that scandalous in the film, which somewhat surprised me. This movie was more linear in its storytelling, with the occasional odd flashback to a scrapped biopic that Chet Baker was making prior to his attack. The standouts are Hawke, who does really good work in this; Ejogo, who is luminous; and the music of Chet Baker. Hawke does his own singing and gets the feeling of Baker’s vocals down. I’m not sure if he plays the trumpet parts, but they are mournful and sad.
So, both movies demonstrate how rough life can be for a famous trumpeter. The music, and all the fame and money that comes with it, are apparently not enough.
If it weren’t for the unrequited kind,
I would have had no love at all.
It’s always for the unobtainable,
Or for someone else’s girl I fall.
I can see them in my daydreams;
A parade of them passing by.
A most beautiful procession,
With none looking me in the eye.
They’re not to blame for their lack of interest.
They had no reasons to look at me.
I’ve never had much charm or looks,
And my diffidence is nothing to see.
So I’ll go on loving unrequited.
I’ll go on with love unreturned.
The one positive thing to be said is,
I’m never loved, therefore never burned.
His hands were shaking.
His heart was pounding.
His sense of fear was all-surrounding.
She looked at him,
And his pulse just raced,
Not a sign of a backbone could even be traced.
He wanted to speak,
But he just couldn’t.
With the thoughts on his mind he probably shouldn’t.
To rescue himself
From the pain of “No”,
He’d subject himself to constant woe.
It was his own fault
That he couldn’t speak.
“It’s all in your head” was his constant critique.
He decided to do
The unspeakable act:
He’d talk to her, and hope she’d talk back.
He did however,
Have a condition;
He must be alone with his soul’s ambition.
“No one must see”,
He thought like a fool.
He worried rejection from her might be cruel.
He waited until
No one was around.
He crept up to her, making nary a sound.
She smiled at him.
He soared like a jet.
Her smile was as beautiful as beautiful can get.
He just walked away,
Firm in his belief,
“It’s all in your head. You cause your own grief.”
Will he try again?
Maybe. Not sure.
But first, for his cowardice, he must find a cure.
I don’t often remember my dreams, but sometimes, when I get several hours of sleep, I remember an occasional one. Last night was one of those occasions.
In this dream I was going to a party, though I don’t know for whom or for what the party was being thrown. I walked around the right corner of a small house, down a garden path, to an open backyard, where I found a very large gathering of people over a wide expanse overlooking a river. This was one huge backyard! Or was it? I turned to my left to see a series of long lines, each dozens of people deep. They were lined up to buy drinks, I thought. It was a party, after all. I continued walking forward to get closer to the riverbank.
Then I realized that these people were not lined up to buy drinks at all. They were lined up for tickets…train tickets. Each line was at a different ticket window, and each ticket was not for a destination, but for a date, or for an event. The first ticket window’s sign read “Today March 7th”, the next ticket window’s sign read “Easter”, and so on and so on, one right after the other; each sign a different date or event.
I began walking past all of these long lines of people, still dozens deep each, to see how many dates or events were covered, until I saw the beautiful face of a woman I recognized. I went up to her, touched her on the arm and said “Hello”. She didn’t feel me touch her arm, nor did she hear me say “Hello”, but instead began talking to a man whose face was familiar, but I couldn’t place. I continued on.
I then came to a ticket window that, unlike all of the rest, had no one in line. There was a line of people at the window to the left, and a line of people at the window to the right, but there was no one at this particular ticket window. The sign above it read “Rob’s birthday”.
All of a sudden, this bizarre train station was completely deserted, except for me. I stood there alone, with only pieces of paper blowing in the wind as company. Then I woke up.