' ' Cinema Romantico: O.J Simpson & Besame Mucho

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

O.J Simpson & Besame Mucho

Recently I caught "June 17, 1994", one of ESPN's most recent entries its for-the-most-part well done "30 for 30" documentary series in which they chronicle famous sports-related subjects of the past, such as Wayne Gretzky's humongous trade to the L.A. Kings, Reggie Miller and Spike Lee's courtside catfight and a re-visiting of The U (the Miami Hurricanes' once ultra-successful, ultra-controversial college football dynasty). "June 17, 1994", directed by Brett Morgen, is a fantastic re-telling of that single day strictly through television images, without the use of voiceover or talking head interviews, as numerous events in the sports world somehow converge into a 24 hour period. Arnold Palmer's final round at the U.S. Open. The New York Rangers, having just won the Stanley Cup, parading through ticker tape in Manhattan. The World Cup kicking off on American soil. Game 5 of the NBA Finals. A decidedly really-doesn't-look-like-he's-taking-steroids Ken Griffey Jr. becoming the first person since Babe Ruth to hit 30 home runs by June 30th. And, oh yes, O.J. Simpson, in the wake of his wife's murder, turning fugitive before finding himself in a slow motion chase down an L.A. freeway.

Originally I typed up a post about how this event was a pre-cursor to Princess Diana's awful death and how it foreshadowed the coming doom of Reality TV and how the whole event (which I never saw at the time because I was at work, thank God) just makes me want to weep for America but, you know, that was all depressing. Instead my thoughts drifted elsewhere....

"The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear." I liked it better than it's predecessor. It's not better than the original, per se, because really they're the same movie, it's just that from a personal standpoint there were little moments I personally preferred more. ("We couldn't have picked a better day. This fog will keep us concealed." - "That's not fog, Frank, the number two engine's on fire.") Of course, when one's mind drifts to "The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear" it therefore must also drift to the fact O.J. Simpson is in the cast as the oft-beleagured Nordberg, the sidekick to Leslie Nielson's immaculately deadpan Lt. Frank Drebin. Nordberg spends the majority of his time in the films getting bruised and battered. He gets shot who-knows-how-many-times and is sent hurtling down an enbankment at a baseball stadium before flipping into the air and is dragged via bus all the way to Detroit. (Clearly there is some retrospect subtext here but I'll stay away from it.)

My favorite sequence of the trilogy occurs in the third act of the second film. To set the stage: one Dr. Albert S. Meinheimer - paralyzed and in a wheel chair - is set to give a speech urging President George Bush for a national policy of clean renewable energy sources. Ah, except villainous oil magnate Quentin Hapsburg (played with just the right amount of straight smarm by Robert Goulet) has kidnapped Dr. Meinheimer and set it up so an impostor Dr. Meinheimer will give a speech re-advocating dependency on foreign oil. Drebin and his cohorts have, of course, sniffed out this scheme but Drebin's repeated misguided attempts to bring Hapsburg to justice have resulted and him and his cohorts being barred from the hotel where the imposter Dr. Meinheimer will be speaking. Luckily, Drebin's ex-wife Jane (Priscilla Presley), currently Hapsburg's beau, believes her ex and is set to let them into the hotel....until Hapsburg tracks her down and locks out Drebin. So, needing a way in and a quartet of mariachi men conveniently strolling by, Drebin, Capt. Ed Hocken, the real Dr. Meinheimer, and Nordberg assume the guise of this mariachi band and sneak into the hotel where they find themselves sneaking along the stage just as the curtain is raised to introduce the President. And so it begins.

Refusing to panic, Frank Drebin steps forward and strums his guitar. Then the rest - Ed on guitar as well and Meinheimer and Nordberg on the trumpets - launch into a stirring rendition of "Besame Mucho" with Frank taking lead vocals and the rest adding shouts of "Hey!" ("I think we'd better make our move." - "You're right. I'm thinking something more up tempo, like 'Guantanamera.'") This is where it gets really interesting.

Consider, if you will, the situation. To execute their diabolical scheme Hapsburg and his fellow conspirators merely need to keep four men out of the hotel. The four men are Drebin, Ed, the real Dr. Meinheimer, and Nordberg. Or, to say it another way, two older men, a man in a wheelchair, and a guy that kinda looks like O.J. Simpson. Now this mariachi band has, for reasons unknown to anyone, taken the stage. This mariachi band comprised of....two older men, a man in a wheelchair and a guy that kinda looks like O.J. Simpson.

What's even better is the look on Hapsburg's face clearly indicates this mariachi band was not on the agenda and so he can't quite figure out why they're playing yet, at the same time, he is also unable to deduce that, in fact, this quartet is made up of two older men, a man in a wheelchair and a guy that kinda looks like O.J. Simpson. Meanwhile Jane, seated to his right, does realize, though it takes her fifty seconds - fifty! - that this is Frank and his cohorts, goes to cover her mouth in shock but, afraid Hapsburg will pick up on it, glances at him as she lowers her hand. And still Hapsburg is clueless.

Now I know what you're thinking. "Uh, Nick, what movie do you think you're watching here? This is 'The Naked Gun 2 1/2'. Of course, he's not going to figure out who they are." And I know. I understand. I'm the most anti real world movie fan there is. If someone is whining about how Leo didn't get on the board with Kate at the end of "Titanic" and I have access to a mallet then in all likelihood that someone is getting hit with the mallet. But the more I think about this scene from the real world perspective, the more it makes me laugh. It's absolutely hilarious! HOW CAN NO ONE KNOW WHO THEY ARE???!!! This scene works best when considered with a completely straight face.

But is it that precise necessity to look at this sequence that I love so much from a real world perspective that ruins it in the end? Lindsay Lohan has become an alcohol-monitor-on-her-ankle wild child but does her presence in "Prairie Home Companion", my favorite film of 2006, ruin it? I fervently adore "Gattaca" but does the eventual terribly bad breakup between Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman (the film's stars) ruin it? Lawrence Phillips went on to assault two women and run over some kids with his car and is currently serving time in jail but does his presence in my beloved Nebraska Cornhukers' 1995 Orange Bowl win ruin it?

I honestly don't think so. I watch that clip of the Drebin-infused "Besame Mucho" now and I laugh. Then again, as O.J. steps forward to belt out those last notes on trumpet, I still can't help but think, "Why couldn't this have been a different football player?"


Wretched Genius said...

"Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes."

Nick Prigge said...

"Well, well, it looks like the cows have come home to roost."