There is a video store near where I live that is called Tom’s Video. It is an old video store and not many people are ever in there. They have dollar rentals that you can keep for a week. If you want something new it’s two bucks to keep it for two days. I’m not entirely sure how they’re still in business. I don’t know Tom. I’ve never seen him. He might not exist anymore.
The first time I went to Tom’s was right after I moved into the apartment I currently live in. I had a Sunday to do nothing so I thought I’d go explore. Tom’s looks like it was really popping off in the early 2000’s when people would come in and fight over who got to rent Big Daddy first. But then a Netflixed dust bomb came sometime around 2008 and coated the whole store in bygone sadness.
I walked up and down the aisles and did that thing you used to do in video stores where you see something you might want to get so you grab it and hold onto it while you walk around the store and look for something you might like better. But then I went and saw that they had Mud. I had heard people talk about the movie but had yet to see it. I returned the maybes to their rightful places back on the shelf, rented Mud, walked back to my apartment, and I swear we’re going to get to basketball soon.
Mud is the best movie I saw all last year and it’s not really close. Few movies have captured country folks quite like Mud did. It’s a beautiful, tiny, sincere movie. At times it feels like a fairy tale. Kids hang out in parking lots and ride around in the backs of trucks and talk to each other like kids that grew up in Arkansas would talk to other kids that grew up in Arkansas. There’s also a character named Neckbone and that’s just a fantastic name for anyone.
It’s a movie where characters say things like “What do you say, boys?” and pretty blonde girls have tattoos of nightingales on their hands. McConaughey won an Oscar for his work in Dallas Buyers Club, but his best performance of the year was his turn as Mud.
This isn’t some caricature of a southern man like you see some people play when they got to get country. It’s not O Brother, Where Art Thou?. He’s not a cartoon. He’s a real person and he’s mesmerizing. It’s one of my favorite performances ever.
But Russell Westbrook’s recent performance in the new Subway Flatizza commercial blows any of McConaughey’s away. Other acting performances are left bloody and charred on the side of the theatrical road after Westbrook gets done saying “Fla-Whatza?”
Crispy, crunchy, crazy delicious? Yea, so are your acting chops, my man. The commitment to character in this commercial is remarkable. What a brave choice to be holding a basketball, Westbrook refusing to give his characters anything less than three dimensions. He goes deep, deep inside, losing himself in the role.
“Bring on the flavor,” he says. How could we possibly fit any more flavor in? The screen is already full of it. What courage he exudes. What vulnerability. That laugh, a laugh that is all our laughs. A laugh of recognition and self confidence that says I know who I am and yes, as a matter of fact I do think fun is an okay thing to have.
“Are you fla-teasing me?” you ask in unison with Russell. I am not. I’m not fla-joking. I am as fla-serious as a fla-heart attack. This is Brando in On The Waterfront. This is Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. This is Joey Lawrence in Horse Sense.
It’s a performance that takes risks and ruffles feathers. One that talks to the establishment and tells it to catch up because we don’t got time to be stuck in the present. We got to soar towards what’s ahead of us. We got to get up and play in the stars.
“Slow your roll, Russell”? Yea, how about never, voice-over guy. How’s about he roll on forever and never stop rolling until the Oscar for Best Actor in a Motion Picture is his. How’s about we all look at what we want our art to be. Do we want safe? Do we want cookie cutter? Or do we want Westbrook?