Monday, January 25, 2010

"I used to like her early stuff. Borderline."

I was reminded of the dearly-departed Eddie Bunker's great line at the beginning of Reservoir Dogs as "Borderline" came on my shuffle on the commute home tonight and I hit repeat 2 times. Bunker's sentiments nearly echo my feelings on one Madonna Louise Ciccone. For me, nothing really tops the "Jellybean" Benitez collaboration and "Borderline" is my personal favorite of that batch of singles. I hadn't actually watched this scene, which opens Reservoir Dogs, or the film itself in about 15 years. But, I got the Blu-ray super-cheap from Amazon a couple months back and was prompted to crack it open tonight to refresh my memory of the scene.

Aside from chuckling again at the irony of old Bunker, nearing 60 at the time, chiming in on Madonna, I got a big kick out of one of the lines that precedes it, spoken by the dearly-departed Chris Penn, forever to be remembered by the masses as "Sean Penn's little brother." But, the man was a fine actor in his own right, as anyone who sees him in Short Cuts, The Funeral, Reservoir Dogs, and any number of his other numerous roles can attest to. Even being a longtime fan of Sean Penn, I somehow never caught, or had forgotten, the in-joke that Tarantino fit into the scene for Chris Penn to play off. When Tim Roth's Mr. Orange reveals that he is unfamiliar with Madonna's "True Blue," Penn's Nice Guy Eddie replies incredulously, "Oh, you ain't heard "True Blue"? It was a big-ass hit for Madonna. I don't even follow that Top 10 pop shit, and even I've heard of "True Blue.""

I knew that this song was written and released in the middle of Sean and Madonna's tempestuous relationship and I figured this might have been one of the ones written "for Sean." Sure enough, upon checking that most trustworthy source, Wikipedia, my hunch was confirmed. Not only the song, but the entire album of the same name, was dedicated to Sean, "the coolest guy in the universe." Now, I'm wondering how Sean, not known for his sense of humor, felt about his brother poking a little fun, at his (then recent) ex-wife and the song characterized as an "unabashed valentine" to him.

Original paparrazzo Ron Galella snapped a thinner than thin Christopher Penn and his date (and Wild Life co-star) Sherilyn Fenn at a May 24, 1984 production of Nine.


J.D. said...

Ah, the memories. I think the whole "Borderline" era of Madonna is still my fave part of her career. That video really takes me back. I can remember when that video (and all of hers) was EVERYWHERE at the time. But I really dig her look from that period. I also think that is why DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN is still easily her best film as well.

As for Chris Penn... always been a fan of his. Sadly, he never did get out from under his brother's shadow but he did turn in some really solid performances in many films, including the ones you mentioned. It's a damn shame that he's no longer with us.

Ned Merrill said...

Agreed on all counts, J.D. The only song outside of the "early stuff" that I really enjoy equally is "Live to Tell" and the way it was used in AT CLOSE RANGE.

Chris definitely checked out way too early...from what I understand, the man had some demons he never totally overcame. To see pictures of him over the years, it's shocking to see how his appearance changed over the years, and not in a good way, obviously. In of his last roles, the tv series THE BROTHERHOOD OF POLAND, NEW HAMPSHIRE, he looked a lot closer in age to co-star Randy Quaid than the actual 15 years that separate them.

Interestingly, Penn's nearly real-life sister-in-law, Elizabeth McGovern, played his sister-in-law on the show. Sean Penn was engaged to his RACING WITH THE MOON co-star McGovern before hooking up with Madonna.

J.D. said...

Ned Merrill:

Yeah, "Live to Tell" is a good one and AT CLOSE RANGE is a pretty amazing film. It never gets talked about anymore but I just re-watched it awhile ago and the film has aged well. I do like some of Madonna's later stuff.... "Ray of Light" is pretty good but maybe it's looking through the lens of nostalgia I still love her early work.

As for Chris Penn... Yeah, his physical transformation over the years was not good and the man did not take good care of himself.

I did not know about the link between him and McGovern. Very interesting!

Ned Merrill said...

AT CLOSE RANGE is in my top 10 American films of the '80s. Have always been a big fan and Chris Penn, in his skinny form, is really good here, particularly when he gets his ticket punched by Chris Walken. Yes, I remember RAY OF LIGHT being a comeback of sorts for Madge, but with her I do find it difficult to separate the art from the distasteful person she's become over the years.

Jeremy Richey said...

Madonna from that first album up to the LIKE A PRAYER LP (I remember buying that the same day I picked up Lou Reed's NEW YORK as they came out right around the same time.) is still tops with me. I like some of her stuff since but those initial albums and singles stilnever fail to bring a huge smile to my face...and don't even get me started on the mighty DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN. Her recent CELEBRATION collection has really been hitting the nostalgia button for me lately....
oh, and man I loved Chris Penn. What a talent and he is badly missed.

Ned Merrill said...

Thanks for chiming in, Jeremy. The controversy over the "Like a Prayer" video is still fresh in my memory. Can't believe it's been over 20 years! And, Chris Penn's already been gone 4 years.