Monday, March 26, 2007

Tournament of Everything, Round Three

Ann Arbor Region
(at Dominick's)

9 Loreley Beer Garden vs. 3 Bob Dylan

A couple weeks ago some friends were commenting on the way that a given album will remind you of highly specific places and times. This is true, but the observation doesn't work for great artists.

I hear pop acts like Oasis or Dave Matthews Band and feel deep yearnings for freshman year of college, but when I hear Dylan I'm not reminded of high school, when I first heard "Highway 61 Revisited" and my friend Jack and I sat around the basement playing the cassette on repeat.

The album never dated. It is always immediate. It's been 42 years since "Highway 61" and "Bringing It All Back Home." I write that and think, "Shit, has it been that long?" as if I'd been there from the beginning. I was born after "Desire," and only have, at most, 15 years of Dylanphilia under my belt.

It doesn't matter if I'm in a lame bar or sitting at my desk clicking around the iPod. When "Like a Rolling Stone" breaks out, with that first hit of the drums like the burst of a firework, everything becomes a backdrop for the song's post-Beat reckoning of bad love, class boundaries, and being young and confused in America. Great songs rewrite themselves.

He is our Whitman. He's an artist that forces you to fall in love with his work over and over again. When Chronicles was published and when Martin Scorsese did the PBS documentary about him, I spent hours replaying his catalog afterward. He is infinite. He only gets better with time. He grows up with you. It continues into adulthood.

This is in many ways the opposite of a great New York bar. New York bars are doomed love affairs. They are intent on growing away from you. You find a place, you drink it dry over years, and then one day it's something else. The place you took ownership of years ago becomes the stomping ground of NYU kids and ne'er-do-wells looking for an adventure in the city. Or else someone renovates it and ruins it forever, and you're left to remember the old bar like it's a lost friend.

It's not that no bar could have provided competition for Dylan. There's that one place that might have pushed this contest into triple-overtime. Nothing against Loreley: It just comes from a weak conference. Bob Dylan 88, Loreley Beer Garden 80.

2 Rose Bowl vs. 5 Boogie Nights

Sometimes a good team can show up to play but the opposition is so sweeping in quality that a person forgets how good the losing team was in the first place. A casual fan scratches his head and says, "How the hell did Boogie Nights get into this tournament? I bet this blow-out wouldn't have happened if the Rose Bowl played the Federal Reserve or Rodin's 'The Thinker.'"

This kind of thinking is always a mistake. As we observe Boogie Nights's unceremonious departure, let's reflect on its strengths. It is at once deadly serious and extremely funny, and the two moods don't defeat each other. Every actor in that movie did the best work of his or her career in it. Its soundtrack is spectacular. It adopted the tones of Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas but used them in the service of a high-testosterone drama -- about the porn industry. And then there is the raunch, depicted in ways that are exciting and upsetting at once. It's probably in a handful of the great movies made in the last 10 years.

Still, against this competition, Boogie Nights is a sacrificial lamb.

The Rose Bowl is the greatest tradition in all of American sports. America's best achievements are its sports, its music and its novelists. Ergo, the Rose Bowl is the best thing about one of the three best things about America. The Rose Bowl 94, Boogie Nights 69.


Flop said...

The Federal Reserve would have given the Rose Bowl a game?

I am forced to deploy this reference:

Reel Fanatic said...

You're right that it will never beat the Rose Bowl, but can any movie? Boogie Nights does indeed rock, though .. too bad all Anderson's other movies have just SUCKED

crimenotes said...

I don't think that they suck. I think that "Punch Drunk Love" and "Magnolia" are both interesting failures -- like "Godfather, Part III," "Eyes Wide Shut" and "The New World," "Hudsucker Proxy" and possibly "Gangs of New York." (Or "Carnivale" on HBO.) Some of the most entertaining and interesting movies are the ones that don't work out as planned, but the dead ends are surprising and gutsy and exciting. PTA's other two have too many good moments to write off.

Shorty said...

wow...that's a tough match-up...Instant classic...