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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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My Marlon Brando obsession

I'm obsessed with Marlon Brando

I don't know if it's because of his genius or because he's just fun to think about and imitate, but the late actor is part of my life and probably always will be. 

I've been scrutinizing his career and his life for a few decades now—since high school, when I saw "One-Eyed Jacks," "On the Waterfront" and "Apocalypse Now" within the space of a week—and I've been doing a Brando impression for almost as long. I'm not going to claim it's good, because it really isn't. Most of the time when I do Brando I sound more like Popeye the Sailor Man than Brando. The things that my Brando talks about bear almost no relation to Brando in real life—even the self-parodying (or parody-of-himself) elderly Brando who alternately delighted and baffled CNN's Larry King. My Brando is less Brando than "Brando." 

I picture my Brando as somehow merging with Brando's Col. Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now." He didn't die, he's still alive, and he rules over his tropical island like a cult leader, issuing nonsensical orders to an army of "native boys" and perhaps communicating with random people via shortwave radio.

I find that the imitation is aided tremendously by jutting out your jaw and distorting your mouth as if there are lemon rinds between your cheeks and gums. If you can do the impression by candlelight, or while sitting beneath a single, very harsh overhead lighting source, that helps, too. 

When I worked at the Star-Ledger in the 1990s and 00s, I used to prevent my friend Alan Sepinwall from getting work done by going over to his cubicle and imitating Brando. I'd just say whatever popped into my head. "Alan, I'm thinking of getting my buttocks pierced without anesthesia, just for kicks, what do you think of that?" or "I wonder if it's possible to stuff a duck inside of a turkey inside of a pig inside of a cow and somehow roast all of them" or "The architects specifically assured me that my vacation home was being built atop an extinct volcano. Extinct, Alan. Extinct." 

Alan came over to my apartment for my birthday this week with his wife and children. At one point he asked, "Marlon, how does it feel to turn 45?" This was the result.


A few years back I did a more elaborate Brando video on YouTube. Roger was a fan. At one point he asked me if I would consider doing a podcast as Brando. I told him it seemed like too much of a time commitment, but the truth is, if I'd started a Brando podcast I might have fallen into a Brando rabbit hole and never climbed out. 

Here's a slightly more elaborate Brando video that I did back in 2010.


   

And now that I have outed myself as a complete weirdo, I'll be on my merry way.

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