Elvis & Nixon

I looked up the American Top 40 playlist for the weekend.  The Top 10 songs on April 23, 1977 were “Right Time of the Night,” “When I Need You,” “So In to You,” “Love Theme from ‘A Star is Born’ (Evergreen),” “I’ve Got Love on My Mind,” “The Things We Do for You,” “Don’t Give Up on Us,” “Hotel California,” “Southern Nights,” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”  I remember that it was the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, but I didn’t read any of the sonnets.  I did my laundry and went out to buy groceries.  Listening to the first few innings of the A’s game in Toronto, I was greatly aggravated with Chris Bassitt’s home run pitch to Josh Donaldson that resulted in three runs.  I walked over to the theatre to see “Elvis & Nixon.”  The stars were Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey.  I thought the casting was imperfect, but I couldn’t think of who would be better in the main roles.  Elvis had funny scenes with his guns, martial arts moves, and his patriotism, but it felt that more humor could have made its way onto the screen.  Elvis Presley is just too big a celebrity and too strong in our memories for any actor to truly portray him.  I see Elvis movies all the time on television, and I can’t imagine ordinary people stopping what they’re doing to take a look at Michael Shannon.  I thought the scene with the maple bars was funny.  It made me think a little bit about “Easy Rider.”  The movie did remind me that Elvis had been in the Army.  Many music fans would say that the Army was a negative turning point in his career.  Did Elvis really like M&M’s?  This was happening on December 21, 1970.  I noted the reference to Laurie Partridge, who was described by one character as a piece of ass.  In real life, she had just turned 18.  There were references to The Beatles, but not to the fact that they had broken up.  This movie might add even more to the legend of Elvis Presley.  Some of the scenes make you think back to the days when people could go on a tour of the White House, and security was different.  It wasn’t quite like James Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but the Seventies were looser.  You had to wonder what kind of greeting Elvis would have got if he went to the White House in 2016.  I couldn’t really accept Kevin Spacey as Nixon, especially after I had seen him as Bobby Darin some years ago.  Did Nixon really drink Dr. Pepper?  Spacey’s voice wasn’t right in my mind.  Frank Langella was closer to my image of Nixon, although I can’t ever get out of my mind Rich Little’s impressions.  The encounter between these figures is what we are waiting for as we’re watching all of this.  I wish there were more sparks.  I think we’re hoping for some outrageous stuff, like maybe Elvis accidentally kicking Nixon while demonstrating some karate.  The gun humor was rather uncomfortable, and I thought it made Elvis nearly the equal of Ted Nugent, which is imagery to avoid, really.  I wondered what Priscilla thought about all of this.  We don’t see Pat or Julie, either.  Elvis was at a pretty good point in his career, with comeback hits and concerts.  Both men would experience a downward spiral in their lives, with Nixon eventually resigning the presidency in 1974 and Elvis putting out lackluster music and gaining an incredible amount of weight before his death in 1977.  It’s too bad that we don’t know exactly what happened on that day in 1970.  Additional information could have helped the screenplay.  As it is, the running time of the film is short at only 86 minutes.  There is something to be said about a movie that doesn’t drag on and on until you’re tired and bored.  I thought about what this movie could have been like if it had been made in a previous decade.  Nicolas Cage could have performed “Love Me,” and the movie could have been something like “Honeymoon in Vegas.”  The movie could have been hugely bizarre and possibly hilarious if Andy Kaufman played Elvis, although it would have been incredibly difficult to make.  This is one of those movie that I wished had shown more life and imagination and humor, although I liked it on the whole.  I had a good feeling as I walked out of the theatre.  I went to browse through the record store and bought a Blu-ray copy of “Umberto D.”  They had a lot of DVD box sets of television shows that interested me.  I need to watch the last season of NUMB3RS.  The store had moved their vinyl records to a new location.  I watched the Tonight Show from October 2, 1973, with guests that included Dean Martin, Buddy Hackett, Carol Wayne, Burt Reynolds, and Don Rickles.  Johnny smoked cigarettes.  Buddy Hackett said he had bullets in a bag.  Carol Wayne was a curious celebrity.  She made an awkward comment about being friends with Burt Reynolds’ ex-wife.  Johnny asked her about growing old, but she would not get the chance to grow old as she died under mysterious circumstances.  Some of the people who died on April 24 include Daniel Defoe (1731), Pat Paulsen (1997), and Estée Lauder (2004).  Today is a birthday for Barbra Streisand (74) and Shirley MacLaine (82).

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