Thursday, February 4, 2016

Starring John Travolta’s Eyebrows, or Thoughts on American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson

I don’t know if you realize just how big a movie star OJ Simpson was in the 70’s.  He had starring roles in The Towering Inferno (1974) and The Cassandra Crossing with Sophia Loren (1976- dude, Sophia Loren).  Personally I think his best role was in the faked Mars landing movie, Capricorn One (1978).  He even scored a part in Roots (1977).   He was actually considered for The Terminator.  He wasn’t a leading man, but a solid working actor with high visibility and an intuitive sense of comedic timing that he proved over and over in all those Naked Guns.
The trial was the biggest American news story of the decade, pre 9-11.  We all know the players.  Kato!  Faye!  Marcia!  Judge Ito!  Johnny!  And they’re all here in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson.  Written in part by Larry Karaszewski, who wrote Ed Wood (1994), arguably Johnny Depp’s greatest Tim Burton film.  The OJ trial is like Titanic (1997), we know how this ends, the story as always, lies in how we get there.
And part of how you tell that story is with excellent casting decisions.   Perennial Ryan Murphy favorite Sarah Paulson returns in the thankless role as the chain-smoking Marcia Clark.  Cuba Gooding Jr. chews up the scenery as The Juice with a frenetic, almost bipolar abandon.  But it was a genius move casting David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian.  He’ll never get out from under the shadow of Ross Geller and his presence serves to immediately ground the viewer in the 90’s.  With Selma Blair as his ex Kris Kardashian, and tiny cameos from the daughters, American Crime Story shows just how much this saga resonates in our collective consciousness to this day.
I had completely forgotten that John Travolta was playing Robert Shapiro so I was pleasantly surprised when he appeared behind those two bushy caterpillars hiding his famous blue eyes.  His strutting swagger in his 90’s power suit, combined with his waxy, melted features is like an older version of Castor Troy playing John Archer in Face/Off (1997). 
And then there’s the fabulous Nathan Lane to look forward to as F. Lee Bailey.  I’m eager to see what he does with the character almost as much as Travolta.  I had such high hopes for him after Pulp Fiction (1994) but regardless of your personal opinion of his religion or movie choices, he dominates the screen and always commands your attention, no matter what he’s doing.  That’s old school Hollywood star power; Brando, Bogart, Liz, Marilyn, and it’s sorely lacking in our current crop of autotuned pop stars and manufactured mannequins.
You already know how I feel about true crime.  What I find most intriguing is how relevant these themes of race and police are, 22 years later.  Gay marriage wasn’t an issue in 1994.  AIDS was still considered a death sentence.   People could smoke at their desks.   Transgenderism?  This is 4 years before Boys Don’t Cry.  The Taliban were still the good guys who resisted the Russians in Afghanistan.  You’d think we’d have figured this out.
I just hope we’re not making a TV series about Ferguson 22 years from now.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.