I’ve always been enamored of the language of drama, the dialog and narration of certain movies, the particular rhythms of dialects, the cadence of idioms, the slang, the argot of particular professions. For me, the words rise and fall like the notes of a melody, and I think I remember both with the same neural circuitry; friends are often surprised (and even more irritated) by my almost perfect recall as I recite the lines from movie scenes I’ve found especially moving in one way or another. The scripts come back to me like they were music. Indeed, I’m apt to sing along, and begin to talk and even think in the same sort of sentence structures that I last heard in this or that play or film. If I’ve just seen a great old western like The Searchers, I might temper my disdain for somebody like Jeff Sessions with a thought along the lines of well, but ole Jeff has been a thorn in the paw of that Trump feller, and that has tickled me some. If I’ve just watched Pride and Prejudice, I might watch a noisy bulldozer go by on its way to the construction site a block over, and come out with I’d venture there were never high spirits robust enough that the passing of such a clanking monstrosity would fail to kill them stone dead.
A really good turn of phrase will stick with me forever – say, Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now, describing a fellow soldier from the inner city:
Clean – Mr. Clean – was from some South Bronx shit-hole, and I think the light and the space of Vietnam really put the zap on his head.
Or John Wayne playing Ethan Edwards in the aforementioned The Searchers, being queried on the death of a ne’er-do-well thief he recently filled full of hot lead:
Is this an invite to a necktie party, Reverend?
To which Reverend Clayton, also a US Marshall, replies:
No, I wouldn’t say that. Likely you had your reasons for killin’ Futterman. Probably needed killin’.
Yessir. Likely he needed killin’.
There’s Kit’s chilling question to Holly’s father, in Badlands:
Suppose I shot you? How’d that be?
Or the clerk in the convenience store in Raising Arizona, asked if the party balloons he sells come in funny shapes:
No. Unless round is funny.
There’s the scene in which Marge, the cop in Fargo, tries to get a description of a couple of suspects out of two girls in the bar, one of whom states:
Like I was sayin’, he was funny lookin’. More than most people even.
Or maybe it’s a really cutting put-down – here’s Dana Carvey, playing the role of Ross Perot in an SNL send-up of a Presidential debate, after detailing how many extra millions of dollars have been added to the national debt just since the debate started:
Hell, that’s enough to buy a still and a new outhouse for every family in Little Rock.
Take that Bill Clinton, and while you’re at it, why don’t you grab your hick ass with both hands and skulk on back to Arkansas where you came from.
I’m especially fond of the language you hear in the great mob movies of Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas, Casino and the like, it’s absolutely marvellous stuff, which brings me to the rather surprising theme of this post – the wit and the wisdom of Steve Bannon. No foolin’. Look, I hate Steve Bannon, every well-adjusted sane person hates Steve Bannon, but after reading the various quotes attributed to the bastard in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, I sort of love the son of a bitch too. He’s as hilarious as he is hateful, as clear-eyed as he is crazed, and if a good turn of phrase is like a pretty song, Bannon, in his blistering spoken thoughts on Trump and his minions, is writing Wagnerian opera. He sounds just like the guys in a Scorsese movie. Look, this is from Goodfellas, re the killing of Henry Hill’s buddy Tommy:
It was revenge for Billy Batts, and a lot of other things. And there was nothing that we could do about it. Batts was a made man and Tommy wasn’t. And we had to sit still and take it. It was among the Italians. It was real greaseball shit.
This is Bannon, on the business dealings of Jared Kushner, and the money trail Mueller and his team will surely be following:
You realize where this is going. This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose Weissmann first and he’s a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner…it goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.
Here’s Goodfellas on the way the mob works:
Hundreds of guys depended on Paulie and he got a piece of everything they made. And it was tribute, just like in the old country, except they were doing it here in America. And all they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. And that’s what it’s all about. That’s what the FBI could never understand. That what Paulie and the organization does is offer protection for people who can’t go to the cops. That’s it. That’s all. They’re like the police department for wiseguys.
Here’s Bannon on the infamous meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower:
The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately. Even if you don’t think to do that, and you’re totally amoral, and you want the information, you do it in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people and go through everything and then they verbally come and tell another lawyer in a cut-out, and if you’ve got something you dump it down to Breitbart or something like that.
Here’s Goodfellas on the wisdom of going into business with a mob boss:
Now the guy’s got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what. Business bad? “Fuck you, pay me.” Oh, you had a fire? “Fuck you, pay me.” Place got hit by lightning, huh? “Fuck you, pay me.”
Here’s Bannon, beside himself and yelling at Hope Hicks:
You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know how much trouble you’re in. You are as dumb as a stone. I am going to fuck you and your little group.
Here’s Bannon on hiring the Mooch as communications director:
Jesus. Scaramucci. I can’t even respond to this. It’s Kafkaesque. Jared and Ivanka needed somebody to represent their shit. It’s madness. He’ll be on that podium for two days and he’ll be so chopped he’ll bleed out everywhere. He’ll literally blow up in a week…this is why I don’t take this stuff seriously. Hiring Scaramucci? He’s not qualified to do anything. He runs a fund of funds. You know what a fund of funds is? It’s not a fund.
It’s the same writer, different script is all. Trump and his guys are like the mob, and nobody ever sounded as mobbed-up as Steve Bannon, who may have been the most vile of the whole shitty bunch, but who was also, I think, by far the smartest, and certainly the most entertaining. It was Bannon who told Trump not to fire Comey; Bannon who thought Jared and Ivanka were idiots; Bannon who figured Trump had maybe one chance in three of finishing out his first term, the same odds as he had of being impeached. With Bannon gone, the sordid mess of the Trump administration doesn’t even have the virtue of being funny any more, and all that’s left are the knuckleheads. Like Deep Throat told Woodward in All The President’s Men:
Forget the myths the media’s created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.