What’s Up Doc? David Crosby: Remember My Name

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As I called the era a few blogs ago, 2019 really does seem to be the Year of the Doc. Ask Dr. Ruth, Pavarotti, Marianne & Leonard, Maiden, Echo in the Canyon… all in the running this year for best documentary. But really, who’s the best?

I have to say, three stand out for me and all for a similar reason: Ask Dr. Ruth, Pavarotti and now David Crosby: Remember My Name.

The reason? They give a specific perspective and arc of a person’s life and show that human beings, no matter how famous, all have hardships to overcome. In all three of these folks, the individual has prevailed giving hope to the doc’s audiences, that we, too, can and should overcome odds to be a better human being.

I’m leaving out Marianne & Leonard partially after discovering the director had a personal prejudice for the subject matter and while I felt emotion while watching, also felt somewhat manipulated, and coercion was not part of my experience with the other three.

David Crosby fully admits he has a temper, which I’ll paraphrase as a blind rage which provoked him to say the most vile, unforgivable things to those most close to him, aka Nash, Stills and Young.

Who hasn’t screwed up a friendship by snapping at the wrong time or to an irrevocable extreme? I confess I self-righteously chewed my decades long friend Terry Van Wuykheuese out many moons ago (probably 2006ish). And similar has been done to me, quite recently actually. There are some words that are impossible to forget or forgive and Crosby has admittedly crossed that line.

In so many words, director A.J. Eaton and Cameron Crowe show Crosby’s remorse and also his acceptance that at this late point in his life, he should feel grace toward his wife and be damn glad for his health and musical talent (including a still beautiful melodic voice).

Much like Howard did for Pavarotti in showing his transition from operatic diva to charitable humanitarian, Crowe does an excellent job wielding our way through David’s life, beginning with the initial scar of a father who couldn’t show love, to his overly fortunate beginning rock and roll days, through addiction, prison and back out again.

And as much as the media wants to chastise and shark feed on the blood those who made mistakes, documentarians are salvaging people who have made human error, but continue to create and live full lives. Louis C.K. and Al Franken, just to name a few, should take heart in knowing, many people can forgive and if they can’t, life does indeed go on.

“Norman”, or more apropos, a Seinfeldesque, Newman!

Here’s my culpability, I didn’t properly vet the movie Newman, I mean “Norman”. Working two fun jobs before my pension kicks in, I am admittedly sleep deprived. Hence, I thought Norman was the Richard Gere film about a homeless man that received great reviews. And who knows? Norman may have been homeless, too, for all we know, as we never saw the guy’s house or personal life beyond his suit, trench coat and cravat. Also in my defense of thinking he was homeless, is a scene in which he raids the synagogue’s refrigerator to scarf down gvelte fish and crackers. Last, he definitely had a Willy Loman poor man vibe, minus the creep.

In addition to my not properly researching the movie (didn’t even Rotten Tomatoes it until just now -it scored an 88 critic, 69 audience), I also committed yet another sin: I left with 20 minutes to go. I know, I know, don’t revoke my reviewer’s license. But the movie was so verbose, too many conversations, and too long to circle the wagons back to the end (which I think I can guess and I promise I will rent this and cross the finish line).

I so wanted to like it more: I mean I like Gere and he was actually doing a great job being semi geeky and annoying. He was the powerless one this time and played it well. I also LOVE Charlotte Gainsbourg and as usual she had some memorable scenes, but there just wasn’t enough of her. And Hank Azaria, again, like him, but he didn’t appear until 3/4 in and by then I was ready to crawl out of my skin or find noise cancellation headphones, akin to being on a long flight with someone who won’t stop babbling.

I have to think that the actors themselves, upon seeing the final product, were like, ‘ay yi yi, too much Joseph!’ (Cedar) the director.
I did really enjoy one of Cedar’s earlier films called “Footnote”, but Norman was just too much talking, not enough personal insight.
Better luck next time.