That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Tim Robbins

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 6:30 pm—Film

While the cakes are cooling, while I’m icing (some of) what ails me, and before the dark prevents me from walking through the farm… I’ll take a few minutes to write about someone who’s been on my mind lately.

Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band is what it took to finally get me out to the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest. A very special experience; thank you KG for the ticket. For some reason, Robbins kept popping up in the weeks prior, even before I realized he was lined up to play. A dear friend leant me Mystic River, which I eagerly re-watched. Two other close friends swept me off to a cottage getaway and played The Shawshank Redemption, which I saw for the first time. After that, I almost popped in Dead Man Walking, a long-ago gift from someone close to my heart, but as outstanding as the film is, it’s a little hard to watch sometimes… Not that the other two make for light viewing.

I’m hesitant to write about Robbins’ film history because he seems so keen to promote music at the moment. But his acting, directing and writing are what I know and what I’m so taken by. So, I’ll be brief and say this about his music:

He looked so happy to be onstage. In fact, so did all the members of his band, including the John Lithgow look-alike on the accordion. The songs were upbeat, for the most part, and many had a Celtic feel. To be honest, I skipped out for a bit to catch some of The Tea Party on another stage, but it was a thrill to see Robbins perform live. It’s been almost 10 years since I last (and first) saw him in person; I heard him speak at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan, along with Gabriel Byrne, Helen Mirren and Susan Sarandon, and it was one of the best nights of my life. I’d make a point of watching him and his Rogues Gallery again. I doubt they’d have the same appeal for me if I wasn’t already such a fan of Robbins, but then again, if the music didn’t pass muster, I wouldn’t have wandered back to his stage after making the rounds at Bluesfest.

About his films, as that is the topic of this blog, I’ll also say a brief bit:

The three films I mentioned above are three very fine examples of Hollywood filmmaking. Robbins wrote and directed Dead Man Walking, which includes a devastating Academy Award-nominated performance by the astounding Sean Penn (and is scored by Robbins’ brother David). In both Mystic River (from director Clint Eastwood) and The Shawshank Redemption (from writer/director Frank Darabont), Robbins gives brilliant performances, both times as someone wrongly accused and horribly punished.

On top of being amazing, those three films are also very disturbing. So, I’ll throw a fourth, much lighter Robbins film into the mix, which, like the others, is fantastic and holds sentimental value for me: Robert Altman’s The Player, featuring Robbins as a movie exec in an eight-minute opening shot that’s analyzed endlessly in film school.

Too much to say about the films, not enough daylight remaining… Rent all four (with the caution that the first three deal with very upsetting subject matter); they’re exceptional films made by some of the best American filmmakers in recent history.

As for Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band, I hope it keeps Robbins smiling for a long time to come.

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