Tag Archives: Russell Crowe
In Hollywood, the CIA is always the villain, even if the protagonist is a CIA agent, and Ridley Scott’s action adventure Body of Lies is no exception. Starring Russell Crowe as the cynical CIA careerist Ed Hoffman, Leonardo DiCaprio as the much-abused human intelligence specialist Roger Ferris, and Mark Strong as the skeptical Jordanian intelligence czar Hani, this cloak-and-dagger thriller is a bit dark for a popcorn movie, but for a dust-filter genre Middle East spy flick it does the job, without belittling the million+ deaths the U.S. war on terrorism has caused.
This poem, inspired by the 76th Psalm, is in Hoffman’s voice browbeating Ferris about priorities.
Uncle Sam is well known in Basra,
in Baghdad he left his mark.
In Jordan he knows his friends,
in Gaza he has his narcs.
There, in a shower of missile strikes,
he laid waste Saddam’s war machine:
vengeful light shows in electric green
battered the backbone of industry.
The palace guard were put to shame,
retreating in a bitter daze,
and unopposed, the air force bombed Iraq.
The credit was the C.I.A.’s,
for manufacturing consent.
Langley has never been more feared,
for who can outrun a drone?
Satellites decide whose homes
will be reduced to rubble,
when Langley has a score to settle,
defending freedom, as they say.
Jihadists go to ground like rabbits
knowing we will draw up kill lists.
Make what promises you may, you’re with us;
our allies are your friends because of aid.
The wages of oil wealth are paid in blood.
My Pentagon outranks your king’s right hand.
Not sure what to make of all this talk about a Gladiator sequel with Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott, but if it comes to fruition this time, I will definitely be seeing it in theaters! Couldn’t resist writing a little fan poetry in anticipation…
The True History of the Kelly Gang presents Harry Power, memorably portrayed by Russell Crowe, as something of an enigma. Does he really need Ned’s help, or is he just tired of drinking alone? As Ned narrates over our last scene with Harry in the movie, one can hardly trust anything Harry says about himself. His most paradoxical moments are perhaps his only honest moves. This poem, in Harry’s voice addressed to young Ned, is based on the 71st Psalm.
That’s you, sunshine – my little helper.
Never let them trammel on my name.
Your apprenticeship frees me from loathing.
You’ll lend me your ear, spare me snow’s silence.
Here in the bushranger’s bullet-proof shed
we will always be safe and snug – alone.
Sold into servitude at my side,
your hand will steady mine, too, in time.
My boy, we’ll range far from the grip of the laws,
far from the scabrous constables’ reach.
For the vastness of bush is our only hope,
a man’s surety is his remoteness – you’ll see.
I was whelped in the rough with the unimpressed.
From my mother’s belly loathing brought me out.
The curses of lawmen are our highest praise,
and we rake out our infamy under their sun.
If you go, do not leave me alive, boy,
for aging has stripped me of pleasure in breathing.
These constables whisper about me already,
lose on my scent and with heads bent together –
they whisper that strength has forsaken me,
they’ll rush me alone, if you leave me here.
Boy, do not turn your head – face me!
Be my helper in this, if only this – quick!
By your nerve, my pursuers will be disgraced –
with their hangdog faces lowered, they’ll sulk,
these men who could not stop my kind and yours.
Look at me, and see how I hold out hope
of making a true immortal of you.
All I’ve written of us will lay the scene,
and the pale sun that rises and sets on their soil
will flush at your wrath like a startled bride.
I will harry the sleep of their judges for you,
in my skull I will carry your blazon alone.
Long has the bush been a succour to me,
long have I sung of the bushranger’s triumphs.
And grim though the vice of old age is to me,
for our kind, for our ways, you will not betray me.
When you ride, songs I’ve written will mark out your fame,
and the young ones will relish your infamy,
they will eat from your table, praise you to the skies,
for the fell deeds begun at a bushranger’s side –
now my boy, can you taste the flint of your name?
Now, with the blast of your wrath in my face,
you will carry the stamp of my life for your fate
and the bowels of the worms cannot hold me.
Your exploits will outnumber mine by far –
the curses you’ll raise are a sop to my pride.
Just so, I wrote verses with you at my knee.
Our true claim to glory is testimony.
You and I sang of showing those constables up,
and though both of us hang, still our words can cut.
My lips will peel back on a bone-chilling smile,
bought back from disuse at the price of a child.
My tongue will swell, black as the seed of a grave,
fat with the tales men will tell of your name.
Those lecherous constables fear us, my boy,
fruitlessly scouring, dog-kneed and vile.
This poem is based on the 69th Psalm.
God of my father, pull back these waters,
for the deluge now robs me of breath.
I have sunk to the basins of the damned,
on my knees in the slime – now all is lost.
I embarked on your voyage, my calling:
the frailty of my own heart failed you.
I am hoarse from prayers of supplication.
My strength gives out – I cannot lead on.
My very eyes dim in this gloamy hell
from straining after signs, bereft of hope.
Harried the whole of my life by the damned,
inexplicable hatred pursued me.
The men who intended to slay us drowned,
yet I see their weakness still, in my sons.
What Methuselah smuggled from Eden
bore fruit – how can I root out our line?
My weakness is not so different from theirs;
though I withdraw with shame, love stayed my hand.
Let these souls hope for grace in spite of all.
Creator, your Word decides each struggle.
Let my reluctance not condemn my sons,
for you are the father whose help they need.
In their eyes, in your name, I stand to blame,
and they turn aside, they avoid my face.
My wife has turned her back on all we once shared –
I became a stranger to my children.
The courage to attempt to do your will
has branded me a traitor to mankind.
I turned from the fruit of the earth and wept –
my own person seizes me with disgust.
I rolled naked in sand upon the beach
to the shame of my sons, who looked on.
Their talk then could only be of reproach,
for the vine and the press left me helpless.
And I – dare I offer another prayer?
In this afterworld, dare we mortals hope?
Creator, the kindness you showed us once
gives me courage – I ask again for help.
Wash away my fault, for it bears me down.
Pull me back from the riptides of despair.
I fear being swept far from those I love,
naked as driftwood on a barren rock –
the alien shore of death would have me.
Answer what poor remnant I am, O Lord,
out of your strange and perfect compassion.
Bare your face to your weary messenger,
for what I built for you is not enough.
Time runs short, and I would be near you.
Those that seemed vanquished corrupted us all.
Only you can plumb the depth of my fault,
I who have failed all those you sacrificed.
My very being stutters from the shame;
I look for a reprieve where nothing is,
and though I would be understood, none can.
Instead I suck on vines, eat bitter fruit,
and slake my thirst on dry, fermented dregs.
Just so, I longed to see Cain’s huntsmen choke,
who dragged each other down when all were drowned.
All this, that men blinded by greed see no more,
all this that men raised without shame should quake.
Torturous anger moved heaven and earth,
a convulsion of hatred engulfed them.
All the inhabited earth is stripped bare,
that of mankind nothing should remain.
The descendents of Cain are now wiped out,
long having hunted the innocent down.
To men who disowned their own guilt, add blame,
deny them the earth, and all that’s in it.
Their ways and their writ are rubbed out for good,
and their wickedness must be unlearned.
But what am I, save wretched and forlorn?
What shelter can I seek from works undone?
How can I sing my grandchildren to sleep,
whose heritage was meant only for God?
Theirs now the oxen, the flocks and the droves –
the innocents under them shy and stamp.
Those that survive now warm to the sun,
yet I cannot tell if they still trust the Lord.
But God alone hears us cry out in need;
when we quaked in his power, he softened.
The gray skies, the blue earth, stir at his touch,
green mountains, sea meadows – all life responds.
The Creator gave warning, saved our line,
to us gave the stewardship of all life,
to husband the fields and preserve the wild.
Perhaps we are equal to this great task,
and can ready the world to turn towards love.
This film takes me back to the beginnings of this blog, when I didn’t have any Russell Crowe fan poetry to show for myself and was reduced to posting leftover poetry from other fandoms… Of course, eventually I decided to make this fansite officially more inclusive, sort of a smorgasbord of poetry for different fandoms with a special preference for Russell Crowe movies (and music).
My longest-running experiment in fan poetry was a series of 100 stanzas about the star-crossed lovers in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, written as letters from Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) to Mandras (Christian Bale), about the gradually ebbing love she felt for him when he left her for the Albanian front and never wrote back. (This happens before Captain Corelli, played with distinction by Nicholas Cage, arrives on the scene to complete the triangle.) You can see bits and pieces of it here.
This poem picks up where that one left off, with Captain Corelli’s arrival, leading the Italian invasion of the island of Ithaca, all of whose young men have either died fighting or straggled back to their homes in secret to live in hiding under the Axis occupation. Inspired by the 68th Psalm, best known for its breathtaking imagery (“The wings of the dove are inlaid with silver / and her pinions with precious gold”) but actually a rather sprawling Psalm that shifts in tone and perspective many times, much like the film.
Let the victors be named, throw open your gates,
and may all our detractors scatter!
As smoke clears off when there is no flame,
as candlesticks yield to a lighted wick,
may the ragtag rebels and holdouts relent.
And let our heroes parade and exult
before the town, and take pride in their work.
Sing an aria – learn a libretto with us!
If our entrance is not paved with roses,
Verdi will triumph where Wagner fell flat.
Opera, the music of exiles abroad,
sustains us like players in strange concert halls.
Don Giovanni will lead the way home,
where Rossini will greet us, free men, with a shout.
Those who appeal to Das Rheingold, be damned!
For us, sing Bellini, and sing of love,
here in the heat, in half-conquered resorts.
We are ready for earthquakes, explosions,
storms – pour out your wrath, we tell the Greek gods,
Ithaca, too, is subdued by guitars.
A generous sunset, the bells at dusk,
this half-deserted village stirs to life.
The tango is known here, the mandolin,
who knew our poor soldiers could make ladies flush?
The officers beat out the time, make quips –
these women could make our whole army a match!
With long looks they reprove us, yet they smile,
saying our captain would flee from a skirt.
Those who lie with the Germans are warned, shunned.
The caress of my mistress shimmers like starlight,
her breast, like a songbird’s, thrills to the sun.
When at last we broke through the defenders’ ranks,
a chill obscured the zenith of the sun.
This island’s bluffs, like mountains of the gods,
overlook our ships disdainfully and slouch.
What titans are shaking their chains when they stir,
upending great temples of stone with brute haste?
The island remains and makes quarries of graves.
Our army outnumbers this country’s by far,
we came ashore like the breakers of storms.
Though only a captain, I lead these men,
and music is all that defines us here.
Your guerrillas recaptured the island,
you claimed your own hostages, took revenge,
the women who strayed, you hanged like dogs –
all for a certain idea of life.
I pray for our brave quartermaster. Enough.
Music to us was salvation, not hope.
Opera, immortal, helped us accept death.
True, in this war men are butchered like sheep,
or like wolves in sheep’s clothing, skulking and sly.
Our army sought power and patrimony,
to salvage a myth of our destiny.
Why? So our boots could sink knee-deep in blood,
while the dogs roll in offal from misfired bombs?
The villagers saw our parades in style,
my countrymen marching in fresh from the front.
Our singers were followed by brass and drums
filing through throngs of young girls and old men.
Our choruses gave thanks to Rossini first,
then Verdi, the greatest of opera gods.
For a few bars Bellini held sway as well,
Italy’s nobility know their own –
Padua, Naple and Rome sent royal guards.
Conduct our hearts, our wayward dreams – the strength
our music gave us in the breach, the love
this island showed us when our cause was lost.
To you, my muse, I owe not words but gifts.
The war that beat upon your shores is lost,
artillery will scour here no more,
for Germany makes reparations now.
The dogs of war are scattered and subdued.
The next time officers come from abroad
to shelter here, they’ll sue on bended knee.
Ithaca, sing of the loves you have known,
strum the guitar or draw notes with the bow.
Sing of the castaway heroes of yore.
Sound not one bell, let the voice alone ring.
Honor the courage your women have shown,
for strangers, for fellowship, some for pride,
their love as magnanimous as blue skies.
Fierce in the sanctity of their own homes.
Music embraces the woman alone.
Perfect as morning and fine as sea foam.
The adventurers in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World aren’t an overly churchy lot, so this version of the 66th Psalm is admittedly a stretch, but the Psalm had some nautical features that seemed to make it amenable to adaptation. I finally bought the books this movie is based on, but I can’t stand to read them – they’re too good! Reading one makes me feel as guilty as if I just wolfed down a pint of double chocolate ice cream….
Shout out huzzah, to all the world!
Sing out the glory of England’s pride.
Praise be to God for victory.
Say at prayers, “How fierce in battle.
Ships scatter before the Lord’s might.”
Though we sail the far side of the world,
with God’s help all we meet is subdued.
Witness the acts of our Lord,
awesome in catalogued wonders.
Out of the sea he raised fresh water,
and finches on bare cindercones.
He alone can crown England’s might.
For the Lord’s tests probe all nations.
Pity those who rise against him.
May all our people bless our God,
and all aloud give him praise,
who has kept us from harm at sea,
and permitted no fool to stumble.
Our duty to England tried us,
our baser needs were swept aside.
Like swimmers trawled in a net,
ship’s discipline bound us, group and heel.
The officer class rode over us.
And we strove through dead calms and storms –
but our captain brought us through with ease.
We gave him our all, unflinching,
and made good our oaths to the crown,
oaths renewed in the teeth of disaster,
when all one could say was, “Hold fast.”
Our bodies consigned to the surgeon,
we sweat out the pain without cries.
The butcher’s bill takes without leave.
Come close lads, we’ll tell you a tale,
one all God-fearing seamen should hear,
of miracles and of reprieves.
Three cheers for the captain of the Surprise,
huzzah from the bows and the rigging, boys!
When we languished in horse latitudes,
the captain looked calmly ahead to the prize.
God must have kept us in mind, I say,
for someone has answered our reckless prayers.
God bless our captain, our ship and the crown,
for God has looked kindly on you and me.
P.S. Most of the lesser-known chamber music referenced in the books is on YouTube, and it’s amazing…
Russell Crowe plays the delectably evil henchman Pearly Soames in Akiva Goldsman’s modern fairytale, A Winter’s Tale. His seething enthusiasm for dashing the dreams of the innocent might seem like an odd choice of theme for a poem based on the 65th Psalm, but somehow, it just seemed like the perfect fit. Here I’ve lapsed into end rhyme, but the effect, like the villain in the film, just makes me smile.
For fans of The Ordinary Fear of God and Indoor Garden Party, this is not a film you want to miss – lots of cameos from Russell’s bandmates to enjoy here. Pictured above is Alan Thomas Doyle.
If silence is due praise, I will be brief,
and pay the wages of my vows in blood.
Who listens to a dying virgin’s prayer,
will hear all flesh expire, one by one.
My deeds of mischief now exceed my pay.
For chaos is rewarded but one way.
Fortunate those the dark lord holds to heart,
who revel in opulent, macabre courts.
May we slake awful appetites at will –
unholy forces, ring the dinner bell!
Though death-defying acts escape some plans,
maneuvers of a deft angelic hand,
that bright dog of the east comes hurrying
across the bleak Atlantic just to see
what monumental evils, set in store,
our dark lord has thrown up to dim the stars –
as if to try to still the roaring seas,
or smother up all hell’s ignominies.
Even from the world’s ends, our prince is feared.
By twilight his dark powers are revered.
With blood as his manure, he gives back
unto the soil the wealth that life extracts.
All chaos bubbles up, a seething stream.
For chaos is the impetus, the seed,
the fertile flood, and the great leveling,
and soaked in gore, the earth is quickening.
Our exploits tonight crown a record year –
the grilles of Manhattan are dripping with fear.
Even these fresh upstate meadows do drip,
all innocent joys are squeezed out in fear’s grip.
The wolves are at play in the sheepfold tonight,
and the rivers run cold to behold such a sight.
Hell’s minions whoop for joy – this scent they prize.
Recent headlines have come out about a sequel to L. A. Confidential with Chadwick Boseman, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce attached to it that Warner Brothers inexplicably turned down. That would’ve been a movie to remember, and a timely one, too. Nothing speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement like the script of this 1990s movie, where the longstanding hidden curriculum of police work is spelled out in black and white. Would’ve been another instant classic, but it’s just like a big studio to turn down a thought-provoking script in favor of King Kong vs. Godzilla and the like.
But at least we still have the original. And at long last, I’ve found a Psalm that captures the chemistry between Russell Crowe and Kim Bassinger in L. A. Confidential. This poem is based on the 63rd Psalm.
You would know, Lynn. I came to see you.
My throat went dry when I saw you smile,
and my skin tingles to stand near you
in this wasteful city of strangers.
Just so, in your dressed set, I saw you,
a vision – a nyad in satin.
For an act of kindness from you, I’d lay down my life.
Your name haunts my lips.
With soft curses I lay at your door
all the troubles L.A. thanks no one for.
The sight of you is an opulent feast,
and to meet your lips is a show of praise.
Yes, I am thinking of you in my work.
Through the pale night-watches I dwell on you.
For you would have tried to ease things for me,
in your tender resentments I sensed real love.
My restless body clings to yours,
for your sensuality feeds mine.
Men with hidden agendas stalk me now –
a worthless lot who will feed the worms.
The mock justice they dragged me into
will be their undoing – death on the street.
And Hollywood won’t bat an eye,
old L.A. will keep to its sultry ways,
and the lies they planned to tell will be forgotten.
I opened up a book of early poems by William Butler Yeats the other day, and I read “The White Birds” while listening to some piano music about the ocean by Ludovico Einaudi. I discovered Einaudi from some of the more enchanted moments in the soundtrack to Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, The Water Diviner. I’ve been wanting to write some poetry about Einaudi’s music ever since.
But this short poem for Yeats and Einaudi quickly became just another poem about ocean plastic. I can’t think of anything but plastic when I picture the beach. Even listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s beautiful album Waves, all I can smell is trash from the dumpsters where the seabirds feed, now that the oceans contain more plastic than fish.
Plunge again in the water, dive deep in the foam –
count the lost inland seabirds who called these waves home.
Tangled in netting from hungers long spent,
the seashore rewrites all – the white birds have left.
The lily-like creatures of reef and abyss
turn empty glass faces toward ours, and we miss
the companionship wild geese and gulls mocked in us,
when we nodded to see them and bribed them to fuss
over all of our comings and goings – they’ve gone
up the rivers to forage from dumpsters that spawn
around cities we once fled to come to the sea.
Their detritus now covers all we can see.
Sorry to be so grim today. But here are some beautiful deep sea creatures to take your mind off the ugliness of it all.