Who’s Rob Braithwaite, you ask? He’s the movie guy, that’s who he is.
Let me just pop back in time again, first year of college, always broke, always swinging by my old man’s house, score some steak and fried perch and corn on the cob. Sitting around with my dad late one night in his townhouse, digesting a feast, flipping through the channels on his giant television, I stumble across the true, metaphysical definition of Rob Braithwaite.
My old man is half-hibernating in a nest of blankets on the couch, and I’m sitting in a really old recliner, with green and brown and beige stripes.
Way back at the beginning of cable television, when thirty channels is a lot, and there is no special interactive menu that you can scroll through, no DVR to snag something out of the past and watch, no way to pause anything without taping it first. Not much on, and I’m about nineteen, going up to the lake in the morning I think, not really wanting to bother getting up and leaving. Dad’s thinking something similar, except he isn’t nineteen.
We stop on a movie with a British actor named Richard E. Grant. I know who the guy is, because he was in Hudson Hawk, one of many very poorly received movies that I thought was great. Bruce Willis sings a couple of songs in it – duets with Danny Aiello. And somebody kicks Sandra Bernhardt in the crotch, lures her dog out a castle window. Good stuff.
Anyway, there’s Richard E. Grant on the screen, and he’s sitting in this psychiatrist’s chair, and the psychiatrist says to him, “Do you masturbate often?”
“Constantly,” snaps Richard E. Grant. “I have a talking boil on my neck. What do you expect me to do?”
A weird bit of dialogue; it tears us out of our half-trances, makes us take drinks of ice-cold Pepsi out of our spaghetti sauce jars and exchange sharp, puzzled looks. What the hell is this, we wonder, using our creepy telepathic Chalfant eyebrows.
So we keep watching it, and it turns out the Richard E. Grant character is serious. In the movie, he’s apparently some kind of advertising executive who has lost his mind, and believes that a large boil on his neck is talking to him. We ascertain that from the next few minutes of the film, but now we can’t figure out what movie it is. We want some kind of framework – how far into this thing are we, what’s going on, is this going to get all crazy David Lynch on us, etc.
Back in 1991, the way it works is, they mail you – I’m not joking – they mail you a special guide for HBO, and that tells you what is going to be on HBO. You can also use the newspaper – they put the television grid in the newspaper, and then you have to use a chart which factors in your cable company, and your geographic area, and your astrological sign, and then you can sort of piece together what might be showing later, like an archeologist reading a scroll he got out of a mummy. A cryptic system – cable is young and carefree.
You can’t find it when you need it, though. I locate the newspaper, but it’s missing the one page with the television grid on it, so I can check out Dear Abby, read the comics, read Mike Harden, do the Jumble, but there’s no way to tell what movie’s on.
What about the HBO guide? It’s here somewhere – my guess is it’s under my dad over there, deep down under him, in the couch’s black heart, where the darkness is so thick, and few dare to venture, etc.
I’m not going to lead a mining expedition under my dad for it, and he’s only doing that token thing where you lift up part of yourself, try to look under that part, then lean the other way, try to look under another part. A large cat, chasing its tail in slow motion.
Screw it, we’ll watch the movie, and then at the end, the credits will tell us what it is.
Richard E. Grant’s character is totally bonkers. Later, his head turns into a boil, and the boil turns into his head, and then he’s like possessed by the boil. And all the while, he’s feeling guilty about being an advertising exec, since advertising is nothing more than radioactive pellets of concentrated lies.
At one point, he makes a cardboard television, and starts wearing it around his head, so he always appears to be on TV, thinking, people will listen to him that way. It turns out, that works a lot better when you’re on a real television, at least that’s how it works in the movie.
The crazy boil guy has a wife who is not at all amused by his antics, but my dad and I certainly are. We laugh our asses off for another hour, nothing in the movie ever ringing a bell, no one else we’ve ever heard of showing up. And then we sit up, our elbows on our knees, scouring the credits for the name of the movie.
And it never comes. It’s one o’clock in the morning, and HBO plays it’s little soothing electric guitar interlude thing, and runs the rotating HBO graphic, and tells us what’s on next – Arthur 2: On The Rocks – but tells us nothing about what we just watched.
Now we start to go a little nuts, because we have no idea what the Internet is at that point, if there even is one. You can’t just get out your phone and Google it. But I can pick up the phone off the floor – it’s got a cord on it, snaking away behind the couch – and I can call Rob Braithwaite.
So that’s what I do at that late hour, and he picks up, sounding sleepy. Says hello.
“Hey Rob, It’s Tommy C. I’m at my dad’s and we need you to identify this really weird movie we just saw with Richard E. Grant in it.”
There isn’t even a pause. Rob says, “Did he have a talking boil on his neck?”
Like a parlor trick or something. I give my dad the crazy look, and point at the phone.
“Yes, he did have a talking boil on his neck.”
“It’s How To Get Ahead In Advertising,” Rob replies. Sounding like he’s talking to his pillow, like he’s plucked the name of the movie out of a dead sleep.
“Oh. Well, thanks, Rob.”
“Mention it,” he says, not for brevity, but more like the opposite of not mentioning it. “That it?”
“That’s it, pal.”
Then he’s gone. And that, my friends, is the answer to the question Who the hell is Rob Braithwaite. He was like Google before there was a Google. Like if you were hard core and super alternative, you could say in your best hipster voice, I used to see Google at Staches, before they got signed.
So when I decided to start reviewing movies – something’s got to be done to fill up seven days of writing and I like to sit on my can, watching them – I knew that I was going to need to bring Rob Braithwaite on board, for credibility.
So today we’re going to go and see Kick Ass, and then I’ll write the review for it in whatever format I feel like either Sunday or Monday. Today, if I’m not mistake, our special guest star will be Mr. Mike Rothe.