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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

Our Negative Culture

Robert Manni - Thursday, May 22, 2014


Seeing all the videos, parodies and effusive comments on social media about Pharrell’s omnipresent hit song, “Happy” makes me scratch my head.

If everyone is so damn happy, then why do we wallow in a bottomless pool of gory, violent, toxic stories in the movies, on television and in the news? The common denominators on our palette are negativity, human failure, and buckets of blood. Welcome to 2014.

For some reason, studios and networks insist on showcasing deceit, vengefulness, violence, and dishonesty as entertainment. I thought that’s what we have to deal with at work. Who wants to experience this angst again in their free time after hours in HD? Could it be the hypnotic power of that 54” screen dominating our living room and minds? Your Guy’s Guy takes his media medicine in small, detached doses and decries, “Is this the best we can come up with?” Here are a few considerations for consuming content.

Violence

A Guy’s Guy likes a good dust up and action-packed films, but lately, things have gotten out of hand. Even the Hollywood legends have gotten into the act. Stallone’s “Expendables” franchise is really just a bunch of aging action stars shooting, stabbing and punching their way to a paycheck. Sly’s latest endeavor is something called, “Bullet to the Head”. What can I say?

Ah-nold? His recent film comeback includes “Expendables 2” (number three is on the way), “Escape Plan” with Stallone, and “Sabotage” (a B version of an Expendables movie). The poster features the usual cadre of buff guys and gals wielding machine guns of varying sizes. And the next generation of stars is on a similar path of death and destruction. Have you seen the trailer for the new Tom Cruise movie, “Edge of Tomorrow”? Its tagline is, “Live. Die. Repeat.” We see Tom wrapped in futuristic battle amour, toting an assault weapon that appears to be welded to his arm. Didn’t Matt Damon already do that in last year’s futuristic death match, “Elysium”? This is just a sampling of what the big stars are up to. Let’s not forget, “Machete” and “Machete 2013”? Wonderful.

Some say Hollywood is simply giving the people what they want (lots of video game action) and anti-heroes like we had in the seventies. When I think of anti-heroes, Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry” and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” or Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” come to mind. Sure, their movies had selected violent scenes, but the acts were focused on moving the story along.  They didn’t glorify killing and maiming as an art form. With all the hype about Dirty Harry’s Magnum, he rarely used it.

Fast-forward to today and we see blood spurting and mayhem starting from the first scene. Even the once car-based “Fast and Furious” franchise has gone ultra-violent. After seeing the first two “Fast and Furious” movies a few years ago, I recently watched the first fifteen minutes of “Fast and Furious Six”. I was amazed at the non-stop violence. No breaks: just kicking, punching, and fighting amongst all the main characters.

I’m not even going to get into the video games aimed at kids and teens. So many of them are hyper violent and focused on deception, thievery, and war.

Shady Characters

We also are inundated with hit show and films like “Penny Dreadful”, “Scandal,” “Revenge”, “Breaking Bad”, “House of Lies”, “Shameless”, “Wolf of Wall Street”, and “American Hustle” all focused on human failure with main characters lacking in moral fiber. The industry tells us they’re always looking for “interesting and intricate characters”. Yes, I know that conflict drives storylines, but do you have to be an a-hole to be interesting?

For a change of pace there is “True Blood”, “The Walking Dead”, and all the shows about zombies, vampires and creatures bent of exterminating mankind. Want a change of pace? How about those housewives, the slippery realtors in NYC and LA, the backstabbing contestants on “Survivor”, and lying bachelors and bachelorettes? There is little escape from bad behavior and dysfunction unless you turn to the talent shows.

And Now To The News

Adding to this Gatling gun of toxicity, is our news industry. Regardless of which network we watch or what newspaper or major website we follow it spits the same selected, fear-inducing stories at us.  If you don’t believe me; just turn on any local or national news network and you’ll see the same stories rolled out and read to you in almost the same order by a different talking head. Fire in the Bronx kills three, measles on the rise, the world economy on the brink of collapse, voter fraud, and on and on. Until you reach to the last two minutes, it’s all bad news and human failure. During the breaks, most of the ads are for cars we can’t afford, fast food that makes us obese, and from pharmaceutical companies selling us medication for all of our diseases. Your Guy’s Guy is getting a stomachache.

The Solution

We live in a culture that requires connectivity, so it’s almost impossible to simply tune out. We need to be mindful of our media consumption and make the effort to unplug whenever possible. The folks running the networks and studios need to make a buck, so they are not going to change unless we stop consuming what they push our way. Here are three suggestions: Don’t watch the news or violent shows before going to bed. Do not keep your TV in your bedroom.  I know we all need to check email and do our jobs, but each morning, see how long you can go without tapping into mass media. Your mind will become more peaceful and quiet, and you’ll get to know that wonderful person hidden inside you a lot better.

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is George Clooney. No, it’s not because he’s getting married. It’s because he chooses to make movies that are well-told stories that are never ultra-violent.

Celebrating the End of Summer

Robert Manni - Friday, September 06, 2013


The media began bemoaning the end of summer on September 1st.

Guess what? It continues for another few weeks. Let’s stay positive and recognize a handful of reasons why September is a great month and fall is a great season, Guy’s Guy style.

Farewell, tourists.

As a fan of the beach and the Jersey Shore, nothing pleases local inhabitants and beachgoers more than the disappearance of what are referred to as “Bennies”, tourists form northern NJ who come down the shore, go crazy and then leave after Labor Day. More parking spaces, no waits at restaurants and fewer drunken dudes from Staten Island pounding shots of bubbleberry vodka all make up the fall dream. The same can be said about the overload of summer tourists in fanny packs clogging our NYC sidewalks. Have a nice day and goodbye.

The weather rocks.

It’s summer for three more weeks, amigos. The beach is empty, the temp's perfect, the water warm and clean and it usually stays this way through October. In the city, the days are spectacular and the nights are no longer hot and humid.

The Women.

In NYC, the women’s fashion parade begins in full swing in September and for a Guy’s Guy, it can be heavenly. Women in NYC have style and go to great lengths putting together cool outfits. Beyond their $400 jeans and designer dresses, Manhattan women have made an art of putting together their hair, shoes, and bags and the results are pleasurable to the eyes of any Guy’s Guy. It’s all in the details, so let's give it up for the ladies.

Sports.

The baseball season is rounding third base and heading for home while at the same time football and the accompanying fantasy football drafts are in full swing, making this the best time of the year for sports. Football has never been so popular and fantasy football has taken the game to a new level of fandemonium. Let’s face it—football is built for television viewing and now is the time to get our fill. And let’s not forget the US Open tennis and the NYC Marathon.

The Arts.

Film, books, television, the Met, the museums, Broadway and even the dreaded DWTS all kick off new seasons at this time of year.

Okay, these are but a few obvious reasons why they we can say “yay” to the end of summer. What I like about September and the new season is that it reminds me how each day is a new beginning filled with new opportunities. If we live in the now and focus on what can be, and tune out the media’s incessant ringing of the doom and gloom alarm, we can savor life as it’s meant to be, one beautiful day at a time.  And then we can watch the holiday sales ads.

Are you saddened over the end of summer or pumped up for the fall?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Sir Thomas More, an old school 16th century Guy’s Guy and the subject of the Oscar-winning “A Man for All Seasons”.    

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Buddy Movies

Robert Manni - Saturday, August 10, 2013


Every Guy’s Guy has a best bud.

In the case of my novel, The Guys' Guy's Guide to Love, Max Hallyday, our protagonist and a guy with integrity is set against his lady-killer, roguish BFF, Roger Fox. And because summertime is all about moviesalthough summer 2013 seems to be a dismal one for movies—I humbly offer my top ten list of classic Guy’s Guy best bud films in no particular order. Drum roll, please.

The King of Comedy- In this DeNiro/Scorsese classic black comedy, Rupert Puptkin (gotta love the name) sets his sights on his comedy career breaking through after a chance encounter with the Johnny Carson-esque late night talk show host magnificently played by Jerry Lewis, of all people. The results are poignant, original, uplifting and somewhat creepy, all at the same time. When I saw the film in the movie theaters back in the 80’s the audience was not in on the joke and many were dumbfounded by this story about a comic who really isn’t funny.

I Love You Man – Jason Segel and Paul Rudd at their finest in a story about an engaged guy who does not have a male friend worthy of being his best man. With his soon-to-be wife’s encouragement, he befriends a smooth-talking slacker who teaches Rudd’s character the ropes. Twists and turns ensue, but Hollywood’s Happy Ending Police make sure that it all works out with a heart-tugging outdoor wedding finale. Regardless, it’s a damn funny film.

Midnight Run - DeNiro again flashes his comedic chops in this cross-country road trip caper about a bounty hunter who learns about love and his feelings from his prisoner, a crooked accountant played by Charles Grodin. Dennis Farina sparkles as a Chicago bad guy.

Wedding Crashers – The best thing Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson has done in the past five years, this instant classic also features Bradley Cooper as an annoying antagonist named “Sack”. What? Add Christopher Walken to the mix and you have two hours of mayhem and one-liners.  If you haven’t seen this film yetgee, I don’t know what to say except you might have something personal against fun. Just kidding.

Sideways – One of your Guys’ Guy’s all time favs. Paul Giamatti plays a struggling novelist who accompanies his womanizing best friend, Thomas Hayden Church, on a weeklong boondoggle to the wine country outside of Santa Barbara. They meet Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh and discover a lot about wine and themselves. The movie has an indie feel, but it’s pure Hollywood at its finest, and highly recommended, especially if you like pinot noir.

Easy Rider – Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper star in this dark sixties classic buddy, road trip that introduced America to the talents of Jack Nicholson.  Great theme, outstanding music, and a poignant message about the direction of our culture are rolled up in a film many consider as the ultimate buddy flick. It very well could be.

Rain Man - Let’s face it. Tom Cruise can act.  We all know about Dustin Hoffman’s Academy awarding winning role as an autistic savant, but Cruise totally nails his role as the selfish brother who ultimately learns the importance of family. A touching drama that may even bring a tear to your eye, amigo.

48 Hours – Nick Nolte meets Eddie Murphy in a ham-fisted, cops and robbers tale about a stolen suitcase full of cash. Sounds familiar, but no worries. This is a hilarious character study set in the underbelly of San Francisco. Murphy shines throughout the film and in particular in a not to be missed scene that takes place in a red neck bar.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Many consider this one of Hollywood’s greatest all-around films. Based on the story of the real-life train robbers, there is plenty of action, great dialogue and a saucy love triangle between two men on the run and their female accomplice. The story eventually takes them to Bolivia where they meet their destiny in a classic climatic shootout.

The Hangover – This is a case of a movie tapping into the culture at precisely the right time and then more than delivering the goods in a fresh, unexpected way. The three leads have all become stars in their own right in Bradley Cooper’s unlikely breakthrough role. I almost feel sorry for the cops in Las Vegas after this film caught fire and created so many wannabe’s.

I’ve only scratched the surface with these ten male buddy flicks and it’s no wonder that being a Guy’s Guy is always accompanied by a best bud…or two…or three.

What are your favorite buddy films?

The Top 10 Guy's Guy Movies

Robert Manni - Thursday, March 28, 2013


Films and Guy’s Guys go hand-in-hand.

Men like cutting to the chase and although at times we come across as blunt instruments, men everywhere love the power of story to make their point.  Story can live in a documentary as well as a fictional tale, and as each decade in film has evolved, so have men. Films for Guy’s Guys hold great meaning as they reflect aspects of their life, love and the pursuit of happiness. If you are a woman and you often ask yourself why guys like certain movies, you might find that they probablyokay, hopefully have a few themes in common regardless of the genre. They are truth, integrity, and courage. These are traits that most men aspire to, but are challenged to achieve regardless of the time frame.  Other criteriagreat dialogue, humor, positivity.

So without further ado, in no particular order, here are ten of my favorite Guy’s Guy movies.

10. Point Break: Dirty Dancing aside, arguably the underrated Patrick Swayze’s best performance as a surfer, Svengali, surfer-crook, Bodhi, who squares off against Keanu Reeves’s undercover FBI agent, Jonny Utah. Amazing Guy’s Guy dialogue: "If you want the ultimate, you've got to be willing to pay the ultimate price. It's not tragic to die doing what you love."

9. SwingersThe introduction of Vince Vaughn as Trent, a flawed friend and womanizer to Jon Favreau’s Mikey.  Mikey is the Guy’s Guy who learns how to let go so the right things can enter his life. Brilliant script, on-point dialogue and a positive, yet non-sanctimonious message that leaves guys uplifted. "You’re so money and you don’t even know it."

8. Rocky: The original is a masterpiece. Each overlooked character (Rocky, Mickey, Adrian, Paulie) has the same challengegetting their long, overdue opportunity. What most viewers fail to remember is that Rocky lost the fight, despite going the distance. But that’s what countsa true Guy’s Guy message.  "And if I can go that distance, ya see, and that bell rings, ya know, and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, ya see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood."

7. Jerry McGuireLet’s admit it. Tom Cruise can act. In this tale of maintaining integrity in a disingenuous business, Jerry takes his one client and finds a way to keep rolling while learning how to be a better man. Wonderful Guy’s Guy stuff.  "I hated myself.... No, I hated my place in the world."

6. The Pope of Greenwich VillageA pre-The Wrestler Mickey Rourke stars as, Charlie, an Italian-American who lives on the fringes of the mob and is at a crossroads. Yes, life is all about the choices we make. This one takes a deep dive on the meaning of friendship. Eric Roberts’ over-the-top performance as Paulie steals the show. An underrated Guy’s Guy classic. "Outgrow him? I dunno Diane, Maybe WASP's outgrow people. I'm Italian. We outgrow pants, not people." 

5. Silver Linings Playbook: In a movie culture built around superheroes, violence, franchises and sequels SLP shatters the usual boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, rom-com template. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence shine in the adaptation from Matthew Quick’s excellent, yet under-the-radar 2008 novel about love and the power of positive thinking.  This is the Guy’s Guy rom-com…for now. Just wait. "I am practicing being kind over being right."

4. Groundhog DayBill Murray stares in this comedy classic that tackles the theme of creating our own reality in a non-preachy way. This is one of those movies that you can jump right into and watch whenever it pops on the screen when you’re surfing the dial. It’s that good. "I told you. I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it's always February 2nd, and there's nothing I can do about it."

3. Wall StreetCome on. You like this movie. It captures the late eighties culture as well as anything has, maybe with the exception of Flock of Seagulls. Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox takes on Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in a high-stakes game of money manipulation and perception.  They battle to a draw, but Sheen keeps his soul in tact. "The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don't want to do."

2. On the WaterfrontYeah, this is real old school, but it gets right into man’s moral fiber and how decisions define one man from another. Brando is at his finest as he takes on the mob, love, and morality. Heavy-duty Guy’s Guy themes abound. Yeah, he could have been a contender. "Conscience... that stuff can drive you nuts!"

1. The Good, The Bad and The UglyThe ultimate western features Clint and Eli Wallach’s classic Tuco in a three-way battle over a chest of gold and a game of life and death that’s full of tasty twists. This sprawling film is underscored by a deep anti-war theme. Eastwood is only referred to as Blondie and only has fifty-seven bits of dialogue, but they all hit the mark. "You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."

Yes, I omitted Scarface, The Dirty Dozen, Walk The Line and so many other great Guy’s Guy films. The point is there are so many wonderful pieces of celluloid that help interpret and define men. Thanks to all these great movies for the quotes.

Do you have a favorite Guy’s Guy film?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Sly Stallone for writing Rocky, and having the cajones to insist on the starring role.

The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to 2012 Movies

Robert Manni - Friday, December 07, 2012


Sorry, our list does not include films about vampires, zombies, the end of the world, or Katy Perry. 

I consider that a good start. The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to 2012’s Movies focuses on a select five films with relevancy for men and in particular, Guy’s Guys. Throughout the year we’ve been inundated with monsters and aliens, rom-coms, sequels, prequels, remakes, animated features, and adaptations of popular television shows. There have been hundreds of new movies released. Many of these films cost a fortune in CGI and production yet show little in fresh or profound storytelling. Sure, almost every Hollywood feature follows a proven story template, but when a story moves from paper to celluloid, all hell can break loose. Plus, you’ve got the clout an A-list star commands that puts him in every frame of the movie. That’s how it works, so we take the bitter with the sweet and hope for the best when we pluck down our $14 per ticket.

Our criteria is based on storytelling, freshness, and my subjective Guy’s Guy opinion.  So here they are in no particular order. You can decide for yourself if these flicks make the grade. I’m not going deep into the directors and actors. Let’s just talk amongst ourselves.

The Intouchables

This is a French movie about an aging, wealthy, Caucasian quadriplegic and the inner city caretaker that he hires. It’s rich, funny, original and thought provoking. Before his accident, the quadriplegic was a handsome scoundrel and a real Guy’s Guy. Now he’s in a wheel chair and he’s bored. Damn bored. He interviews a bunch of dweebs to take care of him, but they are all about themselves so decides to hire a struggling brother from the hood who has a confident attitude, but limited qualifications for the job. Soon, the fun ensues. Hookers, bubble baths, and even sky gliding create a bond between these two unlikely companions both living within the walls of their own personal prisons. Brilliant, emotional, and well done.

Cloud Atlas

Over the course of what feels like thousand years, Tom Hanks plays a half-dozen incarnations of a Guy’s Guy. Sometimes he is well-intended and other times he’s a douche. But, he is on a path to learning and manifesting a higher frequency. His usual partner throughout time is Hale Berry, so he is also a lucky Guy’s Guy. As usual, her persona evolves more quickly than her male counterpart. There is a ton of money thrown into this production so the movie looks really cool. Besides the Hanks arc, there is another interesting story featuring a hot Korean chick doing what she can to free her people from another version of that humorless tyranny that we’ve seen so often on films set in the future. The story is based on a novel and it is well intended. We’re talking Karma here, peeps. And it’s got eye-candy, too.

Skyfall

I disagree with Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers’ listing this as the fifth best Bond movie out of the twenty-four. However, now we’ve got a Guy’s Guy James Bond and I’m digging his feral qualities. He runs, he fights, he loves the ladies. Cool. The story is more internal than other Bond flicks and at times, that’s good. The idea that Bond is getting on and needs to shake off the ring rust is a new, but the dreadfully lone third act suddenly takes us to Bond’s childhood retreat where he decides to take on the baddies with only the dowdy M and some old codger who has been managing the neglected property. But, the film delivers all of the thrills, chills, and spills that we’ve come to expect from our man, James. Worth seeing.

The Master

This one’s pretty heavy duty and not everyone is going to run out and buy the soundtrack and relive the story. It’s about broken men and their search for meaning in the modern world. This is big brain Guy’s Guy stuff so we have to give the moviemakers creative license to tell their complicated tale they way they want. It features riveting performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. And it is supposedly loosely based on the origins of Scientology, a misunderstood and overly dissected ideology. No yucks in this one, but expansive.

Silver Linings Playbook

This has already become one of my all-time favorite Guy’s Guy movies. It takes that mind-numbing rom-com story template (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl) and stands it on its knucklehead. Thank you, Matthew Quick, for writing the novel. The film also showcases a wonderful cast with unparalleled chemistry. But what nailed it for me was how director David O. Russell quietly set an emotional hook that reeled the audience in midway during the third act.  Heck, I even teared up at the end. Brilliant, amigo. I also dug all the Guy’s Guy stuff about middle class suburban Philly, football, and people who learn how to stop judging and start loving. This is one of the best Guy’s Guy movies of all time, and women will love it. See it.

Well, that’s my lineup of flicks for 2012. What were your favorite movies this year?

Our Guy’s Guy of the Week is Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook for his Oscar-worthy portrayal of a bipolar dude who keeps the faith and sees his own silver lining.

Image courtesy of The Weinstein Company.


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