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Al Pacino, Martha Washingtons, plus the meaning of McDonald's closing its Russian stores
Happy Friday and welcome back to The Crunchwrap!
It’s March 11, the 70th day of this eternal year, the two-year anniversary of the WHO’s designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic, and Rupert Murdoch’s 91st birthday. Maybe, um, let’s go for some neutral-to-happy news this week.
The bar is pretty low, but I have to tell you that I read this David Itzkoff interview with Al Pacino for the 50th anniversary of The Godfather and it’s a damn delight and a badly needed distraction.
I assumed that Al Pacino, at this point at least, was a total maniac roaming this world wily-eyed (and maybe he is!)…
…but in this interview he sounded charming and absolutely in possession of the wits, sanity, and humility that fame (of any kind) seems to rob people of.
There’s a lot in there (about actor John Cazale, about the studio not wanting him to play Michael Corleone, about the many people who haven’t actually seen The Godfather [very sorry if you’re one of them!]) but this bit about the work of acting, the intellectual craft of it stood out to me:
When you got into the filming of “The Godfather,” working alongside people like James Caan and Robert Duvall, who had quite a lot more moviemaking experience, and Marlon Brando, who you admired a great deal, how did you hold your own?
I thought about the role. I just couldn’t articulate it at the time. I could articulate it today. I was thinking that this is a character that could be very effective if he comes out of nowhere. That was my vision for it. I couldn’t, naturally, mention it to anyone because I didn’t know how to say it. But I could think it. And I felt it was mapped out for me when I read the script.
He’s not showing up a lot. He’s there but not quite showing up. I guess a lot of it was just building up to that one speech where he says I’m going to go get those guys [the drug kingpin Sollozzo and the corrupt police officer Capt. McCluskey], and they all start laughing at him.
Meaning, Michael was being underestimated and that was something you could connect to and use to your advantage?
Exactly. But I will tell you, they couldn’t have been more comforting, all of them. I was young, I was unknown, and they were so comforting. There was a love there. They understood it, Brando especially. But the others, too. They were becoming those older brothers and advisers that they play in the film. Those kinds of emotions and colors in them came out, both in the performance but also in life. They mesh.
Appropriately, instead of the irritating comparisons of The Godfather to Andrew Wyeth paintings or Bruckner compositions, this charming little anecdote became the most popular response to the interview (Mom, you’re gonna have to hit the ‘load images button’ at the top of this email to see it.):
I’m still not sure he should won Best Actor for Scent of a Woman over Denzel Washington (Malcolm X) or Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven), but his Oscar speech is fun to watch for its general shambolic style and time-capsule quality. Also, there’s a nice nod to working his way out of the South Bronx.
While I’m limning about how great The Godfather is like a kid in your freshman dorm, I recently rediscovered the magic of this old Pizza Hut commercial, which harks back to the warm confusion of the post-Cold War days for basically every country but America.
What I should be leading with is that Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union, stars in the ad. Is it pretty bummer-y in today’s context? Yes. But let’s not focus on that.
Snacks of the Week: Martha Washingtons
While driving around Texas last week, I stopped in the town of Hallettsville for lunch. And by lunch, I mean a jalapeño sausage kolache, a pecan bar that was four inches deep, and an immaculate frito pie, which was covered in chopped onions and jalapeños and served in a styrofoam clamshell. The place was called Janak’s Country Market and their website is incredible in a no-effs-given 2006 kind of way.
At the counter under a glass cake dome they had, without any other explanation, Martha Washingtons for a $1.65:
What are Martha Washingtons? I didn’t know either and so when I asked, the pastry and pie sherpa behind the counter started listing ingredients (chocolate, coconut, condensed milk) before cutting to the chase: It’s like an Almond Joy, but with pecans.
My hometown of Houston (deservedly) gets much of the culinary buzz in Texas for having excellent and hard-to-find eats, but if you haven’t roamed the historic Czech and German enclaves of central Texas, I highly recommend it.
Nu, what else?
Because of course I did, I wrote about McDonald’s closing its stores in Russia for The Washington Post, which is good news in that it puts certain post-Cold War naïveté to bed and weakens Putin’s standing and the effect of his state-run propaganda. The company is also continuing to pay the workers.
Citizens of the web have raised MILLIONS of dollars for Ukrainians simply by booking their homes and apartments on Airbnb. It’s one of the more creative and direct ways to give and Airbnb wisely decided to waive all fees.
An older, but increasingly relevant story (to me at least): It’s pretty much okay to let your dog sleep on your bed. I will not be taking comments on this.
Kindergarteners at a California school established a hotline where people can call in for pre-recorded pep talks and life advice such as, “If you're feeling up high and unbalanced, think of groundhogs.” Amen, kids.
That’s it for this week’s Crunchwrap. Thanks for reading and sharing it! It’s been nice to hear from strangers and I NEVER feel that way about the internet!