Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pete Postlethwaite Dies at Age 64

2011 is off to a bleak start in Hollywood as legendary "that guy" actor Pete Postlethwaite died on the second of January as a result of everybody's favourite terminal illness - cancer.  And I feel kind of bad.  Not just because a really capable actor passed on, but because I'm taking the time to write an obituary about a man who's name I didn't even bother to look up until after I heard that he died.  I know I shouldn't feel guilty about not knowing a celebrity's name, or that a vitual relationship shouldn't evoke any real feelings, although to be completely honest I suppose it didn't.  I'm not sure if I experience genuine emotional reactions or calculated displays of what I think I should be feeling.  In a society so media conscious I can never really be sure whether I actually have genuine emotions or whether I am simply inclined to react in a manner that society expects of me because that's the way I have been programmed.  So perhaps any (slight) sadness or sense of my own mortality that registered with my brain were virtual feelings.  But perhaps not.

And why all this intrapersonal bullshit philosophical rambling when the purpose of this article -clearly outlined by the title and the first few lines of this passage- was to commemorate the life of an artist whose work I (at least claim) to admire or at least appreciate for its entertainment value?  Because fuck the dead, that's why.

All of these funerals, memorials, graveyards and other rituals that surround death aren't for the dead: the dead don't give a shit.  They're dead.  If you don't believe in an afterlife then the equation is simple.  Your dead friends/relatives/strangers you just felt like running over with your car on a lazy Sunday afternoon "just because" no longer exist except as an inexpensive source of fertilizer and/or leather if you start tanning the hide soon enugh after death.  If you do have some kind of belief regarding death then it still doesn't matter because A) He or she is in a far better place having sex with dead celebrities while/or playing Risk with Jesus and Buddha, B) He or She is in a far worse place being raped by the souls of aborted babies and the one-eyed ghost of Hitler while the Devil smokes the penis of a child molester like a Cuban cigar and chuckles merrily to himself, C) He or she has already been reincarnated as an old lady in France with too much facial hair and not enough personal hygiene or D) He or she is too busy spying on hot chicks while they take a shower and/or masturbate gratuitously. (OK, maybe that last one is just me.)

Any way you cut it death does not matter to the dead.  The only significance death -and the rituals surrounding it- has is how it affects each of us personally.  How we interpret it's relative significance.  The funeral isn't for the dead guy.  It's for the people who are still alive.  This article (and the others like it) which details the death of a celebrity aren't meant for that dead celebrity.  They're meant for me.  Their significance is relative to my subjective experience of whatever work they produced and my articles about them are in some small way tributes to their influence on me and really milestones in understanding my own life.

It may seem like I've hijacked my own article about Mr. Postlethwaite to rant about my own self-importance, and you'd be half right.  The point is that since I can only experience the world as myself and no one else then in order to make meaning out of anything ultimately I have to find some way to relate it to myself.  Maybe it's self-absorbed or maybe it's self-enlightened.  Or maybe a little of both.

What I do know is how I remember Pete Postlethwaite.  I'll remember him as the reluctantly heroic monk in DRAGONHEART,  as the master hunter in THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, as Keyser Soze's messenger boy in THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and most recently as a humble fisherman, dying (and dead) father and a hardcore gangster in CLASH OF THE TITANS, INCEPTION, and THE TOWN respectively.  For me the significance of his career is his ability to be in the spotlight without being in the spotlight.  He acted in some huge blockbusters, and oftentimes as well as, if not better than, the stars of these movies.  I didn't know him personally but it seems to me that he was that rare beast: a truly talented artist with an honestly small ego.  Something I would never aspire to be but also something which I admire.    


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