Mike Cerra a.k.a “The Stepfather”
“As far back as I could remember I always wanted to be a gangster.” Not literally, but as far back as I can remember, I have always loved the movies. I’m not sure if it was because I rarely ever had the opportunity to go to the movies as a child, but I knew this medium was for me. The ability for 90 minutes to be whisked away to another place or time, to feel what it was like on the other side of the tracks, always intrigued me. And there is something special about the theater. Getting there early to get good seats, the anticipation of how the film you were about to see would turn out, the previews, the dimming of the lights, and eventually the show. It is an all-encompassing experience.
My favorite genre of film has to be the crime drama, more specifically the mafia movie. To say that The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2 are perfect films, to me, is an understatement. Knowing that real-life gangsters were seeing these films 2 and 3 times to get tips on how someone should behave is fascinating to me. And there is something to be said about men who come from nothing, banding together to form a group based on common goals, and thrive in a world that is saturated with other men banded together with an equally opposing common goal trying to keep a foothold on the stake of claim they have successfully grown. What that says about me, I don’t know. But I do know when the lights dim and the film starts rolling characters like Michael Corleone, Henry Hill, Sam Rothstein, Benjamin Ruggiero, Al Capone, Sonny LoSpecchio, Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega I am immediately thrust from the shadows of an imperfect grey world to a life of money, power, strength, weakness and emotion. Few things have the power to remove your natural surrounding for a brief moment, let alone hours, but these characters and films do that and I thank them for it.
Thus the nickname of “The Stepfather” was formed. Or at least that is how I believe it to have been manifested. I am only half Italian and therefore could never become a “made man”, so my friends bestowed upon me the moniker. At least that is what they tell me. It may be some cruel joke that means something totally different that I am unaware of, but I love the nickname. As a member of the Caveman Mafia I hope to bring you many hours of listening pleasure. Hopefully you agree with my film recommendations, and if not I welcome the discussion. To get to know me a little bit better I submit to you a number of top 5 lists that detail my favorites in a number of mediums.
Favorite Musical Entertainer or Group
5. Buckwheat Zydeco – He was an opening act for Kenny Wayne Sheppard the first time I saw and heard Stanley Dural Jr. He stole the show. No better party music and rock covers exist. I dare you to find one. Upbeat, positive, enjoyable, powerful.
4. The Rolling Stones – Screw the Beatles. There is no greater rock band to come out of the UK than the Stones. Now, I am mainly drawn to the “A-side” of their records, but what an album the “A-sides” make. Nobody can deny the greatness of the opening to “Start Me Up”. Hearing just those few notes tells you something spiritual is to follow and they may never stop.
3. James Brown – There isn’t much else that makes a man want to, “Get up off-a that thang” and dance until I feel better. The power that James Brown possessed to transcend race and time was phenomenal. He is the most sampled artist ever and his lyrics speak volumes even today.
2. Natalie Merchant – Fewer female voices pique my interest and none cut more deeply into my soul than does Natalie Merchant. I don’t know if it is the topic that she is singing about or the soft gentle caress of her delivery, I am spellbound by the lyrical web she weaves.
1. Elvis Presley – Although I have to be in a certain mood to listen to Elvis, to me nothing compares. Raw emotion and a zest for life is all I feel when I hear him sing. I know he didn’t write or compose music, but he gave music life. From the young, exuberant, ground breaking bubble gum pop to the older more heartfelt performance, Elvis is and always will be the King to me.
Sadly, great artists are always left off of top 5 lists, so I finish with an honorable mention: Stevie Ray Vaughan. SRV has introduced me to so much music and emotion that I am the person I am today because of his influence. The talent this man possessed was so strong that it was destined he wouldn’t be with us long. I could only hope, in a long full life, to have the effect on someone that his guitar had on me.
Favorite Video Games
5. Combat Arms – My first foray into the MMO party. It runs smooth and I am quite good. Too bad hackers have destroyed the sanctity of this game.
4. Civilization – Any version of the game, please. Just one more turn. One more turn. Build cities. Loot villages. Plunder countries. Gather nuclear weapons and win through massive military force. Just one more turn.
3. The Walking Dead – I am only half way through this game but it is easily one of my favorites. The game play is straight forward and easy to pick up. The decisions are gut wrenching and difficult to make in such a short period of time. Thank goodness the zombie apocalypse isn’t already upon us.
2. Borderlands – Co-op adventure game. There are tons of weapon modifications. The game has a laugh out loud storyline and plenty of killing and mayhem. I love playing this game. Too bad I don’t have time to play more often.
1. God of War – This game sold me the PS3. As fun as the Batman franchise is, nothing beats the action and adventure of God of War. Kratos is a man amongst men. He oozes testosterone and has that never say die attitude I love in a main character. Give me the “Blades of Chaos” and let me loose on some gods and titans!!
Favorite TV Shows
5. Red Dwarf – I love this science fiction parody. Follow the boys from the Dwarf as they fumble their way through space, trying to get back to Earth. As much as I am not a fan of science fiction, I am ecstatic they brought the show back for another run.
4. The Sopranos – Not much can be said about this take on the mafia genre, other than the finale was down right painful. Almost every season was good, and almost every episode was important. Down the stretch the show tapered off, but nobody will ever forget the name Tony Soprano.
3. Seinfeld – The greatest sitcom of all times. It is a show about nothing that ran for nine seasons. It could have easily run for nine more. It is a shame that it didn’t. So much of life is reflected in these episodes that I chuckle inside when a “Seinfeld Moment” happens in front of me.
2. Sons of Anarchy – The men of the MC are close to the worse dregs society can scoop together. They make all the wrong moves but I can’t help but root for some of them. Characters and depth of story have propelled this story along. Sadly the run is almost over, but its impact on me will last a long time.
1. Friday Night Lights – For me, this is the single best family story every to be shown on television. Set in the backdrop of Texas high school football, the show follows the lives of a coach and his family, and the effects an activity like football has on a town and its residence. The show dealt with all the tough coming of age decisions kid’s face and the struggles American families deal with on a daily basis. There were many times this show had me in tears. If anyone ever had a father half as capable as Coach Eric Taylor, they will forever be blessed.
5. The Big Lebowski – Sometimes a film comes along that doesn’t have to have an epic scope. It doesn’t need the window dressing that most of today’s blockbusters focus too much on. Sometimes a film can be just about a man and his simple adventures through life. With Characters like Walter, Maude, Jesus and The Dude the film is the mother of hangs. And with a single phrase you sum up his entire philosophy: “The Dude Abides”.
4. Scent of a Woman – Al Pacino had already cemented himself as one of the greatest actors prior to this film. The power and sentimentality he gave to Lt. Col Frank Slade was so dynamic I only hope that some day I have that same impact on someone’s life. And while there are many other films Al Pacino will be remembered for, no one will forget this performance.
3. The Killer – This film was one of the first to open my eyes to Asian cinema. It is directed by John Woo’s and stars Chow Yun-Fat in one of the most memorable action films of its time. No longer are action movies seen as just shoot ‘em up pieces. Now they have the fluidity of dance and emotion of full fledged dramas. And the benefit of Asian Cinema over our classical Hollywood is that every cloud doesn’t always have a silver lining and the good guys don’t always win in the end. Thank you, John Woo.
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – I hate the fact this film did not win best picture. The academy gave it best foreign film purposely to award best picture to Gladiator. Not that Gladiator wasn’t a good film, it was; it just wasn’t Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Action, Adventure, Drama, and edge of your seat excitement encompass every nook and cranny of this movie. Watch it with subtitles. Embrace the picture it paints and feel the promise it possesses.
1. The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2 – Not much can be said that hasn’t already been about these two films. For me, nothing is better. Michael Corleone transforms from the geeky son to the powerful mafia Don and proves nothing is ever personal. He stays two steps ahead of most and one step ahead of everyone. Adding in Robert DeNiro as a young Don Vito in Part 2 is just icing on the cake. And although the two are never together on screen, you feel both of their greatness as the story unfolds.