Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I'm Shipping Up to Boston

Somebody better, because the Sox need some help.  This started out as a Red Sox post, morphed into I'm Shipping Up to Boston and ended up . . .  well, follow this through to the bottom and find out.

If you saw Martin Scorese's The Departed, you heard the song.  Here's the scene:

Or you may remember this dancing version by Jonathan Papelbon.

It's by a Boston band, the Dropkick Murphys. The lyrics are by Woody Guthrie (!)  A relative of Woody's gave them to the band and they wrote the music.  The song is from the 2000s, not the 1970s (or 1870s).


Now, let's go back to The Departed.  A lot of folks, particularly from Boston, think it was inspired by the Whitey Bulger story (more of which later), but it's not.  It's actually based on a 2002 Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs.  Infernal Affairs was a huge box-office hit in Asia and won multiple awards.  I liked The Departed but I've seen Infernal Affairs, as well as its prequel, and they're better.  Brad Pitt saw the movie, purchased the American rights, and was one of the producers for The Departed.  There are several scenes in the Scorcese flick that are lifted almost verbatim from Infernal Affairs.

Although The Departed is based on a Hong Kong film, the twisted and almost unbelievable plot actually fits within the broad outline of the Whitey Bulger tale so it was a natural move to set the U.S. movie in Boston.  Whitey Bulger's life sounds like a screenplay:
  •  Local thug moves up in the Boston crime ranks
  •  Becomes an FBI informant
  •  Subverts his FBI handlers so they end up as his protectors (against the State Police, among others) and enablers for, among other things, murder
  •  Manipulates his FBI contacts so that they take down the local Mafia, his main rivals
  •  Ends up as the most powerful gangster in Boston
  •  "Wins" the Massachusetts Lottery
  •  Some of the local press portray him as a misunderstood guy (thanks, Mike Barnicle!)
  •  He murders perhaps 19 people along the way
  •  Did I mention his brother Billy was President of the State Senate and then President of the  University of Massachusetts and the most powerful politician in the state for about 20 years? (Sidenote:  I had a couple of occasions to meet Billy Bulger in the 1980s and while he was known to be vicious and vindictive I can also testify he was very smart and witty - you just didn't want to mess with him.) 
  •  In the 1990s, when the Feds finally decide to arrest him, his FBI handler warns him and he evades arrest, disappears and becomes  #1 on the FBI's Most Wanted List before Osama bin Laden takes his place several years later.
And that covers just part of Whitey's history.  The best account of the Bulgers is in The Brothers Bulger by Howie Carr, a Boston talk-show host and columnist.  One of Whitey's associates, Kevin "Two Weeks" Weeks, told police that Whitey asked him to kill Carr.

Beginning with his brother's flight, Billy Bulger came under increased public pressure (though there is no evidence linking him to his brother's crimes) which culminated in an embarrassing performance at a U.S. Congressional hearing in 2001 where he admitted having contact with his brother when he was a fugitive.  The next year, the newly elected governor, Mitt Romney, began trying to get Bulger to resign as President of the University of Massachusetts.  After hitting resistance with the University's Board of Trustees, he began nominating anti-Bulger trustees as terms expired.  He finally threatened to name three of Bulger's biggest enemies as trustees - Howie Carr, Alan Dershowitz (who had some brutal public exchanges with Bulger over the years) and Judge E. George Daher, a Massachusetts Housing Court judge who had failed to hire a Bulger crony and saw his budget decimated (one of Bulger's aides joked that Daher was "holding court in a Winnebago"), leading Daher to denounce Billy as "a corrupt midget" (Bulger is on the wee side).

Billy Bulger finally resigned in 2003.

After 17 years as a fugitive, in 2011 Whitey Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, California and is now back in Boston, awaiting trial.

And now, Ben Affleck is planning to direct a biopic based on Whitey's story.  If it's as good as his other two Boston-based directorial efforts, Gone Baby Gone and The Town, it'll be worth seeing.

Of course, Ben turned to directing because of some limitations in the acting arena as noted in this song from Team America, World Police.

One of the best films of the past decade, I'm not linking to it (other than the one clip above) because if I did and you happen to open it at work, it is possible that the next thing to happen is that you'll be asked to clear out your desk and be escorted out of the building by security.

The film was written and directed by the guys who created South Park and here they are at the Oscars!

1 comment:

  1. Haha, I actually heard Shipping Up To Boston almost every night of the summer before senior year of college. The one-month subletters we had in the house arrived in DC with one DVD, which happened to be The Departed. So they apparently watched it every evening before bed, leaving the menu music playing Shipping Up To Boston. It was an odd summer.

    Also, great photo of Matt & Trey.