Monday, August 25, 2008

Thrower of Tantrums


What does Jacques Rivette's LA BELLE NOISEUSE and THE ROCKER have in common? That's right: they both depend on nudity for substance, and they both suck. You heard me.


I hate to Emperor's New Clothes it with Rivette; the man makes a pretty picture, and there's some great subtle naturalistic work from Jane Birkin (Married to Serge Gainsbourg, she's the ideal rich artist's nurturing aesthete hostess). But the film is a pretty, airy bore; the worst part is - the "artist" played by Michel Piccoli can't even draw!

We see him spend so much time stalling and meandering around his big studio--prepping surfaces, choosing brushes, wiping off the flop sweat, laying out paper and pontificating evasively about passion, positioning his model (Emmanuelle Béart) around in different uncomfortable misogynistic positions--that we start to expect something pretty good. After all, this is a movie about an artist-- allegedly--and if you've seen any of those Picasso movies you know how fun and rewarding it can be watching a great master paint, but then when Piccoli goes to dip pen into ink or get a paint brush going, we see that he has absolutely no skill whatsoever. The guy who does his painting for him (we see the hand) is either playing possum or totally talentless. We cringe in pain as the dry quill of an ink-dipped pen scratches ineffectually at the paper, making a horrible noise, like cat claws on a mirror; we cry "why not use charcoal?" and it takes him an hour to do so. Finally there's a change of scene and when we next see the studio there's some decent sketches on the walls, no doubt the result of a quickly hired assistant working through lunch.

In the end Piccoli decides he's finished, and the final painting is a pathetic rendering of Béart--one of the most beautiful women in the cinema--crouched in a "pose of the child" yoga position, head obscured, the sort of thing any decent artist could draw from memory, with their eyes closed, in about five minutes just thinking of Picasso's 1902 "Blue Nude.", but it took Piccoli at least a week.  Even Piccoli admits it sucks, and everyone kind of tip-toes around the fact at the celebration party... yes mighty Emperor, another beautiful set of clothes.

Watching a three-year old kid finger-painting would have been much more interesting, yet the film critics unanimously praise the hell out of this film. Maltin gives it four stars, the ultimate sign of bourgeois pantheon respect.

Which brings me to THE ROCKER-- a film that is so inane that even the points of tantrum don't make sense. The plot has Rainn Wilson having huge outbreaks of purposeless anger because he was kicked out of Vesuvius, his 1980's hair metal band, right as they hit the big time. Now it's twenty years later and his co-worker at some dingy office park is boasting about "waiting in line over night" to get the new Vesuvius CD... bragging about how great it is, etc., until Rainn attacks him and gets fired.

Now, if the writers of this turkey had ever spent a single day outside of their Hollywood soap bubble they would know that:

a) Nobody waits in line for a CD anymore, and all those songs would have been long ago leaked to mp3 swap sites, if anyone cared.
b) Nobody would care, because 1980s hair metal is completely irrelevant outside of MTV reality shows.
c) Any musician who was almost famous is not going to work somewhere for twenty years without everyone in his entire office knowing about it.

Also - as someone who happens to have been in a band twenty years ago, blah blah, I can assure you that no "real" rocker ever has to be talked into playing... ever. if there's an instrument already plugged in, he will play it. If not, he is not a rocker, he is afraid of revealing his lack of chops (I know this as someone who happens to have an utter lack of chops). But our man Rainn needs to be convinced in a long, meandering talking scene, to open for Vesuvius. Imagine Sly Stallone NOT wanting to fight Apollo Creed again in the sequel: "But Adrian, I can't beat up a guy who betrayed my trust!" Whenever Rainn gets his head out of his ass for a nanosecond, we're supposed to stand up and cheer, like dad with a Hard Rock Cafe shirt on: "Woo-Hoo!"

Then he ruins the gig by showboating and then when they get a big break due to a viral video, he acts like a jackass - "catching up" as it were, on the gross frat boy hotel-thrashing decadence he missed out on as a youth (throwing TVs out the window and such). There's nothing "cool" about throwing furniture out the window of a hotel, and I should know, because I was stuck with the tab once (I was the only guy with a credit card). Real cool, guy. 

And if his outdated and inconsistent destructo habits weren't cringe-inducing enough, Rainn also embarrasses his much younger bandmates by treating every new event on the road with gaping dumb tourist pride that would make even that Hard Rock T-shirt rockin' dad cringe in embarassment: "First groupies!" he shouts when two hotties want to buy the band beers. When they go into a fancy recording studio he has to gloat and wheel around on the office chairs like a monkey finally sprung from the zoo. Real cool, guy. Vesuvius sure was smart to escape you. 

He's the sort of guy who ruins acid parties, who can't let a single experience happen without cheapening it through audio commentary, like those parents who have to point out everything to their kids "Isn't this ride fun, Caitlin? Caitlin, do you see the dinosaur?" Dude, try and transcend the need to ruin every career-defining moment via egoic mind chatter!

Sorry if this rambles... I had to get it off my chest. The thing ultimately here is the sad gap between filmmakers and the real world they long to depict. These "players" of the industry spend so much time on the phone, making deals and making meetings, that they completely forget what "reality" is like. They don't bother to investigate, or to "feel" on a tangible level. They're egos are so amok that they genuinely think they have something to say about areas of art in which they have absolutely no experience.

This is what separates real craftsman like Noah Baumbach and James Mangold--who have a keen eye for life as it "really happens"-- from the hacks for whom reality is just a form of TV show. Art is, ultimately, an expression of the divine in man. Put a camera in the hands of a real auteur and you get something incredible; the artist as a conduit to the eternal truth beyond symbolic differentiation. Put a camera in the hands of a Rivette or the oafs of Hollywood responsible for tripe like THE ROCKER, and what you got is an expression of infant in man, the artist as a magnificent thrower of tantrums.

END NOTE: On the plus side, both women in LA BELLE are amazing and in THE ROCKER we've got a new slacker-star in the form of a pleasantly low key musician-actor named Teddy Geiger- his songs and voice are great! Also Christina Applegate is fun as his mom. If the movie had been about their relationship and his awkward romance with bassist-babe Emma Stone, and they got rid of Rainn altogether, it would have maybe been pretty good. But no, America needs to see shirtless flabby men acting stupid... no wonder the French revere Jerry Lewis. He was, how you say, sexually active?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rod La Rocque, you were just born in the wrong century! (THE LOCKED DOOR - 1929)


I've been going nuts with my new DVD recorder, and burning my way through the recent flurry of pre-code Stanwycks on TCM. One maligned but lovely item - THE LOCKED DOOR (1929), one of Babs' first roles sticks out not because of her particularly, but because of Rod La Rocque as a debauched womanizing cad!

The only review I could find of it online is from Dennis Schwartz who rates it a C:
The melodrama suffers from the static, stage-like look of early sound movies; it was a time when how to use sound was first being developed and still had many kinks to be worked out. Decades later when Stanwyck became a Hollywood legend, she was asked about The Locked Door and quipped: “They never should’ve unlocked the damned thing.”
There's no denying its got its kinks (and how!) but I've got a soft spot a mile deep for these old early creaky sound films. They're windows into a bygone age, a special in-transition age. The old dark house or giant bachelor apartment or spacious mansion with multi-generations of family living in it are all so interesting as examples of the "pre-nuclear" family dynamic, a whole way of life that would be eradicated when the boys came home after WW2 and found outdated morality waiting for them back at their parent's homes; they left in droves and moved into prefabricated worlds of the future where they could have sex all the time without small town gossip.

That outdated, choking morality was the stuff of woman's pictures which were huge at the time (I'm reading Thomas Doherty's excellent Pre-Code Hollywood right now, so consider him referenced), and most of the plots revolve around vicious old bats running free-loving hotties out of town, or if its in the city, avenging the honor of so-and-so's daughter. That's the angle of THE LOCKED DOOR, which has for its centerpiece an extended scene in La Roque's swanky bi-level bachelor pad. Stanwyck was once (almost) taken advantage of by La Roque on an "outside the legal limit" party boat (all the rage during prohibition) and had her picture taken running off the boat with her dress torn under Rod's overcoat. Our story picks up years later where she's wealthy and married to some taciturn old duffer played by the soon-to-be-dead-from-drugs William Boyd.


La Rocque is hilarious fun, refusing to be pigeonholed into the role of a mere cad. One can imagine Roberts Young or  Montgomery in this part being just tedious. La Rocque is unabashedly tall and fey, completely at ease in his body and with the then-new trappings of sound - more so than Babs at the time, though she would have the hang of it by 1930's TEN CENTS A DANCE. Whereas Babs and the rest of the cast seem to be acting out a drawing room drama, La Rocque is living his role, his sexual ease is eye-popping - but more than that he is a whole complex three-dimensional villain, radiating the seductive humor and "owning my own un-okayness" similar to that of Brando in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Of special interest is Rod's rapport with his old butler, whom he treats as a co-conspiratorial equal, a mix of Leperello from DON GIOVANI and a faux-shocked old uncle.

The ending has him even clearing all the suspects of his murder, right before he dies, as if he feels sorry for these uptight socialites for whom a whiff of scandal is so horrific that they run around beating people and pleading and hiding corpses just to avoid it. His attitude all but screams "Jesus, maybe y'all wouldn't have had to shoot me if you would all just get laid once in awhile and shut up about it!" Amen, Rod.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the 12 Lost Grail Memes of Doom 2: The Flossening


Movieman's Dancing Image is crazy with these meme blogs, the new one is all about films you want to see but never have and aren't available on DVD, aka HOLY GRAILS. Arthur... King of the Britains...

Most of mine have been found, in just the way I want them. I knew I would never have loved LUCIFER RISING or THE HOLY MOUNTAIN on some murky pan & scan dupe, but now that I've seen them in crisp DVD glory, and stolen their subliminal editing secrets like the harp out the beanstalk, I'm ready to die in peace, knowing the dark secret of... oops, nevermind.

Anyway, see Movieman's amazing dozen, and then track back to Out 1, which gave him the original idea. Man, I've never visited Out 1 before and I'm an instant fan. They smart and use good background colors! And their trippy banner is right after my own post modern heart.

Jesus, I can't think of anything, except CUL DE SAC, which Nathaniel R. eloquently mentions and in addition tributes the lovely Francois Dorleaq" - and how does that man get those weir French curliques in there (sorry, I'm not very eloquent today, I'm withdrawing from nicotine, caffeine, morphine, benzedrine and gasoline)

Why did this Francoise Dorleaq chick have to die, why why? Why won't those idiots release Cul-de-sac? WHY? WHY? (anyway it's on dvd in other regions... does that count?)

I looked for clips of Dorleaq on youtube. What's up with this trend of making videos matching footage of stars from different epochs? Someone named Gatta Ren loves mixing Francoise footage with that doe-eyed 21st century hunk Hayden Christensen, who wasn't even born when Mmme. Dorleaq died. Somehow, for some reason, Acidemic approves:

Barbara Stanwyck in "Ten Cents a Dance"


TCM had another one of their Stanywck days today, and tivo nabbed me TEN CENTS A DANCE (1931). Stanwyck is on a great slow burn here, starting out as a naive--though world-weary-- dance hall girl and ending as a wizened (but still world-weary) dance hall girl. And the dialogue sizzles with half/double entendres, as when a new dancer is explaining what the stern matron of the dance hall, Miss Blanchard, told her about dancing with the guys: "She said be very careful, but not so careful. She tole me to be inna... inamit..intimate but lady-like. Now what do you make out of that? To feel my way along until I got the hang of things..."

Hmm, re-reading it now, it's not so tawdry. But it's how she says it, and where she says it... in a crowded pre-code dance hall. "Feeling your way until you get the hang of things" is not only a double entendre, it's site-specific! We all snug at home don't have to worry about it, but there was a time when people lived with no privacy, a time when several generations lived under the same roof and no bed however small wasn't guarded by at least some embittered virgin equivalent of an East German Stasi. You do the math, especially when you hear Babs explain the job of glowering matron Mrs. Blanchard as "keeping it hot enough to avoid bankruptcy and cold enough to avoid raids."

The whole issue of censorship codes and codes of conduct for ladies and gentlemen itself was, these films slyly reveal, once not fixed in the stars. Nowadays we're so trained by moralist abuse that we never even think, for example, to whip off our clothes and have sex in public, or grind up against a sailor during one a' dem slow ballads. Apparently it was not always so, once sex surrounded us from all sides like a pack of jackals. The mangy Bigfoot of "the code" hangs in the middle of Hollywood history, obscuring both sides of what should be an uninterrupted stream of sexual how-to's and do's and doesn'ts.

Take the loser Babs weds, for example, played by the odious Monroe Owsley. Babs hasn't been schooled in how to spot a social climbing drifter, so she passes over the amiable, slightly soused rich business guy bachelor who "sees something very special in her," and marries a talentless Mr. Ripley who proceeds to insult her cooking, belittle her choice in wall colors and insult her dresses as she scrimps and saves on the nickels he throws her from the job she got him. Naturally when he embezzles money for his social climbing (he's a terrible bridge player) it's saintly Miss Stanwyck who goes back to the bachelor--now her husband's boss--to "earn" her husband's freedom.

This old warhorse must have been traveling up and down the states for years in that old version of pre-code cinema, roadshow theater, because every situation is played exactly how long it should and in all the right places to get maximum laughs and steakless sizzle. Personally, I love early sound theater-cinema like this, 1929-1931; the boxy static sound carries an oceanic charge; it always feels like everyone is underwater, like the oxygen is richer. It probably was. They have energy to go through long scenes without getting tired... or bored.

What makes TEN CENTS so good, too, is the complexity of character and the importance of not judging by appearances. We're all set to moan and groan through a standard soap opera plot (Owsley is introduced with typical 'student' style nobility and ambition) but as the film goes along it seems to catch wise to itself; our innocent Owsley turns very slowly into the vilest of townies, all the while becoming more and more enjoyable an actor. Stanwyck rises up through the classes, buoyed by moxie and a lack of attachment to material things... that's right you dumb social climbing townie, in order for the hot air balloon to rise, you got to let go of all the crap your clutching. If you can do that, you can be like Stanwyck and fall asleep while waiting for the rich drunk to come home so you can borrow money for your no good husband, and you can fall asleep in a threadbare old crackhead dress and wake up in the same dress gone double knit and cleaner and even satiny, just in time for a long near-seduction scene.

Stanwyck makes it all work; she's the Kali goddess of modern sound cinema, dispensing hope and sweetness with the right hand and smacking you down with the left. The film starts out all stiff and jerky; all the actors (excluding the "born smart" Babs) seem microphone conscious, and slow to enunciate, trapped in dorky types - the bachelor good guy shoved into the model of a straw hat college boy slummer; the weasel starting out one of those frazzled Odets-ianly earnest cads. But as the film creaks along, the oil slowly starts to take hold in the gears and the creaking grows almost inaudible. As it does, and these suitors switch their stripes, Babs morphs blissfully through the six stations of the Zen soap martyr--never lapsing from her perfect love into selfishness, tears, tantrums or even a frown--and then finally, from this silent film histrionic pupae, she bursts out with that barrelhouse Babs temper at last, letting her soul take wing and giving this Ripley the what's-what in no uncertain terms!

The censorship people's mistake was in thinking ignorant equals innocent. TEN CENTS A DANCE is practically a training manual for the battle of the sexes. It might show you the "plans" for some sketchy operations (the censors were always afraid of criminals "getting ideas"), but it also makes those operations public, so they don't work anymore anyway. That's called education, you grant to-someone else giving tartuffles!

Anyway, back to the past. When those brave hippie hunters finally scared the Breen Bigfoot out of the aforementioned love stream, was the current able to catch up with itself? Were we able to catch up with sex where we left off after thirty years of incarceration? No, we forgot everything. We ran wild, like the Lord of the Flies. Then, a decade or so of free love and everyone was dying; the 1980s came rising up on the crest of foamy institutional grade soap, Nurse Ratchett played by Meg Ryan, that was our half-shelled Venus!

But my friends! Now thanks to DVD and TCM we can begin to remember when we truly had a chance to be free. While the conventions that films like TEN CENTS were mocking have come back, we can at least begin to recognize them as conventions (enforced by a controlling elite) and not human nature. Even watching the film now it's easy to be mislead by its dated surface into thinking its all grandmotherly and proper, that it's gonna bore you or try and peddle some churchin'. No! Sonny, daughter, listen up! There was a time when Grandma and grandpa did things you'd never even think of doing (thanks to the code you don't even know you can). In the pre-code era they didn't fall for the wizard of Oz smokescreen; there was no easy placebo stopgap bullshit measures, no endless retrials and postponements. Come what may, come hell or high water, (and the water came hella high in 1931) you were gettin' a legit happy ending. It's that endless delay of gratification that your giant capitalist conglomerate Miss Blanchard is counting on; she ain't your mother for free, and sexual frustration is the cornerstone of her wobbly foundation. Now is the time to topple it! Come and get some, and watch her Ratchet-y jaw drop like a '29 stock market!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The FRED Enigma



Among the other clues that I am the center of the world is the weird way in which FRED as the name of a brother or friend--often deceased, usually quite tall, sometimes dimwitted, generally a good guy but easily corrupted... reappears in films, music and literature of the "very cool" variety. Cool like me, Erich, who has a brother Fred, too, three years younger and big as a house... in spirit and in height! He likes beer and off-road vehicles and is licensed to carry firearms.

But what of these other Freds?

PHREDO - in the Godfather... He's called Freddy in Puzo's book. We all know about him, or we wouldn't be here. But what about... Fred, the "brother" of Anna Karina in PIERROT LE FOU. Fred, the dead brother in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, Fred, the dead fisherman in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA. "Fred's dead baby, Fred's dead."

FREDDY's DEAD from the SUPERFLY score by Curtis Mayfield and DROP DEAD FRED who is played, as I dimly recall, by the mod guy in the Young Ones. There's other Freds too... I won't name them all now, but there's an alarming number of Freds who are main characters' brothers out there... When will the man behind the curtain come and Truman Show me?

What was the last straw? FRED CLAUS, starring Vince Vaughn.

And before I forget may I plug Gary Oldman in Nicholas Roeg's TRACK 29... an underseen performance in a weird ass film. Is he called Fred? Is he ever.

 

Bigfoot O My Bigfoot


You will always be bigfoot to me, dear bigfoot.

Today the most compelling piece of Bigfoot evidence in the history of weird science, was revealedto be a hoax, and yesterday the boys with the bigfoot costume stunned the world by issuing a hoax DNA test result video. What?

You can't fool me, Virginia, Bigfoot is alive in all our hearts. Someone (or someones) took the time to make those footprints...

Who hypnotized these people to waste precious time to do such a thing if not shadowy government agents and/or bigfoot aliens?I wouldn't put it past the government to be the Moriarty behind all this bigfoot hoaxery, creating fakes and then exposing them deliberately as a means of discrediting Edgar Mitchell in a "guilt by paranormal association" sort of thing. As disinformtaion tactics go, it's the funnest.

When I was a little boy my friend Liesel and I would spend our recesses digging for "The Green Hand." We were sure it was buried in the schoolyard dirt. The point to this thrilling tale is that we both "knew" there was no real green hand. But we pretended there was, and the digging was fun. We'd discuss what we'd do if we found the hand. The hand was dangerous and had to be monitored closely, but would be a good ally in our future schemes, such as the blowing up of the school. It was the glue of our little presexual pair bond, if you will.

After awhile we got a little bored with never finding anything and Lisel brought a green magic marker and some paper to our dig site. Once the hand was actually created, the fun vanished. We drifted apart...

My point is, let's not us drift apart. Let's see the green hand and the bigfoot as what they really are, the soft underbelly of human intersubjective releationships. These bigfoot guys are like ace carny pitchmen of old! Call me old fashioned, but large scale hucksterism like this is much more fun and serves a better public interest than Christo and Jean-Claude's "The Gates" project. In my mind this all seems like Fellini shooting a remake of ACE IN THE HOLE. and it just makes Warner Herzog seem like more and more of a genius (for his INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS, which I talk about in Friday's post).

I have my own fake supernatural documentary too, from 2006, called QUEEN OF DISKS. If you go to watch it (if you dare!) Please see all 4-parts, the whole thing for maximum weirdness, and touchingness... though its deliberately Brechtian and not in Herzog's league... he said humbly. Don't judge and condemn based on the first few minutes of part one! It gets really weird and you will never predict what happens, this I can practi-fuckin-guarantee.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Are you ready for the cryptozoological end of days?


Chubacabras, Mountauk Monsters, Bigfoots (Bigfeets?), Loch Ness monstros, Aliens, they're all coming out of the woodwork for the end of days, a scant four years from now. We've lived the last 100 or so years in a trance of technological smugness, as if nothing could survive outside our limited positivist radar... and now look who's laughing! Mother nature is showing us all her weird and mutated cards, unveiling the mysteries that have kept us afraid of the dark for generations! She's dumping the whole mystery bag out on the table for anyone to see.

The recent discovery of a Bigfoot carcass has the web in such an uproar that it immediately crashed the site of the researchers who have apparently put a lock on the corpse until they can release DNA evidence, or something.... supposedly they'll release photos and evidence in a press conference tomorrow, or will it be a big hoax? And even if it's a hoax, isn't it still true?

I trace it all to the old Blair Witch Project web site and the blurring of truth and fiction - if you stage fiction enough like truth, it's not only fun, but it effects the actual reality in which you live. Call me crazy? Just listen...

In 2006, Werner Herzog went to Loch Ness in Scotland to make a documentary, the trip was a disaster that left two people dead... or did it?


The sheer deadpan crotchetiness with which Herzog plays himself in the film disputes any argument. The mounting terror, the randomness of sightings, the hot babe in the bikini... This documentary is real...regardless of the facts! As Herzog himself puts it in the film, "There is a difference between the facts and the truth." Watching INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS with the lights off in that suspension of disbelief mode--by which ghost stories are made scary in the campfire light--is to be alive with the thrill of Krypto! Zoology!

Expect this all to get a lot weirder, and Acidemic will be there, for as the late Hunter S. Thompson once said: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." The mass appearance of strange animals turning up dead or soggy and even allowing themselves to be photographed, and the blurring of the line between mocku and docu, truth and fiction, reality TV and the whining of jackasses... it all fits the pattern of Armageddons past! Ladies and gentlemen, select your desert island DVDs and begin building your arks! Awooo! Fake Bigfoot in a block of Ice cometh, man!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The 12 Dozen Meme of LAZY EYE!


I've been tagged by the amazing Movieman and his Dancing Image to participate in the 12 Movies Meme or "take indie cinema back from Diablo Cody before it's too late" movement.

My double features are as follows:

Night One: There Will be Menstrual Blood

THE DESCENT (2005)
CARRIE (1976)











Night Two: Laughton Among the Natives

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1933)
WHITE WOMAN (1933)




Night Three: The Yellow Peril: Analyzing pre-code Asian stereotypes

MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932)
DAUGHTER OF THE DRAGON (1931)


Night Four: Gangsters in Love

THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK (1941)
HOLD YOUR MAN (1933)
(The tragedy of the first film gets cheered up by the second)


Night Five: Great Chicks of the Seventies

KLUTE (1971)
AN UNMARRIED WOMAN (1978)
Night Six: The Kids on the Drugs

PSYCH-OUT (1968)
OVER THE EDGE (1979)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Crazy Cool Vs. Warm and Sane - Rating the Icons


If one looks at the stars of Hollywood--themselves, our perception of them, their personae--with the right kind of eyes, you can see in their sparkling allure a subtle but distinct difference - there are really two kind of actors, people, souls, beings - the crazy and the sane, the alive and the sleeping, its all split along a narrow axis that I've suddenly been able to point to in my cosmic DNA astronomical map of cinema.

One side is cool, mysterious even to themselves, perhaps violent at times but awake, always awake to the cosmic horror. Andre Bazin described Bogart as possessing "existential maturity which gradually transforms life into a stubborn irony at the expense of death." This irony and maturity needn't run in every "cool" actor - they are just two tricks of survival and endurance for those of us who have at some early or fundamental level--had to move past the normal parameters of the social order. They are the "introverted" artists of Jung, the people for whom death is always on the radar screen; they feel more at home in hell than in a classroom.

On the other side are the warm, socially engaged types for whom cultural norms and parent-instilled beliefs are taken almost subliminally as their own. It's hard to say exactly what it is... maybe they've never done acid? aren't alcoholics? haven't killed anyone or otherwise been forced to recognize the flimsiness of the facade that is our social network? There's something that keeps them in check, keeps them rooted and sane - dependable and sometimes dull; they'll never believe in aliens; they believe, deep down, that someone is in charge... somewhere, and order is a fact of life. They frequently win Oscars. They are active in the community, never questioning the shared values by which they excel. They don't push the bourgeoisie boundaries since--by and large--they don't even see them. The more they "try" to be cool and dangerous, the more sane and normal they seem, though sometimes this can be endearing (Peter Fonda as the leader of THE WILD ANGELS). The reverse is more often than not creepy (Jack trying to be a "normal" dad in the first half of THE SHINING)

I've always been very prejudiced to the crazies, but of course both are essential to the evolution of humanity as a whole. Some of the warm types have managed to become cool through life experience - I would say Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Heath Ledger and Naomi Watts all fit into that "trans" category. And cool types can become warm through mainstream acceptance, Oscars, spiritual awakening, etc. it's much sadder in this direction, as the actor often seems to have fallen into a pool of hungry ghostitude, like Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Kevin Spacey.

THE CRAZY COOL TYPES--born, bred and bonded-- would include: Asia Argento, Christopher Walken, Jon Voight, Gary Oldman, Bruce Lee, Heath Ledger, Fred Williamson, Lee Marvin, Bogart, Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, Chloe Sevigny, Vin Diesel, Cary Grant, Kim Novak, Jack Nicholson, Mia Farrow, Jason Robards, Isabelle Adjani, James Woods, Dennis Hopper, Johnny Depp, Samuel Jackson, Mae
West, W.C. Fields, Peter O'Toole, Barbara Stanwyck, William Powell, Willem DaFoe, Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci, Lindsay Lohan, Bela Lugosi, Orson Welles, Lawrence Tierney, Richard Widmark, Ginger Rogers, Tuesday Weld, John Barrymore, John Wayne, Kate Winslet, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Lorre, John Belushi, Ice Cube, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Peter Sellers, Harvey Keitel, Rutger Hauer, Darryl Hannah, Daniel Day Lewis, Alan Rickman, Deborah Kerr, Brad and Angelina Jolie, George C. Scott, Gina Gershon, Juliette Lewis, James Dean, Robert Downey Jr., Martin Sheen, Micahel Blodgett, Roy Scheider, Warren Oates, Russell Crowe, Timothy Carey, Robert Ryan, Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Al Pacino, Gloria Grahame, Vincent Price, Nathalie Portman, Buster Keaton, Woody Harrelson, Eric Roberts, Sigourney Weaver



THE WARM and "SANE" Types: Tom Hanks, Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day, Ben Affleck, Charlie Chaplin, David Duchovny, Gary Cooper, Rock Hudson, Woody Allen, Julia Roberts, Every kid on the WB network, every actor in every show designed by J.J. Abrams, Tom Cruise, Glenn Ford, Victor Mature, Franchot Tone, Uma Thurman, The Three Stooges, Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Meryl Streep, Tobey Maguire, Jackie Chan, Lawrence Olivier, Bruce Dern, Hugh Grant, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Renee Zellweger, John Travolta, John Malkovich, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Leo DiCaprio, Jim Carrey, Sean Connery, Nathan Fillion, Steve Carell, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Kevin Costner, Laurence Olivier, Whoopi Goldberg, Warren Beaty, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Helen Hunt, Jennifer Aniston, Kurt Russell, Jonathan Lithgow, Goldie Hawn, James Mason, Fred Astaire, Jessica Tandy, Joel McCrae, Dick Powell, Ali MacGraw, Ryan O'Neal, Ruby Keeler, Roger Moore, Cuba Gooding Jr., Sharon Stone, Annette Bening, Charlie Sheen, Diane Keaton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eli Wallach, Jack Lemmon, Richard Dreyfuss, Elijah Cook Jr., Martin Balsam, Madonna, Andy Garcia, Lucille Ball, Richard Gere, Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Tom Sizemore, Penelope Ann Miller, Halle Berry

The IN-BETWEENS: Jane Fonda, George Clooney, Lily Tomlin, Jeremy Irons, James Spader, Jake and Maggie Gylenhaal, Christian Bale, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Renee Russo, Max Von Sydow, Dustin Hoffman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Greta Garbo, Joan Blondell, Clark Gable, Christian Slater, Elliot Gould and William Shatner!

While the warm are concerned with "doing things well" the cool are concerned with analyzing and stretching just what "things" and "well" can mean - the termite vs. white elephant argument of auld. Of course there's plenty of room for crossover beyond these lists... but there they are... Are you now ready to cast aside the falseness and staleness of warmed over blanditude yourself, and stop being a Steve Carell or Ruby Keeler, to become your own raging Angelina Jolie Warren Oates-style mother fucker? To paraphrase Willard to his rats: "TEAR IT UP!"

POST NOTE: I've kept this how I wrote it originally, but obviously Angelina Jolie would no longer be an emblem of crazy cool. - 11/23/11

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Burn the money!



The most poignant moment in the new DARK KNIGHT movie is when the Joker (the late great Heath Ledger) sets fire to a giant mountain of money. The meta-textual similarity of this scene to the wasteful expenditure of the film's vast budget and its justification via huge box-office profit -- all for what amounts to a big loud explosion of nothing -- is eerily prescient. For DARK KNIGHT is really a big, loud, leftist version of DIRTY HARRY with our sympathies reversed. We can imagine Batman rushing in to save that burning money, cradling it in his arms and screaming to the sky: "Damn you, fire! Damn yooooou! This money had just one more day 'til retirement!" Meanwhile we look on in horror, not at the burning money, but because we realize the Joker is the only sane man in Gotham, the only "true" soul in this dark mess, the only one with inner Zen stillness and joi de vivre, the only one not hypnotized by their "life story." No matter how harshly he's screamed at (Batman growls and shouts until he's hoarse), the Joker never loses his mellow-gold cool; he's already at peace with himself and his mania. He's in the flow like one of those old drunken masters in the Shaw Brothers films, or Colonels Kilgore and Kurtz in APOCALYPSE NOW.

Everyone else in the KNIGHT is, for lack of a better word, becalmed; they can't stop fretting about their possessions (and this includes wives and children - "my wife! He's got my wife!"), locked in identification with forms -- what the Buddhists call "samsara." The Joker stands alone, a Tyler Durden in a world of Ed Nortons; he's Che Guevara divided by Hannibal Lecter in a sea of Batistas and Chiltons. What did Tyler say in FIGHT CLUB? "It's only after we've lost everything that we can do anything." What was it Kilgore said in APOCALYPSE NOW? "That smell, that napalm smell, smelled like... victory." Take out your notebook, Batman, and learn what your money can't buy.

Batman's business is saving lives but he spends vast oceans of money doing so, with high tech gadgets invented just for him to use once and then get bored with, and instead of moving into the cosmic flow he agonizes about issues of vigilante justice, like that boyfriend who spends all ten years of your relationship wondering if he's making the right decision, and maybe you're too young, or naive, or pure. The Wayne billions are slyly subtextually depicted as liabilities as far as Wayne's personal growth, his maturity, his gentility; he takes whole ballet companies out on boat trips on the nights they have shows to perform (a serious violation of any performer's ethics!) and then jets off on a plane in the middle of the ocean and strands them, bored and confused, with only Alfred to amuse them. It's the sort of "punishment" that might happen to Norma Shearer in an old "faux-risque" MGM drama, while Wayne's the sort of lonely Forbes magazine guy that New Deal artists like Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz were lampooning back in KANE, showing them off for the un-zen samsara-chasing hungry ghosts they were.

this guy, he no-a chase the samsara-a
Even in the gold-wearin' pimp age of MTV, how can we root for such a dour bling-o-holic as Bruce Wayne-cum-Batman? We're supposed to salivate, Pavolov-style, over his helicopters, his yachts, his babes, his high-tech bat toys --but rather than a materialist fantasy of accelerated accumulation, Wayne lives with the dread and guilt of the rich and powerful, the fear the whole social construct you get to roost atop and enjoy exclusively will topple out from under you... unless you slim down. The rich often have this guilty guillotine-phobic need to pacify the proletariat and in Wayne's case it's sliced with the very flimsy rationalization that the high-tech doodads his company spends millions on are there to protect and serve the tired masses, not just to show off.

One thinks of maniacs like Imelda Marcos, who claimed the impoverished Filipino people were all enjoying her massive shoe collection by proxy; or the U.S. military employed as corporate goons in Iraq, there to serve the interests of Haliburton instead of the taxpayer. At least Tony Stark invents his own shit, and he does it to clean up his own mess... and he fuckin' drinks like a real man... and he don't mind killin'. James Bond is also cool because he didn't pay for all that cool stuff he's got, the British did, so what do we care? Meanwhile, Batman spends and spends on a one-man military build-up, then faints at the first sight of blood.

Anyway, with global warming what it is, shouldn't Batman be riding a solar-powered bat bicycle? I mean, if he really cared about the welfare of his air-breathing Gothamites, wouldn't his billions be better served buying and securing vast tracts of rainforest? Instead he spends his billions on weapons to enforce the status quo. In short, his billions are employed in the protection of his billions, and the preservation of bare life to the rest of them, and nothing more. The Joker wants to teach the world to sing (or scream)--for life and death are meaningless to the man beyond opposites--but Batman just wants the world to stay quiet. Just like dear old Charlie Kane, he only lets the people rock the boat if it's not his boat, but eventually it's all his boat, and so he outlaws rockin', for the good of the people.

Chris Nolan seems to underline the hyper-commodity fetishism of Wayne's world, offering a sly socialist critique even as he fulfills his conspicuous consumption fantasy obligations to the producers and advertisers (Alfred is always interested in knowing what of Wayne's many cars will be taken out for drives. "The Lamborghini, sir?" he says, all a quiver). Things get worse when the letter-of-the-law debating starts choking up the narrative like exhaust fumes.

As Nolan illuminates the tricky balance between good and evil, rich and poor, left vs. right, he seems split on the viability of arbitrary lines in the sand, such as when Wayne's weapon designer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) takes a sudden high moral ground over the use of some spy software. Batman meanwhile risks the lives of countless civilians during his reckless chases after Joker and his mob, blowing up buildings and crashing through cars - but he'll swerve out of the way, totaling his fancy hog and six other cars, a mailbox, and some street poles, to not run down Joker, because that would be wrong. What? Dude, you probably killed thirty people in that chase, so get over it. To get back to APOCALYPSE NOW, you need Martin Sheen to talk to you about handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500. Talk about two-faced!

All this just makes Joker's homicidal glee look more and more admirable and honest, but even he is stuck with a lot of SOPHIE'S CHOICE'S REVENGE-style booby traps to spring. Does a franchise as proven as the caped crusader really need to borrow so heavily from the SAW films? But no matter, Ledger's Joker is so comfortable in his tailored purple tweeds, so free of any moral quagmire, that you can't help rooting for him and all his Colonel Kurtz-like "slug crawling a straight razor"-style clarity. What Wayne needs to do is get some blood on his hands, get his slug ass up on that straight razor. Maybe he should go kill his next steak instead of just ordering from a safe internet menu. Maybe we need to put Bush and Cheney in a room with some detainees; make them pull the trigger in person for a change.


Adding to the meta-text, before the previews was a public service announcement warning kids against smoking marijuana. It was the one where this kid is wearing about 50 t-shirts with silkscreen slogans like "Burnt out" which he gradually peels off as he gets more and more "clean" off the weed... until he's free! FREE!

The idea that altering your consciousness and expanding your perceptions and horizons through direct experience of a thing (rather than the parentally-approved contempt prior to investigation!) is bad while the ad that came on right after this anti-marijuana sermon involved the bland antics of a bunch of high school kids dancing to a cover of "Don't you forget about me - Hey Hey Hey" in the school library (ala the BREAKFAST CLUB) whilst bedecked in the fall line-up from JC Penney. Thus is "indirect experience" of a thing continually fostered on the public as superior to the thing itself: you condemn the drug culture until it's sanitized, put in a museum, and can be enjoyed retro-actively through pastiche tribute. Hey hey hey, and you walk on byyyy na na na na na!

This is how the Batman justifies his petty morality too... and how the church operated in the Middle Ages, where anyone who sought direct spiritual contact instead of going through the church was burnt at the stake. In Gotham City, all enjoyment has to be done through Bruce Wayne, otherwise he'll give you such a CGI-enhanced beating! It's for your own good, but he'd never kill you, or anyone else, because that would be wrong -- unless of course it happened through collateral damage.

Dude, if you're gonna do a public service for anything threatening these kids... how about getting your head out of the sand and doing more promos for childhood obesity? Then again, those are really just more Indy 500 speeding tickets, as you can see below:


Uh huh.... if this is the "sane" America we're defending, I'm voting JOKER!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Jodorowsky on Spielberg: "If I can kill Spielberg, I will kill Spielberg."


Whoa! All this and more can be found over at Bright Lights' Interview with Alejandro Jorodowsky. Damien Love finds the silver haired devil freely (and with delightfully skewed English) venting some spleen on the "ill" violence of Spielberg and how DUNE saved his life:
I think David Lynch is a fantastic moviemaker. I was so ill when he made Dune. But when I went to the theatre to see it — always I tell this with great happiness, because I was so jealous — I was dying. I was grey. But then when I went to the theatre and saw the picture, I was so happy, because the picture was so bad! And then I could live again! Because if David Lynch had been able to make Dune as David Lynch, I think I would have died. But when he made a bad Dune, he saved my life. And I love David Lynch, because he saved my life. Also, I love Cronenberg, because he is an auteur, he has his obsession. I like him. He is honest. There are a lot of moviemakers I like, and there are others I hate. But what I hate the most is Spielberg. And second Walt Disney.

Didn't you used to hate Walt Disney above all others?

Yes. But now it's Spielberg. I think Spielberg is the son from when Walt Disney fucked Minnie Mouse. And then there was Spielberg. But in terms of industrial pictures, there is a picture that I think is a masterwork, and that is Starship Troopers. That, for me, is the most beautiful cowboy picture I ever seen. It's fantastic.

Yeah! Woo Hoo! I am not 100% sure Spielberg deserves to be killed, but I will always tip my hat to a man who can blow the whistle on fascism cloaked as homey history one second then turn around and praise a straight up fascist call to arms like STARSHIP! I highly recommend reading the whole interview. Love asks great questions, including the one above... Citizenship equals responsibility!