Saturday, November 29, 2003

I'll do one of these too. I'm discontinuing the part that tells what movie I'm watching since I'm reviewing them all now.

READING: And The Ass Saw The Angel by Nick Cave
LISTENING TO: I've just today once again broke out the three Christmas albums from the Projekt label. They're called Excelsis. The collection is composed of three volumes. They're Projekt's most popular goth/industrial bands covering Christmas songs. The results are gorgeous.
It's funny how sometimes I feel like I didn't get anything accomplished on a day where I actually got a great deal done of what I needed to. I think it may have something to do with not having left my home except for a fifty minute walk.
I tried to go out and write tonight but the well was pretty dry. I think that was because I was trying a different book of poetic terms than I'm used to. I usually use "The Teacher's and Writer's Handbook of Poetic Forms" by Ron Padgett, which is a Godsend of a book. It's a user friendly cake walk through poetic forms.
The other day I got "Poetry Handbook A Dictionary of Terms" by Babette Deutsch. It sucks. Besides being dense it's also packed full of sweeping judgements of modern poets (or modern at the time of publication) by somebody who really should have stuck to her Audenesque rhymes. Instead she felt the need to soap box her opinions on all poetry, making darn sure we're constantly aware of her vast knowledge of the form and its history.
Here's one of many examples I could give from the text. This is a description of the beat generation. "Because of their rootlessness, their ribaldry, their explosive attacks on the accepted norm, they might be called the goliards of the atomic age, but the term is only partially apt, since they lack the ecclesiastical background, the witty scholarship, the technical skill, and the natural gaiety of their medieval predecessors."
And there you have the longest run on in the history of the English language. Also, when I think of Kerouac, a lack of ecclesiastical background doesn't spring right to mind. Burroughs had more scholarship and skill than most of modern America put together. And don't get me started on Ginsberg's natural gaiety.
Thank God this little monster of a book hasn't survived. I plan to put it up for sale swiftly.
Anyway, just reading over the thing may have killed my writing buzz. I pounded out a short piece that will probably get eaten by a larger piece someday and then came home.
MIDNIGHT COWBOY

Here's another film that makes me look at The Canon of Classic Film and wonder, "Why is it that so few people have seen Midnight Cowboy? And why have so many seen Breakfast at Tiffany's?" I seethed my way through the film version Breakfast at Tiffany's because I think that Truman Capote was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. I also usually like Audrey Hepburn's work. But I was insulted and apalled with what they did to the story.
But I digress. This is the Midnight Cowboy review, which was a film that I really loved. I was being a bit facetious before. I actually have a good idea why more people haven't seen this film. The main reason is that in the enlightened age of 1969, they felt that they needed to give it an X rating. There's much more sex and nudity in Clockwork Orange or Last Tango in Paris. The main reason Midnight Cowboy was cursed with the mark of X is that it admits that were a cowboy to become a hustler on the streets of New York, he would most likely meet a few homosexual men at work.
The other big reason, and probably more potent reason, why more people haven't seen this film is that it's a meditation on loneliness and the true nature of romantic love. Not popular topics. The assumption that romantic love exists without grueling labor and has some magic ameliorating power (and the assumption that the audience agrees with the film maker's assumptions) is a popular topic. They made a whole genre out of that assumption called romantic comedy, some of which is truthful and some of which is propaganda from companies that profit from you holding certain beliefs. A naked inspection of the topic makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
As for the film its self, it's based on a book that I actually have in my inventory (and can be purchased through Alibris online or by sending an inquiry to fixyrhash@juno.com.) I haven't read the book.
Shame.
I guess the main reason I had such a strong reaction to this film was that it spoke to me so directly. It addressed my fear of abandonment, my frusteration at being alone in the world, and the memory of love as being imperfect and often quite ugly. There's also the earthly observations on our capacity to create hell and heaven in our lifetimes. All of this is why I should have read the book and, at the time of writing this, should still read the book.
And then there's the performances. John Voight was seamless. At no point did I think about him pretending to be Joe Buck. He was Joe Buck.
Dustin Hoffman is one of those actors who can either get you really pentecostally excited about acting or just make you quit. I can't emphasize enough what a masterwork his performances was in this film. It's ridiculous. They should have stopped making films with actors right after Midnight Cowboy.
I'm getting silly, so I'll wrap this up.
My one critique for this era of film is that they really hadn't mastered the concept of selling the soundtrack within the film. The Graduate is a better example, but it happens here as well (with Nilsson no less.) They get a song or two from a popular musician of the day and play the holy crap out of it. Midnight Cowboy had the good sense to have a noticable score as well (by John Barry no less.) But speaking as a guy who takes a lot of walks, I don't appreciate spending the next week's worth of walks thinking, "Everybody's talking at me..."
But I don't want to end on a negative. Go rent or borrow Midnight Cowboy the next time you're in the mood for a romantic comedy. Please.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Today I finally got shoelaces. Three pairs. Phish and I went shopping for them and she was kind enough to get me some shoelaces. I think the pair that's going on the new Docs are the Spiderman laces.

Anyway. Yeah, it's a holiday weekend. Film review tomorrow.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

I suppose the thing I'm most thankful for this year is my friends. The past year included some of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with. I had a three month long anxiety attack, the ending of the three year relationship by the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and the death of my baby nephew all along with the normal disappointments one encounters day by day. My friends have been a constant well of support and I can't thank them enough for that. My friends are at the top of my thankful list this year. I keep the ones I like.
I'm likewise thankful for the tremendous amount of growth I've gone through in the past year. I sought help to get myself out of the anxiety attacks (which started on Thanksgiving of last year), I quit taking Benedryl, I got over the end of the relationship better and quicker than I expected, and I started my business which is growing very nicely. I got myself a brutal work ethic. My cooking has vastly improved. Looking at all of this compared to last Thanksgiving I can only attribute all of this to my faith. Because I sure as hell wasn't that strong.
I'm thankful for my family. I lucked out with families. At least as far as my immediate family goes.
I'm healthy too. That's good. And intelligent. And unbelievably handsome.
In short, I'm thankful because things could be much better, but I'm often aware enough to realize how much worse they can be.
Let's eat.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

VERTIGO

The first Hitchcock film I ever saw, if memory serves, was Spellbound. I was very young and I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. I liked the Dali part a lot but the rest of the film seemed like a normal suspense mystery type film. Being a brash young man I put Hitchcock into my over rated box.
I didn't really understand until a year or so later when I saw Casablanca. Here was a great film that wasn't great in the sense that I was used to. It wasn't great like an Orson Welles film. It was great in its simplicity. It was the perfect film in its genre. And then I understood Hitchcock enough to want to see more of his films. I saw many more of his films and the more I saw the more I marvelled at his skill. One of the old guard whose like we shall not see again.
The brilliance of Hitchcock is that he shows you, as in the aforementioned Dali sequence or the dream sequence in Vertigo, that he can be a Grand film director but that he only uses high fallutin tricks when it serves the story that he's telling. This is something we can all learn from. It's like that Noel Coward line, "A gentleman is one who can play the bagpipes and doesn't."
I'm afraid there isn't much more for me to say this time. It's a well told story that unfolds beautifully. We see what's coming not too soon but soon enough to build lots of suspense. Jimmy Stewart works in his delightfully natural style which invites everybody to identify with him. And isn't Kim Novak one of the most striking women you've ever seen? I remember her from The White Buffalo, the Charles Bronson film. She looked different in that film.
My only two criticisms are that Kim Novak has her heavily pencilled eyebrows perfect after jumping into the San Francisco Bay. And that there's a wormy girl in the usual Hollywood style, meaning she's a knockout with a pair of glasses.
Otherwise it's a perfect suspense film.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

After the last post I went to the easy chair and watched a good portion of the film that's next up for review. I'm happy to admit that I did not take a nap although I didn't get much more work done this afternoon either.
I went to the comic book store and got the second Lucifer collection. Then I went to visit Chas. We got Phish, Yod and Jessica all coordinated to meet us at the mighty Mongolian barbeque place that seems to be an all around hit with our team. The Thai place is the other big hit, but that's all the way down by my place. Anyway the Mongolian portions are a small feast.
I came home and took a walk after feeding the irritated cats. Then I buckled down and finished the work I should have done this afternoon.
A little advice:
Check up on the properties of your herbs before you try them.
I finally made that slippery elm tea and have discovered that it's also a nerve calming agent. Which isn't a bad thing except that now, instead of feeling like working, I feel very much like having a nap.
Very much.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Okay, let's do something here to get my mind off the ticket. Although, as a quick update, as I understand the pricing of these things the cost of the ticket will pretty much be the surplus of money I've made in the last two weeks of Christmas rush in my business. Part of me is thinking, "Hmm. How long will I go to jail if I don't pay it?"
And with that I move on to today's movie review.

HEARTS OF DARKNESS

First off, this was my first time seeing this and it may well be my second favorite documentary unless you count American Splendor as a documentary in which case Hearts moves to #3. #1 is Bowling for Columbine.
Apocalypse Now is a film that I've always had a hard time with, as well anybody should. I mean, it could be called one of the clearest communications of the madness of the Vietnam War, or possibly any war. It's beautiful, rich and dark in ways and levels that only early Coppola can deliver. Having said that, I've only seen it three times in my life and even after seeing this documentary I'm not in any hurry to see it again. And this is coming from the guy who argues with people who claim that they usually only want pure entertainment from movies. This from the guy who rails on about the transformative potential of acting for both performer and audience. Apocalypse Now is one of those rare transforming experiences with so much power that I rarely feel up to it.
I feel the same way about acid. Although I might see Apocalypse Now again before I leave this world and I could go the rest of my days without ever dropping acid again.
People who know me know that I've experienced first hand several transformative theatrical experiences, that is to say ones that work on an elevated level that work on the audience and the performers rather than simply lead them through an evening of entertaining narrative. This is part of why I'm separated from the theater now. It's because I saw the potential and then saw the vast ocean of Neil Simon and bad musical comedy that is the majority of what gets produced in "real world" theater. This revelation weighs heavy on my heart to this day. In other words, like so much of western life, what makes money is made rather than what changes the world.
I worked on The Phoenix, Pippin, The Creation, Hamlet, The Grapes of Wrath, et al. In these I worked as writer, performer, assistant director, stage manager and lighting technician. This is the experience I'm speaking from.
I tell you all of this to say that I don't see why everybody says Coppola went nuts on this film shoot. As far as I could see he acted like every director I've ever worked with. They all at some point say that they're going to shoot themselves in the head, they all never have enough money for their production, and they all have to deal with difficult actors.
And I don't think Apocalypse Now made him stop making great films. Tucker was a great film. The Outsiders was a pretty good film. The Cotton Club was okay too. Dracula was wonderfully directed, it just had a horrible script and Keanu Reeves. And The Godfather Part 3 wasn't a bad film. It just wasn't as good as the first two.
I mean, this should be so obvious. He became a producer, a wine maker, and a semi-retired cultural icon. I would too if I had hundreds of millions of dollars. This should be so obvious because George Lucas appears in Hearts of Darkness. This should remind everybody that The Godfather part 3 looks like genius compared to either of the recent Star Wars films.
Coppola might have slipped in the past few years, but don't lets forget the ones who have fallen. In my opinion that includes pretty much everybody from his generation of filmakers with the glowing exception of Scorsese, who is making as good if not better films than he's ever made. I may be saying all of this out of hero worship though. S'possible.
I didn't see the breakdown of Coppola in Hearts of Darkness. I saw a director working on one of the most difficult film shoots ever.
The same with Martin Sheen. He had a heart attack, granted, which is highly uncommon. But the breakdown we see him go through is not uncommon for method workers. I guarantee that Sheen was back to as sound a mind as ever long before they finished editing the monster.
The whole film is totally enthralling. It really pushes you into the story of the filming.
The scenes that really pushed this documentary over the top though is the part that was looming over it and you knew was coming from the beginning. That is the arrival of Brando. And by golly it's just about as nutty as you'd expect. Then we get to see some awesome and frusterating improv and text work (as most improv and text work is.) We also get to see Coppola get very close to smacking Dennis Hopper aside the head to get his brain back on track.
Like all great stories, there are many definite although seemingly unintentional morals to the story. I can't emphasize enough how much this film is for everybody, not just film buffs. It's gorgeous, harrowing, and holds a mirror up to artists.
The world would be a much better place is people could remember three things.
1) If you know you shouldn't do something, don't do it.
2) Give yourself breaks. Take a day off every once and a while.
and the one that's been repeated since the dawn of time in one form or another and is still ignored
3) treat other people like you'd like to be treated.

This morning I broke #1. It's been a while since I'd done something really stupid and caused trouble, so I was due. I passed a Model-T by going 50 in a 35 zone. And I was caught. And I got a ticket. What further sucks is that it wasn't my car. I've been lazy getting gas in my car. My parents left their cars and I figured I'd just drive theirs until I felt like gassing up my car.
Now, as for it being wrong, I don't really think it was. I wasn't putting anybody in danger. I had full control of the car and plenty of space to pass the Model-T. But the cop needed to generate revenue for his employer. It wasn't a sin. It was just a stupid moment that's going to cost me a lot of money.
I don't know if it makes a difference that it wasn't my car as far as records or insurance. I don't imagine it would. But still, the fact that it wasn't my car is the only thing I really feel bad about. Well, that and losing a lot of money.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Today I went with Charles and Jessica to see older Paul in Long Beach. The original plan was for Phish and Yod to go talk politics with Paul. Both of them became otherwise engaged and sent their significant others in their stead. I drove. We talked about the political system as it stands, the wide spread misuse of political labels (for example, most modern "conservatives" are really either extreme nationalists or fascists. This is true, but because of the totally negative connotations given to the term fascist in our current climate, they call themselves conservatives. A fascist is not only one who is for dictatorship or oligarchy, but also and mainly those who are for the government owings its existance to private corporations. Likewise, most lefties are either liberals, social democrats, or socialists. But socialism or anything that hints at communism has a very negative connotation as well. At least for our parents' generation. This might die with them. I should also state here that while I might be looking like I have it all together on this subject I'm actually speaking from detailed notes from Paul.)
We also talked in detail on the media. We talked all afternoon.
We went back to Charles and Phish's and all went out for Mongolian barbeque. Before I left Phish gave me some ginger root so I finally have all the ingredients nessicary to make the Slippery Elm tea recipe I've been wanting to make. My sinuses have been wanting me to make it too.