So today at Slate there's an awful lot of content concerning the one thing that everybody there cares an awful lot about, which is Mad Men, and former managing editor of PEN America (!) David Haglund takes it upon himself to explain to everybody what "ye-ye" was, and the whole deal with that song what's-her-nut sings in French, and What It All Means. It's good to get these ballpark estimates concerning what constitutes socially acceptable droolerdom among the Park-Slopey chattering classes, I admit, but what caught my eye particularly in Haglund's very thoroughly detailed exegesis was the following passage about one Gillian Hills, who recorded the "original" of "that French song:" "In 1966, the year tonight's Mad Men episode takes place, Hills appeared in Blow-Up, perhaps the quintessential Swinging Sixties film (the movie was a surprise hit in the U.S., and helped kill off the Production Code.) She played an aspiring model who has a threesome with the lead character, a photographer played by David Hemmings, and another aspiring model, played by Jane Birkin. (Hills sort of reprised this role in A Clockwork Orange, in which her character partcipates, to quote IMDb, 'in an afternoon sex marathon to the music of the William Tell overture' with the protagonist, Alex, and her character's best friend.)"
Letting be the whole "music of the William Tell overture" thing (like, as opposed to the "choreography of the William Tell overture?"); what cocked my eyebrow on reading was the "character's best friend" bit. Like, huh? The two girls Alex picks up in the record shop have precisely one line between them, the one about whether "Bratty" (the girl played by Hills, FTR) is gonna pick up a record by "Googly Gogol" or "Johnny Zhivago." That's it. There's no, "If you get Johnny Zhivago, I'm sure you'll lend it to me, being my best friend and all." I mean, really, they could have just met, each having spotted the same five-pound-note on the street and agreeing to cooperate and split it by buying an LP each. Or they could be cousins, which would make the whole three-way thing that much sicker. I just think the flat "best friend" declaration presumes too much. Also, I played the fast-motion sex scene back in step mode, to see if I could catch any interaction between the girls that would indicate that level of intimacy, and I still insist that Haglund is reaching here.
It seems like over the weekend I've read and/or heard the phrase "star-making performance," or some variant thereof, something like a dozen times, relative to Jennifer Lawrence's performance in The Hunger Games, and something or other that Jessica Paré did on Mad Men. Well, bully for Lawrence and Paré and all, but isn't the conventional wisdom nowadays that stars don't matter? That they're not the thing that, um, "puts butts in seats," and are hence immaterial? And, if the conventional wisdom is indeed the case, then what good is a "star-making performance," or "being" a "star?" Is "being" a "star" even possible, or desirablem, given this circumstance? Or is it just that opinion-mongers are so obsessed with the sound of their own voices that actual coherence, let alone consistency, doesn't even figure into their pronouncements at all? (Never mind the sheer utter unimaginative rhetorical entropy that a phrase such as "star-making performance" embodies.) I dunno, maybe Smash has changed everything?
First off, sorry about the horribly wonky quality of the still. It was taken in a hurry, under less than optimum circumstances.
Secondly, hey, I didn't know this was gonna be a series! Here's the inadvertent part 1.
So I'm sitting around the house thinking I ought to get to the gym but I keep hearing the wind whistling against my living room windows and thinking, "Hell, no, I'm not going out there," so I put on TCM, which is showing Boy's Night Out, a 1962 ostensible sex comedy directed by Michael Gordon and starring Kim Novak, James Garner, Howard Duff, and a bunch of others, including Oskar Homolka, William Bendix and Cary Grant's mom, Jessie Royce Landis. These items are largely worth watching precisely because of these casts, and also the insane set design (art directors here were George W. Davis and Hans Peters), and of course the "unenlightened" attitudes and all that. The set up here is that Novak plays a sociology grad student who decides to do a "study" of certain male sexual attitudes by setting up a flat wherein she "entertains" three married men and one bachelor, of course withholding her sexual favors from them all, because, you know, she's just writing a paper, for God's sake. Guess who plays the bachelor with whom she falls in love? (Not to mention her thesis advisor? Or the bartender who gives the reciprocating bachelor sage advice?)
Anyway, to make herself more attractive, Novak's brainiac Cathy "has" to play dumb, so when Howard Duff's Doug comes over, she, after repelling his carnal advances of course, asks, "How about some music?" to which he of course assents—he HAS to!—and then she puts the platter on the stereo, which promptly malfunctions (she of course rigged the hi-fi to go screwy), enabling him to feel very manly by fixing it. What's most interesting is not the scenario per se but rather the choice of music that Novak's character offers Doug.
"Which would you like?" she asks. "The 'Love/Death' theme from Tristan or the Romeo and Juliet overture?"
Doug, no doubt feeling, um, blue, shoots back,"Play the 'Love/Death.' I'm in a 'Love/Death' mood."
And so, she puts on the "Liebestod" from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, which is of course the inspiration for Bernard Herrman's "Scene d'amour" music from Vertigo, the recent appropriation of which made Ms. Novak extremely agitated, and which I wasn't too crazy about either. Is nothing sacred, indeed.
I'm decidedly mixed on Drive, for reasons I articulate in my upcoming review for MSN Movies, and as such I'm a little more impatient than I'd normally be with the utterly breathless and increasingly relentless unwarranted dribbling over the film and its admittedly talented director Nicolas Winding Refn. I hit a bit of a Twitter wall with it earlier today when one Industry Tweeter™ chimed in "Drive Director Refn Talks Scouting Gritty Los Angeles Locations." Ooooh, I thought. Refn went to gritty places to scout. No other director does that. So I tweeted some imaginary Refn headlines. They were:
Drive Director Refn Heals Lame, Makes Blind See, Raises The Dead
Drive Director Refn Successfully Negotiates Middle East Peace Treaty; Tears It Up & Throws It In Your Face, Just For A Laugh
"Please Have Violent Sex With My Wife/Girlfriend," Dozens Of 30-Something Male Film Critics Beg Of Drive Director Refn
Drive Director Refn Allows Lars von Trier To "Kill" Him, Destroying Final Nazi Horcrux
Can you top these? Do you want to? Am I overreacting?
"We've been livin' together for over a month now, right honey? So I can level with you. Well, nobody wants to hear songs about people lovin' people. They just don't, believe me. What they wanna hear about is...critters. Lotsa critters references. I'm talkin' about...critters like pigs. Cows. Sheep. Rabbits. Turtles. Horses. Moose. Elk. Boll weevils. Chiggers. Slugs don't work so good. I wrote a song once called 'Lay Your Slug Upon My Pillow.' It bombed real bad, 'cause they wanna hear about pigs. Cows. Sheep..."
I know they say you can find anything and everything on the internet, but that's not true, and it's not true in a lot of ways, and I was just reminded on one of the ways it isn't true just now, as I searched in vain for a print morsel or even the TV interview clip in question, to no avail. In any event, I'll just have to recollect it and you'll have to take my word for it, unless one of you can actually FIND the citation which would be awesome. In any event, what I was recollecting was a television interview, which perhaps aired on Entertainment Tonight or something like it, depicting the then-25-year-old Demi Moore attending the 1988 Democratic National Convention (the self-same event at which Moore colleague Rob Lowe had that whole sex-tape thing happening) and offering up her views on what was wrong with the system. And her laying out, rather passionately, this complaint about how people should be able to check boxes on their tax returns to specify what they wanted their money, that is, the tax revenues collected by the U.S. Treasury, to be spent on. Because, as Demi astutely pointed out, some people might object to their money being spent on evil things like bombs and stuff, and those people ought to be allowed to SAY NO to that, on account of their consciences and whatnot. This argument clearly was not all that thoroughly thought-out, policy-ramification-wise, and clearly doesn't really "get" the whole concept of "render unto Caesar," which concept one is of course free to mentally reject but which ought to at least be cited as some sort of precedent before advancing any kind of proposition involving taxation.
I thought about Moore's entirely earnest complaint on my way today to the public pool in my neighborhood, which opened on Wednesday and will stay open until Labor Day, and could conceivably stay open later, but won't, because budgets, which are reliant on tax revenues, aren't sufficient to keep it going past then. And the pool, at the Red hook Rec Center, is a honey; huge, clean, and...well, what more do you need besides huge and clean? Yeah, the locker room could use a sprucing up, but whatever. I thought of Moore and I concurrently thought of David Mamet, whose recent book The Secret Knowledge describes a political conversion during which—and here I CAN give the exact words, as the book's been getting a good amount of attention—he made the galvanic personal discovery that...wait for it..." I not only hated every wasted hard-earned cent I spent in taxes, but the trauma and misery they produced..."
Well, let's cut the guy some slack, and allow that he is describing his direct personal experience. It is not the experience of a particularly mature, or wise, or, as it happens, particularly smart person, but there you have it. And still: Has David Mamet never been to a public library, or a municipal pool? I imagine he's likely to have done the former at least once. So when he did, did he think, "my tax dollars at work, and I feel pretty good about it?" Also, has no one told him about tax dollars and the wonderful part they play in U.S. aid to Israel? If not, will doing so cause a matter-meets-anti-matter explosion to take place in what's left of Mamet's brain?
It occurs to me that in my making a mental collage of these two quotes, I was being a little unfair; even without allowing for Moore's naivete and inability to construct a coherent policy plank out of what is after all only a feeling about what is fair and what is right, her dumb proposal comes from an altogether better place than Mamet's petulant complaint does. And if you're wondering why I thought of Demi and David together in the first place, just remember...
Kudos to the ever-intrepid Mr. Edroso of alicublog for steering me to a gem of both poor usage and my favorite kind of dumb, the multi-leveled. A would-be screenwriter, Barbara Nicolosi, in a piece called "Exposing Euthanasia Through the Arts" ("What's that even mean?" you might ask; like they say, read the whole thing, IF YOU DARE; it does become clear) asks the burning question "How many parents realized, when you sent your teenagers to James Cameron’s latest 3D extravaganza Sanctum (2011), that there was a matter-of-fact mercy killing of four characters at the end?" Well, okay, "a" "mercy killing" of "four characters" is, I think, actually, four "killings," but never mind that, or the other thing, but the actual answer to the question is, "Not that many, I guess, and who cares, because Sanctum didn't even make back its production budget of $30 million, which means the indoctrination of our teens into mercy-killing degenerates is really going quite poorly. Also, on what planet these days to parents 'send' their teenagers to the movies? Is Riverdale of the Archie comics a real place and I don't know about it? Seriously?"
It gets even more exciting, with Nicolosi citing four other feature films made between 1996 and 2004 and concluding, "The evidence is undeniable: Somewhere in the middle of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Hollywood and the cultural left climbed aboard the latest human-killing bandwagon and have since thrown the weight of their talent and creativity behind it." Five films, and that HBO Kevorkian thing. "The weight" of Hollywood and the cultural left's talent and creativity. Yeah.
Since I'm on the culture war topic, I will note here that while it's very unlikely that I shall read David Mamet's The Secret Knowledge, I did read my colleague Kurt Loder's approving review of it and cocked an eyebrow at Kurt's observation "[r]eaders on both sides of Mamet’s current political stance can take issue with his social conservatism. He is, among other things, an unbending proponent of traditional gender arrangements [...]" This strikes me as funny solely because Nick Tosches once (adopting the voice of Robert Stack adopting the voice of Eliot Ness, but still) referred to Mamet as "that half-fruit playwright." Doesn't take much to amuse me, I know.
Last night I saw The Adjustment Bureau, which, until the point it cracks like an egg and goes all sappy, was a kind of silly but at least somewhat entertaining piece of metaphysical burlesque (although I have no doubt its makers intended it as something rather more serious). Anyway, in the middle of the picture Terence Stamp shows up in the role of a rather formidable uber-functionary of the film's titular organization. And although in the film his character IS given a name, still I thought: "This picture's actually even better if you decide to interpret Stamp's character as a literal continuation of the unnamed fellow he played in Pasolini's Teorema back in the '60s, that decade that ruined everything." I daresay that if director George Nolfi had been a true man of vision, he might have interpolated actual scenes from Teorema into his own film, the way Steven Soderbergh threw in shots of young Stamp from Loach's Poor Cow to contrast with the older and less pleasant WIlson in The Limey. But no. Here my own imagination had to do the work, and I gotta tell you, it made The Adjustment Bureau that much more fun. Try it yourself (only, of course, if you're conversant with the Pasolini; a friend I mentioned this to after the screening looked at me as if I'd lost my mind before sheepishly admitting that he'd never seen the seminal Pier Paolo film) and let me know if you get similar results.