"I ran across this today and immediately thought of you.
Joe Swanberg's new movie SILVER BULLETS is set to premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. I ran across the press kit and what follows is the "Director's Statement" therein[...]:
In November of 2008 I traveled to New York to make a film. After one day of shooting it fell apart. I was tired and depressed and thinking of quitting filmmaking, which I was no longer enjoying. Chekhov's "The Seagull" was playing on Broadway and I was encouraged to read the play. I thought of David Foster Wallace, who had committed suicide a few months earlier, and who I was becoming increasingly obsessed with. I started shooting a new film with some friends. We shot several scenes each day, changing and rearranging the story constantly until I flew home in December. I continued to work this way for two years, getting together with my actors every few months when I could afford to shoot new scenes and re-shoot old ones. I slowly emerged from the depression and found myself enjoying the process. "The Seagull" continued to provide inspiration as the film became more autobiographical and dreamlike. David Foster Wallace is still on my mind. — Joe Swanberg"
QUITE a nifty picture, of course. I was hardly surprised at how much Scarface it's got in it, but slightly surprised at how much Rio Bravo. von Sternberg and Hawks—you could hardly imagine more dissimilar directors, I guess, but the connective tissue here is of course Ben Hecht. (There's a bit more connective tissue, too, but we'll save that for another time.) I watched this as part of a Hecht study—I'm midway through his epic autobiography now, and something's brewing. Anyway, this bit of dialogue, uttered by Evelyn Brent (hubba hubba cubed) as "Feathers" (toldja bout the Rio Bravo thing), struck me. I do enjoy a drift now and again, myself.
June Thomas: I kinda hated it. And then…I…went home, I read A.O. Scott’s review in the Times, I saw the comments, that were so…A.O. Scott gave it an absolute…what would you call it, a love song, he wrote a love song of a review.
Dana Stevens: He called it a poem, right? He said this movie “feels like a poem?” The movie he describes in his review sounds so great, I wished I had seen that movie.
June Thomas: Yeah! From that review…I wish I had seen that movie. But the movie I saw, I hated. And then I read the comments, on the New York Times website, and I thought, “Okay, I don’t wanna be that kind of person. I don’t wanna be the kind of person who thinks that movie critics love obscure movies, and that real people need to say that ‘Oh! This is the emperor’s new clothes!’" You know, you guys are just, sending up a smokescreen, or something. So…now I’m quite conflicted so now I need…
Dana Stevens: But isn’t there a way to not love Somewhere without doing an emperor’s new clothes on it? Wait, let’s get Dan’s reaction first. Dan.
Dan Kois: Ah. I don’t mind being the kind of fatuous [unintelligible] who hates Somewhere.
—From "The Culture Gabfest, 'Phoning It In' Edition," Slate, December 29, 2010
Hank McCain (Cassavetes): Who are those two slobs out there?
Jack McCain: Cuda and Barclay.
Hank McCain(raises eyebrows): Cuda and Barcley.
Jack McCain (defensively): They’re good!
Hank McCain: They’re bums. They’re punks. They’re fags. They’re fringe nothings. Now whose idea was this?
Jack McCain: It was mine.
Hank McCain: It’s good.
Jack McCain:Thank you.
Hank McCain(suddenly agitated): Whaddya do? Sell women? Sell marijuana? Whaddya do? Where’d you get the $25,000? (pause) I wouldn’t give you 25 cents! Whaddya do, you go out and you hustle yourself all over the street? Small time. No DIGNITY! (pause) You don’t beg!
Jack McCain: That’s why Hank. I need this chance. I got tired of being small change.
Hank McCain(leaning over, patting Jack on the chest): You’re gonna be small change all your life.
—Machine Gun McCain (Gli intoccabili), 1969, directed by Giuliano Montaldo. Now a fabulous Blu-ray disc from Blue Underground. Most of the career advice I give to younger film critics—those I deign to talk to, that is—sounds rather like this, FYI.
"David Fincher's The Social Network is Zodiac's younger, geekier, greedier brother. That means it's good, as in really good a movie for guys like myself and critics like Eric Kohn, Karina Longworth andRobert Koehler to savor and consider and bounce up against, and basically for smart, sophisticated audiences to savor in every cultural corner, and....can I just blurt it out? It's the strongest Best Picture contender I've seen so far this year, and in saying this I'm obviously alluding to Inception."—Jeffrey Wells, "Network News,"Hollywood Elsewhere, Sept. 13, 2010
As I said in the comments section at Wells' place, "I'm almost 100% sure I speak for Robert Koehler when I say 'What the fuck?'" Also, you gotta love that "Obviously." Also, you gotta love the distinction between "guys like myself" (tough, knock-this-battery-off-my-shoulder-types, I presume) and "critics" (fucking pussies, and one literal "girl," I guess).
"Oh, come off it, Kenny, you're just jealous that Wells saw Social Network before you did," you're probably saying. It's true, I AM, and INSANELY so. What the hell is the world coming to? And I'll tell you something else: I'm also jealous because I'm supposedly friends with Edward Norton (there, I said it), and Wells fucking saw Stone before I did. God fricking dammit. These are the kind of indignities I'm now waking up to every damn day. So the question is, WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH, GOD? What do I have left to hang on to? The fact that I did, finally, see Inception five hours before Wells? That was so a couple of months ago. Time doesn't stand still, appearances must be kept up, etc....
Cale, in his autobiography What's Welsh For Zen: "My first appearance on an Island recording was on an LP made from a concert which took place at London's now defunct Rainbow Theatre on 1 June 1974; the date became the album's title. I was actually one-fourth of the featured band—the others were the former Soft Machine guitarist Kevin Ayers, who had invited everyone to guest at what started at his own concert, the former Roxy Music musician Brian Eno, and Nico...This was the first time I had gone on stage on my own. And to me it was so important it was nerve-racking...The night before the concert Kevin and [Cale's then wife] Cindy got together. That did it for me. She lied about it, but in the end I was able to go to Kevin and say, 'Look, as a gentleman, tell me, did such and such happen?' Kevin said, 'Yes.' I went back to Cindy and said 'Look, you fuck!' and things just got worse and worse."
Some Cale watchers suggest that the anecdote explains the interesting looks being exchanged between Cale and Ayers on the cover of the concert album; the photos were taken in the Rainbow's foyer, right before the show.
Among Cale's other achievements is a terse score for Jonathan Demme's 1974 Caged Heat, by the way.
On the first day of the Toronto Film Festival in 2002, I found myself at a party thrown by IFC. And was immediately drawn to a particular corner of the room, where stood Mr. Terry GIlliam, a filmmaker I much admire. I thought perhaps I'd have a word. Or maybe it was just that he was standing directly in front of the bar, to which I tended to make a beeline for when attending film festival parties in those days. In any event, Gilliam was standing with a great and famed and oft-troubled actor I will not name here, who was looking as if he'd enjoyed better days. The gruff-voiced thespian was leaning on what looked like a Victorian-era walking stick, a rather elegant and elaborately carved piece of wood, and protruding from the same hand with which he held the stick was a martini glass, poised at something like a 45-degree angle and still containing some greenish liquid. The actor wasn't spilling a drop. (I had seen Richard Harris doing something like that same trick, with a glass of red wine, in Toronto, almost exactly a year before.) In any event, the actor was explaining to Gilliam, and rather loudly at that, just why he needed that stick right now.
Which was: he had just had a scrotum reduction procedure. Which procedure he was describing to Gilliam, not only loudly, but in not insubstantial detail. Gilliam listened attentively, with that raised-eyebrow look of perpetual surprise/amusement that you sometimes see on him in photos. Eventually the actor got around to explaining just why he had gotten a scrotum reduction procedure: "I just got tired of how every time I would sit down one of my balls would slide up the crack of my ass." At this Gilliam nodded, sagely, albeit with some bemusement. He was clearly stuck for a response, but eventually quipped, "My problem is not losing my balls every time I stand up," or something like that.
I bring up this story here because, for some reason, it came to mind more than once while I was watching The Expendables, a film I review today at MSN Movies.
Freddie Mercury, perhaps singing "Bicycle Race." Who can say.
My esteemed colleague and occasional friendly sparring partner Richard Brody notes today that the "Who killed the movies: Jaws or Star Wars?" debate has broken out yet again, this time attracting an eclectic intellectual array that includes David Edelstein, John Podhoretz, Roger Ebert, and Ross "Chunky Reese Witherspoon" Douthat to its potentially brain-annihilating flame. "It's always the end of the world, and things were always better before," Brody wryly feints in his lede. This is one reason Brody works at The New Yorker and I don't; I would've started off with something like, "Jesus H. Christ how many fucking times do I have to see this complaint will you shut the fuck up already." Ahem. Brody gently decries the nostalgia inherent in such musings, and it reminded me of something that some semi-bright younger thing wrote about eight years ago, apropos David Thomson's anti-Star-Wars fulminating:
The usually persuasive Thomson's terminology, the implied eye-rolling over junk food and video games, really give him away here; not to put too fine a point on it, but he basically starts to stink of old-fardom. Not that I'm a huge fan of such modern or postmodern phenoms as junk food and electronic Ping-Pong myself, but, you know, get over it, Dad. Because when you come right down to it, so many Star Wars haters of a certain age won't, or can't, engage Star Wars on its own terms; they engage it, rather, as the grave marker for their own glorious youth. It echoes an argument you hear a lot when you talk or read about rock and roll. John Lennon's "Elvis died when he joined the army" remark was the first, and most genuinely provocative, of such throwdowns. They've been coming fast and furious ever since. Kevin Kline's character in The Big Chill has a much quoted "no good music since year X" line that I can't bring myself to cite accurately, as it would mean looking at the movie again; but wait, there's critic Jim Miller, in his book Flowers in the Dustbin, admitting that he basically lost interest after the Sex Pistols broke up; there's thousands of people probably younger than me, and maybe you, for whom it all ended after Kurt Cobain killed himself; et cetera. My favorite curmudgeon in this respect is the writer Nick Tosches, who will sometimes argue that Elvis himself killed rock and roll, and who will then, elsewhere, extoll the virtues of the latest Iggy Pop release. (And just for the record, movie critics have been trumpeting the death of film since before sound actually, really, killed it.)
Who's that smart guy? Oh, it's me, in my introduction toA Galaxy Not So Far Away: Writers And Artists on Twenty-Five Years Of 'Star Wars,' edited by me and featuring contributions from Jonathan Lethem, Tom Bissell (the book was really his idea), Neal Pollack, Harry Allen, Lydia Millett, Todd Hanson, Arion Berger, Kevin Smith, and scads more. I think this was the only Star Wars themed book to ever lose money, but don't worry, if you buy it now, you won't change that, so go on ahead. Anyway. I wrote that bit while I was still in my 40s; now that I'm past 50 I agree with every bad thing that David Thomson and Peter Biskind ever said about Star Wars AND Jaws. Okay, not really. But rock and roll actually IS pretty much dead now, for real, at least as a culturally galvanic force, isn't it?
It was actually my friend Tom Carson, another Galaxy contributor, who wrote the ultimate rejoinder to the who-killed-the-movies whingers way back in early 2002, in Esquire, in a column called "McCabe and Mrs. Kael," which I quote from liberally in the above-cited essay. I shall do so again:
The larger fable goes like this: Once, we lived in a movie paradise, with one bold masterpiece after another engrossing a public finally willing to grow up. Then George Lucas ruined everything by turning the audience infantile again, abetted by a craven industry that turned off the money tap for the visionaries as soon as the receipts for Star Wars rolled in.
As a product of this era, I can say that just about the only part the myth gets right is that it really was a wonderful time to go to the movies—if, that is, you were part of the relative handful queueing up for Mean Streets rather than the hordes waiting to see Airport, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, or The Exorcist. At the time, my friends and I knew we had to catch the movies we were excited about fast, before they flopped.
Game, set, and match AND case fucking closed, as far as I'm concerned. (I don't know if there are enough "fucking"s in this post. What do you think?) Although Brody correctly notes today that some of the films beloved by the nostalgists were, "to a greater or lesser extent," commercial successes. (He cites Chinatown and The Godfather, among others.) Mr. Brody and I disagree on much concerning the contemporary cinema, but I think we're completely on the same page in our determination not just to explore and and interpret cinema's past, but to try to maintain a similarly exploratory attitude towards the present, mindful that the truism that 80 to 90 percent of EVERYTHING is crap has always been a truism and that cinematic greatness might not trend as obviously in the current atmosphere as it did in a past one, but that it's always possible, as long as people are still making films. So again: Jesus H. Christ how many fucking times, etc., etc.
Certain movements in current events compel me to share the incredible true story of how I was once at a party with Laurie David and the former Vice President. Perhaps the most important Topics, Etc. you'll ever read. At The Daily Notebook.
Speaking of which, and if I might do a little kettle-calling, as it were: For my sins, one of my e-mail boxes is frequently gifted with a newsletter from Pajamas Media TV, and I see that today, thriller author turned delightful right-wing personality Andrew Klavan (did you know he wrote the screenplay for A Shock to the System, of all things?) is also having a little fun with Mr. Gore, as in: "LEAVING AL GORE: Love a good sequel? Then get ready for An Inconvenient Truth 2: This Time It's Personal. Andrew Klavan has the inside story on the Gore's break up. Klavan's sources are as impeccable as the scientific basis of global warming."
Yeah, har-dee-fucking-har-har. Seriously, does it ever bother anyone that so much of the, um, skepticism concerning climate change seems to stem from, and be driven by, some sort of personal animus against Gore? I dunno. I do admit to having unkind thoughts as to whether Klavan will still have that smug look on his mug when his bare scalp begins bubbling in the upcoming real-life remake of The Day The Earth Caught Fire (see above). But that's just me.