Having a wonderful time in New Orleans. 4 days down, 4 to go!!
I’ve figured out why it is only now, years after seeing the off-Broadway show and subsequent film, that I am convinced the “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” soundtrack is a perfect fucking album. It’s because the god-awful story has all but faded from memory and I can just enjoy these songs as songs. Go download a few of them (especially Midnight Radio, Wicked Little Town [Gnosis version] and Tear Me Down) and you’ll see what I mean.
Long before the Superdome
Where the Saints of football play…
Lived a city that the damned call home
Hear their hellish rondelet…
Home of pirates, drunks and whores
Tacky overpriced souvenir stores
If you want to go to hell, you should take a trip
To the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Mississip’
Stinking, rotten, vomiting, vile
Putrid, brackish, maggotty, foul
Crummy, lousy, rancid, and rank
John Stewart reminded me tonight that John Kerry is at least one-quarter Jewish — but somehow he’s not even one-quarter funny! I had to turn off his appearance on the Daily Show as I sat there cringing and making uncomfortable grimaces. Oy vey! Unfunny! The man really does have no personality whatsoever! That’s fine — I’ll still vote for him. (I bet President Jeb Bartlett wouldn’t fare well opposite Stewart either and he’s the greatest president ever!) Oddly, Al Gore did well on Letterman, if I am not mistaken. . .
Somewhere below The Royal Tennenbaums and above Big Fish is Amélie. It’s an odd genre. Let’s call it quirksploitation. There’s about 30 minutes too much of Amélie. . .right in the center where she’s caring for her co-workers. I’ve seen the wacky co-workers on a million BBC sitcoms. When we stick to the cat-and-mouse clues-around-the-city love affair, the movie is really cookin’. There also may’ve been just one too many moments of unexplained poorly rendered digital glows of internal/eternal light after every time something nice happens. But, alas, the pros far outweigh the cons. Ms. Tatou is quite adorable and the voice-over is funny. The scene where M. Kassovitz is dressed like a skeleton going “Wooooo!” into her ear in the funhouse is absolutely inspired.
This was part of the trinity. I saw this, Jarmusch’s Mystery Train and the Coens’ Miller’s Crossing at roughly the same time. They all went to NYU Film School so I figured I would too. So, basically, I have this movie to blame for not going to a real college and having a real job and actually having more than eighty-nine cents in my bank account. Still — it is a fantastic movie. Watching it again (for the 20th time, probably, but the first time in years) I was amazed at how much of the cliched Robert De Niro impression actually come from this movie — a movie he made well on into his career. The furrowed brow, the stammering, the “heh”s — it all started here. Sadly, this movie spawned a thousand copycats (including Scorsese’s own Casino, which is basically the same exact movie — a good movie. . .but the same movie) and also pretty much invented swaggering dick 718 faux gangster machismo which is a bit of a neauseating thing if you live in New York City. There’d be no Victoria Gotti reality TV show 14 years later if there was no GoodFellas. There’d also be fewer car commercials set to classic rock. Scorsese pretty much nailed the pastiche-of-pop with this film (inventing the practice, really, with Mean Streets in the early 70s) and now, frankly, with very few exceptions, any movie that includes any kind of non-diagetic music on its soundtrack smacks of self-indulgence. Still — you can’t fault a brilliant work for its unfortunate legacy. GoodFellas is genius — one of the best films ever made — and connects with me on a deeply personal level. Unlike, say, De Palma’s fun but distant crime opera Scarface, which some hold in equal regard. Scarface is spectacle, GoodFellas is character-driven storytelling. But if I was coming of age in 1983 when Scarface came out maybe I’d be singing a different tune . . .
I don’t know why I keep coming back to this album. For some reason, I am drawn to it. The low baritones bouncing off the sweet sopranos as the simple bass drum speeds up until cardiac arrest. There has never been a piece of music, that I know of, that sounds like this. Don’t let the title, Moondog and the London Saxophonic’s “Sax Pax For A Sax” scare you — it’s the simplicity that is so compelling. (And, on the few pieces that have ‘em, the very odd lyrics.) I wrote a piece when Louis Hardin died that has been syndicated quite a bit on the web. You can read it by clicking here. And if you haven’t heard this music, hunt it down.
The great Kerry Douglas Dye and I are circling the drain on our new screenplay, which is exciting, exciting, exciting!
In a recent round of notes back and forth, though, I doomed our enterprise by including this sentence fragment deep in paragraph 15:
I’m just going on record saying [the scene is] too long. It’s brilliant, though, no doubt! Here’s a compromise. If you remember there’s a similar scene in Citizen Kane. . .
True — this is a minor film by John Sayles, but it is still absolutely remarkable. Let’s not call it a one act or a short story, let’s call it focused. First of all, it is fantastic to see Lili Taylor again. The last thing I saw her in (that I actually remember her being in) was the God awful Ransom with Mel Gibson. Anyway, she’s terrific. And so is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who has a scene early on talking with her husband on a cell phone. This is a sixty second scene that should be studied in film acting classes. The script is all very basic, plain, nondescript dialogue, yet Gyllenhaal basically runs through every emotion in the dictionary before the conversation is over, showing this with her eyes yet desperately tries to hide this with her voice. It is staggering. A reviewer on imdb put it nicely when he said that Sayles gives himself a setup so rich with possibilities that he’d either have to make a 100 hour film or do what he did here, cut it loose and give you the 90 minute slice-of-life we have before us. First rule of show biz: always leave ‘em wanting more.
To answer your question: no, I’d never seen this before. Listen, some things slip through the cracks. Anyway, I know a lot of people love this movie. . .but those who do are chumps. Edward Norton, yes, is great. But, shit, he was great in The Score, too, ya know? There are one or two shining moments (Norton’s dinner table speech defending racism) but, all in all, this alleged expose on the White Power movement is a dopey after school special. The turnabouts by the characters are completely phoney and anyone who gives a whit about racial issues in this country can see that this movie probably does more harm than good. The screenplay is horrid and director Kaye (who started in TV ads and music videos) hasn’t done squat since. New Line and he got in a battle over final cut on this project — my gut tells me that the studio saved this from being even worse.
Y’know, here’s on the SS Fun where I usually post reviews of stuff. Ann & I finally watched the 18th and final episode of “Freaks and Geeks” and we’re both going through some tough separation issues. More than The Sopranos, more that the West Wing, more than (I’ll admit it) Futurama the characters in Freaks and Geeks have become important members of my life. (You’ll notice I didn’t include The Simpsons in that list; let’s not get crazy.) Perhaps some day soon I’ll remark on my favorite scenes/characters. . .but for now I’ll just pretend that maybe there’s another lost episode out there that’ll pop up some day.
Sigh. The first 40 minutes of this movie are absolutely fantastic. And then it just stops. The story just stops moving, yet there’s still an hour left of you and your date sitting in a theatre watching. . .something. . .up there flickering on the screen. It’s actually quite remarkable from a train wreck perspective. Leconte has made many wonderful films. This ain’t one of ‘em.
Ben Warren and the lovely Gina came to Astoria tonight for their guided tour. (And, no, I didn’t have to be in my Gray Line uniform for this one.) They’re thinking of moving out here and they wanted to check the place out. I foolishly forgot my camera, but I’ll do my best to summarize.
Gina had her car which she drove through the midtown tunnel. First mistake right there. When you’ve got the car and there’s no traffic situation, always take the Queenboro Bridge. It’s free. We tore outta Ditmars and made our first stop at the one, the only Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall. This much reviewed place is certainly worth all the ink it gets. It also makes for a good opener to show people around Astoria. It swiftly says, “No — we’re not in Manhattan anymore. And this fact has both its pros and its cons.” You could never have a place this size in Manhattan and even though you may have to walk a few minutes longer to get somewhere, it can often be worth it.
We then drove down Crescent Blvd (it has a few nice buildings and churches; I’ll readily agree that architecture is not a selling point for Queens) and made a right on Broadway. There’s the Socrates Sculpture Park. And the Costco right next door.
We then drove back across Broadway to look at the restaurants and coffee places, eventually heading down to Tupelo’s. See, Ben’s been living in the East Village for, like, 20 years or so. So moving away will be a big shock to the system. Tupelo’s is the only East Village bar I know of in Queens. Oddly enough, the bartender there, much to everyone’s surprise, once slept with Ben’s ex-girlfriend — when they were still dating!! It was many years ago, so what could’ve ended in fisticuffs wound up being very gentlemanly. (Ben even left a nice tip!) Also, they’re planning to start showing films there, so it looks like Ultrachrist! may have a Queens public screening!
After this we drove by my beloved American Museum of the Moving Image as well as the Kaufman Astoria Studios. . .which is always fun as it affords me an opportunity to say “Now you know how to get, how to get to Sesame Street.” (Sesame Street shoots there.)
Here’s a movie that makes me nostalgic for drugs. This is now the second time I’ve seen it and I still don’t know what the hell is going on. But who really cares when Ronald Mlodzik, in the role of Adrian Tripod, the chair of the House of Skin and last deciple of the renegade dermatologist Antoine Rouge wears a black peacoat and octogonal-shaped glasses. I haven’t even gotten into the buildings — all of which look like branch libraries on Roosevelt Island. I will not argue with you if you think this movie is bullshit — or even if it makes you fall asleep. But. . .I dunno. . .somehow it speaks to me.
My friend Garrett, who works as a psychiatrist in a hospital, says this is the most honest portrayal of schizophrenia he’s ever seen. It’s a very good movie, kinda like a slightly more mellow Requiem For A Dream. Also interesting for movie lovers — imagine if, say, there were no spaceships in Close Encounters? Then it would be like this. . .