Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Few Disjointed Comments

I watch TCM once in a while -- a cable movie station. No commercials, and I like old things. The other night Charles Grodin was "guest programmer". I didn't know that until the movie was over -- entitled, I gleaned from the end credits, Movers and Shakers. Walter Matthau, Charles Grodin. I kept wondering how I'd never heard of this movie. But it came out in 1985, and I was out of the country for those years.

Didn't see the whole movie. Just a few scenes, actually. I came in where they were just on their way to visit an old-time movie star, played it turned out by Steve Martin. He was in an 8 minute scene that went absolutely nowhere and had no point and was very unfunny. I kept waiting for the payoff. Longest 8 minutes ever.

After, Grodin was talking with the host about having written the movie, and how pleased he was with Martin, and how tightly knit that scene was. I guess we have different perspectives. Or is that obvious? -- like Grodin's scenes.

And just now I was reading a review of Redacted, Brian De Palma's take on the Iraq war, in which a couple of Marines rape and murder a girl after killing her family. You know, like the way Marines act. The story is told as through "found" materials: "home movies taken by one of the American soldiers; excerpts from a French documentary; newscasts on an Arab network; security-camera footage at the U.S. base; embedded video on a jihadi web site; etc. It's easy to see the possibilities inherent in such a structure -- for withholding and releasing information, for offering conflicting versions of the truth -- but De Palma chooses not to take advantage of them. His narrative is linear and undisputed. Rather than use the assembled visual artifacts to make his story more sophisticated, he uses them to disguise the story's extreme simplicity..."

The first I ever heard of De Palma was when he made an absolute ripoff of a Hitchcock film. I think it must have been Dressed to Kill. Hardly remember. I do remember being annoyed that it was just an absolute ripoff. What a hack, I thought. I seem to think he did it with other of his efforts -- ripped off Hitchcock. Redacted is a ripoff of himself. His Casualties of War was about US soldiers raping and murdering a Vietnamese girl. In Redacted, as Orr points out in his review, "a pierced and tattooed antiwar protester hisses into the camera, 'You don't see the My Lai massacre in the movies because the truths of that fascist orgy are just too hellish for even liberal Hollywood to cop to.' ... Take that, queasy liberal Hollywood."

At first, when I began to read the review, I was confusing Brian De Palma for Roman Polanski. Y'know what De Palma strikes me as? Remember Jimmy Bakker, of PTL fame? -- the televangelist empire that was ripping off all the old folks living in trailer parks? And then he went to jail? Remember? I saw Jimmy rebuking Satan once for the cameras. Look out, Satan, cuz me and the Lord's coming to git you, and I rebuke you! And he took a few mincingly menacing steps toward the camera, like a chihuahua thinking about attacking a trouser cuff. It was so false. It was so for-the-camera. It made me heartsick.

That's De Palma. A man so much smaller than his body, puffing himself up like some miasmal amphibian, all throat and skin. Look out, America and Marines -- I'm comin' t'git ya. "Pussy" isn't one of my words. I use it only to affect a character. But it just seems so contemptible, this preening West Hollywood poseur playing at his twisted version of patriotism, which consists entirely of "dissent." Grodin wrote a not very funny movie and kidded himself into thinking it was good. But he has appeal. His self-deception is a window onto the human condition. De Palma is a desiccated homunculus substituting passion for soul. I predict that he had his first orgasm in the sixties, and got stuck there.

And speaking of bill clinton, who had his first orgasm before he was born -- he's another smart guy who draped himself in disgrace. He can't help it. Like the scorpion, it is his nature to be low. But he is a smart guy, and he made the observation that anyone who thinks the '60s were a good thing is probably a Democrat. He'd think the '60s were a good thing. They certainly were a busy thing.

Take for example 1968. Daniel Henninger gives a stark summary:
The year began with sales of the Beatles album, 'Magical Mystery Tour.' In retrospect, it was a premonition. In late January, North Korea captured the USS Pueblo and crew members. A week later, the North Vietnamese army launched the Tet offensive. On Feb. 27, Walter Cronkite announced on CBS News that the U.S. had to negotiate a settlement to the Vietnam War. On March 12, Sen. Gene McCarthy nearly defeated incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, aided by antiwar students that Sen. McCarthy called his 'children's crusade.' Two weeks later, LBJ announced on TV that he would not run for re-election. One week later, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was only April 4.

There were race riots everywhere. On April 24, students occupied five buildings at Columbia University, protesting the war. In May bloody student riots erupted in France...

On June 3, Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol in a New York City loft. Two days later, Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. In August, the Soviet Union occupied Czechoslovakia. Seven days later, antiwar demonstrators at the Democratic convention fought pitched battles with the Chicago police.
Quite a busy little time, non? Then on Nov. 4, Richard Nixon was voted in. Nine months later, after a bizarre Rosemary's Baby gestation period, Woodstock gave form to the spirit of the age. A bacchanalia of self-indulgence to which Hillary Clinton would erect a temple. John McCain weighed in from the right side with the observation that he had missed the Festival, tied up as he was on the other side of the world.

I was just reading about post-menopausal European women who visit Kenya looking for men to have sex with. About 20% of that tourist demographic in Kenya is there for that purpose. Some retired school teacher gets a hard young companion ... some displaced Maasi tribesman gets new expensive sunglasses to visit the beach with. A fair trade, of sorts. My only practical question is, isn't AIDS a big problem in Africa?

And you've heard of course about Gillian Gibbons, the Brit school teacher working in Somalia who let her class of second graders name a teddy bear Mohammad. She was trying to teach them about voting. She was arrested for insulting Islam. Turned in by the school secretary. Bitch. Gibbons was subject to 40 lashes, but was sentenced to 15 days. I'd say only 15 days, except it's a Somali prison -- a country that still has pirates. A few days ago, there were large riots in the streets, demanding that she be beheaded. After a while, we have to stop blaming the world, and economics, and colonialism, and all that, and realize that there are whole countries filled up with morons. Well, there have been whole centuries full of morons.

So I had a little competition today. Same as the one last December. Four bouts. Two went the full six minutes. Longest six minutes ever. First time I've competed since Spring. Nursing that weird arm/shoulder problem, now completely healed. I had no feeling at all about competing. I don't think that's such a good thing. Just disconnected. I hate the wait. But it was good to do. Get back into it a little after seven months. And a number of fellas came just to watch -- moral support. That's nice. Not everyone is as inconsiderate and self-absorbed as you are.

As I say, these are just a few disjointed comments. I've been feeling scattered lately. Unfocused and low-energy. Don't quite know why. Maybe there's no reason. I look for patterns, but that suggests there's some underlying organizing principle to the universe, and doesn't that seem rather a religious idea? I guess I'm looking at old things, here. Old movies, old ideologies, old politicians. Even new religions are old.

Iran is the only country that banned The Da Vinci Code. It blasphemed a prophet. I know there’s something moronic here. I just don’t know if it’s us or them.


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