Saturday, May 23, 2015

I Think About Plastic Man a Lot

I am going to write some boring stuff about old comic books. Is that okay with you? It's better than rambling about CYMBELINE in "post" after "post," isn't it? You be the judge! I sincerely believed that my midlife crisis had culminated in June of 2013, when I stopped caring about old comic books after a brief revival of that interest. So a couple of weeks ago I went to Memphis with Ace Atkins and Bill Boyle. We stopped by the comic book store so Ace could pick up some Scrooge McDuck for his kids (classic Carl Barks reprints, I'm only too happy to add). I was idly browsing the new releases when I saw new issues of Captain Marvel (the real one, who says, "Shazam!") and Plastic Man, two of my old favorites. "Well!" I thought. "I wonder what these guys are up to!" So I bought one of each. Captain Marvel seems to be plugging along in the old spirit of Captain Marvel. But I am sad to say that in Plastic Man, the Nazis have taken over the United States! Plastic Man is meeting in seedy motel rooms to buy guns, like Travis Bickle! Who did this to you, Plas? Soon enough I was crawling around in the attic, opening up sealed boxes of my dumb old comic books, looking for what? Lost innocence, probably!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Folly & Fancy

Just promenading around the square and ran into Lee Durkee, so we talked about CYMBELINE some more, aren't you glad? I bet you thought that part of your life was over! I got to remind Lee about that "Hell is here" line I liked and Lee said, "That would've been a throwaway line in ROMEO AND JULIET." Lee's not cutting CYMBELINE any slack! I also got to tell Lee that Samuel Johnson agreed with him. I read in a Peter Ackroyd book that Johnson criticized "the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct... faults too evident for detection, too gross for aggravation." Ackroyd takes up for the play, though, seeing "fancy" where Johnson saw folly and "deliberate farce" instead of absurdity. Now, this has nothing to do with the play, but a few times I thought the movie was making visual jokes or being visually extravagant where Lee saw (in Samuel Johnson's words) "the impossibility of the events in any system of life"... such as when they light the queen's body afire in her body bag... "Right next to a cop car!" as Lee exclaimed. And the tone of farce is hard to detect in the movie, that's for sure, buried under all that supposed grit and sullenness and those leather jackets. Okay, we're done.

You Dragons

Dug out a couple of books about Shakespeare and looked up CYMBELINE in them. Edith Sitwell, in her "Notebook on William Shakespeare," quotes this: "To the Truncke againe, and shut the spring of it./ Swift, swift, you Dragons of the night, that dawning/ May bare the Raven's eye! I lodge in fear;/ Though this is a heavenly Angell, Hell is heere." I should have mentioned that when Lee asked me for memorable lines. See, Ethan Hawke is like, "Hey, uh, I almost forgot, can you hold a package for me for a few days?" (I paraphrase.) and Dakota Johnson from 50 SHADES OF GREY is like, "Sure!" (I paraphrase again.) So that's no package! It's a steamer trunk, and Ethan Hawke is hiding in it in his underpants, and when Dakota Johnson from 50 SHADES OF GREY goes to sleep he pops out and takes selfies with her. I don't recall if he said the part about "dragons of the night" but I do know he said, "Though this is a heavenly angel, hell is here." And "hell is here" struck me at the time. To be fair to CYMBELINE! And Ethan Hawke. Looked in a Frank Kermode volume and didn't get much (well, I didn't try very hard) except for a casual and tantalizing aside about "the astrologer Simon Forman" who saw the original production and (which has nothing to do with CYMBELINE) later "died, as he had precisely predicted, on 12 September 1613."

Magic Prison

Here's something I don't know anything about: CYMBELINE by William Shakespeare. Took the newish movie version of it over to Lee Durkee's. Lee - who doesn't usually care for this kind of coy tampering - was pretty excited that it is set in the world of motorcycle gangs. But there weren't enough motorcycles to suit him! There were hardly any. Motorcycles were usually represented by an offscreen revving. One character pushes his out-of-gas motorbike down a country path. A bad boyfriend glumly glides along on his skateboard. "Why didn't they make Cymbeline the king of a skateboard gang?" Lee said. After the movie was over, Lee said he didn't like it - not enough motorcycles! - and he didn't like the play, either. He theorized that it was just a Beaumont-and-Fletcher mashup of Shakespeare, a kind of Shakespeare's Greatest Hits, "Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending," is one way Lee put it. He challenged me to think of any compelling use of language in what we had just heard and seen. "When the guy said he was going to cut the other guy's head off and throw it into the sea and then it could tell the fishes it was the queen's son," I suggested. "That was the best line in the movie," Lee admitted. "And I liked that one soliloquy," I said. "I want to look it up and see what it's all about. The one about being immured for life in a magic prison." Lee searched digitally through the text of CYMBELINE and couldn't find anything about a magic prison. A little more digging revealed the compelling passage to be an Emily Dickinson poem that the filmmakers just stuck in there! Which proved Lee's point, I guess.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A World of Feathers

So as you know I've been thinking about MACBETH. So I was in Square Books to meet someone, and while I waited I leafed through a history book by Peter Ackroyd, which begins with the reign of King James, who inspired MACBETH in so many ways. And on page 2 somebody writes King James a letter suggesting he should have "a heart of adamant in a world of feathers." I thought that was okay! But I skipped ahead to Shakespeare. And that's when I was reminded (by this quotation: "Where the bee sucks, there suck I:/ In a cowslip's bell I lie;/ There I couch when owls do cry") that THE TEMPEST has owls in it.

Some Measure of Culture

Hey I recorded the Orson Welles version of MACBETH off of TCM and I was going to save it to watch with Lee Durkee but he says he's seen it recently so I went ahead and watched it and somehow it was two or three short steps to looking up Jerry Lewis in the index of Peter Bogdanovich's book of interviews with Orson Welles and Orson Welles said about Jerry Lewis, "When he goes too far, he's heaven; it's just when he doesn't go too far that he's unendurable" and I thought that was a pretty good thing to reflect on for any person, in the arts or whatever, so go ahead, reflect on it! Welles goes on to describe a particular gag ("click" here) from THE LADIES MAN that made him laugh until he was sick. You know what I found out by consulting another index? You remember that movie Orson Welles was trying to finish when he died? Well, Peter Bogdanovich was in it, and he based his character on Jerry Lewis: "Bogdanovich launched into his vivid Jerry Lewis impression, which Welles pulled apart and reconstructed by dialing it down and adding some measure of culture and refinement, before ultimately landing on a strange mix of Lewis and Noel Coward." That's from a book by Josh Karp. (I don't know why this photograph is one of the first things to come up when you search for an image of Orson Welles and Jerry Lewis together - there doesn't seem to be one of those - but it kind of looks like the boys could be in MACBETH here, ha ha ha, it all comes together.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ace Atkins Reporting From the Square

Last night our man on the street Ace Atkins filed this report from the town square: "Old people with half glasses love frozen yogurt. It makes them crazy." That's Ace Atkins, reporting from the square.

McNeil All Hepped Up

McNeil is all hepped up about Brain Boy. How do I know? I received this message from him: "Oh boy!!! I'm all hepped up about Brain Boy... According to Wikipedia 'Brain Boy' was just his nickname ( if his parents would actually name him that) and he never had any kind of costume - though he looks straight out of BOTTLE ROCKET." I would only add to McNeil's reflections that Brain Boy got his powers when his father was killed by an electrical tower. That's rough!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

All About Brain Boy

Pen says he bought this comic because it reminded him of me. Ha ha ha! He also asks, "How much do you know about Brain Boy?" I know nothing about Brain Boy! But now I want to know everything about Brain Boy.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Original Breezy

Hey! Remember when I became fascinated with Clint Eastwood's 1973 free-spirit-teaches-a-craggy-old-sourpuss-about-love movie BREEZY, so much so that there was an ADVENTURE TIME episode named "Breezy"? Well, I don't think enough people have noticed that Kay Lenz - the original Breezy from the original BREEZY - played the Cosmic Owl's "dream woman" on ADVENTURE TIME last night. Yes, I lobbied for that. Here's another trivia fact! M. Emmett Walsh, as you know, plays the Cosmic Owl, so when Kent wanted me to brainstorm with him about some of the dream imagery in the episode (there was a lot of it), we slipped in Mr. Cupcake with a head in one hand and a sandwich in the other, an allusion to a story Mr. Walsh's character tells in RAISING ARIZONA. It went by fast, but I think it made it in! Rounding out the cast last night was Kumail Nanjiani, who plays Dinesh on SILICON VALLEY. Pretty good!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once again to "McNeil's Movie Korner," the "blog's" oldest and most respected recurring feature. Go back and "click" on them all! Ha ha ha, I know you won't, you jerk. McNeil writes: "Do you remember me bringing BRANNIGAN to your apartment in Atlanta? At least once? I wanted to watch it, and you never did - so we didn't. That's just the way you are. Well, I finally watched it... 15 years later. What a terrible movie." And now we bid you goodbye from "McNeil's Movie Korner."