Sunday, November 30, 2008
Welcome once again to one of those "posts" you shouldn't read, in this instance because a boring old "cinephile" "blogger" is going to tell you about his trouble sleeping and the movies he watched instead. You have been warned. Last night's double feature, brought to me almost at random by the dvr, was PHFFFT! (the exclamation point is theirs) followed by CONTEMPT. A profitable and instructive double feature! Watching PHFFFT! prepared me to view CONTEMPT in a whole new way. There are many similarities between the two films, aside from the big marital themes - little things like the use of books and scripts within scripts, and the particular sleaziness of the characters played by Jack Carson (in the former film) and Jack Palance (in the latter). See! I told you not to read this. And in each film, an apartment functions as an important supporting character. All I'm saying is that PHFFFT! allowed me to zero in on the extremely old-fashioned plot of CONTEMPT so that I was free to enjoy thoroughly and with fresh eyes the way Godard's cinematic language enhanced and commented on his film's own mechanics. Speaking of mechanics, I will conclude this thing that I hope you are not reading by mentioning that while PHFFFT! contains both a round bed and a motorized bed, it curiously does NOT contain a motorized round bed such as we often enjoy in the movies. And finally I will mention that Godard originally wanted to cast Kim Novak (who appears in PHFFFT!) as the female lead in CONTEMPT. This is the Most Boring Old Man in the Universe, bidding you adieu.
Friday, November 28, 2008
When I was looking for that image of McLean Stevenson, I found a "blog" on which some guy has recorded his entire diary from 1976-77, when he was 13 years old. Here's a sample: "Hung around his house to 4:30, when we went to see 'The Big Bus' and 'Logan's Run'. 'The Big Bus' was funny, but very dumb. 'Logan's Run' should have been rated R, but it was a very good movie. 8:30 - Left there, ate a hot dog at his apartment." As you know, this is what the "internet" is FOR, in my opinion.
Welcome once again to "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up," where we keep you up-to-date with all the latest trends and happenings in the fast changing world of entertainment. THIS JUST IN: McNeil has come across an incomplete episode guide to HELLO, LARRY. "Don't ask how," advises McNeil. And remember when I said that someone should write about THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY and several other movies in a scholarly examination of medical ethics in the films of Jerry Lewis? Remember that? Well, look what I just found: a tome - yes, a tome! - of academic articles on Jerry, including one by Lucy Fischer called "Sick Jokes: Humor and Health in the Works of Jerry Lewis," which examines the relationship between THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY and Jerry's guest role as a doctor on the TV series BEN CASEY. Not exactly what "the doctor ordered" but pretty darn close. This has been "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." Until we meet again, keep reaching for the "stars"! (Pictured, HELLO, LARRY's McLean Stevenson.)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
It's Thanksgiving around these parts, and you know what that means. Time once again for our popular Holiday Unicorn Series. We put the name of the holiday and the word unicorn together in the "Google Image Search" machinery and press the button and that's how we find our holiday unicorns. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Unicorn and have a pleasant day.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Can you believe the editor wants me to cut the speech about Richie Rich? And I was like, "No way!" I was like, "Never!" I was like, "This will not stand!" I was like, "Maybe you have a point." I was like, "Okay." I was like, "Whatever you say, sir." Look at this picture of Richie Rich. He has to wear sunglasses when he feeds the dog, because his dog lives in a golden house encrusted with jewels. And his dog wears sunglasses, too! Sunglasses probably manufactured at great expense specially to fit Richie Rich's dog! I'm surprised he's not feeding his dog a filet mignon. Richie Rich! I hate him so.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
ITEM: Mark Childress sends word that the National Park Service is mad at Bob Hope. Can't Bob catch a break? First there was that author who blamed everything bad on Bob. And we suppose this will encourage the belief espoused at "Emulsion Compulsion" (and recently reported here) that Bob is controlling everyone's thought patterns. Guess what, everybody? I still love Bob! And so does Woody Allen! I am going to comfort myself with my May-June 1979 issue of FILM COMMENT magazine, and I suggest you do the same. ITEM: Dave Kehr has issued a brief but titillating "blog" description of Jerry's recent live event. It's the only account I've found so far. Here's my favorite part: "It was a full house and one that skewed surprisingly young, raising hope that the Lewis legacy has been passed on to a new generation." Mr. Kehr, to quote Smokey Robinson, "I second that emotion." Also, the people who leave comments on Kehr's "web" site are something else. People like Jonathan Rosenbaum, for example. But I REALLY love the people who are knowledgeable and sincere and obsessive and often enraged and leave dozens and dozens of ever more intricate, violently passionate and Ouroboros-like comments. You can't tell it with the Jerry "post" (yet) but go back and thumb through some of Mr. Kehr's "posts" with hundreds of addenda. I leapt in on the Jerry "post" myself, replying to James L. Neibaur's comment (he wrote a book called THE BOB HOPE FILMS, by the way), by expressing some of my reservations about THREE ON A COUCH. I also worked in a seemingly offhand reference to McNeil, part of my plan to turn him into a one-name celebrity phenomenon like Cher. Anyway, after that some other person wrote in and took up for THREE ON A COUCH, warded off the blow I had dealt to its honor, which made me love that person. Finally I have found a place where I belong. Goodbye forever.
Monday, November 24, 2008
But no, I can't go to bed without giving proper credit to the person who produced the previous Polaroid (and this current one, too). She's one of my oldest friends. She goes by many names, but on the "blog" we're going to call her "El" (not to be confused with our corporate spy "L." - or is she? I'll never tell!). "Click" here to read the interesting story about the expired film she used to make both photographs. The film is called Time-Zero, which is a name so good I'm going to stick it into my upcoming detective novel. I just got the final editorial comments today, so this is good coincidental timing, finding out about Time-Zero on the same day. I'm going to rewrite a speech about Polaroids already in the book. It's given by a sinister character who I think will make good use of the phrase "Time-Zero." I can say no more! No milk for free! One of El's Polaroids is in a European gallery exhibition! "Click" here to read about that.
I didn't "blog" on Sunday and now the "blog" material is piling up. This is to remind myself to "blog" about Jerry Lewis, Polaroids, and Bob Hope tomorrow. Oh, and a Baltic snowstorm. And I'm already forgetting something. That's what I get for not "blogging"! That's what I get for, what do you call it, "writing" instead. I'll never make that mistake again! Here's a Polaroid to whet your appetite. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Look who's on the book "blog" over at the New York Times today: "Blog" Buddy Tom Bissell. He says, "My relationship to the Web is probably very similar to being in a profoundly unhappy marriage with someone you really love and care about. You hate it; you love it. You want to leave; you know you can’t." I believe we broke this news here on the "blog" back in 2006! Oh, we're scooping the New York Times all over the place these days. Hey, last time I was in the periodicals room, I ran across Tom Bissell's recent article in the New Yorker. Read it by "clicking" here. It's got Bissell all over it! Bissell!
Welcome once again to McNeil's Movie Korner, which comes to us today in the form of a telephone message. "Just finished BLAST OF SILENCE," reports McNeil. "If it's not in your top ten after you watch it, my name's not [here McNeil uses his secret nickname, known only to select members of his inner circle]."
If you "click" on the James Purdy "link" in the previous "post," you will be taken to another "post" with another "link," promising passage to an "interesting 'web' site" about Mr. Purdy. This is a lie! It was true when I first "posted it. But now when you "click" on the place where the interesting "web" site used to be you will find a generic spot that has been gutted of content. You may recall that something similar occurred with the "web" site where (as I swore, and as was true at the time) you could send an email DIRECTLY TO HEE HAW STAR ROY CLARK. I used to think the "internet" was forever. But now I see that it crumbles and falls like everything else. Marcus Aurelius was right! To try to make things up to you a little, I will "link" to a "wikipedia" article about James Purdy. Remember (as I know from the one "wikipedia" article featuring a subject I know something about), "wikipedia" is usually wrong (although it seems that someone has gone in and fixed most or all of the problems with that aforementioned article, so it could be the case that I have no idea what I'm talking about). But one nice thing about the Purdy "wikipedia" article is that it "links" you to a place where you can see an anonymous letter written by James Purdy (according to "wikipedia" he has been writing anonymous letters his whole life, almost). When you "click" here, on the anonymous letter, please be aware that the site has "pop-up" ads, just like that Christopher Smart poem I "linked" you to so long ago. I guess if it is good enough for Christopher Smart, it is good enough for James Purdy. My kind of guys!
In today's "Film Series and Movie Listings" section of the New York Times, Dave Kehr calls Jerry Lewis "The Man in the White Socks himself — and a plausible candidate for America’s greatest living filmmaker." Which reminds me. Somebody better go to that event for me tomorrow night! As we have seen, Mark Childress is out of town. Early word from Mr. Ward looked promising, but that was before he realized that the event is on a Saturday, which is family time. Hey, Mr. Ward! Remember what happened last time you were horsing around with those kids of yours? YOU FELL INTO A LARGE CLAY POT AND BROKE YOUR RIBS! And while there is a Jerry-ish touch to that story, Jerry would never break your ribs. Still, I grudgingly respect your decision. Last time I heard from Megan Abbott, it sounded like she was on the fence. She's my best hope. Come on, Megan! Come on, everybody. Jerry's right there in your backyard! I should jump in the car and go. But I am an old man with a nose full of dazzling white hairs and I don't jump in the car and go anymore. One of my students has been talking about jumping in a car and driving off to Brooklyn in search of James Purdy, and I have encouraged her in this pursuit. I'm like that creepy old man at the beginning of THE BIG SLEEP who likes to watch Bogart drink hooch because he can't have it anymore. PS: My poor old mind told me that you could see Jerry's white socks in the clip above, but as usual, my poor old mind was mistaken. And I'm pretty sure you can't see them here, either.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Hi! I just got back from a party. It was the kind of party where some guy challenged me to arm wrestle... and I did! I'm still not 100% sure who that guy was. It was a party with John Hodgman and Roy Blount Jr. in attendance... and an 18 year old cat - I mean an actual feline - who was practically a skeleton (from age) but very sweet and loving. I spent most of the evening with the cat. I was also briefly interviewed by a reporter from the New York Times, or so he said. In any case, he had a little notepad with him, which conferred an air of legitimacy. Mr. Blount was a gentleman as always and a wonderful conversationalist. Mr. Hodgman, who I met for the first time tonight, was very nice and polite as well. He said things like, "Come over here, Camel Hair!" (because I was wearing a camel hair jacket) and "What's the Jack Pendarvis story?" Very polite and solicitous. Right before I left the party, Mr. Hodgman and I sang a little bit of "Tonight You Belong to Me" together (a song about which I've "blogged" before... and written about for the the Oxford American). Mr. Blount, Mr. Hodgman and I were all on the Thacker Mountain radio program tonight. Mr. Hodgman very much enjoyed the song stylings of Dent May, who was one of my undergraduate students and is now a ukulele player of no small repute (which fact spurred the conversation between Mr. Hodgman and myself about "Tonight You Belong to Me" and led to its abbreviated performance by us). But the craziest thing is that I sang "I Started a Joke" on the radio show tonight, and the pianist who accompanied me (along with a great band) was Jim Dickinson, who played piano on the Rolling Stones song "Wild Horses." The world is truly a sordid and meaningless place if such a thing can happen! But it did.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Chris Fujiwara writes in with good news about his Jerry Lewis book, and I quote: "It's all finished and should be out in 2009, if I can find a good still from The Big Mouth." He goes on to say something nice about the "blog." Best of all, he provides an intriguing resource about one of our subjects of abiding fascination, and I quote again: "You might be interested in my book on Otto Preminger which has some stories about Preminger harassing Arnold Stang during the filming of Skidoo." It's like he knows us!
I think it has been well established that I like juice. There can be no denying it! But did you know that some juice can work miracles? Today I drank some orange juice with a generous portion of ginger in it and MY COLD SYMPTOMS WENT AWAY! They might come back, but at least they went away for a minute, thanks to the miracle juice. And that miracle juice came from Ron Shapiro's Main Squeeze Juice Bar. That's Main Squeeze, right behind the Pizza Hut. Tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you! (Pictured, "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot.) "Bloggy" says, "It's got the 'Bloggy' seal of approval!" Ha ha! You "go," "Bloggy"! Wheeeeee!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It may be JACQUES TOURNEUR: THE CINEMA OF NIGHTFALL. What do you want from me? I'm just a "blog"!
Finally! I'm once again writing "posts" with titles that sound like Robert Ludlum novels. Anyway, spurred on by Chris Fujiwara's Jerry Lewis article, I just watched THE PATSY again. Yep: it's the greatest! Received a mid-movie call from McNeil, who says that Fujiwara also wrote that book NIGHTFALL of which he (McNeil) is so enamored. In another coincidence, I figured out that in the second "post" about Jerry I ever did, there's a "link" to another Fujiwara article. Fujiwara is everywhere and we didn't even know it! McNeil says there's another fascinating Jerry Lewis coincidence afoot (non-Fujiwara, I believe) but he doesn't want to tell me yet. He's digging deeper, he says. Look! It's Jerry with a beard. That's so you won't get bored with me and turn away. It's a change of pace to keep our "blogger"/reader relationship spicy!
I see that fellow Jerry Lewis fan Dave Kehr, with whom I so wrongly share the sidebar on the TCM "web" site, is talking in an appropriately giddy fashion about Mr. Lewis's upcoming New York appearance over on his "blog." Even more tantalizingly, Kehr provides a "link" to the "web" site of one Chris Fujiwara, who also mentions the live appearance AND gives a fleeting hint about his upcoming book from the University of Illinois Press. The title of that book? JERRY LEWIS. Put me down for a copy! I take it as a good sign that Mr. Fujiwara cites the very scene from THE PATSY that McNeil treasures as his favorite, as well as zeroing in on my favorite character (the shy zoologist) from THREE ON A COUCH and touching on (of all things) ONE MORE TIME, a highlight of the first (and apparently last) annual McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival, and a piece of work which McNeil and I assumed was otherwise forgotten. (Speaking of THREE ON A COUCH, Mr. Fujiwara also makes appreciative remarks (although in a more academic vein than McNeil's) about the scene that prompted McNeil's immortal question (and answer), "Are you at the part where Jerry dresses up like a cowboy? Some pretty ladies walk by and he does some classic Jerry shtick. Hilarious!" I can only hope that Mr. Fujiwara is familiar with McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy - a must for any true Jerry understanding. And finally, modesty almost forbids my suggestion that he investigate, at least for use in a valuable appendix, the fast growing field of Bava/Lewis comparative studies as pioneered here on the "blog" and bolstered by a note from actual film scholar Tim Lucas. (Pictured, "the part where Jerry dresses up like a cowboy.")
Email from McNeil. It made me realize we need a feature wherein McNeil dispenses folksy wisdom. Here it is. McNeil writes: "I was thinking about that pic of Rob C. on your blog. Is that all one needs in life? An umbrella, a musket, some sort of basket, and a bit of curiosity? Perhaps. But what about love, Daniel D.? Is that just a myth (as Gordon Gekko notes in Wall Street - and perhaps many other characters in many other works of fiction. Maybe that's something for the Blogketeers to chime in on)?" Okay! Now I will try to find a good, random picture off the "internet" that we can all pretend is McNeil being thoughtful. Some guy smoking a pipe, probably. Or feeding a kangaroo. Or wallaby. Or whatever.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Welcome once again to "Literary Matters." We have but two humble literary matters. That's all a human being can really stand of literary matters, I think. Let's begin. 1) Maud Newton likes Charles Willeford, as I have been excited to discover through her "blog." I like Charles Willeford, too! SIDESWIPE is my favorite. I have given Tom Franklin a copy of SIDESWIPE as a present. I have deduced while roaming around Square Books that Barry Hannah must like Charles Willeford; I've seen Willeford among the assigned texts for Hannah's noir class. If you will recall, Maud Newton and I also share an affection for Peter De Vries. And yet there may not be two writers any more different than Willeford and De Vries in style and sensibility. It really makes you think, I guess. 2) A day or two ago I read this in ROBINSON CRUSOE: "It would make the reader pity me, or rather laugh at me, to tell how many awkward ways I took to raise this paste, what odd misshapen ugly things I made, how many of them fell in, and how many fell out, the clay not being stiff enough to bear its own weight; how many crack'd by the over violent heat of the sun, being set out too hastily; and how many fell in pieces with only removing, as well before as after they were dry'd; and in a word, how after having laboured hard to find the clay, to dig it, to temper it, to bring it home and work it, I could not make above two large earthen ugly things, I cannot call them jars, in about two months labour." And I was like, "I hear you, Robinson Crusoe!" I was like, "I totally get where you are coming from." I was like, "Tell me about it, Robinson Crusoe." I was like, "I'm right there with you." I was like, "Welcome to my world." That's what I was like.
Sally Timms has spoken. It's almost time for the third annual traditional Christmas panto at the Hideout Bar in Chicago. And once again, I am honored to help out with the script. I was loath to divulge this year's theme, but I see it is already up at the Hideout's "web" site. As you may recall, we have assayed fish and Vikings. Now it is time for dinosaurs. Please prepare yourself for MUTINY ON THE BEAGLE: A DARWINIAN ROMP IN SEARCH OF THE JURASSIC ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS. Expect some hilarious Fletcher Christian references! Once again, Mekon and man-about-town Jon Langford will star as the "panto dame." I found this picture of him on the Hideout site. Just look how handsome he is! Though the picture may not help much because he will certainly be in drag when you see him. Pantomatic!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I just noticed that over on the Movie "Blog" of TCM - my favorite television channel - there's a sidebar called "Featured Sites." And this "blog" is on it! I assume this is the doing of my ex-boss Lisa, who "posts" something there from time to time. We're honored to share the sidebar with our imaginary "internet" friends "She Blogged By Night" and Tim Lucas, as well as New York Times columnist and fellow Jerry devotee Dave Kehr. If anyone from TCM actually sees this "post," allow me to nominate "Emulsion Compulson" for inclusion. Of course, if my ex-boss Lisa DOES have something to do with sidebar maintenance, she will have to overlook EC's attitude toward Bob Hope, which is a universe away from her own. (Though if I know Lisa, it will make her laugh. As I recall, she enjoyed relating the occasional scandalous legend of Bob in language not dissimilar to that employed by Mr. Marks.) By the way, a recent email from Mr. Marks explained that his take on Bob has been ineffably influenced by the real-life letters of a woman named Sally Fox, as reprinted in Harper's magazine. Ms. Fox wrote to such recipients as the FBI and the first President Bush complaining that Bob Hope was interfering with her thought patterns ... and yours!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
One year ago today, we first publicly referred to money by its great new nickname of "Stang." This has been "One Year Ago In Stang History." We usually call this feature "One Year Ago In 'Blog' History," but today we have humorously replaced the word "Blog" with the word "Stang" in honor of beloved character actor Arnold Stang. Hope you enjoy the humorousness of our decision!
The weird thing is I found something funny about THE SCARLET LETTER on the "internet" yesterday, too. I meant to mention it, but forgot until today's discovery. It seems that Dyna Moe used to make a show called CAKEY! THE CAKE FROM OUTER SPACE. "Click" here to see an episode featuring Hester Prynne, as well as "blog" "faves" Sherlock Holmes and Dracula.
Hey, look what I found. Yesterday was payday and you know what that means: a trip to Square Books. I picked up Vol. 2 of Ivan Brunetti's cartoon anthology from Yale University Press. That's where I ran across the work of R. Sikoryak, who was represented by a series of panels in which Superman is the protagonist of THE STRANGER by Camus. So much did I enjoy these pictures that I decided to look for more of Sikoryak's work on the "internet," which as you know contains everything. I was surprised and happy to find that Sikoryak has done illustrations of two of the subjects of Theresa's sprawling dissertation: Patricia Hearst and Hester Prynne. As you can see, Hearst is presented in the style of the Archie comics. And here's THE SCARLET LETTER in LITTLE LULU style. Find your own favorites at the "web" site of R. Sikoryak.
Friday, November 14, 2008
You know, Scott Marks of Emulsion Compulsion got to MEET Jerry Lewis, AND talk to him on the phone every day for a couple of weeks. He promises to write down (one day) the whole story (or at least transcribe the 3-hour live interview he did with Jerry [pictorial evidence above]). Allow me to quote a recent e-mail sent to me by Mr. Marks: "Truffaut once wrote that he'd rather watch 'Kane' than have dinner with Orson Welles. Perhaps he feared that the artist couldn't possibly live up to the art. Not so with Jerry. He was remarkable. Kind, generous and, of course, very funny." That makes the "blog" feel good. I almost "blogged" about a guy I know who found an apparently drowned lizard in his dog's water bowl and gave it (successful) mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He's the same guy who once coached a girls' basketball team that played against the team of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s daughter. But I'm not going to "blog" about the happily revived lizard because Jerry is more important. Speaking of which, in my upcoming Neko Case article, it will be revealed to the world in legitimate printed form that I once spoke on the phone with Jerry Lewis. I manage to cram in that fact for no justifiable reason. Keep your eyes on the "blog" for more startling revelations! Some of the lizard material we're saving up is pretty good, for example.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Just got off the phone with Mr. Ward. I was trying to discuss a certain movie with him, but I couldn't think of what it was called and the title that came out of my mouth was "Fire Thing Blow Up Now." That's how old I am. On the plus side, it's a great title and I'm almost done with the screenplay. (Pictured, the kind of action you can expect to see in my upcoming feature "Fire Thing Blow Up Now.")
Well, okay, just one more thing about Jerry and then we will have exhausted every image and every fact about Jerry and then the "blog" will implode. I just wanted to remind you about the big Jerry event in New York. It's just a few days away! When I originally "blogged" about it, I could find no "internet" confirmation. But now there is information to be had and here it is. Will one of our friends in the area please go and file a report? I'm looking at you, Megan Abbott. As we have already established, you "get" Jerry. Thanks in advance!
We have confirmation! Scott Marks did indeed name his "web" site "Emulsion Compulsion" in honor of Jerry Lewis. My guess was wrong, however, as to the source. It came from an interview in the University of Chicago's FOCUS magazine, reports Mr. Marks. "The quote was in reference to placing a strip of film emulsion-side-up against your upper lip," he paraphrases. Mr. Marks goes on to quote Jerry as saying, “I have an emulsion compulsion.” And now I present the final picture of Jerry from the "internet." There are no more. Goodbye forever.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Is this a good compromise? Or is it simply terrifying? If - as has been suggested by animal rights groups on moral grounds and Laura Lippman on aesthetic ones - there can be no more hilarious, wholesome entertainment featuring monkeys and chimps, what about this clip sent to me by Mr. Sepsey a while back? It's a bicycle safety video from 1963, and to get its point across (I guess), it features kids wearing ape masks and getting into all sorts of hazardous and awful shenanigans. This is from the same video archive that brought you SHAKE HANDS WITH DANGER and THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I was right (as far as Jerry goes - I can't speak for the Emulsion Compulsion man). On page 5 of my first edition of THE TOTAL FILM-MAKER by Jerry Lewis (the hyphen is Jerry's), he says, "I have a confession. Crazy. I have perched in a cutting room and licked emulsion." Then he explains why.
WARNING: Many of the "links" in this "post" may lead you to a discovery of saucy lingo. I recently ended up on a great, scrofulous "web" site called Emulsion Compulsion (where a theory of the "blog" was succinctly if kindly debunked). This guy "blogs" about Jerry Lewis a lot. I believe the name of his "web" site must come from the intro to Jerry's book THE TOTAL FILMMAKER, in which Jerry talks about an urge to "lick the emulsion" off the celluloid (I believe I am stating Jerry's desire correctly). Anyway, today I was noticing how much the guy from Emulsion Compulsion likes to "blog" about Bob Hope. But it seems to be a love/hate relationship. If my math is correct, it is mostly hate. In fact, it is a sort of hate/hate relationship that Emulsion Compulsion has with Bob Hope. And some of his Bob Hope reflections are filled with the foulest language imaginable! But it was on his site that I ran across this picture of Phyllis Diller in front of an imposing oil painting of Bob Hope. That reminded me: I used to know an agent in Hollywood who had been to Phyllis Diller's house. He said that she had a "shrine" to Bob Hope. He also promised to take me to the Friar's Club, but he never did. In other news of sauciness, our friend at "She Blogged By Night" says that she is tired of reining in her natural sauciness, and that she plans to let profanity spew henceforth during her discussion of olden movies. What is the world coming to? Somebody let me know, and soon!
McNeil takes umbrage at a recent "posting" of "McNeil, Briefly." First, he points out, everybody KNOWS you can watch movies on your computer! He just meant that he didn't know they were available at the imdb "web" site. He's not some idiot! Secondly, he's not saying that Tom Jones is a "winner," necessarily. He's just saying that Tom Jones is not a "loser." Also, it was his wife's idea. You know, McNeil's (or McNeil's wife's) mention of Tom Jones made me think of Tom Sawyer, who has a lot of "winner" qualities. That's probably why Huck Finn is a more appealing character. And what about Odysseus? He does get lost for a long time. And "lost" and "loser" are related words. Finally, my writing conveyed to McNeil the mistaken impression that there is something funny on the COVER of the book RAY by Barry Hannah. No, my intention was to show that when Theresa asked me why I was smiling, I held up the book in answer. The funny thing was on the inside of the book.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Looks like Laura Lippman can't resist rubbing it in: there are going to be fewer commercials featuring chimpanzees. She sent along the corroboration. ("Click" on her name to catch up on our recent chimp-based conversations.) Now, if you "click" on the "links" in that article she forwarded, however, I warn you that you will be taken to sad information about chimpanzees. This is not the first time that we have had sad chimp info and/or sad monkey info on the "blog." The fact that so much monkey information is sad should make me stop and think about what a horrible person I am. I have a wonderful book of ape portraits called JAMES & OTHER APES by James Mollison, with an introduction by Jane Goodall. Maybe that's the kind of ape art we can all get behind! But the index contains lots of sad ape information, I'm just giving you a heads up. (Pictured, one of Mollison's portraits.) Oh yeah, I bought JAMES & OTHER APES at Books, Inc., on Van Ness in San Francisco. A great store of dazzling variety, and they were very nice to me there.
McNeil says that he has thought of an answer to a rhetorical question I posed in an interview this summer: "Has there ever been a book about a winner?" McNeil cites TOM JONES by Henry Fielding. McNeil says that Frank Converse was in a weird looking movie called THE PILOT. "Brought to you by Amtrak," says McNeil. McNeil says you can watch an entire movie (though not that one) on the "internet." "Did you know you could do this?" McNeil asks. This has been "McNeil, Briefly."
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Welcome once again to "One Year Ago In 'Blog' History," where you find out what happened one year ago in "blog" history. One year ago in "blog" history, McNeil presented what he still considers the very apex of his work as curator of "McNeil's Gold Medal International Emergency Exit Theatre." One year ago in "blog" history, McNeil gave us the actor Frank Converse (who once visited my hometown of Bayou La Batre while filming an episode of NBC's trucker drama MOVIN' ON) reciting "She's Leaving Home" by the Beatles. (You may "click" here to enjoy Converse's interpretation afresh.) It was so good that McNeil's work began to suffer. He announced his retirement. MGMIEETs became scarce thereafter. So a sad time. Yet one of unparalleled triumph. This has been "One Year Ago In 'Blog' History."
I fancied that I was feeling "low" and I picked up a book and opened it and something in it made me laugh. Theresa was suspicious, given the studied aura of "lowness" I had been cultivating all day. "Why are you smiling?" she said. I showed her the cover of the book, RAY, by Barry Hannah. What made me laugh cannot be printed here because it is unprintable. My copy of RAY is old and the pages are yellow. I looked on the back and saw that it cost $3.95 when I bought it. The best $3.95 I ever spent, I thought.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
I was getting sad because, you know, the more drivel you add to your "blog," well, the more drivel disappears off the bottom of the page and sometimes you never see that drivel again. Thanks to my mathematics I realized that if I "blogged" today, the toad or frog or whatever it is, so noble in the mud, was going to disappear from the "blog," perhaps forever. And I was like, "No way." I was like, "There has to be a solution." And then it came to me. That toad or frog or whatever, so nobly sunk, is a creature about which we have often speculated but which has never been made incarnate before today. Yes, he (or she) IS "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot. This gives us lots of reasons to keep him (or her) always at the forefront of your thirsting mind. Thanks, "Bloggy"! And remember, whenever you buy a calendar or a belt, tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you! To read more about belts, "click" here.
Friday, November 07, 2008
So I was watching the actor Ed Norton being interviewed on TCM tonight, and the interviewer asked him what actors he liked and Ed Norton said Robert De Niro. And the interviewer asked him which movie. And Ed Norton finally settled on THE KING OF COMEDY. So the interviewer asked Ed Norton to describe something De Niro did in THE KING OF COMEDY that "blew [Norton] away." I think he pressed him a couple of times, and I think it was with those very words, yes, to name a scene that "blew" him "away." So at last Norton described a scene, but it was a JERRY LEWIS scene, not a De Niro scene! And furthermore (I don't think I say "furthermore" enough), yes, furthermore... where was I? Furthermore, Ed Norton said that Jerry was just as good as De Niro in the film, and I was like, "That's right, Ed Norton!" I was like, "Spread the Jerry." That's what I was like.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Hey, when I was adding the picture of Lee Marvin to that last "post" (which would have worked just as well as a new edition of "McNeil's Movie Korner," by the way - it has been a while since we've been blessed with one of those!) I saw something that I had almost forgotten: this unused unicorn. It came up when I was searching for the Election Day Unicorn (part of our "Holiday Unicorn Series") and was so garish and exciting that my inclination was to "post" it with the hastiest of glee. But something stopped me, and the more I looked at it, the more I thought its vibe was too negative for election day. The unicorn I used instead seemed to be knocking the crown off of some dude's head, and that felt pretty democratic to me. Still, I hate to waste a unicorn, especially one as awesome as this. In case you can't read the small, blue-on-blue copy, it says, "The fabled unicorn - now a lethal, radioactive mutant!"
Welcome once again to "McNeil, Briefly," our regular roundup of all things McNeil. As you know, McNeil sometimes leaves long phone messages full of interesting tidbits, a phenomenon we have grown to think of as "the living 'blog.'" We would assume that McNeil had been influenced by Larry King's old newspaper column, if not for the fact that he never knew of its existence. In tonight's message, McNeil continues to sing the praises of the inter-library loan process. Through it, he has received a book called NIGHTFALL, which he says is a fascinating film-by-film account of the career of director Jacques Tourneur. Additionally, McNeil wishes that Barack Obama would appoint Jerry Lewis to some sort of cabinet post as a minister of culture. Oh yes, he showed some of the movie POINT BLANK to his students and they seemed to like it and Lee Marvin is a real bad a** in McNeil's estimation.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
It was back to the periodicals room for me today! This time I flipped through the JOURNAL OF FINANCIAL CRIME, THE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY, and MOTOR CONTROL: THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR THE MULTIDISCIPLINARY STUDY OF VOLUNTARY MOVEMENT. In that one, I was particularly taken with Patrice R. Rougier's article, "How Spreading the Forefeet Apart Influences Upright Standing Control," especially the section bearing this subhead: The Role of Ankle Muscles Is Reinforced When the Forefeet Are Spread Apart. Of the three magazines, THE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY was the snazziest and the slickest, featuring a nicely designed glossy cover with a bat on it. And there were cartoons inside! Yes, cartoons lampooning the crazy world of experimental biology. One of them was about the sense of smell of spiny lobsters. In the punch line, one spiny lobster says to another, "Hold on, Dave, I'll have a sniff." There's a weird coincidence to tell: Chuck Steffen and I once found ourselves at an event where the guest speaker turned out to be an expert on the sense of smell of lobsters! I'm not kidding. And that's what his speech was about, though the event was a more general celebration and Chuck and I were surprised to find ourselves listening to a speech about the sense of smell of lobsters. It was not a lively speech. You know, I realize that in this "post" and past ones, I may come across as derisive toward people who study mud, or lobsters, or ankles. But the truth is - and I say this with absolutely no irony or trickiness of any kind; I mean it plain and simple - I think it is kind of cool and even thrilling that people study so many odd and fascinating things, and their work seems to me probably more interesting, useful, and pleasant to contemplate than, say, "blogging," or the construction of some exquisitely "crafted" short story about a faculty cocktail party or suburban family dinner where there's "more going on" than "meets the eye."
I'm currently reading ROBINSON CRUSOE. The narrator sure does use the term "viz." a lot. I like it! I'm going to start using "viz." a lot, too, in my everyday personal life. Like you might see me walking down the street and I'll be thinking, "viz." I can't say I care for that period, though. Periods are for sad sacks. I'm going to replace the period with an exclamation point like so: "viz!" Also, it would make a good name for a baby.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
An exciting milestone for the "blog"! Tim Lucas, editor of the essential magazine VIDEO WATCHDOG and author of the definitive study of Mario Bava, has good-naturedly humored my wild claims of connection between Mario Bava's 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON and Jerry Lewis's CRACKING UP. He writes (Did you HEAR ME? Tim Lucas has written something we can print on the "blog"!): "I haven't seen CRACKING UP in many years, but the wax floor scene has stuck in my mind as one of Jerry's most imaginative and successful bits (though I didn't recall the M&Ms, which sounds like an excruciatingly brilliant touch and one I need to see again). If you look at my book's chapter on [the Bava film] BLACK SABBATH, you'll see that I point out the surprising similarity between the ending of the Italian version and the ending of Lewis's THE PATSY, so perhaps these two very different artists were working on a similar wavelength. Actually, I'd go so far as to say that THE NUTTY PROFESSOR is one of the few American films to use color with the same ingenuity as Bava, so they did have certain aesthetics in common. Some might go so far as to say they also both made unfunny comedies, but not me." Tim Lucas, the merciful!
It's fun to vote! Here, in honor of Election Day, is another entry in our beloved "Holiday Unicorn Series." Our Election Day Unicorn has been chosen in the traditional manner for your delight and approval. Let him be your inspiration!
Monday, November 03, 2008
I feel one of those especially long and especially meaningless "posts" coming on! And this one is all about decorative glass balls. So I'm going to call it "Decorative Glass Balls." Tonight I had great fun reading about 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON in ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, the 12-pound Mario Bava book by Tim Lucas. But I was startled to discover that when Lucas described - in his "Summary" section - the scene I "blogged" about recently, he used the following sentence: "Their fistfight upsets a decorative display of glass balls." Recall if you will my own words: "a bunch of decorative glass balls." Pretty close! If I saw it in a student paper, it might give me pause. Yet here I am on the other end of the stick, knowing that my use of "decorative glass balls" was entirely honorable (I had not read the summary beforehand, not wishing to spoil the movie for myself), and realizing that when it comes to decorative glass balls, there is only one phrase that really sums it up, apparently, and that phrase is "decorative glass balls." Lucas - in his "Commentary" section - calls the scene "perhaps the film's most inspired feat of design and storyboarding ... Bava made the decision to view the fracas through a grating, thus splitting up our view of the action into dozens of tiny squares." Lucas goes on to describe how the fight sends "countless glass balls of all sizes spilling across a series of different colored floors, so that a screen full of squares literally explodes into a screen full of circles." This confirmed for me the idea ("click" on the movie title above for more details - ha ha!) of the scene's Jerry Lewisian aspect, especially as it relates to one gag from CRACKING UP. The "fantastic modern house" (Lucas's term) of 5 DOLLS is a Lewisian space. (I'm going to start using the word "Lewisian" all the time! Wheeeeee!) In his book on Lewis, Shawn Levy writes about CRACKING UP's "modernist decor (sleek patent leather sofas, monochromatic rooms, absurd kinetic art) ... hilariously explored in the psychiatrist's office, [the floor of which] is so heavily waxed that Jerry can't cross the room without destroying it ... when he ends the bit by spilling an entire bag of peanut M&M's all over the roan-colored floor, the sequence achieves a tactility exceedingly rare in cinema." So I'm sure you see the connection! And will agree that I am not an insane person! Now, remember, Levy is no pushover. In fact, in the very next paragraph, he calls CRACKING UP "a weak entry on even Jerry's checkered resume." Well! Two things are bothering me right now - three if you count the fact that I'm "blogging" about this. First, I am forced realize that those objects I have been remembering as marbles (i.e., small glass balls) in CRACKING UP were actually peanut M&M's! Second, I learn from Lucas (in a paragraph not reproduced here) that the final resting place of Bava's decorative glass balls is not technically a murder scene, as I call it in my recent "post." But to be fair, I assumed it was a murder made to look like something else. So I guess you can say that only one thing is really bothering me: my human fallibility. Everything I believe and observe is wrong! I guess I'm going to have to get used to it. But at least this clears up the matter of the "Decorative Glass Balls" and I think we can all rest easy tonight and for many nights to come. (Top, some of the actual "decorative glass balls" from 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON. Bottom, from the same film, some of the mod variety of furniture that McNeil likes to see in a movie.)
I briefly considered titling this "post" "The Dead Monkey Exception," but that seemed grisly - not to mention disrespectful, considering how much I like monkeys. It is, in fact, my liking of monkeys that compels me to write. I have received word from Laura Lippman confirming that when it comes to her strict no-monkeys-in-movies policy, her famous character Tess Monaghan would make an exception for the dead monkey in SUNSET BOULEVARD. Lippman goes so far as to admit that there may be monkeys in other good movies. "Even as I write this," she confesses, "I am tortured by the memory of an actor turning to a monkey in a funny, bittersweet moment and the monkey being cold to his pain." That sounds like a Jerry Lewis movie to me, Laura! (Speaking of which, let me point out that the "post" that first prompted Laura to write me on the subject of chimpanzees features a picture of Lewis impersonator Sammy Petrillo mugging with a chimp, NOT Lewis himself! Lewis would have done something subtler, I'm sure. Or relatively sure. Also, I know that chimpanzees are not "monkeys," technically, but really, who cares, with the exception of some monkey-studying scientist somewhere with all his fancy science talk?) I will now do a "Google Image Search" for the words "indifferent monkey" to find the perfect illustration for Lippman's eloquent sentence. In fact, I will repeat that sentence here, because I really should have ended the "post" with it: "Even as I write this I am tortured by the memory of an actor turning to a monkey in a funny, bittersweet moment and the monkey being cold to his pain." Wow! Hold on a second. I found a whole "blog" called "The Indifferent Monkey." Here's a picture from it - rather grisly, like our original title. Dang! I've ruined the end of this "post" again. Wait. "Even as I write this I am tortured by the memory of an actor turning to a monkey in a funny, bittersweet moment and the monkey being cold to his pain."
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Theresa and I just finished up our annual Halloween film festival with the Hammer production THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL. This is precisely the kind of thing you don't need to read. Stop reading now! Why are you still reading? Well, this is what a "blog" is, as I have explained over and over. I can't apologize anymore. Now that that's out of the way, I can say - without in any way belittling the achievement of Jerry Lewis - that the Hammer take on Jekyll and Hyde anticipates, in a key way, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR: in both films, the Hyde character is the smooth talking, good-looking one. In an extra twist of which I think Jerry would have approved, Mrs. Jekyll does not find either version of her husband appealing. Why are you still reading this? I conclude by mentioning that my sister and her husband (still haven't come up with a good new "blog" nickname for him) were in town this weekend and we enjoyed CURSE OF THE DEMON and THE DEVIL-DOLL (that's the Lionel Barrymore horror movie, not to be confused with last year's Halloween film festival feature about a possessed ventriloquist's dummy) with them, in addition to - after their departure - 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON, as mentioned in the previous "post." To reward you for continuing to read (though punishment would be more appropriate), I am going to do a "Google Image Search" for HALLOWEEN UNICORN and illustrate this "post" with one of the results, as part of our popular "Holiday Unicorn Series."