Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Movie With a Book In It With an Owl In It

So I was watching DOCUMENTEUR by Agnes Varda and the mother and son start talking about a book they read about an owl who makes tea out of his own tears, and he has a list of sad things he thinks about to make himself cry enough to make a pot of tea. Despite some halfhearted "googling" I have not determined whether this is a real book or an invention of Agnes Varda, so I regret to inform you that I cannot at this time put it on my big long list of books with owls in them... however, I can say that - while being charming in its own right - this owl crying into his teapot business puts me in mind of one of the least pleasant subplots of the Thomas Harris novel HANNIBAL, which I bought at the Atlanta airport and read on an airplane back in 1999, yet to this day I remain astonished by the number of typos I recall. Never, to my recollection, have I run across a professionally published novel containing so many typos. You know I like everything! Yet somehow that book made me feel so bad - some flaw within myself, no doubt! - that I purposely left it behind in a San Francisco hotel room, an act for which I still feel remorse, what a horrible surprise for somebody. (I left some Bukowski novel - was it POST OFFICE? - in a New Orleans hotel room for similar reasons but I guess I don't feel so evil about that.) As long as you are here I should tell you that Ace Atkins and I finally went back to Costco yesterday. I saw "a fourteen-pound tub of violet decorative cake icing," as I put it on twitter. Although! In reality I saw several fourteen-pound tubs of cake icing, some orange, some green, some pink. I don't know why "violet" struck me so particularly. I did wonder - as I remarked to Ace on the way back - why there is only one color per tub. That seems like a rip-off! I think they should go in there and arrange it in three stripes, like Neapolitan ice cream. Though no doubt you get a good price on a fourteen-pound tub of cake icing, so who am I to argue?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Owls and Aliens and Snakes and Stuff

Adam sent me some comic books in the mail! So I was happy. One of these characters goes underwater and has a vision, and I thought, "Are those owls?" But whatever he was seeing, their heads looked rounder than I thought an owl's heads should look. But then I closed my eyes and pictured some owls, and sure, I could think of some owls that have round heads. In fact, I was 99.9% sure that this guy was underwater having a vision of some owls. But .1% of me was like, "What if they're supposed to be pigeons?" But I was going to go ahead and say that this book has owls in it anyway, and put it on my widely celebrated list of books with owls in them. And let me stress that the problem was mine, not the artist's! Plus I was like, "Pigeons can't be in a mystical vision!" Why was I shaming pigeons? Aren't they kinda like doves? And doves are in mystical visions all the time!
My sliver of lingering doubt was laid aside when I came to this panel a few pages later, and it is why I can report with 100% confidence that DUNGEON MASTER: BOOK ONE by Joe Daly has owls in it. Looking back in the morning light, I can totally see that they are owls, I mean, it's not even a question! You can tell by the way they're standing! I guess the problem is I don't trust my own eyes. Another reason I should have known they were owls is that I was vaguely reminded of an illustration from Emile Grillot de Givry's anthology. None of this is your problem!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

God Made the Sky Dark

As you know, I don't "blog" anymore, but Jerry Lewis died! And then McNeil called to talk about it: "God knew it was going to happen and that's why he's making the sky dark tomorrow. I bet there was an eclipse the day before he was born too! I'm going to look it up when I get off the phone. It's called research and that time is tax deductible." All of this said McNeil.

Jerry 101

I just heard that Jerry Lewis passed away. Dr. Theresa and my pal Phil Oppenheim alerted me simultaneously. I feel terrible! I am going to try to update an old "post" that had ninety introductions to Jerry Lewis for the curious. I am going to try to find eleven things to add so I can call it "Jerry 101." [As a work meeting was coming up as this "post" was being typed, several, though not all, of the hastily retrieved final additions may be of a lesser quality. - ed.] 1. How is Edgar Allan Poe like Jerry Lewis? 2. For that matter, what would Kierkegaard say about Jerry Lewis? 3. Bob Dylan got "deeply into" Jerry Lewis. 4. Jerry was a hero to Richard Pryor. 5. Jerry shares expressionistic instincts with iconic rappers. 6. He made Orson Welles laugh. 7. Freudian aspects of Jerry. 8. He played a gig with Thelonious Monk. 9. A trusted method of immersing yourself in Jerryness. 10. Don't believe me? Take it from bestselling novelist Laura Lippman! 11. Don't believe Laura Lippman? Perhaps famed method actor Edward Norton is more to your taste. 12. Consider Jerry Lewis as the forefather of David Lynch. 13. So can it be a coincidence that Lynch was cast in a part originally written for Jerry Lewis? (See also.) 14. As muse to hardboiled Don Carpenter. 15. Jerry's spectacular use of color. 16. Jerry is the inventor of anti-comedy, his aesthetic also appropriated by the cinematic underground. 17. Read the great Jerry monograph by Chris Fujiwara. 18. Jerry a hero to Michael Palin of the Monty Python comedy troupe. 19. Jerry an inspiration for the British version of THE OFFICE that everyone used to love so much. 20. Jerry makes me think of the French painter Henri Rosseau. 21. Do you think Jerry is redundant? No, he is "unfolding redundancy." Joke's on you! 22. Do you like Godard? Well, Godard based some of his scenes on Jerry Lewis scenes. Like this and that. 23. Some maintain that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY would have been better with Jerry in it. 24. Speaking of which, was Jerry an influence on Boorman's groundbreaking POINT BLANK? I don't know, but he should have starred in it. 25. How about that prescient scene in THE BELLBOY that anticipates Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY? Or the possibly relevant fact that Jerry directed parts of THE KING OF COMEDY? 26. The Cinderfella dance! 27. Jerry frequently appears in THE BELIEVER magazine, if that's your cup of tea. 28. I intuit a connection between Jerry and J.D. Salinger. 29. And supposedly Salinger considered Jerry to direct the movie version of CATCHER IN THE RYE, maybe. I said maybe! 30. Jerry's influence on GOODFELLAS. 31. Jerry Lewis is part of Philip K. Dick's mystic vision of the entire universe. 32. You should watch lots of Jerry Lewis so you can practice the fun habit of saying things like Jerry Lewis. 33. Even nature itself aspires to sound like Jerry Lewis. 34. Jerry Lewis is a good singer. 35. Maybe you identify with Jerry's world-weary attitude. 36. He hung out in a diner with Marilyn Monroe. 37. Blair Hobbs detects an aesthetic kinship between Jerry and the photographer William Eggleston. 38. Jerry was an inspiration to Bruce Springsteen. 39. Think of Jerry as a poet. 40. Need a dissertation topic? How about "Medical Ethics in the Films of Jerry Lewis"? 41. In a hilarious practical joke, Jerry ruined Dick van Dyke's meeting with the queen! 42. Jerry was instrumental in getting the great Stan Laurel his honorary Oscar. 43. Jerry is handsome! 44. Maybe you are a "conspiracy theory buff." Well, for real the CIA tampered with one of Jerry's movies. 45. Maybe you're an animal lover. Well, Jerry bought a hearing aid for his dog. 46. Jerry is subversive! 47. Quentin Tarantino + Jerry Lewis = True Love 4ever. 48. (Maybe because he anticipated one of Tarantino's more radical and disruptive narrative decisions by 40 years.) 49. Does he irritate you and make you uncomfortable? MAYBE THAT'S JUST WHAT JERRY WANTS! 50. For example, he once stuck his nose in Frank Sinatra's eye. 51. And took some of the starch out of Tony Curtis by flicking ashes on his jacket. 52. Jerry is complicated. He "both depicts and manifests inadvertent disclosure." - J. Hoberman. 53. Jerry's influence on the Beastie Boys. 54. Jerry appears in works by acknowledged comic geniuses John Hodgman and Michael Kupperman. 55. But perhaps you prefer authors from Mississippi, a chunk of land with a notable literary history. If so, you should be aware that Tom Franklin and Frederick Barthelme have put Jerry Lewis in their well-regarded "Mississippi" novels. 56. So has Don DeLillo, though he is not from Mississippi, nor are his novels set there. 57. ARE you a historian, by the way? Then consider Jerry's breakup with Dean in its implications as "a national trauma." 58. Francis Ford Coppola cites Jerry as an influence. 59. Which reminds me: I recently read an interview that Scorsese did with Lewis in which he (Scorsese) cites THE LADIES MAN as an influence. I always assumed the scene in question was drawn from SATYRICON. But SATYRICON came out after THE LADIES MAN, so maybe SATYRICON was influenced by Jerry too! I just now decided that, while typing this. 60. Jerry's darker side a fruitful subject for literary speculation. 61. Speaking of which, John Waters said Jerry Lewis was "probably a monster!" Can there be a higher compliment? 62. Although (see previous "link") John Waters went on to praise his taste in costuming. So that subject is worth contemplation. 63. Though, intriguingly, to Waters's original hypothesis, Jerry repeatedly acknowledges the collusion of the innocent with the monstrous, especially within a single individual. (See also.) 64. Jerry's art provides some of the same challenges and rewards as Sun Ra's. 65. Jerry envisioned hosting Queen Elizabeth, Jimmy Hoffa and Helen Keller on a talk show. I still want to write that play. 66. Fascinating undercurrents to his on- and off-screen chemistry with Dean Martin. 67. I wrote a pretty good article about him once if you can find it. 68. And this "post" is all right. 69. Try to solve Jerry's universal problem. 70. The complex transparency of Jerry's genius can be profitably compared to Brian Wilson's. 71. Jerry reveals the intrinsic flaws in the very notion of successful human communication. 72. Maybe that's why he's constantly "rewriting his own being." 73. But before he rewrote himself too much, here's a 13-minute clip of young Jerry at his brashest and most engaging. 74. Jerry's anarchic devouring of the hand that feeds him. 75. Maybe you are from the "dance world." Did you know that many highbrow choreographers turn to Jerry Lewis for inspiration? 76. Similarities between Jerry and the great Italian giallo director Mario Bava, if that's your thing. 77. Jerry is a model of tact and restraint compared to the makers of Jason Bateman movies. 78. As Jerry is, so you will be. As you are, so once was he. 79. Jerry, like Elvis, was a target of snobbery and classism. 80. I mean, even when he ended the Oscar broadcast EARLY, the powers-that-be still despised him. He gets under "the man's" skin. 81. For example, when everybody in "the establishment" was dumping on Arthur Penn's BONNIE AND CLYDE, Jerry was one of the first to proclaim its greatness. 82. Did he inspire a character in a Wes Anderson movie? Probably not. But I think he inspired a character in a Noah Baumbach movie. 83. Touchstone for towering cartoonists Lynda Barry and Gilbert Hernandez. 84. Jerry deemed a subject worthy of the Savannah College of Art and Design. 85. Jerry cut short his formal education and set out to educate himself. 86. Jonathan Rosenbaum knows a lot about movies and he loves Jerry Lewis. 87. Tough-to-please James Wolcott likewise. 88. Camille Paglia seems happy about Jerry Lewis. 89. Even comedians who resist his influence must grapple with his legacy. 90. Jerry blurs assumptions about gender. 91. Hey, Sandra Bullock likes Jerry Lewis. 92. And John Sayles says "he did it all," though he was likely just being polite. 93. Jerry helps redeem the troubling "monkey riding dogs" trope. 94. Jerry advances clowning from sadness to rage. 95. Jerry's singing provides ballast in one of those ubiquitous "peak TV" shows that no one can get enough of. 96. Just the thought of Jerry Lewis makes someone laugh alone in a parking lot. 97. Jerry makes comedy of our basic existential choice. 98. See my AV Club interview on Jerry Lewis's literary influence, I guess. 99. Jerry of sufficient interest to narrowly escape being drunk-dialed by Cary Fukunaga. 100. Noted author Megan Abbott finds that watching Jerry is "akin to psychosexual quicksand"! 101. Appropriately at this moment, Jerry Lewis distracts me from James Joyce's elegiac short story, "The Dead," supplanting death with life!

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Dirty Glass

Dr. Theresa and I watched THE PARALLAX VIEW last night and I was happy to see Paula Prentiss. But then she was just in a couple of scenes! And I thought... she is always just in a couple of scenes! It's not right. Nor is it accurate, but I can think of many examples off the top of my head of the shameful underutilization of Paula Prentiss. THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT. I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE. CATCH-22. And that was without even trying hard. It's like the executives are afraid her presence is too vibrant. "We can't have the audience shielding their eyes from her vibrant presence the whole time! They won't be able to eat their popcorn!" Always the bottom line with those guys. I mean look at this lobby card. All you get is the back of her awesome haircut. I learned about I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE straight from the director's brother, Elvis Perkins, which I only mention because I just realized I have met three different people named Elvis. Is that odd? How many Elvises have you met? Maybe not three! Or maybe everyone has met a minimum of three Elvises. I'm sorry I brought it up. And we are getting off the subject. So when Paula Prentiss and Warren Beatty were having their big scene, of course the thing I was thinking was: "She has been a foil to both Warren Beatty and Bob Hope! That is an unusual range she has there!" [Though Bob Hope was the Warren Beatty of his day in at least one way. - ed.] Now, as you know, I don't "blog" anymore, but it seemed important to mention that shortly thereafter Warren Beatty goes to a rough, tough bar in the northern climes and arouses the ire of louts by ordering a glass of milk. Who could help but recall Bob Hope going into a rough, tough bar in the northern climes and ordering a lemonade? No one, that's who! And when Bob similarly arouses the ire of louts, he famously snarls, "... in a dirty glass!" Warren Beatty didn't think of that. And then he dies at the end of the movie. Score one for Bob Hope. (Though see also.) I will note that a tiny bit of inadvertent research reveals that Burt Reynolds's eponymous tiny child sidekick in the forgotten action-comedy COP AND A HALF goes into a rough, tough bar and orders a "milk... in a dirty glass," bringing everything together, especially if you recall that Burt's character in HUSTLE enjoyed drinking milk, too, though presumably in a clean glass. How could I NOT "blog" under such circumstances, with such a myriad of kaleidoscopic thoughts whirling around in my precious, delicate head? Like, I just thought of Leonardo Dicaprio's cranberry juice. I'm like a James Joyce character over here, thinking so much! And wait, don't they mention James Joyce in THE DEPARTED? Hmm, is it possible to think TOO much? "I can't believe he died!" I yelled during THE PARALLAX VIEW. "It was the seventies, who didn't?" replied Dr. Theresa with a jaded shrug. Anyway, I'm sorry I didn't say "spoiler alert" but it ruined the flow. These are the choices we make in life and some of them hurt people. Well, I might as well say Paula Prentiss dies too. I was in denial. I kept yelling, "Is she DEAD? Is she DEAD?" even though she was obviously lying there on a slab in the morgue. I really wanted her to hop up!