Sunday, February 02, 2014

Bilbo Baggins

Hello! Here is a picture of Norman Mailer in a top hat, leather vest, and denim shorts, snapped by Bill Boyle off of Megan Abbott's TV screen. We were watching Mailer's film MAIDSTONE. Ace was there too, and he thought it was pretty good revenge for the time he made Dr. Theresa and me watch THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK (which I would like to state for the record here is, I think, about twice as long as MAIDSTONE). "He looks like a hobbit," Ace said of Norman Mailer, and other disparaging remarks. To be fair, when I was in a video conference once, I held up the cover of the Norman Mailer bio to the camera, so that Mailer's face filled the screen instead of mine, and Pen cried out "It's Bilbo Baggins!" - not trying to be funny, more in simple recognition. Megan and I argued that Mailer was a good-looking man. Ace remained unconvinced. Megan Abbott owned up that she saw him once and "he was just a little taller than me." (She's tiny!) I found a number of things to enjoy in MAIDSTONE, but we all agreed that by far the best part of the movie is the famous bloody scene at the very end when the actor Rip Torn goes a little bit crazy and hits Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer FOR REAL and then Norman Mailer tries very hard to bite and rip off Rip Torn's ear. "Click" here to see a demonically grinning Rip Torn on Bill Boyle's twitter feed, in the electrically tense aftermath, gracing Mailer with a startling scatological encomium, unsuitable for printing on the "blog." You will note that Megan Abbott had at that point in the film turned on the subtitles for extra musing and study. Below, another example, from the climactic fight, sent to me by Ace this morning. Ace did admit that MAIDSTONE shares a certain sensibility ("group therapy" he called it) with the original BILLY JACK (which we watched and enjoyed very much, as distinct from its sequel, though, as Ace reminded me last night, THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK had some good parts, such as when there is an all-red Billy Jack and an all-blue Billy Jack and they battle for his soul in a cave, encountering a spiritually significant cobra in a scene that made me wonder if Scorsese hadn't lifted from it for THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. I guess I would say that the main problem with THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK is that they gave Billy Jack too much money and he loved helicopter shots so much.) Another common thread between the Billy Jack movies and MAIDSTONE is the dominating personality of the filmmaker, and the film's existence as a stubborn extension of that personality. Ace said that MAIDSTONE was like BILLY JACK "without the karate." And you know, when he said that, I had to admit that Billy Jack knew what he was doing, putting the karate in there and driving the original film with a good, old-fashioned revenge plot.