Friday, January 28, 2005

Working for the weekend: Job 4

I quit working at the grocery store a few weeks before I started college on the other side of the state in Lincoln at the University of Nebraska. I saved half of each paycheck to help pay for college, and I had enough to cover a big chunk of the first year. My parents chipped in the rest. I decided not to find a job that first year, but it didn't seem to make things any easier. While I eventually grew to love Lincoln, my first year and a half of school may have been the most miserable period in my life. I got stuck in a shitty dorm with a roommate I hated, my classes were complete wastes of time, I had nothing to do on the weekends, and I only made one good friend the entire year. I was kind of numb about it, shocked. It seemed like some kind of cruel prank. College was supposed to be right up my alley. I hated high school. I hated living in the small town. I wanted something to finally happen for once. College was where things happened. I would have nothing but exciting, unusual experiences for the next four to five years. I was an idiot. Exciting, unusual experiences weren't even happening to the people on my television. I had been lied to. College was a dreary grind just like everything else. When the year was done, I decided to go back home for the summer instead of staying in Lincoln. Most of my high school friends were coming back to town and I was homesick for my room, my family, and something to do on Friday and Saturday nights. Driving country back roads after finding someone to buy us a case of beer and talking the same shit we did the year before (in a slightly more deflated way) was still superior to sitting in a small white room, wishing I knew some people to hang out with. (My college years got a lot better about halfway through my sophomore year, almost living up to the hype, so it's not such a tragic story. Oh, woe is me. I can't find someone to hang out with. This is worse than ten tsunamis and Vietnam combined.) It turned out to be a pretty decent summer, and would be the last time I hung out with my high school friends for any extended period of time, but I did manage to snag another lousy job.
Job #4, aka Shitty Job #2: A friend of my uncle's bought a Hardee's franchise that was set to open about a month after I got back to town. It would be the first fast food restaurant chain in my hometown's history (there are now two). I let him know I needed a job, and before I knew it, I was working (temporarily, thank God) in the high-stakes world of fast food. Since the store wouldn't open for another month, I spent that first month training at the Hardee's in nearby Scottsbluff and cleaning dust and debris and unloading equipment at the recently built house of greasy burger filth in Bridgeport. I didn't mind the cleaning and unloading, but I hated the training in Scottsbluff. I had to get up at 5 a.m. and carpool 38 miles away with my boss and the two managers, one a likeable middle-aged lady who liked to drink, tell dirty jokes, and listen to classic rock, the other a worthless redneck bitch who was two years older than me and hated me because I was in college. She was already married to another worthless redneck, who apparently told her what to think about everything, judging from her conversation during the drives ("My husband says Rush Limbaugh's about the only one you can trust to get your news," "My husband says there's too many people on welfare and we need to stop supporting other people too lazy to work with our tax dollars," "My husband says we ought to throw all the fags out of this country," "My husband says blah blah ad nauseaum on and on etc.") Once we got to Scottsbluff, it didn't get much better. The owner of the Scottsbluff franchise was into fast food. Big time. He was PASSIONATE about fast food, the way Hank Hill is passionate about propane. He was an extremely short man with dark black hair, glasses, and a mustache, and was something of a philosopher, pontificating on the intangibles and unknowns of the fast food business while gazing wistfully into the distance. I remember one day when we were asking about the lunchtime rush and how much food to prepare in advance, he stroked his chin and looked out the window meaningfully. (I'm not making this up. He actually did this.)
"Well," he said. "Every day the lunch rush is a little different. I've been working in fast food for 23 years and have a pretty good idea about what kind of a crowd to expect at lunchtime. Still, some days we end up with too much food, and other days we don't make enough. If I could figure out exactly how many burgers to make on any given day, I'd be a rich man."
It took a mighty act of God, or maybe just a conscience strained to its breaking point, to keep me from laughing in the poor man's face.
One month later, we were officially open, and I had my duty. I grilled burgers in the kitchen. All day. That's pretty much all I did. It was the best place to be, as far as I was concerned. The people I liked the best (the employees consisted mostly of high school kids and adults fallen on hard times) worked in the kitchen, I didn't have to deal with the public, and no customers could see the grill or more importantly me in my embarrassing, uncomfortable uniform.
Here are some things that sucked about the job:
The uniform: I mentioned this already. It does not need elaboration.
The redneck: I mentioned her already. I forgot to mention her favorite catchphrase, uttered several hundred times a day while she encouraged us to make about a million more burgers than we needed to: "Come on. These people are hungry. They want their food fast." I really hope this woman is dead now.
The Hardee's corporate men: Since our store was brand spankin' new, two corporate representatives of Hardees, Inc. observed and mentored us in the first couple of weeks of business. These guys were a couple of assclowns. One was a chain-smoking, effeminate, Southern dandy whose tongue lolled around in his mouth when he talked and whose head wobbled precariously on his oversized neck when he moved. The other was a chain-smoking, salt and pepper-mustachioed, overly gregarious car salesman type who pretended to be our friend but could barely contain his seething contempt for us, the job, himself, and life.
Getting up at 4 a.m. when you were unlucky enough to pull a breakfast shift: Sucked.
Smelling like grease every day: Sucked as well.
Cleaning the grill: Super-sucked.
The revolting and highly immoral waste of perfectly edible food: They had a rule about how long a burger could sit in the queue, uh, shelf, erm, bin? (What's the word I'm looking for here?) It wasn't very long. We threw away maybe 40-50 sandwiches a day. By the third day, it made me despise myself.

Good things about it:
Seeing the results of my work: I had some raw meat. I grilled it. It was cooked. Results, baby, results.
Making fun of the people working up front: The kitchen staff had contempt for the register staff. We invented a fake gang war, calling ourselves "East Side," and them "West Side." The boss found out and made us stop, saying that though he understood it was a joke, the entire Hardee's organization is a team and divisions between areas are unacceptable.
You know how people see Jesus' image in pancakes, etc.: One night after closing, I was cleaning the grill. I poured the cleaning solution on the hot grill and it formed a perfect likeness of Abraham Lincoln, as seen from the side. Oh my god, that's Honest Abe, I said to myself. A co-worker walked by. "Oh my god, that's Abraham Lincoln!" he shouted. Then the cleaning solution trickled across the grill, ruining the miracle. Nobody believed us. I still wonder what Abe was trying to tell me.
Torturing pickles: The grill was set up in an unusual way. There was a normal grill, which you placed the patty on, but there was also another hot grill surface called a platen that you lowered on top of the grill to cook both sides of the burger at once. One night we were bored and started throwing vegetables in there to see what would happen. Nothing much happened until we tried a pickle. Once the platen was lowered on the pickle, the pickle emitted a high-pitched shrieking noise, similar in tone to a screaming human. Hundreds of pickles lost their lives before the gag got old.
I would have to return to college to find an even more demeaning job, but that's Part 5.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Part 2

Here are the other movies I watched:
A Year of the Quiet Sun (Krzysztof Zanussi) There's something lacking in this movie. I'm not sure what. The cinematography is unusual and compelling, the actors do a good job, there's nothing egregiously wrong with any of it, but it just kind of sits on the screen dully and heavily.
Time of the Gypsies (Emir Kusturica) This movie is great. It's a vaguely surreal comedy/tragedy/gangster film acted by nonprofessional gypsies (I don't mean to suggest that there are professional gypsies, I just mean they aren't professional actors and are actual gypsies) and the first movie ever filmed in the Romany language, which is spoken by only a few hundred people in the world.
A Short Film About Killing (Krzysztof Kieslowski) This is an expansion into feature length of an episode from Kieslowski's "Decalogue." The added details, mostly in the first twenty minutes, add to the mood without detracting from the power of the original cut. This is well worth your time in either version.
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (Melvin Van Peebles) I don't know what the hell to think. I've been interested in seeing this movie for a long time, mostly for its reputation as one of the first black-financed, black-directed, black-acted independent films and its supposed influence on most of the blaxploitation films of the seventies. Now that I've seen it, I can see how it influenced movies like "Shaft," "Cleopatra Jones," etc., but I can also see that it has more in common with independent American films from the 1950s and 1960s, French new wave, westerns, and B-grade violent thrillers and splatter movies. Unfortunately, some of it is really inept, clumsy, frustrating, and boring. Sexist, too. Ridiculously sexist. So sexist it borders on the surreally absurd. I can't completely dismiss it, though, and not just because of its historical importance. I've never seen anything like it. This is one weird, weird movie. There is nothing on this planet even vaguely approximating it, and that's something I can get behind. Parts of the film are dreadfully dull, but other moments have a weird energy and an excitement in putting something on the screen that hasn't been there before.

I saw these on the big screen:
Bukowski: Born Into This (John Dullaghan) Bukowski is slightly unfashionable in our current cultural climate. He's something you're supposed to have outgrown, like Rage Against the Machine and "A Clockwork Orange." This may have more to do with his persona (womanizing drunk with bad temper who gets in lots of fights, bets on the horses, talks about his bodily functions a lot, and sleeps in flophouses) and the zealous hero worship from knucklewalkers with literary pretensions and freshman English major fanboys (mostly getting vicarious thrills and believing that being a womanizing drunk is a worthy aspiration that somehow magically transforms you into being a writer). Is there more to Bukowski than his persona? I hoped so. I was a Bukowski fanboy in high school and the first couple of years of college. I read maybe 14 or 15 of his books, loved them, then moved on to other stuff. I've been afraid to go back because what if I have outgrown him? Why deflate something that gave me a lot of pleasure in my teen years? Why rain on my own parade? Then this documentary opened in theaters. Aha, I thought. This might be a way to rekindle my interest or put it to bed without going to the trouble of rereading one of his books. When it started, my heart sank. One person after another told a story about Bukowski getting drunk, punching a cop, waving his dick around, etc., etc. This is going to be a long two hours, I said to myself. Then, it got a lot better, even though they interviewed fucking BONO, for chrissakes, whose anecdote began, "It was a long drunken night in Italy with Sean Penn..." (At least they didn't talk to Henry Rollins. I think makers of documentaries on 20th and 21st century American cultural figures are contractually obligated to interview either Bono or Henry Rollins, no matter how tenuous their connection to the subject.) After the movie was over, I felt like reading some Bukowski. A few days later, I did. What did I think? I'm not sure. I think it's not quite as good as I experienced it initially, but it's of too much worth to be so casually dismissed by the arbiters of modern cultural taste. And, in a time when we're being McSweeneyed, Dave Eggered, Foster Wallaced, and Neal Pollacked to death, it's nice to read somebody who's not above his material, but of it.
Hyenas (Djibril Diop Mambety) This movie was shown as part of the Austin Film Society's African series. I loved it. I don't have a lot to say about this one because I don't think I've completely digested it yet, but I loved everything about it.
The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (Samuel Fuller) Samuel Fuller was a reporter, then he enlisted and fought on the front lines in WWII. He started directing movies after he returned. He made this one in 1980 based on his actual experiences in the war. The studio hacked it down and added a voice-over. Fuller died in 1997, but now film critic Richard Schickel has assembled a longer version based on Fuller's notes, his screenplay, and existing footage. It's not a director's cut (even though it's being advertised that way), some of the voice-over is still there, some footage had been lost, but it's a lot closer to the way Fuller wanted it. This is a great movie. It's also appalling how much of this movie has been stolen and watered down by Spielberg in "Saving Private Ryan." Spielberg gets showered with glory and his mediocre, dishonest, manipulative, flagwaving film is praised. Fuller, who was actually there, makes an honest, insightful, unusual, exciting film and it gets hacked up and forgotten. Maybe it's because Fuller is disinterested in heroism, only survival, and puts forth the idea that a war's survivors, regardless of which side they fought on, have more in common with each other than the people they're fighting for.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

I forgot to tell you about the movies I've watched in the past two weeks (as if you give a shit)

Two weeks have come and gone without any evaluations of the movies I've watched. So, I'm going to unload on you now. Get ready, baby. I know you've been waiting with baited breath. If that means you've been holding your breath, I'm sorry that my inertia has caused your untimely death. My maid is sending a wreath as we speak. I've had a lot of mixed drinks tonight, so bear with me if this post is all rambly-tambly and makes very little sense. I'm typing with an ink pen clenched between my teeth in a vaguely cigarette manner of clench and bad music on the stereo, just to put you in the mindset, and I'm in no shape to do anything about either of these developments (now the music is good, it took me a long time to type this sentence). Last night I was watching a documentary about the Concorde on PBS at 1 a.m. and they were interviewing various dignitaries (Robert McNamara, Henry "I make Dick Cheney look like Cesar Chavez" Kissinger, various French and British engineers, pilots, and high-ranking aviation officials). Then they spoke briefly of the anti-Concorde environmental activists, whose opposition was never clearly explained. (It was a very Concorde-friendly documentary. The activists' main beef seemed to be that the sonic booms would keep people awake at night, which seemed to be kind of a lackluster argument, but everybody loves sleeping, am I right?) Anyway, the most active activist they kept referring to seemed to be deceased, though they interviewed his children, who were still involved in protesting Concorde up to its final flight. One of the children was Josephine Wiggs, better known as the former bassist of the Breeders. How fucking weird is that? And they never mentioned that she was in the Breeders, even though they also interviewed The Stranglers because they had a British hit single with an anti-Concorde song. You see the oddest things when you don't have cable and are a reclusive drunk. Anyway, I watched these movies some time in the last 14 days:
Bubba Ho-Tep (Don Coscarelli) Who would have thought that a movie about Elvis Presley (after swapping identities with an Elvis impersonator upon becoming disillusioned with fame) (or is he really an Elvis impersonator who lost his shit) and a black man who thinks he's JFK teaming up to fight a reanimated Egyptian mummy soulsucker in a west Texas nursing home would be, at heart, a movie about older people trying to keep their dignity when their health is failing? This is a subject that, however omnipresent, seems to be completely underutilized in our culture's art and entertainment. How many times have you seen the elderly being condescended to and patronized in nursing homes, restaurants, hospitals, businesses, etc.? If I'm lucky enough to live a long life, and I hope I am, I'm also a little worried about the bullshit I'm going to have to deal with when I get old from assholes who think just because someone's sick and hard of hearing they need to be addressed as though they were four years old. This movie, despite losing some of its momentum halfway through, is a nice little reminder to the rest of us that a lot of old people are not, duh, stupid. It's also nice to see real, hand-crafted special effects instead of that CGI bullshit.
The Dead (John Huston) Huston's last movie is kind of awe-inspiring. It's an adaptation of the final story in James Joyce's "Dubliners," and a peaceful acceptance of the approach of death that's mostly admirable. Huston was on his last legs with emphysema, even directing some scenes sucking on oxygen, when he filmed this mostly plotless story of a society dinner party and the soul-searching it causes in one couple in attendance after the party has ended. I think it stands as one of the best Huston films. He's made a lot of shitty movies. There are reports that Huston wasn't even on the set for some of his bad films, using the location as an excuse for sight-seeing and hunting, letting his assistants take over for him. Still, he's made some great, great movies, even if he was too erratic to be a truly great director. If you haven't seen "Fat City," for example, you're missing out on some really excellent stuff. This is one of the good ones.
Bird (Clint Eastwood) I detest bio-pics, filmed biographies, stories of famous people's lives. These films are absolutely, without a doubt, the worst, the lousiest, lies, horseshit. They have no value. They have nothing to teach us about human nature, or even about one person's actual experience on this planet. They perpetuate the myth that every human's being life can be reduced to a two-hour greatest hits of special occasions and accomplishments. This movie avoids most of those problems. It's deeply interested in a twenty-year period in one man's life and the music he played, and though it has a handful of flaws, it feels like life instead of legend.
Yellow Submarine (George Dunning) For some reason, I'd never seen this until last weekend, but it was a good time. This movie is really, really dated, but if you've done any psychedelic drugs recently, it might have a little bit of resonance (though it also perpetuates myths of its own, like the one that psychedelic drugs are always a wonderfully enlightening, light-hearted, and fun way to spend an evening, even though, in my experience, the enlightening to frightening ratio is about 50/50). The animation is excellent, the Beatles' songs are (mostly) good (especially George Harrison's, who kicks the shit out of his compatriots' offerings), and the kaleidoscope of '60s imagery manages to stay interesting until about the last 15 minutes.
To be continued...
I've got seven more movies to talk about, but I'm starting to get bored, which means you were bored hours ago. See you later, sexies.

Your friend,
Steve Guttenberg

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Transform your ugly face

If you're looking for an interesting diversion, check out the Face Transformer Image Upload (http://www.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~morph/Transformer/index.html). You can download a .jpg or .gif of your own face (or any other non-copyrighted face) and the web site morphs it into a baby, child, teenager, old person, various different ethnicities, opposite sex, manga character, apeman, etc. Hour(s) of fun.

Currently reading: Stanley Elkin's Greatest Hits by Stanley Elkin

Friday, January 14, 2005

Guest Post

Hey, everybody. Today we have a very special guest post by none other than CNN's Larry King. Take it away, Larry:

Havarti is a quality cheese.


Currently reading:
Dr. Mystery is currently reading Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Movies We Can See by Jonathan Rosenbaum. Dr. Mystery says: "This book will fire you up and make you angry about a lot of stuff you can't change, but it's a great book anyway. Instead of blaming the audience, which is what most critics seem to do when they criticize the dumbing down of our culture, Rosenbaum places the blame on the people and systems who need it most and who have been given a free pass so far whenever this argument arises. Namely, the corporations, distribution systems, studios, mainstream critics, entertainment news reporters and programs, and mainstream media and journalists. The audience can't be expected to make good decisions when it's not even given a choice. To make an analogy, let's say most grocery stores in the country only carry gruel. People buy gruel because what else are they going to eat? Someone finally asks the gruel producers, 'Hey, why are you pushing gruel on the public? We're tired of gruel.' The gruel producers respond, 'Our sales reports show that you're not tired of gruel. As a matter of fact, gruel is selling like crazy.' The same guy who asks the gruel producers this question turns around and says, 'Yeah, I guess you gruel producers are right. The public just keeps lapping up that gruel. Stupid public. You're just giving those idiots what they want. May I have another bowl of gruel, please?' It's obvious how insane the film distribution system is in this country, so obvious that we don't even see it, and Rosenbaum holds it up to us plainly and clearly. I've never seen a book better articulate what's wrong with the film business and the effect this has on the choices we're given."
Larry King is currently reading Booty Food: A Date by Date, Course-By-Course, Nibble-By-Nibble Guide to Cultivating Love and Passion Through Food
by Jacqui Malouf. Larry says: "I've sure had a lot of heart attacks, and a lot of wives."

Working for the weekend: Job 3

I was 15 when I got my first real, taxable, working-for-a-boss kind of job. It was easy for a teenager to get work in Bridgeport, but the choices didn't exactly make me want to break out in spontaneous eruptions of joyful song. My options were: a) farm work b) washing dishes in one of the handful of restaurants or c) bagging groceries in one of the two grocery stores. The choice was easy. I had little aptitude for or interest in farm work. One of my friends washed dishes for a restaurant and didn't get off work until eleven or midnight, then finished his homework afterward. The grocery stores closed at seven. What choice did I have? I applied for, and was hired at, Jack and Jill, and I spent the remainder of my high school years working there. I bagged groceries, stocked shelves, and mopped and swept the floors. I hated it. I was introduced to a world of boredom beyond my understanding. This boredom was more intense, more prolonged, more severe than I had prepared myself to expect. It was a boredom that dwarfed previous boredom champions school and church and destroyed my perception of employment as an honorable and respectable way to spend my time. This is something pounded into all of us by anyone in a position of authority, but it became pretty obvious to me after only one day at Jack and Jill that the only honorable and respectable work is work you love. If I'm doing something I hate for money, I feel like a whore. But how do I stop being a whore and get some dignity and satisfaction out of what I have to do to eat and pay the rent? I haven't been able to answer that question in my life yet, but I'm still holding out hope.
Anyway, the grocery store was owned by a divorced, middle-aged, conservative Christian with a mustache. He also cut all the meat and spent most of the day in the meat department, but he would periodically dart in and out of the aisles, making sure we (the high school help) were doing our jobs and not goofing off. He was one of those bosses who believed that even if there was no work to do, we should pretend like we were busy. I'm reminded of that Bill Hicks joke where the boss tells the employee to pretend to work and the employee (Hicks) says, "You make more money than me. How about you pretend I'm working?" Twice a week, freight was delivered. These were items we had sold out of that needed to be restocked. Freight days were the only days when there was something to do, so they were good days to be at work. Time actually leisurely strolled on freight days instead of crawling agonizingly and sickeningly to workday's end like a legless, dying turtle. Instead of pretending to stock shelves, on freight days we actually got to stock them. Oh, what a glorious adventure. My boss, let's call him Shalamar to avoid any libel suits, was a big fan of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. However, his spirit of Christian giving didn't extend to his employees. I made minimum wage the entire time I worked for him and was never given a raise, though he told me more than once that he was pleased with my work. None of my fellow teenage workers got a raise, either, except for B., a favorite of the boss and the manager and the only one of the high school help who worked full-time in the summers. He was given a ten-cent raise during his last year on the job. Shalamar was on top of everything that needed to be done in the store, but the interactions with his employees were clumsy and awkward. He was kind of a wimp, especially when it came to the store manager (let's call her Vulva). Shalamar, despite everything I've said about him, was basically a nice guy and treated me well (except for my salary). Vulva, on the other hand, was a sack of shit of a human being. She decided, shortly after I started working there, that she didn't like me. I'm not really sure why, but part of her animosity may be attributed to the utter lack of interest/ability I had in showering her with praise and buttering her up. She thoroughly enjoyed getting her ass kissed, but I am genetically incapable of putting my lips on my superior's anuses. This may have sealed my fate, but her patronizing and mean-spirited treatment baffled me. To offer just one example of her behavior, one Saturday morning I overslept and was late for work. My mother called the store for me, so I could hurry up, get ready, and be on my way. When I arrived at the store, she said to another employee loudly enough for me to hear, "He had to have his mommy call for him." This kind of thing happened about once every couple of months the whole time I worked there. I did my best to ignore it and do my job. Besides, Shalamar liked me and the mini-drama at least made the job a little more interesting. When I started working at the store, Shalamar and Vulva were dating. Within months, Vulva dumped Shalamar for the guy who delivered the Snapple. I'm laughing as I type these words. Oddly enough, Vulva kept working there and Shalamar let her keep manipulating him. All of us lowly grocery baggers found this drama compelling, hilarious, pathetic, and a little sad. Shalamar became a completely dejected sadsack, and he even fell so low that he let Vulva talk him into giving the Snapple guy some weekend hours at the store stocking shelves with us. It was a painfully awkward extended trainwreck of human misery, but it made the job more interesting for a few months. Shalamar eventually snapped out of it, fooled around with a married woman, then got a regular girlfriend. Vulva married Snapple, he moved into her house, and later dumped her and moved away.
Customers. How could I forget to talk about the customers? They made the job even worse. To digress for a second, I'm a huge proponent of humanist art. I spend a lot of time listening to music, going to concerts, watching films, reading books, looking at art and photography, reading comics and cartoons, taking an interest in comedy, and having drinks with friends because I want to connect with other human beings, I love what human beings are capable of, and I generally like people. I don't have much time for irony, cynicism, and dead-end nihilism in art and life because I think it distances us from our humanity. But, I gotta admit, I fucking hate the public. The "public" as an entity, especially when your job is to serve them, blows. Some people are just assholes, especially if you are selling a product they need. Especially old people. It's good that they're going to die soon, because a lot of them are jerks. The public at large is capable of doing things like: Keeping you waiting while they shop even though closing time was an hour ago (and they damn well know it, too, because they keep apologizing for keeping you waiting), buying $300 worth of groceries and telling you to fit it all in two bags but "don't make them too heavy, hon, I'm old and I can't carry heavy bags," making you wrap ice cream in three paper bags and two plastic ones even though it's winter time and 15 degrees outside "so it doesn't melt all over the place," bawling me out for ten minutes because the old bastard asked for a case of Coke and I accidentally brought him a 12-pack, etc., etc., etc.
Work is fun!!!!!!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Jerry Lewis: Captain Beefheart of comedy or blubbering retard? Answer in next week's Parade magazine!

I watched four more movies in the last couple of days. The one that really stood out was "Yeelen" (Souleymane Cisse), but the others were "Guardian of the Night" (Jean-Pierre Limosin) and "The Big Mouth" and "Cracking Up" (both Jerry Lewis). I've been on a weird little Jerry Lewis kick for the past few months, mostly because I have no idea whether his movies are good or bad. One thing I do know about them is that they are some of the weirdest goddamn things I've ever seen. If you've never seen an old Jerry Lewis movie (I'm talking about the ones he directed), try one some time. Or maybe don't. I can't truly recommend any of them, but if you die without seeing at least one, you're missing out on something. What you're missing out on, however, I'm not exactly sure. The films' pacing and sense of comic timing are the strangest I've ever seen. I'm not sure how to even describe what I mean, but I'll try. The tempo of the films is both languid and kinetic, and Lewis' directing style is simultaneously tight and economic (sometimes even bringing to mind the crime films of Don Siegel and Robert Aldrich in the 1950s) and indulgent and sloppy. He's also a fan of long, awkward pauses in conversation, something you don't find in most other slapstick comedy. Most of the jokes are painfully unfunny and generic (though a few are actually hilarious), but he drags them out for such ridiculously absurd lengths of time that you have to laugh or at least admire his audacity. There's something a little queasy and off-putting about his acting and comic timing, but I have yet to pinpoint exactly what it is. That these films were popular in our culture at one time is pretty astonishing. It's some of the most uncommercial stuff I've seen, a little disturbing and sick and a whole lot weirder than super-contrived shit like "Napoleon Dynamite," a movie that never stops trying to sell you on how oddball it is. Jerry Lewis is the real deal, a sick fuck who thinks he's making "normal" films but is actually giving audiences a guided tour through a deranged mind. Either that, or they're just a bunch of really stupid films full of tired jokes given an odd sense of pacing due to inept, egotistical direction. I only get this feeling once in a while, but even if it's true, these films are stupid, tired, and inept in ways previously unknown to man. Idiot or genius? This question can only be answered by Kathleen Hanna on the next Le Tigre hit, "What's Yr Take on Jerry Lewis?"

Currently Reading: The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry










Saturday, January 08, 2005

I'm back

I have been back in town for a week, but I haven't felt like posting anything. I still don't feel like it. But I will probably feel like it soon. I still need to write about the other eight jobs I had. Also, I watched several movies while I was away from the blog, four on video/cable, two on the big screen. Three of these movies sucked ("Napoleon Dynamite," "Laurel Canyon," and "Sex: The Annabel Chong Story"). Three of these were good, with some reservation ("Bowling for Columbine," "The Aviator," and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"). Full report later. I still have half a case of Busch beer in cans (I'm unemployed, dudes) left to drink. Keep it real.