Louis Black's column this week, "Knocked Out, Loaded," contained many of his usual flaws: awkward sentence construction; bizarre, paranoid, megalomaniacal attacks on those who dare to criticize the Chronicle; precious stirrings of his oh-so-poetic heart; status quo journalistic cliches presented as deep thought (example: "(Movies directed by actors) don't really work, and when they do, their obsession is clearly about the actorly, not the cinematic," a conventional film-crit opinion I largely disagree with, but I digress); and celeb name-dropping. The latter clearly presses my annoyance button the most. He really stretches himself this time, though, writing about the new Ethan Hawke-directed film, The Hottest State: "In my world, the first 15 minutes were perfect. Not perfect as in a nice job by a friend of a friend (emphasis mine) or a surprising achievement by an actor directing but in the most visceral way: The pleasures of the viewing experience were more sensual and physical than intellectual." What a convoluted and unnecessary way of bragging about being two degrees of separation from Ethan Hawke. What a sad thing for a grown (middle-aged!) man to do. That was merely the appetizer for this week's shameless entree:
"Years ago, my friends Maggie Renzi and John Sayles came to town for a car trip to West Texas. When they arrived, I excitedly exclaimed to John, '... and we can visit my friend Robert Rodriguez's set, where he is shooting his new movie, Desperado, in Acuna, Mexico!'"
Maybe I'm picking on a guy who may be just fine in person? No. I've been the unfortunate victim of three public speeches by Black, and he is his column. Before a screening of Terminal Island, he bloviated for 15 minutes about his friendship with Jonathan Demme, apropos of nothing. Before a Manny Farber art exhibition, he spent 15 minutes rattling on about his friendship with Leonard Maltin (or "Len," as Black called him). At an Austin Film Society event, he dribbled on and on about his friendship with Richard Linklater, which embarrassed me, in part, because Linklater was standing next to him waiting to speak. I was much more interested in what he had to say about AFS, but I had to wait a long, long time to hear it. Black's not the only member of the Chronicle to suck the air out of the room. If you are ever at an event in which Chronicle music critic Raoul Hernandez is about to speak, flee from the room immediately. If fleeing is not an option, find the easiest way to commit suicide. Hernandez gave a 20+ minute speech before a screening of Ernst Lubitsch's Heaven Can Wait that included a seven-minute vignette about buying the laserdisc of Otto Preminger's Laura. I wanted to tear my eyeballs out and shove them in my ears. Black not only bloviates with the best of them, he hires master bloviators. He has assembled an unholy bloviating army of the damned! Get away! As fast as you can! For the love of God!