So this ran in SPIN back in the day, in the slot where the Editor's Note went, oddly enough. As if it weren't odd enough to get paid to write about Irving Berlin. In an issue with Belinda Carlisle on the cover (hilarious story behind that one) and full of features about Poison and Tracy Chapman, OMD, Michael Hurley, Big Pig, and a ton more, with Johnny Cash, LL Cool J, Megadeth, and Soul Asylum all co-starring in the Special Summer Swimsuit Special. With accompanying guide to summer vacations in the US that guided you to The World's Largest Tire, and Einstein's Brain; plus, there was a map to Europe that declared where all the Taco Bells and Elvis Presley museums were. Which is to say, I keep realizing, that as much as SPIN drove all of us all crazy all the time, we were trying to get everything in there. Including, swear to God, Irving Berlin.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Thursday, February 6, 2014
I've been thinking yet again of The Key To Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo. I've quoted from it before, and God willing, insh'Allah, I'll quote from it again. But this quote is not from the book — it's from the book's jacket. I like it tremendously. And I'm betting that it's the work of Judith Jones, the estimable Alfred A. Knopf editor who commissioned Madame Kuo's book, and who was the editor of Julia Childs' The Art of French Cooking.
Posted by Nasrudin at 8:55 PM
The marshal of Tombstone reaches down to his gun belt, runs his hand over the black leather loops that hold the cartridges in an orderly row. His dry fingers push bullets up against the loop, six of them, one after another. One after another, he pushes six bullets down.
The squad cars are parked with their bumpers backed up to the gate of the OK Corral, ready to roll. The southern Arizona sun is rising but the morning is still cool and quiet — maybe too quiet.
from The Washington Post, August 31, 1897 (oops, 1987)
by Bart Bull
published in Vogue (excerpt)
On the wall nearby is a precisely rendered watercolor of a red-brown horse, a little swaybacked with age, standing alone outside a weathered stable. He gets up, stands to gaze at Henry Fonda’s painting of Pie, the horse Stewart rode in movie after movie. “This is when he was — he had to be, had to be twenty-eight years old. Half quarter-horse, half Arabian. I rode him for twenty years. Hank Fonda did this on his days off, and I didn’t know anything about it. That was Pie.” They were making Cheyenne Social Club, and the air was too thin for the old horse, the altitude too high. “He couldn’t make it. He couldn’t make it.”
Staring at a friend’s portrait of another friend, he can’t help but admire it once more. Fonda and Stewart were practically the last of their generation, and now there’s just one of them left. But there’s more to it than that. “This friendship with Fonda over the years was tremendous. I valued it so much. Tremendous friendship, tremendous admiration for him. He was good at his job if anybody was ever good at his job. It was a terrible thing to lose him. Which happens so much, you know. I think about it every once in a while — I try not to think about it. I’ve lost so many — I’ve lost so many people. You think of somebody and then you think, ‘When did she die?’”
The rims of his eyes go moist, nearly wet, not quite. Not quite. He won’t cry, not here, to be observed and written about in a magazine. Instead, he speaks, quickly now, to distract himself. “But Fonda was a wonderful, close friend.” The eyes contain.
Now he’s the last one left, the last star of his era. He doesn’t know why it’s worked out that way, and clearly it bothers him, confuses him just a little. When he was headed off to England during the war, his father slipped the Ninety-first Psalm into his hand — “For He shall give His angels charge over thee. . .” and maybe that helps explain it some, but it’s hard not to wonder. His last movie was made half a decade ago, but even as the unseen voice on the current Campbell’s soup ads, he moves miles past the typical too-sweet lemonade commercial grandfather, lulling us with that querulous voice and then always adding more edge than we could expect. If he were sent the right script, something he could sink his teeth into, would he be ready to do another picture?
“Sure,” he answers. Not a moment’s hesitation, none of his legendary pauses. “Sure.” No stammer, no stutter. “Sure. Sure.”
He considers a moment. “Can’t play cowboys anymore.”
Posted by Nasrudin at 8:43 PM
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Burger King abandoned France but the French, no matter their reputation, have never retreated from the Whopper.
Posted by Nasrudin at 11:41 PM
Saturday, January 18, 2014
How Burt Reynolds Personally Invented Film Noir (En Bronzage du Soleil) Late One Friday Evening On His Front Porch In The Everglades
Stick, starring Burt Reynolds, directed by Burt Reynolds
by Bart Bull
(published in The Arizona Republic)
(For almost exactly one year, I reviewed movies for the daily newspaper in my hometown. It was weird, and weirdly fun, and weird too. Seeing pretty much every movie that came out over the course of a year gave me the sense that the movie business was coming unstuck at the seams. Which, I'd now say, it was. Anyway, I did get to see Burt Reynolds' Stick, and for some reason, I was getting away with murder as far as movie-reviewing goes, so.....)
I'd hate to have anyone go see Stick on my say-so, but if you're even faintly interested in Burt Reynolds as a movie-star//phenomenon/entity/whatchyacallit, you can't hardly afford to miss it.
Not that it's any good, because Stick is one of the most inept, uncoordinated, disjointed, confused, and confusing movies you'll ever pay to see. There are times when you're not going to believe that anybody could ever have released so limp a blimp, but there it is, stinking loudly from the screen.
Burt is the director as well as the star, and Burt is indubitably the auteur. Everything about Stick is a reflection of his sensibilities; set in Miami, the movie seems to keep edging toward the Everglades, where a man's man can let his chest hair breathe and his toupee flap in the swampy breeze of the airboat's propwash. What works about Stick is not the plot or the characterization or the acting --- it's the curious obsessiveness that keeps oozing through all the gaps, like mud between the toes.
Anyone who's ever seen Miami and it's horny little sister Miami Beach knows that they reek of evil. As much and even more than Los Angeles, Miami is the perfect setting for a detective thriller and if Stick is too loose-ended to be very thrilling, it manages all the same to be extraordinarily evil. Shoddy and slapdash, as finely tuned as your boss's vacation home movies from Yosemite, Stick haphazardly manages to be a filmic landscape of the second humid circle of art deco hell.
I'd talk plot but I got lost only moments after the credits rolled and I'd defy you to do much better. This one's even more boggled a mystery than City Heat [Ex post facto historical note: City Heat was an equally or perhaps even more disastrous film, financially, aesthetically, and spiritually, from the previous Christmas, almost immediately buried deep in an unmarked grave, co-starring Burt and Clint Eastwood, who so clearly had such little time for one another that they barely appeared in any scenes together, which necessarily meant adding secondary characters attached to and orbiting each Star in order that they could each explain out loud what was going on in the plot since the Star under loud cinematic discussion had last been seen in the picture long minutes or so before, which seemed, under the circumstances, especially with the added expositional dialog, like hours ago}; Osterizer should get a scriptwriting credit. Plot doesn't matter here and neither does character because Reynolds is as thoroughly lost in his image as any screen actor has ever been. He has no idea at this point whether he's Gator McCluskey, or W.W. of the Dixie Dance Kings or the man who diddled Cat Dancing or Dan August or Stroker Ace or Smokey or the Bandit. He wears, at one point, the same zipped down wetsuit he wore in Deliverance; he wears, at nearly every other point, the same silly smirk he's worn every time he's done a movie with his acting skills set on cruise-control.
As for anybody else, they're uniformly atrocious. Charles Durning is Shelley Winters; Candice Bergen plays the smirking blond debutant who looks like Candice Bergen; the greasers are greaseballs; the greaseballs are greasers. I'm near-positive that no more racist movie has come out of Hollywood in years, and I don't think it's any coincidence that it contains one of the greatest funniest and most cutting characterizations of a black survivor (excepting only Pryor and Murphy) that the screeen has seen since the '60s.
Early on, this thing feels like Burt sat out on the porch one Friday evening in Florida, getting drunk and throwing beer cans at flamingos while he watched Miami Vice, and and then and there decided to direct and produce his own segment of the show. While he was at it, he decided to guest star too, and he forgot to put any of the show's actual stars in at all. By Saturday afternoon, he'd shot the basic footage; Sunday, he slept off his hangover. On Monday morning LA time, long after noon in the Everglades, he began making phone calls.
When the show's producers rejected his concept on the following Friday, he got drunk all over again and decided to turn the project into a full-length feature blockbuster, the kind of thing that would revitalize his whole career. Jerry Reed was busy in Nashville; Loni Anderson wouldn't return his calls; Tammy Wynette told him to get lost; Dinah Shore was golfing; Sally Field had an Oscar and didn't need him any more; Dom DeLuise was too busy taping GladBag commercials. Then came the final indignity: Pontiac refused to provide another Trans Am.
Nothing could stop him, no obstacle was too high. This movie was gong to get made. When he saw Glenn Frey's video for "Smuggler's Blues," he tried to get Frey involved. When Frey's manager Irving Azoff wouldn't return his calls, Burt hired a guy who looked a lot like Glenn Frey after about ten tequilas too many and stuck him in the movie. That would teach 'em.
He would make this movie, he would direct it himself, he would be the biggest movie star in America again, and the biggest director and the biggest dinner-theater owner in Florida too.
He thought about composing the score himself but decided the critics would say he was over-reaching. He'd personally witnessed the fall of Jackie Gleason, who'd once based himself in Florida too. It was too late to consider another man's mistakes.
Carol Burnett's personal assistant left a message on the answering machine that said she'd only do it if the location was in Hawaii. He considered it for a moment but he already had too much Miami footage from that first long weekend. If he had it all to do over, he'd have set it in the Okefenokee Swamp, and Stick would have been a runnin' gunnin' moonshinin' redneck detective. It was too late for that now. It was too late for a lot of things.
He established a film endowment at Tampa Community College; the first term's class project would be a documentary entitled The Making of Stick, Starring Mr. Burt Reynolds. Midway through the project, the 20-year-old coed producing the film quit to become a stand-up comic in Hollywood --- the Hollywood in California, not the one in Florida. The documentary would never be completed.
As the studio head examined the rushes and rough cuts from Stick, they began to get nervous. "Burt looks like refried death," one let slip to Marilyn Beck. They threatened to shut the production down unless Burt submitted to a full physical examination. The results have never been made public but Stick, intended to be released last fall, was reslotted into the spring schedule to compete head-to-head, mano a mano with Fraternity Vacation and Cave Girl and Gotcha and Gymkata. There was a slim hope that Burt might still draw the crowds.
And when it was done, when it was all over, when it was released at last and attacked by the critics and ignored by audiences from coast to coast, he knew that he had won. He knew that he'd made a movie that was truly and completely decadent, that smelled as much of rot and corruption and depravity as Florida itself, that was as loose-knit as a lunatic's hit-list, that was as lost and out of control as Hollywood.
He was Burt Reynolds, after all, last of the real movie stars, and this movie was his own.
Friday, December 6, 2013
The year 1977, as it turns out, was revolutionary. As decades fly by, we may not remember it as the year punk broke through, the year skateboarders got vertical. Instead, history may be more likely to mark it as the epoch-changing moment when the computer came home.
Posted by Nasrudin at 3:08 AM
When Indra Devi came though the majestic gilded doors of the palace at Mysore, she was entering one of the most whirling, swirling, stirring crucibles of 20th Century culture. Mysore was a melange, a stew, a gumbo — it was an incomparable mulligatawny. The Maharaja of Mysore was acclaimed, often even by the very British administrators who had been instructed to keep an eye on him, as perhaps the greatest governor they had ever heard of or read about — not merely in colonial India, or in all the colonies, but anywhere — and they were typically transformed by the experience. He was a patron of the arts and a creator of them — he played half a dozen instruments with true mastery, and half a dozen more with mere competence. He was a true disspeller of darkness: he created hydro-electric dams and the power lines that would bring electricity to all his people, even the lowest, and he founded schools of learning and language that preserved the old while encouraging the new. He was determined to restore the ancient arts of India even while flinging his kingdom's windows open to the new light of the West. He was likely the only great philosopher-king of the Twentieth Century. And he encouraged Krishnamacharya to establish his school of Yoga within the gloriously-decorated walls of the palace.
Posted by Nasrudin at 2:58 AM
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Over coffee the other morning, we're looking at some of Jean-Marie Perier's photos, and among the hundreds that burst across the line of genius, there are some flash-blasted black & whites, young Bob Dylan being mobbed, Beatle-style, outside a stage-door in Paris. It was, Jean-Marie says, entirely a set-up, a fraud, a composed composition, a faux-Weegee (as Weegee himself was known to shove the murdered corpses around a bit before he snapped the shutter of the SpeedGraphic, before the flashbulb roared.)
Arizona is where the Old West crawled off to die. Or if not actually to die, then at least establish a cranky early retirement.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
"That may well be the way that we can best determine the ghetto parts and the barrio parts of LA from the non-ghetto, non-barrio parts — the presence or, conversely, the absence of valet parking, and then its effect on diminishing the prospect of great food."
Posted by Nasrudin at 10:48 PM