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!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Shrugging Off a Dancing Ghost

So in this Shirley MacLaine memoir, Glenn Ford tells her that his house is haunted by the ghost of Rudolph Valentino, who moves furniture around and puts on tango records. Ford's wife Eleanor Powell is freaked out by the ghost but Glenn Ford is like, "Eh, it's fine." I paraphrase. Also - more pertinent to the "blog's" interests - this book has owls in it: some imaginary owls that Shirley MacLaine makes up in her head as she listens to Robert Mitchum tell about escaping from a chain gang. [POSTSCRIPT! Megan, double checking the original anecdote, reminds me that Ford "loved the presence," according to MacLaine. So my so-called paraphrase - and indeed the title of this "post" - is misleading.]

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Golden Rule

As is well documented, I don't "blog" anymore unless I stumble across something I should have put in my cigarette lighter book but didn't know about in time. So! Megan Abbott and I are reading a Hollywood memoir by Shirley MacLaine, and she tells about how Dean Martin "would light a cigarette with his solid gold lighter, blow out the flame, and toss the gold lighter from the window as if it was a used match." So! This naturally reminded me of something I DID put in my cigarette lighter book: the time Hal Needham maliciously tossed his friend's gold cigarette lighter from the window of a speeding car as a joke. If only I had known about Dean's habit. What a study in contrasts Dino and Needham would have made! As MacLaine notes, someone always retrieved Dean's lighter for him, whereas (Shirley MacLaine does not note this part; how could she?) the lighter of Needham's friend was seemingly lost forever. So Needham's act is more "punk rock" (I guess? Jon Langford once told me that being "punk rock" does not necessarily call for unmannerly behavior) while Dean's is ironic (maybe? I have no idea what I'm talking about. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't know about this in time to put it in the book). But I think we can agree that Dean is on firmer ground morally. I'm glad that's settled.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bread Shaped Like Owls

Look. As you well know, it is NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN my responsibility to inform you of EVERY instance of an owl in any particular book. Once I tell you that a book has an owl in it, I am done, even if fourteen more owls show up later. It is really none of my business. BUT! I feel I owe you something in the case of Till Eulenspiegel, whose name means "owl mirror." Was that really enough, as I so boldly claimed? If a guy's name happens to mean "owl mirror," does that count as "an owl" for our purposes? Well, I am happy to inform you that this haunting question is no longer relevant, because I just read a chapter in which Till Eulenspiegel gets a job with a baker and starts making loaves of bread shaped like "owls and long-tailed monkeys." This drives the baker crazy for some reason. But bread shaped like owls definitely counts. In conclusion, Till Eulenspiegel easily sold the bread shaped like owls and long-tailed monkeys, nobody cared what their bread was shaped like, in fact they seemed to enjoy the novelty, I don't know why that baker got so worked up.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

These Aren't the Owls You're Looking For

I was watching that recent movie about Emily Dickinson and I could have sworn somebody said, "Bees in the lavender, and the lazy owl." Well, it didn't make much sense to me! First of all, bees and owls don't hang out at the same time of day. Also, that is a serious mischaracterization of the temperament of owls! Plus the scene had no obvious context for a line like "Bees in the lavender, and the lazy owl." But I was intrigued. "What a cryptic snatch of poetry!" I thought. Because sometimes Emily Dickinson just says her poems in voiceover in that movie, and in the scene in question the characters were so far away (pictured) I couldn't tell whether their lips were moving, my old eyes being what they are. And my ears aren't in such great shape either, I guess, because when I scoured my COMPLETE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON, I could find no such line anywhere. I did find an owl, though not the one I was looking for, as you might have guessed, because I famously don't "blog" anymore unless I find a book with an owl in it. So in case you were concerned, I am pretty sure no one in the movie said, "Bees in the lavender and the lazy owl." [POSTSCRIPT. According to a single online source, a line of dialogue in the film indeed goes, "Bees in the lavender, then the lazy owl." While "then" makes more sense than "and," the "blog" stands by its belief in the superb work ethic of owls. - ed.]

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Important Musical Cigarette Lighter

Remember when I wrote a book about cigarette lighters? Neither do I! But last night I was watching a very good movie called FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY (pictured), in which a musical cigarette lighter plays a pivotal role. And I know just where I would have put it in the book. As it stands, musical cigarette lighters got but a passing mention from your slipshod author. I should have been more thorough about musical cigarette lighters. Oh well, I'll try to remember that the next time somebody asks me to write a book about cigarette lighters.

Monday, July 03, 2017

You Eschew Froufrou Poo Poo

I was thinking about Richard Strauss's tone poem "Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche" and realized I don't really know much about Till Eulenspiegel himself. So I started poking around and was delighted to learn that Eulenspiegel means "owl mirror." So any collection of the Till Eulenspiegel tales might be said to have an owl in it, mightn't it? Sure it might. Why, look. Here's Till Eulenspiegel's supposed gravestone and he's holding an owl and a mirror over his head in case you don't get the point. During my idle research I stumbled on the website for that certain corporate behemoth, the name of which I never utter here. And someone had reviewed a collection of Till Eulenspiegel stories like so: "It seems like the punchline of every single story has to do with Euelenspiegel defecating on or in something or someone. That's it. That's the book's running joke. I suppose if you were an illiterate German peasant sitting around a hearth fire in the 1500s, you'd find these tales of feces and bad puns hilarious, but I didn't." I was fascinated to discover this living person who is so worked up about Till Eulenspiegel. And as you can imagine, he had inadvertently composed one of those "bad reviews" that made me want to read the book more than ever. For good measure, the reviewer rubs this salt in the wounds, though I hate to repeat it so close to our nation's birthday: "Of course, since a good majority of modern Americans are probably less sophisticated than an illiterate German peasant from 400 years ago, perhaps Till Eulenspiegel is due for a comeback. Hollywood could cast Johnny Knoxville... and he could crap all over American audiences, who will double over with laughter at every fart noise." Sold! I was naturally drawn to this reviewer's other reviews, which form a kind of epistolary novel or Robert Browning poem, in which you get to know the narrator by filling in the gaps. It's like that famous intellectual essayist said in his manifesto that time, we don't need novels anymore. Did he say that? It sounds like something somebody with a manifesto would say! Before getting into his one-star judgment of Folgers Classic Medium Roast Coffee Singles Serve Bags, our reviewer indulges in this bit of throat clearing: "I am no coffee elitist. I eschew status-conscious coffee drinkers and the frou frou coffee houses they frequent in order to be seen carrying green fringed cups emblazoned with quotes from left-wing icons." I've spent some part of my life trying to make up narrators who talk just this way, but I see once again that I am unnecessary. Also recommended: the same reviewer on the moral depravity of the Frankie Avalon movie BEACH PARTY.