One of the yard sales I found yesterday turned out to be a “I’m getting rid of my corporate freebie DVDs” blowout of epic proportions. While I got there after some professional ebay-ers picked out a lot of the easier-resold material. God, I HATE those people… a different group of them picked the twice-annual Burbank library sale pretty clean this past week as well. Bastards! I still managed to snag a boatload of Hitchcock films, some of which fall into the category of “haven’t seen in a while” like Shadow Of A Doubt, Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Frenzy, and others fell into the wonderful “Hey, I’ve never gotten around to seeing these!” category like Topaz, Torn Curtain, and The Trouble With Harry. The guy even threw in Saboteur for free after I’d bargained a little! It doesn’t look like there are too many extras on them, but for only a couple of bucks apiece, who cares?
I also couldn’t resist a copy of Flash Gordon: Savior of the Universe Edition. It’s tempting to throw the 1980 Flash into the “Bad Movies To Love” category, but I’d defend it as a good movie, with a very witty and entertaining script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. LOTS of extras here, including an interview with Semple that I look forward to. I also found something I had no idea had ever been put onto DVD and fondly remember from childhood, Frankenstein: The True Story a TV movie from that wonderful Bad Ronald–Killdozer era of GOOD TV movies! They billed this as being more “true” to Mary Shelley’s book, but that’s a b-i-g stretch. It’s a very good version of the Frankenstein tale, though, taking Shelley’s themes of Promethean punishments for playing God and adding a nice layer of material dealing with humanity’s views of beauty and ugliness, and how the surface facets of each interplay with our inner nature. Leonard Whiting, James Mason and Michael Sarrazin as the creature all give bravura performances here, as well. Also featuring a young Jane Seymour as “the bride” of sorts, and it even has Tom “Dr. Who” Baker as an old sea captain! Arrrrr!
I also grabbed a copy of the complete series of something called Jack Of All Trades, which appears to be a serious exercise in Bruce Campbell silliness that was syndicated several years ago. He seems to be playing The Scarlet Pumpernickel and fighting evil Frenchies in the age of Napoleon, though this time Napoleon is played by Verne “mini-me” Troyer. I’ve never even HEARD of this thing, let alone seen in, but just from that description alone, it will hopefully rate very high on the “entertainingly retarded” meter.
Then at another sale, even more DVDs, but all I grabbed was a copy of Broadway: The Golden Age, a documentary from a few years back that I’ve heard great things about, even if it’s depressing to see interviews with so many people who are dead now (just in time for Halloween, I guess.) After I bought the Broadway disc, the guy holding the sale threw in another disc for free (I must have the charm working on overtime lately), the first volume of Wholphin, a short-film DVD magazine of sorts from the McSweeney’s crowd. I’ve watched about half of it, it’s the mixed bag I expected, with a heavy emphasis on self-conscious artsiness. It’s also a lot of material from those-with-deals like George Clooney & Stephen Soderbergh, John C. Reilly, Mike White and Miranda July (who’s feature Me & You & Everyone We Know is well worth seeing) yet with an “independent” brand label attached, which makes it all a tad forced since the people involved here have been anointed by people who already have avenues to the art house circuit, let alone being anointed in addition by the Dave Eggers crowd. This does not make it bad, however. In fact, one thing on the disc that looks interesting is an episode of a Turkish sitcom which resembles The Jeffersons, with a number of alternate subtitle sets that produce alternate plots. Now that’s comedy!
Now comes the real challenge, which will be finding the actual time to kick back & watch all this crap. Sigh.
With no Patriots game until tomorrow night, I had the chance this afternoon to polish off Sam Staggs’ Close Up On Sunset Boulevard, an exhaustively thorough (and that’s putting it mildly) examination of the making & overall legacy of what’s easily one of my favorite movies ever. Staggs does a great job of telling the story of the film from the multiple perspectives of all the people involved in its making, and the overabundance of catty gossip he certainly enjoys wallowing in deeply make the book a very entertaining read. As someone else with a brain crammed with film trivia, I especially liked Staggs’ chapter on later films and television shows (even specific episodes of shows, such as “The 16 Millimeter Shrine” episode of The Twilight Zone) that ripped off from Sunset Boulevard. I also was interested heavily in another chapter where he tears into Wilder’s later films and his writing partnership with I.A.L. Diamond, because I disagree with so much of what Staggs says here (though he does admit that much of his dislike for this period in Wilder’s career stems from his visceral negative reaction to any twitchy Jack Lemmon performance, and there are many of them to be found in Wilder’s work from 1959 onwards). And to go with all the material on the film, we are also treated to backstage dirt on Faye Dunaway’s brief encounter with playing Norma Desmond in Lloyd Webber’s stage musical as well as Staggs’ demonstration that he’ll leave absolutely no stone unturned when he provides us with some of the better dialogue from the gay porn version of the story, Sunsex Boulevard, which somehow I think would have made a better Lloyd Webber musical, especially if they’re all in cat suits on roller skates.
But I digress.
You might have noticed from my other posts on books that I read far more nonfiction than fiction. I think the last new novel I read was at least three years ago. I was asked about this last night at a dinner gathering (yes, there are those rare occasions when I actually leave my house), and I really couldn’t think of anything else to talk about the sorts of nonfiction subject matter I enjoy reading about, like Vincent Price’s views on art, for example.
And then I come upon an article like this that says, and says it quite well, what I’ve been thinking about much of the current “high-end” fiction that’s been out there for the past few years but haven’t been able to put into words since I was too lazy to make the effort to try, and I was certainly not enough of a masochist to read all the books that guy did. Go read it now, and then come back.
Back already? Jeez… hang on… I had to use the bathroom….
Okay, I’m all set! So, I guess I’ll AMEN what he said – I can’t stand ass-hatted self-congratulatory self-esteem masquerading as PROFOUND ENLIGHTENMENT anymore than him, and since that seems to be all the rage these days, I’ll be skipping most of the output from the McSweeney’s cabal and reading more nonfiction, thank you very much.
To paraphrase Joe Gillis: That’s the trouble with us curmudgeons – we know all the annoying societal zeitgeists.
“Ssh! You’ll wake up the monkey!”