Wednesday, July 06, 2005

EVAN, KATE, ERNEST, AND MY BLOODSHOT EYES


I'm back! (Now let's see if I can remember how to do this...)




I've got some good stuff on the table that I'll have ready in the next couple of days, but this evening I just wanted to let something loose to say hi, and that the time off was fun, even though I did end up working a whole lot of that time, and even more so this week to make up for all that I didn't do while I was off watching movies with my nephew. And we did watch us some movies. But there's something I have to admit...

I've met two people in my life since graduating from college in 1981 who really shifted my perpsective concerning my own film-going habits and cinematic knowledge. The first was a terrific, caustic, crazy, raucous woman by the name of Kate Perrier, who I met in 1987 when I first moved to Los Angeles. When I came here I figured I knew a lot about movies. I graduated with a film degree, by gum, and I saw five, six, seven movies a week, if I could arrange (and afford) it. Who among the small group of friends I found myself amidst in my early days as a transplanted Oregonian in Los Angeles could dare to compare, thought I? (I was a haughty little prick, wasn't I?) Well, I soon found out that Kate Perrier could, by gum and by cracky. This woman, who died after several bouts with cancer in 1994, knew old Hollywood, the French New Wave and the American "Golden Age" of the '70s like the oracle at Delphi, and that's basically how I ended up approaching her. She knew a lot, her interests were varied beyond films, and she had a brutal sense of humor, three qualities that made spending time with her (she was a senior editor in the office where I had found a job) a pleasure and quite rewarding. Without ever lording her encyclopedic knowledge of movies over me, or anyone else, she earned my respect as someone who was cool and sharp enough to understand the importance of film history without needing validation so badly as to constantly call attention to and trumpet that knowledge. She wasn't in it to make anyone look dumb or herself look so smart-- she just loved movies, and her enthusiasm was infectious. And in very short order she made me realize that I didn't know shit.

The second is my nephew, Evan Cossey. My dad would probably say the same thing about Evan that he often did about me-- "That kid doesn't do anything but sit around and watch movies! He's gonna disappear into that couch!" In fact, there were times during our week together when I thought that very thing. And my wife was convinced that he was bored out of his mind all week long, because I did very little during the day to "entertain" him in the way that one typically commandeers the schedule of a house guest-- with the exception of one weekend trip to Legoland to start off his week, there was no Disneyland, no Universal Studios tour, none of that. While I worked out of my house during the day, Evan would get up as late as possible from his air bed on the living room floor, brush his teeth, eat a bowl of cereal, take a shower, and hit the DVD player. Hard. And his mother will confirm that this was exactly what he had in mind to while away his days-- total access to a library of 700+ DVDs and no one to bug him about getting outside for some sun or insisting that he do something constructive with his time. It was a dream come true for him. And back in my college days, if given the same opportunity, I probably would have enjoyed the same schedule. But I don't think, even at my most prodigious level of cinema consumption-- five or six movies over a weekend, plus sometimes four or five during the week (including ones seen in class), during my college daze-- I would have ever had the endurance capabilities of Evan Cossey. We saw seven movies in the theaters last week-- pretty exxxx-treme, right? Well, while I was working, Evan stuffed another 13 movies in the cracks on DVD, including one intriguing-looking bit of CGI anime called Appleseed a total of three times. If it were me attempting a viewing schedule like that, my bloodshot eyes would have been rolling around useless in their sockets like Visine-soaked marbles. My friend Bruce and I like to think that our viewing habits, especially when we get together, are pretty hard-core, but we've both got to throw in the towel to Evan. As I said in the one and only comment I posted last week, with apologies to Pete Townshend and Elton John, I've just handed my film nut crown to him, to him, to himmmmmmmm...!

All right, back at it. I've got my tickets for the Alex Theater screening of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly coming up July 23 and for the Arclight presentation of Once Upon a Time in the West (I'll post a link to the Leone Festival again sometime next week, for those of you who care to be reminded), and I've got plenty of stuff to write about in the coming days, including some big-ticket items I've been promising for some time now. Special shout-outs to Thom McGregor, Blaaagh, Benaiah, Machine Gun McCain, PSaga (my date for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly-- Patty says she gets enough good, bad and ugly at home!), Virgil Hilts, the Mysterious Adrian Betamax, Alison, Sharon and all the rest of you whom I'm forgetting in my late-night delirium that stuck with the site during my down time-- thanks for hanging in there with me.

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"Work, work, work, work, work, work-- How ya doin', boys? Nice to see you! I missed you!"

-- Gov. William J. LePetomaine to his super-stacked secretary, from one of the sacred texts, that being (FILL IN THE BLANK)

First one to drop the right answer in the comments column gets a kiss and a hug (glory is a better motivation, to be sure, but I'm in a friendly mood tonight).

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Finally, rest in peace, Ernest Lehman, the legendary screenwriter who counted Sweet Smell of Success and North by Northwest among his many credits, and who, like so many of the great ones, went unrecognized by the Academy until his honorary Oscar in 2001. This, from David Thomson's Bioghraphical DIctionary of Film, by way of David Hudson and the good folks at GreenCineDaily:

"Around the age of sixty, Ernest Lehman seemed to have stopped doing scripts - and that's our loss. Of course, he may have been writing away (like Billy Wilder) on screenplays that are smart, funny, and beautifully constructed, only to be told that no one has the patience for movies like that any more and, anyway, what does he know about what kids want? So the kids are deprived, too, and everyone misses Lehman's subtle way of getting us to grow up."

Something to ruminate upon before and after the blockbusters of summer begin to pile up and smolder together on the ash heap of quick and dirty (and loud) sensation. Good night, Mr. Lehman, and travel well...

13 comments:

Thom McGregor said...

I'm gonna take a wild guess-- "His Girl Friday"? Stacked as in "stacked"?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Oooh, nice try, but that is incorrect. You still get the hug and kiss, though.

Mojavi said...

hmmm I have no idea, dis he tell her she was was well a-pointed? porportioned, endowed???

haha anyway I love spending the whole weekend watching a full series or a list of movies. But I don't think I can compete... :)

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Yeah, it's funny, I love racking up two or three at a time too, but I tell ya, after this past week I still haven't seen a movie-- I feel especially gorged on blockbusters. I wouldn't mind trying to see that new comedy with Joan Chen called Saving Face, though, if it's still anywhere nearby. As for the quote, no guesses, eh? All right for you! No hints are forthcoming either! I can be a cruel taskmaster. My kids think the first 20 minutes of Cinderella is a brutally honest documentary... :)

blaaagh said...

Pucker up, pal: it was Mel Brooks in "Blazing Saddles," wasn't it? As for Evan and the movies, I don't know whether to be jealous, shocked, or just plain admiring, but doing nothing but watching movies, at least over a weekend, sounds kind of nice. I have good memories of the Sherlock Holmes movie marathon (good thing they're each so short! ...and didn't we bring our pillows along?), and of course the Dirty Harry marathon in the snow at the drive-in, about which you've recently written so evocatively. My best recent such indulgence was several years ago, when AMC was still halfway decent, and they showed a whole bunch of old horror movies on a Saturday. Yeah, I was doing some chores intermittently, but I did plenty of lounging and watching "The Spider" and that other giant spider movie from the '50s, a couple of other '50s gems, and the great early 70s grumpy-and-bigoted Ray-Milland movie, "Frogs."
Anyway, welcome back!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

The winner! Oh, and what I meant to say was, the prize is a rug and a fish. Sorry! Of all the major movies of my life, I think that Blazing Saddles may be one of the only ones that we've never seen together. Or am I just not remembering? Anyway, good on ya! Now, for extra credit, for what was the actress who played LePetomaine's secretary also famous in her day? The prize: another rug and another fish! (Unless, of course, Thom McG or Ziyi Zhang drops in with the correct answer, in which case we can probably go back to the previous arrangement...)

blaaagh said...

Whew! How awesome: I wasn't expecting two things I need, a rug and a fish! And frankly, I'm not going to screw up our long friendship out of politeness by accepting some "prize" a la Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN. Anyway, who the hell was his secretary?! Of course, the one time I win anything, and you have to up the ante with an impossible question. Well, here's hoping Claudia Cardinale totters up in her walker to give you the answer and collect her reward.

Benaiah said...

This summer I have been on a movie marathon tear of Evan proportions. For awhile I was watching 3 movies a day, but lately I can't handle that pace anymore so I have cut back to one or two a day. I am working my way through the Decalogue now, because I love the Three Colors series so much. However, 10 hour long stories of tragedy are proving difficult to sit through.
I think I am just trying to squeeze in as many films as possible before school starts again and I have to go back to my busy schedule or trolling for babes er ladies and doing embarrassing things while drunk.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Blaaagh: The role of LePetomaine's secretary was essayed by one Robyn Hilton who was, in the early to mid '70s, a Playboy bunny and model of some renown, though I can't seem to find any evidence that she was an actual centerfold. Sad that the successful use of Playboy as a stepping stone to a legitimate acting career seems to have eluded Ms. Hilton (that is, if her credits on IMDb are any indication)-- that strategy has been so successful for so many others over the years, don't ya know! And thanks for the imagery of Claudia Cardinale too... it made me go straight back here for comfort!

Benaiah: Ah, school daze. Doing embarrassing things while drunk. I seem to remember one night when I decided that, in full view of disgusted friends and onlookers, taking a sip from a bottle of dishwashing liquid was a good idea... Anyway, my wife would concur with your fervor for the Three Colors trilogy, as would I. I love Red, have a cooler admiration for Blue and think White is pretty biting and underrated. And I've had The Decalogue for about four years, and I still haven't gotten into it, so you're providing lots of inspiration for me. I'd love to hear about some of the other stuff you're seeing too.

And speaking of colors, how about those boys in Blue, huh? I'm thinking that the Dodger locker room is starting to look a little bit too much like that makeshift triage unit in the wake of the big Atlanta barbeque in Gone With the Wind. Where's Vivien Leigh when we really need her?

blaaagh said...

Robyn Hilton! I do remember her now, from my Playboy-reading days (maybe I should put "reading" in quotes). Sheesh. Wasn't Martha Smith the beauty from "Animal House" who was also in Playboy? Dennis, I can't remember that incident when you drank dishwashing liquid...was I there? I remember my own foolish college antics, of course, with painful clarity. Ah, youth.

Ahem...on a loftier level, I still haven't seen any of the blue, red and white films; thanks for reminding me. I'll put 'em on my to-rent list.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

No, you were spared the indignity of my Experiment with Joy (or was it Palmolive?), but, strangely enough, Ron was there...! As for Martha Smith, ask and you shall be linked! Did we actually study in college?

blaaagh said...

Whaa--? Well, come to think of it, I rarely had a stranger time in college than the time we all played a twisted version of Monopoly (or was it The Game of Life? I was a little drunk) at Ron's house! Enough said about that, eh? As for Martha Smith, oh man. She still does it for me--and check out her favorite films, and her bio in general. I always liked that she was actually smart and thoughtful as well as everything else she had to offer. Sigh...thanks.

Benaiah said...

I had a reversed outlook on it. I thought Blue was transendant and Red was just very very good. I liked White, but not quite as much. I am about 4 Decalogues in, and while they aren't quite as good each is an hour long brilliant movie.
I have been watching everything from silly stuff (Bad New Bears, which was amazing, GroundHog Day, very underrated), old classics (The Apartment, I loved that they resisted the urge to have the classic kiss, Arsenic and Old Lace, fun but kind of flat, Shane, good metaphors but it has aged very poorly, Duck Soup, I didn't laugh once, High Noon, the best western or at least the best American western I have ever seen), foreign films (The Barbarian Invasions, not as good as some of the French stuff I have seen lately, but the scene where the Dad talks about a world without him in it was one of my favorites of the summer, The Seventh Seal, really I just don't know what to say, Life is Beautiful, almost as tear jerking as my favorite: It's A Wonderful Life, Grave of the Fireflies, great animated film) and a bunch of overrated "classics" (Glory, Matthew Broderick was god awful, canceling out brilliant performances by everyone else, The Untouchable, this one just felt flat, Sixth Sense, well this is no classic and I am biased because I hate the one trick pony that is M Night Shamalan). Sorry that ran on quite a bit. As for the boys in blue... Well I am heartbroken. We could have waltzed into the playoffs if we would have only lost half of the lineup to diabilitating injuries rather than EVERYONE. Right now we are missing our opening day 3B, SS, 2B, LF, CF, RF, backup C and Gagne. That is just starters. I have never seen such luck. I am crossing my fingers that this will be an improbable season, but probably we will have to wait for 2006 and the youth movement. Against our AAAA lineup Clemons could throw a perfect game if he is on at all tonight.