Monday, January 12, 2009

"PLEASURES WORTHY OF GUILT" REDUX


Updated January 13 9:26 pm

Not counting a couple of nervous-nelly test posts, the inaugural contribution to this blog, which started off with a different name and would eventually come to be known by its current handle, was a long piece I wrote just for the hell of it sometime in 2003 or early 2004 called “Pleasures Worthy of Guilt.” It was typically self-indulgent, an essay initially written without the contribution of an editor’s perspective, and as such it gave prospective readers in on the ground floor a pretty good idea, as it turned out, of what they would be in for were they to decide to come back to this site for more. In fact, it was this article which inspired the very first comment I ever received on this blog, from a reader known only as Frobisher. It is reprinted here in its entirety exactly as it was left here:

“After reading your blog may i be presumptious enough to say you could have done with serious sub-editing. It was long-winded and bloated, sometimes less really is more!"

I never heard from Frobisher again and have always assumed he found more verdant, succinct and tightly maintained pastures elsewhere in his pursuit of good Internet-based film writing. However, less than three months later I did hear out of the blue from one Peet Gelderblom, writer and publisher of a web site I greatly admired, the now-defunct 24 Lies a Second, who asked me if he and his partner, James Moran, could buff the edges of the piece a bit and publish it amongst the other pieces featured there, pieces that featured writing and thinking I felt far outstripped my own. I eagerly agreed, and in addition to embarking on the process of getting the piece in better shape Peet and I began a friendship that has now outlasted 24 Lies itself. In the wake of the site’s shuttering last year, Peet and Keith Uhlich, current editor-in-chief of another esteemed film site, The House Next Door, decided to republish all the essays that were a part of the history of 24 Lies. And now, it seems, we’ve arrived at the moment of the official reissue of “Pleasures Worthy of Guilt.”


When Peet and Keith initially suggested republishing it I had mixed feelings. I was sure I would have issues with my own writing style, which feels different (to me, at least) than what it did back in 2004, thanks largely to the experience of writing this blog, and also thanks to the terrific opportunity I’ve had to work and interact with folks like Peet, Keith, Matt Zoller Seitz and countless others whose paths I’ve crossed in the past four years. But also my attitude toward some of the movies (one in particular), and indeed to the very idea of a guilty pleasure, had changed significantly. After some thought, rather than open a Pandora’s box of tinkering with the body of the piece itself, I decided it was a better idea to allow Keith and The House to republish the piece as it appeared at 24 Lies (which was a significant improvement over what Frobisher and others initially read here). I would, however, attach some thoughts in a postscript as a reward for those stalwart enough to make it through the original roughly-7,600 words and try to deal with some of the changes in my own attitude toward the movies and what I wrote about them.

This is all, then, just my long-winded way of letting you know that Keith has republished “Pleasures Worthy of Guilt” as a feature on today’s edition of The House Next Door. I invite you to check it out if you’ve never read it, refamiliarize yourself with it if you have, and drop a comment either there or here if you’d like. I’d be curious to know if your reactions in any way mirror my own. And Frobisher, if you’re still out there, I’d love to hear from you too.

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UPDATE! My friend Don brings it to you via YouTube, just one of the memorable moments from The Boys from Brazil, this one featuring John Rubenstein calling on one of the Boys (puckered, upper-crust British model), the role essayed as no one else could have by young master Jeremy Black...



A thing of beauty is a joy forever...

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7 comments:

The Driveindude said...

When you read it again did it feel like you were looking at one of your grammar school class photos?

Peet Gelderblom said...

I think you chose wisely to leave the piece as it is and write the addendum, Dennis. Yes, you're correct in stating that your writing has evolved since this article was first published, but on the other hand you may be judging your old self too harshly.

Jim and I always viewed that article as written by someone who uses a persona to grab the attention of the reader and effectively make his point. It was perfectly clear to us back then that "guilt" was never a serious issue for you personally (that's why you named the essay Pleasures *WORTHY* of Guilt). In a way, the "guilty pleasure" phenomenon functions as a juicy cheat that allowed you to write about the stuff you felt passionate about. Seen in this light, your approach here is comparable to how I pretended to disagree with Hitchcock in my Alternatives to Suspense piece. By the end of that essay it's obvious that I don't, but by starting off on such a high note I was able to add suspense to my argument and give the article the forward momentum it needed.

This is still a fine piece of writing, regardless of how you feel about it now. You've shed the snarky persona because you don't need it anymore to spark your reader's interest. Four years later we're interested in anything you care to write about, since we now know the reading is unlikely to disappoint!

Larry Aydlette said...

I didn't know you were a DJ. Post on that sometime.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Yep, it's true. I was a DJ/music director and eventual program director for a short time round about 1984-85. And I've got some very embarrassing mid-80s pictures to prove it. (Hint: a perm is featured prominently.) And there's definitely a story there. Maybe I'll tell the one sometime about how my GM decided on a whim to change the station format from adult contemporary to AOR (album-oriented rock, what would eventually come to be known as classic rock) literally overnight-- in 24 hours. Trouble was, he didn't realize that the station had very few actual rock albums on the premises. So here comes Dennis with a pickup truck load full of albums-- about 1,300 in total, most of my own personal collection-- which fueled the station for several months while we established new relationships with record company promoters, and of course subjected my own records to ruin and decay at the hands of a none-too-gingerly staff and industrial strength turntables with arms the size and weight of medium-gauge lead pipes.

Which is one of the many reasons why I gave up on a career in radio...

Don Mancini said...

Very cool that HOUSE NEXT DOOR saw fit to reprint this. Congratulations! I think I know what movie I want to see first on your new system: Is BOYS FROM BRAZIL on Blu-Ray yet? What better way to celebrate Shotzi's birthday?

Paul Matwychuk said...

I've always loved this essay, Dennis, and it was a pleasure reacquainting myself with it. I watched MANDINGO on your recommendation last year and was glad I did; now I've got LISZTOMANIA sitting near the top of my "to be viewed" pile and hope to get to it soon!

blaaagh said...

"Schotzi's birthday? You are an insane old man, aren't you? ...December 11!" (how nerdy am I that I remember that, not that I claim to have it verbatim). Urgh...I want to re-read that post--I remember it well--but it's too late tonight. I did want to see what a welcome nightcap that scene was from THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL. Thanks to you and to Don!