A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Thursday, July 10, 2008



* Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson, a surface-level documentary that hurts the legend even as it seeks to preserve it.

* Hellboy II: The Golden Army, a disappointing second go-around for the big red lug. This review hurt to write, because I had such high hopes for this film.

The Hellboy screening Joëlle and I went to had to be one of the worst I've ever attended. People were arguing over seats, mothers cursing in front of their own children, and the promoters did nothing to help by whipping the crowd into a frenzy with all of their free junk. You'd think there is a T-shirt shortage in the world judging by these animals rushing the stage to get some ugly red thing that is ultimately going to make them look like a tomato.

The Gonzo people weren't much better, but I have a far more interesting relationship with Thompson fans dating back to my time at the video store.

Right around when Breakfast with Hunter came out on DVD, a couple of guys came in and signed up at the store so they could rent it. I hate to say it, but when you work retail, you tend to judge people for shallow reasons and make snap decisions about them based on their appearance. It's not something any clerk is proud of, one hopes, but the sad fact is, you do develop an instinct and more often than not are right in your judgments.

In this case, the pair looked like a couple of real dirtbags. One was a little chubby, longer hair, kind of like your basic metal dude from high school. The other was the alpha male, skinnier, short and curly hair cut close to the skull, bad teeth, a smoker's voice and an unavoidable smoker's scent. I think when they left with the Breakfast with Hunter DVD, I said to my co-worker, "We're never going to see that disc again."

Sure enough, it didn't come back on time, and it ended up being over a week late. The phone number they gave us might have even been disconnected. Before all hope was lost, though, they returned, and the guys paid the entire late fee--which was huge because it was a new release--without argument. That's an important detail, because this store was in a fairly affluent, totally white, totally liberal neighborhood, where folks driving SUVs would rent documentaries about Wal-Mart and then try to lie and weasel their way out of a dollar late fee while threatening to leave our little mom-and-pop store to go to either Blockbuster or Netflix. I'm not exaggerating either. That scenario happened more than once. Maybe rich folks are rich because they are really cheap motherfuckers, I don't know.

So, here my instincts were totally off. The quote-unquote dirtbags were the ones who honored their debts and didn't make a stink over it. They kept coming back to the store, too, and they'd chat with the guys behind the counter and rent Alfred Hitchcock films five at a time. They were determined to watch every film he made. In order. They were always over a week late returning the movies, and they always came in intending to settle up.

And I always cut them a deal. Because not only did I respect their Hitchcock adventure, but they respected me in my peon job. I was wrong about them, and they left me thinking Hunter S. Thompson fans might be pretty cool dudes.

Until I saw Gonzo.

Hooo, boy. This was a scruffy, crusty, gutterpunk crowd through and through. They drank smuggled beers* and, I swear, I have never seen so many people take pee breaks so often in a movie before. I almost wanted to go check if there was a stash of cocaine behind the toilet they were all dipping into, or something. Despite overly obnoxious giggling at every infantile display of drug taking in the movie, however, they were a pretty quiet bunch--certainly better behaved than the Hellboy II herd.

All except one guy, who was in the row in front of us, on the end. Plastorm and I were sitting in the middle, so at least not directly behind him. He was an older gentleman, moustache, bald on top but long hair on the sides and back (a bald man's mullet), and the body equivalent of a misshapen potato. This fella was whooping and hollering the most, clapping and cheering every time Hunter snorted a line, made a joke about Nixon, or pulled some other oafish antic. He also got really excited every time a song he liked was used in the movie. It's not really that hard to hear "Sympathy for the Devil," it's not exactly an obscure tune, but to listen to this knucklehead, you'd think the filmmakers had unearthed a lost classic. I wanted to go over and whisper to him, "There are these things called CDs, and they come with your favorite songs already on them so you can listen to them whenever you want!"

At one point, Plas said to me, "Somebody's reliving his youth over there."

To which I replied, "Yeah, but you know back when all this was happening, he was really doing nothing, he was sitting at home." I'd bet anything that dude was the social activist equivalent of a gardenburger hanging around a barbeque on a Texas cattle ranch trying to convince the diners that he was real meat. Like a housewife at a rock concert, this was his one chance to cut loose.

I guess I don't really have some profound point to go with this. The closest I can get is this: you really never can tell, and it doesn't matter the group, there are going to be some people who will surprise you for how cool they are and some who are total douchebags. (Why wasn't that gardenburger wearing an Hawaiian shirt to warn us?) As John Wesley Harding said in "The Devil in Me," his updating of the aforementioned "Sympathy for the Devil," "You can call me by my real name, you can call me humanity...because it all seems just like human behavior to me."

EDIT: Maybe Patton Oswalt has an inkling of what I think I might be trying to say.

* Granted, I am not one to talk about smuggling booze into the theatre. But hey, at least it's not Pabst.


* Aria, a truly awful reissue of an interesting, experimental movie that, while not entirely successful, deserves better.

* Belle Toujours, an exercise in hubris that seeks to create a sequel to Louis Bunuel's Belle de Jour. "You're better off sticking to the original" appears to be the lesson of the week.

* Itty Bitty Titty Committee, Jamie Babbit's tribute to DIY activism never finds its satirical groove. Popular fans will be pleased to see Carly Pope and Leslie Grossman in a movie together, though.

* Never Forever, a worthwhile indie drama about a woman falling for the man she's hired to secretly get her pregnant. That's about as close as small films like this get to a high concept, I think.

* Times and Winds, a beautiful film about three children growing up in Turkey. Easily the best of this batch.


This week's reviews written specifically for the site are:

* The Naked Kiss, Sam Fuller's whacked-out pulp fiction in full, twisted overdrive. If you've never seen this movie, just watch the clips I've posted and see if you can resist.

Current Soundtrack: various, including Rod Stewart & PP Arnold, the Buzzcocks, Madonna, Stereolab, Girls Aloud, Ali Akbar Khan/Jyotitindra Moitra, Ennio Morricone (Danger: Diabolik), Depeche Mode vs. Deep Dish, Faye Wong, the Shins, the Beatles vs. Depeche Mode, Lavender Diamond, Dashboard Confessional, the Warlocks

Current Mood: disappointed

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All text (c) 2008 Jamie S. Rich

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