R.I.P.: Neil Simon

Shaped my TV-teen years as much as anyone.  Plus, Barefoot in the Park is one of the supreme on-screen chemistry couples. And Felix, in whatever incarnation, got me used to the idea of a lot less rough-edged male character than I had known. And, sure, funny to die for — but with that little burr of sadness buried down there. (I did not know the aptly-surreal incident where the audience member died laughing at the premier.)*

*Ok — this is down to allegedly now. But it was a event reported in the New Yorker back when they had serious fact checkers.

Half the Air Is Still and Half the Light Is Cool #1

Goblin, The Ultimate Collection (Pick Up Records)

The first disc is Goblin for the Dario Argento World and it is continuously weird and wondrous and flowing — the perfect Gothic Prog. You wonder if he told them what he wanted to hear and that shaped what came out. An enveloping atmosphere with distorted sounds and faces and moods that keeps you fascinated and a little scared.

Disc two, The Other Worlds of Goblin, which is part soundtracks and part not is way, way more uneven. Good chompy tracks (“Stunt Cars”), but clots of Europrog with bad rhythm section and even a few quite corny cuts. (Never think of doing anything “C&W” again, okay guys?)

The Conan of the Future

This afternoon devoured Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987. May have more to say but I must get in that Riad and his buddies obsession with the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie was an utter surprise hoot (Sattouf does a marvelous job of capturing the kids’ imitation of the Schwarzenegger scowl).

The Edgar Rice Burroughs reissued paperbacks had been thrilling me since Junior High School and the same Frazetta cover art drew me to Robert E. Howard’s Conan books when they first appeared. And it was a serious graduation — Howard was more modern, more violent, more weird, more fevered than ERB.

I outgrew Howard and his hero (who I started calling “Onan the Barbarian”) before the reissue series finished up. I needed fiction characters with interiors. I knew little about Howard’s life except that he was from Texas and most of his Conan material had appeared in the sacred Weird Tales. Everything came flooding back when I saw the captivating and wonderfully realized 1996 film The Whole Wide World (Vincent D’Onofrio performance of a lifetime). I immediately tracked down the Novalyne Price book One Who Walked Alone (more apt title, but I see why they didn’t use it). Both the film and the memoir are hugely recommended for their presentation of the value fantasy had for certain isolated souls trapped in the vast Western horizons. The Price book makes a more explicit case for Howard’s fatal fixation on his mother.

Unquiet Thoughts About “A Quiet Place”

Watched twice on HD TV.

It’s been a bit overpraised, though you can sure understand why reviewers would be grateful for a horror movie that wasn’t screaming in your ear and slapping you in the face relentlessly. Nevertheless, Get Out or Arrival it is not.

I say it would make a dandy Saturday matinee at my Dad’s old movie theaters. First-rate Creature Feature. What most bugged me the initial watch is that I detected no clue where these superpredators came from. Can’t just come out of the Monster Hole. And because they’re beasts with no technology, it’s impossible to imagine them invading from UFOs.

Second time through I noticed a headline I had missed in the Dad’s War Room: “METEORITE HITS MEXICO.” The idea being that these monstrosities could be hibernating inside a smallish Asteroid, which would explain why there are not so many of them.

Horror highlights:

the opening sequence, which is perfectly paced, terrifying, believable and unforgettable.

the scenes with the grain silo, which center on one of my favorite little-known deadly dangers of the things and reveal that the predators are hard and strong enough to rip right through metal.

the clever climax which showers posthumous honor on Dad and shows Mom has unlimited courage. Once again, I believe it was A.E. Van Vogt who came up with the idea that a particularly deadly quality of an alien being would be its ability to remain perfectly silent and still and then attack with supernatural speed.

Prediction:

Millicent Simmonds is going to be a superstar. I was in her power after the first five minutes.