Movies Ain’t What They Used To Be …

Of the 25 top-grossing films of the 21st century so far, 20 have been visual-effects showcases like “Avatar,” “The Avengers” and “Jurassic World.” (The other five were entirely animated, like “Frozen.”) — New York Times Magazine

I adored animated features as a child and was enormously gratified when they re-found big-hit audiences with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? But I honestly wish there was more variety in movie smashes nowadays. More hints of theater. More emphasis on inspired writing. More grownups less all-ages.

(But like I say, at least the seating has never been better.)

R.I.P.: Jonathan Demme

(I may say more later — right now I’m having trouble processing all these people passing on.)

Equals parts filmmaker and music nut and creator after my own heart. I thought a good deal of his stuff didn’t quite work, but every time out I could precisely feel and understand where he was trying to go.

The neglected item: Melvin and Howard. Eccentric, sure, but how many movies are not only eccentric but one-of-a-kind?

Favorite uplift from source material: Silence of the Lambs. The book, which I was captivated by the flick enough to read afterward, is clunky and ordinary in comparison. Every change Demme made is an improvement. Wise to shun sequels.

The ultimate of course is Stop Making Sense. Changed the way amplified concerts were filmed. No band could ask for a finer monument. I was riveted by right from the first of the several times I’ve seen it. About halfway through it hit me: “Ho-lee crap — there’s no question this is more exciting and overwhelming than seeing the actual show. No single audience position could knock out your brains like this!”

William Hjortsberg — Somebody You Should Read, Hear?

Official site of one of the writers who fundamentally changed the character of my home town.

The musts? These —

Alp (belongs with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Catch-22 and more playful and funny than either)

Grey Matters (forgotten even among his fans — sure as hell deserving of the next lost-marvel-of-science-fiction revival)

Toro! Toro! Toro! (the “bullfight novel” the ghost of Hemingway wishes he had written)

Falling Angel (at least this was seen right away as a noir as sharp and inventive as Grey Matters in sci-fi was not)

Nevermore (unclassifiable as Alp and as much, if darker, fun).

MOVIES:

Angel Heart (a perfect adaptation of Falling Angel)

One I’d most like to see made: Morning of the Magicians

 

The High Days —

 

Gatz 1

Paradise Players production of Twelfth Night in Emigrant, MT, 1974 —

 

Feste the jester is “Gatz” — in the middle. Grand artist Russell Chatham who designed the sets, in white shirt in back.

 

Cosmik Loop Closed By GET OUT

Hmmmmm. Writer/director/producer Jordan Peele got his breakout on MADtv. MAD magazine took off when the line of EC horror comics was effectively censored. Get Out is perfect as a no-holds-barred current combo of EC and MAD on screen. Something has come full circle. Whoo-hooo-haa-HAAAH!

The ghost of William Gains has opened one of the most expensive bottles in his otherworldly wine cellar.

Where All the “Aliens” Come From

Just as quick reminder — all “Alien” themed movies and whatnot, whether they like/admit it or not, derive from two 1939 stories by A. E. Van Vogt — “The Black Destroyer” (giant catlike monster plays dumb and harmless, is taken aboard spaceship, proceeds to start dining) and “Discord in Scarlet” (bizarre, shape-shifting organism plants carnivorous eggs inside space travelers). These were also Van Vogt’s first published stories and they are written with feverish intensity. The humans are no more than stick figures, but the aliens are unforgettable. Both included in the recommended book, Voyage of the Space Beagle.

(Of course it has to be admitted that the year before the Van Vogt stories, John W.Campbell published his masterpiece, “Who Goes There?” — which puts a carnivorous, shape-shifting alien into an isolated polar encampment.)

“Casablanca” And Its Landscape — Both Faded

Very sharp review by Laura Miller on a book that celebrates the movie. I would add the bitter irony that Harvard Square, where Casablanca was reborn as a fetish object, has all but vanished during the same time period the film started to dim. That is what causes me the most pangs of lost romance.