R.I.P.: Tomi Ungerer

I think I was a bit too old for his kid books, but I’ll never forget that in a used bookstore (in Bozeman, MT?) I ran across a collection of his erotic drawings from a French publisher. I thought “Humph! Yeah, sure.” But when I checked it out –YOWSAH! They were vivid, inventive wildies with a heavy S&M component. I remember I had to hide it away in my bedroom in my parents’ house, but boy, was it a find, a revelation. I was saddened, but not surprised, that it almost ruined his career when the kid-book publishers found out about his porny works. Deserves a major revaluation.

Fine profile from Paris Review.

 

R.I.P.: Penny Marshall

“Laverne & Shirley” took place well after I had stopped watching regular TV series. And A League of Their Own is in my rankings, her second-best movie.

But her perfect work, and a landmark I think, is Big. It’s also my favorite Tom Hanks performance — he is in touch with how to feel and think like a child as, well, nobody his age could be and does an incredible job of portraying how a child in an adult body would pretend to be a grownup. The horrible gnarly matter of children and adult love and even (gulp) sex could have been screwed up so totally and seems to unfold the only way it could have worked. Josh’s interactions with best-buddy Billy are a marvel of tonal control as well as hoot after hoot jokes.

And, the first time we saw it, the ending made me cry and sense more vividly than I had in years how much I loved my Mother. No matter how warm and harmonious your childhood life is, every one of us wanted to ditch it with all our heart at some time. The final point of Big is: no, you don’t really want to throw it away, even if you could.

I Used To Work on Illuminated Manuscripts

At least that’s what it feels like in memory, from an era before Evelyn Berezin made the typewriter an antique. Doing papers in college was hell — I could type fluently since I had learned early in grade school because my handwriting was mere scribbles, but there would always be enough typos and lame-ohs to require at least one edit. Meant marking up the manuscript with a pencil and typing the whole damned thing again. Good that I was young, with boundless energy. Did I mention the last time I stayed up all night was 12 years ago?

R.I.P.: Stephen Hillenburg

Animated cartoons are supposed to revel in the absurd, which is a lot harder to do than wallow in the ridiculous, obnoxious or obscure. “SpongeBob SquarePants” captivated me right from when I saw it very early on. Starting with the looney-but-perfect notion that he was a kitchen sponge instead of one of those wacky globs that live in the real ocean. The core of characters was a perfectly realized team (best cohort: Sandy Cheeks — starting with her name, how’d they get away with that one?) (poorest concept: Mister Krabs’s money-grubbing, which got more than a little icky-poo over time) (best bonus: Plankton has one of the most corrosive asshole-voices ever).

Favorite episode — the one where SpongeBob and Patrick paint the inside of Mister Krabs house. Ending worthy of Surrealist immortality.

Favorite joke line that nobody coming across it for the first time in the future will understand: “You aren’t going to make me read old magazines, are you???”

PS: Second-favorite episode is the one about Sandy hibernating. Her mean-Texas dreamtalk made me scream with laughter when I first heard it. Still wondrous.

R.I.P.: Nicolas Roeg

I pretty much lost track after The Man Who Fell to Earth, but after all the decades some impressions remain as vivid as when they were new.

I saw Don’t Look Now at the old Crystal Theater in Missoula. I remember trembling with anxiety and never being so sorry I attended a movie alone. Thought the dum factual resolution of the plot was not nothing, but did not matter ultimately.

The version of Bowie in Man Who Fell was simply a superb addition to the ones he came up with himself, over and over. But I preferred the Mick Jagger in Performance to the one we have in this world. Bet I wouldn’t be as tired of him these days as I am of the human Mick.