At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


  • Coffee and Cigarettes--A dozen or so vignettes, each of which involves two or three characters conversing at a cafe table while partaking of the titular stimulants. Jarmusch bats about a .300; a few of the scenes are funny and perceptive, particularly two in which the interlocutors are made painfully aware of their unequal status. (In one tour de force, Cate Blanchett plays both herself, a glamourous film star, and her fictional cousin, a grungy loser who vainly tries to conceal her envy through sarcasm. In another segment, an obsequious Alfred Molina makes overtures of friendship to an actor at the height of his fame, Steve Coogan of 24 Hour Party People, but is rebuffed with exquisite British politeness.) The majority of the sketches, however, are so flat that they don't even rise to the level of deadpan: The White Stripes discuss Tesla's contributions to electronics, the Wu-Tang Clan talk herbal medicine with Bill Murray, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits weigh the merits of IHOP, etc. Recommended instead: Night on Earth.
  • La Regle du Jeu--The best movie ever made? Nah. The controlled chaos of adulterous French aristocrats and their servants running behind each other's backs in a country manor got fatiguing, and the nonchalance with which the characters treated infidelity was offputting to my right-wing sensibilities.
  • THX 1138--I never accused George Lucas of originality, and his revamped film school project borrows too liberally from key texts of dystopian literature (1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451). Some attractive shots, though, of glowing control panels and computer circuitry. (Maybe that was the best part of Star Wars as well?)
  • Land of the Lost: First Season--Primarily for purposes of nostalgia, although even as a kid I thought the special effects were cheapo. And Spenser Milligan has to have been the hammiest TV actor after William Shatner. But I almost wept with the poignant realization of lost youth when I saw Holly's corduroy jeans and plaid shirt--I had a closet full of Toughskins myself. If I want to indulge further, I noticed that season 2 has just come out, not to mention the first season of Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman. Now if only I could see the Shazam/Isis Power Hour again, my retrogression would be complete.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon--2nd viewing.
  • Dragonslayer--Surprisingly good fantasy yarn from 1981 about a callow sorcerer's apprentice who rashly volunteers to kill a dragon feeding on the young maidens of Urland. The special effects occasionally show their age, but still I'll take choppy stop-motion animation over CGI any day. The atmospheric scenery from the misty, rocky Scottish highlands fitted the tale perfectly. Out of curiosity I googled Caitlin Clarke, who played the young wizard's tomboy love interest, and learned that she died just a few weeks ago of ovarian cancer.


I finally finished the big stack of Lovecraft I obtained thru ILL. It's imaginative mythmaking at a very high level, although HP's almost autistic obsession with architecture can be a bore--I'll be content to never hear the phrase "gambrel-roofed" again. Now, working backward along the chain of influence, I'm reading Poe. Fans of C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters should look at "Bon-Bon."


Slugfest between Greek Orthodox and Franciscan priests.

French book on slacking a bestseller.

Happy 50th, Stratocaster!

Former library worker turned millionaire art and book dealer donates massive poetry collection to Emory library.