Pavilion Digest: May 2003

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Pavilion Digest: May 2003

Postby admin » Thu May 01, 2003 4:15 am

The following posts contain Art Deco Dining Pavilion messages for the month of May 2003.

rich
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Postby rich » Thu May 01, 2003 4:15 am

Name: rich
Source: unca20030523.htm
Harlan,
Minor correction and a question. The correction is that Block edited MASTER'S CHOICE of which you selected Futrelle's work. BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY was edited by Tony Hillerman of which your The Whimper of Whipped Dogs is included. By the way, both books do what most anthologies do not: Give us a taste of what we haven't seen and also, rarer feat, all of the stories are good. Some are even great.

(Also, someone asked awhile back about Harlan's Hemingway reference in his introduction to Futrelle's story: "...if Hans had said I was sitting next to ErnestfuckingHemingway it couldn't have collapsed me more throroughly." I mention this now and not then because I didn't have the book in front of me when the question was asked and forgot about it until Harlan's reference below.)

The question is this: As a screenwriter, how much input will you allow from an outside source in regards to the way in which the screenplay is written? I mean, I was listening to Soderbergh and Gaghan's commentary for Traffic the other night and it struck me that theirs was very much a collaborative effort in regards to structure and some of the scenes. We've all heard the horror stories of screenplays being abused by hacks, but at what point does the screenwriter allow him or herself to welcome the input from a director or another writer or producer? (And it's not always the case with Soderbergh--not a hack--who does his commentaries with the writer. Check out the commentary on The Limey and you'll hear that Dobbs wasn't too keen on some of the changes Soderbergh made to what was written.) Maybe this is all relative and the answer is "It depends on who you're working with", but have you every found yourself in a situation where you welcomed input from a director or producer and you thought their input made the end result better?


By the way, Rob and Chris and Frank, One Hour Photo was not a good movie. The only thing that kept it from being just above mediocre is Williams' fine understated performance. Now, the original Insomnia was a good movie and the remake was pretty good, too. Reason being is that the remake didn't set out to just remake the movie, but to interpret the main character differently or, rather, to look at the events from a different angle.



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Postby BrianSiano » Thu May 01, 2003 4:23 am

Name: Brian Siano
Source: unca20030523.htm
I came across the phrase "Death by Chocolate" once agai. Never liked the phrase; seemed a mix of the mundane and the overblown, sort of like calling a dessert "Total Vanilla Decadence."

Anyway, I thought of a bunch of evil guys, pirates or terrorists, who inflict a Death by Chocolate on someone. They take him down into a concrete pit, maybe ten feet deep, and chain his ankle to the bottom with maybe a foot or two of play. And they start pumping liquid chocolate into the pit. Slowly. The guy knows that the chain will keep him well below the level of the chocolate once it gets high enough, so he starts screaming to be let out, he'll do anything, for the love of God please don't do this to me... but the chocolate keeps pumping in. He tugs at the chain. He tries to pull it apart. When it passes his ankles, he tries to jump up, but the chain holds him back, and he twists his ankle on the chain's anchor when he lands. In terrible pain, he hobbles on his one good leg, pleading for his life. The chocolate passes his waist, then his chest, and finally, it's creeping up his throat. He tries to get out. He starts to tread, to keep his mouth above the chocolate. As he gasps for breath, a strand of the stuff lands in his mouth, and he chokes it up. We can hear the faint rattling of the chain below six feet of chocolate. Finally, the inexorably rising chocolate passes over his mouth, and he shuts his eyes as he tries to hold his breath for just a moment or two of extra life. But by the time the chocolate reaches his hairline, a brief burst of chocolate and stale breath bursts from the brown liquid, and his hands beat at the air for a few moments until they fall limply into the muck.

That's what I call "death by chocolate."




inabif
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HE on TV

Postby inabif » Thu May 01, 2003 6:17 am

Name: Inabif
Source: unca20030523.htm
Does anyone have a list of Mr. Ellisons TV appearances? Im not speaking about teleplays he has written or adaptations of this work. Im looking for a list of chat show and documentary appearances. I know he did a few guest spots on the Tomorrow Show and on Tom Snyders late-90s chatfest. I know he has been on Politically Incorrect and SF Buzz and Laws of Gravity. I know that the Sci Fi Channel did a documentary on him a few years ago and that he did those West Coast Geo car commercials. He has done some voice work on Babylon 5 and Psy Factor and even Mother Goose and Grim. Is there a definitive list someplace?

BrianSiano
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Postby BrianSiano » Thu May 01, 2003 7:03 am

Name: Brian Siano
Source: unca20030523.htm
I don't know if anyone's catalogued Harlan's TV appearances. I do remember one in the early 1980's. It was a show on the A&E channel called _Nightcap: Conversations on the Arts and Letters_. Pretty nifty show. The hosts were Studs Terkel and Calvin Trillin. I recall one show where they reunited the writing staff of _Your Show of Shows_, which inclued Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon and Woody Allen.

Anyway, the SF show they did brought together Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov and Gene Wolfe. The opening comments were:

Studs: "Lemme see if I understand this. You guys predict the future, right?"
Harlan: "That's bullshit, Studs...."

Other sparklers involved Gene Wolfe talking about a physicist friend who'd written to him that his "time-reversal experiments were progressing more slowly," and a debate over what'd happen if they'd dropped Gandhi on Hiroshima instead of the Bomb (Asimov: "Gandhi is dandy, but liquor is quicker." Harlan: "That's _terrible_." Asimov: (gleefully evil nodding of head))



Tony
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Leigh's question

Postby Tony » Thu May 01, 2003 7:16 am

Name: Tony
Source: unca20030523.htm
It's from Blazing Saddles.

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robochrist
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Postby robochrist » Thu May 01, 2003 7:53 am

Name: Rob
Source: unca20030523.htm
Rich,

Well, you clearly need your britches straightened - as is often the case.

In OHP, yes, Williams' acting is the engine of the movie. But the truth is his peformance would not have been as powerful without the structure and imagery of the film, and vice versa. They are symbiotically linked. One without the other and the film would have been a lesser film. All the parts are the aggregate of a single character. And that's what the movie is about.

The film resonated a solitude - a sense of being at peace, reflecting Sy's attachment to his "surrogate family". Sy lives in a fantasy world - cocooned in reverie - to compensate for things he never had. The whole movie is a diary, written in an interrogation room (perhaps the first place he ever revealed his "problem"). Indeed, the structure of the film itself was a cocoon, opening in the interrogation room upon his capture and closing by turning the cross-examination into intimate conversation (interestingly, after telling his story Sy asks the cop about his family almost by unconscious reflex, as if to attach himself or identify himself through his perceived kindness of the officer; he needs to live vicariously through people who have it together). Thus, by juxtaposing the real world with Sy's, the film's imagery evokes a sense of hopeless detachment and a voyeuristic longing. When an individual grows up emotionally deprived, abused by neglect or worse, he creates his own rules (his outburst and how he handled the couple philandering in the hotel suggest worst; I'm convinced none of his actions were truly his own but vicarious ones. He was going through the motions of his fantasies, if you will, or how he was treated growing up). What happens when others break those rules? He transgresses and justifies every bit of it.

This film was not about a big climax. It was about a personal trap. A very small, quiet predictable world - symbolized by the "snap shot" - and how far someone like Sy would go when someone violates that world. The pieces of this movie are put together very much like the unsettling montage of snapshots on Sy's wall, with wide shots, quick cuts and oblique angles alluding to a human being who is not whole and has assembled a self-image in pieces adopted from other individuals. THAT'S WHY IT'S A GOOD FILM.

In a subtle way, the film is reminiscent of Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" - about a man chained to a world of repetition and whose job mechanizes his psychological reactions to events in this tight vacuum. Even environment - the backdrop - is used in the same way to reflect the character's calcified emotional state.

P.A. Berman

Postby P.A. Berman » Thu May 01, 2003 8:55 am

Name: P.A. Berman
Source: unca20030523.htm
Thought some of you might find this amusing. From McSweeneys.net, it's a mock discussion between Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn about The Fellowship of the Ring. I thought it was pretty funny, and I KNOW Frankie will appreciate it.

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2003/04/22fellowship.html

PAB

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BillGauthier
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From the Other Side of the Tracks...

Postby BillGauthier » Thu May 01, 2003 9:50 am

Name: Bill Gauthier
Source: unca20030523.htm
Movies:

Saw IDENTITY last night and LOVED it. Great acting, great story. Now go on, rip it to shreds.

Ellison on TV:

The MASTERS OF FANTASY special on Sci-Fi Channel was one that I was not only smart enough to tape but to have NOT taped over. When I'm in need of a push, dragging ass to the keyboard to write, I either pop that in or a documentary on Stephen King that aired on TLC (from the BBC) about a year or two ago. It would be cool to have a catelogue of Harlan's appearances (along with access and/or transcripts).

Back to the other side of town,
Bill
(who may be getting himself into a major pile of shit at home)

Chris L

Postby Chris L » Thu May 01, 2003 10:18 am

Name: Chris L
Source: unca20030523.htm
rich,

I agree with you about OHP. It wasn't far from being a success but it didn't work. Williams' performance was excellent but he was flying solo. The msot noteworthy problem was the dreadful, somnolent performance delivered by the husband - the kind of awful performance you rarely see in a professionally made film and it ground almost every scene he was in to a screeching halt. In the scene where he is supposed to be terrorized by Sy, I could swear the actor actually yawned. Not everyone in the symphony has to be perfect but when one instrument is so badly out of town, it destroys the piece.

I thought the set design at the store was lovely, however. The final scene went over like a lead balloon - that scene doesn't work well in Psycho either.

Todd,

My thought on Gerry:

It's the only movie I have ever seen which I could describe as "enthrallingly enervating." Fans have described it as a meditation and I suppose that's a good description. I might call it an echo chamber. Or perhaps a "negative space" (to borrow Manny Farber's phrase), a vaccuum which invites the viewer to fill it himself. Judging by the box office, an audience abhors a vaccuum.

I appreciated Gerry for showing me things I am certain I have never seen before and not by way of the razzle dazzle of CGI or rapid-fire digital bay-induced editing. That simple moving handheld shot of their bobbing heads suspended in space and held for a seeming eternity - amazing. Werner Herzog says that movie-making for him is the pursuit of images never captured before. I think Gerry is a Herzogian endeavour. The deconstruction of these two characters until they become nothing more than self-referential images on the screen and then further degraded to mere silhouettes limping across the landscape - it has actually grown in power since I saw it. I think about this movie every time I'm in the desert now.

The only flaw was the casting choice. Not that either Damon or Li'l Affleck were bad. But it was a mistake, IMHO, to cast actors who bring any meaning with them from the outside world. It breaks the hermetic seal this movie attempts to form. The Gerries speak their own language, make decisions employing their own logic - it all fits within this world and nowhere else. But Matt Damon is Matt Damon and he comes from a parallel universe, the real world. That breaks the spell, if only a little.



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robochrist
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Postby robochrist » Thu May 01, 2003 10:49 am

Name: Rob
Source: unca20030523.htm
Chris,

Sure it worked. If the dad's performance was uneven it was hardly to the detriment of the film. The wife, the kid, and the asshole boss, however, were as blue coller as most people behave. And, in fact, when the father was in the store being approached by Sy his reactions were delivered just right; he was completely convincing. I DO agree had it not been for Williams the film could have EASILY fallen to the level of those lame tv-movies. Had we left the movie to the REST of the cast that might well have been the case. But because of Williams and the film's structure the checks and balances are intact. Thematically the film works.

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robochrist
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Postby robochrist » Thu May 01, 2003 10:53 am

Name: Rob
Source: unca20030523.htm
One adjustment there: ok, let's say upper middle income not blue coller. I've been watching KING OF THE HILL too much lately.

Chris L

Postby Chris L » Thu May 01, 2003 11:19 am

Name: Chris L
Source: unca20030523.htm
Sorry for the 2nd post but I just wanted to correct my last one. Obviously, I meant "out of tune" instead of "out of town." Out of town is what I will be in a week when I am done writing all my wretched papers for the semester. I love Sam Raimi but right now I am sick of reading and writing about him, dammit!

While I'm breaking the rules with a second post, I'll xpand a bit on Gerry:

In a strange way, the movie is a bit like a feature-length version of the Stargate sequence in 2001. But there's a good reason Kubrick cast an unknown actor (and one who looked so golly gash darned normal and average and utterly non-descript) as Dave Bowman. Dave's isolation and transformation would not work as well, I would argue, if everyone in the audience was sitting there thinking "Man, Cary Grant sure is cool here!"



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robochrist
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Postby robochrist » Thu May 01, 2003 11:36 am

Name: Rob
Source: unca20030523.htm
Chris,

Actually, there's ONE more thought I'd like to submit regarding muted peformances among secondary cast members in OHP. The entire film is about Sy. We're seeing the world and everyone in it from his pov. He sees people - this family in particular - in one dimension. All the other characters, then, are presented to us in tight pockets: we are shown what is happening in their real lives just enough to see the contrast between the outside world and Sy's view of reality. The family has problems Sy doesn't want them to have or believe they COULD have. To show more going on with the other characters would probably be a bit extraneous. We don't need to know them in great depth. Just the world they live in contrasting the world Sy has "assembled". Because of this, however flat other peformances MIGHT have been it doesn't matter. In fact, it only underscored Sy's way of perceiving things.

...thus, the film works. Not flawlessly; few things DO. But it works.

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Thu May 01, 2003 11:41 am

Name: Frank Church
Source: unca20030523.htm
Bill, I also liked Identity, but Confidence, with Dustin Hoffman, is a bit better. I did notice during the first half of Identity a middle aged couple walked out. The first part does resemble a typical slasher film, then the rest of the film basically just fucks with your head and the surprise ending just clamps your balls to the seat. I'm sure Stevie King wishes he would have thought of the plot first.

--------------

I personally think Studs is a national treasure, but his question was pretty dumb. But Studs is one of the shining lights on the left so I give him a pass. He was joking around, I'm sure.

------------

Paula, I will admit, Chomsky's main flaw is his lack of cultural literacy. I mean, the guy doesn't go to the movies or the theatre; he rarely listens to music, and doesn't watch television. I love him to death, but cultural conservatives get under my skin.

And Howard Zinn is getting Senile. He has to be. His reflexive pacifism is a real problem, and he really bores me as a speaker.

--------------

I loved the PI with Harlan, Henry Rollins, Penn Jellett, and somebody else...lol...Penn gave Harlan a run for his money in that gabbing fest. Strange, that the usually talkative Rollins just glowered.

Has anyone ever read a Rollins poetry (?) book all the way through? He is sometimes interesting, but not much of a writer, actually. Even though I dig that punk rock shit.




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