Friday, November 20, 2009

What I did instead of going to 1067

I didn't know for sure that I wouldn't be able to go to 1067 to see Paul Dutton and Alex Varty tonight until I got to the hospital today. My father is checked in, having proven too weak to return home when he went in for chemotherapy; at first they held him to hydrate him, and now they are holding him until a doctor or hospitalist or somesuch can determine whether he qualifies for palliative care - a formality, really, since he clearly will, but things run slowly in hospitals around here. They can hydrate him in the meantime, so it's not a bad thing. Since he went into the hospital a few days ago, I've held out hope that the situation would improve enough that I could sneak off for one last show tonight; I like Dutton and truly would've liked to see Varty play guitar. All the while knowing the gig was upcoming and wondering whether I'd make it, I've gone to the hospital daily after work, then come back to my parents' apartment to sleep on our couch at night, so my mother would not be alone here while he is there - a request my father made a few days ago that I could only honour. And so it goes tonight. If he'd ended up safely back at home with Mom this evening, and they were together, I could possibly have rationalized not being here and bused back into the city for the show, but it just didn't happen that way.

The temptation to go was there, believe me. For quite some time now, I've led a life that allows for such comforts: to devote my freetime to listening to music, watching movies, reading, writing, and shopping - to bullshitting with friends in smoky apartments, going to concerts, spending idle time eating in restaurants, walking on the seawall, occasionally having a woman over... I've lived five minutes away from work for five years; the concept of "work" in my life has been something I've done during paid hours, 27 hours a week, and no more (with odd exceptions for household chores). Even my second "job," little as it has paid me - writing, I mean - has been vastly entertaining and rewarding, such that, as much effort as I've put into it, it hasn't felt like work at all. And now, despite my relocation, at least some of my instincts, my ingrained desires, are still those of this person - a selfish, soft, spoiled and pampered person whose most dire cares up til now have been rooted in profound comfort and ease of life (relatively speaking). Contemptibly selfish though they may seem now, my desire for these pleasures has not gone away.

For instance: I am quite aware of several films I want to see at the moment. I want to see Collapse, theatrically, since the screener I previewed was missing the last five minutes, and since I want to see audience reactions to Mike Ruppert, even if my interest in him largely stems from voyeuristic curiosity about the mind of Adrian Mack.

I want to see Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans, because I figure it will make-or-break Herzog for me. I cannot imagine any middle ground with this film, and would almost hope for the latter, less because of any fondness I have for Abel Ferrara - though I would like to see Nine Lives Of A Wet Pussy someday - than because it simply would feel like good hygiene to be able to dismiss Herzog as a filmmaker of interest, as I have, say, Scorsese, Jarmusch, and Wenders (all of whose work may still have merit; I just don't care to stay current). Too much success, too much attention, too much praise can deform the ego and make you lazy; John Lurie once said to me in an interview - not referring to any of the above, I might add - that people who end up being told they're geniuses can "stop putting themselves through the fire," and it's very true. So: what serious filmmaker alive currently receives more success, attention, or praise than Herzog? I almost roll my eyes when musicians and artists whose work I enjoy (Rob Wright, Alan Bishop to name a couple) mention his name when I ask in an interview setting what filmmakers they value. The closest analogy I can graft with another living celebrity: Herzog has become the Bob Dylan of cinema (and look at Bob Dylan's output for the last 30 years...).

Tho' I do want to see Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. I will, too, at the nearest possible convenience; whatever might be said about him, he seems remarkably resistant to becoming lazy. And I badly want to see The Yes Men Fix The World, if it gets another screening. I assume my interest in these films requires no explanation.

Oh, and I do want to see 2012. Not because I actually want to see it, you understand, but because I'm fascinated by all this apocalypse-mongering going on. It disturbs me, confuses me: I feel like we've started praying for death, as a culture, and that this is the hidden subtext of such films as Knowing, the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Day After Tomorrow - or a hundred doomsaying documentaries that have been made in the last few years (including Collapse, dammit - it's just a more personalized version of the bad news). We want some grand self-purging apocalypse to wipe humanity out, or reduce us to workable numbers, maybe so that the survivors (whose number we imagine ourselves among in the vast majority of such films) can have a shot at a higher standard of living. I think even the recent popularity of zombie movies is evidence of this morbid apocalyptic streak; few rival the original Dawn Of The Dead as a manifestation of such a trend. If films like True Lies, The Siege, and so forth read now from the vantage of hindsight like dress rehearsals for 9/11, I quake to see what 2012 is a rehearsal for...

...and speaking of the apocalypse, I do want to see The Road. And I kinda want to see The Fourth Kind, since Elias Koteas has a lead role (the list of actors whose work is so interesting that I will see anything they are in is very, very small, but Koteas is one of them. Have you seen Hit Me? - a charming, if imperfect, adaptation of Jim Thompson's A Swell-Looking Babe, with Koteas in the lead? It's one of the better contemporary noirs).

Instead, tonight - and in lieu of a trip to 1067 (which would also have entailed a visit with a ladyfriend I'd like to have seen, I should note), after visiting the hospital and consulting with various people about father, I went grocery shopping for my Mom, cooked dinner, took out two shopping carts' worth of the garbage of the seniors in this building, locked up the laundry room, and ultimately - after joining Mom for her evening ritual of Deal Or No Deal, Wheel Of Fortune, and Jeopardy, I watched Trial By Jury, since she likes courtroom thrillers (I'd bought it for her last year and we'd never gotten around to it). It stars Johanne Whalley-Kilmer, Armand Assante, Gabriel Byrne, and William Hurt. It is absolutely fascinating cinema: it's like John Grisham or... - what the fuck do I know about courtroom thrillers? Some guy like that - writing a Harlequin Romance. JWK is a virtuous female and single mother, dig, who is picked for jury duty at the trial of a handsome, charismatic, and sadistic gangster (Assante). One of his thugs is a fallen ex-cop and alcoholic, played by a stunningly good William Hurt (it's very strange watching him actually act; he's been so bad in so many films for so long that you have a hard time believing its him at points; I actually, without irony, enjoyed his performance). He helps turn JWK by threatening her son, and she convinces the jury to acquit Assante; Byrne, the ambitious DA, eventually figures this out - but is powerless to help her. What's hilarious about the film is that it plays as a cynic's version of a female fantasy, where the JWK character gets to seduce each man in turn (including a handsome jury member who I haven't bothered to mention), experience victimization, flirt with evil, try on vintage clothes (twice), redeem her virtue, convince a group of her peers to follow her lead, nearly "rescue" a man in distress, and ultimately single-handedly administer justice to the bad guy, all the while looking out for her son and maintaining an acceptable hairdo. And she does all this without compromising her career or independence (since she ends up alone at the end of the film, no man at her side); she even avoids getting any blood on her when she stabs Assante repeatedly in the neck with an icepick (after seducing him, mind you; they're in bed when she does it, echoing Basic Instinct - the one moment of excess in the film, however bloodless). The film is so transparent in its profile of its target audience and knows so well how to pander to their innermost desires that it should play on a double bill with a Die Hard movie (or perhaps The Last Boyscout), so mainstream couples can see them in a double bill and thus reflect in horror and awe on their partners' psychology. It works its target audience over with such skill and craft, seducing, pleasing, and fleecing them, that you have a new level of respect for prostitutes when the film ends (is it a coincidence that the film begins with a prostitute walking through a hotel?).

My Mom enjoyed the film. In a way, so did I. Especially the cameo by David Cronenberg, just because it makes no sense whatsoever: why the fuck does David Cronenberg appear in a film like this? Can someone explain? (It isn't that he was shooting A History Of Violence at the time and got dragged over to the set by William Hurt, by the way - or that Gabriel Byrne dragged him over from the set of Spider; Cronenberg was between M. Butterfly and Crash when this film came out, in 1994. So far as I know, neither of these films share significant cast members with Trial By Jury - directed by Heywood Gould, by the way, whose connection to Cronenberg, if there is any, is unknown to me).

Anyhow, so I didn't go to 1067 tonight. I wanted to. I hope people who went had a good time. I would not have had a good time, so I can't really say I regret missing the show - not like I would have regretted leaving my mother alone here, at least.

Sorry to Paul and Alex for having missed it.

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