From a two-year-old interview with Quentin Tarantino:
“People discover North by Northwest at 22 and think it’s wonderful when actually it’s a very mediocre movie. I’ve always felt that Hitchcock’s acolytes took his cinematic and story ideas further. I love Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock movies. I love Richard Franklin’s and Curtis Hanson’s Hitchcock meditations. I prefer those to actual Hitchcock.” And Tarantino also prefers—passionately defends—Gus Van Sant’s meta art-manque shot-by-shot remake of Psycho over the original Hitchcock film.
I always knew my sensibilities were incompatible with this guy’s, even if he does know how to compose a nice shot.
Man, if you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d someday be nostalgic for the 1990s… well, let’s just say I would’ve found that highly improbable. But then, the idea that the ’90s were 20 years ago seems pretty damn improbable to me as well.
I was in my twenties during that decade and, at the time, things didn’t seem to be going so well for Mrs. Bennion’s golden child. I’d graduated from college without the slightest idea of what to do next. I didn’t know how to search for quote-unquote grown-up jobs, or even what sort of job I wanted, and so I spent more years than I should have working low-paying, demoralizing temp gigs. While my friends were out there beginning careers and starting their lives, I was feeling stuck and beginning to have my first real battles with depression. In addition, I was feeling increasingly alienated from the one thing by which I’d always defined myself, popular culture. I’d also become politically aware just in time for our politics to begin their devolution into nasty, scorched-earth-style partisanship. And my love life was a source of never-ending angst, naturally. Basically, my twenties were pretty shitty. At least… they seemed that way at the time.
But time is a tricksy devil. It has a way of knocking off the rough edges and sanding the surface smooth. When I look back now on the decade of my twenties and the crazy era they occupied, I don’t see all the anxiety and self-loathing. Well, not much of it, anyhow. What I see now is a moment I wish I could recapture, honestly. I see a lot less responsibility and a lot more free time than I have now. I see energy and possibilities in quantities I wish I still had. I see the excitement of new love and of early travels, the joy of discovering things — discovering everything, really — and the confidence that comes from not yet knowing how hard the world can really be. I see a world that was curiously naive compared to the morass that surrounds us now. I see golden-hour sunlight and open roads, and I feel soft breezes in my face that are rarely so balmy now. Mostly, I just see myself young, more handsome than I believed myself to be and stronger than I knew.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that era the past few days, so here’s a song from back then that I liked. No particular reason, no specific associations. I just liked this one. I still do.
“Can’t Cry Anymore” was the sixth single from Sheryl Crow’s smash debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club, which was one of my favorites back in the day. The song was released in May of 1995, nearly a year after the album itself, and although it only rose to number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, it was Crow’s third top-40 hit.
I’m a couple days late with this, but I’m a sucker for these silly quizzes that used to be so popular in the old days of blogging, so here’s a thingie I stole from Facebook:
💟 How long have you and your significant other been together? 24 years (!)
💟 Do you have any children together? Nope.
💟 What about pets? Our kitty boy Evinrude, plus various feral and semi-feral cats that include ‘rude’s mother and a sad-eyed, scruffy-looking bugger we’ve started calling “Stuart” because he reminds me of the pathetic comic-shop owner on The Big Bang Theory.
💟 Who said I love you first? I don’t remember… probably her. Girls are mushy like that.
💟 Who is the most sensitive? Depends on the subject. We both have our Big Red Buttons.
💟 Where do you eat out most as a couple? Geez, I don’t know… probably Five Guys.
💟 Who’s older? Me, by a year and a half.
💟 Who has the worst temper? Well… I’m more prone to spontaneous flare-ups, but she has this thing where she can simmer for hours that’s far more frightening than my passing storms.
💟 Who is more social? Me
💟 Who is the neat freak? Me, although I’m not extreme about it. In other words, I generate plenty of clutter too, but I usually break and start to tidy before she does.
💟 Most romantic? Her.
💟 Who is the most stubborn? We can both be pretty hard-headed about things that matter to us.
💟 Who wakes earliest? Her during the work week; me on the weekends.
💟 Who’s the funniest? We make each other laugh pretty often and pretty hard, so I really can’t say.
💟 Where was your first date? Squatter’s Pub. Anne is convinced I was trying to get her drunk. I just wanted to introduce her to good beer. (She hates beer. Sigh.)
💟 Who has the biggest family? Her — I’m an only child.
💟 Do you get flowers often? Occasionally, when she’s trying to butter me up. 😉
💟 Who was interested first? Her, no question.
💟 Who picks where you go to eat? We tend to play the “I don’t know, where do you want to eat?” card a lot, so… both?
💟 Who is the first one to admit when they’re wrong? Her
💟 Who wears the pants in the family? Who wears pants?
💟 Who eats more sweets? We both have pretty demanding sweet-tooths. (Sweet-teeth?) Anne probably gives in to hers a little more often…
💟 Married? Um…well… somehow we never got around to that…
💟 More sarcastic? I don’t know… her, maybe? Depends on our respective moods, I guess.
💟 Who makes the most mess? Her
💟 Hogs the remote? We’re pretty egalitarian with that.
💟 Better driver? I’d say we’re both pretty decent drivers.
💟 Spends the most? Um… well, I am the one who just ordered that coffee table book of classic Star Wars newspaper comics…
💟 Who is smarter? I’ve got more book learnin’, but I let her do my taxes, so you tell me…
💟 Did you go to the same school? Yes, but I didn’t know her until after I graduated (she’s younger)
💟 Where is the furthest you two have traveled to? Scotland
💟 Who hogs the bed? Her — sorry, ducks.
💟 Who does the laundry? Her… but I help with the folding.
💟 Who’s better with the computer? Me. Which is scary because computers hate me, and I hate them right back.
💟 Who drives when you are together? Depends on whose car we’re in.
“People change over the years, and we hope that the we that is us never changes. Yesterday we were kids, and tomorrow we’ll be old, and we think we’re the same people we were, despite all evidence to the contrary.
“But sometimes we play music that lets us be us then and us now and us still to come, and it’s all worth it, every minute, every aching second, every gaping now.”
I’ve built quite a persona for myself over the years as a musical curmudgeon: defender all things ’80s, grunge heretic, “Mr. Classic Rock.” If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know the drill. But while I can’t deny that I found less and less of the new music coming out during the 1990s to my liking, it is untrue that I didn’t like any of it. There were songs in that era that managed to catch my fancy.
Two of those were early hits by an Irish band called The Cranberries, although I honestly couldn’t have told you who performed them prior to this week. I know the band’s name now, of course, because of the sad, untimely death on Monday of their lead singer Dolores O’Riordan. As of this writing, there still hasn’t been any official cause of death released to the public. All we really know is that she died in a London hotel room at the age of 46.
It’s funny… I haven’t thought about either “Linger” or “Dreams” in years, but I’ve had both of them on constant repeat all week. They both summon up a kind of sense memory of my young adulthood… no specific associations, but rather just the way it felt to be in my early twenties in the early ’90s. “Linger” was the bigger hit, but somehow it’s “Dreams” that resonates the most strongly for me. The song was the band’s first single, originally released to little attention in 1992, only to become a top-15 hit in 1994 after “Linger” cleared the way. Listening to it today, I can recall how my body felt before all the hinges started to squeak, and in O’Riordan’s clear, girlish voice I hear all the yearning and hope and certainty that used to live in my own heart. Maybe that’s why the death of a woman whose face and name I didn’t know has shaken me so hard… well, that and her age, just two years younger than myself. The same age as my lovely Anne. And the fact that, as far as the public knows she simply dropped dead. She was on the eve of recording new music, a mother of three, reportedly feeling good about her life and with a lot.of living yet to go… and then she’s gone.
I’ve reached the age where you just never know. And I am as haunted by that as I’ve ever been by hazy nostalgia. Coming from me, that’s saying something.
There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.
— Robert W. Service, The Spell of the Yukon, and Other Verses (1911)
Here’s something I’ve been needing to hear recently:
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
— Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times
I was inspired to track this down after seeing the 1981 film adaptation last year. I’d heard the film left out a lot of material and was generally inferior. While it’s true that the movie does pare down the story quite a bit, as well as substantially changing the nature of the monster, I’m undecided as to whether I’d call it inferior or not, because the book really didn’t do much for me.
Which isn’t to say I didn’t like the book. I did. But I didn’t love the book. I thought it had a really interesting idea at its core, namely that the vampires, werewolves, and ghosts that have been talked about throughout human history are all in fact the same kind of creature, a very long-lived creature that preys on humanity and genuinely enjoys screwing with its prey. There were a few moments of genuine dread. And I thought the story was interesting on a metatextual level, as it was a ghost story in which many people tell ghost stories, and those stories both influence and explain the events the characters experience. But I’m sorry to say none of the characters, out of an entire townful of characters, ever really came alive for me. I’m afraid Stephen King has the corner on that market. And the author’s prose style kept me at arm’s length for reasons I haven’t quite been able to work out.
Bottom line, I respected it intellectually, but I just didn’t have much of an emotional response to it. A disappointment, but not a complete misfire.
Here’s a little something for the season, from the man whose name is synonymous with Halloween — Halloween the movie, that is — film writer and director John Carpenter.
Carpenter is essentially retired from movie-making these days, but he’s been keeping himself plenty busy with musical pursuits. Working with his son Cody (whose mother is the actress Adrienne Barbeau) and godson Daniel Davies, he’s recorded two albums in recent years, Lost Themes and Lost Themes II, both of which sound like the throbbing synthesizer soundtracks he used to create for his films. (That’s a good thing, in my book.) He’s even done a few live performances, like a bona fide rock star. (I’ve not been fortunate enough to see him… yet. But I’m hopeful.)
Now, however, he’s stepped back behind the camera and behind the wheel of a familiar old friend to promote his latest release, Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998. For an old-school Carpenter fan like myself, the result is pretty close to sublime:
I don’t know about you, but the hair on my arms rises when those tires start to squeal…
Anthology, a collection of Carpenter’s iconic movie music re-recorded using modern equipment and updated arrangements, came out last month and is available in all the usual formats, from all the usual venues.
And remember, kids, when you’re out trick-or-treating tonight… if a strange old man driving a red ’57 Plymouth rolls up and offers you a ride… don’t be scared. It’s only Halloween…