A boy’s best friend is his mother.

Good evening.

I saw Hitchcock today. Just a few quick thoughts…

1. The nicest thing you can say about this movie was that it was witty and clever, but it’s ultimately very light fare. So much of this movie is fantasy – and not just the fantasy and daydream sequences – but it’s trivial aspects, imagined insights into the life of the filmmaker and his wife. A documentary about the making of Psycho and this era of Hitchcock’s career, with speculation from more informed opinions would’ve probably proved to be more interesting.

2. This movie has gotten mild Oscar buzz, and I guess it’s there, but primarily for the production design. The story is pretty formulaic, not giving the actors much to do other than say their lines competently.

3. Speaking of which, James Darcy does a fairly accurate seeming impression of Anthony Perkins. It’s funny to me that they make Perkins’ homosexuality not so much an unofficial secret throughout Hollywood, but something that a careful observer can pick up from a distance.

Just imagine the meeting of ScarJo and Bernard Herrmann.

4. This is second movie that I can think of that introduced a character played by ScarJo by doing a close up of her ass.

5. That said, it’s a film, it’s fantasy. The people are better looking. Helen Mirren is obviously much more attractive than the real life Alma Reville, and Anthony Hopkins, even under all the make up, probably still has a much more expressive face than the real Alfred Hitchcock. Also, Danny Huston is a villain in everything, right? That’s good casting.

6. Watching the film, of course, lead me to thinking about Psycho again. And that lead me to thinking about Delillo’s last novel, Point Omega, which has a prologue and epilogue set at the 24 Hour Psycho art installation by Douglas Gordon, which was at the Museum Of Modern Art in 2006. The installation took Hitchcock’s 109 minute movie and stretches it and slows it down so that it plays out over the course of 24 hours. The shower scene, for example, which lasts 45 seconds, takes a whole hour to play out.

In the novel, the 24 Hour Psycho stuff is a fascinating sequence that really informs the rest of the novel and how it deals with the perceptions missed perceptions of time passing. This little section always stuck out with me:

“The less there was to see, the harder he looked, the more he saw. This was the point. To see what’s here, finally to look and to know you’re looking, to feel time passing, to be alive to what is happening in the smallest registers of motion.”

If you’d like to check out an interesting book that takes a nice look back at Psycho, I would highly recommend A Long Hard Look At Psycho by Raymond Durgnat. It would make a nice companion piece to a film like Hitchock, really digging deeper than the fluff.

7. Something the film touches on, but only ever so briefly, is that great art can come from disturbed minds and from desires and fantasies that can’t be beaten and broken down into a box labeled “normal.” Obviously Alfred Hitchcock had some curious interests and obsessions and some continuing issues with women. The same could be said for Woody Allen. And Roman Polanski. There could be a lot of accurately negative things said for them as human beings, as well as a lot of accurately positive things said about their art. You need to pick your medium of release, because dark fantasies don’t have to spill over into reality. Sometimes creativity is born in the shit, and art has to be separated from the artist. Like I’ve repeated in one of my favorite quotes, there’s a difference between make believe and real life.

The difference between make believe and real life.

8. Now, I kind of want to watch that recent  HBO movie with Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren. Since it covers the making of The Birds and Marnie, it’ll be a kind of unofficial sequel to this movie. And it’ll get into some of the trivial parts of history that really interest us (and that Hitchcock only touches on sparingly): Hitch’s obsession and control over his leading ladies.

9. I’m not sure if this makes me really want to go see Bates Motel.

10. When you watch movies in December, and especially the second half of December, you kind of have to keep the idea of the Oscars always present in the back of your mind, right? I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty yet but I suspect that the big Oscar buzz will be between that and probably The Life Of Pi. On the Time Travel Murder Mystery podcast Benjie and I talk about the padding you have to do to come up with 10 films to nominate, because at least four and sometimes five of those films have no chance whatsoever. I suspect that Hitchcock is one of those films. It’s a cute movie about a great director and his under appreciated wife and a mid-life crisis (well, slightly later than “mid-life”) and some marital scrapes. And through that time there came about a truly great piece of cinema. Psycho, that is, not Hitchcock.

Uncut.

And so are you.

I repeat this a lot, but this is one of my favorite quotes, and it comes from Klaus Kinski’s autobiography, Kinksi Uncut:

“I once asked a Gypsy girlfriend whether she ever went to the theater or the movies, and she replied: ‘When I was fourteen, two men fought with knives over me. One stabbed the other to death. I touched the dead man; he was really dead. The other was really alive.’

Thats the difference between make-believe life and real life. Mine is real.”

Kinski was very intense, but silly. But ever since I read his book in my early teens that quote has stuck with me.

File this one under: Supplemental, and Ancient Hollywood Weirdness.

I can see you!

from here.

All of these worlds are yours.

Meanwhile on the internet:

Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist.

The objectification of writers.

Alf drops the n-word.

Escape From Spiderhead” by George Saunders.

Quite frankly, Argentina has better dance reality shows.

Ten of the most intriguing movies of 2011.

Sarah Palin’s gloomy new poll numbers.

What has always been missing from your life and will now make it more complete: A mash-up between Fiddler On The Roof and You Got Served.

Eisenstein, Mickey Mouse, and the synthesis of ecstasy.

WikiLeaks and Nerd Supremacy.

15 things that Kurt Vonnegut said better than anyone.

The scientist who lit up the Dark Ages.

These screencaps, of course, are from Peter Hyam’s 1984 adaptation of 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

One of the absolute best comics of the year: Phonogram: The Singles Club.

One of the absolute worst comics of the year: When Kevin Smith took a big, smelly shit on Batman.

Does our universe show “bruises” from where it collided with other universes?

Angry people in local newspapers.

“Look at your God. Now look at me.” Cthulhu and Old Spice!

The year in film.

This is a fun little montage:

from here and here.

Raids on human consciousness.

“Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.”

-Don Delillo

And, yeah, I mentioned it last week, but I have to say again how excited I am about a new Don Delillo coming out this year – next month, in fact – entitled Point Omega. It’s a short novel, but one that sounds classically Delillo, and here’s a plot description for you:

In the middle of a desert “somewhere south of nowhere,” to a forlorn house made of metal and clapboard, a secret war advisor has gone in search of space and time. Richard Elster, seventy-three, was a scholar – an outsider – when he was called to a meeting with government war planners. They asked Elster to conceptualize their efforts – to form an intellectual framework for their troop deployments, counterinsurgency, orders for rendition. For two years he read their classified documents and attended secret meetings. He was to map the reality these men were trying to create “Bulk and swagger,” he called it. At the end of his service, Elster retreats to the desert, where he is joined by a filmmaker intent on documenting his experience. Jim Finley wants to make a one-take film, Elster its single character – “Just a man against a wall.” The two men sit on the deck, drinking and talking. Finley makes the case for his film. Weeks go by. And then Elster’s daughter Jessie visits – an “otherworldly” woman from New York – who dramatically alters the dynamic of the story. When a devastating event follows, all the men’s talk, the accumulated meaning of conversation and connection, is thrown into question. What is left is loss, fierce and incomprehensible.

It’s kind of funny now how relevant Delillo has stayed over the years, but how he’s become more relevant as events began to mirror things he’s been talking about for decades. He’s essentially been writing 9/11 novels for thirty years and talking about the race between terrorists and novelists and those who try to make sense of things, either by persuasion or by force. He’s been trying to blend in a post-apocalyptic world into the one we already live and exist in, and it would appear to be a frighteningly easy and seamless fit at times.

And like Pynchon, he’s certainly been mapping the increasing ubiquitous paranoia that has become part of our American DNA. “It was as though Hemingway died one day and Pynchon was born the next,” he’s said about the contributions of both men to the changing nature of fiction, “from pure realism to something more cosmic.”

from here.

And I think it’s fascinating that he used to work in advertising when he was younger, back when it was primarily print work and hadn’t quite jumped into the medium of television yet. The difference between the advertising industry and writing fiction? At least one is honest about what it’s doing and selling you. Most, including his friends, assumed he left the business to begin writing, but he says: “Actually, I quit my job so I could go to the movies on weekday afternoons.”

Delillo has been called, along with Cynthia Ozick, one of the English languages’ two greatest writers by David Foster Wallace, and that’s fitting here since DFW’s great big 12 years in the making novel, The Pale King, is finally coming out (although not til next year, sadly) in it’s unfinished but edited form. The book deals with a group of IRS workers and the monotony and “intense tediousness” they encounter in their jobs, and also employs a little of the good old classic meta post-modern.

Here is an interesting look at DFW’s career, his final years, and his work on The Pale King.

And four excerpts from the novel have already been published in US magazines:

Good People,” “Wiggle Room,” and “All That” in The New Yorker, and “The Compliance Branch” in Harper’s.

And again, the new Delillo short story, “Midnight In Dostoevsky,” unrelated to the new novel.

And “Still Life,” an excerpt from his previous novel, Falling Man.

Who knows, “The Year We Make Contact” could very well become the year of many happy returns. Hell, one writer is even making contact with us again from beyond the grave. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? How’s your writing going?

Gone to the movies…

In the men’s room of the cinema beforehand, for a pre-movie evacuation when two kids, probably around 10 or 11ish, and the bemused dad who accompanied them walk in and take up all the urinals directly around them.

Kid #1: OH MAN, that was so awesome. The way he killed The Fallen. RIGHT?!

Kid #2: YES! OMG YES!

Kid #1: Yes. But I wonder if he’s really dead.

Kid #2: The Fallen? Yeah, the way he killed him? Awesome. Totally dead.

Kid #1: Unless there’s a third one. Do you think there’ll be a third one?

Kid #2: OF COURSE there’ll be a third one. That was SO GOOD. Better than the first!

Kid #1: So you think he’s not dead then?

Kid #2: Who?

Bemused dad: I don’t think there’s enough explosives left in the world to make another one of those movies, guys.

The kids ignore him, go to wash their hands.

Bemused dad (continuing, presumably to me, since he started staring at me): That might be the cure to all the troubles of the world, right? Take all our explosives and destructive weapons and give them to Hollywood to fight computer alien robots, right?

I just shrug, then go over to wash my hands. I use soap, the kids at the sinks next to me, however, do not.

Kid #1: Man, I want to get high later.

Kid #2: Yeah, me too. You think this guy (gestures to me) could sell us drugs?

I leave in a hurry.

And then: I decide, Fuck it, I’ll get some popcorn, and I go and get in line. Me and this group of two girls are both angling for the same slot and get there at the exact time. I decide that, even though my movie starts in less than 3 minutes, I’ll be a nice guy and let them go first. I start to drift back when…

Girl: Fuck this guy. He needs to move.

I hear that and decide, Okay, chivalry’s out the door. I’m gonna get some popcorn. These girls can wait.

Girl: Hey ASSHOLE!

I hear that and just smile.

Girl: Don’t smile. I’m talking to you!

Me: Oh, I’m sorry, are you talking to me?

Girl: Yes!

Me: Okay.

And I turn back to the dude behind the counter and order what I want.

Girl: HEY!

Me: Yes?

Girl: You should’ve let me in front of you.

Me: And why is that?

Girl: Because I’m hotter than you!

Me: What?

Girl: I am! I’m hotter than you. You should’ve given up your spot in line for me.

Me: What?

The girl continues on but I decide to save everyone a little trouble and cut her off, then…

Me: Okay, listen up. You’re like 13. You’re not hotter than anyone. Fuck off.

The girl is shocked, but eventually goes and gets into another spot in the line to get popcorn/sodas/milk duds/whatever.

Guy behind the counter: Dude, she was hot.

Me: Dude, she was 13. Actually, you know what? I’m not even going to debate this with you. What do my popcorn and soda cost?

Guy behind the counter: 15 bucks.

Me: What?!

So, after a time, I get into the theater and the movie starts. The movie, by the way is the new Harry Potter movie. Don’t judge me. I went with my mama, who loves them, and we’ve seen them all together. I don’t know anything about the books other than what I can ween off the wikipedia, but you could tell that much was sacrificed to continue the ongoing story in this film, which just feels daunting knowing that there’s at least two more films to go in this series.

Also, poor Emma Watson, who is usually one of the most delightful part of these movies, is barely in this one. And that red headed kid who got the swine flu? He looks like swine flu.

Earlier in the day, I had been in line to buy the tickets for the showing we were going to see and the line at the box office was long. In front of me was a couple that were on a first date.

Girl: So, when did you first realize you wanted to ask me out?

Guy: It was a synergy thing, actually.

Girl: What’s that mean?

Guy: Synergy is when two things-

Girl: No, I know what synergy is. What was the synergy thing?

Guy: Oh, oh, sorry. What I meant was, I knew we had to go out at the time I realized, “Hey, I haven’t seen the new Transformers movie yet,” you know?

Girl: Right.

Guy: The movie just looks so good, right? Just soooo good.

On the inside I’m thinking to myself, “Come on, man. Tell her that she looks good too!” Alas, he does not.

Girl: Yeah, sure. I barely remember the first one.

Guy: So where do you want to eat after this?

This is the question I pose to you, ladies and gentlemen: Do you really want to fuck somebody who actually really wants to go see Transformers 2? And because they think it looks good too?

Then again, you’ll notice that I’m careful not to ask if you’d want to fuck a guy who went to see the Harry Potter movie.