A couple of months ago there was an odd kerfuffle about the armpits of Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot having been shaved. Feminists actually felt it was some kind of betrayal or undermining of the Wonder Woman metaphor. But when have hairy armpits of any heroic movie figure ever been shown? 50-plus years ago some rolled their eyes over Jeffrey Hunter’s armpits having been shaved for his performance as Yeshua in Nicholas Ray‘s King of Kings.
Until this morning I’d literally never heard of Running Out Of Luck, a 1987 Julien Temple film starring Mick Jagger, Rae Dawn Chong (as a”slave girl”), Dennis Hopper, Jerry Hall and Jim Broadbent. Co-written by Temple and Jagger; music by Jagger and Luis Jardim. (Jagger’s “Lucky At Love” had popped a couple of years earlier.) The fact that you can’t stream it or watch on DVD — it’s only on VHS — tells you how good it is. But this clip is fairly decent.
I apologize for not catching Wonder Woman yesterday. I was all set to attend a 4:30 pm showing at the Savoy multiplex (Via Bergamo, 25, 00198) but the day fell apart when I was called on the carpet for (a) having exhibited bad taste in the choice of a former girlfriend and (b) more specifically because I foolishly failed to delete photos of same from one of my laptops. I’ll try again today. But in the meantime, now that a fair portion of HE community has seen Wonder Woman, the consensus is that it’s….what, pretty good but not great? That’s what I’m getting from over here.
A little more than a month ago a N.Y. Times piece, reported by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, assessed a list of possible contenders for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. It boiled down to an oldsters vs. youngsters thing — the well-branded, 70-plus trio of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former vp Joe Biden vs. the 40ish fraternity of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (my favorite) plus Senators Kamala Harris (my first runner-up), Cory Booker (the closet thing shouldn’t matter but will come up), Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota (who?) plus Massachucetts Congressman Seth Moulton (his look and demeanor scream “affable vp pick”).
The wifi at Hollywood Elsewhere’s Rome apartment (154 via Monserrato) is all but worthless, so I’ve been tapping stuff out at the nearby Barnum Cafe (Via del Pellegrino 87, Rome). A half hour ago the Barnum proprietors told me I’d have to take the Macbook Pro across the street as their place turns into an eating establishment around 8 pm or so. No problem. The wifi is strong enough to extend several feet beyond the cafe’s walls. So here I am, tapping away on a worn-down cobblestoned street that’s been here for at least 2000 years.
40 years and six days ago, George Willig became an instant folk hero when he ascended the south tower of the World Trade Center, climbing 110 stories with all the New York-area news channels covering like crazy. It happened on 5.26.77. Apologies for not acknowledging the anniversary until today, but I’ve been running around. Here’s a portion of a piece I ran nine years ago (8.9.08) about Willig and his feat:
“A toymaker and rock-climber from Queens, the 27 year-old Willig had built a special climbing device that utilized the vertical window-washing channels in the corner of the south tower. He began his climb at 6:30 am that morning, and made it to the top three and a half hours later. When he was a little more than halfway up the cops came down on a window-washing scaffold and tried to get him to abandon the climb, but Willig refused. He was arrested when he finished, but public acclaim was so enthusiastic — the N.Y. Daily News headline hailed ‘the Human Fly!’ — that authorities only fined him $1.10, or one cent for every floor.
“I was in the midst of producing a Save the Whales benefit concert in Wilton, Connecticut. I was as blown away by Willig’s stunt as everyone else, and so I decided to invite him to make an appearance at the concert, which was held in a large amphitheatre-like area on property owned by David and Linda Black, the parents of my ex-girlfriend, Sophie Black (who later became a respected poet).
“Willig didn’t say yes or no, but I announced in the Whale concert posters that ‘the Human Fly’ would attend anyway. If he didn’t show I figured I’d just get on the mike and say ‘them’s the breaks.’
“To my surprise, Willig and a couple of friends turned up on the day of the concert — a warm sunny day sometime in mid to late July of ’77 — and took a bow before a totally cheering crowd. It was quite a moment. David Black introduced him by saying Willig ‘believed in something — he believed in himself.’
Assess any chapter in 20th Century cinema and it’s easy to point to this or that great film. It’s a little trickier to figure out which great films were honestly and artfully reflecting basic truths about their times. John Ford‘s The Grapes of Wrath, Howard Hawks‘ Scarface, William Wyler‘s The Best Years of Our Lives — that line of country. As opposed to films that shovelled wish-fulfillment bullshit, which, I realize, can deliver a certain kind of roundabout truth.
For me the most lasting and resonant trait of any world-class film is a manifest reflection of the times and culture from whence it came, and almost always in some kind of profound light, or at least with a modest dose of spiritual nourishment or realignment, even if it’s bitter. I’ve always regarded The French Connection as a tangy, highly charged capturing of early ’70s New York City, when things weren’t so great economically or infrastucturally but when pugnacious street attitude and flavor were abundant. Anything but heart-warming, but a great urban film.
Do mediocre films reflect their culture? In some instances, yes. Alas, movie history focuses almost entirely only on the wheat and never on the chaff, and so mediocre stuff is usually forgotten while the great ones live on.
It’s probably too much to ask for a rundown of past films that didn’t reflect well on American culture and/or the film industry (or reflected American culture all too well), but what recent U.S. flicks might qualify in this regard? Films that historians will one day look back upon and go “Jesus God, who were these people? What were they thinking? Who were they deep down? Did they even have a ‘deep down’?”
I’m asking this because of a riff I came across this morning. Posted in late September ’08, the subject was Beverly Hills Chihuahua, a grotesque Middle-American family film that earned $149 million. Here’s the gist:
“The people who will make Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney, 10.3) a hit when it opens are are not ‘bad,’ but their support of this film, which I see as a metaphor for the shopping-mall plasticity and icky phoniness that has taken over this country’s middle-class culture, will signify a kind of spiritual tragedy in this country.
“Just as you can look at, say, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and say, yup, on some level that was America in 1937, Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a kind of reflection of us.
Donald Trump‘s announcement of withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord is, of course, appalling and destructive. Time and again, day after mind-blowing day, the man reveals his ongoing bestiality and his small, miserable focus on shoring up support among the American dumbshit class.
I feel a certain amount of shame, yes, that I come from a country stupid enough to elect a man like Trump to the highest office in the land, even as I know that this latest horror is temporary (i.e., a four-year blip) in the grand scheme of things.
At the very least Trump will be gone by January 2021, but the damage to the planet, not to mention the United States’ standing as a leading, well-engaged player on the world stage, will not be marginal. It will be, in fact, substantial.
Trump is a stone villain — a manifestly despicable human being whose arrogant interests and worldviews are lowering the bar into the mud. Each and every day we need to remind ourselves who voted for this malignant asshole, and act accordingly on behalf of common-sense humanity.
From Todd Stern‘s 6.1 opinion piece in the Washington Post, “Trump Just Betrayed The World“: “Trump’s decision will be seen as…self-centered, callous, hollow, cruel. The ravages of climate change have been on display in recent years in the superstorms, floods, rising sea levels, droughts, fires and deadly heat waves that will only get worse as the carbon index mounts. Vulnerable countries will look at the United States, the richest power on Earth, the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases, and think — even if they do not say — how dare you?”
From 6.1 N.Y. Times editorial, “Our Disgraceful Exit From the Paris Accord“: “Perhaps most astonishing of all, a chief executive who touts himself as a shrewd businessman, and who ran on a promise of jobs for the middle class and making America great again, seems blind to the damage this will do to America’s own economic interests. The world’s gradual transition from fossil fuels has opened up a huge global market, estimated to be $6 trillion by 2030, for renewable fuels like wind and solar, for electric cars, for advanced batteries and other technologies.”
I should be hunkering down and drilling into something or other, but right now things are a little too blissful with the summerish Roman weather, the new apartment and fresh pasta cooking on the stove, etc. I’ll be catching Wonder Woman tomorrow afternoon at the Cityplex Trianon (Via Muzio Scevola, 99, 00181 Roma), and I’m telling you right now it’d better be good. It’s now 7:45 pm and cooling down — heading outside for a longish walk.