As far as nausea and revulsion are concerned, I didn’t think anything could top the descriptions of Michael Jackson‘s predatory sexual behavior in the first half of Leaving Neverland, which premiered tonight on HBO. Then I read the Twitter reactions, at least half of which are rank with denial in Jackson’s favor. An awful lot of sick puppies out there. New Orleans filmmaker: “Horrifying, sickening, disturbing. What a fucking monster.”
I happened to notice a Larry Karaszewski tweet about cartoonists Drew Friedman and R. Crumb. I’ll always feel indebted to Friedman for that Last Action Hero/Arnold Schwarzenegger drawing which appeared in Spy sometime in the fall of ’93. It’s been hanging, framed, on my living room wall for over two decades. [I last posted about Friedman in March ’14.]
A friend reminded me earlier today about Stewart Raffil‘s High Risk, a low-budget action thriller about “four naive Americans, in need of easy cash, deciding to fly to Colombia and raid the safe of a notorious drug lord with connections to the corrupt military regime.” I’ve never seen this 1981 film, but it’s playing for free right now on YouTube. My friend’s point was that J.C. Chandor‘s Triple Frontier, which I’ll be seeing around 7 pm this evening, is an upmarket version of High Risk. Give Raffill credit for at least assembling a fairly decent cast — James Brolin, Anthony Quinn, Lindsay Wagner, James Coburn, Ernest Borgnine, Bruce Davison and Cleavon Little.
Almost exactly two years ago the SRO and I visited Chez Jay, the legendary dive-bar eatery on Ocean Avenue. It was still noisy as hell and the service faintly sucked, but the entrees were still delicious. The faintly grubby aura, reddish lighting, checked tablecloths, peanut shells on the floor, banners on the wall, thunky-sounding music system — walk through the front door and you’re Marty McFly in 1971.
Chez Jay has been one of those lowdown, cool-cat, special-vibe places since ’59, and of course will be celebrating its 60th year in business sometime later this year. Very few Los Angeles establishments feel this time-machiney. The name of the place is “I like it like that.”
[Originally posted on 3.12.17.] “I somehow managed to afford dinner there two or three times during my Los Angeles lost-weekend period in the mid ’70s, or right before I drove back east to work at becoming a film writer. This was when Chez Jay was a serious celeb haunt. Jack Nicholson (sporting the tight curly hair perm that he wore for The Fortune) and Lou Adler and a couple of women had the back-booth table one night; I spotted a flannel-shirt-wearing Jeff Bridges during another visit.
“I knew Jay Fiondella, the owner-founder and sometime actor, very slightly back then; every time I ran into him I’d mention how much I liked John Flynn‘s The Outfit (’73), in which he played a poker player who gets held up by Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker.
I read Paul Theroux‘s “The Mosquito Coast” two or three years before Peter Weir‘s 1986 screen adaptation, which has a reputation today (among the few who even remember it) of being a grimly fascinating tale of obsession and neuroses, and particularly one that failed at the box office.
But I’ve never forgotten “four o’clock in the morning courage,” an Allie Fox phrase (actually stolen from something Napoleon Bonaparte once said) that Theroux used once or twice during the novel’s first half.
Ever since that phrase sunk in, I’ve been telling myself that the real movers and shakers in life are those who can hop out of bed at 4 am (or any hour when it’s still dark) and man up and drill into the task at hand. Losers stay in bed and huddle until the break of dawn — winners wash their faces, put their boots on and face whatever adversity may be waiting. The world is for the few.
All my life I’ve been waking up at 6:30 or 7 am at the latest, going back to junior high school. But since falling and bruising my back a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been snoozing until 8 or even 9 am. Partly because my body needs the rest and rehab, and partly because I always wake up around 3 or 4 am, surf Twitter for a couple of hours, and then go back to sleep at 6 am or so.
The only thing I really liked about Barry Levinson‘s The Natural was the handsome face, sandy blonde hair and trim, athletic bod of Robert Redford, who was 46 during filming. (His mythical character, Roy Hobbs, was around 34 in Bernard Malamud’s 1952 source novel.) And….all right, in some ways Levinson generated hints of that good old yesteryear baseball vibe, that “time of simplicity and innocence” feeling that guys of a certain age feel a special rapport with or longing for.
Other than these two elements I didn’t believe (or even want to believe) a single frame in this damn film, and in fact came to hate the way Levinson constantly underlined, flaunted, mythologized. If he had only had the discipline to play it straight and real and low-key, but no.
And I’m speaking as a lover of baseball games. I adore sitting alongside the first or third-base lines and smelling the grass and the soil. And as a worshipper of certain baseball films — Moneyball, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, For The Love of the Game, The Rookie, The Battered Bastards of Baseball, etc.
Seriously — fuck The Natural. That awful triumphant-hero music, the way Glenn Close is lighted in the bleachers, Darren McGavin‘s grotesque villain with the glass eye, etc.