healthy guy. I live a clean, healthy lifestyle. I'm not some extreme
nut like those people with their fad diets of veggies and fruit,
lean meats and grains, but I treat my body with respect. I drink
in moderation, not nearly as much as winos and hobos. I can't remember
the last time I drank so much I vomited blood and stomach lining.
I might have last Thursday when I blacked out in the Tavern's men's
room, but I can't be sure. Maybe that was someone else's vomit.
I sleep right. When my Galaxie isn't running, I borrow the neighbor
kid's bicycle to get around. Even riding up to the liquor store,
I'm breathing heavily and feel like I'm going to pass out, so it
must be good exercise. I don't take drugs, except for those prescribed
to me or to people whose medicine cabinets I have access to.
The point is this: my
body is a temple. The Hare Krishnas could hold services in my gut.
So, with all the care and attention I pay to myself, why did I get
laid so low by the fucking flu? I even had a flu shot. Not that
nonsense the doctor's office tries to scam you for ten bucks; I
made my own out of Chloraseptic, Robitussin, and Lawry's Taco Seasoning
to add zest. I still got sick as a dog, puking and shitting out
Christmas ham and cranberries back to 1994. When everyone else was
eating leftovers and playing with toys, I was stuck in bed, shivering
and wondering if the muffled laughter I heard through the wall was
at my expense.
I still don't have much
of an appetite. I break out in cold sweats at night, waking from
fever dreams with texture and remembered smells and sounds. I dreamed
the Ayatollah Khomeini looked like a centipede and was chasing me
through a high school chemistry lab.
I'm better, though. Shaving
doesn't hurt anymore, and I can eat yogurt, carrots and Gatorade.
Why am I telling you about my illness? I don't have a clue, except
that the dream about the Ayatollah is true, and that's pretty fucking
weird. Also, I missed a week in my reviews and so I'm giving you
my absentee note. I'm still not all that much better, but I haven't
thrown up anything in a while. Well, at least not from illness.
Before I got sick I saw
Adaptation, and after I saw Catch Me If You Can. The
first was practically brilliant, the other was entertaining enough.
written by Charlie Kaufman, better known as the guy who wrote Being
John Malkovich. This one's the same sort of mind-bending stuff,
kind of. This Kaufman guy has a lot of great ideas, the kind you
hear, then punch yourself in the forehead and ask "Why doesn't my
brain work like that?" If only Kaufman could realize his ideas as
a movie that people in Starbucks would probably call "meta" something,
without really knowing exactly what that means. Fuck knows I don't.
In real life, Kaufman was hired by some grassfucking Hollywood studio
nitwit to adapt the Susan Orleans's nonfiction book "The Orchid
Thief" about a loony man in Florida who steals one of the world's
rarest flowers from a nature preserve. The man is obsessed with
orchids, but had previously been similarly obsessed with fish and
other things. The book isn't really a story. As Kaufman says, it's
"Great sprawling New Yorker shit," and it's full of ruminations
on the nature of passion and obsession.
Kaufman probably took
the job for the cash, and it most likely never occurred to the studio
that just because he was a hot writer didn't mean he was best suited
for the job. They probably thought they would get some sort of soft
chick flick. Struggling with adapting the work, Kaufman wrote himself
into the screenplay. He also wrote in a fictitious brother. The
movie is barely about the Orchid Thief; it's mostly about Kaufman's
(played by Nicolas Cage) struggle to adapt Orleans's text. He wants
to preserve the beauty of the book while the studio wants a traditional
Hollywood wants to fuck
with the characters to fit it into their conventions, but Kaufman
respects the written word too much. He doubts his ability and talent,
he hates himself, he thinks everyone thinks he's a fraud and failure.
Meanwhile, his brother (also played by Cage) who has never written
a screenplay moves to Los Angeles, takes a Robert McKee screenwriting
seminar and decides to write a shitty thriller with a number in
the title, a killer with multiple personality disorder and a twist
ending. While Charlie is miserable because he has integrity and
wants to approach "The Orchid Thief" in a new way, his brother sails
right through his script because it never occurred to him to be
innovative or original.
In the final third of
the movie, the story of the Orchid Thief and Kaufman's difficulties
collide, and it's one ugly fucking mess.
For the first two thirds
of Adaptation, Kaufman's script defies the same old Hollywood
bullshit simply by being lighter on its feet than an anorexic dwarf.
It's one of the most introspective stories I've ever seen, and it's
as funny as the Harelip chasing her bus. I mean, God damn, why can't
I be this funny? Then I could be an asshole and feel justified.
What makes "The Orchid Thief" an interesting book is clear, and
Kaufman's desire to preserve it is understandable. So he cheats
by not adapting it at all. Good for him, until the last third.
Cage is very good as
the Kaufman Brothers. It helped me remember that before he started
doing all the shitty action movies he was a loose-limbed goof. He
used to do just about anything for the characters he played. Even
better is Chris Cooper as the Orchid Thief, a loudmouth jerk missing
his front teeth. He's so charismatic and passionate about whatever
he is collecting that he makes Orleans (Meryl Streep) wish she could
be that passionate about something, anything. He's an asshole, but
a lovable asshole because he's so damn sure of himself and so disinterested
in what anyone else thinks.
Brian Cox makes a cameo
as asshole screenwriting instructor Robert McKee. McKee is a real
person, one of those fuckers who makes a fortune telling wannabe
writers that every movie must fit into the same mold, and the characters
must all traverse arcs and come to enlightenment in the third act
and all that other bullshit that makes Hollywood movies all feel
like one long, grunty shit. Why the fuck does anybody think they
can be a writer if they need an asshole like this to tell them how
to do it. You need to have ideas and create your own style. Otherwise,
you're just part of the problem with Hollywood. If you want to work
on an assembly line, go to Detroit.
in Adaptation is a big fuck you from Kaufman, and it would be pretty
damn funny if the movie didnít devolve into cheap-ass convention
for its ending. See, once Charlie has his brother Donald help, the
story becomes the usual suspects: drugs, guns, car chases and man-eating
alligators. See, it's Kaufman winking. He's mocking the conventions
by using them. But that's pretty crummy. It's like saying "I'm going
to make fun of the guy who always comes over and takes a shit on
our coffee table by doing it myself. Maybe your crap is ironic,
but it still stinks and made a mess. The conventional ending strips
away all of the innovative work and robbed me of caring about the
characters. They and their situations are no longer unique or unpredictable.
a clever idea for the movie to take this huge turn from introspective
into theusual loud explosion bullshit. In theory, at least. Sitting
through it for a half-hour, though, the idea doesn't feel so clever.
I sat through the end of the movie thinkg "Yes, I see. I get
the joke. That's clever... why is it still going on? How long does
he need to drag this out?" the answer is a half hour. Sure,
it sucks on purpose, but it still sucks. It's great idea, but not
Until Kaufman unloads
on the dining room table, though, Adaptation is one fucking
great high-wire act. Four Fingers.
Catch Me If You Can
has Steven Spielberg's grubby sentimental paw prints all over it.
That's not really a compliment, but at least the man has a distinct
style. He has taken the fascinating true story of a teenager who
posed as a Pan Am pilot, flew all over the world and forged checks
for millions of dollars and mangled it with way too much pathos
and backstory. Frank Abagnale was a world class con man, and what
interested me is how he got away with his crimes. What interests
Spielberg is finding some pop psychology explanation for everything
Abagnale ever did. He explains the crook's motives until he's supposed
to be a good guy.
Leonardo diCaprio plays
teen Abagnale, who runs away from home and poses as a Pan Am pilot
in order to cash forged checks. Soon, he is flying all over the
world, seducing stewardesses and suckling the teats of corporate
America. On his trail is Tom Hanks as a hungry agent in the FBI's
check fraud division. His division rarely gets a criminal as exciting
as diCaprio, and he sinks his teeth into the case. Whenever he thinks
he's close, diCaprio slips out a window or through an airport. Over
the years, the two men develop a mutual respect; by the time diCaprio
is caught, they're friends.
Can't anyone ever just
be a rascal anymore? Why does everyone's crimes have to be the result
of a broken home and a yearning to be loved? Spielberg spends half
the movie working to get our sympathy for diCaprio by telling us
that, really, he's a good and misunderstood kid. Fuck, I liked him
for being so bold and I'm not opposed to rooting for the thief sometimes
just because he's a good thief.
I wanted more chasing
and crimes, to see how the kid did it. But Spielberg thinks a character
can't sneeze without some corny backstory to explain it. He even
tacks on a couple extra endings just to explain a little bit more
and leave less for us. Christ, Spielberg, leave the viewer to unravel
the moral ambiguities and decide for himself rather than make the
movie look like a defense attorney's penalty-phase argument. Only
Spielberg could make a movie about a grifter feel so fucking homey
Catch Me If You Can
has the perfect tone and look. It takes place in the early 60s when
jet travel was exotic and sexy, unlike today's dingy airborne buses.
Pilots were greatly admired and highly paid, and stewardesses were
young, unmarried and really hot looking in those tight uniforms.
Vietnam hadn't made everyone into a sourpuss, and convertibles still
looked cool. DiCaprio is really pretty damn good. The movie is suited
perfectly to his breezy style. Hanks is pretty damn corny, though,
with a sloppy Massachusetts accent and his clothes doing more acting
than him. At least he gets credit for driving a '63 Galaxie just
like yours truly (except mine's a fastback and doesn't have as much
It's still a pretty good
movie, but it could have been a hell of a lot better in the hands
of a more ruthless director. Three Fingers for Catch Me
If You Can. Now, if you'll please excuse me, I have some yogurt,
carrots and Mickey's Big Mouths to consume.
to tell Filthy Something?