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This week:

Filthy says:
"It's prtty fucking good."

How much pain and humiliation can an artist inflict for the sake of his art? I ask this question for two reasons. First is because I am planning on doing a painting and I want to make sure I get what's coming to me. Second is because it's posed by the movie Capote and the incorrigible behavior of its title character.

Is it a matter of weighing the overall social benefit of the art to the individual costs taken to make it? I mean, if the art is going to be great, can he hurt more people? What if the art is ambitious and requires a lot of hurt, but then doesn't turn out great? Or if you just think it's going to be great and you go ahead and hurt people based on that assumption before it is judged by the masses?

How many senior citizens would you be willing to shoot in the head to make every twelve-year-old smile once for eight seconds? How about for ten seconds? How many more would you kill to make those kids smile a second time? Don't answer if you hate old people because then you'd only be killing them to make yourself smile. Go ahead and answer if you're like me and don't give a shit whether or not kids are happy.

Capote asks the question of what is acceptable in the name of art through the story of Truman Capote, a man most of us know through lampoons of his later, drunken years. But before that he was a brilliant writer and chronic asshole. The movie tells how he exploited and manipulated strangers for the sake of his true-crime masterpiece In Cold Blood.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Capote, an effeminate, lying fashion-whore of a man able to make others feel small all the while soliciting and needing their approval. In that way he's just like the Harelip. One minute making you feel like dirt, the next minute coaxing you into admitting her latest "Here I sit, all brokenhearted" poem in the ladies' room is fucking brilliant. Well, hell, she knows she's good because you couldn't resist going in there to look. She raises the bar for every hack who can't think beyond the "heart-fart" rhyme. The reference to Proust is fucking awesome.

Like the Harelip, Hoffman's Capote doesn't think anyone is nearly as good or as smart as he is. He thinks he's above it all and can use his wits to manipulate others into doing and telling him whatever he wants. That works for a while, but few people are so stupid they never figure out they're being used. For example, it only took me about thirty times before I realized that Harelip wasn't daring me to eat as many pickled eggs as I could just for the challenge; it was because she liked seeing me vomit, and turn green. I don't take her challenge as often anymore, and when I do it's because I want to see me throw up.

In 1959, Capote went from his high-society life in New York City to Buttfuck, Kansas ( a farm community near Armpit and Cesspool) to write an article about the impact of some murders on idyllic small-town life. He never entangles himself with the local people beyond what he does to draw information from them, but he discovers a rich source for a book in the pathetic murderer Perry Smith (played by Clifton Collins. Jr.). Smith is extremely insecure; he seeks validation and reassurance from Capote and willingly gives up his diaries and secrets to get it. Capote spoonfeeds him a string of bullshit to make him feel wanted and admired as an intellectual, and Smith believes it because he wants to.

Capote finds an attorney to take on Smith's appeal after he is convicted for murder. This isn't because Capote believes in his innocence; it's because he wants the appeal to stall the killer's execution long enough for him to squeeze out more info for his book. Capote believes that Smith is a disposable element of his work and ultimately treats him as such. When he is done with him and fed up with the book, he tells Smith what he truly has always thought of him.

In fact, when Smith's conviction appeals drag on longer than Capote wants to work on the book, he stops finding attorneys and wishes him dead. By this time, Capote can't publish his book until Smith is dead because he's told him so many lies about his intentions and about how he will portray the killer.

Capote implies that he paid for his ruthlessness for the rest of his life as he sunk into an alcoholic stupor of shame and remorse. I'm not sure, though. It looks like the guy was already halfway in the bag all along and an alcoholic death was inevitable.

So, according to the movie, its source book, and a lot of other accounts, Truman Capote was an asshole, but he wrote one of the classics of American literature about this crime, In Cold Blood. I'm sure he believed that his assholishness was justified by his mission to make great art. In this case he succeeded. But what if he failed? If he tried and failed to make something amazing, would his coldheartedness still have been okay? Do the lives and feelings of criminals have any value?

That's some of the subtext of Capote. Another is the role of big city folk as the tellers of the lives of Middle America; how they interpret and represent us. Are us simple folk just fair game for them shiny-shoed interlopers and their storytelling ways? Are we expendable for the sake of their art? The movie presents its subtext the best fucking way I know how: by keeping it subtext.

That's totally unlike the way the Hollywood grassfuckers do it. When they sink their teeth into anything remotely thoughtful, they want you to know how smart they are. They don't want to just present the idea, they want to win a fucking award for it. They're so God damn giddy, and they're also seeking approval like a puppy who sat when told. Capote doesn't. It's elegant and quiet. Director Bennett Miller and writer Dan Futterman deserve a shitload of credit for treating their material and audience with so much respect.

Hoffman is fucking fantastic. He plays a lisping, flamboyant gay man without bringing attention to himself. That's something no lisping, flamboyant gay man can do. He is completely inside the character, and plays him so well that you can almost feel sorry for Capote. Almost, but not quite. After all, an asshole before six gin and tonics is still an asshole after them. Collins is also very good as the killer Smith. Although he has killed four innocent people, Collins gets you to feel sorry for him for his circumstances and the way he's exploited.

Capote is damn smart, the kind of smart that doesn't show off. And that's the best kind to hang around, because the other kind keeps making you feel stupid. And it makes you eat too many pickled eggs. Four Fingers.

Note to my readers: If people ask you how you busted your front teeth, tell them "by being fucking rad". That'll get you a lot more respect than saying "by popping wheelies on my ten-speed in front of these teenage girls who called me a dork." Trust me on this one.

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Pete Hammond of Magashit Maxim

Night Watch is "is unlike anything you've ever seen!"

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Filthy's Reading
Jim Thompson- The Nothing Man

Listening to
Smog - A River Ain't Too Much to Love (again, because it's so damn great)-


Garden State