For those of you wondering where I've been for
the past three weeks, the answer is not much of anywhere. Not
that many of you should care. Hell, even I don't get too worked
up when I disappear for long stretches of time. I remember I
tried being a hobo once, but I was afraid to sneak into railyards
and scared shitless to jump onto moving trains. So, I mostly
hung out at this Denny's near the Union Pacific yard, drank
coffee, got stomach cramps and told strangers I was a hobo.
I wore out my welcome at the coffee shop after
two weeks and was told that I would either have to leave or
order some food. I tried haggling them down to 50 cents worth
of Mike and Ike's from the crank machine in the entry. No dice.
So, I finally went home, sort of dreading all the crap that
piles up after a fortnight away. But other than a postcard from
a veterinary clinic that mistakenly thought I was a cat and
needed a teeth-cleaning, nothing waited for me, and that night
I was back to watching Andy Griffith and getting loaded
with my dog like I'd never been gone.
The point is, I didn't miss much and neither
did you. One week I was just fucking lazy. The next week I saw
Factory Girl (piece of unholy shit) and got two-thirds
of the way through a review when I got a stomach flu and spent
24 hours streaming shit faster than the web streams porn, then
spent 48 hours trying to rehydrate myself by only drinking booze
with more water than alcohol in it. Like NyQuil. That shit can
quench a mean thirst.
Last weekend I was in Las Vegas with some friends.
I bet there's some great stories about that, man, but only the
security cameras and the guard whose badge I found in my pocket
know for sure. All I know is I came home with my wallet bulging
with cash and this vague sense memory that I won enough at some
point betting on the Sigma Derby mechanical ponies at the Frontier
to pay for a hotel room. I may have seen a movie, but I don't
As I often tell Mrs. Filthy, regardless of where
I've been, or what the crusty yellow stuff on my pants is, I'm
here now and that's what's important so stop complaining.
As I watched director David Fincher's Zodiac,
which is a long fucking movie, I kept thinking of Brian dePalma's
The Black Dahlia. Both are true-crime stories about sensational
killings where the murderers were never caught. Both follow
the cops on the case. The difference is that The Black Dahlia
sucked an old nun's ass and Zodiac is pretty fucking
dePalma's fart on film made up a load of psychobabble
horseshit and melodrama and pretended to solve the unsolved
Black Dahlia murder, I guess because he thinks Hollywood grassfuckers
are better detectives than cops. Fincher's flick is faithful
to the actual events and doesn't pretend to find the Zodiac
Killer, who was responsible for at least five deaths in the
Bay Area in the late 60s and early 70s. The movie pays respect
to the people who tried to and shows how leads, logic and suspicions
can double back on themselves, point you in the wrong direction
and get you fucked by red tape and miscommunication.
Jake Gylenhall plays Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist
at the San Francisco Chronicle. Maybe because he's bored, he
gets all wrapped up in the case of the Zodiac Killer, who sends
letters to the papers after each murder and demands they be
published. Essentially, the guy's on an ego trip. Gylenhall
first befriends Paul Avery, played by Robert Downey. Jr., a
drunken reporter that might as well be out of one of those fast-tough-talking
comedies of the thirties. Except that he isn't a funny drunk;
he's a bad-liver drunk. By befriending Downey, Jr. Gylenhall
has access to more information and he becomes obsessed with
the case and trying to solve the Killer's cyphers and clues.
Mark Ruffalo plays Dave Toschi, a homicide detective
assigned to the case. While Gylenhall plays amateur sleuth,
Ruffalo lives out the American dream: he plays one for money.
He is dogged, but his efforts are hampered by bureacracy and
the limitations of communications 37 years ago. Shit we take
for granted now, like scanners, fax machines and cell phones
just didn't exist. I'm sure that made going to the movies better,
but I can see what a boon instantaneous communications would
be for people who actually have important shit to share. Anyway,
Ruffalo is as obsessed with cracking the case as Gylenhall.
What follows feels like an organic process,
close to the way leads in a case are followed. While Zodiac
is purportedly about Gylenhall, it spends long stretches away
from him when that's where the story leads. And that's fine.
It tracks the case and all the creepy details, like a suspect
who lives in a shithole trailer with squirrels, and the gruesome
shooting and stabbing murders. The movie follows the clues,
and sometimes that means wrong directions and red herrings.
I guess that's frustrating to moviegoers who want shit all tied
up neatly. But this movie isn't about neat bows, it's about
the mess and frustration of trying to chase someone through
hoops and bureaucracy. Still, despite the setbacks, Gylenhall
and Ruffalo keep pushing forward, like trying to move a brick
wall with their heads.
What we learn--or maybe we don't--is that a
serial killer doesn't really have to be that clever for everyone
to think he is. He doesn't have to be original or even that
clever to stay one step ahead of the cops. This guy may have
named himself after a crappy watch ad in Playboy, and
may have slipped up on a few occasions. But his footsteps got
covered by red tape.
Eventually, Ruffalo is forced off the case and
he tries in vain to forget the case. But Gylenhall loses his
job and keeps doggedly pursuing the Zodiac Killer, even after
the cops stop. He loses his wife and kids and part of his mind,
and he ultimately gains only the slight satisfaction of believing
he knows who did it. The killer is never caught, though.
I'm no fan of Fincher, or at least I haven't
been. The earlier movies I saw by him were mostly pretentious
horseshit with the appearance of a lot more substance than actual
content. They were for people who liked to think shit was deep
without having to think deeply. This is completely different.
There is little flash, and nearly no pretense (although using
a vintage Paramount logo at the beginning had me worrying).
It's just solid fucking moviemaking. It's also ballsy because
Fincher is more interested in showing us how the case is pursued,
and its effect on lives, than on some big showy Hollywood ending.
The movie doesn't lie the way typical lazy Hollywood bullshit
like The Black Dahlia did.
Sure it's nearly three hours long, but I didn't
mind. My bladder wasn't even pissed. Four Fingers for
Zodiac, a fine, fine movie.