Sunday, September 23, 2007

Obscure Film Review

Netflix allows me to see movies I have never even heard of. Sometimes this is a good thing. While others times I hadn't heard of the film for a good reason: it wasn't very good. Today's review of a movie I had never heard of before last week is of "The King of Comedy," the least well-known of the Martin Scorsese-Robert De Niro collaborations.

The film came out in 1983 - I was 2 - and is about Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) an aspiring comedian with an unhealthy fixation on late-night host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). "King" borrows a bit from Psycho (Pupkin has recreated a set like Langford's in his mother's basement, though it appears his mother is still alive, not a skeleton). In fact, it could be alleged that Seinfeld ripped this film off in the "Merv Griffin Show" episode, but we'll have to save that for another day. Along with Psycho, the film follows the plotlines of many other "perverse fascination/assassination" films where a celebrity is abducted or murdered. After many attempts to have Langford listen to his audition tape, De Niro, who is only somewhat convincing as a down-on-his-luck geek, ends up abducting Lewis and holding him hostage with his release depending on De Niro being able to do his act on that night's show. De Niro does his predictably laughless act (I was born in Clifton, NJ - before that was a federal offense!) and then is arrested. In the interim, a crazy Sandra Bernhard acts crazily crazy in front of her love object Lewis. For this role, it was perfect casting.

De Niro is sent to prison, but when he gets out, he has a bestselling book, lots of comedy work and his face is known worldwide. And while every director whose film doesn't break the box office takes the time in the making-of DVD featurette to say the movie was "ahead of its time" - in this case, when Scorsese says it (and he does, let there be no doubt), it's actually true. Seeing this movie now makes a lot more sense to me than I think it would have to someone my age in 1983. The focus on celebrity is ubiquitous (or at least it seems like it is when you get three channels and they are always showing ET, Access Hollywood or the Emmys).

While movie watchers in 1983 may have been simply disturbed or bored by Rupert Pupkin (Scorsese said Entertainment Weekly called the movie the biggest flop of the year at the time), I think today's celebrity-soaked sycophants would be pulling for him. Pupkin gets his 900 seconds of notoriety (avoid cliches like the plague...whoops!), and I can't help but feel that lots of people would trade places with him, including the stint in prison.

I don't know what this means for me, you, our society, etc. Maybe we aren't better off than we were in 1983, that simpler time of almost a quarter century ago. But I know one thing: DVDs and Netflix didn't exist then, so this conversation probably wouldn't be happening. So although I have to put up with the Britney guy, Mike Patrick, Mike Gundy and sneezing pandas, I don't mind. I'll get by.

Quick obscure film side note: I was reading a book that mentioned a 1978 film called "The Big Fix" starring Richard Dreyfuss. I wish it were on DVD because I've heard it's good. But alas, it is not. I was wondering if some of my...ahem...older readers had possibly seen this film or were aware of it at the time. The book I was reading that mentioned the film excerpted a great line in which Dreyfuss, playing Private Investigator Moses Wine is asked why his arm is broken. His reply is priceless:

"You know, a couple of cops hassling a black kid."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Heavy Thunderstorm Edition

We are in the midst of quite a storm tonight in Tucson. The windows have been rattling with the booms of thunder and the lightning has been quite impressive. I feel as though I'm being transported back to my youth in Nebraska when loud thunderstorms often kept me awake at night. Back then, I thought that every storm meant there would be a tornado, and thus, I think I bothered my parents quite a bit. I always wanted to sleep downstairs, even though they knew there was really no danger. They were nice enough to let me do that (or even crawl in with them when I was really small). Living with a poodle that likes nothing better than to sleep right on top of you every night has taught me what a large sacrifice my parents were willing to make. I still very much appreciate it, though I'm glad I don't have those same fears anymore.

I have new and different fears, but they seem much more easy to deal with than storms I had no control over. Thinking back to one's childhood can make that past life seem very simple or very complicated. It can do the same for one's adult life as well. Life as a 6-year-old may have seemed like a piece of cake, but I had a lot about which to be irrationally afraid. These days I have a lot to be irrationally afraid about as well - the difference is that now I know it is irrational. That is a piece of wisdom which I must regularly remind myself. I guess it is nothing more than the trope that "it's all small stuff."

But I know for certain that bolts of lightning that lit up my walls adorned with sports stars and loud thunderclaps that had me covering my ears did not feel like small stuff. That's when you need people you can turn to. In that room where I would bother my parents on stormy nights, there was a message on the wall that said something about giving two things to your children: "the first is roots, the last wings." I can recall reading that as a child and not really understanding it - I think for a while I thought when I grew up I'd literally be able to fly. But when I think back on it now with a better understanding of what it means, I have to thank my parents for doing just that.

I realize that this has come off as equal parts Prairie Home Companion and back-to-school special, but I can't really help it. I once had a discussion with my dad about whether Garrison Keillor was actually funny or simply had a better memory than every Midwesterner. My dad said he was funny, while I felt that he could just remember the names of long-forgotten toys and grocery items so well that listeners simply remembered the humor of their own childhood.

But like many things, I find now that I was wrong. When I think about home, I can remember every single thing that was hung on the walls and every single piled box in the garage. I don't know what it is like now, but I can tell you exactly how it was then. And if Garrison Keillor could tell me a story that reminded me about being afraid of tornadoes, drinking cranberry juice, being trapped with friends in our house without electricity and without parents, or watching the 49ers in the Super Bowl, I'd laugh, too.

If I wasn't crying.

(Sorry about that. I don't really know where all that came from, but I felt like it was somewhat real, so I'm leaving it. I'll probably regret it, but it's OK. I'll have my regularly scheduled nonsense soon. Here is a link, via The Basketball Jones, that I am currently enjoying.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sunday Night is Blogging Night in America

I've been told that keeping a journal during law school is a good idea. I haven't been doing it - but then again, I haven't been following much of the advice I've been given. To follow more than half of it is impossible because most of it is contradictory. However, I was hoping that every Sunday night I could blog about law school. Maybe I won't be quite as open as I would be if no one could read it, but since the readership of this blog isn't exactly in the hundreds, I'll probably be fine.

So far my routine every Sunday night has been to
1. shave for the only time I will all week
2. burn my entire library of law school-related documents (assignments, notes, powerpoints, etc.) to a CD to prepare for either my laptop freezing, being broken or being stolen and
3. worry obsessively about the coming week.
I have no plans to change this procedure, although I threw in a step 2.5 tonight with a haircut, thanks to Kat's fine work with a pair of scissors.

I have my usual fear, but I have fallen into a bit of a routine when it comes to school. In part, this causes me apprehension (the imminence of which is an element for the civil tort of assault!) because I don't want it to get so comfortable that I forget that I'm not actually learning everything I should. But on the other hand (as we're always taught to consider in law school), it doesn't help the learning process to be on edge every single day.
But I don't think the anxiety will probably ever go away for me. In each class there is only one graded assignment - the exam at the end. So you can never know how you are doing until you really find out how you did. But it is the same situation for everybody, so there is really no reason to complain. I think everything will be fine, but confidence isn't my strong suit.

However, I'll close with two good things in an attempt to lighten the mood.
1. I was chosen as one of two Student Bar Association representatives for my section of the class. This was a good thing.
2. I found some law students with whom to play basketball every Friday. This is also a good thing.

In closing, I don't think this post was helpful to anyone probably. If you think I should do the law school kvetching in a private notebook and save the blog for talking about Ed Hochuli's prodigious guns or other sports minutiae feel free to let me know. Or if you like the pallor that this post has thrown over the entire enterprise feel free to let me know that, too.
OK, I hope to see you in a week.