Sunday, November 25, 2007

Beefcake Bardem Channels Phantasm Horror Guy

Javier Bardem, the star of No Country for Old Men, is arguably the hottest man alive. But I think it's pretty obvious he schooled himself in how to be un-sexy by modeling his performance upon that of Angus Scrimm, who portrayed The Tall Man in Don Coscarelli's Phantasm movies. Compare these photos. Clearly Bardem copied Scrimm's hairstyle, scowl, and general air of cold, existential menace.

No Country for Old Men is a Coen Brothers adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name. It's a gritty story of believable characters in events following a drug deal and shootout. It opened last week, and the acting in it smokes. Phantasm is a cheesy 1979 horror flick which requires a lot of what Samuel Taylor Coleridge might call "willing suspension of disbelief," and the acting in it is silly. But both movies are completely absorbing because they feature an omnipotent bad guy who comes from an entirely different and more advanced plane of badness.

Bardem is a master of finding roles that uglify him. I guess he doesn't want to capitalize upon his God-given gifts and have an easy beefcake life (like Brad Pitt). That's admirable but frustrating for us ladies. He gets his head waxed and wears a fake paunch for Mondays in the Sun, potrays a homosexual in Before Night Falls, a bedridden quadriplegic in Mar Adentro. The only film I've seen him in which features him sexy is The Dancer Upstairs, though I haven't seen him in Love in the Time of Cholera yet.

I don't know much about Scrimm, but I have to admit his Tall Man character is my favorite horror movie villain. It's been a long time since I've seen the orginal Phantasm and seeing No Country has made me want to rent it again soon.

No Country is the best Coen brothers movie since Miller's Crossing, in my opinion. I think this the first time I've seen a movie that stayed so true to the book from which it was adapted.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ford Granada, Afro Sheen tan

Wells' grandmother was an alcoholic who liked to do two things when she drank: Take off all her clothes and drive around town in her Ford Granada. Wow, you might be thinking. That's pretty bad. Well, it gets worse.

Picture this: very small southern town in a dry county, circa 1980. In this place, ten-year-old Wells was on a Little League team. His team had a game one evening. The sun was still up. The stands were full of people, including Well's dad, and the game was underway. The sound of squealing tires and a collision made everybody whip round to look at the top of the hill. A Ford Granada had hit a telephone pole.

Can you imagine the horror Wells' dad felt when he saw his mother-in-law's car wrecked like that, and heard wailing start from within it? He ran up the hill to the roadway, just like everybody else in the stands. The kids playing ball were the last to notice, but pretty soon they followed suit.

By the time Wells arrived on the scene, a crowd had formed around the car. His naked grandmother was in the driver's seat screaming "David, David, hold me!" at his father.

She wasn't seriously hurt. In fact, that accident probably did more damage to Wells and his dad. What does a man do with his mother-in-law in a situation like this? How does a young boy recover from seeing his mother's mother naked? When he's one of many seeing her that way at the same time? And she's goofy drunk and asking his dad to hold her?

I used to pick on Wells in elementary school because I thought he was such a prim and proper stuffed shirt. We became friends in high school and he told me this story about himself, which I think explains a lot. When you have such a loose family member, you tend to react by becoming uptight.

When we were sixteen, Wells and I were both guests of the Yearly family during their stay at a time-share condo in Myrtle Beach. We were in school and good friends with Cath Yearly. Since Wells had his car (mid-70s VW bug) there, we hatched a plan to sneak out after her parents went to bed one night. At the last minute Cath chickened out, perhaps because her parents weren't as far away as ours were.

It was fantastic. That was my first unsupervised-riding-around with a friend experience. We went to a convenience store and bought a number of Hostess products, some candy bars, a Coke and a Yoohoo. We cruised around and yelled at people. At last I could fearlessly snack between meals and be rude and loud with impunity.

The next day we went out and bought Afro-Sheen, a Black haircare product, even though we are both white. Wells swore that Afro-Sheen slathered onto the skin would yield the best tan. This was in an era before people worried so much about skin cancer and wrinkles, and all the white people at school had a different arcane recipe for tanning lotion. Roma, another friend of ours, liked to sun in a mixture of salt, butter, and lemon juice.

Blowing sand stuck to the Afro Sheen and made for a gritty sunbathing experience, but indeed, I got a hell of a tan.

In the fall, Wells and Blake rolled up to my house in the VW bug and we went cruising. There was a rusted-out hole in the back seat floorboard. I don't remember whose idea this was, but we collected some wire clothes hangers from my closets. We took them to the mall to experiment with trying to make sparks fly out behind the car by dragging the hangers along the pavement through the floorboard hole. It sort of worked, but it mostly just made an annoying sound.

"I've got an idea," Wells said. He pulled into a parking space along the perimeter of the mall parking lot and popped the hood. (The trunk was in the front of his car). When he slammed it back down, he had what looked like a stumpy yet substantial metal pipe in his hand. It was part of the jack.

"Try this," he said.

Blake and I took turns. The jack was much harder to hold onto but it created a much more satisfying show of sparks, which more people were likely to see because the noise it made turned so many heads. It was kind of like millions of nails across millions of blackboards and it rang out throughout the acres of mall parking lot. We cruised around like that for a satisfying while, until Wells remembered that he had a small gas tank leak, and the gas tank might be too close to our sparking action.

I have to get drunk to have that much fun these days.

I skipped my high school reunion, and I really hate it because Cath told me Wells was there. I haven't seen him since my freshman year of college.

Oh well. Wells, if you're out there and you recognize yourself in here, e-mail me. Remind me of details I've forgotten. Hope you're well.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Insidious TV

Think about the people you watch on TV - in the reality shows, the crime dramas, the sitcoms that are supposed to mirror real life. What's one HUGE life activity (besides going to the bathroom) that people on TV never engage in?

You almost never seeing them watch TV. But we watch them on it. What they're doing is so worthy of our attention we'll hand over our time and attention to worship how interesting they are, which is kind of like us admitting we're a bunch of boring assholes. I think it sneakily robs us of our self-esteem.

Some people have self-control where TV is concerned, but I don't. It's like I go into the living room behind my own back and sit down with the remote. Then I wonder, "How did I get here?" Then I can't get up, because the TV fires up the passive and lazy section of my brain, and I veg out and watch stuff I hate, hating myself for doing it.

I gave my TV away in graduate school because my addiction to the O.J. Simpson trial was interfering with other aspects of my life, like studying, socializing, and riding my bike. I have no ability to resist the temptations of the machine, so I had to get it out of the house. I was TVless for about 12 years, then I moved in with Wyatt, who has one that dominates the room. It's like it's staring at you, silent but overbearing, subliminally suggesting that you turn it on.

But now Wyatt and I are thinking about quitting the TV habit - well, pretty much. Without cable, his TV can pick up one fuzzy local station, which is usually what we have with our basic cable package anyway. It goes out every few weeks, and we have to call to schedule a repair visit, and we have to be home within a nice long time frame in case the repair person comes by and needs to get in, and then that person won't show, so we schedule another repair time, and the problem is always with the box outside anyway. It's just too much damn trouble and not worth the paltry sum we pay for it.

However, it seems like ever time we get it fixed, we wind up with a deluxe channel we're not paying for. Once it was Spike, and I became a major TV junkie on episodes of Most Extreme Challenge and reruns of CSI. Another time it was VH1 Classic, and we both became addicted to watching the music videos of our youth and documentaries about groups who really don't deserve the attention. As great as that stuff is for a while, it still keeps you from making the best of your time in the here and now.

Lately I've realized that that these extra channels might not be an accident. Maybe they're giving us the good stuff on and off so we'll get addicted and upgrade to a more expensive cable package. It's insidious.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Devil's Tramping Ground

Wyatt and I had a misadventure at the Devil's Tramping Ground on Halloween night. We went to bed at 8 p.m., got up at 2 a.m., and drove down into Chatham County. There's a clearing in the woods there where legends say Satan paces and does all his plotting against humanity. I planned to burn a sacrificial fire there, of a nature I will explain later.

The DTG is in a deeply rural area. We were disappointed to see that a car was parked on the side of the road at the head of the path to it. We didn't want to face an awkward situation with those folks, so we pulled off the road near the parked car to turn around and go home. We could see faint orange light from a dying fire in the middle of the DTG clearing.

Then I realized there was movement in the back seat of the parked car. My breath caught when I saw a sweatshirt-hooded face in the window, agape, almost like the mask the killer wears in the Scream movies, except he had glasses on. I guess we woke him up and he was squinting in our headlights, trying to see. Wyatt and I laughed about it after we peeled out of there and got over being spooked.

Now I'm going to explain why I needed to have a secluded bonfire.

Up until recently, I must have harbored a subconscious belief that someone would one day write a book about me, and so I should keep all the letters anyone ever wrote me and all the journal entries I ever penned. One can amass a huge pile of paper if one starts at age 13 and continues until late 30-something. Especially if one is a girl - for some reason, girls are letter-writing fiends in their teens.

Now that I'm living with someone else and confronting serious space issues, I've decided to get rid of this burden I've hauled from address to address since I was 18 - at least all of the stuff from 7th grade through college. But I don't know how. A paper shredder would choke on it. There's a statewide burn ban at all parks and camping facilities. The only option I could come up with was to trespass onto private property, even though it meant we might crowd the Devil.

At first I was going to re-read all this paper before I ripped it out and bagged it up, but that was no fun. Most of my journal entries were about angst and malaise, a brooding, boring mess. I never wrote about the fun exciting things that happened because I told and re-told the stories worth telling so much I got sick of them.

What was most interesting were the letters from other people. When you go back and look at first-hand accounts of the past, it makes you realize the problems you and others had back in your tender youth have come back again and again in different outfits. That a person's character doesn't really change. I was looking at a 1992 letter from Lindstrom and realized, hey, he's always done that - pine for love and then break up with his perfectly good new girl because he doesn't believe she loves him for the right reasons.

I also realized that my social scene was awash with brilliant, funny writers. So in deciding that these documents were worthless, I rediscovered their value. But I'm still ready to let them go.