Secret Pop

Jan 17, 2005

Random House

I don't like to watch award shows. But I often watch them anyway. I caught the last bit of the Golden Globes tonight. Just in time to see Diane Keaton wearing an outfit that really is only a parody of her look at this point, to see Jamie Foxx tear up at the podium and to hope that he was sincere -- a cynicism planted in my brain by Halle Berry and her ridiculousness, and to see Robin Williams receive his "special" award.

Okay. For the record. I can't stand Robin Williams. I'm not saying he was never funny or that he didn't make a proper name for himself or that he doesn't have a sprawling body of work. I just find him annoying and unsurprising and never ever ever never funny. Now.

I like Popeye. I'll go on record with that. But I like it because of its production design and because it's the first PG movie I ever went to see without my parents and I broke a filling on an ancient apple Now and Later I got at the concession stand while my friend Sharon's mom (who had brought us to the theater) was watching Raging Bull. I also like the music. And Shelley Duvall. And Burgess Meredith. And the idea that someone might be considered marriageable on account of being large.

But that's not enough for a special award. Even the movies of his that I've liked haven't rung true because of the fact that EVERY character eventually breaks down and does a few minutes of "material," and that's not what film acting is about. It happens in Dead Poets' Society, it happens in (fucking) Patch Adams, it even happens in Jack, and he's playing a kid in that. I think the only film I can think of where he doesn't do that (unless I just missed it) is Awakenings, which is still a pretty good flick. But again. No statue there.

His more recent dramatic roles have not had the funny man character in them, but that gives you cause to notice that -- when he's not pretending to be a sassy Black woman from Mississippi or a flaming queer or some other overused caricature -- he's really very, very creepy.

But this isn't about me or what I think of his work. I really just mean to comment on the fact that I think these award shows seem to be hard-pressed to find someone worthy to recognize. And that his acceptance speech was endemically insincere and performed and, frankly, impolite in its self-importance. Even his attempts to be magnanimous came across as braggart. And when they played a clip from Mork and Mindy, I really had to ask myself if that show was ever funny. Except for the parts with Jonathan Winters in them. And even that's a maybe.

Before the award was issued, a friend reminded me of the lawsuit that is Mr. Williams' reason for being so frequently cited on And then that's all I thought about while he gave his acceptance speech, which was little more than a pandering stand-up act to an entirely industry audience. Thank god he was followed by Orlando Bloom, who cleanses the palate so beautifully. Pretty pretty. I could look at him and listen to him talk for what would amount to a very long time.

I was IM'ing a friend about all this James Bond that I've been watching. I basically said that watching all this James Bond has changed my mind about the more recent issuances. They ALL sucked. They were ALL corny. So I no longer hold it against Pierce Brosnan that the gadgetry is outlandish, the puns are unbearable, and the martinis are still ordered shaken as if any bartended in the world STIRS them. EVER. And Die Another Day had a lot of much more gritty military type action in it. Real warfare-y looking. Far less murdering people with sharks. Or piranha. I think Halle Berry is a putz, but it wasn't a bad film I now conclude. I just take note of how brash and unreasonable and boob-like Americans tend to look in these films. I guess it must mean that that's the way we like to see ourselves. Because we're the ones these movies are being sold to, aren't we? Are we missing something here?

A short list of things I've learned from the various James Bond marathons I've watched in the past month or so would be as follows:

Thunderball and Never Say Never Again (the only non-Albert Broccoli production) have the same plot and the same character names. They even have the same plot summary on But I've never heard Never Say Never Again referred to as a remake. I just remember going to see it in the theater with my mom and being uncomfortable and embarrassed when Barbara Carrera was water-skiing in a one-piece bathing suit with a thong back. How did I ever manage to cease being such a prude?

James Bond had a wife and she died. George Lazenby married Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and then she gets shot by Blofeld at the very end of the movie. And it's the only time you ever see James Bond really seem to lose it over a chick. In a way, it's one of the best moments in the series. He turns into such a shadow of a person after that. Maybe because of that. Huh? Huh? How do you like that little twist there? Anyway, later, in The Spy Who Loved Me (I think -- or was it Octopussy? They all begin to run together.), Roger Moore prickles when he is reminded of it. When a female agent recites his dossier to him and says he was once married. It AFFECTS him. Again. Rare human moment for James.

And lastly, you nearly never see Dr. No anymore. And yet I really like it. In truth, the book is one of my favorites. And the movie was a smash disappointment for me, because of how much of the riveting action from the book was just not done at all. I guess I assumed it was because of the fact that cinema was still fairly primitive, but it sure would have been nice to see that book made into a proper flick. Maybe someday it will be remade again using all that modern cinematic technology has to offer. Although, by the time that happens, James Bond will probably be played by Seth Green or something. Surely, by then it will be his turn.

Okay, well, it's officially Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so I suppose I should tell my one MLK anecdote, which goes like this:

When I was in high school in Japan, each year we would have a Black History Month speech contest, sponsored by some rotary-type club that was for the Black people. (I don't mean to sound ignorant or insensitive; I just don't remember what it was called.) Anyway, I used to enter this speech contest every year, and every year I won. I was sort of the speech and essay contest phenom in high school. I actually made more money winning speech and essay contests than I made in all of my summer jobs. So each year I would enter the Black History Month speech contest, and I would write a speech about Black history, and I would give the speech, and I would win. And then I would be invited to the dinner of this club with all the other winners, and we would sit at the honored table and have dinner before being invited to give our speeches to the club membership. We would sit there on the dais -- me and two or three Black kids. And I would get the biggest prize every year. Even I thought that was sort of weird and unfair. But that's the way it happened.

Gosh golly, it was gorgeous out today. I'm slightly furious with myself for not spending more time out in it. For not taking one of my straw mats over to LACMA and bivouacking out on the lawn with a book and a bottle of something cool to drink. I should have done that. Maybe I will do that tomorrow. If it's as sunny and warm as it was today, I surely should.

And it's been two nights in a row that I've taken Audrey out for one of our obscene late-night walks (yesterday it was at five a.m.) and noticed that the stars were out in force and that I could see Betelgeus, clear as a punch in the face. There are many nights when I can't see the stars at all on my block. Los Angeles with its street lighting and billboards and that persistent haze that makes even the darkness feel like just-after-dusk. If there's even a wisp of haze in the air, the night is cottony black and starless. Bleak and coldly unfamiliar. But these past few nights, as happens at this time of the year and whenever the rains come, the stars are like brilliant pinpricks in a big velvet sheet with a studio-quality lamp behind them. I've lived in Hollywood for long enough now that even the wonders of nature conjure analogies of cinema fakery.

This is the fourth January for me here in Los Angeles. And I have said many times that January and February in Los Angeles make for one of my favorite times of year. When it's cold and crisp but sunny. And the skies are clear. Not the muddy haze of the summertime. Not the humid swelter of an unwelcome Indian summer. Januaries and Februaries have been typically melancholy for me. For some reason. They have always been gloriously beautiful. But sad. If it's not one thing, it's everything. I am glad for a break in the rain. I want to sit on grass that is unmuddied. I look forward to picnicky afternoons. And ham sandwiches. I'm always ready with something excellent to read. And the straw mats are always in the trunk of my car. With a blanket I don't mind getting dirty. I've had too few daytime outings recently. I notice it in my picture-taking. There's nothing so bad about taking lots of pictures at night. But I need a little sunshine and cirrhus clouds in my eyes to mix it up.

Later this week, I'm heading for San Diego to ref a minor league runthrough and play a few shows at the comedy theater. I'm thinking it's going to be awesome. I've been wanting to ref for ages. And I get to have a whistle and a stopwatch and everything. Bomb ass. So I'll be in town (or out of town, depending on your zip code) for a few days, and I intend to make a scene. I left a bottle of Bushmill's at John Meeks' apartment as a "housewarming gift." But I hold my liquor a lot better than he does. It's a fine line between housewarming gift and safekeeping. Bottoms up.

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