Monday, November 15, 2004

Let The Blossoming Of Milhouse Begin

[Disclaimer: I don't really know the rules when it comes to italicizing or putting titles in quotes, and if those rules are the same with movies as they are with TV shows, etc., etc. I started italicizing, then sort of tired of it toward the end. So just don't worry about it.]

The Simpsons is still good, in my opinion.

But moving on...

One September night in 1996, my friend Gumby and I sat on his couch, like we had done almost every night that summer, staying up late, watching reruns of Small Wonder and Mr. Belvedere until about 4 AM. I think Three's Company started at 4:30, but that was usually the time he'd wuss out and send me home. Our friend Chan, the third member of the late-night-rerun-watching triumverate, had left for college, while Gumby and I, for different reasons, would stay in Connecticut that winter. I'll never forget Gumby & I calling Chan in Florida during Game Two of the World Series, with me mocking the yankee fan Chan, singing that stupid Braves war chant at him, as the Braves whipped up on the yanks. God, I hated that chant, but when they played the yanks, I was all for it. Of course, it all went downhill after that, what with eventual yankee Mark Wohlers deciding to throw a fat slider to Jim Leyritz instead of his 105 mile-per-hour fastball.

So anyway, one night Gumby and I saw a piece on TV about quirky movies that had come out that year, and were now coming to video. One such movie was Bottle Rocket. We were intrigued by it, and we rushed out to rent the video.

I loved that wacky little piece of cinema, and within a week I had the movie's logo tattooed on my ass. Actually, I didn't do that at all. But I bought the tape at Kim's Video in NYC, and tried to spread the glory that is Bottle Rocket to everyone I knew, receiving mostly blank stares in return.

When I heard that the director, Wes Anderson, was releasing another film a few years later, I was psyched, naturally. But when I saw the preview for it (Rushmore), I knew that this guy was headed for the big time. I'd always wondered how the hell he'd gotten James Caan to appear in his first film, but he topped that by getting Bill Murray to co-star in his second.

By the time The Royal Tennenbaums was released, the usual actors from Wes's movies (like his childhood friends, the brothers Luke and Owen Wilson), were still working with him, despite having had become actual movie stars doing other movies. And stars were lining up to work for him. How else could he have landed Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, and Gwyneth Paltrow to play in Tennenbaums?

And the amazing thing is, each movie seemed to top the last, which seemed like an impossible task, going into each subsequent film.

So now Anderson has a new one coming out: The Life Aquatic. I've been wondering what mega-star he'd be getting for his next film. And in a way, he's outdone himself. Bud friggin' Cort. That's right, Harold from Harold & Maude, will be in this movie. How does he do it? Well, that's a silly question, considering that Bud's probably begging for work. I guess what I mean is, How did he even think of getting Harold? I mean Bud. And besides Cort, he's got basically all the stars from Tennenbaums back as well. I don't know, but if this movie tops the last, well, I won't be surprised, I guess. Needless to say, but of course I'll say it anyway, I'm very excited to see this movie. It opens Xmas day, but I'm sure I'll see it on the tenth when it opens in NYC.

So am I bragging about having been a Wes Anderson fan from way back? Definitely. I mean I'm way more proud of him for having made these wonderful films than I am of myself for discovering him. And I'm jealous; I wish I'd made these movies. Oh well. But it'll always make me feel good to know I saw Bottle Rocket before the other ones. I guess I'm a human being, after all.

There is one person I know who said they'd seen BR in the theater, but I (conveniently) forgot who that was. If they're reading this, they're gonna kick me in the Bottle Rocket tattoo. (Brian, see how I brought that back around? Comedy GOLD! Also--were you the one who saw it in the theater?) If any of you readers saw it in the theater, let me know, so I can forget who you are, too. You'll need to send me your stub for proof, though.

I think these movies have really influenced the culture. It's like moviemakers started thinking again. (And even sitcom writers. Have you seen Arrested Development? Right, the one with all the commercials during the playoffs. I liked it the first time when it was called Soap, but it's still pretty good, and kind of different from the piles and piles of crap on TV.) The movie I Heart Huckabees, to me, was awesome, but I don't think it gets made if it wasn't for Wes Anderson. And not just because the star of Rushmore, Jason Schwartzman, was the star in it. Maybe I'm wrong.

This brings me back to The Simpsons. I was watching it tonight (right before Arrested Development), thinking of writing what I'm writing now, and who comes on the screen in cartoon form, but James Caan. So I took that as a sign to write this. And to write about Elliot Smith.

I bought the new Elliot Smith cd during the World Series, but refused to listen to it at the time, because I knew it would be depressing, and I was trying to stay in happy mode. (The guy was so depressed, he recently killed himself by stabbing himself in the heart, and this is an album of his final recordings.) But I finally listened to it. It's good. You may know him from his song in Royal Tennenbaums. It's the one playing in the scene where the guy shaves his face and head before slitting his wrists in the bathroom. (The movie came out before Smith killed himself.) And one time on a Fenway trip, I was at Newbury Comics before the game, and I saw an Elliot Smith record. I noticed it was put out by a label called "Suicide Squeeze." I thought about what a cool phrase that was when taken out of baseball context. I guess I was too busy thinking about that, when I should've been thinking, Hey, the really depressed singer's album is on Suicide Squeeze. But that's the first thing I thought of when I heard the news of his suicide. (At the time I was proofreading a book--that's my job, I wasn't doing it for fun--about Nirvana, written by a guy named Smith. My last name is Smith, Elliot is a Smith. And of couse, Kurt Cobain committed suicide as well, so I guess I thought of a lot of things at that moment.) Which reminds me, I also wanted to say how along with Seinfeld and Bottle Rocket, Nirvana was my favorite thing to come out of nowhere in the 90's to change the face of the artform which they were involved in. And now box sets of both Nirvana and Seinfeld are coming out this month, and then the new Wes Anderson movie follows. So I think I've spelled out all the coincidences of my life for you. If you followed any of that, give yourself a pat on the back or something.

Also, on The Simpsons tonight, Marge was in a bake-off. She made a hot dog-shaped dessert. After a mishap, the judge referred to it as "Marge's Blackened Dessert Dogs." Blackened Dessert Dogs. Hmmm. What does that make me think of? Blackened Di-zz-irt Dogs. Dirt Dogs. Black-ston-ed Dirt Dogs. Bostondirtdogs. So I thought how that could be my new nickname for Blackened D'z'irt Dogs. And it fits, the way he blackens the good name of Red Sox fans everywhere. I'm still thinking about how this ID card thing went down: The team came up with an idea. The idea was leaked to the press, somehow, maybe purposely. That press is the newspaper that owns BDD, who includes a quote from him, which says how Sox fans don't like the idea, even though Sox fans don't know about the idea until the article comes out. Then BDD puts this all as a headline on his site, linking to that article. The next day, BDD claims the team is revamping the idea, due to negative feedback from fans. It still stinks to me. Something's going on here and I may or may not figure it out, damnit!


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Location: Rhode Island, United States