The Room’s auteur Tommy Wiseau is an American. That’s the first thing he’d probably want you to know about him. And he’s right, he is American, and like most Americans and their ancestors, Tommy is an immigrant, but he doesn’t like to talk about that. He’d prefer that fans of his magical film experience believe he’s from Louisiana, where he spent some time with his aunt and uncle before settling down in San Francisco in the 1970s, but his broken English and tangled accent are embarrassingly obvious tells. It’s been tracked down that Tommy was probably born in Poland and he has often said he spent a good part of his younger days in France, which accounts for his mixed accent. Most people would think nothing of mentioning their native country even if they want to keep some details private. For Tommy Wiseau, all details are private and the truth is something that you construct for yourself. Tommy isn’t interested in the wonderful mixing of cultures in the United States, instead he’s locked on with a vice-grip to an important American trope: The Self-Made Man. This dude is vampiric absurdist Don Draper who everyone knows is really Dick Whitman.
For Ushio Shinohara, one of the subjects of the 2013 documentary Cutie and The Boxer, art is more than a passion: it is a dire fight. Figuratively, yes. But also literally. He makes his signature pieces by strapping sponges to boxing gloves and aggressively attacking the canvas. The finished product is captivating and reflects the violence of its making, but watching Ushio making it is a visceral performance art in itself. The tiny self up against the vast and awful and sparkling world, fighting for a piece of it. Wanting to snatch the marrow out of it, wanting to eviscerate the disappointments of it. Wanting to be rewarded for the fight. Punching at the demon at his heels, making it stronger all the while. Ushio kind of likes his demons. We all do to an extent.
Several years ago a writing professor told me that Sylvia Plath was an awful person. It altered something within me, something that had been tearing at me since adolescence when I first read The Bell Jar. I did not rebel against his assertion. I accepted his flippant rejection of her because it resembled something healthy. It gave me an alternative. It told me that I could reject her if I wanted, and maybe I should. He spoke with the assuredness of someone who had been personally wronged by a person. Maybe he had been. Maybe Sylvia had done something terrible to him. Maybe she had done something terrible to me.
I just discovered the documentary 65_RedRoses through the wonder of Netflix, though for a while my health anxiety made me put it off. “WATCH THIS YOU NEUROTIC DUMMY!” Netflix screamed at me. “NO!” I protested. “I don’t want to be reminded of my own inevitable demise!” I live with a constant dull panic about death that I try not to process or confront, so it’s always buzzing in the back of my mind and does nothing but cause me to fear and avoid things.
I’m a quiet person, and have been since the beginning of me. But baby, it’s a loud world.
David Sutherland’s three part documentary Country Boys is one of my favorites. It lasts six hours, but I wish it went on for hundreds. The series follows two interesting young men growing up in Appalachian Kentucky: Cody Perkins and Chris Johnson. While Cody has a tragic back-story and is extremely open-minded, thoughtful, and articulate, Chris is the one who truly haunts me. I hope and I wish that Sutherland films an update about these two since it’s about a decade since he first embedded himself in their lives. Spoilers ahead.
The second I caught a glimpse of John William Keedy’s It’s Hardly Noticable series, my heart skipped. This is what anxiety looks like. Anxiety, as a mental disorder, is about our futile attempts to control the uncontrollable. It’s a human reaction to chaos. This fence looks like notebooks I kept in adolescence (thank god I’m over my counting shit.) The clocks piece one is not my favorite visually, but it resonates with me. We’re all helpless against time. “At its… Read more »
I don’t like to think about death very much, though often I do because of my hypochondria. Reading Lou Reed’s wife’s comments in Rolling Stone about the legendary rocker’s death made me think about death in a comforting way.
Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of Orson Welle’s infamous play of War of the Worlds, which was adapted for radio as a simulated newscast. Immediately after the broadcast, which was up against a much more popular variety show “Chase and Sanborn Hour,” newspaper headlines spoke of a panic, but actual evidence of a broad panic is small according to a University of Maine professor. One reporter for the New York Times remembers riding in the streets of Manhattan to the… Read more »
I love Woody Allen films, especially Annie Hall and Manhattan, and I very much enjoyed Blue Jasmine, mostly because of Cate Blanchet’s arresting performance (Woman Under the Influence anyone?,) but I was recently confronted with the very believable allegations that he sexually molested one of his daughters when she was only seven years old. It shatters the soul to think of such a thing. It sticks a knife in my heart. I don’t think I can watch a Woody Allen film… Read more »