Week in Review
Unlike many alternative comics fans, I think Dan Clowes' writing has gotten worse over the years. There's no arguing that his visual art has steadily improved with each new series, but his storylines have flattened out. But with Art School Confidential, Clowes gives us a screenplay that may be his best written material since Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Terry Zwigoff directs with a different kind of humor than he's shown before.
I don't have time in this short column to give you the rundown of this pair's careers, but quickly, you should pick up the Eightball comic, written and drawn by Clowes, and Bad Santa, the most recent film by director Terry Zwigoff.
Art School Confidential is a satire of the world of expensive art schools. I never went to one of those like Clowes did, but it didn't matter. It's funny on its own, and if you have the similar experience, I'm sure it's hilarious on a bigger level. I did take creative writing classes at SF State, and was ostracized much like the main character when I stated that "language poetry" was total crap, and having my own work dismissed as "barroom poetry." So there were parallels in the film that worked for me. As per usual, Clowes' characters are either teenagers or adults who act like teenagers. But what really sets this screenplay apart is that no character has lines any better or worse than any other. Some characters who only get one scene get fantastic lines. Also, there's one character with spikey blond hair who had some great scenes with no lines, but was awesome. So many films today are filled with characters who only exist as plot devices and speak in exposition.
What really made this film great for me was this exchange in the middle of the film, between a director and his auditioning actress.
Actress: This is total shit, you know that?
Director: No, I don't know.
Actress: All this gangsta/mothafucka bullshit. Why do you want to regurgitate this Hollywood crap for the zillionth time? Don't you have anything original to say?
Director: I think I do...
Actress: Then you need to say it, cuz this is completely worthless.
This is one of those few scenes that made me back up the film (should we still say rewind when there's no tape anymore?) and watch it again. Is Zwigoff/Clowes attacking Hollywood in general, or was I correct in feeling that it was aimed at Quentin Tarantino, who commonly collages from other films? Later, the director is dressed much like Kevin Smith. Could this be a grudge going back to the days of Zwigoff's Crumb, when the other two directors were the media darlings of independent cinema?
Art School Confidential is the best sendup of the art world since Roger Corman's Bucket of Blood. If you haven't seen Art School Confidential, it's my pick of the week. If you have seen it, check out Bucket of Blood. It's one of Dick Miller's few starring roles, set in the world of Beatniks, Coffeehouses...and Murder. For a completely different take on Art School Confidential, Read Mark Taylor's review.
The last night of Litquake was the best night, as usual. The Litcrawl, which normally gets rained on, was on a night with fine weather, and Valencia Street was packed. Every reading was elbow to ass. If you showed up one minute late, you were standing outside the door looking in.
Chuck Prophet, whom you may remember from the column I wrote last week, friended me on Myspace this week. I didn't have anything nice to say about him in the article. I friended him back. No hard feelings, Chuck, but seriously, read a book, dude. If you run into me in public, I will take you to the nearest used bookstore, and I'll help you pick one out. Promise. Here's my Myspace page.
Notes from the Cliché File
Do police really interview dying people in the hospital? Are there this many witnesses who are this close to death that may be the only link to solving the murder? "Can you tell us ANYTHING else about the man who did this to you?" asks the relentless detective. "He...was...a...(cough)...cop" the man hoarsely whispers as the machines start beeping rapidly. Then the nurse comes in and says, "You two will have to leave now, he needs his rest." It's horrible. It's been done for how long? Forty years? Fifty? Stop it already.
My Diminishing Brain
While watching this many films, sometimes I feel like I'm watching one long film. It doesn't help when I pick ten films a week randomly and the same people show up in the different films. This week Terry Crews was in both Click and Everybody Hates Chris. Nick Swardson was in both Click and Art School Confidential. Rory Culkin was in both Down in the Valley and The Zodiac.
10 DVDs this week. Columbus Day slowed my mail a bit, but everything worked out. 390 DVDs in 288 days. 110 DVDs left in the next 77 days for a pace of 9.99 per week. Next week I'll have spent four weeks in the moviehole. Total Viewing Time: 27 days, 23 hours, 35 minutes