So I was at a writer’s workshop where some dude was trying to get under my skin. Then we became best friends. Tom Brady also showed up because he was trying to get his acting career started. Why he was at a writer’s workshop was never explained.
Then, like a ghost from the past, appeared an old friend. In real life I haven’t spoken to him in nearly 15 years. His brother was actually my best friend and our friendship ended in the worst possible way: in a courtroom (we both lost btw). It’s one of my biggest regrets, and in truth, I dream about him often.
But his brother shows up, and I confide in him that I think highly of his sibling and I miss them both. In fact, I tell him that I am at this workshop because I am writing a fictionalized version of our friendship.
The Brother tells me that I can’t do that. I ask why and he disappears into a bookstore. I go looking for him and I find him with three small children. I ask him again why I can’t write the book. He tells me that his brother’s dead and that one of these children is his son.
It was a poignant moment in the dream. It reminded me of the passage of time, how we were once small children, and how we are now creating the next generation. I tell the Son of my best friend that I too have a son, how fortunate he is to have his uncle, and that his father was a good man.
The Brother disappears once again, and I help the Child find his uncle. As I walk with the Child, he tells me to not have regrets, and that he hopes to meet my son. I tell him that “that’s a very nice thing to say,” and that I hope they meet someday too.
Finally, we find his uncle standing outside. He’s with two men in suits. I tell the Brother that per his wishes, I won’t write the book. One of the men in suits spoke up and said “that’s a wise decision.”
“Are you an attorney?” I ask.
“What if I changed all the names and events? Can you sue me then?” I said.
“Well clearly he (my best friend) is everything that he’s not,” the lawyer replied. Whatever that meant.
I look over to the Brother. “Did you invite these guys here?” I ask.
“Well fuck it,” I said. “I’m writing the book.”
I then pointed at the lawyer’s shirt like he had a stain. When he looked down, I lifted my finger up to his face.
Ep 1: Dorthy has to keep Sophia from escaping the house during COVID lockdown. Blanche reveals she had a questionable fling with Jeffery Epstein. Rose believes everything she reads on the internet and begins denying the Holocaust.
I swear that I don’t plan what movies I’m gonna watch. I sit on my ass and scroll through some app on my smart TV and find random shit.
Oddly enough, the two movies I watched back to back were Werner Herzog’s Woyzeck and William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration. Both films are about military personnel dealing with insanity and philosophy….not subjects that you find in most films.
This is probably not one of Herzog’s more appreciated films and I wasn’t entirely certain what to make of it. If you watch it, it probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to you that it was shot in 18 days. For a period piece, it’s very small scale and stage-like. But knowing this might help on a second viewing.
Klaus Kinski plays the titular character Woyzeck. He’s a lowly soldier that’s essentially being gaslit by his commanding officer and a quack doctor. He’s a loving father and husband, but his wife sleeps around with another officer and that officer publicly humiliates Woyzeck. Finally, he murders his wife.
Other reviewers called this an “anti-Enlightenment” film. I think that’s apt. The two men egging on Woyzeck’s decent into madness are obsessed with science and philosophy. The officer even mocks Woyzeck, stating that he lacks “morals” due to his status in society. Woyzeck defends himself, claiming that as a man without money or education, he simply does what’s “natural”. When viewed from this perspective, the Enlightenment ideals espoused by the Officer and Doctor come across as abusive, while Woyzeck is actually the only sane and moral person in the movie. The small scale of the movie contributes to the anti-enlightenment narrative, as it isn’t flashy or self-congratulatory like we’ve come to expect with these kinds of films.
Meanwhile, The Ninth Configuration couldn’t be more different. I could tell you what it’s about, but then I’d be lying. I just know it takes place in a castle acting as a psychiatric ward for Vietnam vets, Stacy Keach is in it, and there’s a bar fight. The movie is totally disorienting. At times it’s a psychological drama, other times it’s a comedy, and at one point it becomes an 80s action flick. The tone is all over the place. Perhaps that’s by design but I’m not totally convinced. Either way, this disorder contributes to the overall mystique of the film.
It should also be noted that The Ninth Configuration apparently exists in The Exorcist expanded universe. Not that it has anything to do with those films, except that one of the characters is in the first one.
To be honest, if I watched these movies in isolation, I wouldn’t be a fan of either. But they work very well in tandem. The military aspect of both films seems trivial, but when we consider the discipline and order that the military provides, it contrasts with the chaos associated with insanity. Additionally both films expose the problem of insanity in different ways. One is very plain and straightforward. The other is a complete fucking mess. Woyzeck proposes that insanity is brought forth by the imposition of morals, logic, possession, and science. Ninth Configuration says that it’s the absence of such ideals…or more precisely, the absence of God… is it’s true driving force. Woyzeck is nihilistic. Ninth Configuration is hopeful. Yet both might agree that insanity arises out of the eternal battle between chaos and order.
So I was watching Spalding Gray’s Terrors of Pleasure when I thought “I’d probably enjoy this if I was sober.” So then I searched for something on Amazon Prime.
I came across a comedy called Faith Based, about two buddies that try to make a Christian film. It had all the ingredients to make a good film, or at least a movie that I’d enjoy. But it serves as a good reminder of how difficult it is to make a good motion picture.
It’s a story that I’d otherwise enjoy: about mediocre, yet good natured, talent trying to break into the big leagues by making a movie to help save their father’s church. Naturally, they discover the business is populated by cynical assholes.
Some of the jokes land. When the lead characters explain that “no one wants to see a movie where they don’t recognize anybody” and the camera lingers on the two actors you don’t recognize, I chuckled a bit. The film could have used a bit more of that self-awareness.
But I really am like my lead character in A Shot at the Title: I rarely watch a movie that I don’t want to completely rewrite and redirect. I think the film could have been salvaged by jettisoning all the Office inspired interviews and extending the length. The movie couldn’t have been made for very much money, but the production quality is pretty good. Maybe lingering on some of the shots would have extended its impact.
Of course, it’s not my movie, but if I were making it, as the lead characters go through their trials and tribulations, I would have played with audience by getting the movie as close to a shitty Christian film as one could possibly go before pulling the rug out from under them. That would have accentuated one of the film’s themes: that all of our hopes and dreams are actually just a scheme to make some asshole more money.
But if you’re interested, despite its subject matter, it’s not an anti-Christian or anti-religious movie. At its heart, it’s a film about family, community, and belonging. Nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times before.
“Pablo, I have everything I want. I’m happily married to a Vietnamese hooker I met in Van Nuys. I’ve got a son and a house in the hills. I’ve got more money than god thanks to This Taste Like Ass. I’m done with Hollywood. Fuck Kathleen, fuck the studios. I’m retired.”
Pablo shook his head and looked down at his beer. “You know what they say about you?” he asked. “They say you’re a one-hit wonder. That you got lucky with This Tastes Like Ass, and lightening doesn’t strike twice.”
“And they’re right!” I replied.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Pablo said. “I remember when I first read your script years ago. I said ‘this guy is going places’ and I thought it was a privilege to represent you.”
He stood up and looked at my three Oscars mounted proudly behind a glass case. “When we first met, you told me that the worst fate someone could have in this town is to have a career like Michael Cimino,” Pablo continued. Then he turned around and looked me in the eye. “Do what Cimino couldn’t do. Prove Hollywood wrong: make another great film.”
I looked away. “Like I said: I’m retired,” I replied.
Pablo stood up straight and laid the script down on the coffee table. “I’ll leave this here with you,” he said then showed himself out the door.
I picked up the script.
“Like a Fart in a Windstorm by Dallas Austin Antonio,” it read.
Later that night, my son put on a film streaming on Amazonian Prime. I don’t remember what it was called. “Big Gay Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” or something. I was too drunk to care.
But my blood began to boil during the sex scenes. The action was not much better. Finally I had enough and in a drunken rage, I slammed my foot into the TV.
“What the fuck is this shit?!” I yelled.
“Dad you’re drunk! Go to bed!” my son, Slick Rick, said.
“Fuck you asshole! My creativity built this house! I own Hollywood! Back in my day, we showed rock hard cock, full frontal nudity, and absurdly graphic violence! Not this pussy shit! No tits, no penis? Why is there a plot? We never cared about that crap! What happened to kids these days!?Hollywood just ain’t the same anymore Slick Rick, I’m tellin ya.”
“Dad, you need to get a hobby,” he replied.
I sat down next to Rick and patted him on the knee. “You’re a good son,” I said. “Now go help your mother.”
I then wrapped my bottle of Evan Williams in a paper bag and began wondering the streets Laurel Canyon.
The next morning, when I woke up in my neighbor’s backyard, I began to ponder Pablo’s words. I took out my cellphone and called him up.
“James, where the hell have you been?” he said. “Your wife’s been frantically calling me, wondering if I knew where you were!”
“Nevermind that,” I replied. “Get me a meeting with Kathleen Kennedy (not THAT Kathleen Kennedy, the other one).”
“So you read the script?” Pablo asked.
“Yes, I took your advice. We’re back in business.”
I couldn’t hit shit with my six shooter. I missed every target.
J Robert Oppenheimer’s 10 year old son, Malachi, watched and nodded his head. “Did you really know my father from the war?” he asked.
“Sure, why not?” I replied.
“Whose side did you fight for?”
“Uh, Abraham Lincoln’s?”
“963rd, 9th battalion, 4th infantry, uhmmm, at the Battle of Waterloo?”
“Did you get injured?”
“Oh yeah. All over.”
Malachi scratched his head. He knew I was full of shit. “Are you sure that you didn’t know my father from the future?” he asked.
“How do you know about that?”
“He has a time machine in the barn.”
Malachi took me into the barn and lifted a large tarp off a time weapon—a similar looking time weapon that sent Mr. Ree, Oppenheimer, and myself back to 1879.
“Does it work?” I asked Malachi.
“Of course. My father built it. He can make anything work.”
Oppenheimer stood at the entryway of the barn. “That’s enough Malachi,” he said. “You run along now.”
Malachi shook his head. “Yes father,” he said and went back to tending to his chores.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this, Bob?” I asked Oppenheimer.
“It doesn’t work.”
“Malachi says it does.”
Oppenheimer paced back and forth, rubbing his hand across his face. “Look,” he said, “we can go over this all day. Sure, I can send you to the future, the past, whatever. But it’s almost impossible to get you back to YOUR timeline. I’m sorry James. But we need to look at the present. You’re here. Mr. Ree is here. I need help. This community needs your help. Please help me. I can’t fight Dickleburg on my own.”
I thought through his words. “You love Malachi,” I said. “But did you know that I have a child back in that timeline? If there is a chance, however slim, to get back there, I have to take it. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were me?”
Oppenheimer nodded. “If I’m going to help you,” he said, “then we have to secure these goldmines. There’s a property in gold that makes these time weapons work. To secure the mines, we have to defeat Dickleburg.”
I pulled out my Korth 357.
“I’m no good with those six shooters,” I replied. “But I can shoot a fly’s dick off with this 357. Can you help me make more bullets?”