Friday Fives – more about the Tap

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Your favorite book?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  You know that already, though.  Let’s mix it up, then, and say ‘Lamb: the gospel of christ according to his best friend Biff’.  I really, really like this new author.  Well… new to me.

Your favorite movie?

Big Fish.  Re-reading over this, before I hit ‘publish’, maybe I should have said ‘Spinal Tap’.  There is a 2 page diatribe down there on how great the film is, how great the actors are, and how incredible it is that they wrote and scored and improvised the film.  But… you know that movie.  You may not know ‘Big Fish’.  It is perfect storytelling.  The cinematography is stunning.  Can you imagine if Tim Burton tried to make something joyful?  Just for once?  Well, with Big Fish, he did.  Don’t worry, it still has his wife.  (Shakes fist in the air).  Don’t just watch the movie, just go buy it.  Get it in blu-ray, too.  You really want the full cinematic experience, if you can.  Don’t have blu ray yet?  Buy it… just for this movie.

Your favorite adaptation of a book to a movie?

 Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.  So good it is freaky!  Depp goes FULL Hunter Thompson in this role.  Not just window dressing, either.  HST was in full cooperation with the film… well… as cooperative as someone like HST could be.  Depp lived with Hunter for months before the filming.  They became fast and close friends.  So much so that when Hunter died, Depp paid for the whole ‘launching his ashes into space from a Gonzo fist cannon that was several stories high’.  Yeah, that isn’t a typo or urban legend.  It happened, and all thanks to Johnny.  They had a kinship all along as they are both from Kentucky.

 Your least favorite adaptation ever of anything to a movie?

Being a book guy, I am always supposed to say ‘the book was better’.  However, I have almost universally enjoyed adaptations of my favorite books into movies.  I like to see the creativity of filmmakers trying to capture such an ephemeral thing.  For example, the last ‘Alice in Wonderland’ movie with Johnny Depp.  Everyone shit on it.  There are good reasons to shit on it – it WAY over featured Johnny Depp, and of course since it was Burton the lead role went to his wife.  He does that EVERY FUCKING MOVIE.  Though my praise for Depp’s acting in ‘Fear & Loathing’ is effusive… he isn’t too good in this movie.  Too hammy, just chewing up scenery being all proud of himself for looking clever.  We can blame Burton for that, though.

But… I loved it (Fear & Loathing, that is).  Here is why – everyone has told that story in various forms of film.  It’s a classic.  The Burton one, though, is a totally different telling.  It takes a story never told… which is what happens if Alice goes back to that world as an adult.  What happens?  Who is there?  Did anything, or anyone, change?  Did it ever really happen?  I think that is cool and creative.  I haven’t seen the second one, but I will.  I waited on purpose.  Since it was reviewed to badly, I knew I could wait and just buy a bluray copy for $10.  I like those (as opposed to just watching it on Amazon) because you get all the featurettes and behind the scenes stuff.

 Your first ever novel/comic book/movie character crush?

  • Editors note: Long diatribe warning

The guys in Spinal Tap.  I mean, it is just some British actors playing dumb, right?  Not remotely!  The actors are all American, and improvised the entire movie, AND wrote AND performed those songs.  It went so well that the fake band accidentally became a real band.   They released albums and recorded new music and even toured.  If you look at all these starlets today, you see Spinal Tap was more real than any of them.  Think Rhianna writes her own songs?  Think she can play and instrument?  Think she actually sings in concert?  Spinal Tap wins on every level.

In fact, those guys went on to do more movies together, and the guys wrote an entirely new music act for ‘a Mighty Wind’, which is actually a great folk album.  Got to see them live, and they played both Spinal Tap songs and a Mighty Wind songs.  That movie (another Chris Guest project) was also entirely improvised.

Why do it?  They are crazy rich.  The bass player is 40% of the voices on the Simpsons.  He probably has 100 million in the bank, and he is schlepping around from city to city playing these silly and perfect songs from 30 years ago.

My favorite thing about these guys when they did press for Spinal Tap (not known as a classic when it was released, but a stupid and pointless low budget art film)… they only did it in character.  You never got to interview Chris Guest or Michael McKean or Harry Shearer.  You could only talk to Derek Smalls, Nigel Tufnel, and David St Hubbins.  Now… we know Chris Guest as a genius filmmaker, and Harry Shearer as most of the Simpsons.  Back then, in 1980?  A bunch of improve yahoos.  Michael McKean was only known for playing Lenny in Laverne & Shirley.

Can you imagine how they got that film financed?  “I need 5 million bucks to make a movie with these unproven and unknown actors.”  Who will compose the score?  Who is your screenwriter?  Who is going to actually record the songs they pretend to sing?  You know, like we did with the Monkeys.

Well… about that.  No script.  No musicians.  No songwriters.  No famous actors.  We are just going to throw it to some improve guys. There is no screenplay, they are just going to make up the dialogue as we film.  They will write the songs themselves, and play all the instruments in the recordings.  It’s about a fake British heavy metal band that is washed up.”

Has that ever been done before then?  Roy Scheider is quite famous for improving the line ‘you’re gonna need a bigger boat’ in Jaws.  Everyone looks to that moment to prove his genius.  One sentence.  BFD.  If it were Chris Guest’s crew, they would have made up all the dialogue, built the boat themselves… and fought a real fucking shark.

 I mean, I know it is a masterpiece now… but at the time I bet they got laughed out of Hollywood.  Now, hopefully, you recognize the great McKean from Better Call Saul.  Jesus, is there anything these guys can’t do?  Listen to ‘listen to the flower people’ and tell me that song is not as good or better than anything of that era.  Also, full disclosure… I finally got my band to learn ‘Big Bottom’.  We played it at our last gig.

*bonus news, the guy behind these films, Chris Guest (Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, For your Approval, a Mighty Wind…) has a new film out soon.  It’s called ‘Mascots’, and will be on Netflix soon.  Like everything Larry David does, you can assume it will be all improvised, and wonderfully stupid.

Friday Fives – bookin’ it!

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Can you remember the first book you read?

5 were missing.  It is a kids book about school kids who get kidnapped.  It is a pretty fucked up story, and involves death.  Good job, America, handing this to children.  No wonder why I am so messed up!  It was a very good and compelling story.  The reason I remember it is that it popped into my mind recently, so I bought it and read it as an adult.  It held up pretty well.  Also, I knocked it out in a couple of hours.  This means I have it, somewhere, at home.  Come borrow it. I’ll help you with the big words.

What was the last book (electronic or otherwise) you read?

Currently reading ‘Ruthless’.  It’s a brand new book about Scientology leader David Miscavige.  He is known to be a terrible person.  Everyone who has left Scientology says he is a bully,  a psycho, a misogynist, and a master manipulator.  I say misogynist because he hasn’t let his wife, Shelly, leave the house or be seen in public for so long that concerned friends reported her missing.  TEN YEARS.

I was very excited to read this book.  Bonus, it is written by someone with intimate and legit knowledge of both.  Author is a lifelong Scientologist, and actually raves about Scientology and its positive effects on his life… before the monster took over and ran everything.  Oh, and it’s his dad!  Yeah, David Miscavige’s own father penned it.  I am about halfway through so far.  Very compelling read so far.

Do you read for enjoyment, work or both?

Mostly enjoyment, but I do enjoy reading leadership books.  Well, I did until I read this book.  Hop over to here and go down about four books.  I reviewed it there.

What is your favorite genre of book to read?

Autobiographies, first and foremost.  Under that tier, musicians… obviously.  I am always wanting to know the behind the scenes of life.  The minutia, the decision making, the luck and the failures.  What made them great?  Do they know?  The older I get, the more I am into history.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it when I was very young. It seemed unreal, like fiction.

I think there is a better opportunity for kids like to learn history now.  Growing up, there was just books.  So, the stories were incredibly boring.  Now, with film and special effects… stories can be told in a way that will engage the young mind.  Heck, look at Hamilton.  No one knew more than the story about him dying in a duel until recently, and rap music and dance brought that story to life.  That is bad ass!

If you could visit your younger self, what book would you tell yourself to steer clear of?

Just about everything recommended or popular.  I HATED reading when I was a kid.  Everything they gave us was SO boring and sterile and devoid of life and real life experiences.  It wasn’t until high school when a buddy turned me on to Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson that I learned books can be awesome.  These guys wrote about sex and drugs and violence and boredom too.  But… it was honest, and not coached in bullshit metaphors.

I don’t think I would hand Tropic of Cancer or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to a ten year old me.  BUT… I would have at least gotten Alice in Wonderland in my hands by then.  To show me literature and reading and history can be awesome… all depending on the storyteller.

 

Friday Fives – he is STILL prattling on about Alice in Wonderland… again

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Yesterday was World Book Day.  What was the first book that had an impact on your life? 

It would be something from Kermit.  In high school, Kermit turned me on to a LOT.  Books, authors, music, and art.  Probably the most impactful was Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’.  I am not gonna spoil it and tell you what it’s about.  BUT… I will tell you it rocked my world.  Everything up to then, in reading, was boring as shit.  I HATED reading, it was punishment.  Why?  Because the schools only turn you on to boring as shit.  Henry Miller was all about sex and drugs and general Bukowskian debauchery.  Oh, and Kermit turned me on to Bukowski, too.  Go watch Barfly with Mickey Rourke NOW if you don’t know about Charles Bukowski.

He (Kermit) showed me reading was cool, and opened up a whole world of counter culture heroes.  I ended up getting a degree in literature… pretty much because Henry Miller showed me there is joy in madness and occasional sin.

 Do you read “hard copy” books and mags or have your turned to digital ebooks and magazines? 

Hardy copy actual books.  It strains my eyes to look at computer screens to read.  Plus, like you, I am a cubicle monkey who stares at computers 9 to 10 hours a day.  Plus, I am often on my phone.  I do not need more screen time.

What is your favorite genre to read? 

Historical biographies and rock and roll autobiographies

Do you consider reading a pastime? Why or why not?

Uh… sure.  I guess.  Weirdly worded question.  I think there is assuredly a very timeless aspect to reading a book.  I love the idea that I have books that are so old that the first person who read it was using candle light… pre-electricity.  Not just that they are reading the same story… but that this very book in my hand has lived a thousand lives.

Do you have a favorite book character who has stayed with you after the book was finished?

Alice, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  She is my hero.  She takes all this insanity around her, and is only curious and polite in return.  At no time does she yell “omg, seriously.  What the fucking fuck is that?”  This is how most of us might handle seeing a caterpillar sitting on a ginormous mushroom smoking a hookah.  That, to me, is a big bag of WTF.

you know I talk about this book a LOT.  Let’s be specific, then, shall we?

I think my favorite scene is (likely) from the second book.  They are all sitting around about to eat.  Alice’s hosts rather politely introduce her to all the food.  Normally, I guess, this would be simply the courteous thing to do.  Problem, though; “everyone knows it is not polite to eat food once you have been introduced to it.”  So, being ever so polite (and ever so hungry)… she never does eat.