Kathryn Lively, Writer

53 Days Since Last Accident

Dreams in the Dark and Fiends on Screen

moviechair

 

I bought Patton Oswalt’s Silver Screen Fiend on the strength of this excerpt in Vulture,  a tragically wonderful story of a script reading thwarted by the threat of legal action. In this chapter, Patton talks of how he came to stage live readings of The Day the Clown Cried after getting a copy of the script, and the ensuing fallout.

Before I ramble down too many tangents, here’s the tl;dr: The Day the Clown Cried is the story of a circus clown imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and given the task of Pied Pipering children into the gas chambers. At the end of the film, Helmut leads them inside and follows, closing the door behind them. This was to have been Jerry Lewis’s first dramatic performance on screen, perhaps in his mind a legitimate Oscar grab. Hell of a way to debut serious, but after all the work he put into the project there were rights issues and problems and lawsuits and the reels are probably disintegrating in Jerry’s shoe closet.

While reading, I wavered between awe and jealousy and anger – the latter mainly because I’d never had the opportunity to witness this live reading. One could argue Patton performed an important service in the name of odd cinema, bringing people as close as possible to one of the most famous films never released (and never likely to be seen). For now, we must console ourselves with fantasy, the dream of discovering a dank tunnel in an office building that propels us back in time into Harry Shearer’s head the night he got to see a rough cut of the film.

More than that, I’ve become obsessed with discovering how Patton got the script in the first place. He doesn’t elaborate in the book, and my guess is that part of the story lacks the excitement of his confrontation with a frothing lawyer clutching a cease and desist. I’d always assumed, since the film remains under lock and key, so would the script all these years ago (nowadays, though, you’ll find it via Google search).

In my mind, I’d like to believe Patton acquired the script similar to how Giulio swiped Sultan Mahmud’s bejewled dagger in Topkapi – lowered from an opening in the ceiling and searching Lewis’s office while Bob Odenkirk and Dave Foley remained on the roof holding the ropes. I watch them fleeing for their lives afterward, the script clamped to Patton’s chest with one arm, as they dodge a multitude of angry Dobermans while Lewis, shaking a free fist in the air while the other crushes a filled hi-ball glass, wails in the distance.

I became aware of the film’s existence in the 90s, after the success of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, which presumably renewed interest in comedic action set in bleak places. A now-defunct website I followed, called Coming Attractions, recorded the progress of several in-development and development-hell films, with Clown added sometime after Beautiful won the Foreign Film Oscar. I checked the site daily, and the idea that somebody with clout might concede to a release excited me. During this time I delved deep into odd and so-bad-it’s-good cinema, buoyed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the discovery of Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension. In my search for more information I found references to the Shearer interview, which doesn’t reveal much about the cut he viewed other than “It was like going down to Tijuana and seeing a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz.”

A quote like that could rust Crow T. Robot’s jaw from all the salivating. How could I not want to see such a movie? I have so many dreams in the dark theater where the projector doesn’t glow, a cinematic bucket list that I will never fulfill simply because the movies do not exist:

Alejandro Jodorowsky has a bricks-thick book detailing his vision of Dune that I really really want to read.

A trailer on Variety teases us about the Superman movie that might have been, with Nicolas Cage in the blue tights.

The tweens swoon over Orlando Bloom, but I mourn the Beatle-cast Lord of the Rings that never happened.

Throughout college I received the official Rocky Horror fan club newsletter, wherein each issue we were told that Ritz O’Brien had written a sequel and we would finally see it. Any day now.

Yeah.

What differentiates Clown from the others, though, is that it does exist. Nobody will allow us to see it. That grows the obsession.

I can relate to Patton’s movie-watching behavior as recounted in his short book (quite short – so you know the last twenty pages comprise a list of every film Patton saw in the time these stories happen). Somewhere in my house I have a scrapbook in which I kept every stub from every movie I saw from high school graduation to college. I’d even noted the date of viewing and the people who accompanied me. One day I’ll tell the stories of greater film obsession:

The trip from the Westside of Jacksonville, Florida to the Neptune Beach 4 (36 miles) to see The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover because that was the closest theater showing it. To this day, I’m sure I’m the only person in my graduating high school class who saw it first run on the big screen.

Calling in sick at my job at the UGA Library in Athens, GA so we could go to the Tara Cinemas 4 in Atlanta to see the uncut, four-hour version of Branagh’s Hamlet.

Practically living at the theater in the student union at the University of Georgia while my husband got his doctorate, for the opportunity of seeing an endless stream of cult films and foreign releases: The Red Shoes, Shaft, Before Stonewall. Hearing Julius Epstein talk before a screening of Casablanca. Meeting the man whose childhood in a concentration camp inspired the scene in Schindler’s List of a boy diving into a latrine to escape death.

Actually, I suppose I told you everything. Maybe I haven’t. I still have dreams to fulfill.

 

Claiming What’s Mine

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Tuesday Twaddle: Fifty Shades of Ed Grimley

So Cosmopolitan is sponsoring this contest on Wattpad where if you post a Fifty Shades of Grey fan fiction short, you’re entered to win prizes or whatever. I used to read Cosmo in college, and actually weeded through the multitude of perfumed full-page ads to get to the articles, not all of which were about pleasing a man in bed. We had a pleasant relationship until I opened one issue to a photospread titled “Go from Boring Brunette to Beautiful Blonde.”

I said, “Fuck you, Helen Gurley Brown,” threw that Chanel-pungent rag against the wall, and let my subscription lapse. Haven’t read it since.

The notion of sanctioned FSoG fanfic amuses me, because we keep hearing about how E.L. James is soooooo protective of her brand and doesn’t allow it. Meanwhile, with this damned movie on the horizon, media and handlers have gone to great pains to ignore the fact that FSoG was borne of Twilight fan fiction. I suppose if you ignore a point in history enough people will believe it never happened. It’s like when Loretta Young took a nine-month sabbatical from film and returned from some “foreign land” with a baby girl who looked like Clark Gable, saying, “Look, I adopted an orphan.”

Uh-huh.

So, what the hell. I submitted an entry to this blasted contest. I did so on the suggestion of author Jenny Trout, but I’ll admit I didn’t follow everything to the letter. Jenny’s involved in spreading the message about misinformation in these books – how they disguise abuse as romance. If you read her entry, you’ll see what she’s talking about. Other people following the lead have done similar, but I confess I viewed this contest from an absurdist angle. The entire history of this book’s success has baffled me, and in “Entry” I intended to bring absurdity to the project and waste somebody’s time at Cosmopolitan. It’s enough women are made from the cradle to feel bad about their looks and bodies, and I didn’t need to open their magazine and be told I’m boring because I have dark hair, and only if I change color will the men line up to bang me.

Up yours, Cosmo.

If you visit Wattpad to read my ridiculous story, please take a moment to see my other offering, Geek Meets Girl. The complete story is now available and will remain on Wattpad indefinitely. At last check I had over 700 views of my fan fiction and under 40 of Geek. I’d like to see a better balance in the numbers.

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When I set out to complete the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, I chose the list of books in advance. I should know better, since life has other plans for now. So does the library.

This is the original list set up before the challenge.

This is the revised list as I go along.

Though I’ve switched up my reading selections, I intend to go through the original list eventually. To satisfy the audiobook requirement, I picked up the audio version of Martin Short’s I Must Say (ARe / AMZ / BN / KOBO) on the recommendation of another person taking the challenge. “He does all the voices,” and it’s all I needed to convince me to one-click.

I might be one of the few people in the world to admit that the Dick Ebersol season of Saturday Night Live, Short’s only season as a regular, was my gateway to the show. I was vaguely familiar with Ed Grimley by way of an occasional SCTV episode running either on syndication or on MTV, but on a black and white portable TV on low volume – headphones in the jack – I stifled laughter at the full spectrum of bizarre characters. Grimley, Jackie Rogers Jr., Irving Cohen, Billy Crystal’s Fernando and masochistic, high-voiced Willie to Chris Guest’s Frank. I figured eventually I’d read Short’s book, but I’m glad I opted instead for the audio, which is unabridged and enhanced by the parade of voices woven throughout – not just his creations but dead-on impersonations of Larry David, Nick Nolte, etc. I don’t listen to audiobooks because I am visual reader and prefer to have the words in front of me. I don’t think I Must Say would lose anything if read, but if you have a choice get the audio.

If we can get Martin to read FSoG as Ed, I’ll buy that, too.

Tuesday Twaddle: Almost (Didn’t) Cut My Hair

People are funny about hair. Me, not so much these days. The other day I saw Kelly Osburne on the red carpet rocking a lavender flat top and it suited her. Thirty years ago I might have made a face, but I think now…it’s hair and it’ll grow back. If she doesn’t want it to grow back, whatever. It’s her hair.

I should know, I’ve cut mine drastically at various points over the decades and people have always had something to say. Some of it good, yes, but I’ve been looking for an opportunity to post this GIF.

I’ve never been a girly girl, and I never styled my hair or did anything funky to it beyond raking in a handful of bronzing mousse one time in the tenth grade. As a child my mother always insisted on keeping it cut super short, boy short, presumably because it made life easier for her. I considered the mere act of affixing comb teeth to hair a Herculean chore, so guess who had to pick up the slack and stab at all the hairy tangles?

Hurt like hell, and you would have thought it taught me to take care of my hair. Uh uh.

For much of my adulthood, I’ve kept my hair long. Long. Not Crystal Gayle long, as it’s seemed to grow no more than two and a half feet at the longest. There’s a reason for this, actually two. In my youth, when I had short hair, people often mistook me for a boy. It’s understandable when you’re seven and flat-chested and you don’t wear pink and your face holds no discernible characteristics that would scream SnowflakeDisneyPrincessLittlePony, but when you get to high school…

…especially a high school in a part of the South where short hair on a girl is viewed more as a statement on non-Biblically-approved sexuality than comfort and preference, people assume things. It didn’t matter that I sported this haircut in a time when girly feminine Janine Turner and Linda Evangelista could win universal praise for their “bold” and “daring” looks. I walked out on 103rd Street with short hair to catcalls like HEY BOY and FUCKIN DYKE!

All that over hair. You begin to think Samson had it right when he refused to cut his, but I’m sure in my neighborhood he’d have heard at least one drive-by call him a fuckin’ fairy.

The second reason: nobody EVER cut my hair to my liking. I’d bring in magazines, postcards, glossy eight-by-tens with circles and arrows and yada to Fantastic SuperHair Cuttery and say “Give me this.” I’d show them Pat Benatar and Nina Blackwood, and they’d give me this:

I call this cut the Liberty Bell, because your hair is basically a bell-shaped helmet. It’s too short to pull back into a ponytail and conceal the bell-ness, so the best you can do with it is wear hats (I brought berets to the Westside). From high school through college, every single time I went to a salon with everything but blueprints I came out with the g-d Liberty Bell. It’s like every stylist in town had a file on me with a note attached reading SHE MUST ALWAYS LOOK LIKE ITALIAN VELMA.

If you’ve met me in person in the last ten years or so, you’ve hopefully seen a better version of this:

This is from 2013. Last week my hair was longer – it would have draped well below the RUSH. It was also knotting badly in the back and it’s graying up top. Par for the course, but long hair is a pain in the ass to maintain. When you say you plan to cut your hair, everybody goes, “Oh noes, why you wanna cut it? It’s so beautiful.” It’s my belief the people most affected by your decision to cut hair have never worn it at two feet long or more. It’s heavy. It takes forever to wash. It gets caught in purse straps and car doors. When you bend over to drink from a water fountain it all falls forward into the bowl.

So why have I kept it this length as long as I have?

Vanity. Yes, you can call me out on it. I don’t wear makeup, so I used my long hair to compensate for my perceived lack of femininity. I suppose, too, the occasional thought of a haircut triggers a FUCKIN’ DYKE memory that I’d rather not relive. I should know better, though, to care what people think of me now. I’m not bothered if people mistake me for something other than a cis-gendered heterosexual female, but if you have a problem with my clothing or hair don’t make it mine.

Last week, I decided I no longer wanted the burden. The daughter and I went to our local stylist where she got her bangs trimmed and two inches off the length, and I surrendered eighteen inches:

Thank Ged it’s not the Liberty Bell, but maybe I’ve stumbled on the perfect look for my middle age:

And that’s it. I’m not going back to long hair. When I’m seventy I’ll have gone full Judi Dench. Can’t wait.

Tuesday Twaddle: Open Doors, Open Windows

Chapter Two of Geek Meets Girl is now at Wattpad for your reading pleasure. I had said earlier I would upload new chapters weekly, but I’m thinking now I could upload two a week until I’m done. I recently finished some editing work so I have some extra time to complete the story. I know, too, how some people feel about cliffhangers, and while the story as a whole is not a cliffhanger there’s no need to keep anybody in suspense.

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I had planned to use this section to talk about how the Amazon.com TV series Transparent winning two Golden Globes could mean so much to creators in the future. You’ve heard the jokes about the “good old days.” Thirty-five years ago our television choices consisted of three major networks, PBS, and one independent channel if you lived in a large enough market. In Jacksonville, Florida it was WAWS-TV 30, which aired Three Stooges and Shirley Temple films on the weekends, probably because they were cheap. After school there was a kid’s show called TV Powww! which showed cartoons and had a live-action interactive game. Four kids were chosen to play a Space Invaders type game over the phone – winner got fifty bucks or somesuch. We’d send in dozens of postcards and never got picked, but this isn’t why I called you here.

I haven’t watched Transparent so I won’t comment on quality or lack thereof. I didn’t see the Globes, but an author friend noted how Jeffrey Tambor thanked Amazon in his speech. I agree her, that’s significant. You love or you hate Amazon, and we can all question the validity of the Globes (see: Pia Zadora) as a legitimate barometer of movie/TV greatness, but this win means something. In the last few decades viewing options have expanded for us – endless free and premium channels and an explosion in original programming. Lately we find much of the content is reality-based, non-scripted. Not comforting news for character actors and screenwriters, but if shows produced exclusively for Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon can win awards it opens a window for creators.You have a show idea that’s too edgy for a network, pitch it to one of these providers.

Out of ideas? I own all the film/TV rights to my books. Hit me up, seriously.

(So you know, I’d written all this before I leaned that Amazon signed – blech – Woody Allen to do a show. Viewers will vote with their Prime accounts, I suppose. In the meantime, those TV rights are up for option.)

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I had a good first week with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Many of these books weren’t long, so I don’t anticipate blowing through the full list in one month. I’ve saved Tom Jones and A Clash of Kings for later. Those should take a while. Anyway, here’s where I am so far:

  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (AMZ /BN) – graphic novel
  • A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott (ARE / AMZ / BN / KOBO) – author over 65
  • Unfaded Glory by Sara Arden (ARe / AMZ / BN /KOBO) – romance novel
  • That Was Then, This is Now by SE Hinton (ARE / AMZ / BN / KOBO) – author under 25
  • Delirium: Poems by Drew Hoffman (AMZ / BN) – book of poetry
  • Wonder by RJ Palacio (ARE / AMZ / BN / KOBO) – young adult novel
  • The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey (AMZ / BN / KOBO) – self-improvement book
I have Children of Dune on deck. Good times.
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