I’ve been “at the movies” my entire life. It’s a terminal obsession, rather and eternal obsession of which I will never be free nor do I want to be. Funny, though during our plague isolation I haven’t watched that many.
This has to do with nerves. I worry about health affects of just sitting, or reclining as I now am as I watch—again—Day of the Locust, Nathaniel West’s raw wound of a book about Hollywood, directed by John Schlesinger in 1974. You know, sitting is the new smoking. It’s cold and rainy today anyway, so no gardening or walking, neither of which is very much fun in such weather.
The film, Day of the Locust, suffers from over-the-top musical effects, bumpy camera shots, and terrible editing; it’s not really worth a second look except for a chance to see the incomparable Karen Black. The truly wonderful thing about seeing it at all is because it has been dug out of the vault by the Criterion Channel to be included in a collection called “Film Plays Itself”. It’s lucky to have been included with such gems as Sunset Boulevard, Day for Night and Hollywood Shuffle.
The Criterion Channel is a film-lover’s dream. I’m sitting here this afternoon beside two sleeping mastiffs, scrolling through volumes of cinema by female directors—Agnès Varda, Maren Ade, Ida Lupino; foreign classics—Wages of Fear, M, Rashomon; 20th Century Hollywood icons—Burt Lancaster, Sidney Poitier, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth. It’s like eating the entire half-gallon of Humboldt ice cream. That and sitting for two hours. I feel years falling away from my already prodigious life-span.
Binge-watching and cueing up one movie after another is one way people say they are coping with sheltering at home. We have permission to be self-indulgent with bowls of nachos at our sides. It keeps us safe from COVID-19 but now I understand some of the menace in our solitude. People may be suffering from anxiety but I am wracked with Puritan guilt. I’m having too much fun! NO one should have too much fun, eating up this pleasure I generally ration like portions of chocolate torte.
The Day of the Locust concludes with a hysterical, overblown, impossible riot. I haven’t read the book in years, but Schlesinger’s interpretation of Hollywood incineration is stupidly obese. Like I will be if I keep this up for another month.
Writing is not a career given to a healthy diet and adequate exercise. These activities need to be shoehorned into the schedule on a daily basis. They’re on the agenda but like all agendas, things drop off when one runs out of time.
My intent today was to write about how fantastic the Criterion Channel is, not about feeling worse about weight-gain and muscle atrophy than the novel plague. And it is a great channel, worth every penny for someone like me. Yes, I do Kanopy, Netflix and Prime, streaming services that also keep my movie and dramatic/comedy series habit well fed.
It’s raining again. I’m watching Hollywood Shuffle, Richard Townsend’s 1987 urban guerrilla spoof. Watching and re-watching movies is not a lot different for me, only I’m allowed this indulgence, this one time. Once life is back to normal, it’s back to scraping foam left behind by the carpet we pulled up.