Tuesday, February 09, 2010
DEPRESSINGNESS? Things have reached a fairly apocalyptic pitch here in South Jersey. There's been flu, a blizzard, a lengthy power outage that may have cost me all first drafts and image files of my entire contribution to InstaPunk (plus my antique versions of PhotoShop and AnimationShop), and another blizzard on the way tonight. Perhaps that's why I was moved by the act of courage represented by BigHollywood's John Nolte and his piece today revealing his "Uncool" favorites. He lists a bunch of movies he loves and watches that conventional wisdom would laugh at him for loving and watching.
It amounts to a kind of defiant confession. Well, confession goes with apocalypse, does it not? And by serendicity, Mrs. CP and I had also had a confessional moment just a couple of days ago, when in response to a TV promo for The Bodyguard we both admitted -- me more reluctantly than she -- that we secretly loved Whitney Houston's recording of "I Will Always Love You."
A saccharine, sentimental, monotonal mess of a song written and first performed by Dolly Parton, who also happens to be one of my other Guilty Pleasures, a sweet and beguiling woman who cheerfully compares her own singing to the vocalizations of a nanny goat. She's right but I admire her anyway. She's an incorporated powerhouse with her own theme park, but she's still sweet. That buys her a pass on her ridiculous hair and chest balloons in my book. And I will "always" listen to the Whitney Houston version of Dolly's song when it plays on the radio or in the movie because there is something pure and wistful and stirring about it. It's an anthem of women's capacity for love that if you've ever been on the receiving end of it can bring you to your knees.
So. Without image-editing capability and staring into the teeth of another two feet of snow, I'm determined to confess my own bunch of Guilty Pleasures. They're not all critically scorned things, though most are. They're songs and movies and TV shows and books and authors and performers I've either jeered at in the past or never admitted liking because it was, yes, not cool to like them. In other words, they're things I like but find embarrassing to admit I like. Some of them are very embarrassing, fuel for future commenter cheap shots for, well, ever. You're all welcome to share your own Guilty Pleasures, as well as heap scorn upon me for mine.
My only defense here is that I'm not going to organize the entries. You'll have to do some work of your own to synthesize and summarize the weaknesses of my poorest taste in various media. Other than that, have at it and do your worst.
As a writer, I think first of my guiltiest pleasure of all, two works by Paul Gallico, the most gushingly sentimental writer in all my reading who, for me at least, gets away with it by the brazen nakedness of his technique. Tops on the list is a story called "Thicker than Water," which when I still owned the book it appeared in (can't find it for you) I couldn't stop rereading. An awful story. Execrable in every critical regard, except that I just loved reading it. Got me every time. More like a song than a story. Now I find that it's included in a book of the 36 greatest boxing stories ever written. I'll never buy that book. I don't want to find out just how diseased my powers of discrimination are when the subject is boxing.
To prove how bad it is I can tell you the gist in about a hundred words. In World War II, Joey, the younger brother of a champion boxer who died in the war is prizefighting to keep his family afloat, but despite great technique, he consistently loses because he's yellow. The first time he gets hit a real shot, he folds and gets knocked out. Because of this he finds it harder and harder to get fights until he gets a chance to be a stepping stone (designated victim) in the surging career of a slugger who's working his way to a title shot. Oh. The thing that we, and Joey, never knew before the climactic round of the fight? Joey once got a blood transfusion from his now departed brother.
You see? I cringe just telling you about it. Maybe Paul Gallico could write. That's all I can hope for. People who remember such things still remember his novella, The Snow Goose. Which I can also reread at a moment's notice. I'm pretty sure it's a character defect of mine.
Yeah. The yodeller.
I could make excuses. He essentially began the country music industry by recording his songs at Victor records in Camden, NJ. He also had a compelling life story, a railroad man who became a singing star only to die young of tuberculosis, about which he sang honestly and humorously. Thing is, I actually like his music. Something simple and vital and affecting about it. Sorry.
Independence Day, the Fourth of July
I could write a whole essay about everything that's wrong with this movie. The fighter pilot president who refuses to use nukes even against alien invaders. The mysterious compatibility between Apple computers and alien technology. The increasingly annoying Yiddish affect of Judd Hirsch in his post-Taxi roles. And the inclusion of every possible clichee of both soap opera and Irwin Allen disaster movies in a single monstrously absurd blockbuster. The first time I saw it was in the company of wits who would make the Mystery Science Theater crowd look lame, and we laughed ourselves sick late into the night. It was a veritable tsunami of scorn.
Only problem -- I like watching this movie. It's fun. The clichees are well played. The climax and the denouement are satisfying. It's Hollywood doing what Hollywood does best when it's not posturing but entertaining.
I've tired people out making a case for Eminem. Along the way I've dissed most hip hop recording artists. And I particularly dislike Kanye West for his loony-toon narcissism and his politics. But I like this cut.
I've written a bunch about this guy over the years. I've called him the end of fiction, the ego-bloated pied piper who led even his fiercest critics off the cliff of transforming imagination into personal reportage. I've ridiculed his concepts of "the one true sentence" and the "one thing" that lies at the heart of any true experience.
What I keep leaving out is that despite the fact that he was a poseur and a prick, he was also a spectacularly gifted writer. "The Sun Also Rises," amputated of its initial anti-semitic chapters, is still one of the ten best novels of the twentieth century.
And, worse for me personally, this isn't simply an intellectual assessment. The Truth: my pick for a book to read on an airplane, when you're above the clouds in the clear blue miles above the earth, is Hemingway. Anything Hemingway. That's his domain. That's where it all clicks. Clean and clear and blue. The meaning streams.
I just wish he'd kept his mouth shut about what writing "is." Like Picasso learned to keep quiet about what painting "is." I love them both for what they did. Hate them both for what they said.
Love it. No apologies. Iconic. Fun, funny, and sexy. If you can survive parody, you're the real thing. Everybody starts dancing when this starts playing. That's the real joke behind the parodies. It's so good it can't be reduced even by ridicule.
Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet
So he cut 30 or 40 percent of the play out of his script. And junked it all up with syrupy music. I was an English major. These things matter. But I'm still in love with Olivia Hussey in this movie. All these years later. Embarrassingly.
I wouldn't tell this to most English majors, but I'm thinking Shakespeare would have regarded this as the best of a very long line of pretentious movies made of his plays. That's just me, though. Most other Shakespeare critics wouldn't put much credence in a movie's power to give an adolescent a hard-on. Much better to wax lyrical about Olivier's Hamlet. (Yawn.)
This is one I'd never have admitted without Mrs. CP, who is always unabashed about what she likes and doesn't. She makes total strangers watch "M" and "Alexander Nevsky" because it's good for them, and she's equally forthright about wanting, when she discovered I had a zillion inherited LPs and a turntable, to hear this guy. She likes him. So do I. Only I have to peel away all my dismissive knowledge first -- his virtual illiteracy, his mountainous hair, his lack of genre identity (country? pop? Vegas pimp?) Sometimes you just have to let go and respond. He's dramatic, sincere, unique, lyrical, and operatic without knowing what opera even is. I'm persuadedconverted. Shut up.
uuuh. Have to break off here. Deals to be made about plowing in anticipation of future plowing. So let me know if you like this post and want more humiliating confessions. Of which there are many to come.
UPDATE. Another checks in. A critically hated film someone likes. I dimly remember it. But it's someone's Guilty Pleasure. Admire his passion:
Maybe it's better than I thought. Read his comment. I'm impressed. [You, too, can be enshrined here, for your courage and vision.]