Monday, September 12, 2005

September 12, 2005
I miss John Brinkman and Foothills Photo! For the past decade, all I had to do was go up to the Bashas’ shopping center, drop off my film, and turn around and go out the door without saying a word. Oh, maybe John or one of his assistants would yell out, “Is five today okay?” and I’d nod that it was and keep on going. I’d come back in a couple hours and pick everything up and John would say, “I printed out a couple extra versions of your cloud photos, some dark and some lighter. I was trying to guess what you wanted there.”

But John got tired of it all, or maybe he couldn’t compete with the digital-do-it-yourself world, I don’t know. But whatever happened, fine store is empty. I just got back from Walgreen’s where some turd-lady in a smock, looked right at me and proceeded to talk to another customer, went over and started cleaning and wiping off another machine. Two minutes go by and I’m fuming and swearing to myself. The other customer gets embarrassed and says, “You can wait on him,” and the smock-turd goes over to another machine and hits some buttons, grunts, finally comes over to me and says, “Speak to me.” “Yes, I’d like to pull your fat head out of your ass so you can see I’m taking my business somewhere else!”

But, of course, I said nothing of the sort. I was polite, because there is no place else up here to take film. The results will be mediocre with zero extra care on the printing.

Last Wednesday night, Mark Boardman and I watched and listened to film historian Richard Schickel’s audio commentary on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. We’re doing DVD extras for our next issue and so, like most homework assignments, it was about half pain, half pleasure. For one thing, Mark and I were both curious to see and hear how Schickel would handle talking over a movie that is three hours long. It’s funny, in a movie theatre, you’d want to kill someone yakking right over the top of the dialogue, but there we were, listening to Richard’s running commentary for the length of time it takes to drive from Wickiup to Vegas. I had a theory that Richard would run out of things to say and start repeating himself, so I grabbed a pen and paper to tabulate the repetition, but I must admit, although he talked less and less as the movie went on, he did himself quite proud. Still I tabulated the words and phrases he tended to repeat, like, “Leone was drunk on American movies,” and “in the American version,” which he said in some form or another at least six times. I also noted that “big,wide shot,” got more than a few mentions, as did “exaggerated violence.” Schickel also gets to show off his vocab with words like, “prefiguration”, “preternaturally alert” (describing Western hero’s who awake from a deep sleep at the slightest noise, in this case Clint offing a bad guy while taking a nap with Lee Van Cleef) and “surrealism,” which term I tagged at five times. Hats off to Schickel, though, for having enough wind to expound on a three-hour-Western, and I hate to admit it but I actually felt enlightened from the process. And, thanks to the exercise, I slept like a baby!

Having watched Once Upon A Time in the West recently, it was interesting to see the progression Sergio Leone took. His first Western, A Fistful of Dollars, was done for $200,000. He hired Clint Eastwood only because James Coburn was too expensive (Coburn’s fee was $25,000, Clint did it for $15,000). By the time Leone gets to Once Upon A Time in the West he has a big time budget with boo-koo American dollars backing him so he can hire the actor he really wanted from the beginning, Henry Fonda, and Leone ruins it with an overcooked, overwrought, over-produced hamfisted pile of doo-doo (although the beginning is wonderful). What does this prove? It’s simple:

"The surest way to kill an artist is to give him everything he wants."
—Henry Miller

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