When I was little and old movies weren't mainly restricted to one channel, I used to spend afternoons watching Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan movies. NatWhen I was little and old movies weren't mainly restricted to one channel, I used to spend afternoons watching Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan movies. Naturally, Cheeta's "autobiography" seemed fun and nostalgic, when I spotted it in the library.
Now, Cheeta ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records due to his age, and Tony Gentry, the co-owner of the original Cheeta (real name Jiggs), claimed that one of his other chimpanzees appeared in all Tarzan movies and lied about its age. In October 2008, Me Cheeta was published, and two months later an article revealed the truth: Cheeta was actually a composite of several chimpanzees, who took turns to play the character.
Considering this, Me Cheeta shouldn't be read as fact, but merely as an entertaining game of fiction mixed with some facts. Because it really is entertaining, that much is true, and I enjoyed spending a few days with the old Hollywood crowd, no matter how many of the stories of stars are actually false.
Cheeta's observations about humans and his surroundings from a chimpanzee's point of view are in turn sarcastic (animals are needed for show business, so they're "rescued" from the cruel life of the jungle and "rehabilitated") or enthusiastic (for Cheeta, it's great to be in New York as a youngster, because it's suitable for climbing). On the other hand, some of the human habits just seem weird to him, like the white "homeopathic medicine" that Gilbert Roland and Constance Bennett enjoy snorting.
To Cheeta, animals in the jungle and humans have both similarities and differences. The mating in parties is wild, and the studio bosses act like kings of the jungle. It could be said that attention is purposefully drawn to animals being treated like property (there have been many instances in movie history where animals have died during production), which could be one of the points in writing the book in the first place.
Despite the fictional aspect, Me Cheeta was still a somewhat enjoyable and a light start for the year, and I did get a bit teary-eyed when Weissmuller and Cheeta met once more, although that was probably utter rubbish as well. This might feel like a big sham to some, but what I can say? I'm partial when it comes to animals....more
Sometimes certain people appear on and off all the way through your childhood and teenage years, but you don't realize it until later. I recently rewaSometimes certain people appear on and off all the way through your childhood and teenage years, but you don't realize it until later. I recently rewatched Gremlins (1984), one of my favorite films as a kid, and Corey Feldman was in it. When I was fifteen, we watched Stand by Me (1986) in school and I remember being impressed by the scene where Feldman is screaming about his father, but his name didn't register then. At some point I started getting interested in vampires and watched The Lost Boys (1987). It was ok, but I liked the actors more than I did the film. When I heard about the legendary The Goonies (1985) that many remember fondly, I watched that as well. Again, Feldman was in it, but I don't remember if he was good, I just remember the film was underwhelming.
The next time I "met" Feldman again was many years later, when I stumbled into a Vice article about his birthday party where women were dressed in their underwear and, according to the author, the mood was grim and the guests were few. At the time, it felt depressing to see yet another former child star going downhill, and somehow I unfairly juxtaposed Feldman with Charlie Sheen. There was, however, a patronizing tone in the article that made me uncomfortable. Like it was a pat on the head of someone who didn't ask for pity. At the end, there was a note saying Feldman wasn't too happy about the article, because it wasn't what was promised to him.
Fast forward to year 2016, when I found out Feldman had written a positively received memoir three years previously. I've avoided modern celebrity memoirs, because there are very few contemporary celebrities who interest me in terms of taking the time to read a whole book about their lives (and then there's the branch of narcissistic rants of people who have proven time and time again they're out of touch from reality, so those I'm definitely not going to read, ever). However, something drew me towards Feldman's book, although I sensed he wouldn't let me off easy.
Turns out, I was right. Feldman starts with a punch in the stomach by recounting the moment he heard about Corey Haim's death. For some reason that hit me really strongly, and a part of that was how well Feldman described the game of vultures: an endless stream of phone calls from journalists and people who think that just because they're celebrities, they have a right to claim a special relationship with the deceased. Helicopters hunting a good shot of Haim's apartment building, one of Haim's neighbors trying to get a funeral gig for his singer girlfriend, Warren Boyd (whose job was to keep Haim clean, but disappeared whenever Haim ran out of money) trying to stuff A-list celebrities into the funeral despite their nonexistent relationship with Haim, the pressure to come up with a media-friendly statement, photographers stalking unsuspecting people in bushes, trespassing reporters etc. It's a sickening jungle out there, and reading about this stuff always makes me slightly anxious and out of breath.
As it can be guessed from that first chapter, this isn't only Feldman's story. Haim and Feldman were both molested several times at a young age by men who worked in the industry, so Feldman feels like Haim deserves to heard as well, and is adamant that parents who have kids in the industry should be warned. The documentary An Open Secret (2014) addresses the problem. It's a shame it bombed (probably because it's more difficult to get people see documentaries than escapist flicks in theaters), but although I haven't seen it yet, the importance of the topic makes it an urgent watch for everyone. Movies are a big part of our society and it should be made aware what happens behind closed doors, especially when it concerns kids and teenagers. The film has apparently already suffered edits after a lawsuit, and seems to be extremely elusive and difficult to see anywhere in the Internet. Time will tell whether Hollywood will subtly push the film under the radar and eventually into oblivion. In any case, the problem of child actors being taken advantage either financially by their parents or emotionally by industry employees (some of them high up in the pecking order) has to be dealt with. It should've never existed and it shouldn't exist now.
As the case of Martin Weiss shows, there's still work to do what comes to the actual sentences when things finally progress to that point. Like Feldman says, "the bright lights of Hollywood are blinding, and the sanctity of childhood is easily trumped by the deafening drumbeat of fame". Power hungry casting agents are prepared to do anything to acquire fame for their clients, and the film industry is the perfect place to surround yourself with kids who desperately want to be famous. Kids, who don't necessarily have proper support systems to guide them through the very surreal world of Hollywood.
In a lot of ways, Feldman didn't have a great start in childhood. He and his siblings lived with a mentally unstable mother, who forbid them to have friends over, sometimes left the kids to starve because they weren't allowed to eat before she woke up in the late afternoon, and who did her best not to seem like a pushy and intense stage mother to outsiders (sometimes succeeding, sometimes not). We're talking about a home where Feldman had only seen from the television how parents tucked in their kids and kissed them goodnight, and where a mother physically attacked her child. Granted, she was sick, but it must have been a nice change to get to the movie sets.
Feldman talks about his experiences over the years candidly. The suicide attempts and the drug problem aren't glossed over, and blame isn't directed at anyone else. There's no bitterness, just honest discussion about the past that has molded Feldman, and about all the mistakes he has done along the way (doing an anti-drug awareness program while having a drug problem, throwing a huge party at the Four Seasons - when the studio execs told the bill was open and he should relax - and completely trashing the room etc.). He doesn't claim to be perfect, and that's what's appealing about the memoir. Feldman willingly admits he has difficulties saying no and a need to see good in people, even in the most untrustworthy ones. Sadly, he also believes he contributed to Haim's death by being one of the first who introduced him to cocaine.
Despite all the great stories about filming processes and the friendship with Michael Jackson, there's an inherent tone of sadness throughout the memoir that I couldn't shake off for a while after finishing it. It's not the kind of patronizing sadness that many feel about once famous celebrities (some would use the word washed up, but I try to avoid it, it sounds so demeaning), but the kind of wistful sadness that comes with the knowledge that a person has had a troubled past, but has still come through as a winner. Feldman has been sober for years, and I honestly wish him and his son nothing but the best.
When a celebrity fucks up his life, it often happens under the watchful eye of millions of people (some of them who have no problem tearing a celebrity to shreds, because "hey, he chose the profession, he has no right to complain when we poke at his personal life despite him trying to keep it private"), but it doesn't mean the public knows the person and everything that's happened. Preying on vulnerable people has never been attractive and never will be. In the end, Feldman's memoir ends with a positive note, because he's still here. There's no need to feel sorry for him and treat him like a pathetic invalid whose life's over or somehow insignificant....more
"Once a psychiatrist wrote me. He had a young patient who had heard of Freddy Krueger and was having nightmares about him. I really wanted to help, so"Once a psychiatrist wrote me. He had a young patient who had heard of Freddy Krueger and was having nightmares about him. I really wanted to help, so I got in touch with Robert and asked if he would say a few words to the kid into a vidcam. Not only did Robert do that, but he did it while he was being put into, and then out of, his Freddy makeup, describing each step of the way how Freddy was nothing more than latex and glue, and nothing to be worried about." - Wes Craven
I think the first time I saw Robert Englund was about ten years ago when the Masters of Horror anthology series aired in Finland (I love anthologies by the way; film or tv show, it's always exciting to see what the next segment looks like), where he played an MC at a night club with dead strippers. At that point I had already heard of his legendary reputation, but it was only a few days later that I watched the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). I wasn't that impressed, but I hadn't yet become an avid horror fan, so I had no real knowledge about the history of horror film and what place Elm Street has in it to appreciate the movie.
I've since watched only two other Englund movies, Urban Legend (1998) and The Phantom of the Opera (1989), both of which were, er, less than stellar, but I was intrigued by Englund's performances and dedication. The latter shows a mile away, and his memoirs proved me right: he accepts scripts he likes the most, and doesn't care about the financial success of his movies, or whether they win awards and critical acclaim. He just seems like a guy who genuinely respects horror and always puts a hundred percent on the table, and also fully embraces his fanbase (I cannot even remember how many times I've heard how nice and warm he is in person). It's sometimes difficult to see behind a celebrity's public persona, but Englund is one of the few I'm sure is just as nice as he seems to be.
The tone of the memoir is very conversational, because co-writer Alan Goldsher wrote the book based on Englund's dictations, but that suits his style. He has a great sense of humour, and reading this felt like I was sitting at a diner with him eating pancakes, drinking coffee, and listening to him talk about his escapades. No dirt here, though, he only discusses his work and leaves most of his personal life out, which I respect. It should also be remembered, that being a memoir of Robert Englund, this really does focus on him and his point of view of his career, so there's no reason to expect a whole book to be just about Freddy (despite the cover).
There's a lot of repetition about the problems Englund had with makeup and naturally the focus is on his, I presume, favorite projects, but I guess at least the latter is expected when space is limited. A thick tome wouldn't have been as alluring, although I still would have liked to get a little deeper look of the movie industry from a horror actor's perspective. So, although I didn't passionately adore the memoir, I think it's still worth the read for every horror fan (doesn't matter if you're an Elm Street fan), even if it's just for 'hearing' the voice of the man himself.
Most of the anecdotes are entertaining, and it's always great to hear a bit about the behind-the-scenes stuff. Saying how enjoyable it was to work with the legendary Roger Corman is fine, but "catering that consisted of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner" or mere plastic chairs in the depressing dressing rooms are more telling things about Corman and his frugal ways.
I also felt a sting of jealousy that Englund's childhood was surrounded by the entertainment industry in the most positive way, like stumbling into Clark Gable in the grocery store, visiting the sets of his uncles' tv shows, or "watching cowboy stuntmen do horse falls on the RKO backlot behind my house". It's interesting how his parents took him to see scary adult movies, and they somehow stayed with him so that despite a stint as a California surfer (!) and a classically trained theater actor, he became a horror icon. It's also due to the brilliance of a modern musical (Stephen Sondheim's Company) that made him realize art could be both popular and meaningful. I wish I'd seen him play Judas in Godspell, that would be one of my time machine destinations.
Surprisingly, there was some Finnish presence as well: I had no idea Renny Harlin had directed a Freddy Krueger movie! I'm not a fan, but Englund had nothing but positive things to say about him and his modesty and perceptiveness. Anyway, Freddy Krueger sneaking around the Desilu Studios (where, strangely, the home of I Love Lucy was) is something I want to see again, so I'm going to be rewatching Elm Street soon. Maybe even tonight, it's already dark. Although I need to stop thinking about the story how the concept of the film was conceived. That was scary as hell. I'm glad I live in an apartment building. ...more
Two of my favorite things come together here in perfect harmony: archaeology and Agatha Christie. She wrote about her travels around Syria and Iraq wiTwo of my favorite things come together here in perfect harmony: archaeology and Agatha Christie. She wrote about her travels around Syria and Iraq with her second husband, Max Mallowan, as an "answer to a question that is asked me very often". That is the charm, because her archaeological memoir felt like we were sipping tea and munching cookies in one of her country village locations, enjoying our afternoon with stories from a hotter climate, and stretching our grey brain cells while waiting for someone to get whacked.
In the beginning, Christie warns her book won't entail more than everyday happenings, so don't expect a profound travelogue. The glimpses of humour you get when you read her fiction? Well, here she doesn't hold back (in her constrained English sort of way). If you enjoy hearing about the team's constipation issues or the fact that one of the last scenes includes lavatory seats floating in the water (poor Mac's first architectural job), then this is for you.
Christie tells about all the mundane things that might happen while travelling: buying dresses for the fuller form, the evil nature of zippers, dysfunctional washing facilities, uncomfortable taxis, weakness of buying shoes, struggles with a reticent member of the team, inefficiency of the post office etc. My favorite scene is when B. has trouble getting his mosquito pyjamas from the post office, and when he finally wears them and is able to relax, a mouse gets into them.
The troubles one might encounter when adventuring in a different culture where people have different concepts of dealing with things (and who regard the strange Western ways of the English very strange in turn) are told without malice and - although it's clear Christie has a special place in her heart for both countries - she doesn't engage in useless glorifying either, but tells everything as it is. There were occasions when doubting the mental faculties of some of the servants and things like that appeared dubious, but the colonial superiority could have been much worse.
What also impressed me was Christie's attitude in the digs. Jacquetta Hawkes mentions in her foreword how Christie wrote at the beginning of each season, but she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty when her help was needed in cleaning, cataloguing, and labelling the artefacts. It could be that Christie was much more fascinating as a person than I've thought. Finding more about her belongs to another time, however....more
The Princess Bride (1987) is another childhood favorite of mine. Someone recorded it from TV into a VHS tape, so the picture quality was grainy andThe Princess Bride (1987) is another childhood favorite of mine. Someone recorded it from TV into a VHS tape, so the picture quality was grainy and less than ideal, but I tore through it a million times. If it was raining and there was nothing better to do, I watched it. When I felt gloomy, I watched it. When I was home alone, I watched it and acted scenes from it. I fell in love with Wesley and the charming pirate, marvelled the adorable giant rodents, and each time I was scared for the main couple. When I recently watched it again after many years and read the book, I realized how brilliantly the conventions of traditional swashbuckling adventure stories mixed with zany humor and various genres. It's that odd tone, I think, that allows each person to love different aspects of it. It's original and I don't know if there's anything like it.
Naturally, I was overjoyed to find out that Elwes had written a book about the making of the movie. The tone of the book is unabashedly positive and warm, and although I'd normally consider it annoying, I feel so extremely nostalgic about the movie itself that it just doesn't matter. The quotes from the actors are kind of awkwardly positioned, disrupting the narrative at strange places, and there's an entire chapter dedicated to how awesome Robin Wright is, but the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. I don't feel the need to read this again, but it was nice to dive into my memories for a couple of nights and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Rob Reiner I have had many encounters with many people from all walks of life who love the movie. But the strangest had to be this one: One night Nora Ephron and her husband, Nick Pileggi, who wrote the screenplay to the movie Goodfellas, wanted to take me to a restaurant in New York where the mobster John Gotti liked to eat. So we went, and sure enough, at the end of dinner in walks Gotti with six wiseguys. After we finished the meal I walk outside and there’s one of these goodfellas standing in front of a huge limo who looked just like Luca Brasi from The Godfather. He looks down at me and he goes, “Hey! You killed my father. Prepare to die!” And I just froze. Then he starts laughing and says: “The Princess Bride! I love that movie!” I almost fell over right in the street!
It was probably a mistake to read this immediately after the exhaustingly long and detailed book by Noël Riley Fitch, because Fitch had obviously hadIt was probably a mistake to read this immediately after the exhaustingly long and detailed book by Noël Riley Fitch, because Fitch had obviously had a lot of information and inspiration from this, so I had to read a lot of the same stuff all over again. Maybe I should have read the memoirs first? Then again, some of the things didn't quite happen in the same way as Beach remembers them, so perhaps it was more useful to find out the truth first to get the events into the right perspective.
Beach describes simply her heavy but rewarding journey with her book shop, but because her principle was to protect the privacy of her friends and to stay clear of her own personal feelings, the memoir just doesn't go that deep into the era or Beach's life. There are some nice anecdotes, like the one about the cat who chews gloves. The light approach was quite nice in a way. Although I was surprised how gently Joyce is treated, but then again I wouldn't have appreciated a bashing either. In the end a nice little book, but nothing special I'm afraid. Recommended reading only if you're interested in the book shop, and want to hear its story in Beach's own words....more
Thank you goes to Josef Kohout for sharing us his experiences. This kind of perspective is completely new for most, but it really shouldn't be. WhenevThank you goes to Josef Kohout for sharing us his experiences. This kind of perspective is completely new for most, but it really shouldn't be. Whenever fear surfaces as differentiating people by some quality they have, alarm bells should be ringing in the heads of each of us. A family member once asked (someone who seems to be doing that differentiating thing quite a lot) why I always keep reading about horrific stuff like this. Well, you don't have to surround yourself with this kind of material, but you can't grow up in a barrel full of cotton either. That's just plain ignorance. Besides, when you know what happens when fear takes control, you know that there's actually just the one side you can choose if you have enough sense of justice and respect towards another human being. An example: either you think homosexuals deserve equal rights, or you don't. If you think they don't, you can just take your head from your ass for a moment, and reflect with this book in hand.
By the way, double standard's a bitch.
Homosexual behavior between two 'normal' men is considered an emergency outlet, while the same thing between two gay men, who both feel deeply for one another, is something 'filthy' and repulsive....more