It's time. A while ago I decided to slowly reacquaint myself with Fitzgerald, and I feel it's now the perfect time, because my taste in prose has someIt's time. A while ago I decided to slowly reacquaint myself with Fitzgerald, and I feel it's now the perfect time, because my taste in prose has somewhat evolved since my experience with The Great Gatsby (1925), so I want to see whether there's something I've missed or if there's a quality to it I can appreciate more now that I'm older. First, though, I was intrigued by Fitzgerald's first short story collection.
Published the same year as his debut novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), Flappers and Philosophers is mostly a subtle and sensitive look into the 1920s with echoes of Fitzgerald's private life here and there. There's the mismatched pair of Head and Shoulders, where at its melancholic conclusion comes a realization that romance comes with a price. There's Bernice Bobs Her Hair, where bobbing your hair (a recognizable feature of flappers) becomes a symbol for courage and a way to attract boys, but which in the end is only revered as an image (a wet dream of the conservatives), not a concrete act.
However, only two of the stories stood out to me and to which the rest don't measure up (especially the four I haven't mentioned). The Offshore Pirate, the opening story, was a big surprise for me, because it's essentially a love story. It's not your typical cotton candy fare, though. It's as zesty as the main character, Ardita, in all her spoiled flapper glory, and as glimmering as a turquoise sea during a summer day. It's a glass of bubbly under a starry sky and the sound of waves hitting against the sides of a boat. The Ice Palace, on the other hand, is mostly about the difference between the South and the North. Sally's growing disillusionment and the abstract need for something big culminates in an ice palace, where loneliness turns into a hazy and dreamlike wave of crystal clear ice, and Fitzgerald's prose tinkles like ice cubes in a glass.
For me, Flappers and Philosophers wasn't a complete success, but the few diamonds made me confident to continue with more Fitzgerald. More zestiness and tinkling, please!
"And courage to me meant ploughing through that dull gray mist that comes down on life - not only overriding people and circumstances but overriding the bleakness of living. A sort of insistence on the value of life and the worth of transient things."
"We're going through the black air with our arms wide and our feet straight out behind like a dolphin's tail, and we're going to think we'll never hit the silver down there till suddenly it'll be all warm round us and full of little kissing, caressing waves."
The song Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? was featured in the Disney short film Three Little Pigs (1933), where two of the pigs are convinced they'The song Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? was featured in the Disney short film Three Little Pigs (1933), where two of the pigs are convinced they're safe from the wolf in their straw and twig houses.
In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, George and Martha return home from a party with a younger couple, Nick and Honey, and end up downing a drink or two or ten during the night. Nick and Honey can't seem to drag themselves away from the revelling that seems more like a surreal nightmare of funhouse distortion mirrors. The guests are dragged into the endless pit of hell that is the marriage of George and Martha, who poke each other in soft spots, rave and scream, and act like 5-year-olds or like they're possessed with demons.
The night is a mud-slinging disaster you can't look away from. Filled with pitch black humor, Albee's play ploughs all the stuffy 1950s social conventions and delusions about the American nuclear family dream, and plays with its characters by shaking them to the core and spitting them out. Long before the shock revelation at the end, the mood becomes increasingly oppressive, and the ominous hints thrown here and there confirm that George and Martha aren't just a middle-aged couple who want to drive each other insane for the heck of it.
With all their spiteful screeching, they turn into a big gust of wind that blows the straw and twig house down. When George gives the ruins the final tap, the rest of the structure falls, and Martha is forced to face the reality that follows her breaking the rule of their game, and they both need to figure out how to survive in the open air. The raving has been reduced to emptiness, and the guilt and disappointment have turned into exhaustion. The future remains uncertain, but it's entirely possible that George and Martha can't handle a brick house, because that would remind them of their misery and hatred. Martha certainly isn't ready to live without illusion, and the couple's weaknesses might just lead them to harboring their wolf again.
Finally, I feel like I need to address the 1966 movie. I saw it a couple of years ago, and... Well, could there be any more perfect George and Martha than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor? She claws her way through the movie and he's seething with disappointment, and together they form one big firecracker that might at any moment explode on your face, but you still can't turn away.
MARTHA: I can't even see you... I haven't been able to see you for years... GEORGE: ... if you pass out, or throw up, or something... MARTHA: ... I mean, you're a blank,a cipher... GEORGE: ... and try to keep your clothes on, too. There aren't many more sickening sights than you with a couple of drinks in you and your skirt up over your head, you know...
Before my last year's trip to London, I somehow failed to check the theater schedule, and on a bus tour I had an incredible sinking feeling when I spoBefore my last year's trip to London, I somehow failed to check the theater schedule, and on a bus tour I had an incredible sinking feeling when I spotted the theater with The Elephant Man sign. That feeling worsened when after the tour I checked the show dates at a ticket booth and noticed the play had closed just on the previous day. The most interesting story in the whole world, one that I've been obsessed about for years, and just a few months before I was disappointed I couldn't see Pomerance's play on Broadway, where it got rave reviews. As an effort to console myself and because the next best thing is to read the play, I loaned it from archive.org.
"[T]he most disgusting specimen of humanity". "[A] perverted object". These are the words Frederick Treves used to describe Joseph Merrick (sometimes mistakenly named as John), one of the most famous figures of the Victorian era, in The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences (1923). Showing symptoms at a young age, Merrick ended up severely deformed, and had to sleep sitting up to make sure he wouldn't die because of the weight of his head. His deformities also prevented him from working in regular jobs, and after a few years in the workhouse he decided to try his luck in a travelling sideshow. It was when he ended up in London on display at a Whitechapel shop that he first met Frederick Treves. After an unsuccessful stint in Brussels, Merrick returned to London and was eventually allowed to stay at the London Hospital for the remainder of his life.
Fiction about real people is in many ways problematic. As in David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980) (whose production company ended up being sued because of the similar plot to Pomerance's play), Pomerance's The Elephant Man shows Merrick as the victim of patronizing Treves, and as the center of attention of his high society acquaintances who lavish him with gifts, but don't seem to be interested in him as a person. They all see something of themselves in Merrick, making him a blank canvas where others can project their fears and desires.
It's troubling, because victimizing Merrick more than is necessary turns him into a mere object of pity. It might make it easier to explore the themes associated with his life story, but it's a questionable strategy. In Pomerance's retelling, Merrick is physically abused in Brussels, although despite his reluctance of speaking about his years in the freak show, there's no reason to presume there was any misconduct. According to the newest research, Treves embellished some aspects in his memoir (he didn't realize the freak show was Merrick's way of earning a living), but unless evidence to the contrary is found, I'd rather see Merrick being remembered as a sensitive theatre-loving young man, who spent time reading books and constructing models of buildings. He did have difficulties, but he tried his best to survive.
If one tries to forget the discrepancies and unfortunate interpretations of Merrick's character, Pomerance's play is absolutely an interesting piece of fringe theatre. With only 21 short scenes (including a striking dream sequence), it offers a different perspective to Merrick's story. He was under good care until his untimely death at the age of 27, but Pomerance challenges to think about the notion of being on display. How many donators and high society members actually cared about Merrick as a human being instead of as a charity case? Was Treves a real friend, or just someone who considered him as an interesting medical anomaly, and who tried to change him into something more normal?
TREVES: Have we nothing to say, John? MERRICK: If all that'd stared at me'd been sacked - there'd be whole towns out of work. TREVES: I meant, "Thank you, sir." MERRICK: "Thank you, sir." TREVES: We always do say please and thank you, don't we? MERRICK: Yes, sir. Thank you. TREVES: If we want to properly be like others.
Oh wow. I didn't even realize how much I had missed Thompson. I read a few of his short stories a while ago (they were mostly not that great), but it'Oh wow. I didn't even realize how much I had missed Thompson. I read a few of his short stories a while ago (they were mostly not that great), but it's been ages since I've gobbled up one of his novels. He really does handle noir well, the punch-in-the-stomach kind that leaves you gasping for air, but also simultaneously tickles you a bit with splashes of great writing.
The Grifters isn't the blackest or the craziest Thompson, and probably not even his best (despite the amazing rating on Goodreads that kind of confuses me), but it's a solid story with great characters. Sure, Carol is a bit of an oddball, because it turns out that the revelation about her past has no purpose whatsoever, but in a way that's a very familiar Thompson strategy. He just throws some off-kilter things in the mix, and it still works somehow.
You don't necessarily get that many surprises in classic noir, and The Grifters isn't an exception in that regard. It doesn't offer major plot twists, but one of the reasons why I like the genre in the first place is that the novels are like mood pieces of a cynical world, and that it's achieved in simple and no-frill terms (Well, ok... Who am I kidding? It's also entirely possible that I'm easy when it comes to noir). I can always rely on some crazy character getting all wacky or neurotic. Throw in a murder or two, and we have an excellent weekend read there. Thompson, on the other hand, decides to go further by making the relationship between mother and son seem very wrong and vile.
Another thing about Thompson is how well he handles his endings. They leave you hanging and wondering what will happen in the next chapter, until you realize there's no next chapter in this life. The Grifters is a classic storyline of a man who starts balancing between different worlds. There's a lot of foreshadowing going on, but Thompson executes it delicately and ambiguously. Then you start to get this very bad feeling that something's about to go down, and it's too late for anyone to turn back. A glass is teetering on the edge of the table, and just when you think it's going to stay where it is and survive, someone comes and smashes it to smithereens....more
Private detectives Nick and Nora Charles are the ultimate power couple of classic cinema, but for me they're the best couple of all time and of everyPrivate detectives Nick and Nora Charles are the ultimate power couple of classic cinema, but for me they're the best couple of all time and of every single medium there is. They're witty, raunchy, intelligent, fun, and classy (but not stuffy), and William Powell and Myrna Loy portray them perfectly. The sequels aren't as good as the first one, but overall it's a perfect series for a rainy day, when you just want to kick back with cookies and a mug of tea (or a martini, I don't judge). The best aspects of screwball comedy and detective stories is a winning combination. When the repeal of Prohibition was accomplished in the United States in 1933, the freedom to deal with alcohol was fully taken advantage of, and Nick and Nora really are sipping drinks in every imaginable situation. A drinking game would actually be lethal.
Although The Thin Man is a detective novel by one of the most famous hard-boiled writers, it's much more lighter in tone than others of its ilk. The thing about it, though, is that the mystery wasn't that great, the comedy stuff is stronger in the movie and works better in it, and there's very little description of New York. If there hadn't been Nick and Nora, I probably would have abandoned this halfway through, because as much I hate to say it, the book was kind of boring and more flat in tone than I expected (again, I don't expect every author of hard-boiled novels to go all out like Raymond Chandler in the description department, but it would've made the story a bit more livelier). Felt more like a tribute to Hammett's and Lillian Hellman's relationship than anything else. And what the hell was that cannibal sequence!? Since this was the last novel Hammett wrote, he might have also been sick of writing and tried to experiment with a different style.
We found a table. Nora said: "She's pretty." "If you like them like that." She grinned at me. "You got types?" "Only you, darling - lanky brunettes with wicked jaws." "And how about the red-head you wandered off with at Quinns' last night?" "That's silly," I said. "She just wanted to show me some French etchings.
But, without The Thin Man we wouldn't have the movie nor all the great characters who were inspired by Nick and Nora, like Maddie Hayes and David Addison.
The movie has a special place in my heart. There was a time in my childhood when there was still cool stuff on TV, and one afternoon I noticed an inteThe movie has a special place in my heart. There was a time in my childhood when there was still cool stuff on TV, and one afternoon I noticed an interesting movie in the schedule. What I saw stayed with me forever. My mom had just baked buns topped with butter, so while I was gobbling up about a seven of those and drinking cold cocoa, I was completely sucked into this odd world of puppet trolls and a strange Goblin king with a seductive voice.
Rewind to year 2016, when the news of David Bowie's death flooded over me like a tidal wave. I decided to slowly go through a list of his favorite books as a tribute to him and to learn more about who he was. Then I found out there's a novelization of Labyrinth. When I read E.T., I realized novelizations of movies can be good, too. In the best case scenario they can deepen the world and make you understand the characters a bit better (plus, reading E.T. meant I didn't have to suffer through the sentimental style of Spielberg).
Labyrinth, while not being bad, wasn't that special either. I think it just comes down to the world working better in visual form and with the songs. A nice read overall, but I'd rather watch the movie for the umpteenth time. Maybe this would work better if you haven't seen the movie first?
American Psycho (1991) is a novel that is a force, and I doubt there are that many people who feel indifferent about it. I recognized its genius, buAmerican Psycho (1991) is a novel that is a force, and I doubt there are that many people who feel indifferent about it. I recognized its genius, but I think I wasn't ready for its overwhelming effect. It was nothing like I had ever read before, and I just pushed it into the back of my mind and let it simmer in there.
Now, Ellis has started to draw me back into his world, and I thought his debut novel Less Than Zero would be both a soft(er) landing and an interesting glimpse into his early years and where he came from. At first the trip wasn't successful. I kept wondering why I'd ever liked this guy. Then... Something clicked. I got used to the clipped style and at some point I realized I had slowly but surely been seduced.
Coke, omnipresent blondes, glimmering turquoise swimming pools, dark silhouettes of palm trees rustling in the soft night air. Sudden flashes of violence à la American Psycho tear bloody wounds in the seemingly calm exterior, but mostly Less Than Zero feels like you've been in its grasp forever. It's a place where everything looks like a slowed down and a distorted version of the real world. Something's off, and you're not entirely sure what. Los Angeles is like one of those purgatory-like nightmares, where images want to strangle you in your sleep, leaving you heaving and rolling in cold sweat.
Then it all melts into an ending that is brilliant in all its understatedness.
My decision to read this in English turned out to be a good idea, by the way. I have to remember that next time, because Ellis can write about boredom and vapidity in a way that leaves you disoriented and mesmerized. He doesn't explain much, his characters don't know what the hell they're doing on this Earth, and his subtle black humor pops up in the most unexpected places.
Now, the movie on the other hand is less successful in portraying the lost generation of the 20th century. I admit, it's probably hard to capture the mood of the novel, but when the focus is shifted to something entirely different and everything that made the novel into what it is has been taken away, it creates something else. Another story, another nightmare, and less captivating.
It's not entirely hopeless, though, because the colors are great, the 80s aesthetic almost always makes everything look better, James Spader is oddly fascinating in everything he does etc. But, the entire thing might be worth the watch just for the amazing performance of Robert Downey Jr. He might not be the Julian of the novel, but he's the Julian that everyone should see, even if it's just for that tennis court scene alone.
'I don't want to care. If I care about things, it'll just be worse, it'll just be another thing to worry about. It's less painful if I don't care.'
John O'Brien's debut novel was published in 1990, making it the only one in his very short body of work that was published before his death by suicideJohn O'Brien's debut novel was published in 1990, making it the only one in his very short body of work that was published before his death by suicide in 1994, only two weeks after finding out that his novel would be made into a movie. The way O'Brien's life ended might be the reason why Leaving Las Vegas feels so honest and real.
This is less about how to deal with addiction than about the moments after Ben's decision to end his life, and the resolve that follows. Ben is too far gone for a miraculous all-encompassing cure that suits the society's concept of redemption and happiness. Ben is at the end, at a point when he can't go back, but also - most of all - doesn't want to go back. He moves into a different direction at the crossroads than you'd expect, just waiting for that final snap to come while walking through a limbo of motel rooms and empty bottles.
Some consider Leaving Las Vegas a romance, but I'd say it's about a connection deeper and less flimsy than that, almost primeval. A connection that allows Ben and Sera to act like themselves without the need to pretend or to hide something in themselves they don't want or need others to see. They show their true selves, true intentions, innards, and find their souls in each other.
According to Erin, John's sister, he was a devout atheist, but Erin notes the presence of religious icons in his works and suggests he might have been thinking about spirituality during his last years. Erin considers Sera a shortened form of a seraph. Seraphim are the highest form of heavenly beings in Christianity and caretakers of God's throne, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite's description of seraphim in The Celestial Hierarchy is actually very relevant to Sera and how she's portrayed in relation to Ben:
"The name seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their elevative and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all-consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness."
Although Ben's journey feels like an endless period of wandering, Sera is there to unconditionally make it a little brighter and meaningful. O'Brien doesn't lower himself to preaching a moralistic lesson about salvation, but instead challenges to think about an alternative path. In the end, Sera and Ben accept each other's actions and understand, sometimes even without words, what the other needs. It's the kind of companionship not everyone are able to experience in this life.
Ben's motivations are largely left unexplained, and it's the lack of easy answers that makes the novel so involving and full of life. Knowing where all's going to end up is painful, but there's comfort in knowing that Ben has had the chance to live on his own terms and spend his last moments with someone like Sera. For those who are willing to see it, there are moments of beauty along the way, but they're just masked with the lights of strip joints and the stench of a stale casino carpet.
We can never know what O'Brien would have thought about the movie adaptation, but in my opinion it does justice to his work. For one, the cinematography is gorgeous. It's like the visual equivalent of the feeling you get when you're reading the novel. Obviously, the book delves a little deeper and the relationship between Ben and Sera is probably more fleshed out, but otherwise the movie is very much worth two hours of anyone's life.
Originally, I slapped a four star rating on this, but my undying love of slow-burn stories has struck again, and so the amount of days I have thought about this since I read it warrants a full-blown five stars. A very rare occurrence with me, I might add.
Hitchcock's masterpiece is considered one of the greatest horror films of all time, and it's definitely one of my favorites, too. Reading the essay coHitchcock's masterpiece is considered one of the greatest horror films of all time, and it's definitely one of my favorites, too. Reading the essay collection Kolker edited, you realize how the film lends itself to various interpretations. The music essay I had to abandon, because it had so much music theory that I might as well have been reading a Hebrew Bible or something. Some of the viewpoints were repeated throughout several essays, but each was still good and perceptive in its own way.
Sometimes film (and literary) analysis reaches a bit too deep for my own taste and might try to point out something that isn't really there, but this collection was mostly saved from that. I felt like watching Psycho again, and other Hitchcock films will also get my attention in an entirely different way. Examined superficially, Hitchcock might seem mere entertainment, but in reality the films are extremely polished entities both visually and thematically. An amazing mixture of auteurism and mainstream suspense. Although he was mentioned to have considered his films funny, so maybe there was more twinkle in his eye than you would think. I have Hitchcock's biography waiting, and I expect it to elaborate on that aspect....more
Mysteries, scandals, and murders of Hollywood, particularly the Golden Age ones, are always interesting, but they can easily be turned into embarrassiMysteries, scandals, and murders of Hollywood, particularly the Golden Age ones, are always interesting, but they can easily be turned into embarrassingly smutty books. All the warning bells should be ringing when an author has added Wikipedia articles, TMZ stories, and E! programs to the bibliography section. Di Mambro's decided to dig herself into a hole by also having a minimum amount of criticism about the statements of her sources. It's commendable that she's managed to made the effort to interview some of the people involved (and it shows that she's wanted to try something different than Kenneth Anger with his Hollywood Babylon ), but there's no sign that she doesn't take their stories at anything but face value.
The description "[a] tantalizing mixture of classic Hollywood nostalgia and true crime" is spot on. Di Mambro presents the basic facts of each case and doesn't take sides, which might seem like her purpose of letting the reader to make conclusions about the events has been successful, but in reality it takes more to make a good work of true crime. "Tantalizing" is not the way to go, especially if it means the chapters begin with "the sun glistening off the Pacific Ocean, which sparkled like limitless diamonds" or some equally awkward statement about the weather that in the middle of neutral text feels like a splinter in the eye. Add to that several cases of repetition and you start to miss a good editor.
True Hollywood Noir isn't entirely without its merits, though. In a few instances Di Mambro manages to correct a few rumours and is overall respectful towards the people. The corruption of the police force and how the studio executives were involved with tampering evidence are discussed very candidly. Protecting actors and actresses was important to the studios, but there's no question that protecting the studios' image the big bosses wanted to maintain in the eyes of the public to get more money was also a good motivator.
It's just unfortunate that the impression I got from the book overall wasn't polished or professional, even though Di Mambro avoids a voyeuristic and sleazy voice. Furthermore, I'd be curious to know where she found the information that Joan Bennett claimed to have begun the affair with Jennings Lang when she was ill, despite the fact that she has always denied having an affair with him.
Other illogicalities and choices that Di Mambro doesn't explain occur throughout, like referencing Bill Wellman's It's Made to Sell - Not to Drink (2006) (there's no reason to presume that Wellman is telling the truth, especially this day and age when there are plenty of people who'd like to cash in on celebrities), saying that shooting Lang helped Wanger's career despite stating earlier that his life was never the same again, and claiming that the reader supposely has never heard the story that Lana Turner was the real killer of Johnny Stompanato when in fact it's been speculated for years and is a well-known theory.
On another level of feeling uncomfortable was the stench of admiration that emanated from the Mickey Cohen chapter. He may have known movie stars and other celebrities, but there's no valid reason for an overly long chapter about him, and certainly no reason why Cohen's associate Jim Smith would deserve so much space, especially because all he does is explain away Cohen's crimes and make him seem like some charismatic gentleman who just happened to kill people for a living. Doesn't matter if the people deserved their fate in the world of organized crime, it's still murder.
Di Mambro seems to be supporting Smith, though, and even calls Smith's voice as "smooth, baritone [and] suitable for broadcasting". I'm not even going to begin talking about the picture of Smith's son holding a toy machine gun, and him having it framed in his house and showing it proudly to mobsters. There's just a whole lot of irrelevancy going on in the Cohen chapter, and it was the last straw.
All in all, short and quick to breeze through, but I wouldn't expect anything revelationary, nor the film noir theme being tied into the cases in any relevant way....more
Susann knows how to sink her claws into the reader. Just when things seem to get better for our women and the future shines bright in the distance, soSusann knows how to sink her claws into the reader. Just when things seem to get better for our women and the future shines bright in the distance, something happens and the tunnel closes. Then some turn of events gets you believing again, and the roller coaster starts again and again and again... The circle of life turns into a circle of dolls and resentment.
Valley of the Dolls isn't a mushy romance that sinks into an abyss of paper-tasting plastic characters, who seem to melt under a tighter scrutiny, or a glossy, emotionally simplistic, and rose-tinted fairy tale world, where predictability is a given. Instead, it actually makes you invested in the characters, although they are practically one-dimensional vehicles of psychological exploration.
Both unrealistic with its cheesy plot twists which seem to occur only for shock value, and realistic with its oh-so-common story of downward spiralling lives in the show business, the story is structurally kind of a mess, but a glorious and trashy mess. The fact that I don't mind the heap of clichés dumped on me is a testament of Susann's genius.
Like with The Best of Everything (1958), I noticed that I can digest chick lit when it's set in another time period and has some kind of melancholy or tragic events involved. A retro Mad Men-ish backdrop has so much more value in terms of atmosphere (and basically the only reason why I decided to read this). Valley of the Dolls wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't set in 1940s-60s, or if it didn't have a hilarious cat fight in a ladies' room, self-destructive women popping pills in all the colors of the rainbow, dreams crashing and burning, struggles with fame and expectations concerning private and professional lives, loads of vodka and champagne, and men who are far from dreamy Fabios.
Girly pulp that doesn't make you want to vomit, but to have a cocktail or two and eat chocolate until your head explodes. Essentially, this is the glamorous and excessive cousin of Peyton Place (1956).
"Who wants respect? I want to get laid!" - Helen Lawson...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