Not that Rollerball

Rollerball was on. Cool. I was busy writing and wasn’t watching the television but within seconds of half listening I knew something was wrong. For one thing, the voices were all wrong. For another, there was no Bob Miller announcing. And there was a helluva lot of screeching. Tires screeching. Players screeching. Crowds screeching. I didn’t remember that much screeching. I also didn’t remember Rollerball being this mindnumbingly stupid. I looked at the television. Oh yeah, this was a remake.

I didn’t think I was going to hear Toccata and Fugue in D Minor anytime soon. Or Shostakovich. I think I heard Green Day, though. I didn’t stick around to see who the new John Houseman was. Caught a glimpse of some lady without a lot of clothes on. More loud music. Screeching. And LL Cool J. I remember when he couldn’t live without his radio. Rocking the bells with real bells on. And here he is twenty years later in an incredibly bad remake of a favorite science fiction movie of mine.

Yup, this was the Rollerball remake, 2002. You probably never saw it in the theater. It apparently shows up on IFC occasionally for irony’s sake. Unfortunately, by my age, I don’t feel that I have enough time to spend on irony. Irony is best left for the twenty somethings. Things are funnier then. I imagine a man of my reputation being felled by a stroke watching the remake of Rollerball. Staring dead eyed at whoever that is who’s not James Caan, Green Day blasting from the television. My friends wouldn’t remember what I’m writing now. No, they’d remember that I died watching the remake of Rollerball. You spend your life being an arrogant intellectual snob and they find you watching that. My mother used to warn me about things like this. Well, she said I should wear clean underwear in case I ever had to go to the hospital. You don’t want the nurses to know you wear dirty underwear. But the metaphor holds. So I don’t want people to know I was watching the remake of Rollerball either. I can just hear my smartass friends at my wake, snickering.

So I turn it off. The room fills with silence, nothing but the clacking of the keys as I write this. Though in my head I’m hearing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But that’s not a pipe organ, it’s a Moog. Switched on Bach, Walter Carlos switching into Wendy Carlos. And before it mentally morphs into Hooked on Classics, I turn on the stereo. Afro-funk fills the room and brings this to a close.

James Caan in the real Rollerball (1975), which was set in 2018, actually.

James Caan in the original Rollerball (1975), which was set in 2018, incidentally.



Eyes Wide Shut

If Kubrick had died a year or two earlier he never would have made Eyes Wide Shut and his legacy would have been untarnished by such a mediocre flick. Not to mention the dirty old man as director ickiness about the whole thing. And the dialogue, sheesh. Only Pollack sounds like he not acting, and it has to have the worst last line by any genius director ever. The whole mess is just stupid, and there are few things more embarrassing than a genius being stupid. It’s great if you’re really stoned, though, which I was the first time. Unstoned, it’s just endlessly tepid, the lousy performances, inane dialogue, absurd plot devices, meandering subplots and more T & A than Vegas, baby, if that’s your thing.

Julie Newmar

I don’t know what movie this is, but Julie Newmar looks like she could hurt James Mason. In fact, Julie Newmar looks like she could hurt me. Pretty good Swedish accent, too, quite musical. Though imagining Julie Newmar hurting me and James Mason in a Swedish accent seems weird.


Saw Dunkirk. Quite a let down. As an action flick it was pretty good, and a lot of it was gorgeous, but as far as being in anyway a reflection or retelling of the battle and rescue at Dunkirk, it flopped. It failed badly as history, which wouldn’t be an issue except that it presented itself as a historical epic. The three primary narrative threads–the RAF pilots, the soldiers on the beach, and the boat–all avoided showing the evacuation completely. The pilots engaged in dog fights over the channel, the soldiers spent the entire evacuation in the hold of a beached fishing boat acting like a cowardly mob instead of a platoon of Royal infantry, and the boat picked up soldiers without getting anywhere near the beach. All three subplots were arranged so that we never saw the evacuation off the beaches at all. It’d be like shooting The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan without showing the D-Day landings. Perhaps there was no financing. So we get an action flick instead of a historical drama. But it’s a shame, as it was an epic operation,  some very high drama, and an extraordinary tale, and we miss nearly all of it in this film that promised all of that. Imagine what David Lean could have done with such material.

Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills 

Just watched Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills for the first time in decades. Funny flick, man, though I suppose it’s even funnier if you’re from L.A. It’s kind of a really fucked up Philadelphia Story. It ends and I turn it off and switch on the radio and there’s Dwight Trible and my mind tripped over itself shifting from one to the other.

Too Late For Tears

Saw the 1949 film noir Too Late For Tears last nite. Great LA location shots, money is the root of all evil, Dan Duryea was a drunken bum with a yellow streak down his back wide as Wilshire Boulevard, you used to be able to rent motor boats in MacArthur Park (then still Westlake Park as MacArthur was hadn’t yet faded away) and that dame Lizbeth Scott is up to no good. Also way less trees in town back then. You wonder what they did for shade. Much harder to lurk in all that sunshine. And in film noir, one lurks.
Also saw Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) for the zillionth time. I had a dream, a scene stealing Kirk Douglas (even more cowardly than Dan Duryea, with a yellow streak wide as the San Fernando Valley) says to quintessential everyman he man Van Heflin, and you were in it. You did not make a handsome corpse. Van Heflin was too cool to care, and Barbara Stanwyk slithered into the room, the most beautiful snake ever. No anklet tho’.

Big TNT Show

Speaking of Boomers, we watched the Big TNT Show at our neighbor’s pad last night. Never seen it before. My faves were Bo Diddley (who I saw open for the Clash a zillion years ago), The Lovin’ Spoonful (who were incredibly loose and high and actually fucked up and had to start over again, giggling, it was beautiful), Donovan, and Roger Miller, tho’ it was nearly all great, and judging from his conducting chops, David McCallum didn’t have a musical bone in his body.

I sprained my pinkie sleeping yesterday (my lamest injury ever, a big man with a sprained pinkie) which could give me the excuse to watch Monterey Pop, Don’t Look Back, Gimme Shelter, Woodstock and A Film About Jimi Hendrix in one long pseudo acid trip on TCM today. Some of the same acts as the Big TNT Show, though much, much higher. Tina Turner was in the Big TNT Show (with a big bruise on her arm), but I remember seeing her in Gimme Shelter at the Wilshire Theatre when I was sixteen and thinking I wanted a girlfriend just like that, or even a school teacher. 

I had no idea I used my pinkie to hit the tab key until just now.