Well, goddamn it all to hell:
Bite me. Guess what Monday is in Detroit? Opening day.
I should take the day off, but instead, I’ll take it easy. Yesterday I ran across something called The Documentary Blog, and found the inevitable Top 25 list. Can I see the hands of all who despise “Grey Gardens?” Of course it was on the list (No. 8); it’s on all the lists. Everybody loves it. Hidden masterpiece, etc., blah blah blah. I finally found it in the library stacks a few months ago and couldn’t finish it. It strikes me as precisely the sort of thing I would have loved at 19, which isn’t saying much — I loved “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” when I was 19. (Still do, at least a little bit. Tim Curry’s the first man in a corset I ever found remotely attractive. The last one, too.)
“Grey Gardens” is the story of two of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ crazy relatives, who live in a crazy house and do crazy things and feed the crazy raccoons who hang around their crazy Hamptons estate, and if you like watching that sort of thing, well, you should come to Detroit. We have no shortage of crazy people here. You could follow one or two home and see how they live. I suspect the end result would be much the same, except it would happen in a cardboard box, not the Hamptons. Toe-tally crazy! The film was shot in the mid-70s, perhaps the last era in which crazy could read as “wise in a different way.” By 1980, when the nation suddenly developed a homeless problem, “Grey Gardens” would have been a harder sell. It’s easy to romanticize mental illness when it’s not taking a crap on the sidewalk in front of you.
Some things can only be thought worthwhile in their own era. Originality counts for a lot. I try to keep this in mind when experiencing art of an earlier time. It still got on my nerves.
The rest of the list was OK, although I would have made a place somewhere for Michael Moore. I suspect documentarians secretly hate him (because he’s successful), but he got the genre back into the multiplexes, and that has to count for something.
“Hoop Dreams” made the list, too. It was nominated for an Oscar, but should have won the Pulitzer Prize. I remember it mainly for the portrait of the coach at Arthur Agee’s private school, a man who was such a vile p.o.s. you could almost smell him in the theater. Also, that “Hoop Dreams” was one of the films that played during Northwood Cinema’s brief attempt to be an art house, always a dicey proposition in the Fort. I did my part as a customer.
So that’s my frame of mind this snowy morning — nasty, brutish and short. How’s yours?