It was a lot of fun focusing on movies this week on Storyboard. Each day I tweeted out some of the best-written lines in filmdom — including the best one-word line ever: “Rosebud.” Here on the site, we explored the concept of documentary film as “home movie,” and talked to a photographer about her 12,000-mile road trip in search of our disappearing drive-in theaters. And you must read David Foster Wallace’s profile of David Lynch! (Doesn’t the car in the drive-in photo above look like it could have been in “Wild at Heart”?) God, I miss DFW’s writing voice.
Documentary film as “home movie”: Going beyond a public face to reveal a private one. How cool is it that a documentary film festival comes to my part of Maine every year? Even cooler, it touts “the next generation of storytellers.” I attended a panel discussion by some of the filmmakers and watched their “home movies” that exposed universal truths through the intimacy of family. As filmmaker Travis Wilkerson says of home movies: “They are actually propaganda films for families. They’re full of wonderful people you’d like to have dinner with. I was trying to undermine this public face and try to rediscover a private face that’s more honest.”
The soundtrack: “Old Home Movies,” by the Botticellis. This is a swooning pop song. I’m not sure how I missed the album of the same name when it came out in 2008, because the music has my algorithm in it. 60s-influenced pop? Jangly guitars? Vocals that are slightly discordant and thus provide the sour to the sweet? Check. Check. Check.
One Great Sentence
“I know all about reporters, Walter. A lot of daffy buttinskis running around without a nickel in their pockets and for what? So a million hired girls and motormen’s wives’ll know what’s going on.”
Hildy Johnson to Walter Burns, “His Girl Friday.” Read why we think it’s great.
Photographer Lindsay Rickert and “Drive-In America.” I remember going to the local drive-in as a kid. We had a Ford van, and we would stretch out on blankets (and I think even wear our pajamas) and eat homemade popcorn. I mourn their passing. Three years ago, photographer Lindsay Rickert took a 12,000-mile road trip in search of the country’s abandoned drive-in movie theaters. She spent 65 days on the road, crisscrossing America in her quest for these cultural artifacts. “I wanted to imagine through my images what these places used to be, what they are currently and what they might be in the future.”
The soundtrack: “Drive-In Movies,” by Ray LaMontagne. This could serve as the official elegy of drive-ins. I recommend listening to the whole thing, but here’s a taste: “I wanna be Brando in The Wild One/I wanna be somethin’ to someone/’Cause nothin’ ever happens in this Town/The same old crew, hangin’ around/Just waiting for some shit to go down/We love our Drive-in movies.”
What I’m reading online: “David Lynch Keeps His Head,” by David Foster Wallace. Perhaps only Hunter S. Thompson would have been more suited to a David Lynch profile than Wallace. In this 1996 piece for Premiere magazine (!), he defies every trope of the celebrity profile. I started counting the times he used the word Lynchian, in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge way, and I finally gave up. He writes, “Like postmodern or pornographic, Lynchian is one of those Potter Stewart-type words that’s ultimately definable only ostensively-i.e., we know it when we see it. Ted Bundy wasn’t particularly Lynchian, but good old Jeffrey Dahmer, with his victims’ various anatomies neatly separated and stored in his fridge alongside his chocolate milk and Shedd Spread, was thoroughgoingly Lynchian.”
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” by Cameron Crowe. This is the book that led to the (great) movie, also written by Crowe. These excerpts give you a taste of his Crowe’s writing style. Here, he introduces the character that would make Sean Penn a star: “Jeff Spicoli, a Ridgemont legend since third grade, lounged against the doorframe. His long dirty-blond hair was parted exactly in the middle. He spoke thickly, like molasses pouring from a jar. Most every school morning, Spicoli awoke before dawn, smoked three bowls of marijuana from a small steel bong, put on his wetsuit and surfed before school. He was never at school on Fridays, and on Mondays only when he could handle it. He leaned a little into the room, red eyes glistening. His long hair was still wet, dampening the back of his white peasant shirt.”
“Mr. Saturday Night,” by Nik Cohn. I had to give one more classic piece of writing that spawned a movie, in this case “Saturday Night Fever” (which I watched again recently and was quite moved by John Travolta’s performance — much more poignant than I remember). Here we meet another soon-to-be-famous character: “Vincent was the very best dancer in Bay Ridge — the ultimate Face. He owned fourteen floral shirts, five suits, eight pairs of shoes, three overcoats, and had appeared on American Bandstand. Sometimes music people came out from Manhattan to watch him, and one man who owned a club on the East Side had even offered him a contract. A hundred dollars a week. Just to dance.”
What’s on my bedside table: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. Seeing the scenes with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in one of the documentaries above made me pick up the book. I almost said “again,” but this is one of those classic books I’m not completely sure I’ve ever read. Have you ever experienced that? Or the corollary, that you’re sure you read it, but in fact only saw the movie version? I’m not far into the book, but it’s quite lovely. Like this passage: “A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with.”
What’s on my turntable: “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” by Bob Dylan. My favorite soundtrack is the Leonard Cohen one for “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” but I don’t own that on vinyl (for shame, I know). Still, this one comes close. It’s so spare and haunting, and even though “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” is ubiquitous, I still get goosebumps when I hear it, his voice like a ghost.
If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), I’m Storyboard editor Kari Howard, and you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.