Film and Culture 1999-2000
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: State University of New York Press
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After September 11, 2001
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It’s ten days after the destruction of the World Trade Center towers and the attack on the Pentagon. I’m writing a preface not only to this last installment of my history of the American cultural imaginary in the 1990s, Memory’s Orbit, but to the previous three volumes: Hauntings, Speeding to the Millennium, and Postmodern Journeys...
Oxley Holl’r, West Virginia, April 1976
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I stood on the crest of a knoll and felt the April morning breezes—a presence I should have kept in mind just a short time later. A stand of tall spruce high on the hill overlooking the house were moving in headier breezes, as they did even on what seemed to be the stillest days of summer. I walked through what I called the house garden...
Martha’s Vineyard, July 17, 1999
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John F. Kennedy Jr.’s plane has nosedived into the sea off Martha’s Vineyard, taking him, his wife, and his sister-in-law to a murky grave. I go to Chinese astrology on the Internet to find some meaning in this tragedy. “The Goat and Rabbit combine with the Pig in his month branch to form a WOOD FRAME. This is detrimental . . . we can expect real danger, and it is life-threatening...
Brooklyn, November 22, 1963
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My father’s 1954 Chevy passes slowly just before Nick pulls up and tells me that the president has been shot. The night before my father and I went some rounds regarding the academic probation I’m now on at Brooklyn College. I have one term to make up for going below a C average the term before. If I don’t recoup, I’m out. My father tells me that street life has got a hold...
Inside the Matrix, January 3, 2000
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One bit of advice Morpheus gives Neo in the film The Matrix goes something like this: “You’re faster than you think you are. The Gatekeepers can never be as fast and as strong as you can be. The Gatekeepers will always be in a world based on rules.” The Matrix is a computer program generated by artificial intelligence and the entire Matrix is watchdogged by agents or gatekeepers...
Oxley Holl’r, West Virginia, Fall 1975
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If you went out the back door at night and climbed up the slope against which the house had been built just about two hundred years before, and looked up, all the constellations of the heavens lit up the sky. It could make you dizzy, looking, slowly turning to see what you could name, as if in the naming you got closer. There are no lights; the nearest house, Kell Petry’s...
St. Albans Naval Hospital, 1966
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My draft notice came in January 1966: report on such and such a day at such and such a time to the Whitehall Street, downtown Brooklyn, draft office. There was a subway token, a fifteen-cent subway token, taped to the notice. I had to pay for my own way back; the government was just interested in getting me there...
Outer-Six Theatre, August 1999
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Like everyone else saturated in Bill Clinton’s inconceivable life and times, I had forgotten about Nixon’s inconceivable life and times. Until I went to see the movie Dick. I don’t know why I thought the theater would be filled with former countercultural types still seething over Nixon—like myself. It wasn’t. I had the only greying ponytail in the audience...
Oxley Holl’r, West Virginia, Winter 1977
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“That your geetar?” Troy Connor said, winking at my guitar in the corner. I told him it was. “I play geetar on the ra-dio for my church every Sunday.” The way he said “radio” was like saying “radical” but dropping the “cal” and doing an “eeo.”...
Staten Island, New York, March 1999
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The casket was open and from the doorway I could see Billy’s profile. Blue blazer he had on, hands clasped, rosary beads laced through the dead fingers. I cued up with the rest of the immediate family and waited to kneel before his casket and say my last goodbye. I got to the kneeler and crossed myself and then rested my eyes inches from Billy’s...
Sleepy Hollow, New York, December 31, 1999
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Belief evokes visions; our millennial beliefs are wrapped up in biblical prophecies, most notably the revelatory visions of John of Patmos. “For the time is near . . . ,” the last words of the first paragraph of John’s Revelation. Is that time coming upon us as the second millennium after Christ’s birth ends? Our imaginations are ignited within a biblical “end of days”...
Moriarity’s Pub, Fall 1999
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Maybe the reason everyone around us is faceless is because, like John Malkovich in Spike Jonze’s clever film Being John Malkovich, all we see when we look in someone else’s face is our own face. We can’t see beyond the limitations of our own life-worlds, our own being-in-the-world. You don’t have to be traumatized in childhood, or in Viet Nam, or find out you have cancer, win the Lottery, or be a psychopathic...
On the Set of Oprah, Jerry, Martha, and Tony, Spring 1999
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I spend a lot of time switching from Oprah to Jerry and then from Jerry to Oprah. It’s like the two extremes of American culture: Oprah’s earnest “assisted psychological and spiritual care” and Jerry’s nonchalant “exposé of Trailer Park Trash.” What class is Oprah dealing with? Her audience doesn’t chant “Oprah! Oprah! Oprah!”...
Robin Wood Trail, Winter 1999
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If you want a better view of what it’s like to be down and out in America at the millennium, turn off Jerry Springer and rent the film American Heart. It’s a 1992 film which didn’t get all the attention it deserved. Jeff Bridges’s performance as an ex-con, Jack Kelson, trying to do it right this time and trying to learn how to be a father to a fourteen-year-old son...
Time Codes: Brooklyn Heights, Henniker, Bluefield, Irvine, April 2000
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The film Time Code, released in April, 2000, got more pre-release chatter going than any film in a long time. When I finally saw it, I made sure I took a seat in the back so I could get a panoramic view of the screen, which was divided into quarters. Hand-held digital cameras focus on four different characters in each of those quadrants for over ninety minutes...
New Hampshire, February 2000
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John McCain has just giving George W. Bush a trouncing in the New Hampshire primary, but George W. is supposed to make a comeback in the “states that really count.” He’s in it “for the long haul,” as he tells journalists, and he has the treasure chest to back him up. McCain, on the other hand, is running on a anti–treasure chest campaign: call it “campaign finance reform.”...
Goshen, Indiana, February 4, 2000
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I’m surprised and then honored by the invitation I get to be the keynote speaker at the First Annual Goshen College Film Festival, which is part of that college’s convocation. At first I’m reluctant to travel in midwinter the three hours or so from Michigan to Indiana. I’m hesitant not only because of the weather but because I don’t really know what they want from me...
The Boiler Room, February 2000
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So goes the opening voice-over of the new millennium version of Oliver Stone’s 1985 film Wall Street. We’re deep into caring for our investment portfolios and very far indeed from thinking about caring for our planet. Seth isn’t telling any of his twenty-something peers in the audience anything they don’t already know; they know what gives in New Millennium America...
East Lansing, Michigan, March 2000
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Yesterday, in a town close to my own, a six-year-old boy killed a fellow first-grader by shooting her in the chest with a .32 caliber handgun. There can’t be something wrong with just this kid, a headline reads, there has to be something wrong with our whole society. According to an Associated Press article, the kid lived “in a ‘flophouse’ where drugs were found and used a stolen handgun he apparently discovered...
Oxley Holl’r, West Virginia, Summer 1975
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I remembered a time when newts, snakes, and rats broke through my own mental mood and reached me. “Chicken snake only goes after chickens,” Rev. John told me as we both were bending over the collard greens growing lushly in the chicken yard in front of the big barn (the Reverend had a hand with collards). “Swallow them whole. Whip snake be hanging in a barn, when you come in whip around your neck...
Eden, August 2000
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There’s a syndrome for everything now, and what’s not a syndrome is a fugue, like “watch out, she’s in a fugue state.” She’s liable to wander into you personally and then say, “Where the @#***@#@ am I?” Here’s the cocktail party wisdom on Bill Clinton: he has a sexual psychopathology; he’s obsessed with sex; he’s a sex-aholic. He sees someone with big breasts, full lips, big hair, and a “come and get me” swagger...
Not Seattle, November 1999
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“High Coaches’ Pay Irks Some” reads the headline today on our campus newsheet. The guy on record as being irked is a university trustee and he thinks the $780,000 the basketball coach is making is a bloated salary and represents “a losing battle academia is waging against athletics.” Another trustee, who happens to be a multimillionaire entrepreneur...
Elsinore Castle, November 7, 2000
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Predicted as a low turnout election that you could nap through and one that would be very close because George W. and Al Gore had been locked in a statistical dead heat throughout the campaign, this election drew a huge turnout of voters, and one day after, is still undecided. No one is napping now. Early in the evening of November 7 every network announced that Florida was Gore’s. An hour or so later, Mary Matalin on CNN...
In the Ring, October 1999
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“I hope this film isn’t going to be given the brink-of-the-millennium treatment by deep-think commentators,” Peter Rainer writes about Fight Club in New York Magazine (Oct. 25, 1999). In his view the film “has about as much going on in its head as an afternoon with Oprah. Actually, Oprah may have the edge.” But Jerry Springer is more in the Fight Club world than Oprah. You join the Jerry Springer Club...
Brooklyn, Thanksgiving 1953
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“Stuff that you own winds up owning you.” I quote Tyler Durden, a guy who doesn’t really exist, a split-off from a really disturbed individual, a guy who just dissolves, disappears once you do the craziest thing a crazy guy can do: shoot yourself just to show this figment of your crazed imagination that you don’t need him anymore, that you’re together, that one is enough and two is crazy...
Orbiting in a Time Machine, October 1, 2000
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On one of the big fall football weekends that this town and gown go at with all their hearts, a twenty-four year old, drunk and vomiting, was beaten to death in front of a buffalo wing and beer joint. It was the day after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a time to begin examining the wrong turns made the year before, a time to plan amendments for the coming year...
Long Island, July 1999
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I go to see Stanley Kubrick’s film Eyes Wide Shut twice in two weeks, once alone and once with Elaine. She falls asleep on part of it: the part when Victor Ziegler is explaining to Dr. Bill Harford all that has really been going on. It’s the denouement, the unraveling of the mystery, if you felt there was a mystery. The scene is supposed to answer the question...
Halls of Valhalla, 1999
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There’s every indication today that I’m hitting my peak, that like Jean Brodie I’m in my prime: I’ve just run through the Sanford woodlot for an hour and followed that up with an hour of weightlifting. Last week I turned fifty-six; an hour ago I had about that amount of weight in each hand...
Leiden, The Netherlands, Spring 1999
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I’ve already seen American History X but most of my students haven’t and it is now playing here in Leiden, The Netherlands. It’s an American film about racism in America and I’m doing this program in Europe so that we can, for awhile, step into what I call European “reality frames.” But we’ll be seeing it here in Leiden in a Dutch neighborhood theater; we’ll be viewing as Americans...
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If you went out the back door at night and climbed up the slope against which the house had been built just about two hundred years before, and looked up, all the constellations of the heavens lit up the sky. It could make you dizzy, looking, slowly turning to see what you could name, as if in the naming you got closer...
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Page Count: 242
Publication Year: 2003
Series Title: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Series Editor Byline: Joseph Natoli