. . . Coppola

. . .

In production: Caesar Salad, a controversial look at the fascinating Coppola family, starring Nicolas Cage as Nicky Coppola and any L.A. film school graduate as a stocky egotistical guy with a beard.

. . .

Who needs food when the menu's so delicious? Department:

"Bare lists of words are found suggestive, to an imaginative and excited mind" - Emerson
Otherwise the quotes themselves are bring-downs. But the table of contents for the online Concordance to the Collected Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson makes the best poem Charles Bernstein never appropriated:

Adequate to Adults
Advance to Affairs
Altered to Amatory
Amphibious to Anglo-Saxons
Arbiters to Army
Army to Artery
Atmosphere to Attire
Attitude to Autobiography
B--, Aunt to Banquets
Beast, Beauty and the to Becky Stow's Swamp
Birth to Blurs
Bonny to Bosses
Boston Advertiser to Brazier
Budgets to Byzantium
Chilblain to Christ's Jesus
Class to Cloisters
Close to Coldness
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor to Combustion
Compliance to Conducts
Cones to Consciousnesses*
Consubstantiation to Contriving
Control to Copula
Copy to Countless
Court to Creature's
Cuba to Czars
Day, Commencement to Deadness
Deaf to Declaring
Degenerate to Demonstrator
Desirable to Devotions
Distemper to Doctrines
Drank to Driving
Droll to Dyspeptic
Effeminacy to Elicits
Eligible to Employs
Emporium to Enemy's
Energetic to Englishwomen
Eustachius to Everywhere
Evidence to Excessive
First to Fitting
Flowing to Forborne
* Link via Juliet Clark
Foundation to Fowls
Gladiators to Go-Carts
God, Almighty to Goitre
Gold to Good
Good (continued) to Grab
Graze to Great Desert
Habeas Corpus to Handling
Hand-Looms to Harms
Heat to Hemispheres
Hole to Hooted
Hung to Hysterical
Infantry to Inmates
Intrusion to Intelligences
Jabber to Joyfully
Joying to Juxtapositions
Law to Lax
Leather to Leg
Librarian to Life
Line to Littleton
Look to Lost
M. C. to Magnanimously
Maladies to Man
Meal to Mechi
Medal to Memphis, Egypt
Menace to Methuselah
Mince-Meat to Minded
Negotation to Nevermore
Nothing to Nymphs
Once to Opium-Shop
Opponent to Organisms
Organization to Overwork
Ovid to Oysters
Passenger to Pays
Peace to Penury
Permutation to Perspire
Poets to Polls
Pollute to Positives
Proprietary to Puberty
Public to Purlieus
Quack to Questions
Remedies to Replying
Restricted to Revolutions
Revolve to Rigging
Romes to Ruling
Rum to Rylstone Doe
Sail to Samos
Samples to Saxons
Seize to Sensations
Separable to Set-To
Shatter to Short-Sighted
Shot to Sidewise
Sinful to Skills
Sockets to Sometimes
Spirits to Squid
Squint to Stars
Steady to Stimulus
Strong to Subduing
Subject to Suetonius
Surprises to Sweeps
Taverns to Tempestuous
Templars to Testify
Testimonies to Thin
Tidal to Timely
Toledo to Tow-Head
Town to Trains
Truth to Turnips
Ubiquitous to Unexhausted
Unexpected to University, Yale
Unjust to Usages
Vat to Victory
Wave to Wealth
Wept to Whithersoever
Wit to Wolves
Woman to Woo
World Fairs to Wormy
Worn to Writings
Writs to Wyman, Jeffries
Yeoman, Middlesex to Yunani

. . .

Sofia Tonight the Coppola clan strengthens both their position as the Kennedies of Kalifornia Kulture and the local tradition of "You Go, Daddy's Girl!" post-feminism when little Sofia's gala-ly opens the shmooze-happy SF Int'l (Intel? Internal? Intellectual? as if!) Film Festival. Early blurbs from the critics of Premiere, Vogue, and Flair indicate that she's sticking to the paternal formula of very expensive mediocrity; fittingly, the most sycophantic account to date comes from the festival schedule itself, which swoons over

"the baffling, hidden reality of teenage girls.... Her most astounding feat, however, is going beyond the expected genre conventions, to discover and courageously reveal a romantic, at times mythic power." gorgeous blonde teenagers. Yeah, that's breaking new Hollywood ground.... Hell-LO! You can't "courageously reveal" a myth. You can, however, mindlessly repeat one.

+ + +

Napa Valley travellers who need a break from beautiful scenery and no-nonsense boozing will want to visit the Coppola Winery, a self-aggrandizing museum and museum store which really packs in that Hard Rock Cafe crowd.

Here, the model some uncle glued together from toothpicks demonstrates (according to the museum tag) the genetic basis of Coppola's remarkable manual dexterity. Look, there's Sofia's vanity license plate, still attached to the "too dorky to drive" car her father bought her! Savvy shoppers know it's the only place you can find Tucker: The Man and His Dream T-shirts for sale. But it gets kind of frustrating seeing Francis's selection of the best extra virgin olive oil and Francis's selection of the best pencil and best yellow legal pad (I'm not kidding!) and Francis's selection of the best kitchen apron and never getting to the consumer guidance I'd really appreciate: Francis's selection of the best nose hair trimmer.

. . .

More thoughts on nepotism

Back when it seemed essential that a movie director know how to make movies, directors came from the ranks of those skilled in some aspect of movie-making: storyboarders, cartoonists, set designers, screenwriters, cinematographers, cowboys, actor-centered theater directors, even costumers....

Nowadays the major challenges of Hollywood filmmaking don't have anything to do with the end product as a self-contained artifact. Instead they're:

  1. Holding the deal together while the movie gets made, and

  2. Generating lots of publicity afterward
As a result, existing connections and existing publicity value are much more important to a prospective director than any existing filmmaking skills.

Thus the unprecedented number of famous actors who are working successfully as movie directors. And since they're not out to prove anything cinematically, virtually all of their films have an easy-going middle-of-the-road Hollywood "quality" quality. Big stars push the contemporary movie-making process around so much anyway that officially recognizing their cat-in-charge position might even calm them down a bit.

The movies made by famous directors' children, on the other hand.... The kids can hold the deal together with their relatives' weight behind them, but most of 'em are spoiled art school brats rather than day laborers. They truly believe that they have something unique to say, just like all the other spoiled art school brats, and by taking too much control (with too little talent), they screech right across that middle-of-the-road into oncoming traffic.

That's where Sofia Coppola didn't make a mistake. True, she's a spoiled art school brat, but she's also a thoroughgoing sleepyhead, and, after flirtations with somnolent acting and somnolent fashion, she's found the perfect place for a somnolent rich kid: in charge of a Hollywood production. She may well turn into the next Robert Redford.

Silent director Maurice Tourneur may look more important in the history books than his son, Jacques Tourneur. But it's Tourneur fils who makes it into the Raytheon with super movies au maximum like Cat People and Out of the Past.

He never made it into art school, though. After working for years for his father as script clerk, actor, assistant director, and editor, he struggled on through years of shorts and series episodes, and doesn't seem to have been put in charge of a full-out (if low-budget) feature until he was 38.

. . .

Today we're proud to present Episode 2 of Juliet Clark's exciting new serial:


Being John Malkovich (1999)

The night before seeing Being John Malkovich, I saw Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola. They were shooting a movie outside my office (I work in a film archive). When I arrived, Sofia was buried up to her neck in orange dirt; some of my colleagues kicked more dirt into her face as they walked by. I thought this was sort of mean, but it did make the scene look better. Meanwhile, I told Spike Jonze about this series of dreams I’d been having lately. In the dreams I worked with a bunch of people who got sent to Hell every night. They always alluded to these visits with a mixture of horror and pride -- they seemed to think that this experience set them apart from others and made them fascinating people, sort of like getting a lot of tattoos. Eventually, I got sent along with them, and discovered that Hell was full of giant cartoon beasts resembling Pokemon. They chased everyone around the office for eternity; a few people were lucky enough to escape through a revolving glass door. I got to the door and woke up, and Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola were preparing to be interviewed by an Italian telejournalist. They were showing how youthful and fun-loving they were by roller-skating on a frozen bridge. As noted film curator Edith Kramer pointed out, the combination of ice and roller skates seemed dangerous. At the time, a group of turkeys was sitting on the waterfront, near the Italian telejournalist’s airplane. I made the mistake of hissing at one of the turkeys, and it suddenly jumped on another turkey’s shoulders and the stack of two turkeys came running toward me, looking very menacing. Luckily they lost track of what they were doing and wandered away. Later, the whole flock of turkeys took flight, continuing their long journey south for the winter.

. . .

The Underground Press Cartel

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY   On the sidewalk outside some theater a while back, Juliet and I found a leftover from the last Syco Fantic Int'l Film Festival: an expensively produced perfect-bound 48-page (plus translucent inset sheet) booklet promoting CQ, a "quality" studio film written and directed by some guy whose previous experience seems to have been as a second unit director on Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Virgin Suicides.

Although probably inspired by having seen Irma Vep on DVD, the film presents itself as a we-kid-because-we-love tribute to those fab 1960s Europop productions that were accomplished at about, what, one-tenth the budget?

The swag's cover informs us that EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY.

Following groovalicious Jean-Luc Godard's lead, let's see what story is told by the swag:

1. Underground Press Cartel
2. Dolby Gital
3. Allrights Reserved
My old pal Matt disapproves of my obsession with the Coppolas. After all, they haven't gone out of their way to do me any harm personally, and it's papa's right to throw his money at whatever he wants (minus taxes, please), and besides, Roman was a wealthy and enthusiastic and godawful poker player, which helped finance Matt's way through college.

I'm happy about that last one anyway. But, when attacked, obsessive resentment will, to save itself, even go so far as to try to find rational reasons.

There's this standard way of putting down self-publishing (and non-publishing) as easy-ride self-indulgence, and this standard way of assuming that anything that gets officially stamped as high art has been inspected for quality. Whereas even a glancing acquaintance with the actual workings of cultural institutions discloses vanity publishing, nepotism, and self-aggrandizement, albeit on a larger scale. We get doctorates by supporting our advisor's research; we get good reviews by giving good reviews; we get publicity by having a name. And then we're supposed to forget everything we learned about our meat suppliers while we're dishing out the sausage.

This after-the-fact idealism reminds me of the fights I used to get into back when affirmative action was still something to fight for, as opposed to reminiscing about. "Everyone should get hired strictly on the basis of merit." Like anyone ever has been.

Yeah, I know: Grow up.

But see, that's exactly where I get all prissy-lipped. I don't mind a rich guy buying lights to put his name in (after taxes), and I can understand how rich kids are naturally better set up to do things that don't bring in any income but are highly regarded and get lots of life-style propaganda because they don't bring in any income. ("For few people are really interested in anyone else's description of himself except as it makes them feel upper-class." - Laura Riding)

I just don't see why, on top of all that, I should be the one who has to grow up.

. . .

Pierce the bag  
Resent, reopened

My latest Coppola tantrum touched a nation's open heart, without washing first. Anita:

I liked CQ at SIFF -- it's not the same as Sofia Coppola acting.
Yeah, by my own critical principles, my dislike is unprincipled, which is probably why it bothers me enough to write about. What's offensive is the way the world works with them; their work merely attempts (and can afford to achieve) professionalism. The Coppola daughter's acting stands out because it depends on herself; her movie fits in because it depends on hiring other people.

The Great Anonymous grunts:

Huh. viz. Z Herbert, 'What Mr Cogito Thinks About Hell'
And salivates:
Good White Bread
And adds:
Eh, I think I left a hyphen out of there
Joe Foster concurs:
re: CQ/coppolas you're fucking right. "underground" my ass. When there are so many things happening and some of value, things happening for nothing, no gain, no fame, no "qualifications" or "sanction" so to speak, then I say that the appropriation of the (natural if flawed) romanticisation of said things by peops w/sanction$connect as 'underground' or 'rebellious' is pretty much like a mountain dew commercial. Meat dew? "No time to eat? Drink your meat! - Do the Dew!" oh it's extreme, it's in MY face, at least.
From a slightly related 3.7.02 scoop of Foster's Melting Object:

I forgot to mention that I played with the Quixotic Trio just before leaving PDX. Also present were Control R Workshop, who now seem like old friends. Unfortunately Control R's drummer had quit to join a rock band. We all did mixed duos and trios all night, cappng the evening with short sets by each group. My duet with Frank (lastname?) the drummer of the QT was a blast. He's an interesting player who will benefit from touring more and meeting more players. The crabby, petulant JP Jenkins was not there, claiming "if there's not going to be an audience, what's the point of playing?" (an unbelievably bankrupt sentiment, if you ask me, and unbecoming a player of his caliber and commitment level - not to mention the fact that we *did* have a GREAT audience that night!).

And from a fairly unrelated (unlike, say, Roman Coppola) email from David Auerbach:

I went to a local improv show this weekend and saw 2/3 of the 12-strong crowd leave after the first set, and I believe I was the only person left who didn't know the performer. It left me with the question of why it's cool to listen to music no one else likes, but not to play music no one else likes.

. . .

Movie comment: Lost in Translation

After the California recall I didn't think it was possible to feel any more alienated, but seeing this movie did the job. Now I feel alienated from New York, too.

Imagine Larger Than Life devoting half its running time to the elephant, solo. Now imagine the elephant, solo, shot full of tranquilizers and stumbling around in pink panties. Well, Lost in Translation's not even that good, unless you find Gap ads more entertaining than elephants.

Doesn't anyone remember Bill Murray's Rushmore interviews? When he said he took a salary cut because Wes Anderson's screenplay assured him he wouldn't have to work as hard as usual? Whereas he was usually paid to pump life into otherwise barren scenes? Haven't any reviewers noticed that their favorite Lost in Translation moments are precisely what Murray was talking about? "OK, Bill -- do karaoke!" "Stupid Japanese commercial -- take fifty-four!" No wonder he looks trapped.

Aside from leaving improv room for Murray, the script is only what you'd fear from a comfortably wealthy arts major, complete with a voice-of-authority encouraging the protagonist to keep on writing, she'll be great someday. Very much Life Without Zoe, Part Deux, and almost enough to make me watch Storytelling again -- now there's an unwelcome impulse.

Sofia Coppola wants to make herself look good the way Woody Allen used to make himself look good, but she's unable or unwilling to provide her stand-in with any distinguishing marks. Scarlett Johansson's dialog is just as vapid as Anna Faris's, her stare even more vacant. The movie's one attempt at wit is so clumsily executed that it took a minute to work out the point: The heroine's Hollywood rival says merrily that she's registered under the pseudonym, "Evelyn Waugh." (OK, so the rival has a sense of humor.) Sofia/Zoe/Mary Sue looks sulky and objects, "But Evelyn Waugh was a man." (OK, so Sofia's got no sense of humor...?) Then Sofia's husband complains that Sofia is too aggressively intelligent and well-educated, having gone to Yale. (OK, so... uh... we're supposed to have assumed that someone would use the name "Evelyn Waugh" without knowing who he is? And shouldn't Yale have warned her that English isn't the official language of Japan?)

Coppola's blind faith in our blind faith in her POV's superiority puzzled me, but here's my tentative solution: Having been told all her life she's a genius, she interprets lack of interest in her ass as a sign of intellectual shallowness. "Daddy doesn't act like that."

At this point the only future I see for humanity is if the entire species goes sterile except for Kimberly Chun and some guy who hasn't yet expressed his opinion in print.

As for Sofia Coppola, call me when she remakes The Furies.

. . .

Movie comment: Balseros

This patient and splendidly constructed documentary glommed onto a group of Cuban rafters in 1994 and had the good fortune to not let go.

As the rafters struggle to exchange the hopeless claustrophobia of community for the glorious promise of acquisitive isolationism, their story touches on the deadpan fish-out-of-water picaresque, the ensemble-decay saga, and the post-industrial engineering suspense film (e.g., Flight of the Phoenix).

Its most unique genre success, though, may be as a survey of the American Dream, where to my eye it bests such ponderous competition as Elia Kazan, Michael Cimino, and Francis Ford Coppola. Despite the small sample size, the Dream's most familiar manifestations are covered: lotteries, cab driving, drug dealing, whoring (subcategory: marriage), rednecks and blue collars, religious mania.... And the ambitious viewer can even gather some notion as to which path might be best to follow.

(Not to spoil anything, but the spirit of proletariat solidarity needn't feel betrayed. Hee yah!)

. . .

Elvis Dead at Budokan

The scope of our eugenics proposal has been reduced thanks to intervention by Ross Nelson:

I believe my first comment to the missus upon exiting that "film" was, "Was that a rich girl's movie, or what?" Leaving aside the complete and utter implausibility of Charlotte as Yale Philosophy major, I really can't imagine anyone who's not clinically depressed suffering from terminal ennui as much as she does, unless we assume (and we also assume this is true of Ms. Coppola), that Japanese luxury hotels and weeklong trips to other continents are so common as to be unworthy of any attention what so ever. I did like the whiskey ads, though.

I knew I had to see Bubba Ho-Tep when I heard the plot, though I didn't have high hopes. My low expectations were not really exceeded, though I thought there were some flashes of brilliance, mostly in the filming of the time-dilation and decrepitude of the home. I was reminded of a line of dialog in Urinetown when Officer Lockstock say, "Be careful, Little Sally, too much exposition can ruin a show." Not to mention repetitive voice-over narration. Still, this feels like a show that deserves a remake. One where the writers get a little more time and money.

Or a lot less time in the end product.

. . .

Movie Mop-Up: 2003

Given how much I enjoy early 1930s product, I'm not quite ready to call for a reinstated Production Code, but reviewing my recent first-release experiences, I'm struck by how many of the satisfactory ones were "family-friendly" -- Lilo & Stitch, Holes, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spirited Away, School of Rock.... The best adult-oriented "film" I saw in 2003 was videotaped by Spanish TV reporters. The most tolerable R or NC-17 rater I remember was Y Tu Mama Tambien, and even it was just Beavis-&-Butthead plus Godardian voiceovers and yet another of those scenes which will someday lead historians to conclude that our era enaged in male homosexuality solely as an emetic.

Of course, the early 1930s had a hyperactive studio system and no film schools, whereas contemporary Hollywood careers don't usually allow time to learn about grown-up stuff before production starts. Why fake it? Let overgrown children make overgrown children's films.

From what Earl Jackson Jr. says, I should be attending Korean film instead. I'd only be able to attend it on DVD, which seems like an admission of defeat, but hey, what wouldn't be?

+ + +

Any year starting with a "2" will end with a mucilaginous stack of "If only"s clogging soul's gorge. Here's one small enough to dislodge:

If only Bill Murray wasn't so irritatingly ambivalent about working and Sofia Coppola hadn't so much opportunity to practice her "But I want you to buy me an Oompa-Loompa now!" routine, we might have ended the year with Murray's Bad Santa and Billy Bob Thornton's Lost in Translation.

. . .

Lost in Translation: Follow-Up Speculation

Regarding the worst Bill Murray movie ever, Lawrence La Riviere White writes:

I have one verisimilitude question: as a thorough student of the Larry Sanders Show, I noticed that Bill Murray's character seems oddly distant from his handlers. Doesn't a guy who can pull down 2 million for a week's work have a personal assistant w/him? On a more serious note, & to help shore up my fragmentary knowledge of film, isn't Wim Wenders the original Rolex to LIT's sold-on-the-sidewalk knock-off? Even down to the knowing hip music references? (I remember Wenders short w/a guy sealed behind a panoramic window looking out at Central Park. At one point he's flipping through albums. I was delighted to see the second Psychedelic Furs in there.) It has been a long time, but I was quite taken w/Kings of the Road & Alice in the Cities. & shooting the Coppola surrogate in The State of Things. Do you have patience for Bruno "I'm the saddest puppy in the pet store window" Ganz?


I would only note that while there is, indeed, more than a trace of Wenders, it's mostly lost in an attempted translation of Wong Kar Wai.

Josh, however, is of the majority opinion. Wish I were there, but having been raised on a diet of Persona and Red Desert, I retain the old-fashioned distinction between depression and petulance. And as charming as it would be to imagine LIT's encouragement being played like the ESP test in Ghostbusters, the autobiographical protagonist who's forecast a brilliant future is too well established a narrative convention for me to ignore.

On the other hand....

. . .

What Goes On

It was exactly as if she had been there by the operation of my intelligence, or even by that in a still happier way of my feeling. My excitement, as I have called it, on seeing her, was assuredly emotion. Yet what was this feeling, really?

The Sacred Fount made Henry James's friends fear for his sanity. (Henry Adams offered the cheery consolation that "most of the rest of us" would be institutionalized with him.) James himself seemed taken aback by the tumorous growth of the novel. It remained his most extreme experiment: a postmodernist parody of a country house mystery avant la lettre; a mad (social) scientist in a meet-cute(-and-go-nowhere) romantic thriller; a locked room containing the foully-played corpse of realism. (Possibly a suicidal frame-up.)

And it's my sentimental favorite. But I've never tried to work out a way to write about it. The Sacred Fount scares off analysis by example. Some critics express bafflement or disgust; others take short simple pleasure in their manifest superiority to James's first-person.

So I doff my Santa cap to Michael Wood for "The Museum of What Happens", a compact essay which takes the risk of taking the book's problems seriously, starting with the infamous unreliability of its narrator.


Peli tweaks my bruised conscience:

"**postmodernist** parody of a..." - You feeling ok? Never thought I'll see the day and so on.

I'm sorry we both saw it and so on. The adjective was laziness pure and simple; a cynical carnival barker move. And you can see by the comments the entry's drawn at the Valve just how successful a carnival barker I'd be.

Dr. Lukin diagnoses the lack of response:

I think it's that one doesn't fuck w/Shaviro or be a party to a fucking w/Shaviro. He'll cut off yer feet, like Coppola did to Fred Astaire. Or, I dunno, christen you "Kal-El."

. . .

Christmas Trimming

Between the ravages of the Bush administration, the wraths of the Universal Monotheism Smackdown finalists, and Miranda July Grossinger, 2005 has gone by without me once mentioning the Coppola family. This will not stand. By me. Up withwards. What's the point of an idée fixe if you drop it for the first general cultural collapse that comes along?

This one goes out to the old gang at the Hotsy Totsy Club:

"Hammett . For years I’ve been hoping to see the original Wim Wenders cut of the feature that I consider his most underrated, even after producer Francis Ford Coppola substantially revised it. Sam Fuller, who acted in both versions and contributed a few ideas to them (such as the shot from under the typewriter keys), told me more than once that the original was incomparably better. So I was crestfallen to learn from Wenders when he visited Chicago last spring that he recently approached Coppola’s company about bringing out a DVD with both versions, only to be informed that the director’s cut no longer exists. A video that was once made of Wenders’ version, taped off a Steenbeck, may still exist somewhere, but the film itself was junked. ... it’s an incalculable loss, and one that reminds us that things aren’t so different now from the way they were when studios were slicing up works by Stroheim and Welles."
- Jonathan Rosenbaum

Remember, kids: When a Coppola offers you a gift? It's gonna end up all about the Coppolas. You think anyone will ever hear again from the kindly old Napa vintner they got stuffed in the trunk of that cherry Tucker?


Kip Manley sighs:

All this about the Coppolas and yet not one word on Sofia's latest?


Maintaining the Peanuts groove, my one word is "AAUGH!"


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.