I have come to a conclusion that of all the information with which I am plagued, I find it very hard to tell whether or not any of it is actually is true. Here is a good example of where my head has drifted. I thought the plane that was shot down over Russia recently was the first missing Malaysian airliner, and that it had disappeared into the air like a Twilight Zone episode – reappearing only to be shot down. Terrible luck, I thought. You’re laughing right now, but it is true. Just when the passengers thought they were safe and be returned home, bang, you’re dead.
How did I come to this conclusion? I am officially overwhelmed by what I see, hear and read. If I had just paid attention to the over-reported facts I would have known these two events were mutually exclusive. Somewhere in this information blizzard, Facebook barrage, or push notices to my device that I hold like a pack of cigarettes (I quit smoking years ago), I have slipped into a limbo state where nothing seems real. I blame my own mind. I rarely dream anymore, and when I do, everything seems more real than my own life. It is very strange.
What is resonating with me these days? Editing my novel has eclipsed everything, and outside of working on that, I can only listen to things, and look at images. I return again and again to photography, movies and television shows (Follow me on Instagram if you want jasonecir). I stare endlessly at Frank Underwood, how did he become President of the United States in twenty-six episodes? I know how, but really, HOW? One thing I am listening to with great interest are podcasts. Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie have a wonderful show about what it is like to be a working writer, called A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment. I like Marc Maron, he might rub people the wrong way, and recently the Paul Thomas Anderson and Richard Linklater episodes are worth your time. The Louis C.K episode, and the story about a bottle of broken hot sauce, and how difficult friendship can be is a must listen.
What has really captured my imagination is Karina Longworth’s podcast You Must Remember This. On weekly episodes she talks about the golden age of Hollywood, the forgotten stories, or in most cases, notorious incidents around some of the most recognizable and important cinematic cultural icons of the last fifty or so years. I specifically love the Frank Sinatra episode about his crazy sci-fi album, the podcast is so good and funny, and it is hard to believe that Sinatra actually made this music.
I could go on, but I want to talk about the book that Ms. Longworth published, Hollywood Frame By Frame: The Unseen Silver Screen in Contact Sheets, 1951-1997. It is a gorgeously produced keepsake of images from the golden age of Hollywood, and the part of the source material for her incredible podcast. On the show her voice has a velvet touch, and her sense of drama is wonderfully vibrant. She is funny and smart, but with a hint of insider gossip to her delivery.
The contents of this book only enhance the show for me. The Deer Hunter is a long time favorite of mine, especially John Cazale, and he is highlighted here in the contact sheets from the set of the movie. Cazale was an enormous influence on many actors and a romantic partner of Meryl Streep. I have long admired his nervy brilliance, and withered peach profile.
There is a small piece of copy that accompanies the contact sheets, but typically you just want to stare at the pictures because they somehow transport you to the set of the movie. Taxi Driver fans should check out the smiling Robert DeNiro in the classic scene (one which he won’t repeat aloud anymore) “Are you talking to me?” The negative strips that were taken on the set that day of shooting are a slice of magic. In-between takes he is actually smiling.
The always-annoying Barbara Streisand (in my opinion) pops up during the A Star Is Born pages of the book, we see her and Kristofferson, and if you listen to the podcast about this movie you will find out the really-really’s on the making of the movie, and she sounds like a nightmare at best (also listen to the Larry Grobel episode of Marc Maron to find out what she was like to interview for Playboy).
The contact sheets from the movie Giant are a treat. I have long been a James Dean fan, and as a teenager I watched his three movies religiously. No matter what time of day or night, sleeping or awake, the guy was cool. Contact sheets like this are a fine art, and they let us see through a once-in-a-lifetime lens.
These images are not the movie; really, but those vaporous moments which surround the movies we consider classics. Just look at Jimmy Stewart smiling on the set of Rear Window if you want to know what it is really like to be a movie star.
Meanwhile, listen to You Must Remember This podcast, part of the Infinite Guest network, and available on ITunes. The book is available wherever books are sold, and if you can buy it from your local independent bookstore you would make me very happy.