“Celebrities came in flocks, including actor Robert De Niro, who took special note of Bruce’s pre-encore “Are you talkin’ to me?” routine (which the actor later transmuted into a creepy highlight of his performance as a psychotic in 1976’s TAXI DRIVER), along with director Martin Scorsese, who came away eager to cast the rocker in one of his movies.”—
THE ONION, a newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin: A brief, personal history
Here’s what happened when I moved to Madison, WI in 1995: I rolled into town with most of my possessions in the trunk of a 1995 Lumina, a college graduation gift from my parents. I went to my friend Jeremy’s house where I was staying for a few days before my own apartment was vacant. Jeremy was out of town, but on his bed he’d left a copy of a newspaper called The Onion and a note: “Read this. I think you’ll like it.” I did. And I did. And now that feels like one of those moments when one’s destiny is, quietly, fixed.
“Where do films come from? Where do they go? After a hundred years of movie, we are still not very adept at answering those questions. Let alone the matter of what they do to us while they are ‘here.’ We have set explanations, and we agree more or less that certain arguments apply—that the business system of motion pictures delivers (or seek to sell) these things to us; or that they may be the work of individuals, artists, auteurs, film-makers. Then, as for what they do, why they entertain us—or not. They make us laugh, cry, hide our eyes, or cultivate our souls. They move us. As if we were so important. Or is it just time that is moving? Look back a hundred years or so in your own family history, say, beyond the lives of people you knew or heard of, beyond mere names, to the notional claim that the family tree had branches then. Were those people moved by stories or plays they encountered? Does it matter? I mean ‘matter’ besides the extraordinary, anonymous but undeniable thrust of life itself. What is left of their being moved? Is that load there in our spit, our blood or our come?”—
—David Thomson, The Alien Quartet
That’s the lyrical opening to David Thomson’s otherwise prosaic book on the Alien series, the fourth in a short-lived series of movie guides published by Bloomsbury in the ’90s. I like that quote and return to it from time to time because I don’t really have an answer to its questions. Even those first two. I’ve been at this thing I do long enough to forget whole films until stumbling across an old review I’ve written about them. I’ve seen movies inflate to dominate the cultural conversation only to fade away in a month, or a year, or a decade. (In the summer of ‘89 I saw heads with the Batman logo shaved into them but it’s hard to find too many people with a kind word for that movie now.) And I’ve seen other films linger like ghosts, sometimes passed down in moments borrowed by other films, sometimes in the memories of others. To talk about movies is to talk about ephemeral things that, in one way or another, live forever. Maybe the role they play in what Thomson calls the “undeniable thrust of life itself” is reason enough to say they matter.
After 15 years of employment at The A.V. Club, eight as editor, Onion Inc. and I have come to a mutual parting of the ways. I’m proud to have worked there and proud of the work I did and the role I played in making The A.V. Club what it is today. I’ve loved the opportunity to serve as its editor, guide its direction, and contribute to it as a writer and relished working with many talented co-workers and contributors over the years, too many to name here. I’m sorry to go but no party’s too fun if you stay too long and this is my time to leave the party.
And so, moving on: Veteran writer and editor seeks new challenges. I have, as mentioned above, many years of experience, most of them spent shaping the direction of The A.V. Club as a print and online publication. I’m passionate about all things pop culture. Film is my first love, though television’s been awfully enticing of late and I probably know more about Guided By Voices b-sides, the different line-ups of James Brown’s band, and Superman than most people, to name a few areas of interests. Would you like to look at some of my writing clips? Here are a few you might enjoy:
“Opened in the early 1960s as a Hyatt before changing hands several times, the once upscale hotel boasted guests such as Roberta Flack, Perry Como and Barry Manilow. It was also the site of the January 1983 murder of insurance executive Allen Dorfman. In its declining years, police presence became more frequent.”—The best paragraph from a Chicago Tribune piece on the hotel where my wife and I housed guests for our wedding in 2002
“Planet of the Apes," which opened yesterday at the Capitol and the 72d Street Playhouse, is an anti-war film and a science-fiction liberal tract, based on a novel by Pierre Boulle (who also wrote "The Bridge on the River Kwai"). It is no good at all, but fun, at moments, to watch.”—Renata Adler, reviewing PLANET OF THE APES for THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1968
“This is tricky territory for me, since I missed out on Connery and grew up with Moore. It is like being too young to remember the first moon landing but old enough to get into the later missions, with their golfing larks and trips in the Lunar Rover—again, precisely my experience”—This Anthony Lane quote from a New Yorker piece a few years back has always stuck with me. I’m too young to rememberany Apollo missions, but growing up, Moore was my Bond and always will be. Whatever skill we gain as critics with experience and whatever wisdom we gain with years, that stuff that gets its hooks in us when we’re young never lets go.
The Prince show was odd, and weirdly unsatisfying in spite of some indisputable high points. It was slow to start, which seemed by design, and dwelled heavily on songs he gave a way to others at the expense of his own hits. So, a great show if you wanted to see Prince do The Time’s “The Bird,” and Sheila E.’s “Love Bizarre,” not so great if you wanted to see “Little Red Corvette.” That said, the band killed on those cuts and Prince clearly enjoyed going deep. When it came to the hits, he leaned way too heavily on crowd singalongs and truncated versions. The one absolutely transcendent moment was “Purple Rain,” played at epic length. (Even that, however, had a stingy guitar solo.) Then a brisk, but powerful hits medley and then… nothing. We waited for a final encore that never arrived, even after nearly a 30 minute wait with the house lights down. In my wife’s words, “Dick move, Prince.” Weird to now feel sour about a show I largely enjoyed at the time. Or maybe not: Prince spent much of the concert demonstrating he had the potential to deliver something unforgettable and then just kind of forgot to do it.