Remembering Curtis Hanson & My Best Friend's Mother
|Allison Felus||Sep 25, 2016|
It's autumn! Hurrah!
Yes, I am supremely basic (as the children would say) in my love of fall. Hot coffee and light sweaters, crisp evenings and sunny days, the perpetual association with the start of the school year and thus a feeling of new beginnings--I adore it all. But, let us not forget, of course, that fall is also all about the beauty of letting go. Leaves flash with color just as they're about to say goodbye to us; so much of their beauty is inherent in their evanescence.
2016 feels like it's been a particularly overwhelming year for significant deaths, both public (eg, David Bowie, Prince, and, as I wrote about back in June, Attrel Cordes of the group PM Dawn) and private (more on which momentarily). But, much as I was surprised last year when singer Scott Weiland died that there wasn't a whole lot of chatter about it online (at least in the spaces I inhabit these days), I was similarly surprised to have not heard that director Curtis Hanson died until a day after the fact. And even then, it was just one tiny retweet in my Twitter stream. I know, I know, there's a ton of other stuff going on in the world, but still. I guess my '90s is showing. I remember reading an interview with Matt Damon a while ago, where he was advocating for not awarding Oscars for the current film year, but for a decade back. This must have been in the late 2000s/early 2010s, because he said something to the effect of, "Obviously, with a decade of hindsight, the best picture for 1997 wasn't Titanic. It was L.A. Confidential." I remember reading that and having a little light bulb go off over my head. Like, totally, yeah! L.A. Confidential has only grown in my esteem over the years, as has my regard for Curtis Hanson. In my early days as a wannabe film critic, I remember taking him to task a bit in my review of 8 Mile for being a little too restrained, a little too workmanlike. Eh, in my own defense, in my late teens and early twenties, freshly on fire with my love of film (and on fire with the terrible need to tell everyone about it), I wanted everything I saw to make my head feel like it was exploding (hence my devotion at that time to Moulin Rouge and all things Quentin Tarantino). So, of course Hanson's charms would have eluded me a little bit, even though I couldn't help but respect his precision, his clarity, and the fact that he too was so obviously a lifelong student of film. These days, though, as my tastes have mellowed a bit with age and as I've swung to the other end of the spectrum as far as my preference for smaller, quieter works of art, I feel like I'm due for a reevaluation of his films with fresh eyes. I'm sure my experience of them would be quite a bit more generous now.
All that being said, however, my favorite Curtis Hanson film actually isn't a Curtis Hanson film at all--it's this mini-documentary about the making of L.A. Confidential. I don't remember if my friend Casey had seen it first and then insisted that I watch it, or if we discovered it together during a re-watch of the film on DVD some summer during college. At any rate, I do remember watching it with him and basically screaming the entire time over its delightful weirdness.
There's James Ellroy letting off an F bomb in the first minute and fifteen seconds; the fact that Brian Helgeland seems genuinely stunned that he's allowed to write movies in Hollywood at all; producer Arnon Milchan's endearingly bubbly enthusiasm for everything about the film; pre-fame screentests full of greasy, flippy hair from Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce...seriously, it's hard for me to enumerate just everything I love about the clip. Do yourself a favor and find the 19 minutes it takes to watch the whole thing. Consider this my cosmic apology for ever having doubted Curtis Hanson's talent and a deep bow of respect, affection, and gratitude for his underappreciated body of work.
What's new on the blog
This month on Queen of Peaches, I celebrate the life of my best friend’s mother, Mary Ann Becklenberg, and expand a little bit on the story of my grandmother’s death that I initially narrated in my essay that appears in Loose Ends and Loneliness: A Zine About Transition Times:
As my best friend’s mother, Mrs. B. was primarily known to me as an ebullient hostess-with-the-mostess, always quick to laugh, gossip, and revel with friends both dear and recently made, young or mature. But here I got to experience a new, remarkable side of her personality—her professional acumen, her sixth sense for when to offer gentle instruction versus letting me take the lead, her calm certainty in the face of my own grief and panic. How many deathbeds must she have been at over the course of her career as a social worker to have been able to remain compassionate and unphased in the face of this most momentous transition in a person’s life?
As I mentioned last month, I was interviewed about my life as a blogger for Robby's Celestin's podcast A Chatter of Fact, and the episode is now available for your listening pleasure. Click here to find out all the different ways you can download and/or stream the audio and to get the links to a bunch of the stuff we talked about over the course of our epic conversation.
Hey, music nerds--remember when we were all suddenly huge fans of the band Of Montreal a decade ago, thanks to the release of their confessional, psychedelic, and completely insane album Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? Those were the days. Before Pitchfork anointed it Best New Music, I'd mostly remembered the band for their annoyingly catchy song "Fun Loving Nun," which I used to play occasionally on the radio show I hosted for a few years at Indiana University's student station WIUS. Anyway, I lost track of them a bit after I found 2010's False Priest to be a bit on the side of diminishing returns, but apparently Kevin Barnes is still out there bare-torso'd, glamming it up, if this terrific cover of "I'm Waiting for the Man" is any indication. It's properly loud and relentless, if just slightly embarrassingly fanboyish.
The big surprise for everyone in the "Blog vs. Podcast" episode of A Chatter of Fact was that I ended up talking so much about my practice as a clairvoyant. To me, writing and giving psychic readings have always felt like natural extensions of each other, but of course I forget that, outside my own head, any mention psychic stuff can still sound a little weird or out-there or, frankly, scammy. So it was a pleasure to be able to explain just what it is I do, and to even give impromptu mini-readings to the other blogger on the episode and to Robby the host. If you'd like to hear just the psychic portion of the show, click here to check out this much shorter excerpt. And if after listening you feel inspired to check out a reading or healing of your own, you can book one with me by clicking over to my shop. Don't forget that the discount code PEACHES still gets newsletter subscribers 50% off.