Caveman Rocks

December 8th, 2009 by Max Allan Collins

A lovely review for my documentary feature, CAVEMAN: V.T. HAMLIN & ALLEY OOP, just came in from Craig Clarke. It really does a great job of describing not only the film but my hidden agendas — i.e., that it’s my secret biography of Chester Gould. If you haven’t ordered CAVEMAN from Amazon or some other source, this review might just convince you it’s time.

A bunch of ink got spilled in Chicago over my upcoming trip to spend some time with sports commentator Mike North and producer Carl Amari (he’s the guy behind THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER: THE LITTLE DEATH). I hope to do a screenplay based on Mike’s incredible story — he rose from hot dog vendor to Chicago media superstar — and maybe even direct it. My father, who was the kind of sports nut who would watch the Venezuelan Beaver Toss Championship at four in the morning on ESPN32, would be proud.

Toho Collection

The new issue of ASIAN CULT CINEMA (issue #64 — Fourth Quarter 2009) is out. I don’t think I’ve ever really talked much here about my regular gig at the magazine. It’s edited by Tom Weisser, a great guy and one of the first to really recognize both the artistic worth and sheer entertainment value of Asian genre cinema. Back in the day, I used to buy from Tom gray-market VHS tapes of John Woo and Jackie Chan, among many others, and I’ve been writing a column for him called FOREIGN CRIMES since the start of his great newstand mag. The column is supposed to be about Asian crime films, but I wander afield. This time I talk about the DVD set ICONS OF SCI-FI: THE TOHO COLLECTION, and explore the noir aspects of these fun movies from the house of Gojira (Godzilla to you poor Westernized fools). The magazine’s been around 64 issues, and I’ve had columns in all but two of ‘em (special issues dedicated to nothing but photographs).

We had a flurry of comments last week, after I attacked the film OLD DOGS (nobody defended it). Somehow it became a discussion about how I think STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE is a great film, and how a lot people think I’m out of my mind. This week Barb and I went to the much-lauded Wes Anderson stop-motion film THE FABULOUS MR. FOX, which Rotten Tomatoes gives a 92 percent “fresh” rating, meaning almost all the critics love it. We hated it. Anderson’s movies keep getting more and more self-indulgently quirky and this is the bottom of the barrel. Adult movie critics may like this kid’s movie, but the kids at our screening didn’t. If I’d heard one more precious folksy lick on the banjo, I’d have jammed drink straws into my ears. If the movie were any more smug, I’d have slapped it.

I mention this not to encourage defenses of the film (it doesn’t need any — everybody loves this movie but Barb and me). Rather, I feel that after last week’s post I need to make a couple of things clear. First, narrative art (really, all art) is collaborative — it’s the artist and the recipient of that art, and none of us appreciate or experience art in the same fashion. We each have our own baggage, which you can call taste, but it includes experience, prejudices, and so much more. So I hate arguing about art. What works for you may not work for me (you remember me — the guy who thinks STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE is a masterpiece?).

Second, I am not interested in converting people to my opinions — I’m glad to share my opinions, and hope they elicit smiles and shrugs or some kind of response, but don’t expect to bring you around to my way of thinking, since thinking isn’t the point, or at least isn’t all of the point — art is something you experience. One man’s delicious taco dinner is another man’s Aztec Two Step. Similarly, you are advised not to try to convert me to your way of thinking. It’s just not going to happen.

Having said that (to quote CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM), I have a pretty good record at being out in front of movies that turned out to grow in critical and public stature. I was writing about KISS ME DEADLY being a great film in college film class in 1970. I was going to every screening I could locate of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE when it was supposed to be an embarrassment. On the other hand, the ROCKY HORROR sequel, SHOCK TREATMENT — a wonderful film — has yet to get its due (but at least it’s on DVD).

I have faith. You people will catch up with me. Just don’t ask me to encourage you.


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4 Responses to “Caveman Rocks”

  1. Dana King says:

    I lived in Chicago for several years in the mid-90s and listened to Mike North’s show every chance I got and called in a few times. He comes across as a genuinely nice guy who’s having fun and enjoying his wholly unexpected ride. Good luck with the project.

  2. Edmond D. Smith says:

    I agree that arguing about art is about as pointless as arguing about whether certain kinds of food are good or not. (“You just haven’t given mushrooms a try. If you did, you’d LOVE them.” Uh, no I wouldn’t. LOL) I do like to hear why people disagree with me, however. I’ve found that nobody can convince me to dislike any movie, book, concert, etc. that I liked but sometimes I can be convinced to change my opinion about something I disliked. If I missed something, a perspective, a connection, whatever, that the other person noticed and appreciated I can soften. If it is something I really loathed, it ain’t likely to happen but if it is something that left me cold but not very, I’m open to convincing.

    It isn’t the fun that you experience upon finding something for which you have a strong affinity right away but it can be interesting to look at something differently and more favorably than than you did at first. That’s why I was interested in your take on STTMP and plan on watching it again soon. Maybe I’ll find myself more enthusiastic about it than I did the first go round.

  3. A very good point. I agree that I’ve been turned around on things I’ve disliked. I also find that on occasion I like something years later that I initially didn’t like (and on rare occassion vice versa).

    Part of the art appreciation equation is the mood we’re in, how we’re feeling physically, and all of the other specifics of the point in time we took that art in.

    For a weird example, I will point out that Barb found BEERFEST terrible in the theater. This disappointed me, because I loved it and am fan of Broken Lizard, and she had liked the comedy group’s previous two movies (SUPERTROOPERS and CLUB DREAD) a lot. Maybe six months later, I showed the blu-ray of BEERFEST to Nate (also a Broken Lizard fan) and Barb sat in…and laughed her head off. She’s seen it another time since, and found it similarly hilarious. Put the first negative run down to mood, or even an initial reaction — in the case of BEERFEST, I think Barb initially was put off by the drinking humor, and got turned off, and didn’t see how smart the writing was, even though a lot of the surface is determinedly dumb.

    I find that if a film gets off on the wrong foot with me (even if it’s my fault), it seldom wins me over…except, perhaps, at a subsequent viewing.

  4. Edmond D. Smith says:

    I hadn’t thought about the effect of one’s going-in frame of mind, but yeah I definitely agree that it can have an effect on how you view art. I have seen movies and such again after many years and had a different take on them the second time. Maybe it is just because I am older or maybe my head was just in a different place each time I saw it.

    There is, of course, something to be said for watching certain (by that I mean good LOL) movies multiple times. i know that almost every time I’ve watched Citizen Kane I’ve picked up another bit-of-business that Welles put in there that I hadn’t seen before. And watching a movie I really like can actually help my mood. I can’t watch Casablanca without being swept up in the feeling of the thing. I like being transported to a different time and place. That’s one of the reasons I like the Heller novels. I’m reading True Crime now and just love being taken back (though I certainly wasn’t ever there) to 1930’s Chicago.

    Oh well, I’m kind of just wandering now, but it fun to talk about this stuff.