March 29, 2008

Richard Widmark died on Thursday.  I happened to read his obituary in the paper. I was struck by a coincidence. Here's what the 93 year old actor said about Hollywood;

"The guys who run Hollywood today have no self-respect. What interests them is not movies but the bottom line. Look at 'Dumb and Dumber,' which turns idiocy into something positive, or 'Forrest Gump,' a hymn to stupidity. 'Intellectual' has become a dirty word."

Here's the coincidence. A few years ago I wrote down this fragment of a song or poem; whichever I thought would be forgotten first;

Everywhere I look I see
The creep of idiocity.
Dumb and Dumber is the rage
In this sub-atomic age.

This either makes me a cranky old fart or Widmark one hip fucking dude. You make the call. If you don't know his work you should check it out. He was a very intense and committed actor. Start with "Kiss of Death" where he brings Tommy Udo to snarling life on the screen.

Richard Widmark


I do believe Widmark is right though. Not too long ago I overheard two wangstas talking on the subway. One said to the other, "Yo, and someone put a swastika all over the dude's desk. You know what a swastika is?"

And his bud replied, "Yeah, it's one of those little hats Jewish people wear."

I shiite you not. It only further convinced me we really do live in a world where stupidity is revered almost as much as breast size. Especially at the movies. Clearly Hollywood believes everyone is a moron. Just look at the imbecilic leaps of basic logic in most Hollywood films. When a plot point arises that makes no sense you can actually hear them saying, "It doesn't matter; no one in the theater will even notice."

And they don't notice. If you happen to mention this to someone who's just walked out of Lard of the Rings with a hardon, their instantaneous response will be, "Yeah, dude; but the special effects were awesome!!!"

It is as if no one minds that someone has snuck up on them during the movie, cut open the top of their skull and taken a shit in their brain.  But, yeah; Special FX. I love 'em. They're right next to Special ED in most high schools.

I don't believe Widmark is talking about booksmarts. I think he's talking about the genuine appreciation of learning, the joy of discovering new things. He's talking about the incredible freedom that comes from using the mind to its fullest. He's talking about intellect as the key to developing true awareness.

And people are terrified of this. We live in an age where even our own president still says 'nucular' while his rigid, quivering forefinger is ready to poke at the button he can't even read. 

The more I learn about The Doors, in particular Jim Morrison, the more I realize we are a nation asleep. Morrison didn't have the answer. All he knew was that the basic requirement of life was to be completely alive; in all senses. Open your minds. Open your eyes. Really see what is going on around you.

Sure, Morrison burnt out. But I do believe he was truly on fire. To shut your eyes and sink into the slick, glossy embrace of gossip and superstition is equivalent to committing moral suicide.

The Delirious DVD with full extras is set to be released May 4. I've had no communication with anyone at Gestation since August. I regret nothing. If I alienated or angered anyone it was simply because I refused to lie--or be lied to. I am more proud of this film than anything I've ever done.

I'm proud of the way I fought for it; every step of the way. I burned so many bridges my fingerprints are gone. I would do it again in second.

To Richard Widmark; goodbye. You have my eternal respect.

Hello Mona,
OK, so I’m a cranky hip fuck.
I mentioned I’m in LA? I’m here for several months directing this Doors doc. The producer put me up in a furnished apartment. It’s kind of like a club med for kids just dropped out of college. A central courtyard with a pool, jacuzzi, gym. Last night about 12:15 in the am, some dudesters were partying out on their balcony. I waited until 12:30 then opened my window and asked them to be a little quieter.
In a split second one of them had leapt over the balcony and was screaming, “Come on, bitch!!! Let’s go!! Meet me down by the pool right now! Let’s do it!!”
I’m not lying; if I had a gun I would have shot him right in the asshole.
Someone else mentioned that about Dinkladge. I haven’t seen the film.
And you? How goes it?
Hey Upper,
Good to hear from you. No, I think we’re in the Ages realm. The signs I’ve seen indicate longevity. That’s why it is so fascinating to see what Morrison and The Doors were attempting. Like I said, they may not have acheived the enlightenment they were attempting but man, did they try.
Hope you’re well.
I always figured you a cranky, hip fuck. You know, best of all worlds. I can’t agree with you more here. Real entertainment is gone, and what’s left over is very empty.
By the way, I just watched (the fantastic and not at all empty) ‘In Bruges’ yesterday, and what do you know, there was Peter Dinklage playing a dwarf in a dream sequence. The DiCillo connection is everywhere.
UpperWestSide Guy
I agree with you, Tom. I suspect Widmark wasn’t talking about booksmarts either. I think he was talking about asking questions–opening windows, opening doors.
I have friends who squirm at hearing the word intellect–some who equate the word with being “foreign” or even “French.” Yikes.
I hope you’re wrong about one thing. I hope we’re not entering an intellectual dark age, but rather an intellectual dark…year?
Good luck with the Morrison project.
Hey Sarah,
That was pretty coherent. Great to hear from you again. Yeah, I’m a little jammed these days but I do get the blogging bug every now and again.
I’m really glad you liked Suede. I’m really proud of the film, it being my first, but I will admit there are a few things I wish I’d done differently.
Nonetheless, I think Brad is amazing in it. And so is Keener. Did you recognize Samuel L. Jackson?
Hold out until May for the Delirious DVD with extras. I think you’ll enjoy them.
Good luck on the finals.
Ahh!! Tom DiCillo is back and blogging! How did I miss this?
Oh yeah, I was doing STUFF. Ugh, I just hate that.
Anyway, I should mention I saw Johnny Suede for the first time the other day and I thought it was fucking brilliant.
I’m very much looking forward to Delirious. And it’s right after finals too — perfect.
I am too tired/stressed to post anything coherent at the moment, so later, man.
Hey Josh,
Thanks for writing. Your point is well taken.
But I do think you address your own counterpoint with your supposition about today’s audiences.
I swear to god I’ve heard the defense about loving the special fx from hundreds of people.
I love entertainment. I just don’t want to feel required to give myself a lobotomy to enjoy something.
I do believe the country is slipping steadily into a kind of intellectual Dark Ages. Hearsay and superstition are taken for truth. Known fact is ridiculed with gossip becoming the source of knowledge.
Dangerous times; not just for filmmakers.
Hi Tom. I think you and Richard Widmark are on point. However, I do think it’s possible to enjoy both “Dumb & Dumber” and, say, “The 400 Blows.” Naturally they’re completely different film experiences. Perhaps the problem isn’t that modern film audiences like “Dumb & Dumber,” it’s that they don’t seek out anything else.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician