The Movies

I Have Returned with News of My Wanderings

I guess by now it’s clear that if I don’t post for five months it’s because I have been head-down-and-go on yet another “final” draft of this novel I’ve been working on. I still can’t write “my novel” without wincing internally—I can’t claim ownership of the thing that contains every ounce of my inner life for the last seven years. Who would put all their spiritual eggs in one basket like that? Just who do I think I am?

I feel like I’ve just shat out the digital equivalent of an overstuffed drug balloon (switching metaphors, sorry), I’ve been hiding in the handicap stall of an airport restroom and after five months I’ve managed to coax this massive thing out of my most shameful orifice and then watch it sink to the bottom of an unfamiliar toilet bowl. Relieved, I now pull up my pants (i.e., start blogging again) and stare at it wondering if I should fish it out and try to sell it to someone so they can possibly enjoy or benefit from the drugs contained therein (i.e., email it to my agent), or if I should just flush it away so I won’t embarrass myself further. Would you like some butt drug? Knowing that it may be so weak you can barely feel its effects, or so good it will give you a high that will last for days and you’ll think about it the rest of your life. That’s all—a modest goal, that’s what I’m shooting for, to provide a life-changing transformation for you, triggered by the thing that fell out of my butt and into the hands of a literary agent who will slit open the balloon, put a little bit on her pinkie and, I hope, say, Hmm, yeah. We can make a lot of money off of this.

LET’S GO BACK IN TIME, SHALL WE?

January happened and we got to February and I stopped noveling long enough to attend the Santa Barbara Film Festival. My friend is a stringer for one of those celebrity grocery-store magazines and she makes decent money covering red-carpet events, but she wasn’t available for part of the festival so she asked me if I could do it.

The magazine sent me the event schedule for the weekend they needed me: Rami Malek (Friday), Glenn Close (Saturday), Melissa McCarthy (Sunday), all of whom were accepting awards for standing out in their fields. I had to DuckDuckGo Rami Malek (I am old enough to be his mother), and immediately thought, Oh no. I hadn’t seen his movie, the Freddy Mercury thing, and I couldn’t figure out a way to make that happen before the event. So I looked at some stills from the movie, wondering what I could possibly ask him that would be relevant. Here are some sample questions I came up with:

  1. Were the fake teeth uncomfortable?

  2. Did you like the way you looked in the fake teeth?

  3. Did they let you keep the fake teeth?

  4. etc.

Glenn Close I was a bit more relaxed about. I hadn’t seen her most recent movie, either, but I have, in fact, seen Glenn Close movies. My Glenn Close questions were going to be:

  1. What are you reading these days?

  2. Kindle or hardcover?

  3. Blah blah, comfortable shoes and general DGAF stuff, just between us pre-elderly gals

Sadly, the celebrity magazine gave Glenn Close a hard pass, because of the usual ageist bullshit. And my friend would be back in time to take care of Melissa McCarthy. So I put on my giant Trapper John coat on a rainy winter night to wait on the other side of a metal crowd-control fence hopefully until Rami Malek walked by so I could shout the questions that the magazine wanted me to ask:

  1. Have you tried the keto diet?

  2. What’s your skin care regime?

  3. Who do you think is going to win The Bachelor this season?

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Fortunately for me, Rami Malek ignored me completely (possibly because of the usual ageist bullshit, or possibly because I was dressed like Elliott Gould) and chose to talk to the adorable reporter from the UCSB Daily Nexus who was standing next to me. So I just stuck out my phone and recorded their entire conversation, figuring celebrity magazine could use those quotes if they wanted to. But that wasn’t the end of it. Next I went into the Arlington Theatre (and got grilled by the Daily Nexus girl about how I got the sweet gig reporting for celebrity magazine) and discreetly held my phone to record Mr. Malek being interviewed by a film festival guy about his entire life from birth to the Golden Globes, and then went home and transcribed everything so celebrity magazine writers could have every audible word by six o’clock the following morning.

The interview was interesting, and I came away with respect for Mr. Malek and the work he’s put in to get this far. But I have never cursed a job so much or as often as the three-and-a-half hours it took me to transcribe his one-hour-and-ten-minutes of talking. I finally got to bed around two-thirty a.m. after eight hours of this nonsense, and you know what I mainly learned? There’s no glamour on this side of the camera.

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That photo on the left? That was the red carpet, the whole thing. It was duct tape and klieg lights and tired venue managers and some anxious reporters for local news web sites who came an hour early just in case. I was fortunate to be standing next to a photographer (above, right) who was willing to chat to pass the time. When he told me his name was Rod Rolle, I was all, Like Esther Rolle? And he gave me this look, like, You remember Esther Rolle? And he said she was one of his cousins and I yelled, NO WAY! startling the gen-Zers all around me who did not share my fond cultural memories of Good Times and Maude. That was the most glamorous thing that happened to me that night, meeting Esther Rolle’s cousin. That and Lucy Boynton’s gorgeous peacock dress and Chinese-opera eye makeup. Thank you, Lucy, for bringing your A game to our little duct-taped award ceremony. And thanks also to this guy:

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Joe Mazzello played the bass player in the Freddy Mercury movie and none of the reporters was making much of a fuss over him, but I got a bit giddy when the actors started showing up and I yelled, “Nice shoes!” at him, and he perked up and said, “Thanks! I don’t know what kind they are. The suit is Top Man, that’s all I know.” I pretended to write that down, and then I asked him if I could take a picture of his shoes and he was fine with that. The light was terrible but we both acted like that was also fine, and I was relieved to have had at least one low-stress conversation with an actor that night, because this whole celebrity thing drives me a little bit nuts. I get uncontrollably star-struck, mostly when in the presence of writers I admire, but I found myself getting super anxious as Rami Malek got closer and fans started screaming his name. It’s an important practice for all of us but for me in particular to remind myself that people, if you’ll forgive me, all have the same share of cosmic divinity. I mean, as an American I know we’re all equal in theory, but it’s never really true, and I often involuntarily elevate some and denigrate others. There’s a wonderful Buddhist story about an old, venerated monk coming to visit a small temple, and all the temple monks lined up to greet him, but one monk noticed that his thoughts about this visitor were making him anxious, so he went away and meditated for twelve years until he realized that even a venerated person is still just a human being.

So if I don’t post for another twelve years, you’ll know that’s what I’m doing.

LINKS OVER TROUBLED WATER

Here’s a music video by the guy who directed Chernobyl! It’s a little bare-bones, visually, but the tune has been embedded in my mind for a week and caused me to follow two Deee-Lite-themed playlists on Spotify.

I have a bunch of interesting links to share with you but they deserve more than to be tacked onto the end of an already too-long post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

I also wanted to grow up and be a Playboy Bunny

Sunday morning I was lollygagging in bed with a small but persistent headache and occasional nose bleed, probably due to the fact that I wasn't quite ready to enjoy normal dinner-with-friends wine drinking quite so close to the finale of my very important head cold. It occurred to me that nose bleeds can be symptomatic of all sorts of fun, including (1) change of seasons/dry weather, (2) brain hemorrhage, (3) getting punched in the face, or (4) over-blowing due to frantic amounts of congestion. But these days I'm also having hourly hot flashes and I haven't had my period for a couple of months, and so for a moment I was actually addled enough to think, Is that a menopause thing? You start bleeding out of your nose? My mother never warned me about anything like that. We had a warm but shame-based relationship, though, so who knows? My organs could be migrating all over the place but I wouldn't recognize the symptoms were because there wasn't a Modess pamphlet about placental nose bleeds for my mom to leave on my bed. Anyway. Sunday morning I'm lying in bed trying to will myself into the shower, wondering whether I'd be better off with two Advil or a Heineken, when Jackson comes flying in with his blanket over him like a cape. I love my son with all my heart, but not so much when he's JUMPing UP and DOWN on the BED and then trying to suffocate me. With his love. And his blanket.

I managed to elbow him off me in the most passive, loving, sick-lady way possible, which he adores. We have the world's laziest wrestling matches. We'll be lying there watching TV and slowly trying to push each other onto the floor. So there I was with my headache and my bloody nose (and a very attractive dry cough that makes me sound like Lauren Bacall) trying to stiff-arm 100 pounds of boy, who then reared up with his blanket all dramatically and said, "DAMMINT, PAMELA!" and then covered my head like he was actually trying to suffocate me.

I was trapped under the blanket trying fruitlessly to elbow him in the groin in a way that wouldn't ruin his life, so all he could hear was my muffled, "Oh my God, who is Pamela?"

"I don't know!" he giggled, trying to sit on my head, "She's your alter ego! And she's blonde! . . . And she has a DRINKING PROBLEM!"

I managed to push him off, where he collapsed into a pile of his own hilarity, and I thought, Things are so much more well-defined for Pamela. I'm graying and have a cold-medicine dependency, but she gets to be blonde and call two bottles of champagne a good start.

But also, what in hell does he know to throw around the phrase "drinking problem"? Is he secretly watching Celebrity Rehab? Did I watch Lost Weekend when I was pregnant and Ray Milland crossed the placenta? It's a shock to hear grown-up phrases come out of your child's mouth like they know what they're saying. I mean, kids pick stuff up all over the place, and I know Jackson's fascinated with what it means to be an adult. When I was his age I was sitting in my bedroom memorizing Cheech and Chong routines and pretending to be Liza Minnelli in Cabaret and my parents didn't have a clue.

This was the best 5 minutes of my day so far

What I have to Offer from Eliot Rausch on Vimeo.

Charlie Kaufman's full lecture can be found here.

I saw something the other day that basically asked, why are you giving your life to Facebook? You're filling a site that's not your own with your stories, when they belong on your own domain. Facebook is making millions off your content, so consider what you're giving up for the opportunity to have a few dozen people give you a digital thumbs up.

This really resonated with me, especially after I posted the above video on Facebook this morning and only one person said HOLY SHIT THIS IS AMAZING and shared it on her own page. It could be that I've neglected this site long enough that I only get a couple hundred people to read it anyway, down from a peak of about 4,000 a day way back when. People say Twitter killed blogging, and it certainly drained some of the energy out of it, but Facebook has made blogging seem old-fashioned and quaint, almost hand-made. In 2001 I had to read a Webmonkey tutorial to learn how to make a hyperlink; building my own domain was an accomplishment akin to learning how to make sushi. And not everybody wanted (or had the time and resources) to do that before Facebook, so I can see how democratizing Facebook is, it gives anyone over the age of 13 a place to post nuanced political rants and cat photos in less than 60 seconds.

But I'm cranky enough to want to take my Internet life back to its original platform. It could be this feeling will pass -- God knows I've had some mood swings lately, tomorrow I may be running for office (I had a dream last night that Barack Obama hugged me). But I've been feeling a lack of meaning in my life for a couple of years now, and it's become so acute that keeping it inside is no longer an option. Sorry, Internet. I'm back.

Crushes

Here's another video, and it's just 2:22 long so it's not as much of a commitment as the previous one. It's just me talking about some of my early movie man crushes. Some of them are a little embarrassing. In fact, I believe I unconsciously suppressed Jeff Goldblum because Jack gives me so much shit about how much I loved him in The Fly, but instead of going back to re-record my little speech to include him I just edited him in after the fact. So this is me speaking into an iPad, and then wondering why iMovie distorted my face so wonderfully that I almost threw everything out and started over, but then I remembered: I'm not a perfectionist. So enjoy my squashed-flat face, and let me know if you share any of my movie loves. I'm not threatened. There's enough of Burt Reynolds to go around.

Crushes from Eden M. Kennedy on Vimeo.

I invite you to go elsewhere

I have two posts up in other places this week, both of them exciting investigations into the deep, dark subject of celebrities that I think are cute. The one up at The Popcorn Whisperer is entitled, Movie Clips I'd Like to See at the 2013 Oscars. My main goal was to write something that would reveal myself to myself, but then I got lazy and stopped wondering why I have so much affection for a bunch of famous people I've never met. How adorable do I find Drew Barrymore? Very. Paul Rudd? Charming as pie. But it's Laurence Fishburne I'll always adore no matter how pouchy he gets, because I remember when he was just Larry, a gangly teenager grooving his way upriver in Apocalypse Now, and then the next thing I knew he was goofy Cowboy Curtis wooing Miss Yvonne with all his twangling heart, and then what? Super sexy in Deep Cover (with my other boyfriend, Jeff Goldblum), and then bam! Othello! Which you'd think would be the pinnacle of his career, but no, suddenly he's wearing a long leather coat and unlocking the secret of time itself for an addled Keanu Reeves. He's just two heartbeats away from becoming Darth Vader's cranky grandfather in a chrome helmet, and I'm probably going to start a Tumblr called fuckyeahlaurencefishburne. I'll let you know if that happens. I'm still kind of busy unpacking. The other thing I wrote is 5 Ways to Meet Celebrities Without Looking Like a Stalker, which started as an off-the-cuff idea that a couple of editors really responded to, but writing it made me realize how sadly excited I've been to run into movie stars throughout my life. I'm not sure if it's because I'm kind of repressed and these people get to be emotionally vulnerable for a living, and so they appear to be living out parts of my life that I don't have the guts to inhabit, or what. I'm sure studies have been done. (Oh, look, here's one: Celebrity Worship Syndrome. I'm going to go ahead and self-diagnose on the not-pathological end of the scale.)

In conclusion, thank you for reading, click on those links and read me elsewhere if it sounds like something you want to do, and let's all have the nicest weekend possible!

I want to work at Dreamworks when I grow up

Friday I let Jackson take a day off of school so we could drive down to L.A. for a press screening of Kung Fu Panda 2 on the Dreamworks campus. Admittedly, all the placards called it a Mommyblogger screening. Several dads were in attendance, though, which makes me wonder if the word "mommyblogger" is subsuming the word "daddyblogger" and becoming shorthand for "bloggers who admit they have children." If so, I will lay down my arms against the word mommyblogger for it has swallowed us all, man and woman alike. Take that, centuries of grammatical patriarchy. I talked to one of the dads and it turned out he wasn't a mommyblogger; his wife was. We were all eating lunch together after the screening (which we were asked not to blog about) and toy demo (which we were). Mattel employees were on hand to answer questions. I couldn't think of any questions, possibly because there were two kinds of cupcakes and they were both free.

"I have a blog," Jackson told the non-mommyblogger and his wife. Their small daughter was dipping a plastic panda in cupcake frosting and then licking it off his foot.

"You do?" they said in surprise. They looked at me. I do not know for sure what they were thinking. They seemed like genuinely lovely, down-home people but I detected a hint of concern. It could have been curiosity. It could have been boredom mixed with horror masquerading as polite ambivalence. We'll never know for sure.

"He doesn't post anything personal, just dog photos and YouTube videos of cats falling into swimming pools," I said. "You haven't posted in a while, have you?"

"I posted about twelve times last year," said Jackson.

"WHAT?!" I said.

The couple laughed nervously. Their daughter wandered away to examine some decorative Dreamworks gravel.

"I posted some jokes," said Jackson. "You know, Mom. Mitch Hedberg."

I'd forgotten. Jackson had had a brief obsession with Mitch Hedberg after I'd let him download Mitch All Together last year. I had been trying to steer him away from Lady Gaga and thought he might take to comedy. I loved comedy albums as a kid and it's funny now to think of twelve-year-old me listening to all that Cheech and Chong. My mom probably asked my much-older brothers if it was okay for me to listen to that stuff, and I imagine them telling her, "Oh, yeah, Mom, it's TOTALLY cool," and then driving off to buy some weed in the 7-11 parking lot. (Note: I have no proof that any such thing ever happened. My brothers are fine, upstanding citizens. As far as I know.)

Anyway, I felt like Mitch Hedberg would be cool for a kid because even though his language is kind of blue, it's nothing Jackson doesn't hear at home, and the jokes themselves are usually pretty clean.

"Mitch Hedberg jokes," repeated the mom in surprise.

"Yeah," said Jackson. "Do you know the one about the duck?"

Mitch Hedberg - Ducks eat for free at Subway from Justin Cordero on Vimeo.

What was crazy about listening to Jackson tell this joke was that he had the delivery down, he enunciated in that precise way Just. Like. Mitch. Hedberg. The couple laughed, and the woman revealed that she and her husband were both stand-up comedians and they'd performed with Mitch at the Laugh Factory in L.A. before he died, and that he was a real nice guy. We. Were. Impressed.

Then I realized I had a question for the Mattel rep.

"I have this blog where I demonstrate yoga using action figures?" The Mattel rep looked unimpressed, perhaps anticipating that I was about to ask for free toys. "So I'm wondering, do you have anything in the Kung Fu Panda 2 line with more articulation?"

This caught the attention of a second Mattel rep, an earnest young man wearing bangs and glasses.

"Something with more articulation? Like a true action figure?" he asked. "Like a G.I. Joe?"

"Exactly," I said.

He shook his head sadly. "These figures are aimed at the pre-school market. They have these dynamic poses . . . " he gestured toward a peacock whose two feathered "hands" were outstretched as though he were conducting an orchestra, " . . . but that's about it."

I liked this young guy, he gave me the sense that working for a toy company like Mattel was a geek dream come exquisitely true and that his apartment was possibly bursting with of unopened boxes of original Power Rangers and vintage Aqua Men. I was, in fact, about to ask if he could send me some free toys when Jackson ran up and desperately tugged on my jacket.

"Mom, the studio tour is starting NOW!"

"Do you have a business card?" I asked the young guy.

I am fortunate enough to have been on some famous old studio lots in L.A. where I've seen the huge old soundstages and Lucille Ball's office and idling limousines and once I was hit by a production assistant tearing around a corner on a Paramount bicycle. Dreamworks isn't like that. Dreamworks is a cluster of office buildings filled with twenty- and thirtysomethings hunched over computers. They get free breakfast and free lunch and a game room with every kind of gaming system AND a pool table AND pinball and a couch to take naps on, free yoga classes, and frozen yogurt any time they want.

"I want to work at Dreamworks when I grow up," said you-know-who.

"Does anyone have any questions?" asked our tour guide, who was a nice man from marketing.

"Mom, you ask my question. I'm shyer than you are," Jackson whispered.

"No you're not."

"I am, too."

"That is such a lie."

"MOMMMM!"

I raised my hand.

"Don't tell him you're asking for your son."

"My son wants to know--" severe poking in my side "-- if we'll see any movie stars today."

"No, I'm sorry, the voice actors did their work here quite a while ago and none are on campus today."

"You ask your question now. Ask them if they filmed Galaxy Quest here."

"I don't want to!"

"Ask it, Mom!"

"Is Galaxy Quest even a Dreamworks film?"

"YES!"

I raised my hand.

"Uh, are there any soundstages here for filming or is it all just computer animation?"

Either the guide misunderstood my question or I've been using the word "soundstage" incorrectly my entire life. I thought a soundstage was one of those giant airplane hangar-sized buildings where they built huge sets filled with lighting and whatnot and filmed scenes in movies. "Yes, we do all the sound recording here," said the tour guide, trailing off politely because didn't he already made it clear that they record sound here? Perhaps on a stage of some sort?

When the tour was over we asked for some frozen yogurt. FREE frozen yogurt.

Then we listened to Lady Gaga all the way home.