“A list poem is one of the easiest kinds of poems to write because it doesn’t require either rhythm or rhyme. But that doesn’t mean you should write down anything helter skelter. Here’s a list of elements that makes a list poem a poem instead of just a list:
1) The writer is telling you something–pointing something out–saying, “Look at this” or, “Think about this.”
2) There’s a beginning and an end to it, like in a story.
3) Each item in the list is written the same way.”
“How to Write a “What Bugs Me” List Poem”, by Bruce Lansky (1996)
“My advice, to anyone willing to listen, is to find a notebook that fits into your pants pocket. Use a pen with a cap so it doesn’t explode in your pocket, and start writing down whatever you can remember. Even if it’s a favourite colour. Then, later, write down why it’s your favourite colour…. and pretty soon you’ve got a list.”
Me on my last post
The Second Five: My Ultimate Twenty Five Movies
This is a list I finished last spring. It was part of, what ended up being, a very successful part of regaining my memory. It took me two years to put this list together. The lists I’m posting, about the embarrassing memories, and these movies and the others to come, are meant to show the value in writing memories down.
The Americanization of Emily (1964) b/w (James Garner, Julie Andrews) This is one of the very few war movies — in fact I can’t think of another — where the hero is not only a coward, he revels in being a coward and the philosophy of cowardice is celebrated as a virtue. Of course it’s a satire, but what’s being satirized is heroism, the only movies I know of which come close would be Catch-22 and MASH — both of which used TAOE as source material, but those were about the lunacy of the war machine itself, not about the benefits of cowardice in preventing wars.
“…his (Madison, played by Garner) rebellion is fueled by a conviction that war is a staged, man-made affair motivated less by necessity than by misguided visions of warfare as an arena in which men prove their gallantry. As Madison tells Emily’s mother, ‘It’s not war that’s insane; it’s the morality of it.'” — Slant Magazine. The only problem with the movie is its choice of wars… optimally the First World War — with it’s millions of dead for a few feet of earth — would have been a perfect fit for the long discussions of the futility of being brave. For some reason they picked the Second World War, the one noble war in recent history as proof that there are no noble wars. Just as historical reference, this movie was made before the American public had turned against the Vietnam War. Beyond war, the movie also brilliantly examines the relationship between Europe and America.
Canadian director, the great Arthur Hillier, does a great job with the long pieces of dialogue written by Paddy Chayefsky, considered to be one of the greatest screenwriters ever. The movie was loosely based on a novel of the same name by William Bradford Huie.
Giant (1956) (Rock Hudson, James Dean, Liz Taylor) In 200 minutes this movie spans several decades while dealing with class struggle, interracial marriages, racism, the oppression of women. We watch one man grow over a lifetime out of prejudice through his children, while another is destroyed by his hate and love of a woman he can never have. All on a background of the development of the Texas oilfields and the hundreds of billions in newfound wealth fighting against the established aristocracy of the old school ranchers. I have to admit that I resisted seeing any of James Dean’s movies… and Liz Taylor’s and Rock Hudson’s for a long time, and for the same reason, I was young and stupid and convinced that anything that came Before had no value. It’s actually how I was kind of raised. These people represented the excesses of American culture, not it’s talent. Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant, however, I would watch on every PBS Movie Weekend.
But Giant, adapted from a novel by Edna Ferber, shocked me. James Dean, who I hadn’t even seen in Rebel Without A Cause, was a real actor. Some of his scenes are better acted than anything I’ve seen since he made them. The issues dealt with in Giant, the racism against Mexicans especially, were dealt with intelligently and honestly and this movie was made in 1956 as a blockbuster for a large audience. It’s hard enough to find decent independent movies today made about these issues, but to have a studio jam this much talent and this much money into a movie so filled with intent and meaning… in 1956. That kills me.
The Prophecy (1995) (Christopher Walkin, Eric Stoltz) This movie wasn’t so much “great” as “like, totally fucking awesomely cool”. Christopher Walkin as a pissed off archangel Gabriel stompin his way through the American West looking for the one thing that will help him win an ongoing Civil War between all the Angels Of Heaven — the darkest, most evil human soul. And he’s not just pissed off… he’s pissed off at God. Fuck, I just got chills. Everything about this movie, including its tiny budget, is way totally cool. Eric Stoltz as the protector Angel, Simon, who hides the dark soul in a young girl. Viggo Mortensen, pre mental breakdown, making a surprise appearance as Lucifer. Adam Goldberg, a reanimated suicide case as Gabriel’s henchmen… dude just keeps trying to kill himself. All of it because, when God allowed mankind into Heaven a pack of the angels became jealous and turned against… well.
Quote One: Gabriel: “I’m an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why.”
Quote Two: Thomas Daggett: “If you wanted to prove your side was right so badly, Gabriel, why didn’t you just ask Him? Why didn’t you ask God?”
Gabriel: “…because He doesn’t talk to me any more.”
The only serious flaw to this movie, or what could be considered a serious flaw, is the sheer number of ideas it tries to jam into the movie, and a plot that’s not quite grand enough to deal with them. But that’s a problem with most independent movies and a not so grand budget… in this case US$8million. And I had no problem getting past it…
The Filth And The Fury (2002) (Sex Pistols — doc.) Just in terms of the archival footage this is an amazing movie. Britain, trapped deep in the malaise of the Seventies. Everything was falling apart, the garbage strike had gone on for months. Trash piled high on streets and in front yards. The coal miners on strike, paralysing the country. The Soviet Union seemed on the brink of winning the Cold War, gas rationing, hyper inflation across the Western World. There’s still some debate as to which band invented Punk, or at least which was the first Official Punk band. Iggy Pop and The Stooges or The Ramones are generally the two candidates. But there’s no doubt as to which band brought it to the bars and clubs of the United Kingdom, then to America. As much as The Stooges and The Ramones banged on their distorted guitars and sang atonal songs about high school love and street sex, neither had directly attacked government or establishment institutions. And then there was “Anarchy In The U.K.”, it was the first punk anthem for a British youth culture tired of living in shit… “I wanna destroy, possibly.”
This movie is well paced, there are interviews with the entire band — including archival stuff of Sid — and with the bands who were influenced by them. The interviews with Johnny Lydon-Rotten are done backlit so you can’t see his face… it’s like he’s in a witness protection program. There is one scene that almost always takes my breath away… it’s in a British club, the Sex Pistols are on stage, and in the crowd are Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie and the Banshees), Shane MacGowan (The Pogues), Billy Idol (uhm… Billy Idol), and a total Who’s Who of what would become the next generation of Punk. From their website: “The Sex Pistols ARE punk, the rest are ‘punk-rock’, BIG difference…”
Network (1976) (Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall) Paddy Chayefsky is the greatest screenwriters Ever. Full stop. In 1964 he wrote “The Americanization of Emily”, and he won Oscars for writing Marty (1955), was nominated for The Goddess (1958), won again for The Hospital (1971), and in 1976 he won for Network. He also, probably while drunk or being beaten up, wrote “Paint Your Wagon”, a bizarre musical starring Lee Marvin. Network is, without a doubt, the most searingly accurate portrayal of what the boardroom and “public relations” sector of “The Media” is really like. Except, maybe, for the actual death contract put out on the main character, Howard Beale, no other movie about “The Media” even comes close to Network. Although I’m sure Ted Turner probably stabbed a few reporters in the eye. The only movie I’ve seen that was equally vicious, yet remained an exacting portrayal of a “sector” would have to be “American Psycho” with Christian Bale. Paddy also wrote 1980’s “Altered States”, another favourite of mine. I should get his name tattooed across my belly… in that serif gang font. That’d be cool.