Horndog Laureate

I don’t know who “Scott is NOT a professional critic” is, except that he claims to be a screenwriter and he thinks/dreams/obsesses about sex and ’70s cinema a lot. I do know that he sounds like a highly energized LexG without the morose gloom and self-pity, and a little bit like Warren Oates in Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia if Oates’ character in that Sam Peckinpah film was an alcoholic USC film professor and a raving, saliva-spewing chauvinist dog.

I also know that on 11.10.21 he posted a lucid, sharply written (like something out of Penthouse in the mid ’70s), altogether exceptional appraisal of Hal Ashby‘s Shampoo (’75). You have to scroll down to read it, but it’s there. The values (particularly the general sentiments about women) are unfortunate, but the writing is quite good.

Scott’s website slogan reads as follows: “Someone asks you how to go through life, and there’s two answers. There’s ‘between a pair of Latin tits, drunk off your ass, with the Stones on blast and a Sam Peckinpah Western on the TV.’ And then there’s the fucking incorrect answer.” Okay?

He also describes the site’s content as “RUMINATIONS ON THE GRANDE DAME OF CINEMA — TITS, GUNS, SNAPPY MONOLOGUES. WRITTEN IN A BREATHLESS, ALCOHOL-INDUCED RUSH, [AND] BEST READ UNDER THE SAME CONDITIONS.”

A portion of the Shampoo piece:

“In the middle of this crazed, Caligula-esque circus of me, George’s ‘I don’t fuck anybody for money, I do it for fun’ rings out like the clarion call of sanity — the lone dinghy of true innocence in waters not nearly as pure as professional ’60s idealists would have you believe. It also sounds like the cold, unadorned truth. Say what you will about your local manwhore — at least he fucks for the sheer human pleasure of sliding off another pair of panties grown clammy with the dew of excitement (part of nature’s programming, anyway), not for money or social status or career advancement or a good table at Spago’s.

“Maybe it means I don’t love ’em…

nobody’s gonna tell me I don’t like ’em very much…

“George is a guy who spends all his time around women — certainly, he must like them, right? Except that, in the real world, the biggest misogynists tend to be those who ‘score’ the most, not (as is commonly assumed) bitter nerds with their dicks indefinitely stationed in Palm Springs. Anyone who’s ever spent ten minutes of conversation time with your friendly neighborhood suburban jock can attest to this — get him alone, away from the future Playmates he’s taken for granted since puberty, and ‘Love, Tenderness and Respect’ ain’t the name of the tune he sings.

“Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that getting a higher degree of action entails being around more women. And being around more women entails a greater awareness of the vagaries of the fairer sex — i.e., looming insecurities, the unceasing need for validation, the constant head games, the shallow assessments of what constitutes a good time, the shallow assessments of other people (especially other women), the tantrum-throwing when she hasn’t gotten her way, endless prattling about the most trifling minutiae of her daily existence.

“Or, even less charitably: the more success one has getting into women’s salty little panties, the more one realizes what great aphrodisiacs things like money and status really are. (How the fuck else could Jabba the Huts like Biggie Smalls or personality-free dorks like Tiger Woods actually get laid?) And once one tends to chance upon this gradual dawning of the consciousness, one tends to note one’s increased resentment and overall lack of respect for the pretty little things one gets into bed — even at the height of one’s carnal success.

“Beatty soft-pedals this aspect of womanizing in Shampoo, much as he soft-pedaled Clyde Barrow’s alleged bisexuality, much as The Parallax View soft-pedaled the U.S. government’s complicity with assassinations and cover-ups, much as Bulworth soft-pedaled the high untenability of the let’s-all-be-socialists-and-fuck-’til-we’re-all-the-same-shade-of-gray party line. Perhaps that’s an outgrowth of some George Roundy-ish need to please (if not outright seduce) every audience member who comes along.

“Nonetheless, Beatty was nothing if not a guy who knew about women. And, however muted, indelible truths about Being a Guy are indeed carefully nestled behind Shampoo‘s hedges, waiting patiently for the scavenger hunt to begin.”

  • vansmith

    Well said but with an intensity that speaks to larger problems, or disappointments in NOT being that guy…

  • TL

    Scott is not a professional critic, but he sounds like a semi-pro misogynist.

  • Tristan Eldritch2

    “I don’t know who “Scott is NOT a professional critic” is..”

    Frank Miller?

  • This rant/review made me realize that we need a SHAME/SHAMPOO mash-up trailer, stat.

    Make it happen, Internet.

  • Jericho Cane

    “much as The Parallax View soft-pedaled the U.S. government’s complicity with assassinations and cover-ups…”

    If by ‘soft-pedaled’ you mean ‘smacked you in the fucking face with the cold and bitter truth of it during the final scene’, then yes, I agree. Maybe he should watch it again without being piss-drunk.

    Interesting rant but give me Lex any day of the week.

  • lazarus

    Word on Parallax, Jericho.

    And I don’t find Bulworth to be soft-peddling, either. Probably the ballsiest and most truthful film about politics release by a major studio. And even more relevant now, shamefully.

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    I look at Shampoo and think, the most-laid guy in the world had big rubbery lips and giant Shih Tzu hair and dressed like a gay bandito? What a different world the 70s were.

  • Scott Is NOT A Professional Film Critic

    Well, now.

    First, I’d like to thank Mr. Wells for his promotion of my writings, whatever his misgivings may be.

    As to the “misogyny” of my Shampoo piece, I can only reiterate what I wrote there: the single biggest misconception about those deemed “misogynistic” is that they’re all somehow bitter nerds who never get laid. Right. Because someone who wrote all the things that I wrote — from personal experience, mind you — must have had absolutely NO contact with women whatsoever. Of course. Rock on.

    As far as The Parallax View goes, it’s an entertaining but flawed effort that doesn’t go nearly as deep as it could have. It “soft-pedals” the U.S. government’s complicity in assassinations and cover-ups by diverting it all to some shadowy, ostensibly free-lance organization. Need a senator whacked? Want some pesky eyewitness to die in a “car accident”? Call the Parallax Corporation! Obviously, the film’s ending tells us that the government chooses to look the other way and not dig any deeper into these things. But what it doesn’t go into is the extent to which the government might have had a hand in having its RFK-esque figures removed from the face of the earth. The implication is certainly there. But it is, indeed, soft-pedaled.

    And Bulworth? I like it a great deal. It’s funny, it’s daring in some regards, it has things on its mind. It’s Beatty’s best performance since Reds. Saw it on opening weekend back in ’98. But — I like it. There’s far too much self-satisfied Hollywood-liberal white-man God complex in the story for me to accept it as anything other than Beatty stroking his own cock/ego/conscience.

    But, hey, if you agree with the film’s inherent premise that what Da Negroes really need is a white man who just discovered KFC chicken wings and hip-hop last week to swoop in and do the job that MLK and Huey Newton couldn’t do — then, more power to ya.

  • Jericho Cane

    Thanks for dropping by, Scott, and keeping things civil instead of starting a flame war. We obviously don’t see how deep the shadowy conspiracies go in PARALLAX because events were logically seen from the clueless reporter’s perspective. Would it have been a better film if the main character had been, say, a ruthless senator instead of an Everyman audience surrogate? Should Beatty have dug up some grade-A dirt on a presidential candidate before meeting his end?

    As far as slick thrillers made by mainstream studios go, that movie has a big, clanging pair of brass balls. By “soft pedaling” the conspiracy stuff, to use your phrase, the audience is left with a myriad of unanswered questions and lots of creepy implied material hidden under the surface.

    I don’t wanna come across as a windbag so I’ll stop now. But obviously I love THE PARALLAX VIEW and I relish any chance to discuss it. And I’m sorry for implying that you were intoxicated when you saw it.

    One last question: What’s wrong with Peckinpah’s contemporary stuff? STRAW DOGS and ALFREDO GARCIA are masterpieces, CONVOY is a textbook definition of “guilty pleasure” and OSTERMAN WEEKEND is so bugfuck insane that it demands repeated viewings just to make heads or tails of the mess.

  • Well, first off, as you correctly mention: Straw Dogs and Alfredo Garcia are indeed masterpieces.

    It does my heart good to see Alfredo go from being this semi-forgotten ’70s curio and supposed Worst Film of All Time candidate to being almost universally admired as the pure artistic statement and underrated black comedy that it is. I have my issues with Roger Ebert but Peckinpah fans must never forget that Ebert was virtually a lone voice in the mid-’70s wilderness when he gave the film a four-star review and talked about the sadness and poetry — and outrage at the way of the world — buried beneath its scuzz-ball surface. Warren Oates owns your bitch ass, plain and simple.

    Straw Dogs? Strong candidate for Most Easily Misunderstood Film of All Time. I can understand you being a windbag about Parallax because I’m exactly the same way about Dogs, especially with those unable/unwilling to read deeper into the film than “HURRR WIMMENS SURE LIKE DA RAEP HURRRR VIOLENCE IS WHAT MAKES A MAN.” I believe the film to be a sort of litmus test for a viewer’s intelligence/ability to read subtext.

    By the way, that pathetic recent remake does not exist. There is only one Straw Dogs. Peckinpah is an elephant. Rod Lurie is but a wriggling cockroach.

    As far as the rest of his filmography?

    The Deadly Companions: Hard to find, not very highly regarded by any Peckinpah admirer. And confession time: one I haven’t seen. So…

    Ride the High Country: One of the last of the old-school studio Westerns. A graceful film in its own shambling, quiet little way. Won’t make sense to you at twenty but ripens and matures as you get older, and suddenly find yourself knowing just what Joel McCrea means. “All I want is to enter my house justified.” Ain’t a man alive who can’t understand that, on some level.

    Major Dundee: Flawed, obviously, what with Columbia snatching the film from Peckinpah and re-cutting it, adding a horrid score, etc. The fault doesn’t just lie with the suits, though: I look at this as sort of a dry run for The Wild Bunch, since the ideas he pulled off beautifully there, he’s not quite able to realize here. The ending, in particular, is a bit of a rushed muddle. Fascinating as hell, though. One of Heston’s best performances. And Senta Berger circa ’65 is quite a sight to behold. More meat on this “failure’s” bones than on ten certified classics.

    The Wild Bunch: Dude. It’s the fucking Wild Bunch.

    The Ballad of Cable Hogue: Amiable, shaggy-dog tale saluting the men who built up the old West (and thus, America) from little more than a hole in the ground — and then, got wiped from the history books. Interesting to see Peckinpah give in to his sentimental, cornball side for once.

    Junior Bonner: Un-changed men in a changing land, and this time, not a single bullet is fired. Accepting the ne’er-do-well that is your father, and learning to love him, anyway. Accepting that you can lose in a situation and still know that you’ve won, on some level. Learning how to pick yourself up after a mean bull (a.k.a. life itself) has dumped you flat on your ass. Steve McQueen in a cowboy hat. Nixon’s small-town America in an age of crisis.

    The Getaway: A B-movie, to be sure, but then Jim Thompson’s book was a B-novel. Ali MacGraw’s nostrils do an admirable acting job and Sollozzo from The Godfather kidnaps Archie Bunker’s little goil and makes a helluva B-movie villain. Originally, I came to this one after Peckinpah’s acknowledged masterpieces so I couldn’t appreciate it. He did it for the $$$ but he still did it the artist’s way: if there’s a better treatise on repairing a frayed marriage within the framework of a down-and-dirty ’70s action flick, somebody let me know. The hotel shootout toward the end gives me a boner. Doc McCoy can’t get one when he first comes home to his wife, but he takes a pump-action shotgun and still shows us what a man looks like. I like it. Plus, there’s Slim Pickens.

    Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: Again, butchered by the studio (MGM). Also, this is where Peckinpah’s alcoholism starts to make its presence felt in the work itself. Retains a suitably appropriate druggy ’70s vibe, though. The evil twin to The Wild Bunch. No rousingly-scored elation or catharsis in the gunslinging here, just the slow, inevitable death of the West in muted shades of muddy gray-brown. Final 15-20 minutes probably the best/saddest final 15-20 minutes of any Western, ever. Bye-bye, West. Say hello to the modern world.

    The Killer Elite: Turn it off after the James Caan character gets out of physical therapy, about 20 minutes in. ‘Cause you’ll have seen all that’s worthwhile here. Ninjas in slo-mo. Chinese virgins. Jeez, Sam. Cocaine’s a helluva drug.

    Cross of Iron: As woozy and muddled in its own way as Pat Garrett but in a way that I find works to the film’s benefit. What it feels like to fight a losing war, to have tethered yourself to a sinking ship — and carry on with it, anyway, because you’re a professional, dammit, and that’s what professionals do. In other words: another Peckinpah treatise on his film career.

    Convoy: Truckers. Kris Kristofferson. Ali MacGraw’s nostrils. Ernest Borgnine’s evil hick sheriff. Inspired by a one-hit wonder on country radio. If you squint real hard, you can see a little bit of occasional magic in here. Or just take it as a corny ’70s road movie and put it on a double bill with Smokey and the Bandit. You’ll probably like it even more.

    Osterman Weekend: Bug-fuck insane? Muddled? Convoluted? Sure, sure, and sure. But worthwhile? You bet. Funny how it helps predict the daily Big Brother-esque camcorder/webcam/phone-cam surveillance we now take for granted. Not to mention, the pre-packaged phoniness of our Sean Hannitys and Keith Olbermans and other things that pass for “bold” televised political commentary. John Hurt doing his improvised weather report is fucking hilarious. The big action setpiece at the end shows Peckinpah still on top of his game. Meg Foster with a cross-bow is arguably his best use of slo-mo since The Wild Bunch. It’s even a little surreal — check those bullets whirring into the pool over our heroes’ heads or Helen Shaver’s little coked-out children’s song before meeting her doom.

    Oh, and the little surveillance video that John Hurt shows Rutger Hauer of Dennis Hopper’s little meeting in the park? Check that boom-box that some guy is holding in the background. If you’ve noticed that there’s no music coming out of said boom-box, then you’ve picked up on an early clue that Hurt’s character may not be all he seems. Devil’s in the details.

    As to Parallax, I’m pulling it off the DVD shelf and giving it another spin. Whatever my reservations, I love the bleak finality of it all. That downbeat, hero-dies-at-the-end shit that the ’70s did so well.

    And is it just me, or was 1974 sort of the apex of the whole downbeat ending thing? I mean, between Parallax, Godfather II, Chinatown, The Conversation and Alfredo Garcia, it’s no wonder your more “undiscerning” audiences went running into the arms of Lucas and Stevie Spielberg shortly after.