Sunday, August 13, 2006

123. A Temporary Dream

Back on July 17, I wrote about Anthony Hopkins, starting with Magic in order to work my way toward The World's Fastest Indian. Well, after many years I finally watched Magic again (written by William Goldman, directed by Richard Attenborough). And my memory of it, at least those reflected in the July 17 post, seems to have been pretty accurate. Hopkins does do Karloffian pathos, but with a hyperactive vocal register, the Richard Harris-style "loud voice" so perfectly parodied many moons ago on SCTV. But in Magic it seems to fit, given the nervous in extremis situation. It was startling to watch Hopkins and the dummy yell at each other: Fats, the dummy/alter ego, raging in a keening voice that also managed to be as gravelly as Burgess Meredith's, who plays Corky/Fats' agent, Ben Greene--"Gangrene," as Fats calls him. All in all, another one of those 1978 creepy crawlers I mentioned the other day, Hollywood part-revolution, part-misfire oddities I will always have an affection for, especially if I "squint a bit."

Except for Ann-Margret. For the original kitten with a whip, it's eyes wide open. I'll admit I'd forgotten--sort of--how, ah, taken I was with her in that movie. Oh, let's be honest: not forgotten at all. In my late teens and early twenties she swam around in my head like Ahab's whale, except without all the, ahem, harpooning. No, Ann-Margret--and I am not telling anyone anything new here--exists in a rarefied atmosphere, the prettiest girl in school you--all right, I'll speak for myself--I would never have spoken to, let alone known. And so in 1978, three years after the Oedipal wigout of Tommy, there I was, watching Magic and finding myself identifying with Hopkins' character. Urg. Well, it was difficult to resist: in high school Corky had had a crush on her--loved her--but had never spoken to her. And then there he was, crazy as all get-out but finally getting lucky with--I kid you not--ex-cheerleader Peggy Ann Snow (Goldman, you have a twisted little mind). Again, if movies are dreams, and dreams are wish-fulfillment, this one came to me without metaphor, symbol, or sign, but unfiltered and flat out. Watching it today, I reminded myself how much I'd enjoyed those scenes of Corky and Peggy in love, and how temporarily soothing a movie can be. It's sad, I know, but it fits with every other emotion generated by the movies, no matter how awkward their origin or foolish their expression.

So when Corky falls apart, loses not merely his sanity but Peggy, it served me well, because his frustration was played out with such hysteria that I was able to leave the movie, in 1978 especially, with my own thoughts tucked away in relative safety--because I could feel I was not crazy like Corky, even though my mind had its own ripples and currents, not the least of which the illusionary movie-induced conviction that some guys have all the luck. Today, though, half a lifetime later, I can report that Magic provides merely the memory of a temporary dream--although I cannot deny its power, since it was a dream that held me over until my real life could begin.


James said...


Let me first thank you this time for your rather prompt and throughough response. Forgive me if my own response is much shorter, but trying to run rings around you with words is a task I'm obviously not up to just quite yet.

I would likely not be able to produce many examples of contemporary American leftists who would quite literally say McCarthy matched Hitler, as I was making a perhaps poor use of metaphor. I imagine that you'd would agree, however, that McCarthy still remains cited very frequently today by those on the left, whether or not this usage of his name is legitimate. Interesting that you mention the use of the Holocaust and American slavery as soundbytes; I feel the same way about those, as well as McCarthy's name.

I've actually taken four classes that covered McCarthy, two of which covered more than one class period. So once again, I may not have been literal, but in this case I was close, and since that statement can hardly be called a metaphor, I apologize for any confusion.

I couldn't agree with you more about long-distance film arguing. But I highly disagree with your assertion that my statement leaves no room for your opinion. True, I may think the film is smarmy, but if you don't, and that's fine with me. For example, I thought King Kong was the best film released last year, and though most of my friends dislike it, that's fine with me, because if they think it is boring and fake, does that mean I can't think it is thrilling and spectacular?

As for "careful, measured" tones, I did notice a change in your tone when addressing me directly, as opposed to addressing Roger Ebert about your absolute disgust about HORRIBLE people like me who supposedly think McCarthy was the tops. Once again, in fairness, Ebert edited my original letter (now lost to a hard drive failure) so the assumption on your part was reasonable. But say, just for a moment, that I did think very highly of McCarthy. Now, as we've seemingly agreed upon, this surely wouldn't put the theoretical me anywhere near Holocaust deniers or 9/11 conspiracy theorists or anyone like that. Does that version of myself deserve complete dismissal, as I feel you indicated? For someone who just spent so much effort point out my "tendancy towards over-generalization", this strikes me as a bit odd, since you obviously pride yourself on keeping an open mind. On the other hand, I've used the phrase "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" ever since 10th grade, and it never fails to come in handy.

Alas, forgive me if I sound hostile, as that isn't my intention. I may be out of my league, or just barely in it, so the finer points of subtle blog debating might escape me. The only other really negative letter I have ever received came from a 14 year old angry over my smashing of Nacho Libre, so I've little practice at responding to someone who can intellectually respond back. Perhaps if I ever can do this for a living, that will change. Until then...

Take it easy,

James Frazier

p.s. re: Not labeling myself- that seems to be where things are headed.

p.p.s. re: Be careful what you wish for- Ain't that the truth.

James said...

Hello again,

As you obviously have what I like to call 'a real job', I won't make this long. Thank you again for your quick response.

I'm afraid that my King Kong review wasn't one of my better reviews:

Is the quick link to it, if you must see. I really didn't have much to say other than how enamored I was with it. I know films like Capote and Munich were probably better in a more traditional sense, but King Kong struck me as the sort of film that explains why movies are as popular as they are.

Take it easy,

James Frazier

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