Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Movie Premiere Goes Wrong - Homer Simpson

Most fans of THE SIMPSONS don't know that APU starred in a trilogy of films by Satyajit Ray or that many of the other names and gags in the show are in-jokes. Since the show has been on so long, many of the in-jokes seem to have lost their meanings. If I said the name "Homer Simpson" you wouldn't instantly think about that character in Nathanael Wests's brilliant novel about Hollywood, DAY OF THE LOCUST. The joke is gone, because Homer is now more famous that the character he was named after.

Nathanael West was the screenwriter of one of my favorite movies, FIVE CAME BACK, which may have been the first Disaster Movie, and certainly inspired the film PITCH BLACK. He wrote a bunch of films in the 1930s, worked as a Hotel Manager in between writing gigs and got to know a bunch of young writers on their way up who stayed there, and wrote 4 amazing novels, two you may have heard of, two you probably have not heard of.

MISS LONELYHEARTS is the book that got him noticed - a really dark story of a male newspaper reporter who becomes the advice to the lovelorn columnist... and learns more than he wants to about people. That one's been made into a film at least 4 times, probably more... and the great comedy-mystery writer Greg McDonald even did a riff novel on it called LOVE AMONGST THE MASHED POTATOES.

DREAM LIFE OF BALSO SNELL is like David Lynch on acid - which is why you've never heard of it.

A COOL MILLION is one of my favorite novels no one has ever heard of - it's a parody of Horatio Alger jr stories (about hard working young men who overcome all kinds of problems and set backs to become very successful). Imagine the ultra-pessimistic version of those stories, and that's this book. By the end of the story, our hero is dancing on stage and several of his body parts fall off... and he's been screwed in ways you can not imagine.

Last and best is DAY OF THE LOCUST - and if you haven't read it, it's probably one of the best novels every written about Hollywood. It's up there with WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN and the Pat Hobby stories. It's so brutal that you can't believe it was written in the 30s. The book was made into a movie in the mid-70s by John Schlesinger (MIDNIGHT COWBOY) with a script by Waldo Salt (MIDNIGHT COWBOY and SERPICO and 2 Oscars and a screenwriting award named after him) - which was an amazing 70s film... that you have never heard of. While MIDNIGHT COWBOY keeps getting special anniversary editions, DAY OF THE LOCUST was unavailable on DVD until a few years ago and is now out of print. Part of that is probably because of the stars - everybody knows who Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman are... but William Atherton's career just didn't take off... he's best known now as that obnoxious reporter that Bruce Willis punches in DIE HARD... and "Dickless" from GHOSTBUSTERS. Not a movie star like Hoffman or Voight... though he was in the 70s. And the film is a major downer. That played in the 70s, but not so much now.

So, just to spoil the whole story for you, here is the *end* - a big movie premiere where all of the characters lives intersect... that is completely ruined by Homer Simpson (played by Donald Sutherland). Homer has had very bad luck throughout the novel/film, and finally reaches his breaking point in this scene...

- Bill

1 comment:

mrswing said...

Wow. That was truly horrifying, from Homer crushing the obnoxious kid to death to him being ripped to shreds by the mob to the The Scream-like visuals...
Not something to send you out of the theater dancing. But we've lost so much since then, when stories like this don't even get the chance of being made anymore...

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