Psycho (1960 and/or 1998)

I’m talking on the phone in my apartment with the view of the Bay Bridge, saying I can’t believe how Mr. Hitchcock has chosen me to star in the remake of Vertigo. I mean, not only am I not an actress, I don’t look anything like Grace Kelly! I hobble downstairs on my new heels and head down the hill toward the bay, trying not to step in the cracks in the sidewalk. The shoes are beautiful, but I’m not sure I can walk all the way to Bodega. My gray skirt binds around the knees. It’s the color of pigeons.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I was standing around in the rec room on the spacecraft vaguely watching Forbidden Planet on the monitor embedded in the carpeted wall. My colleague was writing a letter by the dim light emanating from the screen. A stranger in a space suit padded quietly into the room and shut the carpeted door. With his ray gun he vaporized my colleague’s letter. “What crap are you watching?” he asked, then aimed for my colleague. The ray bounced off the screen and suddenly both colleague and stranger were gone. There was a little flame, a puff of smoke, and the screen went dark. I tried the door but it was locked. I looked around the room for something to do, but the only thing on the entertainment shelf was an ancient videotape of 2001. There are no books in space. So I undressed, folded my clothes and put them in my suitcase, folded myself into the sheets, and prepared to sleep until the ship reached the end of the universe.

Formalist Cinema

This film series is brought to you by FLOOM, which should be spelled with hearts instead of Os, judging by the T-shirt of the very large person of indeterminate sex serving as master of ceremonies: the T-shirt reads “My Name is FL[heart][heart]M and I [heart] Formalist Cinema!” FLOOM has a theory, which is that D. W. Griffith was a great formalist. Also Carl Dreyer and R. W. Fassbinder, and Howard Hawks, and Nagisa Oshima, and Kenneth Anger, and Steven Spielberg. Signs around the room declare “Rossellini: Formalist!” “Kidman: Formalist!” “Michael Bay: Formalist!” This is the history of cinema as proposed by FLOOM. I’m not sure I agree, not sure I disagree, although to the best of my knowledge, Nicole Kidman is not a director; what do I know anyway? FLOOM’s heart seems to be in the right place, but I wish instead of putting up signs, someone around here would show us some movies.

Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)

Oh, the hippies, frolicking naked and hairy across the screen. They have utopian visions that they will fulfill through irrigation, flooding their back-to-nature fields with torrents of muddy water. I can’t look, I’m revolted, but R says look, these are your people! They love plants and growing things! And even though their roots are rotten the plants are growing. I can’t face it.


And now a message from our sponsors: The troop transport ramp descends and uncountable masses of soldiers spill out and into the lens like clowns from a clown car, their footsteps creating surround-sound thunder. They keep coming while the logo fades in . . .

Game On

They keep coming. I’m not sure the show is ever going to come back on.

The Simpsons Second Annual Christmas [in July] Special

Mr. Burns is getting some bootleg videotapes for Christmas! Homer has a secret stash in prison, and Mr. Smithers sneaks in, disguised in a trench coat and dark glasses. He hands Homer six hundred dollars in tidy little bundles and leaves with a spilling-over armful of tapes, at a run, dodging the guards’ bullets. After a while Mr. Burns tires of the tapes, and Homer needs entertainment to pass the long nights in prison, so Mr. Smithers breaks back in and supplies Homer with an armful of bootleg videotapes in exchange for six hundred dollars. But Homer also needs money, and Mr. Burns needs something to help him pass the long nights in his mansion, so Smithers dons his trench coat, puts six hundred dollars in his pocket, and pays Homer another visit, leaving at a run with an armful of videotapes, dodging bullets. The nights in prison are still long too, though, so Homer arranges another transaction, armful of tapes, six hundred dollars, but then he needs six hundred dollars, Mr. Burns in his mansion is bored, Mr. Smithers, six hundred dollars, armful of tapes, dodging bullets, repeat, until one day Homer suddenly realizes while sitting on his lawn chair on the roof of the prison, dreaming of profits and videotapes, that he can just jump down off the roof and be free. So Homer is joyfully reunited with his family for Christmas, and the giant egg that had been incubating under his lawn chair hatches into a giant yellow teapot and flies away, psychedelic music playing, into the sunset, credits roll.

United 93 (2006)

Why does it take so damn long to get anywhere these days? First we were headed for San Francisco, now we’ve been rerouted and are scheduled to crash in Washington; O.K., fine, but the layover in Denver really seems excessive. The new pilot says we have to make the stop to offload corpses and pick up more terrorists, but the plane isn’t that crowded and the current terror crew seems to be doing well enough without reinforcements. Anyway, we’re stopping, and we have to stay on the plane, which leaves a lot of time for the passengers to mill around and get chatty, show off pictures of their grandchildren, complain about how the airlines don’t even bother to give you a real meal anymore. Finally we’re in the air again, thank God, and we seem to be heading in the right direction, but then we veer off toward New York. Do these guys know where they’re taking us, or are they just winging it? Soon we’re plunging down between the skyscrapers and into a tunnel, flying alongside a subway train. Some other people on the plane have started to get a little anxious, and they’re waving their arms out the windows, yelling and holding up signs that say “HELP US,” but the subway riders just roll their eyes and look away. Whatever. Wake me when we get there.