International Kitten Cemetery

Traveling through a Japanese movie, we stumbled upon the International Kitten Cemetery outside Kyoto. Its only signage was a small, weathered wooden cat statue on top of a fencepost in someone’s back garden. Kittens of all nations were buried there, with cocktail-toothpick flags marking the little graves nestled among the vegetable rows. A kindly old man was tending the plots on the quiet hillside. Part of his job was to drown the kittens in the stream at the bottom of the hill before burying them. A few mangy cats hung around the graveyard keening for the young ones who died before they learned how to see.

At Home with Charles Boyer

Charles Boyer invited me to visit his family’s farm in France, and of course I said yes. I wandered among the picturesque hills and quaint stone outbuildings, noticing that all the animals seemed deeply contented. Even the pigsty was fragrant and cheerful; the hogs wore expressions of joy as they rooted in the dirt. I complimented the swinekeeper in my perfect French. Charles arrived to take me on a haycart tour of the fields while the farm workers enjoyed their midday rest, drinking wine and boasting about their asparagus: “You’ll never find anything like this in California!” At the village inn that night Charles bashfully asked me if I would share the farm, life, everything with him. Of course I said yes. If it weren’t for the war. . . .

The Simpsons Christmas [in July] Special

The Simpsons are getting a TV set for Christmas! Santa brought it in his black snowmobile. Marge and I ran out to meet him because he didn’t want to bring it inside himself. For a magic television it was surprisingly heavy, and when I tried to lift it I dropped it on my toe. We dragged it into the living room, where the extended family was gathered, drinking heavily. Instead of admiring the new television, they just yawned and shed their orange skins. I didn’t recognize most of the characters in their “real” human form—even their voices sounded different—but it didn’t really matter, since they were ignoring me anyway. Some of them got into their cars and drove away; others climbed up to the roof where they could continue drinking undisturbed. There was no antenna up there.

Out of My Mind: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Alternate Season Episode Guide (2000-2001)

Out of My Mind (aired October 17, 2000)
Riley and I are getting to be good friends. We’re tracking a pair of lowlifes who have been terrorizing the UC Sunnydale campus with a series of dimly lit illegal boxing matches and offscreen murders. We discover that the hoodlums are headquartered at an abandoned gas station on the outskirts of town. We follow them there and proceed to beat them up. Suddenly somebody asks, “Where’s Buffy?” Cut to the set of a Coppertone commercial, where Buffy and another blonde model are lying on beach towels. Nothing happens. Then we return to the action at the gas station, where Riley and I have tied the bad guys to an abandoned car and are taunting them with witty but not overly cruel remarks.

Into the Woods (aired December 19, 2000)
Buffy is gazing out her bedroom window at night. She has a sweeping view of Santa Barbara; the neon lights on the Mission are glowing in the distance, and the houses on the hillside twinkle cheerily. Actually they are Christmas lights attached to a piece of plywood painted black, but the effect is still charming and romantic. Buffy looks pensive, knitting her eyebrows slightly as she continues to stare out the window. One of the little white lights goes out. “Riley?” Buffy seems to be sniffing the air, searching for something. “Riley?”

Intervention (aired April 24, 2001)
Spike has succeeded in luring Buffy back to his home, a trailer in the middle of People’s Park in Berkeley. He claims to have found Buffy’s lost purse under a bush, although obviously he stole it himself the last time they went to the movies; anyway, he invites her to his house to pick it up. In the trailer, Spike once again declares his love for Buffy. Buffy decides maybe she would like to sleep with him after all. The next morning, Spike shows Buffy all the things he’s bought for the trailer, anticipating domestic bliss with his beloved. He’s got a complete set of wooden spoons and several pounds of butter. Buffy is confused, then incensed. “Vampires don’t eat butter! Anyway, I just wanted to get you out of my system.” She exits. “You were almost as good as that robot,” Spike mutters to the swinging cardboard door of the trailer.

Fall Season Preview (aired May 22, 2001)
Of course, Buffy is not really dead. She’s been adopted by a family of vampires. This is legal because the vampires are not quite dead either. Angel turns out to be Buffy’s step-brother. Hilarity ensues.

Fall Season Preview, Part 2 (aired July 15, 2001)
The ultra-secret Sunnydale Villains’ Convention is underway, and by coincidence, the Scooby Gang is also holding a meeting at the conference hotel. They begin to suspect that something is wrong when they pass by the ballroom and see crowds of people dressed entirely in black leather. What they don’t know yet is that the newest member of the Gang (a blonde who looks like an even smaller Sarah Michelle Gellar) is actually a spy for the villains’ union! But soon she reveals her allegiance: she springs up in the middle of the Scooby meeting and swings her chair around her head, sending off sparks that threaten to zap the principal cast members’ brains. This was why the new girl brought her own chair to the meeting, instead of sitting in the plush pink hotel furniture. Buffy tries to disarm the demon, but her magic chair seems to be indestructible. Luckily, Spike happens to have dropped in on the meeting; together, through a monumental effort, he and Buffy reduce the chair to tiny chunks of pressboard. When the chair is finally defeated, Spike breaks a remnant of leg into two tiny pieces. He puts one in his mouth and offers the other to Buffy. Gazing into each other’s eyes, they eat the chair together, like bread.

Pre-Season Summer Movie Tie-In: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (aired August 24, 2001)
A couple of idiots hear there’s a Buffy fan convention coming up. They go to the mall in their Chicago suburb to buy costumes with sequins and special beaded glasses. They don’t have any money, so they have to forge a check. But they can’t decide what name to sign. They know the last name is Rodriguez, but the first name might be Matt, or Scott, or Jeff. While the clerk looks on, they practice various signatures in the margins of the check. After a while the exasperated clerk says, “Chinese proverb: even the woman with only one leg still has stinky feet. Also, those who have just hanged themselves are usually crazy.” The clerk is not Chinese.

The First Annual Buffy Awards Ceremony (aired August 30, 2001)
Everyone’s invited, even me. I discover that in fact I’m a member of the cast: I play the Irrelevant Older Friend. Because I’m just a recurring character and not a regular, I don’t get a prize, but all the major players walk away with awards. All except Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is enraged. She complains to a security guard at the airport on the way home: “I even know the guy who put on this show! The last time I saw him he was all patting me on the nose and stuff, like we’re supposed to be friends!” Later I’m sitting on the floor with some of the other cast members, discussing the upcoming season. Although I am only the Irrelevant Older Friend and not a professional, the other actors seem to value my opinion. I express my concerns: “There was something foreboding about the way Giles handed Buffy that bottle of detergent a couple of shows ago. I don’t know, but somehow I felt that the show as we knew it ended with that gesture.” The others nod thoughtfully.

Hold Your Man (1933)

When I was an actress, in the early 1930s, I played a girl in love. In this movie I wanted to marry you, but social issues kept getting in the way. Labor struggles, for example: once we had a wedding, but the minister had to go out on strike before he could put the ring on my finger. We chased him through the halls of the apartment building and into the street, but lost him in the crowd of striking preachers. After that you got disillusioned about marriage and started dating other people, including a tall, dark and sullen girl who worked at the candy counter with me. (I used to be a lot smaller and blonder back then.) We all went out to dinner at a restaurant, and to teach you a lesson I decided to disguise myself as the waitress. I became even smaller and blonder, and more intriguing; everyone wanted to dance with me. But you kept getting distracted, and eventually I was so discouraged I turned into a piece of candy in a plastic box. Not a very appealing candy, either — I was lumpy and misshapen, and my chocolate coating was a pale streaky brown. However, the minister eventually returned from the picket line and offered to finish the ceremony. We all met again at the restaurant and the preacher got ready to put the ring on my hand, but it was so huge it fell right off again. So the minister had to run to the restaurant’s coal-burning stove, melt the ring down, and re-shape it to fit my dainty finger. I thought things might fall through again at any moment. I thought, “This wedding is even more suspenseful than the one in Hold Your Man!” (Although this movie was otherwise pretty dissimilar. I was less glamorous than Jean Harlow, and not in a reformatory.) But finally the wedding was complete, and we were both overcome with joy — all our doubts and struggles were past. You gazed into my eyes and told me, “Now you’ll be my lover forever. Though you might not realize it yet, you’re going to die soon. But you’ll be a beautiful ghost, my beautiful lover from beyond the grave, so you see nothing will ever change.” That’s what I call a happy ending.

Your Friends and Neighbors (1998)

When I arrived at the office everybody was huddled in a semicircle around the TV in the corner of the Content Department cubicle. They were watching a video of Your Friends and Neighbors. When the movie ended, the Senior Editor noticed that I’d arrived and asked me what I thought of the movie. I said I hated it. “No, Juliet,” she informed me calmly, “it was a film of tremendous courage.” “IT WAS A PIECE OF CRAP,” I replied, less calmly. The Senior Editor repeated exactly what she had said before. Then she repeated it again, trembling slightly. The other reviewers on staff stared at us. I figured I would have to quit on the spot, forgetting that I’d already quit my job at the web site six months earlier.

Being John Malkovich (1999)

The night before seeing Being John Malkovich, I saw Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola. They were shooting a movie outside my office (I work in a film archive). When I arrived, Sofia was buried up to her neck in orange dirt; some of my colleagues kicked more dirt into her face as they walked by. I thought this was sort of mean, but it did make the scene look better. Meanwhile, I told Spike Jonze about this series of dreams I’d been having lately. In the dreams I worked with a bunch of people who got sent to Hell every night. They always alluded to these visits with a mixture of horror and pride — they seemed to think that this experience set them apart from others and made them fascinating people, sort of like getting a lot of tattoos. Eventually, I got sent along with them, and discovered that Hell was full of giant cartoon beasts resembling Pokemon. They chased everyone around the office for eternity; a few people were lucky enough to escape through a revolving glass door. I got to the door and woke up, and Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola were preparing to be interviewed by an Italian telejournalist. They were showing how youthful and fun-loving they were by roller-skating on a frozen bridge. As noted film curator Edith Kramer pointed out, the combination of ice and roller skates seemed dangerous. At the time, a group of turkeys was sitting on the waterfront, near the Italian telejournalist’s airplane. I made the mistake of hissing at one of the turkeys, and it suddenly jumped on another turkey’s shoulders and the stack of two turkeys came running toward me, looking very menacing. Luckily they lost track of what they were doing and wandered away. Later, the whole flock of turkeys took flight, continuing their long journey south for the winter.

King Kong (1933)

We were in the Islands. Fay Wray had her photo taken in front of a biplane, with a jaunty white scarf around her neck and a featureless pilot beside her. Then the plane took off and disappeared over the summit of a distant mountain. A few minutes later, aged some 60 years by her terrible adventure, bloated and with her hair all disarranged, Fay Wray came running back down the mountain, carrying a sack of grapefruits. The grapefruits were spilling out of the sack and rolling down the mountain. I thought, “pamplemousses.”