Sunday, August 01, 2010


Thing is, as I'll be dog-sitting for a week or so, my attention will be elsewhere.  Writing is easy enough, but staying focused...yeah, probably not.

For instance, I thought I'd simply write about the current canine situation.  The dog being sat is Brody, Tabbatha's rat terrier, whose unfailing awesomeness I've gone on about before.  But the first few times he was here, I had no dog of my own.

But now Bella is here, and her pack-dog mentality initially required her to prove her dominance over poor Brody, which she did by humping him constantly.  The image of a spayed female riding a neutured male is like something from Female Trouble-era John Waters, but eventually Brody started fighting back, and the result has been endless good-natured roughhousing.  (At least, I think it's good-natured.)  They wrestle endlessly, then pause, heading to the kitchen to lap up some water, then BOOM, right back to it.  So it's basically like this classic scene from John Carpenter's They Live:

See, but this is where my attention wanders.  I'm ostensibly writing about the dogs, but I can't let that clip pass without commenting on the greatness of John Carpenter.  This scene was fairly notorious back in '88, when They Live was released, as almost comically pointless, an excuse to let the movie's star, pro wrestler Roddy Piper, do his thing.

But taking the scene on its own terms, it's a small masterpiece of staging, with Carpenter's casually elegant wide-screen framing and precise editing a textbook example of how to block and shoot an action scene, an example more of today's directors, with their addiction to shaky-cams and whiplash editing, would be wise to study.  Less is always more.

All well and good, but then the other thing is, I also can't let a mention of They Live pass without mentioning the fact that it remains one of the few mainstream American movies to even acknowledge class divisions in this country.  This goofy, lowbrow sci-fi epic about alien invasion is also a bracing portrait of a world in which the human race has been enslaved by capitalism run wild, one vast, ecumenical system...well, let's let Ned Beatty explain, in this terrifying speech from 1976's Network, brilliantly crafted by Paddy Chayefsky.

But here again, my attention wanders.  I post this scene because I think it makes an important point, but watching it, I mostly focus on Beatty's perfectly modulated performance.  This is his only scene in the whole film, and like a high-priced hitman, he just comes in, totally nails it, then leaves.

And why not?  Beatty is one of those actors incapable of giving a bad performance, which gets me to thinking about other actors who are always great, which...but what does any of this have to do with the dogs? 

Nothing, I'm afraid, which is why posting will likely be light this week.  When rasslin' puppies are nearby, it's hard to focus on anything else.