Movies


It was in the winter of 1981, during my sophomore year in high school that I ended up with my brother and his friends going to see Altered States on mescaline.

So, yah, I agree, I believe I could hang out witchoo guys.  It was my brother Hamish and his friends Jim Costa and Ed Hopp. All three were Taconic High class of ’81 and graduating in a few months.  So we’ll drive on down to Movieland (Central Ave. in Yonkers) to see the movie….I get in the car and right away my brother’s friend Hopper is like, Mitchie we’re tripping!!!

…..and I had heard of this and knew that it meant something but wasn’t sure what – so I looked to big bro and was like “Is this ok?” and he gave me the thumbs up so we each put a microdot in our Budweiser and drove on down to see the movie.

Everything was copacetic until we got to the theater and sat down, then the movie started and OHMYGOD this was something different, this was something else altogether

….as it went on we were there for each other and we all kept our shit together and when the movie ended we all stood up and looked at each other and just started to laugh because it was ALL TOO MUCH…we managed to make it out to the parking lot and I must credit my brother for driving because somehow we ended up on the highway driving home…

We stopped off at the Colonial Tavern in Hawthorne but didn’t stay all that long so then we made it on home and watched the original Alien on cable. I remember eating Swiss cheese and thinking scrumdeleeishess before I went to bed.

Later that spring, we read Rimbaud’s Bateau Ivre in French class…I still remember the procession of colors he describes throughout the poem seemed to me to match what I had experienced that night we went to see Altered States

Milky whites, blues, reds, “yellow-blue awakenings of singing phosphorus,” (l’éveil jaune et bleu des phosphores chanteurs), oceans and rainbows, then “Glaciers, suns of silver, waves of pearl, skies of red-hot coals,” blues, golds, flowers, violet, red electricity, ultrmarine…

But towards the end, he starts mixing in browns, blacks, the atrocious moon and bitter sun and cold black pools.

And somehow, when I read the poem, it reminded me of that piece of swiss cheese I had eaten that night, a little sliver of phosphorous in the black pool of 4am suburbia…

Also during the first six months of 1981, I was assigned a research paper in English class and I chose the topic of DRUGS…I closed my oral presentation with a quote from Margaret Mead that said “In a culture that has created in its people the need for mind expanding drugs there must be a place for these substances in the culture….” or words to that effect…This was the late winter of 1981…

Now Altered States is a one of a kind Ken Russell/Padddy Chayefsky tour de force. William Hurt plays a character that is some kind of amalgamation of John Lilly, Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna. There has never been a movie like it before or since. It can be a little overwrought and Chayefsky disavowed the film when it was released. But – the only movies I can think of that have a feel even close to Altered States are Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Oliver Stone’s The Doors.

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Sometime in the winter of 1985, we decided to go see the movie Diner, which was playing on-campus at the University.  We had just gotten a bag of weed and decided to smoke some before we left.

We had a sturdy no-carb bong that easily filled with smoke.  Getting a couple of those down each, we headed out to walk over to campus.

If you’ve ever heard or experienced the phrase “tripping high,” this was it.  It was a short walk to campus, but what worlds we crossed on our way there.

There were five or six of us walking over – I shared a house that year with Tim Kosloski and Doug Boyd, and Doug’s girlfriend Dana and one of her friends had joined us that night.

I saw the world as a video game.  The roads were flashing red danger areas with the sidewalks the “safe zone.”  There was real joy in stepping in to cross the roadway when no cars were coming.

As we made our way over to campus, the cultural imprint overlaying the physical environment we walked through was almost overwhelming.

Repetition.

I nearly fell off the couch laughing the fourth time “Rock Me Amadeus” started playing.

Also, watch for Jesse Eisenberg’s favorite Neil Young Tour shirt…I know I had favorite t-shirts that I wore over and over – still do.

He also has a tendency to tell that story about Charles Dickens on a regular basis.

This is reality.  I love this movie for the same reason I love Groundhog Day.

The reason I think this is so important is because I believe that this is what David Foster Wallace is addressing in Infinite Jest in his consideration of rules and limits.  To me, in these movies, the repetition indicates the limits of the world we live in.

In a thesis on Infinite Jest, Brooks Daverman says

The rules of tennis, including the boundary lines of the court, are limits on the possibilities of the game. However, just like the square with an infinite amount of points inside it, the limits of tennis allow for an unlimited amount of possibilities within the boundaries

In a dream once, a spirit of some kind told me that going back to the waking world meant you “had to follow the rules.”  Not the rules of a particular society or culture, but the rules of existence here in this beautiful world.

The soundtrack.

If you think that it’s strange that a movie set in the late eighties has a lot of Velvet Underground on the soundtrack – guess again.

I’m not sure exactly what combination of factors made the Velvets so popular in the eighties – but they were.

I think that the releases of VU and Another View in 1985 and ’86 certainly had something to do it.

After starting the movie with “Bastards of the Young,” Greg Mottola follows up with “Here She Comes Now.”

Later in the movie “Satellite of Love” and “Pale Blue Eyes” figure prominently as well.

One of many nice touches that makes the movie feel like 1987.