Sunday, November 27, 2005
Riding his own melt
While attending USC's film school, one of my favorite instructors was veteran character actress Nina Foch ("Tales of the City" fans will remember her as the original Frannie Halcyon), who thrived in the classroom despite employing questionable learning material.
The class was "Writing for Actors" and our textbook was the cliche-ridden script for the slacker comedy, "Reality Bites." I would still hold that against Nina (once married to the unctuous host of "Inside the Actors Studio") if not for the best compliment I've ever received: "Has anyone told you that you look like a young Steve McQueen?" she once asked me. Unfortunately, no one had, and hasn't since. Still, she won me over.
Anyway, we would often have to act out scenes from the film; being male, that meant, more often than not, I got to be Ethan Hawke.
If I were straight, I could see some advantages to being The Annoying One. Uma Thurman is an impressive catch, though she lost points with me for her bad judgment. Following up The Annoying One with Quentin Tarantino didn't help.
All that is to say I've never been much of an Ethan Hawke fan. When he became a published author, the antipathy swelled. Seeing a copy of one of his books on a date's shelf ended that relationship, promptly. "Have you even read it?" my date asked. "Don't need to," I smugly replied.
Eventually, I did read some excerpts, and I've rarely felt more vindicated. Check out the opening paragraph from the wannabe beat's latest collection of overbaked prose, Ash Wednesday:
"I was driving a '69 Chevy Nova four-barrel with mag wheels and a dual exhaust. It's a kick-ass car. I took the muffler out so it sounds like a Harley. People love it. I was staring at myself through the window into the driver's-side mirror; I do that all the time. I'll stare into anything that reflects. That's not a flattering quality, and I wish I didn't do it, but I do. I'm vain as hell. It's revolting. Most of the time when I'm looking in the mirror, I'm checking to see if I'm still here or else I'm wishing I was somebody else, a Mexican bandito or somebody like that. I have a mustache. Most guys with mustaches look like fags, but I don't. I touch mine too much, though. I touch it all the time. I don't even know why I'm telling you about it now. I just stare at myself constantly and wish I didn't. It brings me absolutely no pleasure at all."
To sum up: He likes to look at himself, but wishes he didn't.