Here are a couple of cool pieces from the novelist Richard Price: “Gorgo, Warhol, Rocky, and Me,” his funny and charming 1982 American Film meditation on a life spent going to the movies:
During the late sixties and early seventies, my college years, movies were divided into two categories: “Amerikan propaganda” and “surreal.” Any movie where the cowboys, the cavalry, or the GIs won the battle was Fascist and sinister. Same for anything heartwarming or corny—all “part of the problem.” Surreal became synonymous with Good: Fantasia,Betty Boop cartoons, Medium Cool, Easy Rider, Zabriskie Point, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Bergman, Putney Swope, Mickey One,anything low-budget or starring mainly unknowns or shot in black and white—all surreal, all good.
I saw all the required movies, in part because I was enjoying my new role as a hippie aesthete, but also because I was a devout believer in “no pain, no gain”—Sugar Pops tasted better, but oatmeal made you strong. Outside of the hip comedies, most of what I found myself buying tickets for seemed to me boring, pompous, or just plain incoherent. In my heart of hearts I was still a Sands of Iwo Jima junkie, but I restrained myself for the good of the Movement.
When I was a junior, I had a first date with a coed whom I didn’t know if I really liked or not. Date meant movie. Our choices were The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Nazi Sex Crimes in Third Reich Love Camp Number Seven, Slaves,and Andy Warhol’s Trash.
Five minutes into Trash I felt myself going into a coma.
And you’ll get a kick out of “Fight Games” a sharp little essay about how talking shit about someone’s mother is sure to result in pain:
If you wanted to start a fight or if someone wanted you to take the first swing, all he had to do was dump on your mother and you were obliged to rip his lungs out. In that land of parental dinosaurs, the craziness, the touchiness that went into defending our mothers was insanity itself. All psychoanalysts at work in the Bronx in the early Sixties were beaten to death by outraged teenagers.
The sensitivity was so great that you never said anything true or personal about someone’s mother because the guy would turn into a juggernaut of self-righteous violence with God and all the angels on his side, and he’d wipe you out while keening a loony tune of fury. So you said stuff like “Yo, your mother’s a carpenter’s dream, man, flat as a board and easy to screw.” Never “Your mother’s got the yellowest teeth, man, really, they’re like mah-jongg tiles—she should go to a dentist for a cleaning.”