Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Book: The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood: The Screenwriter as God!, by Joe Eszterhas (2006)

How could I not love a book with that title? I’m a sucker for an exclamation mark.

And for Joe Eszterhas, as I’ve mentioned before. Whatever you think of his movies, there’s no denying that they have a bravura energy that compels you to keep watching. Give me Showgirls over any dozen solidly-made, well-meaning indie dramas any day of the week. And Joe’s battles with Hollywood powers that be are legendary. We could use more of his type, on screen and behind the scenes. (At least he’s blogging. Sort of.)

Devil’s Guide collects pearls of wisdom from such luminaries as Paddy Chayefsky, William Faulkner, and Joe’s fellow Hungarian, femme fatale Zsa Zsa Gabor. Much of it I’ve encountered before, but not with Joe’s unique spin. And some of it is new to me, like this advice David O. Selznick received from his father:

“Spend it all. Give it away. Throw it away. But get rid of it. Live expensively. If you have confidence in yourself, live beyond your means. Then you’ll have to work hard to catch up. That’s the only fun there is: hard work.”

That is genuinely inspired. Spend your way to success. That I think I can do.

Joe’s writing tips are simple. Read plays from the ‘30s and ‘40s to learn how to write dialogue. Don’t talk your story away; get it down on paper. And fight for something every once in a while.

OK, Joe. I will. Your movie Jade.

It’s another of Joe’s patented mixes of sex and murder set in San Francisco. It’s nowhere near as stylized as Basic Instinct, and that only makes it more lurid. I’ve always preferred its crackpot charms to Verhoeven’s movie. It’s long been a Chez K favorite.

For years I thought I was alone. Then I saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin, in which Seth Rogan tells Steve Carell that in order to attract women, he has to be a jerk. He has to “be David Caruso in Jade.” Recently, ESPN’s The Sports Guy Bill Simmons wrote that since moving from the Colts to the Arizona Cardinals, running back Edgerrin James “has the same look on his face that David Caruso had in Jade.” Clearly, the film has a following.

Then how come there’s only a lousy pan-and-scan version on DVD? One that doesn’t include the additional kinky scenes and the different ending featured on pay TV? David Caruso himself once said: “Jade will be rediscovered by audiences in the future. In fact, I will make a prediction that this film will have a resurgence.”

That future is now. The time has come for a Jade Special Edition. A Resurgence Edition. Draft those emails. Do it for me, for Joe, for Edgerrin James. Do it for all of us.

Miscellaneous: Power To The People

My smartmouthery now extends to Thursday’s letters page of the paper of record. I take a cheap shot at the Democratic party. Scroll to the end. They saved the best for last.

If the politics offend, note that my last letter to the Times not only criticized President Bush, but Russian President Putin as well. I fear nothing and no one.