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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I'm starting to feel like one of those people who needs to check the obituaries first thing each morning.

Susannah York. She played Lara, Superman's Kryptonian mother (Marlon Brandon's wife) in Superman: The Movie, which is one ofd my favorite movies of all time. She was also in Images, which is one of the more interesting efforts by Robert Altman. The prof who taught my intro film survey in college was a big Altman fan, and in this film she played a possibly crazy housewife maybe or maybe not seeing images of men maybe or maybe not threatening her. It's a weird movie, hard to follow. Blessed with stunning musical score by John Williams and beautiful photography by Vilmos Zsigmond.

And then a few days before that, Peter Yates. When I finally caught up with Bullitt, with its famous San Francisco chase scene, a few years ago, I wasn't impressed. I thought the movie was on the long and slow side and a little implausible. There's that chase scene, but there's also a neverending scene at the San Francisco airport that doesn't make sense. But Yates also directed Breaking Away, a perfectly pleasant and well above average example of the coming-of-age sports movie. I liked, it doesn't linger. More importantly, he made Eyewitness, with William Hurt in his first role after Altered States, Sigourney Weaver, Morgan Freeman, James Woods. One of my first Christopher Plummer films in a non-Sound of Music role. And as I recall, a pretty good and nifty little movie that I'd like very much to see again in my adultage. The Dresser is an exceptionally well-acted British art film adaptation. I didn't see much from Yates after that, but for Eyewitness alone he's in my heart. Weird connection, Yates directed For Pete's Sake, which was the opening movie at the Loews Astor Plaza. William Hurt was in Altered States, which was the first movie I saw at my beloved and much sorely missed Astor Plaza, as well as in the underrated The Village which closed the Astor Plaza. And then the two hooked up for Eyewitness, which with Altered States is one of the first movies I have any real adult memories of.

Yates did both more and less than Irwin Kershner. Kershner did The Empire Strikes Back. Need I say more? I mean, Empire Strikes Back only gains in stature to me, when you compare it to all the Star Wars movies that came before or after. Kershner went on to do some less great films, like Never Say Never Again. His Entebbe TV movie was a good example of its sort. But if that was all he did, it was quite quite something.

Leslie Nielsen. Airplane would have been enough, that was and is and always will be a classic comedy, AMC Cinemas is showing it for a weekend matinee and an evening performance in a few weeks, and it will hold up. But he went on to do Police Squad and the Naked Gun movies and so much more. Also in Forbidden Planet.

I'm a little late to say something about Bob Guccione, who passed in October. Most people will think of him as the Penthouse dude, but to me he was the publisher of Omni. The path to my today started with the free samples of Omni I got at Boskone in 1979, which introduced me to Orson Scott Card and George RR Martin. And Omni in its heyday was a great magazine, filled not just with good fiction but with columns by important people and interviews with major figures in science and good articles and really in its best days just a pleasure to read in so many ways. Omni lasted less than 20 years, but it was hugely influential in the fields of science and science fiction. Ben Bova was the fiction editor at the start, Ellen Datlow at the finish, and Robert Sheckley in-between.

I commented separately upon Blake Edwards.

It used to be a rare and stunning and surprising thing when major influences on the culture of me passed away. Now, not so much.

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