The Best Of All Possible Mustaches

As everyone must know, this is the end of Movember.  And as hundreds as heretofore hirsutely adorned gentlemen prepare their razors to eliminate those hard-won lip jackets that we call ‘mustaches’ and the Victorians called ‘mustachios’, I think we need to take a moment to salute those men for whom every month is Movember.

There have been many great cinematic mustaches over the years.  William Powell, Clark Gable and Errol Flynn made the pencil-stache dashing; Basil Rathbone made it villainous.  Charlie Chaplin’s mustache was great, until it was unfairly maligned by Hitler.  Tom Selleck obviously sports the quintessential mustache.  But of all the mustaches, there is one mustache that can truly be called great; one mustache that exceeds all mustaches, that should have a screen credit of its own.  That is the grandest mustache of all.  I am speaking, of course, of Sam Elliott’s mustache.

Sam Elliott would be a badass all by himself, but the mustache adds that extra layer – that flavor, if you will – of badassery and down-home charm.  It is a mustache of great power and prestige and has adorned the face of Sam Elliott for many many years.  I firmly believe that the reason Elliott dies in Road House is because his mustache was not in full force.  It has been there, through thick and thin, for years.  It charmed Katherine Ross in The Legacy and Conagher.  It pronounced on the future of The Dude in The Big Lebowski. It rode the range with Wyatt Earp in Tombstone.  Although it has appeared in many films with rival mustaches – Tom Selleck’s in The Shadow Riders, just about everybody in Tombstone – it has always held its own like a good mustache should.

So, take a moment.  Bask in the glory of the greatest mustache and know that it will always be there to defend right from wrong, to protect the needy, to guard the homestead.  It is, without doubt, the best of all possible mustaches.

sam elliott mustache

The Inessentials: Trafic

Jacques Tati’s final Hulot film Trafic (1971)is not the filmmaker’s greatest … but that’s like saying that a particular vintage of a fine wine is not quite as good as the years before.  It’s still a remarkable achievement, and a pleasurable experience.

For fans of Tati, Trafic takes on an immediately recognizable conceit.  The plot, such as it is, revolves around Monsieur Hulot – Tati’s gentle and clownish character who already appeared in M. Hulot’s Holiday, Mon Oncle, and Playtime – now a designer for car company Altra.  Hulot and truckdriver Marcel (Marcel Fraval) have to take a truck containing a recreational vehicle to an auto show in Amsterdam.  That’s it.  That’s the whole plot.

Tati’s films are never plot driven, but this one probably even less than the others.  The truck consistently breaks down, runs out of gas, or gets into trouble with the cops and border patrol.  PR woman Maria (Maria Kimberly) throws hissy fits, but gradually softens as her journey through the French and Dutch countryside transforms her from the clichéd high-fashion maven to a calmer, happier human being.  Intercut with Hulot’s journey is the auto show itself, with typical Tati sight and sound gags that include comical juxtapositions of car trunks opening and closing, the construction of a ‘forest’ in the middle of the show, and small boys who keep stealing car brochures.

None of the gags fall flat, but some of them are repeats of Tati’s visual or aural puns from Playtime – widely considered the filmmaker’s masterpiece.  Some of the best, though, are hilarious: the traffic collision begun by the Altra truck, Hulot’s sprint through the fields when he goes looking for gas, the extended sequence at border control as Hulot and Marcel exhibit to the Dutch police all the accoutrements of their car, the ‘moonwalk’ performance of Marcel and a car mechanic (Tony Knepper) after watching a rocketship take off.  The character development, particularly of Maria, is subtle but touching: her constant outfit changes indicating the relaxation of her character as she goes from haute-couture to a leather jacket and jeans.  If there’s a problem, it’s that there isn’t enough Hulot, whose gentility and decency permeates the other Tati films to a far greater extent.

But that’s a minor quibble in what is ultimately a beautiful, funny film.  Hulot is there, after all.  What makes Tati’s film so wonderful – I don’t know how else to describe them – is his obvious love of humanity.  Here is the human condition, in all its weird glory, interacting with each other and with technology.  Tati makes no judgements; technology is neither the enemy nor the indicator of human progress.  It’s funny and bizarre, but it only serves to highlight how wonderfully eccentric human beings can be.  Technology mirrors and accentuates the people it serves – or fails to serve.  Windshield wipers imitate drivers; cars limp and groan when they’ve lost a wheel; a traffic jam sends people out into the rain.

If Tati preaches anything at all, he preaches a gospel of humanity.  His Hulot is a bit of a buffoon, but he’s a well-meaning buffoon, a man who is not superior to anyone, who is never at odds with the world.  Even when he’s fired from his job, he shrugs his shoulders and moves on, off into the rain with the newly happy Maria and her dustmop dog.

Trafic does not represent the crowning glory of Tati’s achievement, but it is a fitting farewell to a character as gentle and humorous as the Little Tramp or Buster Keaton.  All through the three previous Hulot films, Hulot seemed to just narrowly miss getting the girl, always rejected by the adult society that he really has no problem with.  At the end of Trafic, Hulot does not walk off into the sunset; he walks off into the rain with a grand smile on his face and Maria on his arm, crowded together under the perpetual umbrella.  For a moment we almost lose Hulot as he vanishes into the underground, but suddenly he returns, borne back on a tide of humanity.

The final image is of a massive traffic jam with umbrellas flitting here and there.  The people, it seems, have left their cars and crowded beneath umbrellas together – a sea of Hulots in the midst of the technological wilderness.

Lauren’s Writing Rant

There are few things that make me angrier than the smug smiles I sometimes get when someone asks me what I do.

“I’m a writer,” I say, in the innocence of my soul.

“No, I mean, what do you do for work?”

Work? WORK? Oh, yes, because obviously writing isn’t work.  It’s what bored  teenagers do on fanfiction sites and housewives do when they have a spare moment and it’s really only just for fun, because no one really writes … WORK?! Seriously.  Fuck you.

Other variations of this include:

“Oh. That’s nice.”

“Aren’t you bored? I mean, you’re not doing anything.”

“So you’re, like, a journalist?” (Journalism, I now understand, is the only form of writing that most people recognize.)

“What do you really do?”

I try very hard to not let these statements get to me, but honestly … it’s insulting.  Not just to me, although obviously I take it personally. To everyone who has ever tried to do something creative and succeeded or failed.  Because it’s essentially saying that those people aren’t serious, they aren’t doing something worthwhile like being a lawyer. Because the world needs lots and lots of lawyers. Not writers, not artists, painters, filmmakers, actors, sculptors, designers or musicians.  Lawyers.

All right, so here we go.  I am about to make this abundantly clear and I do not want to hear a SINGLE ONE of my friends, acquaintances, or colleagues make such annoying, smug fucking statements ever again.

Yes, I’m a writer.  I write every single day.

That is a profession.  It is something I get paid for – not enough, but still.  Paid.

Even if I did not get paid, guess what? I’d STILL be a writer.  Because anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time sitting in front of a computer, a notepad, a typewriter, a notebook or scratching words into a fucking table is either a writer or a lunatic.

There is not a single writer I know who does not want to be paid for his/her work.  But before you are paid you have to. Fucking. Write. You have to spend a lot of time doing it too.  So all that time we spend not being paid? That’s IMPORTANT.  And it does not make us crazy, stupid or delusional.  It certainly doesn’t give other people the right to be smug, condescending, or inform us that we are crazy, stupid or delusional.

Do I plan on being successful? YES.  I know that might not happen, but I also know that I cannot sit around bitching about how successful I could have been if I’d only written that book.  I have to write the book to know.  I have to try and work hard at it.  And y’know something, even if I never make a living wage at it, I will STILL BE A WRITER.

So, I don’t want to hear it.  I want an end to the condescension; I want other people in other professions to accord artists – ANY artist – the kind of respect you give to anyone else.  I want folks to listen when they ask about our projects and not look off into the distance as though they never asked the question.  Above all, I never want to hear the “what do you really do?” question ever again.

And if you don’t like it, you can go fuck yourselves.