Due to a broken fire alarm somewhere in the house going off last night from 3am to 5am, I was awake to read the news about Artie Lange's absence from The Howard Stern Show that finally broke--Artie had stabbed himself nine times in the stomach last week with a kitchen knife. This is his second suicide attempt, but the first one since he's been on The Howard Stern Show, so there's well over a decade between attempts. He's supposedly been off drugs for almost a year, but the fact that he tried to kill himself with gut wounds seems to indicate he was fucked up on something. I've never heard of someone hating him or herself enough to want a slow, painful death, but I suppose anything's possible. That's not how seppuku's done, either.
My perception of Artie's issues has always been that he doesn't receive or feel he deserves the validation he needs as a human being. It's clear listening to him that it's really only something he can pull out of himself and that he might not be equipped to do so. He's always seemed to suffer worse on vacations from the Stern Show--he's tended always to relapse during the two week Christmas break, and if he was truly clean this year, it could be he couldn't handle the despair without the self-medication. I watched his latest stand-up DVD, Jack and Coke, while eating breakfast to-day, and I noticed how much funnier he is ten or fifteen minutes into his set, when he seems to get rolling and go off script a little more. I think it's the immediacy of creation and reaction Artie needs, and what The Howard Stern Show gives him, where he can work too fast and concentrate too fully to get caught up in the bell jar.
He's still alive, though there's no word on the severity of his condition. Aside from being funny and a great comedic risk taker, he also comes across on the Stern Show as a fundamentally good man. I really hope he pulls through.
I saw Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans last night, a movie that actually reminded me of Artie Lange a bit as it features a fundamentally good man who has problems with drugs, gambling, and a fondness for hookers. Terrance McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) isn't quite as "bad" as Harvey Kietel's character in the previous Bad Lieutenant movie--the two films are only truly related by name due to a producer's idea of creating a franchise. McDonagh is obviously consumed with a desire to do his job properly, is better at it than everyone else, while Keitel's character was sort of inept and doesn't seem to give a fuck most of the time.
The movie's like Red Harvest if it were filmed by Preston Sturges--a canny, flawed hero playing all sides in the name of justice but told with a basic humour and affection for human nature. Roger Ebert's review refers to McDonagh as, "a rapist, murderer, drug addict, corrupt cop and degenerate paranoid," but of those, only "drug addict" and "corrupt cop" are true. I hate how often Roger Ebert seems to get basic facts wrong (one of his tweets about Artie Lange to-day referred to him as "Artie Johnson"). We never see McDonagh rape or murder anyone, in fact he takes risks to prevent either from happening in a few cases. The only scene I can think might have been taken as rape was when a woman early in the movie uses sex as a bribe, but she so clearly initiates that one would have to define rape as any form of sex that is not motivated by true love to see it as rape. And I don't know where the murder charge comes from--if I remember correctly, we never even actually see McDonagh kill anyone for any reason.
But the movie does play a delightful game of one-upsmanship with itself. Every development seems more outrageous than the last, yet not too far to invalidate the fictional world created. And not all of these extremes are dark. The last fifteen minutes of the movie are so wild I'm not convinced it's not meant to be a dream or hallucination sequence.
I don't even consider this a particularly dark movie, though I know my point of view might be skewed on this. I once saw someone on a forum say my comics might be better when I grew up and realised being dark doesn't automatically make something good and my reaction was, "My comics are dark?" But there are millions of people who deal with daily realities at least as dark as Terrance McDonagh's world (though not as fantastic). I think the pool of movie critics and amateur internet movie critics is saturated with people more innocent than they realise.
But I still think Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a plain, easily entertaining film. In fact, this movie ought to have been the movie that made Werner Herzog millions so that he could make other, more challenging films. That this movie didn't get a wider release is a huge bungle on the studio's part.
Also, let me add that Eva Mendes is fucking hot in this movie. I actually never thought she was that attractive, but here she's fucking gorgeous. There's a quiet shot where she's chilling out on the porch of Terrance's father's house while it rains that took my breath away. Maybe it's the context--she kind of looks like a call girl, so she looks perfect when she's playing one. But she also gave a great performance. All the performances are good, including Nicolas Cage, who plays McDonagh with a mad, unpredictable focus.
By the way, I was informed yesterday that the "Blake" in Amanda Palmer's "Blake Says" is in fact not Neil Gaiman but a guy actually named "Blake". If someone ever writes a song about me, I demand a false name poetically related to the songwriter's grievances with me.
Last night's tweets;
Slow clocks are getting somehow blurrier.
Evident anger is not spoken of.
A domestic dove's a mean courier.
Ancient mints see well animated love.