Winter into Spring ’99 – The Biography of Everett Stillwell – Column

Winter into Spring ’99

The Biography of Everett Stillwell

by Adam Haynes

Winter was not kind to our hero. For a while he lived in a shelter off of Western Ave. in Hollywood, but things only became worse, he couldn’t understand his own thoughts and everything was flat and fuzzy so Everett Stillwell slipped out one night and took to the streets.

He was realizing more and more that all of his previous insights into movies were nothing more than pretentious and uninspired. Reality is much more serious than that. The only spiritual insight would come from movies, and the great peril with these, he now understood, was that film could be constructed for purposes of sending good or evil, and there was no way to tell but to watch.

Feeling scared and vulnerable, Stillwell decided to play it cool and hitchhike into the mountains, eat weeds, and have nothing to do with movies for a while. Which, of course, didn’t happen at all. He made it as far as Pasadena where, in a fit of uncontrollable mania, he mugged a Cal Tech student and caught a matinee of 200 Cigarettes at the local AMC.

    • (diary entry 2/27/99)

What bogus absurdity is this? Twentysomethings bitching and whining. I’ve lost time with this one. So bad that Ben Affleck comes off as soulful. Setting it in the early ’80s does nothing for the story – the only real marker they put in is Elvis Costello in a cameo and they don’t even bother to make him look young! No attention to detail. All these little stories and you know who is going to be fucking who after the first twenty minutes. Courtney Love looks really comfortable and that says it all.

Afterwards, he vomited for what seemed like three days, holed up in the motel room he’d rented with a credit card he’d found in the pocket of his cargo pants. It was all he could do not to crack the mirror over his bed and cut through all major arteries with one of the shards.

If it wasn’t for the fact that the motel had an in-house twenty-four hour porn network, he wouldn’t have made it at all. As in the past, there was something about watching fucking which coated the brain enough to wipe out bad movie vibes. Something like chemotherapy.

Pasadena was now not to be trusted, so Stillwell, under the cover of darkness, made his way under the freeway overpasses to Glendale. He decided to check out Cruel Intentions, figuring even if it had been created by the forces of evil, their power would not blight him, seeing as the film’s previews practically dripped with sex.

    • (diary entry 3/7/99)

Flat and boring. Ryan Phillips has the charisma of new cardboard. Okay dyke-kissing in Central Park, but with no follow-through, and without any other naughty sex acts, it hardly seems worth it. The editing is so poor they have to pump every scene with music they probably found in European Calvin Klein commercials. The Buffy woman is just as disgusting as she is on TV – if they had her stripped down and sodomized by fat, toothless winos, maybe the repulsive factor would’ve gotten so high as to actually nudge her into the erotic zone she’s been so falsely placed in. Alas, this movie hasn’t the balls to take those sort of chances, even though you know the writer of Dangerous Liaisons – on which this is based – if he were alive today, would use the winos. Reese Witherspoon looks bored and heavy, years away from the magic of Freeway. The jokes are all sophomoric and flat, the sex is turned in on itself, much like some sort of barren, vaginal black hole.

Stillwell was desperate. His theory was hopelessly wrong, sex couldn’t save the horrible, nor combat the evil magic of sinister cinema. For seven days and seven nights he slept under a bush next to a duplex off Glen Oaks, breaking into the lower apartment during the day when the tenets were at work, immersing himself in the first 90 episodes of Dirty Debutantes which he’d smuggled out of the video store across the street. The cheap, unrehearsed, pornographic sex brought him again to a state of mild clarity, but it also brought large boils under his arms and all over his face, which, when squeezed, turned cherry red and oozed a clear substance that tasted like old leaves and buttermilk. Clearly, he was being punished again, though this time he was wise enough not to speculate as to who or what was afflicting him.

Self-mutilation was surely called for, so he began rubbing himself against palm trees and standing in front of the Old Navy on Brand, thinking about going in.

He stayed away from sex and TV and movies. These were in some way related to the pain and suffering which only became worse with each passing day.

The boils began getting smaller. He wasn’t sure why. He wasn’t sure of anything – where he was, who he was. There was a moment when he spun in fast circles, and when he stopped, he stood in front of Bob’s Big Boy. Suddenly, everything became grounded again. Everything. Bob’s Big Boy – where David Lynch ate lunch every day. He decided to hang out at Big Boy until he ran into Lynch, and then he would put himself at the man’s feet. Then it wouldn’t matter what happened next, for things’d be moving, time would start to function normally again.

Two weeks later, he remembered Lynch lived in Burbank, not Glendale, so he walked down San Fernando with a large raspberry Slurpee in his hand that had been given to him by a tired-looking naked Mexican child. He became more and more disoriented until he found himself at AMC 14 in front of the Media City mall and decided to check out Mod Squad because it smelled like spring and there were many children around. This calmed him and made him feel young again, and at this point, nothing mattered at all. Not one bit.

    • (diary entry 3/27/99)

Fantastic. This is the worst-reviewed movie yet this year. There is no other word for it. What do they expect? Of course the plot doesn’t make sense, and the end is silly… Who cares? The acting is amazing, these kids are putting energy back into the theaters. The directing is all flash, yet here it works because the visuals balance out with the characters which are more tangy and understated than anything I’ve seen recently. This movie has no sex, but the whole thing is sex. It’s a mood poem about what it’s like to remember having sex when you’re young and cool and way more serious than you are now. This is why the movie doesn’t have to have anything outrageous happening. It feels so alive and real that the violence can be small but still carry that thrilling impact.

Needless to say, afterward he glowed.

He had to be honest with himself, films were not a message of the Gods, nor were they signals created by competing powers of good and evil, they were air.

Over the next several weeks, it was upon this cloud that he floated through films like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Never Been Kissed, which otherwise would have sent him into seizures of despair and rashes of discomfort.

    • (diary entry 4/1/99)

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Actually, a lot of fun. At first, I didn’t want to see this because I thought, “Oh no, not another Tarantino wannbe.” But then, I realized, that was just media bullshit anyway. The press, which is notorious for not really watching movies, can’t let a crime movie come out without making comparisons to the dweeb. Like there weren’t crime movies before he came along. Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was actually a lot of fun. From the get-go, it’s shot like a beer commercial. And once the narrative tone and style have been established, it’s remarkably consistent with following them through to the end. An end which gets much too silly, but the writer/director didn’t give himself much of a choice because his young leads are so underwritten, the only way to conclude their stories is make things really, really silly. It’s like one of the great Frankie Avalon beach movies, but instead of sand and bikinis being fetished, it’s the haircuts and leather jackets. Kudos to the director for not actually showing the climatic shoot out. Not seeing it was like Spring air…

(diary entry 4/5/99)

Never Been Kissed has way more layering than I thought it would, and I’m impressed with the lengths Drew Barrymore went to with make-up and lighting during the flashbacks to make herself look as unattractive as is possible. Actually, all they probably had to do was take off her make-up because she isn’t exactly a glamour kitten anymore. She’s fat and she sort of knows it, but you know it’s only going to get worse. The movie was dumb. Give me a break on the Star Trek hidden-camera, and the ending on the pitcher’s mound makes no sense, not even to the twelve-year-old girls sitting in front me, skipping sixth and seventh period. But it worked because Drew’s character goes through everything everyone went through in high school – that is to say, absolute horror. So when she goes back there undercover, we can’t help but be on her side – all tense and nervous with an upset stomach. David Arquette doesn’t act, but that’s okay because I haven’t gotten bored with him yet. He’s like an ethnic version of Bill Pullman who doesn’t try so hard. The lesson to be gathered here is that as long as you’re trying to tell a story – a story where things happen and people change and all that – as long as you’re trying in this modern age, you’ll be a winner.

Which brought him to Go which, given the wave he was riding, should have been the movie that connected everything and then pushed it all into the future. However…

    • (diary entry 4-8-99)

Not great. Weak characters make it flat and unbelievable, so the edge is never there. The non-linear structure is used to cheat the fact that the material is so flat, it gives it the random, jangly feel that will only be effective on those who were never good at games like Hüsker Dü when they were kids. The chick from Dawson’s Creek is just plain a terrible actress. At least the bad teen queens from my day had some camp and energy to mix with their bad acting. This movie is supposed to be the future, yet it’s already so outdated it thinks scenes with a bunch of guys acting causal and talking shit to each other is somehow anything other than stale. Not surprising since the cracker that made this also did Swingers which was totally boring and only looked gritty to cover up its TV shallowness. Go is what the cool kids will go see instead of The Mod Squad and think more about than Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and think is better because, on the surface, it has the rough and ugly look that speaks of hipness, but is really a frail cover of desperation and completely boring pretentiousness.

Everett felt the boils returning. He was back at the beginning, and he hadn’t collected anything on his trip around the board. He was helpless. There was no hope. Nothing made sense. It was clear. It was all so clear.