Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Golden Plunger Awards (10 page)

BOOK: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Golden Plunger Awards
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What’s most surprising about this movie, though, is the literary pedigree behind it. Screenwriter Ian McEwan was a celebrated novelist with 10 books to his credit before he wrote
The Good Son
, and he’d already won the following prizes:
• Somerset Maugham Award (1976), for
First Love, Last Rites
, his first collection of short stories
• Whitbread Novel Award (1987), for
The Child in Time
(one of
the United Kingdom’s most prestigious awards, now renamed the Costa Book Award),
• Prix Femina Etranger (1993), for
The Child in Time
and others.
Even more notable, McEwan later won the 1998 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for
Amsterdam
—an international award given every two years for an author’s achievements in fiction. And his 2002 novel
Atonement
won numerous awards, including:
• The WH Smith Literary Award (2002)
• The National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award (2003)
• Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003)
• Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004)
The finished version of
The Good Son
was reportedly far different from what McEwan originally wrote—Macaulay Culkin’s father is said to have made substantial changes during filming. Although McEwan hasn’t commented about the making of the movie, he has talked about writing for movies in general. In 2002, he told the
San Francisco Chronicle
, “Hollywood has a particular demand on writers. Writers can get swept aside . . . Occasionally, some of us are blessed by witnessing bad behavior, but in Hollywood you really see it, people behaving monstrously.” Not surprisingly, McEwan’s Web site doesn’t mention
The Good Son
.
THE NAME:
Roger Ebert
THE MOVIE:
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(1970)
Jacqueline Susann’s best-selling novel
The Valley of the Dolls
was a scandalous smash in 1966. It featured three young actresses who struggle to achieve success and then pay a mighty price for it, falling prey to men, drugs, fame, and fortune. A year later, a movie version opened, and instantly became a campy cult classic.
The story doesn’t end there, though. In 1970, legendary sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer (whose obsession with breasts fueled a career that included such classics as
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
and
Mud Honey
) made an even campier, X-rated sequel. It again focused on three young women, but this time they were musicians. They played in a band called the Carrie Nations, and as their musical careers exploded, their personal lives imploded.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
ratcheted up the sex, drugs, and rock
‘n’ roll, earning its “X” rating with a bloody decapitation at the end. It was also hilariously funny from start to finish. Oh! And one of the most famous movie critics of our time, Roger Ebert, cowrote the skin flick.
Ebert was already a respected film critic for the
Chicago Sun-Times
when he got involved with the movie. He was a longtime fan of Meyer’s work, and when the two met, they formed a friendship. When Meyer was hired to direct a sequel to
The Valley of the Dolls
, he turned to Ebert for help writing the script. Critics slammed the film, even if one of their own helped to create it. Vincent Canby of the
New York Times
trashed the film, saying, “Meyer’s earnestly vulgar sensibility, which once met the audience on its own level by giving it exactly what it wanted, has become patronizing.”
Years later, Ebert offered this description of his script: “Pure cinema, combining shameless melodrama, highly charged images of violence, sledge-hammer editing and musical overkill.” Ebert has said he and Meyer took six weeks to write the movie, and they laughed the entire time. Audiences seem to have gotten the joke: the movie, which cost under $1 million to make, has grossed $40 million.
Ebert wrote two more movies with Meyer, and he would have worked with Meyer on a third—a 1978 movie for the British punk band the Sex Pistols—but the production company went bankrupt and filming was stopped.
Ebert’s association with Meyer didn’t hurt his career. In 1975 he won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, he became a famous critic through his weekly TV show reviewing movies, and he still writes for the
Chicago Sun-Times
.
TWO BITS OF OSCAR TRIVIA
• What do Audrey Hepburn, Eva Marie Saint, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, and Marlee Matlin have in common? They all won Academy Awards for their first movie role.
• Only three women have ever been nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards: Lina Wertmuller (
Seven Beauties
, 1976), Jane Campion (
The Piano
, 1993), and Sofia Coppola (
Lost in Translation
, 2003). None won.
THE THREE LITTLE PIGS AWARD, #2
Book Houses
The Italians are known for their art, but this Venetian and his
Golden Plunger–winning ideas are in a league all their own.
BOOKS MAKE THE MAN
Books have long been objects of art. Collectors may specialize in illustrated, paper-engineered, or handmade books. The 20th century ushered in artist’s books—one-of-a-kind, often highly conceptual works of art that range widely in form and usually include a combination of media. But no one has ever taken it quite as far as Italian sculptor Livio De Marchi. Books, not bricks, are the inspiration of this Venetian-born sculptor. His
Casa di Libri
(Book Houses) can be found in Italy, Germany, and Japan.
De Marchi didn’t construct his houses with actual printed books, though, which would be vulnerable to weather and vermin. Instead, he sculpted the houses almost entirely from wood. The first Casa di Libri, in the Veneto village of Sant’Anna di Tambre, Italy, was finished in 1992. Its outer walls are designed to look like stacked books of varying thicknesses, some with spines turned out, others with spines turned in. The tin roof resembles a giant green book, opened upside down. Its “pages” are also carved from wood. The smokestack for the wood stove (yes, it’s also made of wood) is a large green fountain pen, its point to the sky. The shutters are book jackets; when closed, they look like complete books standing face out, ready to be read. Even the concrete foundation looks like a book.
FULLY BOOKED
Inside, the fantasy continues. Nearly everything is made to look like books: the tables, the chairs, the dining furniture, even the shelves filled with carved wooden volumes. There are other clever wooden
items, too, ranging from the extremely simple bowls and plates on the dining table to elaborately carved hats, jackets, shoes, and even a handbag. Although you can’t put on the draped jackets or the wooden suit hanging in the (book-shaped) armoire, everything else in the Casa di Libri is fully functional. The shelves of faux books cleverly conceal modern, working kitchens and bathrooms, and the enormous platform book bed is topped by a comfy mattress.
DRIVING ON WATER
The artist created two other book houses and plans more. Livio De Marchi’s fantastical designs aren’t limited to houses. He also creates fully functional vehicles out of wood. Some of his best-known creations are waterborne cars that he “drives” around Venice’s canals. In 1989 he made a Fiat Topolino; in 1997 a Mercedes Seagull; in 1999 a convertible Volkswagen Beetle. But his masterpiece is 1994’s Pumpkin Coach, which accommodates four people and even includes horses “handled” by a coachman. How fitting that a fairy tale inspired this fantastical and bookish artist.
For the other Three Little Pigs Awards,
turn to pages 7 and 208.
TWO AWARD ORIGINS
��
The Heisman Trophy.
John Heisman was a football coach at Auburn, Clemson, and Georgia Tech in the 1890s and early 1900s. In the 1930s, he moved on to be the athletic director at New York City’s Downtown Athletic Club. Since then, the club has issued the Heisman Trophy in his honor. It’s voted on by the nation’s college football reporters. Past winners include Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Barry Sanders, and Bo Jackson.

Tony Awards.
The Tonys are awarded to the best Broadway plays, musicals, and performances of each year. They’re named for Antoinette “Tony” Perry, a stage actress and theater director in the early 20th century. In the 1940s, she founded and led the American Theatre Wing, which promotes theater and, today, hands out the Tonys. All-time Tony leader: Julie Harris has been nominated ten times and won five times.
THE DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK AWARD
Gray Wolves
In 1973, gray wolves were on the verge of extinction in the United States
when the federal government stepped in to help. The animals made a
remarkable recovery. But 35 years later, gray wolves were back
in the news—and this time, the government had
signed their death warrants.
LONELY WOLF
Once upon a time, gray wolves ranged over the entire Northern Hemisphere. In the United States, they were concentrated in the West and Midwest—states like Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Many lived in Yellowstone, the country’s first national park. When Yellowstone was established in 1872, hundreds of gray wolves roamed there and were the area’s top predator. But just half a century after the park’s formation, the animals were gone.
From the late 1800s until about 1940, ranchers in Yellowstone and throughout the West practiced “predator control.” This meant that wolves could be hunted (even inside the park) in an effort to keep them away from local farms and populations. Wolf hunters received bounties of $20 a pelt, a hefty sum at the time. By the mid-1940s, few visitors or ranchers reported seeing wolf packs in Yellowstone, and by the 1970s, scientists could find no evidence that any wolves still lived there at all. In fact, the only U.S. states with wolf populations were Montana and Minnesota, and those were home to just a few hundred each.
So in 1973, via the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. government decided to protect gray wolves. The act imposed a $100,000 fine and up to a year in jail for anyone who deliberately killed a wolf. This put a stop to the widespread killing and helped the gray
wolf make a comeback. In particular, efforts in Yellowstone National Park helped America’s gray wolves rebound.
GETTING REACQUAINTED
In 1987, the government decided to explore the reintroduction of wolf populations to Yellowstone. Since the animals were indigenous to the region, it seemed logical. Much debate and investigation followed—nearby ranchers, in particular, worried that a wolf population would wreak havoc on their livestock. Finally, by 1995, wildlife biologists were ready to send a group of wolves back to Yellowstone.
Fourteen wolves were captured in Canada and transported to the park. Catching an entire pack is difficult, so the scientists took lone animals from different packs. A year later, 17 additional wolves were brought from Canada and released into Yellowstone.
On arrival, the wolves were placed into one-acre acclimation pens for eight to ten weeks in an effort to confine them to a limited range at first. Three chain-link fence pens were positioned at different locations in northern Yellowstone—at Crystal Creek, Rose Creek, and Soda Butte Creek. Biologists wanted the wolves to form new packs, so the scientists placed a dominant male wolf, a dominant female, and several young subordinate wolves into each acclimation pen to mirror the natural pack structure. Within 24 hours, the wolves began acting like packs in the wild, and in two out of three cases, the newly formed “alpha” pairs eventually had pups.
While in the acclimation pens, the wolves were fed only once every seven to ten days to mimic the waxing and waning eating habits of wild wolves. A typical pack of six in the wild consumes about 800 pounds of meat per month (about two adult elk and a small deer).
BOOK: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Golden Plunger Awards
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