It's been a loooong time since the last blogosphere interview. So, let's hop back on that horse. This time we're jumping on the PATH Train to New Jersey to speak with Jay Lassiter. He runs Lassiter Space, a personal blog which leans heavily on the political, and an all-politics blog BlueJersey which "covers New Jersey like a rug."
He's true blue -- just the way we like 'em. I think you'll find him fun to read as well. Here's the interview:
10 questions with Jay Lassiter
Nathaniel:How often do you go the movies?
Jay: Not that often. Once a month at most. I had been in a full leg cast for about 6 months and that kinda made it tough to get around and to get comfy at the cinema. I got my cast off in May --just in time for the lousy summer movie line up. Now that I am bipedal again, I have eagerly been reclaiming the bits of my life that I enjoyed before my injury. In fact, I'm going to see Little Miss Sunshine tonite. I will never again take for granted the capacity to get up and fetch my own popcorn.
Nathaniel: I'm glad you're better. But I have to know. During your convalescence did you feel more like James Caan Misery or Jimmy Stewart Rear Window ?
Jay: Definitely James Caan in Misery. Caan's character, Paul Sheldon suffered a horrible foot injury (much like my ruptured Achilles) which was the handiwork of someone who was "helping" him convalesce from a car crash.
My surgeon fucked up my operation and the recovery time went front the normal 3 months to over a year. In fact, if a movie was made of my movie, my orthopedic surgeon could be played by Kathy Bates. So Caan without a doubt (if i had to choose) with a pinch of Mia Farrow from Rosemary's Baby since the doc kept telling me that I am fine and the complications are "normal" and "all in my head."
Nathaniel: Ha. Oh, that's terrible. I shouldn't laugh. But it is the best medicine. What movie(s) makes you laugh the hardest?
Jay: Anything by John Waters, with Polyester and Pecker standing out for some reason. Like the venerable Waters, I am a Maryland boy with a twisted brand of humor, morbid fascinations and a heart of gold. I relate to the humanity and I love the characters he dreams up.
That being said, Nine to Five still rocked the kasbah for me as well. Funny as hell, with or without bonghits.
Nathaniel: Right? Such a classic trio. My personal favorite from the bunch is Jane Fonda. If she wants to do 'M & M's --you can't stop her! Who are your favorite actresses ever?
Jay: ok. well we could take our pick from and of the 9-to-5 gang i reckon. In fact, i'll go ahead and choose Jane Fonda A) because of her progressive activism and B) for her amazing canon or work. I met Jane Fonda at a book signing a few months ago. After her talk there was a Q-n-A and I got a chance to ask her what's on my mind. You can read more about our encounter here on my blog.
The fact is, there are so many amazing actresses who have done stuff that blows my mind. I choose Jane because of the off-the-screen intangibles which she embodies and I admire. In other words, I love Jane Fonda (actress) and Jane Fonda (in words and deeds.)
Honorable mention: Divine, Audrey Hepburn
Nathaniel:Good choice on Jane. She's so frequently inspired onscreen --Klute being one of my favorite performances ever. I'm also a known fan of Coming Home and I love They Shoot Horses, Don't They?.
As for politics -- the most frequent subject of your blog -- what do you think of the booming documentary genre? Seems like it's one of the only areas where progressive thought is winning out: An Inconvenient Truth, The Corporation, Fahrenheit 9/11, etc... Any feelings on this --do you think it'll make a difference or is it just preaching to the converted?
Jay: Hmmm, this is the first one that an answer isn't coming to me quickly. (long contemplative pause) First of all, yes I do believe that the movies you cite are making a difference on some level. Probably not a lot, but some for sure.
I guess anyone can make a documentary, but the key is (still, ultimately) to entertain. What made Fahrenheit 9/11 so special is that it was damn clever. Whether or not you agreed with the subject matter, it's undeniable that Michael Moore is a master craftsman with film. It's worth noting that Fahrenheit made an astronomical amount of $$ at the box office, further testament to the movies wide appeal.
SO the most compelling ideas will always benefit from good, solid filmmaking. Progressive ideas are better than the alternative. And thus far, the success and appeal of the movies you cite is a testament that --at this point in the game-- we are way more passionate about our values than they are. After all, where is the republican version of Michael Moore? There is none.
Nathaniel: Whats your favorite foreign film?
Jay: My favorite foreign film of all time is Goodbye Lenin. Have you seen it? I have always been fascinated with the Cold War and particularly how it played out in Germany. Goodbye Lenin was an interesting take on the German struggle to evolve after the Wall fell.
Nathaniel: I have seen it. Thought it was very good --a fascinating take on the political as personal, which is a topic I greatly enjoy. That's another reason I love Angels in America --there are so many reasons to love it but that's one of the chief reasons I find it brilliant.
In addition to your own blog you also run another New Jersey blog, right? Are there any specific films that you feel really capture New Jersey whether in a true-to-life or exaggerated way?
Jay: I have two blogs, one called Lassiter Space and the other (bigger) site is BlueJersey. BlueJersey is pretty much all politics all the time. Seeing the garden state through a political lens is quite a show. Go figure. It seems like a lot of films use NJ is a character in the movie, much like John Waters used Baltimore. Most examples get the Jersey zetgeist pretty well: Clerks and Mallrats come to mind. I also think Harold and Kumar go to White Castle is a real gem which makes great use of New Jersey in its plotline.
Nathaniel: I love the photo of you and your nephew on your blog (pictured left). It always makes me think of my nephews. One of my favorite movie memories is of taking them to see Babe when they were little. We all loved it and they quoted it forever thereafter. Do you have any favorite moviegoing memories?
Jay: Some of my favorite childhood memories center around movies: Superman 2, Karate Kid, Splash and Ferris Bueller's Day Off were all seen with my Aunt Debbie and her kids (my cousins) Doug Jr. and David. The scene in Splash where Daryl Hannah's mermaid character "Madison" was drying off her fin with a hairdryer still makes me chuckle to this day. And Superman 2, well, that's just a classic.
Nathaniel: What's the most bizarre thing that's ever happened to you at a movie?
Jay: I was 14 and drank an entire bottle of Robotussin before going to see Weekend at Bernie's. It was my first and last Robo-trip and it was horrifying. I don't recommend.
Half way through the movie, I had to pee and realized that I was paralyzed. When I finally pulled it together to stagger to the bathroom I heard a little girl saying "Mommy, mommy, what's wrong with that kid? Is he retarded??"
Nathaniel: oh so embarrassing. LAST QUESTION: They make a movie of your life. Who plays you? Who directs? What's the title? Rating?
Jay: In the movie about my life, I'll be played by someone handsome like Jude Law. Pam Grier would play my alter ego "Cookie Puss Johnston." No I'm not a drag queen, maybe just a teensy bit schizophrenic. Spike Lee would direct and the movie would be called "Cracker with a Heart of Gold."
Nathaniel: Thank you so much for sharing all of this with me. It's been fun. Now, readers (particularly those in the Tri-State area) head on over to Jay's blogs and get yourself politically aware and active.
If you're new to this blog, look around...
There's other interviews, exhaustive looks at favorite films, occassional video mixology, much ado about Far From Heaven & Brokeback Mountain, blog-a-thon delights and lots and lots of Oscars & personal Awardage and sometimes there's even politics too... albeit usually in movie form.
Tags: movies, cinema, jane fonda, New Jersey, documentary,film, progressive, politics