The Fish
for 21 January 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Suck Staff

Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff
Editor in Chief


[Tim Cavanaugh]
Tim Cavanaugh
Special Guest Editor


Terry Colon
Terry Colon
Art Director


Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor


[Copy Edit]
Erica Gies
Merrill Gillaspy

Copy Editors


[Phillip Bailey]
Phillip Bailey
Production Editor

Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text

Carl Steadman
Carl Steadman


Ana Marie
Ana Marie Cox
Executive Editor


Sean (Duuuuude)
Sean Welch


Owen Thomas
Owen Thomas
Copy Editor


T. Jay Fowler
Production Manager
& Ass Kicker


[yes, it's
a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
Erin Coull
Production Manager


Monte Goode
Ghost in the Machine


Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager


Forsyth, " we're just spanning time "]
Brian Forsyth
Production Editor
& Pool Monitor


[the fixin'
pixie... ]
Emily Hobson
Production Manager
& Rhythm Guitar


Ian Connelly
Marketing Manager

Hit & Run

What's the Sucksters' opinion
on Luc Besson?

(Point of No Return, The
Fifth Element, The Messenger


Before the opinion, a
correction. Besson did not
make Point of No Return. This
film was a remake of his
Nikita (distributed in the
United States as La Femme
to give it what the
French call a certain I don't
know what

The best thing Besson has
done is give wide exposure to
Jean Reno. Nikita was far
more interesting for its
absurd plot than for its
directing, which seemed to me
to steal all the vices of
big-caliber US action movies
and none of their virtues.
Notably, the only element of
the film that had any lasting
resonance was the character
of the cleaner, who showed up
in Pulp Fiction and Point of No
both times played by
Harvey Keitel in a
fascinating closed loop of

My only reaction to The Fifth
was a belief that if
Heaven is a place where
you're allowed to punch Chris
Tucker in the face for
eternity, then my pious life
will not have been in vain.
In a movie without any
redeeming qualities, he added
a crucial element of

I do think casting Milla
Jovovich as Joan of Arc was a
stroke of genius. But the
influence of Jeunet and Caro
has been much wider and more
salubrious, most recently in
the grossly underrated
Mystery Men. I can't see
Besson being very
influential, because all his
tricks seem to be cribbed
from other people.

Yr pal,

Fish With Letter Icon

Regarding the point you've
made about Tarzan maintaining
No. 1 film status in France,
I think it is important to
remember (or be made aware
of) the fact that the
American film industry does
strong-arm foreign theaters.

You may (or may not) be aware
of it, but similar to
Microsoft's "put Windows on
everything or we won't sell
you anything" deal with
computer hardware vendors,
the American film industry
has long forced foreign
theaters to show a certain
percentage of American
movies. That means that if a
theater wants to show any
American films, 70 percent of
the total number of films
shown must be American films.
I may not be accurately
representing that percentage,
but you can appreciate the
implications. If you want to
show The Matrix, you are also
committed to buying Eyes Wide
Shut, Celebrity,
and The
Phantom Menace,
whether you
like it or not. Therefore,
the only theaters that show a
large percentage of European
films tend to be small art
houses, since they miss the
few big features from America
that are worth watching and
draw large crowds. This means
that it is more difficult for
European filmmakers to
distribute their films: They
have a restricted market,
even in their own countries.
This results in a starved
film industry that can't
compete on a technical level
with American films.

America not only exports its
culture, it often force-feeds
that culture to other
countries in much the same
way the French force-feed
geese for pâté
foie gras; one can believe
that this is poetic justice.
Regardless, it is a mistake
to see the predominance of
American film as proof that
the French love American

Sean Russell

Subject: France and American

Wow, they force French
theaters to show 70 percent
American product? That's even
better than what the Germans
managed to do when they
occupied the country. There's
only one way to explain that
surprising statistic: You
made it up. I know it's bad
form to inject any actual
knowledge into an argument
made up of invented facts,
but I was in Paris two days
ago, and I can assure you
that the movie houses were
humming along quite nicely,
with a fairly even mixture of
American and British films
and such homegrown fare as
Kennedy et moi (a Jean-Pierre
Bacri picture that, although
labeled a comedy, features
exactly one funny scene).

The package deal that you say
studios are forcing on
foreign theater owners is, in
fact, the same arrangement
they have with domestic
theater owners. If you've
ever worked in a movie
theater, you know that
theater managers complain
endlessly about having to
screen duds in order to get
the hits. Since theories
about America's force-feeding
its culture to foreigners
conveniently neglect the
agency of free will in human
decision making, I don't
suppose it has occurred to
you that the exhibitors are
always free to say no (or
non) to these deals. Maybe,
just maybe, the fact that
they accept the studios'
disadvantageous terms
indicates that the studios
have something they — and
their audiences — really
want. Bottom line:
Hollywood's real crime is
making movies that people
want to see.

Yr pal,

Fish With Letter Icon

Valerie Harper's Index


What was the point of this
mindless drivel? Truly this
day's offering doth suck, yea
even reeketh to the heaven.

Daniel Corvino
Trenton, NewJersey

Sometimes it's funny when you
take one thing and mix it
with another incongruous
thing. For example, you might
write a critical letter to a
trivial pop culture webzine,
but lapse into faux King
James Bible speak to
drive your point home. Or you
might mix Harper's Index with
a former celebrity whose
surname is Harper, like
Valerie Harper.

Of course, sometimes this
kind of thing isn't funny at

St. Huck
Fish With Letter Icon

St. Huck,

Rhoda Morgenstern was a much
more intriguing character
when she was on The Mary
Tyler Moore Show.
I used to
watch Rhoda and hope that the
show would improve. It never
did, so I stopped watching

I'm curious: What sent you on
a Valerie Harper tear? Have
you spoken to a qualified
professional about this
apparent obsession? How much
of what substance did you
ingest before your scripted
tirade appeared to you to be
even interesting, much less
funny? (Or was it more a case
of neglecting to take your

I usually get a good laugh
from Suck to help me start my
day. How unfortunate: Today
I'll have to hope one of my
friends sends me a good email
attachment. Take heart,
though, Huck; even Mark Twain
had his bad days.



Thank your for your concern
and sympathy.

Here is what I was thinking.
(Please note: This is an
after-the-fact reconstruction
of my thoughts, so it may not
be entirely accurate. Also,
it does take some liberties
with the actual record of
events for dramatic

(First, the backstory:)

1. There is this thing called
Harper's Index. Harper's
Index is a recurring feature
of Harper's magazine; it is
essentially a list of odd and
oddly juxtaposed facts and

2. There is this thing called
Valerie Harper. Valerie
Harper is a 59-year-old actor
who used to be a somewhat
bigger celebrity than she now

(Here's where my thinking
really kicks in:)

3. One day, I thought, "Hey,
maybe it would be funny if I
did a Valerie Harper's Index
— you know, something
just like Harper's Index,
except all the odd and oddly
juxtaposed facts and
statistics would be about
Valerie Harper!"

4. Then I sat down with a
bunch of old copies of
Harper's. Fifteen minutes
later, I had Valerie Harper's

5. Next, I thought, "Hmm,
this is kind of funny, maybe.
I wonder if I could sell it

6. Then I thought, "Would The
New Yorker
go for it? Maybe
as a back-page thing?" Then I
thought, "No. The New Yorker
would just reject it, like
it's rejected everything else
I've ever sent it." (Note:
I've actually only sent it
one thing, but I think it
reads more dramatically if it
sounds like I've sent it lots
of things.)

7. Then, I thought,
"McSweeney's?" After all, the
random lists at McSweeney's
are what got me thinking
about random lists in the
first place.

8. Then, I thought, "No,
McSweeney's rejects
everything I send it too.
Plus it doesn't even pay.
Plus, even though I find
McSweeney's a great source of
inspiration, I don't think I
really ever manage to
simulate that ineffable
McSweeney's absurdism in
anything but the clumsiest,
phoniest manner."

9. Then I thought, "Well, Tim
was saying the other day that
he doesn't think Suck has to
publish a blustery,
point-making essay every day,
that it could, in fact, do
more list-y, throwaway type

10. Then I thought, "Yeah, he
says that because it will
make his life as special
guest editor easier, but do
the people who really matter,
the Suck readers, think that?
Probably not. Probably they'd
be bummed out if all they got
that day was a one-joke
throwaway list like Valerie
Harper's Index. And then I'd
get a bunch of tiresome email
from people saying how much I
suck, and then I'd have to
answer it."

11. Then I thought, "Well,
there are worse ways to make
a living. I could be working
for some company that makes
CD-ROM directories of
businesses on the Net or
something. Or some company
that offers farm credit
services or whatever."

12. Then I submitted
Valerie Harper's Index to
Tim, and he decided to run

Fish With Letter Icon

Valerie Harper is currently
renting a Beverly Hills home
next to my folks as she
pursues her bi-coastal
TV/Broadway career — and
I must say that she rocks!
(Previous neighbors include a
prematurely cocaine addicted
balding kid who, after his
parents divorced, lived there
with his step-brother and
produced pornos while still
in Beverly High and a Persian
family who had painted the
house Beverly Hills Hotel
pink.) Compared to such
freaks as the late Dean
Martin who lived across the
street (dad was quoted on a
Star cover when he passed
on), Val is the only "normal"
star to grace our block. She
has a teenage boy and is
married to a former fitness
trainer. The fact that she
speaks to my mom about all
sorts of nonsense is really
sweet. I'll let Val know
about today's very special

And don't forget to check out
her reunion with Mary in a
very special made-for-TV
movie coming this spring!


We had contemplated holding
out for the Mary/Rhoda
reunion movie to give the
Valerie Harper's Index some
timeliness, but since they
keep pushing the date back,
we decided to run with it.

Nothing against Valerie
Harper, but I can't believe
you say she's a better
neighbor than "a prematurely
cocaine addicted balding kid,
who after his parents
divorced, lived there with
his step-brother and produced
pornos while still in Beverly
High ..."

St. Huck
Fish With Letter Icon

Hit & Run

Hey, Sucksters,

I emailed that guy Fumento
about one of his articles. I
can see why he posts the
letters he does. Smart ones
from people who can spell
piss him off. He said I was
worse than a "bleeding-heart
lib." Can you really
abbreviate that?

Chris McCall


The secret to any good hate
mail page is to weed out all
signs of intelligence and
good spelling. That's
something we never have to do
for our own Fish page, as the
participants tend to be

Yr pal,

Fish With Letter Icon

Hey guys,

I am writing in for the first
time to you and want to say
how much I enjoy the site.
Thus said, I ventured into
the hate mail site you listed
and read a little. It quickly
reminded me of a similar,
although much more humorous
site located at
If you want to investigate,
check into the archives (not
sure if this is there) or ask
them if you can see the mail
they used to get (and their
responses) about their
anti-Hootie site. I read it
at work and laughed much too
loud for doing such an
illicit, immoral act.

Dennis Schulte

Thanks. Somehow Fumento's
hate mail seemed to have an
edge of direness that made it
especially memorable.

Yr pal,

Fish With Letter Icon

Just a short, virtually
meaningless complaint:

"The least the 20th century
deserves is a spirited John
Williams score...."

I just want to voice my
slight disdain for this
"composer." As an avid
classical music listener, I
feel an obligation to point
out that many of John
Williams' scores are copies
of great works by music's
best composers, such as Holst
and Mussorgsky (much of
Williams' Star Wars score was
borrowed from Holst and his
Olympic songs from modest
Mussorgsky). While Kenny G.'s
music may (pardon my
rudeness) blow, at least he
has written and performed
pieces that he has
acknowledged to be variations
of someone else's work. If
you want an excellent 20th
century American composer, I
would recommend Aaron
Copland; at least he
recognized that his famous
Appalachian Spring was a
variation on an old Shaker
hymn. If you are looking for
a live composer, you are out
of luck, because all the good
ones are dead.

OK, I think I'm done trashing
John Williams now.


Erich Theiss

No good living composers?

Two words, Erich: Liverpool

Yr pal,

Fish With Letter Icon

Consider yourself lucky that
you got to watch an
Emmanuelle Beart vehicle on
your Air France flight. My
in-flight movie was Asterix,
a Gerard Depardieu vehicle.
Supposedly this was France's
attempt to make a big,
expensive, Hollywood-style
movie. Phew! They also had
some sort of Tom &
–style cartoon,
which stunk. The meal was OK,
though. They don't charge
extra for the champagne, even
in coach, which makes them
more civilized than the US
airlines, at least in this

Eric Ritter

There truly are not enough
words in any language to
describe how terrible that
Asterix movie is. All this
time I was feeling sorry for
the frogs because they could
never make anything as cool
as Reservoir Dogs, and here
it turns out they can't even
make something as cool as A
Kid in Aladdin's Court.

You're right about the meal,
though. Best I've had on an

Yr pal,

Fish With Letter Icon

Dear Sucksters,

Day after day I read your
site. Some days, it's good
... and somedays it's great.
Some days I agree ... and
some days I disagree, but
always I'm amused and
sometimes amazed at your
twists and turns in arriving
at the point. To me, stirring
up the proverbial pot
provides the bubbling energy
and interest in matters that
might otherwise go unnoticed.
That's a very good thing for
those living in this aging
republic. I suspect Patrick
Henry and Samuel Adams could
have used some of your urbane
wit and breadth of knowledge
back in their days, but it's
better for me that you're
here now. I applaud the
variety of topics you tackle,
and the breadth of knowledge
you demonstrate (not to
mention a savvy understanding
of international cinema to
boot). For this expatriot
child of humble Iowa, you
provide more than a smile on
my face but demonstrate that
there is room in this world
for people with open eyes

Keep on Suckin' ,

Andrew West
Rochester, Michigan

I think if Patrick Henry and
Samuel Adams had had our
urbane wit, the American
Revolution would have been an
abysmal failure, and right
now we'd be speaking, um,
English. But thanks for your
kind words.

Bubbling with energy,

the Sucksters
Fish With Letter Icon

Aliens was the best sequel,
hands down.

And just to correct your
mistake, it was Jeunet who
directed Alien:
not Caro. Caro
is Jeunet's screenwriter, and
he's the one who added the
palpable sense of insanity in
Delicatessen and The City of Lost
That sense is gone
in A: R.

Jeunet is a gifted director,
but give him a horrible
story, and it still makes a
sucky film.

(Ripley, clone my hairy ass.
I never saw someone dunk so

Frank Pelletier

You are correct about Jeunet,
and I sincerely regret the

However, that does not change
the fact that James Cameron's
Aliens is a beached walrus of
a film, which robs the alien
of its coolest feature: its
invincibility. Once you can
kill the alien with a gun,
what's the point of going on
living? Add to this the fact
that the movie gave an early
career boost to Paul Reiser,
and I think any fair-minded
person would agree that all
prints of this film should be
burned. Jeunet at least tried
to take the feeble and
arthritic Alien series in an
interesting new direction by
effectively making the alien
the hero. He failed only
because he was unable to
overcome the crushing
literal-mindedness of the

Yr pal,

Fish With Letter Icon

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, not Marc
Caro, directed Alien:
Caro was
credited as design
supervisor, and that echoes
independent reports that
Jeunet was more responsible
for the actors in their
earlier works.

Incidentally, while I haven't
seen it yet, France's entry
in the Oscar stakes this year
is Régis Wargnier's
Est-ouest. I'll certainly
grant your premise; there's
been nothing near as exciting
as Lola rennt (Run, Lola, Run)
or Mononoke Hime
(Princess Mononoke) — or
even Being John Malkovich
from France lately.

Jon Reeves

Correction noted. And we wish
Wargnier the very best of
luck in his effort to make
Oscar say, "Oo-la-la!"

the Sucksters
Fish With Letter Icon

hey, keep slagging the
frenchies for me! i'm the
only american in my office,
and it's my patriotic duty to
introduce them to some sucky
humor. HEE HEE!!!! also, the
xmas stress busters where
polly sits and says
"motherfucker motherfucker
motherfucker" was quite
funny. ok, so maybe i'm a
degenerate bastard, but i
still find fuck words in
print hilarious. don't post
my name if you print this
shit, s'il vous plait.

Patrick Campbell

You'd better buck up there,
Patrick. You're representing
your country overseas. Make
us all proud!

the Sucksters
Fish With Letter Icon

 The Shit
Fully Committed, Becky Mode, the Cherry Lane Theater, New York, New York
Paris in the Twentieth Century, Jules Verne, Del Rey, 1997
Chow Yun Fat's haircut in Anna and the King
A Comment on Mini-skirts, Thornton Dial
"Leonardo's Grave," Ian Jacks, Granta #67
The Long Swift Sword of Siegfried, directed by Adrian Hoven, 1971
The annual reappearance of cheap clementines in bodegas
The New Meaning of Treason, Rebecca West, Penguin Books, 1985
Five-Card Nancy (a card game played with individual panels of Ernie Bushmiller's comic strip)
The Birthday Party Live 1981-82, Four A.D., 1999
Black Sessions 10/22/98, Belle & Sebastian , (unreleased)
San Lorenzo's Blues, Nuzzle, Troubleman Unlimited, 1999
The Story of Time, exhibition in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England
Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery, John Michael Vlach, University of North Carolina Press, 1993

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