Friday, August 31, 2007
David Milch’s Deadwood was HBO’s boutique offering, a wonderful side cart to the juggernaut that was The Sopranos, and a show mostly adored by its core fans and the nation's TV nitcrits. Deadwood was a sprawling, hard-to-define western, with a barrel full of colorful characters, a slow-to-go sense of story movement, all of it mixed and glued together by Milch’s language play, a halting, lilting, snaky, quasi-Shakespearean barrage of slang, obscenity, and flowery speech—a cadence as hypnotic as it was off-putting. Milch’s second outing for HBO, John From Cincinnati(full season available on HBO On Demand), is anchored around more of the same dialogue, albeit updated to California surf country, but still another onslaught of impenetrable squawking, inscrutable code words, high-falutin’ philosophical-speak coached in earthbound profanity, as irritating to some as it mesmerizing to others. The show, which just completed it's ten episode first season, centered around the Yosts (Bruce Greenwood, Rebecca De Mornay, Brian Van Holt) a fractured royal family of surfdom, and their golden boy, third generation surf prince Shaun (Greyson Fletcher). Into their volatile and largely sour mix comes the title character (Austin Nichols), a monosyllabic savant, who may be an angel, a looney tune, an alien messenger or, (gulp) the Son of God. The slice of California depicted is a mostly rotten one, a sun-drenched world of noir and misshapen spirituality (much of this derived from co-creator Ken Numm, the author of the seminal-surf-Zen-noir novel Tapping the Source), a world peopled by a passel of off center saints and sinners, including Vietnam Joe (Jim Beaver), ex-cop Bill Jacks (Ed O’Neill), Freddie the Hawaiian (Dayton Callie), filmmaker Cass (Emily Rose), café owner Jerri (Paula Malcomson), Doctor-in-flux Michael Smith (Garret Dillahunt), motel keeper Ramon (Luis Guzman), and surfing mogul Linc Stark (Luke Perry), among others (many of whom were Deadwood players). The series was despised by many as a pseudo, self-important metaphysical exploration of god knows what (no pun intended), yet I found myself captivated by its Godot-like situations and its haunted circle of causalities operating as characters. John From Cincinnati was a wonderfully immersive wooly and wild ride (with a perfectly evocative theme song taken from the late Joe Strummer), and once I clear my head I think I will go back and get wet again.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sometimes the past just sneaks right up and smacks you straight on the ass. Received a batch of CD’s in the mail this week via an old pallie named Eddie Flowers I found through internet connections and, lo and behold, everyone of ‘em hadda a version of one or another song co-penned by me in my 16th or 17th year. Yeah, yeah, yeah, back in 1972/73 I was no budding teen lyricist, but more of a wanna-be rock critic, with 2 separate letters published in Creem, a ton of rejection letters filed in my top desk drawer, and a newly discovered frontier in what were called fanzines or rock zines, discovered through an article or two in places like Fusion and Crawdaddy. I submitted my adolescent attempts to a guy named Bob “Mr. Bear” Richert in Bloomington, Indiana, and to my astonishment they started to appear in his rag, then called Beyond Our Control, later called Gulcher. Through those first writings I found a batch of like-minded teens and other wanna-be nitcrits, many of who had their own, mostly mimeographed and stapled together zines. The most charismatic (and wildest) of the bunch was Krazee Kenne Highland, from Brockport NY, the teen-addled mind behind a zine entitled Rock On, and a hyperactive motormouth who sent me cassettes of his 2 minute rock riffs, called me long distance on the phone and babbled on about Iggy and the Stooges, Lou Reed, The New York Dolls, and The Dictators, and even showed up on my front porch in East Providence, RI, dirty, sweaty, and hulking in the corner with a duffel bag. Eventually somewhere in 1976 I received an EP in the mail by The Gizmos, a four-song mishmash that had a pic sleeve of Kenne with a bunch of Hoosier hippies and some weird toad named Ted Neimiec waving a top hat. The songs were stop-and-start, out-of-tune, imitative train wrecks, far too unsubtle and crudely adolescent for me, now in my know-it-all 20th year, but, oh yeah, one of them “Mean Screen” was scripted by me, in my best teenage approximation of Igster lyrics, with a chorus that was a blatant attempt to match the pop cult referencing of Andy Shernoff (Dictator songwriter and singer, editor of the one and only Teenage Wasteland Gazette, and, most importantly, a bonafide rock critic-turned-rockster), “I wanna love American Bandstand/ I wanna live American Bandstand/Dick Clark outta be my poppa”. Sometime later I received a full length LP from a New York band dubbed The Afrika Korps, which contained another Duhamel-Highland nugget, entitled “Juvenile Delinquent” (“Did a Bo Diddley jive when he graduated/Walked on his hands when he went to work”) in which Kenne inserted his own reference, gleaned from his RI visit, to a “Portuguese bouncer” which made me laugh out loud each time I listened hard enough to discern it amidst the Dolls-like caterwaul it’s buried within. Listened to it again yesterday, some 30 years later, and I laughed harder than ever, and I continued to smile as I buzzed thought the CD ‘s (which include yet another tune, “Hot Shot” for which I am co-credited and don’t remember one thing about), including both Music To Kill By and Live at Cantone’s 1977 by The Afrika Korps, and 1976/77 The Studio Recordings, Live in Bloomington 1977/78, and Demos & Rehearsals 1975-1977 by The Gizmos, all of course available on Gulcher Records. Listening to this pile of earnest, hilarious, and pure barrage of garage rock, and remembering that I actually was a (small) part of it, made my ego swell with nostalgic pride, made me feel (suddenly) decades younger and temporarily higher than a kite. Long Live The Gizmos (and me too!)
Friday, August 24, 2007
The Bronx is Burning
ESPN, Tuesdays 10:00 PM
This eight-part retelling of the events of the summer of 1977 in New York, based on the 2005 book by Jonathan Mahler, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City, is ambitious as that title, neatly intermeshing archival footage with fictional stuff as it jumps from a Mayoral race, a black-out, the Son-of-Sam killings, and the high drama soap opera antics of the New York Yankees. Almost predictably, this being ESPN, the Yankees story is that one that captures your interest, and the wild and wooly behind-the-scenes and between-the-lines antics of that championship team are both hilarious and resonant. John Turturro displays a fine mix of cockiness and insecurity as the one and only Billy Martin, Kevin Conway as Gabe Paul, Erik Jensen as Thurman Munson, and Leonard Arnold Robison as Mickey Rivers are on the money, and while Daniel Sunjata’s Reggie Jackson and Oliver Platt’s George Steinbrenner both miss the mark a little, the overall depiction of baseball-from-the-inside is first class and a whole lotta fun.
Flight of the Conchords
HBO, Sundays 10:30 PM
Somewhere in that strange, largely unexplored netherworld between The Monkees and Spinal Tap, lies the newest HBO half hour comedy, Flight of the Conchords, featuring New Zealand musicians/comedians Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie of the duo of the same name. The show, a minimalist, low-key, thoroughly deadpan, weekly adventure in absurdity features the hapless folk/pop duo and their clueless manager Murray (Rhys Darby) going through the slowest of motions as residents of New York waiting for the next gig. The bulk of the show runs just this side of irritating, until the next fantasy music video is unveiled. These interludes are absolutely hilarious, poking fun and utilizing nearly every musical video cliché that exists while the songs are adept parodies of an array of genres. Recent highlights have included an episode that featured both a fantasy David Bowie with songs done in a few of his changing styles, and a laff riot hip-hop shout out entitled “Hiphopotamus vs. Rhymenocerous” worth the price of admission alone.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The soon-to-be-released The Invasion (with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig) will mark the fourth movie version of the Jack Finney sci-fi novel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. While Don Siegel’s 1956 original still garners much deserved kudos and Abel Ferrara’s 1993 take has it’s share of cult followers, it is Phillip Kaufman’s 1978 movie, just out in DVD Collectors Edition form (MGM $19.95), that remains seared into my brain. Kaufman, a vastly overlooked and underrated American filmmaker (The Right Stuff, The Wanderers, The Unbearable Lightness of Being) set his pod takeover movie in the laid back Bay area, in a place and time when the good vibes of Woodstock Nation had mutated into Yuppie self-satisfaction, a setting where every other Me Decade participant might as well have been body snatched. Kaufman’s version is a sleek and taut thriller, more Hitchcockian then sci-fi allegorical, peppered with an overall sense of paradise lost rather than paranoia fought. Well cast (Jeff Goldblum, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright), it also boasts a few cheeky doses of humor spread throughout, including cameos from Don Siegel and the star of the original film, Kevin McCarthy. It was well-received film upon it release, yet it has somehow sunk into undeserved obscurity.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Stardust, Neil Gaiman’s 1999 adult fairy tale may have worked its magic on the written page, but it’s screen transformation
is as un-enchanted as can be. An over-baked mix of fantasy, action-adventure, and romance, the movie, despite it’s strong cast (Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Peter O'Toole, Ricky Gervais) misfires from beginning to end. Director Matthew Vaughn seems to think he can bring the prickly feel of his own Layer Cake to this antithetical genre, but the whooshing camerawork and derivative musical cues only bog the film down under an ever obvious tone of smug and eye-winking irreverence. Eventually, the movie will be a classic cable-watched guilty pleasure, solely for the wack-jack Robert DeNiro scene-stealing turn as a closeted pirate named Captain Shakespeare. Our Man Bobby D hasn’t had this much fun (or been this flamboyantly hammy) since he wielded a baseball bat as Al Capone in Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables.
Friday, August 17, 2007
The following column is reprinted from the August issue of Providence Monthly
Eyes Wide Open
by Scott Duhamel
I am not, typically at least, a huge follower or fan of the following: fantasy films, film franchises, or effects-laden movies, but for some reason I find the Harry Potter series quite appealing. Having never read any of the books, I still find myself wholly immersed in the self-contained cinematic world of Harry, Hogwarts, and the shadowy Lord Voldemort. (Although I do, admittedly, have a tough time writing a fanboy sentence like that.) The newest Potter entry, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, neither elevates or deflates the series, yet it remains a satisfying installment, and gets points for attempting to head further towards the dark side.
Each of the four prior Potter movies boasted distinct authorial voices as directors like Chris Columbus (responsible for the first two, Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, replete with his neo-Disney, energized irreparably American point-of-view), Alfonso Cuaron, (behind the third, Prisoner of Azkaban, with it’s gritty, magical realism) and Mike Newell (responsible for number four, Goblet of Fire, bringing to it an emotional grounding that hovered been whimsy and the portent) came and went. The time around the Potter assignment finds itself in the hands of British TV director David Yates, the man behind the BBC political thriller State of Play. It’s an apt choice, for the Order of the Phoenix, spends much time dealing with the secret politics of recrimination, accusation, trust, and mistrust.
Of course the movie also sets it’s course on the growing pains of it’s three primary figures, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley( Rupert Grint), and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), who are all in their fifth year of study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy. In the course of the film, Harry, beefed-up, hormonal, in a seeming constant state of self-turmoil, is labeled a liar, almost expelled, and beset on at school break by the dangerous dementors, all the while experiencing disturbing visions connecting him to the malevolent Voldemort, nicely brought to dark life by Ralph Fiennes. We also meet new characters like Bellatrix Lestrange (Helen Bonham Carter) a goth’s wet dream Azkaban escapee and Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) a new ally to Harry with empathic powers, while Harry deepens his dealings with his godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman).
The movies archest move is the introduction of yet another new member of the Hogwarts staff, Dolores Umbridge, a dowdy, starched matron bent on choking the lifeblood of the student body in the name of terrifying order. British character stalwart Imelda Staunton does an impeccable job as the embodiment of ordinary evil, steely insides covered up by pink clothing, a Queenly-hairstyle, girlish giggles, and a grade school teacher’s singsong delivery. In the otherworldly environment of the Potter series, her middle-class fascist may be among the scariest sights ever.
As always the other sights are a treat in this fifth time out, with Stuart Craig’s delightful production design both artful and evocative, first class special effects that manage to feed the story and not wind up as the movies’ first course, and a couple of dazzling flying sequences that manage to truly soar. Much of the film, as crafted by Yates, pushes close to the feel of the horror genre, utilizing slashing cuts, shock visuals, and an air of impending doom. If the film wilts at all, it stems from Yates inability to successfully shift back and forth between the delicate balance of internal fear and external doom, the sumptuous visual scheme always seeming to favor the latter. Still, the film moves well, and boasts the typical Potteresque pleasures, and, despite its predictable oncoming automatic hold on younger audiences, never dumbs itself down. It’s a worthwhile outing, and, yeah, yeah, yeah, I welcome the next one.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Something’s gotta be missing (or lacking) in me, for sure. I just don’t get 300 (Warner, $29.98, 116 minutes), the box office- boffo Zack Synder adaptation of brilliant graphic novelist Frank Miller’s retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, with the Greeks going extreme mano a mano with the Persians, and the gory hound Spartans leading the way. Am I not fanboy enough to appreciate the virtual look of all it all- even though it’s as arresting and white hot as a videogame? Am I not gay enough to appreciate the thoroughly homoerotic undertone that the film bathes in? Am I not special effectas-friendly enough to go hog wild about the CG-enhanced imagery, enough CG-juice to cause a special effects junkie to OD? Am I not macho enough myself to truly dig the perpetual bloodbath the movie lovingly details? All of it seems (to me) to be empty and mindless, a pure exercise in tone, movement, and color-with nada underneath. I never felt my personal call-to-arms, never felt truly stirred, only vaguely puzzled, occasionally repulsed, and slightly transfixed by the nonsensical strurm and drang on display.
Something’s gotta be missing (or lacking) in me, for sure. I just don’t get 300 (Warner, $29.98, 116 minutes), the box office- boffo Zack Synder adaptation of brilliant graphic novelist Frank Miller’s retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, with the Greeks going extreme mano a mano with the Persians, and the gory hound Spartans leading the way. Am I not fanboy enough to appreciate the virtual look of all it all- even though it’s as arresting and white hot as a videogame? Am I not gay enough to appreciate the thoroughly homoerotic undertone that the film bathes in? Am I not special effects-friendly enough to go hog wild about the CG-enhanced imagery, enough CG-juice to cause a special effects junkie to OD? I am not macho enough myself to truly dig the perpetual bloodbath the movie lovingly details? All of it seems (to me) to be empty and mindless, a pure exercise in tone, movement, and color-with nada underneath. I never felt my personal call-to-arms, never felt truly stirred, only vaguely puzzled, occasionally repulsed, and slightly transfixed by the nonsensical strurm and drang on display.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
While not the knock-it-outta-the-park TV-into-movie that 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was, Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and their gang of writers (11 credited) have made a Simpsons’ movie that faithfully expands the traditional 20 minutes-plus classic show that most popcult devotees have come to both adore and respect. Without diving into vulgarity or carving out a plot that would be antithetical to the 400 shows already conceived, the movie trots out yet another of Homer’s endless (and admit it- mostly hilarious) boneheaded moves, and Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, along with the other cool daddy denizens of this cartoon Springfield respond accordingly and amusingly. The movie attempts to plunge a bit deeper into the weirdly earned undercurrent of dysfunctional family emotion that typically spritzes up the sharp, caustic, and seemingly never ending comic pokes and asides the TV Simpsons breezily coasts along on, and the film achieves its desired effect—a lengthier, slightly more profound but equally frivolous Simpsons episode. Start planning for the sequel.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Singer-songwriter-producer-musical guru Lee Hazlewood passed away this week without much fanfare or noise, befitting the long strange trip that comprised his career and his gone-daddy persona. A DJ—turned budding songwriter he first hooked up with buddy Duane Eddy and co-wrote and produced some of the twang master’s initial hits, including “Rebel Rouser”. His greatest claim to fame came from working with Nancy Sinatra, and producing-writing “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and "Summer Wine", but he also wrote Dean Martin’s “Houston”, made a memorable album as a part of a beauty and the beast duo with Ann Margret, and worked with the Chairman and Kingpin, Frank Sinatra, who got a particular kick out of him. (Hazlewood said the he and Sinatra got along famously, “Frank thought I was two-thirds funny, and I thought he was 90 percent clever.) Despite his glorified credits, Hazlewood’s finest moments may have come on his series of stranger and stranger solo works, dubbed by some “cowboy psychedelia”, a trippy mash of cocktail jazz, the Bakersfield sound, and beatnik tomfoolery with a result that somehow managed to combine elements of Sinatra, Gram Parsons, Leonard Cohen and a wacked-out Phil Spector, Hazlewood was a true space cowboy, best exemplified by his finest creation “Some Velvet Morning.” Hazelwood also chucked it all, and at the height of his commercial success, moved to Sweden in 1970. His last album, Cake or Death, released towards the end of 2006 after he was diagnosed with renal cancer, was a sarcastic meditation about his oncoming death, as unclassifiable as evuh, and per usual equal parts incomprehensible, clever, and funny. A discernible and acknowledged influence for one our finer contempo chameleons, Beck, and an nonpareil character whose work falls somewhere between kitsch, art, and outer space.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
There is absolutely no joy in Mudville (or anywhere outside of San Francisco), the (questionably) mighty Barry has won out. Of course the steroid accusations are more than bothersome, but the very persona of Barry, the sour, joyless, disdainful, artificially enhanced seeker of records, who, don’t forget, was once a sour, joyless, disdainful, legit All-Star and complete tool player, has always been a turn-off, and made it virtually impossible to root for the guy whose Godfather Willie Mays once epitomized as the high-spirited and uncontaminated spirit of the game, and whose contemporary baseball doppelganger Ken Griffey Jr. couldn’t run out between the lines without a grin, a lively step, consciously rejoicing in the plain truth of the pure rapture in playing a kids game as an adult living.
It may be time to push the Red Sox panic button. Never mind that the team is suffering through yet another post-All Star west coast potential death march, it’s those damn can’t-kill-‘em Yanks that have many of us breaking out in a cold sweat. A-Rod is having a stupendous year, everybody has started to hit, Giambi is coming back, and last night’s game had one of those bench clearing call-to-arms incidents, with Senior Citizen Clemens drilling a Toronto batter as a high profile rallying cry for a team that is already doing everything right. Uh-oh.
Monday, August 6, 2007
Did everyone note with interest last week’s news item that had actor Nicolas Cage buying property in Middletown, RI?
It goes without saying that I truly dig you--as an actor, as a celeb, and as a man's man. When you touch down in RI look me up man, I promise to keep it on the QT, on the down low. I'd be the best guide you can find; I'll even buy the drinks, all of 'em. Here's what else beautiful little Rhody and I can provide.
1) Hairstylin’. As much as your are the acknowledged modern cinematic master of the hairpiece, RI, in fact just the cities of Cranston, Johnston, and Providence alone, would provide you with enough hair sights and styles to last you well into the twilight of your movie career. I can show you the hair magic.
2 ) Accentin’. You could just start with mine, still chock full of RhodeIslandese despite my state college education and a wealth of well (and) proper-spoken friends, then we could sit back and watch he the nightly local news (over drinks) which is resplendent with a wonderful array of variations, then we could hit the streets for a true accent cornucopia. Somewhere between the New Yawk tawk, the Connecticut click, and the Boston honk, lies the ugly beauty that is the unvarnished Rhody speak.
3) Imbibing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you can find drinks and drinkers everywhere, but I can personally turn you onto a world of tongue-twisted daytime revelers, shot-induced serial tawkers, whiskey-soaked philosophers, and the like. Plus, we could either stay put at the same watering hole or hit a different spot (high-end or dive) every night for a month straight. (I'm a heavy drinker too, although much like I suspect you are, highly enlightened and largely coherent. Trust me, I’ve gotta ton of practice.)
4) Eating. Oh yeah, once you get outta Middletown I will guide through an array of eateries, easily on the level with the glorified dogwood that you usually get in and around LA. The best part being that odds are virtually no one will wolf on you as a Hollywood stud; you'd easily pass as one of my fellow labor buddies, or assistant to the Mayor in Cumberland, RI.
5) Cinematic Discourse. Of course I watched yer career unfold, and I’ve noted the furrowed brow, the burn-baby-burn eyes, the steely lips and quivering pout, and the blood and sweaty-sweat that you put into your craft. I watched you channel Elvis (in Wild at Heart and Honeymoon in Vegas), I’ve stared at you chewing bugs (in Vampire’s Kiss), I’ve admired you managing Bugs Bunny choppers (Peggy Sue Got Married), simpering with sensitivity (Valley Girl) , going mucho macho (Con Air and The Rock) selling your artistic soul (National Treasure) tag teaming with Sean “The Magnificent” Penn (Racing with the Moon), playing lonely second fiddle to Richard “Bloodless” Gere (The Cotton Club), donning the ultra-glazed ham (Face/ Off) , and doing it doleful (City of Angels), blue collar (World Trade Center), cartoonish (Raising Arizona), seri-ass (The Weatherman), whimsical (Adaptation), ironic (Lord of War),actorish (Birdy), rabbity (Bringing Out the Dead) and full-tilt boogie (Leaving Las Vegas). I’ll talk the talk about the method, your method, realism vs. exaggeration, Mad Francis Coppola, Marty The Man Scorsese, the Coen boys, Queen Shirley MacLaine, Davey Boy Lynch, Johnny Woo-Woo, big budget vs. no budget, artistic integrity and bold-faced commercialism, anything you want anytime, anywhere in the state of Rhode Island. Nic, you the man, and I’m your boy, you dig homey?
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, dead this week at 89, was unarguably one of the foremost figures in the world of International cinema, post -World War II. Essentially, along with fellow visionaries Welles, Fellini, Truffaut, Kurowsowa, and a perhaps a handful of others, he helped reinvent the basic visual grammar of film, and in the course of doing so became among the most influential and most parodied filmmakers ever. His barren physical and psychological landscapes, his penchant for harrowing close-ups, and long, static camera set-ups made his batch of classics—The Seventh Seal (’57), Wild Strawberries (’57), The Virgin Spring (’60), Persona (’66), Cries and Whispers (73), Scenes From a Marriage (’73) (and that’s just the front line)---instantly memorable, and brain-searingly unforgettable. Bergman utililized the language of film to bring the movies a mix of emotive, intellectual, and psychological charges heretofore-unseen in much of world cinema. While Bergman has passed, obviously his films haven’t, and here’s to further generations of eager, sweaty young film students shaking their heads over the Strindbergian dialogue, scratching their noggins at the dripping symbolism, and poking their own sleeping asses during the long silences and pregnant pauses that mark the standard Bergman film, before they make up their minds to get out there and write a screenplay for Porky’s 5.
How strangely convergent that Italian movie visionary Michelangelo Antonioni passed away on the same day as Bergman. Both were masters (and originators) of the very language of film, both favored landscapes and characters saturated with ennui, both suited up as decidedly highbrow filmmakers, and both help make the very concept of the prestige foreign film as a commercially viable one to American audiences. Antonioni’s series of audacious and bewitching films (including L’Avventura ’60, La Notte ’61, L’Eclisse ’62, The Red Desert ’62, Blowup ’66, Zabraskie Point ‘70) were all visually arresting and hypnotically paced (although many Americans viewers will swear to date that sitting through an Antonioni movie was exactly like watching paint dry), all depicting terrains dominated by a pervading sense of alienation and dissolution, movies that place more import on architecture and spatial relationships than actual ones, movies where the panoramic lens forced viewers to peer beneath the surfaces on display in order to even take a stab at what propelled the enigmatic characters depicted. Antonioni’s finest, and perhaps most accessible film, might be 1975’s The Passenger, a truly poetic treatise about isolation, despair, and contemporary disintegration, with the filmmaker as elegant visual stylist burrowing deep into the heart of darkness as personified by Jack Nicholson in one of his finest roles.
From the highbrow right to the so-called lowbrow, ex-Tomorrow (NBC, 1973-1982) talk shot host and longtime network figurehead Tom Snyder, was the kinda guy who might have had a hard time keeping a straight face when discussing the symbol-laden movies of arty filmmakers like Bergman and Antonioni. Notoriously cantankerous and unabashedly egotistic, Snyder was a breath of fresh air in the late night TV atmosphere, he could and would as easily poke fun at himself at he would engage a guest a spirited Q & A. For late night audiences during his heyday, many of us up late and well fortified by a wide variety of substances, Synder was a pure gas, his show a dynamic little headtrip, and he will always be fondly remembered for engaging the likes of Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, Sterling Hayden or Charles Manson. Snyder, and the show, could be a laff riot, theater of the absurd, or actual unvarnished riveting and compelling television. Snyder, who was only 71 when he died this past week, will long be remembered for his colorful rough-around-the-edges style and the indelible tribute/imitation turned in by Dan Ackroyd during Saturday Night Live at its early zenith.