By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
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By Ray Downs
Jason Harris carries in his pocket a single leather glove, the fingers cut at the knuckles. He calls it his Naruto glove, named after the hero of a popular Japanese manga comic. "He wears it when he's fighting ninjas," explains Harris as he stands in the DNA room of the downtown Wainwright Building, holding a small container of urine.
As a part-time urinalysis technician for the State of Missouri, Harris watches felons pee into cups. "I see a lot of penises roughly twenty a week," he says. "I've probably seen 400 in the time I've worked here." There are times when he'll draw notice from one of the men who has seen his show, Films in Black & White, on public-access station KDHX-TV (Channel 22). "They'll say, 'I know that dude from the cable show about movies.' I'm looking at their junk and they say, 'I didn't agree what you had to say about House of Wax. That movie was the shit.'"
On a recent afternoon, a man getting pee-tested is surprised to learn that one of Harris' co-workers doesn't know he has a television show. "You didn't know that?" says the man, who sports a bar-code tattoo on his neck.
"Never seen it," she says. "You're a celebrity, Jason? You've been hiding that from us. You're walking around famous and I didn't even know it. I'm going to have to ask for your autograph." Harris smiles and returns to his work. At this job, he rarely talks about his show. At his other gig, though at Blockbuster Video he's known as the resident expert when it comes to film.
Roaming the aisles of the Central West End store, Harris imparts his thoughts to customers, many of whose idea of a good flick is Madea's Family Reunion. He doesn't pull any punches and enjoys entertaining viewers with wild declarations. On the movie Tombstone: "I don't promote murder, people. Let me get that through your head. But let's be realistic about it. If you go to a restaurant and you're out west it's the land of outlaws and you look at me all crazy, I'm shooting you."
The 28-year-old Harris collects toys and comics, porn and movies. "I got Star Wars Burger King wristwatches next to copies of Black Tail," he exclaims. As for women other than his mom and sister he can take 'em or leave 'em. "All I need is toys, orange juice and cheese pizza." When he meets a lady he likes, he tells her, "I'll sleep with you, but right now I ain't interested in spending the three months it's going to take to get to know you. I've got books to read, movies to watch."
He doesn't drink, hates sports, is a strict vegetarian and says the Wu-Tang Clan changed his life. Movies are his singular passion. Pre-taped and aired on Friday and Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m., episodes of Films in Black & White have included "Best of the 90s," "Best Drama" and "Best Romance Films."
On a show called "Five Best Westerns," Harris is at his rambunctious best: "Wyatt Earp complete bad-ass. I always wanted to be Wyatt Earp. But I'm a lover, not a killer."
"See, on my block, everybody wanted to be Doc Holliday," interjects his movie-talk sidekick Mark Bluestein.
Dispensing heavily salted opinions is the basic staple of the shoot-from-the-lip show.
Jason Harris on Sofia Coppola and Lost in Translation: "I don't like her. I don't like little rich people taking away from people who are actually going out and doing something. She's rich. I can't feel sorry for her. It was a good movie, but it's like, dude, you don't have to work. You don't have to do nothing. Your daddy's Francis Ford Coppola."
Bluestein: "She wrote the movie! Give her a break! She's a horrible actress, but she has to do something to get into the movie business."
Harris: "I don't give a damn! Your daddy's Francis Ford Coppola. He did The Godfather, for God's sake. You should be producing and then calling it a day. Stop taking jobs away from everybody else."
Bluestein: "She wants to direct. Leave her alone."
Both of them are pitiless when they don't like a film. Bluestein on 2004's Welcome to Moosewood: "Gene Hackman deserves to go to Hell for this movie."
"He probably will," Harris fires back.
Discussing Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, Harris summarizes the plot and its main character thusly: "They torture him, they beat him, then torture him some more, beat him again, and then the movie's over."
"He likes his movies to start subtle and poetic the kind that ease in," says Jason Harris of his partner Mark Bluestein's taste. "I prefer it when the movie starts with a dude on a bed with a hooker. That's when I put down my piece of pizza and move closer to the screen."
Harris is a loose cannon with a keen Chris Rock-style brain. Bluestein plays the more conventional Roger Ebert type the yin to Harris' dreadlocked yang. A chubby guy with glasses, the 29-year-old Bluestein seems to relish his iconoclastic view of movies and the world in general. He says he hates the French and Texans and is obsessed with Elvis Presley, particularly the fat Elvis of the Vegas years.