Monday, March 26, 2007

A Case for Tolerance

(NOTE: Inspired by the Oscars, I've decided that, once a week, I'm going to try to share a movie that has made a significant impact on me. If nothing else, this will expose you to some of my idiosyncrasies.)

A few weeks ago, David commented ”what about all time favorite????”

That’s tough, I’m not sure that I have an all time favorite. But I can easily say that as far as Jack Nicholson movies go, there’s one that I believe is As Good As It Gets.

Why? I love the characters. All of them.
- The obsessive-compulsive, cantankerous, racist, homophobic writer
- The harried, single mom just trying to take care of her seriously ill son
- The cutest gay next-door neighbor ever
- The flaming art dealer
- The emotionally conflicted homosexual hustler
- The doctor willing to do what his wife told him to do
- The neurotic dog

I also like the message.

I think most people are like Mr. Udall in that they don’t like to be outside of their comfort zone. Maybe we’re not all that obsessive about it. Maybe we are.

But this movie reinforces the fact (at least to me) that when you connect with someone else ... when you reach out and do something good for someone else ... when you start caring for someone else more than yourself ... it makes your own life so much better. You always get something unexpected in return.

When was the last time you took dinner to your neighbor? Or pulled strings to help someone else? Or just made a special music mix to make a road trip more enjoyable?

Unfortunately, if you're like me, it's probably been too long.

* * *

Memorable Quotes:

Melvin Udall [to Verdell the dog]: Don't be like me. Don't you be like me!

Melvin [introducing Carol to Simon]: Carol the waitress, Simon the fag.

Frank Sachs: I grew up in hell! My grandmother has more attitude than you!
Melvin Udall: People who talk in metaphors oughta shampoo my crotch.

Frank Sachs: If there's a mental health organization that raises money for people like you, be sure to let me know.

Melvin: Can I ask you a personal question?
Simon: Sure.
Melvin: You ever get an erection over a woman?
Simon: Melvin...
Melvin: I mean, wouldn't your life be easier if you weren't...
Simon: You consider your life easy?
[long pause]
Melvin: All right, I give you that one.

Carol: Have you ever let a romantic moment make you do something that you knew was stupid?

Simon Bishop: I love you.
Melvin Udall: I tell you, buddy... I'd be the luckiest man alive if that did it for me.


Monday, March 19, 2007

It's Strictly a Laugh Affair

(NOTE: Inspired by the Oscars, I've decided that, once a week, I'm going to try to share a movie that has made a significant impact on me. If nothing else, this will expose you to some of my idiosyncrasies.)

I grew up in two small towns. During the school year, we lived in Texas. During the summer we lived in Colorado.

In both places, we only had one movie theater. And I have distinctive memories of each place.

The movie theater in Texas was named The Grand. It was very much like the movie theater idolized in The Last Picture Show (which was filmed in Archer City, 75 miles away from my home town). The Grand was probably built in the ‘30s and had a unique art deco feel. There were lots of sculptural relief plaster moldings, inside and out, with strong geometric lines. The Grand was the last (or first, depending on your perspective) commercial building on main street. Inside the lobby was the small concession stand, with the men’s room on the right and the ladies room on the left. The auditorium had a large center section, two aisles and smaller side sections. The theater also had a balcony, which until desegregation took hold, was where the blacks were expected to sit.

Going to The Grand wasn’t as much about the movie as it was about having something to do on Saturday. I would usually go with other kids that lived in the neighborhood or my big brother. First stop inside was always the concession stand. My favorite items were Charms® suckers – particularly blueberry – and “hot” Dr Pepper®, served in polystyrene foam cups with a lemon wedge. Some days, I had Milk Duds®.

In this small Texas town we only got what they call “second-run” movies. And for all the movies I saw at The Grand, I can't remember much about any specific movie. (In high school we’d go to the big city with dates to see "first-run" movies months before they’d ever make it to our small town.)

The movies at The Grand changed twice a week, on Sundays and on Thursdays. Family-oriented, or rather kid-friendly, movies ran Thursday through Saturday. Any movie that had a “more adult” theme of course only played Sunday through Wednesday, when kids were to either be in church or in school.

I’m not exactly sure how we usually got downtown, or how we got back home. I’m assuming a parent would drop us off, and we would later call them to come pick us up. Or we’d just walk. While my family lived close to the edge of town, it was less than two miles away.

Interestingly, it never seemed to matter when the movie started. If you got there during the middle of the movie, you’d just stay until you’d watch the first part later. And on Saturdays, there were always cartoons before the movie. Often, we’d sit through the movie long enough to watch the cartoons twice. I remember that we seemed to roam the theater, sitting in several seats. Sometimes we would sit in the balcony too.

In Colorado the movie theater was The Park, a large white wooden building with red trim and green neon lights. It sat across the street from the old post office, a block off main street. (Built in 1913, The Park is supposedly the oldest theater west of the Mississippi that is still in use showing movies.)

We rarely went to the movies during the summer. Instead our days were usually spent at the community swimming pool, playing baseball, or just hiking in the mountains. As kids, we were pretty much free to roam. In back of our house we had a large “dinner bell” mounted on top of eight-foot metal pole. You could hear it throughout the valley, and mother would ring it when it was time to come home.

However, it was here in Colorado, that I can distinctly remember seeing a particular movie. The movie was The Parent Trap.

I’m not sure what made this movie so memorable when I first saw it. Yes, it's funny; as its promotional themeline says: "It's Stricly a Laugh Affair." However, beyond the laughter, there are several themes in The Parent Trap that have greatly influenced me. Some positively, some negatively. Some clearly fictional, some based on reality.

Divorce Sucks

The movie never explains what caused Mitch and Maggie to get divorced or to make the decision that they’d separate the kids and raise them independently – with different last names – never telling them about their sibling. How did this happen? At the time, I didn’t know anybody that was divorced. It wasn’t until three years later that I actually had a friend whose parents divorced. However, I still have real concerns that kids get abandoned when parents get divorced. And in many ways, it still bothers me.

Kids-of-Privilege Live Differently Than Most (Duh !!!)

I’m sure that part of my attraction to this movie were things that I could relate to: horseback riding at the ranch, eating lunch at the country club, flying around the country going to summer camps. (Don't all kids do these things?)

However, this has generally been a very hard thing for me to deal with. Kids of privilege often have a very unhealthy sense of entitlement ... learning that you have to work for things you want doesn’t always come easily. Plus these kids are regularly labeled “snobs” without having any control over the circumstances. Real friends are often few and far between.

What's a worse slur on the playground? "Fag" or "snob?"

Being a Twin Has Unique Advantages

What can I say? I’ve been infatuated with twins since seeing this movie. (And there’s more than I can even begin to talk about here.)

You Can’t Keep Secrets from Your Domestic Help

If you remember (assuming that you also saw this movie), Verbena -- Mitch’s housekeeper/cook -- knew everything, including all family secrets.

I used to hide the first dirty magazine I ever had under my mattress. It wasn’t just a Playboy; it was hard-core porn. One day it disappeared. Nothing was ever said, but I’m sure I know who found it. Lesson learned.

Plus, if you don’t want others to know that you leave skid marks in your underwear, you had better wash your own clothes.

Blonds ARE Dumb

When I saw this movie again - over a decade later while in college - it struck me that this movie is very male-chauvinistic. Vicky, the young blond that is out to marry Mitch for his money, couldn't have been more stereotypical stupid and selfish. The infamous camping trip is a classic "dumb blond" joke. Even though it’s not politically correct, I still love it. (And Disney is supposed to be known for its tolerance!)

* * *
Memorable quote:

Verbena (Ever's Housekeeper): You didn't know what a good thing you had when you had it.
Mitch Evers: Huh?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Consider It Education

(NOTE: Inspired by the Oscars, I've decided that, once a week, I'm going to try to share a movie that has made a significant impact on me. If nothing else, this will expose you to some of my idiosyncrasies.)

I couldn’t write about my friend Dan last week without thinking about the time he took me to see the most disturbing 92 minutes of black and white celluloid I’ve ever experienced. It was Tuesday, November 1, 1994. Dan, another co-worker that I’d just met, and I were in Los Angeles, hanging out at the Virgin Megastore on Sunset Blvd. when Dan said, “Hey, guys, there’s an independent movie playing upstairs I want to see. I heard it was produced for less than $27,000, but it won a couple of awards in Cannes.”

Dan, who never missed an issue of Variety, was always the ring leader when it came to choosing entertainment. We went.

I remember the theater only had about fifty people in it – strange for a movie in West Hollywood. The three of us sat in the middle of the theater, with an empty seat between each of us.

Clerks had only been released two weeks earlier. I knew nothing about it.

* * *

Clerks Plot Summary: A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.

* * *

Not only are the characters NOT individuals that I’d ever want to become close personal friends with, but the babble about schmokin weed, hermaphroditic porn, and sex with the dead was just too much for me to assimilate into my sense of reality.

Call me conservative. I’m sure that if my grade school had had a (very) Young Republicans club, I would have been a member. But I don’t consider myself a prude, nor naive. I’ve tried it all, at least once.

However, there is more cussing per line of copy in Clerks than in any movie I’ve ever seen. Is this the way everybody talks in New Jersey? Other than the word damn, I rarely cuss. And NEVER in mixed company, nor around children.

I can’t believe that this movie will be on TV three times during the next two weeks.

-> Monday, March 12 – 8:30 PM – TMC
-> Friday, March 16 – 11:30 PM – TMC
-> Wednesday, March 21 – 1:00 AM – TMC

How do they bleep out that much copy? If you watch it, let me know.

* * *

I always try to look at the good side of things. And there were three things I learned from Clerks:

1) I have no desire to go to the Quick Stop or RST Video store in Leonardo, NJ.

2) I learned about the practice of snowballing.

3) It’s extremely awkward going to a controversial movie with a co-worker that you don’t know very well.

After the movie, we went to Barney’s Beanery on Santa Monica for burgers. I sat silent. Nothing to say.

The next night we went to see The Shawshank Redemption at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. I loved it.

* * *

Memorable quote from Clerks:

Dante Hicks [after a customer got his hand stuck in a can of Pringles]: A word of advice, my friend. Sometimes you gotta let those hard-to-reach chips go.

Hey, it was the only line without f**k, s**t, or a**hole that I liked.

And, no, I did not see Clerks II. I did call Dan last July to see if he was going. He wasn’t either. At least that’s what he told me.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Eye Candy

(NOTE: Inspired by the Oscars, I've decided that, once a week, I'm going to try to share a movie that has made a significant impact on me. If nothing else, this will expose you to some of my idiosyncrasies.)

No Laws. No Limits.
One Rule. Never Fall In Love.

I think I first heard of the term "eye candy" from my friend Dan. He's a commercial producer/creative director with incredible taste and a great eye for all that's trendy. Dan and I worked together for about ten years, and regularly traveled together on business. When out-of-town and our work day was done, there were several things we would often do: eat at hip restaurants, shop in tony boutiques (me for ties, Dan for shoes), go see movies, hang out in music stores and look at eye candy. To Dan, no matter where we were, there was a lot eye candy at which to look: beautiful people, beautiful scenery and beautiful things. Usually everyday late in the afternoon, you'd start hearing Dan say, "Let's finish up here so we can go find some eye candy."

Some movies you watch, others you experience.

In 2001, Moulin Rouge! became my classic eye candy movie. I told Dan that I thought it was a "visual orgy." The elaborate scenery and costumes. The colorful characters. The motion. The music. The sexual energy. I couldn't, and still can't, get enough of this movie.

Because of Moulin Rouge! I became a big fan of 19th century Paris and the Moulin Rouge; courtesans and absinthe; Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman; and of course everything Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin.

Nominated for Best Picture of the Year in 2001, Moulin Rouge! lost the Oscar to A Beautiful Mind, another gripping story, but definitely not eye candy. However, Moulin Rouge! did win Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. Recognition that I believe it more than earned.

(I could go on forever about the music in this movie, too! One Day I'll Fly Away, Elephant Love Medley, Come What May and El Tango De Roxanne are favorites.)

Favorite quotes from Moulin Rouge!:

Toulouse-Lautrec: The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Christian: I prefer to do it standing. You don't have to stand, I mean. It's sometimes that... It's quite long and I'd like you to be comfortable. It's quite modern what I do and it may feel a little strange at first, but I think, if you're open, then you might enjoy it.

Satine: You're going to be bad for business. I can tell.

This is one of the movies that I consider better than sex.
. . .