Saturday, March 7, 2015


Year 7, Day 66 - 3/7/15 - Movie #1,966

BEFORE: I've reached the end of the Audrey Hepburn chain, but it's also the start of the Cary Grant chain.  Since Cary Grant was TCM's star of the month for December, that makes him my star of the month for March.  And since Mr. Grant's real name is Archibald Leach, and since the NCAA basketball tournament starts today (I think) then I'm calling this chain (M)Archie Madness.  Damn, that's just stupid enough to stick. 

As it happens, I'm starting with one of Grant's later films, and I'll sort of work backwards from here, since this is sort of the "Benjamin Button" year I'll watch him get a little younger with each film.  

THE PLOT:  Romance and suspense in Paris, as a woman is pursued by several men who want a fortune her murdered husband had stolen. Who can she trust?

AFTER: IMDB also tells me that Cary Grant passed on "Love in the Afternoon", because he felt he was too old to play against Audrey Hepburn.  Perhaps his instincts were right at the time, but he ended up making this film with her six years later.  He almost passed on this one too, but "Charade" came to be known as "the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made". 

You probably noticed that Paris also carried over from "Love in the Afternoon", but this is a very different Paris.  That was a city of hotel rooms for illicit affairs, this is a Paris of spies and intrigue.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the first real James Bond film was released the year before this.  One of the villains here has a metal claw for a hand, and that feels sort of Bond-like.  Of course, it all comes out of the same sort of Cold War time period, and everything can be traced back to earlier films like "The Third Man" and Hitchcock's films, where audiences learned not to trust government agents, and people were forced to fake their own deaths and go on the run.  

Tonight Hepburn's character finds herself a widow (seems like she was about to get divorced anyway) and then finds her husband might not have been who he claimed to be.  If this were made by Hitchcock in the 1940's, she'd have been framed for her husband's killing and sent on the lam with a mysterious stranger to prove her innocence.  But no, this time the mysterious stranger helps her search for her husband's fortune and fight off three men who are also looking for it.   

I'll admit I didn't see most of the twists coming, and I was way off with regards to the location of the money and the identity of the killer.  But there were plenty of red herrings - like the guy who sneezed at the funeral.  This led me to believe, when he sneezed later, that her husband was still alive - like maybe that guy was allergic to his cologne or something.  Nope, I was totally wrong.  (to be fair, the Punch and Judy show also suggested this plot direction...)

EDIT: I found the scene where the agents were testing the corpse at the funeral to make sure he was really dead to be a bit familiar - I finally realized there was a similar scene in "RED 2", which was probably a shout-out to "Charade", only with a different result.  I also realize now that the sneezing guy wasn't reacting to the dead guy's cologne or anything, he was probably sneezing to make the dead man flinch, if he were faking. 

This film was darn good, but is it the best Cary Grant film?  We'll need to wait until the end of the tournament to find out...

Also starring Cary Grant (last seen in "North By Northwest"), Walter Matthau (last seen in "Ensign Pulver"), James Coburn (last seen in "Midway"), George Kennedy, Ned Glass, Dominique Minot.

RATING: 7 out of 10 liverwurst sandwiches

Friday, March 6, 2015

Love in the Afternoon

Year 7, Day 65 - 3/6/15 - Movie #1,965

 BEFORE: Audrey Hepburn carries over from "Roman Holiday" -

THE PLOT: A middle-aged playboy is fascinated by the daughter of a private detective who has been hired to entrap him with the wife of a client.

AFTER: One of the factors that I take into an account when I rate a film is this - did I stay awake for the whole film?  And if not, how many times did I doze off?  I did not make it through this whole film after beginning it in the wee hours of the morning, so I had to watch the last hour on Friday evening.  However, I don't think this tells the whole story, because I had to shovel snow TWICE yesterday, and that marked like the 10th day of shoveling this winter - so I'm knackered, man.

The IMDB describes this film as director Billy Wilder's salute to the films of Ernst Lubitch, but I don't think that tells the whole story either.  I see the link to early screwball comedies, but with its depiction of free love (more or less) in 1957 Paris, it also seems way ahead of its time.  And once again, we're at the corner of romance and deception, so for me, that places the film, stylistically and chronologically, somewhere between "It Happened One Night" and more modern fare, like "Must Love Dogs" or "My Best Friend's Wedding".  

In fact, with a lot of visual quirkiness, and a focus on the idle upper class, with a lot of time spent in a particular hotel, it almost seems like this is the sort of film Wes Anderson might make, if he had been around in the late 1950's.  How else can I explain a band of Gypsy musicians, wearing full evening tuxes, playing "Fascination" while standing in a steam room?  Sure, they're doing it because a rich person is paying them to, but still - it's a visual non sequitur at the very least.  (And, why are so many of my films set in hotels lately?)  

I'd be inclined to say, "Oh, they just don't make films like they used to."  But I can't, because they NEVER made films like this, umm, except for this.  Tonight Hepburn plays a young woman who is the daughter of a private detective, and she's spent years reading his case files about people carrying on illicit romances, to the point where that has warped her perceptions about the way that love works.  As far as she knows, romance means cheating on your spouse with the ski instructor, or the pool boy, etc. and meeting in a hotel for - dancing, let's go with dancing and then we can discuss what comes later. 

So when she overhears her father's latest client's plans to catch his wife in the act of cheating and shoot her playboy lover, she realizes that she knows the time and place of a future crime, and goes there to warn the playboy.  (Really, her father and the police should have stepped in to do something, so she's more of a good character than all of them...)  After warning the playboy, the cheating woman is allowed to leave, and Hepburn's character masquerades as the playboy's lover - saving a man's life, but also positioning her to be the playboy's next conquest. 

I'm not exactly sure what prompts her to deceive the playboy, telling him that she's had many lovers before, when she clearly hasn't.  The fact that she has a paramour at music school who shares her interests and is at least in her ballpark, age-wise, proves that she really has no clue what love is.  But for some reason she feels the need to act like a player, so she pretends like a casual fling in a hotel is no big deal, because of all of her previous experience.  

Another strange thing then starts to happen - the playboy who's had a long string of lovers comes to think that perhaps he's met his match, someone else in 1957 Paris who treats sex as casually as he does. And hearing about all of her (made-up) lovers drives him crazy, makes him insanely jealous.  This is a conundrum many people face when in relationships - do they want to know details about their lover's sexual history, or not?  Many people act like they do, when they really don't.  Or vice versa.  

Tying the last three Audrey Hepburn films together, it then becomes about who knows what when - in "Wait After Dark" we saw three men who knew about what was in the doll, when the blind woman didn't, and in "Roman Holiday", we knew that the newsman knew the princess was a princess, when she didn't know that he recognized her.  And in "Love in the Afternoon", when the playboy sets out to figure out who the mystery woman really is, will he succeed?  Can he learn her identity before jealousy drives him mad, or makes him fall in love?  

I'm not crazy about the ending, but then I'm not really crazy about the pairing of a much older actor with a younger actress.  I felt that the boyfriend at music school would have been a better match for her, and not just because they were of a similar age - they clearly set up this girl as someone who has a skewed outlook on what love is, and then she never really learned otherwise.  It's like if you grew up in a pet shop and someone led you to believe that you'd someday marry a turtle - you'd think that at some point, someone would set you straight and tell you that's not how it's supposed to work. 

(EDIT: The IMDB points out in its trivia section that this film may have been unsuccessful because audiences in 1957 also agreed that Gary Cooper was too old to be paired with Audrey Hepburn.  A year later, Cooper reportedly looked weird because he'd had an unsuccessful facelift.  See, plastic surgery disasters in Hollywood have been around for a while.)

Also starring Gary Cooper (last seen in "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"), Maurice Chevalier (last seen in "Gigi"), John McGiver (last seen in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"), Lise Bourdin.

RATING: 5 out of 10 surveillance photos

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Roman Holiday

Year 7, Day 64 - 3/5/15 - Movie #1,964

BEFORE:  See, I'm back on romance films, I figured it wouldn't take that long.  Audrey Hepburn carries over from "Wait Until Dark", this is the role that won her a Best Actress Oscar.  

THE PLOT: A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome.

AFTER: Jeez Louise, if this isn't a classic film, then I just don't know what is.  The story is timeless, pairing a newspaper man with the heir to a throne - film-wise it stretches back to 30's comedies like "It Happened One Night", and you can see it echoed in more modern romances like "Notting Hill".  Actually, it seems like "Notting Hill" borrowed quite a bit from this film, right down to the press conference at the end.  OK, so it substituted Hollywood royalty for princess-style royalty, but the concept is the same, only with a different ending.  Princess Ann was just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her...

OK, maybe it wasn't like that.  I can also view this as sort of a reverse "Sabrina" - in the version I saw (and, I assume in the Hepburn version as well), Sabrina was a commoner, the chauffeur's daughter, who saw the rich people dancing and partying and wished that she could join them.  Here Hepburn plays a princess, but she sees the commoners in Rome dancing and partying, and she also wished that she could join them.  Hmm, that's weird, the poor people think the rich people have it made, and the rich people wish they could enjoy the simple pleasures of life.  It almost seems like nobody is happy right where they are.  

Of course, being a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be.  There's all those ceremonies, and the traveling, and the incessant shaking of hands and being all polite - why, it's enough to drive a poor, I mean rich, girl mad!  So Princess Ann sneaks out of the, umm, embassy (?) and goes walkabout, only she'd been given a sedative to help her sleep, so a reporter mistakes her for a young girl who's had too much to drink.  Since she won't (or can't) reveal her name or address, he takes her back to his apartment (it's not as sordid as it sounds) and she gets to sleep in, perhaps for the first time in a very long time.  

Meanwhile, he checks in with his editor and learns that the visiting Princess (from, which country again?  They never really say...) has come down with a mystery ailment and has cancelled all appearances and interviews.  But when he sees her picture in the paper - why, it's the girl who's sleeping back at his flat!  What are the odds of that happening?  (In a Hollywood film, pretty good, I think...)   Probably about the same odds of the two of them falling in love.

Once again, there's deception in romance, but tonight there's a double dose.  She pretends to be a college girl, and never lets on to him (or his photographer buddy) that she's really a princess - and he takes her out on the town, never revealing that he already knows who she is, and he's researching an exclusive about royalty, what they're really like, what are their secret hopes and dreams?  Turns out some of them just want to hang out with regular people, have a gelato, buy some shoes and get a haircut, maybe bust a guitar over a guy's head in a bar fight.  You know, if there's time.  

Things haven't changed all that much since the 1950's, the public is still fascinated with royals and their private lives - look at Prince William and Kate Middleton, only now there's much more of a bias against paparazzi.  Apparently in the 1950's you could use a tiny spy camera to catch a photo of a princess smoking a cigarette, and still live with yourself, and people wouldn't crucify you for doing that.  Go figure.  

This was Hepburn first major motion picture, if you don't count "The Lavender Hill Mob", and it seems like she was really good at playing naive and innocent - she's practically like a china doll in this one.  Even in "Wait Until Dark", because she had been recently blinded, that naive feeling came through, in the form of her helplessness.  I think the only time I've seen her play someone worldly and in control was in "Breakfast at Tiffany's".  

According to the IMDB, this film was quite successful due to news events of 1953, when Britain's Princess Margaret was dating a commoner named Peter Townsend.  He was also divorced, so to avoid scandal she was forced to renounce him and marry someone else.  There was also a surge in Vespa scooter sales after this film was released, but I bet a lot of men were disappointed that they didn't come with pretty princesses to drive them into sidewalk cafĂ© tables. 

NITPICK POINT: Joe gives the princess 1000 lire, and says it amounts to about "a dollar and a half".  Then he watches her in the market as she buys shoes, enjoys some gelato and gets a haircut.  Even at 1953 prices, that seems unlikely.  Either the princess really knew how to stretch $1.50 or Joe was wrong about the conversion rate.  As it is, the prices don't seem to add up right.  Maybe she was so beautiful that people just gave her stuff for free?

Also starring Gregory Peck (last seen in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"), Eddie Albert (last seen in "The Heartbreak Kid"), Hartley Power.

RATING: 6 out of 10 ambassadors

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wait Until Dark

Year 7, Day 63 - 3/4/15 - Movie #1,963

BEFORE: Alan Arkin carries over from "Slums of Beverly Hills", which is a very sneaky move on my part.  I can use actors with long careers to switch between modern films and classic ones - I've got plans to use Alan Arkin as a link later on in the year also, which should get me out of another tight spot.  I had a plan just to use this film as a link without watching it, and then TCM did me the favor of running it as part of their "31 Days of Oscar" programming, since I think the title song got a nomination.  Anyway, it was really nice of that channel to run this film 3 days ago so I could watch it now.  

THE PLOT:  A recently blinded woman is terrorized by a trio of thugs while they search for a heroin stuffed doll they believe is in her apartment.

AFTER: This is one of those films that audiences today might not understand, because we've had so many advances in technology since its release in 1967.  Me, I wasn't released until 1968, but I still remember a lot about technology in the Dark Ages, so I'll give it a go.  

I should say that I know almost nothing about the technology employed by blind people today, or even back then, except for braille.  I'm sure there have been advances, though - I think I saw something the other day about tech that helps blind people "watch" movies.  (I can say pretty much anything about blind people, because I figure they aren't reading my blog and they don't really care about movies - so that's a segment of the populace I don't have to worry about offending...)

But for you kids out there, that heavy-looking black thing on the table with the wire coming out of it is a telephone.  A non-cellular phone, and it didn't play games or show you a map or tell you who's singing that catchy song playing in the coffee shop.  In those days you picked up the receiver, spoke to an operator, and you asked to be connected, or if you knew the number, you had to push this heavy dial around with your finger, assuming your fingers were strong enough.  If your friend's number had a lot of 8's and 9's in it, you had to allow more time for the dial to go around, and if your finger slipped you had to hang up, wait like three minutes for the dial-tone and try again.

Oh, right - dial tone.  That was a sound that you used to hear when you picked up the phone, that let you know it was OK to make a call.  If you didn't hear that, there was something wrong with the phone.  If you tried to move the phone to another desk, or reached too far for something when talking on the phone, you might pull the wire out from the wall, then you were basically screwed and had to wait two weeks for the phone company to send a repairman. 

Also, pay phones.  There used to be these little booths on street corners, where you could go inside the little booth (or not, you had to reach in if you were a big fat guy) and you could put a quarter in a slot and make a phone call.  Weird, I know - but people just didn't have phones in their pockets back then.  

They apparently didn't even have "911" service back then.  You had to call the operator with the "0" part of the dial, but who put the zero at the farthest part of the dial?  If your house was on fire, it could
burn down in the time it took the dial to go all the way around...  You were probably better off if you memorized the number of your local fire + police stations, or had them written down nearby.  But you had to look those up in a phone book, you couldn't just Google them.  

Oh, right - phone book.  This was a big book that had everyone's phone number in it, alphabetically by last name.  Unless someone had moved into town or left town in the last two years, in which case it was useless.  You won't see a phone book in this film, because the main character is blind, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.  It used to be one big book, with residences in one section and then businesses in the next, but if you lived in a big city then you needed one book, white pages, for people, and another book, yellow pages, for businesses.  I grew up in suburban Boston, and because my father was a deacon in the Catholic church, he had to be able to reach other deacons around the state, so we had to get the phone books for South Suburban Boston, West Suburban Boston, North of Boston, and Boston itself.  In your whole life, you're never going to use each book more than 4 or 5 times to look somebody up, but because there was literally NO OTHER WAY, you had to have the phone number of every single person in your metropolitan region taking up space on your shelf.

(BTW, books were collections of physical paper with writing on it.  Not sure how far back I need to go here...)

What else in this film might be confusing to young viewers.  Drugs?  Drugs were illegal substances that were sold on street corners.  People used to buy them to feel pleasure or numbness, because nobody had yet invented video games or Enya music.  They were sold by people called "dealers", but I think New York got rid of them all some time during the Giuliani administration, they were all forced to work at places like the Disney Store or the m&m store in Times Square.  

Ah, photography.  The main character's husband here is a photographer, and again, this was before we had digital technology, so he had a studio and a darkroom.  A darkroom was a place where you had to go to take the film out of your camera, because any light at all would ruin it, and you had to put the film cartridge, a spool and a container into a big canvas bag, and by touch you had to thread the exposed film on to a spool, making sure it didn't touch itself at any point, and put the spool into the container.  Then you could take the container and your hands out of the canvas bag, put dangerous chemicals into the container that would expose the film, and this would turn them into negatives.  When they dried, you could take the negatives and put them on a device in the darkroom that would shine light through them and the light would hit a piece of photographic paper, then you took the paper and put into a tray of more toxic chemicals to activate the image, another tray of chemicals to stop the exposure, and then a tray of water to wash off all the chemicals, then hang them to dry.  After a couple hours work, you would have a photo that probably needed to be made again because you got your big fingerprint in the middle of it.  

I think that pretty much covers it - people still shop for groceries and defrost their refrigerators, right?  No?  Damn it all.  Anyway, all kidding aside, this is a pretty tight thriller, with bad villains and an innocent victim and a situation that will keep you on your toes.  In tone, it's probably somewhere between "Home Alone" and "Panic Room", if that makes any sense. 

Also starring Audrey Hepburn (last seen in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"), Richard Crenna (last seen in "Sabrina"), Jack Weston (last seen in "Cactus Flower"), Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Samantha Jones, Julie Herrod.

RATING: 6 out of 10 light bulbs

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Slums of Beverly Hills

Year 7, Day 62 - 3/3/15 - Movie #1,962

BEFORE:  Somebody stole my idea for a superhero-themed restaurant.  We saw a flyer the other day for a burger joint/arcade in Brooklyn, with a comic-book hero theme, and it separated the menu into healthier sandwiches (heroes) and less healthy burgers and cheesesteaks (villains).  Fries and chips were listed on a "sidekicks" menu, which I had also envisioned.  Now, in my pipe dream there would be all kinds of specific hero-related fare, like a "Captain American Grilled Cheese" or a pulled pork sandwich in pita bread named the "Pita Porker", but of course then I'd run afoul of copyright issues.  But what kind of a world do we live in, where someone can just steal the idea right out of my head, the one that I was never going to follow through with?   I guess I can still design a food truck that serves "Super Heroes" and park it right outside Comic-Con and make a ton of money.  

I tried to get this movie way back, when I was doing a geographically-based virtual trip around the world. It wasn't available, no channel was running it, so I watched other films set in the L.A. area instead.  Then I finally got a copy and I tried to get it to pair with "Laurel Canyon", but it just didn't fit in this January's line-up either.  So it goes here, with Marisa Tomei carrying over from "Four Rooms", and it helps provide a link to Audrey Hepburn and, ultimately, Cary Grant.  Everything does seem to happen for a reason.

THE PLOT:  This semiautobiographical story follows a lower-middle-class teenager and her neurotic family in 1976 Tinseltown. 

AFTER: I don't think we're ever going to have true gender equality in this country, at least not until films by women about women find a way to tell a story that also appeals to men.  Let me explain.  Agreed that we have all kinds of films, we have action films and comedy films and sci-fi films and Westerns, and in those genres the tendencies seem to be male-dominated, but they technically are open to all audiences.  Some women enjoy comedies, right?  Maybe there are even a few women out there who enjoy a good Western.  

But when women write and direct films, the tendency seems to be to tell stories about female characters, in a way that celebrates womynhood, but also doesn't seem to have anything to make men want to watch them.  I don't get this, why alienate half of your audience right off the bat?  Can't they tell the story of a person who happens to be a woman, rather than someone who's drowning in a sea of female problems, or who breaks the glass ceiling and finds a way to make it in a "man's world"?  In other words, why is it always about that?  

I'm making a generalization, of course.  I'm sure there are exceptions, like, umm, "The Hurt Locker", for one.  Kathryn Bigelow directed a story about male soldiers in a war zone, and look how successful that was!  Men went to see it because it had some appeal for them, something they understood, something exciting like defusing bombs.  If it had been about female soldiers, and they had trouble defusing bombs because of debilitating menstrual cramps, men would have stayed away in droves.  

It's kind of like African-American or Latino comics.  Can't they tell jokes that aren't about the Black or Latino experience?  They won't enjoy any crossover appeal until they can find some topics that are more universal - like Bill Cosby's routine about going to the dentist.  It wasn't about being black, it described a situation that nearly everyone could understand.  Or Spike Lee's early films, like "She's Gotta Have It" and "School Daze" - so rooted in their ethnic origin that there wasn't much appeal for Caucasian audiences.  Now, of course you write what you know, and I wouldn't suggest that anyone deny their roots for the sake of a story, but what about just telling a good story, regardless of all the racially-based polarization?  The same people who would put pressure on white directors to hire minorities seem to have no problem making a film with an all-minority cast, and if making an all-white film is wrong, then the opposite should be true as well.  

So we have a story tonight about a teen girl, and all of her problems are teen girl problems, like getting her first bra and waxing the hair on her lip and running out of tampons, and really, I just don't care.  The problems of the male members of the family, like trying out for the school musical, or keeping a roof over the family's heads are really given sub-plot status, even though these are things that I might understand or relate to.

NITPICK POINT: Every time I've ever been to Sizzler, there's been a salad bar, where people serve themselves buffet-style.  Maybe things were different back in 1976, but if not, why would the family ask the waiter for more cole slaw, when they were supposed to get it for themselves?  

Also starring Natasha Lyonne (last seen in "Girl Most Likely"), Alan Arkin (last seen in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"), David Krumholtz (last seen in "This Is the End"), Kevin Corrigan (last seen in "The Dictator"), Carl Reiner, Rita Moreno (last seen in "The Four Seasons"), Jessica Walter (last seen in "Play Misty For Me"), with a cameo from Mena Suvari (last seen in "The Musketeer").  

RATING: 4 out of 10 dingbat apartments

Monday, March 2, 2015

Four Rooms

Year 7, Day 61 - 3/2/15 - Movie #1,961

BEFORE: We got caught in the snow driving back from Long Island yesterday, and after another round of shoveling (of course, my parents visited last week, so I'd put the snow shovels away), we expressed our sincere hopes that better weather is in our future this week.  

Marisa Tomei carries over from "Someone Like You...", even though she seems to just have a bit part in this one.  I recorded this film to go on a DVD with the much more recent film about a hotel, but there wasn't room for it in the January schedule.

THE PLOT: Four interlocking tales that take place in a fading hotel on New Year's Eve.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Movie #1,920)

AFTER: My first question, since Quentin Tarantino directed one of the four segments of this film, is: was this made before or after "Pulp Fiction"?  Ah, one year later, that explains a lot - because it seems like someone was trying to capitalize on the success of that film, not just by hiring Tarantino, but also by creating a set of interlocking stories that shared characters.  

The problem here is, "Pulp Fiction" adds up to a greater whole when you put all of its segments together (even if it may take you a few viewings to do so) and this one just doesn't.  Each story seems more pointless than the last, and as for those little bits where they intersect, so what?  The stories were already connected by the bellboy character, so there was no need to connect them further by showing us who was on the other end of that mysterious phone call.

I admit as a younger man I sped through this one just to see topless ladies in the segment with the coven of witches, so as penance now I had to watch the whole film.  Now it's just boring to me, it's not like any A-level or even B-level actresses got naked, proving that the lower you are on the food chain, the more skin you've got to show.  Hey, I don't make the rules.  

But the witches storyline just doesn't GO anywhere.  Rather, it's just about to, then stops abruptly.  Did the project run out of film?  Come to think of it, most of the segments seem to end just when they're getting good.  I wonder if that was a stylistic choice, a time issue or just bad storytelling.  Clearly they organized the segments from worst to best, so if you're a Tarantino completist, you should definitely watch the last half of this film, but you're free to skip the first half - I know I wish I did.

Also starring Tim Roth (last seen in "Everyone Says I Love You"), Antonio Banderas (last seen in "Miami Rhapsody"), Jennifer Beals (last seen in "The Book of Eli"), David Proval, Madonna (last seen in "Shadows and Fog"), Valeria Golino (last seen in "Escape from L.A."), Ione Skye (last seen in "Zodiac"), Lili Taylor (last seen in "The Notorious Bettie Page"), Sammi Davis, Alicia Witt (last seen in "Two Weeks Notice"), Amanda de Cadenet, Tamlyn Tomita, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis (last seen in "The Story of Us"), Paul Calderon, with cameos from Salma Hayek, Kathy Griffin, 

RATING: 4 out of 10 penis nicknames

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Someone Like You...

Year 7, Day 60 - 3/1/15 - Movie #1,960

BEFORE: You know you're really a geek when non-geek friends text you and ask how you're holding up after Leonard Nimoy dies.  Hey, I admired the man, I enjoyed him in his films, but I don't feel strongly enough about him to, say, dedicate some blog entries to him.  Let's keep some perspective here, it's not like he was in "Star Wars".  I'm slightly kidding, because my Trek fandom probably peaked some time around "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock", but the only Trek actor I ever met was James "Scotty" Doohan, while I've met about 16 "Star Wars" actors.

But I've got bigger concerns, since I'm trying to focus on eating healthy, or at least healthier than I have been for the last, oh, let's say two years.  When we went on our last cruise two years ago, I sort of adopted a "Well, fuck it" attitude about watching my weight, and now my doctor has told me that even though my cholesterol number is low, it's the wrong KIND of cholesterol.  I've got to get the good cholesterol number up and the bad number down, which means avoiding certain foods.  I spent the last few days eating grilled chicken instead of beef, and getting salads without avocados.  

OK, so we drove out to Long Island today and stopped for barbecue - but I got chicken instead of brisket, rice instead of fries, and corn.  Yeah, there were ribs involved also, but that was the first red meat I'd had in almost a week!  I can't just go cold turkey - in fact if I ate more cold turkey I might be OK.  I'm getting re-tested in 3 months, so I'm going to try to work out a schedule that allows for some healthier choices on workdays, and trying to pick better items when we eat out.  All I know is, it's going to be a long three months. 

Greg Kinnear carries over from "Sabrina", and the romance chain comes to an end today.  Oh, I still have about 8 or 9 films that I'd call romances (plus it seems like many of the Cary Grant films are also on topic), but I'll just work them in to the rest of the chain, because I'm hoping to not come around this way again next February.

THE PLOT:  After being jilted by her boyfriend, a talkshow talent scout writes a sexist column accusing all men of being cheaters, which gains her national fame.

AFTER: A little research shows that this film was based on a novel titled "Animal Husbandry", and when they started to turn it into a movie, the working title was "Animal Attraction".  The poster image posted on IMDB still has the old name, which means no one cared enough about this film to update the image to match the final title.  That's a bad sign.  

However, it explains why the lead character is so intent on comparing men to animals, and not the dogs that most romance films seem to suggest they are.  No, her theory has to do with bulls and their apparent inclination to always want to find a "new cow" to mate with, instead of sticking with one.  Footage of farmers explaining why their herds may have 100 cows and only 1 bull is designed to lead us to believe that men just don't want to be monogamous, however there is a much simpler explanation - it's much more economical to have 1 bull than 100 bulls, since cows also produce milk, which is a product that can be exchanged for money, and most bulls are only good for turning into beef, which can also be exchanged for money.  

To try and draw an analogy between the way that cattle ranchers run their herds and the dating habits of men is suspicious at best, and quite sexist and short-sighted at worst.  Does our heroine have some data to prove that men are more promiscuous than women, or have more sexual partners over a particular period of time?  Or is there any data that shows that men break up with women more than women break up with men?  Nope, I thought not.  In the long run, I'm guessing it's 50-50, the only difference being that women are possibly more inclined to end things sooner.  I'll admit that some men may lose interest after scoring, but women are more likely to shoot men down before it even gets that far.  

Of course, I can't prove that either, I have no statistics - people can only judge the dating scene by their own experiences.  But our heroine forgets that little detail, and she thinks that she's cracked the code, come up with a formula that explains everything that happens between men and women.  But perhaps writing this theory down right after a break-up is not the best idea, because it will probably be fueled by her raw emotions.  She not only writes it all down, she gets it published in a magazine, under a phony name of a degreed relationship expert, who doesn't exist.  

Now, this should never happen in the real world.  A magazine has a responsibility to check out the credentials of someone who writes an article for it.  Plus, writing under a pseudonym is fine, but faking a degree is not.  This should put her in the territory of James Frey or Brian Williams or anyone who's misrepresented themselves to tell a story - she should be blacklisted, and the magazine should print a retraction, but of course since this is a Hollywood film, we never see that happen. 

Instead she pulls a "Tootsie"-like moment on the air, revealing her deception, but speaking such valid truths about why her theory was wrong that the audience can't help but applaud.  For a liar who also admits that her article was way off base.  OK, great, congratulations.  
I guess that's the lesson, what's important to keep in mind while watching a lot of romance films in a row is this - your mileage may vary.  It's all too easy to take your own experiences, especially bad ones, and extrapolate them outward, which leads to generalizations and misconceptions.  "All men are pigs." (or dogs, or bulls, or whatever)  "All women are irrational." (or emotionally needy, or talk too much, or whatever)  Just don't do it - every partner you'll ever have is a different person with different traits, and if you ever think you've cracked the code, if you think you don't have more to learn, well, most likely you're mistaken.  

The final score for this year's romance chain was 21-8, in favor of love.  Love won out more times than not, which is to be expected from the movies.  Again, in real life I'm guessing the stats are more like 50-50.  When the "relationship expert" in this film doesn't realize she's falling in love with her roommate until it's already happened, it makes me wonder how any two people ever get together. 

Also starring Ashley Judd (last seen in "Where the Heart Is"), Hugh Jackman (last seen in "X-Men: Days of Future Past"), Marisa Tomei (last seen in "Parental Guidance"), Ellen Barkin (last seen in "The Fan"), Catherine Dent, Peter Friedman, with cameos from Colleen Camp, Naomi Judd, Hugh Downs. 

RATING: 3 out of 10 yoga mats