Tuesday, February 9, 2016

About Last Night...

Year 8, Day 40 - 2/9/16 - Movie #2,241

BEFORE: Two actors carry over from "St. Elmo's Fire" - Rob Lowe and Demi Moore.  So even though I don't have a copy of this one handy, I'm going to watch it today on Amazon on Demand, because it will also provide me with a direct link to tomorrow's film.  I'm trying to avoid streaming too many films, because that usually means I'm watching a film that wasn't on the watchlist (that list represents what I already have, right now, in the collection that hasn't been viewed) so it means another day with no progress made in reducing the size of the list.  Another day where I can't add a new film, because I didn't remove one. 

I'm almost 1/3 of the way into February, and I'm just now getting into the sort of "Battle of the Sexes" material that may start to yield some universal insight.  I guess I started the month with some rather lightweight fare, and I've eased myself into it.  But more weighty subject matter is definitely on the way.

Here's the TCM line-up for tomorrow, February 10, day 10 of "31 Days of Oscar":

Vivien Leigh carries over from "That Hamilton Woman" to:
"The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone", with Bessie Love carrying over to:
"The Broadway Melody" with Anita Page carrying over to:
"Our Dancing Daughters" with Joan Crawford carrying over to:
"Mannequin" (1938) with Ralph Morgan carrying over to: 
"General Spanky" with Robert Middlemass carrying over to:
"Cain and Mabel" with Sammy White carrying over to:
"Pat and Mike" with Charles Bronson carrying over to:
"The Great Escape" with Steve McQueen carrying over to:
"Bullitt" with Vic Tayback carrying over to:
"Papillon" with George Coulouris carrying over to:
"This Land Is Mine" with Walter Slezak carrying over to:
"Step Lively".

There's another nice chain of four films in there that I've seen - "Pat and Mike", "The Great Escape", "Bullitt" and "Papillon".  "The Great Escape" is one of my all-time faves, if I see that it's running, I almost have to watch it, and then the next three hours are bound to be rather unproductive.  It's got one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled, not just Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson but also James Garner, Richard Attenborough, David McCallum, James Coburn, and Donald Pleasance, and every character is important in their own way.  So try and catch that one tomorrow, especially if you've never seen it before. 

My cumulative score for "31 Days of Oscar" so far is: 37 seen, 76 unseen, plus 2 added to the list.

THE PLOT:  A man and woman meet and try to have a romantic affair, despite their personal problems and the interference of their disapproving friends.

AFTER:  Well, we had the "St. Elmo's Bar" last night, and tonight everyone drinks in a Chicago bar named "Mother Malone's" or simply "Mother's", which just proves that screenwriters should not be in the hospitality business.  Those are terrible names for bars - plus one character here dreams of opening his own restaurant, and calling it "City Diner".  What a boring, nondescript name, plus you can't really call a diner that, because as soon as one person gets bad service or a dirty fork they're going to nickname the place "Shitty Diner", and you just know that name's going to stick.  

I spend a fair amount of time thinking up clever restaurant names, and I've got much better possibilities (all are for sale to screenwriters, if the price is right).  I'd love to open up a sandwich shop based on comic-book characters, naturally called "Super Heroes".  Or I'd love to have a place where all of the sandwich names are based on wordplay, called "Pun-era Bread" or perhaps "Au Bon Pun".  How about a soul-food eatery named "Earth, Wind and Fryer"?  Or maybe I'd open up a combination barbecue and pool hall, called "BB-Cue" (or a BBQ joint off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, called "BBQ-E").  Oh, and I'd love to run a Star Wars-themed restaurant, either called the Mos Eisley Cantina or Dex's Diner (as seen in "Episode II") - I've already got tons of autographed photos of Star Wars actors that could line the walls.  In that case, the restaurant name wouldn't be pun-based, but all of the food items would be - everything from Han-burgers with Darth Tater tots, to R2-choke Dip and Boba Fett-ucini.  Maybe even some Pad-Thai Amidala with a side of Obi-Wan-tons - and for dessert, Wookiee Cookies, Qui Gon Jinn-ger snaps and Chocolate Leia cake.  

But enough about my pipe dreams, let's get to the film.  Some people might be shocked to find out that this is based on a David Mamet play - since it's essentially masquerading as a romantic comedy.  Perhaps it's not as blatantly in his style, such as other films like "Glengarry Glen Ross", "House of Games" or "Wag the Dog".  For one thing, there's a little less cursing, and there also seems to be a somewhat honest attempt to explore the differences between men and women, and not in a misogynistic way.  Well, mostly, anyway.  It's based on the play "Sexual Perversity in Chicago", and it turned out that name didn't play well with newspapers and TV stations in the uptight Midwest.

Like "St. Elmo's Fire", this is another film about white people with white people's problems, but at least it was remade last year with an all-black cast.  So that's something that proves that stories are generally universal.  For the most part, you should be able to change a character's race and retain the essence of the story - so why isn't that done more often? 

I can't really say that I understand the "singles scene" of the 1980's.  I didn't start dating until 1989, not successfully anyway, but I was never really part of the depicted culture of one-night stands and bar hook-ups.  It doesn't seem to be an environment that's conducive to the formation of long-term relationships, so why do these characters seem so surprised and disappointed when their relationships don't last?  Maybe because they were never designed to, when you consider the way that they started.  

Still, the main characters, Danny and Debbie, have a relationship based on great sex, so at least that seems like a good start.  But why is it so wrong for these people to tell each other "I love you"?  Everyone in the film seems to regard this as bad luck or something.  I just don't see how two people get to the stage where they move in together without crossing this emotional threshold first.  Love shouldn't be regarded as a prison sentence, this attitude that as soon as you put yourself out there with the "L" word, you've cut off all of your options, and suddenly you're tied down.  It seems like they want all of the benefits of a loving relationship and they think they can avoid all of the potential negatives by just never defining what they have as "love".  

My rating tonight is not going to be based on the conversations in the film, which honestly are quite unrealistic - I just don't feel that real people talk this way - but rather on the situations, many of which do feel realistic.  I flashed back to the times in my life when I have invited women to live with me (all two of them) and there was sort of an innocent arrogance, a belief that once we made that move, that everything would be OK.  And at least the first time around, there were problems, some similar to those seen in this film, naturally caused by two people trying to share space, work out some kind of schedule for cooking, division of labor, and maintain individual friendships with others.  Then there's always the friction caused by someone staying out too late or the occasional pregnancy scare.   BTDT.  

But we do learn who the REAL winner is in the "Battle of the Sexes".  That's right, it's moving companies.  Think about it - who benefits when couples get together AND when they break up?  

NITPICK POINT: A kindergarten teacher reading a book about the Christian nativity story to her students?  This would never be tolerated if parents found out about it.  Of course, it leads to her comically having to explain to the kids what a "virgin" is - but didn't she realize this was going to come up in the story?  Don't we have a separation of church and state in this country?  Wouldn't there probably be at least one or two Jewish kids in that class, forcing her to re-think her choice of books?  Maybe things are just different in the Midwest, but I figure the Chicago school system would have been more liberal and PC, even in 1986, and likely to err on the side of caution.

Also starring Jim Belushi (last seen in "Return to Me"), Elizabeth Perkins (last seen in "Must Love Dogs"), Megan Mullally (last seen in "Anywhere But Here"), George DiCenzo (last seen in "The Frisco Kid"), Robin Thomas (last seen in "Pacific Rim"), with cameos from Tim Kazurinsky, Catherine Keener (last seen in "The Interpreter").

RATING: 6 out of 10 softball games

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