Year 8, Day 115 - 4/24/16 - Movie #2,315
BEFORE: I could have followed the Jason Clarke thread out of "Terminator Genisys", which would have led me to "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", which could have worked, since I think of time travel when I think of the "Planet of the Apes" series - but that would have brought me to a dead-end rather quickly, and then I wouldn't have been able to connect to Passover and Mother's Day with upcoming films. No, it's better to stick with the J.K. Simmons chain, because that gets me where I need to go, even though I could only program about a month and a half in advance.
But this seems like it would have made a good Father's Day film, but that's not until mid-June, and without any major stars in it, other than Mr. Simmons, this film has to go between two other films with him in it, those are the rules. BUT, I took some time this weekend, and without tearing my chains apart, started exploring the cast lists of some of the films that were way down at the bottom of the list, some that were recently added, and I spotted some connections I hadn't seen before. Making a rough overlay onto the May calendar, it looks like I can get a war-based film for Memorial Day, and after connecting some 4- and 5-film blocks together, I can now see about 90 days in advance. So maybe I can find something else for Father's Day, line up another war-based film for July 4, and then I should be able to see almost all the way to the Comic-Con break in July.
Hey, if I've got 90 out of 138 films already linked together, I'm doing all right. The less random clean-up work I have to do after my linking runs out, the happier I'll be.
THE PLOT: Tale of a father who struggles to bond with his estranged son Gabriel, after Gabriel suffers from a brain tumor that prevents him from forming new memories.
AFTER: It's a bit weird to see the softer side of J.K. Simmons, who first came to my attention playing a white supremacist inmate on the HBO show "Oz", then as J. Jonah Jameson in the "Spider-Man" films. Here he plays a father that tries to reconnect with his son, but yet in the flashbacks, set around 1968 or so, he acts as a stern disciplinarian when his son protests the war in Vietnam and wants to leave school to go to New York and become a musician.
It may seem odd to jump from a "Terminator" film to this one, but there are some strange similarities - in "Terminator Genisys", J.K. Simmons plays a man who saw Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese right before they time-travel 33 years into the future, and then he recognizes them again, when he's much older. Here he plays Henry Sawyer, who gets back in contact with his son, after a 20-year gap. Plus he believes that his son has been corrupted by rock music, and Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese believe their son has been corrupted by SkyNet. OK, maybe that's a bit of a stretch.
But this film is really about the power of music, once Gabriel gets his tumor removed, he's nearly catatonic, and seems to speak only in jingles, rhymes and song lyrics, which leads his parents to try unconventional forms of music therapy. Mr. Sawyer had trained his son from a very early age to be able to identify great song standards, name the performer and songwriter, and then associate the song with a very personal story. It turns out that Gabriel can still do this, and perks up immediately upon hearing the Beatles and Bob Dylan, but he's got 20 years of memories that can only be triggered by the music of the 1960's, which his father is completely unfamiliar with.
So Mr. Sawyer takes a crash course in classic rock (the present-day scenes are set in 1986-1987, so they got to license a lot of great 70's rock, thankfully Gabriel's memories aren't triggered by Culture Club and Duran Duran) and they end up connecting over the music of the Grateful Dead. Conveniently the Dead had a comeback around 1987, with the single "Touch of Grey" and an accompanying tour, and father and son end up at a Grateful Dead concert in New York City, making them the first people to ever enjoy that band without taking drugs.
But it's true that so many of our memories are associated with music, and the fact that so many people can tell you where they were or who they were with when they first heard a particular song is what makes this work, and conversely what makes it so intensely personal when an artist like David Bowie or Prince passes away - making those songs a part of our lives makes us feel the loss more intently. But I found it hard to believe that Gabriel knew so much about what the lyrics of a song like "Desolation Row" mean, when Bob Dylan probably doesn't even know what those lyrics mean.
This film was based on an essay from Oliver Sacks, who also wrote "Awakenings", and books about Parkinson's disease and Tourette's syndrome, so I'm not really in a position to challenge the medical science here, or the healing power of music. The condition depicted here is called anterograde amnesia, which is the same condition depicted in the film "Memento", preventing someone from forming new memories. But if music makes Gabriel suddenly communicative and non-catatonic, and able to access his old memories, why didn't they just play music for him all the time?
In a way this story is universal, because nearly every teen reaches a point where he or she challenges parental figures. My parents never saw the appeal of going to a rock concert, so by the time I left for college, I'd only seen Bowie's Glass Spider Tour, and one performance by Weird Al Yankovic. But my parents and I clashed over movies, I was only allowed to see films that were given positive ratings by the Boston Catholic Diocese's newspaper, which wasn't many.
I think after the "Star Wars" films, the last time I got my father to take me to the movies was the original "Ghostbusters", after that I worked in movie theaters, so there was no need to involve him, he always believed that anything good would wind up on broadcast TV eventually. (Well, he was partially right, the good movies end up on premium cable, not broadcast. My mother may drag him out to the movies once a year or so if there's something she wants to see, but I'm more ambitious than that.) And when I told him I wanted to learn how to make movies, he suggested that I make documentaries about the great charity work done by priests in Catholic parishes, and I had to tell him that wasn't the kind of movies I wanted to make. I don't think we fought over it, but I'm sure he was disappointed.
I'd love to know where this story was set, whether it takes place in upstate New York, or New England or what. They never mention a state, but I think the musicologist says she's from Dedham, and I grew up near Dedham, MA. But they attend the Dead concert in NYC, and seem to get home fairly easily afterwards. The IMDB doesn't mention where this was set, or even where it was filmed, which is a little strange. Ah, a little research tells me that the patient this was based on grew up in Queens, NY, and when he left home for Greenwich Village, he became a Hare Krishna for a while, before he lost touch with his parents. It's also a little strange that the parents in this film didn't seem to make much of an effort to figure out where their son had spent the last 20 years, it seemed like since he didn't remember, there was no point in learning that.
Also starring Lou Taylor Pucci, Cara Seymour (last seen in "The Notorious Bettie Page"), Scott Adsit (last seen in "St. Vincent"), Julia Ormond (last seen in "Sabrina"), Mia Maestro (last seen in "Frida"), James Urbaniak, Tammy Blanchard (last seen in "Into the Woods"), Josh Segarra (last seen in "Trainwreck"), Ryan Karels, Peggy Gormley (last seen in "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing").
RATING: 5 out of 10 cafeteria trays