Monday, February 25, 2013

Post-Oscar Buzz

The Oscars are always a bit of a disappointment; the ones I want  to win seldom wind up with the Golden Trophy.  Take last night.  I'll see Argo.  With Clooney and Affleck, how could it not be witty,
wry, adventurous, very, very cool?  I mean, how could it not?   But Lincoln was majestic, a once in a generation movie -- moving, depth-upon-depth, courageous, beautiful text, stunning performances. I absolutely forgot which century I lived in.

I remember how I felt when  Out of Africa won over The Color Purple.  Out of Africa was a fine  movie, but The Color Purple took on such dark concepts: the abuse of women, post-slavery African Americans making their way, generational dysfunction, what freedom feels like when you haven't been free.  And it did it brilliantly, by portraying lovely people caught up in bad situations.  That movie sticks with me, even now, and Lincoln will too. 

Even Spielberg out-Spielbergs Spielberg.  ET won over Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Do you remember how they used music to communicate?  That left an emotional resonance that  stands up now.

So, it turns out that most of my favorite movies don't win Oscars.  

So, if I could revamp The Oscars, I'll build some new categories and include a beloved movie or two.  Here goes:

Cool, Old Adventure Pics  I love King Solomon's Mines,  an adventure/quest story filmed in color in an Africa we dreamed about when we were kids.   And The Lady Vanishes, a spy film by Hitchcock, filmed in England.  It's Hitchcock at his tenderest and wryest.

Wildly Funny Movies about things you wouldn't normally laugh at.  Smoke Signals, by Sherman Alexie, is about a funeral and a road trip, Native American kids in a beater.   Like every other woman, I loved The Full Monty.  The Full Monty is a typically English, quirky term for full frontal nudity and includes a raft of unemployed guys. Wouldn't normally crack me up.  This one does.  Repeatedly.

Fiction that tells me the truth about something important.   Henry Poole Is Here was a quirky movie about healing and grace, even when you deserve neither.   I loved last year's The Way, with Martin Sheen. You can walk off your blues.

And lastly, My Favorite Documentaries:  Young @ Heart, the stories of old folks, 70s and 80s, singing rock 'n roll.  Uproariously. Touchingly.  Lost love at 75 is another thing from lost love at 16.  And the very odd,  Encounters at The End of the World.  Werner Herzog, a German writer/director, visits The South Pole.  People drawn to such a harsh environment might be a little nuts to begin with.      

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Playing With Your Food

Wednesday nights, dinner at church before class.  It's a lovely way to spend time normally in the car or at a drive-in, particularly since Brent is cooking.  However, name tags are suggested.

A few weeks ago, Tim asked me who I wanted to be.  He was filling in the name tags.  Harold, I said.  For years, we'd behaved in the usual fashion.  He started us off in a new direction.  For a few weeks, we  used each others' names:  Tim.  Rick.  Larry.  

Turns out, people actually read name tags, so other people at dinner tipped to it quickly.  Professor Joe admitted, in a class on envy, that Tom Brady, the illustrious quarterback, turned him pea green.  Brady had succeeded at a level unattainable by mere mortals,  That and Giselle.  The next week -- everybody at the table wore the nametag:  Tom Brady. Professor Joe laughed.

Then we just started making up names.  Rugged Ralph.  Silly Agnes.  Pretty Paulie.

So who had dinner last night with the gang?  Uncle Buckly.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Necessary Nag

I have an inner nerd, (along with my outer one) a guy with a white shirt, red tie, and black horned-rimmed glasses.  He functions as an editor, one I want to throttle most of the time.  Once in awhile, he gets hung on a nail in the woodshed, just to get him out of my hair.  He squirms and screams, but I am not deterred.

Somehow he always manages to sneak back into the study at the end of the project.  He wants to take out all my best stuff:  my quirky turns of language, the brilliant insights—all my jokes. 

Funny thing is this: those edits can sneak in from anywheres, fellow writers who want to root out the main themes and the supporting research, the boss who edits in stupidity, error, and bad grammar; the secondary readers who can’t tell a noun from a verb, a subject from a predicate, heaven from hell, or tater tots from crepes with lobster stuffing.

If I keep the editorial git hammered into place, corralled and controlled,  he loses interest, slinks back to his nail, then I can write in peace.  I might need him later.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Good People

So, today, I'm remembering Surel, a stunning and thoughtful artist.  Her last years were poignant, she was suffering from both Multiple Schlerosis and Lupus, so when two convicted, murderous felons wound up living, pretty much, in her back yard, she greeted them both with coffee and breakfast bread. Both were men who'd been released from the Oregon correctional facility and had hightailed it  over the border.  They were as close to homeless as you  can get, living out their days, sharing an old tin can on wheels, just across Surel's fence.  They had jobs; but those jobs barely covered the rent.  They had a vocation:  renovating bicycles or pieces of bicyles.  They explained the culture and socioeconomic issues surrounding bicycles for the very, very poor.  If you have a bicycle, you have half a chance at getting to a job.  If you have a bicycle, you can find a place with a phone.  If you have a bicycle, you have access to things like a grocery store, a church, and organizations that can help you— the Salvation Army or the soup kitchens.  It's the difference between a roof and no roof. So, their renovated bicycles went to the poorest of the poor.   Surel with her kind heart and her big mind was perfectly safe with the felons who wanted to mow her lawn and fix her flat tires.  She wasn't perfectly safe from cancer.

So the next person I want to write about is Tim, who was just got out of jail.  Actually, he just retired from his first career, looking for another one.  He might already have it in his sights.  He has the same gift Surel has; the gift of helping people in big trouble.  His retirement party was last weekend, and there were a hundred people there, some with some questions attached.   

When wife's family showed up; they wanted to know who all these people were.  "Oh, those are the homeless people," Tim explained.  "And that guy, he's the church janitor."  Tim pointed out our buddy Dale.  "And those guys by the bar; those are the inmates."

Rick stuck a dollar in his card to Tim; a joke from the first of our days together.  We were all out to breakfast with each other,  and we laid our money on the table.  Tim scooped up the money, saying, "I really need some change."  And he put the tab on his credit card.  Just then Julie, Tim's wife, came back to the table, and she said this, "Tim just put the bill on his credit card?  And pocketed the money?"  Then she turned to us and said,  "Don't EVER give money to Tim.  He'll just give it away to people who need it or buy breakfast for somebody unlikely.  Tim can't have change."

It was a dang fine party, if I do say so myself.  Beer and pizza.  A Hundred Lively Folk.  A Saturday Night on the town.

Tin's religious family were the churchy ones over by the windows,  There were a few slicked up, souls there—Woody and Sharon who come that way.  The churchy ones looked pretty usual.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Then and Now

It started this week.  A friend sent along photos of his crocuses an inch out of the ground, poking their merry stalks up through six inches of snow.  And they say the age of miracles is past.

Last week, a guy in a spendy black 4-wheel drive SUV did a 360-degree maneuver in the middle of the street.  I don't think it was an entirely planned event.  He sped away, as if the embarrassment was on the road and  himself on the wrong part of it.  The embarrassment, I'm guessing, was entirely within the SUV. He should have known better, but panic is panic, even on expensive wheels.  

Not his best moment.

So this happened yesterday,  a robin parked itself under the pine tree in the front yard, stayed there all day.  It's a perfectly reasonable place given that the tree's spreading branches allow for a dry patch of ground, and that allows for bugs and seeds.  

The squirrels are out and about.

The Native Americans talk about the day winter's back is broken.  We'll still have storms and bad days. But we're there.