Sunday, January 25, 2015
Sunday Sundries, 34
1. On Facebook this week (I think) I mentioned my old elementary school--Adams School in Enid, Oklahoma. Here's a picture I found online. This is the view, looking north (toward Kansas, only about 50 miles away). The left part of the building (though it looks identical) is the newer part; they were constructing it (1955) while I was a student there in the early and mid-1950s (I finished sixth grade in June 1956; by August we had moved to Hiram, Ohio, a wasteland in my 1950s view). My two brothers also attended Adams (brother Richard had just finished ninth grade at nearby Longfellow Junior High when we moved; brother Davi had finished second grade)--as did my mother, not long after it opened in 1915 (she was born in 1919).
When I was in Enid awhile ago (researching my memoir--Turning Pages: A Memoir of Books, Libraries, and Loss), I visited Adams and was saddened by having to undergo such a thorough security check. I told them in the office that I'd attended the school a half-century earlier, but they looked at me with suspicious eyes--would not let me take pictures in the hallways (pervert!). But I was nonetheless touched to see that so much of it looked as I'd remembered.
The playground was behind the school (hard red Oklahoma clay), and I remember we used to divide up, Yankees and Confederates, and make wild charges across the playground. The teachers stopped it after a bit--too many bloody noses after lunch, I guess. I was always a Confederate--not for any political reason (I had no politics in the fourth grade) but because, I think, the Confederates on TV programs and movies sounded more like me than the Yankees did. When we moved to Ohio, it took me some time to adjust to all the Yankee-talk I heard.
2. Joyce and I saw Birdman on Friday night, and we both liked it a lot--mostly, in my case, because it is so different from the usual film fare these days. I loved all the moving cameras--following people down anfractuous hallways in the depths of a Broadway theater building where Michael Keaton (who, years before, starred as the superhero Birdman) is trying for a comeback in legitimate theater. And I liked, too, all the backstage-onstage conflicts. Great acting all around, too. And, as always, I love being surprised--and Birdman is full of them (including the very first shot of Michael Keaton).
3. We also saw The Wedding Ringer this weekend--a very predictable film (and reminding me of one a few years ago--I Love You Man (2009), which deals with friendless Paul Rudd's not having a best man, then finding one in Jason Segel). Still, Kevin Hart showed more range than I thought he had, and there were some funny moments--and some gross ones, too (peanut butter placed on a you-know-what). And there's a dog that bites a guy in a ... strategic location--and won't let go.
I got to thinking, though, about how the Wild Drunken Party has become an integral part of films about young people--parties featuring drugs, sex, maybe a little violence. It's hard to think of a popular film involving twenty-somethings (or high school kids) that does not involve one. I wonder how many young people have ever actually attended a party remotely like one of those? I'm going to sound like an Old Guy now, but it saddens me, this obsession with pleasure--rather, this definition of pleasure as something purely hedonistic. So many characters emerge from these cinematic parties saying something like, "That's the best time I ever had in my life!" Or: "I wish my whole life could be like last night!" Or some such.
What also saddened me about Wedding Ringer? The appearance in a very minor role of Cloris Leachman, who won an Oscar back in 1972 for The Last Picture Show. She's such a fine actress. But in Wedding Ringer, she plays the demented grandmother of the bride; she has no lines, just makes ludicrous faces and erupts in fire during a family dinner (I'm not giving anything away--the scene was in the trailers for the film). So often now we see older performers (especially women, I fear) playing the vile caricature of a daffy older person. (Think: Wedding Crashers, The Proposal.) As if Old Folks are hilarious merely for being old, a tad forgetful, a bit uninhibited and uncensored. I know: It's just a convention. But we seem to think it's intensely amusing to think that Grandpa might be thinking about sex (and then doing something about it)--or Grandma might say something naughty. Why? Do we cease being human at 70?