Tag Archives: movies

Extreme Fletchercise

As Americans learned more about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan over the weekend, it was most likely intended that we each find something about the man we could relate to. I know I did.

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported:

“In his private life, Ryan pursues the hobbies of an everyman with an overachiever’s zeal. He sweats through grueling ‘P90x’ workouts in the House gym. He beats other legislators in contests to recite the most lines from ‘Fletch.’ And he fishes for catfish – with his bare hands.”

I’d take him. In a Fletch-off, that is. I’m not proud of this, but I’ve got the whole movie memorized. I even have an autograph that Chevy Chase wrote to me in 1988, suggesting I name my unborn baby Fletch. No kidding.

Well, good as Paul Ryan may be, I can’t imagine him and his fellow legislators vying for such a distinction as reciting the most lines from this zany movie. Or maybe I can.

Call me crazy, but this might just unlock the secret to bipartisan civility. Visualize House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, sitting with the Committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, in the Members’ Dining Room.

Ryan: I’ll have a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich, and a steak sandwich.
Van Hollen: Just get me a glass of hot fat. And bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia.

The two finish lunch and part with a tee-hee about Dr. Rosenpenis in the Records Room.

I dare Congressman Ryan to work a line into his acceptance speech at the GOP convention, or maybe in his debate against Vice President Biden. Perhaps, if backed into a corner on how he’d pay for further tax cuts, he can reply simply, “Put it on the Underhills’ bill.”

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El camino

Wow. Just wow.

To be bold but unmistakably certain, I tell you that I saw the best movie of my life on Saturday afternoon – The Way.

You know how I get. I experience something great and must shout it to the world. Some say I exaggerate.

The first thing I did when I got home from seeing The Way was to call my mother and order her to grab her purse and head to the theater immediately. I sent enthusiastic text messages to a couple of people.

At a dinner party that night I cornered everyone in the room, one by one, and gushed, imploring friends to go and see it right away.

The same thing at church on Sunday morning. I had heard about the movie from several church friends, so I tried to avoid preaching to the converted.

People first asked what it was about, then urged me to not reveal too much: “What was it about? No, don’t tell me,” was how each exchange typically went.

One person said, “Tell me in just one sentence. No more.” Me, one sentence? Are you kidding?

I hadn’t seen a single preview for The Way before the lights went down, so truly I knew very little. In fact, going back just now and viewing the trailer online, I’d suggest to anyone who hasn’t seen a preview to refrain. Just go.

Also, see The Way with someone if you can. My father had invited me to go with him last weekend and I had to decline. I wish I had gone with him. I’d still have seen it again with Saturday’s companions.

I will tell you I cried many times in two hours, once or twice with sadness but mostly with a full and happy heart.

I won’t tell you what it’s about, or even the premise. I’ll simply tell you what came to light for me, what I observed about life. If you don’t want to know even that much, stop reading here.

  1. The world is a journey on which we encounter those from distant places and differing mindsets, carrying a vast array of burdens, dreams, goals and vulnerabilities. This seems haphazard, but it could not be more deliberate.
  2. As we travel the journey—sometimes walking alone, other times huddled tightly together—we must take turns carrying each other’s baggage, lightening each other’s load.
  3. There are times when we need to rest before the next scheduled stop; other times when we need to feel our momentum and blow right past it.
  4. There will be times when we hurt or disappoint each other; times when we hurt or disappoint ourselves. Times when we surprise each other and ourselves.
  5. Sometimes when it appears we have failed, we have really prevailed.

Buen camino.

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Fumez-vous?

Much has already been written about Woody Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris, yet all through the movie I thought of things I’d like to write about it. I loved everything about the film, and it spurred so many thoughts and reflections that I definitely plan to see it again.

Midnight in Paris is also about great writers and, because I know I’ll never be one, I’ve deemed it best to let the movie speak for itself. Pretty much.

There’s just one thing around the edges that perplexes me and it almost has nothing to do with the movie per se.

Before seeing the movie yesterday, I had read a lot of reviews, published by critics and posted by friends. I also took a glance at the synopsis in our paper’s Weekend section, just to get a refresher before I went. It was a decent recap that I found helpful. But—and, without checking, I assume this is required by the Motion Picture Association or some self governing body—the summary was followed by the obligatory caveat:  “Contains some sexual references and smoking.”

Smoking? Do we honestly need to warn viewers or the parents thereof that they might see characters smoking?

Oh, for heaven’s sake. It’s a Woody Allen movie that essentially takes place in Paris in the 1920s. Do we really think some 12-year-old will see Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald puffing away while listening to Cole Porter play piano in the background, and run to 7-Eleven for her first pack of Marlboros? At twice the price of a movie and Milk Duds?

As a parent, I understand the need to regulate our adolescents’ intake of adult themes. I know there are tweens all over the world telling their parents this very day that they’re seeing Kung Fu Panda 2, when they’re really sneaking into The Hangover 2. But if my kid went to the movies and came home with Ernest Hemingway as his role model, well, maybe that’s a bad example. Let’s just say if my kid came home from Midnight in Paris inspired to be a great writer, by a writer who happened to smoke cigarettes in Paris in the 1920s, is that something that merits a warning?

Hey, I grew up watching Lucy and Ricky Ricardo light up in virtually episode and I never smoked. Jeez.

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Green-eyed fan

My husband makes no secret of the fact that he is wildly in lust with actress Natalie Portman. He quivered all the way through Black Swan. From the seat next door, I could tell he was projecting himself onto the screen with her. Never mind that he is almost old enough to be her grandfather.

Just a few days ago, he harrumphed at the fact that she’s starring in a romantic role opposite Ashton Kutcher in the upcoming No Strings Attached. His feeling is that Kutcher is no match for Portman’s talent, beauty and experience. I am pretty sure my husband won’t be rushing to see his love share a screen—or bed—with the actor he pretty much considers a goofball.

On the flip side, I am an Ashton Kutcher fan and have been since he played a goofball on That 70s Show. Never mind that I am more than old enough to be his mother. Apparently, he’s quite intelligent. He can act okay enough, is plenty handsome and, I dare say, is pretty darned appealing.

Here’s the funny thing. According to a Vanity Fair piece appearing online yesterday, my husband isn’t alone. In fact, the magazine’s Juli Weiner has a theory about why men won’t be rushing to see the No Strings Attached: Jealousy.

Remember, in Black Swan, while sizzingly sexy, Portman didn’t play opposite a male lead per se. This, I suppose, is why men may have found it easy to imagine themselves on screen beside her. Weiner posits that one reason men aren’t eager to see her upcoming movie is that “men are saddened, revolted, and tortured by jealousy at the mere thought of Portman’s paramours.”

Very well then. The movie opens January 21st. Who’s up for a girls’ (well, middle-aged ladies’) night out? The guys can stay home and weigh in on VF‘s poll, “Who Is the Person You’d Least Like to Imagine Sleeping with Natalie Portman?” (As of this posting, John Mayer’s in the lead.)

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Tale of two cities

This is a tale of two movies.

Last weekend, like many Washingtonians, I rushed to see Fair Game, the tale of an investigation into the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which, through a series of political and media responses, led to the outing of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. International intrigue. Political power plays. Criminal charges against a White House official. It’s a true story set in the nation’s capital and cities around the world.

Washingtonians like movies set in our back yard. We are eager to see if the movie-makers got it right—the geography, the photography, the historiography.

 I wonder whether, in other cities, Fair Game is getting as much love at the box office as, oh, I don’t know, anything else.

Saturday night, I arrived at the theater 35 minutes before show time to find the movie already sold out. I envied my fellow wonks who would be nestled comfortably in their stadium seats, taking in the talent of Sean Penn in the role of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, Plame’s husband, who played a pivotal role in this historic real-life drama. I immediately got tickets for Sunday.

In the meantime, though, I was already in a movie mood. So I drove to my local shopping mall and saw Morning Glory, about a fictitious national morning news show. I’ve always thought it would be fun to work in broadcast news so, for me, this movie was a fantasy. Obviously, it takes place in New York, a city I love but know only as an outsider. A fantasy story taking place in a fantasy city.

For this reason, I didn’t concern myself with believability or accuracy or geography for that matter. I didn’t wonder if a taxi transporting a character six blocks can drive from Point A to Point B without crossing three boroughs, or whether or not a station can deviate from its scheduled programming to air a live feed from an hour away on three seconds’ notice. It’s fantasy; I don’t care.

So Morning Glory was amusing and entertaining—because all I had to do was sit back, get an artificial glimpse into the TV news business and munch popcorn. And try not to wonder whether the message was a lampoon or defense of what network morning programs have become.

Sunday it was back to Washington and back to reality with Fair Game. I found the movie to be very well done, the acting superb. There was one little geographic inaccuracy.

Joe Wilson hopped in a cab and asked to be taken to The Palisades. Before long, an overly chatty cab driver got on Wilson’s nerves and Wilson asked the driver to pull over. “I’ll walk,” he said. As he got out of the cab, we see that he is at the U.S. Capitol–seven miles from The Palisades.

It wasn’t fun to relive such an unfortunate event in U.S. history and I left feeling uncomfortable. But at least it was about something real. Two thumbs up.

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Bring’em back

I just heard about a new book about which I could get pretty excited. My dilemma is whether to go ahead and order now it or hope I get it for Christmas.

It’s called Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By and it was written by the Huffington Post’s Lesley M.M. Blume.

By how you know I am quite nostalgic;  just the mention of a blast from the past lifts my spirits.

According to the product description on Amazon.com, the book “invites you to consider whatever happened to cuckoo clocks? Or bed curtains? Why do we have so many “friends” but have done away with the much more useful word “acquaintance”? All of these things, plus hot toddies, riddles, proverbs, corsets, calling cards, and many more, are due for a revival. Throughout this whimsical, beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of nostalgia, Blume breathes new life into the elegant, mysterious, and delightful trappings of bygone eras, honoring the timeless tradition of artful living along the way. Inspired by her much loved column of the same name and featuring entries from famous icons of style and culture, Let’s Bring Back leads readers to rediscover the things that entertained, awed, beautified, satiated, and fascinated in eras past.” Are you aquiver?

Learning about Let’s Bring Back reminded me of another book that evokes similarly fond memories.

American Greats was edited by Stanley Marcus (of Neiman Marcus) and Robert A. Wilson. It too revisits innovations and events that made a significants on American life. For example, the Corvette, the ticker tape parade and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, among 280. American Greats is more of a coffee table book, which makes leafing through the photos and commentary all the more fun.

Stanley Marcus has since passed away, but I’d like to share a little story about Robert Wilson, if I might.

Bob Wilson and I worked for the same company about 20 years ago, though our paths crossed only a few times. He was far more senior than I. I admired him as one of the brightest and most creative minds in the company–and one of the humblest. Ten years later, in 2000, I was delighted to have our paths cross again. We had both gone in different directions but found ourselves working on a video shoot for a day. At the end of the day, I was driving him to the train and was looking to make polite conversation. I had remembered he had young children when we knew each other before. So I asked, “How are your boys doing?” Bob replied, “Very well, thanks. Luke and Andrew just finished filming Charlie’s Angels and Owen is in a movie called Meet the Parents.” It didn’t compute.

About a week later, I received an autographed copy of American Greats, with a note thanking me for my work on the project. It wasn’t until I was watching the closing credits of The Royal Tenenbaums—starring Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson and co-written by Owen–that it clicked.

Serious digression, I know. The point was to do three things:

  1. Tell you how intrigued I am about Let’s Bring Back
  2. Encourage you to pick up your own copy of  American Greats
  3. Ask you, what treasures or American greats would you like to bring back?

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Toy commercials

It seems to me that, the older we get, with all the life experiences we’ve accumulated, the less easily shocked we should be, when, in reality, the more easily shocked we actually are.

I was puttering around the house yesterday afternoon and had the television on in the background. The channel was Comedy Central and the movie Coneheads was playing. Fun little film, based on the 1970s Saturday Night Live skit. Star-studded. Light-hearted. PG-rated. My son saw and enjoyed it when he was five. It provided a sweet backdrop for the chores I was doing on my lunch hour.

Then, all of a sudden, thwack. It could have been one of SNL’s commercial parodies. But it was real. It was shocking. It was noon, for heaven’s sake.

The commercial was advertising the Tri-Phoria Massager. “Tri” because it’s three massagers in one. “Massager” because, if you look online, you will see the product name that isn’t permitted on television. I’ll give you two clues that reveal what it is. One, it’s manufactured by Trojan. Two, it’s shaped like a, well, like a Conehead.

I won’t be inserting, uh, er, placing any links in this post to product websites or video commercials because I’m already embarrassed and paranoid about where my research has taken me. You can find these on your own.

Just a word of advice: if Coneheads comes back on over the weekend, don’t watch it with your kids. And, if you do, plan ahead to explain why the Tri-Phoria is different from other toys they see advertised on TV.

Tri-Phoria, Transformer. Could be a frightening mistake.

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