Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Movies: A diversion needed to pass the time and bring a laugh or two.


As I've mentioned before, I love watching old movies.  Recently I watched the one color movie that Harpo Marx appeared in: "The Story of  Mankind".  The movie is forgettable, but it is the last film in which the three Marx Brothers appeared in the same film (albeit, not together). If you get the chance, watch the film for the Marxes' appearances, as they provide the best comic relief in the film.

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Often, when I have nothing to do and don't want to put that much mileage on my car, I go to a movie.  On a day that I'm out en-femme, it provides me a comfortable place to relax outside the house.  But there is one problem: There are not enough good movies worth bothering to see locally.  If I lived in NYC, I'd be taking the subway (or bus) to some of the theaters in "the village", so I could see some of the more esoteric films on my list.  For example, trekking down to Manhattan allowed me to see both "The Last Emperor" and "Dial M for Murder (3D)" on the big screen.

Now that I am not working, I have "all the time in the world" to see movies, but not the cash. That's not too bad, as I can always watch a good, old Western on TV.  But it is not the same experience as seeing the movie on the big screen. And there are some old films that I hope TCM arranges to have in their monthly series of big screen showings, one of which is "Duck Soup". (Rufus T. Firefly would make a better president than who we have now.)  The Marxes were masters at their craft, and I wish they could have had a much longer screen career.

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A while back, I started giving my Dad presents of DVD's, so that he'd have something to occupy his time while sitting on his recliner. When we cleaned out his house, I got most of the DVDs back (as I expected) when my brother and I divvied up the household's items. Now that he is in the nursing home, we have connected my Dad to a film streaming service so that he can watch as many old films as he wants on his tablet computer. He has much less mobility, and this is the only way we can think of to provide him with the entertainment he enjoys watching.

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If we lived in "pre-historic" times, we'd likely entertain ourselves by repeating oral history handed down through the generations.  The stories may morph a little, but the themes stay the same. We see something similar occurring in today's visual media.  For example, when a movie (or movie franchise) has proven itself successful, Hollywood will remake the film several years later (or reboot the franchise). The details of the stories change a little in each retelling, especially when it comes to "superhero" films. But gradually, a core story locks itself into place. For example, we've seen a standardization of the "Superman" story evolve through both the comic books, the TV shows, and movies.  Now, we expect to see Kal-El rocketed from Krypton to Earth, Clark Kent (nee: Kal-El) grow up in Smallville and having to control his powers, Clark moving to Metropolis to become a reporter on the Daily Planet, and the usual interactions between Clark Kent (aka: Superman) and the rest of the world. I wonder if many of our religious tales evolved this way.

Movies have also provided us with metaphoric shorthand. When I was interviewed for my previous job (with the payments company), my future boss used a Star Wars reference that I pretended to understand. (I don't go in for modern pop culture.) But I understood that he was using a common cultural reference. If we mention John Wayne or Roy Rogers, we recognize the metaphor that these men represent. So, when the villain (Hans Gruber) mentioned the cowboy's name in the movie "Die Hard", virtually all of us in the USA picked up the intended meaning.

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Our culture uses many metaphors and a lot of cultural slang. So when one sees what appears to be feces hit a fan in one of the "Airplane!" films, we know what's going on.  We laugh when when someone inflates the Auto Pilot using a "nipple" at waist level, as virtually all adults get the joke. Yet, one of my favorite gags in a film was Groucho and Chico Marx haggling over a contract (actually, tearing it up) in "A Night at the Opera". And this one scene made the whole film worth watching when I needed a laugh the most.

And now to cook some popcorn....











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