Friday, January 26, 2024

Notes on Film: Time May Change Me

 by Anthony King

But I can't trace time.

Today I woke up early. It was still dark, and everybody was still sleeping. I cherish my mornings before the house begins to stir because it's truly me time. It's not like at night when I stay up too late and try to force me time. At night I just think that I need to go to bed because that alarm comes early at 5am. In the morning, though, especially on the weekend, I know if I wake up around 7am, I have at least 90 minutes to myself. Normally I turn on a movie and drink my coffee. Today, though, we had some travel hockey to attend to in a few hours so I started cooking breakfast. As the bacon was frying and the eggs were scrambling, I was enjoying the peace. And then I got in the way. I started thinking about excuses, and how much I hate excuses. Like if someone says I have x-y-z so that's why I'm not very friendly. That's what began to gnaw at me as I cooked breakfast in solitude. More in a bit, but first, what I've been watching.
January 14th marked the birthday of the greatest actor to ever live. Marjoe Gortner turned 80 years young last week, so I celebrated by finally taking the plastic off a Blu-ray I bought a couple years ago (one of this year's goals!). Mark L. Lester's Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw was the second Marjoe movie I ever saw (after the documentary). Marjoe plays Lyle Wheeler, a Billy the Kid-type who drives around the south causing trouble. He comes across a beautiful young carhop named Bobbie Jo, played by Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter. Bobbie Jo runs away with Lyle and together they start a life of crime a la John Dillinger. Eventually they meet up with Bobbie Jo's sister (Merrie Lynn Ross) and her beau, Slick Callahan (Jesse Vint). As their crimes progress, the law gets closer and closer until finally it ends the only way it could. Probably most known for Ms. Carter's exposed breasts, this is exploitation at its finest. Watch it for both reasons.
Next was my first-time viewing of James Cameron's Avatar (2009). Can you believe I'd never seen Avatar before? I'm not a fantasy guy. I'm not a superhero guy. I thought Avatar was the best of both worlds, which is why I avoided it for 15 years. I realize Avatar is not the standard fare of my people. My weirdos. My exploitation family. My brethren who share an affinity for Stan Brakhage or Golden Age pornos. But it's undeniable how remarkable of a film Avatar is. I don't care if you don't like it. It's probably chic to hate on Avatar. I hated on Avatar for a decade-and-a-half without having even seen it. It's fucking great. Admittedly it took me about 15 minutes to get on board with the Na'vi and how computerized everything looked. I completely forgot about it, though, as soon as I feel ass over elbows into the story. I was invested. I cried. A lot. As soon as Sully opened his eyes as his Avatar for the final shot, I completely lost it. I ugly cried in my recliner as my wife looked on in horror. I couldn't believe how much I loved this movie, or how much I hated Stephen Lang ('s character).
Finally, I watched Peter Yates' Murphy's War (1971). I won't say much here because I previously reviewed the upcoming Blu-ray from Arrow. This is only my third Peter O'Toole film, but I can say I have yet to be disappointed by a performance from him. I have a question, though: would Peter Yates be considered a journeyman director? Of the Yates I've seen there are two four-and-a-half star films (The Friend of Eddie Coyle, The Hot Rock), two four star films (Bullitt, Murphy's War), and a two-and-a-half which I still liked (Krull). I know I'll love (or at least like) Breaking Away, The Deep, The Dresser, Suspect, Eyewitness, Robbery, John and Mary, and An Innocent Man, so I guess what I'm saying is that by year's end Peter Yates could be my new favorite director!
I bring up Murphy's War as only a conduit to this week's topic: change. Last week I wrote up how I found myself in unnecessary competition with unsuspecting (and undeserving) victims of my vitriol. This will require change within myself. But gosh there's so much more to change. I was re-listening to the TMNT 2: The Secret of the Ooze episode yesterday and Adam said something about liking the way he is (as well you should; you're a great person, Adam). And while I do love myself, there's much to work on. In Alcoholics Anonymous we call these character defects. I have many character defects that I need to work on, and one of these defects is feeling anger (hatred, even, sometimes) towards people that don't deserve my animosity. Like this morning, while making breakfast, I got myself all riled up for a very stupid reason. I'll spare myself the embarrassment but, like I said earlier, it dealt with excuses and a few specific people. But unlike O'Toole's Murphy in Murphy's War, like old Anthony, I talked myself off the ledge. I started being reasonable. I started being compassionate. I allowed empathy to enter into my heart. I let it all go. I moved on.
We're still in the first month of the year, and while I've never really been one to make resolutions, I've decided to make a conscious decision to be more loving. Or, rather, empathetic, forgiving, non-obsessive. Two characters come to mind: Paul Giamatti's Paul Hunham from The Holdovers (2023) and Ben Stiller's Roger Greenberg from Greenberg (2010). Before I go any further, I realize these are fictional characters and I'm a real life boy. Both these men begin their movies as curmudgeonly types, bordering on terrible human beings. Both could have a laundry list of excuses to explain away their abhorrent behavior. One could argue Hunham has more viable “excuses” (addiction) than Greenberg, who is just an asshole. Yet by the end of their cinematic stories, change is occurring in both their lives. Change for the better, one would hope. Some could also argue that these changes will only be temporary. And some could very well be right. But wading into the more hopeful waters, I'd like to think change could stick. It could happen. It has happened. In real life. In my life.
Sure, there are movies like Eyes Wide Shut (1999), or Ordinary People (1980) that have more cynical/realistic endings. People don't change, they just run away, like Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People. People don't change, they just offer empty apologies and excuses, like Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut (or however you want to read that ending). The point is, I'm willing to put the work in to make real life changes. Not just romanticized movie changes. I realize it's not going to be a George Bailey circumstance where I get to see what life would be like without me. I'm here. I want to be here. And I'm going to be a better person.

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