Monday, May 26, 2014

DIY Double Feature | THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY and ABOUT TIME | You know - things, life, whatnot.

Now seems the best time for me to tell you that these DIY Double Features aren't necessarily about pairing two good movies together.  The quality of the film is often an after thought.  The point is to pair movies that have a similar thesis and/or theme, and I find the overlap interesting enough to want to encourage you to spend some time there yourself.

If anything it's the less good movies that make better DIY Double Features.  If a film is less good, you won't be sitting rapt in front of a screen and your mind will be more inclined to wander a bit, then circle back to the story, and then wander off again.

With that, let's get to it.

Watch THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY and ABOUT TIME, and think about time.  Think about how to make the most of it, ways to sort of make it up when you lose it, and how to use its malleability to your advantage.  On the one hand time is a ruthless bastard, marching ceaselessly forward.  But on the other hand you can control how you spend it, and that makes all of the difference.

To be clear, I don't mean control it in the sense that you can indulge in an escape fantasy and piss off to some tropical island or whatever your lottery-winner daydream might be.  Well, maybe you can, but most people can't.  Or they probably could if they tried, but they chose to stick with, like, making their kids dinner and/or taking the dog out at sunrise and sunset each and every day.

Which is what I love about most people.  Seriously love this about them.  Anyway, back to the Double Feature.

In THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY we witness a shy, bunged up guy (Ben Stiller) with an overactive imagination step into life and start taking chances.  He travels the world, he jumps out of helicopters, he runs toward volcanoes, he meets warlords, climbs mountains, and talks to the woman he's been crushed out on from afar.

But for all of Walter Mitty's flights, both real and imagined, he ends up on the cover of Life Magazine because he does good work (and he's also a good boss).  Not to say he should have continued as he had been, his life was definitely out of balance; it's just that he didn't have it all wrong.  And living a bold life doesn't necessarily mean you have to do something big and exotic.  It sometimes seems that the most revolutionary thing to be done with your life is to take a deep breath and be a decent person.

In ABOUT TIME, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns that all the men in his family are able to travel through time, but only their own timeline.  Initially Tim uses this as a blunt instrument to smooth over social faux pas, fix problems for loved ones, and earn the heart of his future wife.

Then around early middle age, he begins to use his magical skill to repeat the day he just lived through, not ala GROUNDHOG DAY, but just one more time.  First, he lives it the way he - and all of us - tend to:  stressed, anxious, irritated, threatened, on auto-pilot and prone to a bit of melodrama.  Next he lives the exact same day one more time, only this time he's more - for lack of a better term - present.  He makes eye contact with a friendly cashier, where previously he had hustled through as though a machine had rung up his order, he helps his coworkers not get too torqued up about minor insults, he weathers minor inconveniences with humor and grace, etc.  In time, he learns to do this the first time through, and comes to genuinely appreciate each day for the amazing thing that it is.

It sounds trite, I know.  But ask anyone who has lost a loved one, experienced any kind of health issue, or even had a minor car accident - each standard issue day is truly remarkable.

Walter dreamed of glamour and achievement, and he got it by showing up each day and doing his best.  And by the time he was acknowledged for his steady, long-term, tortoise-like contribution in a big, glossy way, he'd become so engaged with his life on a more meaningful level that the magazine cover was nice, but not really the end-all-be-all.

Similarly, Tim learns that satisfaction is not to be found in time travel and the ability to put yourself in the best light and erase all of your mistakes, but in living each day as it comes and loving the sloppy mess of it all.

So, yeah, these movies weren't great, but they did get me wondering how my life would be different if I were a little less with the auto-pilot.

Read THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. Because James Thurber is awesome.
Watch THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (1947). Because Danny Kaye is awesome.

Released: 2013
Writer: Steve Conrad
Director: Ben Stiller
Leads:  Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine

Plot summary and what not of THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY @ Wikipedia

Released: 2013
Writer/Director: Richard Curtis
Leads: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie
Plot summary and what not of ABOUT TIME @ Wikipedia

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nora Ephron's Birthday and my Lame Horizon.

Around noon today I learned that it was Nora Ephron's birthday.  Ever since, I've been wondering if it was sexist of me to not include her on the Mt. Rushmore of Screwball.

I don't know.  I don't think so.  Beyond the fact that she simply skews more rom-com than screwball, it's kind of a no-brainer that Wilder would fill the Teddy spot.

What I do know is that Nora was never my favorite.  And without a doubt that's due to pure, unbridled jealousy.  I wanted to be Nora, but Nora was already being Nora, and so I kind of hated her for it.  As much as I loved her.  It was pretty easy to cloak my envy with "objective criticism" because she actually was pretty uneven.  But, really, who isn't?  (Especially us creative-types).  When she was bad, she was indeed horrid, but most important and significant is that when she was good she was very good indeed.

I'm pretty sure that was sexist of me.  Would I have used a poem about a crying baby girl to describe Lubitsch?

Hmmm...  I wouldn't not do that, I don't think.
Actually, yes, I can see myself doing that.  For sure.

But that's less evidence against sexism and more an indictment of my lack of originality and bone-deep lame-ass-ness.  Longfellow?  Really?

Pfft.  Yes, really.  I mean, I write a blog about screwball comedies and rom-coms, my Lame Horizon is far and wide.

All that said, let's overlook me and spend a moment contemplating the very good Nora Ephron.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Frank Capra's Birthday, Puttering and Mt. Rushmore of Screwball

Today is Frank Capra's birthday.


I adore this puttering scene.  It is perfect on so many levels.  Just perfect.

What can I say?  If there were a Mt. Rushmore of Screwball Comedy, it'd be Capra, Sturges, Lubitsch and...  Wilder, probably.

The way I see it, it's a very good thing Frank was born.

Monday, May 5, 2014

I love you again, Screwball Study! Well, I'm temporarily interested in spending more time with you, anyway.

G'ah!  It's been so long since I posted.  I watch the damn movies and it would take moments to write something, anything, but I don't.  It's a mystery.  Probably obvious to all but me.  My life is like a police procedural:  I'm in it yet have no idea where it's going, but any casual viewer with the TV on background while they do the dishes can tell instantly.

Thankfully, no one is looking even that little at my life.  Not even me.  Which is probably part of the problem.

Anyway, dear Screwball Study, where do we stand?  I owe you a post about I LOVE YOU AGAIN.  I know that much.   And I'm pretty sure that a million years ago I said I was also going to write about UGLY BETTY as the Dickens of Screwball Comedies, so I owe you that too.

And probably much, much more.

But not today.

Today, just to keep the cobwebs off this site, I share with you news of another romcom deconstruction (read about the other one I wrote about here).

Romcom Descending a Staircase.

Even if THEY CAME TOGETHER proves to be no good, it will likely help get the genre somewhere better.  Eventually.

Even if it turns out that better is dead and gone.

Released: 2014
Writer: David Wain, Michael Showalter
Director: David Wain
Leads: Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd
Plot summary and what not of THEY CAME TOGETHER @ Wikipedia