Friday, June 27, 2008

Fat City vs. The Savages

I watched Fat City (on an old videotape, I think it may be out of print on dvd) and The Savages back to back the past two nights. Fat City is one of my all time favorite movies (the book is pretty great, too). I'm going to go out on a limb and say it is the best boxing movie ever made (yes, even better than Raging Bull which looks like a pretentious arthouse movie in comparison--and I love Raging Bull). And, of course, it's much more than a boxing movie. Stacy Keach plays Billy Tully, a washed up boxer who tries to make a comeback after being inspired by a young amateur named Ernie (a very young Jeff Bridges). Neither one of them has a whole lot going on in their lives in Stockton, California, which looks like it never made it out of the Great Depression. Along the way Tully meets up with Oma (Susan Tyrrell in the best performance of a drunk ever) and things deteriorate quickly. I won't give away any more plot details, but don't expect a Rocky-like ending. Every scene in Fat City feels natural; there's not a false note in the movie. The same cannot be said for The Savages. About halfway through I got the sense that the writer had lost confidence in her ability to handle such a serious subject (adult children dealing with a parent with a terminal illness). Unlike Fat City, it shies away from grim reality by piling on one quirky, unrealistic scene after another (the tennis scene, the neckbrace scene, the fling with the nursing home orderly scene, etc.). Because the characters are so unrealistic (particularly Laura Linney's character), there was no emotional attachment to them at all which was strange considering the heavy subject matter. It was the complete opposite of Fat City where you felt every cutting remark as if it were a punch to the gut. Fat City over The Savages in a knockout.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pull my finger, son

Last year I lamented the lack of guilt-free Mother's Day cards. This year, while perusing Father's Day cards, I couldn't help but notice a predominant theme: farting. Judging by the quick sample I took, at least 3 or 4 of the 10 cards I read before settling on the one I bought featured dear old dad as a laughable gasbag. Is this really what it's come to? Has respect for American dads fallen so far that the only thing we can think about when we think about Dad is his recurring bouts of flatulence? Just a couple years ago, I recalled Father's Day cards that poked fun at Dad's attachment to the television remote. Before that it was his less than handy ways around the house. What can we expect after the current farting trend has run its course? Cards gently ribbing Dad about his alcoholism or drug addiction? How about a card that light-heartedly goofs on his philandering or incontinence? Get on it, Hallmark!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The gawkers

I passed a car accident walking home from work last night. A cable television van and a SUV appeared to have collided head-on a block from my apartment building. Judging from the damage, it looked as though the drivers from either vehicle could have been seriously injured. By the time I passed, the police had already blocked off the street and the injured had been taken to the hospital or were being treated inside the ambulance still on the scene. Of course this didn't discourage the gawkers from gathering in groups on the corner to share what they had seen or heard. Even more gawkers could be seen up the street, their morbid curiosity urging them into action (a regular drunk I recognized from a restaurant I frequent appeared to have been dispatched as a scout to gather information and report back to his drunken cohorts). One woman appeared to have been in such a rush to get to the scene that she hadn't bothered to change out of her pajamas. I didn't stop to ask what happened. I knew that whatever happened, it wasn't good and that knowing the details wasn't going to change that. There was nothing in the newspaper about it today, but I'm not surprised. They need space for more important news like the recent story about a guy who got caught trying to shoplift 48 packs of gum from a Rite Aid.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Scott McClellan's tan

There was something deeply disturbing about Scott McClellan's appearance on The News Hour last Friday: his tan. It was so distracting I could barely follow what he was saying which, by most accounts, isn't as revelatory as the media would have us believe. It's only been a week since the release of his book, but it already feels like yesterday's news. But that tan! How does an elite Washington D.C. insider acquire such a tan! When his hands fluttered at the bottom of the television screen, they were as dark as a Mexican day laborer's! My guess is that he sensed that this would be his moment to shine before the cameras and, by golly, he was going to do it deeply tanned. Male vanity of this sort is always comical, but I suspect in this instance even George Hamilton would have blushed. Enjoy your moment, Scott; like your tan, it will fade.

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