O cruel world. Rain on Friday. Rain on Saturday. Rain on Sunday. And it wasnt the mad operatic rain, either - no great theatrical storms for us. No timpani rolls, no crazy bright scribbles writing psycho gibberish in the sky. Just rain. Steady, simple, rote rain. A storm designed by a committee.
It lasted until 7:21 PM Sunday night; then the sun came out. A brilliant blazing sunset that lit up the leaves, scattered diamonds on the wet lawns and set fire to the west. At this point its like a deathbed erection. Gosh, thanks. What do I do with this, now?
Mothers Day was nice, as Mothers Day should be. I bought my wife some geegaws at the local geegaw vendor; I hid flowers in the storage room, and put it all out Saturday night before I turned in. I also stocked the fridge with items for a Microwavable Special Breakfast, knowing shed be up long before I rose. I know, I know: its not exactly special to leave a box of nukable Belgian Waffles in the freezer, so I placed on the package a small box containing some earrings. Im not saying Im a big spender, but I will say this: there were two earrings. Take my advice as a longtime married man. One earring might work when when youre young. Three is overkill. But women love it when you give them two earrings. They just do.
Weekend movies: The Mothman Prophecies. The box said Based on true events. The story concerns a large winged apparition that runs into cars, makes your eyes bleed, and calls people on the phone to make cryptic predictions of forthcoming catastrophes. Think Nostradamus in a bug suit. I know all about the mothman legend, but I think the true events to which theyre referring are the actual filming of the movie. What you are about to see is true. People did stand in front of cameras and speak dialogue. The movie stars Richard Gere, whose performance suggests he was not paid enough to exhibit any facial expressions. For four mil you get your basic Gere package. You want to upgrade to smiles or rage, thats another tier. For eight mil you get every expression he has, including wary pleasure, charming tipsiness and pained recollection of a widower on Christmas Eve. The movie lasts 7 hours and 47 minutes. I didnt mind it that much.
Also watched Catch Me If You Can, a Spielberg movie starring Tahm Hahnks and his Bahston accent. I am happy to report that Spielberg left his blue camera filters at home for this one. The opening credits caught my eye, for a few reasons - theyre brilliantly animated in a style that recalls the great credit sequences of Saul Bass. But as I watched the credits unfold I thought: I know that font. I have that font. Its called Coolvetica, a font by Ray Larabee, alphabetician extraordinare. You wonder if anyone gave him a heads-up, or if he just settled in to his seat in the theater, munching on popcorn, thinking about where to go for dinner later, and then - bang, theres his work on the screen two stories high in a Spielberg film.
(And by gum, I was right: its Coolvetica.)
Its not just fonts that stitch my life together. Star Trek is another constant, which should come as no surprise. At some point in nearly every movie I watch that has a cast greater than six actors, someone will have a connection to Star Trek. In the Andromeda Strain, it was a big-lipped jowly old guy who shouted THERE ARE WITCHES! THERE ARE! in that episode where Kirk gets tossed back to another planets Middle Ages. In Catch Me its a fellow who has a 40 second scene in a print shop. Like formerly famous men who havent been on screen in twenty years, hes both familiar and forgotten. You know that voice. You remember the face. You hit PAUSE, peer, pare away the years until it comes to you: Malachi Throne. (Note: this only works with Malachi Throne.) But what episode of Star Trek did he do? Think. Think!
dingdingdingding "The Cage." He was he lawyer in "The Cage," aka the pilot episode.
Last note on Catch Me - it contains a heapin helping of Christopher Walken, which is always a good sign. And Spielberg lets him dance, too. Just for a second. The moment when Walken grabs his wife in their living room on Christmas Eve and starts to dance - well, it lasts about 1.9 seconds, and it just lights up Walkens character. Every subsequent moment in which the character does not display this grace and animation tells you something, because we know what he can do, what spirits move him when its Christmas Eve and hes in love. And it says something that he never dances again.
Implication, misdirection - the storytellers two closest friends.
I now forgive Spielberg for A.I.
And I watched an episode of the HBO WW2 drama Band of Brothers, which continues to impress - especially William Shatners brilliant Hitler. (Kidding. But wouldnt you give $7.50 to see that. With Nimoy as Speer, Scotty as Goebbles, Bones as Goering, Yeoman Rand as Eva Braun, and John Gill as FDR.) (Okay, Im now climbing out of the rabbit hole and returning to the surface.)
In Band of Brothers theres a scene in which one of the characters has a 48-hour pass to Paris, and he spends the night riding the subway. When the train started moving, I heard a sound I hadnt heard since 1976: the sound of a the Paris Metro. Or was I fooling myself? Was this just a generic subway sound? Is there a difference? Ill bet that there is - surely the Moscow subway sounds different than its DC cousin. Surely the rhythm of the A Train is different than the Underground - kank kankity kank kankity vs. kank kank kank kank, kank kank kank kank. I cant prove it, obviously. Im sitting at my desk in Minnesota and I am in no mood to google mp3s of ambient subway sounds. But it wouldnt surprise me if the people who made this series demanded real Paris Metro sounds, because its that kind of show: it seems honor-bound to get things right. It regards fidelity as its duty, something it owes to the subject matter. If I was doing this show, Id think about some old D-Day vet in Omaha watching this show, and how hed be taken out of the story if he saw something that was obviously wrong, something they could have gotten right if theyd tried.
You can make fun of directors who insist on micro-level historical accuracy, but it has its place. Lets say theyre doing a scene in the canteen. Everyones drinking beer. The director wants the bottles to have labels from 1944. The bean counter points out that the scene requires the soldiers to scrape off the labels as they speak; thats the point of the scene. How they all seem so cool and brave, but each of them is nervously shredding the labels on their beer. Who cares if the labels historically accurate? When it gets edited no one will tell. Whos going to look at the label?
Some guy in Omaha, thats who. You get the small details right, people trust what youre doing. Even if they dont know that the detail is correct. It all adds up.
Nearly everyone smokes. Nowadays if you made a WW2 movie it would be easy to edit out the Luckies; no one would really notice.
Gnat watched two movies. She watched Stuart Little 2 sixty-seven times, and Sunday she went with Mom to a cinema grill to watch Jungle Book 2. She sat through the entire show. When she got home I asked her about the plot, which could be boiled down to scary tiger. Was there a monkey? I asked her. Uh-huh. Was there a boy? Uh-huh. I remembered seeing the original movie as a ten-year old, and how I enjoyed Baloo, so I asked Was there a bear? Uh-huh.
And then I asked my wife the question that had never occurred to me before that moment: what was a bear doing in the jungle?
I was going to ask you the exact same thing, she said.
This never occurred to me before. Thirty-five years have elapsed, and in every day of every week of every one of those years, the presence of a bear in the jungle has not troubled me. If Walt Disney said there were panthers and pythons in the wheat fields of the Dakotas, I would have bought it. Think of it: he had the trust of an entire generation, and his worst abuse was the fanciful interpolation of ursine archetypes into rain-forest settings.
What happened to the Amazon box? you might ask. Have I decided to stop dunning you for contributions? Yes and no. Im going to conduct an experiment. Starting in June Im going to post a few new things in the first week, brace for the bandwidth hit, and rattle the tin cup. It wont be like a pledge drive; itll be more like a new issue of a magazine. If you want to stand in line and read the whole thing while your groceries are run past the scanner, fine; youre under no obligation to give me a dime. But if you like it, and want to toss in a buck or two, Ill be grateful.
What happened to the Matchbook link? you might ask. I forgot to add it. But theres a new matchbook every week.
Whatever happens, thats my promise to you. There will always be a new matchbook every Monday. I promise little, but I deliver. Except when I dont, of course.