Monday, December 12, 2011

THE BIG SCREEN, THE BIG M

Warning...spiral thinking ahead....
  



Right up front I have to tell you that I am a fourth generation movie nut.  My great-grandmother was taking my mother to movies in the 30's and Dad's first date involved two dimes, a girl "friend" who was handed one of them, and a trip to the movie theater with each of them walking up the opposite side of the street, paying and entering alone, then meeting up inside...at least that's how Dad liked to tell it.

We were all indoctrinated at a pretty young age.  I remember peeking over the front seat at the drive-in where I was supposed to be sleeping with my sister, both in our pajamas. It was "buck night," so my parents didn't have to hire a sitter.  I don't suppose they ever went to anything really risque with us in the back, but I do remember Mom rising up in the front seat to block out a scene she didn't think we should take in.  She knew exactly how to loom up there so we couldn't see anything.

But I digress.  What I really meant to talk about was old men, old women, and movies. Tonight we saw Eastwood's J Edgar, and may I just say, "Oh, my!"  I grew up with the guy.  No kidding, his name was already a household word when I was born and by the time Dr King was assassinated it seemed to me that everyone I knew had lost all respect for him.  Hoover, not Eastwood.  Eastwood is another matter entirely. I'd say that in Eastwood's case, everyone I knew started out with no respect for him and changed their minds as he aged.

Around 1972 he started directing his own movies and eventually did a series of odd modern westerns, some with orangutans, and he always played the same silent fellow.  Who would ever have thought that we'd get films like Million Dollar Baby, Invictus, Gran Torino and now J Edgar out of a man we thought of as trailing around to cheap wild west shows where he threw knives at pale girlfriends spinning on circular boards. 

Yeah, yeah, I know I haven't mentioned "Dirty Harry" and that ilk but hey, it's my blog and I never did care if he said "Make my day" or not, though I admit I quoted it for the next decade.

So here we are and I'm in the odd position of thinking that whatever he makes, I need to see. And this gets me to my point.  Eastwood is one of those archetype old guys who become efficient in their directing and acting styles.  I've been around long enough to see more than one aging actor prove that less is way, way more:  Spencer Tracy, Ossie Davis, and on the female side, Ethel Waters, Vanessa Redgrave and Katharine Hepburn, (that's Ethel above on the left in Cabin In The Sky.)

They get, well -- still. They stop displaying everything on their faces.  They might only twitch but that flutter says more than all the arm waving, tear-shedding and eloquent speeches of their younger days.  Eastwood started out sparse and he's positively static now.  He lets DiCaprio huff around the screen as Hoover but the stillness is in the shots: holding on an image; keeping the camera steady on, forcing us to look so we don't miss that one tiny revealing motion.

There are women movie directors coming up the ranks now too.  I can hardly wait to see what an old woman will do.  Now this old woman has not gotten still yet, though she aspires to.  All my life I've been a motion machine--always going, always with some responsibility or other to keep me busy.  One thing MS will do for you is slow you down.  I have actually learned to leave early and allow extra time for getting parked and into a meeting.  Not that I know what to do with myself when I am early. Other than feel smug.  Which I do.

OK, so what I've been thinking lately is, (and this is where that spiral thinking shows up,) now that I'm arriving in plenty of time and making no more grand entrances, perhaps I could be just be a bit more still myself.  Maybe I can finally be one of those people who rarely talk, but when they do, everyone listens.  Maybe I could consider what I'm going to say carefully before I speak.  Maybe I could listen for a half hour or an hour to what others think before I offer any idea at all.  Maybe I.....  maybe I...... maybe.....................oh, heck, who am I kidding anyway? 

MS can slow me down but it can't make me a better person.
I guess I'm still in charge of that.

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