Column: Movie Madness
We must pause for a moment and take pity on the unlucky folks who made the movie “La La Land.”
As we know, “La La Land” was awarded the Oscar for Best Picture only to have it ripped from its hands moments later. The debacle created the type of drama that is normally seen in the movies.
I can empathize with “La La Land.” When I attended dances in junior high school, there were innumerable instances when I was this close to asking a girl to join me on the dance floor only to have my hopes dashed at the last moment by a sudden loss of nerve.
Movies are a part of the fabric of life, much in the same way that denim is a part of blue jeans. It would be impossible to imagine one without the other.
One of the first movies I recall seeing was a network broadcast of “The African Queen” starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. At one point during the flick, Bogey drags his battered old boat behind him as he slogs through a chest-deep swamp. I immediately empathized with Bogey, as we had some wet ground that we were trying to farm and were enduring struggles similar to those he depicted.
The first flick that I watched in an honest-to-goodness theater was “Yours, Mine and Ours” starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. Thanks to Wikipedia, I can state with certainty that this movie hit the silver screen in 1968, the year I turned 11. I’m a hopeless late-bloomer by today’s standards.
The main reason for catching that movie was that my eldest sister, Janet, had just gotten her driver’s license and wanted to exercise her newfound privileges. I was happy as a chipmunk in a peanut warehouse when Janet invited me to join her and my two older sisters, Jane and Di, on a movie-viewing excursion.
Experiencing a movie in a theater rocked my world. Among the first things I noticed was the dimensions of the screen. It was nearly as large as the side of our barn! Up until then, I had consumed all my video content via our television, which had a screen the size of a slice of Wonder Bread. Today’s cell phones have larger viewing areas than our old TV.
Another shocker was the Technicolor. Despite photos that seem to suggest otherwise, there was color throughout the world back then. It just hadn’t yet made it into our television, which could only display monochrome images.
As I recall – without any help from Wikipedia – the plot of “Yours, Mine and Ours” revolved around a budding romance between Henry’s character, Frank Beardsley, and Lucille’s character, Helen North. They were astoundingly fertile people. Frank was the father of 10 children from a previous relationship. Helen had only eight kids, but did what she could to catch up to Frank by becoming pregnant soon after they got married.
Frank and Helen’s blended brood of 18 children created a torrent of chaos and comedy. Bathroom visits had to be strictly scheduled, and mealtime resembled the chow line at a military base. I left the theater feeling grateful that I only had to deal with seven siblings at home.
Another first was in store for me after the movie was over. Janet insisted that we stroll across the street and dine at a restaurant called Ione’s Cafe.
I had visited restaurants before, obviously. But up until that day our parents had been in charge of ordering and paying for my food. This was my first time eating in public as a semi-independent semi-adult.
Perusing the menu, I was at a loss regarding what to order. The menus at the places where we usually ate were posted on a wall behind the counter and were limited to members of the burger family.
My eye fell upon a familiar word: spaghetti. I ordered the spaghetti even though my experiences with marinara and noodles had been limited to products from Chef Boyardee.
A steaming plate of pasta was set before me. Unlike those that came from a can, the restaurant’s noodles were infinitely long and totally uncontrollable. Marinara sauce found its way into my hair while my sensible sisters dined daintily on fried chicken.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but a mental template had been permanently set in place. From then on, going out with girls meant a movie followed by food that doesn’t come on a stick or is wrapped in a bun.
Which reminds me that it’s been a while since my wife and I went out on a date. I have a twofer buffet coupon and have heard good things about some movie called “Moonlight.”
Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at Workman.com and in bookstores nationwide.