Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Squirrel Holding a Stick

I guess you wonder where I've been. Well, friends, you might just say I've been everywhere... and nowhere. For you see... what? You didn't notice I was gone? That hurts! In any case, the pleasant occasion of my absence was the 4th Annual McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival. My apologies, as I am sure you have these details memorized, but more than three years intervened between the first and second annual festivals, and more than four and a half years between the second and the third. So it may stun you beyond repair to learn that less than a year has gone by since the previous McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival and this one. Let's see, that makes for an average of one Annual McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival every two years, yes, we're finally catching up. No sooner had McNeil rolled into town than we cranked up THE BAD NEWS BEARS (original version). We started with it because one of us, I won't say which (it was McNeil) fell asleep five minutes into it during the last festival. Next: THE WILD AFFAIR, a Nancy Kwan vehicle I learned about ("click" here to learn likewise) from "She Blogged By Night."
Here is a photo from "She Blogged By Night" showing Vidal Sassoon cutting Nancy Kwan's hair for the movie. I am sure you recall how badly Ms. Kwan was treated by a film in the first MMKFF. She was thanklessly blown up! So we wanted to make up for that by watching a movie in which she is treated in a kindlier way. Although she is at least not blown up in THE WILD AFFAIR, her character is treated almost as shamefully by the seemingly endless parade of sleazes she encounters. Kwan holds the movie together, though, and the article from "She Blogged By Night" argues for her agency. Still, it seems to us that Nancy Kwan can't catch a break. Then we watched CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT and Paul Schrader's BLUE COLLAR. Here's something that McNeil noticed: earlier in the day I had made an incongruous reference to the character "Mr. Bentley" (pictured) from the TV show THE JEFFERSONS.
In BLUE COLLAR, a TV is tuned to that show and the characters are discussing, by name, none other than Mr. Bentley! Plus, a scene from THE BAD NEWS BEARS had reminded me of a similar scene from CATCH-22, a fact upon which I remarked at the time. In BLUE COLLAR, Ed Begley Jr. is seen reading a paperback of CATCH-22! Make of these astounding coincidences what you will. McNeil also observed that both Richard Pryor in BLUE COLLAR and Bob Hope in our previous feature, CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT, boasted of having "a new technique": Pryor's for bowling, Hope's for kissing. We came very close to a direct Hope reference when Richard Pryor angrily imagines what he might do as a union rep: fly up to Palm Springs on a private jet and play golf with Gerald Ford. Why didn't he say "Bob Hope" instead? But he didn't. And there's nothing we can do about it. McNeil had me pause BLUE COLLAR so that he could expound at some length upon his admiration for the curtains Richard Pryor's character had in his living room. As you well know, the curtains in movies are one of McNeil's main concerns. My nonfiction cigarette lighter book, which has already been typeset, makes reference to close to a hundred movies and TV episodes, I think. I wish I had rewatched BLUE COLLAR sooner, because I would have certainly included the euphemism that Pryor yells at his union rep: "You can flick my Bic!" Richard Pryor comes up quite a bit in my book, and one sad and terrible fact I know from all my research is that Pryor used a Bic when he set himself on fire. But let us turn from thoughts of tragedy: I believe it was between BLUE COLLAR and Robert Altman's QUINTET that McNeil and I looked out the window and saw a squirrel holding a stick. An unusual sight! The squirrel seemed to be holding the stick with some intent. McNeil compared it to the scene in 2001 when the ape-people learn to use weapons. But the squirrel did not have a sufficient attention span, and soon abandoned the stick without putting it to any use. "He almost had it," I said.
"So many dogs eating so many dudes," I idly remarked during QUINTET. McNeil and I agreed that the dystopian snowscape would have benefitted greatly had Jerry Lewis driven through in a ice cream truck, hollering, "I can't sell this stuff!" But he didn't. And now it is my sad duty to report that this is the very first McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival not to include a Jerry Lewis movie. Pathetic! And now a digression. Ha ha! This whole thing has been a digression. But we took a break from watching movies and walked up to the City Grocery Bar, which has undergone a recent facelift. For one thing, the men's room is no longer just a hellish trough. I kind of miss the hellish trough! The new men's room is sparkling and elegant, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. Owner John Currence tells me that he rescued the piece of sheetrock that has Kent Osborne's still-pristine drawing of his cat on it from the old men's room wall. He plans to frame it and put it in a shadowbox on a wall of the bar! Now, if you drink at the Grocery often enough, you might get your name and usual drink on a brass plaque on the bar one day. And the occasion of our break from the film festival was that Ace Atkins and I have been accorded that honor as part of the general refurbishment. Now. For reasons I cannot recall, McNeil had requested that I get my hands on a copy of the Elvis movie LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE for this year's festival. When the subject came up at the bar, Ace - an Elvis expert - began an excellent discourse on the film's place in the Elvis canon, up to and including the provenance of the dog in it! (In addition to the actual dog, LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE is the movie notorious for making Elvis dance with a man in a dog costume.) Naturally, Ace was invited to join us for the showing - a rare and welcome intrusion into the insular world of the McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival. Plus he brought Popeye's fried chicken! So our last three films - QUINTET, THE PALM BEACH STORY, and LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE - all use dogs in striking ways. The last two - THE PALM BEACH STORY and LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE - also costar Rudy Vallee. So that's weird. I had a bunch of other stuff to say, but aren't you tired? I guess this year's theme was... dogs?