It’s been a long time since I went to the movies. I wanted to see Rocketman, but unless it’s a Harry Potter movie or a blockbuster action movie, movies are only at the local theater for a week, and it’s often hard to fit it into my schedule, what with meetings at work and the library and other obligations. So I missed that one, but I was determined to see the new Tarantino movie.

I planned carefully and was able to escape work in time to attend the 4:30 showing of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, along with maybe a dozen other people. Because this town is so small, I knew at least one of them, and had in fact recently given her a ride home when she locked her keys in her car at the gas station so she could pick up her spare set of keys, and then drove her back to the gas station. I waited to make sure that her car started and she drove off before I headed back to work that day.

I enjoyed the movie very much. It looked beautiful, wonderful shots of vintage Los Angeles (inside and out) and car porn galore. I loved the relationship between Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio. I also enjoyed how they made fun of themselves and did not take themselves seriously despite their remarkable beauty.

Speaking of beauty, Margot Robbie did not look like Sharon Tate, and indeed when you see footage of a film with the actual Sharon Tate within this movie, you are amazed by how exquisite (and funny) she was. To be fair, she was one of the most beautiful women who ever lived, so it’s a pretty high bar for any actress.

I liked Tarantino’s willingness to subvert expectations, though many have objected to this. And yes, there is gore and violence, because it is, after all, a Tarantino movie. My one objection is the depiction of Pitt’s pit bull as a deadly attack dog. I am the proud aunt of two pit bulls and know that theirs is a loving breed, the polar opposite of how they are depicted in the media, including this movie, and it concerns me that it may give uneducated viewers the belief that these are dangerous dogs. Having said that, I’m glad that the dog survived, since most dogs in movies do not, no matter what their breed is. All in all, I enjoyed it very much and I hope you do, too.

A YEAR AGO: Working on Megan and Rob’s move.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rob the handyman strikes again.

TEN YEARS AGO: The horrors of summer. Some things never change…


I know, I know – you’ve already read in “People” and the “National Enquirer” that I was at the the new “Harry Potter” movie on Friday, along with much of the country’s population. Granted, it is a little unusual for this country mouse to go out twice in one week – and in two different towns at that – so maybe I can understand all the media attention.

I was glad I had my nails done when I saw the guys from TMZ, though.

There were at least TEN PEOPLE, maybe twelve, in line in front of us, so I was at the paparazzi’s mercy as the line edged slowly forward. “Suzy, is this your life partner?” (No, it’s my sister. Yes, there isn’t much resemblance. No, I’m not lying.) “Suzy, is it true that Robert Pattinson and Daniel Radcliffe are really feuding over you?” (No comment.) “Suzy, are you going to replace Emma Watson as the face of Burberry?” (No comment.) “Are you going to get popcorn?”

It was relentless, I tell you. I was quite exhausted by the time I bought my ticket – you’d think they would have comped me – and ran to grab seats while Megan bought popcorn, giving the paps the answer to at least one of their questions.

My nerves were so frazzled that I could hardly bear the constant talking of the people behind us. One of them spent the entire movie explaining what was happening to their companion. Seemed to me that it would have been easier to read the books or see the other movies first so they’d know what was going on, but what do I know? After all, I’m probably a space alien in disguise.

Other than the ad hoc soundtrack, we both enjoyed the movie and are looking forward to the sequel in July. I couldn’t help but notice that a certain Draco Malfoy bore a surprising resemblance to a certain young man I know. Coincidence?

Afternoon Escape

On Sunday, Megan and I got our chores out of the way in the morning, and then she came over to my house for a fun, girlie afternoon.

First, we put a load of her laundry in, and made ribollita soup for that night’s dinner. As usual, we had the ingredients between us, and as it simmered away, we watched “Sex and the City 2” and did our nails. We enjoyed it as much as we did when we saw it at the theater in the summer. It’s been a not great year with not great weather, and neither of us can remember the last time we actually went on vacation or even left the state*, so we need all the escapism we can get.

People have been asking me where the Thursday night dinner recipes are. The sad truth is that I haven’t made anything new recently. So this week, I have vowed to make something new. I have a couple of ideas in mind, but suggestions and recipes are always welcome!

*With only one month left to go this year, I have gone to San Francisco exactly once, for one night. And that’s the only non-Hooterville place I have been this year. You can see why I’m planning to let my passport expire for the first time in my entire life, including childhood. You don’t need one when you never go anywhere or do anything. $100 is a lot to pay for wishful thinking.

Now Playing

Pink is for girls…and my sister’s rat-tail cactus

…at the All Girl Multiplex…

Actually, it’s a single screen, but most of the movies are rated NB17 (no boys). Rob came home while we were watching “Working Girl” and literally fled. Suddenly, it seemed like an excellent time to water the garden!

To be fair, we did watch all the Harry Potter movies, too, which are very boy-friendly with whizzo-zappo effects and Quidditch games, which are also an excuse for the previously mentioned w-z effects. I had only seen the first one when it came out at the theater, so the others were new to me. I’d read all the books, but have an amazing ability to forget things, so I got to be surprised a few times, as well as marvelling at the kids’ terrible haircuts and still wondering why they didn’t give Harry green eyes when they made such a big deal about it in the books.

But after the Harry Potter movies were exhausted (cheer up, Part One of the Deathly Hallows is due out in November, and the second half next year), we pretty much lapsed into utter girldom, watching the following:

How to Make an American Quilt An all-star cast (Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Maya Angelou and more) of women tell their life stories as they make a wedding quilt for a girl (Wynona Ryder in her pre-shoplifting days) who isn’t quite sure she wants to get married. We got so involved in the stories of the past that we kind of forgot about the movie’s present. As usual, the past was more interesting.

We both screamed in horror at one scene, where Ryder wraps herself in the newly-completed quilt and walks outside, dragging it in the dirt. User reviews on IMDB confirm that we aren’t the only ones.

Wish I had that quilt. Or one like it.

13 Going on 30 Jennifer Garner is charming in this light little romp about a gawky girl whose disastrous thirteenth birthday party leads to a heartfelt wish to be thirty (if only she knew that the wait is much shorter than you’d think, or even like). She wakes up in a fabulous New York apartment and discovers that she’s thirty, dating an NHL player and is an editor at her favorite fashion magazine. But things aren’t what they seem. Garner is charming, and the movie is fun, light-weight fluff.

27 Dresses Megan’s a big “Grey’s Anatomy” fan, though I’ve never actually seen a whole episode, so it was a bonus for her to see Katherine Heigl as the movie’s heroine. She’s been a bridesmaid 27 times, but never a bride, mostly because she is secretly in love with her magazine editor boss. Her sister comes to town and immediately enchants the boss, and the “commitments” writer for the local paper covers her upcoming wedding and her sister’s bridesmaid past a little too honestly…

As for Working Girl, it was more fun than I remembered, despite the appalling theme song which plays over the opening credits and almost ruins the spectacular shots of the New York skyline*. We laughed a lot, and those 1980s clothes and make-up are hilarious. Harrison Ford looks so young in it that it makes me feel old.

*Meg observed that now we always look for the Twin Towers, whereas before they were just part of the landscape, and not a very pretty part at that. We can never go back, I guess.

Not Up to Code

rainyjasmineRain on the honeysuckle

As you can see, I gave myself a new look for my birthday!

According to my birth certificate, I was born at 10:38 am, which I think is a very civilized hour. So many babies insist on interrupting their mother’s beauty sleep to be born in the middle of the night. Or worse yet, at cocktail hour. So inconsiderate!

Since I was born in New York State, that means I’m turning a year older right about now….

And what an uninspiring day it is. Dark, rainy, depressing. I don’t think it has rained on my birthday since I moved to California all those years ago. The weather seems to have forgotten that it is supposed to get sunny in April and stay that way until November. They say old habits are hard to break, but it seems to have no trouble whatsoever positively shattering them.

It’s not looking good for fun on my birthday. The weather precludes any expotitions anywhere; the dogs won’t want to put as much as a paw outside; the birthday BBQ is cancelled; and I will have to make my own birthday dinner, since Megan is laid up for the duration.

I spent my birthday eve watching a couple of pre-Code movies about wicked women and drinking Cosmoplitans. Not only did they each have my favorite credit, “Gowns By”, they also lasted just over an hour each, which is perfect for me. Keep it zippy, is what I say.

First up was “Midnight Mary”, starring Loretta Young as the unlucky title character whose story is told in flashbacks as she is on trial for murder. Starting out with a poverty-stricken childhood leading to a mistaken conviction for shoplifting and an inadvertent turn as lookout for a couple of gangsters, Mary is rescued from a life of crime and debauchery by a wealthy playboy (former Barbara Payton plaything Franchot Tone), but her past catches up with her…

Filmed in 1933, the movie includes a scene of Mary losing her virginity in the back of car; whispering promises of sexual favors to come into her lover’s ear (while he licks her fingers); a baby born cheerfully out of wedlock to no-one’s chagrin; and women being slapped around by their lovers.

Next up was “Three on a Match”, with Joan Blondell being her wise-cracking self, Bette Davis in frightening platinum blonde hair, and Ann Dvorak as the girl who has everything. To lose. The three girls go to public school together, where Blondell’s character is a wayward hoyden, Dvorak’s a spoiled princess, and Davis hard-working and ambitious.

The girls grow up and run into each other by accident, sharing the title match and laughing about the superstition. Blondell is a stage star, Davis a stenographer, and Dvorak is married to a wealthy lawyer and has a young son, but is discontented with her life. She decides to take the boy and go for a refreshing trip to Europe with her adoring husband’s reluctant approval, but on the boat meets a handsome gambler and runs away with him, taking the boy with her.

Her sexy out of wedlock idyll soon degenerates into filthy rooms scattered with empty bottles and cigarette butts, as she lies on the unmade bed in a stupor, ignoring her hungry child. The gambler owes money to gangsters (one of whom is no less than Mr. Humphrey Bogart, in his earliest tough guy role), they are both addicted to cocaine, and the boy is dirty and neglected. The gangsters discuss killing the child in front of his drug-addled mother, who makes a spectacular sacrifice to save him.

All this and more in just over an hour. Look for Jack Webb’s (“Dragnet”) earliest film appearance as a boy in the schoolyard at the beginning of the film.

Girl Talk

Yesterday was a fabulous girl extravaganza!

Erica called and said that she and Jessica were looking at a house about three miles down the road from my place, so they’d stop by and say hello afterwards. The house won’t actually be available to look at until next week, but they had a look at the outside and grounds, and it looks good so far. I would so love it if they were my neighbors! And it will be nice for Erica to have lots of help on hand if needed, instead of being all alone on top of the mountain where she lives now, with an hour’s drive to the nearest store.

They brought birthday gifts for Megan, including a mug which reads “My dog isn’t spoiled. I’m just very well trained” or something like that. So true! We sat in Megan’s garden in the welcome sun, looking like a huge Clorox stain against the greenery. I don’t know which of us is is the palest. Jessica sat on Megan’s lap and we made plans to go to the Big Fun Fair together next weekend. It’s Jessica’s favorite day of the year.

We’re still working on the June-a-palooza to celebrate my birthday, Lu’s, Erica’s, and Monica’s. Maybe a bonfire at Lu’s with a dessert buffet by Erica…

Yesterday afternoon, the West Coast SJP dusted off her diamonds and dove into some MAC for the first time in a while. Megan and I met up with Lu and Monica at the local movie theater to see the greatly-anticipated Sex & the City 2. We had feared a line, but instead we were the first ones there, and the entire audience consisted of maybe fifteen giggling girls (including us – four friends watching four friends).

We all enjoyed it tremendously. Everything that reviewers have objected to were the very things I loved about it: the clothes, the shoes, the fairytale location in Abu Dhabi, the pure escapism and beauty. Yes, I sighed over Carrie’s closet (and regretted that she and Big let that fabulous Fifth Avenue penthouse go in the last movie) and Charlotte’s matched set of Louis Vuitton luggage. I’m glad the ugliness of the recession and the drabness of everyday life hasn’t touched our glittering girls. Sue me. It was bad enough being returned to reality after two hours.

My only complaints were that there wasn’t enough Jason Lewis, who plays the swooningly handsome Smith Jarod, and there was too much Liza Minnelli (any Liza Minnelli is too much Liza Minnelli). Oh, and I could have lived without the karaoke scene. Other than that? Escapism at its best.

After the movie, we repaired to Silver’s at the Wharf in Noyo Harbor. Megan and I figured we hadn’t been there since Mom was alive (then remarked on how our parents’ existence or otherwise is now such a milestone in our lives). Lu, who is also an EMT, said the last time she was there was responding to a call for a patron with a heart attack. She said that the rest of the diners watched like it was a floor show as the EMTs worked on him. I wondered aloud what the correct etiquette is in such a situation. Ignore it? Watch and eat? Just watch, but don’t eat? Where’s Miss Manners when we need her?

The sun was slipping into the Pacific as I sipped my mojito and nibbled my award-winning crab cakes. I also kicked myself under the table for not bringing my camera so you could see it, too. We ate and laughed and talked until we were the last table standing – well, sitting. We all agreed that we must do this again, and soon. There’s nothing like spending time with the girls.


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

It’s 35 degrees outside, dark enough that I have the lights on, and it’s pouring. The cats and I are huddled by the heater, the girls in their fur coats and me in two unmatching sweaters. The calendar claims it’s May, but I think there’s been a mix-up somewhere. Or I’ve somehow found myself in Early Narnia, where it’s always winter, but never Christmas.

Everyone is saying this is the coldest and rainiest spring they can remember. “Worst May ever” comes up a lot, and I’ve noticed people eyeing me askance as they make the connection between my moving to Hooterville and the increasing crapitude of the weather. If I don’t look out, I’ll get run out of town on a rainy rail. At least it will be too wet and windy for the tar and feathers to really stick.

Megan and I took a break yesterday to walk Schatzi briefly on the headlands. She looks almost normal when she walks, though she is undoubtedly wondering why we won’t let her off the leash and why the walks are so short. It’s three more weeks of leash duty, and Dr. Karen is going to check her again next week.


You will be relieved to hear that I obeyed the sign. Actually, I may have jinxed myself by observing to Megan that we are almost halfway through the year and I have managed not to damage myself so far. Finally, a New Year’s resolution that lasted beyond January!



It was a very low tide, so something smelled fishy, all right. Also there was a very loud Canada Goose honking his fool head off on one of the rocks. And I thought Canadians were so polite. Maybe he picked up some native ways during his visit.


We ambled amble a couple of errands in the village between rain showers. We got some blueberries and lettuce at the fledgling farmers’ market – there’s not that much available this early in the season – and attempted to get the ingredients for the magical soup, planning to make it for dinner last night. But there was no joy in Mudville, since there was also no chorizo. We grumpily made shepherd’s pie with ground turkey instead, and consoled ourselves with a “Sex and the City” marathon, just in time for the movie’s release next week, thoughtfully located between my birthday and Megan’s.

I feel a girls’ night out coming on.


It’s a good thing we enjoyed Friday so much. It’s been pouring ever since. Yesterday the weather was so depressing that I bagged on going to town with my sister and ate Pop Tarts and watched “Gilmore Girls” instead, occasionally interrupted by Mark chain sawing falling or fallen trees.

You’d think it was February around here.

As you must have noticed by now, dark and stormy weather calls for dark and stormy movies. Last night’s double feature featured two ladies who were more scandalous in real life than any character they played on screen.
Barbara_Payton_1Barbara Payton

First up was “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (1950), starring Jimmy Cagney and Barbara Payton. Cagney plays a – wait for it – gangster recently escaped from prison. In doing so, he kills off the lovely Barbara’s brother, one of his aiders and abettors, though he understandably fails to mention this minor fact after he gets a look at her.

There’s a breathtaking scene where Cagney beats Payton in the face with, oddly, a bath towel, she swoons into his arms in masochistic bliss, and they share a passionate kiss. No wonder the film was banned in Ohio. That scene still shocks more than all the murders in the rest of the film, and there’s no shortage.

I was surprised by the power of Cagney’s personality. He’s a short, funny-looking guy, but with such intensity and charisma that you can’t stop watching him whenever he’s on screen. He personally selected the 23 year old Barbara Payton to be his co-star, and her sultry beauty just glows. White heat indeed.

A year after this movie was made, Barbara was engaged to Franchot Tone, one of Joan Crawford’s many exes, but was also carrying on an affair with actor Tom Neal, a former college boxing champion. The two men brawled over Barbara, and Tone ended up in a coma. When he recovered, he and Barbara got married, but she left him a few weeks later for…Tom Neal. That lasted a whole four years, much longer than Neal’s two wives (or any of Barbara’s four marriages). One died of cancer a year after giving birth to his son, and Neal shot the other in the head, ultimately serving ten years for manslaughter. He died a year after being released from prison.

In the meantime, Barbara’s life was in a downward spiral. Just five years after making “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”, she was arrested for a string of offenses: passing bad checks, public drunkenness, drug abuse, and prostitution. She died of liver and heart failure at the age of 39.

20070301233122-gloria-grahameGloria Grahame

Next up was “The Big Heat” (1953), directed by Fritz Lang and starring Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame. Ford plays a detective trying to shut down the mob who killed his wife (played by Jocelyn Brando, sister of Marlon, who managed to have a long and happy life in real life). Grahame plays the head gangster’s moll, hard-drinking, tough-talking, dripping furs and jewels. When the virtuous Ford points out that these things are the proceeds of crime, she says, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better.”

Grahame becomes a witness against her lover eventually, and in keeping with our sado-masochistic theme, he scalds her face with hot coffee, fortunately off-screen, though the damage is later revealed in all its horror.

This role was just one in a series of sexy, troubled roles Grahame played, starting with town sweetheart Violet in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and these roles weren’t much of a stretch for Grahame, who specialized in stormy romances and failed marriages in real life, too. While married to director Nicholas Ray, she had an affair with his then thirteen year old son, whom she later married. She had children by both men, making them…cousins and half brothers?

This scandal took a toll on the Oscar-winning actress’ career, as did some unsuccessful plastic surgery which caused scarring and nerve damage. She died of cancer at the age of 57, after refusing surgery.

Life really can be stranger – and more tragic – than fiction.

Starring San Francisco

Spot the kitty!

It’s almost noon, and my battered thermometer claims it’s barely 40 degrees outside. Some of the hailfall is still clinging to icy existence beside the house, and the house is filled with that eerie white snow light.

Megan stopped by yesterday on her way to work and brought my orchid inside so it will survive the cold snap. It’s now taking up valuable real estate beside the stairs, where I brush past it every time I sidle through the 18 inches of space between the refrigerator and the stairs.

The cold, dark weather this week has inspired me to watch a few films noirs from my favorite decade. Last night’s double feature featured my own true love, the City by the Bay. Henry Etta came up on the couch with me, where she relaxed with her head on a pillow, covered by one of my sweaters (see above) as the rain and hail stormed outside.

First up was “Impact” (1949). Though lacking in my favorite credit (“Gowns By”), it made up for it with “Furs By” and “Jewels By” and an apartment in the illustrious Brocklebank Building, where Kim Novak’s character lived in “Vertigo” and the late, great Herb Caen lived in real life. You can rent a little place there for $9,700 a month if you’d like to join that celebrated company.

Brian Donlevy plays a millionaire industrialist going out of town on a business trip. His lovely wife, played by the seductive Helen Walker, convinces him to bring along a “cousin” of hers, who is, in fact, her lover. The lover attempts to bump off Donlevy, but only succeeds in bumping off himself and a gorgeous cream colored roadster in a spectacular crash.

Dazed and confused, Donlevy ends up in a small Idaho town, where he finds a job and a room with the world’s most attractive and least likely garage owner, played by Ella Raines. But when he discovers that his wife has been arrested for his own “murder”, he returns to San Francisco to set the record straight.

Oddly, Helen Walker, whose character engineered a murderous car crash, endured a career-ending car crash in real life. She picked up some GIs who were hitchhiking, and crashed the car. One soldier died and the other two were severely injured, as was Helen, who was tried for murder. She was acquitted, but her career never recovered, and she died of cancer at the age of 47. Her life was more tragic than any movie she ever starred in.

The second feature was the somewhat misleadingly titled “Woman on the Run” (1950), starring the glamorous Ann Sheridan and a cast of unknowns (at least to me). Ann’s husband is out late one night walking their dog when he accidentally witnesses a murder. When the cops arrive and want to put him in protective custody, he thinks they suspect him and “takes a powder”. The police question his wife, and learn that their marriage is on the rocks. The wife learns that her husband has a secret heart condition, and tries to find him before the cops or the real killer do.

The movie ends with a breathtaking and frightening night time roller coaster ride, predating Hitchcock’s carousel horror in “Strangers on a Train” by a year. It was filmed at Playland at the Beach, an amusement park which perched on the dunes of Ocean Beach for nearly a century before being dismantled and replaced by, God help us, soulless condominium boxes. It was great to see it in all its tacky glory, with the terrifying sounds of Laffing Sal (who can still be seen and heard at the Musée Mécanique, now at Pier 45) providing the perfect backdrop to such a scary scene.

And it was wonderful to see that beautiful city in all its glory. Some things haven’t changed at all in 60 years, and others have changed completely. But one thing never changes: the beauty of San Francisco.


It was a dark and dreary day yesterday, the perfect weather for a film noir, especially one from my favorite decade, the 1940s. I love the luscious lines of cars back then, the elegant clothes and hairstyles, the ability to wear furs and diamonds with impunity – pretty much everything except, you know, that tiresome war thing.

Last night’s feature was 1949’s “East Side, West Side”, starring a fabulous cast: Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, Ava Gardner, Van Heflin, and Cyd Charisse. Not to mention Williams Conrad and Frawley in minor roles, ditto Nancy Davis, not yet Reagan. It’s set in New York’s Upper East Side, which is filmed lovingly in beautiful black and white. It even has a scene where models wander around a dress salon, showing off the latest styles. I wish they still did that. The salon had uniformed maids asking the patrons whether they’d like a cigarette or a drink. Just try smoking at a couturier’s now when they’re showing the new line and see how fast you get ejected.

Stanwyck plays the long-suffering socialite wife whose husband is having an affair with Ava Gardner. Art imitating life, since Stanwyck’s real-life husband at the time, Robert Taylor, also had an affair with Ava Gardner. When you see her sashay out of a phone booth in this movie, you really can’t blame either of them. I imagine Barbara really enjoyed that scene where she slaps Ava.

Mason plays Stanwyck’s tortured husband, torn between lust for Ava and love for his wife. While he’s struggling with that, acclaimed journalist Van Heflin is falling for the nobly suffering Barbara. They both fight their feelings through platonic parties and late-night omelette sessions, while Cyd Charisse pines for Heflin, who she’s had a crush on since childhood. Triangles within triangles.

Barbara has to decide whether to stay or go, and turns to her mother, played by Gale Sondergaard, for advice. Sondergaard refers to herself as an “old woman of 55”, which is slightly alarming to hear when you’re 47. Of course, playing someone’s mother when you’re only eight years older than your on-screen child can do that to a girl. Just ask Jessie Royce Landis, who played Cary Grant’s mother in “North by Northwest” when she was, you guessed it, eight years older than he was.

I’m beginning to be concerned that I’m nine years older than Megan. Does that mean I look like her grandmother?


Yesterday, Megan, Rob and I braved the wind and rain to attend the Fourth Sunday Breakfast at the Caspar Community Center.

We met up with Lu, still limping from her recent ankle injury at work (she’s an EMT), and her boyfriend Rick. Despite the pain, Lu couldn’t resist the book sale across the hall from the room where breakfast was being served. It was an interesting selection of books, and Megan snared one on spicy sauces and dips, which will have to be toned down for me. I always say that food should be hot, medium, mild, and Suzy.

The breakfast room had long tables covered with bright table cloths. You collect your silverware at the door, find space at one of the tables – a challenge for a party of five – and a server takes your order. We had huevos rancheros made with organic, local ingredients and a basket of “bread”, which was really tiny corn muffins, banana muffins, currant scones, and cranberry scones. I had a thimbleful of local organic apple cider, too.

It was nice to catch up with Rick and Lu, and we stayed talking until the servers started to roll up the table cloths and give us meaningful looks.

In the parking lot, a man was playing with his dog. He bent over with his arms making an “O”, and the dog jumped through! I was so delighted that I asked him to do it again, and he did. We laughed all the way to the car.

On the way home, I noticed that the cherry trees are beginning to blossom.

When we got home, Megan brought her laundry over and got that done while we watched “Gone with the Wind”. It was the perfect thing for a rainy Sunday afternoon. No matter how many times I see it, I get swept up in the epic story, Vivien Leigh’s exquisite beauty, and the tragic romance. I always get choked up at the end, and tried to hide it by going to put on the porch light to light my brother’s way when he came over for dinner that night.

When he did, he arrived with cloverleaf dinner rolls he’d invented and made. Meg and I made macaroni and cheese and a salad of spring greens and curly endive. It was a particularly cozy evening, with the rain pouring down outside and the light and warmth inside.

As I write, the rain is still pouring down, and I’m hoping that the one road which leads to the city won’t be closed again tomorrow. I’m planning to go to San Francisco tomorrow and attend to business on Wednesday. Of course, being me, I’m also planning to take in one of the films at the Noir Festival and the Cartier and America exhibit.

We’ll see!


I slept in until 10:00 yesterday! And when I finally woke up, it was raining. Ever so lightly, but rain nonetheless.

I posted about my excitement on Facebook, and everyone seemed to think I’m a big fan of the precipitation. It wasn’t the rain per se that had me all excited, it was the surprise of the rain (it rarely, if ever, rains between April and October or November) and the fact that we hadn’t had any for more than five months. That, and the release from the hideous heat. Believe me, I’ll almost certainly switch my heat complaining for rain complaining once I move up north.

I dashed outside to check on Henry. His bed was a little damp, and his food was wet, so I took care of that while he milled around under my feet. He hasn’t been eating that much lately, which does concern me a bit. I need to catch him and get him checked out at the vet’s before he officially joins the family. Another item for my ever-lengthening To Do list.

I can’t tell you how blissful it was to be able to cook (corn soufflé, using up leftovers) make the bed (lavender and blue eucalyptus scented sheets), and just walk around without sweating. I could even sit still without sweating, and the air was completely breathable, instead of stifling. I didn’t have to put a fan on all day. And I had all the blinds open, letting in the pale, pearly light, instead of living in hot gloom with the blinds closed against the sun’s glare.

It was thrilling.

All day, I luxuriated in the blessed, blessed coolth*, and in the evening, I watched Laura, one of my favorite movies, admiring Gene Tierney’s breathtaking loveliness while sipping a nice Sonoma County sauvignon blanc. Life is good.

*From the inimitable Edward Eager’s “Magic By the Lake”. I can’t wait to introduce Jessica to his books. And E. Nesbit’s.

Survival Modish

Whew. That’s over, at least for now. I was thrilled to wake this morning to the welcome sight of the fabulous fog wrapping the palm trees in glamorous glory. The girls are no less delighted than I am, and are racing around the house instead of wilting furrily by the door, gasping for any errant wisp of air. If panting wasn’t so undignified, they would have been doing it right along with me.

When you have a few days of intense heat in a row, it seems to accumulate like compound interest. By yesterday afternoon, it was suffocating in my house. I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I was drowning in hot air. It’s a horrible feeling. Fortunately, by late evening, the sea breeze started up, and overnight the fog fairy granted my wish.

My cheapness won out over my love of luxury, and I didn’t flee to a motel after all. Instead, I watched How to Marry a Millionaire, especially enjoying Betty Grable’s befurred insouciance as she visits a snowy Maine lodge with a grumpy older man, under the misapprehension that the lodge in question will be full of Elks rather than surrounded by, well, elks. Fortunately for Betty, the lodge is accessorized with a handsome forest ranger*. Meanwhile, back in New York, Marilyn Monroe is a sight for sore eyes while trying to hide her near-sightedness in the belief that “men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses”. Honey, believe me: you could be wearing Coke bottle specs and they’d all still be at your feet. Especially in that red number.

I was amused to note that Lauren Bacall’s character is named Schatzi! I’ve seen the film many times, but never made the connection between the Park Avenue princess and the canine one. I wonder why that is?

My favorite scene is still the fashion show, where all three girls model clothes for Schatzi’s would-be beau, who Schatzi is convinced is poor, while in fact he is a billionaire. It was a great way to take a girl’s mind off current circumstances: beautiful cast, gorgeous costumes, and New York, New York!

*I love that old TV show, The Forest Rangers. It’s so charming.

The Dog, the Drunk, and the Movie

Really, isn’t a day without weirdness…well, someone’s life other than mine?

Still in possession of all my blood (fun fact: despite the recent spate of bloodletting, I still have no idea what kind of blood I have), I took Rita for a walk. I expected the construction workers to admire her (and me), but I didn’t expect the Actual Owner.

No-one expects the Actual Owner!

We stopped to chat, and he only asked me about New York. Even though Rita was standing right there, he didn’t mention her, though he did, of course, pet her. It’s impossible not to. Also, I was secretly delighted that she didn’t fuss over him, just gave him the casual-to-enthusiastic greeting she gives the construction workers, who give her part of their lunches and otherwise fawn over her.

Rita soon got bored and started pulling away, eager to get on to the next smell, so we did. He didn’t ask when he was going to see her again, or anything.

Weirdness factor: about 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.

That night, I was watching the surprisingly dull biopic about the delicious Bettie Page* when someone knocked at the window. I figured it was Charlie, Rita’s sitter and purveyor of fabulous Italian gifts to Suzy, so I went to open the door.

Rita came with me. If anything, she’s actually more curious than I am.

I opened the door to a complete stranger, completely drunk and completely slurring, “Mind if I come in?”

I said, “Yes,” and shut the door forcefully before locking it immediately. Rita was barking loudly and scarily enough to have instantly sobered the guy, though I don’t think it did. I heard him mumbling as he wandered away to annoy someone else.

Weirdness factor: about 8 or 9.

It’s good to have a dog.

*Made me long for the real thing. I’m just going to have to go out and find Teaserama. The faux Bettie was nowhere near as cute as the original, and was lacking in La Page’s trademark sauciness and charm.

And speaking of adorable ecdysiasts, I valiantly resisted buying this pretty pink tome when I was out Christmas shopping. Also a pop up book of Graceland! Will virtue be its own reward?


In the stranglehold of the hideous heat wave, all I could do was whimper, like the Wicked Witch of the West, “I’m melting!”, only meaner and greener.

After I walked Rita, we’d both lie in front of the air conditioner panting and cursing global warming, or whatever had brought this hellish doom upon us. I don’t mind telling you that it made me one crabby little crab cake. I think it made Rita a little on the cantankerous side, too, since she:

  • Got into a fight with a total stranger, which of course was a show dog, so the owner freaked out over my lower class mutt arguing with her upper class whippet, even though Snotty Dog started it.
  • Decided to embarrass her lovely walking companion by leaving a modestly-sized, though not modestly-placed, calling card on the sidewalk. Right in front of an irate old gentleman, laden down with bags full of wine. I think he was red-faced before he started yelling at me, but I’m not sure. He had one of those career drinker faces. Unfortunately, I was temporarily without removal equipment, having foolishly thought that I had completely emptied Rita out at the park a mere two hours earlier. I apologized, and when he kept on ranting, I explained to him that the world was an ugly place and you had to expect these things if you left your own home. He was not appeased and exited stage right, muttering. Maybe I should have tried to convince him it was one of those alcoholic hallucinations, like pink elephants.
  • Started calling the Neighbor Dog names when we were outside his house. They have always hated each other, I know not why, and insult each other vociferously on sight. Neighbor Dog’s owner had carelessly left her gate open, so I had to drop my grocery bags and try to restrain my pugilistic pooch while shutting the gate before Neighbor Dog could get out and get really physical. Didn’t work. I managed to catch Neighbor Dog and shove him back in and close the gate before blood was shed, but barely. They kept yelling the canine version of “Yo’ mama” insults while I picked up groceries and hustled Miss Rita home.

Hence the inability to plan any kind of movie fest this weekend, though I did catch a hilarious little gem called The Violent Years (1956) – “Untamed thrill-girls of the highway!” – in which bored teenage girls dress as boys to rob gas stations. When the fun of armed robbery palls, they attack a couple necking in their car, tying up the female half with surprisingly neat strips torn from her skirt and leaving her in the back seat of the car wearing nothing but a slip while they haul the male half into the woods to have their wicked way with him. Pretty racy stuff, but what else would you expect from a screenplay by Ed Wood? Turns out that the whole problem was caused by these misguided teens’ parents working and/or socializing too much and not spending time with them and explaining to them right (doing homework) from wrong (committing felonies). If you’re a parent, take note before it’s too late!

And if you see the Two Grumpy Old Ladies heading your way, flee. And your little dog, too!

Corman & Cocktails


This weekend’s feature presentation was none other than Swamp Women (1955), which marks Roger Corman’s directorial debut. All the signature Corman features were there: the liberal use of stock footage (a dismal Mardi Gras parade, very low on drunkenness and nakidity) and alligators (eek!) and rattlesnakes (ditto!); continuity errors ignored; and lots of leg and heaving bosoms.

The plot-let is that a policewoman goes undercover as a prisoner in an attempt to find some stolen diamonds which were hidden in a nearby swamp (the film boasts that it was filmed entirely on location in an actual Louisiana swamp, stock footage notwithstanding). Policewoman pals up with the diamond-hidin’ chicks in prison. They take to her so immediately that they break out of the big house on what appears to be the very same night. Good thing that the felonious femmes had already cut through the bars on the window, but hadn’t yet escaped.

The rest of the movie is the search for the diamonds in a tiny boat which never runs out of gas, kidnapping an oil baron and his oil-digging wannabe girlfriend, how to make your own very short shorts, lots of gunfire, and fighting over diamonds and the oil baron before justice prevails.

The cast includes Marie Windsor, former Miss Utah and model for Alberto Vargas of pin-up fame, and another former beauty queen, Carole Mathews (Miss Chicago 1938) and dancer in Earl Carroll’s Vanities, a predecessor to the famous Ziegfeld Follies. Carroll was the first to present full nudity on the Broadway stage, though I don’t know if Carol was one of Carroll’s nudistes.

Mike Connors of Mannix fame played the oil baron, billed as “Touch” Connors. Like John “Cougar” Mellencamp, Connors soon ditched the silly nickname. Unlike Mellencamp, Connors had the excuse that a lot of actors were using that kind of name at the time (Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, etc.).

Accompanying cocktail was, appropriately enough, the Ruby Rita (tequila, pink grapefruit juice, Cointreau – woo!), from the Pink Cocktail book my fabulous niece gave her aged auntie for her birthday. Since aged auntie has probably been an Awful Warning all of niece’s life, I’m sure she wasn’t surprised that it was three weeks before she got a thank-you email, when it was about three hours before the gift was put to good use. Sorry, petal!

*A friend of mine has a former beauty queen in her family. She was Miss Small Town several years ago, but she still wears her tiara to family gatherings like Thanksgiving.

Birthday Plans

Given the spate of bad birthdays lately, I decided it’s time to stem that tide. No Birthday Week – just a Birthday Weekend. Baby steps, my friends. Here’s the plan:


Sleep in.

Walk Rita.

Check mail for cards’n’presents.

Mani-pedi. Possible nail art, but I’m leaning toward French toes & fingers.

Walk Rita again to show off Rita and nails.

Bad Girl Bad Movie Fest: She Shoulda Said No (1949): “How Bad Can a Good Girl Get…Without Losing Her Virtue and Self-Respect?”

Accompanied by champagne. As classy as it gets ’round here.


Sleep In.

Walk Rita.

Brunch with friends and admirers, including mimosas, and I’m almost certain, Eggs Florentine.

Possibly more cards’n’presents.

Leisurely shopping for fun things. Probably window shopping, but still.

Birthday dinner: at fancy-pants restaurant, or Do It Myself lobster fest with all the fixin’s. More champagne. Maybe a cupcake.

Not feeling a day older than 18. Yes, yes.

12th Anniversary

It’s our 12th anniversary today, which is supposed to be either silk (traditional) or pearls (modern). John would look pretty stupid in either, so I think we’ll just stick to our anniversary tradition: watching Die Hard, my all-time favorite movie, and drinking champagne, my all-time favorite drink, with my all-time favorite guy. Does it get any more romantic than that?

Speaking of movies: in the spirit of the Top Twenty movie lists at ymdb, here is my top 20. I consider each to be perfect in its own way. List is alphabetical, since this is still supposedly a democracy, but Die Hard is still my total favorite. We all know that a democracy does not mean no favoritism.

All of these are filmed beautifully, and have incredible casts. I see that I seem to have a more romantic turn of mind than I suspected. Who knew?

1. American Beauty: It’s no surprise that this gem was written by Alan Ball, who also gave us the groundbreaking HBO series, Six Feet Under. It has the same clear-eyed yet macabre point of view, and rarely has something so dark been filmed with such light. Owes a nod to Sunset Boulevard (see below), with its posthumous Everyguy narrator. Best moment: when Kevin Spacey’s character quits his job. Haven’t we all wanted to give that speech at one time or another? And isn’t it cathartic to watch Spacey do it?

2. Beautiful Girls: Great ensemble cast. Timothy Hutton plays the one who escaped the small town they all grew up in and comes back for a reunion, to find things are exactly the same, but different. Natalie Portman, in one of her first roles, is absolutely luminous, and you wish that somehow she and Hutton could overcome the obstacles between them (chiefly the fact that she is 13, which should be repugnant on every possible level, but isn’t). Best moment: Rosie O’Donnell’s brilliant rant on why skin mags have ruined men’s expectations of real women.

3. Boogie Nights: Given the subject matter, it should be a whole lot more vulgar. An amazing d&eacutebut for Paul Thomas Anderson. He has the 1970’s down perfectly, hair, make-up and clothes – check out the scene where Mark Wahlberg’s character goes shopping – and the sensibilities, too. The film follows its cast through a decade or so, and while, yes, they are all in the porn industry, it’s really about friendships, dreams, and even love, just like The People vs. Larry Flynt*. Best moment: There are plenty, including the beyond Freudian reversal of words in the scene where William H. Macy’s character says, “That’s my wife with an ass in her cock”. Did Anderson leave it in on purpose?

4. Braveheart: It took a lot of convincing to get me to watch this one (it’s really long! All those battle scenes! What’s with the blue face paint?), but I was immediately swept away by the inspiring, true story of the great Scottish patriot, William Wallace, and his fight for freedom. Granted, the bits with the French princess are silly, and it’s not entirely historically accurate, but who cares? It’s glorious. Interestingly enough, the English are still all messed up by him 700 years later. Just ask at the Tower of London where Wallace was executed and watch them squirm. It’s not marked anywhere, but they still can’t erase him. Factoid: Wallace was tried in Westminster Hall, as was Charles I with similar results. More recently, the Queen Mother lay in state there.

5. Casablanca: What can I say that hasn’t been said a million times and better? Brilliant dialogue (those Epstein twins were something), flawless cast (is anyone cooler than Bogie?), a great villain (the inimitable Claude Rains). Black and white film has never looked more beautiful or conveyed more emotion. Best moment: You already know. Fun factoid: Bogie never says, “Play it again, Sam”.

6. The Commitments: Written by Roddy Doyle and starring a cast of Irish unknowns, tells the story of a band composed of working class Dubliners with not much else to live for. The film shows you the bleakness of their lives and environment without comment, and it forms an effective background for the band’s struggles, their kaleidoscopic relationships with each other, the beauty of their voices and the joy of their performances. Both funny and heart-breaking. Best moment: pretty much all of them, but I’d have to say the outraged Colm Meaney screaming, “Elvis wasn’t a Cajun!” Fun factoid: Andrew Strong, the lead singer of the band, was 16 when the movie was filmed. Jaizus.

7. Die Hard: Still the one to beat, it changed the action movie genre forever. Many have tried, but none have been able to match, let alone surpass it. Alan Rickman is a fabulous villain, a worthy successor to Claude Rains and James Mason with his suave, European elegance and menace. There’s no dead space in this screenplay. The action zips along non-stop, peppered with witty, clever dialogue. May have the most great one-liners of any movie ever. Best moment: The classic is “Yippeekayay” (or however you spell that), but I’d have to go with Bonnie Bedelia’s line, “Only John can make someone that crazy.”

8. Fallen: People bitch about the ending, but in my opinion, it follows its own logic perfectly, from beginning to end, and it’s full of surprises. It does a great job of weaving together horror, mythology, and real life. Maybe demons really do walk among us unrecognized. Look for pre-Sopranos James Gandolfini and Aida Turturro. Best moment: watching Denzel’s character watch the evil nemesis being transferred from person to person on a busy street.

9. Fight Club: One of the best DVD’s, and the first one we ever bought. Love the packaging, love the movie. It’s brilliantly conceived and executed, and Brad Pitt and Edward Norton make a compelling pair. Still fun, even after you know the secret. Best moment: again, that’s a toughie. Given my fear of flying, I’ll say the replacement airline safety cards, showing little cartoon people freaking out in terror. Which is how it really would be. Close second is the kid bursting into tears after witnessing the split-second amendment of the kiddie movie she’s watching.

10. Gone with the Wind: Technicolor all the way, from the look of the film to its melodramatic story. The greatest of the sweeping epics from the Hollywood of the past, when stars were stars. Vivien Leigh never looked as beautiful as she did as Scarlett O’Hara. The furor caused by the English Leigh playing the quintessential American heroine was not unlike that caused by American Ren&eacutee Zellweger playing the quintessential English heroine Bridget Jones. Best moment: once again, you already know. Fun factoid: Selznick started filming before the role of Scarlett was cast. And although Gable & Leigh light up the screen together, they didn’t like each other at all in real life. Leigh was reported to be completely repelled by Gable’s denture breath, and he in turn thought her an uptight priss.

11. Howard’s End: Best of the Merchant-Ivory/E.M. Forster ventures, and so beautifully filmed. Exquisite locations, especially the house of the title, and costumes. The story is essentially that of two well-meaning upper class sisters who get involved in a lower class clerk’s life with disastrous results, but it’s so much more than that. The entire cast is wonderful, including Vanessa Redgrave, who is lit from within despite (or because of) her illness; Anthony Hopkins, who is stuffy but not unlovable; and Helena Bonham Carter, about as different from her Fight Club role as humanly possible. Best moment: Anthony Hopkins saying calmly, “The poor are poor. One is sorry for them, but there it is.” Fun factoid: the house used in the film as Howard’s End is supposed to be the actual one that inspired Forster to write his novel.

12. Last Action Hero: Also directed by John McTiernan, who gave us Die Hard, this clever send-up of movies in general and action movies in particular has been mercilessly trashed by critics, who don’t seem to get the joke(s). Possibly the meshing of the real world and the film world confused them. Rarely has a star made fun of himself as well and as charmingly as Schwarzenegger in this film. Best moment: Charles Dance (yet another charming Euro-villain; I seem to have a real weakness for these guys) saying, “Police! I have just killed a man!” Bonus: the kid in the movie doesn’t have the ubiquitous bowl cut haircut favored in movies and television, for reasons that defy logic and taste.

13. Little Women: The perfect film incarnation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, the film is a visual poem, a painting that moves. Never has snow looked more beautiful. Pre-shoplifting Winona Ryder gives an Oscar worthy performance as the strong-willed and independent Jo, and Christian Bale is a wonderfully romantic and passionate Laurie. I still cry when Beth (played heartbreakingly by My So-Called Life’s Claire Danes) dies, no matter how many times I see the movie. Haunting soundtrack by Thomas Newman, who also gave us the American Beauty soundtrack and the theme for Six Feet Under.

14. Nobody’s Fool: Paul Newman should have won an Oscar for his brilliant, low-key performance as Sully, a small town ne’er-do-well who boards with his former school teacher, played by Jessica Tandy (in her last role, and a swan song that befits such an actress). Sully’s estranged son and his family come to town for Thanksgiving, giving the two men the chance to reconcile. Bruce Willis shows he is capable of more than action movies, as Sully’s employer, enemy, and friend. Best moment is hard to decide on in such a subtle film, but it might be Sully’s grandson “driving” his truck and saying, “It’s a nice truck,” in a reflective voice that suggests a lifetime of owning his own beat-up old pick-ups to come; or his bar crony airily wishing a friend farewell with, “Vaya con huevos.”

15. North by Northwest: It’s hard to choose just one of Hitchcock’s many masterpieces, but this one is so stylish and fast-paced and has such a great cast. Cary Grant is mistaken for an enemy agent by elegant bad guy James Mason, and the chase is on. Best moment: the scene where Grant is chased by a crop duster, of course. Fun factoids: the film’s original working title was “The Man on Lincoln’s Nose”. And Jessie Royce Landis, who plays Grant’s mother in the film, was actually almost a year younger than Grant!

16. Repo Man: Appropriately made in 1984, this dark comedic satire would have won Orwell’s approval. From the opening credits with Iggy Pop’s Repo Man theme to the eerie ending, nothing but fun. Kickass soundtrack. Best moment: Harry Dean Stanton saying quietly, yet vehemently, “Ordinary fuckin’ people. I hate ’em,” followed closely by his description of his enemies, rival repo men the Rodriguez brothers. Fun factoid: the film was shot in LA in six weeks, for $1.5 million, but still went over budget. Cast and crew worked for free for the last three days of filming.

17. Stand By Me: The most satisfying film ever made of a Stephen King story (why is it so hard to make good movies out of good stories? Why?). It perfectly captures the nuances of the story and its characters, and most of all, what I consider to be King’s greatest qualities: he is an excEt storyteller, and remembers what it’s like to be a child more vividly than any author I can think of. These are real kids, in a real place in time. You really feel the summer in Castle Rock. Still breaks my heart to see the radiantly beautiful and moving River Phoenix in this one, the tragedy of his character reflecting that of the boy who played him. Look for Kiefer Sutherland, long before 24, being a small town badass, and Wil Wheaton, before he got screwed over by those Star Trek idiots. Best moment: There are so many! But I’d have to say it’s Wheaton’s “biggest in four counties” moment with Phoenix. And, yeah, what the hell is Goofy anyway?

18. Sunset Boulevard: Gloria Swanson showed tremendous courage in taking on the role of Norma Desmond, the forgotten silent screen star who lives in her decaying mansion on Sunset Boulevard. It must have been painful for her to play what she more or less was in real life, and she uses that pain to create a work of art. She is tragic and magnificent. William Holden plays the hack writer who gets entangled in her web. Best moment: Swanson declaiming, “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small!” Fun factoid: the film originally started with Holden in the morgue instead of the swimming pool, and included other morgue residents explaining how they got there. But audiences of the day (more than half a century ago) were appalled by this, particularly the dead child, so the opening was re-shot. You can see the original opening on the DVD. Wonder if it inspired Alan Ball as much as Holden’s posthumous narration?

19. Titanic: Like Gone with the Wind, it’s a romance set against a historical background, and also shows how disaster and the end of an era affect ordinary people. The work director James Cameron did in reproducing the doomed luxury liner down to its smallest detail paid off. You feel as if you are really there, and it is sumptuously filmed. For example, the scene where the lifeboats are adrift under the starry skies (look for handsome Ioan Gruffudd, now the hero of the Hornblower series and the Forsyte Saga searching for survivors) is spectacular and deeply moving. Not to mention the “King of the World” scene with the leaping dolphins. Best moment: when Kate Winslet’s Rose tilts her stunning hat and we first see her beautiful face, a reminder of when Ingrid Bergman does the same thing in Casablanca, with the same breath-taking effect.

20. When Harry Met Sally: The romantic comedy to end all romantic comedies. Sparkling dialogue, wonderful cast (especially Bruno Kirby) – a fresh new take on the screwball comedies of the past. Best moment: well, yeah, I guess you have to go with the classic on this one and give it to the faked orgasm in the deli. I still think it would have been more effective if Ryan’s character had ended it with, “Sound familiar?”

Happy holidays, everyone!!

*Too similar to Boogie Nights for inclusion in this list, but it’s great. I really do think of it as a love story first and foremost. Courtney Love and Woody Harrelson are magnificent in their awfulness, as is the real Larry Flynt.

Right is wrong

And then again, sometimes it’s not.

All the critics have been drooling over Punch Drunk Love, the latest movie from the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson. I love Boogie Nights, a completely perfect movie of its kind, and expected to like the new one, too. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gone to see it in the theater, since there are so many annoyances inherent in movie-going (you have to go when they feel like showing the movie; you have to pay; you can’t pause it; there are other people there; you have to more or less sit up the whole time). But it turned out to be the first movie we actually walked out on in some time (the debate continues as to whether we actually left Leaving Las Vegas or just wanted to).

All the things that worked in Boogie Nights didn’t in this effort. The harsh SoCal light just made everything and everyone look horrible – and yes, I realize I’m shallow, but everyone looked absolutely terrible in this movie. If I were Emily Watson, I’d be first in line when the botox clinic opened. The story, such as it was, meandered aimlessly, things and devices that should have been funny weren’t even remotely, and it tried so hard to be hip and arty that I just felt embarrassed for everyone involved. Finally, the scene where Sandler and Watson start having sex made us flee before it quelled every urge we’d ever have for the rest of our lives. John restored himself with a cigarette while I restored myself at Mac.

I am one of the world’s slowest learners, but I have finally learned this: if the critics like it, I’ll probably hate it. And vice versa. And no matter what they say, I should just see it for myself and make up my own mind, even if I have to wait for it to be on HBO.

The Majestic

Yesterday, Rufus and I decided to see Jim Carrey’s new movie, “The Majestic”. With its majestic running time of two and a half hours, we figured it would definitely help pass the time and take our minds off our troubles, in the time-honored way of movies since their invention.

It was quite eerie walking to the movie theater. We left the house at 9:30 a.m., and the streets, other than a few scattered, die-hard joggers, were almost competely deserted. So was the theater at 1000 Van Ness; there were only five people ahead of us in line and possibly six people seeing the movie besides us.

1000 Van Ness used to be a Cadillac showroom in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but it was vacant for years and years, its original splendor gradually decaying over decades of disuse. It was renovated in 1998 and converted into movie theaters, a gym, and apartments. The character and beauty of the building was preserved as much as possible, including the adorable bears who have been guarding the facade for nearly 80 years. Here is one of the bears before the renovation, and here he is after.

So it was quite nice to go to a movie featuring the restoration of a movie palace in such a place. Also, most of the film had been shot where my brother and sister live, Mendocino and Fort Bragg, and it was fun for me to identify the various locales. When the film was being shot, it caused great inconvenience to the locals, particularly when the film crew closed off the only bridge into or out of Mendocino for an important scene. My brother told me that although Jim Carrey was well-liked, the residents objected to the fact that the filmmakers brought all their own extras and carpenters and even flag wavers (for traffic control). The area is used frequently for movies and TV shows — “Murder She Wrote” was filmed there for years — and normally, locals are used for some extra work and carpentry. So the fact that this crew didn’t use any local talent at all definitely made them less popular around town.

Despite this, and the long running time, it’s a wonderful movie. It would be easy and obvious to categorize it as Capra-esque, but it’s more than that. The outline is that Carrey’s character is a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter in the days of the McCarthy hearings, who has a car accident outside a small Northern California town and wakes up with amnesia. He looks a lot like a local boy who went missing in WWII, and has to decide if he will accept the identity of the missing boy, or not, and the film then follows what happens after his decision.

I’m afraid it will get trounced at the box office by the current fantasy blockbusters and those films appealing to the lowest common denominator, and those who think of Jim Carrey as nothing more than Ace Ventura won’t give it a chance. But he gives a subtle, emotional, and excEt performance in this film. He is the heart and soul of it. Supporting him is a great cast, including Martin Landau and James Whitmore, and of course, the beautiful scenery of the coast.