My uncle died less than 24 hours after I returned from the North Carolina hospice. The final episode of his life, which began with the diagnosis and ended with his last breath, unfolded over seven weeks.
In seven weeks, his body unraveled. That’s unthinkable. And so I am unthinking. I am in hiding, more or less. My poor family. All the men are gone. First my grandfather, then my father, and now my uncle. We are a collection of widows and children and me, a married child.
Please hurry up, 2010, and bring your friends 2011-2019. Tell them all to be kinder to us than the last year was.
(except to go back to the library)
There are so many books out there! So many wonderful, wonderful books, and I can’t keep up. I’ve enjoyed tasty tidbits (The Magicians, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane) and solemn, Midwestern meditations (A Gate at the Stairs). Meanwhile I’ve also been playing literary catch-up (House of Mirth, Daniel Deronda).
Even if I were to surface from this literary hot tub, there are also so many movies to see! I enjoyed the hell out of Up in the Air — it almost restored the magic to air-travel and certainly restored the spark and chemistry to on-screen romance; and best of all it made me laugh. Also, it upended some romantic comedy conventions that look way better on their heads. But that’s only one down! I still need to see Mr. Fox and Orson Welles and Precious and A Single Man and A Serious Man. Stop me before I hyperventilate.
Thank god I don’t care about rugby. That’s a couple hours of my life I can spend, you know, eating, or talking to people, probably about whatever else I’ve just read or seen.
Maybe this all matters in an outsized way because this is the fun I get out of the Xmas Season. Everyone else is decorating fir trees with strands of joy and peace, or whatever it is the goyim do in December while waiting for the fat man to come down the chimney. Jews go to the movies. So it has been and so it will be.
Step One: Return to New York
Step Two: Return to work
Step Three: Return to normal
The Maltese Falcon
To Catch A Thief
The Return Of The Pink Panther
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
Catch Me If You Can
July 8 – Iron Man (PG13)
July 15 – Vicky Cristina Barcelona (PG13)
July 22 – The Dark Knight (PG13)
July 29 – Hancock (PG13)
August 5 – Tropic Thunder (R)
August 12 – Sex and the City: The Movie (R)
August 19 – Pineapple Express (R)
The Sting (1973)
Robert Redford, Paul Newman and director George Roy Hill generate high-voltage chemistry in this light-hearted yet complex, overtly nostalgic look at 1930’s Chicago con men. Winner of seven Oscars and featuring the famous Scott Joplin piano rags.
Breaking Away (1979)
A teenage cyclist, Dennis Christopher, is besotted with all things Italian in a small Indiana college town. Things seem to be going nowhere for him and his townie buddies (Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley, and Daniel Stern), and he convinces them to take on the students at the Little 500 bicycle race. Flawlessly written by Steve Tesich and directed by Peter Yates.
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Nobody created pure Hollywood escapism productions better than Busby Berkeley, and this musical set the standard. Designed to transport Depression-enduring audiences, the plot involves attempts to put on a show, featuring Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell as the indefatigable Broadway show girls, and Dick Powell crooning the tunes.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Al Pacino plays Sonny who needs money to pay for his boyfriend’s sex-change operation and decides to rob a bank to get it. Things go wrong and he’s soon bogged down in a long, drawn-out hostage situation. Sidney Lumet directed this gritty, darkly humorous drama set in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year.
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Winner of the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars (over “Citizen Kane”), this beautiful film is about a close-knit family in a Welsh mining village. John Ford directed the story, told through the eyes of a young Roddy McDowell, striking an incredible balance between moral seriousness and elegy.
Harold and Maude (1971)
Teenager Bud Cort and sexagenarian Ruth Gordon both like to go to funerals of people they don’t know, and meet to embark on one of cinema’s great relationships. Audacious and heartbreaking, Hal Ashby’s superb black comedy also features a perfect soundtrack by Cat Stevens.
The Defiant Ones (1958)
Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis are opposites unhappily shackled together after escaping from a chain-gang in the South. As they flee from the police, director Stanley Kramer showcases the humorous and moving situations featuring memorable characters the fugitives come across as they fight for their lives.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for his role as a father who will go to any length (even making French toast) to keep custody of his son. Meryl Streep is unmatched as his icy wife who walks out on him and returns to claim the boy, who is played by Oscar nominee Justin Henry. Robert Benton directs one of best acted films of the decade.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
One of the most beloved Westerns of all time with one of the greatest scores of all time (by Elmer Bernstein). Seven mercenaries, including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, and Charles Bronson are hired to protect a Mexican village under siege by large group of bandits led by Eli Wallach.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Steven Spielberg’s scifi blockbuster stars Richard Dreyfuss as a regular guy whose strange obsessions and journey turn fantastically clear at Devil’s Tower. Co-stars Teri Garr as his frustrated wife, and Francois Truffaut, the legendary French director, as a scientist seeking communication with extraterrestrials.
Kicking my feet up in Bath, Maine, en route to Macchiasport. The houses are old, the locals are salty (and eco-friendly!), and the lobster rolls are very tempting. Thus far in my life the only lobster roll I’ve ever had was in Chelsea Market in Manhattan. That’s gotta change.
Back next weekend!
The NYT just published a chart of free outdoor movies for this summer. Here’s my edited list, virtually all of which I’d be interested in going to, though it would take a lot of momentum to get me to Hoboken or Williamsburg on a skool night. I’ve bolded the ones that are REALLY exciting.
Thursday, July 10: “Stand By Me,” Brooklyn Bridge Park
Friday, July 11: “The Wizard of Oz,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park
Wednesday, July 16: “Almost Famous,” Pier 54, Hudson River Park; “Wag the Dog,” Riverside Park
Thursday, July 17: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Brooklyn Bridge Park
Monday, July 21: “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Bryant Park
Tuesday, July 22: “Wet, Hot American Summer,” McCarren Park Pool
Wednesday, July 23: “Election,” Riverside Park; “Michael Clayton,” Hoboken, N.J.
Friday, July 25: “E.T.,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park
Monday, July 28: “The Apartment,” Bryant Park
Friday, Aug. 1: “The Iron Giant,” McCarren Park Pool
Tuesday, Aug. 5: “On the Town,” 55 Water Street; “Mean Streets,” McCarren Park Pool
Wednesday, Aug. 6: “The Manchurian Candidate,” Riverside Park
Thursday, Aug. 7: “Pleasantville,” Brooklyn Bridge Park
Friday, Aug. 8: “The Goonies,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park
Tuesday, Aug. 12: “Manhattan,” 55 Water Street; “28 Days Later,” McCarren Park Pool
Wednesday, Aug. 13: “Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix,” Hoboken, N.J.
Thursday, Aug. 14: “Cabaret,” Brooklyn Bridge Park
Friday, Aug. 15: “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park
Tuesday, Aug. 19: “Velvet Goldmine,” McCarren Park Pool
Wednesday, Aug. 20: “All The President’s Men,” Riverside Park
Thursday, Aug. 21: “Being There,” Brooklyn Bridge Park
Friday, Aug. 22: “Shrek,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park
Tuesday, Aug. 26: “Imitation of Life,” 55 Water Street; “Blue Velvet,” McCarren Park Pool
Thursday, Aug. 28: “The Shining,” Brooklyn Bridge Park
Especially now that I’ve finished the second draft of my book and sent it out to its probable first round of rejections, my favorite thing to do is watch dead TV shows on DVD. First it was My So-Called Life, which I re-experienced, giddily, on Netflix. Now it’s the Wire, which, being five or so seasons, is going to take me longer. I’d heard and ignored hype about this show for years, figuring it would be somewhere on the spectrum of Law and Order, Homicide, and the Sopranos: male-focused, testosterone-y cop drama with lots of posturing and blood-letting followed by snarky courtroom scenes. I could do without.
Only when someone whose artistic opinion I respect told me it was maybe better than the Sopranos did I finally decide to give it a chance. The first few episodes were fine, if a little rough, but to be fair, David Chase’s folks didn’t really get their act together immediately either. Around Disc 3 of Season 1, with the cohesion of the police group and the increased centrality of Omar, one of the more compelling “bad guys” I’ve seen on television, I realized I was really into it. And this clip, from an episode I haven’t even seen yet, is a pretty good explication of why.