A paean to the passion of movies & story tellers, and the audiences that love em both!
“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest…” Willy Wonka, 1971
“Sometimes I wish I’d never met you. Then I could go to sleep not knowing there was someone like you out there.” Good Will Hunting, 1997
“I know you’re wondering, what’s a place like me doing in a girl like this?” a drunk Evie, The Mummy, 1999
Around midnight, I roam the virtual multiplex in my mind until the curtain closes and sleep encroaches. I dash from theater to theater to watch screenings of novels, essays, and poems in progress. In theater D(ee), monsters and magic play at will in Coached in Death and Remains to be Seen. Audience participant Lovecraft laughs the loudest, while Barker and Stoker ask “Is it safe?” (Marathon Man, 1976)
Theater I(eye) runs revolving episodes of the book I can’t seem to finish, or let go of. Four snores and a dozen dreams later I spy a man in a 1940’esque dark suit. Is he following me? He’s muttering ‘to find something—a great truth or misplaced eye glasses—you gotta believe there’s some advantage to the act.’ (Stark, All the King’s Men, 1949)
One theater only does Saturday matinees. It features short documentaries about my misspent youth and ends half way through my terrible twenties. I watch Nickie Arnstein tell Fanny ‘I’d be happy to wait while you change.’ She counters ‘I’d have to change too much, nobody could wait that long.’ I’m glad I only have to watch this psychodrama once a week. ‘Hello, gorgeous.’ (Funny Girl, 1968)
In the lobby, there’s an absinthe and wine bar, but you must be awake to drink. At the concession stand, all manners of gourmet goodies glisten behind well-lit glass cases. Alas, the food is fake, rubberized, with a gloss of polyurethane for added effect; even the gumdrops and popcorn are bogus. I tell the suave waiter in the tux I’ll have ‘A martini, shaken, not stirred.’ (Dr. No; Goldfinger, 1964). The guy in the penguin suit snaps back, ‘Do I look like I give a damn?’ (Casino Royale 2006)
I like to imagine I’m in control here—that this is my theater, these are my raw materials. Isn’t that my name on the marquee? Who am I kidding? My creations are flesh and blood offspring with minds separate from mine. They grow and load their heads with peer perspectives and experiences. A mystically attired Khalil Gibran reminds, “your children are not yours…they are sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.” These precocious progenies take letters and words I place on the page and form their own lego lives. ‘Houston, we have a problem.’ (Apollo 13, 1995)
There are so many choices to make, so little time. Back in the 50’s there were three channels on the telly, and static’y AM radio. FM emerged in the late 50’s, cable TV in the 80’s, then the NET. Now everyone wants 15 minutes of fame, repeated ad naseum on UTube, Facebook, Netflix, with awesome C.G.I. effects… Geezzzzz! In the peanut gallery, in theater R(Are), my favorite philosophers prattle on about my attempts to inject a soupcon of literary flair into the murder mysteries and thrillers vying for attention on Murder Boards. Facing away from the Cumae cave walls, I search for the voice that keeps whispering, ‘Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.’ (Ben Button, 2008). Thanks Fitz, you would know.
Movies are being lorded as a dying art form. Gens X, Y, Z entertain themselves with social media, and mechanically enjoy on-demand gratification. They don’t want to buy the whole cow, just the milk; they want only the song, not the album; the article, not the newspaper (and don’t care who wrote it). What talent does it take to regurgitate the mundane? There’s no apprenticeships, no practice, song and dance, memorization, earnest capture of an audiences’ attention, no talented production staff painting Tick Toc sets, adjusting lights for maximum effect, choreographing the next act. Turing hurries by like the White Rabbit, jabbering about negative numbers and Nazis. He consults a mini-gyroscope and says, ‘Sometimes it’s the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.’ (The Imitation Game, 2014)
In theater ‘S’ for Streetcar, where I depend on the kindness (and critical views) of strangers, my biggest hits (and misses) play. This is a live stage, filled with sand dunes and winds that swirl the sand into silicone dervishes. Next to the abandoned, half-buried streetcar, there’s a solitary palm tree, a jar of bee balm, and several ledgers to remind Hollywood is a profit driven industry built on illusions–mirages. ‘Listen to me…you’re going to get back on that horse, and I’m going to be right behind you…’ (On Golden Pond, 1981)
A shadowy, cartoonish character perches center stage on a barstool in Theater C(ee), reading poems I’d organized randomly into Chapbooks with titles like Misery Loves Husbandry and That’s No Way to Beat a Lady. His voice is heavy with over the top histrionics or perhaps that’s how I wrote the poem? He reminds it’s nearly time to “Exit, stage left.” Is that you Snagglepuss? (Snap out of it!” Moonstruck, 1987)
Archie Gates sits next to the NO EXIT sign, and tosses a piece of oily coated popcorn into the air. Then he gives me a light jab. I must have been dozing, wondering about the folks that read me—that buy a ticket and enter a theater that feature the sometimes absurd, often unconventional events that play out in my head. What makes the midnight special to you, I wonder? Do you send your camel to bed early, or yell ‘cut’ and leave concepts, cares, and woes outside your boudoir? Do you have golden slumbers or nervous nightmares? Your stories and posts inspire, enlighten, and entertain me. ‘No matter what anyone tells you—your words and ideas can change the world.’ (Keating, Dead Poet’s Society, 1989) I hope you know that.
We’re sitting in Theater A, for adultery, which is emblazoned in scarlet letters across velvet drapes. My lustiest story (Grave Goddess) is being produced here—well half of it so far. The male protag is succumbing to the female antag, folks are dropping like insecticid’ed bees, not to mention those men with macabre mutilations…Reservations at the money making dude ranch have plummeted, and no one is hitting their G spot. In my half waking reverie, a teen with freckles and red hair thinks he can help. ‘Listen,’ he says while strumming a bass guitar, ‘I’ve been a kid and an adult. Believe me, adultery isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.’ You’re not helping Danny. (Partridge Family, 1970)
Archie pokes me again, and groggily I blurt, ‘I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.’ (Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard, 1950). He shakes his head and intones, ‘The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before.’ (Three Kings, 1999). I feel myself emerging from layers of sleep. The sun is rising and outside my window, ruby red flowers are waving. From the hallway I hear the pattering of paws, and a voice that screeches, ‘I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!’(The Wizard of Oz, 1939).
That’s a wrap—for now!