Daily Archives: February 23, 2015

“I’m going to sleep on the FAT couch, if I can fit through the door.”

It is with a heavy heart that I write this next one.

I had a brilliant plan.  One of my favorite childhood actors was recently nominated for an Oscar after a lifetime of putting in time with his craft.  He finally got a role deserving of him that would allow him the recognition from his peers that he deserved.  I was going to turn this one in with energy after he finally received the award.

Things didn’t work out as planned.  Michael Keaton did not win the Oscar for best performance by an actor in a leading role.

….but….

Awards for art are bullshit any way.  There were probably 10 people this year that could’ve won that Oscar.  Timing is everything.

Michael Keaton in “Mr. Mom” was such a likeable character as the dad that lost his job and stays home to take care of the family while his wife goes back to work. We learned how to do mom’s old stay-at-home-job with him along the way.  How to drop the kids off at school, how to change diapers, what daytime TV to watch, what daytime TV not to watch, and who you should never allow into your life as a stay-at-home-dad.

There is also a great scene where he has to go grocery shopping for the first time with the challenging task of purchasing feminine hygiene products–classic Keaton scene.

I always enjoy scenes where he has to play uneasy or in discomfort of some kind.  That is where high comedy is at full view.

The conflict of adjusting to this new life change is a part of the story, but there is also his wife’s boss who is a misogynist that has the hots for her.  Watching Keaton measure up to her boss when they first encounter each other is priceless.

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The movie is actually a very simple, light-hearted comedy that is fun for all ages.

Was “Mr. Mom” the new American Masterpiece?  No.  Was it a great family comedy? Absolutely, and Michael Keaton was the next new great actor that I wanted to see.

Which I did.

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“Do not speak to me of rules.”

This was my first taste of a “real” war movie.

Hollywood was very good at glamorizing the allies World War II efforts.  “We” win, the villainous Japanese/Germans die.  The allies were heroic, the enemy was often faceless or sniveling when they got screen time.  Allies rarely died and when they did, it was a sacrifice to save many.

This picture was not like that.

I will be on my film history soap box for just a second.  Bare with me.

David Lean was a master of “The Epic Film.”  Cecil B. Demille was credited with being that, but to me, he set the stage for the real master to take over that title.  Lean’s epics were grand and had amazing stories to tell.  Demille got caught up in the spectacle of it all and his scenes always felt like reasons to justify “bigger” and “bigger.”  Lean used a large scale, but he always centered it around a great story.

Demille directed:

The Ten Commandments,” and “The Greatest Show on Earth,” two indisputable “epics.”  The rest of his pictures are debatable regarding that definition.

Lean directed:

Great Expectations,” “Oliver Twist,” “Summertime,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Doctor Zhivago,” and “A Passage to India.”

Of this list, “Summertime” does not appear to sound like an “Epic,” but once you have seen the cinematography choices that Lean made, you realize that it is.

Off my soap box, back to the picture.

The Bridge on the River Kwai” is the other Lean epic that I did not add to the list above. The setting is another POW camp full of British Officers that are tasked under forceful labor to construct a new bridge to aid the Japanese in a supply effort.  This POW camp setting feels like a POW camp.  People are tortured, beaten, disrespected, embarrassed, harassed, and killed.

Instead of a “cooler” like in the “Great Escape,” they use an “oven,” a small insulated encased box that does not give you room to lay down in sitting out in the open of the hot sun.  You can smell the torture of it the first time they take Colonel Nichols (played by the great Alec Guinness) out of it from a short stay.

Alec Guinness to me was just Obi-Wan Kenobi prior to this film.  I was talking to my grandma about how I didn’t like old actors as much as the newer ones.  They just “seem realer” to me and she said, “Oh, really, what about Sir Alec Guinness?”

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I said, “Who’s that?”

“I don’t know if you’ve seen anything he was in,” she said.

My mom piped in and said, “He’s Ben Kenobi from Star Wars.”

I said, “Oh…what should I watch?”

Without hesitation my grandmother said, “‘The Bridge on the River Kwai,’ you watch that and tell me whether or not you like ‘old’ actors.”

Dammit she was right. I became obsessed with Alec Guinness and tried renting as many of his movies that I could find.  I look back at the original “Star Wars” and realized the expression choices that he made just under the surface.  When you view a space opera, you don’t necessarily remember the acting, you look at the spectacle of it all and reminisce about those scenes.  After seeing him in “Bridge,” I started watching all of his movies with an intent focus on him and his approach.  I think he’s my favorite actor.

Not only did this film open my eye to Guinness and his filmography, it changed the way I felt about war movies.  I left with a very eerie, uneasy feeling, and I think that was-no, is-a good thing.

The closing line of the film exudes what we should always ponder before we make the decision to go to war.

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