Monthly Archives: July 2016

My First Chapter Sneak Peek

I’ve had a number of people over the last month ask me about my novel.  I know, it doesn’t seem like I’m ever going to publish it.  I assure you I will–in full–in November.  That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t share a little with you right now.

Those of you that have signed up on my email list were given a sneak peek (although it was just a paragraph) a while ago.

So, here is my first chapter.  I hope you enjoy it:

(1)

Matthew Bryerson

December, 1996

That scrawny looking guy that looks out of place amongst all of these people having a good time.  That’s me.  Not the one that lost his map to math lab and took a wrong turn, he is wearing a sweet orange vest though over that nice collared long-sleeve black shirt.  Go B’s!  The other guy standing next to him with the beer in his hand; the guy with the glasses and the short ratty hair, that’s me.  I’m the host of this god awful festival if you can believe that.  Look at all of those debauched little fools dancing around like its Mardi Gras.  Well, at least I get to make sure the music is good at my own party.  Once “Free Bird” hits the ears I know that it is time to jet.  You won’t hear that shit kick’n’ piss tonight.  Look at all those assholes and elbows banging together to some alternative tune that half of these people don’t understand the words to or recognize.  They have no concept of who the artist is, the name of the song, or why the poet wrote it.  All they know is that it has a good beat to slam into each other with in unison so that no one falls over and gets trampled.  I enjoy this kind of music for different reasons.  Right now I just want to listen to the words and try to understand why this song is speaking to me in this moment.  I don’t know why he titled it “Lithium”.  Maybe it was because that is how he felt after taking it.  Maybe that is how he thought he might feel if he took it, who knows?  “I’m so happy…I’m so lonely…Sunday morning is every day…Light my candles in a daze….YEAHHHHH!” Every time I hear it, I try to see myself doing and being those things that he describes.  I never can relate it to Lithium though since I’ve never taken it.  Besides, I think an upper would be more appropriate.  I might act like these guys and enjoy myself.

I used to have fun at these things, but lately I don’t have that much to cheer about.  Now, before I continue, I’m writing this so you get a perspective of what it’s like to be an average guy digging through a trough.  I’ve hit some peaks, but as I write this, I tend to be in what I am hoping is a small gutter with low flow.

That girl’s alone.  I should go talk to her.  I hate this part.  This is the shit that I have never been good at.  She’s alone and waiting and I’m bumbling around with my hand in my pocket trying to think of something clever to say.

Oh, man.  Asshole spilt beer all over me!

I didn’t need that.  It’s one thing to be witless and dry, the wetness adds an anxious bonus.  Now, before I take this plunge, I should probably give you a little back-story so that you get to know me before I make a total and complete jackass of myself while trying to woo this innocent girl with my evil man powers.

Four months ago my life changed…

September, 1996

I woke up to an empty bed and my unhappy girlfr—ex-girlfriend—was packing the remaining portion of her stuff.  What the hell, right?  Well, I kind of saw it coming, but no one—I’m talking no one—wants to go through what those days offer.  So I got up and watched her finish packing.  Yes, it was stressful and I did take my glasses off and rub my temples.  You’ll find that I do that a lot when I am trying to think of something clever to say.

She just kept packing that damn box and didn’t act like I was even there.  The packing kept getting louder and louder with each object that hit the bottom of that box.

Thump!  Thump! THUMP! THUMP!

“Don’t go.  Please, I know how hard it is to live with me.”

That’s about as clever as it gets when I am stalling—pathetic, but honest.

She just kept packing that goddamn box as if I had not said anything at all.

THUMP! THUMP!

“Just…Can we talk some more?”

THUMP! THUMP!

“I know we hashed the hell out of this but….”

THUMP! THUMP!

“COULD YOU STOP PACKING FOR A SECOND AND LISTEN TO ME?!”

THUMP, went one more item as she crossed her arms and glared at me.  I may have come on a little strong with that last request, but I got the result.  It was probably the first time I had her full attention in the last six months.

“Thank you.”

I had to stop and think for a second before I lit the fuse.

“Now I refuse to believe that this entire time that we’ve been together you weren’t happy.  How can you be with someone seven years and not tell them that you’re unhappy?”

Question of fucking Questions if you ask me.

“We had fun.” PRESENT TENSE, PRESENT TENSE! “We have fun.”  I stumbled over that one.

“I love Thursday mornings.”

On Thursdays, we alternated making breakfast in bed for each other.  We hadn’t missed a Thursday in the seven years we lived together.

“You’re a great cook.”

Lie.

“That’s our catch up day.  I love breakfast.  I . . . I love you.”

Stalling again.

“Don’t you see that?  Now, I know that I am miserable, but I have always loved you.  You’re the only one I’ve been with since high school.  If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.”

You can’t see her face right now, but she is mentally slitting my throat; bad time for a joke.

“Seven years.  Do you really believe we’ve been wasting our time?  We can work it out.”

When she stood up and picked up that box, my heart crushed my balls.

“You seem content.  But, if you ever had a feeling at all that we weren’t doomed from the beginning, you’ll empty that box and talk to me.  But if you leave, that means you never really loved me.  It was just words every time you said it.”  Heartless manipulation, I know, but she was leaving with the last box.  

There was a blissful moment there when I looked up into her eyes and I thought for a split second that I had her, but her mind was made up.  When she slammed the door behind her, it was a slap to the face.  I got up and had to say something.

“Seven fucking years!”  I shouted at her.  “What a cliché!”

It’s unfortunate that I am one of those “has-to-have-the-last-word” kind of guys.  Even though she didn’t say anything the whole time, that door slam was louder than any of those expletives I yelled at her.  So I tried to slam the door louder than her a couple of times, but it just never seemed to get as loud as hers no matter how much force I put into it.

I don’t remember a lot of the details that day, except when I broke the news to my “friend(s)”.  You have to tell someone.  They’ll find out eventually and it’s just better to get it off your chest.  It was after practice, and I had a shitty practice.  Everyone noticed.  My best friend Billy sat down next to me after practice when we were taking our cleats and shin-guards off.  I only had what happened with Randy on my mind, as you can imagine.

“Whew, I am one sweaty bastard,” he said.  “I think that was all right for me any way.  You okay?”

No, my girlfriend left me.  How are you?

I really said, “Randy left me.”

I thought that he was going to throw up.  I guess that’s how best friends react.

“Fuck you, serious?” he asked.

I just gave him a look and he understood how serious I was.

“Fuck, sorry man.  What happened?”

I was surprised by all the expletives.  He doesn’t curse a lot—especially with the “for unlawful carnal knowledge” word.  I didn’t know that I had it in me to make him swear so much.

I couldn’t answer his question.  I needed more time to think about it, but I didn’t particularly want to be alone, either.

“Let’s go to Emery’s and we’ll talk about it.  I don’t want to do it here.”

Just a side note, Emery’s is my favorite sports bar.  Wonderful food, any beer you want, and—it’s locally owned so there are no corporate douche bags worried about sales and expanding.  Fucking Cheers man.

Anyways, as I invited Billy to the bar, I didn’t notice the tall drinks of water standing behind me; Davy and Brock.  I would call them friends, but  with friends like these—well, I guess all best friends give each other shit, that’s why they’re your best friends.  Musketeer wise, Davy is to Aramis as Brock is to Porthos as Billy is to Athos.  Yeah, I’m fucking d’Artagnan.  I’m telling the story, I’m d’Artagnan.

So, not noticing them, they heard “Emery’s” and their ears perked up.

“Emery’s?  I’m down,” said Brock.

Before I could say anything, Billy blabbed, “Randy left him.”

“Fuck off man.  Serious?” asked Davy.

I couldn’t describe the look I threw Billy.  I don’t think he felt comfortable with his back facing me the rest of that evening.

“Well, let’s go get some pizza bombs,” suggested Brock.

“And beer,” Davy added as he looked at me and shook his head.  “Shit man.”

We made it across the street and started talking after we sat and ordered our food.  I was definitely ready for sympathy night, but Brock and Davy weren’t selling.

“She basically told me she never really loved me,” I continued.  “I know I’m a fucking asshole, but come on, I made some sacrifices for her.”

That was the point at which I hoped the conversation would lead to my “friends” reminding me of all the sacrifices I did indeed actually make, but they weren’t going to tug on that line.

“Like what,” asked Brock.

I wanted to knock the smug bastard off the back of his bar stool.

“Like staying here instead of trying out,” I quickly reminded him.  “I went to school because she wanted me to.  I wanted to go try out for the Foxes…didn’t happen…I stayed here for her.”

“You were really going to try out?” asked Davy, raised eyebrow in tow.

What the fuck?

“YES…as sure as you’re sitting there.”

I couldn’t let him think that I wouldn’t.

“So go try out now man, you’re free,” said a positive (and appreciated) Billy.

“Next year man.  I missed this year.  Next year.”

Brock shook his head wearing a pompous smile, “I think that’s your problem right there.”

“What?” I asked.

“You’re always putting shit off. There’s no decision making, just excuses.”

“Nice Brock,” said Billy.

At the same time I said, “What the fuck man?”

All Brock could muster at that point was, “Hey, I’m just saying.”

My steam whistle was getting ready to go off.

“Do you have to say it now? Dickhead!  My girlfriend just left me after seven fucking years.  The only woman I’ve ever been with.”

All three of them sipped their beer and ate their pizza.  I lost my appetite.  It was very uncomfortable.  Davy broke the silence.

“Brock makes a good point though.”

“Don’t encourage him,” said Billy.

Davy replied, “No, hear me out.”

He looked at me and smiled, I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, but I knew I was going to.

Davy continued, “When did you finally declare a major?”

Low blow.

Everyone knew I didn’t want to be in school, so how the hell was I supposed to pick a major.  I replied honestly.

“When I had to.”

I wanted to call him a dickhead, but I don’t think he would have heard me.

“How many times did you switch majors?”

The fucking questions! I just wanted them to eat and leave.

“Five times.”

I couldn’t look at them.  I just looked up at one of the televisions and drank my beer.  I didn’t care what was on; it could’ve been “Beverly Hills 90210 for all I cared.  I wasn’t going to look at those assholes.

I could feel their eyes on me for a split second. I know those two bastards shared a smug glance with each other.

Discomfort.

Damn silence.

“What kind of friends would we be if we didn’t point out the obvious,” asked Davy.

At least the douche bag broke the awful silence.

“The kind that do it later,” said Billy.

I could have kissed him.  He took the words right out of my mouth.

He continued, “Like not the day that someone’s been fucked over.  I know he’s an asshole—hell he does.”

“I do,” I said.

Please continue sir.

“It doesn’t mean he needs to hear this shit right now from you assholes.”

They ARE assholes! I don’t know why I hang out with those two.

“Well he needs to hear this,” Brock spouted off.

“I’m sitting right here,” I wanted to hit him.  No one likes it when they’re being talked about like they’re not there.

“You need to hear this,” agreed Davy.

Motherfucker!  I want to kick his ass too.

“You guys are out of line,” said Billy.

Speechless for too long, I got sick of the silence.  I did what every guy I know does when he is having a conversation that is going nowhere and he no longer wants to have it.

“I gotta take a piss.”

And I did.

I didn’t see it, but I imagine Billy shook his head like he always does when he’s disgusted beyond words.

I don’t think I’d do that to them if they were in this circumstance.  I don’t think they know better….but sometimes, friends feel that being self-righteous is the only way to be a true friend.  That’s Brock and Davy.

So the day after my friends reminded me of what an asshole I was, we had a game.  The game was not one to be remembered, but what I do recall was very interesting—I “shared a moment” with someone at that game.

Okay, that sounds weird, I know, but I’m banking on it’s not what you think.  I’m not the kind of guy to get sappy and write about what a wonderful, kooky experience I had and how it changed my life for the better.  As much as it changed me, I don’t have a gift of visions where I go from town-to-town helping people change their futures. Like Kane from “Kung fu”…that would be badass—but…no, not that kind of “moment.”  I don’t write those stories.  I write what I know and I know that it was a perception, but it was a little more selfish than the average, uh, “gift.”  That’s probably why I don’t write those kinds of stories.  Yet again, we are aware that I’m an asshole; well established.

I remember the whistle clear as day as the ref called a foul on Billy for tackling from behind.  The next thing I know me, Davy, Billy and Brock are setting up the “wall”.  Davy was on my left facing the ball.  Billy was on my right facing the ball.  Brock was next to Davy with his back to the ball as he looked to our keeper for directions.

I always get jazzed up when I’m standing in the wall.  It is one of the few experiences in life that can be generally physically painful, but emotionally rewarding at the same time.  It was different that day, my mind wasn’t in the game.

I remember looking into the stands for any sign of Randy.

I also felt that was a great moment to share my pain and frustration aside to Billy.  I’m not sure why, but when you feel shitty, you just want to talk about…a lot.  To anyone that will listen.

“I can’t believe it was all a sham.  I thought she loved me.”

Billy humored me.

“She fooled all of us,” he said, a little distracted.

Yeah, my head was not in the game.

“Man, seven years.  All on one girl,” I said as I turned to Billy.  “One fucking girl.”

“Well,” he replied lowly, “you have to admit, you haven’t actually been beating them off with a stick my friend.”

I jerked my head toward him and glared.

Startled by the abrupt and honest comment from Billy, I heard the ref blow the whistle and as I turned back to react, I remember seeing a white and black checkered sphere spinning toward me as blackness flashed.

Yes.  Right in the forehead between my eyes.

It all happened in slow motion when I thought about it later. I remember being able to read the Adidas label on the ball right before it struck my head.

Billy told me I was out for over a minute.

The light faded in and I opened my eyes.  I woke up to Billy’s out-of-focus mug standing over me.  He was smiling like he just got laid.

“Bright side—you saved a goal,” he said.

Like I’m concerned about the score—we were getting our asses kicked.  I sat up, moaned, wiped the drool/snot from my mouth and felt that red spot on my forehead.  When I stood in the mirror later I could read sadida.

“Bad news—I think you gotta concussion dude.”

Billy helped me up and I don’t remember walking off the field.  I was thinking that it was going to be a late night talking to Billy because I knew that asshole wouldn’t let me sleep if he thought I had a concussion.

I guess everyone clapped when I got up and walked off.  Funny thing, the biggest cheer I ever got while playing was when I had to leave the game because of an injury (I didn’t score a lot of goals).  Billy helped me off with one arm over his shoulder and I made my way.

Now, I don’t know why, but it was like the sun was a perfect spotlight on that girl I saw in the stands.  She stood up from her seat and began walking down the stairs, all in slow motion of course.

I made it off the field as she was making her way down the stadium steps when our eyes met.  She stopped and I felt my heart race.  My head was heavy.  Something was going to give.  Billy lost his grip on me and I hit the ground, knees first.  My head followed as it slammed into the track that enveloped the barrier of the field.

I remember what I saw when I was out again, but it was difficult to describe.  I was in my apartment, it was dark, and there were a lot of people.  I couldn’t hear anything, but everyone looked like they were having a good time mingling, and some were jumping and dancing to the music I couldn’t hear.  I was floating through the crowd, not flying above them, just hovering through them.  I was drawn to a light that was coming from an open door.  Everyone else there didn’t notice it like I did.  I know because I checked.  I felt invisible.  I walked through the door.  I saw the girl I noticed at the stadium as I passed through the doorway and the spotlight hit her at the end of my tunnel vision.

I wanted to find out who she was.

I know that I was “awake” at the game, but everything was fuzzy and I didn’t start to remember anything until after I got home.  Billy was there to make sure that I was okay.  Good guy, but I remember being annoyed because I was tired and wanted to sleep.  He wouldn’t let me.  Like I said, I had an awesome new forehead tattoo. He went and got an ice pack ready and told me to put it over my sadida.

I was inebriated and I just started talking about whatever came to mind.  Of course I talked about her.

“Did you see her Billy?”

“Who?”

“I’m not sure, some girl.”

I felt so tired and wanted to doze off.  Billy humored me; allowing me to babble on.

“She was so…so pretty.  She…was sweet looking and gentle.  I noticed her leaving as I fell.  She had her hair up in a ponytail.”

“I love the ponytail,” he said.

“Me too,” I replied.  “It’s so…so cute.  She had this delicate little smile.  Her hair bobbed up and down as she descended the steps.”

I remember seeing her face in that moment.

“There was this holy glare about her as if she were the only one that stood out among one-hundred people.  I wish I would’ve gotten her number.”

“Okay,” he said.  “You got hit really hard.”

I did.

——

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

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Time To Re-Boot My Life??

I really like this.

thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants

Man…. Hollywood man…. Is it the worst thing going on right now? No. The world has worse problems than this. I am a little sickened by the lack of originality in the movie theatres these days though. If it’s not a comic book movie, or one of the many unneccessary sequels from a movie that there should have been just one of (they call them franchises), it’s a re-boot. What is a re-boot? I’m no expert. If you’re computer isn’t working, you can turn it off and on again, and hope the problem goes away. That’s the only way I know how to fix a computer. I believe the term for that is re-boot. In computer terms it could mean taking something that isn’t working, starting it over, and hoping to God that it works. In Hollywood, it means taking something that already is working, starting it over, and hoping…

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“Who dis?”

It’s no secret to anyone now that I LOVE MOVIES.

It wasn’t a secret when I was 15 years old either.

My idea of a great birthday was playing basketball with my friends at the hoop we had in our driveway all day, and then watching movies in the evening before we slept out on the trampoline overnight.

We’d drink Mountain Dew, eat salsa/chips, and have cake later.

I was most excited about the movies.  Some of my friends weren’t; but it was my birthday…tough shit.

There was a movie that escaped my view the year before that I really wanted to see.  It had John McClane and the Banana Man from “Beverly Hills Cop” in it.   I had forgotten the title because I thought it was stupid, so I told my mother the wrong title of a movie that I thought had a great title (also of a movie that I wanted to see, but hadn’t yet).

Long story…I thought I was going to see one movie, I ended up seething this one and I am DAMN glad I got to see this one (one of my friends was not–again, my birthday… #SuckIt).

Boyz n the Hood” has to be the most educational movie I have ever seen.  Talk about a culture shock for me.  I was a privileged white boy that grew up in a small town with a very close family with parents that did not divorce, siblings that I got along with (within reason), and my cousins lived one house down from us.  I had no idea there was an America like this until I saw this movie.

Like all movies, I’m sure there are instances of hyperbole given certain life dynamics in order to create drama.  In general though, this movie felt like a slice of life.  Much credit has–deservedly so–been given to John Singleton, the then young writer/director of a very instant classic tale of inner-city life in Los Angeles in the late 80s-early 90s.

I loved the dialogue.  There is no other way to put it.  I’m talking L-O-V-E…it was unlike any other dialogue I’d heard in a movie before.

The only people I recognized were Laurence Fishburne and Ice Cube…he was known then for his “controversial” music.  Everyone else was a new face and you’d recognize the majority of them now.  They all started here:

Cuba Gooding Jr.

Morris Chestnut

Nia Long

Regina King

Jaki Brown did not get paid enough.  The movie’s budget was only $6 million…it grossed over $57 million.  You want to talk about the “margins?”  This movie has to be among the best ever made from money spent to numbers earned.

Over 400 words in and I’ve found I really haven’t talked about the movie.  At its basic core, it’s a snapshot of one young man’s life growing up in the inner city.  There is a culture that is captured in this movie that most people had not experienced at this depth if they had not grown up in it.  We meet his friends, his love interests, his father, his friend’s family and their unsavory acquaintances.

Like all great stories, there is humor, drama, tragedy, choices, and above all, the ability for our characters to learn something about themselves.  This movie is not short on any of those points.

I find myself watching it every other year.  I’m just in the mood sometimes.  The second time I viewed it, it was on DVD and I used the subtitles.  That helped.  Since then I have not needed them. I was not privy to the lingo at the time…it was helpful.

In my first viewing, I do remember my friend being annoyed throughout…he didn’t want to watch movies much anyway, let alone one so fresh as this.  He struggled with the environmental aspects and the way that the men talked about their “girlfriends.”  I remember being so ensnared in the different points of view that I’d never experienced before that it was not offensive to me; it was interesting, and I wanted to know more…

…kinda like any groundbreaking movie worth it’s weight should be.

——

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“This is deep…”

There are moments in everyone’s life that cannot be replicated.

Driving for the first time, without parental supervision. Graduating from High School together with your peers.  Waiting in line to see “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” (one I’d rather not relive).  The anticipation of a lot of these things is what makes them great.  There is raw emotion that you feel before “the event” actually happens.

Often times, we build ourselves up for those moments, and when “the event” actually happens, we’re sometimes let down.  I feel that happens more-often-than-not; the “Phantom Menace” is definitely one of those experiences.  I don’t want to wait in line for over 10 minutes for a movie ever again.  I do remember having fun during the anticipation, but when “the event” is a let down, it tends to cloud the joy you had during the anticipation period.

Imagine waiting seven years for a sequel.  Presently, Hollywood won’t even green-light a film series unless there is already a second set of scripts.

Through the 80s and early 90s before the Internet was a major part of our culture, the only entertainment news that the masses were able to get were in Hollywood featured magazines or “Entertainment Tonight.”  For this next feature, I remember vaguely listening to Leeza Gibbons deliver a package on “Entertainment Tonight” while I was focused on eating my dinner.  It was about the ridiculous budget that was continuing to grow and grow and grow as complications occurred during production.  The numbers were outrageous, even by today’s standards, and that is probably why I made note of that in 1990, a year before its expected release.

I remember people being outraged by the decadent numbers.

“A 75 million dollar budget!?  How can a movie cost that much?  Now you’re telling me 75 million wasn’t enough and they needed 13 million more?  Be damned if I go see it!”

I think it grew an additional 14 million dollars on top of the next 13 mill.  Outrageous, right?

I feel that the early intermittent news reports regarding all of this chaos that occurred on set and during production lead to a years worth of buzz.  You want to talk about anticipation?  Everybody was curious, even my grandma, bless her heart.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was released in 1991 a year later, and everyone forgot about the laments regarding the budget.  Every penny may not have been well spent (watch the making of commentaries on the Blue Rays if you don’t believe me), but the effort and nightmares of the budget were well worth it.

I confidently say that this sequel, well out does the original from script, to scope, to effects, and to the overall vision.

I find that when you hear about an outrageous budget, you need to see that money within the confines of the film itself.  I remember “Waterworld” being a movie that would later break this movie’s budget records.  I remember viewing “Waterworld,” which similarly benefited from the budget buzz like “Terminator 2,” and thought to myself, “What the hell cost them so much money in that piece of shit?”

Long story…”T2” held nothing back from showing where all of that money went.  There are three amazing “vehicle” pursuits (the second being when the T-1000 is on foot running down a police car).  The visual effects of the liquid metal T-1000 changed filmmaking.  People (Hollywood people in particular) began to think differently about what was really possible with “live action” and started making ALL things possible to see on film.

The first step in making a great sequel is having the people that were a part of the first successful story be involved in the next.  Actors are always the obvious ones in this endeavor, but I am talking the director, writers, crew, makeup, etc.  When you have a team of people that want to have another go, you can generally be headed in the correct direction.

A little detail that I find great, may not seem like a big deal, but it proves that everyone that was involved in the passion of creating the first “Terminator” movie were involved in some of the decision making in the second.

Earl Boen is an underrated Hollywood character actor.  His role as Dr. Peter Silberman in the first movie is one of my favorite parts.  Silberman offers a very light moment in a pretty serious movie by calling Kyle Reese a “loon.” His line is the quote I used for my blog post on it, and it is one of the lines that has stuck with me over the years.  Probably because it made my father laugh and I remember that joy.  He had a great laugh.

earl b

Point being, Boen’s Silberman is back in the sequel as the doctor that is overseeing Sarah’s therapy at the state hospital.  I find that he is playing the very same, cynical therapist we see in the original, until finally he witnesses what the T-800 and the T-1000 can do, and his mind is blown right before us.  That is a very rewarding fan-service type moment for those of us that really enjoyed his character the first go around.  It lets your audience know, “Hey, we didn’t forget the important subtleties in the midst of our chaotic production,” as they wink their eye.

Pity is not the correct word, but I do feel sorry for some of the people that cannot experience those kinds of anticipations any more.  We can know about every in-and-out of all the things that are happening on a set before the movie is released in some situations.  It’s getting harder and harder for people to create real stories with real surprises, thrills, suspense, and reversals.  If we don’t read about it online, we’ll probably have crucial plot moments forced upon us in a trailer.

I know, I went grumpy old man there…don’t get me wrong, people like me that had to wait are why we don’t have to wait anymore.  It annoyed us a little at the time and we wanted to make things easier on people that were coming up behind us.  Little did we know that yes, “The waiting is the hardest part” Tom, but without it, we generally don’t get the great pay off either.

——

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“Utah! Get me two!”

When I got into high school, my friends started to have an influence on the different types of movies I’d be exposed to. I remember my friends telling me about this movie.

I’d seen trailers for it and didn’t have that much interest.  I recall it had Johnny Castle and Ted Logan in it and a few other people I’d seen, but they were not big enough to put my butt in a seat at the theater.

Then one day, my friend started talking to me about it at school and I was intrigued.

“The old guy in it is hilarious; he punches his boss in the face.”

Sold!

I was 14…and easily amused…I miss that sometimes.

So I rented “Point Break” and watched it with Dad (of course).  We loved it and made it a part of our VHS collection the following year.

I wasn’t new to the whole undercover cop idea; but there was something different about this one.  Most undercover cop movies use the “danger element” as a device to keep the tension at the surface.  This movie wants the viewer to meet the villains at their level.

Take Bodhi.

bodhi.jpg

Surfing is his religion, with a chaser of adrenaline rushes like tackle football on the beach, and skydiving.  He seems like a good Samaritan at first as he welcomes Johnny Utah into his beach bum family, but like all great villains, he soon bears his teeth without mercy.

johnny utah

I always felt that Reeves was born for this role.  When we first meet him, he’s a square.  He “takes the skin off the chicken,” he wears suits to work, and he wants to follow the rule book.  Enter one of my all time favorite mentors from the movies: Pappas.

pappas

I’ve written about Gary Busey in my “Lethal Weapon” post.  I stand by his very underrated talent to this day.  I know that awards for art are bullshit and set themselves up for failure trying to pick winners and losers.  They always pick the wrong ones it seems like.  Busey deserved an academy award nomination for his portrayal.  Like Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” every moment he is on screen is electric. Pappas doesn’t present well as a special agent for the Bureau, but what he doesn’t have in physical attributes, he more than makes up with his moneymaker in his brain case.  He takes on the rearing of Johnny Utah, selflessly, and helps him become a great agent in a very short amount of time by embracing his youth.  

Under the tutelage of Pappas, Utah is able to move from square to surfer dude and well on his way into Bodhi’s crew.   

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of tension.  When Utah almost gets his face eaten off by a lawn mower, you start to suffocate and smell burnt grass alongside him.

There were a lot of “unexpecteds” I found.  Many things you might find have ended up becoming cliches after this movie; but when this was released, it was fresh.  There is definitely sympathy for Bodhi, devil as he might be.  There are thrills, bouts of intense action, humorous moments, and tragedy as well.

I remember feeling a sense of many different movies in one movie, especially when Utah chases Bodhi through a neighborhood on foot.  You have the bank robberies, the skydiving, the unlikely damsel in distress, and the surfing.  The first time that Bodhi puts on the ex-president mask and does his deed, he’s a completely different person that the audience is not ready for.  It’s as if we were lulled into getting to know, understand, and enjoy his company, and the rug is pulled out from under us while we’re on our way to sit down anyway.

In the end we’re left to choose…but we still don’t know which one is the “right” choice.  Why is the FBI agent better than the renegade?  He’s conflicted about the renegade himself…why shouldn’t we be…?

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“So what happens then? Pandemonium.”

Okay, it’s no shock that I loved the movies the 80s had to offer.  A lot of it is fed by nostalgia, but the 80s did have a lot of very original, great stories that were told….

but…

The 90s are my favorite.  I know, that sounds like sacrilege given my post history, but there was something about those movies from the 90s…

I was 14 when I saw this one.  I remember the experience being very surreal.  I was glad my parents allowed me to watch it with them.  I remember not having a lot of interest at first and thinking, “If it’s boring, I can leave and re-read The Hobbit.”

I did not end up re-reading The Hobbit, and I don’t think I blinked.

The subject matter seemed very dry when my mom started telling me about it.  I started wondering if they were going to have enough material to make this three hour movie compelling.

JFK” is many things…compelling is at the top of the list.

courtroom JFK

I believed that John F. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald…end of story.  That’s what all the history books said when we studied it in our U. S. History classes.  I had no idea there could be other thoughts as to any other players involved.  Remember, I grew up in a small town in Southeast Idaho.  “Small town,” key phrase.  Speculation and outside thinking are quelled in places like that.

I remember having a discussion in class in elementary school with my friend Mickey.  Some kids were talking about JFK as we were at that age when we start to ask questions about death, and JFK’s was still the most famous.  Everyone talked about it.  We had a substitute teacher that day and she decided to make herself useful and butt-in on our conversation–teachers, right?  She asked us in a quizzy sorta way, “Who killed John F. Kennedy?”

A barrage of ten-year-olds shouted “Lee Harvey Oswald” or “Oswald.”

….

Slight silence.

Then my very brave friend Mickey said, “El Bee Jay.”

Silence again.  Everybody turned and looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“El Bee Jay?  Who is that?”

The substitute–annoyed–“Lindon B. Johnson…the 36th president of the United States.”

After a few seconds of our WTF faces…the substitute was effective at changing the subject and we moved on.  I was still confused and asked my mom what Mickey meant later.

I remember that she had an “admirable” grin on her face when I posed the question to her regarding Mickey’s comment.  She said, “A lot of people believe that he had something to do with it, but it’s never been proven.”

And that was the discussion.

I remembered the exact moments from Mickey making her revelation in class to my mom’s comment on it as we watched the credit scroll at the end of the movie.  I felt odd, and somewhat unsettled.  I understood what Mickey was getting at all those years ago, but in the end, there’s no clear evidence either way.

For entertainment purposes…that’s how a movie with this subject matter should end; “in question.”

Experiencing it is unique.  A lot of the story unfolds in voice over, on top of blurred shots of jolted flashbacks and reenactments.

jfk

We truly experience the inside of the mind of Jim Garrison as he tries to unfold all of the testimonies, the forensics, and we try to determine through his vessel who are the liars and which of them is just bending the truth; slightly.

It is Kevin Costner‘s finest performance on film, yet people never mention it when they talk about his movies, as his best.  As great as it is, it’s oddly forgettable. It’s not flashy.  It’s not sexy.  There’s no spectacle.  It is just an actor’s honest performance, about a man with convictions that must see things through in a world of “no.” It is his best in every way.

Tommy Lee Jones and Joe Pesci are lights out as well.  What an amazing set of roles for both of these often typecast tough guys.  Amazing departures.

By the movies end, you want to believe and feel our protagonists’ argument all along; but there is a little tickle at the back of your brain that tells you not to.  Years of programming from small town life.

When the credits started to roll, I talked with my mom about the movie.  I really wanted to know if she liked it.  She said she did, but it was begrudgingly.  I remember her telling me she could never see herself watching that ever again….

We’ve watched it together on two other occasions since (grinning).

It’s one of those movies you have to watch multiple times, like-it-or-not, because you’d hate yourself if you didn’t catch everything.  That’s the conundrum, however.  I have watched it five times, and I know that I’d pick up something new on the 6th viewing.

I’m looking forward to it.

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