Decade: 1960’s; Week: May 30-June 5/14

This is strange… For me to look back at the 60’s–the decade before I was born–while my kids are teens is like my father looking back at the 30’s when I was a teenager. I also remember loving music from the 60’s as a teen. If my father talked about 30’s music back then I would’ve thought of that as an ancient time. Anyway, here are the noms:

May 30-June5-14

1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, #42)
2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969, #160)
3. The Graduate (1967, #226)

For Micah

This week’s movie of the week is… The Kid!

I’ll cut right to the chase. Eleven years ago Joy and I experienced the loss of a child. Miscarriages are something that can’t be fully appreciated without experience. Joy called me up at work saying that she thought she should go to outpatients because she had been bleeding. We went. The doctors wouldn’t say for sure whether or not the baby we were expecting would make it, but they decided it would be best if they sent us to the hospital in Saint John. Joy went in an ambulance and I drove our car there. What a lonely ride that was.

The doctors there did finally give us the news that Joy had had a miscarriage. We pretty much had guessed this and prepared for it, but it was still terrible news. News we didn’t want to hear. I remember that one thought just kept going around and around in my head: “I didn’t even get to find out the sex of the baby!” I felt so robbed. Not only did I lose this child, I didn’t get to know him/her. I couldn’t know what s/he looked like, let alone the the sex was.

They told us that Joy would need to spend the night there in the hospital. The picture is as vivid in my mind now as it was while it was happening. Joy and I both lying on a single hospital bed sleeping. And though we slept we were mourning together. We just lost a loved one whom we’d never met. We didn’t know what to think or how to feel. The next morning I called a friend who was a minister. I told him what happened and asked if he could come see me. I still can’t believe the answer. No, he had to be at a staff meeting. From there I went to McDonald’s for breakfast. Joy insisted I go. She always knew how much I loved eating breakfast and how much I loved Egg McMuffins.

Wow… and I thought the car ride was lonely. I sat there looking around at fellow hungry customers as they sipped their coffee and crunched on hash browns. I looked at the teenage cashiers and the middle-aged woman mopping the floor. None of them knew what I had just been through. But there was something about that breakfast that was special. I had just experienced loss and now sat alone, but as I explained in an earlier post, those hard times in life may be sad and trying, but they are a part of your story. They are yours and no one can change that.

Since that day I have thought of that child often. One day I told Joy that we should have named him/her. I suggested Micah, a name I had always liked and since I knew a girl by that name in high school and since there was a male Micah in the Bible, I knew the name would fit either way. At first I thought it was odd that I would often feel like I miss Micah. How could this be–I hadn’t held this baby in my arms; hadn’t looked upon her face; hadn’t tucked him into bed. But then my daughter Erika had said to me one day, “Daddy, I miss Micah.” I guess I’m not so odd.

In The Kid, Charlie Chaplin again does what he does best. The only actor from the black-and-white days of cinema who truly makes me laugh out loud is Chaplin. I had only seen this movie two months ago. Yes I laughed, but I was moved by a scene in which Chaplin’s “Tramp” character is being separated from “the kid.” It’s very sad to watch and I have to say that the child really impresses me with his acting ability. So now  you know the connection. Thinking of that scene brought Micah to my memory. So Micah, my little one, Daddy hasn’t forgotten you. I loved you when you were a tiny bump on your mother’s belly and I love you now.

Congratulations The Kid. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Brigette Helm. She has an important role in Metropolis and communicates emotion so well. And she does so without the luxury of her own voice.
Best Actor: Charlie Chaplin. Sorry Buster Keaton. You are truly one of the greats, but Chaplin is the master. Watching him eat his shoe and perform the dinner roll dance (which Johnny Depp mimicked beautifully in Benny & Joon) in The Gold Rush alone makes him a runaway winner.
Best Quote: “There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.” – Maria in Metropolis.

A little over a year later I went back to that same McDonald’s for breakfast. I looked across the counter to the young woman who asked for my order. I gave it to her, and then while she mashed the buttons on the cash register I said, “I just came from the hospital. My wife and I just had a baby. I have a son now.”

Decade: 1920’s; Week: May 23-29/14

Time for the oldest of the oldies. There are only four movies on the top 250 list that came out in the 1920’s. All four are listed this week. If you haven’t seen any of them, you can find them on Youtube. If not there, try I have my favourite, but I’ll keep that in for now.


1. The Kid (1921, #102)
2. Metropolis (1927, #107)
3. The General (1926, #131)
4. The Gold Rush (1925, #134)

I feel like doing something violent today

This week’s movie of the week is… Taxi Driver!

Sometimes I feel like doing something violent. Don’t you? When I hear about the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, a warlord raiding a village and killing and/or dismembering its innocent residents, families dying of starvation and preventable diseases while rich and greedy folks live right nextdoor. Sometimes I fantasize about a band of soldiers raiding some compound and rescuing the innocents there, and for some reason my thoughts drift to a picture of the aggressors being dealt with. And yeah, violently. Like anyone I believe they should be punished, and punished according to the crime they’ve committed. But should violence be part of that dream? Does it need to be?

Taxi Driver is a very good example of a multi-layered movie. (And should it surprise any of us that we find Scorcese once again at the center of our Movie of the Week?) Some may watch it with expectations of a kick-butt vigilante movie involving guns and Robert DeNiro. If so, we’re let down. Here we simply have someone who has been inflicted with mental pain and instability by the horrors of the Vietnam war in the middle of 70’s era New York City complete with its own horrors. As we watch him we’re not totally sure if we should be cheering him on or mourning a tragedy.

Sometimes I feel it can be therapeutic to sit with a fellow human being and talk about how evil people can be at times. I suppose it can help remind one’s own psyche how wrong theft, violence, murder, and self-absorption are. But I realize that the tension of good and evil are right there before me at all times. I think we all realize that these two realities know no bounds. I am as capable of evil as a terrorist is. I am as capable of good as a benedictine monk is. That tension and confusion we feel watching this movie is something we experience all the time in our own lives.

taxidriver2So those conversations can only go so far–the ones that talk about the evil in others. They most often lead to one of two rabbit trails: 1) We’re talking about it as a way to make us feel better about ourselves. We don’t need this. To feel better about ourselves we can do something good for someone, do something creative, or get outside and play a sport. The mental illness and unfortunate fates of others isn’t needed. 2) We talk about it emphasizing that somehow our world is going down the tubes. We just keep getting more and more evil. Some spiritualize it. Some use it as a reason to not have kids. But really, evil has always been with us. Homicide, genocide, wars, hate, rape, neglect–there is no era that we can point to and say that it wasn’t present. Maybe we should take a positive view of the world and our future. We can fight evil without gossip, violence, or despair. We can fight it with good. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Something I have always appreciated about my grandmother (my sole surviving grandparent right now) is her response to stories of evil. So often when someone’s told of a terrible act of evil they furrow their brow and shake their heads. Maybe even add a “tsk.” For my grandmother, she usually responded with a disappointed and heartbroken, “Ohhhh.” It was like she felt so bad for the person who suffered… and for the one who caused the suffering.

Congratulations Taxi Driver. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: I suppose that Diane Keaton deserves this one, but I just love Jodi Foster’s performance, and at such a young age. She’s definitely my pick this week.
Best Actor: John Cleese. One of the few comedians who gets me excited to watch him perform no matter what he’s in. And he’s awesome in Holy Grail.
Best quote: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?”

I will always hate evil. I will always be angered and enraged by terrible things in this world that are done against human beings (not to mention to animals, nature, etc.). I just hope I will always love good and let it win over.

How good are you, goodfella?

This week’s (May 9-15/14) movie of the week is… Goodfellas!

Every Friday night when I was my son’s age I watched The Dukes of Hazzard. That meant every night I would hear Waylon Jennings wail, “Just-a good ol’ boys.” Now Bo and Luke have virtually nothing in common with Henry and Tommy. I don’t seem to remember the Dukes opening up their trunk, finding a badly beaten man, Bo declaring, “He’s still alive!” and stabbing him several times in the chest to make sure he’s dead this time. Neither do I remember a yee-haw coming out of Jimmy or Frankie. But there is one thing they have in common: a peculiar sense of goodness.

The characters in this movie have an admirable code of conduct mixed with an unorthodox view of justice. They are completely and profoundly committed to each other, do random kind acts ‘out of respect’ and work together through good times and bad. You could say the same about Bo and Luke, though those Dukes are always getting themselves into trouble. And the law just doesn’t understand them. But we do. We love them. For the ‘Goodfellas,’ it’s a little more complicated than that. We might feel the same way about them as we do Bo and Luke, but the violence and gangster lifestyle brilliantly portrayed by Liotta, DeNiro and Pesci send shock waves through our own sense of social justice and morality. They may have a code of conduct, respect and loyalty, but they also have a deplorable numbness to violence and murder. But I think this is what makes this movie so great. We not only witness a tremendous story, we also get to ride the roller coaster of emotions, thoughts, and questions of what we would do in those situations. Martin Scorcese is a master storyteller in this sense. He does this perfectly in so many of his films.

And so go our lives. They are roller coasters to be sure and we are forced to contemplate whether our own sense of morality is healthy or if any contamination is there, like in the lives of Henry and company. This distorted view on life and goodness is captured well in Jack Nicholson’s character, Frank Costello as he says in The Departed, “When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” And the fact that these characters and events are based on real-life characters and events makes this even more of a powerful experience.

Congratulations Goodfellas. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Sharon Stone in Casino. Just the right amount of emotion and characterization. There is no doubt about it that this is her finest work of her career.
Best Actor: Joe Pesci in Goofellas. You’re right Jamie. The “do I amuse you?” scene is the best.
Best Quote:For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster. To me that was better than being president of the United States. To be a gangster was to own the world.” – Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas.

Though the theme this week wasn’t Scorcese, you may have noticed that he directed all three of the nominated movies this week. Movies based on organized crime outnumber just about every other genre in IMDb’s top 250, including war movies. So it’s remarkable that three of the very best of them that are not in the Godfather series are all made by this one director.

Find that interesting? How about funny? How is it funny exactly…?

Theme: Mafia! Week: May 9-15/14

It may sound morbid, but I love mob stories, and some of the best movies are “wise guys” movies. I deliberately left out The Godfather and The Godfather Part II because really, who can compete with them? I’ve found all three of these to be amazing. Riddled with swearing and killing? Well, yeah… sorry about that, but they’re still great movies. So, pick one and stick with it:

May9-15 14

1. Goodfellas (1990, #16)

2. The Departed (2006, #46)

3. Casino (1995, #145)