Monday, October 31, 2011
Horror Week Day 7: The Return
Halloween(1978) Directed by John Carpetener
After viewing the film Halloween on October 30, 2011, I felt compelled to re-enter my Apple Iwayback Time Machine® and travel back over time and space…over space and time…and land on the date…
October 30, 1978
My Apple Iwayback Time Machine ® lands outside the cafeteria of my old high school. I unstrap myself before entering this building from my past. As I ease through the doorway, I immediately see a teenager sitting alone at a table eating what appears to be a rather greasy cheeseburger. I take the seat across from him. Our conversation is recounted below.
The Older: (Extending hand) Hello
The Younger: (reluctantly shaking hands) Hello? Do I know you? It’s funny, but you look an awful lot like my father.
The Older: (Laughing) Well you’re on the right track, but I’ll get to that in a minute. So…it’s the day before Halloween. What are you planning to do tonight?
The Younger: Me and my girl are going to watch a movie.
The Older: Girl?
The Younger: Okay. Okay. Me and a couple of the guys from the AV club are going to watch the movie Halloween if you must know.
The Older: (Pumping Fist) Yes! I’ve come back to just the right time.
The Younger: Look, Mister. Who exactly are you?
The Older: Well, this may be hard to believe, but I’m you. I’ve traveled back in time from the year 2011.
The Younger initially stands as if to protest before slinking back to his seat.
The Younger: (Thoughtfully) I…I believe you. I’ve somehow always known about you, and have dreaded your coming. What exactly is it you want from me?
The Older: Don’t be alarmed. I just wanted you to share your thoughts with me on the movie Halloween.
The Younger: (Clearing his throat) All right. That doesn’t sound too difficult. It’s on Home Box Office tonight. Cable premiere. It’s such a great movie!
The Older: Don’t know if it will stand the test of time.
The Younger: What do you mean? This was the main movie we talked about in school last spring. When I saw it at the theater, the audience was hiding their eyes or gasping or yelling out to the screen, “Don’t go in there.” Like yelling out is going to help!
The Older: I know. I was there, too.
The Younger: Oh, yeah. Since you seem to already know everything, why is it you need to visit me?
The Older: I’m hoping to use you as a conduit for drumming up some enthusiasm for this movie. I can’t seem to do it.
The Younger: Really? I become that jaded over time? That’s a depressing thought. But what about that great story? Six-year-old killer escapes fifteen years later from madhouse to terrorize hometown. It’s got suspense! Thrills! Violence! Frights! Scary Music! P. J. Soles topless! What more do you want from a movie?
The Older: Part of the problem is how often Halloween has been copied or borrowed from or stolen from or whatever it is you want to call it. The plot and the style of this movie seem like old hat at this point. I have seen and you will see many of these types of movies over the next few years.
The Younger: So you’re saying the fact that Halloween is an influential movie and is copied much in the future makes it look weaker? Why is it fair to blame the original movie?
The Older: It isn’t fair. But that doesn’t change my perception of it.
The Younger: Okay. What about the thrills and the chills in the movie?
The Older: They’re okay. But seem a little tamer than I remember. Especially right after seeing The Evil Dead.
The Younger: Whatever that is. What about that great music?
The Older: The score, you mean? I would say an excellent initial use of music begins to be overused by the movies second half.
The Younger: And the acting? Jamie Lee Curtis can really scream and I really like Donald Pleasence.
The Older: He’s a bit over the top, I’m afraid. Always reciting overdramatic platitudes like “The evil has escaped” or “He had the devil’s eyes.” Just too much.
The Younger: Geez, man. What about P. J. Soles topless?
The Older: Well, you got me there. I still like P. J. Soles.
The Younger: (Thinking for a moment) But I think Halloween will stand the test of time, better than say, The Exorcist.
The Older: I disagree with you. Since your standing the test of time quotient is about four years, I’m going with my opinion on this one. I think The Exorcist holds up quite well.
The Younger: That is really heavy. I liked The Exorcist when I first saw it. Now I’ve outgrown it and later you’re saying I will grow back into it? Huh. So your or my opinion on Halloween will change as we get older. So what will we think about other movies I like now? What about Psycho? You must still like Psycho.
The Older: One of my favorites.
The Younger: That's a relief. It’s good to know I don’t become a total asshole.
The Older: You watch your mouth, young man!
The Younger: What are you going to do? Ground me in the hopes I won’t turn into you?
The Older: Good point.
The Younger: I was just thinking that if you’re me years from now, how about throwing me some Super Bowl scores so I can place some knowledgeable bets in the seasons to come?
The Older: Sorry, kid. This is about Halloween. Not Back to the Future.
The Younger: What the hell is Back to the Future? Ah, never mind.
(The Older starts to leave)
The Younger: Hey, where are you going? Can’t you give me any advice for my life?
The Older: (After thinking for a moment) Yes. Avoid Halloween 2. It really sucked. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve really got to go now.
The Older leaves the cafeteria and gets into his Apple Iwayback Time Machine® and sets it in motion. The Younger leans out the cafeteria door.
The Younger: (Yelling to be heard over the roar of the Apple Iwayback Time Machine®) Could you just answer me one question before you go?
The Older nods.
The Younger:(Yelling) Are you the boogieman?
The Older: Yes, that’s exactly who I am.
The Older disappears back into his own time.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
MANHUNTER (1986) vs. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
Horror Week Day 6
Manhunter vs. Silence of the Lambs
These two films are based on the novels Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Both stories are about an FBI manhunt for a serial killer in which the main investigator enlists the aid of the infamous imprisoned serial killer Hannibal Lecter.
But which do I like better?
Will Graham (Manhunter) vs. Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs)
That’s a tough one. Will Graham’s FBI man must get into the head of Dr. Lecter in order for him to get the scent or the feel of the serial killer he is chasing. Clarice Starling also wants to get into Dr. Lecter’s head, but more for information on the bad's guys whereabouts than anything else.
I identify with the Will Graham character a little more than Clarice and William Petersen does well in the part, but Jodie Foster is so damn good in Silence of the Lambs I have to give this a slight nod to those lambs that won’t stop sceaming..
The Tooth Fairy (Manhunter) vs. Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs)
Let’s see: The Tooth Fairy and Buffalo Bill both (as Dr. Lecter points out in Silence of the Lambs) covet. Buffalo Bill covets what he sees everyday and starves large women to easily remove their loose skin. He puts a moth in the mouth of one of his victims to experience the metamorphosis. Dolarhyde “The Tooth Fairy” of Manhunter uses sharp fake teeth to bite his victims and is obsessed with The Great Red Dragon painting by William Blake. He covets the familes he watches repeatedly in the home movies he views at his job. Overall, I think Buffalo Bill is a little more complex, but Dolarhyde did have the more tender moment in Manhunter after he weeps after making love to a blind woman. Still, those pesky moths give this round to Silence of the Lambs.
Hannibal vs. Hannibal
But really, it’s all about Hannibal the cannibal, the psychotic psychiatrist who routinely eats his patients and others but is even scarier in that he is more intelligent and well spoken than those who study or try to understand him. Brian Cox is a very good actor (I think of the screenwriter McKee in Adaptation whenever I see him) and he portrays the intelligent Lecter as very threatening. There is no way I would ever want this guy to pshycoanlayze me- He’s too damn creepy!
Anthony Hopkins’s Lechter may be even more scary because if you didn’t know that he ate people’s faces you could definitely get sucked in by this guy and never know what hit you as you innocently begin to blurt out your most intimate thoughts from his couch. Hopkins as Lecter may be ingrained in me as part of pop culture at this point, but no one is twisting my arm as I go with Hopkins and Silence of the Lambs.
Best Dramatic scene
Manhunter’s gotcha scene has Will Graham hurtling himself through a glass door to try to save the damsel in distress from the evil Dolarhyde. Wait for the SWAT team Will! All hell breaks lose and it’s the scene we the audience have been waiting for.
Silence of the Lamb’s big scene to me is when Hannibal Lecter engineers his escape through…uh…disguising himself behind the ripped off face of one of his victims. Ugh! The scene where the SWAT team comes in to discover the murdered police officers may be the film’s signature moment.
I’ll have to go with Silence of the Lambs once again.
Well is there anything that Manhunter can win here? Well, yes. I think the overall story is a little better in Manhunter mostly because of the nicely paced look at Will getting that 'serial killer scent' back to successfully track his prey. It gets some additional bonus points for the fast tempo music, the fact that it is better than the Red Dragon remake with Ralph Fiennes, and that part of it was filmed outside of Georgia State University while I was going to school there.
Silence of the Lambs get bonus points for having a bit part for B-movie directing legend Roger Corman, Dawn of the Dead directing legend George Romero and featured the only screen credit for "Darla" who so winningly portrayed Buffalo Bill's dog "Precious."
I expected Silence of the Lambs to be on the 1001 list, but I am surprised and glad that Manhunter is there too.
Day after effect: Did make me want to go back and read the Thomas Harris books.
Tomorrow: There must be some movie on this list with a Halloween theme. Let me think on it a minute.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)
Horror week Day 5
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Seeing a film done completely with a handheld camera or on a tripod can give the viewer an intense point of view. I think this was used to great advantage in The Blair Witch Project and if the innovative monster movie Cloverfield hadn’t used the device, that film would have basically been Godzilla.
Paranormal Activity uses a similar device. The whole film is whatever we see from the camera of a man who is trying to record the increasing amount of supernatural activity running rampant around his girlfriend. It’s an interesting film, suspenseful and all that. It has some nice odes to The Exorcist and other horror films. I wouldn’t put it on a list of indispensable films as the latest update of the 1001 book has done, but it’s a pretty good addition to the horror genre. I won’t quibble too much about its inclusion.
The Day (Night) After Effect: I’m willing to give this film bonus points since I got up in the middle of the night after watching it and could have sworn some lights came on that I was sure I hadn’t turned on. Okay, the night after effect makes me give this film a more solid thumbs up and inclusion in my book. Would you ghosts please leave me in peace now?
Tomorrow: Horror films never seem to get Academy Awards. Well, there was at least one exception and I’ll view that for tomorrow with Fava beans and a nice chianti, though I've never really cared that much for liver.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Horror Week Day 4
I know I’m about fifteen years late to the party on this one, but I don’t normally watch these type of horror films anymore. What struck me about my virginal viewing of Scream was that the entire life of most of these teens revolves around an existence populated by the obsession of the type of film in which they are a part of.
This films references some of the films from the preceding twenty years that I remember watching, most particularly Halloween. It’s also interesting that Craven mentions his own film Nightmare on Elm Street. “But the sequels sucked!” or so says Drew Barrymore. There’s even a cameo by Exorcist star Linda Blair! I’m not sure where the Henry Winkler fits in, though it might have been cool if he had been murdered by pyschos wearing Fonzie masks.
It’s also interesting that whenever lead character Neve Campbell tries to say in some way that this isn’t a movie, another character will quickly correct her and point out that yes she is in a movie, though Neve vocalizes her wish that her genre was a Meg Ryan romantic comedy.
For me, there’s a real shortage of sympathetic characters, except maybe Campbell, but I think maybe that’s the point. There’s enough plot twists and mayhem to keep fans of the genre happy and Mr. Craven definitely puts new twists in it.
My two favorite characters are David Arquette as the Barney Fife-like deputy and Jamie Kennedy as Randy, the nerdy kid, who understands the ins and outs of horror movies a little two well.
I don’t think I’ll be venturing further into the Scream movies, but I admit that this one had more than its share of good moments.
Day after affect: Didn’t feel any aftershocks as far as scares were concerned, but there were a couple of moments the next day that I thought, “Hey, that part was pretty clever.”
Tomorrow: I’ll find the most recent 1001 movie listing in the genre I can find.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
Horror week Day 3
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
I have only seen Nightmare on Elm Street once and I admit it was pretty, pretty, pretty scary back in 1984. I remember the third film in the series, Dream Warriors, was pretty good too. Looking at the original now, there’s still a lot of craftsmanship and the Freddy Kruger back story is good, but he’s become a bit of a punchline at this point from overuse. In the first couple of sequels at least, he couldn't slice into anyone without making a quip of some kind. He also won’t die. They kill him. He revives somehow. He comes back. And keeps coming back. I know you can say the same thing about the Frankenstein monster, but that got old after awhile too.
Also, after watching the rawness that The Evil Dead had, Nightmare almost seemed too slick. The scene where Johnny Depp gets sucked into his bed and blood spews all over the room in a gusher is visually impressive, but not particularly scary.
I would still put Nightmare on Elm Street in my 1001 book and would also like to thank the 1001 movies editorial staff at this time for not including any Friday the 13th movies in their publication.
Wasn’t that Johnny Depp? Speaking of Johnny Depp- I showed my fourteen-year-old niece an early scene from this movie with Mr. Depp in it and asked her if she knew who this was. Mind you, this was right after she had been watching Pirates of the Caribbean. She had no idea who it was and when I told her she didn’t believe me. So it goes.
The Day After Effect: Big case of the creeps after seeing this one in 1984. Not too much residual effect in 2011.
Tomorrow: Scream. Another Wes Craven film. I’ve never seen a Scream movie, but it’s in the book so I have to watch it because it is written in that scary book from The Evil Dead that I must do so.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
Horror week Day 2
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Zombies are hot. No, I’m not talking about some bizarre fetish attraction I may have for the female undead. I mean zombies are a hot commodity. I see at the library more zombie novels and anthologies of zombie short stories than I would think the genre would allow. We also have films like Zombieland, Planet Terror and Shaun of the Dead. One zombie movie, I can’t remember which one, had a blurb on its DVD cover that exclaimed. “One of the top 25 zombie movies of all-time!” Since I can’t come close to naming 25 zombie movies, I’ll just have to take their word for it.
Let me see if I have the zombie rules straight, at least in the George Romero universe.
Zombies move about really slowly.
They can easily be knocked down.
They can be killed with a bullet to the head.
They don’t really seem to be that strong.
They aren’t interested in each other, just living flesh.
If they get their teeth in you, you will soon be one of them.
They tend to gravitate to areas where they would have gone while they were alive, but don’t really know why.
This last point seems to be the main premise behind Dawn of the Dead, the sequel to Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead. Hundreds and hundreds of zombies have converged at the local shopping mall as our four main heroes try to fend them off as the undead aimlessly wander through the place that gave their life the most meaning when they were alive.
The film does make the point, and it is pretty funny, how mall shoppers tend to go on their shopping excursions by rote. Either that or Romero just had a friend who could get his cameras into an empty shopping mall because it would be really cool to shoot a film there.
The movie looks a little on the cheap (which can actually be an advantage in the horror genre: See The Evil Dead) but unlike its predecessor, it’s in living color! There’s also plenty of blood, guts, decapitations and exploding heads to keep one from nodding off during the proceedings.
SCTV memory: SCTV had an ongoing skit called The Farm Film Report with Joe Flaherty and John Candy as yokel movie reviewers who only seemed to like films that featured an exploding head scene in it. Whenever they showed a movie clip that ended with someone’s head exploding, they would cheer and shout out “Blowed ‘em, blowed ‘em up real good.” I don’t recall precisely, but I’m sure Dawn of the Dead must have been one of their favorites.
Day after effect: The day after I watched Dawn of the Dead, my ankle became swollen and my gait started to make me appear I was doing the "zombie shuffle" when I tried to walk. Probably just a coincidence.
Tomorrow: I'm going to head to the 80's to see a film I haven't seen in at least twenty-five years.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
THE EVIL DEAD (1982)
Horror week Day 1
The Evil Dead (1982)
The first question I have to ask myself if why have I never seen The Evil Dead?
I guess my answer would be I never though The Evil Dead was essential viewing before!
The 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book says that it featured teenagers that “we couldn’t wait to be killed or be zombified.. Such self-consciousness would come to dominate screen terror.”
Maybe so, but this whole modern horror/slasher genre for me began when John Carpenter’s Halloween was released in 1978. I watched many of the flood of these kinds of films during the next few years (Blood Beach, Friday the 13th, Terror Train, My Bloody Valentine, Mother’s Day, Motel Hell, When a Stranger Calls, Student Bodies (the spoof I seemed to find funnier than others did)Phantasm (a personal favorite), and Kubrick’s The Shining, among many others. I even read an issue or two of Fangoria magazine back in the day, but somehow I missed completely out on The Evil Dead. I may have gone to see Gandhi back then instead-I don’t rightly recall.
Most of these movies weren't that great, but really didn’t aspire to be. Many of the titles listed above have even been remade, and I must ask-Did we really need another version of My Bloody Valentine? (I’ve seen none of the recent versions of any of these movies.)
After viewing The Evil Dead, I realize there’s a thin line at times between being listed in a book of essential film viewing and just being fodder for an episode of Mystery Science Theater. The Evil Dead has no real set up at all other than five college age students go to a remote cabin. We don’t really care about the characters, they’re basically just there to turn into the undead and torment and/or kill each other.
Shot with no real budget by director Sam Raimi, I got to admit that The Evil Dead does have a lot of creativity to it. It reminds me a bit in tone of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Raimi says on the DVD extras that the Romero film was in fact the biggest influence for his film. Highlights of the film include a “rape” of one of the young women by the woods themselves, more than one decapitation and some really effective make-up by Tom Sullivan.
Since I hardly ever watch this type of movie any more, I admit it did bring back a twinge of nostalgia for me. So I think I’m going to blow the dust off my old tattered 1980 copy of Fangoria and watch some more scary movies from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book this week.
Not so Rotten Tomatoes- The Evil Dead’s critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 100%. A higher percentage than Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With the Wind or Casablanca! Nothing dead about that.
The Day After effect-It's the following morning and I admit I can’t seem to get the girl made up to look like a doll repeating “We’re gonna get you... We’re gonna get you” over and over again. In fact, I can’t stop thinking about this movie! I have a feeling horror week is going to be a bumpy ride for someone who doesn’t play in that ballpark anymore.
Tomorrow: Speaking of George Romero, I’ve never seen his Night of the Living Dead sequel, Dawn of the Dead. Since it is in the 1001 book, looks like it’s up next.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
DAY FOR NIGHT (1973, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 14
Day for Night (1973) Directed by Francois Truffaut
Jacqueline Bisset is so mesmerizing in La Nuit Americaine that if she had stared at the camera and asked me to walk off a cliff, I would have had to consider it!
Films au revoir français ... en ce moment.
Friday, October 21, 2011
THE BUTCHER (1969, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 13
The Butcher (1969) Directed by Claude Chabrol
Intellectually, I'm sure I should say something about Chabrol and auterism, or maybe La Nouvelle Vague in general, or perhaps Le Boucher's unusual mixing of genres, the poetic nature of the script, the delicate pacing of the story, or just man's inhumanity to man! But, alas, all I can seem think about when it comes to Le Boucher is how I wish I had had Stéphane Audran as my elementary school teacher!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
BALTHAZAR (1966, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 12
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) Directed by Robert Bresson
Je pleure pour Balthazar! Quatre bonnes jambes, deux mauvaises jambes!
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
A MAN ESCAPED (1956, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 11
A Man Escaped (1956) Directed by Robert Bresson
Bresson's films can be dull-yet exhilirating, pretentious-yet meaningful, hard to fathom-yet easy to understand. I think I'll put off watching the next Bresson film on this list for awhile-but still try to see it as soon as I can.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
BOB THE GAMBLER (1955, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 10
Bob the Gambler (1955) Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
I have a hunch that when Quentin Tarantino worked at the video store that he viewed Bob Le Flambeur on more than one occasion.
Monday, October 17, 2011
LES DIABOLIQUES (1954, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 9
Les Diaboliques (1954) Directed by Herni-Georges Clouzot
Taux d'abord Hitchcock, si ce n'est pas Hitchcock c'est français!
Sunday, October 16, 2011
M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY (1953, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 8
Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953) Directed by Jacques Tati
If you have time to see only one Tati movie before you die...
I would still go with Playtime.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
WAGES OF FEAR (1953, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 7
Wages of Fear (1953) Directed by Herni-Georges Clouzot
I felt like I had just seen something big after viewing Le salaire de la peur.
Friday, October 14, 2011
FORBIDDEN GAMES (1952, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 6
Forbidden Games (1952) Directed by Rene Clement
Jeux interdits is a sad, horrifying, but largely on target film dealing with a child’s view of life after witnessing the destruction of war.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
THE CHILDREN OF PARADISE (1945, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 5
The Children of Paradise (1945) Directed by Marcel Carne
Les enfants du paradis does the impossible. It makes you care for and actually weep for a mime. Comment nous avez-vous l'amour, Baptiste!
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
PEPE LE MOKO (1937, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 4
Pepe Le Moko (1937) Directed by Julien Duvivier
Pepe Le Moko is best viewed back-to-back along with its Hollywood doppelganger Algiers.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
L'ATALANTE (1934, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 3
L’Atalante (1934) Directed by Jean Vigo
The image I will take away from L’Atalante is that of the tattooed man/boy played by Michel Simon smoking a cigarette out of his navel.
Monday, October 10, 2011
THE MILLION (1931, FRANCE)
French Blurbs: Day 2
The Million (1931) Directed by Rene Clair
Le Million is part silent film, part farce, part musical and beaucoup de plaisir.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
FREEDOM FOR US (1931, FRANCE)
One thing you have to say about the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list is that if you like French films, you’ve got much on this list to make you happy! And I mean a lot of French films! So in order to shave some time in going through this list, I think I'll do a couple of weeks of blogs on just French films. Of course, many of these films are on DVDs that have commentaries and I enjoy watching the commentaries and yadda yadda yadda...which takes even more time! It also takes a lot of time to write something or other about these films, so I am going to reduce any commentary on these films over this span to just a blurb for each film. Break it down to the essence, so to speak. Comprendre? I mean what do you say if someone asks you about a movie, anyway? Do you go into a long diatribe about how you think the donkey represented Christ in a Robert Bresson film? No. Usually you say, “It was good,” “It was bad,” “It was OK,” or maybe even if you are at a loss, say “At least Angelina Jolie has a nice butt.”
Hopefully, I can do a little more than “It was good,” or “it was bad.” But I’m sure I’ll use “Catherine Deneuve has a nice butt” at some point. That doesen’t make for the most academic commentary, but if that is the particular insight that sticks in my brain the most, I’ve got to go with it. “Jacques Tati is the Frenchman’s answer to Jerry Lewis!” or “This film brings home the horrors that are French pastries,” might be other examples. Enough delay. The clock is ticking. I’ve broken out my beret, have been listening to Maurice Chevalier's recording of "Mimi" from Love Me Tonight and have been saying Viva La France to my family more than they probably wanted to hear in preparation for this and am now ready to proceed.
French Blurbs: Day 1
Freedom for Us (1931) Directed by Rene Clair
Dans À Nous la Liberté, Clair's penchant pour slapstick se compare avantageusement à la fois les Marx Brothers et Chaplin's Modern Times.
Note: Well, the above was my first blurb. It's not always easy for me to break my impression down to one sentence. Though I do find if you translate what you say into French, it can probably give what you say an intellectual heft that your thoughts probably don't deserve.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
THE HANGOVER (2009), DISTRICT 9 (2009), INCEPTION (2010)
My full name is Rebecca Francis Crabb. In three days I'll be celebrating my twenty-first birthday, though that’s not important because I don’t want to tell you about me. I want to tell you about the most remarkable man I have ever met. That would be my Grandfather, Franklin Crabb.
Grandfather, he’s technically my Great-Great grandfather, was born in 1902, an impoverished son of immigrants. I could tell you how he studied hard in school and became an “A’ student and excelled in athletics. He played in the 1924 Rose Bowl you know-starting left corner. I could tell you how he graduated first in his class. How he met the woman of his dreams in 1925 and stayed with her for seventy-five years until her death at ninety-seven in the year 2000. I could tell you how he became one of the most successful businessmen of his time. Rubber. I believe that was his first business success. It certainly was what put him on the map. I’m sure you’ve heard of Crabb Tires. Feel free to look up the history. He’s where the company got the name.
But Grandfather’s business success didn’t stop there. He knew that every house in America was going to want a television even before he owned one. That’s where he made his real fortune. In televisions, I mean. Now, I don’t want you to have the impression that Grandfather was a cold, heartless business tycoon. Nothing could actually be further from the truth. He gave to charities freely and always championed the underdog. He supported unions, worker’s rights, civil rights and women’s rights.
He was often encouraged to run for political office, but the political arena was the one venture he never entered into directly. However, I’m sure most of you have heard of Miriam Crabb. Grandfather’s wife was the only female Senator in the republic during the 1950’s. If you ever heard the rumor that Ms. Miriam was a potential presidential candidate in 1960, those rumors were true. But the men in those secluded smoke-filled rooms didn’t think it was time for a woman president and they eventually went with Kennedy instead. Miriam turned down a cabinet post after Kennedy’s election and continued in Congress for another eight years. Grandfather accepted an ambassadorship to Norway in 1961. A consolation prize for the Crabb family, I guess. I’m rambling, aren’t I?
I want to tell you a little about grandfather’s family. Seven kids. Twenty-eight grandkids. And I’ve lost track of the number of the great-grandkids. I’m one of them, of course. And I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I tell you that I’ve been his favorite over the last few years. He may be bedridden, but let me assure you, his mind hasn’t lost a thing. You would think a man of a hundred and eight years would lose something, but I don’t see it. He’s taught me so much about life, love, business, and politics. Oh, dear. I almost forgot why I started writing this. I really do carry on sometimes.
You see, Grandfather was actively involved in the movie industry in the 1930’s and 1940’s. He’s always been quite the cinema junkie. I must say he’s turned me into quite a film buff. I know the difference between Kurosawa and Ozu or Fellini and Visconti or Truffaut and Chabrol. Just try me. Anyway, a couple of years back, I came across the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and brought it to him.
He said that he really liked the book, but didn’t think that at his age he would have time to go through them all. I told him sternly that he better make the time. He never has been able to deny me anything, so we began watching. And watching. We discussed every film in the book, or so it seemed. It took us four years to get through them all, but we did it. After we saw the last film on the list, he looked at me sadly and said that he thought by tomorrow it would be time for him to go and would I please gather the rest of the family together to say goodbye.
Today’s the day grandfather wanted to tell everyone goodbye, but I have some news for him and don’t think he’s not going to like it. No, it’s not anything about his condition. He knows it’s his time and he’s ready. But what I’m holding in my hand may change all that. I have mixed emotions about it to tell you the truth. If I were being filmed, I’d tilt what I’m holding up to the camera and show it to you. It’s the latest edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. I know he hasn’t seen most of the new films listed yet. I’ve never lied to him about anything before, and I’m not going to start now.
After I entered his hospital room, I couldn’t help notice his eyes light up as they always did when I came around. If that sounds conceited on my part I apologize, but it’s the truth.
“Hello, my darling. I know all this may be hard on you, but it is about that time,” Grandfather said.
“Grandfather,” I interrupted him. “I think there’s something I need you to see.”
I showed him the cover of the 1001 movie book with The Black Swan on the cover.
He moaned as he leaned his head back on his pillow as far as it would go.
“How many?” he asked unable to open his eyes.
“Only about seven or eight new ones. Don’t feel the need to have to watch-“
“No, no!” It was his turn to interrupt me now. “We have to finish what we started. But I think we need to get right to it. I suppose they can keep the life support running for another day.”
It was good to hear him making a joke, though he barely had enough strength remaining to even crack a smile at his quip.
I plopped my laptop onto his bed
“All the ones from the new list are already on here and ready to go,” I said.
He winked at me and said he should have known his princess would come prepared.
“We better get to it,” he continued. “The grim reaper is waiting is on stand-by.”
The first movie we watched was Inception.
“All you have to do with this one is just assume everything is a dream. It seems intellectually dishonest to me,” I said after the end credits rolled.
“Oh, my dear!” Grandfather said. “I found it a most creative endeavor. I have to disagree with you there, princess.”
The next movie we saw was District 9.
“My goodness!” I said. “Hasn’t doing everything with a handheld camera become a cliché at this point?”
“Oh, my dear!” Grandfather was about to rebut me in more detail, but he stopped for a moment before finally just saying, “How I have always loved…science-fiction.”
The last movie on our viewing marathon was The Hangover.
“Is this what film has come to?” I said perhaps more angrily than I intended. “Where we consider a glorified slob comedy as high art? What next? Should we put Porky’s at the top of the next Sight & Sound poll as the best cinematic masterpiece of all-time?” I posed the question hypothetically, of course. I realized I couldn’t bring myself to like anything on this day.
“Oh, my dear!” Grandfather said for the last time. “Never underestimate a good laugh here and there. It’s a precious commodity. It’s one of the few things we can count on in this cockeyed caravan called life. Do you remember the three elements of film? Or what good cinema should strive to do?”
“Of course!” I said. “Cinema should entertain, enlighten or communicate. If it does one you have an okay movie. If you have two, you have a classic. If you have three, you have Citizen Kane. I haven’t forgotten.”
“That’s my girl…that’s my princess,” he said weakly.
We were now officially finished with the entire list and all supplemental lists. Grandfather nodded to me to bring in the rest of the family, which I did. They all said their goodbyes over what seemed like hours, though it was probably just a few minutes in real time.
He gave me the signal and I set up the laptop once again.
“Everyone!” I announced. “Grandfather has requested…” I was having trouble continuing but knew I had to. “Grandfather has requested to see one last movie scene.”
Some of the family looked confused, but I ignored them and thought only of Franklin Crabb’s final wishes. I turned on the scene from The Seventh Seal that I had cued up. In it, the personified character of Death finally catches up to most of the characters in the film. They do not fear him, but greet him cordially and with smiles. They come to the realization that he really isn’t the boogeyman they thought and accept their fate.
After the last frame of the film faded to black, grandfather passed into the night for the last time, but he too shook hands with death with a smile on his face.
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