Wednesday, September 24, 2014

For Once in Your Life

You learn better when your belly's full.

Since I had plans to attend honors film class, I made plans to meet up first with a fellow film lover at Cafe 821, where it turned out to be "breakfast all day" Tuesday with discounted mimosas.

Fittingly, since when I go to 821 for breakfast I always order black bean nachos, I did the same tonight.

Only hitch? I requested a half order and was told there's no such thing.What, I dreamt it?

The strange thing about that is that I'd ordered those nachos for five years before the day a server asked me if I'd prefer a half order since I was never able to finish a whole.

Why, yes, a half order would be ideal, I'd told her, surprised that no one had ever told me it was a possibility to do so.

Tonight I was informed that it's not a possibility, just something that particular server does.

Fortunately, my companion was willing to nibble off my plate in a vain attempt to help me do justice to the mega plate of food in front of me.

I still sent back as much as I ate, thereby proving I should be allowed to get a half order.

My fellow film lover took off to pick up his date while I strolled over to the Grace Street Theater for VCU Cinematheque's screening of "Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

It was my first Cinematheque of the fall season and instead of just the usual blase film students, tonight also included an honors class so nearly every seat was taken with earnest artistic types.

Dr. Rob began by listing out the staples of any Stanley Kubrick film: creative cinematography, use of ironic, contrasting music, a melding of genres, realism and innovative visual effects.

"You're really fortunate to get to see a 35mm print of this," he said of the 50-year old classic. "This is probably the only time in your life you'll see this."

Since I've never seen it before, it seemed only right to get to see it the proper way my first time.

Although I'm not big into war movies, I am a huge fan of satire, period details and '60s movies, so except for the absent girl parts, it turned out to be very much my kind of movie.

There was one female character in the entire film and she wore a bikini and high heels while laying on the bed reading under a sunlamp, waiting for her man to come out of the bathroom.

You see, kids, this was back before we knew that tanning was bad for us.

Since it was 1964, she had a soft, curvy body, so unlike the hard body norm of today. It was lovely.

When we see the soldiers aboard the top secret B-52 Bomber, they're reading a Playboy magazine, with the centerfold sporting a newspaper over her bottom.

You know, for decorum.

When they have to go inside the B-52's safe to get the bombing instructions, more nudie picks are taped to the inside of the safe door.

Ah, for the good old days when men had to cut and paste their porn and not just click a mouse.

Because it was a college-aged crowd, there were the usual tittering at that which with they weren't familiar, such as when one of the three Peter Sellers characters had to use a pay phone and insert coins.

OMG, pay phonz, LOL!!

Spare me.

Watching Sellers play three such different characters - the President, the RAF officer and the demented German Dr. Strangelove- was like watching a master class in comedy.

Sometimes you could even spot another actor cracking up in the background.

But honestly, it was just as fascinating to watch a young-looking George C. Scott go absolutely bananas in his scenes, as only a younger man can do.

Clearly most of my memories of his film roles were older roles when he was more staid.

After the film, half the room cleared out and the remaining film devotees discussed it.

I was thrilled when Dr. Rob asked who'd seen the movie before and pointed out that seeing it on a small screen - TV, computer or god forbid, phone- made it come across more rational whereas seeing it on the big screen made it more visceral, the way Kubrick had intended it to be.

Pshaw. Like he had to tell me that.

Discussing Kubrick's influence on subsequent directors, he appealed to the students. "What big film of your youth had a similar plane interior and flying shots?"

It took two guesses before someone came up with the obvious: "Star Wars." Even I knew that and I haven't seen "Star Wars" since it opened in 1977.

Please note, I did see it, though.

After more discussion of how much of Sellers' dialog was improvised (a lot), how Kubrick would do up to 50 takes on a scene and about the importance of editing for impact, he dismissed class.

Walking out, I saw a friend and we stood outside discussing the film on the sidewalk.

He'd been taken with the race issues raised in the film and I'd been struck by the feminist issues.

You see, at the end, Dr. Strangelove proposes a plan for post-nuclear survival where people live underground breeding to replace all those killed.

To do this, he says, there must be a ratio of ten highly stimulating women for every man.

George C. Scott's general character immediately sees the benefit of this, asking if this means that men would have to give up monogamy. That old male fantasy.

Naturally, all the men now see this as a fabulous idea.

Culturally speaking, it's obvious there's been no consciousness raising prior to this film.

After ten minutes of film dissection, he suggested a drink and we headed to the Village Cafe for hot tea with honey (him) and a chocolate shake for me.

You know, the good, old Village, where you can count on some rummy at the bar reaching for his backpack, only to have a half-full 40-ounce roll out of it, clanking on the floor on the way down.

And nobody bats an eye.

A fine place to wile away a couple of hours talking about Hillary's chances, lowering the drinking age, good websites for music shows and historic preservation of the heart of Grace Street corridor.

It's interesting, when you're having your first in-depth conversation with someone you've only known casually socially, you have no idea when you might cross a conversational line or offend with your opinion.

We even trash-talked Smart phones and people who don't like going to movie theaters.

He posited a theory that the older you get, the more comfortable you get striking up conversations with strangers and expressing your opinion to new people.

Hell, by that measure, I was born old.

Tuesday Evening or: How I Never Started Worrying and Love the Conversation. Anywhere, anytime.


  1. his theory has merit. it's like you're gettin' older...yes closer to the other side...DEATH...though we don't really want to deal with that thought...but it's coming ... so why quit when you're losing? Let it out, talk, blab, live, grind away, run your mouth, get to know people, find people, search them out or leave them or tell them where to go. It's your choice.. onward to geezer-dom...a big bang you Slim Pickens character riding that big boy ride down to Valhalla or was it Tralfamadore or Trelleborg? however as a mature adult know when to shut it up....sometimes U know less is more....why dither?


  2. Couldn't have said it better myself, cw!