12 March 2011

Ramblings After Drinking a Double Latte

Completed my five film tour of Darren Aronofsky's directorial efforts today with The Wrestler (2008). Using the IMDb 1-10 scale, this is how I'd rate his films: Requiem for A Dream (2000) 10; Black Swan (2010) 9; The Wrestler 8, Pi (1998) 7, Fountain (2006) 4. That's one stinker mixed in with some real gems. Next up he's directing one of those Wolverine films with Hugh Jackman. According to Aronofsky it's not a sequel but a stand alone piece. Can't say that I'm excited that he's doing something based on a comic book. Moreover I can say that I'm decidedly undecided. But then I'm quite the old curmudgeon. (Here's my recent post on Requiem and a post from last December on Black Swan.)

Before The Wrestler, I'd watched two real stinkers. Always disappointing when I find that I've wasted a couple of hours on a dud. Usually I have the sense to cut my losses and hit the stop button before too many precious moments from my life have been wasted. But I stuck with the aforementioned Fountain until the end and also gutted out A Bullet For Joey (1955). I watched the former because I was curious to see all of Aronofsky's films, the latter because it starred Edward G. Robinson, one of my faves. Robinson couldn't have saved this film with a naked Kim Novak (shame on me).

I thought I had a sure thing recently with a film called Buffalo Bill (1944). The great William Wellman directed and it starred Joe McCrea with a supporting cast featuring Thomas Mitchell and Linda Darnell. I stuck it out for 40 minutes before seeing the error of my ways. Recommend Buffalo Bill to someone you secretly despise.

Speaking of despising....How about all the guff those chowderheads at Fox are giving teachers these days. Of all the professions to demonize. They portray us as greedy. Most of my colleagues own a modest home (if they have a working spouse, preferably one with a better paying job) and a car, maybe two. Teachers make enough to help support a family but must plan on continuing to work to put the kiddies through university. Vacations are usually of the backpacking, or Disneyland variety although every few years a major production number involving flying across the proverbial pond is possible. The health benefits help make the job tolerable. Most people who enter the profession do not last three years. I can tell you from 20 years experience, its a grind. No we do not, as one conservative dimwit (oxymoron?) said, end our days at 2:30 -- what school gets out that early anyway? There are papers to grade, lessons to plan, parents to call or email, meetings to attend, paper work to fill out, research to be done, etc. What's exhausting is how much one spends thinking about work. You have five classes, maybe 130 students and a whole school to contemplate. You're constantly reviewing the day you just had the day you have coming up. It's a helluva sacrifice to go into teaching because, unlike many of your friends, you're not going to get rich or even close to it. You do it out of dedication, love, a belief -- and now it teacher's who have to sacrifice. I thought it was a sacrifice just going into the profession. And at a time when resources to schools are shrinking and class sizes are expanding. Good luck finding the next generation of teachers after you're done defecating on today's.

Now I'm going to get really controversial. Miley Cyrus hosted Saturday Night Live last week (I believe it was on Saturday) and did a really good job and I rather like her (as a performer, you twit!). I now await a deluge of outraged emails, letters, faxes, telegrams and inner office memos. Bring 'em on.

Speaking of women I like...Dorothy Parker. A tad last famous then Ms. Cyrus and considerably less alive. I've been reading The Portable Dorothy Parker and loving it. She never wrote the great American novel she dreamed of (gee, I wonder what that's like) but she produced a boatload of wonderful short stories, poems and articles. She was, of course, a founding member of the famous Algonquin Round Table. May I be so bold as you recommend her works, particularly if you are unfamiliar with them.

I'm also reading yet another book that has to do with Nazi Germany. The Nazis are both endlessly fascinating and increasingly repellent to me. I keep wanting to go back and time and reason with them. But how would that work? Hey Adolph, that's racist! Yeah, what's your point? I firmly believe that any understanding of humanity and history will be immeasurably enhanced by a study of the Third Reich. You do realize that they just eked into power and came to enjoy widespread support? It's amazing how many willing accomplices they had to their dirty work. Quite frightening, actually.

On a lighter note: A hamburger and a french fry walk into a bar. The bartender says, "I'm sorry we don't serve food here."

Here's something that I might also make you laugh, then again it could make you cry. My good friend's at the website Listserve recently offered a list of Lesser Known Jimmy Stewart Movies. You'll see that the list includes The Naked Spur (1953), You Can't Take it With You (1938) and The Shop Around the Corner (1940). What exactly are theses films supposed to be less known than? Abraham Lincoln? But sadder still are the comments at the end of the list. I invite you check them out. Here's a sampling: "uummm yeah, i don’t know the guy. The guy seems to have had a lot of talent. I’m not a fan of classics or people who where famous before i was born" and "I don’t really know Jimmy Stewart, but the list was entertaining nonetheless." and finally "jimmy who?"

My latest get-rich-quick-scheme: rotary cell phones. It can't miss!


Tudor Queen said...

First of all, thanks for your spirited and intelligent defense of teachers and teaching. I teach at the college level - adjunct, so no benefits, I get paid by the course section - and it's a state-'funded' school so they're attacking us now. I became a teacher relatively late in life, and it turned out to be my dream job. If I won the lottery, I'd show up for work the very next day and every possible day after that. But seeing the contempt not only for teachers but for education and intellectual curiosity, is very depressing.

Secondly, loved your 'all-Aronofsky' fest. I agree with you on the rankings, and would only add that even when the film's a bit of a stinker (yes, "Fountain," I'm talking to you), we're clearly in the presence of a born filmmaker.

As for James Stewart's "lesser known" films, remember that cultural memory nowadays doesn't allow for much more than "Philadelphia Story", "Harvey" and his appearances on Johnny Carson reading his own poetry. Sad.

As for the divine, wicked, sad Dorothy Parker, when I was going through a bout of depression a few years ago, I kept a printout of her poem "Resume" on my desk. It helped.

Dono said...

I stumbled upon your blog recently and bookmarked it--so far it's always worth coming back to. Keep up the good work.

I do have to point out that "conservative dimwit" is not an oxymoron (which indicates seemingly opposite things, like George Carlin's "jumbo shrimp") but rather a tautology (a redundant phrase like "baby puppies" or "left-handed southpaw." Minor quibble, though, as I agree with your points about the teaching profession.