16 May 2024

Toto, We're Not in London Anymore, Re-Adjusting to Normal and Writing About A Couple of Films

Northern Exposure

You can pretty much guarantee that the week after being in Europe is not going to be anywhere near as exciting as what you’ve just experienced. I’ve been to the gym. Fought off a cold. Continued my seemingly fruitless search for a literary agent. Resumed work on novel number four. Written incomplete sentences — as you’ve just witnessed. Helped my wife who is still recovering from her broken patella which means doing my fair share of the cooking and cleaning. Finally. I’ve watched a few movies. I’ve watched some TV shows with the wife — loving Northern Exposure (how did I not discover this gem until now? I love so much about it. Janine Turner as Maggie is not only gorgeous but a fun character, I love Darren Burrows as Ed, the would-be director and Woody Allen...I could go on and on and maybe will another time). Finished reading one book, started another. Hung out with daughters (my own). Been doing the grocery shopping. This is something I’d enjoy a lot more were I the only customer. I’m never am. Most people are civilized in a store but others are like coked up Tasmanian Devils. I’ve taken walks. When traveling your walks are generally in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Back home this is not the case. Boring. I’ve also done a lot of sleeping. Why not? Lastly I’ve been thinking and this is something that has been getting me in trouble for many decades. But I can’t resist it. There’s something about thinking that’s so enticing. But if you’re depressed thinking is terrible. Everything is.

I mentioned watching movies. One I watched — for the first time in decades — was The Wizard of Oz (1939) Fleming, a film I grew up with. It used to air once a year (that was a lot in those days) on network TV (there wasn’t much else) I believe around Easter. Of course the wicked witch scared me as did those damn flying monkeys. There was a lot about the film that was relatable to children of both genders (I guess I should say of all genders). There was the love and security of family and home. There were the outside threats. Miss Gulch/the witch epitomizing cruelty and evil that can upset our world. There was the hope of the yellow brick road and the wizard. There was kinship with new found friends sharing a quest. There was the disappointment, the sham of the wizard. But then there was hope again when the man behind the curtain turned out to be benevolent and then the final rescue by the good witch who teaches us that power lies within us and always has. There are universal truths in The Wizard of Oz as well as classic good versus evil. It’s a film that taps into a child’s fears and hopes and dreams. It’s a road picture, a buddy film and it has a few songs mixed in (my favorite: "If I only Had a Brain" -- brilliant). You also have to appreciate the Lollipop Guild and other such touches. It’s still a good film all these years later. There’s been nothing like it, or at least nothing of its kind as good.

Last night I watched Boom Town (1940) Conway with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert and Heddy Lamar (supporting roles by Frank Morgan, who was the wizard in the previously mentioned film and Chill Wills are to be applauded). I’ve never warmed to Tracy. He was a fine actor who appeared in a lot of really good pictures but his characters have never appealed to me. I suppose I’m in a minority here but I don’t find him all that interesting. Gable on the other hand is a dynamic film presence who has made many a mediocre movie watchable and enjoyable. Boom Town is amusing and interesting but it certainly stretches credulity well beyond the breaking point with so many huge fortunes being won and lost with such ease. Colbert is always a delight and Lamar spices up the film considerably. A better director would have done more with the scenic backdrops. As it was this was a competently directed movie.

Anyway, to paraphrase Dorothy Gale, we’re not in London anymore. Life trudges along. One finds pleasures everywhere if not thrills. You never know what awaits. Circumstances have changed in the last year. They’ll doubtless change again. Change, after all, is life’s only constant. 

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