Wednesday, April 27, 2011

West Side Chore . . . y

I remember years ago, when AFI (the American Film Institute) put out its 100 greatest movies of all time list, a friend of mine printed out the list, and pasted it up in his living room, marking off the movies he'd seen, and making an effort to see them all.

Some of the titles on there weren't movies he'd ever see for pleasure, but he thought it would make him . . . something. Cultured? Informed? A better movie-watcher? Able to brag about it at film snob parties?

I don't know, but I actually appreciated the sentiment. Many, many times, (in this era of NetFlix, anyway) I've watched movies that I didn't particularly long to see, because people said they were good, that they were classics, or influential, or something people talked about all the time, and I wanted to be able to say I'd seen them (I did the same thing when everybody was reading the damn Da Vinci Code).

One of those movies, number forty-one on the AFI list, has bothered me for a long time. It's Robert Wise's WEST SIDE STORY, and I'd thought about watching it a few times before. The story is no problem, I like classic films, and Robert Wise is cool. But every time, the assholes snapping their figures to the music at the beginning has chased me away, like a bunch of Universal Monsters torch-wielding villagers. That finger-snapping thing bugs me so much, it's like a physical pain. Right in the taint.

I put WEST SIDE STORY on my NetFlix queue in 2006. It was around that time AFI made a list of the 100 Greatest Movie Musicals, and WSS ended up at number two. I figured I had to see it. Years passed, and every time it got into my top ten, I'd kick it down again, down around number fifty.

Recently, the gorram AFI put out a revised list of 100 greatest movies, and WSS was on it again (this time at 51). I saw it was creeping up my queue again, but this time I let it go. How bad could it be?

I told Jeff I had rented it, and he wanted to know why. I tried to explain it to him. It was like when we had our horror movie website, and there were some movies we knew we would hate (like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or TEXAS CHAINSAW or HUMAN CENTIPEDE or LEPRECHAUN N DA HOOD), but we had to watch them because they were so revered, or infamous, or requested by our handful of readers. Jeff reminded me that shit like that is why there is no longer a horror movie website between us.

The music is just so grating to me, the stuff with the Puerto Rican and . . . what, Aryan gangs feels so sanitized and phony, and the musicalness of it all has made watching the movie an almost impossible ordeal. And I'm a guy who LIKES musicals.

I only made it one song in the first time. Hearing that "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet" song (which was awful), I had to turn it off, and do something else. I got a little work done (shipped a couple packages, answered angry emails re: packages, mowed my mom's lawn), then went to Facebook and posted about my difficulty.

Immediately, several people commented. My buddy Dave back in Los Angeles (who was always cooler than me, not that that's saying anything), said that not only would I love it if I stuck with it, but I'd be crying by the end. So I turned it back on and tried again.

This time I made it to the thirty-seven minute mark. The only part I came even remotely close to liking was the scene with John Astin, but the moment at the dance when they start they're . . . what do you call it . . . tribal dance fighting, I couldn't bear it any longer. I figured I'd leave it till tomorrow, just to see if I might feel differently then.

And I thought I'd blog about it. That way, if I finish the movie (sometime in June), I can be keeping up a play-by-play of how life-changing it all was.

Rish "East Side" Outfield

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Don't People Go To The Movies Anymore?

My buddy Jeff and I went to a movie tonight, like we used to do, every darn week.

It was a Wednesday night, in a tiny little one-horse theater, so we figured we'd be able to avoid the stuff that really annoys us about going to the movies. In fact, in the whole theater there were only a double-dating couple on the very back row, and a couple of dudes up front, with us in between.

Unfortunately, four of the five annoying boxes about going to the movies somehow ended up getting checked. The douchebags at the front kept a yelling conversation with the couples in the back (we found out where the loudest guy got his hat, how much it cost, and what sizes it came in), kept a loud running commentary on what was going on in the movie ("Man, he got it right in the nuts!"), sent or received a number of text messages during the show, and talked back to the screen ("Stay in the car, you stupid bitch!"). If we only hadn't been able to get good seats, it would have been a grand slam.

Well, better luck next time, I guess.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mildly Stupid Thing of the Week

I had something of a love/hate relationship with the homeless in Los Angeles. I hated them and loved how they . . .

No, I guess it was more of a hate/hate relationship.

So, I saw a homeless guy standing at the edge of a grocery store parking lot yesterday, holding a sign that said "HOMELESS Need Money God Bless." I don't tend to give money to those folks after an encounter with a particularly venomous one in Santa Monica, but I noticed this one like the first Robin Redbreast or haltertop of spring, and felt something akin to my heart warming.

I went into the grocery store, spent more money than I ever have before in my life, then came out with a new set of keys and possibilities. Pulling out of the parking lot, I saw the homeless guy again . . . and he was talking on his cellphone.

Bad form, sir. Bad form.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fix Flix 33

Guess what came out on DVD today?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thumbs Up

I seem to have gotten some kind of ear infection this week, which has made me irritable and uncomfortable for days. I'm unhappy to not be able to run around and do what I want, and the next episode of our podcast is going to be delayed because of it.

Leave it to Roger Ebert of all people to make me feel better about my situation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Somewhat Irritating Thing of the Week

Yesterday, my alarm went off (set to the Jack-FM radio station) to the nostalgic beat of Funky Cold Medina. I've never been a huge fan of the song, but I like Tone-Loc's voice, plus, that "olde skool rap" is my favorite kind.

Today, my alarm went off, and . . . what the bunt? . . . it was Funky Cold Medina again. This didn't ruin my day or anything (until I realized it was Monday again, and I stepped in the same gorram puddle), but if a radio station has, onstensibly, hundreds of songs in its catalog . . . why would they possibly play Tone Loc twice in a twenty-four hour period, let alone the same song in the same hour?

Rish "My Threads Are Fresh And I'm Lookin' Def" Outfield

Friday, April 08, 2011

Thank Colbert It's Friday

I'm not sure why I'm posting this here, except that I believe the Abominable Snowman shows up at some point.

Do you think the songwriter owns his own home yet?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Stupid Thing of the Week

My sister came over yesterday, dropping off my nephew. The boy was complaining, and when she got him out of her car, she discovered tiny black ants on him. We got out the car seat, and discovered there was a colony of these ants inside of it. Kind of horrifying if you don't really think about it. My sister had a job interview, so she asked me if I could watch the boy (apparently, she was planning on just leaving him in the carseat while she had her interview, but the ants ruined those plans).

I told her I was about to eat, but sure, I'd watch him, maybe take him to eat with me. "So, you'll just take him without a car seat?" she asked.

"Sure. I've done it before."

"You have?"

"I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel."

"Alright," she said, "but you probably ought to put him in the back seat rather than your lap."

Minutes later, we drove away, the three year old on my lap, helping me drive.

And let me interject for a moment. Everybody over twenty has ridden this way before. It's how you bonded with a driver, pretended to maneuver the car, looked forward to the power of adulthood. I once drove from Vista, California to Las Vegas, Nevada on my uncle's lap.* The child loves it, and it's not so bad for the grown-up either. It's not a crime, right?

We went to KFC, which was once called Kentucky Fried Chicken, before urban marketing started pulling in billions, just a mile from where I live. We hopped out and went in to grab us a meal, which my nephew refused to eat and got all over his shirt and pants.

A couple of minutes into the meal, a police officer came into the restaurant, and walked up to me.

"Are you the owner of a beat-to-shit blue Subaru that won't start when it's cold and emits a sickening grey smoke like from the very heart of Mordor itself?"

"Yes," I said, and I supposed I knew what it was about.

"I suppose you know what this is about," he said.

"Him, I'd guess," I said, pointing at my nephew.

"That's right," he said. "We got calls that you were driving with a child on your lap. And reckless driving, so maybe you cut somebody off or didn't signal when you . . ."

"Calls?" I interrupted. "More than one?"

"Yes. They gave us your make and model and someone gave your license plate."

That gave me pause. I'm not thrilled with a cop seeing me driving with a kid and pulling me over, but some stranger calling the police and lying to get the cops after me? That seems a bit excessive. Not to mention if it was more than one stranger.

But who am I to judge? That's their job.

So, from the policeman I got the lecture you probably formulated in your head while you read the above. Children under something like fourteen get their vertebrae snapped like a wet towel if they're not in a car seat and seatbelts become guillotines if you don't vote down gay marriage.

Finally, he said, "Well, I don't want to make a scene in front of the boy, so I'm going to let you off with a warning."

That too gave me pause. What kind of scene was he talking about? Beating me with his nightstick, I would imagine. I wanted to ask him if he was threatening to arrest me, or if he was itching to use his Taser. But I didn't. I was upset that the boy had spread honey and catsup all over himself instead of eating. And I was also upset that some people spell "ketchup" wrong.

But I couldn't just let it go. I told him about the ants.

He made absolutely no comment about that, save to say that I needed to find another way to transport the child back home. Otherwise, it was a fifty dollar ticket for breaking the car seat law (plus whatever fines were imposed for reckless driving, child endangerment, attempted murder, probably kidnapping, vagrancy, etc.).

I told him I would call my sister.

"Good," he said, and then he showed his hand. "Since I didn't actually witness any of your infractions, I can't cite you for them, but we want everybody to be safe. You understand?"

I guessed that I did. He still stood there, waiting. And I honestly think that he was waiting for an apology.

I settled for "Alright."

The policeman walked off, and my mind started to reel. Had there really been multiple calls about us? In a ten block stretch, how many cars had we gone by, and how many of those would have seen my attempted vehicular manslaughter? And how many would call the police about it? I even considered that the reason I got such lousy service from the KFC employee (she got my order wrong, and there was no ketchup, let alone catsup, and she had disappeared into the back when I tried to ask for some) was because she was on the phone to the police department regarding the horrible child abuser with the traumatized toddler daring to ask for potatoes instead of coleslaw.

Look, I'll make no judgments, besides the many implicit in this entry. If you like to say that I deserve the moniker of Stupid Thing this week, that's fine.

Drive on, cabbie.

The Notorious Rish Outfield

*I remember it vividly, as I was twenty-nine when it happened.