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I … Movie Maker

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FADE IN:

Stinky, salty sweat all rinsed away, I was walking out of the gym the other day with my friend Ray.

We were BS’ing as we do, when I said, Ray, if I was reborn, I think I’d grow up to be a moviemaker.

Ray roared a belly laugh when I said that. Ray laughs at most everything anyone says.

People love Ray because he makes them feel good. Ray is ice cream and chocolate and sunshine and rainbows blended in a milkshake. Ray is the puppy dog you always wanted. The world needs more Rays.

I love movie theatres and movies. I love the hush and the darkness and the hot, salty scents and the anticipation of what’s to come.

As a kid, I loved visiting the Capitol and the Palace theatres in Hamilton and the Stoney Creek Drive-In theatre.

I loved watching Bonnie and Clyde and Bullitt and Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music and Fred McMurray in The Shaggy Dog.

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Today I love going to my local movie theatre and munching on popcorn and watching Maudie and Passengers and 12 Years A Slave and Dallas Buyers Club and Inside Out and Lincoln and The Martian and Julie & Julia.

Even a bad movie inspires me in some way.

Inspiration is my TNT. Inspiration gets me off my ass.

Inspiration made me plant a tomato seed when I was 8 years old. Inspiration made me begin training to complete an Ironman race. Inspiration made me write a song and sing it before an audience. Inspiration made me fly to Peru and learn Spanish on Machu Picchu’s doorstep.

Inspiration is always the first step.

The creative energy and dynamism that comes together in a movie is akin to Elon Musk designing and building a battery-powered car.

I sit in awe. It’s beyond my ability as an outsider to comprehend.

And yet. I feel the welling of inspiration.

It’s the same with most every talent or occupation out there. Watching from the outside, we scan the magic and wonder how anyone can learn the skills needed to make it appear effortless.

And it’s OK to sit in awe. It’s OK to watch in awe. It’s OK to be inspired.

For a while.

But inspiration is only the beginning. Inspiration is the easy part.

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A really robust life is one where we don’t spend all of our time as observers. The noisy magpies outside my office window know it, even though they’re sitting in the tall pine trees observing me.

And so, to that point (and apropos of last week’s blog about TRY), even though I’ll almost assuredly never be a moviemaker, or at least one you’ll ever hear about, I’m signing up for an online course called:

Aaron Sorkin: Screenwriting

It’s on the masterclass.com website and it may be total bunk but I’m innocently optimistic.

I’ve been an admirer of Aaron Sorkin’s for years.

I loved his writing on TV’s West Wing, The Newsroom, Sports Night and in the movies A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth!”), Moneyballand The Social Network.

Sorkin writes rapid-fire screen dialogue like no one else. Sorkin defines intelligent, cutting wit.

West wing

Why shouldn’t I emulate the ones whom I admire and respect?

If I was starting over again, I’d watch movies with a more critical eye, observing and drilling in on the tiny points that make brilliant shooting stars flash in our heads.

Bittersweet background music, or the slight welling of moisture in the corner of an actor’s eye, or warm amber light striking the heroine’s face at just the right angle are those tiny points that transform shitty garbage into golden treasure.

And just as deeply profound lyrics make a song memorable for generations, so too does great film writing.

We’ve become so accustomed to watching great moviemaking and writing that we often don’t appreciate the talent and energy, the drive and inspiration, the millions of tiny details that make us laugh, or cry, or think deeply about something that we never knew existed.

We watch and grow in microscopic increments.

Movies, like books and music and art, are AMAZING human creations that we routinely take for granted. It’s only in the past dozen years or so that I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the skill-set that has us fall in love with a story on screen.

So this week, I’ll begin a minor new adventure as I share some time with Aaron Sorkin.

I’ve reached the scintilla point, an instant in my timeline, where the sense of inspiration is insufficient. The building coitus interruptis feels a need for completion, a release from the energetic tension.

When Ray and I leave the gym exhausted next week, we’ll chew through the headlines of the past week in our banter.

And when he laughs and brings up an intriguing account of someone he met at the brewery pub where he works, I’ll say, “Ray! That’s a really cool story, can I write it into a screenplay?”

FADE OUT.

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Oh Maudie… Story Of A Life

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Maud Lewis painter

Maud’s bent and twisted body – aged from a physically taxing lifetime –  drew in and, softly, expelled its final breath… at last she drifted away in peaceful silence.

I wanted to reach up and hug her comfortingly, consolingly, in my arms.

You see, some smiles are too rare, too precious, to be drained away like a diamond floating softly to the ocean depths, forever lost to this world.

MAUDIE… the movie. I think it could have been called A Beautiful Life.

I’m a bit of a cinephile… or probably more accurately, I’m a popcornophile who takes shameless advantage of moviegoing as an excuse for a salted-maize addiction.

The storylines and sense of transport I feel within a movie theatre are wondrously dreamlike. There’s an ambience of significance and awe in a darkened theatre that I don’t appreciate as fully when I watch films on the home screen.

What’s on this weekend?, I’d say to one of my young buddies.

In what seemed only a few moments ago, I relished taking the Main West bus to uptown Hamilton with one of my boyhood friends like Renato or Jerome – we’d wolf back the scrumptious Cheeseburger Platter at the Arch Restaurant before ambling down King Street to the Capitol Theatre or Palace Theatre.

I’d plunk my 2 quarters down – earnings from my paper route – onto the counter of the outside front booth, and then it was the obligatory pass by the snack bar for some popcorn and a Kit Kat chocolate bar.

We’d sit in the balcony of the cavernous theatre with the ornately sculptured, curved ceiling, before the screen flashed to life like an early summer sunrise, and then, Bridge Over The River Kwai, or Bonnie and Clyde, or James Bond (the oh-so-sauve Sean Connery variety) began.

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The lights slowly dimmed, the curtain accordioned up to the ceiling.

The opening scene of Bonnie and Clyde began with the “click-click” Brownie camera sounds of the opening credits with black x white still photos of Faye Dunaway (Bonnie Parker) and Warren Beatty (Clyde Barrow) slowly fading away into murderous blood red.

To this day it remains my favourite opening montage to a movie ever. Talk about foreshadowing in the first breaths of a film.

As always, I’m in a constant state of cinematic awe over the writing and directing and acting abilities that can bring me so many real and imagined scenarios. I fall head-over-heels in disbelief at the spectacle, as if Santa really and truly does come down our chimney each Christmas.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there because I’m here today to ramble on about a flick that we saw this week in the local Movieplex: an understated, almost unheard of cinematic wonder called Maudie.

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If ever a movie was made that could grab you by the curmudgeon’s heart and squeeze tender, gentle smiles with its story of unconventional love, this one is it.

The camera leads us along the “small” life of Maud Lewis – a severely arthritic woman passing her life in the rural Nova Scotia backwaters – that had my heart twisted in tender tangles.

What sets Maud story apart from the everyday ordinary is her strong will and capacity for painting simple things in colourful Folk Art-style.

Slowly over the years, an appreciative audience for her simple outdoor nature art scenes grows. In the 1970’s, two of her paintings were ordered by the Nixon White House.

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Maud’s tale of dealing with her arduous physical infirmities and the cruelties of the ones who should love her most is filled with compassion and sentiment so heartbreaking and yet still uplifting. Beautiful, touching, but never falling into syrupy or maudlin.

The mixture of movie art with painting art is lovingly expanded by the aching, alluring Maritimes’ backdrop through the seasons of the year, through the seasons of living.

MAUDIE… An exquisite, small film of a graceful, small life, done in a beautiful fashion that, like a tide returning to the eastern shoreline, brings home for me once again the notion that not everyone needs to, or must live life on the grand stage.

Greatness arrives in many guises, some never seen to the outside world.

No. More important to me is the essence of Maud Lewis, the reminder, that the final sketch of our lives surely should be a verb, an activity… not a noun, a passive observation.

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I’m Dreaming of a … Christmas Movie …

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White-Christmas-1954-15
Sisters …
Sisters …
There were never such devoted sisters
Never had to have a chaperone “No, sir”
I’m there to keep my eye on her …

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I’m a total sucker for chick flicks. 

So I should be one gloriously happy dude at this time of year.

Most Christmas movies tend to fall into the chick flick category, right?

Have you noticed that the Christmas movie racket has gone into overdrive apeshit production?

Old-time comedienne Lucille Ball, in her classic chocolate assembly line sketch wouldn’t be able to keep up with the output of Christmas moviemaking these days … it just might be a syndicate run by Harlequin. The plethora of made-for-TV-Christmas movies has snowballed out of control.

Even my tender girly-boy heart finds most of the Christmas movie scenarios just too cheesy, syrupy, sickly sweet.

Of course I don’t hate all Christmas movies. As a matter of fact I love a lot of them.

Formulas are everything in making a Christmas movie … heart strings must be tugged in just the right way.

A great Christmas movie must have a solid character(s), conflict that moves the story along, and deepset emotions that help us identify with the characters.

What we want is a big EMOTIONAL drive, heartfelt connection to the characters, and a sweet dollop of breath-releasing catharsis at the finish line.

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And truly, to have a memorable Christmas flick, it must contain at least one of the following scenarios (I’ve given examples with each scenario):

  1. Workaholic Character – A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE WALTON’S – The Homecoming
  2. Someone Wants To Shut Something Down – IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
  3. Somebody Dead Or Is Dying – PRANCER
  4. Someone Straight Up Is Santa Claus – THE SANTA CLAUSE, MIRACLE ON 34th STREET
  5. Someone Is or Becomes Unemployed – NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS
  6. Someone Has To Repeat Christmas – A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL
  7. Someone MUST Find Love Via Christmas – ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, WHITE CHRISTMAS, JUST FRIENDS
  8. Car Accident – ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS
  9. A Wacky Mixup – ELF, HOME ALONE
  10. And no matter what, make sure it’s snowing during the climactic scene, which takes place on Christmas Eve.

Sure, I can watch Christmas movies to have my heart twisted until tears spring from my eyes, but really I watch them for the simple pleasure of smiling at the end – of going on a journey with a glorious sunset trailing off into the sea.

So, less than two weeks out, here’s a list of my holiday favourites, followed by a couple of films often mentioned on TOP 10 lists that had a lot of potential but left me disappointed:

Anne of Green Gables (1985) – not a Christmas movie at all, but I first saw it with my little kids years ago at Christmastime, and so it leaves me with a warm Christmas-y feeling. A wonderful iconic Canadian story highlighted by an amazingly precocious Megan Follows as Anne. The beating heart of the story is the theme music by Hagood Hardy that brings a welling of tears to my eyes in its first few bars every time.
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One Magic Christmas (1985) – a quirky Christmas film warmed by charming performances by Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton as Gideon, the guardian angel. The film dives into darker, more realistic themes than you get in most Christmas movies, strange for a Disney flick. The ultimate message of the film is heartening and poignant – even for those who may have long-since stopped believing in Santa and magic.

White Christmas (1954) – the standard by which Christmas movies really should be made. It’s fluffy as all hell but who cares. Snow, romance, classic songs sung by classic voices (Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney), dancing and a just-syrupy-enough finish.

Elf (2003) – goofy and innovative with a Will Ferrell ELF character that is slapstick but not over-the-top crazy. I wish they had worked out a better “Santa” ending in Central Park, but there’s enough charm and humour to make it a keeper.

Prancer (1989) – a somewhat dark film that somehow pulls it off because of a real reindeer and a farm girl that nurses the wounded animal  she believes is Santa’s PRANCER, hoping to bring it back to health in time for Christmas. Filled with earnestness and heartache and hope. If your Christmas is too much take and not enough give, I prescribe hot chocolate, some hot popcorn, and a viewing of Prancer.

National Lampoon’€™s Christmas Vacation (1989) – a zany piece that makes me want to laugh in spite of myself. Poor Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), just can’t get anything right – something I often identify with –  and does such ridiculous things that we all identify from our own worst moments that we won’t even admit to ourselves.
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Home Alone (1990) – an unbelievable storyline of an 8 year-old accidentally left behind from a family trip to Europe. It carries us smiling along with its wit and humour, some touching moments with a lonely neighbour and a madcap finale that could only happen in a movie. Great fun.

It’€™s a Wonderful Life (1946) – a cranky and charming Jimmy Stewart classic with an oddball angel Clarence that takes Stewart on a trip into a world where he was never born. Stewart gives a wonderful performance of a difficult character. A character all of us are familiar with … a person looking to find himself/herself and the struggle for finding what it is in life you really want to do. George Bailey teaches us the most important lesson of all, that life, although a long and challenging road, truly is wonderful…

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and Natalie Wood as a little girl who’s been told by her cynical mother that Santa doesn’t exist steal this film. I like this version a lot more than the updated attempt starring Richard Attenborough as Santa (1994).
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The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – well, I’m a sucker for the Muppets so my bias probably shows here. But, the film possesses heart, whimsy, and an infectious joy. Michael Caine gives a masterful performance as Ebenezer Scrooge and who just can’t love Miss Piggy as Mrs. Crachit?

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The Santa Clause (1994) – Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, who replaces Santa after he falls off the roof. The plot is original, the script is fun, and the pace is surprisingly even. It’s not a classic like Scrooge(1951), or Home Alone or It’s a Wonderful Life, just a pleasant family Christmas film. The characters are likable, even though the parents are a bit clichéd and the film a tad too overly sentimental in places. Just a fun movie to eat popcorn to.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – the Grinch is a character Dr. Seuss could only have written for the malleable face of Jim Carrey. A great cartoon short adapted into a full-length movie with flowing rivers of colour and costumes and of course, the wonderful gargantuously green Mr. Grinch himself. What child could resist such a beautifully evil beast?
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Disappointments:

The Polar Express (2004) – CREEPY!! This is supposed to be serious animation but it just gives me the willies. I don’t like horror movies and this qualifies as one that gives me bad dreams.

A Christmas Story (1983) – little Ralphie and his dad are both characters who push my irritation button from the get-go for no particular reason. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’d like to take that Red Ryder BB gun and aim it directly at Ralphie and his obnoxious dad.

………………..

It’s nostalgic to watch an old friend – a movie we love –  each year as a tradition. It’s Nanaimo bar or Mom’s fruitcake without the scale creep.

Movies, like songs, take us back to years and events in our own lives that play inside our heads, inside our dreams.

And what is Christmas all about if it isn’t about dreams.

charlie brown xmas

Writing For Myself …

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Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

I saw the movie THE MARTIAN the other night.

The popcorn –meh – was only one thumb up but the film was two thumbs interstellar high.

I felt a whack of deja vu as Matt Damon, sitting solitary, totally alone on a strange planet, growing potatoes in his own shit … played Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball on a deserted island.

Blog writing is me playing Matt Damon, sitting here on Mars talking to myself … and lucky you, you get to listen in on my inner workings…

Writing affords me the opportunity to talk to myself and decide what I’m all about … I’m growing potatoes in my own shit just sitting here and looking inside myself and the world around me.

It’s like flipping a sock inside out and getting to see my own insides, smelly yes, but a part of me.

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And here’s an example of something I’ve learned:

Two years ago I thought that “sure”, I might have a novel in me, so I took on the challenge of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) … an online 30 day challenge with the goal of writing a complete novel, start to finish.

NaNoWriMo was a fantastic exercise and I managed to eke out an astounding 50,000 words in a novel format in 30 days … OK, I’ll admit the end result was pretty crappy … with a few minor bursts of brilliance (if I do say so myself).

But more importantly I learned – or confirmed – something abut myself that carries over to other areas of my life .

My little life “AHA” was that I’m not one to sit for long long periods of time writing lengthy chapters. I love the idea. But that’s not good enough. NOPE.

My restless, ADHD-type personality just isn’t suited to the full-length novel form. Margaret Atwood or Stephen King ain’t in me.

But writing blog posts is the perfect pastime for those of us who enjoy writing but suffer from short attention spans.

I love writing about 1,000 words each week. Since I’ve been doing this for 3 and a half years now and still enjoy it, I think blogging and I are perfect companions.

A reasonable writing output for most serious writers is probably something along the lines of 1,000 words in a 4 hour sitting.

For me, it works out more like 200-250 words per sitting spread out in 4 one -hour bursts interspersed throughout the week.

Each post sends me down the gritty foxhole that is my mind to explore and dig through my memories and experiences and imagination.

There are countless things I find inside my head that I would have never dreamed existed and yet, by dint of some magical mystery tour, they arise and percolate to the surface like oil crude bubbling through the ground for Jed in the Beverly Hillbillies.

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Another lesson I’ve learned?

When pecking out a blog post:

All that matters are the words you write. Nothing else.

When you write your inner thoughts, it doesn’t matter (and it shouldn’t) what others are going to think about it.

When I write, I have to stop worrying about whether or not people are going to like my story, whether or not someone’s going to read it, whether or not they’ll care. I don’t want to hurt anyone in my writing but beyond that, the horizon is clear.

And it’s not about saying something that no one else ever thought of saying, but about saying it in my own voice. And that’s something we all have.

Writing is about finding the courage to write. Courage to say things that hopefully are meaningful but that we don’t often say out loud.

Fear is this construct usually made up inside our heads. A tiny bit of respectful fear is good … we don’t want to jump into the Niagara River above the Falls. That is a good fear.

But most fear is irrational. It’s our mind, our head, playing crappy nasty games with us trying to tell us there are gruesome monsters in the closet.

And courage is all about realizing that some things are more important than fear.

Matt Damon was all alone on a hostile planet with no one to talk to … no one to guide him. But he turned the bastard voices off, or at least down, and took one step forward and then another step and refused to say die.

We all contain the seeds of courage and the inner strength to turn down the irrational voices – living in the moment – and just live for ourselves.

It’s a tiny step, but writing these words to you is me discovering and nurturing a small seed of courage.

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What Movie Plays In YOUR Head?

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To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

   Woody Allen – Love and Death

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I’m a dreamer.

Sometimes my entire life seems like a movie – almost another dimension that I view from some heaven-like place far removed.

I spend a whole lot of time inside my head envisioning things I’ve done and enjoyed or things I’d like to do and enjoy.

Occasionally I relive the bad stuff too, but it usually gets nudged out by the positive thoughts. A baby’s birth seems to stick more readily than a loved one’s funeral. Isn’t the human mind great?

A little voiced narrative runs through my head as if Woody Allen was in there writing a screenplay for his next flick. I could be a little neurotic New York Jewish guy soooo easily.

My narrative sometimes involves a group of us pre-pubescent Canuck schoolboys dreaming of future lives as hockey stars with nubile little puck-bunnies swarming around.

We don’t really know what to do or say with these cuties yet – even if we feel a pleasurable stiffening in our jeans – but we know there’s something tantalizing and special about them and one day we figure we’ll know and understand the allure.

But until that time arrives the only stiff rod in our hand is a hockey stick.

For now, it’s enough to just feel the juvenile desire.

First we develop the talent and then worry about the puck-bunnies… Gretzky knew that at the age of 13 and was willing to wait another 15 years for his LA-model puck-bunny to materialize.

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So, from time to time, I’ll watch the movie of my life and see myself playing street hockey in the chilly winter air under the nightlight of Glen Echo School in Hamilton.

I look up into the inky winter-black sky and see the ivory snow flecks gently drifting down towards my pink-cheeked face. I’m wearing my PeeWee Parkdale Steelers hockey jersey with three clothing layers underneath to stay warm.

By the time my friends Rick, Jerome, Rick, Hugh and Larry and I finish our night game – the lively clapping sounds of hockey sticks hitting pavement turn silent – I’ll have peeled off all but the final ribbed-cotton t-shirt because of the heat built up by running and turning and jumping and slapshotting.

Future visions of becoming a Montreal Canadien or Chicago Black Hawk rattle around excitedly in our heads. I’m guessing we all wanted to become pro hockey players, but perhaps a stray thought of becoming a future ABBA singer was bubbling around, I don’t know!

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Fantasy is a huge part of so many of our lives…. I know this if only because Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Luke Skywalker and Hugh Hefner have all thrived and flourished massively in the masses’ imaginations.

We love to spend time in other worlds. Worlds within our world or worlds galaxies distant.

But I prefer fantasies of my own making and choosing, not those of J.K Rowling, Suzanne Collins, or George Lucas.

For me, the best way to lay down the tracks for future “home” movies is by living in the moment with some focus and taking the daily actions that will create these movies…

That means I have to actually do stuff for my imagination to make stuff up …

My body craves movement and so most times I have to live the actions first that then synthesize the movie. I don’t want others’ fantasies occupying my head. I want the homegrown variety that involve me and enthrall me based on my own life experiences.

Once I’ve actually done something… gone swimming or canoeing, made a fancy dinner, run a Tough Mudder race, hiked into Machu Picchu …

… then my imagination can kick into gear and make my very own Walter Mitty fantasy world.

Imagination and dreaming are incredible human attributes. We all have a staggering ability to build worlds and stories from within.

My head fills with Olympic record swim times, Michelin Four Star meals I’ve prepared, war zones I’ve conquered with bravery, finesse and panache, and Incan kings I’ve encountered.

No matter what pain or suffering we encounter – and there are ample quantities of those – an engrossing book, a marvellously powerful movie, an incredibly real dream, have the breathtaking power to refresh and rejuvenate our minds with hope and joy and love.

Playing movies in my head works even better.

Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”

Woody Allen

I’m Coming Out of the Closet … Again.

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Hand of a child opening a cupboard door

A year ago in this blog I came out of the INTROVERSION closet. And so in this, my 2nd annual coming-out post, I’ve selected a different closet from which to emerge.

Yin Yang, Hot Cold, Vanilla Chocolate.

The attraction of opposites is common and complementary.

I’m more like the repelling blend of oil and water within the world of gender roles. After all, what kind of real man likes romantic, sappy, poignant movies that tell stories of love lost and won, lost again and then re-won?

What kind of real man can endure Katherine Heigl or Rachel McAdams playing the hard-nosed but oh-so-soft female executive in a man’s world?

Most men’s heads are a vortex of sports, beer, cars, and sex. Real men thrive on action and violence and muscle cars. Real men don’t like quiche. Real men spit and swear.

I’m not a Harlequin romance reader or cheesy soap opera fan but I must — somewhat reluctantly — thrust my hand out of the macho-closet into the tissue-ready Chick-Flick world.

I’m the oil slick on the surface of this water-world of REAL men.

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I like CHICK-FLICKS. Bite me.

Give me sweetly-saccharine Sandra, give me Blonde Reese (Legal or Illegal!), give me Chicago-syrupy Renee and Serendipitously-seductive Kate and Castaway Tom and Silver-lined Bradley and cutesy-Sleepless Meg.

Hold the Terminating Arnold, hold the Die-Hard Bruce, hold the Rambo Sylvester and Delta-Force Chuck.

I embrace this frilly feminine turf filled with feelings, relationships, and emotions. The rise and swell of sorrowful violins is tender therapy.

But really, chick-flicks are all about finding two hours of vicarious love in the form of a charismatic leading man or winsome heroine.

Like in a well-written novel, a clever chick-flick puts us squarely in the starring role — we peer from behind Audrey Hepburn’s neckline or Paul Newman’s blue eyes for a short time.

Let me recall some Chick-Flick history as a chart of my story:

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1960’s  “Honest to goodness it’s the absolute ultimate!” — Gidget (Sandra Dee)

Sandra Dee in GIDGET and Annette Funicello in the series of Beach movies were my early chick-flick loves. They were wholesome but in an ever-so-slightly slutty way. Men like wholesome sluts. It’s walking on the carnal ledge without cruising the dark side streets seeking the perfect hooker for 5 minutes (or 2 maybe) of fun and pleasure.

Julie Andrews sang, twirled, and beguiled us through the Salzburg mountains in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. She teased us and made a nun’s habit vaguely naughty and sexy.

1970’s. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” — LOVE STORY (Ali McGraw)

One of my favourite 1970’s movies was LOVE STORY. I had a mad crush on Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali McGraw) with her pouty, intellectually preppy attitude. She also had a vulnerability that melted me into liquid chocolate.

1980’s “I’ll have what she’s having.” — When Harry Met Sally (Meg Ryan)

The decade began with AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN when Debra Winger wooed me with her blue-collar longings and husky voice and ended  WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. Meg Ryan was the perfect chick-flick lead — she pulled at my heartstrings with her neurotic tendencies and operatic restaurant orgasms. Why is quirkiness so appealing?

1990’s “Go to the Mattresses.” — You’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks)

1995  brought us WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. Sandra Bullock was my girl of the decade with her crush on comatose hunk Peter Gallagher while honourable Bill Pullman drooled all over her back. Meg Ryan’s cute-vulnerable act continued in a close second place with YOU’VE GOT MAIL and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

2000’s “You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?”  — Serendipity (Jeremy Piven)

The new millenium began and a new cinematic crush walked into my life as Kate Beckinsale brought a serendipitous attraction into SERENDIPITY in 2001. A year later, Mandy Moore sang and stole my heart in A WALK TO REMEMBER Like Ali McGraw in LOVE STORY, this movie reminded me that dying girls can be hot.

2010’s “I don’t want to fall asleep. Okay? Don’t let me fall asleep. Promise.” — SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Keira Knightley)

We’re barely into the second decade of the 2000’s but already I’ve been smitten with Keira Knightley in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD. Once again, the quirky factor drew me in. I may be detecting a trend here — quirky + dying = irresistible.

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So there you have it, I’ve outed myself … again. But I am egalitarian. It’s not only the female leads that make a chick-flick eminently watchable.

Strangely, I’ve developed man crushes on Tom Hanks (YOU’VE GOT MAIL),  John Cusack (SERENDIPITY), and Steve Carell (SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD / DAN IN REAL LIFE) too. The easy humour and vulnerability of the male leading man roles remind me that masculinity is far more than the stereotypical grunting and rutting of the penis owner.

Love ’em or Hate ’em, chick-flicks encompass the meaning of human existence. We work to live, but we love in order to breathe and feel and experience the depths of our emotional consciousness.

I’ve lived and loved my life to the passionate background beat of cinematic romance for more than five decades.

The greater fear that rises within me now is how I might survive the upcoming Chick-Lit-Flick armageddon 50 SHADES OF GREY. Don’t get me started on that one…

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