Sunday, October 05, 2008


1) Spent a big chunk of the weekend with Paul. We didn't really do anything but hang out, but that always seems to be enough. We have our regular rituals--dinner at Old Country Buffet, and if he stays the night, breakfast at Krispy Kreme--but when he's here, he seems happy to let me decide what we're going to do. Usually, I let him decide what movies we're going to watch, but we're slowly working our way up to Where Eagles Dare. Clint Eastwood! Nazis! Machine guns! If he doesn't like it, I'll be crushed.

When we're out together, I have no idea what people think our relationship is. More than likely, they assume he's my kid, although if they make a comment indicating that, Paul will explain in excrutiating detail that I'm just his mom's ex-boyfriend, and usually point out that he thinks I'm still in love with her. Me, I always feel like we're some comedy team. When we're not tossing off one-liners and non-sequiturs, we're doing goofy physical bits. A string of exes have been annoyed by my "walking into a street sign" bit, but the kid has adapted if for his own purposes--he'll walk into, or off of, pretty much anything. With us, it's less Martin & Lewis than Lewis & Lewis. Scary.

Every time he stays the night, I let Paul have the bed. I don't even have a couch, so I just throw down a few blankets and sleep on the floor. He never puts up much of a fuss when I tell him it's bedtime, and after I shut off the light, we usually talk for awhile. Friday night he asked, "Do you think there'll be a time when we stop being friends?" I said no, I didn't think so. "Good," he answered. "That's what I hoped you'd say."

2) Once I dropped Paul back off with Tabbatha--who has been volunteering for Barack Obama's campaign, and whose enthusiasm for the cause is so infectious I wish I could fully share it--I headed off to see a movie.

Alone, that is. Recently, I've renewed contact with an off-and-on friend with benefits, though in her case, it's more about the benfits than the friendship. That sounds terrible, but it's true--anytime we get together, it's basically to have sex. We catch up on whatever we've been doing and blah blah blah, but we know we're just fulfilling some sort of biological urge. Maybe I'm just getting older, but the idea of seeing a movie seemed more appealing than getting laid. Besides, I really wanted to see this movie.

3) The movie in question was Appaloosa, the new Western with Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zellweger. I hadn't even heard of this thing until I stumbled across the trailer online, and it did something previews almost never do these days: it made me want to see the movie. Of course, Harris and Mortensen are worth seeing in anything, but mostly, I was intrigued because, hey, it's a Western. And more: a Western starring people who actually belong in one. No Christian Bale or Brad Pitt in this one, thank you very much.

And it's a terrific piece of work, very well directed by Harris (in a workmanlike style pleasantly reminiscent of Henry Hathaway), solidly written, impeccably acted, a great time at the movies. I'd almost forgotten what that could be like.

4) Which reminds me--I don't often go on about it here, but man, I love Westerns. If I compiled a list of my ten favorite movies (which would be pointless, because that list would keep changing), there would be guaranteed spots for Once Upon A Time In The West, The Wild Bunch and The Outlaw Josey Wales. That's practically a third of the list right there, and the extra spaces could as easily be filled with Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (or any Sam Peckinpah Western) or The Good The Bad And The Ugly (or any Sergio Leone) or Unforgiven (or, yeah, any Clint Eastwood), to say nothing of The Man From Laramie and The Naked Spur and, okay, pretty much any Anthony Mann Western (not Cimarron, though--I jump off the auteurist bandwagon with that one) or The Long Riders or Ulzana's Raid or...this could be a really long list.

The odd thing about any prospective Ten Favorite Movie list I would compile would be that most of the non-Westerns would be musicals. Singin' In The Rain and Meet Me In St. Louis are locks for that list, as well as Dumbo, which does have a lot of songs. Plus The Pirate might make that list, and The Band Wagon and It's Always Fair Weather and Cabaret, naturally, and All That Jazz if you consider it a musical, and of course West Side Story, even though I recognize how terribly uneven it is, I still love every second of it and hell, I've probably watched it more than any other movie I can think of, so...yeah.

Westerns and musicals are the most stylized (one could perhaps more accurately say ritualized or formulized) of film genres. The trappings of the Western are so familiar that it's hard to make a bad one. Musicals are much more difficult to realize on film, but what both forms have in common is that they're unusually dependant on a strong director. Failed examples of both genres can be fascinating to watch--Young Guns or Xanadu--to see what happens when many of the proper elements are in place, but there's nothing to make them work. Sure, a Brat Pack Western or a musical showcase for the non-existent charisma of Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck seemed like bad ideas in the first place, but everyone from Robert Wagner to Anthony Perkins made good Westerns, just as Bobby Van and Debbie Reynolds made credible romantic leads in a musical. When a filmmaker gets the details right, when they have an overarching vision, we can believe anything.

5) What could make this weekend conclude on a perfect note? Well, marriage to Lauren Graham, but in the event that doesn't happen, lunch at my neighborhood Chinese restaurant, followed by chocolate chip cookies and a nap. Yeah, that sounds kind of pathetic, but this weekend is all about small, comforting things, and I'm good with that.