Friday, October 18, 2013

"Working My Last Nerve"

This story came at me from two directions.

(Ready for a parenthetical side trip?

So early?

They come to me when they come to me.

Okay, but make it snappy.  We have better things to do with our lives than to wallow in extraneous meanderings.

Thank you.  Back in the late 1950’s, there was a TV game show hosted by Carl Reiner called Keep Talking in which two teams of skillful comedians ad-libbed extended joke-riddled anecdotes that included a joke they were assigned which they proceed to surreptitiously weave into the narrative. 

The point of this exercise was for the opposing team to ferret out the original joke embedded in the fabricated hilarity.  If you wish, lucky readers, you can play the same game with these blog posts, trying to uncover which insight, experience or wondering generated the subsequential outpouring.  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  Though participation is certainly not mandatory.  You can consider it for “Extra Credit.”  With the possibility of your acceptance into a better college.)

As is my habit, I am reading the Friday movie reviews in my newspaper – most movies open on Fridays, the studios hoping the notices will induce moviegoers to check out these movies on the upcoming weekend though more often the effect is the opposite.

I am reading a review for the recently released action thriller Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks, about Somali pirates commandeering a freighter ship and holding it for ransom.  The reviewer (L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan ) is very enthusiastic.  Which makes me enthusiastic about the possibility of a movie I might actually want to see.

I then get to this paragraph

“…this film does an impeccable job of creating and tightening the narrative screws.  The result is so propulsive that you may find yourself looking at your watch not out of boredom but because you’re not sure how much tension you can stand.”     

And at that point, I am instantaneously out!

Well made and entertaining as Captain Phillips may be, movies in which “…you’re not sure how much tension you can stand” are emphatically not for me, because I am sure how much tension I can stand, and the answer is virtually none.

I cannot handle violence, and I cannot even more so handle the inevitable build-up leading up to the violence.  To give you an idea of the difficulty, I stared into my lap during the battle scenes in Les Miserables.  And that was a musical!  Although they do shoot a kid.  Or so I’m told.  I did not actually see it, aware from the stage version that this gut-wrenching misfortune was about to occur.  Who wants to see a little kid get shot? 

Even if he’s singing.

Making things worse, it would appear that, with the advancing years, I am becoming increasingly intolerant of emotional turmoil.  (As, it would appear with a similar explanation, I am getting increasingly intolerant of noisy restaurants, especially when the cacophonous din is augmented by the driving beat a canned musical selection I have never heard of.)

There is almost nothing I can see anymore.  I recently enjoyed an Iranian movie called Wadjda, whose plot involves a culturally repressed eleven year-old Saudi Arabian girl’s passionate desire for a bicycle.  That’s pretty much my speed in entertainment these days. 

But even then, I watched Wadjda in dread that she would finally get her bicycle and, in a hideous twist of ironic reality, she heads out on her first exhilarating solo excursion, and immediately pedals over a land mine.  (You see how much power storytellers have?  They could have easily and believably told that story.





A joyous story turns devastatingly tragic.  And my ticker goes into cardiac arrest.

Thankfully the filmmakers chose not to do that.  Earning an appreciative “Thumbs Up” from this moviegoer.  And a departing sense of “dodged a bulletory” relief.

But that’s, like, the only movie I can go to these days – a young Muslim girl pining for a bicycle.  Oh, and one more – a recently previewed offering (starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson) called Saving Mr. Banks, in which Walt Disney tries to persuade (writer) P.L. Travers to allow them to turn Mary Poppins into a movie. 

(I wonder, was Saving Mr. Banks meant to be a “call back” of Saving Private Ryan which I avoided because it included the Normandy Invasion and I know that a ton of people got massacred in that?   This makes me wonder, will Saving Mr. Banks’s persuading visit to Disneyland include the crustily distant Ms. Travers suddenly tumbling from the “Matterhorn” ride?  I hope not.  I really do.)

I have never been comfortable with unsettling entertainment.  (I have told the tale of my badgering my big brother to take me to see the horror classic The House of Wax, only to wimp out at the last minute, my (still) shameful cowardice requiring me to wait in the lobby until the movie was over and my brother emerged from the theater to take me home.) 

It just seems like it’s getting worse. 

And it’s not just the movies.  (Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  Ding! – The second triggerer of this blog post.)  Recently, the baseball team I currently root for, the L.A. Dodgers, has been participating in the playoffs.  And I have found myself incapable of watching any of the games. 

Emotionally, I just can’t seem to handle it.  I mean, what if they lose?

Of course, this aversion is hardly new.  When the (hockey) Toronto Maple Leafs were contenders – you will have to be nudging fifty to remember those days – I was constantly running out of the room, especially during “Sudden Death Overtime.”  (Fearful that the “sudden death” might inadvertently be mine.) 

But at least I came back.  Now, I dare not even go there.  I’ve had heart surgery, you know.  What if they walk an opposing batter with the bases loaded?  My repaired mitral valve could easily explode!  (Are you sensing a pattern here?)

What we have here in a temperamental weakness, worsened by the debilitating deterioration of time.  I can barely watch anything anymore. 

Leaving me – and this is the only ray of sunshine in this bleak and limiting scenario…

More time to write about it.


PG said...

Earl, I hope I'm not too late to warn you not to see "Hope Springs". You could easily be fooled into thinking it's a safe bet, since it stars two venerated actors, Meryl and Tommy Lee, and concerns the tedious mundanity of a lengthy violence or scarey stuff there, unless you find a woman glaring at her indifferent spouse too hard to take. But there's a scene, near the end, when the two ancients ignore the perfectly soft king-sized bed and opt to hunker down on the scatter rug in front of a boutique hotel fireplace to cuddle. I, for one, was, as they say in movie land, "on the edge of my seat" panicking that one of them was going to break a hip!

Jade Beast said...

The majority of the wired world knows how the story turns out, (Captain Phillips, not Hope Springs), yet, the 'suspense' is still too much? Since you haven't seen the movie, you can't really answer that. I was looking forward to your review! It's one of the few current movies that interest me.

pumpkinhead said...

Okay, you've answered the question I asked a few weeks ago: "Why John?"