Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Getaway - Part Two"

Sadly, arriving in Indiana on a Wednesday, we had missed the New Laporte’s Theater’s “Four Dollar Tuesday”, a night when all movie tickets were – duh! –four dollars. (A couple of years ago, at, what I guess was the old Laporte Theater, tickets used to be two-fifty. And not long before that, a buck and a half. We always wondered how the movie owners could stay in business. The answer, apparently, was, they couldn’t. Enter the New Laporte Theater, with their jacked up prices.)

Our movie tickets cost five-fifty. (As compared to thirteen dollars in L.A.) However, we lucked into “Free Popcorn Thursday”, where we each received, free of charge, a couple of bucks worth of popcorn, lowering our overall outlay to less than four dollars, assuming we had attended “Four Dollar Tuesday” and bought popcorn. Five-fifty minus two dollars – we were ahead!

It was all good, as they say, or maybe they don’t anymore, I am not one to stay current with the latest patois. It was all good, that is, except for the movie, which was

The Help.

Oh, my.

I know it’s a hit. But, as network executives never tired of saying about my scripts, I have “problems.”

Problem One: The Southern accents.

Maybe it’s just me, but even when real Southerners speak with Southern accents, I have the distinct feeling that they’re putting me on. And their accents are good. Actors imitating Southerners, to my ear, sounds like the mirth-inducing imitations in a High School Civil War pageant.

“Gen’l Lee, suh, Gen’l Beauregard regrets to infohme you that da Yankees have broken through awr lahn.”

So there’s that.

Then – I just took a deep breath, because this is unlikely to be popular. Oh, well – so be it.

Okay. Here’s how Wikipedia capsulizes The Help:

An aspiring author during the Civil Rights movement decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families they work for and the hardships they go through on a day to day basis.

That’s the story. Now.

Imagine a movie about a black reverend, who, following a committed strategy of passive resistance, spearheads a crusade against racial discrimination, leading marches, delivering galvanizing speeches, and ultimately being assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room. That, of course, is Martin Luther King’s story, and it’s compelling and important because it happened.

The Help’s story – the maids’ bonding together to help a spunky young writer fashion an eye-opening exposethough it is presented as if it had, did not.

And on top of that, this story that didn’t happen is being presented to us fifty years after the fact. This story that didn’t happen is hardly a recent story.

Personal outrages against black servants (presumably) no longer take place, at least not as blatantly and openly. What then does this leave us? It leaves us with a movie about a fabricated event, set in sixties Mississippi, watched by a “right thinking” white audience, absorbing these deplorable shenanigans, and collectively patting itself on the back.

Dr. M, who read the book and enjoyed it, believes it’s just not a very well made movie. If she’s right and the movie was better, perhaps my reaction to it would have been different.

The following evening, we took in a production at the Dunes Summer Theater – where a company of local amateurs mounted one of my all-time favorite musicals, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

We have enjoyed many satisfying shows at the Dunes. I once had the experience of seeing The Pirates of Penzance there one night, and the very next night, seeing a Broadway musical in New York City. I honestly thought that the Dunes production was better.

This time, not so good. Forum’s comedic precision was a little too demanding for this energetic ensemble to handle.


Setting up the song “Everybody Ought To Have A Maid”, the actor playing the randy older character named “Senex”, leered suggestively towards the audience, and proclaimed,

“I like maids; they’re neat. Maids like me; I’m neat.”

The correct – and funny – version of the line is actually this:

“Maids like me; I’m neat. I like maids; they’re neat.”

You see the difference?

It was that kind of all evening.

Our third evening, we attended a concert of “Chamber Blues”, featuring what Corky Siegel, the creator of this synthesis called blues “opuses”, blending Siegel’s piano and harmonica riffings with chamber music instrumentation. Sometimes, the fusion of the two genres was irresistible. Other times, it was champagne and Pepsi.

Our favorite form of Indiana entertainment by far?


We saw seven deer. Well, Dr. M saw seven deer. I actually saw two. But I trust her on the seven. To my knowledge, she has never padded a “deer count.” She tried hard on the other five. “You see them? Over there, between those two trees.” I just saw the two trees. Though I did spot the two deer, gamboling on the runway of a local airport. I am grateful for the sighting. As well as the opportunity to use the word “gamboling” before I die.

The trees offered early glimpses of autumnification. Random leaves fluttered towards the ground. Others were etched with yellow, headed towards gold and, for the future “knockouts”, red.

Birds of various species could be heard, and, on occasion, spotted. Blue Jays, cardinals, whippoorwills, woodpeckers. We saw migrating Canada Geese heading for Florida, their birdbrains abuzz with the question,

“Why would anybody stay?”

Best of all, however, was the Indiana weather. Sunny days. Cloudy days. Rainy days. Blackening skies, portending a downpour. We reveled in the variety, so different from our experience in Santa Monica, which offers the meteorological consistency of an oil painting.

I like what we get. But the change is refreshing. Especially when I know I’ll be out of there before “sleet.”

I am strictly a Weather Tourist. It is pleasant to visit. But when real inclemency threatens, I will happily retreat to “seventy-two and sunny.”

I must be part Canada Goose. I too have wondered,

“Why would anybody stay?”


Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; so far your trip is without incident, the so-so movie doesn't count. Although a story maybe boring without trouble a vacation/retreat is not. I hope it doesn't get inclementy on you.


Frank said...

Nice use of gamboling eh.

Rebecca said...

I did wonder if the "patting on the back" thing might be behind the success of The Help. I thought that ya kinda had to have been there, for this movie to really hit home. But, for it to be that successful, it had to get more audience than southern liberals from that era would comprise.

I have to say, this movie resonated with me greatly.

I was born in Louisiana in 1953. We certainly didn't have that kind of "help". The 1950s Louisiana bayou was definitely NOT Jackson MS of the same period. And yet...

There was a very freaky familiarity to this movie. The accents did not at all sound fake to me, and I was amazed to find out afterward how long it was. It never once felt like it dragged to me.

I thought it was a very good movie. But, more importantly, I think people need to be reminded of this era right now.

Racism still runs rampant, it's just better hidden these days. We can't have people re-writing history the way some have tried with the holocaust, pretending that these heinous times never existed.

It's important to remember, or to find out, just how bad things were in order never to chance their return. Even a not-that-good movie can serve this purpose if it's a big enough hit. This one, I thought, was entertaining enough to make an important message palatable.

Of course, I'm a white southern liberal of a certain age. I would love to know what southern blacks of my generation thought about it. In any case, I'm glad it was successful.