We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Back when I was a little girl, television didn’t run nonstop like it does now. There were only a few networks – CBS, NBC, ABC, maybe a few local stations – and they signed on early in the morning, and signed off at midnight or so with a hearty playing of the National Anthem. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Anyway, because networks didn’t run on a 24-hour schedule, movies were uncommon on searchTV. The Wizard of Oz ran once a year, at which time I planted myself on the gray carpeted floor right in front of the TV without moving for the entire movie. Once Dad broke down and bought us our first color television, the moment when Dorothy woke to find Oz in technicolor glory was unbelievably COOL.

But when I was really little, the only time most movies were on TV was late at night, long after I was tucked into the double bed next to my sister Jen. However, when I was probably 11 or 12, Mom told me that I had to go to bed at the same time as Jen on Saturday night, which was probably around 10. But if I could stay awake until she fell sound asleep, and further, could sneak out of bed without waking her, I could get up and watch the late night movie. Game on! I can still vividly recall inching my way to the edge of the bed and oh-so-carefully rolling out as quiet as a churchmouse, praying that I didn’t hear, “Where are you going, Kris?”

220px-born_yesterdayIt was one of the times that I managed to stay awake that I was able to watch a movie that I remember that my mom loved called Born Yesterday, starring Judy Holliday. The single thing that I remember from that movie was a scene in which Holliday’s character, a ditzy blond named Billie (who ultimately turned out to be not so ditzy) is playing gin rummy with her rotten-to-the-core boyfriend, and she drives him completely crazy as she gets ready to play the game. She moves her cards around. She messes with her hair. She picks up every card he lays down, and moves her cards around some more. And of course she eventually says, “Gin.” It’s a completely ridiculously funny scene. I remember that my mom laughed and laughed and laughed as she watched that scene. To this day, when I am playing gin rummy and I start moving my cards to the correct position, I think about Born Yesterday. Enjoy this clip……

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT2XX8zYaZA

Now, prepare for the arrival of the Get Off My Lawn Crabby Kris.

Having been duly warned, I think many of you will agree with me that movies just aren’t as fun as they used to be. I love the old movies like Born Yesterday, His Girl Friday, Roman Holiday, The African Queen, Rear Window, The Philadelphia Story and The Apartment (my all-time favorite).

Now that thanks to this recent blog post, you all know why Bill is a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild, let’s talk about movies today. The relationship between movies today and Bill’s participation in the Screen Actors’ Guild is, of course, that he gets to screen movies in which actors will be considered for SAG awards. The movies considered by SAG are often the same as those considered for other awards such as Golden Globe or Academy Awards. And what have I learned over the past number of years since he’s been screening movies? I have learned that the powers-that-be in Hollywood like some really sad and depressing movies. I mean slit-your-wrist depressing. Year after year, this seems to be true.

And the 2016 movies that we have watched thus far are no different. We saw Jackie, starring Natalie Portman, the story of Jackie Kennedy in the days following the assassination. And then we watched Manchester on the Sea, which about did me in. I considered sticking my head in a gas oven, but happily, our oven is electric.

They are both contenders for many awards this year, particularly Manchester on the Sea. But without giving away the plot, I will tell you that my reaction to Manchester was that it was a very believable, but a very sad movie. The acting was quite good. The story was realistic. As always, at its conclusion, Bill asked me what I thought. I told him that I believed every part of that movie. I believe that a teenager would act just as the teenager in the movie acted. I believe that a man who went through what Casey Affleck’s character went through would behave just as he did.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want to believe in my movie. I want my movie to take me away someplace unbelievable. I want to laugh at a ridiculous scene where a ditzy blond is playing gin rummy. I want to sing along with Gene Kelly in the rain. I want to hang off the bow of the Titanic with Kate Winslet. I don’t want to see President Kennedy’s brains splattered onto Natalie Portman’s pink suit or try to find meaning in my life after losing everyone I love.

The good news is that we have yet to see Hidden Figures and La-La Land. I am optimistic.

This post linked to Grammy’s Grid.

Wonderful Life

As I have been madly crocheting this holiday season in preparation for gift-giving, I have watched all manner of Christmas movies. I have seen Miracle on 34th Street (the newer version), White Christmas (in which Rosemary Clooney makes being distraught an art form), Love, Actually (yes, yet again), A Christmas Story (which is now and will be forever more be my favorite Christmas movie), Holiday (in which Jack Black is an odd love interest for Kate Winslet), Last Holiday (there’s probably not another Christmas movie that leaves me feeling happier than this), and Holiday Inn (I could watch Fred Astaire’s Fourth of July solo dance a million times).

And Sunday, when I decided I couldn’t stomach watching the Broncos not have an offense any longer, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life. Shockingly, it was the first time I had ever seen this movie.

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Whaaaaaat?

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have seen bits and pieces of the movie throughout my life. Really, how could I not have ever seen the ending where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are embracing and all of the people are dumping cashola on the table to save his butt and the bell rings, indicating that Clarence had finally gotten his wings? I feel comfortable not having indicated SPOILER ALERT because I’m pretty sure I’m the only living person of reading age who hadn’t seen the movie.

But I had never sat down and watched the entire film from beginning to end. I had never, in fact, seen the beginning of the movie, which of course sets the stage for the whole point of the film – that George Bailey had wanted and planned on a much more exciting life than the one he ended up having. That’s pretty important context to have known about for the ending to make any sense. But Christmas movies really don’t need to make sense. Is there any universe in which Jack Black would be a love interest for Kate Winslet except in a Christmas movie?

However, it’s true that hardly anyone’s life turns out exactly as planned, mostly because as of yet, we aren’t able to see into the future. What’s that old Yiddish adage? Man plans and God laughs. Ain’t it the truth? It’s interesting to think about how I would have imagined my life in 50 years if asked to predict when I was 10 years old. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that I would live in Denver, Colorado and have a second house in Mesa, Arizona. Since at that point I hadn’t been any further than Omaha, I undoubtedly wouldn’t have guessed that I would have been on two transatlantic cruises and seen such things as the Parthenon in Greece, the pyramids in Egypt, climbed to the top of St. Peter’s in Vatican City, and sat on the grass at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

In fact, I would have been expecting and frankly, wanting, a life just like the life of ol’ George Bailey.

We all get caught up in the preparations for Christmas. I have awakened at 3:45 a.m. on a couple of recent mornings unable to go back to sleep because I’m mentally counting the gifts I have purchased so that I don’t make that fateful mistake of having one more present for one grandchild than I have for the rest. Did I remember to set aside enough cookies to share with the neighbors who faithfully keep an eye on our house while we’re in AZ? Will Bill’s gift arrive in time?

STOP! It’s Advent. The time for quiet reflection and preparation, not for the gifts that we are going to give or receive, but for the birth of the one who is sent to save us. Advent gets lost in the sea of Christmas frenzy. Like George Bailey, we need to remember to be grateful for what we have and for those who make our lives special.

The one thing that all of those Christmas movies have in common is that life is full of surprises, and it’s not what happens to us, but who we share our lives with and how we accept our life as it has played out.