Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: The Man Without a Conscience

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999).

Some movies are good when you first see them. You enjoy them. The second time around they are not as good. The third and fourth time you see them you get to the point that you can’t stand them. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999) is not one of those kinds of movies.

It is the kind of movie that starts off just okay. With each showing it gets better and better and better. I’ve seen “The Talented Mr. Ripley” five, six times at least.

Tom Ripley is dissatisfied. Tom Ripley would prefer to be anybody else. You see, Tom Ripley doesn’t like Tom Ripley’s life. He doesn’t like Tom Ripley. He would do anything to get out of Tom Ripley’s skin.

One day Ripley gets his opportunity. A rich businessman offers him an all-expenses-paid round trip to Italy. Ripley’s mission: to get the man’s son, Dickie, to return home to the United States.

Once in Italy, Tom Ripley discovers that he likes Dickie’s life. Dickie has it all: a boat, clothes, a villa, a woman who loves him. Ripley wants that life. Ripley doesn’t want to be just anybody. Ripley wants to be Dickie. He’ll do anything to be Dickie. And soon Ripley will be Dickie.

There’s only one problem. Dickie’s girlfriend and the police are not about to let Tom be Dickie.

Is there a villain you think would make a great hero?

Welcome to our town

In honor of National Poetry Month, I shall be doing my poetry thing each Sunday in April.

To Richard Hugo, whose book of essays, The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing inspired this one.

“Welcome to our town”
the sign says, and I drive on past
a woman raking leaves,
an Amelia or an Emma who lost
her husband Patrick and her only
son Samuel to one war or another,
past a mailman dropping
letters into a mailbox
letters from a Carl
off at school somewhere upstate,
he’s majoring in violin,
past a Bill or a John or a Tom
standing on his newly mown lawn
watching me drive on past kids
practicing their football moves,
kicks and passes and tackles
underneath a billboard of “Home
of the State Champion Tigers”,
past a high school, a city on a hill,
red-bricked and one-storied
in the shape of a V for Victory,
brown-eyed sons and blonde-haired daughters,
dark-skinned girls and blue-eyed lads
emerging into the sunlit afternoon,
escaping a universe of lockers,
hallways and classrooms,
past two boys on blue bicycles
dancing wheelies and a fifteen-year-old
Sara in black leotards
skateboarding off the sidewalk.
And down the street apiece
a general store and three elderly fellows,
the Willis brothers with white beards,
a third clean shaven Kevin Leroi
with a John Deere embroidered on his cap
playing dominoes and swapping stories
and raising their hands to wave at me
driving on past a small white church
with a steeple and a cemetery, its gravestones
going way back to the founders of the town,
past the town square and the memorial
to the World War II veterans felled
on Anzio and Normandy beaches
against Hitler and his Nazi war machine,
and still I drive on, homesick for another town,
past the Diary Queen and the teacher’s college
and out toward the ocean of traffic on the interstate
with another “Welcome to Our Town”
sign receding in my rearview mirror.

Politics in America 2: Weazel Sneeze

Chapter 2
As Weazel Sneezes, Weazel Sneezes

In a time not so far away in the future…

It was the time when winter was coming. It was the time of the Walking Dudleys. It was the time of the big party in Rio known as the Olympics.

So what does that have to do with this novel? Not much. I just thought it would be fun to write that.

Our story begins in Weazel Sneeze, U. S. of A. A regular booming metropolis of twenty-five, give or take a few, depending on the season. Just where is Weazel Sneeze? A hop, skip and jump past Snort Holler. It’s right smack dab in the center of Podunk Country. No famous person ever came from Weazel Sneeze.

Oh, sure, several had passed through that idyllic little community. A couple of future actresses stopped for a while to work as waitresses in the local diner, Sam ‘N’ Ella’s All-You-Can-Eat Buffet. They quickly became tired of “Hon” and “How ’bout it” from the local boys. As soon as their automobile was reassembled and repaired, they left only their dust behind. “What did we do to deserve that?” the locals asked.

Another young woman, name of Ellie May Marmalade of the Snort Holler Marmalades, stopped and worked in the local house of ill-repute, better known as Barbara Ann Butt’s Twerl and Kurl. The local ladies came there for fixings. That is, a perm and a complete makeup job known as a makeover. No plastic surgeon could have done a better job.

Why Betty Sue Elmira Doris Bobbie Jo Pudding-Sneeze, known to one and all as B. S. Pudding, recently married to the mayor, had gotten her a brand spanking new nose to replace a schnooze the size of Mount Vesuvius. Afterwards she paraded through the town, showing off her new proboscis. When all the folks saw the miracle, they lined up at the front door of the Twerl and Kurl for their own beautification.

Ellie May Marmalade stayed just long enough to earn herself a ticket to Hollywood. She later became known as Big Bazookas, the biggest porn star in the world of porn stars. When asked where she had gotten her sex training, she never mentioned Weazel Sneeze. She was just too embarrassed.

The men folk in the town went down to the Twerl and Kurl to watch all the ladies getting their do done. Seems there wasn’t much in the way of entertainment for a Saturday afternoon, except the Twerl and Kurl.

As I said above, no one famous actually came from Weazel Sneeze. That is, until one of their native sons ran for President of the United States. The Mayor, to be exact. The Mayor, on top of being the mayor, was also Captain of the Podunk County Irregulars.

Why was there the need of a Podunk County Irregulars? In case of invasion from the next county over, White Picket Fence County named after that Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Polly’s white picket fence.  The White Picket Fence County Regulars hadn’t shown their faces in Podunk County for nigh on in a hundred years. But, like the Rapture, you just never knew when it might happen. It could happen anyday. Besides the Podunk County Irregulars subbed for the Podunk County Volunteer Fire Department.

And who knew when the Volunteer Fire Department might need a sub or two. One night some twenty years ago every man, woman and child of the Volunteers had all taken a notion and gone over to Snort Holler for a snort. They ended up staying for a week. When they moseyed on back to Weazel Sneeze, they had the biggest hangover you ever did see. None of them Vols could rustle themselves out of bed for nigh on a week. So you can see the need for the Irregulars.

So Weazel Sneeze is the very place you might want to look for a President. A truly all-American town. All the folks of the town lived in log cabins. No one could say the mayor was not born in a log cabin.

Chapter 3 Next Wednesday.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Back When Romantic Movies Were Romantic Movies

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “An Affair to Remember” (1957).

Deborah Kerr was the Kate Winslet of her day. “An Affair to Remember” was her “Titanic”. Fortunately her Leonardo di Caprio was not Leonardo di Caprio. It was Cary Grant. The great Leonardo can only wish he was Cary Grant.

In “An Affair to Remember”, the boat does not sink. But two strangers, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, meet and fall in love. It is a pretty straightforward story. Yet there is something not your usual romance about this story. Maybe it’s the actors who play the couple.

This couple is not an early twenties couple. This is a couple in their late twenties, early thirties. They’ve had relationships. Nothing serious. Cary is currently engaged. But that doesn’t seem to be serious. He is going into that marriage, basically kicking and screaming. How the woman talked him into marriage is anybody’s guess.

The reason he’s on the ship is not the reason he is really on the ship for. He’s looking for one last fling. Then he meets Deborah Kerr and there’s magic. He is smitten and so is she.

I usually am not a fan of romantic films. They always seem too too mushy for me. But “An Affair to Remember” shows that a romantic movie can be a superb example of the art form. Maybe it is because of the deft directorial hand of Leo McCarey. This 1957 gem is one of the last of his 107 films.

Like so many successful directors of the fifties, he had come up through the studio system, a system that gave a director a chance to do every genre. A director would finish a horror movie on Friday and come back Monday to work on a comedy. Also a director was given chances to fail.

Today, if a director doesn’t make a profit with his first job, he need not ask to direct another. Maybe that is why we get so much crap. Directors (and producers) play it way too safe. They are scared of screwing up.

I look back on the movies produced in the fifties and I am amazed at the truly great ones. Everything from Sunset Boulevard to Ben Hur to 12 Angry Men to The Searchers. Again and again American audiences got quality from Hollywood. Much of it was because the director’s had spent long years learning their craft.

Then there is Cary Grant. Here is a guy who had romanced some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman several times. Here is an actor who was one of Hitchcock’s favorites. Just to say his name is to have an image of suave and sophisticated. Any woman who won his heart, then broke it must have been something.

That actress was Deborah Kerr. She had already kissed some of the biggest names in Hollywood: Stewart Granger, Robert Taylor, Alan Ladd and Yul Brynner. And that scene with Burt Lancaster in “From Here to Eternity” was, shall we say, WOW. So she was ready for Cary. Big time ready. And don’t let me forget the theme song, “An Affair to Remember”.

Like so many movies Hollywood has produced over the years, this one is a remake. The original was “Love Affair”, directed by the same director. It was released in that most famous of Hollywood years, 1939, and starred Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne. A second remake came in 1994, thirty-seven years after “An Affair”. Hollywood’s Golden Couple at the time, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, were looking around for something they could do together. They called it “Love Affair” after the original. It was Katherine Hepburn’s last film.

But “An Affair to Remember” is the one with the magic. So as you can see, Uncle Bardie thinks this one has a great script, great directing and great cast. It’s got romance on the high seas. It’s good. Even better, it’s Uncle Bardie good.

What is your favorite romantic movie?

Older Things

In honor of National Poetry Month, I shall be doing my poetry thing each Sunday in April. 

Older Things
Inspired by the poetry of Jim Harrison

I have of recent years fallen in love with older things:

A bicycle lock key in an old business card box.
Bobby Thomson’s Topp card folded and passed from wallet to wallet.
a Cracker Jack whistle carried on my keyring,
prized like an Olympic Gold Medal.
A poetry book on the window sill,
a laminated red maple leaf bookmarking Tennyson’s “Ulysses”.
Outside the sun. The birds chirp their spring songs.
On a bookshelf nearby my mother’s photograph.
I wish I had known my Mama better.

These are but a few of the older things
gathered in the graveyard of my memory,
a place where things go not to die,
exhibits in a Hall of Fame of Older Things.

I make my way through the exhibitions
like some gondolier along Venetian canals.
Here’s a small black rock a college friend gave to me.
She said it was a meteorite come roaring out of the sky.
I loved her. She had other plans
than marriage. It was the call of an explorer’s life.
In a beat-up wooden box somewhere in a closet
I have letters
she wrote me way back when she was in Antarctica.
Then, like some Michael Rockerfeller, lost in the wilds of the Amazon.
When I received the news, I was off to bed for a week.
Her life a piece of parchment shredded into tears.
She was a Cape of Good Hope,
a Shambhala, a nightingale garden.

The sun sets in the West as I stroll
through the Hanging Gardens of Babylon,

my mind wondering if Nebuchadnezzar was happy.
Did he walk through these same gardens and fall in love
with older things?