Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Second Chances

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. Next week’s Valentine’s Day, so this week’s Spotlight Movie is for all the romantics out there. It’s Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (2005):

Remember Robert Carlyle. Back in ’97, he appeared in a little gem of a movie, “The Full Monty”. He played an unemployed working class guy who became a male stripper.

In “Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School”, he plays Frank Keane, a baker who lost his wife to suicide. He’s engulfed by grief and can’t move on with his life. He meets weekly with a support group of widowers but that doesn’t seem to help him or any of the others.

When he least expects it, magic happens, and it happens out of the worst of circumstances. He is driving his bakery truck when he’s passed by Steve Mills (John Goodman). A few seconds later, he comes upon Steve in a car accident. The accident is serious.

As they are waiting for an ambulance, Steve tells Frank he was on his way to meet a childhood sweetheart at a ballroom dancing school. He is supposed to meet her on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the new millenium. He promised. Then he tells the story of their childhood romance and how it came to be.

Because of the accident, Steve can’t make it. So he gives Frank his ticket to Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. Explain to Lisa, his childhood sweetheart, why he can’t make.

Since he promised, he goes to School. Lisa isn’t there but there are others. Marilyn Hotchkiss isn’t there either. But her daughter, Marienne, is conducting the class with several men and women. Because he doesn’t know what else to do, Frank joins the class. Then something magically happens. From that moment on, his life, and the lives of the others in the support group, are changed. Sometimes all it takes is a little dancing to heal a whole lot of grief.

In addition to Robert Carlyle and John Goodman, this movie has Marissa Tormei, Sonia Braga, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, Adam Arkin and Danny Devito. And I enjoyed it immensely. So it’s two thumbs up from this end of the cosmos.

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Near 500 words: Life goes on

Cora was much too young to be a widow. Married only six months and already a widow. Gani, her husband, wasn’t a soldier who went off to war. He didn’t have a dangerous job. He simply ran into a truck. Or should I say, the truck ran into him.

So here she was, wearing black and trying to hold back the tears. But they just wouldn’t stay behind the the dam. Nineteen years old, and a widow. That was all she could think of.

At the funeral, folks came up to her and offered her their condolences. They offered them to Gani’s family as well.

After the funeral, she went to bed and stayed in bed for several days, getting up only for food. The house she and Gani had bought was now empty. And she wasn’t even pregnant. That, at least, would have been something.

Her mother-in-law came to see her. “Get out of bed,” she said. “I will make you a nice breakfast, and you’ll feel better.”

“How can I feel better?”

“But you will,” her mother-in-law said.

As Cora ate her breakfast, her mother-in-law sat across from her. “You know, I lost my first husband.”

Cora put some eggs into her mouth and chewed, then she said, “You did?”

“I did. And I cried for weeks. Then I realized I was still young and life needed to go on.  Whether with me or without me. My son is dead. You are still alive. Put a smile on and go out into the world and enjoy yourself. The house is paid off. From the insurance.”

“But what about Gani?”

“What about Gani. He is in someplace wonderful and he doesn’t want you quitting life. He loved you. Do you think he wants you dead too? He doesn’t.”

“But I can’t.”

“You can. And you have too. Remember the wonderful days you had with Gani. They were a gift. Now you have permission to go on and live your life. You’ve had some great times. And you are going to have some great times in the future. Life is too short to waste it on the dead.”

“What will everybody think?”

“Who cares what everybody thinks? The important thing is that you get on with your life.”

That night Cora put on the new dress Gani had bought for  her. She put on the new shoes she had bought herself and went dancing. Dancing made her feel alive. At the dance, she met someone. Someone who became her second husband. Little did she know that he would die from an accident with a truck too.

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: Simple Song

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection. “Simple Song” by John Paul White and Southern Family:

I know this one’s a sad song. But it’s an honest sad song. No fake emotion like some of the songs you hear on the radio.

I first realized there was a new country music coming round the bend when I heard Jason Isbell, doing “Traveling Along”. For way too long, there was this country music trying to out-pop pop or out-rock rock. It even tried to out-rap rap. It was enough to make a feller want to kick that can as far as Mars. Then Ashley Munroe’s “Dixie” landed on my ears. Finally I was going to get some good old country music that knew how to country music. Something that most would call Old School Country, and what I call Just Country.

The kind of music Hank and Ferlin and George and Patsy and Merle played. The kind that could easily be called White Man’s Blues. The kind that can be located on the very country album, “Southern Family”. The first song on the album lays down something you don’t normally hear from recording artists these days.  John Paul White, formerly of Civil Wars, gives the listener this “Simple Song”. It’s more than a sad song. It’s a man losing someone to the Angel of Death. As far as I know, Andrew Bird’s “My Sister’s Tiny Hands” is one of the few others giving grieving its due.

Few artists have the courage to do what John Paul White and Andrew Bird do with these songs. Mourn. This is something we all do and yet it is not very often recognized by those who give us our music. For grieving is something our society often says we should avoid. “Get over it.” Yet most of us have lost someone and we can’t get over it. Their passing left us devastated.

So my song post for this week is “Simple Song” by John Paul White and Southern Family. It honors our grief.

Hamlet: Laertes Returns

His means of death, his obscure funeral—
No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o’er his bones,
No noble rite nor formal ostentation—
Cry to be heard as ’twere from heaven to earth,
That I must call ’t in question.
Hamlet Act 4 Scene 5.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 4 Scene 5 (continued). Noise came from the courtyard.

“Alack,” Gertrude said. “What noise was that?”

“Alack?” Claudius asked. “Where did you learn to talk like that?”

“Doofus,” Gertrude gave him that look. You know the one. The one you’re wife gives you when you’ve done a faux pas. And, in case you don’t know what faux pas means, it means faux pas. So there. “I am in a play by Mr. Wonderful. You know, Shakespeare. It’s Elizabethan England and we’re in Denmark. I am supposed to say things like alack.”

The actress playing Gertrude can’t believe she’s in a play with this idiot. She’s supposed to kiss him every so often like they are in love. How did she get cast with this guy? Truman Capote was right when he said, “The better the actor the more stupid he is.” This guy must be really good. My God, she was in Shakespeare and she hated it. The cast was driving her nuts. How she longed to go back to soap operas. At least, she got to kiss men—and women—with good breath.

“Okay,” Mr. Doofus said. “Alack is good.” Then he said his line, “Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door.” Now hold on. What is Claudius doing with Swiss Guards? He isn’t the pope. Oh, well. Just get on with it. Finish the play and accept that offer from Spielberg. He wants to put you in there with Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks. Can you imagine me with Tom Hanks?

As you can see, actors do act. They can be thinking of stuff a million miles away and we will never know it. It’s a way to pull up an emotion they can’t fake. Sometimes it’s a way to get through a project they really hate. Evidently our Gertrude and our Claudius here hated this production.

Into the room bursts Laertes. Polonius’s son. He left a boy and returned a man. He is like Robert Goulet walking out on stage in “Camelot” for the first time.Gertrude swoons from his handsomeness and faints.

All Claudius can say, “God, he glows in the dark. He must be running for something. Could it be? No, he doesn’t want to be king? Or does he?” That was a lot to say for a guy who was trembling in his booties.

Laertes had a name to live up to. Laertes was a Greek hero. He was one of those Argonaut guys who went off hunting for the Calydonian Boar. Also he was Odysseus’ dad. On that particular day, Laertes was giving the hero business his best shot.

“Oh, you vile king,” Laertes said.

Claudius was stunned. “Who? Me? What did I do?”

Gertrude unswooned and got off the floor.

“You made a bastard out of me and my mother a whore.”

Gertrude stepped in front of Claudius to protect him. Claudius pushed her aside.

“It’s okay. Nothing will happen to me. I am the king. God protects the king. Traitors can’t hurt him.” Had Claudius forgotten what happened to the last king? Had he forgotten what happened to Richard II and Richard III?

“Where’s my dad?” Laertes had fire in his voice. It seemed he already knew the situation. Had a ghost appeared before Laertes and requested revenge? If not, why not? Shakespeare had made up this rule that a ghost appeared before his son and asked for revenge. If it was good enough for Hamlet, why not for Laertes? Also it makes you wonder if Hamlet Senior’s ghost ran into Polonius’ ghost. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in that conversation?

Hamlet Senior: “You’re going to hell.”

Polonius: “At least, I won’t have to put up with you.”

Anyway back to Elsinore. Now here’s where the conversation got really interesting.

Gertrude said, “But the king didn’t kill your dad.” Was Gertrude ready to give up her own son to save the king? Some mother, huh?

Laertes demands, “How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with. To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil! I’ll be revenged.”

Pretty scary talk. Only Claudius wasn’t scared. Nothing scared Claudius. He’d killed a king to get where he was. He’d sent that king’s heir off to be murdered. He was feeling pretty cocky. “You want to hurt your dad’s friends as well as his enemies?”

“Only his enemies.”

“I was his friend. Your dad was my best friend. I would not be king if your dad had not stuck up for me when I most needed it. Why would I kill your father?”

Well, you can imagine the big huh that appeared on Laertes’ face.

“I am guiltless of your father’s death and I will prove it to you.”

Just as things are about to get settled, something dramatically interesting happened. Shakespeare pulled a Kramer out of the bag. What’s a Kramer? you ask. In Seinfeld, there was a moment in a scene when things were starting to lull. In walks Kramer to change the direction of the scene. That’s exactly what Shakespeare did. He pulled an Ophelia.

Ophelia entered the room. Again she sang her nonsense, taking Laertes’ breath away with grief. She then leaves.

“Do you see this, oh God?” Laertes cried out to heaven.

Claudius was moved by Ophelia and Laertes. Tears were in his eyes. He wiped away the tears, then got back to the business at hand. Saving his butt.

“Listen, Laertes. Gather your wisest friends and bring them to me. Let them listen to us both and decide who was the guilty party. If they judge me guilty, everything I have, including my life, will be yours. If they judge me innocent, then be patient. I will help you with your revenge. This I promise.”

All I have to say is, “Laertes, you’d better run for cover. The last two he made promises to, Hamlet Senior and Polonius, are now dead.”

Hamlet: Ophelia

Just a note to all you wild and crazy guys. A very Big Thank You for all your continuous support. Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such now has 500 WordPress Followers. Like the lady said, “You like me. You really like me.” 🙂

Oh, this is the poison of deep grief. It springs
All from her father’s death, and now behold!
O Gertrude, Gertrude,
When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions. First, her father slain.
Next, your son gone, and he most violent author
Of his own just remove. The people muddied,
Thick, and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers
For good Polonius’ death, and we have done but greenly
In hugger-mugger to inter him. Poor Ophelia
Divided from herself and her fair judgment,
Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts.
Hamlet Act 4 Scene 5.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 4 Scene 5. Some say that it was Elsinore that drove Ophelia mad. Others that it was the death of her father by her lover’s hand. Still others ask where her brother was when she needed him most. But others say that they were all mad. Elsinore could do that to its inhabitants.

There was a time when she was a maiden, running through green fields with flowers in her hair and loved by a young handsome prince. ‘Course those were the days before the prince went away happy, then came back sad. Now she is a bride in black, Grief her husband-to-be.

In her room, she sat and wondered. Was it her father she had seen or was it not her father? The details were unclear. He moaned through a murky fog from a distance.

So she called out, “Please, Horatio, be kind and take me to the queen. I won’t embarrass you but I need to know if it was my father I saw.” Oh, if it only were, and only if only he would speak his love for me.

Horatio went down the hall, trying to convince the queen. “Your Majesty, you must speak with her.”

Queen Gertrude was afraid to face the daughter of the old counselor, the one she last saw fall dead in her chambers. What if Ophelia asked for details? I don’t think I could take that.

Horatio pleaded.

Finally Gertrude agreed, then breathed a sigh. She must do what she must do.

All that came from Ophelia’s lips were words that Ophelia didn’t even understand. And she sang in incomplete thoughts. The song she sang was a prayer but who could tell what her prayer was for. Certainly not Gertrude. And certainly not Claudius.

Something about white his shroud as the mountain snow. Then her mind went wandering. Where she went neither the queen nor the king knew.

Alll they could do was pray, “Deliver her from evil.”