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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Being a Dark Lord isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

When you’re the Dark Lord, it’s a lonely job. Nobody likes you. Despite all that Sauron had done for Middle Earth, he just wasn’t appreciated.

Without Sauron, there would have been no Rings. Without the Rings, no “Lord of the Rings”. And just think of all the fun we readers would have missed. Can you imagine Harry Potter without He-who-must-not-be-named? Ah, c’mon you want to say it. Voldemort. Now there don’t you feel better. And like Sauron, Voldemort was a lonely dude too. At least, Lex Luthor had Lana Lang and Eve Teschmacher.

Anyway, back to Sauron. Without Sauron, we’d never have heard of Hobbits. I mean we might have heard of Bilbo Baggins because he went off with the dwarves and took on that dragon. But that was not epic the way the trilogy was.

Without Sauron, the trolls and the orcs and all the Wraiths would have run amok. And you ain’t seen amok until there’s been an amoking by trolls and orcs and Wraiths.

You think Sauron was a bad dude. Well, I got news for you. Compared to Morgoth. Sauron was a pussy cat. A pussy cat with claws, yes. But still a pussy cat.

And Sauron had a lot to offer. First he had all those rings. I mean, what girl can resist jewelry. He had a very large castle. Sure, it left a lot to be desired. No central heating and all. But you think Prince Charming could do better.

Oh yeah, I forgot. Prince Charming had a set of teeth no girl could resist. They gave his smile a glow. I’m here to tell you it was all so fake. Prince Charming was one heck of a bigamist. First, he kisses Sleeping Beauty. Before you know, she is so pregnant. And Cinderella? Before she knew it, she was married to a guy with a foot fetish. Well, those ladies finally got even. Have you ever heard of the Amazons? You guessed. Cindy and Beauty started them.

Most of all Sauron had land. Lots and lots of land. Enough land to impress any girl. But the one thing Tolkien forgot to tell us was that Sauron was land poor. Like those English aristocrats who married English aristocrats, Sauron had no cash. Morgoth had left him with all those mortgages and the dwarves had hidden the gold, what else could Sauron do? Either marry a rich Elf or go on the warpath. He much preferred marry a rich Elf and settling down.

He dated Galadriel for a while. She was so stuck on herself she kept trying to show off her powers. Well, there was only so much of that a guy could take. Then he dated Arwen but she had the hots for Aragorn.

You know the old saying. Rejected once, it must be them. Rejected twice, it must be you. Well, what else could Sauron do? Attack Gondor and get the gold. All that gold would pay off the mortgages and give him enough cash to keep the Wraiths happy.

Too bad he didn’t ask Eowyn out on a date before Faramir came around. After all, she was the daughter of a king. She rode a horse like a jockey, threw a spear like an Olympic javelin thrower, and handled a sword like Sir Lancelot. If not her, there were lots of other princesses in Middle Earth who were looking for a guy. Naw, it was the Eye that scared the humans away.

So what are the morals of this story. When looking for love, don’t look in all the wrong places.  Elves are known to be stuck on themselves. Watch out for guys who want to know your shoe size. And just because the person you’re dating has a great smile doesn’t mean they’re not a bigamist. And never, ever marry for money. Cash is nice but bankruptcy can be a pain.

So you can see, being the Dark Lord isn’t what it appears to be. It’s a lonely job. And the little guy always wins the girl. After all, Sam lived happily ever after.

Near 500 words: Yin and Yang

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Chet looked into Tessa’s eyes. He saw the city reflected in her clear blue eyes. Her smile filled him with joy.

Tessa looked into Chet’s eyes. She saw the countryside. His smile filled her with joy.

Tessa wore city. Chet was clothed in country. Tessa spoke city. Chet spoke countryese. Chet was progressive. Tessa a conservative. Chet was into cats. Tessa had a German shepherd. It wasn’t an argument they had. It was a conversation.

It had been a blind date when they met. They had resisted. They had had blind dates before. Neither was up for another one. But their best friends insisted. They saw something of the other in each one. And they felt that Tessa and Chet would  make a great pair.

They met on neutral territory. A crowded restaurant. Immediately they liked each other. Though they had nothing in common, they had everything in common. They both were gentle, kind souls. They were both creative. Though Chet was an optimist, Tessa was a pessimist. They balanced each other out, and their glass as a couple always held a half glass of wine.

Mac and Chess

Prompted by this photograph.

So Mac and Chess got on the subway at noon. They agreed they were to ride it for twenty-four hours. Once an hour they decided they wanted to meet a new person, and that is what they did. They approached a stranger and said, “Hey, I’m Mac, and this is Chess.” Or they said, “I’m Chess, and this is Mac.” The first person they met was Sabian. He was from South Africa. He was here on a visa and Columbia. He was on his way to meet his new girlfriend, Cassandra. He talked a lot about Cassandra. How beautiful she was. How smart.

Mac said, “I know what you mean. Chess is so beautiful and so smart. I’m a lucky man that she even likes me. And she likes me a lot.”

Chess said, “I do not. You’re just making that up.” She laughed that laugh of hers that Mac loved. Then she hugged him. “No, I love you, you goose.”

Each person they met they found something they had in common. Sara talked about her granddaughter. Chess talked about her sister. They were both blind.

“She’s never seen a day in her life. I can’t imagine. But she sure can play music.” Sara was proud of her granddaughter.

Late in the night around midnight, the car was empty. Chess started this game. “Mac,” she said. “Tell me something about yourself you have never told anyone.”

“Something I’ve never told anyone.” Mac thought, a little bit scared, afraid Chess wouldn’t love him anymore. Then he decided to take a chance, walk out on the tightrope and not worry about the net that wasn’t below him.

“I lost my friend, Charlie, to drugs. I was there when he od’ed.” Tears formed in Mac’s eyes. “I called emergency, then took off. I didn’t stay to keep him company until someone arrived. I was scared.”

Chess squeezed his hand. She didn’t ask all the questions you might expect. She was pretty sure that Mac didn’t use drugs. But curiosity could have driven her to ask anyway.

Mac swiped away his tears. “Now it’s your turn.”

“I stole five dollars from my mother’s purse once. My brother got blamed for it. I wanted this lipstick and I didn’t have the money for it. So I stole it. I’ve never stolen anything before or since. I don’t know what made me do it. I bought the lipstick, but I was so guilty I couldn’t use it.”

Mac saw the guilt in her face, and the pain. He didn’t say anything. He just listened to Chess tell her tale. Only it wasn’t a tale. It was the truth.

Knights used to test their courage in a joust. They did it to see if they had the stuff it took to be a knight. Mac and Chess tested their courage by trusting each other with their deepest, darkest secrets. It started out as a game, then it became deadly serious. And that twenty-four hours they spent on the train, meeting new friends and telling each other their secrets, was the beginning of their long romance.

Last year Mac died from cancer. They were married fifty years. Chess waited for the Man to come and take her as well. She spent much of her time alone in her apartment with the things she and Mac loved. The paintings they collected. The works of famous artists decorated their walls. They were not famous when Mac and Chess bought them.

Chess’ grandkids came to see her and urged her to come and live with one of them. But she couldn’t bear to leave their home of forty years. Every afternoon she sat by the window. From her second floor vantage, she looked out hoping Mac would walk up the sidewalk the way he used to when he was alive.

Soon Chess would walk down that sidewalk and meet him in the park nearby. Then they would catch the subway and ride, meeting new friends and telling each other their secrets.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: A May-December Affair

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 “Murphy’s Romance” (1985);

It’s Thanksgiving week and I have a lot to be thankful for. So I thought I would give a big thumbs up to a movie the whole fam can watch and not be embarrassed. On a likability scale of one to five, I give “Murphy’s Romance” a six. Maybe it’s because it has the very likable Sally Field and the even more likable James Garner in the main character roles. Director Martin Ritt and Screenwriters Harriet Frank and Irving Ravetch have taken the cliche-ridden May-December romance and turned it into something special.

Emma (Sally Field) is a divorcee who comes to a small Arizona town, ready to start a new life with her teenage son. There she starts running into Murphy (James Garner), who seems to be everywhere and know everybody. He lost his wife several years before. Neither are looking for a new relationship.

About the time Emma and Murphy are becoming interested in each other, Emma’s ex, Bobby Jack, shows up, wanting to get back together with Emma. She’s barely able to resist his charm. And charm he has. He is the kind of guy who can charm the pants off a woman, break her heart, then run off with her money. Brian Kerwin plays him to the hilt.

Even though Emma’s trying to get rid of him, he just won’t go away. Part of the reason is that Bobby Jack is her son’s father and he charms his son as well.

Martin Ritt takes his time and lets the viewer get to know the characters and the town. He isn’t rushing the story just to get a sex scene. He is giving us something that is the real thing. A darn enjoyable movie. And it’s likable too.