11’s Speak Volumes

So many movies have flickered across my eyeball. From cinema popcorn butter dripping down a whisker-less “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” chin … through my awkward, “Yo, Adrian!” years … to the most recent ( a DVD viewing of “Somewhere in Time” I finally got to🙄) …, over 1,000 movies had to carve out some comfortable sofa and squeaky cinema seat entertainment time. At LEAST 1,000 – if not more.

In-theater viewing, VHS, DVD, streaming service … All forms of delivery and ranges of interest – with or without exceptional acting – held hostage a percentage of time in my life I will never get back. Some, I do regret. Most, not. At the risk of offending anyone, I won’t mention dislikes or fascinations. There were only two I can recall where I walked my disappointed ticket stub out the door after only a half-hour. No regrets at all with VHS’s or DVD’s, however. Those were only one stop click away from a refrigerator snack visit that didn’t require a quick, snarky comment to a teenager behind the counter on the way through.

Yep, a ton of movies. Very similar to your experience, I am quite sure. This is where we part ways, … Probably. Why? Because if I took a poll of my blog readers, a large percentage of you had a certain movie flicker across YOUR eyeballs at some point that did not appear in my couldn’t-be-anymore-less-interested pupils. I was barely aware this movie existed. Vaguely, I remember 1984 as a year … let alone a year when a movie, I didn’t care much about anyway, was released.

It came up in passing during a conversation today.

“Herbie, the Love Bug”? ✔️, “Star Wars” Trilogy”? ✔️, “Mary Poppins”?✔️, “The Matrix”?✔️, “Fatal Attraction”?✔️, “American President”✔️, “When Harry Met Sally”?✔️, “Godfather” Trilogy?✔️… We could continue to check all the boxes together with most of those iconic movies over the years, right? This one in the projector today? I don’t believe we’re cine-patico.

Today, as I alluded, the following question was asked of me: “You’ve never seen ______?” Now, before I insert the actual movie title, understand it IS a movie I should have watched at some point in my life. It was assumed, correctly so, that I should have known a popular idiom from the movie – seeing as how I claim to be some kind of musician.

I should know some things. Movie quotes chief among them. In conversation, these provide wisdom, insight, understanding, humor, and levity when all else fails. All of us know some, right? Who doesn’t throw in a, “Stella!!, once in a while, or a, “Go ahead, make my day!”, when provoked by a good-natured, friendly pal-poke? Add it all up, and I certainly wasn’t in Kansas anymore when the query was presented.

I’ll get to the actual idiom in a minute. Before I do, there’s a certain amount of dirty laundry I need to tumble into this recounting of events.

After the late morning convo which included a two minute education on the cinematic value of volume control as a 10% notch over the norm (I’ve come to understand), I dialed up a load of laundry. What appeared, coincidentally so, in the dryer bin – as man-delicates and other fabricated items were pulled from their toasty, warm cocoon? – These crispy critters:

Eleven of them! Well, a $5 plus 6 $1 bills ,… $11 total, to be exact. Not enough to get into a movie house these days, but plenty to tap into a sense of needing to check my pockets more often … and a significantly higher awareness that something odd was strangely sticky in the aisle of a numerical talkie universe.

Spoken randomly in conversation, “Have you heard turn it up to eleven?”, this double-one stilted into my late morning, then again in tangible, barterable currency.

“THIS is Spinal Tap”, and for future reference, my financial lifeline amp should frequently, “Go up to 11”, for no other reason than the mere mention seems to produce money out of thin, warm air.

Of course, it is entirely possible a correlation, or causation, between the two 11’s doesn’t exist, or does and I don’t understand the underlying principles at play. Based on my exhaustive research 😉, I do believe Nigel would agree with this conclusion.

Ah, heck. Maybe everything is going to remain pretty much the same, anyway? Another workaround of the quote is, “Things are essentially the same, but seen as different (due to) because of mislabeling”.

I did some Rhodes research (google) on the number 11. Numerology says eleven is inspiring, artistic and spiritual. Makes sense to me, although, no amount of advertising 37 years ago inspired me to nestle into crunchy, used, fake velvety seats to watch a Rob Reiner film. My mind, at the time, was too far into other issues and events to consider tapping into a metal band’s problems.

Call me one needing a small urge on the backbone? Ok, that’s fair. I do know that $11 in today’s world will buy me at least 20 more used DVD’s of movies I have yet to watch – and must. I feel this is necessary in the event a conversation comes up again where cinematic quotes are a necessary, affirmative tie-in.

… Especially if I can yank some Washingtons from the dryer a few hours later. If only I knew this was the secret to riches earlier in my life.

Sensational Swashbuckling, 2021

2020 was not, for sure. 1954 – the backdrop year of this surprisingly wonderful film – was for a few characters … especially Bengy Stone, who was assigned the unenviable task of looking after swashbuckling matinee idol Alan Swann. Thirty-six years removed from the previous pandemic (in movie time) and directed by Richard Benjamin thirty-nine years behind this current masking society (in real time), “My Favorite Year” is close to my favorite slice of time so far in 2021.

I first met Richard Benjamin during a Tonight Show re-run a few nights ago. He was, in a word, delightful. His appearance came a few months prior to the release of this film, of course … as all appearances by actors and directors dutifully promoting their wares – sitting to the right of the King of Late Night – did at the time. One mention of Peter O’Toole is all it took for me to begin Netflixing my way through movie queues soon thereafter. A few dollars later, there it was. A movie, previously unknown to me, now beginning as a young Mark Linn-Baker carries a cardboard cutout of Alan Swann through the heavy pedestrian traffic of NYC toward 30 Rockefeller Center. A New York City full of life, energy, and humor.

Bengy is who you would expect him to be – a young, energetic fellow who has quirky, humble comedic tilts in his personality. As a writer among others supporting a one hour t.v. Comedy Hour, he’s under pressure to be funny, yet sympathetic to the bigger egos in the room. None bigger than the soon to be inserted Mr. Swann who, we are quick to learn, has a leaning toward wine and women, – both of which cause highly predictable delays in morning arrivals. This being the case, Bengy volunteers to be a swashbuckler’s man-nanny for the week, guaranteeing safe travels within the city and promptness at all rehearsals.

As with all movies that keep our attention and are entertaining, there are sub-plots and curves here. A small romance, a mafia tie-in that culminates in a “hit” at the end, and charming individual character flaws all come together to make this movie really fun to watch.

Obviously, I’m not a professional movie reviewer. I wouldn’t even qualify to carry the briefcases of Siskel & Ebert from their limo to the Oscars if they were alive today. How to accurately convey the pleasure I got out of watching a thirty-nine year old movie without giving away most of the surprise? I don’t know. Peter O’Toole was wonderful. The story wasn’t campy or overplayed by anyone. The premise wasn’t too far reaching … it could actually be true and believable should an actor relay such a story in an autobiography.

What I kept thinking after the movie credits was: How ironic the title.

Nine days into 2021, and I’ll go back to my first line … 2020 was not, for sure. Maybe I simply needed a 1 1/2 hour hero to jump out of the screen and save me from the bad news of last year. A surprise visitor. Someone different with a message I hadn’t heard in a while – even if it was a fantasy. A swashbuckler slaying all the badness one by one.

I related so well to Bengy. Maybe that’s it. Trying to get through with a bit of quirkiness, dealing with egos much greater than I … making it work, somehow.

That’s what most of us are doing. We don’t have a say beyond our own words. Too many have platforms and audiences greater than ours … probably.

I can’t say 1954 was my favorite. Pre-birth years don’t qualify. Now, 1982 does have significance – it set me on my life’s journey after high school. Not my favorite, though. Up to now, I don’t have one, really. Should I?

Should you? When Norman Steinberg and Dennis Palumbo wrote the story for My Favorite Year, I wonder if 1954 was theirs? Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio, the Oscar Mayer hotdog car was patented, and Rock Around the Clock was recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets that same year. If you were to write a movie, what year would you pick?

Tell you what year I wouldn’t pick. 2020. Unless the horror genre is your thing, I wouldn’t recommend it for you either. The only advice I will give you is: find a few moments aside to watch this movie. Yes, it’s 39 years old. Sure, there are better “made” movies that will sparkle your special-effects fantasies. However, for a refreshing start to your 2021, sit back and go back sixty-seven years to a NYC full of life, liberty, happiness, joy, …. and most of all – humanity.

As Siskel & Ebert would lovingly say, “See you at the movies!”