NEEDLES & PINS, AND THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS
I have big hair this evening. I took a shower and then took a nap with the cat in front of the heater without doing anything with my wet mop. It’s all poofed up now. The cat has the added bonus of having the cable modem in front of the heater. She sleeps on it and gets toasty on both sides. Happiness is a warm modem.
I watched a 1980 film called Hopscotch this evening. It stars Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Ned Beatty, and Sam Waterston from Law and Order. The liner notes in the Criterion DVD call it the “only ‘feel-good’ realistic spy film ever made,” and I think it’s a pretty good call. It’s definitely a charming film, with Matthau, of course, working his magic, playing a CIA agent who, rather than fade into bureaucratic obscurity, leads his fellow agents on a worldwide chase while leaking to them chapters of his very revealing memoirs. The film occasionally suffers from some ’70s television-style direction (Matthau departs on a joke, zoom in on the woman laughing!), but overall is a fun, obscure gem.
Watching it, however, was a tad bittersweet. I first saw Hopscotch 22 years ago, when it was in the theatres. It was a movie we had ended up settling on, after a long day of fighting between my parents.
You see, going to the movies wasn’t done when I was young. My father was a pastor and the church forbade it. Or at least my mother felt that way. To be honest, I don’t know for sure. My earliest film memories are of my dad sneaking off to the college near where we lived several times when I was very young (like four years old, maybe) and watching movies in their theatre, bringing me along. From the snatches of memory I have, it was mainly kung-fu movies, and oddly enough, Animal House. My young male mind recorded the scene where the woman takes her shirt off in the back of the car. Probably my first bra.
So, my dad enjoyed movies, and my mom didn’t.
We moved to California when I was seven, and he left the ministry. This corresponded with me becoming more aware of the cultural aspect of films. I was the only kid in my class who hadn’t seen Star Wars I am sure. (And before the wags try to say this is why I despise that film now, I should point out that when Empire was released, I sat in the theatre watching ever showing straight through one Saturday, and I used to shoplift Jedi action figures. It was an education in story that made me detest George Lucas. In other words, fuck yourself.) I think my new awareness connected both to just being in school and also, in Michigan, we only got two channels on our TV; in California, I discovered the joys of syndication and afternoon cartoons, and so became an advertising target. I started lobbying to see films, because I wanted to be part of it all. I think I first won with Lady & the Tramp, likely because it was Disney (church on Sunday nights had always caused me to miss The Wonderful World of Disney as well, so this was a big deal). The second movie was The Black Stallion. My mother tried to make me feel guilty about this, since I was bringing sin into the house. She pointed at my dad on the phone, and said, “See what he’s doing for you? He’s been calling around all day trying to find tickets?” I know now what bullshit that was, he was probably calling for show times, but to a seven-year-old, that was serious guilt.
I was probably eight by the time we saw Hopscotch. The movie my dad really wanted to see was Raging Bull. He told me this, and I burst out with, “But dad, that movie is rated R!” He tried to shush me, but it was too late. The row began. And it lasted all day, until finally my dad put his foot down and took us to Hopscotch. We waited in the car when he went to buy tickets, and my mother turned to me and said, “We’ll go see it with him, but we won’t enjoy it.” I can see how fitting it was now that she was creating a covert conspiracy, given the film’s subject matter. It was rated R, too, but really, she had nothing to worry about. Beatty says “fuck” about four times, one person says “son of a bitch,” but there is no sex and no bloodshed. It’s pretty tame. (And I knew those words already, and used them liberally on the playground.)
Very little memory remained of Hopscotch. Ned Beatty beating on the hood of the car (one of the times he said “fuck,” too), an inept agent being cornered by a Doberman, and that’s about it. I can see my dad really enjoying the film, and had I not been poisoned, I probably would have too. Matthau’s shenanigans would have been right up my alley.
The film was a brief break in working. As soon as I post this, it’s back to work for an hour or two before SNL. Looks like the secret gig will take me into next week, leaving me with a week to do the second volume of Man of Many Faces, which is six more days than I did the first volume in, so it should be fine. My upper arms actually ache from the typing. What’s up with that?
Current Soundtrack: Ms Dynamite, A Little Deeper