Sit back and let the good times roll (9/10/99)

Over the summer, I saw a lot of movies. I mean, a lot of movies. At the theater, at home, at other people's houses, at parties, et cetera. Some of them better than others, but I sat through all of them, even Showgirls. (Which, by the way, I recommend that no one ever, ever see. It's like staring at a train wreck. It's a horrible, hideous thing, but you just. Can't. Turn. Away.) You have to understand that I love movies. All kinds of movies. I even love bad movies, with that kind of love you have for the psychotic cousin in your family who's wanted in several states for bigamy and mail-order fraud. Even if they're on the level of Mystery Science Theater 3000 offerings, they're still somebody's little brain child.

I especially love going to the movies. Even if the film is terrible, I'll sit there, all huge eyes and open mouth, absolutely amazed at being told a story with so much precision, so much direction - being let into someone else's head for a couple of hours and seeing things just the way they want you to, blink for blink. There are some exceptions to this stupefaction - this summer, I had to be forcibly restrained from throwing Milk Duds at the screen when I went to see The Haunting - but I've never walked out of a movie yet. It's magic, that's all. Just magic.

When it comes to renting movies, I'm a maniac. Anything and everything goes, from Night of the Lepus, a horror film about six-foot bunny rabbits, to But you know what? I like 'em old. I miss the great American movie musical, no matter how corny and overdone some of them were. My idea of a weekend well spent is a handful of Danny Kaye movies and a bag of Good 'n' Plenty. And don't any of you ask me again who Danny Kaye is. You must know some of his stuff - Hans Christian Anderson, White Christmas, The Court Jester (where the pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle and the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true). They're very funny and pretty much the ultimate in feel-good flicks. Remember those movies you watched when you were a kid where everyone was saved and the good guy always got the girl? Well, stop trying to fill that void with current insipid romantic comedies and go get some old Hollywood musicals. It's corn, but it's sincere corn.

The more I watch of these, the more I'm convinced that I was born too late, durn it. I belong in the thirties, the forties, the fifties, where movie houses were palaces with balconies and you could waste an entire afternoon on a double feature with a cartoon and maybe a newsreel. I want to see all those marvellous people on the big screen for the first time, in their primes - Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Kahterine Hepburn, Peter Lorre, Gene Kelly, and too, too many others to even begin to mention. Just watching their movies, knowing that they're out there, and can make more. Incredible.

Sometimes, when I'm watching, I start to think that we shouldn't be allowed to record or remember the past like this. It hurts so much to realize that these people are dead, that this time is irretrievable, that it might be better to not know, to not miss what we've lost. And then I see Donald O'Connor running up the walls or Cary Grant running through blasted fields, fleeing that ominous biplane, or Charles Laughton swinging from his bell pull - and I'm caught again. Magic. Tell me again how it was, how it is, where our love affair with films started and developed and keeps moving along. Show me your story.

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