Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Better Class of Garbage.

When I was a kid, there were a few movies that were non-negotiable in my house. My parents are both major cinephiles, so collectively we owned a lot of VHS tapes, and spent a lot of time watching movies and reading, respectively. One of the best things about my mom is that she has no criteria for what constitutes a "worthy" piece of media. She loves sappy romance movies, horror movies, old movies, she has shown me some of the best and worst films I have ever seen. I remember one year, for mothers day, I invited her over to my apartment and we got barbecue take out and she picked two DVDs for us to watch, and as my gift to her, I would watch whatever she picked without complaint. That Mothers Day I watched "Cloverfield", a sci fi thriller type about a monster that destroys New York City, and  "The Holiday", a droopy romantic movie in the romcom style starring Jack Black, Kate Winslet, and other adorable starlets. Was my Mom the only 50 something woman seeing "Cloverfield" in the theater by herself when it debuted? I'd wager she was. 
She showed me "A Thousand Clowns" when I was probably about 12, and ever since, this has been my favourite movie. It's purely character driven, based off of a play by the same name written by Herb Gardner. It's a story about Nick (played by Barry Gordon) and his uncle Murray (played by Jason Robards) whom he lives with and who is currently unemployed. The story is basically about how eccentric Murray must find ground between captaining his own alternative lifestyle (also known as unemployment) and being a good father and provider for Nick. It's basically a movie about having to grow up, just a little bit, and about negotiating how much of your personality and personal goals you should auction off for the sake of assimilating into a larger, but safer, culture.

The movie appeals to me because I don't really care about a plot; I'm a total character person. The movie probably has 4 or 5 different locations, I would say about 75% of it takes place in Nick and Murray's apartment. It's a flurry of quick dialogue, little quiet jokes, and meaningful looks. So of course, I love it. A Very Popular Website Whose Name We Dare Not Speak but Could Be Related To Certain Rainforests in South America just released the film on DVD, so I bought it immediately as a birthday present to myself. I'd like to recommend this play or movie to anybody that has ever had values that did not fit in with everybody else, to anyone that is creative or successful in a way that is not necessarily fiscally lucrative, or to people that bummed around a lot with their Dads and/or older, male role models when they were kids. The idling at the park and complicated inside jokes will strike those of us that spent a lot of time goofing off as charmingly familiar. I just want us all to think a little bit more critically about what constitutes "a waste of time", and why. Can you explain it? Is it about money or activities to hone potential money making skills? How much time do you have to 'waste' before you have 'wasted' time? As a fairly nonplussed and apathetic student and super passionate and creative doer-of-art and thinker-of-things, I'm curious about these questions, and "A Thousand Clowns" definitely got me thinking about them at a young, ripe age. 

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