Film Favorites

City Lights. There's an exercise going around the social network in which participants are commanded to "List 15 movies you've seen that will always stick with you." An intriguing proposition since the reasons that a movie "sticks with you"are intensely personal. This means that there is nothing to debate and films that I don't hold in particularly high regard like Philadelphia (which I have publicly derided in print many times), Nobody's Fool, and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World were safely posted without fear of being cruelly mocked by yours truly. My own list was topped this week, as it always will be, by the Charlie Chaplin masterpiece City Lights. I first saw it when I was about 12 and my mother took me to a strange theatre in Hollywood that had two separate entrances; a left-turn at the old-style standalone ticket booth (where the young lady within wore a revealing leotard) brought you to a screen showing hardcore porn. A right-turn brought you to a rather shabby little theatre showing classic movies by Buster Keaton, the Marx Bros., Laurel & Hardy, and Chaplin. I spent many a happy hour in that theatre, never more so than when the work of the Little Tramp was on display. I loved all his films that I saw there: Modern Times, The Great Dictator, The Gold Rush, The Kid and Limelight; but no film before or since has had the profound emotional effect on me that my first viewing of City Light did. It's undeniably a masterpiece (it has for my money the best ending in the history of motion pictures) but as I get older it seems more dated and contrived (the Tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl and sacrifices everything so that she can regain her sight via an operation provided by a European doctor which cures blindness, as though there was only one cause for blindness and one operation could cure it). At the same time, every time I watch it (and I've watched it many, many times), it takes me back to that now-demolished theatre in Hollywood and I view it through the eyes of that hopeful 12 year-old boy. I guess that there are better movies than City Lights in the pantheon of filmmaking: Citizen Kane, The Godfather, The Searchers, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Casablanca, and The Seven Samurai come immediately to mind. But none of them are so magical that they can transform me into an enraptured child discovering movies for the first time. So I don't care how many movies I see between now and the time that I become so blind that I'll need an operation from a European doctor to get my sight back. Whenever I make a list of my favorite movies, City Lights will always be at the top.

Bro Joe, who took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge viral sensation by making a video in which you dump a bucket of ice-cold water over your head to raise awareness for ALS. Joe decided to get "creative"with his video, elegantly dressing in a suit and tie (the first time he has worn any kind of superfluous neckwear since the irate father of a cheerleader Joe had defiled suspended him from a noose in the middle of the desert and threatened to shoo away the donkey which Joe was astride on if he didn't leave town immediately) and defiantly insisting that the only acceptable use of an ice bucket was to keep his whiskey cold, calling himself a "hero" for doing so. Hilarity then ensued as Joe was first doused with dry confetti and then inevitably with freezing water. It was quite amusing, save for one glaring omission: any mention that the stunt was supposed to benefit the sufferers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and raise funds to eradicate the disease. Instead, Joe and his martini-drinking cronies simply chuckled to each other condescendingly and patted Joe on the back for snidely mocking a viral stunt whose intention is to let Steven Hawking stand up out of his wheelchair. ALS (more commonly known for its most famous victim, Lou Gehrig) is a devastating disease that eats away at its target's muscles until they are unable to move or speak. In Joe's case, that would definitely be an improvement so I'm actually not all that upset that he didn't raise a dime for the disease with his video. If Joe couldn't talk any more, I'd consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Bro Joe again, with whom I dined last week. When I arrived to pick Joe up for our culinary adventure, he was already on his third or fourth whiskey sour of the evening, so I knew what I was in for. You see, when alcohol is introduced into the fragile eco-system which makes up Joe's central nervous system, a switch is flipped which convinces him that he is nothing short of irresistible to any woman within the sound of his increasingly-piercing moonshine-infused voice. On this particular evening, the target of Joe's sexual predation was our waitress; a young woman who projected tolerance for his drunken rambling as part of the sacred covenant of working for tips. The result was that Joe spent his entire evening seated at the same table as me while focusing all of his attention on our waitress, as I amused myself by texting a description of the scene to a woman I have my own devious sights set on. The night ended predictably with the waitress shutting Joe down when he finally asked for her number but at least someone may get some action as a result of it. My female friend found my description of Joe's shenanigans quite hilarious and I have no doubt that it will ultimately convince her to want to get in the sack with me. At least that's how I remember it; I was pretty drunk at the time.

Tom Ashworth, who I'm told directed the play in which I am currently starring, Three Really Offensive Scenes About the Founding Fathers, which closes tomorrow night. Mr. Ashworth sent the cast an e-mail last week containing the notes "Show up, try to stay sober, and say the lines more or less." When I think back on our rehearsals, I recall that there was a figure lurking in the shadows who would spout similar advice following the run-throughs. At the time, I assumed he was the state-mandated handler of one of my supporting players Paul Messinger and Kerr Lordygan, who was there to keep him clean and sober during the run of the show. After witnessing Mssrs. Messinger and Lordygan's abuse of various intoxicants and hallucinogenics before, during and after every performance, I realize now that the mysterious figure with the Mr. Potato Head-like silhouette was actually Mr. Ashworth giving us "direction."What Mr. Ashworth fails to understand that while there is a benefit to our showing up and reciting the lines as written, if any of us were to attempt to perform while sober (especially following Mr. Ashworth's dubious "direction") the results would be a disaster rivaling the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. When I think about my own performance (Thomas Jefferson makes his first entrance after masturbating and then attempts to anally violate John Adams), it makes me want to have another drink.

Robin Greenspan, who bragged that she "just left a voicemail for someone and ended the communication with, ‘hi.'"Rather than hoping her personal charisma will make the word "hi"simultaneously mean "hello"and "goodbye"(like "aloha"or "My name is Jonny; I'm here to pick you up for our Internet date”) I suspect Ms. Greenspan is simply one of those unfortunates who leaves disastrous voice messages and ends them with that final thought to compensate for the idiocy that came before it:This is Robin...Robin. I jus' wanna tell you...wanna say...What you said before really pissed me off! I mean, I know that I said some things too...about your mother...How was I supposed to know that she had just died? It's just another example of how you always turn things around on me... like the time you borrowed fifty dollars from me and you didn't pay it back. Oh, wait...I borrowed fifty dollars from you, didn't I? Or was it five hundred? The point is that you're an asshole for what you said about my mother...I mean what I said about your mother...I mean...I'm ...HIGH! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppp! By ending her message with that single word, the recipient will forgive her all the babbling and verbal attacks and rather than contact an attorney to start drawing up a restraining order, he'll merely cluck his tongue sadly over his friend's substance abuse problems and contribute another fifty bucks (on top of the money she already owes him) for a stay at the Betty Ford clinic. It's actually a brilliant idea to end all her phone messages that way. I wonder if she was high when she came up with it.