Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 09/06/16: Clean Teeth, Hamburger Stew, Return to *Scarecrow*

1.  After talking with Philip at the Verizon store about this and that regarding my smartphone and tablet, I headed over to the McCarl Group's dental offices and left with the refreshing feeling of having had my teeth cleaned and polished. It's hard to believe that in my senior years I enjoy this so much, especially given the way I dreaded dental visits in my youth.

2.  As I pondered cooking dinner for me and the Deke, I thought it might be a good idea to take a break from coriander and turmeric and garlic and lemon and tomatoes and the other things that make Mediterranean food such a pleasure and go for some U.S.A. cuisine, that is, something milder.  I found the perfect recipe on Pinterest: a ground beef stew seasoned only with salt and pepper. It was easy to make and I hadn't even thought about how it was also comfort food, good for my Kellogg soul.  So, if you, too, are looking for a simple recipe where the flavor of the meat and vegetables carry the day, not a lot of seasonings, you can find the recipe, here.

3. Back in the fall of 1982, as I started life anew, freshly divorced, in a generic apartment on N. Colfax Road in Spokane with a temporary full-time instructor's job at Whitworth, I bought myself a television and a Betamax video recorder and I went crazy watching movies.  Over the Christmas break in 1982, a friend from graduate school, Michael Quigley (R.I.P.), came to my apartment -- and later joined our family in Kellogg for Christmas -- and he and I went on a movie watching tear, renting armloads of movies from the video store where I had a membership, and one of the movies he introduced me to was Scarecrow (1973), featuring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino.

I loved watching that movie during one of our marathons. I never saw it again and over the last several years I've tried to find it on Netflix and Amazon Prime and other sources without success.

I never thought I'd see this movie again.

But, this evening, I did an "Al Pacino" search on Amazon Prime, not even thinking of Scarecrow and there it was, available to rent (or buy).

I loved watching Scarecrow again. I loved entering, at the movie's start, into a bleak California landscape that Samuel Beckett might have created, where Max and Lion dance toward beginning their friendship without saying a word and then enter into a trip across the USA hitching rides and hopping trains.

As the movie unfolds, it explores more and more deeply these characters' dislocation and alienation from everyday American life, their illusions, and their growing need for each other.

I won't give the story away.  I will say, however, that I loved the loose, nearly plotless structure of the movie and the room director Jerry Schatzberg gave the actors in this movie to improvise -- many scenes played to me like improvisational games we used to play in class when I took Improv at LCC -- and the freedom Pacino and Hackman had to peel away and reveal the dark and loving complexities of the characters they played.

In the end, Scarecrow might be seen as adding yet another film to the huge canon of American Dream movies. Scarecrow doesn't affirm the American Dream, but the dream of a pursuing a prosperous future drives both men, even if their dreams are illusions sinking into delusions.

A final note:  If I owned a movie theater that showed movies no one was sure to come to, I would love to screen a Gene Hackman triple feature of the roles of his I most admire, played between 1970 and 1975 -- and I would be leaving out The French Connection -- maybe I would show it by itself another day!  Here's the triple feature:

I Never Sang for my Father
The Conversation

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