Sunday, September 13, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 09/12/20: Osaka Wins, *King of Hearts* and Cinema 7, Good for Debbie! BONUS A Limerick by Stu

 Note: Today smoke from the fires out here in the west rolled into Kellogg and grew thicker as the day progressed. I'm staying indoors, windows and doors shut, and, so far, the smoke has stayed outside. 

1. This afternoon, I watched some tennis as Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka played for the championship of the U.S. Open. I hadn't seen Naomi Osaka play since her 2018 finals win over Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka has been entangled in a prolonged dispute over the custody of her son and it's kept her from playing much tennis recently. In other words, I didn't know what to expect as this match began. Even without having any expectations, I was stunned by the first set: Azarenka steamrolled Osaka, 6-1. Azarenka's serve was nearly perfect (she put 16 of her first 17 serves in play) and Osaka undermined herself with 13 unforced errors.

Honestly, it looked it might be a quick afternoon. Osaka lost her first service game of the second set, but broke Azarenka's serve back immediately and it appeared something fell into place for Osaka. She began serving more confidently, eliminated the high number of unforced errors, began peppering Azarenka with pinpoint shots, both in returning serve and during rallies, and her confidence built. 

It had been twenty-five years since a player in the women's final of the U.S. Open had dropped the first set and come back to win the next two and capture the title. Naomi Osaka did just that today. In those second two sets her serves and her shots back to Azarenka were relentless, taxing Azarenka, keeping pressure on her. In the end, Osaka's power and accuracy prevailed, and she won her second U.S. Open title, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

2. When I moved to Eugene in 1979, I was eager to live in a university town. I have to admit, though, that I was scared of graduate school and spent way too much time on my school work and didn't take as much advantage of the cultural wealth of Eugene as I might have. 

That said, upon arriving in Eugene in August, about a month before school started, I discovered a tiny movie theater located downtown called Cinema 7. Cinema 7 showed international movies, off the beaten track US movies, revival movies, and film classics from decades ago. It also hosted a live theater project, "Live Matinee".   As I remember, Cinema 7 turned its movies over fairly frequently, so if a person really wanted to see something, it was necessary to get there quickly. I liked this approach because  it meant a lot of movies were coming and going.  Cinema 7 also featured double features -- not all the time -- but fairly often and I loved going to these.

I have no way of documenting what I'm about to claim with any certainty, but here's what I remember.

While living in Spokane and attending and working at Whitworth College, I'd heard people rave about a movie that had been made and released in France in 1966 entitled, King of Hearts. It hadn't done well when first released in France, but once it was revived in small theaters like the Cinema 7 in the USA, it had become very popular among art house movie goers -- making it what came to be known as a "cult classic". 

Well, as good fortune would have it, I noticed, soon after arriving in Eugene, that King of Hearts was showing (being revived) at Cinema 7 and, I think, it's the first movie I saw in that theater.

I remember loving it. I remember the feeling of exhilaration sitting in that little theater gave me as I anticipated watching this movie and the promise of many more out of the mainstream movies to come. Oddly, though, that day forty-one years ago was the first and last time I watched King of Hearts.

Ah! This afternoon, however, I watched it again.

I don't want to give a lot of the movie away, but let me, at least, divulge the movie's setting and premise and make a few comments about it.

It's set in and near a village in the north of France as WWI is nearing its end. 

The village houses an asylum.

Under threat that the village will be blown up, the villagers desert the place. The gates to the asylum are left unlocked. With the villagers gone, the men and women in the asylum take over the village.

They are joined by a "sane" French speaking Scottish soldier (played by Alan Bates) who has been sent to the village to save it from being blown up.

I don't want to reveal in any detail what happens when the inmates of the asylum take over the village. It is too delightful, zany, uplifting, surreal, weird, and full of vitality to spoil by revealing particulars. 

I will say, though, as I watched it today, I remembered moments at the Oregon Country Fair when I was walking along a trail and suddenly a boisterous marching band appeared or attendees dressed like fairies appeared out of nowhere to dance and sing and I thought of old Eugene Celebration parades and the Rickies. I thought of Slug Queen pageants. I thought of my year of taking improv classes, of later being in plays and how at rehearsals or in other down times actors would break into improvised scenes, guileless, mirthful, spirited moments of invention and vigor. I thought of the joy and absurd theater of Babes with Axes singing "Bears in the City". I thought of uptown Kellogg during Krazy Daze back when I was a kid. 

Tender, dreamy, mirthful, kind, energetic, subversive, and wish fulfilling, King of Hearts explores goodness and vitality, lets loose the impulses we have to dance, sing, make music, put on costumes, improvise, be free, celebrate, accept, be untethered, to be spontaneous, to get our Maude on, all in a time when war, violence, and destruction are both nearby and present. 

I loved seeing this movie again and loved remembering climbing up the stairs in Eugene's Atrium to the tiny Cinema 7, with a reproduction of Betty Boop next to the door into the theater, and, until it closed in 1987, watching many of the best movies I've seen in my entire life. 

I went to Cinema 7 the night it showed its last movie. As it turns out, the first and last movies I saw at Cinema 7 were movies about kings: King of Hearts and The Man Who Would be King. (By the way, also in 1979, I had seen The Man Who Would be King as part of a Sean Connery double feature one Sunday afternoon at Cinema 7. It played alongside Robin and Marian.) 

(Note to myself: it would be fun to replicate that Sunday matinee double feature one day here at home -- I wish I could do it with the three people I was with to see these, and many other movies, starting 41 years ago until 1981, but, alas, we don't know each other any longer.)

3. Earlier in the day, Debbie sent me pictures from New York that roused in me much happiness and deep longing. She and Josh headed north of Valley Cottage, NY and visited three (right?) breweries. Debbie didn't say much about the breweries (no problem), but judging from the pictures, they all looked like rural breweries, maybe even farmhouse breweries. Each brewery was in the country. Each was surrounded by large tracts of land. Each had outdoor seating with the tables set a good distance apart from each other. It was a glorious day in New York. The sky was open and nearly cloudless and Debbie wrote that it was perfect.  I'm happy Debbie and Josh had an outing and that Debbie drank delicious fresh beer; the pictures made me long to be in New York, or anywhere I'd been back east, where such mild days and such good beer are glorious.  

Here's a limerick by Stu:

This smoky cloud's bad we must say.
And it stinks when it's dark and still day.
But, if you look at the cost,
Of what those burned out have lost.
You just can't compare it, no way! 

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