attack of the cab monster: day one

queue de grâce begins anew today. if you're late to the party, go here for a brief introduction to our game. i'll wait...

good. now that everyone is up to speed, let's get this thing underway. right off the bat, cabby is going for the throat.

i know, meg. i can hardly believe it myself. without even a moment to catch my breath, i am saddled with rob reiner's when harry met sally (1989). apparently, this is "the last great romantic comedy". who knew? this just straight up depresses me for all kinds of reasons, the biggest one of which is what its near-universal acclaim says about us. it makes me feel sorry. for me. for you. for us. i don't know how many ways i can say it. the things they pass off as true just don't apply to me. and i don't think they apply to you, either. if they do, then we're in worse shape than i imagine. it means we have simply abdicated all of our intellectual responsibilities for the reflex ease of "it's funny because it's true, har har har har". so many bad lessons i don't even know where to start - the major impetus for getting married is not having to date anymore. all men want to leave thirty seconds after sex is over. all women want to cuddle all night. there is no compromising this and there is certainly no way each could find themselves anywhere along that spectrum of behavior at any given time other than their rightful spot at opposite ends. it's worth a bad relationship because "at least you can say you were married". all men love wagon wheel coffee tables. blah blah blah.

bullshit, all of it. it's ok to be alone, america. it's ok to be alone and an individual. it's very simple. make your list of guy things and girl things. again, i'll wait...

when you examine that list and realize that the ones attributed to your gender that you actually engage in enough to be what you would call defining characteristics are actually in the distinct minority of what defines you then we can all stop the nonsense. then, when you happen to notice that there are actually aspects of your personality that might be more at home on the opposite gender list, we can, with any luck, throw the last shovel of dirt on these "truisms". the only list you'll have left is the list of things you do, and you will just happen to be a man or a woman. then, maybe, we can actually begin to talk about these things in a way that's not quite so lazy. we'll get better movies out of the deal. i have other crazy ideas too, like getting married because you consider someone a true partner and you make each others' lives better, but we can go into that some other time. there's something else that's bugging me.

hmm...now where have i seen that before?

oh yeah, that's it.

as if the abhorrently lazy gender stereotypes weren't enough, the whole thing plays out like a third-rate mishmash of woody allen. from the extremely palatable jazz/unadorned typography of the credits to the unmistakably new york backdrops to the sitcom versions of neuroses on display, it's like junior varsity annie hall (1977) (except woody didn't feel the need to cop to the happy ending). just make sure you take out any kierkegaard references and replace them with some sharper image product placement and you're in business. don't even get me started with the karaoke butchering of "the surrey with the fringe on top".we okies take that shit very seriously.

other observations:

billy crystal as a womanizer? this whole thing hinges on an irresistible attraction to billy crystal? we are through the looking glass here, people. his character is introduced with a kiss/camera move lifted straight out of the thomas crown affair (1968) except i am pretty sure steve mcqueen didn't have to stand on a crate we he did it.

i imagine carrie fisher smells overwhelmingly like makeup and gin.

it wasn't all a total loss, though. it's never a total loss when you have bruno kirby around. and, in sally's defense, she did eventually graduate from going with paul henreid to staying with humphrey bogart in casablanca (1942). her khaki shorts/knee socks/sweater ensemble from the first scene does certain things to me and the line "don't fuck with mr. zero" never ceases to be funny. the presence of that single laugh raises it from F to F+.

oh, one last thing. but first, allow me to present my card:

those adorable couples recounting tales of decades of their lives spent chasing, wooing and loving one another? actors. all of them.

next we have michael kalesniko's how to kill your neighbor's dog (2000), a strange titular parallel with chelsea's choice of how to be a serial killer (2008) in our first go-round.

i liked it, but probably mainly because it appealed to the curmudgeon in me. kenneth branagh and robin wright penn play a couple with sharply divided opinions about just how much they need a baby in their lives. he is the misanthropic playwright, she the instructor keeping her biological clock at bay by teaching classes of young girls to dance. the spanner in the works is the new neighbor kid, amy. before long, branagh warms to the idea of having a youngster around, and he begins to help her confront some of the challenges that are a result of her mild cerebral palsy. i know, i know. sounds like a by-the-book tugger of the heartstrings, but it really isn't. you get the sense that the the message isn't the hallmark, "all children are miracles" variety but, rather, that greatness, or, more accurately, goodness, occurs in children in about the same ratio as adults and this just happens to be one child whose goodness merits our attention. it's a pleasure to see the selfishness in the desire to have children be honestly addressed for once in a film and branagh and wright penn provide a nice balance for one another, especially in the pivotal scene where branagh verbally demolishes the girl's mother for her selfishness and wright penn rightly grills him in return about how little his outburst would ultimately help. unlike in the film mentioned above, you get a nice sense that this a real couple, with a real partnership, who just happen to be at loggerheads about a difficult question. when they look at each other, they are seeing the redeeming qualities in one another that make their problem one worth solving. they aren't seeing cartoonish abstractions of a hopeless battle of the sexes. the film works best when is it some combination of them and the girl. it loses a little steam when it visits the theater where branagh's new play is in production or when he meets up with his stalker/doppelgänger on his insomniac strolls. to counter that, there is a tensely hilarious "wake up, los angeles"-type morning show interview segment and the seemingly inexhaustible well of comedy gold that is the ol' prostate exam.

exactly how i felt during when harry met sally, strangely enough.

ok, a rocky start, but we pulled out of our initial dive and have leveled off. there is darkness on the horizon but it is a challenging, rewarding darkness and when those clouds part, i believe we will find a light that never goes out.

or at least one that never shuts up. peace!


  1. Yes. Billy Crystal as a womanizer. We are indeed through the looking glass here and that's one of the many reasons I picked "When Harry Met Sally" to get things started. I knew without question that you would not be a fan, Cole. However, it seemed like a good place to begin for a handful of reasons. One of which is its evil neutrality. C'mon, Cole. You hated it? I hardly believe that. Yeah, I know, it ain't your kind of movie. I know it stands for a long list of things which you stand against, but really. "When Harry Met Sally" is not a good film because of its genius, it is a good film because of its lasting competency. It is a snapshot of time. A perfect drapery wardrobed, idealistic thinking, fast-talking intellectualist, new-fumbled-and-fangled way of thinking about the sexes that perfectly takes a picture of the country mid Reagan to Bush transformation and desperately trying to reform its ideas about where women belonged, errrr, fit in, errr, how their newly-custom-created independence should be respected (or not). Does "When Harry Met Sally" represent you, Cole, or me, or anyone we knew growing up in Oklahoma (some of us proud of the musical and its numbers, some of us not as much)? No, not even a bit. But, does it offer us a generalized representation of what the country felt like in the late eighties and early nineties by way tolerable dialogue and intentional common-man appeal? Yeah, it does. C'mon Cole. It isn't the best movie ever made, but films are important for many, many reasons, and sometimes, representing you and me ain't it. And yeah, F Meg Ryan. But how can ya not throw Ron Reiner a bone? I wouldn't really waste my time defending this film to the death, but I will say it isn't as bad as anyone thinks. Even me. I have to let a long time go by in between viewings of this movie so that I can work up my hatred for it. That way, each time I see it again, I am reminded, it ain't so bad, afterall. And, Cole, everyone, in every movie, is an actor. Every single one of 'em.

    And then, we have "How To Kill Your Neighbor's Dog." This one I knew would appeal to that curmudgeon in you, Cole. In fact, that word in particular came to mind when I put this and one other film on the list. I knew that you could not hate this movie with any resolve because of that appeal. Quite frankly, I found this gem by accident. At any given moment, I keep five or six movies that I have never seen in my personal collection, which I call my "rainy day" movies. This way, when blizzards and ice storms like the ones that have hit the nation this week come 'round, I have a handful of unknown choices to keep me going. That's what "How To Kill Your Neighbor's Dog" was, a "rainy day" movie from my collection. And what a pleasant surprise. I heart Kenneth Branagh. And, I have to admit I kinda heart Robin Wright, too. Since Rob Reiner's "The Princess Bride," she has wiggled her way into my heart and demonstrated a surprising staying power. In any case, the film has a fantastic rawness, silliness, and willingness to make fun of itself while keeping its intellectual offering in tact. The scenes with Roz from Frasier (Peri Gilpin) are some of the best. If for no other reason, see this movie for that. I do agree that the scenes at the theater get teeth-grindingly harder and harder to handle as the film goes on, but there is enough of everything else to let it slide. "How To Kill Your Neighbor's Dog" is a gem. See it on a rainy day.

  2. yes, you can believe i hate when harry met sally. and not just for the reasons i outlined but you make my case for me. the generalized representation. it is a snapshot of the times, without a doubt. the shame is that people didn't quickly forget it/stop loving it in 1989. it doesn't merit the reverence with which its treated. but how much does, when it comes right down to it? i'm not debating its accuracy in depicting what the rabble think, i am decrying that they think it at all. just because it's accurate and competent doesn't mean i shouldn't despise where it comes from.

  3. am late to the ball here, but I was in a class with Tim McMichael at OU when this came out. It was with Dr. Frank, a wonderful teacher who was a no kidding Freudian, which looks good on paper, but is problematic if you mean it... and who was also about 6'4", completely intimidating and who talked WAY TOO LOUDLY at random times and threw chalk at us.

    He comes in, muttering under his breath, starts to talk about the movie, stops himself, mutters some more then starts again. It was something like this, just imagine the CAPS are him not quite yelling but talking at about 95 decibels:

    I saw WHEN HARRY MET SALLY last night and it was just, well you just DECIDE FOR YOURSELVES.

    I'm still thinking about the... but then I considered that (sigh) but you know at LEAST IT'S NOT ANOTHER MOVIE ABOUT VIETNAM!

    BUT COME TO think of it, the opening scenes were in that era, yet ODDLY Vietnam is never mentioned. It should have been mentioned, how could it not be mentioned or referred to at all?


    *This continued for some time*

    We're all just kind of looking at each other and blinking, but it was an impressive manic display. He just had a fit, right there before the class got going.

    Is he going to kill us all now?

    I can't watch (or hear about) this one without remembering Dr. Frank and his crazed monologue, which is a bright spot for me.

  4. i didn't even take the class and i think i will always remember this. brilliant.