I was sitting in the den the other day with my hand curled protectively around the remote control, eating popcorn, minding my own business, and watching a movie. Then my wife walked in and started hounding me for no reason at all.
“Are you watching that thing again?” she asked. That thing, as she called it, was Big Jake, the classic American portrait about the majesty of the old west and the bonds of love that exist between generations. It starred John Wayne, Richard Boone, and Maureen O’Hara. Richard Boone had just told John Wayne that he had heard that he was dead, and John had just replied, “Not hardly.” It was one of the definitive moments in film, dialog with such beauty and poignance that it took my breath away. Now it was sullied forever by my wife’s irreverent commentary.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” I said to no one in particular.
“Oh, no. He’s quoting movies again,” she replied as she left the room.
“Hasta la vista, baby,” I muttered as I got back to my epic. John Wayne had just shot about thirteen guys with his six-shooter, so he was probably due to run out of ammunition soon.
I like movies, and my wife likes them, too. Unfortunately, we prefer different kinds of films, and we have dissimilar viewing habits, as well. She likes to watch romantic comedies. For those of you who are not familiar with the genre, these are fairly easy motion pictures to spot. By definition, a romantic comedy is any movie that will cause a man to have the uncontrollable urge to go scrape and paint the shed right now. The majority of them feature Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock, although other women such as Meg Ryan and Jennifer Lopez are sometimes cast. The dead giveaway is the male lead. If you see the debonair smile of Hugh Grant, you know you have wandered into a romantic comedy, and it’s time to be getting out the painting supplies. The plots generally run along the lines of boy meets girl, boy and girl resist falling in love, boy and girl fall in love anyway, the end. Oh, and because they are comedies, sometimes there is laughing.
My wife also likes to watch foreign films. Aaaah-choo. Excuse me. I had a little allergic reaction, there, but I am better now. A foreign film is a film that has been made somewhere else. The tip-off that you are in trouble is when you hear people speaking in a language you don’t understand while their translated words scroll across the bottom of the screen. When you see those subtitles, it is time to run. Go scrape and paint the neighbor’s shed if you have to, or change the oil in the family vehicles, but get out of there. Your survival may depend on it. Researchers have linked foreign films to depression (in men), eye strain, and the public wearing of little black berets, so you must exercise caution when you are in the vicinity of one of these celluloid nightmares.
I don’t want you to get the impression that I have a closed mind about romantic comedies and foreign films. Good movies are good movies, no matter what genre they represent. Indeed, I once watched a foreign film from end to end, and it was fine. The title was Das Boot, and it was about German submariners during World War Two. What could be more foreign than that? Yet the movie was quite enjoyable. And as for romantic comedies, I truly enjoyed the greatest romantic comedy of them all, Godzilla, which featured Matthew Broderick and some blonde woman falling in love as they chased a sixty-foot dinosaur around New York City. I liked the picture so much I am going to watch it again tonight, so I obviously know all about feelings and stuff like that.
Unlike my wife—whose tastes are limited—I enjoy many different types of cinema. I like action films, adventure stories, westerns, war movies, science fiction yarns, and horror flics. Basically, if someone gets shot or stabbed in a movie, chances are I have seen it. Car wrecks are good, too. And when I discover a movie that I like, I don’t limit myself to just one viewing. I can enjoy a worthy creation over and over, again. These are “layered” films. They have “nuances.” And every time I watch a classic like The Outlaw Josie Wales or Jaws, I take away new meanings.
“I don’t understand how you can sit there and watch a movie you just saw,” my wife said to me the other day, as I was enjoying an encore performance of Alien vs. Predator, that scathing social commentary on the immigration issues that beset this great country of ours.
“It’s like eating a hamburger,” I told her. “You enjoy hamburgers, right?”
“Well, would you like to have hamburgers from time to time, or would you rather have stopped with the first one you ever had?” I had her now. My logic was irrefutable. It was like she was married to a steel trap.
“I like to try different hamburgers. If I ate the same one over and over, it would be boring.” Maybe I didn’t have her, after all. I pressed the eject button. It was time to change the subject and the selection.
“Let’s watch one of your movies,” I said magnanimously. She smiled and popped Chocolat into the DVD machine. Chocolat is a foreign film and a romantic comedy all rolled into one. Hugh Grant is not in it, but a French guy is, which is worse.
“I’ve got to go paint the shed,” I said as I got up to leave the room.
“Frankly, my dear,” she said, “I don’t give a damn.“
It looks like I’m not the only one around here who can quote lines from a movie.