Pops’ Movie Club

Hobbies, Creative Pursuits and Worthwhile Causes: First Installment. (For some background, read the previous post, Exploring The Deeper Places.)

So the exploration has begun. The quest: to identify pursuits for us Men-Of-A-Certain-Age; things other than watching the 24-hour news channels and becoming even grumpier old men.

Let me go ahead and offer a few disclaimers: I admit some personal bias here. The first ideas that come to mind for me are those things I find interesting, so canning jelly and jam won’t be on the list unless you love it and want to write a guest post about, which would be awesome. Nothing against jelly, but canning it is not compelling for me.

Of course we need to keep our pursuits within the law, relatively speaking. Since About Pops doesn’t dwell in Colorado, marijuana-growing won’t be on the list. Also we need to have some limits set by reasonablenss and good judgement. So hang-gliding, cliff-diving, self-tattooing, and fire-eating probably won’t be on the list. And while it sounds so manly to include hobbies like cigar smoking or chicked-fried-steak eating, if my cardiologist found out I was experimenting in these realms, he would have a heart attack.

You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies - all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies. —Steve Martin

Pursuit #1: Start/Join A Movie Club

This idea is compelling and daunting for me. While I love movies and would welcome the opportunity to watch and discuss with a few close friends, I’m way too introverted to actually join a club. So maybe from time to time I could post a movie suggestion, or you could send me some ideas. Then could watch them individually in the privacy of our own homes.

Everybody has something that chews them up and, for me, that thing was always loneliness. The cinema has the power to make you not feel lonely, even when you are. —Tom Hanks

Selecting a movie or movies seems to be very important, but tricky. Tastes in movies varies wildly, and judgements are made. For example if I suggested our club start with the movies of Nora Ephron, you might suggest that what I need is a cigar and a chicken-fried-steak, or you might assume I had been smoking the favorite crop of Coloradians.

So how about the movies of John Hughes (the good ones)? Or Wes Anderson? Or Woody Allen. I know, let’s compromise and go with Alfred Hitchcock. We’ll start with Rear Window.

A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it. —Alfred Hitchcock

Maybe we could leave the movies up to a film expert like Robert Osborne. You know, the guy that picks the films for “The Esstentials” on TCM.

Read this from the TCM website:
“Watch the Essentials every Saturday at 7PM CT. Since its inception on TCM in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate series for movie lovers to expand their knowledge of must-see cinema and revisit landmark films that have had a lasting impact on audiences everywhere.  Each season a co-host joins Robert Osborne for a special introduction and post-movie discussion about the enduring qualities of a particular film.”

If tonight’s selection is any indication, I feel like we can trust Robert. So let’s start tonight:

1955 118 Mins TV- PG Drama

It’s a great film and released just as us Baby Boomers were toddling around the house. Here’s a description from the website:

James Dean starred in three films before his tragic death in an automobile accident on September 30, 1955 and the first of these, East of Eden (1955), was the only one released during his short lifetime. An adaptation of the 1952 novel by John Steinbeck, East of Eden was director Elia Kazan’s follow-up to On the Waterfront (1954) and marked his first use of both Technicolor and Cinemascope. The technological upgrade worked wonders for the story’s verdant Salinas Valley setting, where brothers Cal (Dean) and Aron (Richard Davalos) Trask compete for the affections of their taciturn farmer father (Raymond Massey) and the love of a local girl (Julie Harris) in the last innocent months before the start of the First World War. Adapted by playwright turned screenwriter Paul Osborn, East of Eden took as its inspiration the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel, a take torqued even further by Dean’s unorthodox performance (which made him a teen sensation and the industry’s hottest commodity). Dean plumbed deep within his psyche to play the troubled Cal Trask and his unconventional approach to his craft frustrated and angered costar Massey, resulting in a palpable onscreen tension that helped define the fractured relationship of their characters. Toploaded with talent, East of Eden scored its only Academy Award for sixth-billed Jo Van Fleet, in the small but unforgettable role of Cal Trask’s wayward mother. Dean skipped out on the film’s March 1955 New York City premiere and his subsequent Oscar nomination for Best Performance in a Leading Role was bestowed posthumously, an Academy first.

Start the popcorn, dim the lights…

The Magic Of A Perfect Pair

Sometimes "writer's block" is real; and it sounds like this (cue video):

Sometimes, I have several ideas for a post and can't decide which one to develop. So, I try to weave the ideas together into one theme. This is an example. (If it seems like I'm straining to make the connection, you wouldn't be wrong.)

FIRTH: My favorite drumsticks are made by the Vic Firth Company. Vic's sticks have a great feel and are "tuned together". They market the sticks as "the perfect pair".

Over the weekend we saw Woody Allen's new film "Magic In The Moonlight" starring: Emma Stone and Colin Firth. They were a perfect pair in this film. If you like Woody's films, you should see this one.

THECOND: Speaking of drumsticks, drummers use one of two grips: traditional or matched. If you care about the details of these two, which I realize is highly unlikely, Wikipedia has great explanations.

I began playing drums in the 60s. I use a traditional grip. My two sons started playing many years later and both use matched grip. I might assume that as their father, I have not had as much influence on them as the rock drummers they watched play with matched grip. Then I could tremble, wondering what else they picked up from the "world" over the influence of the more traditional Significant Others.

Without a doubt, our cultures and the traditions of our tribes, run deep. And, as it goes with advancing years, I tend to think the old ways of doing and viewing things are the best. Whether it's how to hold your drumsticks, or how whether you prefer drumsticks over breasts (speaking of poultry of course), we tend to stand by our preferences.

THIRD: Colin Firth's character in Magic In The Moonlight is stubbornly set in his ways. Emma Stone's character works a bit of magic though, and his walls come tumbling down. Funny how that works. Perfect pairs morph through being tuned together--listening, paying attention, learning.

Emma Stone & Colin Firth

Emma Stone & Colin Firth

Recently I was at a meeting and a guy was doing a talk on "crucial communication". He gave an example of the importance of communication by reading an advertisement from CraigsList. It went something like this:

Motorcycle for sale. Like new. Only 500 miles. It is a great bike and I hate to have to sell it, but apparently I misunderstood when my wife said, "Do whatever the hell you want."

Pops Flicks Picks Part 3. For Coloreds Only.

"Well we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley." Big Bob.

Remember Psych 101? Freud and the "Pleasure Principle"? That, for us mortals, it all comes down to instinctively seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Jeremy Bentham agreed, "Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure".

I've been working on a project called Storyline (by Donald Miller). Recently, in the project there was discussion about Freud's theory and the contrast with the work of psychologist, Viktor Frankl, who took Freud on: "When a person can't find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasures." -- Viktor Frankl

It's been awhile since I made an installment in the series, POPS' FLICK PICKS. The first two were my take on The Graduate and Finding Forrester.

For the third of the series I want to suggest the movie Pleasantville.

First, the movie is worth watching because it is funny, entertaining and has a great cast that does a wonderful job with the concept--a setting of a B&W 50s TV Family, think Ozzie & Harriet, Father Knows Best, The Cleavers, etc.

But it is also worth it because it is challenging and will provoke thought if you let it (in other words: are you "colored"?)

The film uses color as a metaphor. A lot of the reviews and commentary say that it is a metaphor for enlightenment. I think that's one aspect (in a small e enlightenment way). But I think it goes way beyond Enlightenment (big E) worldview to Romanticism (big R), and beyond.

A few questions to ponder as you watch:
Is Pleasantville "pleasant" in a way that is characterized by the kinds of "pleasures" Freud had in mind? It seems like the good folks of Pleasantville wanted to preserve their utopia but maybe not necessarily in an epicurean way. Agree? But they seem so happy with a shallow, colorless pleasantness, fearing dystopia without even knowing what it might look like.

I am so afraid of doing that--being a party to allowing the creation of a stark, grayscale, false sense of security kind of existence. The older I get the harder it is to say, "bring on the color" knowing we risk dystopia. But I believe we risk it either way.

I think maybe Pleasantville sort of helps make Frankl's case: there is something beyond "pleasure." There is the possibility of "finding a deep sense of meaning." I know. I've had glimpses of it. I've seen it in others.

To me, that's what the "colored" metaphor is about. Watch the movie and you'll see that people become colored for a number of reasons: passion, discovery, beauty, honesty (even honest anger), all stuff that makes us fully human. Is there the risk of hurt, harm, heartbreak? Yes. Is it worth it?

Last Saturday we went to an art show. We've been friends of the family of this young artist for several years. Her name is Sterling Smith and she is wonderful. Currently she is doing some pieces in watercolor with pen & ink. I love the mix of these two mediums (or is it media) and apparently she does too. I asked Sterling what she liked about the mix. I'm paraphrasing what I heard her say:

I think the two (watercolor and ink) are like life. The watercolor spectrum is unlimited, on wet paper the color flows where it wants to, there are gradients and loose edges. The ink though is monochromatic, and constricted. It is defined and definite.

I guess sometimes we need both.

If you've seen Pleasantville, maybe what I've written here makes some sense. If not, watch it. I hope I haven't given too much away. I hope by the end of the movie you will be "colored" even if you're outlined with ink.

At least watch the trailer...

Pleasantville Movie Trailer

Dinner and A Movie

This is the last post in the series on how NOT to massacre St. Valentine's Day.

No doubt, any restaurant that's date-worthy will be crowded Friday night. If you do it right, you could stay in and not seem like a cheapskate. Remember the TV program "Dinner & A Movie"? It's a concept that could earn you two thumbs up.


First, carefully choose the right movie. You probably can't go wrong with something like "Sleepless in Seattle." A logical menu choice would be salmon--you know because of the famous Pike Place fish market in Seattle. If you're not a cook, have some fun with it and fix fish sticks with mac 'n' cheese.

Go classic and rent "Roman Holiday". Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck can hold their on with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. The menu is easy here--anything Italian--spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna or even pizza. Here's a fun tip: buy one of the ready to go pizza crusts. With scissors, cut it in to a heart shape. Add her favorite ingredients and bake up a winner.

Another good choice with Audrey Hepburn is "Breakfast at Tiffany's".  Mix up a pancake mix with fresh blueberries and top it with good maple syrup for the menu.

Want more movie options? Here's one opinion of the "50 Best Romantic Movies of all Time."

Want to go big with the dinner? Here's a romantic menu planner from Epicurious.com.


A little advice: be careful about offering a running commentary during the movie. No matter how tempting it is. For example, in "Sleepless in Seattle", when the kid leaves his backpack at the top of the Empire State Building and they have to return to get it and Meg Ryan is standing there holding the kid's teddy bear, don't say something like, "You've got to be kidding. Stevie Wonder could have seen that coming."

Well you're on your own now. Good Luck.