Sunday, October 02, 2011

What a collaboration!

I'm watching one of Robert Redford's best performances in one of his least successful movies, Havana. He plays a gambler who has lost his glamor, a man who consistently sits with his back to the wall so he can always see who enters the room, a dissipated satyr who is attracted to ... no, make that familiar with ... no, make that comfortable in seedy sex clubs. His life is bereft of romance and aspiration. Until, of course, he meets her, the beautiful Swedish wife of a political activist in Cuba in those dangerous days just before Castro takes power. His love for her redeems him.

It's not a remake of Casablanca, exactly. More a reworking of it. When it was released in 1990, it was a bomb. Partly because Redford rather suddenly looked bad for his age (53). This lack of vanity was as bad for his fan base as it was good for the role. And because the very idea of a remake of a movie as beloved as Casablanca pissed people off. When I originally saw it, lo those many years ago, I was bored. But as I watch it tonight, I'm appreciating it very much.

As I appreciate all the movies in the Robert Redford/Sydney Pollack collaboration. They met as actors back in the 1950s, appearing together in Redford's debut, War Hunt. Sydney moved behind the camera, making popular movies like The Firm and Tootsie.

Eventually Redford moved successfully into directing, too, but not before making a series of movies with Pollack that helped define his superstar persona.

This Property Is Condemned
Jeremiah Johnson
The Way We Were
Three Days of the Condor

The Electric Horseman

Out of Africa


Funny how the last two films they made together turned out. Out of Africa may have won Pollack his only Oscar, but it's by far Redford's worst performance ever. Havana performed woefully at the box office, but in Jack Weil, Redford created his most daring character.

I learned from the recent Redford bio that Out of Africa and Havana represent the low point in their friendship, that Redford's success as a director spoiled the delicate balance of their collaboration. It worked when Sydney was a director who was only a modest success as an actor and became strained when Redford became an actor who won an Oscar as director. Was Sydney jealous? Yes. Was Redford competitive? Most certainly. They never worked together again after the commercial failure of this film, and drifted apart as friends. This makes me sad because in 1993, they both faced family crises and could have been there for one another (Redford's son Jamie had a liver transplant, Pollack's son Steven died in a plane crash).

¿Quién es más macho? What a pity.

They did reconcile at the very end of Pollack's life, and in 2008 Redford delivered his eulogy. George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman, Harrison Ford and the other superstars Sydney had worked with more recently were there, but when it came time to reflect upon Pollack's career -- both at the service and in the Time magazine obituary -- it was Redford. As it should have been.

PS On a far more shallow note -- Watching Redford ca 1990 makes me suspect he's had his eyes done. I saw him on TV a lot earlier this year promoting The Conspirator and he looked not so much better as different 20 years ago. For what it's worth, Bob, you shoulda left well enough alone.

As her world turns

My oldest friend had surgery again last Monday. Her arm still isn't healing properly and, as part of her workman's comp agreement, she needs to this try to get her flexibility/agility back before she can return to work. It was outpatient surgery. It is hoped that she will be able to begin physical therapy on Tuesday.

She's upset because her kids are giving her so much grief again. Her son's violent temper has resurfaced, resulting in a broken bathroom vanity and a hole in the screen. This is bad not only because he's an asshole, but because she now rents, and every one of these tantrums means he's destroying someone else's property and costing her money she can't afford.

Her daughter, now a chain-smoking sophomore at Beverly Hills High, continues to flirt with drugs, alcohol and serial truancy. It's been recommended that she check into an on site treatment facility, where she would learn to control her impulses as well as continue with her studies. I don't know why there's even conversation about this -- the girl is still young, every possible step should be taken to get her on the right track. Her daughter resists this, of course, but so what? As my best friend says,"A parent's job is to parent."

My friend's move to California was a mistake. She feels adrift. Even before her workplace accident, this job wasn't working out. The cousin that she moved out there to be near actually lives in Mojave Desert, not Beverly Hills, and is neither as accessible nor as supportive as my friend needs. She's had a few dates out there, but not the romance or companionship she longs for. She hasn't made friends. I also think that leaving Chicagoland because she doesn't like snow and cold was just plain frivolous and stupid -- especially when you consider she drives everywhere and makes no mention of strolls up sunny Rodeo Drive or trips to the beach. Dumping her house when she did makes no economic sense.

But she made the move. And, to borrow from Col. Potter on M*A*S*H, "if you ain't where you are, you're no place." I believe she can decide to be happy there. After all, it IS Beverly Hills -- people travel from all over the world just to see it. And she wastes her days indoors, smoking in solitary or puffing away to deal with the tension of living with her son and daughter.

I have been telling her -- over and over again -- that she has to find some way to Beverly Hills her home. Join a church, call on her extended family. Go to the theater or TV show tapings. Move to a larger apartment (her 2BR, with her anxiety-ridden, anorexic 21-year-old son sleeping on the sofa, is simply too small).

But I fear she'll be moving back to Chicagoland soon. She conveniently forgets how unhappy she was here. (If I hear one more complaint about the snow and cold, I'll SCREAM!) She's not concerned about the negative impact yet another move will have on her daughter. She doesn't realize that the problem isn't her location, it's her life. But that's because she's hurting. And when she's hurting, her common sense seems to hydraulically shut down.

As the drama continues, I find myself less and less involved. I shall continue to be here every time she reaches out to me. I love her humor and imagination and I honor the decades upon decades of our friendship and our priceless shared history.

But I'm not counting on her to show up here, as promised, for my birthday next month. After all, I'm still waiting for my Christmas 2010 present and I haven't forgotten the agita caused by her "now you see me/now you don't" act after she offered to stay with me after surgery.

I understand that she is the best friend she can be to me, given her circumstances. While I can see clearly that they are circumstances she creates/perpetuates, she does not. She loves me and worries about me and depends on me and finds much about me to admire. That's valuable, and having her in my life makes me stronger.

My goal now is to simply appreciate our friendship for what it is and has been, and to quit trying to make her what I think she should be. I'm learning that if I let go a bit, not be as involved in her life and passionate about changing her (which isn't working anyway), I can still be a good and accepting friend.

And I'm saying a little prayer of thanks for all the resources I have that she doesn't -- faith in God, a network of people who love and support me, a career with solid professional contacts and good benefits, a resilient spirit … and the Cubs. I could never make the ill-advised decision to move that she did because NEXT YEAR COULD BE THE YEAR!

He likes ketchup

This afternoon, my nephew and I celebrated his 12th birthday. The highlight was the ketchup t-shirt/cap I gave him, perfect for the young man who has been known to just lick the red stuff on the plate when he thinks he can get away with it. He can't wait to wear them to school tomorrow.

I also got him the workings for a music box ("Yellow Submarine") so he and his dad could build something in the workshop to go around it, a comb that looks like a dinosaur fossil, and a Toys R Us gift card (he's saving for a new Nintendo 3DS). He was happy and polite and excited and I enjoyed the time with him enormously.

I was especially touched by how happy he was to hear from his sister, now away at college in Michigan. The call was less than 3 minutes long, but he wasn't expecting one at all since he'd already received her gift in the mail. When I pointed out to him that she probably had to make two calls to find him -- the first likely being a call to the landline at home -- he was even happier.

I'm proud of her that she remembered to call him on his special day, too.

My happiness is only muted by how badly I needed a nap once the party was over. I'm getting very frustrated with my recovery!

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Lucky 33 Meme

Cheers to all of us thieves!

1. Can you cook? Only if I can use my microwave or George Foreman Grill.

2. What was your dream growing up? To be Mrs. Paul McCartney

3. What talent do you wish you had? I wish I could sing.

4. Favorite place? My sofa

5. Favorite vegetable Peas

6. What was the last book you read. Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

7. What zodiac sign are you? I've told this many times, and am glad to repeat my freakazoid birth saga: I was born at the stroke of midnight between November 21 and 22. The stroke of midnight does not exist legally, so the hospital told my mom she had to choose -- 11:59 or 12:01. She was still quite doped up (I was a big baby) and confused about what she was asked, but she chose 12:01, which made it 11/22. Astrologers love this story because I was born on the cusp of a cusp.

8. Any Tattoos and/or Piercings? I'm so conventional. Just one discreet piercing on per ear.

9. Worst Habit? I'm lazy, lazy, lazy

10. Do you personally know anybody on Blog? Huh?

11. What is your favorite sport? Cubs baseball

12. Negative or Optimistic attitude? Doesn't my answer to the above question make me, by definition, an optimist?

13. What would you do if you were stuck in a lift with someone of the opposite sex? In reality? Press the alarm button and wait patiently for rescue. In Penthouse Letters? "I never thought this would happen to ME. There I was, checking out the hot hunk of UPS man who slipped into the elevator just as the doors closed. Suddenly we came to a screeching halt, causing me to fall into him. The lights went out, so maybe he didn't realize that his big, strong hand was cupping my ..."

14. Worst thing to ever happen to you? Wasting too much time and too much devotion on absolutely the wrong man.

15. Tell me one weird fact about you: Shit! I already used my standard "weird fact about myself" in #7! Now what? Hope 'bout this? I can do a mean macarena.

16. Do you have any pets? Three cats: Joey, Charlotte and Reynaldo.

17. Do you know how to do the macarena? Damn! I just answered that on #15!

18. Is the sun shining where you are now? Not yet.

19. Do you think clowns are cute or scary? They are sick and horrifying.

20. If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be? I'd try to get back down to one chin.

21. Would you be my good angel or bad angel? I'd be an angel who does her best.

22. What color eyes do you have? Green

23. Ever been married? Nope

24. Bottle or Draft? Doesn't matter -- just not a can

25. If you won £10,000 today, what would you do with it? First I'd get it converted to $.

26. What kind of bubble gum do you prefer to chew? Big Red

27. What's your favorite bar to hang at? Monk's Pub

28. Do you believe in ghosts? Nah

29. Favorite thing to do in your spare time? Read

30. Do you swear a lot? Fuck yeah

31. Biggest pet peeve? Space hogs who take up the bench in the locker room for their water bottles, iPods, etc.

32. In one word, how would you describe yourself? Loyal

33. In two words, how would you describe yourself? Good friend