Friday, August 22, 2008

Things That Happen in Movies That Rarely Happen in Real Life

The only explanation for why I put the movie Castle Rock on my Netflix list was my quest. I am forever in search of movies that are gloriously awful. I have given up on movies being good, and so have refined my taste. Very few make that grade. The movie must be awful while earnestly trying to legitimately please it’s audience as a “good” movie—one might describe the result as “unfortunate.” Bring It On: In It to Win It has been the most recent success in the category. Castle Rock is just bad. But I dedicate this blog entry to it because it is a shining example of the topic ‘o the day (see title).
The first thing that happens in movies that rarely happens in real life is dramatic repetition. Oh, yes…dramatic repetition. It’s like vocal italics for the attention-span deficient viewers. Castle Rock had dramatic repetition, yes…dramatic repetition.
The next item is the pause while fleeing. Using Castle Rock once again: Antonio, the illegal Gautamalan immigrant, is lost in the desert with the surly teenage girl-protagonist (whose name I don’t remember, so we’ll call her Surly for short). [Spoiler Alert!] Surly has been bitten by a poisonous snake, and Antonio is running for help when Surly’s rabid dog begins chasing him. Antonio is running (despite his gangrene-infected leg, which we’ll address in a moment). The rabid Alsatian is loping playfully (I mean menacingly) behind him, and gaining. Antonio is—wait, stopping, turning, looking…yep, Rabid the Dog is still chasing him. Antonio starts running again. Oddly, the dog does not then catch up, tackle Antonio to the ground, and bite his face off--but then, this is a family film.
I promised to get to the gangrene, didn’t I? Well, Antonio spends the majority of the movie limping (except when he makes his climactic run for help) because he cut his leg. Along their trek through vast scrub and nothingness, they encounter one item of interest: a dead rabbit being eaten by maggots. Surly comments: “My grandfather once told me maggots only eat dead flesh. They won’t eat living flesh.” You see where this is going? Yes. That’s right. Antonio gets gangrene, and Surly randomly knows the cure: “We need some way to get rid of the dead flesh…” But how? Wait! Yeah, that’s right—maggots! Antonio: “It burns! It burns!!” Maggots: “Mmmphgh.”
In the movies, this is called “set up and payoff.” In real life, it’s called coincidence, but most things we encounter, as you know, do not payoff. For example, yesterday I was tired of my usual bagel and cream cheese, so I swung by Publix for a muffin. But Publix doesn’t sell individual muffins, so I bought four. I ate one. (How many muffins did I have left?) I offered the remaining muffins to my coworkers--no takers. So I am having muffins for breakfast for the next few days. Pretty mundane.
But if my life were a movie, those three muffins would be set up. And here, I theorize, are the payoffs, depending on genre:

Romance: I share the muffins with a devastatingly handsome and eligible man I meet that day, we fall in love, and have blueberry muffin cake at our wedding.

Comedy: I share the muffins with a devastatingly handsome and eligible man I meet that day. His face blows up and he tells me, “Ehm ellergeec ew blooberreez!” We spend the evening in the emergency room.

Suspense: I am stalked by the Muffin Man, a serial killer who targets women who buy muffins. I don’t know why he’s trying to kill me until the police realize the connection between the victims.

Action: I'm an international spy, and each muffin contains a microchip that when united will activate a world-devastating weapon. One by one, my enemies steal my muffins. I must get them back, at any cost!

Horror: The muffins are full of maggots.

Drama: I give the muffins to a homeless woman, and we develop a bond that changes both our lives. But then she dies.

Mystery: I share the muffins, but they turn out to be poisoned. How? Why? And by who? (My money’s on Surly.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What I Learned Today...About Garbage Disposals

Thanks to Shoes in the Freezer, Beer in the Flower Garden by Joan & Lydia Wilen (Fireside, 1997) I learned that to clean/degrease a garbage disposal: run the hot water, then slowly pour in a cup of baking soda until it's all gone. To sharpen the blades, put about ten ice cubes in the disposal, run the water, and turn on the unit.
I also learned not to read something once, put the book on the shelf, and try to do it from memory. I learned that multi-tasking leads to potential disaster. So here's how not to do it: Do not dump half a box of Baking Soda into the disposal, then run the hot water, start the disposal, and add the rest of the box for good measure. Do not then decide to clean the ice tray out by dumping the entire contents into the sink, and shoving all the cubes down while running the water. If you do, the disposal will choke and begin to regurgitate nasty, brown, murky water at an alarming rate. However, if you find yourself in this same predicament (there is a 0.027% chance), run the hot water, and eventually the disposal will burp and slurp everything back down.
All's well that ends well, as Will would say. I have fresh ice in the freezer, and my disposal is cleaner and sharper than ever. But maybe next time I'll follow the Wilens' directions....

The Air Museum

I had a long description of my travel woes written, but I've deleted it, because it was frankly rather boring. I'll sum it up, I was supposed to fly on American Airlines from LaGuardia to Nashville last Sunday. I spent 28 hours in airports over the next three days (the boredom was so bad, I actually resorted to reading passages of Tori Spelling's biography in the bookstore at one point). After my American flight was cancelled three times, I gave up and booked a flight on Southwest out of Hartford. That flight was delayed only fifteen minutes.
But, more importantly, I was able to observe a curious sign by the road just next to the airport. It was one of those brown local attraction signs, and it said simply "Air Museum." Air Museum? A museum of air? I immediately began picturing it, a giant hangar, empty. Just...air. Or better yet, grey carpet, and muted walls surrounding vast rooms full of glass exhibit boxes on pedestals that appeared empty, but were each labeled in painstaking detail.
"This air dates from 1066 England, during the Norman Conquest."
"This glass vial contains the air hissed by the asp with which Cleopatra allegedly committed suicide."
"Air from Tori Spelling's head."
"Air from the prehistoric era."
"Air that was once contained in a soap bubble in the dog washing scene in the movie Annie."
Why couldn't my flight have been delayed in Hartford? I could have spent those 28 hours breathing in the Air Museum, and all of it's wonders. Ah well, a reason to go back. If anyone is familiar with the Air Museum, please feel free to share some of your favorite exhibits so I can experience it vicariously.

P.S. This is the first post of my first blog. Hope you've enjoyed it!
P.P.S. I have nothing against Tori Spelling, other than her memoir was disappointingly vague on the gossipy details.