11 things that make Isaac Davis’ life worth living in Woody Allen movie, Manhattan

Screen grab of Manhattan's characters driving out of New York in what appears to be a really cool Porsche 356

1) Groucho Marx

2) Willie Mays

3) Second movement of Jupiter symphony

4) Louis Armstrong’s Potatohead blues

5) Swedish movies

6) Sentimental education by [Gustave] Flaubert

7) Marlon Brando

8) Frank Sinatra

9) Apples and Pears by [Paul] Cezanne

10) Crabs at Sam Wo’s (A Chinese restaurant on 813 Washington Street in Manhattan) [See: Sam Wo]

11) Tracy’s face (Tracy being the girlfriend of Davis, a 17-year-old high-school student played by Mariel Hemingway)

— as spoken into a microphone attached to a cassette tape recorder by Davis, played by Woody Allen, while making notes about a short story he planned to write regarding “people in Manhattan who are constantly creating neurotic problems for themselves.” [See: Manhattan The Movie]

The Ugly American

Waste of time, money, if you ask me. ( Pic from Wikipedia)

By no means is George Clooney ugly.
And I say that as a Filipino male who has an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality (to quote my fictional idol also named George, Jerry Seinfeld’s best friend, Costanza). [See: More of George Costanza and his quote.]
However, Clooney’s latest film — The American directed by Anton Corbijn — is another matter altogether.
The movie sucks big time.
And no amount of interesting babes — the movie has two: an assassin and a call girl — can make up for the energy, patience, and expense moviegoers incurred to see it.
For the first fifteen or so minutes, the movie progresses along nicely, helping clarify character motivation, establish narrative action, and build cinematic tension.
Clooney, an American hitman, manages to eliminate a killer out to get him while in Sweden. After meeting his principal in Rome, he is told to cool his heels in an Italian town.
And that marks the time the movie jumps the shark, so to speak. [See: Jump the shark]
Posing as a photographer, the taciturn protagonist goes around the village, sharing drinks and meals with the parish priest and visiting a call girl in the next town.
No witty one-liners nor smart barbs are traded between the characters, further blunting whatever passes for narrative movement in this movie.
Moreover, as Clooney does his best to protect his cover, viewers are treated to the town’s rustic offerings, a river, a field, and an overview of an oddly-shaped highway.
As individual images, they’re fodder for Flickr.com.
But scenes on an image hosting website does not a movie make.
These arguably picturesque views do nothing but to exhaust the tolerance of the audience, many of whom have been tricked into expecting some kind of action.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t take place until the film’s last 10 minutes.
And by that time, the audience is already way too sleepy to care.
From the Fine Print Dept. The title of this blog entry was taken from a 1958 novel of the same name, which later became a movie starring Marlon Brando.

Up to my ears in the Fabulous Baker Boys

One more once.
These three words were spoken by Count Basie when he sought to repeat a chorus from April in Paris, moments after it was just played by his renonwed orchestra.
From all appearances, Basie enjoyed listening and playing the chorus so much that he wanted to do it again, prolonging the song — and his enjoyment — further.*
These same words express my sentiments, days after seeing the Fabulous Baker Boys for the second time in my life early this week.
Which explains why I am writing about the movie once more with feeling, as it were.
Ever since I secured a digital copy of the movie — a romantic drama starring Jeff and Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer — I have played and replayed the film’s opening scene.
It shows Jeff Bridges as Jack Baker, putting his coat on while preparing to leave his naked female companion, still in bed.
“Will I see you again?” she asks.
“No,” he replies and proceeds to leave.
As if on cue, the theme song plays a few bars on the piano, followed by heavy riffs from the trumpet and the saxophone.
Entitled Jack’s Theme**, the tune perfectly captures the film’s mood, emphasizing the contradicting possibilities offered by the city — vice and virtue, hope and despair, success and failure.
Although the opening scene is just two minutes long, it remains potent enough to strike a chord, ring a bell, pop a vein, develop a tic similar to the one gotten by a schoolmate who got it by accidentally drinking gasoline.
But seriously, when I saw the same scene the second time around, I was swept away, the very same sensation I felt when I saw it for the very first time as a pimply-faced teenager, rejected by girls, ostracized by friends, occasionally drunk on cheap gin, and dreaming about living a better life.
And so, here’s the opening scene, one more once:

*No actual research was undertaken to come up with this observation.
**Go get the soundtrack. Or you can send a request (wink, wink).
From the Grammar Dept. Grammar Police Patrol slept on the job early this morning when it failed to spot an error which has now been corrected. Earlier title of this piece is Up to my ears with Fabulous Baker Boys. The correct preposition should have been in, as what is seen now. Apologies, fans of William Safire, E. B. White, et. al.

How The Fabulous Baker Boys reduced my teenage angst

The Fabulous Baker Boys, a romance drama starring Jeff Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer, temporarily interrupted my teenage angst.

For one thing, I was nearly through my teenage years when the movie was shown in Manila sometime in 1990 (initial release in the US was on October 13, 1989).
Second, I immediately fell in love with the movie’s theme song, entitled Jack’s Theme, composed by Dave Grusin, since it encapsulates the rhythm of the City, however American.
At that point in my life, when I religiously saw Moonlighting — starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd — and the cartoon version of the Ghostbusters (both shown on ABS-CBN), I wanted to be Jack Baker.
Except that I had renounced piano lessons years earlier in favor of tennis.
What good has that decision brought me?
Nothing except to show that I’m a sap for a really good romantic drama movie. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do. It’s soundtrack’s not bad too. I got one a decade or so after the movie was released. Apparently, the CD is so  good, it was never returned.

Picture on the upper right is a screen grab from the movie. Lucky bastard behind Michelle Pfeiffer is Jeff Bridges. Now you know why I want to be Jack Baker. For some reason, I can’t upload nor post a video. FT. Will let you know my progress in this matter. Ugh.