Romancing the Stone [1984)

This movie was very dear to me as a kid.

It’s one of those which came on TV all the time.

And it always pulled me in.

For me, nothing in this film beats the scene in which Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas huddle ’round a marijuana campfire in the fuselage of a crashed plane.

Taking strong belts of Jose Cuervo tequila.

Basically sitting in a giant bong 🙂

But the best part–the cutest part…is KT eating olives.

An old jar.  To be sure.

But they last awhile.

And liquor kills all germs, right?

Who cares if the dead pilot took a few swigs long ago 🙂

It’s such a cozy scene.

Perhaps it’s what the Danish mean by hygge.

And it’s an ambiance I’ve only seen approached in Vertigo (Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart by the fireplace in his apartment…after he rescues her from the waters of San Francisco Bay) and, surprisingly, The Pink Panther (David Niven and Claudia Cardinale by the fireplace…Claudia on the tiger-skin rug).

But Romancing the Stone, unlike those two films, is a full-on romcom.

Sure, there’s action…to entice the leery men 🙂

But there’s no denying that this is a romantic comedy.

And so I’m glad to join the ranks of romcom lovers.

Glad to christen a new category on my site with this fine film.

Some of it hasn’t aged so well (like Alan Silvestri’s sequenced electro-samba soundtrack), but most of it has…so kudos to director Robert Zemeckis.

Zach Norman plays a gay villain in such a way that one cannot help thinking of John Podesta.

Danny DeVito, who plays Norman’s cousin, is definitely the funniest thing in this film.

Neither Turner nor Douglas are particularly funny, but they are graceful and charming (respectively).

I would even add that Michael Douglas encapsulates a sort of masculinity which has been on the wane since the 1980s in America…UNTIL DONALD TRUMP WON THE FUCKING PRESIDENCY!

Yeah 🙂

It is trippy.

To watch this movie late at night.

To relive childhood memories.

And then to rouse oneself to one’s feet and think, “Is Donald Trump really the President? Is this not some kind of dream???” 🙂

I know for many it is a nightmare.

So I will just leave that train of thought there.  For now.

Actually, there is a more serious villain in this film:  Manuel Ojeda.

He is certainly a BAD HOMBRE 🙂

[sorry, can’t help it]

So yeah…

The bulk of the action takes place in Colombia.

It’s like William S. Burroughs, in search of yage, writing back to Allen Ginsberg.

Though the narrative becomes evermore-farfetched as it unfurls, it’s so much fun that we don’t much care 🙂

Buried treasure?  Check.

Wrestling crocodiles?  Check.

Mr. Dundee and The Goonies were from this same era 🙂

Alfonso Arau is here too…with his little “mule” 🙂

[I guess, on second thought, that is a drug-smuggling joke]

This was the performance which preceded Mr. Arau’s all-world turn as El Guapo in Three Amigos.

Yeah…the plot really gets ridiculous right after the waterfall 🙂

But this is a feel-good movie!

And we need this kind of stuff.

Sitting down to ENJOY a movie 🙂

What a concept!

 

-PD

Taxi “Bobby’s Acting Career” [1978)

The trademark of these early Taxi episodes is tragicomedy.

We get a laugh, but something makes us think.

It should come as no surprise that artists are naturally inclined to tell their own stories.

Put another way, artists are quite comfortable describing the artist life.

And that is essentially what we have here.

Bobby (Jeff Conaway) is approaching a self-imposed impasse.

Hollywood or bust!  [Or in this case, Broadway or bust.]

Three years.

Reminds me of David Bowie’s haunting “Five Years” (the lead track from the Ziggy Stardust album).

That’s all we’ve got.

For Bobby, it’s three years.

Well, I have to say that it’s one of those plotlines that really got to me.

I can really relate.

I never set quite a quantified limit for myself, but by a similar mechanism I have found myself in my current situation.

Bobby wants to be an actor.  I wanted to be a musician.

I spent about 10 years getting to the professional level.

After four years, my dreams came crashing down around me (to quote Danny DeVito’s line from this episode).

Yeah, so I started anew.  Business school.  Wow, what a change!

But there’s something else about this episode.

Bobby’s last day.

He’s waiting for a call.  He gets turned down.

He auditions for a commercial.  He gets turned down.

Till the very end, Bobby is out hustling to beat the deadline.

And in the end he is surrounded by his friends.

The phone has to ring before midnight.

He needs that validation.  That outside validation.  That unequivocal measure of progress.  Being paid to do what he loves.

And so the group sits around the phone.  Each imploring it to “Ring!  Ring!” (while Latka chimes in with an urgent “Blop!  Blop!”).

Andy Kaufman doesn’t get much of a chance to shine here, but that’s alright:  this was Jeff Conaway’s episode.

Mr. Conaway is no longer with us.  But you know what?  He made it!  He was on Taxi.  Here I am all these years later watching this show with rapt attention.

But back to that artist’s life.

To quote Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

Yeah.  It reminds me of one of the greatest books I ever read:  Waiting Period by Hubert Selby, Jr.

If you were reading yesterday, you know that I made a decision to seek help for my depression.

But there were no appointments available today.

Fortunately I go tomorrow.

Funny how that is a cause of anxiety.

I’m scared.

Well, anyway…

I hope to be back with you all soon.

Keep your dreams!  Dream baby dream!

 

-PD

Taxi “Blind Date” [1978)

Thanks to Hulu and CBS (and probably some overly-precious writer somewhere) I wasn’t able to see episode two of Taxi, so I had to skip to episode three.

This one really is a curveball from the pilot.  The overriding theme here is obesity.

Judd Hirsh is wonderful as always, but this episode really benefits from the acting talents of Suzanne Kent.  Kent plays the role of Alex’s (Hirsch) blind date.

Hirsch and Kent really have a magic in this episode which is touching.

On a lighter note, Andy Kaufman really starts to take off in this episode (as in blast off).

We start by hearing Andy sing a song in his mysterious Eurasian language.

Later, Latka (Kaufman) shows off some of the singularly offensive gestures of his mystery culture in an argument with Danny DeVito.

What is great about Taxi is that the scriptwriting is matched by formidable acting talents (particularly Kaufman and Hirsch).  It’s no wonder that America fell in love with this show.  This is entertainment firing on all cylinders.

 

-PD

Taxi “Like Father, Like Daughter” [1978)

For those of us who, like me, can’t get enough of Andy Kaufman there is (mercifully) Taxi.

In my readings about Andy it came to my attention that Kaufman didn’t particularly like being on the show.

I can see where he was coming from (I think).  The show must have felt awfully restrictive for such a vast personality like him.

But this is where America at large got to know Andy Kaufman.  Taxi.  And so we shall start (or continue) here.

Andy’s appearances on Saturday Night Live (from its very inception) were inspiring performances which predated his new steady gig as Latka Gravas on Taxi by about three years.

But let’s let everyone get into the act here.

Judd Hirsch:  What a presence!  This guy…  You just immediately like him.  He’s unassuming.  He has a kind face–kind mannerisms.  And so he is, somewhat like Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld, the focal point of the show.  Kaufman might be the star for weirdos like me, but Hirsch was no doubt the star for the masses.  What an impressive acting job in this the pilot episode!

Danny DeVito:  Still going strong…the little man in the cage was a classic in his day.  What vigor!  What vitriol!  Yeah, it gave the nation (America) a little taste of New York City life.  Five-feet-tall in platform shoes and he doesn’t take attitude from anyone.  What a scrapper!  What an actor!!

Marilu Henner:  She doesn’t get a chance to do very much acting in the pilot, but I must say:  what a beauty!!!  I had forgotten.  It had never crossed my mind.  In retrospect, she is a revelation.  Kudos to casting for finding such a star!!!  [It should be pointed out that her character is named Elaine (a name picked up later for Seinfeld‘s main female role).]

Tony Danza:  Hey!  Ho!!!  But seriously, really a great role for Danza.  The stereotype would be lifted by the television show Friends later on for their character Joey (played by Matt LeBlanc).  Watch Taxi for the original article.

Jeff Conaway:  The late Mr. Conaway was perfect as Bobby Wheeler.  His “magical” phone call to Sir Laurence Olivier is priceless!!  Conaway helps set the era with his open-chested polyester (?) shirt.  He almost looks like Peter Frampton in this opening episode.

Those were the major players in this pilot episode.  AND we can’t forget the stunning Talia Balsam (who plays Alex’s daughter).

But the real focus is Latka.  For me.  That’s the real focus.

Latka doesn’t have a lot of lines, but he has at least one classic bit:  his effort to flirt with Marilu Henner.

Latka’s pickup line is simply, “Bed?”

Not bad from a guy learning English out of a Berlitz travel guide.

And so our dear little hero Mr. Gravas struggles with some phrases about chambermaids and such.  Fortunately Alex (Judd Hirsch) is helping him with English.  Useful phrases like, “Hold on a minute while I use the can.”  [Or something like that.]

And so we must thank the creators of Taxi for getting Kaufman on the show.  Thank you to James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis, and Ed. Weinberger.  Thank you gentlemen for seeing the talent in Andy Kaufman and giving him a chance to have a lasting body of work.

Or as Andy would say, “Tank you veddy much.”

 

-PD