Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Talking 4th of July Blues - Saved by Woody Allen

Yesterday I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, possibly on the wrong bed altogether. Part of it was the fitful nature of that particular night of sleep. It was one of those nights where you wake up every hour or two and sleep about 6 hours even though you have nothing to get up for. When I finally decided to surrender to the inevitable and just get out of bed it felt like I had gone 12 rounds in the heavyweight division rather than completed any type of sleep cycles.

So, I dragged myself out of bed and decided to finally finish Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Up to this point the book had been a bit dark but fairly comical in its satirical look at war, patriotism, and the military bureaucracy. However, the last few chapters, especially chapter 39, are extremely dark. Chapter 39 has the main character, Yossarian, AWOL and wandering through the ruins of Rome. Here he encounters all the evils of society including starvation, cruel violence, and even rape and murder by one of his US compatriots. While it ended on a happy note, this portion of the book left me feeling that the world is a cold and meaningless place, if I may hyperbolize my emotional state. So, I decided to go for a run.

While it was good to get exercise, it didn't give me the endorphin bounce I was hoping for to jump start my day. I got home and tried to take a nap, which was only partially successful. I didn't feel like doing anything and sat home listlessly passing the day until I decided that I was going to do the one thing I had wanted to do for the last month: go and see Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, even if this meant going to it alone. So I checked show times and decided on the 9:45. Then, I decided rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself until 9:30, I would go and have dinner with Amy and Pete. This was a good call and even better barbecued chicken.

So, around 9:30 I headed down to the theater by myself. I think I've only gone to one other movie by myself and that was Fellowship of the Rings. All my friends had already seen it, and I wanted to see it in theaters. One day basketball practice was cancelled and I decided that was the day to make it happen. Now, going to a movie alone could have worsened an already sour mood by projecting my present friendless state in the movie theater to a larger friendless state in the entirely of my life, but for some reason I was happy to be alone watching Woody Allen.

Woody Allen is my favorite director period (I always wonder whether to just put a period at the end of a sentence or write out "period;" I think you have to write it out for it to carry the same linguistic weight). There is something about his movies that resonate with me and put a smile on my face no matter the mood. From the opening credits that are always in black-and-white with Windsor font (I finally looked up the name of the font he always uses) to the amazing music that begins such works - from Manhattan's "Rhapsody in Blue" to Love and Death's "Romance and Troika" to Hannah and Her Sisters' "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" - the movies' humor (usually) and light-heartedness in the midst of the main character's (usually Allen in the older ones) foibles and existential despair undergirds most of his works with something resembling hope. It at least helps me take myself less seriously.

For instance, how can this opening not make you: a. want to go to New York, b. do something beautiful with your life, and c. smile?

Well, last night proved to be no disappointment. Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's best movie in quite a while (since Scoop maybe - and probably better!). It revolves around an unhappily engaged man who finds himself in Paris with a fiance who is more interested in one of their friends than in him. He decides to take a late night walk through the streets of Paris, and when the clock strikes midnight, a vintage 1920s car pulls up and people invite him to get in. Once he does, he is transported to 1920s Paris complete with the cast from the "Lost Generation" - Hemingway, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Cole Porter, Salvador Dali, and many others. This is his golden age, the place and time he always wished he could inhabit. Anyway, he does this every night he's in Paris and learns a valuable lesson in the end that I won't ruin because it won't do it justice. It was a beautiful and even heart-warming film that changed my 4th of July attitude. Here's the preview:

Then, I got in the car, turned on the radio, and got an amazing combo of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings"...

and Randall Thompson's "Alleluia," which I had never heard before and was blown away by (ignore the pictures).

So, my evening ended with me beginning Steinbeck's For Whom the Bell Tolls and downloading Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. Things are looking up!


  1. Thompson's "Alleluia": primo. We sang that in high school... a highlight for sure.

    Midnight in Paris looks great. I'm no Woody Allen connoisseur, but that preview is enticing.

    And do you mean, Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"? Just checking.

  2. Ah yes, misprint. Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (I hate that I can't italicize in comments).