My Take by Jim Carl - October 21, 2011
Let me state upfront this is not blog for people looking for movie reviews. Or people wanting info about what’s playing at the Carolina Theatre. If you want to read someone’s opinion about a movie or what’s screening at the Theatre, search elsewhere on the Internet. MY TAKE is a blog about my funny life experiences that happened to involve movies, and how I found myself in charge of programming films for a living. I’ll discuss how certain movies came to be responsible for my bad attitude, memories, associations, personal beliefs, and plain stupidity. Yes, I fully intend to trash films considered sacred in certain circles, and will probably offer a poor explanation for doing so. I also intend to squander praise on movies considered awful by most everyone, even if it makes me sound ridiculous, because I have a funny memory to share about them. Again, I’m not writing reviews. All I mean to do here is tell some good stories, and perhaps a clever lie or two. No one has ever accused me of suffering a shortage of ways to make a fool of myself, and because blogging is one I haven’t tried, at least this is one most of my friends haven’t yet seen. You're gonna learn more than you ever wanted to know about my hometown, Sweetwater, Texas. Friends, colleagues, bosses and co-workers---both long-forgotten and ignored---will be resurrected and scrutinized, in-depth. Sources will be named. There will be detours to Los Angeles, New York City, West Virginia, festivals, galas, premieres, and other places where I'm no longer welcome. Funny and brilliant, my stories will be, so my editor tells me. I hope certain members of my family never read this blog, and a good thing too, that is, at their age. I'd like to say that I've gotten smarter over the years, but that would be a silly thing to say, ask anyone who knows me. You can make that decision for yourself.
THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR (1988)
I made a fool of myself during the summer of 1988 because of this movie. I was 19 years old, living in Nebraska, and had just completed my first year of junior college. I had also just completed my first year in a fraternity. Elsewhere that summer, an animated rabbit was being framed for murder, terrorists were shooting at Bruce Willis atop Nakatomi Plaza, and the Brits were eating fish named Wanda. Any of these movies would have been fine choices, I swear, with my easy-going bros; but no, it was my duty, I believed, to bring culture to the unwashed, beer-guzzling mates who were my fraternity brothers. Until I came along, I strongly suspect that the majority of the guys in my fraternity had no true appreciation of how unalterably complicated selecting the right movie could be. I chose to see a drama about the Latin American tradition of Magical Realism; something with substance. Something that would make us better, smarter men. Let’s see Young Guns, they argued. Comedies and action flicks were for silly freshmen, I told them, failing to mention I'd been raised in West Texas and believed pesto pasta was the height of French cuisine. Let it be known, I have never, ever distinguished myself picking movies.
You take a group of rowdy, immature teen men into a flick with quasi-fantastical themes and environmental whimsy like The Milagro Beanfield War and what happens next is a movie-going memory of such jaw-dropping dread that it still haunts me, all these years later. Why, oh why, had I insisted on dragging half my fraternity to see this folly about Mexican jumping beans, holy water, and fiddle-twiddling angels? Surely, Robert Redford didn't direct this? I remember sitting there, growing sweatier by the minute, mentally preparing an excuse to explain why I'd suggested this film in the first place, but knowing my goose was cooked, and all I could do was accept my fate, even if the price I paid would be too high. Milagro was the type of movie that required a maturity level several years beyond us. I suspect that’s how most of the audience felt about us, too, but I’ll never know, because the theatre manager asked us to leave once the silver-haired ladies seated ahead of us started praying to Jesus for our souls. To this day, I have never read another sentence written by Franz Kafka or Isabel Allende. The mere mention of the phrase, “Magic Realism” is certain to trigger an unmitigated brick-throwing response within me.
It was the first time in my life that I went into a theatre, feeling superior, and came out, happy in the realization that I could be an unwashed, beer-guzzling idiot, right up there with the best of them. That my fraternity brothers were good sports and only mentioned Milagro in every other conversation for the remainder of my college career was a testament to their good faith in me to pick better movies in the future, and that's what I did. I learned my lesson. When my brothers finally allowed me to suggest another movie, I chose Phantasm II, the one with the little silver balls that burrow into people's brains. I made-up some ground, I'd like to believe. All these years later, one or two of my brothers still speak to me on Facebook.
JIM CARL is Senior Director of the Carolina Theatre. He has been in charge of its film program since 1995. Some of his favorite contemporary movies include The Empire Strikes Back, Jaws, Dangerous Liaisons, The Punisher (2004), Postcards from the Edge, Aliens, The Fog (1980), Private Benjamin, Deep Blue Sea and almost anything involving Great White Sharks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Thomas Jane, Kurt Russell, or is set underwater. His favorite movie of all time is Ordinary People. Some of his least-favorite contemporary movies include Alien 3, Crank 2: High Voltage, Brazil, The Usual Suspects, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Scarface (1983) and almost anything involving Will Ferrell (except Elf), Jason Statham, mobsters, British gangsters and drug dealers, or a toy that transforms into a loudmouthed robot. His least-favorite movie of all time is Pulp Fiction. He is a film believer in the presentation and preservation of 35mm film and will book any movie he suspects will make money, even if he hates it.