' ' Cinema Romantico: Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

One of America’s foremost pastimes is living in the past, which is why every autumn “The Great Gatsby” gets re-assigned to kids all over the country, and which is why the legend of the 1916 New York Giants re-surfaced to give context to the Cleveland Indians, and is why no one thinks they make movies or music like they used to. Sure, sure, we garble about the future too, that mystical future, but even the future, as our nation’s current President can tell you, is really just an attempt to raise the past, the whimsical past where everything was perfect, until we truly re-visit it, of course, and are re-reminded it wasn’t all so grand, as this passage in Murray Sperber’s illusion shattering chronicle of college football, “Onward Victory”, I am currently reading goes to show... “When the Rose Bowl signed up the Big Ten for a long-term pact, shutting out southern and southwestern schools, one sportswriter noted that the deal assisted the California land developers on and behind the bowl committee because ‘more real estate can be sold, and at higher prices, to people from the Middle West than to yokels from Dixie.’” Oh.

“Sunshine State” (2002) is set in the present but significantly stained by the past. The opening shot, a pirate ship on fire, makes you think it is the past until the camera pulls back to show you a few flashing lights atop a cop car. The pirate ship is part of Buccaneer Days, a commercial attempt for the Florida community of Delrona Beach to re-visit its past, which is far more murky, of course, than some lamebrain festival would ever let you know, as their neighboring black community of Lincoln Beach goes to show, which once was wondrous and alive but now is rundown and left hanging, refuting the notion that in the wake of the civil rights movement everything was hunky dory for Black America. Marly Temple (Edie Falco), meanwhile, is stuck managing a Delrona motel & restaurant that is part of the family, though a corporation called Exley Plantations (another nod to the fraught past) wants to snap it up, to turn the community into some sort of pseudo-paradise, and Marly’s ex-husband Steve (Richard Edson) has his own grand vision for a waterpark pseudo-paradise that he hopes to fund by borrowing from Marly if she cuts a deal.

Sayles is not really known as a comic filmmaker, but of all the movies of his I have seen, and I have seen quite a few, this is the funniest moment he has put on screen, one that could stand up to any fine satirist, when Steve tries to convince Marly to help him out and Marly curtly cuts him down.

Steve: “You know why you’re stuck running that flophouse? Because you got no vision.”
Marly: “I can’t believe you think I’d loan you money after what you put me through.”
Steve: “That’s all over and done with, Marley. You can’t-”

But wait! Before we actually say the hilarious capping line let us acknowledge that it’s a line that has been employed thousands of millions times. And that it’s a line that has been employed thousands of millions of times is what makes it funny given the context, and that the context relates to his costuming because he is on duty as a re-enactor at an old Civil War fort. The esteemed Roger Ebert once noted, characters wearing funny hats are never as funny as characters who don’t know they are wearing funny hats. And Steve...well, Steve doesn’t know his costume is funny given what he says. And Edson, who, as the immortal Parking Garage Attendant in “Ferris Buller’s Day Off”, told Cameron Frye to relax with a facial expression of amusing incredulity, accentuates what he says with a twisted variation of that same facial expression that in this case becomes the emblem of a comical delusion of a man who thinks he is moving forward without realizing he is actually stuck in cement. He says...

“You cant live in the past.”

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