' ' Cinema Romantico: In Memoriam

Monday, September 29, 2008

In Memoriam

The legendary (no other way to say it) Paul Newman passed away last Friday at the age of 83. One of the first old movies I ever watched (long before my ascent - or descent, if you will - into film snobbery) was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". There were two things that sprang to my mind when I heard of his passing, however, and one I experienced afterwards.

At the start of Newman's 1967 "Cool Hand Luke" we see his title character on a sweltering summer night in the south, all by himself, tossing back bottled beer, and busting open parking meters. He doesn't even seem all that interested in acquiring the change that pours out of them. A cop car pulls up, shining its lights directly into Luke's eyes. So Luke plops down on the sidewalk, throws his arm around one of those parking meters like it's a southern belle, and has another swig of beer. "Take me away," he seems to be saying, "'cuz I don't care." While it was James Dean who starred as a "Rebel Without a Cause" I must say, with all due respect to the late Mr. Dean, the image of a so-called Rebel Without a Cause was never, ever summed up better than it was in that opening image of "Cool Hand Luke".

I also recall once at a microbrewerey in Scottsdale, Arizona having a film-related discussion with my friend Nathan and somehow ending up on the topic of the Kevin Costner 1999 weepie "Message in a Bottle". Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "I'll be honest, I like a good chick flick-"
Nathan: "Yeah. Me too."
Me: "But 'Message in a Bottle'...."
Nathan: "That was over the top."
Me: "Really over the top. Too much."
Nathan: "Way too much."
Me: "It should've been awful."
Nathan: "Should've been god-awful."
Me: "But there was something about it that got to me."
Nathan: "It got to me, too."
Me: "What was it?"
Nathan: "Paul Newman."
Me: "Yeah. Paul Newman."

Give Mr. Newman a great screenplay, and he was fantastic. Give Mr. Newman a bad screenplay, and he was fantastic.

On Saturday night I was at a sports bar to watch my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers lose (but that's neither here nor there) and at halftime there was a brief ABC news report that mentioned Mr. Newman's passing. There was actually a tiny smattering of applause that broke out. I think it's safe to say he will be missed.

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