' ' Cinema Romantico: Cookie's Fortune & A Good Kind Of Conundrum

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cookie's Fortune & A Good Kind Of Conundrum

Tell me, do you ever have this problem? You love a particular movie with such passionate fervor that you cannot manage to convey via words why you love it as much as you do? The late Robert Altman is/was generally considered as one of the all time greats. His "MASH", "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" and "Nashville" have all been selected by the National Film Registry for preservation. "Gosford Park" earned him several awards. "Prairie Home Companion" was my favorite film of 2006. But, far and away, no contest, his "Cookie's Fortune" (1999), which I traditionally view every Easter Sunday , is my favorite of his many, many films. One of my favorite films period.

I have attempted two reviews of it and I am vastly disappointed in each one. If talking about music is like dancing about architecture than my talking about "Cookie's Fortune" is like kayaking about transcendentalism (?). I just can't get it right. Is it because my affection is too devout? Is it like a Yankees fan trying to write objectively about Derek Jeter? Is it merely an enormous exercise in impossibility?

Maybe we need a sabermetrician for Hollywood. Huh? How 'bout it? Maybe we need to establish a movie geek's NERD, a quantitative measure of expected aesthetical cinematic value. Auteur Matchups. Statistically Notable - Or Otherwise Compelling - Actors. Box Office Earnings (And Distribution). Historical Context. Quality of Moviewatching Experience.

Gee whiz. Does that sound like fun? Or does that make you want to stab yourself in the face with a stalagmite? Yeah. Me too. I rue the day Bill James becomes bored with baseball and turns his attention to movies and starts devising algorithms to prove Jack Haley was the true MVP of "The Wizard Of Oz" and that "Quiz Show", not "Pulp Fiction" or "Forrest Gump", was the real Best Picture of 1994. Kate Winslet is The Greatest Working Actress. Okay? She just is, and if some cinematic sabermetrician tries to prove otherwise I'll poison his cobb salad. Fair warning.

Was that harsh? Probably. But I'm not taking it back. Either way, there is no mathematical formula to break down my "Cookie's Fortune" love affair. So what to do? Maybe I should just say that watching "Cookie's Fortune" feels like this and this mixed together in a fruit salad bowl.

Not doing it for you? I suspected as much. Darn it. Maybe it's like the whiskey tasting my friends and I attend every Tuesday at the local Irish Bistro. Our awesome instructor asks us to taste a whiskey and then asks if we liked it. But why did we like it? Damn, woman, I don't know, it just, you know, tasted good. "Okay," she'll say, "so what did you taste?" Let's see......kind of a wood burning stove, maybe? As opposed to gasoline. I hate the whiskeys that taste/smell like gasoline. So what about when I watch "Cookie's Fortune"? What do I taste/smell? Let's see......spanish moss in the morning? Azaleas, perhaps? Candied yams. Bourbon and coffee. The way sweat smells right when you enter air conditioning. Definitely catfish enchiladas.


I still have no idea. I'm trying. Honestly, I am. Maybe it all just comes down to what Robert Warshow once wrote: "A man watches a movie, and the critic must acknowledge that he is that man." I am a man (relatively). I am that man when I watch this movie. Which man? The man who believes firmly in the existence of The Loch Ness Monster. The man who when driving through central Wisconsin stopped briefly in Chippewa Falls to see Lake Wissota because that is where Jack Dawson went ice fishing. (Yes, yes, yes, I know Lake Wissota was man-made several years after the Titanic sank and so this situation was implausible but the man that mentions this factual error is not the man I am.)

Does that help? Probably not. Look, maybe it's all just as ineffable as that feeling a person gets the night before Easter Sunday or Christmas Morning or Thanksgiving. I can't explain it. I don't want to explain it. Let's just leave it alone, shall we?


Rory Larry said...

I will now unabashedly steal the phrase kayaking about transcendentalism

Nick Prigge said...

Feel free. I'm hoping it catches on.