' ' Cinema Romantico: Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

For one year or so in the mid-80s, my family got cable before we ditched it for a decade. (In retrospect, I’m thankful we ditched it.) That brief time we had access to a hundred channels, however, was when John Milius’s Cold War slice of surprisingly grim agitprop, imagining a time when other NATO allies ditched the U.S. rather than vice-versa (sigh), “Red Dawn” was all over HBO. My attention span, understandably, was short in those preadolescent days and so I mostly just watched the first fifteen, twenty minutes whenever it would pop up, setting the idyllic Colorado scene before WWIII starts and school is let out forever. As the streets descend into chaos, a few friends hop into the truck of Jed (Patrick Swayze), the emergent Subcomandante Marcos of Calumet, and hightail it out of town. Before vanishing into the Rockies, however, and gradually forming a small resistance, they stop at a convenience store run by the father one of the kids in the pickup’s bed. The father tells them get inside, gather supplies, which they do, in a frenzy. And though in the ensuing montage you don’t see them grab any packs of Charmin, you hear, in dialogue likely recorded post-production, a character demand “And get some toilet paper. I ain’t using no leaves.”

Because I was a typical preadolescent, numb to the complexities of the Cold War if not framed through an Olympic context, and because I rarely made it all the way to the end of “Red Dawn”, I saw it mostly as adventure story where kids ran away into the mountains to play hero. That’s why it was fun to play-act with friends. A few of us on the block would get together and decide who was Jed and who was Matt and who was Robert and who was Danny and if the two sisters a couple houses over were hanging out with us then we could even have Erica and Toni too. (Nobody ever wanted to be Daryl. Traitor.) And so, we’d all escape Calumet and stop for supplies as we fled, getting make-believe Wheaties and guns and toilet paper.

Red Dawn, brought to you by Wheaties & Capri Sun!
That all came flooding back to me Saturday afternoon when My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife and I took a walk down to CVS ahead of Chicago’s stay-at-home order going into effect to stock up on supplies. My youthful fantasies died off long, long ago, of course, but this wasn’t that; this was being brought face-to-face with a youthful fantasy for real. That’s not in the emotional manual. And I thought of that “Red Dawn” character opining that he didn’t want to use leaves as I made a beeline for the T.P. section and came up dry. We bought some napkins instead. Strange days, these.

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