' ' Cinema Romantico: Ray of Light

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Ray of Light

Earlier this year on This Had Oscar Buzz, a podcast all about movies that “once upon a time had lofty Academy Award aspirations but for some reason or another it all went wrong”, co-hosts Joe Reid and Chris Feil covered 2000’s “Finding Forrester.” I totally saw that movie but completely forgot everything about it, save for Sean Connery barking “You’re the man now, dawg!” at Rob Brown. Uncomfortable racial connotations, considering it’s an old white man hollering the line at a young black man, aside, it was the kind of trailer line, as Reid noted, that had the movie been released in 2020, would have been memed into the ground, a la “A Star is Born.” Indeed, it’s the sort of movie trailer line destined to imprint itself in your brain, whether you like it or not, like Harrison Ford growling “I already work around the clock!” in that movie that no one remembers but which got memed so hard so fast a new trailer was immediately constructed with that line conspicuously disappeared.

Turns out, I don’t just miss going to the movies in these strange, awful days. I miss going to the movies to see movie trailers too, experiencing that moment when a line from one jumps out and, like it or not, jams itself into my head. I was so taken with Rachel Weisz declaring in purposeful monotone “I don’t want a scandal, I’m just doing my job” in the trailer for “The Whistleblower” (2011) that for a site that no longer exists I wrote an entire article speculating what other actors could have said this line and how it would have sounded. During the glorious summer of 1997, when I worked as a concessionist at the Cobblestone 9 Theater, the best job I’ll ever have, we were all obsessed with the “Air Force One” trailer and its quotes sustained us through the Friday and Saturday evening rushes. The soda dispenser machine breaks with a line fifteen-people deep? You’d say “How the hell did this happen?! How the hell did they get Air Force One?!” It’s so busy you don’t have enough people to cover both the theater-clean up crew and the concession stand? “There are no airborne scenarios!” A co-worker questions how well you cleaned the popcorn kettle? “Do you know who I am? I’m the President of the United States.” *Heavy sigh.* Those were the days.

But if there is any trailer I am prone to think of, not just from 1997 but in general, it’s one featuring Sean Connery’s “Rising Sun” co-star, Wesley Snipes. Remember “Murder at 1600”? It’s likely you don’t. The same year that gave us the infamous double disaster movie face off between “Volcano” (winner!) and “Dante’s Peak” also gave us the infamous double White House Murder Story face off between “Absolute Power” and “Murder at 1600” (winner!). The latter did not win just because of its trailer but that trailer certainly helped. Following a proper Don LaFontaine preamble, Snipes enters the frame with an era-appropriate mobile phone, into which he says, and I’m not making this up, “There’s been a murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. An address that changes all the rules.” I saw this trailer before some movie for some employee-only sneak preview and, man, let me tell you, the placed roared like Ben Stiller got the beans above the frank.

We didn’t have memes in those days, those long ago days during the second Clinton Administration, but we didn’t need them. If it was a long day, if you needed a little jolt, a little ray of light, you might say, you’d just wait for whatever movie with a “Murder at 1600” trailer attached to start and then sneak off to watch it for the 47th time.

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