Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Great Debaters, remembering Hollywood

One of the fortunate things about living in LA is that if you're into movies, this is the place. Well, truth be told, les enfants de la cinémathèque would say otherwise, but that's left to a soon to be posted piece on a legend of the cinema.

If you know how to work it, you can go to tons of screenings and previews, many of which will have principals come out and talk afterwards. I don't want to give away all of the secrets, but two of the top film schools in the world are here, and one houses one of the largest preservationist archives in the world. They run stuff all the time.

Which is to say that Fish is on the inside track with Townhall LA, and got us into Miramax's - OKAY, "The Weinstein Company's" - very first screening of The Great Debaters. While the movie was fairly straight-ahead and predictable, given that it was inspired by a true story, it was really "enlarged" and embellished as screenwriter Robert Eisele himself said in the post-screening.

This may seem superficial, the fact that I like this junk, but understand, I was born in Hollywood, right on Sunset Boulevard. And I was an asthmatic kid, so Ma would run me into Kaiser so I could mainline adrenaline and breathe. Trouble with that is that I was speeding out like a meth freak. Ma always felt bad for me, so she'd run me to the nearby Thrifty's to get ice cream, and then we'd stroll down Hollywood Boulevard.

And this is the way it was one time; I'm licking my wounds by licking my ice cream, kinda oblivious to the afternoon sun but, all in all, happy to be out of the hospital. (I can't stand it when people use the "proper," "...glad to be out of hospital.") Out of the corner of my ear, I hear Ma say, "Oh, there's Mercedes McCambridge." Not looking up, I ask who that is. "Oh, just an actress."

I didn't pay it much mind as I was just a kid, but years later while in film school we watched the great George Stevens' Giant. And I remembered what Scorsese said about McCambridge on the stallion, and the way Stevens cut from the long shot to the close up of her spurs... and sitting there, in the dark, I remembered that walk on Hollywood Boulevard. In that moment, I was in two places at once.

And that's why it's corny to say but weird how Hollywood is in my DNA. I've many stories like this, and I recall them fondly. That's why, despite all of its brutality, I love LA.