My First Time (Part Two)

When it ended for the first time that December it was hard not to feel crestfallen.  Thinking I had met someone special in my own city through an instant messenger program, it became next to impossible to move on.  Despite the anger and resentment, though, I wanted another chance with her.  There was a mystery there and I was determined to personally unravel it.
In mid-March 2005, there was something odd about her MSN page.  I had been checking it fairly regularly and was always disappointed to read of her ongoing love and affection for this American soldier she was involved with.  But on that sunny March 14th afternoon, all references to him were suddenly scrubbed from the page.  That was strange.  Sure enough, when I checked her Yahoo profile, there was no mention of him there, either.  But there was a link to a new blog she had started.  I clicked it and poured over the archives.  She was indeed single again and going through a rough time.
She had told me about her turbulent history.  There was violence, family problems, wild sex, even a brief death experience.  But she is one of the strongest women I’ve ever met.  Despite a severe allergy to bee stings and a heart that threatened to give out at any moment, she remained cheerfully alive when we were together.  I admired her courage and her incomparable ability to perservere.
I made some important decisions that day.  One, I decided to forgive her about the other man in her life.  Two, I wanted the chance to meet her and see what we had in person.  I made my move on MSN (I had uninstalled Yahoo Messenger, at that point) the following evening.
When we were both signed in, she was two lines into an email wondering what was going on when I messaged her.  We made peace, shortly thereafter.  I told her how I felt and what my intentions were.  We were on the same page.  She had actually gotten engaged during our break but it was now off.  Her ex had suddenly ceased contact with her so she sent back the ring he gave her. 
Forgiving her felt incredible.  I was happy again.  For the next two months, we would grow even closer than before.  No more resentment, no more sniping, no more bitterness.  Even though we had still not seen pics of each other, we were falling in love.
Just before we met in the park on May 10, we finally revealed our looks to each other.  She liked my pics, even though they weren’t terribly recent.  That was one less thing to worry about.  When I saw hers, though, I was decidedly unimpressed.  She just didn’t look her best.  Before reconnecting, I never knew her body type.  She had mentioned being quite athletic before the incident which gave me the false impression that she was still fit.  She wasn’t.  But ultimately, I didn’t care.  We were now a couple and it would be that first face-to-face meeting that would really determine how I felt about her.
It was a beautiful Spring day.  I was so excited I couldn’t stay out of the bathroom.  But I wasn’t uncomfortable.  I was thrilled to finally meet someone from the Internet in person.
She had mentioned being a big country fan so I decided to give her this Roseanne Cash CD, 10 Song Demo, that I never listened to.  We walked and talked for several minutes before sitting down at a picnic table.  It was there I knew.  She didn’t wear any make-up.  She had some bad acne happening.  Her long, reddish brown hair was all tied up.  And she weighed at least 30 pounds more than me.  She was not my type at all.  But she smelled great and I was completely smitten.
I remember I slid right up next to her, which she wasn’t prepared for.  I tried to move in for a kiss but she wasn’t ready.  I even tried a little dirty talk.  Timing was off but I didn’t lose her.  Much to my surprise, I wasn’t the shy one.  After incompletely writing our names in ink with her left hand on the top of the picnic table, she suggested we move somewhere else on the grass.  We held hands as we looked for a decent spot.  As I made a second attempt to glue my lips to hers, she was far more accommodating.  I had no clue what I was doing, though.  But she helped me out and we spent the rest of that glorious afternoon in and out of warm, romantic embraces.
Seventeen days later, I would finally experience real pleasure.  Because of the incident, she was behind a year in high school.  That second-to-last week in May, she told me that not only was she getting out early on the 27th (11 a.m.) but her stepfather and mom were going to be away the whole day.  She wondered if we could get together then.  Only a fool would’ve turned down that offer.
So, it was settled.  When she got home that Friday morning, she would call me to confirm our plans and give me directions to her place.  She had the protection.  My long drought was about to end.
Naturally, I was up early that fateful day.  The call came in just after 11.  She would meet me at the bus stop closest to her town house.  Once that was settled, I took my bagged lunch (peanut butter sandwich, cucumber slices, green peppers, celery, green tea) and headed out the door.  One very long bus ride later, we connected.  She looked different.  Her beautiful long hair was let down this time and it smelled fantastic.  She wore jean shorts with a belt, running shoes with white, ankle socks and a red "Canadian Girls Kick Ass" T-shirt.  Like before, I felt a strong attraction to her.  And there was no mistaking the calm atmosphere.  I wanted this so bad.
We held hands en route to her place and talked.  Once we arrived, she had me wait in the back while she went around the front to let herself in.
Now inside, I sensed the crammedness of her residence.  Her grad pics had come in and she showed them off.  She looked lovely, a Native Canadian Queen Latifah.  She gave me one along with some other pics of her when she was younger and thinner.  After a brief downstairs tour, we went upstairs to her bedroom.
Without so much as a hesitant thought, my instinct was to strip down.  One minute, she saw me wearing dark pants, a light-coloured t-shirt and socks.  After checking on her sleeping gecko, she turned around to see a very eager 29-year-old stretching the boundaries of his undergarments.
Like in the park, this 19-year-old seemed shy to get things started.  Once again, I was the aggressor, slipping her out of her clothing and preparing her for consummation.
She had told me about her sensitive knees.  The front and back became erogenous zones after the incident.  When she went to close the window, like a pent-up cheetah tired of being impatient, I jumped onto her bed and licked the back of her knees as I gently stroked her stems.  Resistance was futile.
She was just wearing socks as she laid on her back.  Her womanhood was abundant.  An ample bosom (complete with a left nipple piercing) and an incredibly firm posterior.  All the right parts completely shaven.  And she wanted to be with me.
After some amusing foreplay (I made a strange "am I doing this right?" face early on), she was ready to play.  She applied the protection.  I felt secure.  I removed her socks (she had cute toes) and gingerly climbed aboard.  We embraced as I progressed slowly but eagerly.  The long wait was over.  Feeling silly, I praised early high school dismissals which made her laugh.
The position wasn’t comfortable and after a bit, she flipped herself over, offering me her best physical attribute.  It was so firm that I couldn’t resist slapping it every so often.  The thrusting got faster, more exciting.  I couldn’t resist posing.  It felt so good.  Many minutes passed before the inevitable release.
Then it was her turn.  I was on my back still ready to go.  Feeling remarkably self-conscious, she got up, wrapped herself in a giant blanket and went to work.  She didn’t have to hide herself.  I never cared about her flaws.  Meanwhile, she got more and more amused with every pleasurable sound I made.  So, this is what I was missing?  It was a moment worth savouring.
Soon, it was back to slapping and thrusting.  I didn’t last nearly as long as the first time but it was still great fun.  When it was over, I was dead tired.  As we laid in bed, the blankets covering our sweat-drenched bodies (it was pretty hot in her room that afternoon), I was too stunned to respond to her rather generous offer of playing with her large goodies.  There was a stillness in the room.  It didn’t help that my throat was in rough shape.  That’s what you get for drinking way too much apple juice.
Bored out of her mind, she reached for the remote.  Some Canadian western was on.  I was too tired and happy to care. 
Climbing out of her bed, I was a different person.  There was this confidence, this swagger as I made my way to her bathroom.  (Why I put my clothes back on, I have no idea.)  At one point, I thought she was calling for me.  But when I returned to her bedroom, she let out a rather alarming scream.  She was indeed uncomfortable being this exposed around her rather skinny boyfriend.  How sad.  Once completely dressed, we took a break downstairs and barely spoke.
After taking far too long to eat my lunch (because of the aforementioned sore throat), we had just enough time for one more romp.  For round three, we kept our tops on.  (She switched to a blue number.) She climbed aboard and just like before, she readied me for action.  I loved how she gyrated her hips as we got rolling again.  It wasn’t long before she was on her hands and knees bracing for another impact.  More slapping and entering followed.  And we were all done.
She had to get ready for work (a soul-crushing telemarketing gig she would soon be fired from) and it was time for me to get going, as well.  As we walked towards the bus stop, I couldn’t stop marvelling at the day’s events.  It didn’t feel real.  I was so used to being inactive that there were times I doubted ever getting to this level.  But her sweetness and her comfort made it happen.  I’ll never forget it.
The bus arrived after a brief wait and we said our goodbyes.  What had been such a warm, sunny afternoon soon turned dark and menacing.  As I got closer to my stop, the light was quickly replaced by storm clouds.  And then the rain came.  I exited the bus and was soaked in seconds.  It was torrential.  The thunder and lightning didn’t help matters.  It took forever to get home.
But when I did, I couldn’t help feeling wonderful.  After a nice shower, there was this constant reflection of the day’s events.  Then, she called after her shift.  Lying in bed, she told me she could still smell me in the sheets.  We chatted and laughed about what happened.  All in all, it was a very positive initation.
Sadly, it wouldn’t last.  Two weeks after meeting my parents and my grandmother for my 30th birthday get-together three days before the actual date, I treated my teenage girlfriend to an Adam Sandler movie.  I didn’t like it but she did.  We had fun, nonetheless.  It would be the last time we saw each other in person, the last time we kissed, the last time we held hands in public.
As the summer arrived, he was on her mind.  She couldn’t stop talking about that American soldier.  There was weeping, confusion and an inescapable sense that she was not over him.  On July 2nd, the day of the Live 8 concerts, I put her on the spot.  She had to choose.  She couldn’t.  It was over.  She refused to meet me in person (she had actually invited me to her town house again the day before, the same day she ended up chatting with him online and going on and on and on about him) so we parted ways over the phone.  She cried.  I remained calm, knowing that it had to end.  I didn’t want to feel like a substitute anymore.  But there was no more anger.
It took many months to accept what happened, to realize that the relationship had gone as far as it was going to go.  Besides, she was desperate to get out of that town house.  She wanted marriage, a baby and a big dog.  She has them now with another soldier she married the year after we broke up.  (Things didn’t work out with the other soldier, the one she was briefly engaged to.)
I hope she’s happier now.  I think nothing but good things about her, hoping that she thinks the same of me.  She changed my life for the better.  She opened my eyes to the possibilities of romance and true passion.  I have regrets about not making things last and about not being more adventurous with her, but I’ll never regret being with her.  She made me feel special, that what I said and did mattered.  And she made me feel comfortable.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
1:01 a.m.
Published in: on May 28, 2008 at 1:02 am  Comments (1)  

My First Time (Part One)

The phone rang.  It was her.  She was home and she wanted me to come see her.
It was an unusual moment.  Never before had any woman offered herself to me for an entire afternoon.  It felt good.  It felt sincere.  It felt right.  It was time.
I met her online on Grey Cup Sunday, 2004.  Her profile had been popping up in my Yahoo Member Directory searches for a number of months.  The nickname she selected for herself immediately caught my attention.  It screamed sex.  Everything else about her profile left me with mixed feelings.  Then, I investigated her MSN page.  Same reaction.
After initially resisting, there was a change of heart.  She was online and I messaged her.  There were short, to-the-point answers to my questions which I didn’t even notice at the time.  I was just happy to get a positive response from someone single.  It was an unexpected conversation, for sure, but one she quickly warmed to.
As we kept conversing electronically that evening, something happened.  Comfortability entered the picture.  She was a sweet girl, bright and interesting.  In a little over an hour or so, we talked about various things, most especially matters of the flesh.  When she learned of my lifelong inexperience, her interest in me deepened.  I wondered what she looked like.  She wondered the same thing.
Over the course of the next, several days, we drew closer as our chat sessions grew longer, sweeter and more passionate.  By the end of the first week, the atmosphere between us was thick with the anticipation of pleasure.  Real pleasure.  Off-line pleasure.  Oh, how I craved it after so many years of going without.
We alternated between typing and talking, lusting and releasing, laughing and getting serious.  Her voice was sensuous and girly.  She had a big belly laugh that came out of nowhere when she became greatly amused about something.  She was irresistible.  And she liked me.  It was eerie how well we got along with each other.
One night in December, we were chatting when a particularly acceptable message I had sent her was reciprocated with an "mm". 
"Did you moan out loud?", I inquired. 
"Yes," came the reply.  "A little."
Unfortunately, they were nearby.  Like myself, she hadn’t left the nest.  The computer was, unfortunately, in the dining room.  They were watching TV, just inches away in the next room, but oblivous to what was happening between us.  Instantaneously, a naughty idea flowed through my brain.
What if I could give her sweet relief in an unconventional manner?  She couldn’t do anything with her hands, for obvious reasons.  But she had a great imagination and was a voracious reader.  Was it possible to pleasure her with just words on a screen and without the benefit of touch?  Could I get her started while her brain finished the job?  It was worth finding out.
I told her what I was up to.  She wondered if it would work.  We got started.
As I feverishly banged the keys offering what I hoped would be undeniably titillating, she responded so positively and excitedly that I became determined to keep progressing through my scenario in order to see how far I could take things with her.  It became a fascinating writing exercise.  She wanted to moan so badly that she had to bite down hard on her lip to keep from making a peep.  She was flush with emotion, barely able to contain herself.  Finally, after several minutes, a resolution.  We had inadvertently discovered another way to have kinky fun.
Still, it lacked the personal touch and it was all about her, not the both of us.  Nonetheless, my confidence as a writer grew immensely, as did her attraction to me.
By mid-December, however, after three weeks of building an online chemistry, it all fell apart.  After not hearing from her one day, an unusual circumstance considering how many hours we spent communicating with each other every day, for some reason I looked up her Yahoo profile.  There was a recent update.  She had fallen in love with some American soldier.  The anger was instantly palpable.  Resisting the temptation to yell at her on the phone, I waited a day before sending her a terse email.
Friendship was out of the question.  For me, it was a romance or nothing at all.  It looked like it was over before it truly began.
But three months later, we would pick up where we left off.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
10:22 p.m.
Published in: on May 27, 2008 at 10:23 pm  Comments (1)  

V For Vendetta

It looks good when you can see it.  The dialogue is sharp and interesting.  There are some wonderful performances.  Overall, it’s a very timely piece.
But there’s something missing, something crucial to pulling everything together in a tight, pulsating fashion.
Real, constant emotion, the most important ingredient of them all, is notably absent.  Such a shame.
In V For Vendetta, a comic book movie with loads of ambition, a mysterious stranger makes his first appearance rescuing a beautiful young woman from a small band of Fingermen, the blatantly suggestive name for her oversexed, happily corruptible, would-be assailants.  Wearing a vaudevillian mask, a dark, feminine, long-haired wig, black cape and boots, he’s an actor on a mission.  In between slashing these thugs with his very sharp blades he never lets you forget he’s an actor with fierce intelligence.  It’s so fierce, in fact, that some of it goes right over our heads.  And it’s a bit pretentious.
With the situation safely defused, V (an uneven Hugo Weaving from The Matrix trilogy) introduces himself to Evey (the always lovely Natalie Portman nailing a British accent).  Right away, you sense something…off with him.  In easily the most annoying moment of the film, he offers a succession of "v" words to explain, sort of, his lot in life.  Later on, we get a clearer picture.
Something is very wrong with England, too.  An extreme right wing party, led by High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt, who I didn’t really hate enough, despite his charisma and entertaining lines), has removed practically every possible freedom we take for granted, thanks to its paranoid obsession with control.  (They rose to power during turbulent times.)  There are strict curfews (hence the Fingermen surrounding Evey), a long list of banned entertainment, immoral spying (including wiretaps) and forbidden zones.  TV stations offer mindless, fictional drivel while the news media are saddled with peddling mostly government propaganda.  (The viewing audience is highly skeptical but are powerless to do anything about it.)  Even the slightest adversarial motive one of its citizens might have can lead to ongoing torture and eventual execution, not to mention the implementation of another ordinance to obey.
Twenty years ago, something terrible happened at a medical facility to V.  Ever since, The Count Of Monte Cristo fanatic has plotted vengeance.  One by one, those responsible for his current condition (a badly burned body, amnesia, enhanced intelligence and physical strength) are eliminated.
But that’s not all.  He wants to blow up government buildings (a symbolic gesture meant to jolt the citizenry out of their forced mental captivity) and lead a revolution.  After the first bombing, with explosives strapped to his waist, he seizes control of a TV news set and announces his intentions to a docile public on an uncontrolled emergency channel that interrupts their regularly fed bullshit.  It’s a compelling speech but will the message get through?  Will the following year mark the start of something far more democratic for Great Britain?
Meanwhile, The Crying Game’s Stephen Rea and Rupert Graves (Mrs. Dalloway) are government law enforcement agents assigned by Sutler to squelch the end of V’s crusade before it really gets out of hand.  Rea’s performance as Inspector Finch, in particular, is pretty terrific.  He might be a longtime member of this awful political party (27 years, in fact), but he has his own mind.  Like V, he is very bright and has good instincts.  The more he investigates the elusive "terrorist", the more unsettling information he learns about his own government.  He, too, is shaken out of his own mental prison.  His findings bother him so much he loses sleep.
And yet, with all of this going on, V For Vendetta lacks the consistent excitement and the passion it desperately desires to pull off this overstuffed concoction.  Most of the action pales in comparison to The Wachowski Bros.’ far more compelling, yet less sensical, Matrix series.  There’s a sadly ordinary quality about them, although there are small moments that are effective.  Furthermore, you can’t always see what’s happening.  Too many of these moments are filmed in very low lighting.
For all of its good performances, notably Portman, the witty and empathetic Stephen Fry as a repressed, rebellious, Benny Hill-ian comedian, the fascinating Roger Allam as "The Voice Of London", a Rush Limbaugh-type demagogue, Rea and Graves, there are two that don’t quite make it.  John Hurt does the best he can with some strong dialogue but his presence, usually a tight close-up on a large screen during closed-door meetings with government officials, never generates the kind of loathing that only a ruthless dictator can inspire.  And as much I loved Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith in The Matrix movies, despite his great intelligence and honourable devotion to his risky cause, I never warmed to him as V.  He is the centre of the movie and yet, curiously, he’s a distant character.  We can accept the mystery of his past, that’s part of his persona, but he can be hard to take at times.  He needs a sense of humour and some charm.  As interesting as he is, we just don’t care about him.  The moment where he declares his love for Evie doesn’t work, either.  It’s an unpersuasive recycling of The Phantom Of The Opera.
V For Vendetta is a revenge picture, a police procedural, a mystery, an action flick, and a social commentary.  And that’s the problem.  It wants to be too many things at once and only succeeds on certain levels.  At various points throughout the movie, I had mixed feelings, but by the end, I just couldn’t feel what the filmmakers wanted me to feel.  It’s an honourable failure but a failure, nonetheless.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
1:44 p.m.
Published in: on May 20, 2008 at 1:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Crying Game

Here’s another previously unseen review from The Movie Critic: Book One, my thankfully unpublished compendium of dreadful, first-draft reviews.  Like Scent Of A Woman, this version is quite different from the sloppily written original.  The introduction has been replaced with a line found further along in the piece, the plot summary has been tightened up considerably, my comments on the acting have been expanded a bit and the ending is much stronger.
I screened The Crying Game for the first time at the Centre Mall Cinemas not too long after it received several Oscar nominations, all richly deserved, in the early winter of 1993.  (Writer-Director Neil Jordan won the only trophy for his original screenplay.)  The film won me over so emphatically, I saw it again.  Later that summer, I rented it on tape from a local Blockbuster store.  It remains one of the great films of the 1990s.
Adult Accompaniment
112 minutes, 1992
Stephen Rea–Fergus/Jimmy
Miranda Richardson–Judy
Forest Whitaker–Jody
Jaye Davidson–Dil
Adrian Dunbar–Peter
Produced by Stephen Woolley
Screenplay by Neil Jordan
Music by Anne Dudley
Directed by Neil Jordan
The Crying Game opens in an Irish amusement park where we discover a young British black man (Forest Whitaker) enjoying himself with a white Irish woman (Miranda Richardson).  It’s a pivotal scene for two key reasons: 1. It sets up the first half of the movie, and 2. It immediately underscores the film’s tone of sly deception.  This is one of the best films of 1992.
What that man doesn’t know at first is that that woman who appears to like his company is really an IRA terrorist.  Furthermore, he’s been specifically targetted for kidnapping.  With the help of fellow conspirators, Fergus (Stephen Rea), Peter (Adrian Pasdar) and Judy (Miranda Richardson), Whitaker’s character, Jody, a member of the British military, is essentially a bargaining chip.  He’s taken hostage and whisked away to a secluded location, his head covered with a dark hood.  The plan is to make an exchange for some of their captive colleagues.  If there’s a refusal to release them within three days, Jody will be assassinated.
In the meantime, Fergus strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jody.  Finding it hard to breathe with that hood over his face, the big man begs for it to be removed.  Fergus obliges.  They talk and even share some laughs.  Jody talks about his girlfriend and shows him her pic.  The already spoken-for Fergus (he’s involved with Judy) is intrigued.  Sensing the inevitable, Jody asks a favour of him.  He wants him to look after her in London.
As the deadline grows closer, hope for a peaceful resolution to this crisis becomes very dim.  When it passes, Peter gives the order to Fergus to execute their hostage.  But he can’t do it.  He made the mistake of befriending Jody and now his emotions are interfering with his job.  Disaster strikes and Fergus flees to London, hoping to leave his terrorist days behind for good.  He changes his name to Jimmy and gets a new job working construction.
Jimmy becomes instantly enamoured of Dil (an excellent performance by Jaye Davidson), Jody’s girl, who is a hairdresser during the day and at night, sings in a local bar.  While going to see her perform one night, the bartender (Jim Broadbent) is on the verge of revealing her shocking secret to Jimmy, but he’s interrupted by her timely appearance on stage.
When Jimmy finds out the hard way that there’s more to Dil than he realized, he gets sick to his stomach.  He’s completely bewildered by the revelation.  Meanwhile, his old cronies, including ex-lover Judy, have caught up to him.
Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game is a brilliant and consistently surprising film that tests the boundaries of both love and loyalty.  It is sharply directed and exquisitely plotted by the Irish filmmaker who was nominated for two Academy Awards in those areas of achievement.  He is deserving of the recognition.
I enjoyed all the crucial performances in the movie, as well.  Stephen Rea is masterful as the unlikely hero, Fergus, a character who is easily distracted by friendship and love.  Miranda Richardson, a wonderful actress, is an icy villainess.  She is impressive.  Forest Whitaker is terrific as the doomed hostage.  He earns our empathy with his charm.  His accent is spot-on, too.  And what can you say about supporting nominee, Jaye Davidson?  Could anyone else have pulled off such a magnificent feat of acting?
Films this surprising and this astounding are not made very often.  But they should be treasured, nonetheless.  The two stories at the heart of The Crying Game are both incredibly riveting.  Not once do they become cliched or monotonous.  If only every movie were as great as this one.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, May 17, 2008
1:55 a.m.
Published in: on May 17, 2008 at 1:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Scent Of A Woman

January 25th, 1993.  The eight-screen Cineplex Odeon Centre Mall Cinemas were exhibiting the latest Al Pacino movie in Theatre One, a mid-size auditorium.  (The month before, it was issued in limited release two days before Christmas.  Just in time for Oscar consideration.)  Just a little after 8 p.m., the lights quietly dimmed.  Almost three hours later, it was over.
As I walked back home thinking how good the movie was, one thought stood out among all the others:  he’s going to win an Oscar.
Sure enough, after receiving a Best Actor nomination that February, to no one’s surprise, Al Pacino finally snagged the elusive statuette on March 29th on his eighth nomination.  (He was previously recognized for Glengarry Glen Ross, Dick Tracy, …And Justice For All, Dog Day Afternoon, The Godfather Part II, Serpico and The Godfather.)
Once safely retired to my bedroom, I quickly wrote, without stopping, a critical assessment in ink.  It was review #137 for my unpublished book of terrible movie reviews entitled The Movie Critic: Book One.  Within a few weeks, after screening and critiquing fifteen more movies, the project was abandoned.  My high school percentages were dipping a bit which concerned my parents.  Plus, I was miserable over my failure to be a decent Student Council President which also aroused their worry.  Although no reviews would be written in almost two months, movies were still being screened.  Things got back to a somewhat normal state by late April when a busy schedule of regular viewings both at home and at the cinema were resumed.
This review of Scent Of A Woman is radically different than the one I wrote almost fifteen and a half years ago.  It has been extensively revised with very few of the original lines kept intact.  This version is such an improvement over the original, you have no idea.  As I was reworking the original draft, I couldn’t help remembering how much of an emotional impact the film had on me.  It’s that rare movie that stays with you long after you first see it. 
Seven months after the original theatrical exhibition, I rescreened it on tape and enjoyed it all over again.  It’s been a while but sometimes, late at night, you can catch it on regular TV.  Every time I see even just one moment of it, my appreciation for its existence deepens.
Not mentioned in the review is the strong supporting performance of Bradley Whitford.  Before spending many years on The West Wing, he was the go-to guy for obnoxious cinematic cretins.  (Check out his villanous work in Adventures In Babysitting and the second Revenge Of The Nerds movie.)  In Scent Of A Woman, he plays a member of Al Pacino’s family.  During a Thanksgiving meal that Pacino’s character has invited himself to, Whitford tries to wither him by throwing the sad story of his blindness right back in his face.  It pays off nicely with Pacino jumping out of his chair to come very close to strangling the button-pushing prick.  It’s one of the many terrific moments found in this worthwhile feature.  As good as it is, it’s hard to believe it’s a remake.
Adult Accompaniment
157 minutes, 1992
Al Pacino — Lt. Col. Frank Slade
Chris O’Donnell — Charlie Simms
Gabrielle Anwar — Donna
Produced by Martin Brest
Screenplay by Bo Goldman
Music by Thomas Newman
Directed by Martin Brest
It is apparent to this movie critic that Al Pacino is on the verge of finally capturing that most elusive Oscar.  1993 is his year.  His hilarious, touching performance in Scent Of A Woman is worthy of the coveted prize (even though Denzel Washington’s stellar portrayal of Malcolm X is more deserving).
In the film, he plays Lt. Col. Frank Slade, a memorably irascible character living in constant hell.  Blinded by a grenade while in combat (after serving 26 years in the United States Army) he’s stuck living with relatives he can’t stand.  The feeling is mutual.  One day, he meets Charlie (Chris O’Donnell).  Frank’s family are dying to get away for Thanksgiving but the Colonel isn’t coming with them, so they need someone to look after the miserable old sod.  Not a dream assignment as poor Charlie finds out.
Meanwhile, the middle-class prep school student is stuck in the middle of an unrequested ordeal.  Before meeting Frank, the 17-year-old witnesses the assembling of a humiliating prank by three of his much richer schoolmates.  The Dean is the intended victim.  These overprivileged punks want to ruin his newly acquired Jaguar.
The next day, their mean-spirited plan (which includes an insulting poem read out loud over the school’s PA system) works perfectly.  But The Dean is furious.  He’s eager to find the culprits responsible for ruining his vehicle so he can expel them immediately.  Once he learns that Charlie and a co-conspirator named George (a wormy, pre-stardom Philip Seymour Hoffman) know their identities and witnessed them preparing the assault, and after failing to successfully bribe Charlie with an Ivy League scholarship in exchange for his testimony, he vows to browbeat them into confession in front of the whole student body during the film’s gripping third act.
In a foolhardy attempt to escape his ethical dilemma, as well as earn some money for a plane ticket back home for Christmas, Charlie meets with the family of the Colonel about a possible housesitting gig.  Then, he is introduced to him.  He is extremely timid and Slade senses that immediately.  Their first meeting is awful.  The Colonel is defensive and hostile, sometimes jolting Charlie (as well as the audience) with that loud, bracing roar of his.  As the young student tries to engage the emotionally distant Slade in conversation, The Colonel is more interested in insulting his family, his financial status and his pimples.  We quickly learn how impossible and vindicative he can be even though it’s all a cover for his deeply wounded soul.
Much to Charlie’s surprise, though, he gets the $300 gig.  By the end of the film, we realize he has been seriously underpaid.
Slade, it turns out, has plans of his own.  He wants to go out in style.  He’s fed up with his unpleasant retirement and he’s through stewing quietly alone all day in his room embracing no one.  He keeps Charlie in the dark until their plane arrives in New York City.
Soon, the emotionally tortured teenager finds himself smack dab in the middle of another palpable crisis.  But the movie is smart.  It’s in no hurry to push the story to that inevitable moment of danger too soon.  Like the audience, it cares deeply about these characters and wants us to spend as much time with them as possible before ratcheting up the tension.
Before that moment of truth arrives when Charlie realizes just how serious the Colonel is about throwing his life away, Slade’s mood softens when he tangos with a beautiful lady (Gabrielle Anwar in a sweet cameo) in the middle of dinner.  He convinces his increasingly stressed companion to go driving with him in a fancy car.  Despite his fussiness and quick temper, The Colonel is very funny and endlessly enamoured with women.  Throughout their time in New York, we feel an unlikely bond develop between these two societal rejects who are both desperate for some kind of human connection, a shelter from the storm of life.
Through The Colonel, Charlie finds his courage and through Charlie, Slade finds a friend so tolerant and patient, no matter what he does to push him away, the kid grows closer and closer to him.  This revelation shocks this sad old man into feeling again.
Director Martin Brest does a fine job of keeping our minds focused on these two credible characters for over two and a half hours.  No easy feat, that.  The dialogue is sharp and observant.  The pacing is just right.  And Thomas Newman’s acoustic guitar driven score is moving.
Chris O’Donnell has the toughest role in the movie and he does a terrific job essentially playing himself.  We like him right away but we admire him more and more for his integrity and his loyalty to Slade.  As for Pacino, no other actor could convey the burrowed hurt he showcases here through his physical gestures and most especially his theatrically menacing voice like he can.  A lesser performer would’ve made the Colonel an object of pity, a character so buried by the dullness of his existence that we would never see the heartfelt charm beneath his gruff surface.  But in Pacino’s confident hands, he’s a fully developed, fully flawed and strangely lovable character to remember.  
By the end, we are deeply moved and relieved.  Scent Of A Woman is a very good film and Al Pacino’s superb performance, both hilarious and gripping, is the best reason to see it.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 11, 2008
12:16 a.m.
Published in: on May 11, 2008 at 12:18 am  Comments (3)  

Unsolved Mysteries Of The Fourth Season Of Seinfeld

1. What happened to the lawsuit Ping, the Chinese delivery boy, re-filed against Elaine?
2. Who’s the mystery woman who stood up Kramer in order to avoid seeing an operation?
3. What are those other two movies George brings up to Jerry’s apartment?
4. What happened to The Smelly Car after Jerry gave it away to that long-haired guy on the stoop?
5. What was the deal with that white discolouration on George’s upper lip?
6. How come Ping’s lawyer buys Jerry’s “dark and disturbed” act when before she left the table to make that phone call to her aunt he sounded and acted funny?
7. Why did Susan stop wearing glasses?
8. Why did Elaine wear that ridiculous jacket, make a big fuss about keeping it on and then never wear it again?
9. What did Jerry say to George in the coffee shop that made him squeeze that ketchup bottle a little too hard?
10. What happened to the NYU reporter’s boyfriend?  How was she able to just make out with Jerry if she wasn’t really available?
11. What happened to The Smog Strangler after he escaped that police vehicle in handcuffs?
12. What convinced Kramer to return to New York after his short stint pursuing acting in Los Angeles?
13. How could Kramer forget about his lit Cuban cigar in the cabin when he just set it down?
14. Why does Susan’s father stay miserably married to her alcoholic mother if he’s gay?
15. Why does the movie usher allow Kramer to get into the theatre without a ticket but keeps bugging George for a stub every time he sees him?
16. What exactly happened to Crazy Joe Davola?  Did he commit suicide?  Did he survive that jump from the balcony?  Was he arrested for attacking Jerry?
17. How come Kramer stopped seeing the naked woman from across the street?
18. Why wouldn’t that hot chef, the one who loves Elaine’s Botticellis, kiss Jerry when they were dating?
(Special thanks to Rob Kerr.)
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 8, 2008
7:56 p.m.
Published in: on May 8, 2008 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Fourth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD

21. In The Trip (Part One), Kramer meets a beautiful blonde actress who later turns up dead with a copy of his movie treatment on her person.  The cops assigned to the case pick up the cover sheet which is strategically ripped to protect the identity of Kramer’s first name.
22. In The Handicap Spot, Jerry and Elaine visit The Drake after missing his birthday party.  The movie playing on his brand new big screen TV, purchased by the gang of four, is the 1990 remake, Lord Of The Flies, which was produced by Castle Rock Entertainment, the same company responsible for Seinfeld.
23. In The Old Man, Elaine inspires Jerry and George to do some volunteer work.  They’re assigned to spend some time with two very different old men in their 80s.  Sidney Fields, Jerry’s guy (played by the Emmy-nominated Bill Erwin), is named after the landlord on The Abbott And Costello Show which aired in the 1950s.  George’s guy, Ben Cantwell, is named after the famous Boston Braves pitcher who had a memorably miserable 1935 season.  He lost 25 games, more than any other pitcher in the history of the game.  Elaine visits a nice old woman who has a huge football-shaped goiter on the side of her neck.  She’s voiced by Edie McClurg, a veteran comic actress best remembered for films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (she played Principal Rooney’s secretary) and TV shows like The Hogan Family. 
24. Speaking of Bill Erwin, he played a guy named Kramer in a Twilight Zone episode entitled Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?  Donald Bishop, who appeared in The Implant (George tries to convince him, a doctor, to secure a copy of his girlfriend’s aunt’s death certificate so he can receive a half-price discount on his flight back to New York), appeared on an episode of Baretta playing a character named, you guessed it, Kramer.
25. In The Airport, Jerry is accidentally sitting in a fashion model’s seat on his flight back to New York.  Gina Gershon, real-life supermodel Vendela and Jennifer Coolidge (Stiffler’s Mom from the American Pie trilogy and Jerry’s masseuse girlfriend in a season five episode) were the most notable names who offered to play that role.  In The Outing, Jerry is mistaken for a gay man by a New York University student reporter.  Leah Remini, who later played Kevin James’ wife on The King Of Queens, failed to win that part.  In that same episode, George tries to break up with a woman who threatens to kill herself if he goes through with it.  The sexy Megan Mullally attempted to land that role.  She ended up playing his grieving lady in The Implant.  Soleil Moon-Frye, best known as Punky Brewster, wanted to be Russell Dalrymple’s daughter but a young Denise Richards got the job instead.
26. Entertainment Weekly was an early champion of the show which explains why two episodes in season four featured characters reading or holding copies of the magazine.  In The Trip (Part One), that’s a copy of the June 19, 1992 issue Kramer is holding as he makes his way to the pay phone.  (Batman Returns was the cover story.  You can just see the bat ears on the costume.)  In The Pitch/The Ticket, while waiting for a meeting with NBC executives, Jerry is flipping through a copy of the June 12th, 1992 edition.  (Harrison Ford is on the front.  He was promoting Patriot Games at the time.)
27.  In The Old Man, Newman and Kramer ask Jerry if he has any old vinyl they can sell for cash at a local used record shop.  After they fail to warrant more than a five dollar offer from the crusty owner, Jerry informs them that this cantankerous old man he’s visiting has a whole collection he doesn’t want anymore.  At some point, the three of them, along with George, cram themselves into the back seat of a cab.  If you look closely at Newman’s stack of records, you can see the back cover of The Rolling Stones’ 1980 LP, Emotional Rescue.
28. The Shoes was originally going to be called The Script and The Junior Mint’s working title was The Artist.
29. Speaking of The Junior Mint, after crying at the end of Home Alone, George returns to Jerry’s apartment with three more videos to watch.  Only one, the top title, is visible.  That would be Pretty Woman which George immediately puts into the VCR.  As noted previously, Jason Alexander was in that movie.
30. Kramer makes his 100th appearance in Jerry’s apartment in The Contest.  It’s the moment when he reveals that the naked woman in the building across the street broke down his resistance to masturbation.  For the record, it takes him less than a minute to finish.
31. Two exterior shots of houses from two separate episodes were filmed on the fake CBS street where the show, Thirtysomething, was shot.  The Bubble Boy’s house was specifically built in that location for the short-lived series, Eerie, Indiana.  In The Implant, the residence where George’s double dipping costs him his “death in the family” discount and his relationship with Megan Mullally was also found in that area.
32. The phrase, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That, was uttered eight times in The Outing.  Jerry says it first to the NYU reporter at the seven-minute mark and Kramer says it last to Jerry and George 14 minutes later.  Larry Charles is credited with the line which Jerry insisted be repeated as a mantra throughout the show.  Castle Rock executive Glenn Padnick felt the episode needed something to alleviate in a comedic fashion the anxiety of being falsely exposed as homosexuals.  The bit worked.  After its first airing, NBC received exactly 31 complaints.  The show ended up winning a GLAAD award.
33. The original draft of The Contest was much more explicit and after it was read by the cast during its regular, initial table read, no one thought it would get made.  The idea of never actually mentioning the word “masturbation” or making any blatantly overt references to it improved it immensely.  Unfortunately, during the first take of the scene in the coffee shop where George mentions his embarrassing story the dialogue shocked the live audience into not laughing.  They reacted much more positively on the next take.  When Elaine laughs about George’s mom’s bad fall after she catches him pleasuring himself to a Glamour magazine in her bathroom, he annoyedly says, “It’s not funny, Elaine.”.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus was really laughing which inspired Jason Alexander’s improvisational moment.
34. Matt Drudge worked for three years in the early 1990s at the CBS Studio Center merchandise store, which was near the area where the show’s interiors were taped, where audiences who attended tapings could buy store-related memorabilia.  He used his fortuitous position to start his own website, The Drudge Report, where after rooting around in some garbage cans on the lot, he revealed how much Jerry Seinfeld was making doing his own sitcom.
35. Kramer appeared in a first-season episode of Mad About You, Paul Reiser’s sitcom about a childless couple living in New York.  The complete four minute clip is included as an easter egg on the DVD.  In it, we learn that Reiser’s character used to live in Kramer’s apartment.  That’s the only time a Seinfeld character crossed over onto another NBC show.
36. In The Old Man, George expresses an interest in dating a non-English speaking woman.  His dream seemingly comes true in the form of a Senegalese housekeeper who works for a crotchety old man Jerry has volunteered to visit.  In a deleted scene on the DVD, we learn that the woman really does speak English, which explains why she’s able to understand George’s desire to have her rub hot oil all over his head.  The second he learns this, he makes transparent excuses in order to let her down easy.
37. In The Cheever Letters, Jerry unwittingly gets involved with Elaine’s gabby assistant.  After an amorous encounter with her at his apartment goes awry, he recounts the story for George at Monk’s.  When he tells her the dirty things she was telling him, George squeezes a ketchup bottle which results in a very suggestive gag.  That was an ad-lib that Jason Alexander had to fight for inclusion in the final cut.  For the record, it’s not clear what Jerry whispers to him.  Only he knows what he said.  It’s never revealed on any of the bonus features on the DVD.
38. Donald, the obnoxious Bubble Boy, was supposed to be seen originally.  Seth Green tried to secure the role during his audition.  But co-creator and executive producer Larry David wisely noted that showing The Bubble Boy was less funny than hearing The Bubble Boy which most likely would’ve aroused the audience’s empathy for The Bubble Boy, hence the reason we only saw the protected arms and hands of The Bubble Boy.
39. In The Pick, the moment where Elaine rubs George’s face in her breasts wasn’t scripted.  She was also supposed to send her infamous Christmas card to Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes who was going to call her about her exposed nipple.  By the way, that whole storyline was inspired by a real incident.  Writer Marc Jaffe received a similiar card in the mail from a male friend whose sexual organs were accidentally viewable.  The same thing happens to Kramer when his Calvin Klein underwear ad is released.
40. Pat Buckles is the hack impressionist who won’t leave Jerry alone in The Movie.  When we first see him, he’s goofing around with the bartender.  In the original script, he was supposed to give him a “titty twister”.  The episode was originally going to end with Buckles going through his celebrities-and-historical-figures-stuck-in-traffic routine at the Improv Club but it was wisely cut before airing.
41. There’s a very noticable edit in The Virgin.  Just after Marla exits Jerry’s apartment building, she runs into Elaine who wants to talk to her.  Had the scene been left uncut, we would’ve seen Elaine trying to convince her to be a witness in this lawsuit a Chinese food delivery guy named Ping has filed against her.
42. An unknown audience member saved the big secret in The Junior Mint.  At one point during the taping, the studio crowd was asked a question:  what do you think is the name of the mystery woman Jerry is dating?  One woman innocently guessed, “Delores”.  The actual scripted name was Regina which Jerry never got to say.  Instead, he shouted “Cloris” from his window during the first take of that pivotal scene.  During the second take, he went with “Kitty”.  Someone went backstage to tell the writers that Delores, the name blurted out by that audience member, was a funnier name.  Jerry used it on the third take.
(Special thanks to Rob Kerr.)
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 8, 2008
1:49 a.m.
Published in: on May 8, 2008 at 1:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Fourth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD

1. Brian George was thrilled to be asked back to reprise his role as Babu Bhatt.  When he was reading the script for The Visa for the first time, he got even more excited when he learned that not only would he be working at Monk’s Cafe he would also be living in Jerry’s apartment building.  It sounded like his character was going to receive a significant amount of screen time in the series.  However, his enthusiasm greatly dimmed once he got to the end.  Through circumstances beyond his control, Babu gets deported back to Pakistan.  Thankfully, it would not be his last appearance on the show.
2. Heidi Swedberg, who played Susan, initially thought she was going to be Kramer’s love interest.  Halfway through the fourth season, she finally clued in that she was really George’s girl.
3. In The Airport, Jerry and Elaine’s flight back to New York gets cancelled.  They get on a different flight but are not seated next to each other.  In fact, Jerry’s in first class while she’s greatly suffering back in coach.  The episode, a satire on the class differences between the two sections, originally had a different story for Elaine.  She was supposed to be sitting next to a guy who had just died right on the plane.  (This was based on a real experience that happened to Line Producer/Unit Production Manager/1st Assistant Director Joan Van Horn.) This Larry Charles premise was thought to be too dark and was therefore replaced with the angle you see in the show.
4. Speaking of The Airport, in a deleted scene, Jerry visits Elaine in coach and invites her to sneak into first class since there’s a spare seat available.  This explains why she slips into that section while everyone is resting.  It doesn’t explain why Jerry wakes up all perturbed complaining about the lack of security.
5. In The Trip (Part Two), Kramer is mistaken for The Smog Strangler, a serial killer targetting young women in Los Angeles.  When he’s arrested, Jerry and George are there right behind the two police officers making the bust.  But if you look to your right, you’ll notice Larry David and Larry Charles standing in the shot, as well.
6. In The Pilot, Russell (Bob Balaban), the NBC President who greenlights the Jerry show, becomes obsessed with Elaine after just one date.  He keeps calling her and calling her until she finally meets him in a restaurant.  She tries to let him down easy by saying she doesn’t respect his job.  But then she suggests that if he joined Greenpeace, she might change her mind.  Russell takes her bullshit seriously and soon thereafter, disappears.  We last see him on a raft with a couple of Greenpeace colleagues.  Look closely and you’ll notice that the quiet guy is Larry Charles and the talkative Irish-sounding guy is Larry David without his glasses.
7. In The Handicap Spot, the gang of four are on the hunt for an engagement present for their friend, The Drake.  Struggling to find a parking space, Kramer suggests a handicap spot.  Despite the lack of unity on this idea, George takes Kramer’s advice.  After buying a big screen TV for The Drake, they return to chaos.  Something terrible happened to a woman in a wheelchair and an unruly mob is itching to wreck George’s father’s car because of it.  The gang of four retreat to think of how to get out of this mess but by the time they return, the worse has happened.  The car is completely trashed.  George and Jerry approach the front of the car to inspect some of the damage.  Originally, there was no dialogue for this scene.  But Jerry Seinfeld ad-libbed, “You know, a lot of these scratches will buff right out.”
8. Warren Frost, who played Susan’s gruff father, has a son named David who co-created Twin Peaks with David Lynch.  Warren and Grace Zabriskie, who played his lush of a wife on Seinfeld, both acted on that show.
9. There’s an interesting easter egg that briefly discusses the Tom Arnold incident.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus had accidentally parked in his space one day (because her space wasn’t available) which so infuriated the comic actor that he left her a very nasty note on her car.  Understandably, Juila was quite distressed over the whole thing.  Jason Alexander tried explaining to Arnold how his actions really hurt his co-star and friend, but when Julia came up to confront him the seemingly contrite actor turned belligerent.  Soon thereafter, there was another rude message (Arnold called her “a cunt”) and a damaged windshield.  (Roseanne soaped a couple of nasty words on her car.)  Julia’s co-workers, most especially Michael Richards, wanted to even the score but the classy Emmy winner told them not to do anything on her behalf and to just the let whole thing die down.  At one point, Roseanne wanted to publicly debate Julia about all of this on Television but Julia wisely declined.  By this point, the incident had become public and at the 1993 Academy Awards, host Billy Crystal even made a joke about it in his monologue.
10. Dyana Ortelli plays Lupe the cute short-haired chambermaid who forgets to untuck George’s blankets in The Trip (Part One).  She also played a character named Lupe The Cook in a NBC sitcom called Marblehead Manor which also starred Michael Richards (who played a gardener) and Phil Morris who later played Kramer’s lawyer, Jackie Childs.
11. Wayne Knight, who played portly Newman, had lost close to 100 pounds at the time of this DVD’s release (2005).  The Internet Movie Database says he was warned about entering a dangerous weight class and was urged to slim down.  The site claims he’s lost 117 pounds since going on a strict diet-and-exercise program.
12. The hotel that Kramer lives in while trying to make it as an actor in Los Angeles is the exact same hotel where Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman) resides while under the employment of businessman Richard Gere.  Jason Alexander played his partner who infamously made an inappropriate attempt to make it with her.
13. In The Trip (Part One), Kramer spots Fred Savage sitting at a table.  He very nervously tries to get him interested in his movie treatment, The Keys, which was the name of the third season finale.  Originally, he was supposed to approach Michael J. Fox.  The sequence was inspired by a real life incident.  Larry Charles, the writer and supervising producer of the episode, cornered Richard Dreyfuss in a bookstore hoping he would play a role in a script he had written.  He was so unrelaxed that he hyperventilated.  Dreyfuss didn’t accept his offer.
14. In The Pitch/The Ticket, Jerry gets a call at an inopportune time.  It’s a telemarketer making a pitch.  The telemarketer is voiced by Deck McKenzie, Seinfeld’s usual stand-in.  The hour-long episode aired September 16, 1992.  Kramer foolishly drinks from a milk carton which expired September 3rd.  It’s no wonder he vomits all over Susan.  It’s thirteen days past its best before date.
15. In The Trip (Part One), Kramer goes in for a series of auditions in a single day.  They’re being held by Idbox Productions whose name can be seen on the glass door to their office.
16. In The Watch, a desperate George pleads with Russell Dalrymple, NBC’s President, to reinstate the pilot deal for “Jerry”.  Russell’s dinner companion is Mimi Craven, who was briefly married to director Wes Craven in the 1980s.
17. Elmarie Wendel memorably plays Helene, the delusional Gloria Swanson-esque actress who speaks to Kramer at that hotel as he’s on his way out for a business meeting.  Years later, she was cast as Mamie Dubcek, the oversexed land lady on another hit NBC sitcom, 3rd Rock From The Sun.
18. In The Watch, Jerry’s mother urges him to get together with the restaurant hostess played by Jessica Lundy who we learn has an Elmer Fudd-type laugh.  Amy Yasbeck and Mariska Hargitay auditioned unsuccessfully for the role.  Despite numerous attempts, Yasbeck never landed a part on Seinfeld.  A long-haired Hargitay, however, appears in The Pilot where she tries out for the role of TV Elaine.
19. Crazy Joe Davola’s first name was originally supposed to be Richard.
20. Jerry Seinfeld is good friends with fellow comic Jay Leno.  For The Trip (Part One), Jerry was scripted to do a Tonight Show appearance.  Leno had just gotten the gig following Johnny Carson’s retirement.  Jerry wanted his old friend to interview a couple of guests on the show.  Unfortunately, according to Larry Charles, Leno’s then-manager and Tonight Show executive producer, Helen Kushnick, outright refused the idea and so, Leno never appears in that episode.  (Curiously, the Notes About Seinfeld feature offers a different explanation.)  Since they couldn’t shoot on the actual Tonight Show set, it was decided that Stage 19, where many Seinfeld interiors were shot, would be used as a back-up.  Close-ups successfully covered up the fact that this wasn’t the real set.  Guest stars Corbin Bernsen and George Wendt pretend to be talking to the host who is never named.  They’re literally talking to themselves.  No one sat at the desk beside them.
(Special thanks to Rob Kerr.)
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 4, 2008
9:35 p.m.
Published in: on May 4, 2008 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paying The Price For Being A Magazine Addict

It sucks being a pack rat.  Why?  Because it takes forever to change.
I’m a recovering magazine addict from way back.  It all began in 1986 when I acquired a copy of Wrestling Superstars, a seasonal publication devoted to the colourful world of sports entertainment.  Back then, the WWE (at that time, the WWF) had a tremendous pull on me.  Being a short, skinny, overly sensitive kid with far too many food intolerances, there was something inspirational about these larger-than-life characters.  They were funny, clever and endlessly entertaining.  Incorporating elements of their silly antics into my everyday life helped me become a better student in school and was just hilarious fun. 
Besides enjoying the TV coverage, the local arena shows and the never-ending barrage of home video releases, I started collecting the magazines.  Besides Wrestling Superstars, there were monthlies like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Sports Review Wrestling, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, and WWF Magazine, and another seasonal called Wrestling 86 which naturally changed to Wrestling 87, etc., as the years progressed.
But here’s the weird thing.  I didn’t really read many of the issues I kept.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I did peruse them many, many times but for some strange reason, few editions were ever read cover to cover.
By 1990, wrestling started loosening its grip on me.  The movies (and later, music) would take its place.  While in a pharmacy in the United States, I spotted a new title:  Inside Hollywood.  Its debut issue was staring at me and I had to get it.  By the end of 1991, I would cease purchasing wrestling magazines altogether in favour of this bi-monthly, and when I went to the cinema, I would always be on the lookout for freebies like Tribute and Marquee.  Acquiring multiple copies was never a problem.  By 1992, I would start collecting Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, and Empire, a British publication, as well.  As the decade progressed, I would add selected editions of Movieline, Variety, Billboard, Rolling Stone plus rock-oriented freebies I would spot in music stores.
If that weren’t enough, I would hang on to magazines my mother and grandmother would receive in the mail.  Prevention and US (when it was a monthly) briefly joined my needlessly growing collection, which also included the entertainment sections of The Hamilton Spectator (the now discontinued Ego and the Friday pullout) and The Toronto Sun.
At some point, I came to an important realization.  I had too many goddamn magazines.  Then I realized something else.  I wasn’t really reading much of this stuff.
In late summer 2004, I started cleaning out the family attic, something that was long overdue.  All those old wrestling mags, which I hadn’t seen in at least a decade, were rediscovered in a few old, dust-covered boxes.  After bringing them down to my room, I started going through them again.  I actually started reading some of the articles I hadn’t checked out before but fairly quickly, it became abundantly clear that once again most of this stuff would go unread.  That October, they were given away to a rummage sale (they were available for free) at my mom’s old church.  They are not missed.
That same year, I was still dutifully purchasing issues of Entertainment Weekly.  (I stopped buying the other titles by the turn of the millennium.)  At some point, I missed an issue, a mid-October one.  I waited far too long to buy it and as a result, despite hunting for it in a number of places, it was long off the newsstand.
Oddly, soon thereafter, I stopped buying EW which wasn’t as terrible a calamity as I thought it would be.  Since their official website is now open to all online visitors, I can get caught up, for the most part, with a considerable amount of material I would’ve otherwise had to pay for.
Earlier this decade, I started reducing my overall magazine collection.  Starting with those newspaper sections and entertainment freebies, it was decided that only the most needed and the most wanted stuff would be saved.  Everything else would be recycled.  That was a major breakthrough.
Next were those Preventions and Us Magazines.  All tossed.  As I was quickly flipping through the pages of the latter, I decided to finally start reading everything else that remained cover-to-cover, a daunting task considering the volume.  But I didn’t want to make the same mistake I made with my wrestling mags.  Besides, my interest in entertainment (particularly, its history) remains strong.  All I needed was time and tremendous patience.
Since January 2004, I’ve gone through numerous issues of EW, one Empire, a few Premieres and Rolling Stones, the complete run of the defunct Inside Hollywood and all the Movieline and Varietys I purchased (thankfully, there were very few of those).  Some stuff’s been given away, while just a few issues have been recycled.  At this point, I have nine piles to contend with.  Eight of them feature titles I haven’t read yet.  The last pile is the done pile, the issues I’ve read completely.  (I’m not yet ready to part with them but they are unlikely to stick around.)
What I’ve learned is that I should’ve read these damn things when I first got them and then, I should’ve tossed them immediately after I finished reading them.  My life would be so different right now if only common sense had nagged me into submission back then.  However, because I’ve waited all this time to do this, there have been unexpected benefits.  Sometimes when you’re stuck for a writing idea, stumbling across an old article can spark you into action.  When I read Premiere Magazine’s June 1992 issue, for instance, there was a story about the upcoming summer movie season.  They listed what they believed would be the Top 20 grossers.  That led to my four-part series on how wrong most of their predictions turned out to be.
All of this is a very long way of explaining why there hasn’t been as much new writing on here as usual.  Much of my time lately has been spent slowly getting caught up with my reading.  When you don’t have a job, a girlfriend or a place of your own, that’s three less distractions you have to deal with.  Unfortunately, I don’t live a distraction-free existence.
I’ve learned that I’m a very impatient reader.  Sometimes, the slightest noise can slap me right out of my concentration.  It can be a barking dog, a tweeting bird, or a car alarm.  Doesn’t matter.  It can be very difficult to focus when your attention is diverted elsewhere.  And don’t get me started on my OCD.  I have this annoying tendency to sabotage what I’m doing by thinking something completely unrelated to what I’m reading.  Nevertheless, I’m getting better.  I’ve gone from buying magazines I don’t read to dissecting every issue one article at a time.  You feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you finish an individual magazine.  Not only that, you feel smarter, too.  Your thinking becomes clearer and more diverse.  As you read this stuff, not only do you learn interesting things about the entertainment business (as well as stupid, useless crap) from a historical perspective, you become motivated to get through as much of your collection as humanly possible.  I may not read every word in those eight piles but for now, I sure as hell am gonna try.
Having said all that, I do hope to post more writing in this space shortly.  I feel like I’ve been holding back opinions and feelings about numerous stuff for far too long.  In the past, there would be the occasional preview about what you could expect in the short term.  That really helped motivate me to put that material together and get it out there as soon as possible.  But now, mystery is preferable. 
With over 17000 page views, as of this writing, we’re still a long way from being a highly read and highly respected blog.  I hope to continue increasing my audience here with better, stronger pieces.  It won’t be easy but as Iggy Pop once sang, “Struggle builds character.”.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 1, 2008
3:56 p.m.