So, the Oscars...Well...
With Jon Lewis, the "Go-To Man" for all things cinema at OSU (he's a professor, not an A/V geek), I did a radio interview on KBVR. We were there to talk about the Oscars and enlighten the great unwashed with our powerful ability to shed light on the winning and losing movies.
However, the radio host failed to show up.
Funny thing: the absent host was scheduled to be in one of Jon's classes that afternoon.
Anyway, Jon and I fired up the equipment ourselves and recorded what we thought they wanted. Getting Jon and me to talk about movies is about as hard as getting Sean Penn to take a swing at a photographer. So, we stood in front of the mics and agreed and disagreed about the movies that received or didn't receive the golden statue. That scenario pretty much describes every lunch Jon and I have had together since his kids, now in high school, were small enough to share the projectionist seat at my old single screen.
One of the many things that makes conversations with Jon interesting for me is that he has an academic filter that I do not. He can point out when a movie was the first one to produce or reflect this or that sociological event. Whereas, I can tell you what it was like to have to listen to the same sound track for 4 months because the movie was so popular. (Want to see me run from a room? Play the opening music of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. I learned to run projectors when the movie had just come out and, frankly, hope to never hear that sound track again. At the Avalon we played CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON so long the workers could do the dialog from memory. The Chinese dialog.)
I arrived at OSU about half an hour before I was supposed to be at the KBVR studio. This is not an unfamiliar campus. I spent the early and mid-nineties wandering these walkways and paths. Occasionally these past treks would terminate in a classroom, so it was a nice distraction to retrace some old footsteps.
(The coffee is better now. Back in the day, the people who served the coffee had that drool affect and vocal lilt that screamed "I'd rather be getting an intimate piercing with a railroad spike than be here." Today, "What can I get you?" sounds more like "I'd rather be playing with my iPhone." Hey, the coffee was hot, fast, and they said thank you. What else could one want? Well, how 'bout something other than Splenda? There are a whole bunch of us who have never bought into the marketing and would rather risk cancer from artificial sweeteners the old fashioned way: with Sweet and Low.)
When I was lurking about the OSU campus over a decade ago, I earned a living running a single screen, small-town, first-run cinema. That theater had nothing to do with independent film, and it wasn't in this small town. It had everything to do with a place to dump the kids for a couple of hours for the price of a matinee ticket. Movies like TOY STORY ran for weeks and weeks. For months JURASSIC PARK had 327 people tossing their popcorn into the air when the raptor broke through the wall where the tasty, tasty humans were hiding.The Avalon was just a gleam in my eye back then, so the majority of the films on my radar were the kind of entertainment that our typical Darkside customer might make fun of. This type of cinema had an eroding effect on one's taste in films. It took three weeks of constant exposure, but I honestly started to believe that DUMB AND DUMBER was perhaps the funniest movie ever made.
Being on the OSU campus again, and among the ephemera of my university career, made the contrast between the two cinematic worlds even more pronounced. The 1990s was a time when a small theater had to play everything it was offered in order to curry favor with the studios that held our future in their cold-hearted hands. I have gotten in trouble more than once at the Avalon and the Darkside for refusing to play movies I found unacceptable--yet have lived to tell the tale. That's not something I could get away with at the old movie theater.
With excessive exposure to formulaic first-run fare, one eventually builds a layer of protection. This numbs one to the possibility that there is a whole world of cinema out there that would never suggest Jim Carrey can act. After a work night of interminable schlock, I would come home and toss in the tape (remember VHS?) and watch CINEMA PARADISO--using it as an astringent to cleanse the workday psychic torments. Now I bathe daily in the good stuff, which means my longing turns toward the more mundane. I must never admit this publicly, but there are days I would rather watch something with at least a dozen car chases than a French political satire. One of the local multiplexes and I have a mutually agreeable employee admittance policy. This allows all our film tastes to be indulged on the big screen.
Meanwhile, back on the campus, it was one of those days where the rain was falling between and during the sun breaks. I liked it, so it made it easier to take the long way back to KBVR. It was now show time and I had no idea what I was going to say, since, to my embarrassment, I had not seen all of the films we were supposed to be talking about. I have to remember that Jon is a lot smarter than I am; I have to stick to opinions and leave the facts to him--avoiding having this become a humiliating debate instead of a discussion. Though I did challenge his huge dislike for GRAN TORINO, which was a movie I loved.
So, up the stairs I went into a building where I'd spent more than a little time working as one of several editors at the Barometer. My raincoat had dripped off pretty well before I shed it in the heated waiting area. I did take a second to pause and check which T-shirt I was wearing before the coat came all the way off. It was blank. Good. Visiting a university campus, I could have probably gotten away with wearing one of my other, more offensive shirts. Shirts much worse than my Oscar Night T-shirt, which read "Support Our Troops! Except Ron, that guy's a dick."
Note to Ron in Afghanistan: I support you, too.