Monday, 11 February 2013

Cry Me A River – Spoiler Alert!

To balance out my last post about loving to laugh (but hating the use of canned laughter), I thought I’d add an entry regarding enjoying – or enduring – a good ol’ cry.

Here are some of the films I’ve watched that have caused the tears to flow freely; sometimes to the point of using a brown paper bag and having friends tease me to this day…


I dare anyone to deny that they weren’t a quivering mess during the opening set-up when the touching montage of an animated husband and wife’s living, loving and dreaming of one day traveling together ends with the wife’s sad passing. Sniff.

(I thought I’d start with a safe one – there may be snorts of derision for the upcoming choices. See how I lay myself bare for the blogosphere?! ;-)


I know. I know. Look, it was 1997. I was a naïve innocent boy that believed in one day finding their soul mate and the power of love…blah blah blah. (Have I convinced you that I’m now awfully cynical? No? Well, you’d be right. I’ll always be a hopeless romantic). Back to this choice… When Jack let go and slowly sank to the bottom of the Atlantic and then Celine Dion brought the credits rolling in, my heart could not go on. I started to gasp and pinch my nostrils while my whole body convulsed. It was a full theater and I had my friend, Kat, rub my back as my head was in between my legs and I was crying like a child. I literally had to wait until everyone had left the cinema to compose myself and sheepishly escape. I was all too aware of people passing me and making comment. And if some of you think I’ve exaggerated this to be witty, I so wish you were right, but you’re not. Cringe.


Heartless is he or she who watched Hilary Swank’s Maggie climb out of trailer-park hell to make it as a boxer, only to suffer the ultimate injustice and become a quadriplegic. Her hideous vulture-like family circling her broken body and her trainer Frankie's devotion (a suitably grizzled Clint Eastwood) – culminating in the revelation of the meaning of his nickname for her - ‘mo cuishle’ - and his ultimate act of love via the administration of a fatal dose of adrenaline… oh boy…I watched it at the theater alone during the day and was glad it was an almost empty session. Still, I pulled my peaked cap as far down as I could and cried both as hard and as quietly as I could manage. I remember driving to the beach and sitting on the sand for a good while afterwards.

Stop laughing at me, I can hear you!


I can hear the snorts all over the Internet regarding this one, especially from fellow men. I’ll keep it short. Watching James Garner’s Noah reading a romantic love story – their love story - to Gena Rowlands’ Alzheimer-affected Allie at a nursing home, hurt the heart a bit. Okay, a lot. Watching the actors do justice to the horrors of the disease dotted with periods of lucidity for Allie was heart-wrenching. At the end of his storytelling, when the nurse finds them together in bed, having passed away, hand-in-hand…it was simultaneously beautiful and tragic. Take a bow author Nicholas Sparks who wrote the novel after being inspired by his wife’s grandparents.


An Oscar-winning turn by the affable Tom Hanks held my interest throughout but had me blubbering uncontrollably in front of the television at the end of the film when the mourners at his funeral watch home movies of Hanks’ Andrew Beckett as a playful and healthy child. Add Springsteen’s haunting ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ title track and you get absolute viewer devastation. 


Can I just cut to the chase and tell you how my friends, Jenny and Brooke, still tease me about my hyperventilation over this film. Yes, I’m aware it was a chick flick, and more than acutely aware that the two girls I was with didn’t shed a tear, but the quilt! And the women and their stories! And finding ‘The One’ all conspired to… alright alright, I admit it. You can join my friends and laugh.


Stephen King! Who knew? The Shawshank Redemption AND The Green Mile? Seriously ridiculous, mate! Masterpieces – both of them. And may I add beautifully acted and superbly handled by the irrepressible Frank Darabont. When Michael Clarke Duncan’s innocent and angelic John Coffey walks the ubiquitous mile to his tragic execution, both Kat and I (she cried as much as I did this time) held hands tightly  - if the lights were on in the theater our knuckles would have been white as we gasped and choked all the way through the scene. When he asks Tom Hanks’ Paul Edgecombe not to put the black hood over his head because he was afraid of the dark as he sits in the electric chair, I think we both let out an anguished cry in unison. After the film ended we went to a café to order some lunch. We looked so devastated that the waitress actually asked us if we were okay. Her gorgeous concern made us cry again, this time with laughter.

Which films get your waterworks flowing?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Canned Laughter - How I hate thee

I love to laugh. Raucously. I also love to giggle, chortle, titter, guffaw and come dangerously close to busting a kidney when trying to suppress a chuckle at an inappropriate time and/or place.

Give me comedy films and television shows and I’ll happily watch, leaning forward, eyebrows arched, waiting to fall for a witty one-liner, cringe-inducing set-up or gut-splitting pay-off.

Whether watching spoon-fed slapstick or intelligent dialogue sing out of the performers’ mouths, I pretty much find the moment I should smile or laugh out loud naturally – on my own. I’m a big boy that way.

This brings my diatribe to its inexorable point. Why, oh why haven’t TV laugh tracks gone the way of the dinosaurs? Forced explosions of ill-matched laughter controlled by someone who presses a button once to start the noise and once more to stop it. Granted, these days they’ve gotten more sophisticated with layers of laughter, types of laughter, genders of laughter and the age of those laughing, who gladly lend their instrument to the ill-conceived recording. But a good knock off of a Louis Vuitton handbag is still a fake, no matter how you look at it.

I adore sitcoms that choose to record their shows in front of a live studio audience (if they're looking for authentic audio participation). Somehow their gasps, giggles and out-and-out laughter truly adds to the hi-jinks on set and adds volume to my own audible, happy expressions. I realize editing and sound mixing is still a part of it but all in all it’s a happy marriage. Saying that, one of my absolute faves on TV is Modern Family, which needs no audio special effects that scream "laugh here".

So to all those current sitcoms that shamelessly use (overuse) the laugh track, take heed. It actually makes the show less funny and ultimately makes people who share my sensibility change the channel. Who's with me?


Friday, 1 February 2013

Underrated February

Poor February – it has an odd amount of days making it the attic-dwelling stepchild of the proper months. Even in a leap year it doesn’t quite make the minimum thirty-day grade. January has the lingering after-effects of New Year’s indulgences and March sees a change in season and the celebration of Easter for a lot of folks around the world. But little anomalous Feb? No one expects a thing from this calendar oddity.

But I’m here to say that it could be the most positive and formative month of the year. One that will set the tone and catapult your year to greatness. I’ll break it down…

People either love or hate making New Year’s resolutions. Some say it helps them put to bed a tiring year by motivating them to look ahead, and others say it matters not how you start the year, only how you finish it (commitment over motivation). Personally, I see both sides of the argument. Regardless, it has been proven that come February most ardent ‘resolutionaries’ lose traction, and those focusing on the year’s end may not have gotten seriously started yet.

So, why not make February your month? When no one expects too much and there are no more holidays to distract you, why not grab your life and give it a shake? Writing, diet and exercise, new social endeavors, new personal creeds, etc…Go hard! After all, no one’s watching and it’s a short month…so what have you got to lose?