Friday, October 17, 2008

Shall We Laugh While Rome Burns?


James wants me to prove women have written successful male action flicks, like Leigh Brackett (“Rio Bravo,” “The Big Sleep,” “Hatari!”and “Empire Strikes Back”), Phillippa Boyens and Fran Walsh (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “King Kong”), and Diana Ossana (“Comanche Moon”, “Streets of Laredo” and of course the famous “Brokeback Mountain” – Action? Well, at least a male-dominated plotline).

Colleen wants me to defend my stance that “The Women” didn’t stink, that a middle-grade chick flick with some decent moments was good enough for me to enjoy it, and that I did say there was still a fashion show, just not the half-hour version of the original. (See last entry.)

What to do? Which flank do I shield?

Meanwhile, our economy slurps like a six-year old on a milkshake, guttering and sputtering on its way down the national drain; bigots and fear-mongers crawl out of the American woodwork, seemingly on cue for election mob scenes; and nationwide, tiny ageist gnats equate a lifetime of public service with frailty. As I listen to my daily radio and TV coverage, I begin to wonder if the rest of the world still exists.

Anyone else need a good laugh?

I’m tired of fighting. I just can’t get it up today. Today, I miss Katherine Hepburn and her leopard.

In honor of the bleakest October in recent memory, I’m relying on pratfalls, hopeless treasure hunts, and hard rock grandmothers to get me through. Comedy. You remember laughing, don’t you?

I offer you a modern classic first – “The Money Pit” (1985) – a movie I flat-out adore. If you haven’t seen a “2 week” home remodel drive Tom Hanks to the 3 minute-long Best Hysterical Laugh Ever Filmed, you have robbed yourself of one of cinema’s greatest moments of release. Feeling like Fate’s plaything? A dandelion seed rushing ahead of the whims of a hurricane? Tom knows. And his frazzled lover and co-investor/schmuck, Shelley Long, finds her own cracking point when a cooked turkey soars through the air into her tub. Admit it. You’re intrigued. (Done it? Check out Cary Grant and Myrna Loy – one of the best frantic/straight man combos – in “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” from 1948 – the inspiration for “Money Pit.” Seriously. More of a slow build than the frenetic Hanks/Long version, but it holds up.)

From the old and well-known to the new and obscure: “King of California” and “Young at Heart” (both 2007 releases). “King” stars Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood – in a surprisingly age-appropriate relationship. Douglas scruffs himself up (sort of Don Quixote-retro) to play Charlie, a recently released mental patient, father to Wood’s Miranda. Charlie upsets Miranda’s apple cart from the moment he returns to their home. Practical, 16-year old Miranda’s been working at McDonald’s and forging her absent parents’ signatures so she can hang on to the house and feed herself. What guidance does Charlie offer now that he’s back in the picture? A treasure hunt. For Spanish gold. Hidden under the local Costco. If you’re already smiling, go ahead and rent it. A small, goofy movie with well-rounded performances and a young heart, “King” deserves a much wider audience than its “limited-release” art house spin through theaters gave it.

Speaking of ‘young,’ “Young at Heart” follows a real-life rock cover band. It plays in prisons. Concert halls. Across Europe. And no member is less than 70 years old. You thought you were accomplished. These singers master tunes from their grandchildren’s generation in just a few weeks: “I Feel Good” by James Brown, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by the Stones, “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. And should you be afraid that it’s simply a feel-good, look-at-how-clever-the-old-folks-are film, the individual stories of chorus member’s lives are there to lift it out of sentimentality into reality. Not all the members survive the shooting schedule. Many have outlived their friends and families. The group not only forces them to keep alert and active, it (and their friends within it) gives them something much more important – a reason to get out of bed everyday. If you like your belly laughs tempered by sincerity, this is the pick for you.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to shove a few classics down ya’. We’ll end with a slew of them, just in case you’ve already seen everything above. In honor of the brilliant, recently departed Paul Newman, I’m pushing one of his rare – and wonderful – comedies: “A New Kind of Love” (1963), starring his real-life bride Joanne Woodward, who earned a Golden Globe nom for her ‘mod’ role. Woodward’s character Samantha struggles with the impossible mid-century expectation that a modern girl be both ‘cool’ and ‘experienced,’ and yet somehow still ‘a nice girl’ the day she gets married. (Norman Krasna’s wonderful “Sunday in New York” with Jane Fonda, also walking the ‘virgin’ vs. ‘virginal’ line came out the same year.) Samantha (Sam) wants to be a grown-up, not a little girl. She wants to respect herself in the morning. And she really, really wants Paul Newman – a sign of sanity in any woman. So she creates a double life. In one, she’s a Parisian libertine, incapable of shame; in the other, she’s plain old Sam, a hack fashion designer (hear that, Coll? fashion!) who gives an offering to the saint of virgins – so that she won’t be one any longer. Throw in crackling chemistry between Woodward and Newman, the beautiful Thelma Ritter and a self-deprecating Eva Gabor – and you’ve got a vintage evening. (Woodward and Newman made one other comedy together, “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys” in ’58, with Joan Collins as a sexpot, Woodward as Newman's anti-nuclear missile activist wife and Tuesday Weld in the part of “Comfort Goodbody” – haven’t seen it, but I’d love to hear if you have!)

If you just can’t wait for your Netflix to arrive, you can always go to their site and watch “Born Yesterday” or “His Girl Friday” online. Two of the funniest films ever made. Which you’ve probably seen. But worth watching again if Friday was unbearable. (If you watched the DOW, this means you.)

Put down the pistol. Pick up a root beer. It'll bubble when it comes out your nose. Two for one chuckles.

Go laugh until the Depression passes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Women Wins Me Over

(Click on title to see the preview.)

Now this is a rare movie season indeed. Two films with star-studded casts almost completely people by women. “Mama Mia” has managed to confound men with its saccharine affirmations and charm women with its heart-on-the-sleeve dedication to summer fun. I would argue that the women who made it are just fine with that. For a bonus, Diane English serves us up her loose remake of 1939’s “The Women” – one of the funniest, sharpest films ever – never mind that there’s not a single man in it.

What? None?

You got it. But after attending thousands of female-less Westerns, shoot-‘em-ups and war films with our men friends and mates, I think you’d agree we deserve the break. After all, the vaunted ‘great age of independent film’ from the 1970s is also famous for what it’s missing: women. A crime of epic proportions when you consider the women available – riches like Cloris Leachman and Bette Midler who shone whenever cast – but at a tiny fraction of their male peers.

And here we are lucky. English found them – and many other modern marvels – and let them shine in this all-female playground. Not a goofy, over-the-top, feel-good schoolyard like “Mamma Mia.” Not by a long-shot. Still, it’s going to be hard to convince a man to walk into an all-female film, a huge risk for a studio. If you manage it, though, I’m willing to bet he’ll have a pretty good time – even if it doesn’t move him like “Generation Kill.”

No, it’s not perfect. While no film could hope to compete with Anita Loos and Clare Luce Booth’s original dialogue – witty as Wilde, with more gravity, I would argue – this one drops the ball completely several times. The gorgeous, witty Bergen could have used much better material than her bland monologue about being cheated on: “It feels like you’ve been kicked in the stomach.” Not really? And disappointing mostly because English delivers much better lines elsewhere. For instance, Bergen dazzles later as she admits her happiness for her daughter’s success is mixed with “jealousy, envy, maybe a little competition.” THAT we believe.

I knew going in that watching Meg Ryan’s (Mary Haines) face not move would distract me, maybe prevent me altogether from enjoying the film – especially as it’s set in the rarified, plastic surgery-heavy world of moneyed New York – a heavy source of the film’s jokes. But Ryan’s appearance ‘improvement’ isn’t the only monkey on her back. The distance Ryan’s been keeping from her audience is still evident here; the gorgeous vulnerability she invited us into in “French Kiss,” “Sleepless” and even snippets of the otherwise angry “Addicted to Love” doesn’t seem to be coming back full-scale anytime soon. Her only full-on crying scene – alone with best friend Annette Benning (Sylvia Fowler) – on her couch is filmed in a wide-shot from the lawn, camera looking into the inner sanctum, but not allowed inside. But Ryan sucker-punched me when she fought back real tears as Sylvia announces over drinks that she’s helped evil gossip Post columnist Carrie Fisher publish sordid details of the failing marriage (in a vain attempt to save Sylvia’s job). “This is so much worse” than her husband’s betrayal, Meg says, and we know she believes it. What woman wouldn’t feel that way? And presto, Meg Ryan inhabits the Everywoman skin again. Ryan’s cheeks might not emote any more, but her eyes – at that moment – were all she needed. Not her most engaging performance ever – but certainly the most of her last handful of films.

In contrast, Annette Benning’s opening retort to a saleswoman offering ‘face lift in a jar’ kills: “This is my face. Deal with it.” I can’t claim to know about Benning’s personal grooming or surgery habits, but she doesn’t seem shy about her modest wrinkles – and instantly we buy that this is an honest, direct person. Per usual, the best friend character contains the richest contradictions and inner conflict – an old specialty of Benning’s – most gloriously displayed in “Valmont” – the smaller budget, Milos Foreman take on “Dangerous Liaisons.” There, Benning crafted a more vulnerable killer than Glenn Close was allowed, and here she picks up that subtlety again. We can see her terror flicker across her face as her boss threatens to fire her over the phone at the beginning of the film, but her voice remains steady. An hour plus later, she’s still dealing out the confident dialogue in face of the same threat, but her voice cracks, her shoulders sag, and her face shows nothing but defeat. A nuanced performance and more penetrating characterization by English than the similar “Sex in the City” mold.

“The Women” never was about Mary Haines’s love story; its real question was: how do you cope with its breakdown? Who helps you through the wrenching betrayals in life? Who can you trust? Is there anything a woman can count on? What the modern version might be missing in clever dialogue (gorgeous in the 1939 film and sparingly sampled here), it replaces with emotional honesty. Poor old Norma Shearer was surrounded by self-centered wits and a mother more than willing to sacrifice her daughter to the double standard. She relied emotionally on one person: her daughter. This Mary Haines needs her best friend, period. When that relationship falls apart, she does not substitute her emotionally unprepared daughter. In fact, she abandons her, consumed by her own despair. Not perfect. Not admirable. But if you’ve ever been around a divorce, realistic.

And so it comes as no surprise that the most emotionally satisfying scene in the film is Benning and Ryan’s reconciliation – a shouting match of contradictions. “You’ve failed your daughter” accuses Benning. “I can’t figure out how you could betray your closest friend for a job,” counters Ryan. Benning throws fruit. Ryan insults Benning’s wardrobe. But they can’t stay mad. They exhaust each other, and once they sit to catch their breath together, we know it’s going to be alright. That’s love in action – forgiveness – and the core of the movie.

Other critics are writing about this version’s not living up to the original – incidentally, one of my favorite films. And of course nothing could replace it. But English wisely here isn’t trying to. She’s updating the issues modern American women are dealing with, how they’re coping, and most importantly, adding the missing emotional core. Gone is that awful sell-out ending, Mary Haines’s justification for forgiving her husband: “Pride is something a woman in love can’t afford” – something I think we can all be thankful for. Kept in: strong women with wildly differing and entertaining takes on life and love. Bette Midler’s hysterical, pot-smoking talent agent advises, “Be selfish,” while Debra Messing’s goofy housewife begs Mary to show human kindness. Messing also performs one of the most entertaining simulated births I’ve ever seen on camera. And Jada Pinkett Smith steals her every scene with her lesbian writer’s obsessions – cynicism, sensuality and caffeine. And hey, thanks to Haines’s professional turnaround, we still get a fashion show! (My completely unofficial time estimate puts it at roughly half an hour shorter than the original – the Technicolor umpteen-minute insert remains one of classic film’s great mysteries.)

The pacing’s a bit slow at a solid two hours, and we really feel the loss of Pinkett Smith and Messing in the middle. Debi Mazar seems uncharacteristically uncomfortable though the minor, quirky part which should have suited her perfectly, and Cloris Leachman, in a more restrained role, sometimes effuses in spite of herself – not given the room to show her range as she did so beautifully in “Spanglish.” And I doubt anyone’s rushing out to snatch up the vanilla soundtrack.

However, the movie’s original strength remains: women shown dealing with the messiness of men in their lives – how they really do it – with other women.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Can of Worms Opened: What's a Chick Flick Anyway?

Photo: Rosalind Russell isn't buying Walter Pidgeon's line in Man-Proof (1938)

What IS a chick flick? Any movie that features women, or just the weepy love lost-and-found fests?

I believe my answer is that a chick flick allows me to fall in love again, or lose love again. In short – to feel the urgent rush of vital, intimate connection, vicariously.

Most of us only get the actual high of real love once, twice, maybe half a dozen times in our lives. Surely the deep kind doesn’t pop up every day – even for someone as adventurous as Madonna or Jay Z. The real thing – the hormonal flicker of attraction, the gradual unfolding of another’s mystery, the shaky wonder of self-confidence that their attraction gives you, and the inevitable, gorgeous resistance before surrendering to no-longer-aloneness – that rivets us to new love, and we crave its highs and lows, even when we’re much further down the path – four, fourteen or forty years into the same relationship.

Our loves grow deeper, wiser, stronger, but as we get further and further away from our beginnings, I believe we’re constantly looking back at our original sparks, re-examining them, reliving them as we retell the stories of how we fell in love. We ask our new acquaintances, “How did you two end up together?” “What made you know she was the right one?” “How did you ask her to marry you?” We watch gossip shows about celebrities getting together, breaking apart. We buy magazines which promise the juiciest stories of intimacy and heartbreak. Our connection to others’ stories, and our craving for them, feeds our need for the experience of falling in love again.

Do I really care whether Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie? Does it have any bearing on my life? Not even the tiniest bit. But that doesn’t matter. I’ve already fallen in love with all of them, or hated them, sometime on the screen. Whether larger than life in a movie theater, or on home video-size in my living room, those faces have asked me in. I sympathized with Jen in “Good Wife,” whistled at Brad’s bottom in a dozen films since “Thelma and Louise,” and laughed myself sick as Angelina as “Mrs. Smith” – in a minivan – outmaneuvered four carfuls of assassins while bickering with her husband for being thoughtless and less than emotionally truthful. I loved all those films, and I wouldn’t have if I didn’t fall in love with the people in them.

That’s the great trick of the movies: perfect strangers allow me – no, beg me – to live with them, see them say the wrong thing to the boss and finally figure out what to say the cute guy in the next cubicle. I’m not arrested for voyeurism. I’m thanked for being a loyal fan. Watching the story is the next best thing to being in the story. And the beauty of it is, I can enjoy it alone or with friends. Either way, it’s a shared experience. It’s between me and the folks onscreen, first and foremost. When Mandy Patinkin at last tracks down the evil Count Rugin, I scream with glee as Inigo announces, “Hello! You killed my father! Prepare to die!” But when my boyfriend or roommate or sister scream along with me, then we can laugh about it later, together – a real shared experience of a manufactured one.

I don’t think this is unique to the world of romantic comedy, or even the broader term ‘chick flicks.’ This is what any good movie does. When my husband got bad news at work – the kind that would drive me to “A Room with a View” and a box of Girl Scout Cookies – he waited for me to be gone, fixed himself a steak and a beer, and cleared his schedule for his entire boxed DVD set of “Band of Brothers” – the gritty, realistic World War II series which follows a paratrooper company as they bond – and get obliterated, one by one – across Europe. When I came home late that night, he had found his calm. “Makes you realize you really don’t have that bad,” he explained.

So maybe a chick flick is just the kind of emotional experience that appeals to a large number of women vs. men. I can appreciate “Band of Brothers,” but my friends and I don’t usually feel closer after bouts of random violence together. We weren’t allowed to play tackle football or be on the wrestling team; certainly, we couldn’t beat each other up without becoming social pariahs. Upset? Got a gripe? Want to kill someone? What to do? Talk.

Therapy is talking, right? Women socialize each other, by and large, to practice it from Day One. “Do you feel okay today, honey?” “Don’t feel bad about it.” “Tell me how you feel.” Just listen to any conversation between women – mother and daughter, best friends, even a random bank teller and her female patron – and see how often that word “feel” gets used. Then listen to men have an equivalent gab session, and do the math. I’ll bet the women’s “feel”ings outnumber the men’s fifteen-to-one.

It’s not that men don’t have them, but they don’t encourage each other’s feeling therapy like we do. Who has to, when you’re allowed to just haul off and smack someone – or thing – every once in a while? “He had it comin’.” “Everyone loses it now and then. Don’t worry about it.” “Wanna go hit a few?” And when you can’t really go get in a brawl, like my husband, you can just watch other guys doing it for you.

I am far from the first person to try and peel this label off a film and see what it really means. Joanne Weintraub in Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel this month argued that “Mama Mia” didn’t even have a shot at industry respect, regardless of healthy box office, because of its feelings-oriented, female goofiness, but critics – still largely male – don’t see “Dark Knight”’s over-the-top moments as detractions – because they’re about violence and power – pet topics for the boys’ club. (

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times argues that Judd Apatow has taken over the chick flick genre by casting neurotic, pudgy men in the traditionally female leading roles of romantic comedies. Seth Rogen replaces Bridget Jones. (

What do you think? Are you a sucker for the feelings flicks? And if so, why? Only in certain moods or anytime? Do men you know value movies as emotional tools? What makes a movie just female-targeted versus a chick flick? Are men replacing us as the new hapless romantics onscreen? COMMENT away!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Movie of the Month: "Millions" (2005)

(Click on title to link to the trialer; it's got Asian subtitles - Korean? - but the sound is in English. Sorry about the poor video quality, but this is a much better trailer than the one they made for American audiences.)

What would YOU do with a million pounds?

Completely unsubjective opinion: I adore "Millions." I'll admit its origins are unlikely. Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce ("Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story" - bawdy adult comedy - & "Hilary and Jackie" - sexually dysfunctional adult drama) teams up with director Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting" - nihilistic druggie drama - and "Shallow Grave" - nihilistic crime comedy) to make a family fantasy comedy? Okay, so that might not seem the most natural pairing, but the surreal elements of both creators' previous works blow the top off of this genre's normal sugary fare. This film reminds me much more of "Finding Neverland" and "Willy Wonka" than the recent "Water Horse" (or anything featuring Dakota Fanning). In other words, this is adult-friendly material that will still entertain your kids. (I'd guess Grade 4 or 5 and up: some language.)

"Millions" does share a few things with other films: the charming young Alex Etel as lead (also the lead in "Water Horse"), an imaginary world contrasted with reality ("Bridge to Terabithia"), and the premise of ill-gotten gain discovered by innocent bystanders ("Shallow Grave" amongst others). But the film is its own creature. Any movie featuring a ten-year old lead teeters on the brink of wooden unbelievability (hello, "Episode One"). But the brilliantly direct young Etel disarms us; his constant conversations with dead saints revolve around practical considerations vs. googly-eyed wonder, such as "Can you smoke in heaven?" and "Have you seen my mother?" The rest of the excellent cast includes James Nesbitt as the father (prob most familiar to US audiences from his UK TV series - 'Adam' in "Cold Feet" and 'Murphy' of "Murphy's Law") and newcomer Lewis McGibbon as the older brother who sees the boys' discovery of thousands of pounds in a duffel bag with very practical eyes. (He buys himself a posse and girlfriends - Tony Soprano of the 8th grade.)

When the boys discover the money is stolen, their innocence slowly seeps away as adult avarice, fear and brutishness sully their find. Or does it? Can you face greed and crime with the best of childish intentions and still retain your goodness? And are we really born good, or just selfish?

Well, kids, that's what great storytelling is all about. Dancing along in the gray areas without getting lost. Screenwriter Boyce manages all this darkness with deep bursts of humanity as director Danny Boyle out-finesses Tim Burton, while keeping his off-kilter sensibility, with rich animation which plunges us into the main character's imagination - without ever feeling like we've left common sense behind. Together, they keep their fantastic premise bound to reality without the maudlin overacting of a Hollywood tear-jerker or the black-and-white boundaries of a Hallmark special.

Available on DVD (as well, of course, on Netflix) and sometimes reshown on IFC, this is a movie that will reward your seeking it out with professionalism all the way around. And always worth the effort: an emotionally satisfying English film.

Others Recommended in this vein: "About a Boy" (2002) (kid convinces Hugh Grant to grow up) and "Finding Neverland" (2004) (kid convinces Johnny Depp to never grow up). And for something far more Burton-esque but still convincingly human: "Mirrormask" (2005), a Dave McKean/Neil Gaiman animated/ live action fairy tale about a teenage girl who works for the circus and just wants to be normal, but has to fight the evil Queen of her own drawings to win her way back to reality - quickly gaining cult classic status amongst the high school set. (See my full review here:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chick Flicks - Let the Flood Gates Open!

I have received an official request from one of my male readers who knows I'm busy scribbling away at a romantic comedy script:

"Could you talk about what makes a great chick flick next? Is it female bonding, friends doing girl things, sticking together through thick and thin? Is it the martyr heroine who takes on the cruel cold world? Is it the 'You go, girl!' moment when the evil stupid man gets his comeuppance? Is it some kind of nod to Jane Austen? What is it? And what is the difference between a great rom-com [romantic comedy] and a great chick flick? They're not necessarily the same thing, are they?"

So - I'd like to open this one up. I've got my own opinions for sure. But so does every woman who's ever been marketed to. While I work on my answer, please help me out! Post your ideas in the Comments (don't worry about signing up with Google; you can post Anonymously, too; they all come to me for approval anyway).

Let's help out our earnest male compatriots. They do try to understand us, too, you know, and as we all acknowledge, that's likely the much harder job. While you're at it, list some of your favorite films targeted at or about women, or address romantic relationships (in any form or preference) - should be a varied list, knowing the eclectic nature of this crowd!

And men, if you've got an opinion, we're all ears!

Just hit "Comment," and let the posting begin!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

10 Getting to Know You Questions

If you’ve ever watched James Lipton on “Inside the Actors Studio,” you’ll be familiar with these questions, which Lipton adapted from French television personality Bernard Pivot.

I’ve wanted to answer them ever since I first saw the program, and thanks to the Web, who has to wait? I look forward to hearing your answers! (I think this would be great for parties/get-togethers, esp for people who already know each other well.)

Mel’s answers:
1. What is your favorite word?

The Spanish word ‘catorce’ – simply because I love the way it sounds /say it, kah TOR say/. It actually means ‘fourteen.’ I think when I first heard it in 9th grade Spanish class, it just drove home the superior auditory elegance of that language. No single English word comes close. Roll the ‘r’ and see if I’m not right.

2. What is your least favorite word?

‘Sibling’ – a wretched, dehumanizing, clinical term – like bureaucrats trying to make something file-able out of the first and most enduring friendship of my life – hey, sis!

3. What turns you on?


4. What turns you off?

Cruelty, disregard for others

5. What sound or noise do you love?

Opening strands of MASH or WKRP theme music, esp late at night while alone in front of TV (they’ve been my ‘natural’ Zen sedative since I was 16).

6. What sound or noise do you hate?

Car horns AND leaf blowers – it’s a toss-up.

7. What is your favorite curse word? (please use asteriks to avoid censorship)

Bugger – to be honest, I use the f*** word the most, but it just lacks the goofy Britishness of the B word. When I curse consciously – you know, really try to put some effort into it – ‘bugger’ appears every time. I think I’m entertained by the Brits using a sexual term at all, especially subconsciously as they slam their fingers in a drawer.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I’ve already tried a lot of them! But if I could handle the word problems, I think I’d love astrophysics. Exploring the beauty and unknowableness of the universe has to be the biggest adventure of our age. Trying to understand unknowable things reminds me very much of what I already do - both writing and teaching (the human spirit and the human mind, respectively).

9. What profession would you not like to do?

Sewer maintenance/ porta-john disposal – I did clean toilets for a year, and so I have some small insight into the hell of this profession – and that’s as close as I hope I ever have to get.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“Plenty of room for everybody! After all, a good Hostess always plans for extra arrivals.”

If you want to answer the questions yourself, here’s an easy list to copy and paste:
1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on?
4. What turns you off?
5. What sound or noise do you love?
6. What sound or noise do you hate?
7. What is your favorite curse word?
8. What profession other than your own would you like to try?
9. What profession would you not like to do?
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Dear George (Clooney, that is)

Mr. G. Clooney
Beverly Hills, California

re: Recent Harrassment

June 4, 2007

Dear George,

Well, you won’t leave me alone, so I suppose I must break down and speak to you. Why you won’t let me sleep in peace I don’t know. What my offense has been remains a mystery to me, but since you will keep showing up in your dapper best and conversing with me over a cup of coffee deep in my REM cycle until all hours, I shall behave like the lady my mother tried (unsuccessfully) to raise, and grant you your interview.

I would like to point out here and now that I have no intention of this growing into a more intimate acquaintance. I am that kind of girl, but not with actors – in fact that’s number one on the list. This is no mere prejudice, but the informed voice of experience. High school drama club leaves its scars on us all. Of course dating didn’t stop there, and soon there were larger messes of mascara-stained tissues on the bureau.

After a summer split between the bohemian scenes of the University of Kansas and Disneyworld, I added poets and rock guitarists to the list – oh yes, and lead singers. Just one guy, but he was a doozy. And you know, a girl likely to date that kind of a beast seems to find herself quickly attracted to philosophers, marketing geniuses, social reformers, park rangers, carpenters, sculptors, chemists, swing dancers, cartoonists – well, the list is quite long now, suffice to say. Marriage had officially stopped the list from growing until our recent, unending chats. I hadn’t counted on you, George.

Regardless of the obvious temptations, I will not be throwing myself at you, so you can just forget about that now. Bill Clinton – leader of the free world eventually, but just in the running at the time – showed up in this same fuzzy, dreaming brain while you were no more than a fading, mulletted memory from “The Facts of Life.” Even in my most unguarded, unconscious dream state, Billy didn’t get anything but a warm smile, so you, the other Mr. C., can just keep your tuxedoed, perfect triangle-frame anchored.

Yes, I obviously have a thing for men in power, and no, it’s not going to get you anywhere. Whatever it is I find about you that’s erotic doesn’t seem to require us getting naked. Which is convenient, since I have a hard enough time facing the bathroom mirror at thirty-five, much less any ongoing nightmare visions of my bare, dimpled derrière in motion.

Now, on to the next order of business. My subconscious. What are you doing there? Do you intend to bring friends? Will I have to start considering caterers? What are we talking about? I can’t imagine anything that keeps you coming back at the rate you seem to consider appropriate. One dream would have been titillating. Two might have hinted at your continuing good taste. But month after month, night after night! Just when I think you’ve finally gone on to the starlets who love you so well…I innocently pass into Never Never Land – and must face you ONCE AGAIN – without make-up and before I’ve had a chance to clean the dishes.

What could we possibly have in common? After all, you have your millions, and I have my – dying potted plants. It really is just too damn hot to slog outside and water them all the time. I think the thyme committed suicide last week. Two days just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get as brown as it managed. You wouldn’t know, of course, since gardeners have been taking care of your lawns since you impersonated a lecherous doctor that women couldn’t resist on TV. (You know, they could be family men – the gardeners – who recoil at your wandering Romeo ways. Have you asked? Or better yet – have you noticed any suspicious decline in the health of your herbs?)

It certainly doesn’t leave us much to discuss. You get to have your fifty girlfriends at a time; I get one husband that I’m lucky to have fifty times a year. You wander the corridors of power with your buddies in the Democratic Party leadership; I’m beginning to recognize the homeless guys in Balboa Park by their preferred camping spots. You sparkle at your red carpet galas, receiving goodie bags stuffed with free digital cameras and personalized watches; I only seem to attend functions where earnest female friends try to sell me things I can’t afford or don’t need (I generally just cave and let them have another one at my house – for the swag. Should score the entire Anti-Cellulite Cream package at next week’s soiree).

Oh, George, where does all this leave us? You remain so silent on the subject of commitment, and yet you return faithfully to my dreams week after week, talking warmly of God-only-knows-what, allowing me to bask in the knowledge that it is I who truly stimulate your mind, your wit, your gleaming, white-toothed laugh. You even let me call you “Eyebrow.” Do you think I didn’t notice your recycled jokes as you dashed between reporter-ette bimbos at last year’s Oscars? They couldn’t know what I did – that “The Good German” was a good reason to sit in a theatre alone with my popcorn and you; black and white really does bring out your jawline something fierce. Did you feel you had to apologize for that? Did you stop believing that there really was intelligent life out there somewhere? Have you lost your faith that beauty and brains can still coexist? Is this why you haunt my make-believe kitchen table?

I suppose you’re like any man. We’ll continue to have these little chats, and then one day, you’ll expect me to read your mind, intuit your deepest dreams and drop everything to bask in your love – and needs. Well, George, I’m sorry. I can’t take the time. I’ve already got one man I have to worry about, and he’s fairly firm on his policy of No Visiting Sex Gods between the hours of one and five a.m. So unless you’re planning on divulging anything deeper than your secret to great skin (which really, I wouldn’t mind knowing), I think our relationship is at an impasse.

Still, a good coffee buddy shouldn’t be underrated – as long as you’re okay with decaf. I have got to get some sleep. Have I told you about these recurring dreams of mine?

Til the Restraining Order Comes Through,
Melanie (as if you didn’t know)