Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I have reputation at work as someone who knows movies. I think it’s mostly due to the nature of my work, but wrapped in there is also the ability to talk art house and classic movies. My knowledge isn’t as exhaustive as it once was. I’m no longer good with what just came out and I can’t keep up with the tent poles anymore. But if you want a change of pace, I’m always good for a recommendation or a conversation.

Around last year’s Oscars, our Vice President asked if I had seen any of the nominees and what I liked. I had not seen CAPOTE which turned out to be my favorite of the group or WALK THE LINE, a solid movie even in multiple viewings. All I had to recommend was CRASH, which I had seen 8 months before when it came out on DVD. A week or so later he told me briefly that he saw it and didn’t like it. And after the Crash recommendation she stopped bringing up the topic and would say little when I did.

He took the team to lunch recently and he told us that he immediately rented CRASH after our conversation and told his wife that I had recommended it. Only, he rented the David Cronenberg version from 1996. That movie (NC-17) is about a perverted subculture that finds eroticism in car crashes. Maybe he could have weathered it, but what wife wouldn’t have been appalled? Very recently he happened upon the 2005 version and he and his wife had a big laugh realizing that they had rented the wrong one. He laughed again telling the story at lunch. What was going through his mind after seeing the first one? Who would recommend such a movie to their boss?


I recently read THE TIPPING POINT by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s how small ideas or trends explode into sensations. A good example from the book is how Hush Puppy shoes were so unpopular in the early 1990s that the maker almost stopped production. They produced only 30,000 pair a year. Somewhere in the East Village a bohemian wandered into a thrift store and bought a used pair simply because they were cheap. This person, whoever he was, was influential enough that other young artist types started doing the same. A fashion designer looking for the hot new trends hung around the village looking for style and noticed the Hush Puppies gaining popularity and the designer decided to use the shoes in a fashion show. The show led to models wearing the shoes in magazines and within two years they were selling over 200,000 pair of Hush Puppies annually. The trend began with a few influential people and steamrolled into a style.

Gladwell uses the same phenomenon to explain why Paul Revere is famous and anti teen smoking campaigns are doomed to failure. It was the best human behavior book I have read since INFLUENCE.



Dude said...

I once told my boss that he would enjoy GLADIATOR, but he happened into the adult section and wound up with GLAD HE ATE HER. My contract was not renewed.

E said...

Tom, if you enjoyed Gladwell and Cialdini, you would enjoy UNLEASHING THE IDEAVIRUS by Seth Godin or his writings at ideavirus.com.

E said...

I had a friend in college who was not a movie guy. Any time the subject came up, he would say "I saw PORKY'S - is it anything like PORKY'S?" and keep making faux-doofus remarks about Porky's until there were no more cheap laughs and no more discussion about movies. I think of that every time the subject comes up and he is still getting cheap laughs from me.

Dude said...

I have no defense for my bad joke, but as a movie guy, I will defend PORKY'S as a minor classic.

Coming of age in the '80s, I saw 97% of the teenage sex romps and this is the one that set the template. It's been years (decades?) since I've seen it but there are still scenes and lines I remember.

I think it's probably a better film than most will give it credit for since it had that same nostalgic feel that was on display in the same filmmaker's A CHRISTMAS STORY, an acknowledged classic.

I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago by AMERICAN PIE which paid homage to the Porky's genre with a film that was better than any of its progenitors.

Anyways, back to the topic, Tom's story about CRASH is great. It's an example that you can tell a lot about someone by the movies they recommend. It's hilarious that the entire relationship was tainted for years by a mistaken recommendation. The funny thing about CRASH (2006) is that it was a very polarizing film - people either loved it or loathed it. I happened to love it but some of my friends couldn't figure out why. I tried to watch the earlier CRASH once but couldn't find reason to stick it out.

E said...

Shame on me, I forgot to award points for Tom's story and Dude's joke, which both deserved.

There is still no better term for that type of woman than Beulah Ballbreaker. I used the term 3 or 4 days ago and everyone our age understands the usage.

Tom said...

No exaggeration to say I saw Porky’s 15 times on HBO during a 2 year period. It was a natural extension of the outrageous (now tame) Animal House. It had such a indefinable charm that the sequels lacked and it was full of weird moments and inconsistencies and yet like Dude says it has so many moments that cannot be forgotten. When I first saw Sex in the City I could only think of Samantha as the girl who screamed in the boys locker room.

It’s hard not to remember that hulking double entendre character named Meat. One thing that was always a laugh was how Porky’s 2 took place the very next day and yet Meat had inexplicably gained 40 pounds and his lumbering self was still the star of the basketball team.

I remember Porky’s the place was introduced as this long trip that the guys took early in the film and yet when they return from there the final time the trip takes minutes.

The funniest thing in the movie may have been its attempt at social conscience by teaching the lesson of anti-Semitism couched between scenes of guys spying on the girls shower room. Were the filmmakers Canadian? I thought I may have read that once. I don’t think anti-Semitism has never been an epidemic in small town protestant America. Maybe it had some vestiges among the country club sect but hardly among the working class. That’s more of a NYC thing that a foreigner wouldn’t know about us.

Who could forget that scene with Ballbreaker and the snake or Ballbreaker asking the coach to keep his balls off the tumbling mats. I was hated that she found some sort of redemption in the sequel. She was too good of a heavy to lose.

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