At the Movies w/ Carol & Roger

I had this old girlfriend to whom I used to say, “She’s tidied up and I can’t FIND anything!” This used to bug her. A LOT. I don’t know if it was because I said it a lot, because I referred to her in the third person, or because she didn’t like Thomas Dolby.

So, I don’t say that to my wife Carol. I may THINK it, but I don’t SPEAK it. In the past month, I realized that I have been missing my baseball glove, my binoculars, and this great pair of sandals that I bought in Barbados in 1999. I knew where all of them WERE, but not their current whereabouts, and I made sure to let her know that. Then, last week, I looked in my armoire, and there were my baseball glove and my binoculars! When Carol wanted to clear out the guest room, she asked me to find another place for them, and I must have forgotten? Oops. (Anyway, they’re BACK in the guest room, where I can find them NEXT time. Don’t tell her.)

Carol and I saw TWO movies in two days this week! Maybe that’s not such an event in YOUR household, and two years ago, it wouldn’t have been such an event in OUR household, but it sure the heck is now. We opted against seeing Fantastic Four, since Carol is unfamiliar with the characters; Johnny Storm is the name of the character, not the actor. (But to get links to more FF reviews than you’re ever likely to read, go see “ol’ reliable Fred” – July 13).

I took a day off work on Monday after the reunion. Lydia went to day care. We went to see a matinee of Cinderella Man, the story of boxer James J. Braddock. I think it’s very hard telling a story like this where the outcome is already known, at least by me. When I was a kid, I could name probably every heavyweight champion from John L. Sullivan to Muhammad Ali. Of course, that was in the day when there was but one sanctioning body, not three or four.

If I say that Ron Howard is a competent filmmaker, it sounds like being damned with faint praise, but I don’t mean it to be so. Cinderella Manis more a story about a man who happens to box for a living, because we see the man behind the boxer as well. If it is not The Best Boxing Movie Ever Made (that would be Raging Bull), it is a well-made film about a very good man and his family. That it doesn’t descend to a maudlin weepie is undoubtedly a function of the direction, the script, and the acting of Russell Crowe, teamed up with Howard again after the award-winning A Beautiful Mind. Some of the fight scenes were realistically bloody, and Carol (and, OK, I) did turn away for a moment or two. I think the mediocre box office has been a function of 1) the subject matter (which doesn’t grab either a lot of teens or a lot of women, I understand), and 2) the title, which makes sense if you see the movie or are 75, but is confusing otherwise. Too bad.

My wife is a teacher of English as a Second Language. If you’re a teacher, or work with children, or are a parent, or are thinking about becoming a parent, or are a citizen concered about the welfare of children, you should see Mad Hot Ballroom, as we did Tuesday night, thanks to our marvelous new babysitter. (This means you, Mrs. Lefty.) For about a decade, there has been a 10-week curriculum in ballroom dancing in the schools of New York City. Last year, I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about P.S. 144 in Queens, which participated in (and won) a citywide competition of 5th graders in the tango, fox trot, merenge, et al.

The movie is based on the same competition a year later, but it focuses on three schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The kids are from a wide range of cultures. I enjoyed listening to some of the preternaturally wise girls, especially Emma, and watching the boys, who find that touching girls isn’t THAT awful. Many of the teachers are men, and it shows how important those male role models are to the boys. It’s a film of hope and inspiration in the midst of poverty.

All in all, a pretty good way to start to celebrate Carol’s birthday week. Today is THE day. BTW, over the past weekend, she went up to the attic and found the sandals (which SHE buried up there, so you know.) And we’re going to celebrate by going to see Arena Football? Really. We got free tickets, and the regular season ends this weekend, and the Albany team isn’t going to get into the playoffs, and I’ve always wanted to go…

Happy birthday, Carol. I love you.

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