"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Poseidon" gets me remembering movies

The "serious" Leslie Nielsen
"The Poseidon Adventure" was the No. 1 movie at the box office in the year in which I graduated from high school. The Poseidon was a fictional ship while the Titanic was real. A ship in jeopardy seems to lend itself to movie drama and success.
I probably saw "The Poseidon Adventure" at our Morris Theater.
I'm reminded of the movie by the re-make which has been on TV cable channels recently. Movies of a generation ago are on the drawing board for re-makes. We're seeing promos for the new "Red Dawn" now. "Red" refers to the commies. Since the commies have basically disappeared, I'm not sure what the sinister enemy force is going to be. There are terrorists of course but I don't think these people have designs on invasion.
One of the more disputed reviews by Roger Ebert was his three-star assessment of Adam Sandler's "The Longest Yard." Any boomer will feel the warmest of nostalgia when being reminded of the original "Longest Yard." I joked at the time of the re-make that "it should be against the law" to re-make that movie.
We saw Burt Reynolds in the original lead his gang of inmate misfits against the guards who seemed to represent what we called "the establishment." Eddie Albert was not sympathetic as the prison head.
I saw the Sandler version here in Morris and tried to like it. So I didn't leave the theater grumpy but I had to conclude it didn't hold a candle to the original. Ebert's generous review was even better than how he treated Sandler's "Happy Gilmore."
Ebert was put off by product placement in "Happy Gilmore," for one thing. This movie made you want to go out and find a Subway restaurant, remember? I never saw "Happy Gilmore" until it was on TV. It's amazing how much better this movie is, than nearly all of Sandler's other efforts. I'm curious as to the explanation for this.
"Happy Gilmore" is a comedy classic that I'd put in the top listing of sports movies of all time. Ebert didn't like how the trailer gave away the novelty of the scene where Sandler/Gilmore dukes it out with Bob Barker. I never saw the trailer because at that time in my life, I wasn't paying much attention to movies. Ebert really shouldn't weigh the trailer anyway. As for his product placement argument, I wasn't hip enough at the time to realize this was happening. It went over my head.
I don't eat at Subway restaurants anyway because the employees ask too many questions about how you want your order. I've been in the Morris Subway once. After about the fourth question I feel like just saying "make it the way you'd want it."
When I was a kid, the prairie grassland prevailed out where the Subway and Pizza Hut are. We saw McDonald's as "big time" and never with the potential to actually locate here - really.
I don't know how Ebert treated the re-make of "The Poseidon Adventure." The part I saw on TV seemed overly intense which is a quality most contemporary action/adventure movies seem to have to hit you over the head with. The original ground-breaking version now seems a little quaint by comparison.
The original "Poseidon" movie burst on the scene when the Watergate scandal was unfolding. Like all movies it provides a bit of a window into the times. We saw the old traditional minister and the young trailblazing one. The old guy was played by Arthur O'Connell who had played Don Knotts' father in "The Reluctant Astronaut."
The O'Connell character seemed tired and out of touch, which was how boomers viewed many of their elders at the time. O'Connell played "Chaplain John."
The young pastor, "Reverend Scott," was played by the amazing Gene Hackman. Did Hackman age even one day during the prime of his long career? He played "Buck Barrow" in the Faye Dunaway version of "Bonnie and Clyde." He played the basketball coach "Norman Dale" in the mid-1980s classic movie. I saw "Hoosiers" as a culturally significant movie because it seemed to proclaim most firmly that traditional values were OK again. No confusing twists about how to view morality. It asserted we must respect authority, after a long run of movies reflecting the 1970s meme that authority was often full of sheep dip.
Hackman played the blind man in "Young Frankenstein." "You must have been the tallest in your class!"
A big problem with watching the original "Poseidon" today is adjusting to Leslie Nielsen in a "straight" role! I'm sure many like me are flabbergasted as we realize we just can't put aside Nielsen's comic incarnation. That of course began with "Airplane" in which he was the physician.
Dr. Joyce Brothers thought it sad Nielsen was "reduced" to playing comic roles. If Nielsen thought it was sad he might have cried - cried all the way to the bank. My, did he ever parlay that comic role into subsequent films.
We were saddened to learn of Nielsen's sudden death from a staph infection while hospitalized.
The great Leslie Nielsen played "Captain Harrison" in the 1973 "Poseidon Adventure." When he puts his binoculars up and gets set to utter a line, I can't put his "Airplane" persona aside in my mind. A big part of the problem is that Nielsen didn't act any differently as a comic, than previously. He carried himself as a stiff leading man. This actually made his comic lines especially funny. I'm happy for all the success he had as a comic.
Roddy McDowall played the character "Acres" in the '73 "Poseidon." I always thought he over-acted. Apparently he was a child star once. He was the grocery store manager in "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry," a movie that really reflected the turbulent times. A lot of those anti-establishment movies really had traditional values woven in, it was just subtle. The principals in the "Larry/Mary" movie all met their demise at the end, due to their carelessness.
Robert Redford's "The Candidate" seemed to reflect a spirit of rebellion, but when I watched it again on cable TV, I realized this movie was mainly centered on family. At the end, the father looks the Redford character in the eye and says "you're a politician." The father too had been one.
The famous line from "The Candidate" was something to the effect of "what do we do now?" This was after the Redford character won. It reminds of when Brit Hume cornered Dan Quayle with questions about what Quayle would actually do if he were to suddenly become president (through tragedy).
My generation made Dan Quayle into an absolute bullseye. Word got around pretty fast: "Let's laugh at this guy." While I couldn't disagree more with Quayle's politics, I found it odd he became portrayed as some sort of ignorant nut. Because he clearly wasn't.
Boomers could be mean when younger. When Branson, MO, first became well-known, we decided it was a hangout for old people. The jokes started sprouting. Well, who cares if old people enjoy it?
Older people liked listening to WCCO Radio (as opposed to the hip KQIC or, before that, KDWB). So a friend of mine in the radio business joked that 'CCO had "the highest percentage of applesauce consumers" among their listenership. Right in line with the Branson jokes.
We have shut up about this stuff now. That's because our parents, if we're still blessed to have them, are at an age where they need tender and vigilant care.
Congratulations to Branson on its success.
By the end of 1974 (the year in which Dick Nixon resigned), "The Poseidon Adventure" was among the six most successful features in film history. It was up there with "Gone with the Wind," "The Godfather," "Love Story" ("Love Story?"), "Airport" and "The Sound of Music."
It led to a series of what were called "disaster pictures." We saw Robert Wagner catch on fire in "The Towering Inferno."
"The Poseidon Adventure" was an iconic movie that reflected our times in several ways. Schmoozing in a cocktail party setting was quite the way to pass time. No electronic gadgets to command your attention. Public drinking faded rapidly because of the awareness of DWI pushed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Stella Stevens played a former prostitute in the 1973 "Poseidon." Frankly, there was naivete in how such women were presented in 1970s movies. Before the 1970s the whole concept might have been taboo. As that taboo was pushed aside, it was decided in Hollywood that prostitutes could be presented in a light way with joking references. "That guy at the party looked very familiar" etc. We saw the same light treatment in the movie "Harry and Tonto."
Today we realize prostitution is all about exploitation and danger and it's not treated in a light way.
The Stevens character had reformed and was married to Ernest Borgnine whose reliability as an actor matched Hackman's. We lost Borgnine not long ago. He led the cast of TV's "McHale's Navy" which has been tough to get exposed as re-runs today because of how the characters would refer to the Japanese. Politically incorrect.
Times change and our entertainment tastes reflect those changes. We cheered for Hackman's young, hip, "relevant" pastor who wasn't shy about progressive politics. But today I think the young people might actually prefer Arthur O'Connell's "Chaplain John," who decided in the movie he'd have to stay behind. How symbolic.
It's good it was just a movie. All that was missing was Nielsen saying "don't call me Shirley."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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