07:41:45 pm on
Sunday 19 Sep 2021

At the Movies
AJ Robinson


1776: a movie that uses colour magically.

Source: blogspot.com

Next Saturday is August seventh. My brother Stephen would be seventy-five that day. Instead, we’re getting together to celebrate the life of my mother.

Rehearsing my comments.

Thus, I decided to draft a story I might share with the friends and family gathered at the event. Note that word: might. As of today, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get through the speech without breaking down; let me share it here, so that at least someone will hear it, intact.

When I think of my mom much comes to mind. I tried to pick one event epitomising her. Food, of course, immediately pops into my mind. She was a good Italian mother, which meant she could single-handedly prepare a banquet large enough to feed fifty people with plenty of leftovers: I’m not being facetious.

Food was also the curative for all things, and I had to hear her say, “You look thin, you need to eat something before we go out.” I’d say, “Mom, we’re going to dinner.” Her reply was, again, of course, “I know, but you should eat something first.”

Yet, no, food is not the main subject that fills my thoughts when I dwell on her life. No, it’s movies. Yes, mom loved her movies; her tastes were rather far-reaching.

Now sure, she loved her big epics: Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments and The Agony and the Ecstasy. She enjoyed other films, too. Thinking of them makes me smile.

Mom was a little girl in Florence when American movies would be shown outside near her home. She could sit in the window of her room and watch them projected on the wall of a nearby building, and she became thoroughly convinced that the US was populated by a lot of gangsters. American movies seemed to be full of nothing but tough mugs and femme fatales who usually died in a hail of bullets.

One summer night, sitting down to dinner at Giordano’s, in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, mom noticed that the Island Movie Theater, which is right across the street was playing Papillon. Now, me, at age ten, didn’t know the movie and I didn’t care. Steven McQueen? Dustin Hoffman? Who were they? Then I realized that the McQueen guy had been in The Blob; I was suitably impressed.

All through dinner mom kept studying the poster. Before we were done eating, she decided that we’d see it. I kind of groaned as I had no interest in the movie. It wasn’t animated, it wasn’t a war or sci-fi story, and it wasn’t a comedy. So, of what possible interest could it be to me?

As a little side note, my mom took me to a fair share of comedies, but even some of those didn’t make sense. What’s Up Doc? sounded cool, as I loved Bugs Bunny, but then it turned out he only had a cameo appearance at the end. Oh, and back then I was too young to understand the idea behind a cameo role. The movie had this woman with a kind of big nose chasing a guy with glasses who had a nasty girlfriend; and these people playing a sort of hide and seek game with a bunch of identical travel bags. All very confusing, but the chase scene at the end was great. Anyway, I digress.

We saw that movie, that night.

We went in the theatre, sat and watched Papillon; it was good. Although, I will admit that some scenes were a bit gross. It takes place in an island prison out in the jungles of South America; French Guyana, to be specific. I particularly did not like the nuns that turned Steven McQueen over to the police. I mean, really, accept the man’s pearls and then double-cross him? Talk about twisted sisters.

Then there were the dream sequences when he was in solitary; they were truly confusing. Mind you, as I said, I was only ten, so a lot of that artsy-fartsy stuff went right over my head. So, when he walks up to the line of judges in the desert, I had no clue what was going on.

Then they found him guilty of a wasted life. I was shocked. Could that happen?

Maybe I needed to watch less television. Maybe I needed to help more at the Arlington Friends of the Drama more. Anyway, it was a great movie and merely one of many to which she took.

I remember seeing 1776 at the theater in Edgartown, Massachusetts. We saw it on July third and mom had trouble convincing the ticket seller I was under twelve. Standing next to her, I did kind of tower over her; I was only nine at the time.

It was after this incident that she got me a laminated copy of my birth certificate to carry with me. Quite the touch of irony, eh? I was the only little kid who had to verify I was underage to get into the movies.

Then there was What’s Up Doc? The best part of seeing that film was hearing mom laugh. She had a good laugh, and she truly enjoyed that movie, especially when they rode the delivery bike inside the Chinese dragon and drove the VW Bug into San Francisco Bay. Oh, did she laugh at both of those.

Then there was Terms of Endearment. It was one movie that could get her sniffling and that wasn’t an easy thing to do. No, not with my mom.

She might have been a hot-blooded passionate Italian girl, but she was also tough as steel when it came to controlling her emotions. I guess she and dad were very much alike: strong. So, when I saw her reach for a tissue during the death scene in that movie, I knew it had really gotten to her and that’s truly saying something.

We are videophiles.

Yes, mom loved the movies. I now smile every time I think of one of her favourites or just flip on any film to watch. Even if it’s something as silly as Tremors or as old as Dracula’s Daughter; yes, that’s a real movie. I love the motion pictures as much as she did. It’s nice to have something to share, and even better when that something summons up good memories.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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