Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stagecoach (1939) - A brief movie review

Give me a good Western anyday. I will drop everything and watch it. So it was that a few evenings ago, I sat up straight on my couch and realized that I had never watched Stagecoach. I had caught bits and pieces of it but had never watched the entire movie. Guess what? I don't have cable and YouTube had Stagecoach.

Stagecoach (the movie) moves swiftly. From the moment the stage arrives in a dusty little town to pick up some new passengers and make its way out to far off Lordsburg, the screenplay moves swiftly. The Apaches are on the warpath. But an Army patrol, that leaves the little town around the same time as the stage does, could only accompany the stage part of the way. So there is a discernible amount of tension as the threat of an Apache attack always hangs in the air. This tension would have been enough to keep the audience's level of alertness high. But what is a Western without howling "Indians"?

"What about the other lady?"

Romances aren't usually given that much importance in Hollywood's early Westerns, which by their very nature were vehicles for portraying gunfights and showdowns between cowboys and Indians, outlaws and sheriffs, cowboys and outlaws and any combination of manly men. In Stagecoach, the romance is significant enough without being a standout. And surprisingly there aren't that many gunfights. The emphasis seems to be on presenting individual characters and their responses to various situations.

Speaking of characters, I have to say that John Wayne's introduction scene, close to 2/3rds of the way into the movie, was indeed dramatic. It is the kind of scene that can make a star. Stagecoach was the vehicle that catapulted the formerly bit part actor to film stardom. By the time John Ford cast Wayne in Stagecoach, the Duke had been working in the film industry for around a dozen years doing stunt work and playing an extra. And that just might be why Wayne, like Clint Eastwood continues to, persisted in the industry as long as he did: He was a working actor before he became a star.

This is a short movie by today's standards. Stagecoach does a fantastic job of padding that time between when you have to cook dinner and get to bed on an otherwise dreary, unconvincing Spring evening in New England.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A bit wet behind the ears, perhaps?

"Gopi, make sure you water the plants on Friday."

So with that ominous reminder, MJ, our office Manager left last Thursday for a two week leave. So I set myself a recurring reminder in Outlook. The first reminder popped up last Friday, the day after MJ left. So I duly watered the plants in the office but, for some strange reason, decided to ignore the tall plants in the receptionist area. I would feel guilty about that over the weekend but they looked sooo healthy.

Yesterday morning, as soon as I got to the office and turned on Outlook, the reminder popped up and I watered the plants inside the office. Suddenly a thought occurred to me as to why I didn't bother watering the plants in the receptionist area the previous Friday. So this time, I checked with Russ:

"Russ, those plants outside? They are real, right?"
"Oh, yeah."
"Becoz MJ had asked me to water them on Fridays"
"Oh, yeah, yeah. They are real."

So I went out, watered them and got back to my office.

10 minute go by and Russ walks by.

" Gopi, you do realize those plants out front are fake?"

I let that sink in for a moment.

I smiled. "Well, Russ, better safe than sorry...don't feel like being at the receiving end of MJ's wrath."
Russ gleefully muttered, "What a character. What a character." and walked off. I figured he would probably needle me about it on our fishing trip to the Cape on Sunday.

I swear, my dear reader. Those plants looked real. But then they also looked too good to be true...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The wetsuit

As summer gets ever closer and I start developing notions of spending sunny Saturday afternoons swimming in the blue atlantic off the coast of Cape Cod and flexing my ass to any eye candy on the beaches, my thoughts stray back to when I first took swimming lessons. I wasn't 5 or even 15 years old then. I grew up in Madurai, which had a lone swimming pool. I think it may have been operated by the Lion's Club. I have bicycled past that pool many times during my time there. And I barely had any interest in it other than a mild curiousity as to who was using it. So, as I passed by, I would crane my neck a bit to see over the compound wall that ran the perimeter of the club. I can't recall seeing anyone use it. Just before I immigrated to the United States, I vaguely remember hearing someone mention that that pool was closed down after someone found "something" in it...kinda like the blue humor that one would expect to see in an earlier Adam Sandler movie.

Those amazing Indians! They are exceptionally good at some things like coming up with innovative dance moves, the Sciences and making great music. But...

Anyway, fast forward to the late 90s. A few years ago after I had arrived here in the US, and the Internet was starting to become ubiquitous, I decided to take swim lessons and contacted this swim instructor through a budding website called Craigslist. We agreed on a lesson price of $30 per hour of swimming instruction. He recommended that I get a wetsuit as it was still April and the water in the outdoor pool in his apartment community, out in the burbs, would be cold. Good advice. And the "swim instructor" himself turned out to be a 14 year old kid. I wouldn't recommend doing something like this if you are an adult...which I was but then I was pretty naive: no mentors, no friends, nuthin'. I pretty much had to figure out a lot of things by myself. I am just glad I didn't get into any trouble! Yes, the lesson went well. I learnt that I couldn't tread water no matter what I did. I kept sinking (in 5 feet of water) like a shark that had given up...

A couple of weeks later, I joined the YMCA in Quincy because I wanted to start practicing my new found skills using their indoor pool. I decided to take one more swim lesson. Y'know. Just to be on the safe side. Again I couldn't tread water. Other than that, the lesson went well. But after seeing the video above, I remember what did make me feel very subconscious during my swim lesson at the YMCA: the wetsuit I had on...while everyone else was in swim shorts!

Monday, April 6, 2009

RIP Zabo

August 20, 1944 – March 29, 2009

An undated picture...probably from the late 60s or early 70s.

"The best way to never worry about getting into shape is to never get out of shape."
- Irvin "Zabo" Koszewski