Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oscar Night

Ah ha, Oscar Levant, Oscar Homulka and Oskar Werner.

Not quite.

The louder movies get the more I run for cover. Take your inter-galactic comic book monsters or war weaponry explosions, your chainsaw massacres and mayhem, high-speed chases with high decibel shrieks. I’ll be waiting in my monastic cell practicing my vows or at a Quaker Meeting Hall.

For my pantheon I’ll take Nat Cole over Ethel Merman, Benny Goodman's Sing, Sing, Sing over Stan Kenton's Artistry In Percussion and YoYo Ma is better yet. Silence is my first language.

This is sounding more like your mishagosh.

I had my idols but they were the sort that didn’t hang around for the ovation. My war hero was the guy who got off the train one stop before the big brass band waiting for him. He was the Lone Ranger who rode away while the town folk wondered who that masked-man was. I fell for the Green Hornet and Batman because they had doppelganger day jobs. Clark Kent was my kind of guy; a man of steel behind his glasses and a flying cape under his mild-mannered suit. Your classical schizophrenic from Krypton.

Henry Fonda, ever humble, was my sort and gulping Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig who proclaimed how lucky he was while dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. I most identified with Spencer Tracy, fierce with few words in Bad Day At Black Rock or just quietly resolute as Thomas Edison. The loudest I needed of him was as Clarence Darrow inheriting the wind.

Conversely my tolerance for hysterical actors is low. I can barely put up with Jack Lemmon, Jack Klugman, Red Skelton or Lucille Ball. Give me Walter Matthau, Alec Guiness and Glenda Jackson who knew the power of the understatement over the histrionics of Lawrence Olivier or Al Pacino. Al Jolson is my idea of auditory water-boarding.

If not mishagosh then arrested development.

I’d rather be killed softly with a song but there are some notable exceptions to my preference for hushed tones. I gave it up for Cabaret and Chicago and laughed myself silly with the rollicking, zany, madcap antics of Alan Arkin and Peter Falk in The In-Laws.

If my mother had had me seven or eight years later I’d probably have a different set of names to offer.

Maybe I’ll watch the Oscars with my finger on the mute button and when one of those noisy films walks away as best of the worst I’ll just continue on my counter-clockwise spin back to those days when a close-up of an expressive face spoke volumes.

So what happened to Levant, Homulka and Werner?

They're all dead.

How come they died and I didn't?

That's debatable.


  1. Ah, Norm, you do have a way with words. I loved the line, "Silence is my first language." Amen to that. Though my wife does not understand silence. But I must say I do like Al Pacino. And I loved both Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men. And I feel Alan Arkin is only now coming into his own. I saw him more than 30 years ago and then he sort of disappeared off the radar. Here's to Oscar.

  2. You were making pretty good sense and then you self- destructed in a deafening bang when you selected my all time favorite big band song, "Sing sing sing" which should always be played at cacophonous levels.

    I'm also with HK when it comes to Al Pacino and Jack Lemon. You kinda redeemed yourself by liking Alan Arkin who I just saw this week in "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" where as always, he sparkled.

    As for Oscar . . .

    Oh, I wish I was an Oscar Mayer weiner,
    that is what I'd truly like to be,
    'cause if I were an Oscar Mayer weiner,
    everyone would be in love with me.