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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn VHS

Your July 2005 RMC Results Are In!

The movie selected was a Lars Von Trier (true fact...he added the VON to sound more like a director) film called BREAKING THE WAVES. But it was over 2:20, which means it could be vetoed. And it was. A new movie was chosen.

The Preshow Entertainment was a mix of stuff. We started out with Hall & Oates lip-synching KISS ON MY LIST on a show (not sure what show). Then we screened the South Park episode THE BIGGEST DOUCHE IN THE UNIVERSE. If you've not seen this ep, you must. I mean, there are tons of great SP eps, but this one is so smart (you almost say, "Wow" rather than laugh). It's knocking down John Edward and other "psychics" who talk to the dead. Yeah. Go get him, kids. It's simply a great commentary on society, with parts like Stan explaining how "cold readings" are done. And when he reveals the trick, the audience doesn't believe him, as they would rather believe he can talk to their grandmothers who are floating around. Okay, I can't do it justice. Like I said, you have to see it.

Also on the bill, the Queen video FLASH. Then, excerpts from the Broadway show THE ELEPHANT MAN, starring David Bowie. This was one of the first things I taped back in 1982. I have no idea what show it was on, but Hal Holbrook did the wraparounds. There were two drawn-out scenes. I'm not sure how the other 9 felt, but it was boring, with almost everything I hate about bad theater. Bowie's been great in other acting gigs (MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH), but this ain't one of them. Mannered and too aware, and at times, even trying too hard. Not just him, all three of the actors.

With some extra time, I was happy to run a performance of Lindsay Lohan (it's pronounced "LO-an") on THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW. I caught this months back. She was so awful, one of the most embarrassing performances ever seen on TV, that I diligently looked for the rerun. Just when I was sure that her managers had bribed the show never to re-air the performance, Whoomp! There it is! So, I threw it onto TiVo. In all fairness, she did sing a few notes on pitch. But even with a rockin' band (like Bowie, trying too hard to sell it) and three pro backing vocalists, she was still bad. And she knew it too. When the song ended, she sighed loudly into the mic, then giggled. As they faded to commercial, Ellen said, "wow, you're out of breath, huh?".

It was now 70 minutes, so we started the movie before the pizza arrived (an RMC first!). The movie selected was A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, not starring Amy Locane. Twelve minutes in, Mr. Jiffy knocks on the door, we think. Apparently, Mr. Timid is their delivery guy. We pause the movie and grab the za, which, by the way, is better than I remember it being, but still bad. At least Lindsay and Bowie tried to be good. What do these people say? "Let's make really bad pizza!" Man, if I owned a pizza place, I'd be trying every day to improve it. Okay, maybe I'm being elitist. Maybe they like their pizza dry, tasteless, and small (their large pies were the size of Frisbees, and they tasted like Fris...hey wait, maybe we ate Frisbees?)

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN made up for Mr. Jiffy's. It takes maybe 20 minutes to fall in love with this movie, but once you do, you are hooked for the whole ride. The story of Francie Nolan, a child of poor parents- pragmatic mom (Dorothy Maguire) who is reaching her wit's end, and endless dreamer dad (James Dunn, who rightfully won best supporting actor), who is filled with nothing but love and alcohol. Both want a good life for their kids (Francie has a kid brother), but go about it in different ways. Naturally, Francie takes to her dad (his pet name for her is primadonna), who knows what the girl wants in life and promises her the world, fooling her and himself. Mom, who is more "hard," is seen by Francie as the stricter one. And herein lies the story and the lifelessons that young Francie must learn and experience. You grow up fast in Brooklyn (I wouldn't know, I left there when I was almost 4), and Francie grows even faster. I won't go into the unneeded and playwright-friendly metaphor of the tree. You can fill in that blank on your own.

A perfect film, ATGIB was (debatably the) first film directed by Elia Kazan, who would later direct GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT, ON THE WATERFRONT, A FACE IN THE CROWD (personal fave), and EAST OF EDEN (all in the RMC library). Man, she sure could direct! ;)

Besides Elia, the other star is the star itself- Peggy Ann Garner, who plays Francie Nolan. There are times when kids act wise beyond their years (more recently DiCaprio in THIS BOY'S LIFE, Evan Rachel Wood in THIRTEEN) and it always scares me. Peggy Ann is scary good. Her career never launched like a rocket, and ironically, at 15, she had a falling out with her real life mother too.

Everyone is great in this movie. That has a lot to do with Kazan and book author Betty Smith. In fact, this movie actually makes me want to read the book. Hear me?

Like life itself, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN is equal parts comedy and tragedy. Sweet moments and treacle (wasn't that a cop show in the '70s?). A movie where you understand each character and what makes them who they are. Now think hard and ask yourself- When was the last time you saw that?

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