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Your February Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: When they met they heard bells. And that was just round one.

Pizza: Valley's Pizza Land



Let's play Name That Movie! Buzz in when you know the answer. (Buzz!!) Hey! No fair looking at the movie poster above! You cheated! So let's start again. For those who didn't peek, here are some clues:

Produced by Steven Spielberg and released while RAIDERS was still in theaters. Starred John Belushi, fresh off of THE BLUES BROTHERS. Starred Blair Brown, fresh off of ALTERED STATES. Written by Lawrence Kasdan, fresh off of RAIDERS and BODY HEAT. Directed by Michael Apted, fresh off of COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER. Need another hint? It was Amblin's very first release, right before E.T.

Okay, give up? It's called CONTINENTAL DIVIDE (1981). Who knew? Well, I did - I saw it when it came out. You may have seen it too, as there were other people in the theater.

DIVIDE was an attempt to get Belushi out of his bee costume and onto new terrain, and though physically the terrain here is the Great Divide of America - the Rockies - I'm really talking about romantic comedies. That's right - they wanted to make histrionic, bombastic, over the top Belushi a leading man. Ordinarily, that would be like putting socks on a pig; but as it turns out, sometimes pigs look good in socks. I don't mean to sound so wishy-washy. What I mean is that while CONTINENTAL DIVIDE isn't a great movie, it's certainly not as bad as you'd imagine. It's actually...charming.

Belushi plays hardened newspaperman Ernie Souchak. Working for the Chicago Sun-Times, and therefore assuring a good review from Roger Ebert, he may be the last of the hard-nosed reporters, able to ferret out the truth and shout it out in his column. He's not afraid to name names and get in trouble for it. Yes, Souchak knows Chicago. Cabbies, newsstandies and hookers all know him by name. Newsies bark headlines "Souchak does it again!" He walks the sidewalks like Don Fanucci in THE GODFATHER PART II. And why not? He owns these streets. Always the newshound, he even manages to squeeze information out of gang members while they are mugging him. Nothing can tear him away from Chicago. Nothing, I tell you!


Nell Porter (Blair Brown) is a Boston gal who now lives in the mountains. She's given it all up to study and monitor the endangered American Bald Eagle. In fact, she's become somewhat famous for it, which is a bit of a buy because really, how many famous eagle-studiers are there? Nell lives alone in a cabin in the Rockies. She doesn't want any company, especially a reporter's. She hates reporters. Hates, I tell you!


One day, Souchak steps on one too many of Alderman Yablonsky's corrupt toes and takes a beating for it. Souchak's editor demands he get out of town for his own safety, which Souchak agrees to, begrudgingly. And it only takes the movie eleven fat-free minutes for Souchak to pack his stuff and head for Act 2. So this dyed-in-the-wool Chicagoan, who looks as if he's never stepped out of the city limits because of a self-imposed force field, is off to Wyoming. Why oming, you ask?

Well, as fate would have it, scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan realized that's where Nell's cabin is. Souchak is sent on a mission - he must climb Metaphor Mountain, find Nell, and get the story no one's been able to get. Speaking of metaphors, this movie is lousy with them, from the in-your-face ones to the less obvious, like: Not only is the Bald Eagle a dying breed, but so is the gruff reporter with his sleeves rolled up (now we have Lara Logan). Anyway, to do this, Souchak must give up liquor, cigarettes (a bear steals them) and hardest of all - Chicago. And what's worse, he may have met his match with Nell, who doesn't want him to write the story. "Not...one....word." And because he can't get down the mountain by himself (a guide brought him there), he's stuck there for two weeks. Can this odd couple share a cabin without driving each other crazy?

Although I credit director Apted for keeping a movie such as this afloat, we really do have to give it up for John Belushi. Here was a guy at the top of his game who could do no wrong. He took this risk, and although the movie didn't do well, it did bring to light another side to a man who was always switched on. That's not always a given (Jack Black). Nor is it always successful (Robin Williams...who, by the way, six months after DIVIDE was released, visited Belushi the night he died). Belushi, comfortable here in his Chicago skin, dials it down while keeping a small percentage of what we knew and loved about him. Still present, the wisecracks, but no toga. Souchak is a lovable oaf. Sure he talks the talk, but if you strip away his shell, you'll find there's something underneath. And like Souchak himself, it turns out Belushi has a soft, creamy center.


These were the days when movies got by on characters. That's a good thing, for if we don't care about people, why do we care about what happens to them? So even with this thin and cliched premise, it's actually fun to watch this story unfold. And like many if not all RomComs, we know the end, we're here to enjoy the journey. In this case, the journey includes a mountain lion, bears, poachers, crusty guides, a feral man named Possum, rocky terrain and dangerous falls.


Though I can't say the chemistry between Belushi and Brown crackled, I will say this - they are both terrifically likable, perhaps even lovable. Like the movies it borrows from (it's a similar model to IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT), they start out fighting, which slowly erodes as they start to understand each other's differences, strengths and weaknesses (another metaphor, explained to us by Nell, is how to think like your enemy). And as they learn about each other, the Rocky relationship softens and they fall in love. Because after all is said and done, they have one big thing in common - they're both driven by what they love, and to the extreme.

And if you think the journey ends in the Rockies, think again. Souchak returns to Chicago with a bad case of Eagle Girl Fever. He finds it hard to function, like a prisoner trying to readjust to life on the outside. She's not going to leave the mountain and he's not going to leave Chicago. That's what they call a pickle. For them and us. How do you end a movie like this? Because if there's a stalemate, and both of them know it, then what? Will it be a tearjerker?


SPOILER: Sure, they get together at the end when she comes to Chicago for her presentation (he knows about this event from the front page of the newspaper...geez, how famous is this birdwatcher chick?). But no - it doesn't end. Because of their geographical locations as wide as an eagle's wingspan, and their interests as wide as the circulation of the Sun-Times, we're back to the same formidable stalemate. So they tack on twenty more minutes of ending just to make it work for them. But surprise! It works, as our couple become love-slobbering teenagers unable to say goodbye, practically doing their version of "You hang up first!"..."No, You!" That's the innocence of CONTINENTAL DIVIDE. It shouldn't work, but somehow it does.



DESTINATION EARTH is an animated chestnut from 1956 produced by the American Petroleum Institute, apparently made to fill us all in on the benefits of oil. To do so, they created a story about Martians coming to Earth. We didn't understand why the Martians had to wear helmets while on their home planet of Mars, nor was it clear why the helmets weren't airtight - they were open at the bottom.
Also, Mars had "Mars" in gigantic letters, which although I'm sure would help astronauts, seems kind of farfetched. But we soon learned to let these things go, being that this is a kids cartoon. Anyway, Mars is a dictatorship run by Ogg, who also owns all the stores. Colonel Cosmic has just returned from Earth and Ogg commands the Martian population to attend his arrival ceremony. In Cosmic's presentation, the Martians learn how great oil is, and how only 1 in 44 wells make money. And how "in the USA, anyone who is willing to risk it can drill for oil." What?? Anyway...the Martians end up revolting against their totalitary Ogg to look for oil. The end.

EARTH was directed by Carl Urbano, who worked into his 80s, capping his career animating CAPTAIN PLANET AND HIS PLANETEERS and directing the TV version of BILL AND TED and THE ADDAMS FAMILY TV remake in '92. It was written by Bill Scott, who a few years later wound up as the voice of Bullwinkle, accidentally (he was reading his ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE pilot aloud to Jay Ward).

We also watched a few minutes of LIVE AND LEARN, another ephemeral film, another cautionary tale. This time, it's about children who don't think before they do things. Sure, a serious subject, but wow is this dark and comedic at the same time. After David douses a fire with gasoline, we cut to him in the hospital with his entire head bandaged like Claude Rains. I don't have to tell you how loud the burst of laughter was from our crowd. Also in the short, a drowned kid too late for artificial respiration, a kid falling off a cliff, one running with scissors, BB guns (the kid has a bandage on one eye) putting out eyes and another hysterical moment of a kid getting run over!


LIVE & LEARN was shot by Perzy High (was his son called Perzy Junior High?). The reason I mention this is because Perzy did special effects for GET SMART. Along with working on one episode of a sitcom in 1963, SMART and LIVE & LEARN were the only things he ever did. What's super coincidental about that is I watched a few episodes of GET SMART last night and made the lame joke (Perzy Junior High) when seeing Perzy High's name in the end credits. Imagine how I jumped out of my seat when I saw his name on LIVE AND LEARN just now.


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