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Jackie Gleason & Paul Newman


The movie selected was FLASHDANCE. When I went to cue it up in the other room, it wasn't on the tape. So we had to choose again. This happened once before with THE WINDOW. What we did then was a few months later, we had a double feature of THE WINDOW, then the pizza and the Preshow Entertainment, and then the Random Movie. I think we'll do that again. So look for a double feature of FLASHDANCE and a Random Movie at an upcoming RMC.

The Preshow Entertainment was an episode of a TV show called THE CHRONICLE. This was a program on the SciFi Channel from 2001. I'm not 100% sure what the premise is. We didn't see that much of it due to the FLASHDANCE situation. However, RMCer David knew a bit about the show, which is apparently about a newspaper like the WEEKLY WORLD NEWS and its reporters who deal with paranormal stories, that are true(?).

Tonight's episode: THE STEPFORD CHEERLEADERS. A cheerleader, fighting off a football player's physical advances, does one of those, "Are you SURE you won't stop?" things. Cut to the next morning, when a goth kid is lighting up a cigarette when he notices blood dripping. He looks up to see the football player dangling from the goalpost (he's not dead, as he is in school the next day). This leads our late 20s reporters to go back to high school to go undercover.

We had this show because my TiVo records anything with cheerleaders. It came that way. I swear.

The second movie selected, and the one we watched starred Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson. No, it wasn't THE COLOR OF MONEY. In fact, after watching THE HUSTLER, it made me never even want to think of THE COLOR OF MONEY.

I cannot begin to think of how they would fuck this movie up if they did a remake today. I could just see Rob Cohen (XXX, THE FAST AND THE FUROIUS) shooting it fast and furious, with lots of cuts and loud Techno. The polar opposite, perhaps to a fault, is ROBERT ROSSEN'S THE HUSTLER, a mood piece that unfolds in proportion with its main character. It's the story of a man who has to beat his demons, manifested in part by Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). It's classic storytelling-how far can a man be brought down before he picks himself up again (physically, mentally, or both) and changes.

Set in the world of pool, which is already a seedy and dimly-lit venue ( "Looks more like a morgue to me. Those tables are the slabs they lay the stiffs on."), it starts with Fast Eddie, a hustler, doing just that on some saps. That's the prologue to the bigger stake. Finding Fats and challenging him to a game of pool.

It's an amazing game. But Eddie won't quit, even when he's ahead. He's not stopping until Fats says it's over. And therein begins the series of events that lead to Eddie's unraveling.

Along his journey, he meets Sarah, played by Carrie White's mom Piper Laurie, a rich (something about an ex) woman already further down the Loser Food Chain than Eddie. They even meet in a bus station, a place that normally takes you somewhere, and neither is waiting for a bus. They're stuck in life.

But you know who's really great? George C. Scott as Bert Gordon (not the guy who makes the giant ants, monsters, and men films, as well as personal fave PICTURE MOMMY DEAD). Scott plays a manager, and if ever the word "manager" was synonymous with "devil," it is here.

Was anyone nominated for Oscars, you wonder? Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, Piper Laurie, Robert Rossen (both for direction and script).

You won't find car crashes in THE HUSTLER. In fact, the only thing that crashes is Felson's will. He's a great film character, one with hell bent conviction and backwards priorities.

Again, by today's standards, this film is sloooooooooooooow. I found myself, who loves movies that take their time, thinking "get on with it." I can only guess we've all been re-programmed (or programmed, depending on your age) by the fast pace of movies these days. That said, THE HUSTLER is a superb film, and one that should be seen by all. Just don't watch it after RUN LOLA RUN.

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