My movie star, one more time l Chuck’s World
Last updated 10/31/2018 at Noon
I bought one of those digital projectors a few months ago, a small, inexpensive box that produces the kind of magic you forgot about.
Or I did, maybe. Art has never been much about the aesthetics for me I don’t care if I hear music on a CD or vinyl. I don’t have a preference for oil or watercolors, marble or plaster, plasma or LED. I’ve just never been that guy, who carries with his hobbies a love for a particular feel or texture. Or experience.
And I was wrong, at least when it comes to movies. It turns out I like to sit in the dark and watch films on a big screen, which in my case is a beige wall, but it works, it works just fine.
I’m not alone, by any means. There’s a large community of projector people out there, and of course people like to use these to show films outside, or in some areas around the pool for a swim/movie night. I’ve seen some amazingly elaborate home theaters.
Again, not that guy.
I put black curtains on the windows, dragged an old recliner upstairs from the basement, bought a new popcorn maker, and started watching.
I figured it out pretty quickly. It was less an aesthetic taste than nostalgia, remembering how we used to watch movies. And it’s how certain movies were made to be seen, decades’ worth before the small screen showed up in the living room, and before home video made our favorite film’s destination an option.
Might see it in a theater, might wait for HBO.
So I watched a lot of films from my youth, either ones I saw in the drive-in theater (“Cool Hand Luke,” “To Kill a Mockingbird”) or those I either never got the chance to see on the big screen, or caught at a local repertory movie house before those mostly went away.
We’re talking “The Maltese Falcon” and “Citizen Kane.” It’s been a hoot, and I’d invite you all over if only I had a place for you to sit. You would probably have to bring your own popcorn.
But one of those films from childhood has a little more meaning. I’ve mentioned “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” many times in this space, how my parents crammed us into the station wagon and headed off to see what is now a classic, but so much more.
Something just clicked for me, 11 years old and waiting for something to click. The movie was great, but watching the actors was a revelation. It was the first time I truly understood that they were just actors, just playing parts and apparently having a great time doing it.
It changed me, that awareness, and even though I never ended up on the silver screen (there’s a minor exception to that), it was still that magic I was talking about.
And it was Robert Redford.
I could talk for hours about the unique presence of Bogart, the ticking time-bomb feel of the young Jack Nicholson, the mysteries of Brando, my unrequited love affair with Emma Thompson, the thrill I get when I watch Gene Hackman growl his way through a characterization, but it’ll always come back to Redford.
He just was and is my movie star, period. He was there at the start.
He’s still here, too. After transitioning mostly into directing, with some impressive efforts (“Quiz Show” is a favorite), in recent years he’s moved a little back into acting as he headed toward his 80th birthday.
He played a subtle villain in a Marvel Universe flick just to see what this new world was all about, and he received an Academy Award nomination for his solo, nearly silent performance in “All Is Lost.”
But there are so many.
“Sneakers,” one of my favorites. I took my first date to see “Jeremiah Johnson,” and another high-school crush to see “The Sting.” I missed a few and was underwhelmed by a few more, but I kept coming back. He was my guy.
So that’s how I ditched my home theater and headed for a real one, in a real mall, last Sunday to see “The Old Man and the Gun.”
Loosely based on a New Yorker profile of Forrest Tucker, a recalcitrant bank robber who had a reputation as sort of a gentleman thief (one could see Cary Grant in the role, in a much different film), “The Old Man and the Gun” keeps this man’s particular passion for crime as a back story, the real plot centering around his relationship with a woman he helps when he finds her stranded with a faulty radiator, and with whom he forms a charming if only vaguely romantic relationship.
This is why it’s special, this film.
Two classic American actors, aging into easy skill and comfort in their art. There’s little sadness in this film, mostly just sweetness. Redford plays a 70-something (he’s 82, looks it, looks a lot younger too, I have no idea) with a peculiar compulsion, and he eventually pays the price, but this simple, short movie (possibly his last) reminded me of why I liked him in the first place.
And why I hope he makes another, and why I came home and watched “Butch Cassidy” again, and why I watched it in the dark.
That’s how I learned to love movies, and now I think Robert Redford was part of the reason, too.