Third in a series.
I had a strong sudden instinct that I must be alone.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up
Staying at home has not been much of a sacrifice.
It’s been a decade since I left the house to go to work or went anywhere on a plane. Not been on the subway or a bus for much longer.
The last movie I saw in a theater was Titanic. Haven’t been to a ballgame since the SkyDome was the SkyDome.
Can’t remember the last time Linda and I went out to dinner. Skipping trips to Costco lately has not been burdensome.
I’ve welcomed warmer weather on my daily walks, the bitter cold of early spring easing to tolerably chilly in southern Ontario.
But, mostly, like Chance the gardener in Being There, “I like to watch.”
The virus has wiped out two of my TV staples.
I really miss sports, especially baseball and golf. And I’ve been avoiding cable news like the plague.
So, I turn to movies and TV shows in my digital library and a bookcase filled with alphabetized DVDs – from Absence of Malice to Zodiac– to distract and pass the hours.
On what would have been baseball’s opening day, I watched a triple play of The Natural, Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game.
Sometimes, I drift into a stream-of-consciousness selections, recently tripping from Sneakers to Midnight Run to Bandits to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, smart action films that make me smile.
Today, my great escape is The Great Escape, the third feature in my Steve McQueen film festival, after Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair.
McQueen, dead forty years, remains one of the coolest cats on screen. Bullitt, especially, revived an appreciation of the art of occasional silence.
I have The Getaway, with McQueen and Ali MacGraw, queued up. Which brings me to Love Story.
It aired in early March on TCM, a treasure for shut-ins. (For some reason, black-and-white movies are comforting during a 21st century crisis.)
My only memory of Love Story from when it came out fifty years ago is that if I saw it – not sure – I hated it.
After seeing it – again? – despite the beauty and charm of Ali MacGraw, it may top my list of worst movies ever.
Which brings me back to Fitzgerald’s Crack-Up:
I could lie around and was glad to, sleeping or dozing sometimes twenty hours a day and in the intervals trying resolutely not to think—instead I made lists—made lists and tore them up, hundreds of lists: of cavalry leaders and football players and cities, and popular tunes and pitchers, and happy times, and hobbies and houses lived in and how many suits since I left the army and how many pairs of shoes … And lists of women I’d liked, and of the times I had let myself be snubbed by people who had not been my betters in character or ability.
Lists. Great time-killer.
To keep my theme going, here are packages of movies and TV shows – WARNING: Explicit scenes of handshaking and other physical contact may be startling – on my playlist to help get through the pandemic:
Ten hours with David Lean: Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago.
Real fake TV news: Network, Broadcast News, Up Close and Personal, The Electric Horseman, The Newsroom (HBO).
The sound of typewriters: Absence of Malice, All the President’s Men, His Girl Friday, Teacher’s Pet, Citizen Kane.
Five Hitchcocks: North by Northwest, Dial M for Murder,To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, Frenzy.
Westerns: Lonesome Dove (CBS miniseries), Little Big Man, Blazing Saddles, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Maverick.
Crime: Charley Varrick, The Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac, Double Jeopardy, The Wire (HBO).
Courts: Inherit the Wind, 12 Angry Men, Witness for the Prosecution, Jagged Edge, Primal Fear.
WW II: The Americanization of Emily, The Eagle Has Landed, Eye of the Needle, Patton, Battle of the Bulge (Henry Fonda wins the war).
‘Nazis, I hate these guys’: Marathon Man, The Boys From Brazil, The Producers (1967), The Odessa File, The Plot Against America (new miniseries on HBO).
Spies: Three Days of the Condor, The Company (TNT miniseries), Zero Dark Thirty,The Little Drummer Girl (1984), Homeland (now wrapping up its final season on Showtime).
Race: A Time to Kill, In the Heat of the Night, Mississippi Burning, Ghosts of Mississippi, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.
I love Paris: The Day of the Jackal, Frantic, Charade, Midnight in Paris, A Little Romance.
New York stories: The Hot Rock, A Thousand Clowns, The Godfather, Annie Hall, The French Connection.
Boston (mostly Damon and Afflecks) strong: Good Will Hunting, The Departed, The Town, Gone Baby Gone, Moneyball (scenes at Fenway).
L.A. stories:Chinatown, L.A. Story, Into the Night, True Confessions, Heat.
Making movies: Sunset Boulevard, The Player, State and Main, Get Shorty, Wag the Dog.
Kate, Babs & Julia: The Philadelphia Story, The Prince of Tides, The Way We Were, Erin Brockovich, Mona Lisa Smile.
Bogie: Dark Passage, The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra, Casablanca, The Caine Mutiny.
More Harrison Ford: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Presumed Innocent, Witness, Regarding Henry, The Fugitive.
More Connery: From Russia With Love, The Wind and the Lion, The Man Who Would Be King, The Untouchables, The Hunt for Red October.
More Redford:The Candidate, Jeremiah Johnson, The Sting; director of Ordinary People and A River Runs Through It.
More Grisham: The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Chamber, Runaway Jury, The Client.
Trains and boats: Silver Streak, The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974), Narrow Margin, Jaws, The Deep.
Latest stream of consciousness: The Matador, The General’s Daughter, A Few Good Men, Charlie Wilson’s War, Molly’s Game.
My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.