all i really need to know i learned watching movies. Well, not everything, but like many people I got my first inklings of how I was supposed to behave, what fashions to follow and what principles I should live by from films. There's no logic to why some film moments stay with you for decades or why the smallest details in a movie can affect you for the rest of your life.
I remember as a child seeing Humphrey Bogart take a drink in To Have And Have Not. Because of his overbite, he has a way of drawing his front lip back to his gums and showing his teeth when he takes a slug. I remember thinking that when I was old enough to drink, that's how I'd do it. I rarely touch hard liquor, but when I do I draw my lip back just like Bogie, and anyone watching would think I have a cleft lip. To me, it's part of what drinking is all about.
Or take the way you tie a robe. In The Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn spends a lot of time wandering around in a robe, and she has this authoritative but very sexy way of pulling the ties together. To this day, I try to imitate that Hepburnesque tug on my cheap flannel robe. Some mornings, I actually feel like I get it right.
At every wedding reception I attend, there's a moment on the dance floor when I channel Sidney Poitier from To Sir With Love. It's because of that damn graduation party scene when Poitier gets up to dance and does this funky pony step. It's the coolest bit of geeky dancing I've ever seen, and I've got it down pat.
I picked up the best way to spray perfume by watching Holly Hunter do it in Broadcast News.
Of course, there are far more important cinematic lessons to be learned than how to tie a robe or spray perfume.
For example, I never understood the essence of grace until I was in high school and saw The Elephant Man. There's a scene where Anne Bancroft (who portrays noted Victorian actress Mrs. Kendal) plays host to John Merrick (John Hurt), the Elephant Man, for afternoon tea. Mrs. Kendal gives the performance of her life, effortlessly entertaining the disfigured Merrick, who in turn is nothing short of the perfect guest.
I wiped away the tears and thought that was how I would treat all people for the rest of my life. I failed almost as soon as I made that adolescent vow, yet I still aspire to that elevated state.
I realized for the first time that my mother was a person and not just a parent when she left the room weeping during the Titanic film A Night To Remember.
I realized women could be heroes, friends and in love with one another while I watched Julia, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda. To this day I compare the hands of every woman I meet with Redgrave's.
From The Way We Were I learned that when it comes to love, women can shoot for the moon, and fail. I'm thinking of the scene where Barbra Streisand, after she and Robert Redford have broken up, lures him back to her apartment to get him to agree that they don't work as a couple because she's not pretty enough and she doesn't have the right kind of style.
I was a 13-year-old in my basement, watching the movie alone, and for the first time the thoughts of all the not-so-pretty girls had been uttered out loud. It all became clear: don't play out of your league unless you're looking for heartache.
Of course, you can have a lot of fun before the heartache sets in, but that's an altogether different storyCinema Tech