Friday, December 10, 2010

Deconstructing The Big Sleep

Husband and I both love old movies. Give us Astaire and Rogers, the Marx Brothers, or Bogart and Bacall and we're in heaven. There are some movies that we've each seen dozens of times and will always watch when we see them in the TV listings. I am genetically incapable of not watching Casablanca if it's on. Never mind that I could probably quote the entire movie, if it's on I'm there. Popcorn, Husband, and Sam playing "As Time Goes By" doesn't get much better.

One of those must-watch films is The Big Sleep. Based on a Raymond Chandler novel, the Big Sleep is a crime classic with Bogart as Philip Marlowe and the plot has something to do with a kidnapping, blackmail, a couple of murders, and general law breaking. I say "something to do with" because in spite of the fact that I've probably watched the movie upwards of 50 times, I do not understand what the hell is going on. It has a storyline that is not so much complex as incomprehensible.

There are perhaps 20 characters that either appear or are referred to in the script and many of them I couldn't tell you who they were. There's an old guy who talks about orchids being "too like the flesh of man." There's Bacall smoking hot as one daughter of the old guy. Her younger sister is a drug addict who is being blackmailed and who I don't think appears sober in the entire film. There's a missing chauffeur who doesn't actually appear but his existence is crucial to the plot. Too bad I'm not sure why he's crucial. Bogart is, of course, Marlowe -- the smart-talking, world-weary private dick hired by old guy to help with the blackmail. There's another offstage character named Geiger who owns a bookstore that's a front for something (still no clue what). He's got a sexy adenoidal receptionist who knows nothing about books but who has a small guy with a big crush willing to drink something lethal rather than sell her out. There's some sort of charade about Bacall being at a casino and pretending to win money so a payoff looks nothing like a payoff. And there's a shoot-out at the end.

If I'm vague on the details it's because i am vague on the details. Again, I could quote entire blocks of dialog but I'm still not sure who killed the driver.

And yet, in spite of my ongoing confusion, I love this movie. Most movies that are incomprehensible just annoy the crap out of me. But this is an exception. Perhaps it's because of the razor-sharp dialog (William Faulkner was one of the co-writers of the screenplay). When Bogart and Bacall flirt you can feel the heat coming off the screen. There's a great scene where they're talking about horse racing and it turns into verbal foreplay with Bacall commenting that when it comes to "going the distance" that "it depends on who's in the saddle." Maybe it's the way Marlowe alternates between confused, amused, and just plain angry throughout the film. It could be the intelligent and slightly sly direction by Howard Hawks. But there's something in the magical alchemy that went into this film that captivates me every single time.

And every single time that Husband and I watch it, we turn to each other as the end credits roll and ask "what just happened?"

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Chronicles of a Cat

Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm), like most cats, prizes her coolness. Cats are cool. The jazz hipsters of the animal world. Sure they get crazy when they play. Every cat does that "run as fast as you can around the house for no reason" thing. But for the most part, they are smooth.

Which is why it's so funny when they do something totally spastic and then give you that "I meant to do that" look. Cipher (again, like most cats) likes to sleep on the top of the sofa. So there she was, napping away. Having hip cat dreams. And then the UPS guy rang the doorbell. Cipher, surprised out of her sleep, twitches and falls down onto the sofa. (Luckily she fell forward and not down the back onto the floor.) She immediately scrambles up into a sitting position and looks at me as if to say "you laugh at your peril, woman." Of course I laughed. So hard I gave myself a coughing fit.

It was just so endearingly absurd and she was trying so hard to pretend it never happened. Ah, if only I'd had a video camera.

Working with shelter cats I see a lot of those "I meant to do that" moments. Cats, in spite of their insistence on hipness, do a lot of unintentionally stupid things. There are the cats who run into the window while chasing a toy. "I totally knew that window was there. I was just using it to change my trajectory." The cats who fall off the bench "just testing to make sure gravity still works." And cats who pounce on an object and completely miss it "just putting the fear of Cat into that hapless pipe cleaner."

One of the things that cats don't realize is that it's impossible to play and look cool at the same time. They try, poor things, but never succeed. It defies the laws of nature to maintain a hipster vibe while being menaced with the creature that is your own tail. And that little chirping at the birds noise they make? So not threatening. "Yeah, you stupid finch. come over here and see whose boss!' That's what they think they're saying. But what they're actually saying is "I'm trying to fool you with my bird call but I just sound like I've got a goldfish down my throat."

As any cat owner will tell you, cats have marvelous personalities. Dog owners will say "cats are too aloof" when the truth is that cats, for all their posing, are just Vaudeville comedians with tails. Dogs are fun, sure, but because they are naturally goofy it's not that much of a surprise when they do something that makes you bust out with a laugh. But cats, by their nature, are unexpectedly hilarious and that makes it all the funnier when they break through that wall of poise and fall down onto the sofa.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


I ranted a few weeks ago about this gigantic rat that ate my car and did $700 worth of damage. Well apparently sucking on my transmission wasn't enough so he decided he needed our Christmas decorations as an appetizer. Serves us right for not making chicken wings available for him. But hey, we ain't Hooters.

Husband and I got our Christmas tree today and went up into the loft in our garage where we store Crap We Only Use Once a Year. Like our huge suitcase (nibbled on). Our folding chairs (nibbled on). And our Christmas decorations (eaten).

Luckily our favorites are in a heavy-duty Tupperware container and suffered no damage. But the box containing our lights had a huge hole eaten out of the side, so we'll need to make sure the wires are OK before we string them. But we had a document box (with lid!) filled with some of our second-tier ornaments and Ratzilla ate himself a lovely door and then proceeded to go all a la carte on the contents of the box. I am sad to say that Santa has been eaten by a rat. We had a cloth Santa ornament and the little fucker ate all the stuffing out of him. He also shredded a small, dark blue cardboard box so everything else is covered in blue confetti. He also seems to have eaten the head off an angel. (Shame on him!)

Being an animal lover, I must confess to feeling guilty about setting about to kill something as sentient as a rat. I have no problem squishing spiders and am the scourge of any hapless ant unlucky enough to come into my society. But rats are cartoon characters and I was sort of upset when Husband and I put out lovely little trays full of lovely little ratsbane. But considering the $700 and the demise of Santa, I can only say the miscreant got just what he deserved.

I just hope he wasn't part of a gang.

Yes, at our home we support the death penalty for the consuming of angels and Hondas.