And here’s to you, Mr. Nichols…

Yesterday’s  forecast hint at a chance of  rain.  A rain of tears in the passing of Mike Nichols –  the husband, father, friend, colleague and Director that leaves behind a graduate as well.

Not just any graduate.  The Graduate.

Based on the novel by Charles Web, the 1967 iconic film, The Graduate,  swept the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Mike Nichols), Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman) and Best Actress (Anne Bancroft).

The Graduate.  It sounds so important, so official.  Disciplined. Confident.

So who better than Dustin Hoffman to play the role of the most insecure college graduate to ever walk off a campus.

Screenwriters Buck Henry and Calder Willingham penned it so well.  “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.”  As college grad Benjamin Braddock  wonders aloud if the oh-so sophisticated Mrs. Robinson  would even entertain such a notion.   Seduce her daughter’s boyfriend?  A young man half her age?   Benjamin?Benjamin Graduate

Back then, actor Warren Beatty would have easily nabbed the 1967 ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ cover.  But this?   This was Dustin Hoffman.

Ironically, that same year, The Graduate was up for Best Picture against two of the sexiest, ruthless  outlaws in the biographical film, Bonnie and Clyde.   Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde (Warren Beatty) both got Oscar nominations for their lead roles in the Oscar nominated film as well.

So why can’t I stop smiling?

Because with Mike Nichols, the Director, we could expect the unexpected.

In reality,  Dustin Hoffman was just 30 years old when the film debuted.   And, Anne Bancroft was only seven years older.  But her suburban aura and his naivety onscreen were toxic; yet painfully funny.

And of course, Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics and music underscored the roller coaster of emotions that Mike Nichols captured for audiences.

Worldwide.  For decades.

In the end, even Bonnie and Clyde were no match for Mike Nichols’s Graduate.

 

 

 

 

The Graduate

Mike Nichols directed one of my all-time favorites, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft and Katharine Ross.  It was written by the incomparable Buck Henry who penned the one liner that advised Dustin’s character (Benjamin) to get into this new field:  “Plastics.”

And do I even have to mention the music by Simon and Garfunkel?  I didn’t think so.

Freshman at Alcatraz on Mom's Day

The Freshman at Alcatraz with Mom…

The graduate in my life that year was my youngest son, Stevie.  Ironically,  he graduated  from San Francisco State University with a degree in Environmental Studies with aspirations to rid the world of plastics.   The entire family headed north to commemorate the monumental day.

Final score: four college graduates.   As the endless summer was starting, our tuition payments were ending.    And we have empty wallets to prove it.

My friend, Rose and I hit the road first.  I warned Rose,  aka Stevie’s Godmother, that I had watched Thelma and Louise the night before – a Ridley Scott film based on Cali Khouri’s Oscar winning script  starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis.  With a breakout role by some new talent named Brad.  Does Brad Pitt ring a bell?

Yes, a great film but a lousy choice  if you’re setting out on a seven hour drive through two of the busiest freeways in the world.  We had plenty of coffee so what could possibly go wrong?

Rose  let me drive her car which was a good idea as Rose was voted Worst Mom Driver  – by any kid that got in her car. That’s almost an honor.  A Lifetime Achievement Award.  Isn’t it?   Think about it.   No carpool nominations.  No frantic calls from  neurotic Moms on overdrive to pick up their mini Einstein from Physics for First Graders course.   Brilliant, Rose.

The next morning, I warned Rose that I watched the chic  flick of all time.  From here on out, she was Thelma and I was Louise.  She laughed lightly to which I replied rather abruptly ala Louise: I mean it!   ‘No Grey matter ’til we hit the open highways, north of LA.’  As it was, my hair turned one ugly shade of gray as we crawled through the worst LA traffic I’ve seen in a decade.  So I  suggested  my designated Thelma start reading  after our first pit stop.

My husband called as we passed by Magic Mountain:   So, what page are you on?

The ‘we need more coffee, it took two hours to get through LA and this Louise isn’t in the mood right now’ page.

One quick pit stop and two coffee refills later, we were armed and dangerous.  We  whipped by the Madonna Inn, San Luis wineries and Stanford without even a mention of the book.  Instead, we swapped horror stories and cherished moments about parenting, sibling rivalry, report cards, team Moms and overbearing coaching Dads; all while juggling our respective careers.  This Thelma and Louise had survived.  We were still in the game of this thing called life.   One day we  would have time to take long, lazy vacations to read the entire Grey Trilogy in one week.

But first, we had to navigate the Bay Bridge in the thickest fog I’ve ever seen in San Francisco.  So glad I packed my retro purple leather bomber jacket.

The rest of the family arrived the next morning.  For the next four days, we celebrated with the graduate. We dropped into Stevie’s day  job at Doc Martens on Haight Street. We visited a Napa Valley winery. We even rode across the Golden Gate Bridge on the open roof top seats of a 3-story bus.

Later, this Thelma and Louise loaded up on every kind of  Trader Joe’s gourmet goody to go with our six bottle value pack of Chardonnay as the newest members of a wine club.  But, we learned that we could have got the exclusive wine a whole lot cheaper.  Later on, Uncle Paul would join us for the celebratory feast on Saturday night to toast our losses and our gains.

But first:  the big day.  By Saturday, the fog had lifted and the sun made a special appearance on the foggiest point in San Francisco.   Hence, we spent four hours on the field of SFSU on  the hottest day that I can ever remember in San Francisco.  Ever.  The purple leather bomber jacket stayed back at the condo. Four sons and four graduates later….

It all  flashed before my eyes as I sweat in those bleachers.Stevie Pirate!

 Suddenly, it was all over.

Stevie was now Steven. Was it worth it?

Preschool jitters; little league, middle school angst; high school pranks?

Homework wars, SAT scores?

Drivers training,  prom night,  broken hearts? College tuition, Top Ramen.

Blood, sweat and tears. And more tears?

Worth every last shade of gray.

Still Julianne

My father had Alzheimer’s for what seemed like a lifetime.  Maybe because by the time he passed away, a lifetime had been taken from him.  So I was quietly cheering on Julian Moore for her work in Still Alice.  But not for the reasons you might think. 

Julianne had been nominated four other times.  So no, she was not a one hit wonder.  This actress has never done a bad film, or bad acting  And the only drama in Julianne’s life is done onscreen. Her private life is just that.  Private.  No prima donna antics  or flaunting lifestyles.  So I wasn’t rooting for her to lose.

Speaking of losers, she was even in my four sons’ favorite film about everybody’s favorite loser, The Big Lebowski.   Ironically, she was pregnant with her son at the time of filming.

Even when I saw Julianne in a restaurant  on a summer evening a couple years ago in a quaint beach town, she maintained a low profile in spite of her natural grace and beauty.  But still,  I wasn’t cheering her on because she was so down to earth.

On Oscar night, I was cheering her on for all the times she didn’t win.

All those years, Julianne, the person,  did like the rest of us.  She got up, went back to work and kept trying to do her best; even when she could have faded away in IMDB purgatory.

Or as Julianne said it so well:  “I’m looking for the truth.  The audience doesn’t come to see you, they come to see themselves.”

Congratulations to Julianne and all the winners.  And congratulations to the losers as well

 

 

American Snapshot

What a year.  It’s only mid February yet we’ve already had record breaking January box office sales, the American Sniper debate and of course, fumble gate. The stage was set for more recording breaking audiences with Super Bowl ratings. And we delivered.   Over 100 million viewers witnessed a play that will be discussed for decades. Oh heck, possibly centuries. Long after were gone.

Then came the Grammys, Kanye, the Sponge Bob upset and some serious Grey matter.

Up next – the Oscars.  The crème de la creme.  The highest achievement in entertainment.

But the image that will stay with me for the rest of my life took place in a local theater on a cool California evening.

It had nothing to do with big budget films or high priced athletes or entertainers; box office tallies or football rallies.

The mood was somber even as movie goers settled in for the most talked about film of the Oscar season – American Sniper.   There was no sense of urgency to get that mega popcorn and drink; or scan that latest text.  This was a different kind of movie.

When Bradley Cooper locked eyes on his target; we locked eyes on him.

American Sniper

American Sniper  Copyright 2015 Warner Bros.

For over two hours, nobody spoke a word. Nobody even checked their Iphones.  As the final credits rolled, grown men and women got up in silence. No small talk, no armchair critics. No political debates or rants – or raves, for that matter.  Just the sound of silence. A rare commodity in this day and age.

As we spilled out into the lobby, my husband ducked into the adjacent men’s room.

Then it happened.   A scene that played out on the small screen of  real life.

My husband came out of the men’s room with tears in his eyes. Visibly shaken. When I pulled him aside, he whispered…”Grown men are in there weeping.”

It was just too much for them. Even more than any Super Bowl play, or trophy or award.  Imagine that.

 

The Theory of Feeling

Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes we’re blown away.  The difference – mind boggling.

I barely made it through my Earth Science class in college, so Quantum Physics was not in the equation.

Like most of us, though, I know about stars.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt.  Steve McQueen, Stephen Hawking.

But now I’m star struck.  How often do you get to walk out of a theater in awe?

The Theory of Everything

Copyright 2014   The Theory of Everything – Working Title Films

The James Marsh film, The Theory of Everything, blindsided me to a different world for 123 minutes.  By theater screening standards these days, that’s a long film. Yet, time flew by.

The closest thing I come to physics is my friend, Vikki – a Make-up Artist on the award winning hit TV show, The Big Bang Theory.  When we get together for lunch, topics range from Malibu surf breaks to cosmetology.  Not the world’s most renowned Cosmologist and Physicist.

Of course, I knew of Stephen Hawking, the genius and the Big Bang Theory.  Stephen Hawking is a household name.

But I didn’t know about Stephen Hawking, the human being.

Screenwriter Anthony McCarten and Jane Wilde Hawking, author and ex-wife, weave their talents into an odyssey that’s both heartbreaking and uplifting.  And oh so complicated.

Director James Marsh crafts a biographical film about a genius. Then makes it a love story about life itself.  Of course, it’s all relative.  But without feeling, it’s merely academic.

Mr. Marsh captures that emotion, sense of humor and vast enthusiasm of Stephen Hawking, the man.  Portrayed luminously by British actor Eddie Redmayne – a  32 year old wise beyond his years.  It’s difficult to comprehend the depth and physicality for the role of Stephen Hawking.  To get inside his head.  And stay there.

I imagine Hawking, Redmayne and Marsh have a lot in common.

Brilliant Physicist.  Brilliant actor.  Brilliant film.

 

© Copyright www.MaggieFranks.com 2014