28
Apr

Casablanca. Lawrence of Arabia. The Godfather. Cinematic classics, right? All Oscar winners. All important enough to be preserved by the National Film Registry. Usually get solid props on whatever “Top 100” list is released every few months. I get it. They’re decent films. I’ve got no qualms with them.

I don’t love any of them either. Sure, I respect them. There’s no denying the amazing acting, excellent camera work and compelling storylines, but an Oscar-worthy performance isn’t going to comfort me when I’m down and out with a cold. A well-shot film won’t see me through a bad day. Even if it’s not a bad day – maybe I just need a little background noise during a Saturday afternoon of cleaning and doing laundry – On the Waterfront won’t be the film I’m reaching for.

The Goonies. Footloose. Anything by John Hughes. These are the movies I love. The DVDs I would grab if fleeing a house fire. Perhaps none of them have a “Best Picture” stamp of approval, but who really cares? When I’m hating everything about the world, all I have to do is watch ten minutes of This Is Spinal Tap to make me feel human again. If asked to choose between Citizen Kane and Strange Brew, I would promptly reply, “Hand me a beer, eh?”

Yet while my devotion to Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Better Off Dead remains resolute, I have never been able to muster that same nostalgic love for one particular film, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the very first movie I ever saw in a theatre. Long story short, it was a horrifyingly traumatic experience. E.T. completely freaked me out; I refused to even look at the screen. I just sat in my dad’s lap, my little arms strangling his neck while staring at the projection window the entire time. Especially terrifying was that opening scene in the forest. I can’t really tell you anything else about it since I wasn’t actually watching the movie, but it was hella scary. I remember that much.

Multiple times my dad tried to undo my death grip and convince me that E.T. was really a good guy. No need to be afraid. He was just a pudgy alien who loved little kids (just like me!) and liked to kick back with a Coors every once in a while. Regardless, something about those huge bug eyes, spindly fingers and extendable neck totally creeped me out.

For years afterwards I had an E.T. complex. He was such a little dude that hypothetically speaking, he could be anywhere in our house. Upon entering the bathroom, I automatically would pull back the shower curtain. Just in case. Upon entering the living room, I would look behind the chairs. Just in case. I sometimes even checked under the bed. (This complex was probably somewhat complicated by the clown in Poltergeist as well; yet another film my father let me watch way too young. Thanks, Dad. A special shout-out also goes to Mr. Spielberg.) Needless to say, I never watched E.T. again.

So a few weeks ago, my friends tell me about some screenings around town featuring some of my favorite flicks: Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… and E.T. “Okay,” I thought, “this is a good thing. I’m an adult now. I’ll be with my friends. There’s nothing to be scared of.”

The evening started out iffy. Within moments of the opening credits, I involuntarily grabbed my friend’s arm. Hard. But now that a few decades have gone by, I can conclusively say that the forest scene is scary. The music. The shadows. That weird creature fleeing from those ominous-looking strangers. Little kid or not, that part of the movie is freaky. However, I’m happy to report that I successfully restrained myself from climbing into my friend’s lap.

As the movie progressed, my emotions eventually evolved from fear to happiness to full-on waterworks. Holy cow. Maybe that’s why I hated E.T. so much as a kid. It’s so sad when he gets sick. I couldn’t take it when I saw him lying in that stream. Poor little guy. And when the mom leaves him all alone in the bathroom? You’re a monster if you didn’t shed at least a few tears when he reached out for Elliot.

*SPOILER ALERT* But has anyone really not seen this movie yet? Anyway. The worst is the goodbye scene. I once read that Spielberg shot the film in chronological order to evoke authentic responses at the end from the child actors. Knowing this only made me cry harder. So sad! (Though I was somewhat distracted by the number of times they felt the need to show Dee Wallace kneeling and then standing up again during that sequence. What was that about?)

Okay, so I’m officially an E.T. fan, which means that I now love every single movie ever made during the 1980s. (Notable exception: Never Cry Wolf.) However, can’t say that I’ll ever buy the DVD. Or watch that movie alone. E.T. may be cute and cuddly, but he can easily hide in several of my closets. Not about to take that chance.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

21
Apr

Living in LA, you tend to see celebrities every once in a while. However, as I have never dined at The Ivy or snorted blow at Trousdale, I don’t come across these freaks of nature in the usual places. Most often I’m grabbing a coffee or debating what kind of potatoes to buy when I catch a glimpse of Kate Bosworth ordering around her assistant in the produce aisle (true story). I’m usually caught off guard and therefore do a hard double take to make sure that person is who I really think she is. Yet upon confirming her identity, I immediately turn back my attention to the potatoes because I don’t want to be that person. You know, the one who runs up to Kate and babbles on about how I loved her in Blue Crush (again, true story). Once you do that, you’re not really a person anymore. You’re just a fan. You’re the freak of nature.

Even when spotting someone whom I truly admire, I try to remain a cool customer. No big deal if my celebrity crush is sitting next to me in a restaurant. No matter if it’s my birthday and I’m feeling somewhat entitled to disturb his romantic evening with a very attractive hussy. I won’t say anything, even when both his dinner date and mine excuse themselves, leaving just the two of us in the room. I will not make a peep, only stare creepily as he plays with his iPhone.

But we all have a weakness. We all have that one actor/athlete/American Idol who makes us smile and instantly gush, “I love them!” And we really do. We love their sense of humor or how they broke the record for most combined return touchdowns. We love their unique voice or how magnificent they were in The King’s Speech.

Me? I love Tina Fey, and I’m not alone. Millions of people love her. It’s obvious why. The lady is funny. The lady is smart. The lady is super sexy because of the previously stated qualities. And lucky me, I got to see her in person the other night.

I found out through the Twitterverse that Fey was promoting her new book by having a Q&A with another well-respected entertainer, Steve Martin. Now I’m not one to make rash purchases – I will circle Target a full two times while thinking long and hard if I really need those $3.99 pair of boot socks – but that’s exactly what I did when I read that fateful tweet. I needed to be in the presence of my celebrity girl crush.

Fast-forward to that evening. One of my dear friends and I were seeing Fey together. I knew it was going to be a special night because (1) the Blackhawks had finally won a game against Vancouver, thus avoiding a shameful first round sweep and (2) that dear friend surprised me with a copy of Bossypants for the book signing after the main event. I was gonna get face time with Tina Fey!

Not surprisingly, the Q&A was awesome. Fey and Martin were hilarious, though they could have read from the dictionary the entire time and I still would have laughed my head off. The only real downer was that it lasted just an hour. Had I not a book in my hands to guarantee some Fey action later on, I would have left a wee bit disappointed.

Yet as the crowd filtered out of the auditorium, it became clear that many, many people shared my celebrity girl crush. I started to get a little nervous. Was she really going to sign all of our books? Um, no. After many minutes of standing in a massively bloated line snaking toward her table, we began to hear rule upon rule barked at us from some buzzkill ushers.

“If you don’t have a book, you can’t wait in line to see Tina Fey!”

“There will be no personalization for your book. Tina Fey will be signing only her name!”

“Tina Fey has a plane to catch! Tina Fey will be signing books for only one hour!”

“If you preordered your book, it is already signed! If it is already signed, Tina Fey will not be signing your book again!”

Wow. What a bunch of party poopers. But then suddenly there she was… We made eye contact. She smiled. I smiled back. She signed my book. I said thank you. She said thank you back. I walked away. It was magical.

I’ll heart you forever, Tina Fey.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

14
Apr

While waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day, I noticed a very unhappy woman walking through the sliding glass doors with a ripped bag. Utilizing my snap judgment skills, I thought she might be homeless; snap judging again from the way she began to irrationally berate the nearest cashier for said ripped bag, I wasn’t so sure anymore. Could be anyone in LA. For his part, the cashier was extremely gracious and said she could take as many bags as she liked, but this only added fuel to her fire. She then proceeded to whine that she didn’t want multiple bags; she wanted just one decent bag to hold all her stuff. Listening to her tirade, I had to admit that the woman had a point. It’s annoying when those bags rip. Yet moments later as I was unloading my own many double-bagged groceries into the car, I wondered, “Is this where we’re at as a society?” Forget the unemployment rate, rising gas prices and the government almost shutting down. We’re also complaining about grocery bags now?

I know, I know… It’s human nature to complain. We hate our job. Our boyfriend. Our neighbors. We want a vacation. A new car. Six pack abs.

Yet many of us won’t ever have a good enough job or boyfriend or body, so we complain about it. We vent to our friends and family for minutes… err, hours on end. Then we sigh dramatically and say, “But I guess I shouldn’t complain. I have a roof over my head. I have food in the fridge. It’s not like I’m some starving kid in Africa.” And then our friends say, “No, it’s okay. Besides, you can’t compare yourself to that kid in Africa. It’s all relative.”

Is it, though? Why shouldn’t we compare ourselves to that kid in Africa? I’ve used the “all relative” line a dozen or more times myself, but I’m not entirely sure it’s warranted. Why again that logic? Just so I have permission to complain about annoying salespeople who won’t leave me alone or the annoying dryer that never dries my sheets all the way? Because it’s always something that’s “so annoying.” Know what else is annoying? Not having a roof over your head. Or food to eat even if you had a fridge to put it in. Or being torn away from your family at eight to become a child soldier. That’s annoying.

Okay, maybe the kid in Africa isn’t comparable. Apples and oranges you say. But what about that pseudo homeless lady in Ralph’s? Or the panhandlers who magically appear every time I’m at a red light? Poor me. I’m the unlucky schmuck who just missed the left turn signal, and now I have to wait that eternal two minutes while this dude walks up and down the center median with a dirty disposable cup and outstretched hand. So what do I do? I pretend not to see him. I try to find *something* in my purse. Or I change the channel on the radio. Or I just stare ahead at the light as he periodically peeks in my window to see if I have some change to spare.

Every time this happens to me, and it happens a lot, a chill goes down my spine. Somehow his tragedy is my catalyst for complaining because the entire time I’m thinking, “What if that’s me someday?”

I’ve had this conversation with friends as well. What if I become homeless? Of course they smirk and say, “That would never happen.” End of story. But it could happen. Easily. I live in LA, and it’s not cheap here. Gas has been above four bucks for well over a month now. If you want to live in a neighborhood (relatively) free from break-ins and shootings, be prepared to pay for it. Also be prepared for some stiff competition for any and all jobs. Should you not secure that dream gig as Spielberg’s heir apparent, don’t assume the barista position at Starbucks is wide open. I promise that you’ll be up against a few thousand other auteur wannabes.

What’s my point? I dunno. I know that most of the time our whining stems from some deeper need or desire. You hate your boyfriend because you just want someone who listens to you. You hate your job because issuing parking passes wasn’t your intended goal in life. I get it. And sometimes the complaining is just a way to blow off steam. Though in the grand scheme of things, most of the people I know are okay. In fact, we’re the lucky ones. Gas prices might continue to soar, but at least we still have our cars. They weren’t washed away in a tsunami. We might get frustrated with our reps in Washington, but I’m pretty sure we’ll never see tanks rolling down Sunset Boulevard as rebel forces try to take over Los Angeles. Though it would be nice if my landlord finally ponied up and bought a new dryer. I hate damp sheets.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

07
Apr

“I’m fine, thanks.”

Translation? Leave me alone. This is my mantra when shopping. Given that I’ve worked retail many times in the past, you’d think I would be more sensitive to the pressure put upon sales associates. I’m not. Yes, I know they’re forced to offer their help. Yes, I know they’re encouraged to upsell whenever possible. I still don’t care. It’s annoying when they won’t leave you alone.

I’m like Rosie the Riveter of shoppers. I can do it by myself. Rarely do I shop without an agenda, yet when asked, “Were you looking for anything in particular?” I always lie and say, “Nope. Just looking.” Of course lying is wrong, but what’s more wrong is how they harass you should you let your guard down. I don’t need anyone’s help picking out body lotion or underwear. I already know what smells I like and what size I am. And when I am just browsing, please don’t offer me a courtesy shopping bag “just in case.” (I’m looking at you, Victoria’s Secret.)

I get it, though. A job’s a job; that’s why I always smile and politely nod when the salesperson first addresses me. I will give her my undivided attention as she tells me about the half-off sale on jeans and that all earrings are buy one, get one free. I’ll even thank her for that information before making my way toward the sweaters. (Wasn’t shopping for jeans or earrings anyway.) But usually these are the same people who come back two minutes later to see if I’m “still doing okay.” Yeah, I think I can handle the tank tops on my own.

Once my family and I were actually driven out of a store because of the incessant badgering. We had walked into Lush, a hipper version of The Body Shop, when we quickly realized the associates outnumbered us four to one. Within ninety seconds, we had been asked no less than a half-dozen times if we needed help. I imagined this is what it’s like to be mobbed by the paparazzi, but instead of camera flashes, we were swarmed by overly eager apron-wearing soap enthusiasts. Every time I attempted to sniff a Vanilla in the Mist or Pineapple Grunt bath sample, immediately two associates were flanking me and praising the life-changing qualities of each soap. We got out of there real fast.

Though the super attentive salesperson is no cup of tea, she still can’t compare to the “let’s be besties” sales associate. Ugh. Can’t stand those fakers. You think I can’t see your insincerity from a mile away? I don’t know if dudes have to endure this kind of indignation, but the epidemic has become rampant among women’s clothing stores. It’s redonkulous the way these chicks pretend to be your BFF as soon as you walk in the door.

First they lure you in by complimenting something you’re already wearing. Don’t believe it. Then they congratulate you on picking out what they think is the most fabulous dress in the store. Duh. They work there. You think they’re going to tell you that frock is a flimsy piece of trash? Once you get inside a dressing room, then they sweetly tell you that should you need anything – anything­ – just let them know. Great. Thanks. Should you make the grave mistake of checking out the goods in the three-way mirror strategically placed in their hallway, be prepared for an inundation of praise. “I love it! You look amazing! So hot!” Okay, maybe you do look decent in that dress, but not even Nobel Prize winners receive as much adulation.

Adding insult to injury is that as I’m getting older, these salespeople seem to be (or are) getting younger. The only thing worse than fake flattery is fake flattery from a sixteen-year-old who’s trying to make a commission off your gullible ass. Thank goodness for the interwebs. Hello, online shopping.

Image: maple / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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