On Mickey Rooney

472px-Mickey_Rooney_stillMickey Rooney died this weekend. He was a big deal from my parents generation, one of the last few surviving Hollywood movie stars.

Rooney was a member of a very small club. He could do nearly anything in show business. He sang, he danced, he acted. He played the drums. He did Broadway. He toured. He was a frequent talk show guest in the 60s and 70s.

The more people got to know him, the less starstruck they were. Make no mistake, he was exceptionally talented. He was just more talented than popular. It happens.

Mickey Rooney was best known for the Andy Hardy movies. They made 16.

Andy lived in small town America where everything was tidy and everyone was white. His father was a wise, yet warm, judge.

The Andy Hardy movies were often on daytime TV when I was a kid. These were lighthearted morality plays where the good guy triumphs in the end–always. I watched, but it was no childhood I recognized.

Rooney also did a bunch of successful musicals with Judy Garland. Later in his career he transitioned to character roles.

People were surprised to see he was only 5′ 2″.

He was married eight times. After three or four shouldn’t you understand marriage isn’t for you?

I’m trying to think if anyone’s ever been in the public consciousness longer than Mickey Rooney? Maybe not. He was a star nearly 80 years. That’s an incredible accomplishment.

Even 93 years isn’t enough, is it?

The Movie We Didn’t See Tonight

IMAG0327-w1400-h1400This story needs a setup. It is tradition with the Foxes and many other Jewish families, Christmas Day is spent at the movies followed by Chinese food. Go back in the blog to any December 25th entry and you’ll read about a movie and a meal!

This year, since we’re close to Stef, it’s likely she’ll join us. Neither Helaine, Stef nor I agree on which movie we should see.

OK. You’re caught up. The story continues…

Stef called this afternoon. Did I still want to see “Saving Mr. Banks,” with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson?

I knew I wanted to see this movie as soon as I watched the trailer. Hanks. Disney. Nostalgia. Hooked!

Stef wanted Helaine and me go. Goodness of her heart? Not tonight. Going removes one choice for Christmas.

“Mr. Banks” opens ‘wide’ next week, but Orange, CA (not far) is among the “selected cities” showing it now. Normally a 25 minute trip, Google suggested a back way which would take 28 minutes. The usual route, 45!

Christmas shopping I suppose. That and Kanye West playing at the Honda Center in Anaheim, under a mile from the theater.

We occupied Doppler with a treat and snuck out through the garage. By the time we were on our way, Google had changed its preferred route. We were still skipping the major roads. Still saving time.

The parking lot was jammed. I dropped Helaine at the box office and looked for an open space.

She was first in line when I caught up with her, but the news wasn’t good. “It’s not playing here,” she said.

Stef and then her father had searched correctly for the movie, but didn’t look closely enough at the result. When the movie wasn’t available tonight, Fandango just offered up the next showtime: December 20! The date was on the page, but I was expecting tonight’s movies, Fandango.

We ended up at Costco.

The Big Lebowski: One Weird Movie

The movie is quirky, interesting, off the wall and more than a little unfocused. “Imagine a young screenwriter came in with this script?” Helaine asked.

I took tonight off as a trade for working Sunday. It was a day at rest around the house. I asked Helaine if she wanted to see a movie and so began our search through the channels.

HBO – nothing. Actually a handful of nothings. We have multiple HBOs.

Comcast On Demand – not working! Then after a support call, working. Still nothing.

“I can bring the Roku box downstairs,” I said.

I’ll write more about my so-so Roku thoughts later.

I unplugged the tiny Roku box in my office, plugged it in downstairs and turned on the TV. A few minutes later we were searching Netflix.

How can there be so much stuff and nothing you want to see?

We settled on “The Big Lebowski.” It’s a late 90s Coen Brothers movie starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore. That’s a helluva pedigree!

Jeff Bridges is Jeffrey Lebowski, aka The Dude. He drinks White Russians (nine during the film), smokes enough pot to have lived in my freshman dorm, and says “dude,” “man,” and the “f” word in most sentences. He is detached, often nonplussed and always charming.

John Goodman as Walter Sobchak is tightly wound, loud and intense as a presumed Vietnam vet who brought a little too much of the war home with him. Think Fred Willard, but bigger, more boisterous and very macho.

Walter Sobchak: You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don’t wanna know about it, believe me.
The Dude: Yeah, but Walter…
Walter Sobchak: Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock this afternoon… with nail polish.

I like Goodman as an actor. I’m not saying he’s never been in a hit film, but he has made some ‘interesting’ career choices.

The movie is quirky, interesting, off the wall and more than a little unfocused.

“Imagine a young screenwriter came in with this script?” Helaine asked. The implication was he’d be laughed off the lot… but these were the Coen Brothers and they were hot off Fargo. They were indulged.

I’m glad I saw it, but confused and a little disappointed.