Tuesday, March 4, 2014

High Anxiety...in 1978

The 2014 Academy Awards are yesterday’s news. I didn’t see a single movie that won an Oscar, or even one that was nominated and lost. I just haven’t seen any new releases in a while. And not for reasons of quality or any such thing. It’s just that movies and me nowadays are largely confined to Netflix, and even then I don’t watch all that many of them. For both business and pleasure, I just finished viewing seasons one through nine of Seinfeld.

Recently, I stumbled upon various scrap-paper “journals” that I haphazardly kept in my teenage years. They mostly chronicled events in my life with occasional editorial commentary. One such "journal" listed the movies I saw in the summer of 1978 in places ranging far and wide—everywhere from my very own neighborhood to Fordham in the South Bronx to the isle of Manhattan. I patronized theaters in Lavallette, New Jersey and Mattituck, Long Island, too.

What was most memorable to me about this summer movie potpourri was not the Academy Award-winning caliber of them—quite the contrary—but the aftermath of seeing Hooper, starring Burt Reynolds, which I didn’t especially like. On our way home from Fordham’s UA Valentine theater, my friends and I were accosted by knife- and belt-wielding street thugs. They were street and we weren't—and I'm kind of happy about that in the big picture. Where are they now? Although it was a humiliating decision on our parts, we opted to run for our lives and—with the exception of a few haphazard whacks from a belt—escaped lasting physical harm. The ride home on the BX20 bus felt pretty good, although the alpha-est male in our pack wished that—in theory at least—we had stood our grounds and defended ourselves with honor. However, one of the hoodlums had threatened to “slice up the fat one,” which was he—and he wasn’t all that fat. And since we weren't in a John Wayne movie—or even a Death Wish sequel—I still believe running away under those circumstances was a good idea.

Later that summer, I saw Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, and James Mason, in a Manhattan theater. This was on the heels of witnessing an armed robbery on the subway ride down there. The fifteen-year-old me made note of the irony—Heaven Can Wait—which nobody appreciated. It was the 1970s, after all, and such things happened more frequently than they do today—and the muggers back then weren’t after iPhones, either. Heaven Can Wait was actually nominated for an Academy Award but lost out to The Deer Hunter, which I didn’t see in 1978 if I am to believe my paper trail.

If I had to parcel out an Academy Award in 1978 to my movies, I’d have given it to the one released in 1977, High Anxiety, which I saw a couple of times. While on vacation in Lavallette, New Jersey, I recall coaxing my father to see it. He was hysterical when Mel Brooks got drenched in bird poop. Simpler times for sure.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.