Can We Keep Him?

One of my movie theme favorites is the idea of the space alien on Earth. This plot has been the vehicle for bringing all sorts of metaphor messages into our homes.

In the 1950’s the aliens were dangerous and insidious. They often crept into society and grew among us, waiting until they could take over. Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Blob are great examples. They symbolized the dangers of communism to the American dream.

In the 1980’s the aliens arrived either by accident or in search of new friends. In Starman, Jeff Bridges plays a space creature who takes on the appearance of a human after his ship is shot down by humans. He is kind, searching for a way to go home.

Steven Spielberg brought us E. T. the Extraterrestrial in 1982, creating a film phenomenon instantly. ET is cute and loveable. He befriends a young boy and must rely on his new friends to escape the probes of government agencies. The message here is of childlike acceptance of others who may be different.

More recent movies have swung back to the invading aliens, with movies like Independence Day and Signs. We seem to rally together when we have a common cause.

At this time of year, when we’re all looking for a little fright, include a fun alien flick in your queue. It’s a fun way to introduce kids to classics, and a great way to start a conversation about what those aliens might represent.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Movies

Don’t be silly, of course this isn’t true. There are millions of incredibly important things that movies never address at all. But for this blog’s sake, let’s all just pretend.

Movies have taught me some really useful information and tricks.

As an example, I can core a head of iceberg lettuce in nothing flat by slamming the base on the countertop and twisting out the hard center. I think it was Meg Ryan who showed us how to do this in one of her ‘80’s rom coms. Try it next time; it works!

And I believe it was Sophia Loren (Houseboat, 1958) who taught me the proper way to eat a nice, thin crust slice of pizza without making a mess. Fold it length-wise and flip the tip up. This ensures that the crust will contain all the saucy, cheesy deliciousness with every bite. In this famous scene, she also shows how to scam a free bite of pizza from just about anyone.

I’ve learned from several spy movies that if you want to eavesdrop on the people in the next room, you can simply use a drinking glass. Just hold the open side to the door, press your ear against the bottom, and voila! You have a neat little listening system.

I have also learned that drinking lots of water is very important. A glass of water is a great early detection system if you’re being stalked by dinosaurs (Jurassic Park, 1993). It also reacts like acid when thrown on witches (The Wizard of Oz, 1939) or aliens Signs, 2002). Important safety tip– you’re welcome!

I’m pretty sure I could disable a bomb if I had to. All you have to do is cut the wire opposite of what you’re instructed. I can’t list one particular movie for this one. Just watch any movie with a bomb in it. If someone says, “cut the red wire,” the star cuts the black one, and it always works.

I have learned that it’s important to drive safely, because if you’re in a wreck, your car will immediately explode. I learned this at a very young age, watching Speed Racer cartoons.

My husband is pretty certain that in a space orbit emergency, he could build an air filtration system out of spare parts (Apollo 13, 1995). I’m not sure when he might be in a space emergency, but it’s good to know, anyway.

From watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977, I learned that mashed potatoes make a very nice artists’ medium. I confess, though—I already knew that one. I’ve been playing with my mashed potatoes since way back.

My sons have asked me if it’s possible to use a clothes iron to make grilled cheese sandwiches (Mr. Mom, 1983), but I advised against it. It probably would work, but I can’t think of a situation when I would have an iron and all the makings for a cheese sandwich where I wouldn’t have a grill or griddle of some kind.

There are lots of other skills to which one can aspire, but not necessarily learn, from movies. In Flashdance, 1983, Jennifer Beals displays her talent for removing her bra without taking off her sweatshirt. Lots of women can do this, but this was the first movie that I’m aware of, where it was accomplished onscreen by the leading lady. In Dan in Real Life, 2007, Marlene Lawston ties a knot in a cherry stem in her mouth. This feat has also been in other movies, but the “proud papa” look on Steve Carell’s face in this one is priceless.

What have you learned something from the movies that you can share with the class? It’s “Show and Tell” time here. I want to know!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!