Monday, June 04, 2018

The American Dream

I suppose it is a big part of the American dream to build one's dream house, and Cary Grant was no exception in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," which premiered on this day in 1948.

But the American dream can come at a pretty steep price, even in 1948.

Which raises an important point. It is critical to keep in mind the difference between financial amounts in 1948 and comparable amounts seven decades later. Those amounts in 1948 were roughly one–tenth what they are today. For example, in the movie Grant's job paid him $15,000 a year, which sounds like poverty wages, but it was enough to support a family of four. In 2018, the same job probably would pay $150,000.

But be it 1948 or 2018, it is easy to become overwhelmed by that money thing, and Mr. Blandings soon learned how expensive renovating a home can be. To renovate the home he and his wife (Myrna Loy) had chosen easily exceeded a year's income when all the family's needs were addressed.

And that didn't include issues with his best friend, played by Melvyn Douglas.

In all, it was an entertaining movie in that "Holiday Inn" mold.

Friday, June 01, 2018

One Man's Life

"We've become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We are tired of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he inhabits is, in some respects, counterfeit, there's nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn't always Shakespeare, but it's genuine. It's a life."

Christof (Ed Harris)

Imagine, if you will, that your life is actually a television show — a hit show, at that — and everyone knows it except you.

At least at first.

But slowly it dawned on Truman (Jim Carrey) that he was denied the free will that others enjoyed, that everything about his life was being manipulated beyond his control. He couldn't marry the girl he wanted to marry (Natascha McElhone). Instead he was paired with Laura Linney, a cast member on the show who, like everyone but Truman, was in on the story.

The show was created by a fellow named Christof (Ed Harris), who also had to create the circumstances that inevitably kept Truman, an insurance sales executive, in a place called Seaside. It had millions of viewers, some of whom kept their televisions on all night to watch Truman as he slept.

"It's clever the way he's kept on his island by implanted traumas about travel and water," film critic Roger Ebert observed. That is certainly true, especially in the fact that Truman's true love was spirited away to Fiji — and he had been conditioned to fear water because Christof had manipulated the early scripts so Truman's father would drown in a storm.

In many ways, I believe no one but Carrey could plausibly portray Truman, especially since so many of us have become voyeurs in our viewing habits.

But the more one watches "The Truman Show," which premiered 20 years ago today, the less one can avoid the obvious question — how much of it is real?

The answer, I think, is all of it — but not in a way that viewers expect.

"The Truman Show" was an unassuming flick, thought provoking on many levels, well done and creative. Two decades later it is still worth seeing.