Movies

So Captain Marvel is out and the youngest would love to go. I kind of wanted to, and having not personally watched the, to me, unknown actress playing the hero spout off SJW nonsense, I could ignore that. It actually comes down to money. I’m still not out of the slowest time of year, and running behind until the tax refund hits. I skipped Aquaman! I really wanted to see that! And it was reportedly good, which Captain Marvel isn’t as much. I skipped taking the boy to Spiderverse, again money, and I wouldn’t have even considered it until it became clear it was spectacularly good.

I’m torn, because it does set her up for Endgame. But that’s another concern. The wife is wondering if throwing her into Endgame creates a deus ex and diminishes the merit built by the existing MCU heroes as we made our way through the current phase.

I’ve missed other movies and not had it ruin things that came after, so it’s not the end of the world. I never saw Winter Soldier, Dark World, or Ragnarok. I’ve been told that two of the three are must see.

On the other hand, I am eager to see Shazam. That’s not something I would ever have expected to say, but it looks fantastic. There will be Homecoming and a new Wonder Woman this year. I’ll have to see Star Wars 9, regardless of the issues with the previous one. I didn’t hate Solo as much as some people did, but hey, why would I. Heh.

Captain Marvel, though? I want to want to see it. Probably won’t in the theater, though. I had no idea Brie Larson was an Oscar winner for Best Actress along the way. As noted above, I had never heard of her when she was cast. Samuel L. Jackson has been one of my all time favorites since the first time I saw him, in the fantastic film The Negotiator with Kevin Spacey, also a huge favorite starting then, now sadly a pariah. It could be worth seeing just for Jackson, and the de-aging effects.

Orville and Connections I Make

I watched the latest episode of The Orville a while ago. I have to go to bed too early to watch it Thursday night, so it’s a Friday morning ritual once I am home. As I told the wife, not every episode is going to be in the best science fiction ever aired on television that last week was, but it was good, and unexpected. For instance, I knew River Tam there had to be involved in the destruction somehow, but I wondered if she could destroy ships with her brain or what else the mystery mechanism might be.

I was also telling the wife that they not only have an Admiral Halsey, but also an Admiral Perry. Heinz Doofenshmirtz would be sad. Everybody knows the name Ted Danson, but the wife didn’t recognize Victor Garber, who plays Halsey. She never watched Alias at all, not even a little as I did. Other than that, to me his most notable role was as one of the friends in Sleepless In Seattle, one of the me movies I named. I forgot While You Were Sleeping when I wrote that post. Those two movies sound antithetical to each other, but I lean toward loving both of them.

Scrolling all the way down, I found Garber’s first role was as Jesus in Godspell, released in March 1973. Doesn’t look at all like the distinguished older gentleman we’ve long seen him as in more recent decades. There’s a video of the song Day By Day as used in the film, and you can see him there. However, the song was on the charts before then.

We sang Day By Day in chorus in 6th grade, which was the 1972-1973 school year. 99% Sure it was 6th, not 5th, and it’d be logical all around, plus well timed with respect to the movie, notwithstanding the song and stage production weren’t new. I’ve long had it on MP3 and just can’t help singing along with it, despite not being religious. It makes me happy and takes me back.

So there you go. From Orville to Godspell and chorus at the twilight of elementary school. It’s the fundamental interconnectedness of all things at work.

Now I Remember

I was going to write about something I’d been thinking of before and during work, which, having not noted anywhere, I promptly forgot. I’d been thinking about how I’d write a movie of an alternate timeline of my life – or just the alternate timeline – to have a scenario that would be Melodyesque. Not a rewrite, and still a product of days gone by, but a “how it should have ended” sort of thing.

I could see it happening with Carol, though holding true to the original timing we’d be on the younger side. I could see it happening with Paula, which would be complicated by her being a year younger and eased by her brother being a friend.

Interesting exercise, and it depends on how some things are changed. Carol’s only real friend was relatively near to where I lived, so that might factor in. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I perceived that friend as being an unpleasant person who hated me, and I didn’t yet consider her father to be evil.

Unlike Daniel, I would never have thought to tell a friend I had a crush on a girl. Further, during part of this time, my best friend was a girl, Kara, who was a year older than me. Still is! Funny how that works. Changing that might help.

The environment was extremely rural. Suburban at best, but I grew up in the middle of the woods, 1/3 of a mile down a dirt road from the main road and the nearest houses. The major intersection in town featured a little liquor store/variety store with a gas pump. Walmart would be unheard of for a long time to come. There was nothing like bus service. You couldn’t hop a train and go to the seaside.

Options for being together would have been things like hanging out at one of our homes, walking or hanging out in the woods, riding bikes around, or hanging out at one of the available beaches at the lake in town. There was an ice cream place it would have been possible to bike to, and not a lot else.

I’ll have to think about this and come back to the topic to see if I can create a timeline/set of events, or an outline, for each of them. I’m getting sick and need to be up extra early, so I need to eat something, knock myself out, and try to sleep an abnormally long time. Actually, looks like the longest possible sleep I could get would be 7.5 hours if I hustle and sleep promptly and the whole time. For me that’d be amazing, but it doesn’t sound like it right now.

Random Melody Rewatch Observations 1

I say 1 because I am sure there will be more, and my rewatch got interrupted. Of course, the real rewatch will be after I get a DVD. Which will have unexpected challenges. My brother gave me Bohemian Rhapsody. Which I tried to watch it on the computer, it kept stopping because the drive barfed. Or the connection to the computer or the controller on the motherboard did. I gave up partway through. It came with the ability to watch digitally, so I can finish it after activating that. In the meantime, it’s about time for a replacement computer anyway.

Anyway, I got as far as the scene where the bus fills up and a bunch of the kids get left waiting at the bus stop for the next bus. Then I was interrupted.

The class theme that is one aspect of the film starts right away, with the Boy’s Brigade director mentioning “better class of recruit,” comparing Ornshaw and Daniel in particular. Then you get it from Mrs. Latimer. Daniel seems a bit oblivious, but Ornshaw is totally aware of it. He is obviously more worldly, too, winking flirtily at Mrs. Latimer, having been drinking whiskey, presumably, and looking at girly magazine pictures in religion class.

We see Daniel’s room after he’s naughty, but I’d thought we’d never seen Melody’s room, or any of her flat but the hall and the kitchen/dining room, and a bit of the bathroom. I’d forgotten she goes into some bedroom or another to take clothing out of a wardrobe. Now, the clothing and room made me think it was an adult bedroom, but I don’t know. When she gets evicted from playing the recorder and gets sent off to the pub to get money for ice cream from her father, she first goes into that same bedroom. Then we see her coming out across the courtyard. I’d interpreted putting the recorder in the big vase and going through that door as going outside. It would make sense to go in her room before leaving, though, and as I’ve said, we don’t have to see every last detail in sequence.

The opening scene with Melody really emphasizes two points. First, she is being a kid, but she’s not really a little kid anymore. The other kids swarming the rag man are little. She’s old and mature by comparison, and perhaps doesn’t belong there. We are seeing the last weekend of her childhood, in a sense.

By comparison with Ornshaw, Daniel really is completely innocent in his looking at nude pictures, because he wants to try painting a nude as an art subject he hasn’t tried before.

At break, we see the girls being very much interested in boys and in Muriel not hogging them all, and laughing about the idea of kissing bringing babies. They might be innocent of the exact mechanics, but they aren’t little kids.

I think that’s about it to that point. My big takeaway was the way it shows the kids transitioning in “age,” shows the class issues, and shows the adults negatively.

When the Pedestal Goes Away

Original title was Shower Thoughts, but since that’s the name of a site or whatever, I figured I’d go with the other one. It is, however, where I had the train of thoughts.

I ended up thinking about what it must be like to be a celebrity and to need or want to protect your safety and privacy. Rebecca Schaeffer came to mind. It must be especially weird when you aren’t a big name, but are nonetheless a name to some.

Melody was essentially a commercial flop, as delightful and well made as it is, and was saved from complete obscurity and financial ruin for the production company’s first film by runaway success and a favorable distribution deal in Japan. So the film was always huge in Japan and a few minor markets, so Tracy Hyde, not already a big name like Mark Lester and Jack Wild, was an idol regionally. She went on to do some other roles through her twenties, but nothing huge. Melody went on to become, increasingly to this day, a cult classic.

Thinking of her life was a trigger to this. You’ve been moderately famous. You’re not hugely sought after, but in some circles there’s still demand. You were paid fairly modest amounts for the roles you did. Now you have to cope with staying private, the possibility of being stalked, the possibility of being more in demand by fans than you’d prefer. Perhaps paid appearances now and then are a boon, but it’s not the same as having been on a series that gets you steady employment as a convention guest for decades. You have a life.

That made me think of Keanu Reeves, who is an amazing human being, quietly humble, charitable, and an ordinary guy. He reportedly simply goes ahead and rubs shoulders with everyone, riding the subway and so forth. Reading about him makes you want to be more like him. He’s just a guy, who just happens to act for a living. Perhaps we ought to see actors more like that.

All of this, which took far less time to think about in the quick shower before work than it takes to write and expand slightly upon, reminded me of my revelation of the past few years (it’s been around five or so since the provocation and probably between 3 and 4 or so since I worked this out) that I have tended to put people on pedestals in my life. I make them, in my mind, something they can’t ever be. I did this to my friend Zack, but never to my friend Frank. Two very different people met at two different times. If anything, I was the one on Frank’s pedestal, but not the same problematic way.

Being seen by me as falling off the pedestal, or not having belonged there in the first place, was messy. The mess was made and can never be unmade, but I made the breakthrough of recognizing that Frank Zack is and always was just a guy. A good guy. A guy with strengths and foibles like any of us. Which gives me an inverse thought I should address, if not in this post. (Typed the wrong name, though the same applies. Or did, since Frank died several years ago.)

I generally did the same with girls. Those I crushed on, anyway. But if I saw things I didn’t like, that already created cognitive dissonance. Anyway, the more the pedestal, the more difficult for me to see her as approachable and act accordingly. If the wasn’t a pedestal, or it was countered too greatly, I’d go the other way, and be talking myself out of it. I recognized the pedestal problem with girls before I ever recognized the harm it had done to that friendship over the decades, and before I ever saw Zack once and for all as a mere mortal. And figured out that being a mere mortal in not a bad thing!

This also made me think about the way I have always looked at authority figures, which includes teachers/professors and bosses. I have no idea how I developed it. It has to go back to an extremely young age or be somehow inherent to me. I always had a fear of authority figures. I was the last kid who would ever have gotten in trouble with the police. I had no dealings with them. Yet they terrified me.

With bosses, I would either be afraid of them or, if I saw them as stupid or incompetent, not take them seriously at all. Neither thing works very well. Usually they are just people doing a job, and have strengths and weaknesses. Usually they are not in fact out to get you, and do not want you to fail. That’s the opposite of what they’d be after. Duh. Arguably this also intersected unhealthily with my perfectionism problem. Forget bosses. I never thought did a good enough job at anything. Except sometimes I knew I was great, and it would be times like that when I’d know a boss was stupid for not realizing it. Then I’d not take them seriously, rather than being afraid of them. Seldom have I ever realized later that I wasn’t as good as I thought, in those cases. Usually, though, I assume I am awful unless regularly and vehemently told otherwise. I’ve gotten better about this. Assuming you don’t take the state of my employment as an indication that, no, I have not, which could be. If you’re awful, who would hire you, and why would you go trying to get a job you can do better than most people that you’re sure you can’t possibly do as well as they’d expect? Why go there? So maybe not.

But I digress. I know I always do, but these are topics neither thought of in the shower nor contemplated for inclusion when I thought of writing this.

I think my point was to compare my realization about my friends just being people, and girls just being people even if they give me elusive butterflies, to the fact that celebrities are just people. People who sometimes need or want to cope with the potential problem of other people not seeing them as such. Of course, fame can be a rush. I’ve had a minor form of it in the past. It really was kind of a kick. So maybe that’s the price of that rush, but you’re still just people. If you were a kid when the fame started, maybe it’s nothing you ever sought or could have known the price of before you started paying.

Storytelling Part 3

Might as well get around to finishing what I started in Part 1 and Part 2, and finish spoiling the whole 48 year old Melody film for the almost everybody who’s never seen it. Of course, you can see it if you want, using the link discussed here.

When I left off, we had gone through the vignettes of Daniel falling for Melody and then attempting to get her notice, summed up in the great use of To Love Somebody during athletics/field day. This also ends with one of those things that never gets explained or expanded upon, but is pretty dramatic, when Daniel faints after winning the race with visions of Melody going through his head. We don’t know how long had passed between the dance and field day, and we don’t know how much time passes between field day and the next school day shown. Except we do, because we are about to have firm evidence that the timeline is one week from the time he sees her in ballet class to the day they first hang out together.

I could write about how short that seems to me for the sort of scenario the kids are involved in, and for certain things to have been said and done. I went through something like it, less successfully, and we’re talking months, not a week. But that might be another post. I also learned just when filming took place, besides that it was in 1970 and happened to include May, so Tracy Hyde had birthday cake on the set. It was May to August, which supports my observation about the state of vegetation in some scenes. Since filming is hard, it makes sense to have taken that long. But not longer, allowing editing and production time before it started being released in March 1971. You figure the horrible dinner party scene took an entire day of filming, and that was just one little scene to show more about how awful the adults in the Latimer family were. The scene in the headmaster’s office took a lot of takes because Mark Lester was too unflappable to express anger without being provoked sufficiently. Which might explain some of Tracy Hyde’s acting in that scene, depending on how things were spliced. But I digress.

He loves her. She seems to reciprocate. Just one thing remains. It’s another school day, and we see Daniel and Ornshaw both get in trouble with the beastly Latin teacher for not being able to present what was supposed to have been “prepared ‘omework.” We never see the kids doing homework in the film, or worrying about it, but they probably had at least as much as my kids tend to have. That’s vastly more than the almost none I had at their ages, but the British schools seem to have been different from my experience.

After school the boys go to the teacher’s office to face his wrath. Ornshaw has the trick of stuffing a towel down his pants to soften the blow while he pretends it hurts. He has Daniel do the same, but Daniel gets caught and is actually harmed after Ornshaw has left the room. Nice bit of acting, the look on the teacher’s face when he notices the towel and pulls it out. This whole thing ties into a couple of later scenes.

When Ornshaw comes out, he sees Melody hanging around one floor below, waiting. He knows darn well why she is there and tries to encourage her to move along. There’s been animosity between them and of course Daniel is his so don’t come between them please. Too late!

Daniel comes out, sees her, and she smiles at him. I haven’t written about how much the apparent age or maturity of the kids varies through the movie, but in this part she looks particularly old and mature. At any given time, the school blazers tend to contribute to that. I suspect that the filming was long enough that growth was a factor, so they look taller or shorter at points during the film. My youngest is very nearly the exact age as Mark Lester during filming. He’s growing like a weed, and any second will become the tallest of the three kids, even versus the exceptionally tall one who just turned 13. She’s just taller than I was when I turned 13, but then I grew 4 inches in the five months after I turned 13, getting most of the way to my final height. The youngest is that height almost a year and a half sooner. But I digress. I risk digressing into my son having crushed on a girl who played cello, which made him more enthusiastic about his decision to play violin. I think he got over that, but there’s an example of a crush at that age.

There’s not really talking in any of this, except by Ornshaw. He doesn’t want to lose Daniel, yet he helps by telling him not to let her see him cry, then taking the towel from Daniel so he doesn’t have to carry it. They start down the stairs.

There’s Melody, planted inexorably at the foot of the flight of stairs, in a pose that could be described as forward. It’s completely confident and unambiguous. The boys stop. Ornshaw looks at Daniel. They continue and Ornshaw resumes trying to get Melody to toddle off. When they get to the bottom, she just looks at Daniel, saying nothing, meaning everything. Ornshaw talks, trying to persuade Daniel to go do things with him that afternoon. Anything! Just to be with his friend. It’s a great way of showing just how heartbreaking this will be for Ornshaw.

Daniel walks to Melody,a s she walks away, stops and looks back. They walk off together while Ornshaw pleads. Then they run to the doorway where they’ll go down the final flight of stairs.

We see them round a corner and come down an aisle between seats that would be used for assembly, heading to the door at their theme, First of May, starts to play. The next part is brilliant visual storytelling with no audible dialogue.

We see Daniel try to carry her bag for her, to her amusement, and then she takes it back. They walk close, obviously a pair. When they walk through an arched stretch in the schoolyard, they hold hands, then let go when people might see them.

Oh heck. You can see this sequence without ever watching the whole film. You just need the video of First of May with cemetery scene left in.

They talk as they walk along, but we don’t know what they say. They make their way to an old cemetery and end up chasing around like puppies for a bit, playfully. Then they are walking together again, holding hands as they head into another section of cemetery. Ultimately it’s her leading him to a spot. The music fades and they are sitting, talking.

She says that her friend Muriel says that he’s been going around telling people he loves her, which she doesn’t mind, but why not tell her if he has to tell someone. She’s always the last to know. That last has just the right plaintive tone. Apparently Daniel has been busier than we’ve seen. Perhaps this was why they showed him being impetuous enough to light his dad’s paper on fire, or forthright enough to tell the director of the Boy’s Brigade that he didn’t know what he was doing there, it was his mother’s idea. You need to have enough innocent boldness, or just boldness, to do something like going around telling everyone you love some girl in school.

Sharing the apple is a cute touch. Not sure I’d ever have done that. Germs, you know. It fits the song. Some of the later cover art they did features the apple in a way that sums up the themes of the film. I have never figured out whether there was a point to her tearing up a handful of dead grass or vegetation when he hands her the apple.

She does most of the talking.He’s very quiet, and we’ve already seen that she’s more social, talkative, and can be a smartass when expressing herself. To the degree she reminds me of Ella, a similarity is her being surrounded by groups of other girls who were her friends at school or from the drum and bugle corps. In 9th grade, we read The Merchant of Venice in English, which was one of the classes we shared. She was kind of behind me, so I couldn’t stare at her there as I did in the horrible algebra class. I loved that book! I used to describe the friends around Ella as “Portia’s train,” the way that sort of retinue was described in the book.

She observes it’s nice there, and that her mom tells her not to go there but she’s not frightened. Nothing to be frightened of when you have the boy with green ears and so forth. LOL. Looking for something to say, since he’s about as much help as I’d have been around that age, she looks around and then reads a nearby gravestone. The name of the woman on it is Ella Jane, appropriately. They’d been married 50 years of happiness and then he died just two months later. This is crucial, since this sparks the idea of marriage. Storytelling prop.

I wonder if that’s a real gravestone or if it was a prop they produced for the purpose of the story. I’ve seen video of people walking through the very cemetery decades later, but nothing where someone found the exact spot.

Anyway, she observes “he only lasted two months after she died.” Finally speaking a full sentence, Daniel says “he must have loved her very much.” This is pretty much the most famous dialogue in the entire film.

She asks him how long is fifty years. He gives the reply in number of school terms, which shows how young they are and how limited their worldview is. It’s also kind of funny.

She asks “will you love me that long,” turning to look at him with an adorable smile. He nods. She says “I don’t think you will.” Wise observation, but hey, it can happen.

He replies “of course, I’ve loved you a whole week already, haven’t I?” He smiles and looks almost tongue in cheek. He laughs slightly and they both smile. This is when we first hear him say he loves her. It gives us the timeline from the day he sees her to now, locking everything through that day into place. I know life can move fast at that age, but it seems like too little time for the strength of the friendship with Ornshaw, and for the antics between Daniel and Melody to have happened and come to fruition. It works great for the dialogue, though! This is the scene that Tracy and Mark reenacted on at least one of their reunions decades later. The acting here is great, and so is the way things are conveyed.

First of May reprise kicks in as they continue eating the apple and looking at each other, and we segue into them walking along a road again. I’d love to be able to read lips to know what they are saying when they stop and try to duck through the fence to jaywalk. They pause and are foiled. Not sure, but I assume that is trying to show them being kids and not always angels. Then they are walking through the yard in front of her building. A little girl runs up to her and they pause for a kind moment between her and the kid. Maybe that means to show them as not little any more, by comparison. They reach her door and they have an exchange. It may be that he has seen him as walking her home, and is reticent, while she is inviting him for tea. She opens the door and, in one of my favorite, funny touches, she reaches back out the door and pulls him in by his tie. Inside the door, she looks amused, as well she should. Even though it was different sets and might have been widely separate days of filming, it’s seamless. Her mother and granny look up from the table and at the doorway, surprised. Melody announces “he’s come for tea.” This brooks no dissent.

We get more of her family dynamic when they are at tea. We see her being daddy’s girl, since he is home. We see tension between him and her mother, if not outright fighting as we saw with Daniel’s parents. Her father is obviously someone who can’t do with silences, so he has to find something to talk about, a story to tell. Melody gives him a number of “if looks could kill” looks as he goes along. Ultimately, though, it’s a nice interlude. It cements things and caps off the day.

At no time do we ever see Daniel’s parents meet or be aware of her. Interesting.

This is the end of certainty about the timeline of events. The vignettes used in telling the story until now could have been separated substantially from each other in time, if not for the confirmation on this day that it all took place over a week. To me that timetable is a borderline anomaly, or creates some. But it’s a story. You make decisions and trade-offs.

And so we have no idea whether the next day is the next day or sometime later. The only evidence we have that it’s not the next day, beside it seeming rather abrupt, is when Melody’s father refers to Daniel having been to tea multiple times. That suggests a longer build up once he is her boyfriend, and more opportunity to reach the point of planning that day together. Also that would give more time for them to be so attached that marriage seems reasonable to them, at least in their perception of it. They don’t always seem innocent enough to be that innocent.

The next scene is a morning at school, attendance, and they aren’t there. We see they are on a train. They hop off, looking sort of furtive even though by then who’s going to catch them. There are a lot of questions about how they managed to sneak away like this. They are dressed for a day of fun. That means their school clothes, blazers, satchels… those are all at home, should someone notice. They had to get out the door that way, with what they were carrying for the day out, not for school. But that’s mechanics that are outside showing the story. We can wonder and imagine, but really it just is. Hand wave.

We see them on amusement park rides. During some of this the some Give Your Best plays, as it did when Daniel hung out for an afternoon with Ornshaw. We see them eating cotton candy and buying ice cream cones. We see them walking along the beach in bare feet, spying and then jumping on trampolines. Then they watch a wee kiddie pageant, which she is totally into and he tolerates because he is with her. We see them sitting on a sheltered bench, which is still there. You could go sit where they sat, if you wanted to seek it out. Mostly it’s companionable silence, which is a great thing to be able to have with someone, but they converse and some of it is lame. It doesn’t entirely fit with them having hung out and talked on other days.

If that tells a story, it tells how limited their world is. They talk about what they would be doing in school right now if they were there, and what subjects they like. He pretends he doesn’t like history so much after all, since she hates it. She loves geography. Can’t blame her there. That actually factors later, as some things do throughout the film.

When the rain is over, we see them on the beach, building a sand castle and talking idly. Her dad doesn’t like the beach and usually stays home, “in the pubs, mostly.” She’s aware of his drinking problem, if it’s a problem.  That reaches back to the beginning when she had to go find him at the pub. That pub is still there, operating under the same name. His family rides in the car, but they don’t generally get out. The adults have a row and don’t talk until they get home. We get some of their view of adults firsthand, besides the over the top adult acting intended to convey how kids see them. He goes down and steps into the water with a container, brings some water back, and then she wonders why it all went away. That’s particularly lame, because a six year old would probably understand that water poured onto sand is going to dissipate through it. Do they really want us to see the kids as being that young and ignorant?

While patting sand in place, one of their hands pats onto the other one’s hand and they are sort of… startled. I don’t know why, given all the hand holding they did, even if it was just the one day prior and this is the very next day. Still, that is the impetus for him asking if they should get married. She thinks maybe someday, perhaps, which is a smart answer. They talk about how old might you have to be before you can get married. As old as our parents? He worries if they wait they might be “old miseries.” Great expression! The wife is an old misery. LOL. Too much social media. I never would have said LOL in blog posts 15 years ago. Most adults they know are old miseries. Melody stands and looks out across the water, getting sandy hands in her hair and wistfully saying to the world at large “I don’t know. I really don’t know…”

That segues into a scene where the two of them pop up from behind a screened enclosure, now wearing their swim suits, clothes hung on the enclosure. Initially holding hands, they run down to the water, step in, then step out because it’s COLD. you hear her say “I’m done!” while pointing to herself. Then she goes back in, which he is supposed to do together with her. He’s a little slow about it. She kicks water to splash him, then he splashes her, and fun ensues. Considering he stepped into the water shortly before this, if it was cold he should have noticed. A little glitch there. That scene ends with a musical thud. We see nothing of when and how they get home, the rest of their day, the reaction at home if any of the parents figured out what they had done, nothing. This is another absence of telling what isn’t essential to be told. I’d expect to see more of it in a book. A film or show would trim things exactly this way.

It goes straight to the two of them in school clothes, insides the door of the headmaster’s office, unambiguously the next day. This scene required many takes, at least the part where Daniel gets angry and yells at the headmaster. We don’t see anything about how they wound up being sent or called there. We don’t see whether there is or will be interaction between school and parents.

I should note, as I may have before, that if kids that age skip school here, the school calls home to see if the parents know the kid is home. A parent is supposed to call to tell the school the kid will be out. In elementary it’s a special number where you leave voicemail. In middle school it’s just calling the office. I don’t know if anyone goes to even that length in high school. The schools seem to be good at treating the kids as being older and more responsible as the get older in age and year. In my day, there was nothing like that. There was no hyperactive fear of kidnapping, which is what actually drives the safe to school line concept. We were simply expected to take an excuse note from a parent the next day and give it to the office.

Anyway, the headmaster is funny. He’s actually quite gentle with them, and I saw Mrs. Latimer’s hand in that. since she is buddies with him and he’d want to keep in her good graces. The range of expressions from Melody during part of this is amusing, since I am not sure that’s what we ought to be seeing. I can’t help wondering what the director was telling them during this. When the headmaster stands behind the two of them and puts a hand each on one of their shoulders, she looks at his hands and has a “get that off me you creep” look, an amused look, a worried or alarmed look, an amused look, and so forth as he speaks.

When Daniels tells him they know what their priorities are: they want to get married, she whips her head to the side and looks at him like WTF. I mean, we never saw them actually come right out and decide with each other that yes, this was absolutely what they wanted to do. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t. I figure the look was more “OMG why are you telling him that.” Then, when asked if she’s offered him her hand, she says she doesn’t know, she’s not sure what it all means. That sure is a switch from their vehemence. Daniel gets mad because he thinks it funny, but it’s not and he’s treating them like they’re stupid. The headmaster tells them that’s it, “the matter is finished.” Then the real fun starts.

They go back to their classrooms. Weird thing is that if they got sent to the office while other kids went to class, they should be entering a class in progress. Instead, they are entering classes where the kids await arrival of the teacher. She gets tormented, even by some of her closest friends. He gets tormented worse, and ends up in a fight on the floor with Ornshaw. Latin teacher breaks it up. Daniel is nursing his bloody nose while Ornshaw apologizes from the next desk, feeling terrible.

After school, in one of the most iconic scenes, we see Daniel and Melody sitting in the rain in his cemetery. Her head is on his shoulder and his arm is around her neck. His other hand is holding his satchel above them, in a vain attempt to keep them from getting completely soaked. We don’t know what he is saying, but he is talking furiously to her. That is the one clue I figure we have that says the next day’s events take place the actual next day, rather than at some later date. We don’t need words, anyway. This tells the tale of what the day has been like for them and his strength in trying to make her feel better.

Then she is home, hair getting dried, sitting at the table while her father does most of the talking to her and her mother interjects from behind. Granny lurks around back there, and we see some good facial acting on her part. They know about her wanting to get married and are telling her people just don’t get married at her age. In this whole scene, she seems pretty young, whereas there are so many times she seems older than she is. They do a poor job of explaining. She doesn’t accept it. If the plans for what in film terms appears to be tomorrow have already been made, it is moot anyway. As I said, I felt for her father here. Tracy Hyde does an excellent job being pathetic. It calls back to her love of geography. She likes being with Daniel more. Daniel is home, in bed, thinking. We see nothing of his parents.

Final bit. Flash to what we could take to be the very next day. Complete turnaround from the classmates. Daniel’s mother is frantic because he left a note that they were eloping. First we have known that she has any clue about the girl or the depth of things, and she’s a mess. It’s ridiculous. Headmaster takes her call, assures her things are fine, he’d seen them in class. He’ll go check. When he does, he learns one of the classes never came back from morning break. The one kid there is the kid who’s been trying to make a homemade bomb the whole time. Turns out their classes went to the railroad arches for a wedding.

Headmaster gathers up the teachers to go break it up. As they are driving off, Mrs. Latimer drives up in her fancy car and ends up following. Nothing to worry about. They get to the barren land by the rails and break up to try to flush out the kids. Meanwhile, Stacey, the bomb kid, has run off to warn them the teachers are coming. Obviously his planned role. The headmaster is so oblivious, he doesn’t notice Stacey had a bomb right on the desk when he walked in and asked where the others were.

We see the kids gathered and Ornshaw starting the ceremony. The kids laugh and he tells them it’s not funny, it’s serious. Rhoda is the maid of honor, even though during most of the movie you might think Peggy or Muriel were closer friends. I didn’t identify the boy who seems to be the best man. I like Rhoda. The actress, Lesley Roach, was in a lot of stuff before Melody, then disappeared after 1976. We had a local family named Roach when I was a kid.

It’s funny when Ornshaw tries to read the whole thing, fumbles it, and basically leaves it as taking the respective other to be their husband and wife. “Will you?” “I will.” “Yeah, I thought you might.” same with Melody, blah blah obey blah. “I will.” She has kind of a blushing bride look, and seems amused. Maybe Tracy was trying to keep a straight face and almost not managing it. This also had to be funny if they shot the scene earlier in filming than they did some of what built up to it. The more extras involved, the earlier they shot it. These were more the core group, but they still might have done this sooner and then completed what had only the main characters afterward.

Before Ornshaw can say man and wife, years before this was a thing in Princess Bride, Stacey gets them the warning and they scatter. The main wedding party goes one way. The rest go the other to run interference. At this point it’s a revolt. It was just the thing with Daniel and Melody that provided the impetus. This is where Teach Your Children plays. I’ve seen it described as out of place or inappropriate. I don’t think so, for the scene and the ending the team decided on. I might have come up with a different ending, though I can’t say what.

The kids fight back with the teachers, who are outnumbered. Eventually it’s down to Ornshaw, Melody and Daniel, running from the evil Latin teacher. They lose him and Ornshaw has the newlyweds hop on a hand trolley that we saw in a much earlier scene of a test of one of the explosives.

In the meantime, Stacey has lit his latest bomb attempt and tossed it into the back of Mrs. Latimer’s car. It works spectacularly. He is amazed and overjoyed. That stops everything in its tracks, including, briefly, the running that Ornshaw and the newlyweds are doing, while they and the Latin teacher look back to see what the noise had been. The headmaster and teachers run away. Mrs. Latimer looks at her burning car in dismay, looking completely lost. More than she had during the brawl.

That’s it. Teachers are a mess and not looking good. Kids are not going to be able to escape being in trouble. Mrs. Latimer is going to have to explain the car to her husband and might want to reexamine her life. The honeymoon is presumably going to be short because where can they go, what can they do? They’re 11. It’s not a real marriage. They can’t support themselves. They’re carrying nothing but the clothes on their backs. But all of that is neither here nor there. What happens next. What people face. Those aren’t part of this story. Leave it to the imagination. Leave it as an ending that is too absurd for reality so why ask those questions. It was fun and told a tale that was meant to be told.

I don’t think I accomplished with this set of posts what I thought I was setting out to do. It ended up being more of a breakdown of the movie, much as people on YouTube break movies or show episodes down and look at what happened and some of the finer points in videos. I still say that watching this and seeing how the story was conveyed helped inspire and make me think, with respect to my old story that I should complete eventually. The lesson for me is it being OK to leave gaps and leave unanswered details the reader doesn’t have to know. There’s also a lesson in tying elements from earlier to later, and how to introduce people and places.

It’s late and I should already be in bed, since alarm time is 2:15 AM. I either have to leave this a draft or publish it but then proofread it when I get home later in the morning. Probably the latter.

Ornshaw. Tom Ornshaw.

I have no idea whether there is an official source of the name, but there seems to be common acceptance among anyone who cares that Ornshaw’s first name is Tom. I had wondered. At first I thought “what kind of name is Ornshaw?” Then I figured out it’s a surname, and he is never addressed as anything else. I have seen something like this, with a friend being called Fish rather than his first name, Tom. He almost answered better to the former.

I was going to put this in a post about things learned in fan fiction, of which there is an extremely tiny amount for Melody. It doesn’t get particularly  risque, but it does seem to ship Melody and Ornshaw, or the trio, or to attempt to fill in the bit where they get him to marry them, or to attempt to fill in what happens later. Logical enough, since I immediately thought of that sort of thing.

The other factoid I learned that way, official or not, is that Melody’s father, Richard Perkins, is a truck driver. He “drives big lorries.” It would fit with their working class status and with his apparent uneven presence home from work, pub time aside.

Anyway, I’m willing to accept that name. It sounds right. It’s possible that it’s in the script and enough folks know it that it got out in the wild as official. It’s possible it ended up in an interview, book, DVD extra, or who knows, and if you’re avid enough you caught it.

Me Movies

Back when he was one of my business partners, my friend Ted and I would go to a lot of movies. A lot of times they were ones his girlfriend wouldn’t have wanted to see, and I was single at the time. Before that, I frequently went with friends from my previous job. They did things like move across the country over the course of time. Late nineties, 1998 particularly, when I saw most of what showed locally, I went to tons of movies, usually alone. Sometimes I’d go to the mall, see one, eat at the food court, and see another, just to be out of the house.

Ted would tell me about movies he’d seen without me, usually with Winnie, and if it was something like a romantic comedy, his shorthand was to say “it’s a ‘you’ movie.” Everyone knew I was especially fond of those, and would sometimes get emotional, even at scenes or films where most people wouldn’t.

To this day, as a result, I refer to them as “me movies.”

A prime example would be You’ve Got Mail. I expected that to be lame, like one big ad for AOL, but it was one of the finest romantic comedies ever made. I really should watch it again sometime, as it’s been at least a few years.

After I was married, they maybe lost a little of their appeal. After we had marital problems, which in a sense have never ended, anything like that lost all or most of its charm for me. I was already recovering from that somewhat, but the story of, you guessed it if you’ve been reading the other posts, Melody, is that it took me the rest of the way out of the funk. Romantic songs didn’t lose their appeal in the way that movies did, but they also have more spark than they did. I’ve been feeling inexplicably happier and more hopeful than I probably have in years.

Melody is definitely a me movie. It hit a particular nerve because of the memories it dredged up, and the introspection it shone on my life.

Sleepless in Seattle. That’s a good one! I didn’t see it until years after it had come out. Ditto for When Harry Met Sally. Meg Ryan in her prime was just amazing. Joe Versus the Volcano! That was a riot, and she was so talented, playing three distinct characters. I still joke about having a brain cloud. I saw Kate & Leopold in the theater with my friends Naomi and Sally. It was Naomi who was the last of my serial crushes, the one who broke the streak and left me having given up, which led the way to meeting the wife online and in a more clinical, intellectual fashion. I miss the idea of romance, even though I never had it except in my mind.

Splash I saw on a date with Maddie, in a dollar theater in downtown… Salem, I think. Somewhere in that area. It’s had long since come and gone, and she thought I really really needed to see it. Tom Hanks before Meg Ryan. That was great. Imagine, me seeing a date movie, on a date. Of course, Maddie was attempting to encourage me, so that fit the bill. She also played songs on a jukebox that were meant for the purpose and went right past me, when we were in a restaurant the same day.

I was never as big on Julia Roberts, but I absolutely adored Notting Hill. It’s one of my favorites of all time, up there with You’ve Got Mail. I was sad to see the news when Emma Chambers died. Rhys Ifans as Spike reminded me of my older brother, and was amazing as an utterly different character, Earl of Oxford, in Anonymous. That’s not a romantic comedy, but posits the idea that Edward de Vere was the author of the works of Shakespeare. Brilliantly done. A different variety of me movie, you could say.

None of this is to dismiss the usual fare of action, science fiction, superhero, or fantasy movies and shows. Die Hard, for instance, is one of the greatest films ever made. You could use it as an example to take apart in detail to teach film making. It’s just that I’m known for loving me some romantic comedy, or even not so comedy.

Is This Forward?

When I talked about being forward, I counted up through the point in Melody when the relationship is established. He got her attention. She reciprocated and made it clear. They walked off after school was well over, since he had stayed for punishment, and hung out together in the overgrown cemetery.

It seems she tends to lead or dominate conversation, but I wouldn’t say that is forward so much as she having more idea than him what she wants to say, and him being a quieter type. She already has him where he wants to be, so it’s not like she can provide more encouragement.

But afterward, in one of my favorite little details, they arrive at her door. I’m curious about the scene with the little kid coming up to her before they get there, whether it was planned or spontaneous, but it was touching. Anyway, they get to her door. He has to know he hasn’t simply walked her home, but that she is bringing him to tea with her family. Or does he?

She opens the door, steps in, and with him standing uncertainly outside, her arm reaches back out, she grabs him by the tie, and drags him irresistibly inside. When they switch to the inside view, the actors/characters look vaguely amused, as if that funny thing just happened and they are self-aware of it The thing is, if they are true to the reported details, the exterior of the building was used, but for the interior it was a set built in the same large building much else was shot in. So the inside and outside shots were likely different days, or at least different times and locations. Unless this was an exception, or was an exception up to the point they enter the room with the table.

If he wasn’t clear, then dragging him in perhaps counted as forward. He certainly is shy and uncertain enough, but I can relate. She also seems bold in the way she announces “he’s come for tea” when her mother and granny look up and seem so surprised.

So perhaps there was more to Tracy’s view of Melody being forward or aggressive than what I covered and was dubious about.

My Ornshaw

Well, I was going to do a post with that title, specifically about my late friend, call him Frank even though he’s too dead to be offended by anything I might say, and ways he, and his interaction with me, remind me of Ornshaw. And Jack Wild.

In some ways, though, my old friend Zack could be written about similarly. In other ways, I was Ornshaw to Zack. Frank was rather introverted to be as overtly cheeky, though he was pretty good with snide or intelligent but not appreciated observations or questions. Zack wasn’t introverted and could be as cheeky as any of us ever got. I, especially as I age, have that cheekier side, though in many ways I am very much Daniel, but less extroverted or mischievous. Especially when I was young. It ends up rather relative.

Zack gets the “girl disrupts friendship” award the most. That really never happened with Frank. However, the friend-love as portrayed in Melody was more between me and Zack, mainly in that direction, and less so with me and Frank. I never got a girlfriend. Certainly not when there was a strong bond between me and Zack. Frank didn’t get a girlfriend at a young enough age to matter, or one that was a strong enough emotional bond.

Zack eventually got a first girlfriend in the form of the same Daphne I have mentioned as being so trying for me in other posts. She recently apologized to me for not realizing how I felt about her, which seems odd because I was completely unambiguous. I have never been that clear or overt. I seem to try harder in hopeless cases and less hard if chances are better. Because success bad? While wanting no part of me, she wanted or even lusted after my friends in inverse proportion to their interest in her.

So she dated Zack. He got to make out a lot but that was the extent of it. I was miffed and it maybe somewhat took him away from me at the same time she was insulting me with her actions. Jealous, even, though somewhere along the line my interest had waned enough that it was probably more insulted than jealous. I also thought he could do better, and he did, later. The one Daphne really wanted was Frank, who she did eventually “date,” if you know what I mean. He had no actual interest, but at the time she was available and nobody else was. Sad.

Zack ended up with Joan, who had dated Perry up to around the time he went off to college. It was funny, since the first time they met, she didn’t like him. I inadvertently triggered the whole thing. Later I helped ensure they stayed together. But I lost him to her in at least the way Ornshaw lost Daniel to Melody. Or at least it added impetus to something that might have already been underway. In that, I represent Ornshaw. I was also perhaps the freer spirit when we first met at 11. Except at the same time Zack would say outrageous things I would never have dared, even between us. He got me used to using swears, even though I’d certainly heard them from an earlier best friend, Kara, and from the world at large. She once told me about having looked up the words to see if they were in the big dictionary at school when she was in sixth grade and I was in fifth. No, it may have been fifth and fourth, come to think of it.

On another note, I think Ornshaw needs more credit for intelligence and sense. He’s obviously street smart. He’s poor/lower class, part of the class elements shown in the film. It seems he’s an orphan, if he is in the care of his grandfather, or perhaps more accurately, caring for his grandfather.

He’s a troublemaker and smartass, sure. He’s also either older than his grade level, or more mature. His having girly magazine pictures behind his bible in scripture class is a nice comparison to Daniel’s innocence in having gotten a girly magazine from a boy at school so he knows what they look like to try his hand at painting nudes. He’s completely matter of fact about it when his mother finds what he is doing, bored and on an artistic exploration.

What was Wellington doing in Spain in the first place? That’s a good question! I had to look it up. It has a valid answer, which might have been outside the scope of what the teacher wanted to discuss in history that day. Nice these days to have the internet. I never thought to wonder what Talavera was, even though I saw it referenced heavily in a series I like.  In that case, it’s the name of a ship, presumably named after the battle. To dismiss Ornshaw out of hand? Rude.

Questioning the merit of learning Latin? Not unreasonable. It would be easy to come up with reasons to study Latin and convey them, but why not just add some extra beatings to the schedule? Rude.

Ornshaw is also wiser than his ostensible age about girls and what people might be up to. He knows what Melody wants when her finds her waiting after the Latin punishment, and assiduously tries to get her to go away. He doesn’t want to lose Daniel to her, and at the same time advises Daniel not to cry in front of her and disposes of the towel for him. He eventually buy into the importance of the marriage ceremony and that it’s serious, not funny, when the other kids in the rebellion are still laughing despite knowing why they are gather together. He knows to try to be offputting to Melody in the cafeteria, and has jumped in to guide his friend away from either any further embarrassment, or falling into her clutches then and there. He’s smart enough to know that while Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and he has it bad that way, Daniel also has it good in a way. He knows that school won’t be forever. Those kinds of observations and bits of wisdom really remind me of Frank.

If I take Frank to be my Ornshaw, it fits with Jack Wild. Drinking contributed to Jack’s death, even though he’d kicked it long since. Smoking, too, which is where they don’t overlap. Frank died at 52 of cumulative effects of drinking. I somehow missed that he was an alcoholic until the last maybe dozen years of his life. That’s a surprisingly good job of hiding it.

Oh well, This ended up long, but it covered two posts that I’d been thinking of writing.

The Orville: Identity Part 2

Holy cow! I am going to try to avoid spoilers, but this was one of the most amazing SF works I have ever seen on TV and up there with decent films, especially taken together with part 1.

Hooray for Yaphit! It was great to see him in an important, serious role and his skills put to such good use.

I think I’m just as glad that the unlikely but possible “it’s a simulation” theory of what went down starting in part 1 was not true. It’s cool that the Cylons could nudge the Klingons and Federation together, as some suspected might happen.

I am still amused that there’s an Admiral Halsey. It was cool he got a somewhat bigger role than normal this episode.

It will be interesting to see where they go from here. They’ve added some major serious to comedic yet serious science fiction. If The Orville isn’t careful, it’ll become highly respected as Its Own Thing, and not just some homage to that other franchise. The Force is totally with them now.

My Melody Girls

I could go on at length about crushes and such, but Melody relates most closely to three over the years, from younger than the kids in the movie to college age. Call them Carol, Ella, and Maddie.

Carol was fourth grade. I don’t actually remember that moment I first noticed and fell for her, and I was so young that I didn’t realize just what I was experiencing. There was a gulf between how it would be just a year later and how it was then. It was my first crush that wasn’t a teacher crush, and I will never forget how it felt. It would be the closest to how Daniel felt when he first noticed Melody in her ballet class. (I will never understand why some people refer to ballet class as “the school disco” when writing about the movie.)

Funny thing is there was dancing involved with Carol, whose name I didn’t know until several years ago. Someone posted a class picture from elementary school and there she was, exactly as I remembered, long, dark hair and what it turns out was a homemade skirt. Since that was a picture someone I was Facebook friends with from having gone to the same schools, but who looked much different later when she’d moved back to town and I knew her name, that solved it. I loathed gym. Because I had a mild physical retardation problem, with my coordination having been affected by damage from meningitis as an infant, it was bad enough anyway. The gym teacher was a sadist and just could not bear my inability to function normally. One day, more than one class was in gym at the same time, doing some kind of a dance thing. Carol wasn’t in my class, or I’d have known her name. She was in the class across the hall. That class was there. I believe this may actually be when I first noticed/fell for her, as we were dancing in gym.

During the course of the dance routine, there was holding of hands involved, however briefly. She was my partner in that. It was magic. That was the first and I believe only time holding hands was a thrill. She was pleased, decades later, that she could be a bright spot in the sadistic gym teacher’s class. She would have been receptive at least to knowing me at the time, since she lacked friends and didn’t think people liked her. She had a troubled family situation. I suppose in a way I did, in different ways. I believe I had already noticed her before then, but that was the big scene. I believe it was toward the end of the year, which makes it winter/spring 1971. It was around the time Melody was released, and she resembled Melody, close enough. We were just a year younger. I was 9 turning 10 around that time.

It was the following school year when I really “got” what I had been feeling and kept an eye out for her. That wasn’t going to work, since she had moved away. She briefly lived in a different town than I did then, the same town I live in now, three houses from where I am. Small world or something.

Yeah, there were others, some even getting less credit than maybe they deserved over the years. One, in particular, I sometimes feel was the one that got away, all the way back in sixth grade. But then came ninth grade.

I can’t say that Ella was lightning striking or love at first sight, but it may as well have been for the significance it had. She was in a couple of my classes and I ended up head over heels, but with little more idea of what to do about it than I’d had when I was in fourth. This was significant for being my last innocent crush, well past an age where I should have been having a crush and not thinking about getting physical. Had I been thinking that way, it might have gone better.

It’s hard to remember the day to day. I didn’t go around the school telling everyone I loved her, as Daniel ostensibly did with Melody, but people caught on. I did have one friend heavily in on it. I’ll probably write about him as my Ornshaw. We met essentially because of her. I simply started talking to him about it one day in homeroom. He shared math with us, and lived in the same town as her, if not the same part of town.

It turned out she was a member of a local drum and bugle corps, in the color guard. I started going to watch their practices, as well as lurking around her neighborhood. There were some funny exchanges or episodes between me, her, my friend Frank, her friends, her sister, and the other people in the Corps.

She also resembled Melody somewhat, if not as much as I think Cheryl did. The big thing was the expressions and reactions. Looking serious, intense, vexed… that was all there. The scene in the music room feels like watching me and Ella.

We never dated, but she was the first girl ever to say she loved me. After being evasive, that was yelled out, in public, as bold as it gets. I was floored. I remember barely being able to keep the bike upright as I rode away from the Corps bus she was on, all confused. The thing was, school was over. I eventually realized that if it was somehow embarrassing to be liking me at school, school being out for summer made it safe. That could have been the happiest summer of my life, for all I know. I largely just… stopped. Confused. Dazed. I still don’t understand it.

She didn’t get to be my first kiss, despite a scene in which we were goaded for me to kiss her for luck in an upcoming competition. I wasn’t going to do that in front of the entire drum and bugle corps. She suggested a rain check, and that’s how it forever remained.

My first and best kiss would be Daphne, of all people. I had thrown a party near the end of high school. She ended up on my lap, cuddling with me. This was good, since I’d hoped her coming to the party would spark something. My friend Perry drove my car to take her home, his then girlfriend, my friend Joan, in front with him, while I rode in back with Daphne. That’s when we kissed. That was it. She was completely done after that. But she could be a whole book herself, and this is not a post about her. She just came to mind for the first kiss. Still, none of the other three kissers came close. Nobody else but my wife ever said “I love you.” Nobody else was ever a thrill to take by the hand.

Then we flash way forward, second year of college, which would have been first year after college had I started on the normal timing and finished after the normal duration. I did neither.

Maddie ended up in accounting with me, and in history. She was cute but not beautiful, with short, dark hair. She struggled in accounting. I can’t say I fell for her at first sight or anything, or even that I seriously crushed on her. I did notice, and she noticed I noticed, and she noticed right back, and we sort of fell together without anyone having to be terribly forward, or feel timid enough for nothing to happen. If there was an innocence to it, it was the innocence of my not really seeing her as a sexual partner initially. In some ways she was just my buddy, and felt like a mismatch. Plus I was terrified at the prospect, since I was old now, yet embarrassingly inexperienced. We fell into dating, briefly. I discovered I had a jealous streak if she talked with other guys, even though I never expressed it and in a way we weren’t officially an item. I had some tremendous chances I blew. She will always be the first girl I dated, as far as I am concerned. She will always be that comfortable experience of coming together without effort or trauma. The biggest obstacle is I didn’t take her seriously. This would never have been a long term relationship, but it could have been longer and more involved. I’ll always feel bad about that.

Put the three of them together and you have Melody. Sort of. Maybe. LOL.

It’s Carol, and the timing, and my age and budding awareness, that makes me wonder how things might have been if I had seen Melody circa spring 1971 or so, when it was originally out. Releases didn’t work the same, then. It could be released at the end of March but be part of a double feature at the drive-in that summer. At that age, I had hardly ever been to a theater. It was always the drive-in.

Filming Is Hard

Or, to quote my daughter, “acting is hard.” I’ve been relating my limited experience in the filming of a video with children circa 11 years old to the challenges faced in filming Melody with, part of the time, hundreds of children. The core contingent centered on the age my daughter was in summer 2017.

My daughter’s 5th grade teacher was going to be on a network TV show, again, and they were pushing her as something of a superstar in the reality competition involved. Make people want to watch by promoting her. Add human interest by showing stuff about her. They had previously filmed on an entirely normal classroom day. That was awkward when my daughter had an inconveniently timed dental appointment and had to be extracted from the room without disrupting filming.

After the school year ended, I got a call from the teacher, inviting my daughter to be in a video being filmed on an upcoming Saturday. Well, of course!

Little did we know it would be a long, grueling day of takes and more takes, between waiting for setup of scenes, for under a minute that actually aired, with my daughter visible for perhaps a few seconds.

Most of the kids were not from the actual class the teacher had during the school year just ended. My daughter was tall for her age. About half the kids were children of the principal. Kidding, but a few were, and they ranged pretty young. There wasn’t an effort to go for authenticity so much as teacher plus kids. My daughter was sidelined somewhat due to her height and apparent age compared to the norm among the bunch of kids involved.

The first part was a faux classroom scene, which none of the parents there were able to witness being filmed. It was in the actual class, but rearranged and lit as a set for the video. My daughter wasn’t really in that at all, because they clustered the little kids in the area where the action took place. It was like a transformation of the teacher to something else, bounding across the desks, if I recall the details correctly.

The rest was basically a music video, in the hall and then outside. That’s the part where my daughter could be seen if you knew to look. The teacher and the kids around her were ad hoc choreographed with different moves, props and lighting, coming down the hall to music.

Outside there were scenes filmed of action on playground equipment, then in the parking lot. On the playground equipment it was action sequences. My daughter would have figured prominently in one bit, but she didn’t match the size of the other two kids, so they swapped her out. Then she was kind of at the end of the line because she was too tall in another scene. Kind of hard when you’re hanging from bars but your feet touch the ground. She was taller than the teacher, even then. Now she’s 5′ 4 1/4″ at the dawn of 13, and her brother is 1/4 inches behind her all of a sudden, six months shy of 12. That part featured the use of colored smoke effects.

Finally, there was a victory scene of sorts, where the kids mobbed around the teacher in the back parking lot of the school, cheering and throwing colorful dust, like powdered chalk, up in the air, then they all walked off into the distance at the cameraman was rolled after them on a little cart.

It was grueling, even just watching and waiting, let alone being in the cast of kids, directed to do this or that different ways over and over and over. I found it fascinating. There was a young guy who was the director. Totally looked the part. There were a few assistants or people with defined roles, like the cameraman and the art director. There was one young woman, kindly yet stern, super attractive, consummately professional, whose job seemed to be resolving problems and doing anything necessary to make things happen. Sometimes this involved the tool belt she wore. Sometimes this involved fetching things or helping the art person.

The kids were each supposed to bring a sedate outfit and a flamboyant or colorful outfit. With my daughter, it was hard to tell the difference! It started with sign in, so to speak, at a table up on the stage in the auditorium. I had to give them a release form and they reviewed the outfits. Then we waited, even before anything at all started. They gave something of an orientation. They served lunch for everyone, Subway, and had lots of snacks and candy. It took until lunch for the initial art, the classroom scene, to finish shooting. During the break, the kids all got shoelaces that lit up, worn turned on in part of what shot afterward. Those they got to keep.

It was easily supper time before we were done. Then that was it. We had to wait and hope to catch it when it aired or when someone posted it. As I said, it didn’t amount to much, after all that work and what they spent to send the crew there to produce it. I got some bits on video and in pictures, but we were barred from posting any of that online until after it had aired. I haven’t gone back and looked at any of it almost since then. Nothing earth shattering.

As my daughter would say, “So, that was a thing that happened.” It certainly didn’t inspire her to want to go into acting. Shy or not, last year she got up on stage and sang a cappella a song that she wrote, but that didn’t require acting or take after take while following a director’s instructions.

Now take that day and make it a feature film featuring kids. A lot of kids. The core cast of kids for Melody exceeded the number in that video shoot, let alone the hundreds of extras employed for the crowded scenes. The child stars may have considered it “a romp,” but it’s still work for all involved.

Being Forward

In the video on the making of Melody, Tracy Hyde talks about similarities and differences between her and the character. For instance, they both love animals (though we only see this evidenced with the goldfish), which fits with Tracy having ended up running a boarding kennel which can be interpreted in some mentions to have been the family business.

She says that one difference is that she would not be so aggressive in getting a boyfriend, but instead waits for them to come to her. Is Melody particularly forward or aggressive, or does she merely make it obvious she is receptive, rather than being mysterious and letting Daniel flail around until maybe, just maybe, he does or says exactly the right thing?

Watching again, I can see how you could interpret her relatively assertive actions as being quite forward. To me they aren’t. If a girl actually wanted me, she pretty much had to bash me over the head and drag me away. It had to be utterly unambiguous, more so than should be necessary. It’s as if I were female instead of male.

What does Melody do? First encounter she smiles, which could be seen as encouraging, but is also just a pleasant acknowledgment that he is looking at her so intently and is in an awkward position yet trying. In assembly she just stares back with a serious look, or we don’t see a smile, since one appears in a still later. In the music room, she has no idea what to do. Make small talk? So she starts practicing and he makes it a duet. She smiles with her eyes while playing recorder. None of it is especially forward or demonstrative yet. In the cafeteria, the two look at each other when he gets redirected to a seat with the boys, but I don’t see strong encouragement there.

At the dance, she puts herself on display and pointedly keeps eyeing him. That seems like flirty encouragement, but it would be easy to ignore or to dismiss as too weak if you’re like I was. Or am. Obviously we get to see how mutual it has become then, after the dance. And agreeing to dance, well, that’s not being forward. He asked her. She just made it easy. As much so as is possible in the circumstances, anyway. Having danced, there’s something established, at least as a strong possibility. Seeking her out would have been reasonable. Seeking him out is not unreasonable on her part.

That said, in my experience, the stairway scene is forward. For a girl. It’s unambiguous enough, even for me, or should be. She waits, knowing somehow exactly where he will be after school is out. She adopts a bold stance, planted at the foot of the stairs, unmistakably wanting him to go with her. This is preceded by her having smiled at him in his post-beating discomfort.

He and Ornshaw start to walk past. This is painful to me, because I told myself aloud when watching it that I’d have been the idiot who went with my friend and then kicked myself forever. In doing so, I’d have hurt her deeply and that would have been it, so forget the crush buddy. She says nothing, just gives him, them, looks. Ornshaw does all the the talking. Danny walks over to her. They start to walk away and eventually run as Ornshaw gets more and more distraught.

That’s it. Now they are an item. That was the extent of her aggression. She planted herself in the right place at the right time and didn’t make it easy for him to pass on the opportunity. That’s not aggressive! That’s smart. That’s helpful. That’s giving the guy some feedback for goodness sake.

I very nearly didn’t date at all. When I got married, I can’t say it was to someone I’d dated, because we met online and knew we planned to marry before we met in person. That may be what was required for that to be possible for me, ever. So perhaps my interpretation of what is aggressive or passive on the part of a girl is colored excessively by my traditional shyness and timidity. When I called my wife on the phone for the first time, she sounded so offputting when she answered, I almost hung up and ran away. Speaking of why so serious. That didn’t have to involve a serious expression. It involved a serious tone. I took it to be something akin to anger, or a mood with which I would not want to deal. It was an incredibly close thing. And that after she had done nothing but encourage me, right down to sparking the whole flirtation online.

Daphne wouldn’t date me and she was the one I pursued most aggressively. We hung out a lot and actually did things as friends, and eventually she allowed me to take her on “a date.” Which was weird as a result of it not being real. She humored me.

One of my Melody-like experiences, in college, was sort of a mutual stumbling together without real aggression by either of us, but Maddie was closer to that than most girls ever were, and essentially asked me on the first thing that passed for a date. Maybe writing “go away” directed at me on a page in her notebook in accounting class was a form of being forward.

Later in college, but associated with my job, Layla asked me out and was entirely in charge. I would never have noticed her, let alone anything else, even after we were chatting amiably when she’d come into the store. By comparison, a much prettier, blond haired young woman hinted at me and it went right over my head until an older guy I worked with pointed out that she had basically just asked me out and I was an idiot. And that was the only shot I would ever get.

After college I ended up being a wedding date with Vera, who worked with my sister. She asked me. I hung out with her some, but that was really the only thing that could be called a date. There was no spark.

Some 14 or 15 years later came the wife. Even in her case I could have wiggled away and it could have been nothing, but she was the most assertive. That was what it took. I was ready never to be married or have kids, or for that matter, a relationship worth the name. I had given up cold turkey on the serial crush addiction and was learning to be myself, alone. Which sounds like a funny way to put it, but in my head I had the prospect of not being alone, before then. I was learning to accept it wouldn’t be otherwise.

Actually, counter-example to the wife, same time. There was a girl I always called Donut Girl. She worked in a donut shop near my office. Apparently she’d had her eye on me, seeing me go in semi-regularly to buy a couple donuts and iced coffee. One day she jovially said the two donuts I always ordered, getting my attention. Butternut coconut! Is that being forward? She was adorable. Might have been even younger than the wife would be, but probably close. I was aware of her after that, but I was never able to pick up the ball and close the deal. Presumably I could totally have asked her out, given/received numbers, whatever it is people do. If she was being forward, and was really interested, well… she wasn’t forward enough. Is that better?

My wife, since we have had issues over time, has told me many times that I would have no problem finding someone. No. I haven’t changed. I am still nearly that shy and I still have no idea how people go about dating. Without that effort the other way, I’d remain pretty hopeless. Having been married hasn’t made me bolder, and hasn’t made me feel more appealing. It’s crazy.

Why So Serious?

This overlaps a post I haven’t written yet, and perhaps should simply be addressed there, but perhaps I can shorten both of them by discussing this separately.

I’ve been there. I have had a Melody, sort of. I stared. I stalked, though nobody knew it was called stalking back then. How things went with Daniel and Melody, and how it felt to him, actually combines three girls for me, in 4th grade, 9th grade, and college. Since I have always been behind others in social development, the college thing isn’t as absurd as it sounds, and I’m thinking of specific elements.

For purposes of this, though, I am mainly remembering Ella, in 9th grade.

I remember how vexed she was by my interest. How serious she always seemed to be. How slow she was to smile or look happy. Melody strikes me the same way, except for returning the interest sooner. Even when they are together, she is serious.

It’s easy for me to misinterpret, or was in the past, and to be super sensitive to a stern or serious looking expression that wasn’t obviously and openly friendly or receptive. It was also as if you were angry or rejecting, if you weren’t overtly the contrary. I see the nuance better in the movie.

Conversely, in years past, I would put people off by seeming to smiley, friendly or jovial. I’ve had people see interest where there was none, or derision where there was none.

There were times when there was seriousness or a strong reaction that didn’t have a payoff. In the headmaster’s office after they’d played hookie, Daniel announces they want to get married and she turns her head abruptly with a shocked look at him. To me it seemed like “we decided no such thing!” At first, anyway. Then I decided it might mean “why are you telling him that!”

Anyway, I have seen the serious looks, the confusion, the stonewalling look that is as yet undecided on what to do about this. I have seen the annoyance of “everyone wants me to like him but what about ME.” That last in particular when Ella’s mother gave me and my bike a ride in the back of their station wagon and dropped me closer to home that I would otherwise have had to ride from. I really made a pest of myself. In the end, I hurt her terribly, as I didn’t know what to do when she reciprocated. All I knew was how to have a crush and the idea of a relationship, whatever that might entail.

Tracy Hyde did an absolutely brilliant job of capturing being a girl of a certain age range in that position. Perhaps it was simply because she was a girl of that age range and knew how she’d act, but she could have been Ella.

Melody Links

I keep referring to this and that regarding the Melody movie, but I have been sparse with links. Even if I link in future posts or I retrofit with some of the links in context, I want to create a one stop place for some of them. It’ll help my own reference, too.

You can find multiple instances of the entire movie by searching Melody movie, but the picture and sound quality various, and sometimes they don’t synchronize. That, to me, is far worse than something like Spanish subtitles or having the video include the movie, then start again and show half of the movie after it’s over. That’s the best one I have found so far, until I can arrange to get the DVD, which is like pulling teeth and needs to wait until I can afford it anyway. So…

Melody movie (1971)

Incidentally, ignore all the nonsense about S.W.A.L.K. being the real/original title of the film. It was written, filmed and cast to be named Melody and the other thing was an unfortunate move by a distributor for some markets. Also ignore that some people, including the person who posted the above, refer to it as Melody Fair. That is the name of the Bee Gees song that was part of the inspiration for the story and name.

To Love Somebody, video right from the film.

Melody Fair, video right from the film, not the crispest picture.

First of May, compiled clips from the film, rather than the part of the film that uses the song. The song is interrupted by some of the most famous dialogue in Melody, then reprises, so it has to be adapted to be a straight music video for the song.

Melody BFI Panel Discussion - Right at the beginning is the part where we learn it was always Melody and how the alternative name happened.

The Making of Melody  - This has interesting stuff in it, including the difficulties of working with all the children and of complying with the law on children in films, and Tracy Hyde’s mother’s more sympathetic view of the law, discussion of Mark Lester’s education, and what it was all about.

Lame trailer for Melody  – I might not have gone to see it either, if I saw this trailer. Not sure if it’s original or if it was something done for a video release.

There’s all kids of other stuff. Variants of videos using the music, shorter clips of the film, looks at the locations as they appear now (video and still), reunion clips of Mark and Tracy, and so forth.

Storytelling, Part 2

(I keep forgetting to say spoilers at the beginning of posts like this, though it was released in 1971 so it’s probably not important.)

I was inspired to return to this because I was looking at my old writing and thinking again about the merits of discontinuities in the sequence of events. Not jumping around in time, but skipping the less important or easily extrapolated (or intentionally to remain in the imagination of the audience), focusing on a sequence of scenes or events that flow without filling all the space in between. It’s a resolution to the traditional “we’re walking… we’re walking… we’re still walking…” problem of some traditional fantasy novels. I think I, in my head as well as in what I wrote or made notes about, was too intent on describing the whole journey as they went.

Now, it is after the part I described previously that Melody really throws in a series of scenes with time between them that is not explicitly filled. You aren’t even necessarily clear on the length of time between scenes, or the length of time from now to the end. You see the important things and the payoffs. You wonder about some details, but the story isn’t reliant on giving you those missing details? I’ll resist examples now and give them as I go.

The last storytelling scene I noted was the end of the preliminary setup of who is who, Daniel adapting to what we figure out is a new school, and establishing his friendship with Ornshaw, who is both wise and troubled. The next part establishes the crush and the build of the relationship with Melody, the fallout from that, and the resultant ending for them, the other kids, and most of the adults.

I stopped before the “meet cute” scene. Daniel and Ornshaw had cemented their friendship. Going into school and up the flights of stairs toward class, Ornshaw stops to be amused by girls in a ballet class rather than heading up the next flight. He grabs Daniel and another boy to get them in on the mischief. Ornshaw is jeering the whole time, but Daniel sees Melody dancing gracefully and confidently, hair swishing, and it’s all over. The score makes clear that the world has gone away for Daniel and nothing else exists. Then the teacher catches them and hauls them in there, making them dance along with the girls or else there will be a trip to the headmaster. Daniel actually tries, staring at Melody all the while. She keeps smiling at him. That’s the first vignette.

Do we need to see the rest of the school day? No. We don’t even need to see the conclusion of their time in ballet, and what trouble they get in when they arrive late to the class where they belong. We can wonder and imagine, but it’s not vital to the story. A book might have room for more of that, but it’s still not vital. Not that I don’t love me some Robert Jordan. Conversely, I found Martin boring and a poor writer, and was only able to get into A Song of Ice and Fire via the Game of Thrones show.

Next vignette. School gets out. Daniel is on a mission. He ducks aside to a water fountain (bubbler, in these parts) to wait surreptitiously for her to come out. Then he follows when she and three friends go to the old cemetery to have Muriel demonstrate kissing on a poster of a teen idol. Too funny. A branch snaps. Rhoda says “someone’s watching!” They all look his way. He whistles casually and walks away. They all laugh, except Melody, who just watches thoughtfully. Or seriously, at any rate. She looks serious a lot. I know that range of looks, from when I was 14. But that’s a different post. That’s the first day of being in love, as discussed in the timeline.

Now to see if I can remember the order of everything without speed watching as I write. I may need to review to make sure.

Vignette three of Daniel and Melody drawing together is an assembly, which conveniently places them in the same large room. They appear not to have classes together, despite being the same level. Daniel stares across the room toward her. Ornshaw notices and figures out where he is looking. Amused, Ornshaw starts a whisper brigade across and toward the front of the room. When it gets to her, she turns to look back at some length, and he looks away, as one does when caught staring. Later we see a still image of her that is smiling in this scene, but as shown as “moving pictures” she just looks serious, maybe even a bit annoyed.

Vignette four appears to be later the same day. We were introduced to Melody playing recorder early in the film, practicing Frere Jacques. In economy of detail, we did not know Daniel played cello, unless I missed something. Not really necessary, but not surprising, given his dreamy, artsy nature.

He clunks his cello down the hall, opens the door to the music room, and there are Melody and Rhoda, waiting while we hear a tuba tryout through a closed door. He pauses, there’s surprise all around, smiles uncertainly at her, goes in and settles on bench on another wall. Rhoda and Melody giggle a lot and whisper furiously, sounding like part of it involves the feeling in the back of her neck from being stared at.

The tuba kid, little bigger than his instrument, leaves and Rhoda gets called in by the teacher, leaving the other two alone. After a moment of uncertainty, Melody blows a few notes and then starts playing Frere Jacques to practice. Daniel joins in for a duet, starting behind and offset from her in a cool way, following her lead as she plays faster and faster. She looks his way through this, and in among the seriousness you can see her eyes smile a couple times.

The teacher bangs out, stopping them abruptly, and gives him a note to take to the headmaster. It takes no imagination to realize that she did this to shut them up because they were loud enough to disrupt what we presume is Rhoda’s singing tryout. I would even surmise that she knows exactly what is going on between the two kids.

One thing that just now came to mind. We are late in the school year. Why are there what look very much like tryouts? Is it just the start of an extracurricular thing, even though we are already in May or even June? Or is it placement for the next school year? Or are we not supposed to ask because the scene of making beautiful music together worked so well?

Daniel leaves with a look and sort of smile. She goes into a thoughtful pose and expression, startled when his cello falls. That was a nice touch. At this point, we will realize, she is sold. The next bits are interstitial to the couple together, but are important to the story.

After school, some of the boys go near the tracks for the latest in a series of tests of a homemade explosive. It fizzles, and the laughter from that segues into laughter at an awful dinner part Daniel must suffer through with his parents and their friends. This seems to serve the purposes of cementing how awful his family is, mostly his mother, and shows a mischievous act, where he drinks his mother’s whole glass of wine while she is distracted.

That segues into a comparative scene at Melody’s house. She is watching TV while eating with Mom and Granny. It’s a humorously lame romance scene, which I believe was created for use in the film. Big difference from Daniel’s house, at any rate. But then Mom asks if she remembered to pick up her pink dress from the cleaner. Here’s where we see her sense of humor and type of mischief.

She says she didn’t, and elaborates that “the man made me forget.” She grabs the alarm clock to wind it, as she is dressed for bed, so it fits the scene. When asked, she elaborates that it’s a man in the cemetery in a raincoat. This freaks out the elder women and they ask if he touched her. She leads them on, knowing darn well what she’s doing. Wonderfully acted, especially when you can hear the air quotes around touch when she says “no, he didn’t touch me.” “Did he show you anything?” What sort of thing?” LOL. ‘Did he show you his legs?” “Oh, yes, I saw his legs alright.”

That fires Mom up to the point of wanting to call the cops, the only reference to that house having a phone. She assures them ‘oh no, he’s not there now” because he ran away after the brick nearly hit him. Did she throw the brick? This answer was hard for me to hear all of the first few times I watched the seen, but in response to “what boy?” she tells them: “the boy with the green ears and the ginger mustache, with a spear running through his head, wearing frog man’ flippers with a machine gun.” That’s the kind of thing I would have done! Smart ass kid.

Speaking of things I had trouble hearing or parsing, it sounds like Mom tells Melody if her father were home she’d get a bloody goody ardin. I wondered what in the world she had said, even though it was obviously meant to be a spanking. Eventually I realized it had to be “hiding,” as in “I’ll tan your hide.” But I digress

That scene ends with Melody popping her head back into the living room after being sent to her room. She says, with a smile, “he’s not got green ears at all, Granny. He’s quite a nice boy really.” So we know who she’s talking about there, even if the cemetery brick throwing scene is purely made up. They have made clear she’s sold.

The next vignette is lunch at school, presumably the next day. This one leaves us wondering what would happen if Ornshaw hadn’t interceded, and sets up a rivalry between Melody and Ornshaw.

We see Daniel getting his lunch and then heading across the room. He goes to her table and asks whether he can sit next to her. She doesn’t say no. She says “well, I don’t know. My friend Maureen usually sits there.” The surrounding tables and Maureen, coming up behind him, laugh. She watches as Ornshaw comes over and guides Daniel away. She and Daniel look across the room at each other after he sits down there. Ornshaw notices, makes a face at her, and she reciprocates.

Next vignette is a dance on what is presumably Saturday. This is where the play in full the song about a shy guy trying to get a girl to notice him, after we heard it much earlier on the radio when Daniel was first introduced. We can see Melody and her friend Peggy dancing, then we focus on a group of boys being at the dance but not dancing. Daniel and Ornshaw are among them, but Daniel only has eyes for Melody. For her part, Melody is obviously trying to attract him. Ornshaw makes fun of her being a stuck up know it all and girls being useless.

This leads up to Daniel saying “I’ve got to dance with her.” “You’re mad!” Ornshaw isn’t amused, and Daniel tries to get him to come out there and dance with Peggy while he dances with Melody. The other boys razz Ornshaw into going along with it. Bottom line is Daniel gets to dance with a receptive Melody very briefly. Peggy is really the one to ruin it, once you see past Ornshaw kicking her and think about it. She should know this is all about her friend getting to dance with her boyfriend-in-waiting, and should put up with the scenario. Instead she insults Ornshaw’s dancing and breaks it up. This leaves Daniel sad and concerned, Peggy sad, and Melody mad at Ornshaw and frustrated.

All of this has been pretty rapid fire. We have quickly gone from Daniel falling in love at first sight to this point, and Melody wanting him right back.

It shows two sequences after the dance. The first is another explosives test. Daniel is with the boys this time. Since they are always duds, nobody takes cover. This one works enough to spray them with dirt. They boys are excited. Things are approaching an explosive conclusion!

The second is Melody, still in her pink dress from the dance, in the bathroom. She is spilling out the contents of what is presumably her mother’s purse or makeup bag. We see her apply lipstick. Then we see her pick her hair up over her head and look at herself in the mirror. She looks a little silly, with the hair like that and the sheer amount of makeup she applied. Then her mother calls her for tea and she has a somewhat panic reaction, wiping the makeup off rather crudely, then looking at herself sadly.

Finally, it’s field day, or maybe athletics day across the pond. This is the ultimate vignette in the course of the build to the two being together, while also starring Ornshaw as the supportive best friend. There’s a lot of them talking and Daniel being embarrassed by his mother hanging around. Lots of fun scenes of kids and adults, just hanging out or participating in events. We see Melody and her friends here and there, but she’s not featured the way Daniel is. There’s a fun bit of payoff to her friend Muriel’s obvious interest in an older, much more mature boy.

Daniel and Ornshaw talk about winners and losers, and who says who will be which. After their conversation ends, To Love Somebody starts playing. There are scenes of the activity through part of the song, cheering but no dialogue. As it nears the end, Daniel’s race in the 220 begins. He is not expecting to win, but to be the one looking foolish by doing poorly. As he runs and the song reaches its end, we see his face, then her, back and forth through the ballet class, assembly, cafeteria, and dance. He gets the inspiration needed to push through to finish first and Ornshaw bursts with excitement. Then Daniel collapses. Faints away.

That’s a great spot for not showing what happens next! Can you imagine his mother being around and seeing that? People checking on and reviving him? Nope. We don’t need all that. All we need is his love for Melody gave him the winning boost.

This is unimaginably great use of the song and what it means. It captures how I feel about that song, one of my all time favorites by any artist, and helps capture how it feels to be in Daniel’s position. Now that I’ve seen it, I’ll never not associate the song with the scene, and I can watch the video of the song set to that every day.

Everything changes after that. This could be a place to stop and move on in a part three. This segment of the film gives the best examples of scenes that are just enough, leaving blanks that aren’t necessary to be filled. Actually, I will stop here. I need to make supper. I was going to add to this while some of the cooking happened, but my son got in the way and I sat back down. The kids are dying for supper, but he slowed it down by making food for himself before he starves. Silly.

Where I Went Wrong

There’s the standard “what would you change if you could go back to some point knowing what you know now” kind of thing. On some level, the answer to that is normally “but I wouldn’t want to give up these kids,” who presumably wouldn’t have happened in everything is different land. On the other hand, some different kids got lost in the shuffle that did happen. We just don’t get to know who they are. And the do exist, if you take many worlds quantum theory to be a thing, just with a different you. So don’t cry, Shopgirl. Don’t cry.

That said, and notwithstanding that there are many points where I could make changes happily, large or small, I often feel like I went wrong when I opted for the vocational agriculture program at my high school.

My brother’s first wife suggested it. She had dated boys who were in it, and had an extremely positive impression. Plus farming on some level was in my blood and in my experience. I did a lot of planting, weeding, and picking vegetables. I was around for a lot of cranberry harvests. I loved the growing of flowers, and my grandfather’s little greenhouse.

I had been a top student in chorus, and loved to sing. I’m shy, introverted, vaguely autistic, and terrified of singing in front of others, but I actually could sing. It’s in the blood and the family experience. Naturally I signed up for high school chorus.

We were on double sessions, and that dictated when some of the classes had to be held. It also rendered the two period vocational class a single period for that year. That was the same period as chorus. The school made the logical decision to drop the music and keep the vocational. Would I have done that if, say, at the end of eight grade I had know I could do only one? I don’t know. I might have gone with chorus and academics. It wasn’t a tough sell, making me an aggie, but it was a sell and not something that initiated within me. The best year of the vocational class was that first year. It was basically downhill from there.

If I could go back to eighth grade and the point of making such decisions, there is absolutely no contest in my mind. I would have chosen chorus. What else did I have that year? That would be a one to one trade, so I wouldn’t have to fill two periods. If I did, I might have ended up in one of the history classes I missed.

English, Algebra I, Earth Science, Gym for whatever part of the year that took and study hall the other part… there has to be something else. French! It was my third year of French, though I suspect it wasn’t a prerequisite to have taken the language in 7th and 8th grade. The class was obviously not memorable. I don’t remember it being bad, or especially good. I felt like I wasn’t learning much. When I started German in college six years later, I’d have told you I remembered almost nothing of French. However, I regularly ran into the problem of remembering the French for something instead of the German. But I digress.

I did meet one of my closest friends, Perry, through vocational. By rights he counted for a time as a third “best friend.” My second best friend, Frank, I met earlier that year and have meant to introduce in a post titled something like “My Ornshaw.” My second best friend died several years ago. My first best friend and I may as well be dead to each other, sadly. I am friends with the third one on social media, but he is absent a lot, and is not in the best of health. The first friend, Zack, married the ex-girlfriend, Joan, of the third friend. I was responsible for all of them having met, and particularly so for the union of the first to the girl. Small and convoluted and crazy world. Ditching vocational might have put an end to all that. I might still have met Frank, but with a different dynamic of classes, I might have noticed Ella less and someone else more. Ella helped trigger my befriending Frank, weirdly. There would be a lot of dominoes reversing back to upright in the scenario of no vocational. I can’t say those were bad things that should never have happened, and it’d be weird knowing the difference if I went back. It might be kinder if the terms were to make the decision then forget what came after the first time.

Chorus would have gotten me closer to some of the more academic and more musical kids who in part were already my peeps. I supposed I could have taken it as seriously or casually as I wanted. One concern I have is that I developed a health issue that would have destroyed my ability to sing properly in any reliable way. I still struggle with that, between sensitivity to what I am breathing, and reflux sometimes returning to haunt me.

It would have left me on a more academic track. After ninth, vocational did take 2 periods a day. That took the place of any two other classes, like a history or science or language. I made it worse in 10th grade! I signed up for electronics and the administration didn’t notice or stop me. That was a snootier vocational class that went three years rather than four, but was two periods per day. So four of seven periods in that year were devoted to the two vocational classes. Then it was English, Geometry, and gym. That was why I ended up taking the traditional 10th grade biology in 11th. At least that teacher didn’t hate me as much as the electronics teacher did. I still don’t know why, though it may have had to do with an awareness I didn’t belong in two vocational classes. It was a slap in the face to him when i got the highest grade on the midyear exam. I made a friend in that class who was my introduction to BASIC when he got an early Radio Shack computer. in 1977.

This has gotten long and gone in directions I didn’t intend.

I love to sing. My wife was one of the first people I could sing in front of with little discomfort, and with my kids it was completely natural. Now one of them sings like an angel and writes her own songs. One of them sings competently and taught herself guitar. The other one doesn’t seem interested in singing, but seems to do well on violin in school without bothering to practice, as if he’s just natural at it. I’ve gotten a bit more open about it. I’ve been known to sing along with or in the presence of people at work. A few weeks ago, I sang well the first little bit of Bus Stop by The Hollies for a young coworker who didn’t know the song.

I never wanted to be famous or felt comfortable performing, as my brother did. I’ve actually pondered in years past the idea of vocal lessons. I guess I can see wanting to be famous in that it was a bit of a rush when I was moderately “blog famous” around 2003/2004. When I worked in stores, there was one guy in particular I worked with for a while who, when we were together behind the counter, completed us as something of a comedic duo, entertaining customers. That was fun.

Something I’ve sometimes thought would have been interesting is getting into film. Before there was ever YouTube, and a venue for anyone to do that on some level. There were other reasons I saw a ton of movies circa 1998, but I also could see myself involved in the writing or creation of them. Not something I ever really mention to anyone, or think about actively. I find it hard to imagine acting, though. I am blown away when I see people adopting just the right expression in an artificial situation. I know how much work is involved, rehearsing, directing, doing many takes, getting just the right shots, so maybe you need only capture the right look that one take that’s a keeper. But still. I think I was put off of acting by a tiny play I was involved in during 6th grade. A few people each did a different little story, a series of plays for younger grades. My buddy Paul and I forget who else might have been in ours. It had something to do with picking berries. We laughed uncontrollably through the whole thing, barely able to deliver the lines, and laughed our way off the stage. It may only have been me and Paul, in the actual thing, since he’s the only one I remember. The two of us did much better when we built a telegraph. We both were interested in electricity, electronics and gadgets

So yes, I think I went wrong, not offense to my friends the change would affect, when I opted for the vocational program as I entered high school. I would have a very different life and there would have been more of an academic, professional expectation to pursue and fulfill.

Modernizing Films and Shows

My youth, too. This is a topic I thought of long before discovering Melody, and had thought to write about in conjunction with it. I just remembered that when I sat down and started to read my unfinished book from a couple years ago. The very beginning holds up better than I had thought it would, for all I had been thinking of making substantial changes that would introduce the characters and modern location more fully. A tiny snippet:

Ben grumbled. He didn’t like camping much in the first place, so why should he have to help load the car with last minute supplies from the basement?

“Come on Ben, you dork!” His older sister, the older older sister, was probably no happier, but at least she loved camping. He was only in it for the swimming. Carrie put on her backpack and followed Lydia out the door and down the stairs.

“Fine,” he said grudgingly.

 By the time he got down two flights of stairs, he had almost caught up with his more enthusiastic siblings. They were at the back of the open part of the basement, looking at the shelves where odds and ends were stored.

 Ben noticed light glowing from under the plywood door to the landlord’s storage area and thought that seemed odd. Nobody ever went in there, and the landlord certainly wasn’t around just then. As he approached the girls, Carrie threw an unopened tarp package at him.

 “Here, carry that to the car,” she ordered.

 He picked up the tarp and the bag of snacks he’d dropped while trying to catch the unexpected missile, turned around and stopped cold.

 Not only was the light under the landlord’s mystery room door brighter now, but also the door was ajar. He had never seen it open. It was normally locked. Presumably it was locked. He had never checked it out. Why would he? But now…

The connection here is that they are going to find themselves in the past, but with one piece of modern technology.

What if the events of any given movie from the past were now? How would you write the same scenario? How amusingly or distressingly would that truncate the plot?

In Melody, phones are barely a thing. They exist, and toward the end are used, but people don’t seem to use them casually, or even have them if they are lower class or poor. Not like it’s the ancient past, after all. If I’d had a crush in, say, 1972, in theory I could have picked up the phone and called the girl, if I could obtain her number. It’s just that I wouldn’t have dared. I didn’t call my junior high crush until after I’d already made, in my eyes, a fool of myself. She liked me a lot but didn’t *like* me, and wasn’t bothered by my foolishness the way I am (decades later, we are friends on social media).

Now? Kids are online, depending on parents and age. They have phones after a certain point. I could say much about the wonders of being young now. The sum of human knowledge at your fingertips? I get absorbed sometimes for hours online, learning things, surfing from one topic to the next. I’d have been in heaven. Timid about calling? Where you might write a note decades ago, if you thought of it, you can write an e-mail or a text. It can spread embarrassment at the speed of internet, but hey. The tools for communication and knowledge are so much better, if less charming than alerts whispered across a room from kid to kid.

This happens in written fiction, too. Wheel of Time would be dramatically less drawn out with instant communications. It becomes more compressed and actions more effective as speeds of travel and communication improve in the manner they do during the series.

I’m so stuck on Melody, I am having trouble thinking of old enough examples to be deeply affected if you updated for internet or ubiquitous smartphones. It’s funny to picture the kids in Melody rushing home to get on their Xboxes to play online games with each other, but that’s a possibility. But then, it’s hard to imagine how one might put internet and a game console where people like the Perkins lived. Under those conditions, what kids would be excited about hanging out together in an overgrown cemetery?

I was thinking I should do a series of posts inserting new technology into old stories to imagine something along the lines of how it should have ended. We’ll see. They’ll need to be less lame and more coherent than this one, if so.

Melody and Religion

After getting hooked on the movie, I looked up the differences between US and UK schools. Remarking about them to my oldest yesterday, she proudly already knew, and refers to her grade level appropriately when communicating with British people. This isn’t the post on that topic, but I also noted that religion was incorporated into the schooling. This wasn’t just a fictional thing. In the making of Melody video, Mark Lester talks about his on set schooling (and they also talk with his tutor) and lists subjects he studies. One of them is scripture.

The headmaster is obviously a religious figure, whether that is normal or not, and the first class you see any of the kids in is one he teaches on religion. It’s meant to be, and is, very funny. It shows how frustrating the kids can be, how impotent or incompetent the teachers can be, and the mischievousness of some of the kids. It’s also one of the points in the movie where I could not make out some of the words, or heard them wrong. I couldn’t distinguish “matzos” and eventually saw what it was online, where someone else asked.

In my case, between the accent and the sound quality of the video, when he spoke in that class I heard “pick up thy beard and walk.” Every time. Since it was completely nonsensical, I actually looked it up and was able to determine it was bed: “pick up thy bed and walk.” Even I not only could gather the biblical context, but also was pretty sure I’d heard it before as a child. I got dragged to church with varying regularity until I rebelled for good at 13. I still love the actual church. An ancestor was the first minister when it was built, my grandfather was sextant and a lay speaker, and the building is striking. I used to help clean it, and mowed the lawn when it had one, and felt reverent toward it. Had crushes on a couple of the girls there, too. One of those let me in free to see ET when she saw me in line for the movie when she worked at the theater years later.

I don’t know if religion is a universal subject in British schools, but both religion and education can be tools of government control of or influence on the population, so putting the two together would make sense from that perspective.

Later there’s an “assembly.” Plot-wise, it is a chance to get Melody and Daniel in the same place at the same time, since they don’t spend time in the same classrooms except by accident, as when he fell in love with her. It helps cement that he is interested, and lets a bunch of the other kids in on what’s happening in the process. Another place where Ornshaw is instrumental. Plus it gives us the lovely picture of her, turned to look across the room, smiling at him, to show while he races and To Love Somebody plays. We don’t see the smile in the footage used in the actual scene. She just looks serious.

In the assembly, the teachers all gather up on the platform in front and the headmaster starts calling kids up for the sorting hat. Wait, wrong movie! And no, that’s not a young Ron Weasley we see ever so briefly at the dance, but it sure could be. The headmaster, once he has silence, has them open their hymnals to a hymn number he can’t remember without his glasses, and starts leading them in song in his lovely voice. James Cossins vies with Roy Kinnear for my favorite adult actor of the film. His name always makes me think of Jamie Cousins, though. She was a girl in my grade. Never knew her, but a friend, more of a friend of a friend who was part of the proverbial gang, had a huge crush on her.

I finally got around to looking up the hymn they sing. I may well have heard it in church in my youth, but I’d never remember that. I’d caught enough of the words, even beyond the first three in triplicate, to find it easily. The song is Holy, Holy, Holy. Logically enough. It’s about the trinity, thus the triplicate holy.

Turns out it’s used for Trinity Sunday. What the heck is that? Now I know that’s the first Sunday after Pentecost. But what the heck is that? That’s the fiftieth day after the resurrection. It’s observed seven weeks after Easter, so it also moves, and that means Trinity Sunday moves.

All of which goes back to my looking at the timeline of the film. Not that the hymn couldn’t be used any time of the year, and not that the assembly is on a Sunday, but given the time of year the film obviously occurs, they would have to be near Trinity Sunday at the time. In 1970, the year Melody was Filmed, Trinity Sunday was May 23 24. In 1971, the year of release, it was June 6.

I previously surmised the assembly to have been on a Thursday. I might have expected it to be a Friday or Monday, if adhering to a weekday near the Sunday being observed, but this might all be nothing. It could simply be that they periodically have whole school or whole grade level assemblies that incorporate religion and/or other purposes. Still, the film is basically May/June. That’s when a lot of filming fell, when they are in the school year, etc. Someone could have been thinking it through in that much detail, or it could simply have been a famous and somewhat catchy hymn to employ. Given that nothing seems accidental in this film, though I might question some details or have done them differently, I lean toward it being intentional.

The only other things we see of religion are Daniel’s parents and their friends making fun of the devout, at least the Catholic ones, and Ornshaw stumbling over and skipping the finer details of the marriage rites in a prayer book.

Feeling for Mr. Perkins

I’m not sure I’m completely clear or settled on it yet, but as a father, I felt for Mr. Perkins – and the other adults in the family – when Melody melts down over being unable to marry Daniel immediately at the age of 11. We never see Daniel’s parents aware of it, or having met her, which is itself fascinating. I could also comment about his mother’s reaction later. But this is me, as the loving dad to Melody, perhaps with my own perspective from a later time, as well as from having had the potential to be a Daniel.

First, we don’t see what precedes the bit of conversation, or what follows. We go from Melody having her head on Daniel’s shoulder while he talks intently to her, sitting in the cemetery in the rain after the rough day that followed the perfect day, to her being home, Mom toweling her wet hair as she sits at the table.

It suits the needs of the story for the parents to be at a loss, so my take might derail events yet to unfold.

As explored in Moonrise Kingdom, which I have researched but not yet seen, sometimes it’s about the ritual. Even I might not have considered that until I saw it explained. Moonrise Kingdom was inspired in part by, and has parallels to, Melody, but is more modern.

I would want to acknowledge the feelings they have for each other. I would try to give an idea of what marriage is about, what it exists for as an institution, even if I didn’t want to go into a sex education lesson of at least the level, and maybe more, than a kid that age ought to have any time now.

I would point out that she can spend time with Daniel, as she has been, without being married. People do that before marrying, sometimes for many years. Even if you’re sure, you can simply be dating until you are of age.

I would point out that there is a legal age, which they are and were under, so no marriage could happen that would be legally binding. It would be a ceremony and might have meaning to them, but they would have to do it for real later.

Because marriage is in part an economic unit, and for the stable raising of children as well as mutual support, and only in part an extension of romance, it doesn’t really fit while you are yet a dependent child of the marriage your parents are in. It assumes you are adult in ways that have nothing to do with sex.

As old as the kids seem in the movie, which is as old as kids around me seemed when I was that age, they are still kids. Melody’s plaintive meltdown shows that. It’s out of character compared to Melody’s assertive enticing of Daniel away from Ornshaw, but the film shows a whole gamut like that.

Personally, I would have allowed, even encouraged, them to continue seeing each other and given them a chance to drift apart or else come of age together. With the free range nature of things then and there, you could hardly stop them from spending all their time after school together anyway.

The trick would be gently talking her – them – off the ledge of obsession with marriage as the only answer to the intensity of what they feel. Daniel hits on an important point when he yells at the headmaster that morning. They are young, not stupid. That has always been a guiding principle with our kids. They may lack knowledge or experience, or lose control of emotions more easily than they might later, but they are not stupid.

Storytelling

One of the things I wanted to write about in regard to Melody and myself involves the skill involved in the storytelling – the presentation and progression involved in showing what needs to be shown, without starving or overfeeding the audience. We get a wonderful, thought provoking, moving story without being left short and wanting more, beyond a modicum of curiosity or blanks we might like but needn’t have filled. Much is shown, not stated in dialog, enhanced with setting sequences to songs. I was sure this would be a huge post, so I have hesitated to start. Perhaps I can start, get as far as I get, then complete the thoughts in subsequent post(s) if needed.

I started writing a book a couple years ago, finally bringing together some ideas and things niggling at my mind for many years as to setting and such. I ended up drifting away from it, partly because I got busier, partly because writing is hard, and partly because loss of focus, direction, or inspiration can derail you for a time or a lifetime. Melody, specifically the way the story was presented, has helped inspire me. Along with that, I’ve had some additional ideas, and may be ready to try again. As I wrote, it was already visual and film-like, to me. Not hard, being inspired by my childhood, where I grew up, and my kids.

Needless to say, anything that goes into this kind of detail about the movie will spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

First, the setting is established while a Bee Gees song that had been unfamiliar to me plays. Completely suitable, though, since it talks about morning, ends in evening, and how it’s the morning of his life. It is the morning of the lives of the children involved, and the introductory song seems to touch on a dreamy relationship at the end of the song. It has a childlike innocence and magic, and urges patience. This fits with details much later in the film, but could have helped inspire it:

building castles in the shifting sands
in a world that no one understands

I probably had heard and dismissed the song years ago, but I love it now. It means so much.

You see the area where to story will take place from the air, and then you meet Daniel and Ornshaw as they participate in Boy’s Brigade. Ornshaw first, in fact, then Daniel held up as a comparison. We get an idea that Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and snobby. We get an idea of Ornshaw’s situation and see Daniel’s home life. Even his father makes fun of his mother’s antics.

Daniel seems sweet and innocent, but lights his father’s newspaper on fire by way of acting out. The song we hear playing on the radio is the same one the kids will dance to days later, a nice touch.

Then we meet Melody, the title character, to instrumental strains of her theme song, as the rag man arrives out front and she looks wistfully at what’s in his cart for trade. This introductory part does the job of portraying a more childlike side she is perhaps already losing. It also, in a more subtle way than Danny’s acting out, shows the anarchic nature of children when she takes clothing from the house to trade for things.

Back with Daniel, we learn he is talented at painting, but his mother objects to his moving to painting nudes and having something that someone gave him at school to show what they look like, She subtly destroys his painting and diverts him with the model rocket his father had broken, while she takes the material showing topless women. Thus we learn he’s good at painting and building models, and cement that she’s a lousy parent, not very nice at heart.

Back to Melody, we establish that she plays the recorder, which she’s doing in the bathroom to her mother’s annoyance. It appears that her mother and grandmother might not know she had traded clothing for a goldfish. The pinwheel is a symbolic connection to childhood. Sent to find her dad at the pub and get money for ice cream (we never see ice cream until she is with Daniel at the seaside, intentional resonance or not), she takes her newly acquired goldfish for a walk. During this part, Melody Fair by the Bee Gees plays, and it’s essentially a music video for the song. She doesn’t go find her father at first, but lets the fish go for a swim in a metropolitan water trough, still in the same spot at Lambeth and Kensington Roads almost fifty years later, but as a planter.

After catching the fish back into its jar, she heads to the pub, which is also still there. She looks through the windows, and into the door as an entering customer holds it open, but waits outside, looking worried. I had the impression kids weren’t allowed in. Her dad steps out, drink in hand, no indication how he ever knew she was there. we see her show the fish and presumably explain her mission, and he gives her money and tousles her head. She may make fun of him spending all his time in the pub later, and may glare at him repeatedly as only a girl that age can, but they obviously adore each other. She walks off. We segue into a scene of mayhem as kids race through an overgrown cemetery to school.

The initial introduction of the main two characters, and to a lesser extent the tertiary main character, are basically complete and now we set the stage with the school and surroundings that will play a big role. There’s an extended crowd scene of kids doing as much mischief as they can manage on the way to class. We meet the headmaster and get a humorous introduction to both the lame instruction and the challenge the kids can be.

That segues into kids going to morning recess, or break. The play games, fight, hang out and talk, one of them smokes, and we get to meet some of the supporting cast of friends. We see Melody in the context of a big group of friends, including the one who has kissed boys and is most advanced. Very much 5th grade as would have been familiar to me in 1971/1972. All the girls laugh when Muriel says she never used to kiss boys because she thought kissing would bring babies.

We move to history class with Daniel and Ornshaw, with more humor about the teaching. Ornshaw asks a valid question, showing how smart he actually is, but gets treated as cheeky and stupid.

After school, some boys go out by railroad tracks while one of them tries his latest attempt at a homemade explosive. Daniel follows. He’s apparently new and has no friends in the school yet. They tell him to go away, but Ornshaw defends him and he joins in. Bomb is a dud and they go to the bus stop. First bus leaves without most of the kids, then Ornshaw and Daniel establish their friendship by going out on the town, to Trafalgar Square, running around and goofing off to Give Your Best to Your Friends. This parallels a similar, later sequence when he is with Melody.

When Ornshaw needs to get home, Daniel freaks him out by getting a taxi, because money. This is one of many ways in which class distinctions are established.

We find that Ornshaw takes care of his grandfather and will have hell to pay if he doesn’t get home now. Daniel volunteers his mother to come help them out, as she does social welfare volunteer work.

That ends the beginning part of the film, where the basics are established. Melody and Daniel haven’t met yet. Daniel and Ornshaw had immediately become besties. This makes Melody displacing Ornshaw possible, because it will put Melody into Daniel’s life. At least, sooner rather than later. Same school, same year, they could have met eventually.

Now, my story started with minimal setup, then action, of sorts. That could work, but now I am thinking that maybe the kids should be better introduced. In writing it can be explained, but if it were on screen, there would have to be establishing scenes that show in a wider way where they are, who they are, why they are there, and how they reach the scenario where the action starts. I figured out how I can make this happen and give what comes next a more logical basis to boot. Since I was thinking about the story and the pacing as a result of this, I also solidified how to deal with one of my concerns about the later sequences. For that matter, they are not the only character and scenario to be introduced. That one was actually going to have more of an introduction, but I see how I can improve it, and perhaps that will unstick me on that part. I hadn’t even been able to begin writing it, and had written the character starting from the point where he meets the other three.

This observation is more about the storytelling subsequently in the film, but I was struck by the use of vignettes separated in time, sometimes ambiguously so, and by what was left out because every little thing need not be told or shown. It might not affect my writing, but I also observed just how much can be conveyed by minimal action. Tiny bits of dialog. Expressions, looks. Tracy Hyde was a master of that. It’s a wonder she didn’t have more of an acting career, but perhaps that’s a reflection of how poorly Melody did at the box office, and how long it languished before getting a DVD release in 2010.

I may break down the rest of the story later. I also need to talk about my Melody-like experiences, and about the mechanics of production. Having been there for one long day of shooting footage with a bunch of kids, I can imagine how grueling it was. All the more so after hearing the description of the whole day of shooting it took just for the obnoxious dinner party, and the large number of takes it took of the scene in the headmaster’s office, where the director thought he’d never get Mark Lester riled up enough to express Daniel’s anger.

Roy Kinnear

I found myself watching Melody and thinking Mr. Perkins, whose name we learn in passing is Richard when Daniel is at tea, seemed super familiar. I looked him up and sure enough! He was Mr. Salt, whose name we learn in passing is Henry, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Two great 1971 releases!

Thinking about it just now, how much does Peter Ostrum/Charlie remind you of Mark Lester/Daniel?

It’s a shame Roy Kinnear died so young, at 54 in 1988. He was 36 when filming Melody. To me he looks perhaps a bit older, but that might be hair and demeanor. He may be my favorite adult in the film, drinking problem or not. Perhaps I could relate, having not so long ago had daughters that age, and having a son basically that age. The times are different, as is the place, but when he was talking to a hysterical Melody about being unable to marry Daniel, I could see myself in those shoes. I’d meant this observation, and how I’d have handled it, to be a different post. Indeed, this was supposed to be about having noticed who he was and having been tickled by him in both roles.

Update:

I later learned from a good transcript and a replay to listen and watch lips to confirm it that Mr. Perkins is named Reg, not Rich. Presumably short for Reginald.

Identity Part 1 (Possible Orville Spoilers)

The Orville. Wow!

The wife interrupted me right here, so now I have to think about what I was writing.

My comment at the end of the episode was that if Disney could write a Star Wars film of the caliber, that franchise wouldn’t be struggling.

It’s a complete game changer, and that after I thought the new view of the Moclan was a game changer, but in more of a long term way. We did get an answer to the question that entered my mind last week: How many planets/species are part of the Union. Over 300. Which, going back to the previous episode, makes the Moclan pretty impressive, if they are considered so important to keep happy. But I digress.

I was excited to see an Isaac centered episode, which also made it a Dr. Finn episode. It seemed so mundane, until Isaac collapsed.

It answered my question of how you get a non-biological species out of nowhere. Who builds the first androids? Where are they?

In the latter part of the episode, I was thinking of Terminator. I was thinking of Borg, except the Borg are part biological and will assimilate you.

How can Earth be saved? I suspect the answer finds a clue in the title of the episodes, but I guess we’ll find out next week. Whatever happens, if Isaac is back on the crew, he will never be the same character we thought he was. I expect his home may never be the same, and the ship will never be the same. It’s all fun and games until it’s an all out war for survival that, if they really want to shake things up, could bring your heretofore enemies in on your side.

I was blown away, in a season of being blown away, once we got past the first couple episodes that made me say WTF.

It’s a Square Dance On the Floor

Something I noticed, as soon as I realized that they didn’t use the original introductory portion of the Bee Gees song Give Your Best in the Melody movie. It starts with “I’m just a clown…” in the film. Where it is used to good effect as musical illustration for Daniel spending time cavorting with Ornshaw, then again to emphasize the parallels when Daniel is skipping school with Melody.

The first couple lines are:

It’s a square dance Mr Marshall. It’s a square dance on the floor.
It’s a square dance Mr Perkins. It’s a square dance to be sure, to be sure.

Perkins.

I can’t help wondering if that inspired Melody’s surname, Perkins.

Chicane She Came

There’s no work due to icy conditions, so I should be back in bed long since. I didn’t want to wake up in the first place. Instead, I am thinking about songs.

Melody is based loosely on the songs Melody Fair and First of May, two old favorites of mine. I never thought of writing a story based on them per se, but to me the latter, in particular, told a story. It was bare bones yet evocative. I could imagine young love, much as depicted in the movie or perhaps a wee bit older. I could imagine the years going by and either wistfully remembering that, having drifted or been driven apart yet still loving each other on some level, or the years going by and the relationship growing mundane while still ultimately being in love and remembering that first day. You can be “old misery” and still remember what it was like, still love each other, even if you don’t always act the part.

Melody Fair is one of my misheard lyric songs, due to the muddled, drawn out way they sing the word woman. Still, hooker was a strange thing to hear. I figured it out quickly, but sheesh.

She’s a pretty girl who perhaps doesn’t think she is, doesn’t try hard to be, and feels down. Cheer up, make an effort, be the pretty girl you are, have a better life.

Many years ago, I did have a rough story idea inspired by or vaguely based upon what one might expand the ELO songs Strange Magic and Can’t Get It Out of My Head to depict in your mind. Those are two of my favorites. I also love Mr. Blue Sky, but it actually goes best with the entire side of Out of the Blue that it ends, collectively known as Concerto for a Rainy Day. That whole side is itself a story of hopelessness, depression, feeling suicidal, then coming out of it. I always associate it with an old friend who loved it and went through that suite of feelings in the first three songs when he had a broken back I always felt responsible for and guilty about.

My story idea would have been science fiction or fantasy. While not fleshed out and not thought about much in years, it probably would have involved time travel in some manner, our world ending, and a literal stone age dawn.

Thinking about this today, I remembered being told vehemently by someone, I remember it as my older brother but am not certain, that it was “walking on a wave’s chicane” dammit, not “walking on a wave she came.” Apparently the lyrics with the album used chicane, but people have attested to hearing it clearly from Jeff Lynne as she came. There doesn’t seem to be a definition of chicane that means a wave’s foamy crest. It seems weird that you would ascribe an intentional S curve not dictated by natural features to a wave. In either case, it is obvious this woman, whatever she is, appears to be walking on the crest of a wave. She also flies, which could explain how she could stay on top of the wave when she’s not flying so high. Unless high is a state rather than a position.

Melody Timeline

This may be too ambitious. I may need to save a draft and come back, but hey.

As I may have touched on lightly before, I am intrigued by the timeline of the events that are and are not depicted in the film Melody. Not like I haven’t spoiled away without mentioning it before, but this is going to cover pretty much the entire film’s events. You can watch it free on YouTube, in some quality. I am going to get the DVD when and if I can manage it. I expect that to be a revelation, between the sound and picture quality and the viewing size.

First the three main characters are introduced. It isn’t a school day, which suggests perhaps a Saturday. I have other things to say about this sequence, but that’s a whole post.

It’s clearly not winter, or even the near outskirts of winter, even such as it might be in London, at any time. We are not seeing an entire school year, nor are we seeing the beginning of the school year. The kids in their level are clearly established and comfortable in their school. My understanding of the education system there would make it their first year in that school, with the first five years, equivalent to kindergarten through 4th grade, having been elsewhere.

The film having been written around First of May by the Bee Gees suggests that we could interpret the timing in general to have been around that part of the year, with the first itself maybe having been a significant date. I’d propose it to be the date they hung out after school and she took him home for tea, or else the date he fell in love with her when seeing her in dance class.

We have the introduction, which sparks the friendship with Ornshaw and gives us an idea what the three of them are like.

Then there’s a day when Daniel and Ornshaw hang out after school and we learn more about everyone, between that and scenes in school. Interestingly, we see that up until that afternoon, Daniel really isn’t in with, buddies with, the other boys in the school, almost as if he’s a newcomer.

The third day depicted is when Daniel sees and falls in love with Melody, then follows her after school, and finally shows up at Ornshaw’s humble abode to help with housekeeping.

Next day depicted we see an assembly. Ornshaw creates a whisper brigade when he sees Daniel staring at Melody, resulting in her looking back.

The following scene could be the same day, or a different one. I choose to call it a different day. Daniel drags his cello to the music room, finds her waiting to have a lesson or whatever, and plays a duet with her on recorder after her friend Rhoda gets called in by the teacher.

Still on the same day, in the evening, we see Daniel suffering a dinner party with his parents and their friends. We see Melody watching TV while eating dinner with her mother and grandmother. It turns out she forgot to pick up her pink dress at the cleaners. She blames it on the man in the raincoat at the cemetery, leading to an exchange in which we see that she is a smart-ass, and that she obviously likes Daniel a lot. We never see a scene like even a more subdued view of what she leads them on with, and it may or may not be based on anything at all.

Next day, the lunch scene. After he’s done reminding us he played Oliver, Daniel tries to sit with Melody in the cafeteria. She doesn’t say no, but just says her friend Maureen usually sits there. It’s possible she might have made room, but Ornshaw retrieves him and lots of kids laugh. She stares a little at Daniel across the room afterward, and makes a rude face at Ornshaw.

Then there’s a monthly dance. This strikes me as a Saturday thing, or a Friday thing. Kids have come to it in street clothes, rather than what they’d be expected to wear to school. It can’t be the same day as the lunch scene. She’s dancing enticingly. Daniel is hanging with Ornshaw and a bunch of other boys, mostly making fun of the dance. Daniel gets Ornshaw to go out on the floor and offer to dance with Melody’s friend Peggy while he dances with Melody, if they’re willing. It’s going great until Peggy revolts, insults Ornshaw’s dancing, and he kicks her. Afterward, still daytime, the boys gather to see the latest homemade explosive tested. Melody puts on makeup in the bathroom until her mother calls her for tea and she wipes it off, looking alarmed and sad.

The next scene is athletics day, what we might call field day in my neck of the woods. And if that works the same, it’s right at the end of the school year, in the last weeks, if not days. I hadn’t thought of that aspect of the possible timing before. This is when they make unimaginably perfect use of the song To Love Somebody.

This segues into a new school day in which Daniel and Ornshaw get in trouble with the Latin teacher and have to go after school for a paddling. Afterward, Melody is waiting and despite her not saying a word and Ornshaw’s best efforts, Daniel goes with her. Cue the song that is their theme: First of May. This is the big day when they are officially together, such as it is at 11. They hang out all afternoon. She points out that if he’s been going around telling everyone he loves her, why not tell her. Then she reads a gravestone where the wife died after 50 years of happy marriage, and the husband followed her after only 2 months. This becomes perhaps the most famous dialog of the film. She asks if he’ll love her that long. He says yes. She doubts. He says “I’ve loved you for a whole week already, haven’t i?” They smile about it. They go to her flat. She opens the door, steps in, and when he hesitates, she pulls her in by his school tie. Too funny! They have tea with her family and she glares at her father a lot, as only a girl around that age can.

The “loved you a week already line” is a clue that it’s been a week since the day he fell, which definitely means my thinking later about two things being the same day would be right.

The state of vegetation at this point, visible particularly in the cemetery, would indicate it’s pretty late in spring or getting into summer. British school goes much longer than in the US, so near the end of the school year would actually be in July. That would make this not May 1st, and would mean substantial time had already passed if the meet cute happened on May 1st. Probably that’s a red herring, an artifact of the song used in and toward the concept for the movie. Conversely, filming could simply have gone on long enough for me to think it’s later in the year than is being depicted. We know filming was taking place in and around May 1970, since Tracy Hyde turned 11 on the set in May. I don’t know when it started or just how long it took. They used the large number of child extras for mob scenes early and then moved on to scenes with fewer people.

The next day that is shown is the day the two of them skip school and go to the amusement park and seaside on a train. There is no way they planned that and did it the very next day. I just don’t buy it. Sure, it’s possible, but they’d effectively just gotten together. There’s a clue later that there are days of life before that we don’t see because you don’t show every detail of everything on film.

The next day, beyond a doubt the actual next day, is when they face the headmaster’s wrath for skipping school. Now, they tell him they want to get married. Well, Daniel does, and she looks startled. Somehow, when they each get to class, the classmates know or extrapolate their desire to marry. They have a very bad day. This leads to the famously heartbreaking scene of them sitting in the cemetery in the rain, her head on his shoulders, him holding his satchel over their heads to try to keep some of the rain off. That day ends with her sad, frustrated parents not doing a good job with why she can’t get married and what maybe should actually happen next. Her father makes it clear that Daniel has come home for tea with her a number of times, and they really like him. That points to some number of days and amount of time spent hanging out together that we don’t see on screen. Daniel is in bed, fidgeting thoughtfully. I have to write about the differences between the respective parents and families sometime.

Finally, the last day shown also seems like one that might not have been planned until later, so might not be the very next day. All the more so because of the reaction the classmates initially had toward them wanting to be married. Now the classmates are helping, even if some are still amused or think it’s a lark. It seems like the rebellion had to have taken some planning. However, this might have been possible earlier in the school day and during break, since the kids actually left school during morning break and didn’t return. I am inclined to place this the very next day, but would believe it if I were told it was later.

So how many days were we shown? Let’s see…

We are shown 12 days for sure, if I counted right scrolling through the above, and we can add in a pair of Sundays, for 14 days.

If they go consecutively to that point, Friday is the duet, unless it’s on the same day as the assembly. It could be. She and Rhoda seem like they might be talking about Daniel staring at her. If that’s Friday, we skip a weekend until the next school day, and the lunch scene can’t be until Monday. If not, lunch scene could be Friday. If we’re going for the most compact timeline possible, that’s Friday and the dance is Saturday, so something happened 6 days that week, 1 day the prior week, and we’ve covered two Sundays.

That makes athletics day the Monday after the dance. I am taking that to be a standalone day, devoted to that stuff.

Tuesday would be the big day when they get together officially and have tea with her family. We are shown him going to tea then. It is implied by her father that he went to tea some number of times afterward. That’s the black box. All that came before could be back to back, but there’s the implication that there’s a gap before the next day we are shown, or her father phrases poorly. Since he fumbles for words in other ways, that’s possible. Daniel having loved her a week already, if he’s being exact, measures from the Tuesday before, which would indeed have been the day it happened. That’s a straight shot of consecutive days, and makes sense to me based on the extent to which I have been there in my youth.

On some subsequent day, not likely the next one, the kids skip school for the seaside. If it’s consecutive, then it’s Wednesday., day 12. Definitely the next day after that is the bad day of fallout, day 13, a Thursday. If it’s all consecutive, without those extra days of the relationship building and taking him home for tea, the final day is Friday, day 14. If I figured it right.

I’m figuring life happens, and it needed some build to get from the establishment of the relationship to the day at the seaside, so it could have been as long as weeks before then, but afterward the whole thing wraps quickly. The timeframe from meeting the characters to the end is probably not much more than a month, even if it’s more than 14 days.

All of this really makes me want to post a commentary about the parents. It’s late for bed, so not now. I thought this would be quicker, but I got too descriptive. There was a reason for the blog name, way back in the day. I’ll have to review this tomorrow and edit if I typed anything wrong or goofed in other ways.

Update:
I just started looking at this post way after the fact and noticed that I might have had the school years wrong. Subsequently I did figure out that “first form” was equivalent to American 6th grade, and that it placed the kids firmly at age 11 going on 12 any minute.

Magic Ponytail

Yes, Melody again. I have things to say about what I call the “meet cute” scene, but I just watched closely enough to be sure the filming goof I that had left me confused before was indeed a goof.

I’ll cover the thoughts and feels, too. That is exactly how it happens. As much as other scenes and uses of songs grabbed me, this scene was the epitome of being young and falling in love “at first sight” with a young lady. Maybe she’s been in your school and maybe you’ve seen her before, or maybe not, but then it hits you. The world stops and there is nothing else.

Daniel’s friend Ornshaw grabs Daniel and another boy as they are about to head up another flight of stairs, pulling them to the window of a door to a room where dance instruction of some girls is happening. Ornshaw is facially jeering and laughing at the girls, and perhaps the adults, and gets the others in on it, if not as derisively. Daniel is as fascinated as amused in the first place, then he sees her. Musical notes of their theme, First of May, slow and wistful, can be heard. Melody is dancing, tossing her hair as she spins and looks upward in slo-mo, somewhere beyond fetching.

Now he has only eyes for her, and he certainly isn’t laughing. Then there a bang, Ornshaw looks startled, and the teacher opens the door to pull them in and punish them by making them dance ballet along with the girls.

Daniel actually makes an effort, trying to keep his eyes on Melody the whole time. She notices and smiles at him twice. The next scene is after school, all the kids thundering out the doors and taking off for whatever they get up to on the run home, while he ducks aside to a drinking fountain to watch for her to come out the door. Then he follows, gets caught watching her and some friends gathered in the overgrown cemetery, and heads away while her friends laugh and she looks thoughtful. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One resonance for me is that there’s a dance connection with my first crush from fourth grade. To be visited later, but aspects of Daniel and Melody remind me of aspects of that first crush, my second really major crush, the most significant one of high school, in ninth grade, and a girl from my second year of college, eight years later.

Back to the movie goof. We see melody with completely loose hair as he sees and falls in love with her. (This is a key point when I look at the timetable of the film events.) Then we see her with her hair tied back in a ponytail, with a blue ribbon or bow. Depending on shot or angle, she is back and forth from being one way or the other and ends up mostly in the ponytail. This is a filming discontinuity, where she was one way for some takes and the other way for other takes. They were put together without concern for the difference. Not important, but I noticed.

I just love that part. I love lots of parts. It’s the initial turning point in the relationship between Ornshaw and Daniel, highlighted in the earlier part of the film. Ornshaw triggers the fact that a girl would come between them, yet continues to facilitate.

Melody Remake

Melody is definitely a product of its time. One of the topics that came up in the BFI roundtable video was someone wanting to do a remake. The director and writer didn’t understand how that would be possible, on the one hand, and on the other hand described Moonrise Kingdom, partly inspired by Melody, as a remake. That movie is one I’ve never seen, that never pinged my radar, but that I’d now like to see. It appears to be funnier and perhaps less adorably innocent, while leaning that way.

But a remake? A new Melody? Hard to imagine. An exact analog? Just about as hard to imagine. You might have to do it as a time travel movie to capture anything like it, or as a memory/dream of the past. I could totally see either of those kinds of scenarios. Peggy Sue Got Married, but with a childhood crush. Since mine all went wrong, I could imagine making one go right, or giving it a better shot. But if you go back and are the youngster, knowing what you know, you’re not exactly innocent. Maybe you go back as a friend or classmate and exert influence.

You know what I wouldn’t mind? A book version. Not sure it’d sell, but the film leaves me wanting more detail, to know more about what they are thinking and feeling, and about their families and situations. I’d been thinking to post about the timeline of the movie, what happens when, how much time passes between scenes/events, and how much time the whole thing covers. Maybe I’ll launch right into that, now it’s on my mind. I am normally a reader of SF and fantasy, though I’ve been known to read almost anything. What would you call it? Fictional biography? Young adult romance? Juvenile romance? Emphasize the school aspect, the other kids and the revolt, and call it something else?

Yeah, I don’t think a remake seems like a good or viable idea. A direct one would be a period piece, but the past is a foreign country and it’s hard to capture the scenery or the feel with modern locations. A book? I’d read a book that was the exact story, expanded. Heck, I’d read the script it was made from, and watch any deleted scenes. It’s a shame it was made in pre-VHS days, let alone pre-DVD days. Few people even had cable TV then. If Melody appeared now and had mediocre box office, it’d be out on DVD shortly, complete with deleted scenes, interviews, etc. It’s amazing we have the 17 minutes of “making of” footage we do on YouTube.

Melodye and a Dog Named Boo

Funny thing with the Melody movie discovery is that I have a story of my own involving that name and with a connection to 1971, but the name was spelled Melodye. I never knew the name until my recounting the story on Facebook led someone to goad me into researching.

However you spell it, in retrospect it’s a great name and I could easily have used it for my daughter. I’d long since realized the same about Molly. But that’s neither here nor there.

When I was a kid, on the green in the town of East Bridgewater would be free concerts on the gazebo/bandstand. I’d go sometimes, usually with my grandparents, sometimes with additional family. A local country group called The Chisholm Brothers played more than once. While I was never a big country fan, it was fun, especially since my grandfather had taught one of the guys to play harmonica and got pointed out in the audience one time.

In 1971, Lobo released Me and You and a Dog Named Boo. I loved that song from the first, and still do. It’s hard to resist singing along. That’s the 1971 connection, but I have no idea what year we are in at the concert. I can guess. Obviously the earliest it could be is sometime 1971, if the song was released early enough int he year to be a hit before those summer concerts. No way, even if I didn’t know I was older than ten. (This all brings to mind another topic: music and my life. Note to self…)

It wasn’t 1974. I wasn’t that old. Thus it was 1972 or 1973. I believe it was the former, because the following summer I’d have been focused on hanging with my friend and would have been less likely to have stayed with my grandparents a lot. 1972 Put me at 11, and a sensitive age. I was in chorus and loved to sing, but was terrified of singing alone in front of others. Though that is its own story and had more of a basis than mere shyness or anxiety.

So here are these guys, performing at this little concert on the green, and they put the daughter of one of them up to try her hand at singing for us. She was older than me. Three years older, I now know, and that would have been my guess. I was 11, she was 14, and she sang Me and You and a Dog Named Boo beautifully. I was smitten. Obviously it was one of those transient things, if you don’t count that I never forgot it, and never forgot how it felt to be instantly taken with her. Not to mention admiring her voice, her nerve getting up there and performing as I was sure I would never be able to dare, her choice of song, and the fact she did it so well.

I kind of miss the mystery. Having searched starting with little but her surname, now I know she was Melodye Chisholm, now Bushkin. I also learned that I knew her aunt’s family when I was younger. Apart from having attended my childhood church – her father still does, so I could have found out a lot of this just by asking my sister the right questions – her cousin was a good friend of my cousin, and we spent a fair amount of time hanging out when I was around my late teens and maybe into my twenties. Small world.

So there’s my Melodye story inspired by my attention having been drawn my Melody.

Melody Ending Again

Revisiting my discussion of the ending of Melody from the prior post, Discovering Melody, after seeing a video of a BFI roundtable discussion that included Waris Hussein, Alan Parker, Mark Lester, and Sheila Steafel. Also contributing is a rewatch of a “making of” video from the time when it was filming, in which they talk to some of the cast and crew, and show small bits being filmed and directed.

One of the themes being explored was the anarchic nature of children. The ending seemed a bit extreme, but it had been brewing through the film. The teachers were depicted as being lousy, and the kids were increasingly rebellious until the proverbial explosion. Since Daniel and Melody could be considered “good kids,” it was funny that they were at the center of it, or the spark for it, in the end, but hey. Both of them are also shown being kids and being random, naughty, rebellious, or wise asses. Lighting his father’s newspaper on fire always struck me as completely out of character for Daniel, but that’s funny because it was still the establishing scenes of the movie and we didn’t know him that well yet. His father made me think of Mike Brady. Looking at IMDB, I can see why. They were also just two years apart, so of an age at the time.

The director or writer also referred to Melody and Danial “running away.” I wondered if they meant that was what the two were doing at the end, or if they meant the day playing hookie to the seaside and amusement park.

Notwithstanding that they might be trying to run away, they’d still end up home and back in school. While it’s clearly late in the school year at that point, it clearly wasn’t the final day.

On another note, before it’s off to work, in the other post I noted that the ages of Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde were the same. She turned 11 during filming, in May 1970. He was actually a year older, turning 12 in July, probably after filming was done. So they were both “11″ during at least part of the shoot, but the ten month difference would explain why they seem so identical in apparent maturity. If that makes sense. Girls tend to be ahead, so it made it seem more likely they’d latch onto each other. Plus his character was artistic and thoughtful, all the more reason his impish behavior to his father seemed odd. But there will be more on the families and such in a different post. Hard not to overlap the topics, but if I wrote it all in one, I’d forget things even more than I do already, and it would be way too long even b y my standards.

Update:
I realized later that the song used during the end rebellion is a big tie-in to the idea that the teachers are lousy and the rebellion has been simmering as a result. It’s the major song included that’s not by the Bee Gees: Teach Your Children by CSNY. I always loved that song. Looking at Wikipedia, it gets better, given the homemade grenade used at the end:

Nash, who is also a photographer and collector of photographs, has stated in an interview that the immediate inspiration for the song came from a famous photograph by Diane Arbus, “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park.”

 

Bring Back That Loving Feeling

People who know me are aware of my weakness for romantic comedies and, to a lesser degree, romances or those elements in things not otherwise of that genre.

Since we had marital problems, I developed a jaded view of such things. Not that I get to many movies anyway, and Meg Ryan’s heyday is long past. It got to where I couldn’t bear to watch something like that. I was inert in the face of sweet romance depictions, and cold to the idea of watching any.

This may even go back as far as the point when I gave up and stopped having serial crushes and being addicted to the feeling of being in love. After my final crush, still a friend, but then so are my first crushes, at least in Facebook terms of friends, I gave up. I didn’t expect ever to have anyone interested in me. I had all but never dated. I had never had someone I’d really have called a girlfriend, though a couple of them probably qualified briefly. I never learned what you do when you’re interested, and I was always too interested. I’d become convinced over the years that nobody could possibly want me, even thought there were elements both of self-fulfilling prophecy keeping me safely distant and my relatively autistic traits involved there.

Meeting the wife wasn’t especially romantic, though I tried to make it as much so as possible. It was an intellectual and philosophical match, long distance, helped by her boldness. Perhaps that was why our story, meeting and marrying through blogging, wasn’t as appealing as it could have been. Another blog friend was always surprised it hadn’t been picked up by the press or turned into some kind of a story somehow. It certainly isn’t romantic now, even though there might be love there, and a strong bond that makes it hard to imagine growing old apart. Older, at this point. Heh.

Still, the real distaste for the genre was worse in the past several years, and extended to the idea I simply couldn’t ever love romantically again, or have those feelings even in theory. On some level, because I never had a reciprocated romantic love, I have never learned how that works in practice. With something of an open relationship, in theory, she has told me now and then that I should meet someone, and it should be easy. I reject that out of hand because I just don’t know how. Despite having married and bred, I still find it hard to believe anyone could want me. Maybe more so, after things went sideways. I still, at my age, have trouble perceiving women as being either asexual, unromantic (men are definitely the more romantic gender, as far as I can tell), or worse. It remains a surprise to me when I see signs to the contrary, and I tend to discount anything that counters an opinion I formed early and often.

But I digress, it would seem. I popped back in to post this right after the Melody post because it was going to be quick and not take me away from other things for long.

I may have understated how long ago I discovered Melody. It might have been, say, a year ago. I pecked at it and thought it was cute in the bits I watched, but I didn’t see enough of it to get the whole story. Now I am in love with it. I think this relates to my recent thaw in attitude toward the genre, if not idea it could ever, or could ever have, happened to me. I always loved romantic songs, but have been much more into them recently, really feeling it. That movie and remembering back through my life, forlorn as it was in many ways, has only enhanced it.

I feel better knowing that one of my favorite types of films will no longer seem offputting to me. It comes along with a hopeful, optimistic attitude. That’s always better.

Discovering Melody

I love the Bee Gees. I have since I was a kid and they were still producing their early, pre-disco hits. Before my record collection got destroyed, dating to before CDs were big, I owned most Bee Gees albums and had heard songs dating back to the earliest days of singles only, found on collections later. I saw them in concert on August 28, 1979 and it was amazing, though I was sad that some of the favorite older songs were done as a medley. This sets up how I came to be playing videos of Bee Gees songs on YouTube. I still do that sometimes, even with music I own. Early in our marriage, the wife gave me a four CD Bee Gees anthology. She tolerates them, unlike her distaste for The Carpenters.

Recently I discovered that favorites of mine, less mainstream than some even among their older hits, had videos associated with scenes from a movie. Heck, it wasn’t even that recently, but it was recently I went back and watched the movie in full. Repeatedly.

The movie is Melody, released in 1971, just before I turned ten. It didn’t do well in the US, and I never saw it back then. It was popular in Japan and a few other places, which is perhaps the only reason it’s not even more obscure. Besides the Bee Gees connection and two of the kids in it being famed child stars of the time. They had rights to several Bee Gees songs, so the writer incorporated Melody Fair and First of May into the plot. It would be easy to assume the songs were written for the film, but they predated it. It also makes perfect use of To Love Somebody, which may be my favorite Bee Gees song of all.

I have so much to say about or inspired by it, this is going to end up being a whole series of posts. I just created a subcategory for the film under the movies category. It dredged so many memories and feelings. It has also been a study in making a good movie and telling a story. Had I seen it at the time, and no been inexplicably bored or sleepwalking through it, it would have been formative. While this isn’t the topic I intended to explore in this post, the year it came out I was one year younger than the age depicted of two of the main characters, who in real life were also that age during filming a year before. That is, Tracy Hyde and Mark Lester are is two years my senior. Correction: mark Lester is three years my senior. She turned 11 while they were filming, April 1970. He was already 11, turning 12 in July 1970. The other primary actor was already about 17, but looked young. I interpret him to be slightly older than them, but in the same grade level in school. That was the late Jack Wild.

At the time when the movie released, I was experiencing my first crush, in fourth grade. I was completely clueless, except it felt amazing. I didn’t really understand what I was feeling. Seeing such a thing shown in a movie would have been interesting, especially given Melody’s somewhat resemblance to the girl in question. I never knew her name! It was pure chance that I learned several years ago her name is Cheryl.

One of the first things I wanted to write about after seeing the movie was the ending. Now, if you don’t want to be spoiled, even though it’s coming up on 50 years old, go search on YouTube and watch it: Melody movie. Some are better than others in picture quality, but some have unsychronized sound that can drive you crazy.

At the end, there is a revolt of the classes the star characters are in. Melody and Daniel are in love and want to get married, because isn’t that what you do to be together all the time? Sweet and innocent, and not taken well by the adults and, initially, classmates. You go from scenes of heartbreak to what appears to be the next day – timeline of the thing is another post – when they are just getting married. Daniel’s annoying mom finds a note he left saying they are eloping, freaks out, contacts the headmaster, and when he finds the kids never showed back up after morning break, the chase begins. The ending is entertaining, but in some ways feels disconnected from what precedes it. And yet, how do you end a film in which 11 year old fifth graders, were they American, are in such serious puppy love that they want to marry and can’t understand why they can’t, with too much they don’t yet know. I remember how love felt then, and I don’t recall any barking. If it were me and someone reciprocated, I might not have been thinking in terms of marriage, but I would have understood exactly how the characters felt.

The headmaster and bunch of teachers, plus Daniel’s mother, drive off to where they’ve learned the kids are. The kid who has been trying to make a successful homemade explosive during the course of the film was the only one to stay behind. He runs off to warn the others and reaches them just ahead of the adults. Being a fan of The Princess Bride, I can’t help thinking “man and wife, say man and wife” when they are interrupted right after they give the “I will” responses to the friend who is officiating.

Of course, this is not a real marriage, and they are being kids. The sheer level of panic strikes me as uncalled for. It wouldn’t be as exciting an ending, though, if the kids did the ceremony, went back to class, and everyone carried on. Prior to the elopement note, you never see Daniel’s parents being aware of Melody, even after the day the two kids skipped school to go to the seacoast. Whereas Daniel meets her parents and they like him a lot.

While the other kids give the adults a hard time about being captured, Daniel and Melody run off to escape, aided by Ornshaw, Daniel’s ne’er do well friend who figures so heavily into the story, including provoking the “meet cute” scene where Daniel falls at proverbial first sight. Eventually they get on a trolley on the rails – one of those little flat carts you propel by pumping two ends of a handle up and down. So it ends with Daniel and Melody riding off into the distance on an partly overgrown track.

My thought: Now what?

Seriously, I couldn’t help thinking what happens next.

Besides Melody and Daniel, now “married,” heading off, the chase of the kids ended when the kid who’d been unsuccessful with improvised explosives manages to blow up Daniel’s mother’s fancy car. Class issues in the film are another topic. And there’s good reason that one of the categories the movie falls under is black comedy. The teachers run off. The kids cheer and dance around. Mom looks lost and bewildered.

Is there anyone who won’t face consequences? What happens.

First, where are Daniel and Melody going to go? What are they going to do? Unless it turns into fantasy, like a fan thing I saw where they’re suddenly at Hogwart’s and people are wondering how 11 year olds can say they are married, the answer is home. They go home. And they go to school. And they continue to hang out together as much as possible. Which they could have done without the whole marriage notion.

If you extrapolate from First of May, they are in love while others are being kids, but it doesn’t last. Or if it does, when they are sufficiently older, they have lost their romantic feelings for each other. I know someone who set her sights on marrying a classmate when we were in third grade. Third! They recently moved to Maine, and have a bunch of grandchildren. The long term isn’t impossible.

The mom has to get home and explain to her husband what happened to the car. When Daniel does go home, they won’t exactly be happy, unless they are willing and able to shrug it off and move on.

Melody will arguably be in the least trouble at home. Her family are as supportive as they know how, a loving, lower class family rather than distant or absent. Her family isn’t involved in the ending at all, and would not be in a panic the way Daniel’s mother was.

The teachers and headmaster have to slink back to the school with proverbial egg on their faces. Assuming there are no authorities that give them trouble, the best thing they could probably do is carry on teaching as if nothing ever happened.

The rest of the kids are going to have to return to school later if not that day. They’re going to be seeing and dealing with those horrible teachers again. That could be bad, unless everyone just pretends nothing ever happened.

It’s definitely a fictional ending, because consequences.

I May Have Started This

Waaaaaaay back about 2003 I described Die Hard as my favorite Christmas movie. I feel like it has taken ten years for it to become something of a meme, enough for people to say that, yes, Die Hard is not a “Christmas movie.”

For the record, I meant it tongue in cheek. I had developed a tradition of rewatching Die Hard at this time of year because it’s so worth watching again, and the Christmas elements made it seem timely. The same is true of While You Were Sleeping, even if that is not a “teach it in how-to-make-a-decent-film class” the way Die Hard is.

Arguably the meme peaked for me a few weeks ago when I saw a character is Josh Roseman’s fantastic Secret Santa ebook refer to Die Hard as his favorite Christmas movie.

So while I sympathize with Sean Hackbarth in his defense of it on Facebook, I am more inclined to agree with Doug Mataconis et al.

But I reserve the right to keep calling it “my favorite Christmas movie” if only out of habit. It’s a Wonderful Film.

Ender’s Game

I am officially a homophobe and enemy of good LGBT polifodder everywhere because I darkened my soul with a viewing of Ender’s Game at the theater. I paid money! Oh my god I must support Card’s alleged views! The humanity! What would my gay uncle gay nephew, gay friends, and muddled nephew niece think!?

Aside from that, holy crap was it a brilliantly done movie.

Stunning visuals, amazing acting, brilliant adaptation, to the extent I remember the book after so long. I read the entire set through Children of the Mind, but one could easily stop with Ender’s Game. I forgot some details like his older brother. The main thing is that they did a stunning job on the challenge of fitting what mattered to tell the story into the length and format of a film, and made it look arguably better than my mind’s eye ever did.

I saw it at a $6.50 matinee on a modest screen. I’ve heard it gains from the big screen, but I was more than happy. I was also pleased they did not make a 3D version. I’ve gotten used to seeing most of the big movies in 3D and perhaps on a rilly rilly big screen in comfy seats that still lack enough leg room (and I have short legs!), but I was both on a budget and not concerned with that, on top of being saved by that production decision.

Seems About Right

Your results:
You are Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)

Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
100%
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
85%
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
80%
Wash (Ship Pilot)
60%
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
60%
River (Stowaway)
60%
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
40%
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
30%
Inara Serra (Companion)
20%
Alliance
20%
A Reaver (Cannibal)
15%
Honest and a defender of the innocent.
You sometimes make mistakes in judgment
but you are generally good and
would protect your crew from harm.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test

Either-Or

Yesterday I saw Atlas Shrugged Part 2. This time around, it was playing at a nearby Regal theater, which also showed Obama’s America, so I didn’t have to drive to a far-flung, unfamiliar theater, as I did for Part 1.

Of the two, Part 2 is unquestionably better, and not merely due to the meatier, more exciting material. It also did not suffer from the cast changes as I thought it might.

If there was ever any question that Atlas Shrugged falls in the science ficion genre, this movie, even more than the book, argues that it does. Simply being future/alt-history suggests it, without some of the futuristic technologies or elements.

If there was ever any question that John Galt was inspired by Nikola Tesla, this movie, even more than the book, makes clear that he was. Among the special effects are those associated with efforts to get Galt’s “motor” for drawing unlimited power from the air to work without Galt around to help.

As an aside, such a device represents the ultimate intellectual property challenge. Obviously, if anyone can build such a device, can know how, have access to it for reverse-engineering, then selling electricity generated from it would not be lucrative for long. The very reason Tesla lost backing for the very device he allegedly had working or near to it. As such, it would have to remain a black box, unable to be accessed to reverse-engineer. At that, simply knowing such a thing was possible would set others on the path of figuring out how to create their own. On the other hand, one might accept it quickly falling into public domain or generating competition, given what it would do to the world, and given the other ways its inventor could then make money.

Anyway, I liked the movie a lot. The script was pared down from the source material skillfully, with inclusion of key points, some of which I might have expected to suffer. What it could not convey was Reardon’s internal guilt and thought processes that made blackmailing him successful. I am not sure this would have been clear to a viewer who’d never read the book, despite being subtly implicit.

The flash forward opening was a nice touch, drawing us in with excitement and adrenaline. The fact that it is set in near future modern times actually helps Reader’s Digest things. All the action regarding the tunnel disaster and the buck-passing is distilled into the central control room and the scene itself.

The root of money speech was there, briefer but more than adequate. The breakout was there. The cabin was there, but barely, and wasn’t it in New Hampshire originally? And not sitting on a flood plain, immediately beside water? The wet nurse was well done, and well acted, in that you could see the character developing and thinking without a word.

Most of the casting was good, even great. Esai Morales, whom I knew from the ill-fated Caprica, was a better Francisco. Lillian was equally good, perhaps better, even if the original was the one to fit my mental image. This one was at least as good at portraying that form of evil. I could see Cheryl’s gears starting to turn before the movie was out. I couldn’t remember if she had her final scenes in 2 or 3, but must be 3. Dagny was better. Reardon was as good or better, though he could have supplied the voice of Batman in the most recent films. Robert Picardo rocks anyway, and did in this. Even having read about Teller’s small speaking role, I almost missed who it was, and there were faces like that of Michael Gross that looked familiar but I didn’t place at the time. Wyatt wasn’t in it, but they showed his picture on the news as the guy from Part 1. I’d love to see him back, even if he is not as described in the book.

On an unexpected note, I loved the soundtrack, or score, if that’s the better term. I don’t usually even notice a soundrack. I stayed through the credits mainly for the music.

I’m still amused by DB Sweeney as Galt! And we still haven’t seen his face, even at the end, when he finally becomes a person, not a question. I will forever think of him as Doug Dorsey from The Cutting Edge, one of my favorite “good bad movies” of all time. I’ve watched it at least six times. In Part 3, seeing him in the actual role may allow me finally to picture him otherwise.

There was one point when I thought we might actually see Danneskold, who has been almost entirely left out of the movie adaptation, but it proved instead to be the scene when Reardon calls his lawyer and finally orders up a divorce. About time.

The times depicted are worse and yet shockingly similar to our current ones. The actions of government are familiar, as are the consequences. The use of consequences of government to justify even worse actions of government are familiar. Even timeless.

Could someone see it without Part 1? Absolutely, if they’ve read the book. Probably, even if they haven’t. It doesn’t start with one of those total recaps, but you get enough of an idea the circumstances and background. Perhaps I am biased.

Overall, it’s a better adaptaion than we might have had cause to expect, considering the density of the source.

2016: Obama’s America

Today I saw 2016: Obama’s America over in Kingston, which is remarkably close for a documentary of the sort that would normally be little seen. It may help that we’re in a movie wasteland at the moment, and the film got enough momentum to make it clear to theater owners it had an audience. Yay, revenue! It sure doesn’t hurt that it’s timely.

I was familiar with the Dinesh D’Souza theory, explaining Obama via anticolonialism, as opposed to mere marxism or the like. It had seemed sound, and seems more so after seeing the well made film that makes it explicable to the broader public.

The film in part is an autobiography of D’Souza himself, especially in the beginning, since he and Obama have such similarities in their backgrounds. I was pleased to learn that D’Souza, like Obama, is a fellow 1961 baby. I’d hoped that Obama would make our birth year look good, so it’s distressing that exactly the opposite has happened.

I’m not surprised that Obama is unhappy, now that the film has clearly found a significant audience. It’s almost a shame it needs to generate revenue, so it can’t simply be made freely available to all before the election. Bad as the alternative (the primary one who can actually win, apologies to the admirable Gary Johnson, best of the three), there is no way a second Obama term will end well. Worse if he somehow tries to extend his first term, as some have surmised is possible from someone who is cunning yet obfuscatedly stupid.

I was pleased that, in one important detail, the film did not spare George W. Bush, who helped make Obama possible, and who shines as an example of how rogue a second term can go. In an ideal world, we could go back and have someone who wasn’t a ridiculous alternative run against Bush and win in 2004. Kerry? Really?

If the film has a weak point, it is toward the end. It’s all build up, little conclusion, at least when weighed against the name of the film. 2016… what will it be like if Obama inexplicably wins another term? That part seems like three sentences inserted at the end of a thirty page term paper. Perhaps there need be no more than that, since anyone with a brain can observe and extrapolate (more so after seeing the movie), but it felt a bit like false advertising. Not that it’s a special effects heavy disaster film, flashing forward to show the seas rising and a wounded planet festering irrecoverably. Just the facts, man, to make of what you will.

Well worth seeing. You will know Obama when it’s through, which there was not enough (none) of the last time around. I mean, know him beyond what you have observed of his time in office. Go. See it. Make it the number one political documentary.