Saturday, January 20, 2018

Before the Thaw

According to forecasts the cold weather, after doing much hard work locally for the past month, will take the next week off. At this writing (8:26 EST Saturday morning) it is still freezing outside my door, but daytime temperatures should climb to 47 (8 C) today and then remain within spitting range of that number for the rest of January. I squeezed in a little winter fun yesterday while temperatures remained in the 20s, starting with running out of fuel oil for the furnaces and then by riding a toboggan (see photo in earlier post Brrr) down the slope in front of my house into the brambles. The latter was more fun – until the last few seconds anyway. At night I stayed comfortably at home with a movie and a book:

Impulse (1990)

Theresa Russell in Black Widow, which,
unlike Impulse, is pretty good
Back in 1990 I saw Impulse on the big screen. Directed by Sondra Locke and starring Theresa Russell (an appealing actress who looks sultry even when she doesn’t want to), the movie starts off as just another cops & crooks drama with an utterly clich├ęd drug-deal-gone-wrong. Then it takes an odd turn. Lottie (Russell) is a vice cop with debts she can’t pay and a creep for a boss. One night, after a particularly rough bust and still dressed as a working girl, she goes into a bar and quickly is approached by a man who puts down a ridiculously large pile of C-notes. Instead of arresting him she goes home with him. While she is in the bathroom at his house the man is murdered. She checks the body afterward and finds an airport locker key. The locker contains a case full of cash from that drug-deal-gone-wrong. She doesn’t turn it in. There is evidence, however, that could lead to her.

I remembered those basic details before spinning up the DVD all these years later. The flawed protagonist, as I recalled her, seemed an interesting type of character. Regrettably, I had forgotten why I didn’t rush out to rent the film for a repeat viewing when it became available on (at that time) videotape. Now I remember. The movie is dreadful. The dialogue is unintentionally hilarious while the acting somehow combines over-the-top with indifference. There was some potential in the movie’s concept, but it was lost in the execution.

Thumbs Down.

**** ****

Why Acting Matters by David Thomson

There are some people (all too few, but still some) who are great company thanks to erudite and free-ranging minds. In an age when click-sharing simple-minded propaganda passes for philosophical discussion, they seem to have something original and thoughtful to say about everything. Movie critic and prolific author on the popular arts David Thomson is one of those people. That this book is not very focused is actually to its benefit. Thomson digresses about his personal experiences, about the history of theater, about acting schools, and about the human condition. It’s a pleasure to join him on his wanderings even when they are distant from the supposed topic of the book.

He does return to the main question now and again, however. Thomson repeatedly turns to Olivier and Brando as representatives respectively of the traditional and naturalistic acting schools, though, as he points out, neither really can be pigeonholed as neatly as that.

Thomson’s basic point is that we all are actors (yes, that William fellow once said something similar) who adjust our personas to time and circumstance. (Persona, btw, is Latin for “mask.”) Witnessing someone act well on screen or stage is as rewarding and edifying as seeing someone do so in “real life” – the distinction not always being so great as we imagine. Observing the career of a favorite actor from youth to age is a template for the roles we ourselves play in the different stages of our lives. He concludes: “Acting is an entertainment, but it is a model for our existence and collapse. We try to act human. That seems the least we can do, and as long as that condition prevails – do not trust it forever – then acting is our engine and we are driving on a desert road.”

Thumbs Up.

Trailer Impulse (1990)


  1. Must have been cold there without heat. I've no experience with fuel oil heating. I first encountered Russell in the movie The Razor's Edge, a remake with Bill Murray, which I still enjoy, although I haven't watched it in a while. I remember the Black Widow too, which she starred in after Edge. I always thought she was sexy too.

    Over at YT they've had this book tag running around (with a changing title no less): Pull Ten Books Off the Shelf and Talk About Them (or something like that). Fairly interesting depending on who is doing the vlog, and what they recommend. But it's always fun to hear about what some people say on that topic:

    1. When my house (at the time my parents’ house) was built the ‘70s energy crunch was still crunching, so gas lines were not extended into the (new) street. That left oil, electric, or tanked propane as the options. Oil made the most sense at the time. I have no complaints with it other than the risk of running out at inopportune moments.

      I've seen both versions of The Razor's Edge, though it's been a while for me, too.