Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Playing Hooky

Yesterday Teen Spirit had an interview at Elisabeth Irwin, the only private high school he's applying to. He and Smartmom left the apartment early to get to the school in the West Village by 9 a.m.

The two rode the crowded rush hour subway to Manhattan. Smartmom tried to quiz TS giving him possible interview questions: What are your favorite books? Why do you want to go to this school? What is a leader? Who do you admire?

Teen Spirit had little patience for Smartmom's mock interview.

They talked about the Oscar nominations instead, which were announced on Tuesday. The Oscars are a big deal for the Smartmom clan. Oscar Night is one of the few times during the year that they watch television (theirs is a TV-less home except for Netflix DVDs.) And they make a party of it. Everyone stays up late and cheers for their favorite flicks. During the Oscar "party," Smartmom is usually in constant phone contact with Groovy Aunt and Eft to swoon and groan at Oscar speeches and wardrobe debacles.

Teen Spirit, the avid cineaste that he is, has seen most of the best picture nominees. The only films he hasn't seen are “Sideways” and “Million Dollar Baby.” He is rooting for Jamie Fox who was nominated in the best actor category AND the best supporting actor category for “Ray” and “Collateral” respectively. He also has high hopes for “The Incredibles” as best animated feature and best screenplay and "Lemony Snicket" for best costumes and art direction.

When they got to the school building on Charlton Street, Teen Spirit and Smartmom were impressed with the warm, welcoming atmosphere in the lobby. It happens to be the high school that Groovy Aunt went to. For a little nostalgia, Smartmom took Teen Spirit into the auditorium and told him about the musical revue Groovy Aunt was in.

TS's interview lasted a half hour or so. Then the Admissions Director spoke with Smartmom and Hepcat, who joined them after dropping off OSFO. She said that Teen Spirit told her that his favorite books are "Catch 22" and "Alice in Wonderland" and that he's interested in the history of the Mongol Empire (Slam Dunk, TS!) He also explained to her the actual meaning of a catch 22 in the context of the book (Way to go, Bro).

After their interviews, the three watched a group of students practice the song: "Let's do the Time Warp Again," from Rocky Horror Picture Show in the auditorium, which impressed Teen Spirit no end.

The three left the school and decided to play hooky. It's practically lunchtime, reasoned Smartmom. He'd only miss three classes. Besides, they were just blocks away from the Apple Store, one of their favorite places in Soho to browse and check e-mail. And “Sideways” was playing on West 23rd Street, just a hop, skip and jump away, at 12:30.

"Hookey? What kind of CRAZY idea is that? What a frivolous thing to do. How inappropriate it is for parents to even suggest such a thing. Especially when those so-called parents have writing to write, pictures to print, phone calls to make and rooms to organize.”

It was the voice of The Judge who was sitting on top of a snow covered car right outside the school building. Nobody saw, but Smartmom threw a huge snowball at him and he disappeared in an instant. Lke Dorothy throwing water on the Wicked Witch: Poof, he was gone.

On their walk down Prince Street, Smartmom kept looking backwards and sideways making sure that the Judge was not following her. Judge or no Judge, playing hooky in Manhattan in the snow was an inspired idea.

TS and Smartmom enjoyed the movie, a darkly comic story about an odd couple of guys caught in a mid-life muddle: a superficial actor on the verge of getting married and a recently divorced and depressed novelist.

Suprisingly, Hepcat didn’t like the movie. He found it annoying and visually uninspiring. Guess he didn’t like seeing a truer than true portrait of the way some men think. And it ain’t a pretty picture. Even the characters look at one another (and themselves) sideways and don’t like what they see.

The film traces their journey of discovery through the wine country near Santa Barbara. In a way, it’s a kinder, gentler version of Neil LaBute’s nasty, “In the Company of Men” blended with the old Odd Couple television show set against the backdrop of wine tasting, that most subtle and elevated art.

Chock full of wine metaphors, the screenwriters infused the dialogue with the language of wine tasting to convey insights about human nature. The best scene is a conversation between the neurotic novelist and a lovely, intelligent waitress. She asks him why he likes Pinot Noirs so much. “It's a hard grape to grow. It's thin-skinned, temperamental. It's not a survivor like Cabernet that can grow anywhere, and thrive even when neglected. Pinot needs constant care and attention.”

Using wine metaphors to explain human behavior may be nothing new. But the screenwriters do it with grace and intelligence. Lines like these made Smartmom crave a glass of Pinot Noir. It also helped her understand the appeal of onophilia.

For a movie without much plot, about a couple of middle aged-guys on a pre-wedding wine tasting trip, the film has a lot emotional action: it's all about the rhythms and rages of this pair of guys who know each other too well.

After the movie, the three had burgers (Hepcat: tuna; Smartmom: veggie; Teen Spirit: beef) at a new place called Better Burgers in groovy, gay Chelsea. They discussed the movie and listened politely to Hepcat’s objections. Their lunch put a perfect punctuation mark on a perfect day.

What could be better? Playing hooky in Manhattan.; throwing a snowball at the Judge; crossing off “Sideways” from their list of must-see Oscar movies.

Sometimes you gotta break the rules, JUDGE. Life is too boring if you don’t shake things up a little bit.

Hooky rocks. It really does.


At 8:23 AM, Blogger red eft said...

"Oh ho, ho rubbish! You have no power here! Be gone, before someone drops a house on you, too!"

(siiiiigh.) You are waaaay ahead of me on seeing Oscar films, SM. The ceremony will be all but unintelligible to me this year.

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Udge said...

Funny that Hepcat didn't like "Sideways". The review in the New Yorker made it sound quite interesting.

Bet OSFO was pissed when she found out you'd all played hookey!

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Third Street said...

Udge, we never told OSFO. She would have been P.O.ed.

Also, sorry you had to read that version. It was full of typos, which have been corrected. Sorry.

"Sideways" is so worth seeing. I have a feeling you will like it as I did. I

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Third Street said...

Eft, you better hurry on those Oscar films. It'll make Oscar night so much more fun.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger red eft said...

What can I do, most of them have long departed. We don't have 30 gazillion screens in these parts, you know. I haven't even seen the nominees list, I am so outside the stream. Maybe I'll look it up right now.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Savtadotty said...

Your high school interview expedition so reminds me of the day I took Prowesslessnesslessness to Stuyvesant High School for the entrance exam (we're talking 20+ years ago - wow!). It's such a long story I'll have to write a post about it. "Sideways" sounds interesting and I think it's about to open here any minute now. Thanks for the review.


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