Sunset – Blake Edwards, 1988

File:Sunsetsmall.JPGSunset is a movie that grows on you, or at least it has grown on us. We’ve always liked it. Now, many watchings later, we like it even more. With Blake Edwards directing and starring James Garner, Bruce Willis, Malcolm McDowell and a score by Henry Mancini, you’ve got to figure this is going to be good entertainment. And you would be right.

The story starts with Wyatt Earp (James Garner) arriving in Hollywood to consult on a new film about the gunfight at OK Corral. Wyatt and Tom Mix (Bruce Willis) strike up a friendship, then team up to solve a real life crime committed by evil movie mogul Alfie Alperin (Malcolm McDowell). There are great lines in this movie, but the best is the wonderful refrain line, “Give or take a lie or two.”

The movie makes no pretence at historical accuracy. This is fun and fantasy, historical fiction mixed liberally with guns, early Hollywood mythology and at least one classic gunfight. It’s “once upon a time” style clearly announces that this is not a movie to be taken seriously. The characters are loosely — very loosely — based on real characters but the events portrayed never happened … give or take a lie or two.

So yesterday, while we were watching another favorite Blake Edwards film, S.O.B., we got to discussing which of the characters was Blake Edwards daughter Jennifer (it turned out to be Lila, one of the young hitchhikers). Garry pointed out that she had played Victoria Alperin in Sunset and while I was looking all this up, I wandered over to Wikipedia and started reading various bits of stuff about Sunset.

What to my wondering eyes should appear but a section titled “Historical errors.” Huh? I was intrigued, being as the film never claimed to be historical, accurate or otherwise.

They actually used to have a section in Wikipedia pointing out the historical inaccuracies in the movie:

Historical Errors

The action takes place in the year 1929, the year of the first Academy Awards presentation. It depicts Wyatt Earp arriving (and later leaving) Los Angeles by train; in fact, Earp had been living in the Los Angeles area since about 1910. It depicts Earp as single, in reasonably athletic condition, and carrying on a brief romance with young Cheryl (Mariel Hemingway); in fact, Earp, who was born in 1848, had long been married to Josephine Marcus. It similarly depicts Tom Mix as single and carrying on a prolonged and uninhibited romance with his assistant, Nancy; in fact, Mix was then, and for years afterward, married to his third wife. In the course of the film, Earp says that Calamity Jane’s real name was Mary Jane Cannary; her first name was Martha, not Mary. It depicts Earp as technical advisor to a Tom Mix film of the gunfight at the OK Corral in which Mix portrays Earp; Mix made no such film and never portrayed Earp, who served as an unpaid advisor, years earlier, on some silent movies. The film depicts Earp attending the first Academy Awards presentation at a late evening dinner; in fact, the awards were presented at a brunch on May 16, 1929—four months after Earp had died at the age of 80.

Final title cards of the credits:

Title Card: …and that’s the way it really happened.

Title Card: Give or take a lie or two.

It’s at moments like this I wonder if the people who write this stuff watched the movie. This is not a documentary. It isn’t even historical fiction. It’s a comedy, set in Hollywood circa 1929. The villain is completely fictitious. Whatever relationship existed between Wyatt Earp and Tom Mix is anybody’s guess. The only fact is that Tom Mix was a pall bearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.

Including this section at all indicates that whoever wrote it never watched the movie or missed not merely “the point,” but everything. For the first time in my life, I actually put a note into Wikipedia:

The movie is pure fiction and the refrain line, “Give or take a lie or two,” more or less sums up the “historical” accuracy. It does not claim to be historically accurate and in fact, makes a point — frequently repeated — that this is a Hollywood fairy tale that begins with “once upon a time,” or words to that effect. Critiquing the historical accuracy of a piece of comedic fiction is absurd. The following information may be correct, but it’s entirely irrelevant to the movie. —

Since I added my note, they changed the section to indicate that the movie is not supposed to be historical. Nonetheless, they continue to correct the history except they retitled the section Historical Context. So it’s slightly less stupid now. Glad my futile gesture was not entirely futile. What is the point in correcting historical errors — or providing historical context — for a movie that makes no claim of being historically accurate?

Who writes this stuff? You have to wonder. Or at the very least, I have to wonder.

Anyway, if you’ve never seen Sunset, the chemistry between Garner and Willis is great, the dialogue is witty, the movie is both funny and occasionally even suspenseful. Willis is at his charming best, as is Garner and together, under Edwards’ adept direction, they make magic.

Give or take a lie or two.

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If we could see the future …

It’s such a bright shiny day. I wonder how many more of these we will have before the sullen skies of November arrive or worse, the bright white skies that presage the  coming snow. I’m entirely unready. We haven’t had time to get the leaves up off the back deck yet. I get sad thinking about the end of Autumn. It’s been a while since winter has been a glad time for us. The prospect of icy walkways, trying to make my way to the top of the driveway on slippery surfaces is something to dread, not welcome. Visions of broken hips are stalking demons waiting for me to make a mistake. I have trouble walking up the driveway to get to the mail on a bright, clear day. Once the snow comes, it’s over until spring.

Looking across the driveway under golden trees

As these last weeks of a golden season are with us, I embrace them. Who knows what my world will be like by the time the ice and snow recede? Life is not predictable, not even in the simplest, most fundamental ways. Everything is up for grabs. But knowing what the future might hold seems to me worse. Much worse. Who would have the strength to deal with the present if we simultaneously saw the end? Wouldn’t we waste our lives trying to avoid the end and lose our joy in the present? As long as we don’t have foreknowledge,  we can look at the good stuff we have and ignore the rest. Which is why time travel is deliciously mind-bending. It’s also why most time travel stories involve going back rather than forwards in time.

The past is known, the outcome written, but the future, in theory, having not yet happened, is labile, alterable by our actions in the now. Presumably we had no consciousness of time before we were born, or if we did, we don’t retain those memories. If we could see where life would take us before being born, would we choose to be born? Or would life and the future be so terrifying that we would opt for remaining wherever our spirits wait in the intervals between life and life?

English Heritage plaque for inventor of time t...

English Heritage plaque for inventor of time travel (Photo credit: jaywood_uk)

I occasionally catch glimpses of the future. Never my future. Visions of my future are always a combination of hope, fear and supposition. I do sometimes see things about other people. I have no control over this, so when they pop unwelcome into my psyche, I’m torn between sounding like an airhead trying to warn someone, or shutting up and hoping it was not a real vision. Sometimes I see things but don’t recognize the people. What is the point of visions of people I don’t know and can’t help? That makes no sense at all. I only know I saw truly if it shows up on the news and I recognize the faces. Clearly such visions are not sent — if indeed they are sent and not just somehow “picked up” randomly — with any intent to change the outcome. Add one more item to the long list of things I will never understand.

Are we powerless to change the future? Is the future already written and unchangeable? I know people have strong opinions about this and seem to divide fairly evenly into two distinct, opposing camps.

The predestination group believes that everything is written and although we have small choices we can make about how we live our lives, we can only alter it in minor ways. Ultimately, we wind up where we were supposed to be, no matter what we do. A friend of mine who I used to hang with in Tel Aviv had an extraordinary ability to predict the future. Someone sent me to her and we discovered that we were about to become friends the moment we met. She asked me a couple of questions then asked me “Why are you here? You can see as well as I can.”

I didn’t even bother to ask her how she knew that. If you know, you know. “We don’t see our own future rightly, you know that. Other people we see, but ourselves? We see what we want to see or what we are afraid might be, but never accurately.”

She nodded and asked me to take a look at her future and we’d call it even, which I did and then we settled down to having tea and talking about predictive techniques. For anyone who’s into this sort of thing, she worked entirely with the movements of Jupiter and Saturn and how they interact with the personal planets and houses. I tend to be more holistic, but that’s because I don’t want to see details. I certainly don’t want to see things like upcoming deaths. Yuk. Who needs that stuff? I asked her if she believed that the future was written and what about free will?

This was the answer: “We are born and we are put into a room. There is furniture in that room. We can choose to sit on the sofa, or one of the chairs. We can invite a few people to come and share our room, but we cannot leave it. That is our room and our choices are limited.” Predestination, in her view, was virtually complete.

The other group are those, like me, who prefer to believe that the choices we make now will  change the outcome. This doesn’t mean that I’m right, but I prefer to believe what we do makes a difference. If I’m wrong, it won’t matter anyway.

I am by no means the first nor last person who will brood on this, write about this, wonder about it. Meanwhile, I’m happy enough to not know. Not knowing leaves surprises and some of them may be happy. Others will be sad. We watched a documentary last night about Ethel Kennedy and when she was asked, by her youngest child who was producing the documentary, about the losses and traumas of her life, she said (and this isn’t a quote, but a paraphrase): “No one gets a free ride. We all suffer losses. We lose friends and loved ones. There’s no free ticket. You just do what you can, what you have to do.”

I don’t need to see any of what might be heading my way. I’ll deal with what comes when it gets here. The present is entirely sufficient.

‘Looper’ review: Engaging and smart, sci-fi meets suspense

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

I cannot imagine how a film could be more enjoyable than combining Rian Johnson’s unique scripts, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s incredible talent, and Bruce Willis’ fu…

The reviews on this keep coming in for “Looper” and they are all good! It’s been a long time since an intelligent time travel movie hit the big screen. The last really good one was Crichton’s “Timeline,” … a long dry spell.

See on