Set Junkie

One of the many wonderful things about my job is the fact that I get to work with several hundred very passionate, talented people. There are so many wonderful folks at In Touch, so many wonderful stories, that we decided to make it a running special feature called “The Faces of In Touch.” Gary Longenecker, our Director of Photography, was the first person to grace the pages of our magazine, and it was my honor to interview and write about him. 

“Ah ha!”

Gary Longenecker stands triumphantly in the doorway, a battered rake in his hands and a mischievous glint in his blue eyes. Everything had been set—the subject in place, video and audio crews ready to record—but Longenecker hesitated. To him, there was something wrong with the look of the scene.

When you’re working on location, anything and everything can happen. Sunlight that shone perfectly through a window one minute can spoil a shot the next. That’s where creativity comes in—something Longenecker, In Touch Ministries’ Director of Photography, has in ample supply. He straps the rake to a hodgepodge of grip equipment, adjusts the angle, and the light filters through it, creating a pleasing shadow on what had previously been a blank wall.

And with that, it’s time to roll camera.

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If you’d like to read the rest of the article, pop on over to In Touch Ministries’ website. And don’t forget to leave a comment!

Hooray for Hollywood!!

My family, half jokingly, says, were it not for sarcasm and movie quotes, we would never speak to one another. While that statement is slightly hyperbolic, the truth is that we watch movies. A lot of movies. And we quote them early and often. When it comes to films, we’re fairly omnivorous and enjoy a good “film for the common man” as much as we do rarefied ones. Essentially, we’ll quote The Jerk in the same conversation as The 400 Blows and think nothing of it.

We quote them for distance, seeing who can go the longest without muffing a line. FYI—I still hold the record because I managed to do most of the “damage control” scene from One, Two, Three.

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We quote them for accuracy in all mediums as evidenced by this text conversation my brother and I had regarding one of our all time favorite flicks, The Fugitive.

However, there is something even more wonderful about movie quotes than simply parroting them for an appreciative (or sometimes annoyed) audience, and that is delivering one that is perfectly timed and fitting for a specific situation. As you can see by this top five list, sometimes the quote is perfect in its purest form, and on other occasions, a slight bastardization is required for optimum humor and applicability.

So, without further ado, I give you our best uses of movie quotes in various situations…

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5. “The nine-year-olds from the karate school are karate-ing the picket fences.”–Jaws

Image from http://stars.ign.com

This one is mine. My cousin, who was then nine, was taking Tae Kwon Do lessons. My aunt had given him specific instructions not to use his rad new moves on any of his friends as school, which of course prompted me to say, “Why not? All the nine-year-olds from the karate school are karate-ing the picket fences,” perfectly mimicking Polly’s voice and karate-ing gesture, of course.

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4. “Sweep the leg, Johnny.”–The Karate Kid

This one was executed by Jarrod while standing atop the Hoover Dam. Yes, many a “dam” jokes were made, but after that, he looked over and saw a young man in a huge air cast and using crutches to hobble around the national landmark. (Though why anyone would put up with sore, aching armpits for a tour of a dam is beyond me.) Jarrod looked over at his friend and delivered the line under his breath. Sadly, only the group he was with (all there for a Vegas bachelor party) got the joke.

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3. “Let Polly do the printing.”–Jaws (Yes, again. Don’t judge.)

Image from http://www.yourprops.com

My dad flawlessly delivered this one when he and Mom were driving home one afternoon. They passed one of the ubiquitous fruit stands common to Florida roadsides, this one offering boiled peanuts and peaches. Well, the enterprising young man stationed there had crafted his sign using a piece of plywood and some paint offering his wares from “Geogria.” Well, he started out with grand plans, making each letter gargantuan in size. But by the time he got to “peaches,” the most essential term to advertise, he’d run out of room and had had to cram it in the corner. My father saw the sign, snorted, and said nonchalantly, “He should have let Polly do the printing.” Genius. That is all.

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2. “I have to push the pram a lot!”–Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail

Once again, Jarrod was behind this masterpiece. We were in my father’s new store–a Sam’s Club–without any of the steel in place. It was a glorious span of virgin concrete, and two forklifts sat parked by the front door. Dad handed us each a set of keys and told us not to go crazy. Naturally, we drove around the store at full speed (which was nearly equal to the brisk pace attained by elderly mallwalkers) and quoted Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider episodes the entire way.

We ended up near the receiving docks where the baler (A.K.A–“The Cram-A-Lot”) was housed. Jarrod looked at it then at the stack of uncrushed boxes sitting outside it and finally at my dad who nodded like a some kind of retail Caesar. Jarrod squealed with joy and exclaimed, in mock baritone, “We get to use the Cram-A-Lot!!!!!!!!!” He finished the beautiful moment by dancing up to the leviathan machine singing the closing bars of the song.

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1. “A couple of wavy lines…”–Ghostbusters
 

Strangely enough, though we are a family who prides ourselves on our comic film quoting prowess, the number one pick was uttered by a relative stranger–a friend of mine named Brock who came in to help me when I was the director of a Sylvan Learning Center. (I needed a calculus tutor, and he was perfect for the gig.) Well, before the center opened for tutoring, he and I were setting up and had a few minutes to spare. A deck of multiplication flash cards was on his table, and I grabbed them to see if he could do the entire stack before I had to open the door and let in the insufferable hooligans adorable children eager to learn. About eight cards in, I said, “What about this one?”

No lie…Brock looked at me nonchalantly, raised his left hand and gestured the shape as he delivered the quote, “A couple of wavy lines.” I’m only sad because no one else but I was there to witness this samurai-level quote. Thank you, Brock, for allowing me to experience “The Quickening”… albeit by proxy.

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How about you all? Are you movie quoters? What are some of your favorite lines? Any great stories about perfectly-delivered ones? I’d love to hear about them. 

Also, what are some of your favorite quotable films? As you can see, we usually go for the classics, but I bet there are some hilarious ones (GASP!) we’ve never seen we might want to plumb the depths of for new material. Please leave a list in the comments below!

Shrieks and Squeals to Shout About!

Image from muppet.wikia.com

Wayne and I took Mom and Dad to visit the Center for Puppetry Arts here in Atlanta this weekend to see a live performance and take in the exhibit “Jim Henson: The Wonders of His Workshop.” We saw Fraggles, Doozers, Emmett and Ma Otter, and a plethora of other favorites. However, as I lovingly stared at the Sir Didymus puppet (sadly sans Ambrosius), Wayne openly admitted he’d never seen Labyrinth. We corrected that rather egregious oversight that evening, and while he was slightly weirded out, he admitted he enjoyed it. It had been quite a while since I’d seen it, and I came to realize that there are many scenes involving David Bowie in a codpiece, Jennifer Connelly vapidly staring off into the distance, and a copious amount of yelling. Well, the last fact got us to discussing our favorite movie screams. This ended up being our top five list…

5. Albert Goldman (A.K.A. Starina) in The Birdcage

I don’t know if it’s the timing or how he manages to pitch the scream at the exact same range as the car horn, but this always cracks me up.

4. Doc Brown in Back to the Future

The jaw drop in combination with the sound makes this gasp priceless. It’s quirky and befitting of Doc Brown, the mad and loving genius friend of Marty McFly. Christoper Lloyd has several great moments of hollering in the trilogy.

3. Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (at 0:21)

This montage is proof positive that Harrison Ford is one Hollywood actor who knows how to yelp, howl, and cry out like a pro. I’ve always been fond of some of the Han Solo moments collected here, but the scene where he’s bashed in the chin by the full length mirror when he’s already beaten half to death is classic. I also love the fact Lucas chose to pull back and give us a shot of the boat to accentuate the size of Indy’s pain and the barbaric epicness of the yawp.

2. Person in the Hallway in Ghostbusters

This one happens so quickly it’s easy to miss it. However, it’s one my family has used early and often when we come upon a scene we didn’t expect. I have to hand it to the actor who huffs this one out. After all, you have to be on your game to express such surprise and horror when looking at..well…nothing.

1. Lando Calrissian in Star Wars VI: The Return of the Jedi

Like Han, Lando is a man’s man. An adventurer. A scoundrel. Which is why the scream that bursts out of his throat when he’s snagged by the Sarlacc Pit is one of the funniest on record. It’s half cartoon sound effect and half girly squeal with a dash of flair thrown in for effect.

**Honorable Mention** Marv in Home Alone

It’s a little too obvious because there’s a tarantula involved. However, the bloodcurdling shriek that Daniel Stern emits when that spider is placed on his face is nearly Oscar worthy for sheer volume.

How about you all? What’s your favorite movie outburst? Is it one caused by terror, surprise, or sheer vomit-inducing grossness? I’d love to hear your top five!

Dollars and Sense in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Image from Wikipedia.org

Saturday night, Wayne and I finally had a minute to settle down, and we chose to spend it curled up with the “kittehs in teh city” to watch It’s a Wonderful Life. Wayne had seen it in bits and pieces but never from start to finish, which meant that he, for all intents and purposes, was really watching it for the first time. I, on the other hand, well-versed in all things Christmas and cinematic, was doing so for roughly the thirty-bijillionth time.

For those of you who don’t know my family, we heavily pepper our conversations with movie quotes. In one sitting, we might lob lines from Ghostbusters, The King and I, El Dorado, The Princess Bride, The Usual Suspects, White Christmas, Flaming Star, Major League, and Jaws back and forth so rapidly that those who don’t watch what the variety of films we do might think we’re speaking in a foreign language. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m an auditory learner who absorbs knowledge via listening and discussion (a big plus for me in college!) who can remember most of a movie’s dialogue after two or three viewings.

Image from IFC.com

Okay, back to It’s a Wonderful Life. I probably watch it three or four times every Christmas season, which makes for at least one hundred viewings. Each time, a bell rings and an angel gets some wings, George offers to lasso the moon, people jump in a swimming pool because it’s there, George is thwarted each and every time he tries to escape Bedford Falls, and George and Mary share that awesome kiss over the telephone. However, for the first time, I finally noticed that this classic feel-good film actually contains some fascinating socioeconomic and cultural elements.

Perhaps it’s the continued presence of the Occupy Wall Street protestors in the news or my own changing political outlook that caused me to take note of George Bailey and Mr. Potter as more than allegorical devices. I may never know. However, I though it interesting enough to point out a few key scenes for consideration.

Scene #1–“Peter Bailey was not a businessman”

This is the scene in which George Bailey stands up for his father’s ideals and makes a statement for the working class, thus losing his chance to go to college and forever dooming himself to a life doing the exact thing he feared–counting his pennies and stretching every one until Lincoln screamed for mercy.

Image from mymerrychristmas.com

Potter represents the faceless institution, the bank that loans money based on a person’s value on paper and the rate of return they’re bound to generate. It’s so easy to hate him as he sits in his Attila the Hun wheelchair in a stern black hat with glasses perched, hawk-like, on his nose. He is the epitome of every man or woman whoever denied a loan or hit us with an extra transaction fee we really preferred not to pay. His stance is, “If we just loan money out, people will come to expect it and not work for or value the things they have.” And everyone, on cue, is supposed to say, “That evil, maniacal bastard! How dare he say that about Ernie the taxicab driver! Why that’s the same fella who picked George up when his father had had a stroke, the nice guy who will serenade George and Mary on their impromptu honeymoon!” (Yes, all the exclamation points are necessary. Righteous indignation and all that.)

You (and George) say that because we know Ernie. Potter doesn’t; to him, he’s a social security number and a credit score. George then gives the great counterargument that the rabble he’s talking about “do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community” and that it isn’t “too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath.” They’re better citizens because they have something to be proud of, something they’re working to own while they’re enjoying it. Treat a human being like a human being, and he’ll respond as such. It’s a noble argument to be sure, one that I think held water in the 1940s when this film was released.

I don’t know if any of you have grandparents and parents like mine; they hate buying things on credit and/or taking charity. “What we get, we earn,” my dad used to say when I was a kid. “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.” That was bred into them as children, and they in turn bred it into me. (By the way, I’m still not thrifty enough by their standards. I’m like a goldfish and enjoy owning and staring at shiny things too much.)

This made me think of the Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac debacle of the last few years, the idea that everyone “deserves” a house. I loathe, and I mean loathe, the word “deserve.” There’s an feeling of entitlement to it that just galls me. Do you want a roof over your head? Very well. Choose one within your means, save up some for a down payment, and then go get that loan for the rest. Work, pay it off, take care of it. It’s yours, and you’re earning it. However, the incredible interest only loans and relaxed loan standards helped to create this horrid economic pit of despair we’re in now. (See! Movie reference! I can’t help it!) The difference between the people of Bedford Falls, each of which George Bailey knows personally and who work hard for their lifestyles, and folks today is the decline of individual work ethic/responsibility as well as the structure of our communities.

Image from rickischults.wordpress.com

It’s easy to blame Potter and call him all sorts of rude names in the simplistic snow globe that is this film and try to transpose the same feelings onto bankers in real life, but that doesn’t wash. They’re businesspeople who are responsible to other, bigger businesspeople for their own livelihoods and mortgage payments. They don’t know each person they loan money to–they can’t. They sometimes have to say no because a person doesn’t look to be good investment in order to protect the money for those people who are. Those who are currently protesting via Occupy Wall Street fail to realize this simple fact; money can’t simply be flung around. It must be created, grown, invested, protected, and used wisely if it is to maintain its value in our culture. We can’t simply give it away and make people who have more of it “pay their fair share” to those who generate nothing and add nothing to the overall economic pot. It really doesn’t grow on trees.

It’s easy to hate those who have more than we do, to envy them and their wealth. They become as faceless to us as we do to them. They’re not all evil, and the “people on the pavement” (as Edwin Arlington Robinson called us) aren’t all innocent victims of circumstance. The truth is never as simple, as black and white you might say, as a film would have us believe.

Scene #2–“We can get through this thing all right”

This is a pretty humbling scene, the stock market crash on the level of the everyman. Many a person likely took advantage of their fellow man as Potter did, offering substantially less for something than it was worth but offering a chance at relative security in a totally insecure time. George, ever the altruistic creature, puts his own money up, loaning it to tide folks over until the situation settles–something unheard of in today’s world.

Image from beaufortcountynow.com

The interesting dichotomy here is the amounts people are requesting. The one gentleman isinsistent on getting his $242 or whatever it is while others are willing to live on less than $20. The money they’re borrowing is from George’s honeymoon (and I’m guessing housekeeping setup) fund. They have $2,000 in their pockets while other folks’ entire accounts are a tenth of that. It demonstrates the wealth of the average client in the Building and Loan compared to that of Potter’s bank. (Look at the difference in the two offices and the set decoration if you need another stunning example. I love how directors can use scenery to tell the tale as well as the actors can.) George is by no means poor, but he’s nowhere near as wealthy as Potter. And the people he’s trying to help are so far down the socioeconomic ladder that they are beyond the old man’s notice.

I like the sense of community that is established in this scene as well as the miniature economics lesson that George gives the hoi polloi. He’s right; banks don’t just sit there full of money. Our money, which is insured by entities like the FDIC, is used to make loans, to generate even more wealth that should be put back into the institution. It should work that way, but the bigger the bank (and the more foolish the loans they make), the less likely this is to work out. However, any community is only as good as the sum of its parts. The only reason a place like the Building and Loan works is because people continue to pay their debts on time and in full. Allowances can be made from time to time, but not for everyone and not constantly. Otherwise, the entire house of cards collapses in on itself. It all comes back to the point I made before….individual responsibility is what provides for prosperity, not an institution or a government. If each person takes care of him/herself it becomes possible for them all to also look out for one another. We should be doing the same right now rather than make brainless and unreasonable demands on our government (which stands even less of a chance of doing something well than a large bank does).

Scene #3–“You’re worth more dead than alive”

This is a hard scene to watch, George grovelling in that tiny chair looking up at the blackhearted man who only means to cast him out in the snow to ruin and destruction rather than help him. Normally very well put together, George looks disheveled here–hair unkempt, suit rumpled, hands roaming aimlessly in hopes of finding an answer (or the illusive $8,000) in one of his coat’s many pockets. In short, he looks much more like the people who have come to rely on him than ever before and is treated as such by Potter who wastes no time in heaping derision on his head.

The most interesting aspect of this scene is the quip about going to the riff-raff for help. If you watch this film looking at  ancillary characters, it gets rather interesting. There are African Americans in this film, most notably the woman named Annie who worked for the Bailey family, as well as immigrants like Mr. Martini–the literal embodiment of the American dream. Black or white, rich or poor, male or female–all walks of life are represented in the final scene of the film, pulling money from pockets, jars, piggy banks, and even sending it in via telegram. Even the people there to arrest George get caught up in the general good will of the moment, donate money, and sing along with the townsfolk!

On the contrary, every time you see Potter, everyone around him is very well-heeled and stoic as well as very male and very white. Me thinketh Frank Capra was making a political statement with this fact as race and creed are never mentioned in this film. After all, George is the shining example of WASPhood (that’s White Anglo Saxon Protestant), but he values the company of someone like Mr. Martini over that of Sam “Hee Haw” Wainwright and even (albeit sarcastically) offers Annie a chair at the dinner table when he and his father are talking. This group embodies the principle of Matthew 22:34-40:

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’

For a film first released in 1946, I think It’s a Wonderful Life contains an interesting outlook on both social and economic issues. Like them, we should be prepared to live within our means and to make the most of what we earn. Like them, we should be concerned about and care for one another, but it should be done on a community level rather than by a ponderous and hopelessly inefficient government. When we can do these things and live according to the commandments Christ gave us, only then will we all have both dollars and sense.