Monday, July 6, 2009

Eerie similarities

If you've read me much before, you know that funny patterns in movie watching interest me greatly. And so here I am to present another one.

On Friday morning at the gym, I began watching the John Cusack movie Martian Child. A classic case of a "gym movie," which is also the kind of movie I regularly find available for me to review. So I'd picked up Martian Child at the library the day before, having already gotten approval to review it last week. There was just something about that title that made me think this movie would be fun to lay into.

When the young child of the title finally comes out from under the over-sized cardboard box where he spends most of his time, it's to the tune of "Don't Be Shy" by Cat Stevens.

On my way into work, my wife told me to make sure to tune into Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW in the 11 o'clock hour, when Jason Bentley's guest would be Yusuf. Otherwise known as Yusuf Islam. Otherwise known as Cat Stevens. We love Yusuf, who's put out two excellent albums since 2006, the most recent of which we've just been listening to quite a bit. I knew I'd have the chance to listen, because pretty much everyone would be out of the office for the holiday. (Meanwhile, I'm taking my day off on Monday, which works out great -- not only was it dead on Friday, but I even got to leave early and clock out from home, in addition to having all of Monday off. Sweet.)

But Yusuf didn't want to limit himself to his Yusuf Years in his live set, and sure enough, he played the Cat Stevens classic "Don't Be Shy" somewhere around 11:25.

Of course, by this point I already knew that I'd be hearing it a third time later that night. Having had the DVD in my possession for about three weeks, I'd finally gotten Harold and Maude, Hal Ashby's 1971 classic, on the schedule for our Friday evening viewing. It took a little convincing to prioritize it with my wife -- though we'd both already seen it, it would be only the second time for me, while she described herself as seeing it about ten times when she was a kid. But a couple days earlier she'd relented, and so sure enough, I heard the song that third time somewhere around 8:30. Cat Stevens does the film's entire soundtrack.

The hearing of "Don't Be Shy" three times in one day, twice in movies and once elsewhere, might not in itself have been enough for me to post about. But then a weird thing happened while I was watching Harold and Maude. I decided that Bud Cort's Harold actually reminded me of John Cusack in a weird way. I suppose, since Cort is older, it would be more appropriate to say that Cusack reminds me of Cort, but since I'm much more accustomed to watching Cusack than Cort, the reverse was true. Something about their eccentric intensity seemed similar, as well as something about their actual physical appearance -- even if Cort's eyes are rounder and wider, while Cusack's are more beady.

I googled their two names to see if anyone else had made this comparison, and I didn't come up with much, though I did find one writer likening the half-hearted suicide attempts of Cusack's Lane Myer in Better Off Dead to those of Cort's Harold -- even if Harold is only trying to freak out his square mother.

And then, digging deeper as a person must in situations like this, I noted a similarity between Harold and Maude and Martian Child themselves. Each movie features an eccentric boy (separated by a good ten years in age) who doesn't fit in with others his age, and acts out in unusual ways to get attention. Of course, Harold and Maude is a classic, buoyed by the performances of Cort and the terrific Ruth Gordon, which promotes living life to its fullest, while Martian Child is just a forgettable inspirational drama that verges on the saccharine. However, I will say I liked Martian Child better than I might have because of Cusack's performance -- an especially strange thing for me to say, because I've let my knowledge of Cusack the man affect how I view him on film. (What's wrong with Cusack the man? Well, he's got a reputation as an asshole, which his public jealousy-based spat with lifelong friend Jeremy Piven confirms. But also, the only time I've ever seen him in person -- when I was walking down a sidewalk in New York, and he was taking a break on set -- he glared such acid back at me when we made eye contact that it was though he was accusing me of stalking him. Hey man, I didn't even break stride. Get out of your own head.)


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