Friday, October 7, 2011
Men behaving badly
Last weekend my friend Don came to visit for a business convention in San Diego. He didn't have to be there until Saturday, so he caught a flight to LA on Friday night, and we drove down together to San Diego on Saturday, where I stayed the night on his hotel couch.
Plenty of opportunity for men to behave badly -- and for those men to watch movies about men behaving badly.
See, my wife was already scheduled to be absent from our house on Friday night. She'd been away for an exhausting work weekend the previous weekend, and was going to take advantage of a little benefit she's claimed once before: steal a night away to herself in a cute but inexpensive little motel near our house. The baby sleeps through the night now -- sometimes -- but she still gets a much better sleep if she's not even under the same roof as him. So before we even knew Don was visiting, my wife had set it up to get one of these restorative sleeps that Friday night.
Don and I are both movie freaks. He's the only person I know personally who I'm sure has seen more movies than I have. (Some of you reading have probably seen more movies than I have, but it wouldn't quite be accurate to say I know you personally.) So we frequently try to schedule our visits around seeing movies -- good ones, if possible.
Since we were on joint babysitting duty Friday night, seeing a movie in the theater was out. While we were limited in that one respect, we were the opposite of limited in another: For the first time in awhile, neither of our wives were around to implicitly approve of our choice of what to watch, since they'd be watching it too.
So I came up with a theme: Movies you don't want your wife to know you're watching.
Each of us would contribute one movie to this theme, and each would keep the title a surprise until just before the double feature began.
My choice: Caveh Zahedi's I Am a Sex Addict. His choice: Paul Brickman's Risky Business.
Now, before you go determining who is the more mainstream movie fan, please consider that this was my theme, so more than likely I already had an idea of what I wanted to watch. He was the one playing catch-up. (In other words, Don is more likely to be the one who would have heard of a little movie like I Am a Sex Addict, while I would contribute the more mainstream choice, but the shoe happened to be on the other foot this time.)
In fact, I wouldn't have known about I Am a Sex Addict at all if it weren't for Blockbuster Video. I only became aware of it because I was walking the new release aisle, and its rather confrontational poster and title caught my eye. Soon after first seeing it on the shelf, I realized that the writer-director-star, Caveh Zahedi, is one of the talking heads in Richard Linklater's Waking Life, which I dearly love. So I chose a time when my wife was out of town back then (this was something like 2007), and watched it. And loved it. (In fact, much like the prostitute-addicted Zahedi, I walked past the movie several times on several different trips to Blockbuster -- like Zahedi working up the courage to approach a prostitute -- before I finally took the plunge.)
More on the actual movie in a minute.
(For the record, I am not a sex addict. However, renting a movie called I Am a Sex Addict would tend to make a wife worry about your fidelity, mightn't it? When I first watched it she was only my girlfriend or possibly already my fiancee, but the same concerns apply. Anyway, I obviously can't be too worried about it because here I am blogging about it. I know she doesn't read my blog -- she simply doesn't have the time, and my output discourages casual readership -- but she certainly could read it. In which case, I wouldn't need to be ashamed about watching I Am a Sex Addict, because I'm not a sex addict, and because it's a great movie, as I am about to explain here.)
Don's choice was a really good one, but it would have been a better one for me personally if I hadn't just seen it in January of 2009. Seen it with my wife, at her suggestion. But he couldn't have known -- unless he were reading my blog back in January of 2009, which I know he was. (Just kidding, Don. You're alright.)
But seriously, it made for a really fortuitous double feature, as both films dealt with likable heroes and their dalliances with prostitutes. Which make them fairly unique within the cinematic universe, as likable heroes don't usually actually go through with having sex with a prostitute. Both Joel Goodson and Caveh Zahedi do, and that made it a terrific double feature. Great minds. (Also, implicitly -- films featuring prostitutes are the things we least want our wives to know we're watching. Although I can tell you honestly that I've never gone near a prostitute, and I can say with a great amount of confidence that Don hasn't either.)
(I didn't notice until just now the on-the-nose thematic meaning of Tom Cruise's character's last name, Goodson. Subtle.)
So we settled in with beer and Korean tacos from the place down the street, and watched the two movies. (That's us behaving badly, you see.)
You already know about Risky Business, but I thought I should tell you a bit more about I Am a Sex Addict -- a film I loved just as much the second time. If you don't know much or anything about Caveh Zahedi, he's a filmmaker who makes what I can only describe as pseudo-documentaries. Nothing that happens in them is really happening at the time -- they are all recreations. But they are all recreations of real events from Zahedi's real life, and Zahedi plays himself in them. Sometimes, he even gets others to play themselves, although I believe he's the only person playing himself in this film. Though he does show actual footage of the actual people he's talking about. Extremely personal pseudo-documentaries? Semi-fictionalized recreations? The thing is, I'm not even sure if they're semi-fictionalized, and that's what makes them so honest. (The only other film of his I know of, which I can't seem to get my hands on, is a film called I Don't Hate Las Vegas Anymore, where he actually takes ecstasy on screen.)
So I Am a Sex Addict is basically about 15 years or so of sex addiction in the filmmaker's life, and how it affected four different relationships. It's also hilarious. Zahedi has this whimsical earnestness about him, and he's a bit nebbishy like Woody Allen. (In fact, it was Don who pointed out to me that Zahedi's character was a bit like Woody Allen, in the frame of a gaunt American of Iranian descent.) He honestly discusses how his desire to sleep with other women, and eventually prostitutes, ended a number of promising relationships -- not because he was making a secret of these desires, but rather, being too open about them. It was his attempt to be as intimate and honest as possible with his partner, and this disarming approach to sort-of monogamy actually works -- to an extent, for a little while. The predictable traps he makes for himself, despite his best intentions, play out honestly and sometimes painfully. But the humor is never lost -- a recurring joke is that Zahedi has very poor stamina, and he's always shown wearing the same outfit, which looks a little bit like Han Solo's three-piece suit, regardless of whether it's the 1980s, 1990s or 2000s. The film has plenty of cutaways to stock footage or old photographs, which give it even more of a feel of a documentary -- but it's obviously not a documentary. It occupies its own unique, uncategorizeable space, and it's worthy of your attention.
So we were both falling asleep at about 1:30 when we finished Risky Business.
Saturday night in San Diego was a different kind of men behaving badly that also revolved around a more publicly respectable movie: Moneyball.
After Don checked in with his convention and made a couple rounds -- while I napped upstairs in his room -- we got ourselves ready for some BBQ and the movie. Phil's BBQ in San Diego was supposed to be some of the best BBQ out there, and we realized upon arriving that the public tended to agree: There was a sign that said it was a 20-minute wait from this point, and there were a good 200 people behind that sign. This was 6:30 and Moneyball was supposed to start at 7:30. So after no more than a minute in line, we decided to see how late Phil's was open. The 11 p.m. closing time encouraged us to have our BBQ after the movie, and grab some In N Out burger as a snack beforehand.
Burgers, baseball, BBQ and beer? Yeah, that's man's stuff.
After all this, we watched Fright Night on his hotel TV. Again up until about 1:30, maybe later.
The point of this post is not to talk about Moneyball -- I actually loved it, but I don't have a lot I want to say about it right now. Nor to talk about Fright Night, which I did not love.
However, I will say, if you are ever in San Diego, and you like BBQ, you've got to try Phil's. Oh man. I'm sure there's terrific BBQ in Memphis and Kansas City -- the two informal U.S. capitals of BBQ cuisine -- but I don't need much more than this place, and not just because it's only a two-hour drive from my house. Man, was it good.
I did tell my wife about that one.