On a cold Saturday night in December, more years ago than I care to count, a short film was shot in the studio at KOTV in Tulsa. The screenwriter, director, cinematographer, soundman and editor were all one in the same: triple threat Channel Six news reporter and anchorman, Bob Brown.
The cast was small: Dino Economos portrayed a used car salesmen, I was featured in the role of a Catholic priest and the other character in Brown's production was a bizarre and rather fey funeral director. The man in that role is known to most of us today as Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi or G. Ailard S. Artain.
But this is not about that film, the title, for the life of me, I can't remember. It is, instead, a review of "Elizabethtown," the new motion picture from the big Hollywood director, Cameron Crowe. What the Crowe movie has in common with that short film made years ago by Bob Brown at KOTV is that Gailard Sartain appears again in the role of an undertaker; neither weird nor fey this time, but robust and full of life and vinegar. Just imagining Zeppy as one's undertaker conjures up what would have to be a very funny funeral; just what's needed at any such event, I guess.
"Elizabethtown," succinctly categorized is a "Harold and Maude" movie for Wal-Mart shoppers; a quirky, funny film that surrounds itself with Death while affirming Life to the very end. Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst, who (a la Mulder and Scully) spend more time talking to each other on their cell phones than they do face-to-face, are the love interest. Susan Sarandon is Mr. Bloom's mother and Alec Baldwin (in cameo) plays a disgruntled CEO who has lost nearly a billion dollars due to a miscalculation by Bloom. Just as Bloom is about to implausibly commit suicide for his goof, his sister calls him to say that their father has died. Bloom postpones his own demise to handle his father's funeral in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, not far from Loo-uh-vull...spelled Louisville.
After meeting a lovely, effervescent flight attendant (Dunst) while jetting down to Blue Grass Country from Portland, Oregon, Bloom, I predicted, would soon be dancing like Bud Cort to music not unlike that of Cat Stevens as he re-affirms his own existence and takes care of bidness (as Mazeppa used to say) laying his daddy to rest. And Gailard's character gives us a great moment, too, at the daddy's funeral as the casket encounters difficulty making a smooth descent into the open grave. My goodness, what has "Six Feet Under" done to our entertainment experience?
However, the most absurd scene in the film shows Susan Sarandon, at her husband's memorial service, dancing by herself on stage to Henry Mancini's "Moon River." You might need to kick that one around in your head for a while.
Cameron Crowe has given us a long (2 hours plus) string of wholesome, delightful moments with good music, none of which have been well put together to make a complete and coherent feature film. Moreover, not much really happens in the movie either, as it seems to be more a series of scenes for sustaining a bubbly, downhome mood than to advance the story about the good people of "Elizabethtown."
But, Lawzee! Was it ever great to see Mazeppa trodding the boards again! How 'bout some more, G. Ailard? Ain't none of us gettin' any younger.
Gary Chew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2005, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.