PJ, who grew up on a steady diet of TV Westerns,
had been waiting a long time to see True Grit. He had passed on
this movie for his Holiday line up, and, instead, opted for The
Fighter, Paramount’s other Christmas picture. Westerns these
days, he knew, never seem to “click” at the box office.
But, as often happens in the movie industry, predictions go
awry. True Grit, it turns out, performed quite well, and now
happens to be one of the highest grossing Westerns of all time.
Anyway, once in the throes of January, a lean time for new movie
releases, the opportunity to book the movie presented itself.
And so PJ, on the opening 1:00 Friday matinee, armed with a
wonton soup, a large popcorn, and, of course, chocolate almonds,
settled in for the Coen Brothers’s reprisal of the old John
Wayne flick. By the way…….don’t be thinking you can be bringing
Chinese food into the theater. This is a luxury reserved only
Now, let’s first share a thought or two about the Coen
Brothers. PJ has often been heard saying that if they just went
straight and created a “normal” movie, it would be destined to
become a classic. These guys are that good. Not unlike Quentin
Tarantino, however, their movies are always “out there”, yet
brilliant. PJ is still ruminating over the scholarly A Serious
Man. One must always look for subtlety , nuance, and symbolic
meaning in their movies. Every detail is well-thought, well
crafted, and meaningful.
But once again, another of PJ’s preconceived beliefs went awry.
True Grits’s fluidity was punctuated with distracting errors and
seeming incongruities. Some so extreme that PJ became focused on
these details and lost sight of the movie as a whole. But this
is a Coen Brothers flick. It had to be deliberate. Right?
It must be that the movie-makers were paying ironic and
nostalgic homage to all those poorly made Westerns of
yesteryear. They must have been poking affectionate fun. Or is
this movie just full of plain old dumb mistakes?
Let’s take a look at some of PJ’s observations and you
-The movie takes place in a land of lawlessness, the Wild West.
Yet, Mattie repeatedly gets her way by threatening the modern
day method of getting one’s way: litigation. She’s going to
take everyone to court. But, she does not need to. Just one or
two well placed threats to sue the horse trader, and bam, he
cowers and caves. Almost everyone acquiesces to Mattie’s
knowledge of the law.
-Jeff Bridges’s character, Rooster Cogburn, claims he was with
Quantril (isn’t that a great name?) in Lawrence, Kansas. PJ
looked it up. Indeed 200 innocents were slaughtered there, yet
Rooster denies the massacre. He does, however, endure Mattie
and ensures her safety. Maybe he’s got a guilty conscience from
all those other women and children he killed in Lawrence.
-At first Rooster decides to leave without Mattie. She is a
stubborn little thing, though, and fords the river on her horse,
Little Blackie, to get to Mr. Cogburn. This is a treacherous
crossing, and she and the horse almost go completely
under--several times. Yet, when she reaches the opposite bank,
she is 100% totally bone dry. Little Blackie, too! A miracle?
A mistake? A poke of fun?
Whatever it was, it was disconcerting.
-Later again Mattie, who we now know is impervious to water, is
filling an enormous bucket that miraculously appeared. Where in
the world did it come from? Anyway, she is half up to her
knees, and then falls into the water from the recoil of her
gun. She, once again, in the very next scene is dry. Very.
How does she do this?
-Fluffy, windswept snowflakes are often seen blowing about. In
some scenes the wind is heard to howl, yet the tree branches are
-And then there are the gunshot wounds. A joke in PJ’s family
when he was a kid was the oft-heard utterance in cowboy movies,
“It’s only a flesh wound.” Well, folks, True Grit takes the
flesh wound to a new level:
--Matt Damon has some really great recuperative powers. He is
no Shane. Shane’s shirt, if you remember, had a dark spot widen
as he rode off. Matt though bleeds for only a moment. He’s a
real coagulator! A bullet that traveled through his shoulder
and out his back neither hurt nor bled much at all. And
certainly it didn’t slow him down or diminish his aim with the
Sharps Carbine from 400 yards. He even lifted Mattie with the
bad arm onto Little Blackie after she was snakebit. Amazing!
And that awful mouth wound. Rooster was concerned that a tongue
wound couldn’t be bound, yet Matt gives a lovely smile a moment
later wherein his uppers, lowers, tongue, and lips which had all
been previously shredded, were portrait perfect. What a guy!
--Josh Brolin, it must be said, does seem a bit surprised when
he is shot in the abdomen. All the damage this bullet did,
however, was to confound Josh who pronounces that he thinks he
was hit in the short rib. PJ looked, but was unable to see a
hole in his shirt. Kevlar? And, of course, this shot didn’t
slow him down a bit either.
Near the end, it appears that Rooster is shot as well. But it
must have really only been a flesh wound. It takes more than a
bullet to slow down Rooster Cogburn!
-In the final scene we are told that up till three days ago
Rooster was in a Wild West show with Cole Younger and Frank
James. This scene takes place 25 years afterwards. OK, hold it
one minute….if you do the math and add 25 years to Rooster’s
apparent age, he’d have been about a 100 in 1903. His tombstone
claims he was 78, but Rooster sure didn’t look 53 in the movie.
(By the way, one thing the movie got right was that Wild West
Show. Cole and Frank did tour the country in a style similar to
the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show.)
More errors abound, but PJ is thinking you are getting the
point, so enough. But he is puzzled. Were these
honest-to-goodness-errors? Or are the Coen Brothers, these
master film makers, poking fun at the Western genre with
What ever the case, the continuity and serious nature of the
movie as a piece of art was damaged. It was for PJ, but
apparently not for the Academy.
True Grit, you see, has been nominated for ten awa
So it’s 12:00 noon on an
unusually warm and rainy Wednesday between
blizzards. PJ is alone sitting at the box
office waiting for the staff to arrive and
getting ready to open the theater.
The doors are still locked when the lady walks
PJ extricates himself from the cocoon that is
his box office, walks to the side door, and lets
her in. She wants a ticket for The King’s
Speech, a true story about King George’s
stammering, and then she’s going to get lunch
She’s concerned she might get sold out even
though this has never happened on a Wednesday
afternoon. Wednesday matinees are generally
slow and relaxed. Mostly Senior Citizens.
“You know, “ PJ says, “It’s not necessary to get
a ticket ahead of time. This is not going to
“Well, I don’t want to miss it……You know when I
was a child I also stuttered. In fact, I’ll
tell you a story…..”
And she did. A good one, too.
If it were a movie, the screen at this point
would have gotten wavy as we viewers settled
into our seats and traveled about fifty years
into the past…….
The story begins…….
It was at St. Agnes’s High School in College
Point. Sister Florentina Maria’s class. We
were taking turns and each of us had to read a
paragraph out loud at our seats. As my turn
came closer, I could feel my heart pounding, and
I was out of breath.
Well, my turn came. I stuttered every word of
the first sentence. It was awful.
Sister Florentina Maria interrupted.
She told the class that no one was to laugh. If
anyone did, he or she would be required to come
to the front of the room and spend the remainder
of the class kneeling.
And I, she demanded, would continue reading the
It took an eternity as I stuttered through each
and every word.
When I finished, she said she would see me in
her office at the end of class.
Now……PJ, who spent 30 years in the classroom,
and never required his students to speak in
front of the whole class in this manner because
he remembered how uncomfortable it made him feel
back when he was a kid, is thinking how cruel
this was. And he wonders out loud to the nice
lady if Sister Florentina Maria ever made it
“Oh,” she says, “let me continue…….please……So
there I am sitting in front of her desk,
frightened, and she says to me, ‘How long have
you stuttered like this?’”
“Aw-aw-awl m-m-my en-en-en tire l-l-ife,” I
“Well, Roberta,” she said to me……you can’t go
through life this way.” And she made me join
and participate in various activities…..she had
me learn to dance, to sing, to draw, and to
She permitted, no, required me, to have an
outlet for self-expression.
“OK,” PJ conceded, maybe she made it to
“Oh,” the nice lady said, “please let me
“Three years passed, and then one day I
realized…… my stuttering had vanished. It just
disappeared,” she said with eyes all a
PJ sighed--smiled--and then thought, “Yup, wrong
again.” He knew Sister Florentina Maria was
looking down at us with a twinkle in her eyes as
“I guess she made it into heaven after all,” PJ
heard himself saying.
He handed the lady her ticket, and asked her if
could write about this in this week‘s column.
The thought pleased her. And it pleased him.
And as she left for lunch, PJ thought about all
the kids who stuttered and stammered when he was
young. About all the pain they must have
endured. And then he was reminded about how few
kids suffer from this impediment these days.
Yes, speech therapy is definitely one area that
the public schools really get right.
And in her own way, fifty years
back, Sister Florentina Maria got it right as
PJ sat through the Golden Globes,
and although he became unfocused from time to
time (can you blame him?), he made the
-Ricky Gervais wasted no time in crossing the
line of decency. His mean-spirited comments had
the unfortunate effect of placing many of those
big Hollywood egos into a position of
compassion. PJ found himself feeling sorry for
those he ordinarily snipes at. This made him
- Ricky probably was correct about The Tourist,
however. It only could have been nominated for
best picture because of money well-spent.
-Michael Douglas looked great. PJ loved his
remark that his battle with cancer was a hell of
a way to get a standing ovation.
-OMG! Christian Bale’s hair grew in. Judging
by its length, The Fighter must have been filmed
several years ago. And……he’s got an English
accent. PJ liked that he thanked the real
Mickey and Dickey Ward, but did not like that he
received the Best Supporting Actor award which
should have gone to Geoffrey Rush for his
performance in The King’s Speech.
-Scarlet Johannson is Jewish? Who knew?
-Casino Jack’s Kevin Spacey presented, but he
didn’t win. Maybe movies that are too political
are dismissed. Fair Game also belongs in this
category. Both were excellent.
-How could Red have been nominated for
anything? More money well spent?
-Back to Ricky Gervais. It was kind of ugly to
call Bruce Willis Ashton Kutcher’s father.
-Kudos to the President of the Hollywood Foreign
Press and Robert Downey Jr. for bringing
attention to Ricky Gervais’s obnoxious
-The kid from the Social Network, Jesse
Eisenberg, had trouble reading his lines when
presenting, yet he was brilliant in the movie.
This indicates remarkable acting ability. He
lacks confidence in personal appearances, yet
can create on screen. Furthermore, Social
Network won all kinds of awards, but the
Hollywood Foreign Press ignored Jesse, the heart
and soul of the movie. This reminded PJ of the
time when Rocky won best picture but Stallone
was snubbed. Even Further Furthermore….he was
too shy to come on stage when the movie won.
You have to like this kid.
-Cher wasn’t present to sing the song she sang
in Burlesque--“You Haven’t Seen the Last of
Me“. Perhaps we have seen the last of her.
-Warren Beatty is not aging well. Annette
Bening is kind of kooky. What’s with her hair
and the dark glasses on this night of
-Also interesting to note is that Annette won
Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her role
in The Kids Are All Right which was neither a
musical nor a comedy.
-PJ loved when Mark Rufalo was characterized as
Julianne’s and Annette’s awesome sperm donor.
-Geoffrey Rush looks an awful lot like PJ’s
cousin Norman. Why was he wearing that hat
-Al Pacino, kind of like Jesse Eisenberg,
appeared to be uncomfortable in the glow of the
-It was moving when the Glee kid spoke up on
behalf of victims of bullying. That was nice.
-Tina Fey and Steve Carell would have been
better hosts than Ricky Gervais. These two were
amusing. And not hurtful.
-PJ was shocked that the woman who won for best
supporting actress--the mother in the
fighter--looked and sounded nothing like she did
in the movie. How did she do that?
-DeNiro, who won the Cecil B. Demille Award for
lifetime blahblahblah, was tedious and just
about as hurtful as Ricky Gervais. What is
wrong with these people?
-Colin Firth won for best actor in the King’s
Speech although PJ knows the best actor in that
movie was Geoffrey Rush, the guy with the hat.
-Natalie Portman was all soft, fuzzy, white
-As the show ended PJ was thinking it would have
been fitting if all those who were put down by
Ricky Gervais had an opportunity to roast
PJ once read that the answer to
many a great scientific question popped into the
mind of a scientist at a moment while he or she
was not actively working on the solution. For
example, Einstein, it is told, conceived the
theory of relativity while riding in an elevator
in the patent office where he worked as a young
man. He felt the pressure in his knees while
descending, and, well…….the rest is relativity.
And though by no means an Einstein, PJ likewise,
came up with a life-changing idea while in the
throes of despair regarding a big problem.
It was the early 90‘s. PJ was depressed. Big
time. The PJ Twins, it appeared, was going to
have to close its doors. December 31, 1992, was
the expiration date of the theater’s lease and
would thus be its last day of operation. The
shopping center, you see, had been sold to Joe
and Gary, two hands-on, no-nonsense, rough
contractor type investors. They had told PJ
that there was no room to expand the theater,
and two screens could never support the revenue
necessary to remain afloat. “Start packing,”
they had told him. His rent, you see, was going
to increase ten fold. Yes, ten fold.
PJ would miss the Twins. Sure, he loved
teaching. He wouldn’t be without a job, but the
movie theater had become an important part of
his life. On many nights, he was a
one-man-show: cashier, candy guy,
projectionist, and, yes, the cleaner. Movies
ran through his bloodstream. He loved the
place. But, there was no way out.
That was until one weekday winter night…….
It was about 11:30 P. M. PJ was exhausted. He
had taught all day, shown movies all night, and
was now waiting for the last movie to end when
the only three viewers would say good night.
He was behind the candy counter in his usual
perch nodding on and off, when the apparition
slowly rolled up. There he was: about age 55
and in a wheel chair. He was bald on top with
dark brown hair around the sides, and in his
mouth a three inch long cigar that had burnt
out. He had once been robust. Actually he
still was, but he was wheel chair bound. He was
the kind of guy who didn’t feel sorry for
himself, though. He had confidence, was
perfectly comfortable in his own skin, and
seemed to be experienced enough to come up with
any answer one might need. He was a kind soul,
too. And, he appeared with clarity, real as
day. He looked like some kid’s favorite uncle.
“Why the long face?” he inquired.
“I’m going to have to close the place down,” PJ
explained. And he listened while PJ told the
“Put on a happy face,” he said almost without
hesitation, “I’ve got the answer for you. Build
a second floor, put theaters upstairs, and on
opening night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
will come dancing down the big staircase you’re
gonna’ put in.”
And there it was. The solution had come via
Well, the next morning PJ called his lawyer.
“Hey, Sonny, I had a great idea last night…………”
It wasn’t until quite a while later that he
divulged the idea may not quite have been
entirely his. But, who else’s could it have
And so, folks, the rest is history. PJ went to
Joe and Gary who told him if he could get the
necessary approvals and permits they would give
the idea their blessing. Why wouldn’t they?
Their shopping center would be eventually
granted an additional 7,000 square feet, they
would get a new anchor to balance out Foodtown
on the other end, and not only would they get
their ten-fold rent increase, they would also
even get to flip the center for a nifty profit
two years later.
Well, PJ went to work. He visited the civic
associations and made his pitch for responsible
development: new multi-screen theater that
would be an asset to the community without even
the removal of a single tree. He already had
the necessary parking spaces, and lo and behold,
a special use permit was granted.
And on June 24, 1994, the PJ Cinemas reopened as
a 7 screen facility.
Fred and Ginger never showed.
But the people did.
To this day some old timers still refer to it as
the PJ Twins.
But one old timer PJ never saw again was the guy
in the chair. He who had made it all possible.
The “guy” with the solution.
The guy who had vanished into thin air.
Oh, and by the way, that’s
exactly how it happened.
Well, since most everyone has
already broken their New Year's resolution to
lose weight, PJ thought it would be a good time
to revisit one of his columns from yesteryear.
And so.........in the interest of better
HERE'S WHAT YOUR CANDY SELECTION REVEALS ABOUT
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups: No longer available
at PJ's, RPBC's used to be the classic choice of
the Hedonists among you. These pleasure seekers
wanted it all--in two, and in extreme cases, one
big disgusting self indulgent bite. They wanted
it sweet. They wanted it salty. They wanted it
soft. They wanted it mouth wateringly chocolaty.
They wanted it peanut buttery. They wanted it
all. And, now, alas, because of the terrible
onslaught of children's allergic reactions to
peanut butter, they long for the past as they
watch their movie in unrequited longing.
Sour Patch Kids: When ordered by
children--perfectly normal. When ordered by
adults, very revealing. These subjects still
revel in childish pleasure. Yes, they have never
really grown up. They are to be admired, though,
for their unabashedness. Caution, however, must
be exercised since it has been determined that
the adult tongue may partially dissolve from
contact with this curious confection of sweet,
yet sour tartness.
SnoCaps: Classic delayed gratification
save-the-best-for-last personality type. These
individuals ALWAYS make the pack last the ENTIRE
movie. How? By eating them infuriatingly slow.
One SnoCap at a time. Ahhh, those small
pleasures. And, when no one is looking, during
an especially dark scene, yes, they moisten
their index finger and dab up the little white
dots. Every last one. YUM!
Twizzlers: These subjects, not unlike
high-chaired toddlers, love to play with their
food. And best of all, they can do it without
getting their hands dirty! A not altogether
Popcorn: Traditionalists. Great lovers of film.
Lots of nervous energy most often generated from
total immersion into the movies involving actual
loss of self-awareness. A few kernels are always
taken home inside their shirts for afters!
Raisinettes: Self Delusionary. These subjects
have convinced themselves that their junk food
is, in fact, a healthy snack. Raisinetters
often rationalize their other bad habits. Deep
inside, however, they know.
Hershey Bars: Thick Hershey bars are enjoyed by
no nonsense seekers of chocolate gratification.
These types are straightforward and down to
earth. Pragmatic by nature, they seek not an
embellished snack. The chocolate is what
matters. It’s all that matters. Presentation
Chocolate Covered Almonds: Luxury-minded
sophisticated types. I want quality. I deserve
the best. I demand it. Cost is no object. Often
seen wearing fur.
Cappuccino with Whipped Cream and Lots of
Chocolate Chunks: Each bodily cell of these
subjects is screaming to be replenished with
caffeine, chocolate, sugar, and fat. Those
ordering a large may need to watch a double
feature to provide time to come back down to
Dots: Seekers of oral gratification. Bottle-fed
as infants, these adults seek socially
acceptable reasons to put their fingers into
their mouths, which is, of course, necessary
since each Dot lodges itself between the molars
requiring it to be physically unstuck.
KitKat: These subjects have transitioned to
KitKats from Hershey Bars because of their need
for straight lines when breaking the sections.
They are obsessive, overly organized types who
have no messy drawers or closets in their homes.
Well, did we nail your special choice and/or
Oh, and by the way, by reversing the process, PJ
believes that you can practice self-help and
acquire the traits associated with candies you
wouldn't ordinarily consume. Simply refer to the
above list and look for any traits you wish to
acquire. Then purchase and eat that candy. You
will get results almost immediately. For
example, looking for order in your life? Eat
KitKats. Looking to raise your standards? Smack
down some Chocolate Almonds. Looking for some
childish pleasures? Fill your mouth with Sour
Patch Kids. OK, you got the picture? Good.
See you at the concession stand.
For years PJ has been looking at
movie critics with eyes askance. These gurus,
some approaching pop-star status, wield big-time
influence. In the Major Metropolitan Area, for
instance, they can account for many millions of
dollars worth of box office. And, this
translates to power.
When a few individuals with the simple stroke of
an extra “star” or two, or even a “half”, can
make or break a movie, a closer look ought to be
taken at the standards with which they operate.
PJ is reminded of the Payola scandal of the
60’s. Back then records were promoted on the
radio to the tune of how much the labels were
willing to pay the disc jockeys. “Hits” were
bought with money well-spent.
Just imagine how much the grossing potential of
a movie could be enhanced with a slanted
review. PJ was recently attracted to an ad in
the Entertainment section of the NY Times. It
quoted a noted critic from a major magazine:
“The hands-down best romantic comedy of the
year,” it boasted. Well, this is interesting
because most everyone who sees the movie agrees
that it is just ok. So, how come such a great
How much is an extra star worth anyway? Around
these parts a bundle. Have you ever seen a
stinker that the critics loved? And why is it
that an occasional terrific flick gets ignored?
But who can argue? After all, movie reviews are
subjective, so very subjective. Movies are in
the eyes of the beholder. PJ is wondering
though, “Are these beholders beholden to anyone
else?” A movie review is nothing more than one
person’s opinion. But like that professional
wrestler with the hundred dollar bills in his
hand used to say, “Everyone has a price.” How
would oversight on movie reviews be conducted
anyway? How can an “opinion” be evaluated for
And then there is the related issue of kids’
movies. PJ has observed over the years that the
critics are apt to pan a kids’ movie by saying
that it has been done before……
But, wait a minute. This generation of kids
hasn’t been around before. Aren’t they entitled
to the pleasure of watching an underdog succeed
against the odds as we did years earlier?
It is further ironic that kids’ movies are
critiqued by adults. Maybe it should be kids
who evaluate their own movies. The critics tend
to give positive reviews if the movies contain
risqué adult humor. They love these movies for
being “adult-clever“, and dismiss the off-color
moments because “they just go over the kids‘
heads” anyhow. PJ thinks it is in bad taste to
include this kind of humor in kids’ flicks let
alone to tout them with superlatives. The
children’s movies that are correctly geared to
kids are often condemned for being lame. But,
then again, it is the adults who are purchasing
the tickets, and it is they who want to be
amused rather than be bored with
child-appropriate movie material.
So, how can we deliver honest appraisals of our
movie product? PJ has often thought that he’d
love to host a tv or radio show called Don’t
Listen to the Critics, Listen to the People
wherein we’d hear what Joe and Jane Movie Going
Public felt about the movies they just saw.
We’d hear ordinary people giving unremunerated
opinions freely. In fact, he’s surprised as
well that there aren’t any movie-talk radio
shows. Aren’t movie grosses delivered by the
press just like sports scores? Wouldn’t people
love to call in and give their views just like
they do on sports-talk radio?
PJ can hear it now………Alright, we
have Jane, first-time-long-time listener from
Port Jeff. So, Jane, you loved the Black Swan,
but you’re thinking that Natalie Portman was
imagining the whole thing, huh? …..Whaddaya
So, PJ saw The Black Swan and The
Fighter this past weekend. Throughout both
movies thoughts went flying through his mind
like bats in a cave…..
As The Black Swan developed, PJ immediately
started thinking of one of his favorite movies,
The Usual Suspects. Though it was a favorite,
he has always thought this movie didn’t play
fair. Why? Because almost everything depicted
on the screen didn’t really happen, but was
instead a made-up story. PJ thought it was
dishonest to confuse the viewer this way. He
kind of felt betrayed by the moviemaker.
Now, jump to Shutter Island. Same scenario:
Did everything on the screen really happen? Did
any of it happen? Or was the viewer merely a
passenger in Leonardo DiCaprio’s mind? PJ
thinks this open-endedness is cheating. He
wants answers. He wants the film maker to take
Well, likewise, the Black Swan also offered no
such answers, but it sure did pose a bunch of
questions. Did Mila Kunis really spend the
night? Were the stigmata-like goose flesh and
wounds real? Maybe it wouldn’t matter so much,
but then, at the end, one of the
maybe-real-maybe-unreal events turns out to be
really real. Not fair.
The old English teacher in PJ always hated when
the kids’ written assignments concluded with the
copout “it was only a dream” ending. This is
the last resort of the unimaginative. When the
“real/unreal” line gets blurred in the movies,
it does leave room for post-movie discussion,
but PJ really does not enjoy being left hanging
by moviemakers who can’t make up their own
Sure, the production values were superb.
Natalie Portman was sublime. And it was
certainly two of the eeriest movie hours PJ had
ever sat through. But some answers would have
A final word……
On the recorded message, PJ said the movie was a
psycho-sexual thriller. Well, he got a good
laugh from the guy who after seeing the movie
said, “It had lots of psycho, but could have
used more sexual.”
And then there was The Fighter……..
This movie instantly took PJ back to his high
school days in Levittown and more notably to
Irish Bobby Cassidy, one of his childhood
heroes. Bobby Cassidy was a local Levittown kid
who turned professional boxer. PJ remembers
traveling to Sunnyside Gardens with his buddies
to watch Cassidy’s ring career get started . He
was a southpaw, and he was world class. He was
from humble origins like all Levittown kids
were. Bobby put Levittown on the map, and maybe
even got it a little respect. The same way
Irish Mickey Ward, Mark Wahlberg’s real-life
character, put Lowell, Massachusetts, on the
PJ remembers seeing Cassidy fight on tv years
later when he was a top-ten contender. It was a
title shot. And PJ saw Bobby win that match.
But, as often happens in the fight game, rigged
decisions go the wrong way. He gave nightmares
to all his opponents. They always had trouble
with the counter-punching lefty. But, to win a
championship an underdog must knock out the
champ like Mickey Ward did. Decisions never go
their way. And the decisions went against
You’ve got to hand it to Mark Wahlberg. He also
had a childhood hero. But he brought his to the
movie screen as a labor of love. Great acting,
PJ especially loved Mickey’s sisters. They were
a kind of trashy chorus--the kind seen in
ancient Greek plays--always casting judgment on
the mere mortals.
PJ read a review of The Fighter which condemned
it for being predictable. This also happened
with Denzel Washington’s Remember the Titans.
Isn’t it kind of silly to trash movies for being
predictable when they are true? If they weren’t
such good stories, they never would have been
made into movies in the first place.
A final word…….
PJ can remember watching a Friday Night Fight on
television with his dad who turned to him and
said, “What a way to make a living.” The
Fighter certainly captured the tawdry feel of
the fight game. It sure is a dirty business.
Well, 2010 is winding down, the
Golden Globes nominations have been released,
and PJ guesses it is about time to submit his
nominations and comments:
Much of the movie product this past year was
unremarkable if not forgettable. Notable among
worst of the year are:
Jonah Hex--wherein Josh Brolin tries to
resurrect the Western, but only accomplishes to
convince PJ to shy away from playing True Grit,
another Western. An awful movie.
The Last Airbender--M. Night Shymalan’s latest
disappointment. M. Night is kind of a one-hit
wonder. The Sixth Sense, his first, was
terrific, but all that followed fell flat--big
Sex and the City--The eagerly awaited second
installment was just plain lousy.
Shutter Island/Inception--Leonardo, what are you
thinking? While Shutter Island was merely
deliberately ambiguous, (was he crazy, did it
really happen?), Inception is purely
unfathomable. It is this year’s Emperor’s New
Clothes. It has been nominated for awards and,
yet, none of the critics are honest enough to
admit they had no clue what the movie was
about. PJ tried watching it five times and fell
asleep each time thus entitling the movie to
best sedative of 2010.
Best Bad Movie of the Year--Burlesque. Two
hours of great fun, yet really awful. Stanley
Tucci helped. It is noteworthy that after
making the film, Cher was taken immediately to
Madame Toussad’s where she is now on permanent
display. PJ would liked to have seen Pia Zadora
in the Cher part. That would have taken “campy”
to the next level.
Scene PJ wishes happened in a movie--In Letters
to Juliet, a nice movie, there is a toast at the
end. The guy who delivers it looks exactly like
the “Most Interesting Man in the World” guy in
the Dos Equis beer commercials. When he lifted
his glass, it would have been great if he said,
“I don’t often drink beer, but when I do……I
drink Dos Equis. Stay thirsty my friend.” But,
no, he played it straight. Darn.
And now……here are PJ’s favorites of the year:
It’s Kind of a Funny Story--Rent it. Brilliant,
upbeat, fun. Junoesque. Featuring Julia
Roberts’s niece, Eric’s daughter.
Unstoppable--Denzel rocks. From the opening
frame to the conclusion this flick just built
ever to a frenzy. Best of its kind since Speed.
City Island--A real good “small” independent
movie. The creation of Andy Garcia. It
featured his daughter, as well, Dominick, a
funny name for a girl.
Get Him to the Greek--PJ loved this one. So
smart, so funny. And with a heart.
Social Network--PJ firmly believes that we like
movies when we like the characters. This movie,
however, does not contain one likable character,
yet it is undeniably a very well-made and very
good film. PJ can’t think of any other movies
that fit this description.
The Kids are All Right--Julianne Moore and
Annette Bening get triangle-ized by that rascal,
Mark Rufalo. Good flick.
And PJ’s pick for best movie of the year
realizing full well that he is not including
titles such as The King’s Speech, The Black
Swan, and The Fighter (because he hasn’t seen
them yet) is……..
The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo--Two and a half hours of spell bindery.
Everything a movie should be and/or contain.
Suspense, thrills, mystery, intensity, delicious
villains, an honest, decent hero, scenery,
atmosphere, intelligence, passion, and most of
all….Lisbeth Salander, one of the great movie
characters of all time.
PJ has often been heard lamenting
about the uneven distribution of movie product
throughout the year. Certainly the distributors
are responsible for this. They have determined,
for example, that the summer belongs to kids.
There is rarely a decent adult film in the
summer. Late December and January, on the
other hand, is the time for “Oscar Releases”.
And then……..then there is the Holiday Season
when there is a huge glut of movies--kids’
movies, adult movies, Academy Award
movies--they’re all there…in numbers. The
distributors know they can maximize their
profits with holiday releasing. And thus we
have a self-fulfilled prophesy come true: The
holiday season grosses large, mainly because
there are so many darn good movies out there.
But what a dilemma this causes for your
proprietor. PJ’s venue consists of seven
screens, yet, there are actually too many
movies available. Some he has to play. Some he
can choose. And frankly, folks, it has
generally been his experience to pick wrong!
Memories of Howard the Duck and Streets of Fire
still haunt him!
Let’s take an inside look at this year’s
To begin, PJ must play the following three
movies, all for kids: Narnia, Yogi Bear, and
Tron (Disney’s only offering). So…….we have
three screens booked. Let’s continue….
There is The Tourist with Angelina Jolie and
Johnny Depp. When PJ first saw the poster,
which, of course, prominently displays
Angelina’s lips--as does every single one of her
posters, he wanted this movie. It opens,
however, on Friday, December 10, and must play
through the holidays…..a long time in an era
when movies no longer have “legs”. So….to book,
or not to book? It has been PJ’s experience
that the more he thinks about a movie the more
distant his mindset diverges from the actual
process that people employ to pick their flick.
He thinks they decide instantaneously, and, so,
he suspects that The Tourist will be a hit
because his first reaction was YES. But, it
does have to play for many weeks, so what does
he do? Against his better judgment he passes.
No Tourist for PJ’s. Perhaps a big mistake.
Next…..there is Paramount. One of their two
movies has to play. So, which shall it be?
True Grit or The Fighter? Well, PJ’s first
thought is that for the past thirty years, he
has never done well with a Western. So, it’s a
no-brainer: Mark Wahlberg’s The Fighter,
right? Yes, until yesterday’s NY Times article
proclaiming the Coen Brothers’ True Grit to be
an Academy Award contender. Next he
thinks…..will the ladies go see The Fighter?
Remember how hard it was to get anyone to see
The Wrestler. Anyway, after quite a bit of
agonizing, it’s decided: The Fighter it is. It
also will be around at Academy Award time, it is
enjoying a lot of buzz, and it seems to be the
one with the better shot.
So, that’s four screens. Not playing are True
Grit and The Tourist, two movies PJ wishes he
had room for.
OK, number five is a snap. Those Little Fockers
is a can’t miss. Only two more to go.
PJ is thinking he has to play the Reese
Witherspoon, Jack Nichollson movie How Do You
Know which seems to be solid adult
That is six. One more to go…….
He likes the idea of Jack Black’s Gulliver’s
Travels. It seems to be perfect for his family,
holiday audience. But then the phone rings.
It’s Rob Lawinsky, his booker.
“Hey, Phil,” he says, “I’m thinking maybe we
should try to pick up The King’s Speech. It’s
an independent movie with great reviews, and it
is breaking house records in the City.”
What a monkey wrench this is! A prestigious art
movie. But, will it play in Peoria, er….Port
Jeff Station, PJ is wondering.
And then he reminds himself that his choices
have never been consistent with what the public
wants. He does have “interesting” taste in
movies. And he has always wondered how the
entire movie-going public knows to come en masse
to certain movies and to ignore others.
Anyway, he decides. He dials Rob’s number.
“Hey, Rob, I’ll tell you what. You pick ‘em,
and I’ll play ‘em. And so PJ has, once again,
employed a technique he has used successfully
before: practice avoidance and let Rob decide.
PS…….we’re still waiting to hear if we landed
The King’s Speech. If not, it’s Gulliver.
And there is an inside look at the
not-very-scientific-method regarding the
selection process. Sometimes PJ wonders if his
choices amount to a very big difference, or are
they all just six (oops seven) of a kind and a
half dozen (or so) of another?
Thought you'd be interested to
know.......PJ just received a call from his
booker in the city. Oh, this crazy
business. The King's Speech has been put
on hold until January 14th, altogether not such
a bad thing, because there is scant little
product in January. But......in its place,
we'll be opening the Black Swan on the 17th of
December. So, PJ's will still have an arty
piece for the Holidays. Of course, this is
probably all subject to last minute changes as
well! Keep tuned.
PJ Cinemas Thanksgiving
A funny story, a "yogi-ism", if you will, and a
It is Black Friday at the movies. Now, everyone
thinks that people go shopping on Black Friday.
Not true. They, in fact, all go to the movies.
Of course, this is somewhat a self-fulfilled
prophesy courtesy of the distributors who
release some of their best product during the
Thanksgiving Break. Anyway, almost every movie
sold out for the 3:45 shows. It was rather
exhausting getting everyone served and seated,
and things were finally winding down. About
twenty minutes into the show this guy walks in
and approaches the box office with his three
kids. They stop and take in the aftermath. The
staff is sweeping, cleaning, popping, and doing
all the myriad activities necessary to get the
place cleaned up. PJ calls over to the
gentleman and inquires, "Can I help you folks?"
"Nope," is his reply, "I was just checking to
see what time the 7:00 show starts." This we
thought was funny. Could Yogi have said it any
As an aside......have you noticed that for the
past several years there has been no school on
the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving. This
used-to-be school day has now been dubbed "Gray
Wednesday" by PJ. Not quite black, but very
And while we're on the subject.......PJ just
recently heard a new Yogi story: It seems that
when Yogi was managing back in the 70's, a game
was interrupted by a streaker, you know, one of
those individuals who usually on a bet, runs
bear naked across the playing field. After the
game at the manager's press briefing, Yogi was
asked if the streaker was a man or a woman. "I
couldn't tell," he replied, "he wasn't wearing
any clothes." True.
And now the nice story.
Sometime during the past summer, a woman
approached PJ and asked if he would be willing
to suspend carrying and selling any concession
products containing peanuts. PJ looked into the
eyes of her adorable daughter and told her that
he would think about it and let her know after
her movie ended. She thanked him and went into
the theater. PJ then walked over to the
concession stand and looked into the eyes of
those Reeses peanut butter cups, rare treats
combing the joys of sugar, chocolate, peanut
butter, and saltiness. Of course, to a lesser
degree, there were Goobers and butterfingers.
On one shoulder was a lovely little girl. On
the other a delectable treat. No contest.
PJ just received this note the day after
Dear Phil, I am the mother of the severe food
allergy daughter. She is six years old and has
to be home schooled with a tutor since the
doctors won't give her a medical clearance.
Thanks to your kindness and compassion, taking
all peanuts out of your theater gives her the
blessing and freedom to have some normalcy. God
bless you. (signature)
This Thursday night (or rather,
Friday morning), November 18 at 12:01, the PJ
Cinemas is going to show the new Harry Potter
movie. Over the years midnight shows have
become big events, and as such, PJ was asked to
share some recollections of them. Well, now
that his bedtime and that of most of his patrons
is somewhere around 7:00 P. M., he had to go
back twenty five years or so to come up with
some good stories.
His first memory of a midnight show was in the
mid seventies and took place at the old
Hauppauge Theater on Route 347. It was Rocky
Horror, and what a time it was. “Virgins” sat
on the right and veterans on the left. They
almost all came in costume and replete with
toilet paper, water guns, and various other
props. Oh, how the audience participated. They
knew each line and responded en masse. They
performed along with the movie right in front of
the screen. Of course, the theater got
wrecked. In fact, it was PJ’s understanding
that Rocky Horror was generally the last gasp of
a doomed theater venue.
PJ can still vividly remember the tallish young
man who came up to his projection booth. “Don’t
worry about me,” he cautioned. “I won’t get in
your way, but I have to man the spot light.”
And he did. With professional gusto. But,
sadly he wasn’t a conversationalist. PJ can
remember saying something to the effect of, “Do
you find that in doing the same show over and
over, you tend to lose your spontaneity and you
guys get a bit stale?” To which he replied,
“That’s cool.” Hmmm.
And, then there were the concert movies at the
old Three Village Theater. PJ can still
remember getting home about four in the morning
from those “mind altering events.”
Then in 1982 PJ bought the PJ Twins. He didn’t
want to wreck the place so he avoided bringing
in the midnight crowd, but sometime around 1986
an idea occurred to him, “Why not present a
midnight showing of a newly opening movie?” And
so, when the then hot Sly Stallone’s Cobra was
scheduled to open on a Friday, PJ called his
booker, Ronny Lesser.
“Hey, Ronny,“ he said, “I have an idea. I’d
like to put on a show of Cobra at 12:01 A. M. on
Friday morning,” Ronny said this had never been
done and thus, was not permissible. “Why?”
whined a frustrated PJ. “It’s Friday. That’s
the day the movie opens. What‘s the big deal?”
So, Ronny said, “All right, kid, I’ll call
Warner Bros. and ask them.” Well, they said,
PJ implored Ronny to ask again, and finally
“against their better judgment, they relented.”
Well, the theater advertised the show all week,
and the appointed hour came. And so did about
thirty movie goers. Not a rousing success,
however, it was fun, and PJ wondered if the idea
might catch on.
It is interesting to note, by the way, that
exactly three minutes after midnight the phone
at the theater rang. Guess who was calling? It
was the Vice President of the Warner Bros. East
Coast Division calling for the numbers. He
didn’t let on, but PJ had given him a new
opportunity, an opportunity that would one day
become a mainstay of the movie industry:
midnight openings of big, eagerly anticipated
Oh, and by the way, don’t miss
Harry at midnight on the 18th, or is that the
For years PJ has been touting the
great pleasure derived from watching foreign
movies. He knows that the makers of these
movies employ the talents of actors who appear
to be more real than the plastic pretty faces
provided by Hollywood. He further understands
that the reading of sub-titles actually
heightens the movie-going experience by engaging
the brain on a second level. The viewer is
immersed within a film that he/she would
otherwise “only” be watching.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to entice
movie-goers east of Huntington to buy a ticket
for a foreign language film. “I don’t read
movies” and “I’m tired--I just want to relax,”
are often heard at the box office when PJ
suggests such a title.
Last weekend he heard one of the all-time best:
“What is this The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s
Nest thing?” inquired the lady.
“Well, Madam, it is the third in a series of
wildly popular books and subsequent movies. The
three movies are a lot of fun and you may enjoy
this one. It is in Swedish with sub-titles.”
To which her husband chipped in, “Oh, it’s one
of those French movies. Forget about it.”
And so, as they bought two tickets to Red, a
bemused PJ was thinking, “Geesh, you can’t make
this stuff up.”
On the other hand PJ was heartened last year
when Ingourious Basterds was playing in the
theater. On the way out of each showing the
patrons commented how much they enjoyed the
movie. Now, ironically, some of these very same
people were those who had always refused to
expose themselves to a sub-titled movie.
So, PJ, eager to broach the subject inquired how
was it that they had such a great time watching
a movie conducted in several languages other
than English. And guess what? Their response
was always the same. “There were no sub-titles
in that movie.” And it was then that PJ
realized these movie-goers had unconsciously
watched a sub-titled movie without any
cognizance of the fact. Amazing. Despite
themselves they loved those Basterds.
Immensely. And they hadn’t even been aware they
PJ is thinking how unfortunate it
is that the only way these people will ever sit
for a foreign language film is to sneak it by
So, PJ had some good Hereafter laughs
at the door this past week. Madam, you'll find
the hereafter behind door number one, he was heard
to say. This conjured up images of the
recently departed encountering Monty Hall in some
type of after life limbo. Well, let's look
what's behind door number two. Oh, my
goodness, you've got the goat.
Anyway, after the laughs, he
reluctantly plodded into the theater to watch Hereafter.
Why, reluctantly, you ask? Well, simply
put, PJ finds Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson
movies dark and depressing. These movies
invariably contain brutal scenes graphically
depicting rapes, beatings, murders, head bashings,
etc. Clint really disturbed PJ when he let the
Million Dollar Baby have her plug pulled.
Exhibitors like to send the movie-goers home
happy. Clint couldn't let Hillary wiggle a toe or
two? He couldn't send us home knowing that
though she wouldn't be back in the ring, she would,
at least, survive and maybe even walk again?
And Gran Torino! He made such a production of
dressing up and getting well groomed for his own
funeral. And then there's Mel. The man
is obsessed with torture be it via 12 volt batteries
or obsidian razor-sharp-beheading blades. So,
anyway, a resigned PJ, fully expecting to be exposed
to pain and more pain, was kind of surprised with Hereafter.
Sure, we witnessed a quarter million
people die in the Indonesian tsunami, and, yeah, the
kid's twin brother is assaulted and killed by a
passing car, but what is this, the female lead
doesn't die? The mouth-to-mouth works!
What's going on here? Clint, in a rare and soft
moment has her survive after getting a glimpse of
the "hereafter", and what follows is actually a
rather peaceful movie. PJ is thinking that
maybe Clint is "mellowing", a rather interesting
play on words. If only Mel could mellow. Hmmmm
PJ is thinking how much the times
have changed. Take the use of credit cards, for
example. Just five years ago virtually nobody
used a credit card at a movie theater. Why
would someone charge a five dollar movie
admission? Well, those days and that kind of
thinking are certainly over. Miles, and points,
and rewards have seen to that.
Nowadays, in fact, credit cards account for 25%
of the theater’s sales. And…..the number is
It is unfortunate, however, that the “See I D”
trend is growing as well. The fraudulent types
out there, those who would steal your identity,
are thrilled at this foolish phenomenon. Credit
card holders, you see, seem to feel that they
are protecting their identity by refusing to
sign the backs of their cards. Instead, they
print “C I D”, “Ask for I D”, or some other cute
text stating that they should be invited to
produce their driver’s license when making a
purchase. This is not only a violation of their
credit card agreement, but is also unwise.
Why? Let’s see:
1. By not signing your card, you have failed to
fulfill the requirements of your agreement with
the credit card company, and thus may not be
eligible for the fraud protection that comes
with the agreement. Most cards state “not valid
unless signed” or contain some similar
disclaimer on the back just below the signature
2. The credit card companies have made it clear
to us that we are not authorized nor are we to
ask people for their I D’s because the signed
card is the only I D one needs to present in
order to make a purchase.
3. The most common cause of I D theft comes at
the hands of unscrupulous store employees. For
example, one day after using his credit card at
a local gas station, PJ was notified by Visa
that his card was fraudulently used for
purchases in the country of Turkey. One needs
to be vigilant and not provide additional
identification. Requiring potentially
fraudulently-minded store employees to ask for
your driver’s license is absurd. Give them the
least necessary: a signed card. That’s it. No
more. When you require someone to ask for your
license, you are volunteering your address, and
your driver’s license number. You are inviting
4. By Leaving your card unsigned or writing
“See I D” leaves room on the back of the card
for someone who finds your lost card to actually
sign your name. This signature, however, will
be in the handwriting of the finder of the card
and will match the signature he/she writes on
the receipt of an illegal purchase.
To sum this up: Signing your
card actually protects you from identity theft
and credit card fraud. And, as an aside, there
was a time when we used to ask for I D as
requested, and virtually every person we asked
was totally annoyed that we would ask. If you
don’t want to be asked to be produce your
identification, don’t be asking people to ask!
You have too much to lose.
It was a
lovely Sunday afternoon and the seniors were
afoot. Trudging across the parking lot with tennis
balls scraping, they inched ever closer to their
destination, the PJ box office. Eventually the
first one arrived. "How ya' doin'?, asks PJ,
the proprietor. No response. He asks
again. "One Senior," is the reply. "OK,
fine, do you remember what you wanted to see?" A
blank stare. PJ has observed that
nowadays movie-goers of all ages have difficulty
recalling what movie they came to see. He
attributes this lack of recall to the
ever-present cell phone and the ill effects of
micro-wave radiation. Anyway, the second person on
line, the companion of the first, says, "She wants
to see The
Things That We Do in Life." Do you mean Life As
We Know It? "Yeah, that's the one."
A moment later the next person arrives. Now
this guy is a retired English Teacher from Port
Jefferson, a hulking octogenarian, who still looks
like he can go ten rounds. He looks at your
proprietor with a twinkle in his eye and says, "You
know, you should provide glow-in-the-dark walkers
for these people." PJ smiles broadly and asks,
"Can I use that?" "Absolutely," he replies,
"go right ahead." And that's the way it
is at the Sunday matinee at PJ's. The people
provide the material, they pay their five bucks,
they see their movie, and they go home happy.
......By the way, PJ, the proprietor of the PJ
Cinemas, is himself a senior, and despite not
owning a cell phone, still for the life of him,
can't remember the names of the movies either.
Hey....do those walkers come with headlights?