Monday, December 24, 2012

"Fenwick's in the manger," Sportsman's Alternative Christmas Movie Suggestion

 Long before my wife and I were married, I took her to the Sam Eric on Chestnut street one evening. This palatial old school movie house was showing a one-time sneak preview of "Diner." The 1982 release of this classic film was scheduled, but the studio did some limited East Coast previews... they were gauging audience response. I was absorbed by the dialogue and the period tone, the soundtrack and the cars. The script captures the guy-banter better than any film prior to that time.It is funny, touching and real.

The film take place over the Christmas holiday and culminates with the wedding of Eddie and Elise on New Year's Eve. As such, "Diner" technically qualifies as a Christmas movie. In fact, the scene of Kevin Bacon's "Fenwick" lamenting the theft of the baby Jesus and removing his clothes to do a stand-in at a local church Nativity display is as off beat a Christmas scene as one can find on film. I have watched this movie countless times and know the dialogue by heart.
Recently,Vanity Fair" ran a great piece on "Diner" and the significance of the film:
"Made for $5 million and first released in March 1982, Diner earned less than $15 million and lost out on the only Academy Award—best original screenplay—for which it was nominated. Critics did love it; indeed, a gang of New York writers, led by Pauline Kael, saved the movie from oblivion. But Diner has suffered the fate of the small-bore sleeper, its relevance these days hinging more on eyebrow-raising news like Barry Levinson’s plan to stage a musical version—with songwriter Sheryl Crow—on Broadway next fall, or reports romantically linking star Ellen Barkin with Levinson’s son Sam, also a director. The film itself, though, is rarely accorded its actual due.

Yet no movie from the 1980s has proved more influential. Diner has had far more impact on pop culture than the stylistic masterpiece Bladerunner, the indie darling Sex, Lies, and Videotape, or the academic favorites Raging Bull and Blue Velvet. Leave aside the fact that Diner served as the launching pad for the astonishingly durable careers of Barkin, Paul Reiser, Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, and Timothy Daly, plus Rourke and Bacon—not to mention Levinson, whose résumé includes Rain Man, Bugsy, and Al Pacino’s recent career reviver, You Don’t Know Jack. Diner’s groundbreaking evocation of male friendship changed the way men interact, not just in comedies and buddy movies, but in fictional Mob settings, in fictional police and fire stations, in commercials, on the radio. In 2009, The New Yorker’s TV critic Nancy Franklin, speaking about the TNT series Men of a Certain Age, observed that “Levinson should get royalties any time two or more men sit together in a coffee shop.” She got it only half right. They have to talk too.


Anonymous said...

And a character named "Fenwick" from Bodomo. Priceless.

Ben Nevis

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