We had Chinese food for dinner tonight, my parents and me. Afterward, my fortune read, “A feather in the hand is better than a bird in the air.” Not quite “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” but I think that was the general intended gist.
Shortly before that, my father and I attended an Eagle Scout court of honor at the local high school. I didn’t know the boy in question, or practically anybody else there either, but it’s nice to go out and show our support. And my father, who’s remained somewhat active in the troop — and who was very active for maybe twice as long as I ever was, staying on as Scoutmaster even after I graduated high school — was invited. So, as a former Eagle Scout myself, I tagged along. I didn’t know, but maybe should have, that they would be asking all former Eagle Scouts to go up on stage and re-pledge ourselves to the Scout oath. That was all well and fine, since all we had to do was try and repeat what we heard read aloud to us. But I was one of only three people walking up there, and the only one not directly involved in the court of honor itself. The other two were listed by name in the program, and I felt a little conspicuous, like I was there trying to steal somebody’s thunder.
Still, overall the ceremony was quite nice, and it’s good to see the troop — somewhat unrecognizable to me, these sixteen years later — continuing to be active in the community*.
After dinner, I watched the terrific Touch of Evil, staring Charlton Heston and Orson Welles. Here’s what Roger Ebert had to say about it:
Yet the film has always been a favorite of those who enjoy visual and dramatic flamboyance. “I’d seen the film four or five times before I noticed the story,” the director Peter Bogdanovich once told his friend Orson. “That speaks well for the story,” Welles rumbled sarcastically, but Bogdanovich replied, “No, no–I mean I was looking at the direction.”
That might be the best approach for anyone seeing the film for the first time: to set aside the labyrinthine plot, and simply admire what is on the screen. The movie begins with one of the most famous shots ever made, following a car with a bomb in its trunk for three minutes and 20 seconds. And it has other virtuoso camera movements, including an unbroken interrogation in a cramped room, and one that begins in the street and follows the characters through a lobby and into an elevator. The British critic Damian Cannon writes of its “spatial choreography,” in which “every position and movement latches together into a cogent whole.”
Welles and his cinematographer, Russell Metty, were not simply showing off. The destinies of all of the main characters are tangled from beginning to end, and the photography makes that point by trapping them in the same shots, or tying them together through cuts that match and resonate. The story moves not in a straight line, but as a series of loops and coils.
And to think, I almost didn’t watch it, worried I wouldn’t like it.
* Though I do have to admit to being just slightly weirded-out by the whole Order of the Arrow business, despite having been a not very active member of it myself. (I was a Brotherhood member, but never attended more than a handful of Order meetings.) I know that it’s not in any way intentionally racist, and the ideals expressed by its members this evening were all excellent. But I can see how the hodgepodge of stereotypical, noble-savage trappings might make some people — particularly actual Native Americans — uncomfortable. It didn’t make me uncomfortable, and I was happy to accept it all in the context in which it was meant. It just gave me pause for thought.
Also, it’s funny how you can spend the first twelve years of your life, saying the Pledge of Allegiance practically every day, at school and in Scouting, and then practically never have occasion to say it again.