I’ve been trying to piece together the calendar from four years ago, Holy Week serving as a stand-in for trauma. It was on March 27, 2011, then, the night before Palm Sunday, that my wife had a heart attack.
We didn’t know it at the time. We should have but we didn’t, a lesson we’ve learned, won’t forget, and might pass on: Know the signs and symptoms, and ignore the odds against it, based on whatever. My wife had no risk factors for heart disease except for family history, but genetics sometimes trumps everything.
This is just time gazing, wandering through the past in search of alignment. Was it a Saturday or a Sunday? When was the stent placed? When did the suspicious mammograms get repeated? When did things get shaky, that spring and summer?
Someone else might remember more clearly, tie the events to dates and days. That someone is usually me, but not now, or anymore, or something. Piecing it together, as I say. A lot has happened.
Then there’s this. In 2009, on Father’s Day I flew to Boston to be a father. My daughter was about to drive cross-country to Santa Fe to sing for the summer, along with, oh, a wedding and all that. She wanted a companion. I was drafted.
I’d been to Boston just the year before, but she now lived in a new apartment, this time in Cambridge. For the couple of days I was there before we hit the road, I’d wander sometimes, always in love with Boston, a gleaming 21st-century city built up, around, and in between 17- and 18-century time capsules. There’s a Subway! There’s where Ben Franklin lived! Hold on…that’s Paul Revere’s grave. Right here, next to the ATM.
But Cambridge was another story. Or another part of the same story. This is not really a story.
There was Harvard, of course. But I’d been on that campus before. MIT was just down the street, sort of. Really, I felt as though I got temporarily smarter every time I took a breath, but temporarily. It wore off.
At some point, though, I went by the Brattle Theater.
OK. I went to the Verizon store a block away. I’m just making a guess. I probably passed it, though.
The Brattle Theater has been around since 1953, an art house theater from the beginning, now a dying breed but apparently still kicking. It shows interesting films, or films somebody hopes are of interest, and it has an interesting history itself: It invented Casablanca.
In April 1957, four months after Humphrey Bogart died, 15 months before I was born, and 15 years after its release, the Brattle began the tradition of showing Casablanca annually (now every Valentine’s Day, and there are Bogie films throughout finals week), helping to keep its particular magic alive and prominent in the minds of movie watchers. So there’s that.
And this Friday, Good Friday, April 3, it hosts the world premiere of Winning Dad, which I am in.
There are no similarities between Casablanca and Winning Dad (that I can think of, and I tried). It’s still a big deal to me.
Three years ago I was approached by Arthur Allen to be in his movie. Two years ago we filmed it, in the summer of 2013.
We reshot a couple of small scenes, moments really, for various reasons. I spent some hours a year ago in a sound studio doing ADR (automated dialogue replacement; dubbing over certain lines to improve sound quality). We shot a tiny bit more, here and there. More ADR, including some guerilla-style, handheld-recorder stuff. Including a couple of minutes of conversation that we did, under a blanket in a car parked in not one but two public library parking lots, on two separate occasions on the same day (for technical reasons we had to repeat).
Three years, or nearly. Casablanca premiered three months after the end of filming, so they obviously weren’t serious.
For us? Very little money. Bare-bones filmmaking, no big names in the cast, no big names to be seen anywhere, but there was passion and determination and laughter and fun, and now a film.
As I’ve said before, if it hadn’t been any good you would have seen it by now, or could have. It got attention, though, and some good and thoughtful critiques by people who should know, particularly last summer in Paris, leading to various paths that, eventually, got us to the Brattle Theater.
Point of fact: I am in this movie a lot, and I’ve still not seen it. Part of it, chunks of it, unconnected moments when I found myself facing a scene I did months before and not caring for the face. Or the 20 extra pounds I added – in the name of verisimilitude, or possible laziness – to make this a semi-stocky guy who still manages to hike when he’s not being a barely-charming dick.
I love my cast members, my film family, all extremely talented and with a career bullet. And young, of course, except for Ellen McLain, who is closer to my age and has a scene you won’t forget.
I reject the idea that this is a genre film, an LGBT story that fits into a small but vibrant (and growing) segment of film possibilities. To me, it’s a family drama. Some gay relationships. The stuff, in fact, of many families. I probably am in the minority, which is not to say I’m wrong (I may reevaluate when I see the final version, which is still a month away).
And to honest, the odds are that, like my book this will get a flutter of attention and then fade away, staying firmly in place as the first film of Arthur Allen, with more to come. I have an interest but still detached, letting it slide by my consciousness most of the time, until more dialogue or scenes driving the truck or walking in the woods get my attention.
The Brattle got my attention, though. It’s historic, it’s in Harvard Square, and most reminds me of our soon-to-be-mourned Harvard Exit on Capitol Hill in Seattle, where I’ve spent many hours in uncomfortable seats seeing very good films. I would love to be in Boston, but Holy Week is busy and trips are expensive.
And I’ll see it soon enough, knowing that we worked hard, we had fun, I made all sorts of new friends, and the future is predictable but still uncertain. At any rate, maybe the Brattle will feature Winning Dad on Valentine’s Day, a co-feature maybe with Casablanca, a film that stayed away from overt gay relationships (Ugarte? Cpt. Renault? Laszlo himself? What about Sasha? Totally gay), and then there was the Code that dictated the ending (the Code refused to show a married woman leaving her husband, leading to the nobility, unknown to Rick, of sending Ilsa on her way with hubby, dubious letters of transit in hand, taking off in the plane to Lisbon [filmed at the Van Nuys Airport]), while Rick and Louis solidify their relationship. Which is also kind of gay.
I’d argue, otherwise, that’s it’s just a story about love, and change, catharsis, social pressure, and a big ol’ mountaintop where stuff happens. You should see it.
And we’ll always have Paris. Here’s looking at you.