My critical friend didn’t enjoy a movie we saw together. And, surprisingly, in spite of its violence, I did. The Family is about a mob family in the witness-protection program wreaking havoc in a small French town. Normally I avoid violence and even put a hand over my face to restore reality. So don’t ask me why I enjoyed a graphic and at times an excessively grisly movie. Perhaps my main reason is the first-rate cast. Robert DeNiro (Giovanni) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Maggie) are mobsters in hiding. DeNiro’s character is charming in a rough-hewn way but lethal when crossed. He is prone to beating people senseless or even to death over things like poor service. Pfeiffer, still beautiful, is a practicing pyromaniac. Their two kids have reflective responses having grown up with such parents. Director Luc Besson’s idea of mob folk makes them adept at violence and quick to use it. So why did I at times laugh and enjoy The Family? Perhaps because the pathological behavior in this droll action comedy has some truly funny scenes, especially when Giovanni gets carried away with his own stories in a discussion after a local film-society screening of Goodfellas. Maggie, meanwhile, curdles the blood of a local priest with her confession, which, thankfully, we don’t hear. The movie might be described as screwball noir. Even the three ladies I spoke to in the restroom after the film enjoyed it.
If you are addicted to watching the Academy Awards, then you certainly are familiar with its perennial (nine times) host Billy Crystal. Oscar seems to love him and so did most of us since he did it masterfully. He is an amiable, all-around entertainer and I specifically remember him as an attractive, though diminutive, star in When Harry Met Sally (1989). Well, time marches on as it does for all of us, and so we are surprised to learn that the actor, writer, producer, comedian, and film director is now 65 years old. In researching his biography he is quoted as saying, “I’m a baby. I sleep like a baby—I’m up every two hours.” Unfortunately, I personally can relate to that. Actually, Billy Crystal doesn’t have time to sleep. He has written a new book with a long title: Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going and Where the Hell Are My Keys? Whew! It’s partly a memoir in which Crystal recounts his growth from a Long Island youth into a husband, father, and grandfather, and his professional evolution from struggling standup to seasoned star. Next month he will revive “700 Sundays,” his Tony Award-winning one-man show about his childhood on Broadway. If you’re wondering about its title, here’s an explanation. His dad died when Crystal was just 15, working two or three jobs leaving only 700 Sundays for father and son to spend together. The show is truly an autobiographical look at his life. And I discovered one unusual fact that made me admire this showman even more. He and his wife, Janice, have been married for 43 years. In case you’re wondering, he attributes his happy marriage to the fact that they laugh a lot. Forty-three years! Most unusual for folks in show business. Most unusual for any couple these days.
Some years ago when I was at the Paley Center for Media in New York City I noticed a commotion in the lobby. There were several cameramen surrounding someone so, of course, I had to find out who it was. In the center was a small pleasant lady. I quickly recognized Katie Couric, the journalist, author, and talk show host. Watching her on television I can recall when she faced profound tragedy in her personal life. Her forty-two-year-old husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer. I practically grieved with her but admired the way she didn’t sit back and cry. Instead she mounted an aggressive campaign to fight the disease even undergoing an on-air colonoscopy. That took guts! Her actions raised something like $260 million to fund research for a whole host of cancers. Couric’s book, The Best Advice I Ever Got, is interesting reading. I like that she suggests exercising with friends because that’s exactly what we do in Bayonne’s Healthy Bones class at the library. She says that being surrounded by people who make her laugh helps. So—tickle me! The goal on her daytime talk show on ABC is to tell stories about those who go through something really difficult. Now, to get back to Katie Couric’s personal life, the lady became engaged to John Mohner over Labor Day weekend and is planning a wedding next summer. That’s just like my grandson, Zach, and his Lindsay. Congratulations to all.
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org