7-7-7 (intro & Day 1)

A Serious Man
@ Landmark Century Cinema, Chicago

2009 had been another year of movies. Most of them solo.. But that's a different story. I had not at all reluctantly come to the realization during the course of the year that movies were to forever be, if not in some way a vocation (a guy can dream, right?) then at least a full time hobby for me. For life. I'm a movie guy. That's my thing.

It had been a long year and a short year. I had learned a lot and probably already forgotten most of it. I had moved back home, enrolled in a University. I was making progress. Some days were great, and some were lousy. Same as it ever was. But I was moving ahead, and the year was ending.

As finals time approached, I looked ahead to a personal end of semester tradition of mine- I always see a movie on or around the last day of class. Last semester, I saw Gran Torino, which I paired with a sit-down meal at Portillo's so sinfully gluttonous that it may have single-handedly condemned me to purgatory (or at least to my size 38 waist.) With the semester nearing an end, I began to scout for a movie to see. So much stuff was playing, and I wanted to see it all. Fantastic Mr. Fox. A Serious Man. A restored print of The Red Shoes. After I considered each one, I felt less inclined to let it go. Somehow, it turned into a list. Well.. I guess I could see a couple.. right? Why shouldn't I? Hadn't I worked hard? Wasn't I entitled? Of course I was, goddamnit. The more I looked, the more I found. 3 Godfathers was showing at the Tivoli in Downers. Wow. Couldn't pass that up. And A Christmas Carol (my favorite- the Alastair Sim version) at Bank of America on Saturdaqy night. I stopped at seven, and it hit me- 7 movies in 7 days. I paused and thought a moment. Wow. What a trip. Could I? Should I? It was so damn tantalizing. There they were, lining themselves up in front of me. Somehow I knew I couldn't talk myself out of it. I rearranged the movies around my work schedule, and amazingly, everything still fit. It was a puzzle that refused to go unsolved. I had to do it.

I needed a haircut. I needed a workout (or seven.) I had the finishing touches to put on one final, and another I hadn't even started. There was no milk in the fridge. I hadn't bought a single Christmas present, for anyone. And the contents of my bank account was rapidly approaching single digits. Could I even afford it? It didn't matter. None of it mattered. It was time to go to the movies. The schedule was set. No backing down. I would begin on Sunday.

Thanks to a couple of slow-as-molasses customers at work, who kept me a little later than I had hoped, I got out a few minutes late, and after valiantly taking to the streets and catching what I've no doubt was the slowest bus in town (Diversey, heading east,) I arrived at the Landmark Century about ten minutes too late to catch the 5 o'clock showing. Damn. No worries; it was playing again at 7:30. But I had some time to kill. Rather than overhear the annoyingly urban-sheik conversations of the patrons and wait around bored at the Borders across the street, I went for a long walk. It was cold, but not uncomfortable. Just brisk. I walked up Broadway, past the carolers out in front of one of the pubs. Past Aldine, the street my father and his brothers and sisters grew up on. And past the Treasure Island grocery store, where he used to walk, to his first job when he was a young man. By some small miracle, it had survived all these years. Before I knew it I was at Irving Park, so I cut over and back down Clark. I could have hopped a bus, but I didn't I peeked into the Full Schilling to see if a friend was there (he wasn't, amazingly.) Then on past Wrigley Field, and the hordes of meatheads and sorority flakes clogging the bars, screaming at each other on their cell-phones and smoking $10 packs of cigarettes. Past the makeshift Christmas tree lots, in the parking lots of McDonald's and Jewels, hemmed in by wrought-iron fences and strung-up lights. I overhear a woman ask if they accept credit cards. "Nope.. cash only, ma'am." She smiled and darted her head around for an ATM.

Chicago felt small, and it was small. And it was a beautiful night.

When I took my seat for A Serious Man, I knew from its opening shot of falling snowflakes that my plan was a good idea. Endearingly enigmatic, typically and wonderfully Coens-esque in its precision and economy, the film captivated me. It was funny, too, if tempered with sadness, as indeed most great comedy is. Chalk up another fine one for the brothers from Minnesota.

I could have stopped there. It would have been fine. But I didn't. I had six more to go.

Grade: A

(stay tuned for six more entries to follow)

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