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Labor Day 2013 - Blithely Unaware

In the essay entitled “Unplugged,” I stated that I do not recognize the names of most current “actors” and “actresses.” It is indeed quite an accomplishment. An interesting interchange that took place not long ago at a grocery store reveals a bit of how I manage to achieve it. The checker wanted to know if there was a tag for the loaf of rye bread that I was purchasing. “No,” I confessed. “It’s 4.99 though. There was no one to help me at the counter and so I reached around the partition and took the loaf.” The cashier smiled. Dear Husband explained how deserted the bread counter was. “I don’t want to end up like Jean Valjean,” I quipped. Look of total incomprehension on the face of the cashier. “The guy who went to jail for stealing a loaf of bread in Les Misérables?” I smiled. At the mention of the book, the cashier grinned. “Oh, yes, I haven’t had time yet to see that movie.” Dear Husband glanced at me. “Well, a friend saw it,” I advised, “And she said that I could save my money and time. It stinks.” (Friend is not yet aware that the last current film that I saw in the theatre was Seabiscuit in 2003.) The cashier looked crestfallen. “Epics rarely translate well to film,” I calmly explained. “Although the movie was based on the play and it still was bad.” “Hummm,” the cashier nodded. “Never heard of the play either.” “Big Broadway musical production. Focused on the labor unrest.” Thoughtful nod from the cashier. I then asked him which of the three politically acceptable actors was the star: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, or Leonardo DiCaprio. (I refrained from calling this actor “Leonard Cappucino,” the moniker used by my children.) He said none of them. “Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe,” he smiled. “I’ve never heard of Hugh Jackman, but Russell Crowe? Did he play the priest? No,” I pointed out “It was the bishop.” The cashier shrugged. He did not know.

I have since done some online research and Russell Crowe, he of, shall we say, stocky build, is NOT Javert. Barry Morse, the late Canadian actor, in the superb tv series, “The Fugitive,” is Javert. During my childhood, I was able to watch only a few of those shows in their original airplay, but in the mid-1990s I studiously watched entire seasons of grainy, if not snowy, reruns of many episodes on UHF in the early afternoons. Yes, David Janssen was easy on the eyes. I remember calling the UHF station to complain when the reruns were suddenly pre-empted by coverage of the OJ Simpson trial. I mentioned to the station employee what a travesty it was -- no, not the trial! The cancelation of “The Fugitive” without any prior notice! I also added that the story of the one-armed man was more credible than what was being offered up by the defense team for Mr. Simpson. “The Fugitive” continues to be one of my all-time favorite television shows, as well as the best adaptation of Hugo’s novel into a modern setting. I understand that there is a DVD version of “The Fugitive” television series but it has experienced some problems with the buying public. Season One had audio “issues” – the modern ridiculosity for “problem” – and Season Two had music atrocities: CBS ludicrously re-recorded the soundtrack; Season Three then had playback hitches. Those problems have reportedly been fixed by CBS (with replacement discs available to the unhappy consumer). One can now purchase from a certain e-tailer the entire series (all of 4 seasons) for $235.53. Qualifies for free shipping!

Back to our story: The grocery cashier asked me, “So how was the book?” “Oh, well written.”

“The author?” “Victor Hugo.” The cashier shook his head. “Haven’t heard of him. Is he American?” “No,” I smiled, “He was French. I read the book. All three volumes. In French. It’s a rather old book.” “Wow,” the cashier said, “Three volumes. He must have been a good writer.” “Let me put it this way: if Hugo could find seven different words that all meant the same thing for hovel, he used them. Just because he was Hugo and he could get away with it. It was best to have a dictionary by my side.” (I refrained from mentioning W.B. Yeats who advised never employ two words that mean the same thing.) “Amazing,” the cashier shook his head.

The amazing Victor Hugo, in this latest movie maladaptation, gets top billing (!) with two other writers – unknown to me (not a surprise), but of seemingly French origin – for the story – not the screenplay. At this point the groceries had been paid for and the bagger showed up. She wanted to know what we were discussing. “Les Miserables,” Dear Husband said, sans French accent. Dear Husband does not speak French. “Oh, great film. Loved it!” I stated the sage opinion of my friend. The bagger was undeterred in her effusive praise of the film. “I just loved Anne Hathaway in it!” I confess that I am aware of Anne Hathaway, the actress, but only because I saw photographs of her on a beauty blog that analyzed her makeup to the nth degree.

“Who did she play?” I inquired. Blank stare. “Fantine or Cosette?” “Oh! Fantine! Don’t know who Cosette is?” Sigh. Cosette took up a major portion of the novel. “But Anne Hathaway was great as Fantine. Loved her!” I nodded and turned to the cashier. “It is a good thing that the film is a musical. If it had been directed by Spielberg, he would have shown in gory, precise detail the scene where Fantine sells her teeth and then the lovely scene with her mouth afterward.” An even more incomprehensible stare, but at that point I was going for that effect.


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