My fellow students always considered a film in class to be some sort of break from education – the presence of a television in the classroom was a clear indication that absolutely no learning would occur that day. Sometimes they were correct; I still remember the look on my high school biology teacher’s face when the O. J. verdict stopped the universe in its tracks. Easily shifted into a lesson about DNA, one may have expected. And I shall never forget losing the “rainy day lunch” vote, when The Sound of Music (1965) triumphed narrowly over The Wizard of Oz (1939) in my third-grade class. If you think I don’t remember the names and addresses of those so-called “friends” who voted against me, I’ll have you know I hold a grudge better than a woman whose chichi shoes have been stolen off of her dead sister’s feet.
The intertwining of a film with a lesson plan was one of the few times in my early education when I paid attention and actually absorbed a thing or two. Eventually in college I would enroll in a course called “The Language and Literature of Film,” and in that semester, I skipped not a single lecture. But years before I found myself enjoying the role of “student,” I got a sneak preview of things to come. My high school English teacher had us set aside our copies of Dante’s Inferno, leaving our narrator and Virgil somewhere between Circles Five and Six. He wheeled over the television that had to be ordered weeks in advance and popped in a good old-fashioned video . . . yes kids, a VHS tape – look it up on the Internet. A film I had already memorized was about to reinvent itself, and as it played, I began to see the distinct parallels between Virgil and Dante’s descent into Hell and the epic journey that is Thelma & Louise (1991).
I hadn’t thought about that critical moment of my school years in quite some time, until recently when I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) in its entirety. Whether on the backs of horses or in a ‘66 Thunderbird, nothing brings two people together like the deep-rooted bonds of crime.
After two margaritas on a hot Friday afternoon, I confessed to a dear friend that I need to give the boys some attention on my blog. I love my Garbos and Crawfords to itty-bitty pieces, and although I have bowed down before giants like Bogie and Spencer, it’s worth our time to have a gander at a few other fellas. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of those films I had never seen from beginning to end in a single sitting. A scene here and a scene there, yes, and perhaps the entire movie over the span of a few decades, but it was time to begin at the beginning. I’m certainly a fan of Paul Newman’s for all the obvious reasons, so I figured I should have this one under my belt (or, when I can find one, my Gaultier holster).
Plunk Newman in front of a camera with Robert Redford, and let me tell you, that Netflix bill is a small price to pay for such beauty. These two men were made for one another – the story of two bank and train robbers who have a fascinating, humorous, and most importantly, entertaining professional and personal relationship? Yes, perfect! When the pesky law gets a little too close, Butch and Sundance make tracks for Bolivia, taking a girlfriend with them, played by the humdrum Katharine Ross (she just doesn’t do it for me, here or in The Graduate). She’s perhaps the one complaint I have here, but fortunately she doesn’t hang around too much, and we get to spend most of our time with the two lovable outlaws. If only Paul Newman had Robert Redford on his bicycle handles instead of Katharine Ross during that playful scene, we would have had a flawless piece of art in this film.
Irresponsibility is awfully tempting when one’s daily responsibilities fail to hold one’s interest. My office job has failed to interest me for quite some time now, but turning to a life of crime isn’t a realistic option . . . seriously, if I couldn’t crack a safe on the first try, I’d start to panic. Instead I find it relaxing to escape into a world of characters and misfits who make up their lives as they along, free for a few hours of others’ expectations. Watching a movie can be very educational indeed: in life, chases may ensue, gunfire could be exchanged, some bad guys will die (even though technically they were good guys), money is won and lost, lovers come and go, but when the right ones come along, some friendships are sealed forever.
And, freeze frame!
Academy Awards for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1970): Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Musical Score, and Best Original Song (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”)