Film Logan Polk's Film Reviews Moving Pictures Ongoing Series

Moving Pictures Vol. 30: Another Christmas in the Trenches

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We’re getting a double dose of Logan’s Moving Pictures back to back for the Holiday Season. Closing out the holidays by talking about two stone-cold classics; Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

I don’t remember the first time we watched Home Alone, but like most the people living in 1990, we (my ENTIRE family) found it endlessly watchable and absolutely hysterical. It’s become the Christmas classic that it is for a reason, and I guarantee you that at some point one of the houses I visit on Christmas day will have this playing in the background. But, here’s a little Christmas confession for you…I think Home Alone 2 is the better movie by far, and unlike the original film, I very much remember the first time we watched it.

It was in a theatre in Dothan, Alabama, late November (likely Thanksgiving weekend), on a Saturday. The place was packed, and my Dad and his crew made up a decent portion of the audience. There was my Dad, his wife at the time, Michelle, my step-sisters, Hope and Jennifer, Ryan and I, and our sisters Blake and Kelly, and my Uncle Bink. Almost enough to take up and entire row, and we were all equally excited to see the further adventures of Kevin McCallister.

The one lasting memory I have of the screening itself was towards the end of the film when Kevin is giving hell to the Sticky (nee Wet) Bandits inside his uncle’s disheveled mansion (this family and their housing, I’m convinced they were mafioso). Marv (the unsung goof of the series, Daniel Stern) finally gets through the front door, and after kicking it in he screams “Harry, I’ve reached the top!”  As he steps inside onto a nonexistent floor, a woman in the theatre, who I assume had seen it once already, responded with “And here comes the bottom!” The place erupted in laughter as Marv plummeted to the basement below.

I’ve listened to more than my fair share of screen talk-back in theatres, and mostly I’ve always found it annoying, disrupting the atmosphere, taking me out of the story altogether. Maybe it’s because I was young and naive, or maybe it’s because it was genuinely hysterical and perfectly timed, but I don’t think there was a single person in that theatre that was bothered in the slightest. Now, thirty years later, any time I see that moment or even think about it, I hear that woman’s voice and I laugh just a little bit. This latest rewatch was no exception.

As I said, I know almost everyone has a fondness for the first Home Alone film, but my favorite has always been Lost in New York. I’ve always had a weird kind of interest in the city (possibly why I glommed onto Seinfeld like I did later in life), which seemed completely otherworldly until I visited there a few years ago. I’m sure some of it has to do with growing up reading comics, where fictional cities like Gotham and Metropolis abound. Marvel had a habit of setting its characters loose in real-world places though, chief among them NYC. There are plenty of people that will tell you why that is, but I’ve always believed it was just because they could walk out of their offices and tell stories set in the world they could see. And since I grew up seeing New York City via screens and illustrations, it might as well have been Narnia.

Couple that with the idea of the movie itself, being lost in a place where you’re surrounded by people, and none of them know you, or are even interested enough to stop and bother even trying to get into your business. Yes, it’s a scary proposition for a lot of people, especially kids, but even at a young age, I found it compelling and romantic. I mentioned visiting there a few years ago, and even though I was only there a couple of days, and most of them were with a tour of people and packed with things to do, I managed to find a few hours to walk a few blocks around the part of Manhattan we were in. I got coffee, went to Midtown Comics, picked up some breakfast, and just strolled. No one asked me how I was doing, no one asked if they could help me with anything, I was barely acknowledged at all, and it was actually pretty liberating.

The only picture I have of myself from my visit to NYC. It’s the front stoop of a building that was central to a show Ryan and I were passionate about, Mr. Robot.

Having lived in the South all of my life, it’s pretty commonplace for people to be…let’s say enthusiastic… about getting to know you, asking about your career, your day, your family, just anything at all, just to be polite and make conversation. It’s the hospitality, it’s what we’re known for. We’re friendly. I’m not though. I don’t really dig small talk, I don’t want to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and want even less for them to strike up a conversation with me. I’m weird and awkward, don’t do really well in social gatherings and usually, I try to leave without being noticed. It’s just who I am. So the idea of being in a place where not only do I not have to be social with anyone but that they will actively avoid being social with me sounds like a messed up paradise made just for me.

Of course, most of Home alone 2 isn’t that AT ALL, but I do so love the section of the film that is. Just Kevin wandering around the city, doing whatever weird things strikes his fancy, and no one even batting an eye. Sure, it’s not for everyone, and the movie does a decent job of showing just why it might be a bad idea for a ten-year-old, but it makes me happy just thinking about the possibilities, even all these years later.

I found something else has persisted through the decades this time as well, and that’s how much I really relate to Kevin McCallister, through both movies. In the first, desperately wanting the people you love most to include you and treat you fairly, and when they don’t wishing that they’d just disappear. Then, in the second film, not wanting to be left behind, but also not willing to be bullied and standing my ground after realizing that I’m strong enough to go it alone if I have to. Yeah, that’s kind of the message of both movies…but, they’re kind of just the same movie anyway.

And yes, when I say I still relate to Kevin I’m saying that as a 40-something, not just my “inner child.” Because the truth is that I don’t have an inner child, he’s very much still running the show. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, and though I do have a great job, I’m not the guy who got responsible and bought a house and did the things adults do. I just bought my first brand-new car a few years ago. I am the walking definition of Peter Pan Syndrome. I just never really grew up.

Me with my nephews KJ (bottom) and Jace (top), two of the people that keep me young.

There are a lot of downsides to that, especially from an emotional standpoint. I think I take things a lot harder than someone my age should, feel things a lot deeper. Maybe not quite on the level of a 12-year-old, but I’m sure there are a few people that would tell you it skews even younger. That I pout and stomp my feet like a toddler, and maybe they’re right. One thing I am decent at is recognizing the fact that I’m pretty immature in a lot of ways.

Truthfully though, I’m okay with it. I don’t want to just accept the unfairness of the world. I don’t want to walk around with nothing to look forward to besides weekend football games and hopefully drinking a beer or two in peace. I want to do the things that still make me feel young. I want to watch cartoons, read comics, sing badly to songs I love, eat foods that no human should (though, I know that needs to be far less often), and be only as responsible as I have to be to get by.

I’m sure a lot of people would find a great deal of fault in that, but I’m telling you, they’re not having as much fun as I am.

Moving Pictures will return…

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