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Penicillin For When The World Feels Like It’s Going To Collapse

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Years ago on 9/11, I went to my local blood bank to give blood. I had been watching the news all that day and I was horrified. So much death, so much pain. I wanted to be useful but I didn’t know what to do.

So I gave blood, which was something I could do.

I took the bus to the blood bank only to find a long line stretched across the block. It was then I started to cry.

Feeling numb, I started walking. No destination in mind, just walking. I found myself at the local movie theater and looked up at the marquee. Rat Race was playing. I knew it was a comedy, in the style of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

I wanted to laugh. I wanted to forget. So I bought a ticket. Mission accomplished.

When the world feels like it’s going to collapse, it’s normal to feel helpless. You post the peace sign Eiffel Tower mashup on Facebook. You watch the news. You phone friends.

And you wonder if the world has gone insane.

It’s my view the world has always been insane. We’re just paying better attention.

When I find myself getting too involved in a national tragedy, I take a break and watch movies. I call them Penicillin Movies.

As we all know, penicillin is developed from a warm and cozy fungi that fights infections. Tragedies can be like infections; if it’s not treated right away, it will get worse.

Hence, Penicillin Movies. Here are some of my favorites.

Duck Soup–This is my favorite Marx Brothers movie. If I ever get another boy cat, I want to name him Rufus T. Firefly, after Fredonia’s president. Played by Groucho Marx, President Firefly plays jacks during an important meeting, flirts with Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Durmond) and makes Chicolini (Chico Marx) Secretary of War after seeing him sell peanuts outside. I should mention there are several scenes that are politically incorrect, but I still laugh when Firefly tries to get a ride to meet with his House of Representatives and Pinky (Harpo Marx) takes off without him. Not missing a beat, Firefly quips, “It certainly feels good to be back again.”


Waiting for Guffman–Christopher Guest and his company have done several mocumentaries, but this one is my favorite. The small town of Blaine, Missouri is celebrating its 150th birthday. Corky St. Clair (Guest) is a local celebrity who has directed local productions, but Red White and Blaine might be his ticket to get “off off off off Broadway.” With a cast like Dr. Allan Pearl (Eugene Levy), travel agents Ron and Sheila Albertson (Fred Willard and Catherine O’Hara), Dairy Queen worker Libby Mae Brown (Parker Posey), and taxidermist Clifford Wooley (Lewis Arquette) how can they miss? I love the tenacity of the characters, plus the auditions (Libby sings “Teacher’s Pet”; Ron and Sheila sing “Midnight at the Oasis” and act out a British coffee commercial) always make me laugh.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High–Oh, high school. It’s a battlefield, let me tell you. Especially in 1981-1982, when all girls wanted to look like Pat Benatar, boys think about sex, and history teacher Mr. Hand is positive everyone is on dope. The film follows several Ridgemont high students through a school year: Brad (Judge Reinhold) a guy who has it made but loses it all; his sister Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who looks for love in all the wrong places, but doesn’t get that the guy in bio Rat (Brian Backer) is the one for her; Damone (Robert Romanus) can sell you tickets to Cheap Trick or Blondie cheap, but can’t show up when he is most needed; and who can forget Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) the surfer dude of surfer dudes who orders a pizza during history, loved his black and white checkered Vans, and said this to Mr. Hand: “What Jefferson was saying was: ‘Hey! You know,we left this England place because it was bogus, so if we don’t get some cool rules ourselves-pronto-we’ll just be bogus too! Get it?'” We sure do.

Trainwreck–This is my favorite comedy of this year. Amy (Amy Schumer, who also wrote the screenplay) doesn’t want serious relationships. She’s a wham/bam/thank you mister kind of girl, writing for a men’s magazine and dealing with a reptilian boss (Tilda Swinton) who assigns her to cover a sports doctor (Bill Hader). To her utter surprise, she finds herself falling for him. But can she commit to someone? The movie makes fun of all the obvious rom-com tropes, yet is endearing as well.

Auntie Mame–I adore this movie. Flat out adore it. Is it the beginning where the title screen is seen through a kaleidoscope? Is it Mame’s penthouse apartment that changes with each decade? Is it Vera Charles (Coral Browne) who never met a drink she didn’t like? Or it Agnes Gooch, the mousy secretary that finds herself in “the family way?” All of the above, but of course Rosalind Russell is the heart of the film as Auntie Mame, the woman who works at Macy’s and has everything COD (Cash on Delivery). Her motto is “Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” and declares her nephew won’t, “…settle down in some dry-veined, restricted community, make him an Ayran from Darien and marry him off to a girl with braces on her brains!” One of my goals in life is to be an Auntie Mame to my niece and nephews. Everyone deserves an Auntie Mame who stands up to prejudice and lives her life to the fullest.