My first taste of Grits. At the restaurant where Forrest Gump was filmed, no less

grits

“What are grits?” I asked the waitress, a young, pretty girl with long legs.

“You don’t know what grits are?” she asked with grave concern.

I said I didn’t. She explained they are kind of like Cream of Wheat, but with salt and pepper and cheese they are pretty good.

I ask her some more questions about this restaurant, Debi’s, and its connection to the movie Forrest Gump. She starts to answer my questions.

But the owner of this restaurant, Debi, keeps on her. “He will need to entertain himself, get to the tables now. Sir, did you get on the Internet OK?”

“Yes ma’am,” I’m replied. They all are calling Debi ma’am in here.

The conversations are rather hilarious. I mean, this place really is like the South is depicted in the movies. Yet, this entire place reminds me of the Quad-Cities on many levels, too.

I already have been told – in whispers, by people who seem to care, especially when I share my story – that this place “Isn’t as safe as the tourists think. Be careful at night.”

‘Proper’ Catholic girls, knee-high stockings and lots of history

So, I chose this place because of the “Forrest Gump” writing on the window. A scene was filmed here, where the waitress is pouring Forrest’s coffee and sees him on TV. Here’s a clip of a Forrest Gump Savannah scene. The “box of chocolates” quote was filmed in Chippewa Square. It’s kind of funny that I filmed that selfie scene in Wright Square, because it just immediately made me think of the movie. I did not even realize it was filmed here.

Every two or three blocks, there is a town square here. They all are beautifully landscaped and surrounded by stunning historical buildings, including many churches.

On my walk here, there were several young girls in long plaid skirts, with knee high stockings. Of course, they all entered a school across from a  grand Catholic church. Or maybe it’s a cathedral. I should go back there today.

The weather is beautiful. Sunny with a high of 65 today, but it should be in the mid-70s to near 80 the rest of my visit.

Well, time to dig into my grits, biscuits and gravy and ham and cheese omelet. I’m going to “walk the squares” after this, and maybe go see Mercer House – where the well-to-do older gentlemen murdered the live-in hustler, was convicted three times, but then got off when a Georgia Superior Court overturned. James Williams died eight months after that.

food

Oh, I’m learning everything. The hotel concierge knows EVERYTHING. I sat in her office about an hour this morning. I plan to start each day in her office.

As for the Williams case, I have been instructed, “Now you don’t bring that up when you’re there. We pretend that didn’t happen.”

More on my hotel later.

And the Oscar goes to…. (My first Academy Awards picks column. Ever.)

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For almost my entire life, I had no interest in movies. Whatsoever.

This, even though I lived a decade in Los Angeles, rubbed elbows with lots of people in “the industry,” and even met a few celebs along the way – at parties, on dance floors, even in the young adult support group at the Orange County Center for Gays and Lesbians.

I wrote a LinkedIn column a while back about my first (and best) roommate and friend in Los Angeles, Dale Mayeda. Dale, once a cog in the wheel at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, went on to win an Oscar for special effects in “Frozen.” As I said in that column, that is just how true the idea is that with hard work and determination comes fame in Los Angeles.

And maybe that is the reason so many people are predicting “La La Land” will be the big winner on Oscars night. It is that quintessential L.A. story, and it is portrayed by two quintessential L.A. beauties.

But hasn’t it been done? About a million times?

To be honest, I nearly walked out during the first 10 minutes. Singing during a traffic jam on the freeway? Could it get any more cliché? It’s sort of like the saying, “L.A. is a caricature of itself.” Which is true.

I’m glad I didn’t walk out, if for no other reason than to stare at Ryan Gosling (and Emma Stone, too) for a couple of hours and enjoy the incredible music and cinematography. And a cute story.

But ladies and gentlemen, if “Hidden Figures” does not come out the big winner of the night, the Hollywood libs should have their toaster ovens revoked! Not only were they criticized to kingdom come a while back for the annual milky whiteness of the Academy Awards, but they remedied it – and in no small fashion.

“Hidden Figures,” to me, not only is an incredible story, but it’s being told at a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Never has it been more important for us to remember the struggle that African Americans faced all those years ago. Never has it been more important a time in our nation’s history to remember that even rocket scientists faced that struggle.

Never has it been more important for us to remember that once we were a relatively cohesive nation of hope, of pride, and that the space program played a big part in that.

This is the right time for “Hidden Figures” on so many levels.

With that, here are my picks for the 2017 Oscars winners:

Best Picture: Hidden Figures. No further explanation needed.

Best Directing: Hidden Figures. It’s brilliant. You’ll want to leap out of your chair, burst into laughter, utter “hell, no” out loud, and cry. Many times.

Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land. She really is that cute girl who goes to L.A. to become a star, who sometimes you think is gonna make it, other times you think doesn’t have a prayer, and when she does make it, you say, “Of course she did.” And that really is how it works out there.

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea. Hands down. In the first five minutes, I said, “That guy has PTSD.” And his character in the movie obviously does, even though a diagnosis never is discussed. You find out why soon enough. And the story is so compelling, that even if the end isn’t the end you were hoping for, it is the end that makes sense, for everyone. Brilliant writing.

Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea, for all the above-mentioned reasons.

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures. She’ll help you understand that the way African Americans were treated so many years ago, was so wrong. On so many levels. For those of us who did not live through that era, and grew up in the northern U.S., it’s difficult to comprehend. But you will, after seeing this movie.

Best Supporting Actor: Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea. He’s the popular kid in high school who is popular because he’s truly a great kid. We all knew that kid. At least one.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Hidden Figures.

Best Animated Feature: Moana. I must go with that because it’s the only one I actually saw on the list of “Best Animated Feature” nominees and because my above-mentioned friend, Dale Mayeda, has a prominent credit at the end for special effects.

Best Cinematography: La La Land.

Best Film Editing: La La Land.

Best Production Design: Arrival. I liked this movie a lot, but not necessarily because I found the story all that interesting (too complicated and far-fetched). I liked it because it had a unique wow factor on the big screen.

Best Costume Design: La La Land. They both were so darned cute.

Best Original Score: La La Land. That one should be a gimme.

Best Original Song: “City of Stars,” La La Land. Another gimme.

Best Sound Mixing: Arrival. Watch it. The sound is one of incredible things about the movie, in addition to the overall viewing experience. But the story? Again, not so much.

Best Sound Editing: Arrival.

Best Visual Effects: Deepwater Horizon. Not only did the leaking well look real, but it has happened, and in that regard, it’s a wakeup call. The movie did a public service. It’s also just incredibly cool to see what life living on an oil rig is like. Every ounce of it is believable, yet horrifying.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond. Lots of interesting peeps and things, for sure.

And I must stop there, because I don’t proclaim to know a darned thing about the other categories.

But I sure am proud of myself to have written my first ever “Oscar picks” column. Where did my ADD go? I don’t know, but going to the movies at least once a week is a part of my routine now, and probably is the most enjoyable couple hours of my life each week. I love it.

Hooray for Hollywood!

Going to ‘The Show’ each week recalls QC movie memories, history, milestones

rave

I saw “Passenger” today. It was stellar.

Last week I saw “La La Land.” And despite a rather slow start that leads you to think it’s just going to be just another cliché movie about Los Angeles, it turned out to be very entertaining.

Both movies were intense love stories. I think I need to start watching more love stories. They’re great for healing from trauma, at least for me.

But I would have to say both of the above-mentioned movies probably fall into the category of “B Movie,” a term my dad LOVED to use.

Dad, what are you doing? “Watching some B movie.”

Or we would go to my brother’s for Christmas or Thanksgiving, and John always was thoughtful enough to rent a movie. Dad would say, “What God damned  B movie are we watching this time, Johnny?”

To my dad, everything was a “B Movie.” He never was much of a “glass half-full” person. But he sure did watch lots of movies on TV. I wonder if, just as they are for me, they were an escape for him, and the dreaded disease he always said he had, but no one believed him.

I find myself becoming more and more like both of my parents every day. When I look in the mirror, or gauge how I come off to friendly strangers (or conversely, people who cross me), I see my mother. And let me tell you, she could flip a switch and be two radically different people. My mother was very strong. She was friendly, bubbly (they even called her “Bubbles”). But if you crossed her, she never let you forget it.

Dad, meanwhile, always just seemed to be looking for peace. And I can relate to that feeling, too. I’m finding it at the movies, which I write about a lot these days. Just two weeks ago, I saluted all my Hollywood friends for the hard work they do in this piece I wrote for LinkedIn. I love bragging how my first L.A. roommate, Dale Mayeda, won his first Oscar for “Frozen” last year (special effects). He was renting cars for Enterprise when we moved in together. L.A. really is a magical place for people who work hard.

The Capri in downtown Rock Island: All shows, 99 cents

Another thing about being a born-again movie buff is that it has brought back some very pleasant old memories. The very best memories I have of my mom, dad and I, together, was going to see a movie now and then at the Capri Theater in downtown Rock Island. All shows 99 cents, all the time.

As a kid, I remember thinking, “is Terri Garr in every movie?” Because I remember seeing “Close Encounters” with mom and dad, at the Capri, and really liking it. Then I remember the night we drove up to the Capri, and the marquee said, “Otsi.”

I said, “Otsi. Sounds like science fiction. Let’s see it!”

And dad screams, “Tootsie! Barbara (my mother), it’s ‘Tootsie!’”

Capri marquee “Wheel of Fortune.”

So, we watched “Tootsie.” The three of never laughed so hard, together, in all. Our. Lives. Such a movie was quite groundbreaking back in those days.

Another great movie memory was my friend Shannon Keatley’s birthday party. Her grandma took us to a movie, “Breaking Away,” roller skating at Skate Ranch, and then, Happy Joe’s. Milan was the birthday capital of the Quad-Cities back in the 1970s.

Another unforgettable movie for me was “View to a Kill.” It was my first date. I kissed a girl. I was maybe a junior in high school. I was so nervous. But we had a good time. I won’t embarrass her by name.

Showcase Cinemas, the Memri, the Semri

I remember the Showcase Cinemas in Milan, which is now a Hy-Vee. On the side of the building it said, “Showcase Cinemas 1-2-3-4-5.” Soon, they added a “6 & 7.” I think by the time they shut it down there also was” 8-9-10.”

In the Quad-Cities, we always called seeing a movie, “Going to the show.”

A Showcase Cinemas scandal circulated through Rock Island High School once. Supposedly a guy who got fired from there peed on the popcorn before he left. No idea if that was true or not. Not sure if it made the gossip column of the high school newspaper, the Crimson Crier, called “Herd in the Halls.” Yes, my high school newspaper had a gossip column. No. Idea. How we got by with that!

And who can forget the drive-in theaters. The Memri and the Semri. Supposedly, Memri stood for Milan-East Moline-Rock Island. And the Semri for Silvis-East Moline-Rock Island.

These days, Rave Cinemas 53 in Davenport is “the place” to see movies. Of course, Great Escape (is it still called that?) is on the Illinois side, next to WalMart. But do you know, I NEVER have been inside there. I like Rave so much I just can’t imagine that it could possibly compare. But I will have to check it out.

Rave, to me, is one impressive mega-plex. How many screens do that have in there? Fifteen? It’s a beautiful facility with state-of-the-art everything and the most comfy seats ever. It reminds me of walking aboard a spaceship when I walk in there.

There are so many good movies out right now. I Just love my movie time. It truly is an escape from the troubles of life, if only for 90 minutes or so.