Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion, Katz's

I really wanted to like the PHC movie, directed by Robert Altman, I really did, probably out of an allegiance to the radio show upon which it's based. But when you have so many fond memories of listening to the original, it's hard for the movie version to live up to that standard—kind of like seeing a favorite book made for the screen. It's not a bad movie, it's just not as good as I'd hoped it would be. It was funny, and had its touching moments, but not enough of each. I'd imagine the movie might be better appreciated by someone new to the Prairie Home Companion phenomenon, who could then turn on their radio some Saturday night and appreciate the show in all its not-dead-yet glory. Another reason I probably wasn't entirely won over by the movie is that it makes only the most passing reference to Lake Wobegon, which in my book is the cornerstone of the show. That 15-minute monologue that Garrison Keillor ("GK" in the movie) does is by far the thing that I'd recommend for the time capsule. The next best part of the radio program is the fake commercials he does for Powder Milk Biscuits and Be-Bop-a-Roo-Bop Rhubarb Pie and the Society of English Majors and the Ketchup Advisory Board, only the first two of which were featured in the movie. In short, there was too much music, and not enough talk for my liking, at least based on what elements of the program I like the best. Overall, I'd say it certainly feels like Altman was making his own eulogy of a film—what with the specter of death and endings overhanging the production, right down to Lindsay Lohan's "Extinct is Forever" T-shirt—and GK, who wrote the screenplay, was imagining the inevitable end of his own work (i.e., the radio show). But something felt lost in the translation.

Afterward, the five of us walked down Houston from the Sunshine to eat at Katz's Deli, a first for me. I was a little baffled why we all had to take tickets on our way in, but I soon realized it's their method of collecting money from you. You order your food from various spots along the counter, and they scrawl the total on the back. There might've been a time when the cryptic numbers on the front were used for this purpose, but they just write in their own totals now. Daryl kept reminding me, "Don't lose your ticket!" He went on: "Do you have your ticket? Don't lose your ticket." I suggested it was like the Turnpike and you had to pay the highest possible fee if you did, and he said, "No, they've got a holding cell in the back there for people who lose their tickets. ... It's like college when you don't return all your library books, they don't let you graduate." I had matzo ball soup and a vanilla egg cream, and also ate the end of Jes' last half-sour pickle. On the way out, after paying, I tried to leave through the locked door, then started banging on the glass to Daryl and Rachel outside, mouthing, "I lost my ticket!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah - love the radio show - bored to tears with the movie.