Saturday, June 28, 2014
(March 2007, U.S.)
Right around the time I went to see Mira Nair's THE NAMESAKE with my wife at a neighborhood independent movie theater on Long Island was about the same time in my life that I decided just how fed up and intolerable I'd become of mainstream Hollywood. For too damn long, I labored under the delusion that the only way to have a good time at the movies was to continue to pour my hard-earned time and money into franchise Hollywood crap at the nearest multiplex I could get to. So, in a strange way, investing time and money in an art film like THE NAMESAKE at a smaller theater was a form of cinematic soul redemption. Yes, I was beginning to the light, as it was! Praise the God of indie films, I was cured!!!
(insert head shake and laughter here!)
Okay, I'm over-dramatizing a bit, but I think those of you who try to take the art of film seriously can appreciate where I'm coming from. To see this rather simple story of an Indian family (from India!) adapting to life and culture in the United States of America was like a breath of fresh air during a decade of ongoing comic book franchise sequels. I realize, of course, that these wonderful art films can be found (almost) everywhere if you know where to look. You just have to lift your head up once in while and decide that you longer care what the X-MEN will be doing in their next film.
One of my first considerations for a film such as THE NAMESAKE is how American audiences can often get a more interesting and intriguing look at their own country when they're looking at it through the eyes of those from other countries. Consider for example that THE GODFATHER (1972) has been called one of the greatest American films of all time and it's about Italians! Through the eyes and ambitions of this simple and unassuming Indian family that begins it's journey in the United States in 1977 and raises their children under the American fashion and practices, one can appreciate this country from a different angle. When the film begins, a young man named Ashoke Ganguli (played by Irrfan Khan) has just survived a horrible train wreck and decides that life is meant to be traveled and lived and not merely seen through the pages and words of a book. Just a few years later, he and his new wife (through an arranged marriage) Ashima (played by a woman named Tabu) decide to leave India and their families to pursue the (so-called) American dream and its land of opportunities. Of course, it's not all glorious at first. How would you feel about leaving your homeland to go live in Queens near the 59th Street Bridge and then try to figure out the New York City subway system?? On the other hand, a young couple like this now gets to experience the joys of controlled heat, hot and cold running water whenever they want it and an interesting breakfast cereal called Rice Krispies (ain't America grand??)! Then, as predicted, the children arrive and here's where the subject of the title THE NAMESAKE becomes understood. At the time of the train wreck, Ashoke was reading a book called "The Overcoat" by Russian author Nikolai Gogol. Through a series of miscues, their son's nickname becomes Gogol and eventually becomes his official birth name, an event which will shape many aspects of his life. Moving away from the parents a bit, the film now chronicles Gogol's cross-cultural experiences and his exploration of his Indian heritage, as the story shifts between the United States and India. He starts off as a typical lazy, pot smoking American teenager (played by Kal Penn) indifferent to his cultural background. He resents many of the customs and traditions his family upholds and doesn't understand his parents one bit (as most of didn't at that age. Hell, I still don't, but that's another matter entirely!). After a summer trip to India before starting college at Yale, Gogol starts opening up to his culture and becomes more accepting of it, much of it attributed to seeing the great Taj Mahal for the first time and deciding to pursue a career in architecture (big mistake, Gogol!!!). In the subject of love and romance, Gogol experiences his own share of experiences. During school, he's hopelessly infatuated with a beautiful American blonde girl who, if one reads outside the lines enough, is likely only with Gogol because he fills some need within her to experience an outside culture in her otherwise humdrum life of American privilege. She claims to care about Gogol, but fails to understand just who he really is. When Gogol decides to try the other route of marrying the nice Indian girl who knows how to deep fry samosas (those are delicious, by the way!) as he's likely expected to by his family, that goes sour when he discovers she's having an affair with her old lover.
As is almost typical with any story of self-discovery, the pivotal moment occurs with the death of a loved one. When Gogol's father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, the boy now becomes a man and the subject of his Indian heritage and culture becomes self-evident. Not to suggest that Gogol will return to Calcutta and become one with the people, but will rather embrace his past while holding onto the hopes of his future in a land filled with the glories and opportunities that are considered the true crust of this great land known as America. It's a great country, and like I said, sometimes you need to view it through the eyes of others who are trying to fit into it to see just what it all really means. Well, it makes sense on film, anyway.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Gogol Ganguli (after being told the origin of his name): "Baba, is that what you think of when you think of me? Do I remind you of that night?"
Ashoke Ganguli: "Not at all. You remind me of everything that followed. Everyday since then has been a gift...Gogol."
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
(October 2003, U.S.)
Let me begin with a rather light piece of trivia - at the exact moment I was re-watching Clint Eastwood's MYSTIC RIVER to get a fresh perspective for my blog post, my father was sitting in a small neighborhood movie theater (some of them do still exist!) in Westhampton Beach, Long Island watching Eastwood's latest film JERSEY BOYS. That's of very little interest to my readers, I'm sure, and only of marginal interest to me, but it's one of life's little coincidences that I can't help but conjure up.
Now for something a little heavier - the last time I watched this film, I had not yet become a father. Today, as the father of an eight year-old boy, to sit and watch the entire opening sequence of a young boy being abducted by child molesters and held for days under their brutality is extremely unsettling, to say the least. I actually find that I have to force myself to not let my imagination run wild with horrible thoughts involving my own child and simply concentrate on a film that I consider one of Eastwood's best directorial efforts and also perhaps one of the best roles I've ever seen an actor like Sean Penn embrace.
As a basic detective story of a young, vibrant girl who's found dead one morning in a small Boston town, my memories drift back to the opening pilot of David Lynch's TWIN PEAKS when it premiered on ABC-TV in 1990. It's now been twenty-five years since the abduction of Dave (played as a grown up by Tim Robbins) and he and his two old childhood friends Jimmy (played by Sean Penn) and Sean (played by Kevin Bacon) are simple people making their own way in a town where everybody knows each other. Like TWIN PEAKS, the town is shattered when they learn that Jimmy's nineteen year-old daughter Katie has been murdered and each citizen feels the loss in their own way. Sean Penn plays the role of distraught father hell-bent on vengeance with a powerful and haunting intensity that I've rarely seen on screen. He's always been a great actor, but this is perhaps my favorite role of his, and leave it to Clint Eastwood as director to help bring it out of him. This moment on film alone says it all for me...
As a grown man, Dave has never forgotten the sexual abuse he endured and it's very clearly taken a toll on his mind and his senses, despite trying his best to play the role of good husband, good father and good citizen. The darkness within him is evident, though, when he comes home covered in someone else's blood the night Katie was killed. Much like any typical detective story, all evidence is pointing greatly toward him as suspect, despite the prospect of motive being very weak. Over the course of the film, Sean and his partner, Sergeant Whitey Powers (played by Lawrence Fishburne), track down leads while Jimmy conducts his own investigation using his neighborhood connections. Sean discovers that the gun used to kill Katie was also used in a liquor store robbery during the 1980s by the father of Katie's boyfriend. While Dave continues to behave erratically, his rather unstable wife reaches the point where she's afraid her husband will hurt her. While Jimmy and his tough guy associates conduct their investigation, Dave's wife eventually tells Jimmy about Dave's behavior, the bloody clothing, and her suspicions of him. By now, Jimmy's grief and desire for vengeance and restitution is leading him on a path to execute his old friend Dave.
Now despite MYSTIC RIVER being a great film, here's where things become a bit questionable for me. While Jimmy is in the process of preparing to kill Dave, we're learning two new things in the process. The first is that on the night of Katie's murder, the blood on Dave's clothes just happen to occur when he just happen to come across a male pedofile and a young boy in a car and proceeded to beat the man to death. A man who was sexually abused by pedofiles as a boy just happens to come across a pedofile on the same night the murder is committed?? Sorry, I'm having a little trouble with such an act of far-fetched coincidence! The second is that when we learn who the real murderers are, we're supposed to accept the motive as simply that of love and jealousy between a young, mute boy and his older brother who was also Katie's boyfriend. Interestingly, though, we learn the truth of the real killers as the same moment that Jimmy is killing Dave, the wrong man, is some moments of brilliant editing by Joel Cox. By the end of the film, it's hardly a cinematic situation of "happily every after", but life among men and women in a small Boston town does continue with it's daily rituals and routines of middle class life and family, despite the heavy sins of some and their consequences to others. In a strange way, it's all washed away and life goes on.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jimmy Markum: "Is my daughter in there!? Motherfuckers! Is that my daughter in there!? Is she in there!? Sean! Is that my daughter in there!? Is that my daughter in there!? No! No! No! No, aagggh, no! No! Oh, God! Oh, God! No!"
Sunday, June 15, 2014
(October 1982, U.S.)
As funny and as wacky as MY FAVORITE YEAR is, it's interesting to note that it not only gives an interesting and colorful look at the early days of television in the 1950s, but is more based on true accounts than you might figure. You see, early in his career, legendary funny man Mel Brooks (executive producer of this film) was a writer for the Sid Caesar variety program called "Your Show of Shows". Movie swashbuckler Errol Flynn was a guest on one episode, and Brooks' real-life experiences with Flynn inspired the fictional screenplay. The character of Alan Swann (played to extraordinary perfection by the late Peter O'Toole) was obviously based on Flynn, while the character of Benjy Stone (played by Mark Linn-Baker) is loosely based on both Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, who also wrote for Sid Caesar. Although I can't account for much of who Errol Flynn was in real life, it's very likely that he wasn't as wild and crazy as O'Toole's Swann is in this film. Still, comedy is king here and in this business, you never cut out funny!
And so begins Benjy's tale of his favorite year; 1954. This was a year in a decade when hot cars, rock and roll and television were still new elements of popular culture. In New York City, though, it probably all moved at a slightly faster pace. As a young freshman comedy writer for a CBS-TV variety show starring Stan "King" Kaiser (played by Joseph Bologna), Benjy's life seems all but perfect and filled with fun. For their special upcoming guest, they get the still famous (though largely washed-up) Alan Swann. When he shows up, they realize that he's not much more than a roaring drunk. Kaiser is ready to dump him, until Benjy intervenes and promises to keep him sober during the week leading up to the show's episode. That, as they say, is where the fun begins. While Benjy spends much of his time trying to keep up with the wild and crazy Swann, they actually manage to learn a lot about each other personally, including the fact that they both have family they're both trying to hide from the rest of the world. When we meet Benjy rather eccentric family of Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, it's easy to see why he's somewhat ashamed of them. Oh, they're not bad people, just horribly embarrassing.
When the night of the show finally arrives, it's only minutes before going on the air that Swann suffers a complete panic attack when Benjy informs him that the show is broadcast live in front of a living audience. Out of fear and panic, Swann gets drunk, and bolts from the studio, but is later confronted by Benjy, who angrily tells him that he's always thought of Swann as the swashbuckling hero he saw on the big screen, and that deep down, Swann must possess those same courageous qualities as a real life human being, claiming that, "Nobody's that good an actor!" In the end, fear and anguish are replaced by the type of courage we want our matinee movie idols to display and the show is a bit hit. Honor and respect between men is also evident, but even more is that part of us we cherish when we watch or own movie heroes on the big screen and the things we expect from them. It may not sound particularly realistic, but it's the sort of film fantasy that many of us enjoy clinging to. In other words, Han Solo and Indiana Jones may be the one of the greatest movie heroes we've ever had the pleasure of witnessing, but who's to say that Harrison Ford isn't a total asshole in real life?? Man, I hope not!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Benjy Stone: "We always get it on the first take. We have to."
Alan Swann: "We do?"
Benjy: "Sure. This is live television."
Alan: "Live? Live? What does live mean?"
Benjy: "It means at the exact moment you're cavorting and leaping around that stage over there, twenty million people are seeing it."
Alan: "Wait a minute. Wait a minute!"
Benjy: "Mr. Swann, you're white!"
Alan: "You mean it all goes into the camera lens and then just spills out into people's houses!"
Alan: "Why didn't nobody have the goodness to explain this to me before?"
Benjy: "It's nothing to worry about, Mr. Swan. Our audiences are great."
Alan: "Audience? What audience? Audience?"
Benjy: "You knew there was an audience! What did you think those seats were for?"
Alan (panicked): "I haven't performed in front of an audience for twenty-eight years! Audience? I played a butler! I HAD ONE LINE! I forgot it."
Benjy: "Don't worry. This is gonna be easy."
Alan: "For you, maybe! Not for me! I'M NOT AN ACTOR! I'M A MOVIE STAR!"
Thursday, June 12, 2014
(May 1940, U.S.)
Having considered my massive film collection, it occurs to me that with the exception of his Hitchcock films, all the Cary Grant films I own are those where he's displaying his rather insane comedic talents. Watch films like BRINGING UP BABY (1938) or ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944) and perhaps you'll know where other comedic actor like, say John Ritter of THREE'S COMPANY was inspired for much of the zany, ridiculous situations characters like Jack Tripper, Janet Wood and Chrissy Snow got themselves into week after week. One particular common thread between much of Grant's classic black and white comedies is that his character is very often involved in a situation that only he and perhaps one other person fully understand. To all others surrounding him, he's often considered completely off his rocker...and he usually knows this is what others are thinking of him.
So, all of that in mind, consider a man, and a lawyer to boot Nick Arden (Grant) who one fine day has his long-lost wife declared legally dead on the same fine day he chooses to marry again and also the same fine day said presumed dead wife Ellen (played by Irene Dunne) actually turns up alive! Turns out that Ellen was merely shipwrecked on a deserted island for seven years and has just been rescued only to turn up at her home with her children again. When she returns, she learns that Nick has just left on his honeymoon with his now second wife. What to do? Why, try to completely fuck things up and see where the pieces fall, of course! The second marriage has already occurred, but Ellen still loves Nick and Nick still loves Ellen. But again, he thought she was dead the day he married his second wife, which it turns out, he likely didn't really love anyway. Mind you, it's not like Nick is trying hide one wife from another. Ellen knows about wife #2 and Nick is trying in vain to tell wife #2 about Ellen. In a screwball comedy like this, however, such a task is never easy. And of course, it's all real funny and it's all real cliché because in the end the two people who are supposed to be together the most end up together and the third wheel gets jilted. By then, though, the audience doesn't care too much about the jilted third wheel anyway. We want true love (whatever the fuck that is in a comedy like this!) to prevail. Mind you, throughout all of this madness, there's also the slightly absent-minded judge who's merely trying to keep up with all that's happening and understand what it all means in the end. He usually doesn't, but that, too, is real funny...real Cary Grant funny!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Nick Arden (discussing how to tell their children that Ellen is their mother): "Would it help if I wrote them a letter?"
Ellen Arden: "Oh, that would be nice, yes...'Enclosed, please find your mother."
Sunday, June 8, 2014
(March 1992, U.S.)
This film is a perfect example of one of those rare springtime films that comes along that manages to not only carry its weight alongside all others, but also carries itself along into the following summer and stands tall against many popular blockbusters. By Summer of 1992, when ALIEN 3, BATMAN RETURNS, and PATRIOT GAMES were topping the box office charts, MY COUSIN VINNY was still going strong enough for those of us who not only loved the film, but also wanted to see it again! I saw it twice.
Thinking of tough guy Joe Pesci in a role such as this brings several considerations of what's truly funny to mind - does the comedy really lie in the fact that a guy like Joe Pesci would be a lawyer, or is it the fact that he's a Brooklyn man trying to be a lawyer down south in Alabama (or as Pesci's character would say, "Ala-fucking-bama")! Hell, why try to choose? Joe Pesci playing a Brooklyn lawyer trying to practice and con his way through the procedures of the law down south in Alabama is a funny situation all the way around. As the fun begins, it's a simple misunderstanding of a convenience store tuna fish theft and murder that lands two college friends (one of them played by ex-Karate Kid Ralph Macchio) in jail in the deep south. Sure, it's funny on screen, but I'd be lying if such a premise didn't give this Jewish guy some pause at the thought of what could possibly happen to him driving down south in a car with New York plates on it. Sounds like prejudice? Perhaps, but even unfair prejudice doesn't necessarily constitute a situation that may not be realistic and valid.
(but I digress...)
So faster than you can say, "They sleep with their sisters" and "Some big guy named Bubba" comes along the potentially, life-saving attorney from the great (or not so great!) borough of Brooklyn, New York named Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (Pesci) and his sidekick fiancé Lisa Vito (played to perfection by Marisa Tomei) who's going to (hopefully) save these two young boys from the electric chair for the murder of a "good 'ol boy" they didn't commit. Trouble is, the guy's only been practicing law for almost six weeks and has no fucking idea what he's doing when it comes to the legalities of courtroom procedure. Add to that the fact that the judge on this case (played by ex-Herman Munster Fred Gwynne in his last film role) is coming down hard on Vinny for not knowing and following every step of the law only makes the boy's fate much worse - but that's part of the comedy and the fun. Consider also that this Brooklyn boy is in Alabama for the first time in his life and has to adjust to new concepts such as grits, muddy tires, early morning steam whistles, slaughtered pigs and a local idiot hell-bent and fighting him for the two hundred dollars he doesn't want to pay up. Not to mention Lisa's ticking biological clock! Let's not forget about that! Then, just when you think things couldn't get any worse for these two innocent boys, there's the stuttering public defender to deal with. Actually, this guy's one of the funniest elements of the film! Tell me you're not cracking up when this poor putz is standing in front of the jury trying to say the word PROSECUTION and ends up spitting all over them! You see what I mean? Murder, the law, execution and courtroom intrigue can, indeed, be funny as shit!
Like any courtroom situation, comedy or not, there always comes the pivotal moment when the proper clues and evidence come into play that will ultimately save and exonerate the innocent or condemn the guilty. In this case, it's a simple picture of muddy tire tracks in a small photo taken by Lisa with her little disc camera circa 1992 that saves the day. The whole film she's whining and bitching that she only wants to help out on this case and she finally does! In a rather involved sequence depicting the crucial differences between Michelin tires and the physical similarities between the boys 1964 Buick Skylark and the 1963 Pontiac Tempest belonging to the actual murderers, the case is solved, the innocent boys are set free, and the great Vincent LaGuardia Gambini has saved the day (Yay!!!)!
Now just when you think you know enough about a particular film to satisfy your own tastes for comedic cinema, you learn something new that opens your eyes just a little wider. Turns out that MY COUSIN VINNY is not just a great comedy, but is also well-respected by real lawyers for it's accuracy of courtroom procedures and is even used by legal textbooks. One law professor apparently describes the film as useful for discussing criminal procedure, courtroom decorum, professional responsibility, unethical behavior, the role of the judge in a trial, efficient cross-examination and the role of expert witnesses and effective trial advocacy. I even heard years later that LEGALLY BLONDE became a rather valid entity within the law school community and the law profession itself. Geez, no wonder lawyers continue to be the butt of many people's jokes!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Mona Lisa Vito: "Imagine you're a deer. You're prancing along, you get thirsty, you spot a little brook, you put your little deer lips down to the cool clear water...BAM! A fuckin' bullet rips off part of your head! Your brains are laying on the ground in little bloody pieces! Now I ask ya...would you give a fuck what kind of pants the son of a bitch who shot you was wearing??"
Sunday, June 1, 2014
(April 2002, U.S.)
For this post, I'm discussing a film called MY BIG FAT EGYPTIAN FAMILY (What?? What did he just say?? That's not right! WTF???). You think I'm kidding? Not really. Let me explain...
I was born in the United States, but I'm half Egyptian on my mother's side. She was born and raised in the city of Cairo and came to this country in the early 1960s with the rest of her family. She's one of eight (yes, I said eight children!) in a family that's always found much joy in life be eating great food, being real loud, staying in each other's lives and each other's business. A family that was ultimately run with an iron first by a towering patriarch (my grandfather) who was head of the household and married to a loyal and loving woman (my grandmother) who served as the neck (sound familiar?). On top of my mom's own immediate family, she was always surrounded by aunts, uncles and a multitude of first and second cousins who also loved to eat, shout and stay in each other's life and business (sounding more familiar?). Now let's add to that the fact that when she came to this country, she met my father - an American man who was an only child and had only four first cousins (really sounding familiar??). You think I'm still kidding? Rest assured, I'm not, and I can very safely say that I could easily accuse writer and star of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING Nia Vardalos of brazenly ripping off a piece of my own family's life and history and putting it up on the big screen for her own profit and stardom. But I'm not alone, am I? How many American families out there of vast and different ethnic backgrounds with relatives who are loud, in-your-face, in-your-business eaters cannot make the same claim as myself? Art very often imitates life, and if it just happens to be your life that art is imitating...well, as the patriarch character of Kostas Portokalos (played by Michael Constantine) would say..."There you go."
So picture it in your head...a middle class Greek American woman Toula Portokalos from the city of Chicago who falls in love with a non-Greek upper middle class "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" Ian Miller (played by the quintessential boyfriend John Corbett). At it's root, the film is, of course, a rather touching girl-meets-guy, girl-and-guy-overcome-family-prejudice-obstacles, girl-and-guy-get-married-and-live-happily-ever-after kind of love story and that's real nice to watch on screen. But one can't ignore the background theme of determination and spirit that ultimately transforms a woman that looks like this in the beginning...
...to something a whole lot better...
Toula is a woman in the beginning who's not particularly looking to get married and make babies, as her father thinks she should do as quickly as possible before she gets too old, but is more determined not to end up in the rut of the family Greek restaurant business and watch the best years of her life go by without a greater effort. It begins with simple computer courses at the local college where she can finally achieve her tiny social dream of sitting at the lunch table with the so-called "cool and delicate" girls and eat her delicious Wonder Bread sandwich (because apparently, what's more American than Wonder Bread, right??). With an independence from such a tight family comes the ability to not only move on with one's career, but to also express herself more freely when it comes to romance. Upon meeting and dating Ian, she knows from the get-go that her family will object to his not being Greek, and while she feels that her romance with him may be ultimately doomed, the poor girl still can't help herself. That's true love, I suppose. Upon further consideration, however, one can't help but wonder just how Toula managed to hit the jackpot of good boyfriend fortune on her first try. This guy is not only wonderful and available, but also very willing to bend over backwards to allow himself to be (kindly and gently) ruled and controlled by his fiancé's family. I mean, would you be willing to be baptized in oil and water in a small inflatable swimming pool for the one you love?? Is anybody worth that? Perhaps.
As for the Portokalos family themselves...well, they're just as Toula describes them in the beginning; loud, always eating, always in each other's business and generally non-conforming to anyone and anything that's not Greek until true love's acceptance and tolerance finally brings them around in the end. Maybe that sounds like your family, maybe it doesn't. It certainly sounded a lot like the family of half-Greek actress Rita Wilson, who saw the original one-woman show of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING with husband Tom Hanks and convinced him to produce the film version with her. All I, and so many others of American origin and ethnic roots and typically loud, annoying families can say is, we're glad she did and we're glad we were given such a great sleeper hit that continued on into the Summer of 2002 that was dominated by blockbusters like SPIDER-MAN, STAR WARS: EPISODE II-ATTACK OF THE CLONES and MEN IN BLACK II!
As for my own mother, I can only tell you that when she first saw this film, her reaction was very close to my own. There were many on-screen relatives she could relate to from her own childhood and history in Egypt, particularly the character of Aunt Voula (played by Andrea Martin). I'm sure I can recall my mom's description and stories of at least one or two aunts she had in her life that were truly loving and perhaps very overbearing and also very in-her-face. However, I'd leave it to any of my first cousins who hold a tighter connection to their Egyptian heritage than I do to come up with the correct name(s) of such an aunt. Her family and all of its extension are just too damn big for me to remember all of their names. I'm generally better with faces. So that all being said, I suppose it's only fitting that I dedicate this post to my mother's side of my family and all of it's extensions (including my own multitude of first cousins!). They're big, they're loud, they're annoying, they're a tad obnoxious and they all cook some amazingly delicious fucking food! So what's not to love about that?? Oh, and by the way, in my family, there are no vegetarians that I'm aware of. We all eat meat! Anyone who didn't eat meat would very likely bring a crowded room to a dead silence of shock and puzzlement, just as Ian Miller's vegetarianism does. But that's okay. We like lamb, too!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Toula Portokalos: "I'm Greek, right?"
Ian Miller: "Right?"
Toula: "So, what happens is my dad and uncles, they fight over who gets to eat the lamb brain. And then my aunt Voula forks the eyeball and chases me around with it, try to get me to eat it, 'cause it's gonna make me smart. So, you have two cousins, I have twenty-seven first cousins. Just twenty-seven first cousins alone! And my whole family is big and loud. And everybody is in each other's lives and business. All the time! Like, you never just have a minute alone, just to think 'cause we're always together, just eating, eating, eating! The only other people we know are Greeks, 'cause Greeks marry Greeks to breed more Greeks, to be loud, breeding Greek eaters!"