At my advanced age the movie section of my memory bank must be nearing full capacity. Somehow I’ve managed to remember at least bits and pieces of all my favorite films. Nowadays I have to think hard to come up with my Google password, but I can still recall important parts of old blockbusters like It Happened One Night (1934) and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).
Rerunning a peaceful scene from Forrest Gump or David Copperfield helps me drift off to sleep some nights or into a short nap on a lazy afternoon. My mental movie clips also help me get through trying situations. I screened The Maltese Falcon during my last dentist visit. It was quite effective. “You didn’t flinch once while I was drilling,” the dentist remarked. “The novocaine really worked.”
“It’s what dreams are made of, Doc,” I replied in my Bogart voice. My numbed lip helped with the impression.
It’s important to select a film that’s appropriate for the situation. To survive listening to a long-winded recitation of someone’s complicated legal problems, I would never run an Abbott and Costello comedy. My giggling and guffawing would be completely out of place. A selected clip from Sophie’s Choice would be appropriate and might bring on what appears to be a sympathetic tear.
There is also the danger of getting too far into a mental movie. You must give the speaker at least 50 percent of your attention to get the general idea of his boring monologue in order to come up with an appropriately timed “tsk, tsk” or an “Oh dear,” as evidence of your empathy.
Listening to a tedious account of a fellow worker’s financial misadventures I decided to escape into The Treasure of Sierra Madre when I was suddenly yanked back into reality. “So do you think this hedge fund is a good investment?” he asked. Apparently I wasn’t yanked back far enough, because I replied, “We don’t need no stinkin’ hedges!”
He was shocked, but my dramatic response convinced him to change his plan. That hedge fund took a dive and he saved a bundle. He was grateful and bought me a bottle of expensive champagne. It was like getting an Oscar.
It’s not safe to mentally screen any movie while driving. Cruising home after watching a rerun of “Bullitt” and recalling the scary car chase footage, you’re liable to exceed the speed limit and get ticketed for driving while under the influence of Steve McQueen.