Monday, December 30, 2019

Oceans 11 and the Stiff Old Days

I am in the midst of watching the original Oceans 11, featuring Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.It proves itself a rather smothering revelation of cultural detritus. It also exists as a thriller heist movie, I suppose. It has a plot, to be sure. Oh and it’s a vehicle for the aforesaid Sinatra and his Mighty Rat Minions.
Somehow, I managed to read the book years ago. It was handy and I knew it existed as a movie too. I couldn’t keep up with the back stories in the book, for lack of interest. Also, I was busy trying to guess which character in the book was played by which Pack Rat. The book struck me with its grim nihilism, and not much else. It is much darker than Sinatra’s plaything.
I don’t care at all about the movie’s plot. I mean, ex-WWII comrades join forces to rob five Vegas casinos, sure. It is, as I said, a vehicle for the stars. Also, of course, a two hour ad for the enticements of Las Vegas.
The real interest sits with the cultural norms performed in every frame. My goodness, cigarettes are constantly dragged upon. And it is not just the smoking, it is the flair of lighting up, the pensive inhalation, the appropriate grip on the cigarette. The smoking ritual repeats in almost every scene. It is like there was no choice but to smoke.
In tandem with the smoking, the equally constant application of Jack Daniels to the manly spirit. Again the ceremony: ice tongs to drop ice cubes into rock glasses, followed by three ounces of Tennessee  whiskey and an avid gulp. This occurred either when entering a room or mid-sentence in a convo. Sentences end with a healthy sip. I’m just noting the cultural norm.
The boys hang together as a singular mass with minor incursions of dames. Men are from Mars, Women are from Neiman-Marcus: It is as simple as that. The separation is nearly complete. A couple of femmes annoyingly plead inclusion. Angie Dickinson is the only famous one, but that’s it. The heist is no pipe dream, it represents Purpose. Women thus are obstructions.
Dean Martin sings three songs, Sammy Davis jr. one so far. They do so for entertainment purposes, if you weren’t sure. Sammy plays a trash truck driver. We first see him in a group of similarly employed men. They’re all singing and playing harmonica. Sammy sings a showbizzy song that seems unlikely in the circs, tho just right for the inferred audience of the movie. He does all his stage motions too, which also looks unlikely but this aint real life.
So the movie shows a piece of history and the way we were, it promulgates the Sinatra mystique, and it dazzles with the entrancement of Las Vegas. It all seems old and foreign, as if people were never believable. People never really are, so it has that right. I may not need to finish the movie because I got the message.