Skip’s Quips: Cinema and OCD

Blog Sketch 082813Sometimes it seems there isn’t a disease, illness or affliction Hollywood doesn’t like—except for OCD.

It’s a checkered history. Obsessive-compulsive traits have often been played for laughs (see the twitching doctor in Bringing Up Baby or hysterical accountant Leo Bloom in The Producers), mined as a source of mild amusement (as in the introduction of Jimmy Two Times, who says everything twice, in Goodfellas), or regarded as aberrant and obnoxious (e.g., the insurance executive who neatly arranges his desk in The Incredibles). The reason: repeated action–the basis of comedy. Being obsessive is, well, ridiculous.

In reality, however, OCD is a serious disorder that can pervade a person’s life and daily activities. Television, to a certain extent, has lifted some of the stigmas attached to the condition, with shows such as Monk going far to address the frequently trauma-oriented roots of it, but even that series pointed to the supposed humor in obsessive-compulsive behaviors. (And don’t get me started on The Odd Couple.) The fact is, we’re used to seeing caricatures of people with mental illness onscreen, and it’s hard to accept a truly serious, credible portrayal of someone combating the psychological barriers of OCD without a guffaw or two.

Humanity’s come a long way since the days of visiting asylums to chortle at the inmates. Movies such as David and Lisa and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden have helped change perceptions of mental illness, but they’re countered by flicks such as 50 First Dates or Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, in which issues such as short-term memory loss and Tourette syndrome are used as funny plot devices. Repeated, involuntary motion provides more laughs than compassion … until you experience it first-hand.

I know that experience intimately—as I have OCD. So does Setter. Because the author of this blog has it, too, and struggles every day to engage in normal, everyday activities that most people take for granted.

So in light of that, I’d like to ask Hollywood for understanding. Films can still be hilarious without making fun of OCD. Let’s find another movie mine for source material … unless it can be treated with the same empathy and respect informing the best aspects of our society.

That’s no tall order. It’s just the best one.

Setter’s ‘Spective: When Filmmakers Lose Their Zip

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Willie Mays and Alfred Hitchcock had a lot in common.

“Huh?” you say. “Stop kidding me.”

But it’s true. Both started inauspiciously: Hitch with silent films, Mays on the baseball diamond. Neither hit their stride until a few years into their careers, and then they produced brilliantly season after season until declining in their later days.

And no, I don’t think Family Plot holds a candle to the master’s greatest works. Same with Mays’ Mets experience. You got flashes of their old selves, but they couldn’t bring back everything. Ultimately, what you retained was nostalgia.

And that’s what I’m thinking about many other talented filmmakers. They often peak like athletes, then may lose their inspiration, as a pitcher loses his fastball or a hitter loses his bat speed. This happened, I feel, to Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut. And I think it’s happening to Martin Scorsese.

I’m concerned that this terrific American director has already given us his masterpieces–that we’ll have to be content with flicks like Shutter Island and Gangs of New York: flawed, intermittently enjoyable movies that lack the risks taken in his greatest works (Mean Streets, Raging Bull and Goodfellas are three examples). You still see that fluid camerawork in his movies, those crisp cuts, but the cohesiveness and definition that marked his earlier films aren’t there.

I’m sad about this, but I understand. I think it’s quite natural. You rarely find a director or an athlete who produces through the end of his or her career. Luis Buñuel, I think was one, as was Ted Williams. But they don’t appear often. Most humans ultimately decline.

I’m not saying Scorsese should stop making movies or that his career is over. Far from it. Frankly, I hope he crafts hit after hit after hit. But it’ll be hard for him to match the quality of his output from the 1970s to the mid-1990s.

You may tell me it isn’t fair to expect that–that he’s evolved as a filmmaker. I’ll agree. It isn’t fair.

Yet you always expect a home run from your hero, right?

Me, I always do.