Metro-East Living

Patrick Kuhl column: And the Oscar goes to ...

Ray Walston starred in “My Favorite Martian,” a popular mid-1960s TV series.
Ray Walston starred in “My Favorite Martian,” a popular mid-1960s TV series.

I’d like to thank the Academy for again nominating as Best Picture of 2015 eight movies I have not seen.

Until the Oscar nominations came out last month, I thought “The Big Short” was about Jackie Gleason’s boxers. Or that sheet prank we always pulled on the new kid our college dorm.

I heard a co-worker say “The Martian” was his favorite to win Best Picture. Well, it will never be my favorite Martian, as long as Ray Walston and Bill Bixby aren’t in it.

I had to look up “Revenant” in the dictionary: “one who returns after death.” Now, I like a religious movie as much as the next guy. But I saw the trailer with the bear attack and the closest it came to religion was scaring the bejesus out of me.

Personally, I would have gone with “Big,” “The Natural” or “The Last Samurai.” Unfortunately, the Academy doesn’t base its decisions on what’s showing on the classic movie channel.

I used to play catch-up on last year’s movies by renting them at the video store. But those darn DVDs (not be be confused with BVD’s) won’t play in my VCR. They go in fine, but I can’t get them back out.

That’s OK. You can bet I’ll be watching when they tear open the envelopes tonight. The Academy Awards are like the Super Bowl — you have to watch even if your team isn’t playing. It’s what everyone will be talking about at work tomorrow. I’ll be rooting for all the underdogs, long shots, dark horses and sentimental favorites. Hey, it worked for “Rocky.”

Who knows? Maybe it’ll work for Sylvester Stallone as best supporting actor in “Creed” (also known as “Rocky XXIII”) this year.

Just because I don’t make it to many first-run movies doesn’t mean I’m not a big movie fan. Some of the best times I ever had were at the movies.

Every summer Saturday afternoon during the late 1950s, almost every kid in Highland would come in from the heat to the cool, dark comfort of the Lory Theater. In those days, we could get in for a quarter and, if we pooled our change, come up with enough to buy Jujubes or midget jawbreakers.

We ate the Jujubes, then blew into the empty box to make that high-pitched Jujubes box sound — a pook kid’s air horn.

The jawbreakers rarely saw the inside of a jaw. The deal was to sit in the very back row (or as close as the teen-age neckers would let us get) and roll the jawbreakers, one by one, down the steep floor, underneath the seats. It was a race.

Some jawbeakers clinked into seat legs. Others got hung up by feet, popcorn or discarded Milk Dud boxes. If we were really lucky, one made it all the way to the front, picking up speed as it went, and smashed into the stage.

When a jawbreaker made a sound like the crack of a baseball hitting a bat, the perpetrator was a Saturday matinee hero. When the usher came by flashing his light on our faces, we looked like little angels. He made us move up front anyway.

That was OK with us because we were closer to the halftime fun. That’s right, they always had a break in the action when they changed reels on the projector. The lights would flash on and, once we got over the temporary blindness, all the kids rushed the stage.

The theater had cool contests. My favorite was when they lined up five or six kids, fed them each a handful of dry crackers, then made the kids try to whistle. It’s impossible.

The contestants blew and blew and nothing came out. Except for little bits of cracker, so you didn’t want to be too close. The winner would get a free pass to the next matinee. The losers would get something to wet their whistles.

There were apple-bobbing contests. Walk-like-a-duck contests. Musical chairs. And even a roar-like-a-lion contest when they showed “Fearless Fagan,” about an Army guy who had a lion for a pet.

There were cartoons before and after the movie. Often, they were better than the movie. I thought Elmer Fudd should have won best actor in 1958. But Felix the Cat did put in a powerful purrformance.

I saw some great movies at the Lory. And left a lot of gum under the seats. Much of it was still there when I checked a few years back.

I saw Charlton Heston kick Roman keister in the chariot races of “Ben Hur.” I saw the Three Stooges go to the moon. I saw Jerry Lewis when he was still funny in “The Bell Hop” and most of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (except for the parts where the headless cartoon horseman sent me under the seat). I saw Bob and Bing take the road to everywhere and got something in my eye when Bing told Ingrid, “If you ever need anything, anything at all, just dial O for O’Malley” in “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”

Then there was the time they showed Jimmy Stewart in “The Spirit of St. Louis.” They had the actual Spirit of St. Louis airplane right out in front of the theater. Blocking traffic, right in the middle of the street.

It was cool.

I wonder what’s playing this weekend at the O’Fallon 15? If you’re there and feel something tap you on the foot, lift, please. It’s a jawbreaker on a mission.