Published on February 15th, 2018 | by Randy Weeks0
The View From the Balcony: Knockin Their Socks OFF
We lived up to our reputation as “The Hospitality State” last weekend. Filmmakers from across the globe were in Oxford for the 15th Annual Oxford Film Festival. Even with a boil water notice they were swept off their feet. Both publicly and privately these artists praised OFF as one of the best film festivals they’ve ever attended. These are not fly-by-night “let’s make a movie in the back yard” hobbyists. They are committed to their craft as a life-long way of telling the stories they feel compelled to share. Thank OFF Executive Director Melanie Addington, the OFF board of directors, and dozens of volunteers. They made us all look good.
Space won’t allow me to give a blow-by-blow account of the festival, so I’m going to focus on the opening night’s film, The Last Movie Star. Burt Reynolds plays an aged celebrity, once the #1 box office attraction, who has been largely forgotten, who now struggles with old age and all the unfortunate things that often come with it. It’s painful to watch. He’s stooped and has to use a cane. He takes more pills than he can count. Like Rodney Dangerfield, he gets no respect. That is, until…
Reynolds receives an invitation to a film festival in Nashville where he is to be given a life-time achievement award. Reynolds, with the encouragement of another old actor named Chevy Chase, decides to go, only to find that the festival is in a bar and consists of a few dozen do-nothing twenty-somethings who idolize him. The rest of the film chronicles a plethora of poignantly humorous, unexpected twists and turns, on his way to discovering what has true meaning for his life. Had I known what I was in for I’d have brought a box of Kleenex – no kidding!
The film was written, directed, and produced by Adam Rifkin, a real-life Burt Reynolds worshipper, so this was a labor of love. I don’t know when it will be released, but you owe it to yourself to stay on the lookout for it – especially if you’re old enough to have been a Burt fan from when he actually was the #1 box office attraction. (Please tell me I’m not the only old fart who reads TLV!)
Allow me to shift gears here…
My dear friends at Square and Off-Square Books – who are anything but square – gave me an unexpected gift for Christmas. The cranberry socks were adorned with caricatures of a naked Burt Reynolds holding a gift in front of his privates with the message, “Burtday Suit!”. They said they thought the socks suited me. Go figure. Since my birthday, February 6, was just around the proverbial corner, I waited to wear them. A few days before my birthday I got the flu, so I was sick on my birthday and didn’t wear my Burtday Suit socks. I felt better on the 7th, and wore them then. Just knowing they were in my boots put a spark in my giddy up.
As I was getting dressed to go to The Last Movie Star I remembered my Burtday Suit socks and proudly put them on. Rifkin was at the showing and held a Q & A (question and answer period for you layfolk). When Rifkin finished he was coming down to speak to anyone who wanted to talk with him.
Burt moved in my boots and I sallied on up to Rifkin. Before you could sing the first nine notes of the theme from Deliverance I had my right boot off and thrust my Burtday Suit sock toward Rifkin. He stopped dead in his tracks and gasped, then turned to his film pardner and said, “Get a picture of that! Get a picture!” His pardner took a picture, we all laughed, I put Burt back in my boot, and we went our own ways. End of the story. Or so I thought.
Two or days later Melanie Addington asked, “Have you seen Rifkin’s FB post about your socks?” I hadn’t, but I promptly started looking for it on my phone. Lo and behold, Rifkin had posted this: “Big thanks to the 15th Annual Oxford Film Festival for making last night’s screening of The Last Movie Star a huge success, but the highlight of the evening was definitely this guy’s Burt socks!” Below the text was the picture of my Burt-socked right foot! So, while Melanie and her militia did all the grunt work, it was I who single-footedly put a kick in the OFF and knocked Rifkin’s socks off. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
I don’t want any accolades. I’m glad to do my part. There are hundreds of others who would have done the same. I hope the OFF Board of Directors will consider adding a special award next year, to be given when the Hokas are presented. Maybe they could call it the “Burt Reynolds Sock-it-to-Me Award”. Or not. Just sayin’.