I know this is not exactly what the character of Blake says in the film “Glengarry Glen Ross” ('Always Be Closing') but it's almost a mantra of mine and — who knows? — it might just catch on with you.
My choice of movie for this month is 1974's “Harry And Tonto.” Art Carney won the Best Actor Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of the aging but still vital retired college professor Harry Coombes. A widower, he spends almost every moment of life with his trusted cat, Tonto. Director Paul Mazursky made the notoriously heavy-drinking Carney swear never to show up drunk to the set. Carney also hated cats but found working with one to be tolerable. Carney was known for comedic roles; most notably Ed Norton, Ralph Kramden's best friend in the classic sitcom “The Honeymooners.” He wanted to show everyone he could stretch himself as an actor, so he peppered his later career with more dramatic roles like this one.
The film begins with the duo's eviction from their Upper West Side apartment just in time to escape the demolition of the building. (Urban Renewal was replacing old tenement housing with luxury condos and public places such as The Lincoln Center.) They go off to live with one of Harry's sons in the suburbs. However, Harry misses his friends in the city and feels out of place with his son's family. One of the sons, Norman, is a hippie, and his New Age ideas pique Harry's interest. Even though he is intrigued with some aspects of the hippie lifestyle, he stops short of trying any drugs. He's also adamant that he is a "one woman man."
After feeling suffocated in the suburbs, Harry decides to go visit his daughter in Chicago and, later, his other son in Los Angeles. Tonto doesn't take to either planes or buses, so Harry buys an old Chevy and heads west. This is where the real story begins. He picks up several hitchhikers, and even Norman along the way. All of these people stimulate Harry's sense of curiosity with ideas and practices that are unfamiliar to him. Some he likes, and some he discards (much like we all do during the course of our lives).
The film shows that an "old dog" can indeed learn "new tricks" and that change is the only constant in this world. The trick is doing your best while adapting to the changes. It helps if you can laugh a little, too.