Monday, March 31, 2008

The Face of Autism

Our Gavin at his 16th birthday party. He is delighted with the gifts from his Aunt Paula. Gavin has boundless energy, a big heart and a dual diagnosis of Autism/Developmental Delay. Gavin's life is full of challenges. We are fortunate to have loving and supportive family and friends on a difficult journey. Through the years we have met incredible professionals in education and the social services who have come to love our boy. Neighbours greet him and treat him with respect. Clerks and shop owners smile and ask after "the big kid".

However, the world is not always kind to Gavin and others like him. He has odd behaviors such as singing, reciting movie lines, writing furiously in the air or laughing uproariously at...well, at something he finds funny. People stare as if they have laid down their buck at a sideshow. Teenagers laugh and toss around the word "retard". Some pointedly remark that kids like that should be locked up or taken away from obviously bad parents. There seems to be an idea that people with intellectual disabilities have no comprehension or feelings and cannot be hurt by such rude, thoughtless behavior.

The rise in the number of people diagnosed as autistic has caused the United Nations to declare April 2nd to be "World Autism Awareness Day". Let's take a moment to realize that all the brave children shown in documentaries and on television will someday be adults with the same challenges and the same need for understanding.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Richard Widmark


Richard Widmark (1914 - 2008)

Classic movie fans are mourning the loss of actor Richard Widmark. We celebrate his 93 years, but cannot help but be saddened and annoyed that the Motion Picture Academy has callously lost the opportunity to honour his body of work with an honourary Oscar or the AFI with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Fortunately, those career achievements survive in a wealth of wonderful movies for all to enjoy.

Richard Widmark's first screen role was the Oscar nominated Tommy Udo in Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death (1947). The successful radio actor and former teacher didn't expect that gem of a character role to turn him into an overnight screen sensation, but every once in a while the public recognizes the goods and demands more. The multi-faceted actor gave us more for decades. More of those trademark hoods and crooks living on the edge, more courageous and conflicted military men, adventurous cowboys, hissible villains and laudable family men.
Dean Stockwell, Richard Widmark
Down to the Sea in Ships

Personal favourites: Road House (1948), Warlock (1959), Down to the Sea in Ships (1949), The Bedford Incident (1965), My Pal Gus (1952), Halls of Montezuma (1951). I was mightily impressed by No Way Out (1950) and Widmark's turn as a bigoted criminal when my father showed it to me during my teen years and my own teenager was equally impressed when I shared that movie with her a couple of years ago.

Richard Widmark, Felicia Farr
The Last Wagon

A special note to ladies who think they may not like westerns. Check out The Last Wagon (1956) for a particularly sweet, sexy scene between Widmark and co-star Felicia Farr. These titles do not comprise an exhaustive list as Richard Widmark, like Spencer Tracy, is one of those actors I could enjoy watching read the phone book.

TVOntario's Saturday Night at the Movies occasionally shows archival interviews with Richard Widmark that I believe are from the 70s. We meet an intelligent, candid, wryly humorous and reserved gentleman who completely won my approval by not seeking or needing it. An actor who gives actors a good name - artistic, but not artsy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tools

The old woman glared.
The glare that had made lovers weep
and children rebel.
We followed in her wake
as the store manager opened the express line.



How better to spend time waiting for a bus than to compose a poem?