Way back in ’84 (38 years ago) hotshot movie guy Lewis Beale wrote a piece for L.A. Times “Calendar” about his loathing for James L. BrooksTerms of Endearment (’83). The piece isn’t accessible online, Beale explained, but it boiled down to the following:

1. Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) was a horrible (read: headstrong, egoistic) person who treats her daughter Emma (Debra Winger) dismissively or otherwise like dirt, and only becomes involved in Emma’s life when she’s dying of cancer, and because of this we’re supposed to like her because she’s Somebody’s Mother.

2. The film covers 30 years and takes place in three cities, but has no sense of time and place. At all. [HE to Beale: It primarily takes place in Houston and in a mid-sized university town in Nebraska. The New York visit is brief and basically doesn’t count.]

3. Emma whines all the time, then Brooks puts her in a New York restaurant with three or four bitchy career women to make her look good and them bad. [HE to Beale: Emma whines when her husband Flap (Jeff Daniels) starts cheating on her. She doesn’t whine at all when she gets cancer.]

4. Cancer is to the 1980s what consumption was to the Victorians — the province of hacks. [HE to Beale: Cancer happens to unlucky younger people. It’s not common, but it happens.]

5. Sloppy pacing, sitcom structures, characters introduced for no reason (Danny DeVito‘s), etc.

Beale also mentioned that two of America’s foremost critics, Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, also hated the film.

The piece got tons of negative mail. Beale’s editor Irv Letofsky loved the piece, and the negative reaction.

HE comment: The movie is saved by Jack Nicholson‘s Garrett Breedlove. Without him Terms would have been unbearable.

4.27.06 article fr5om Houston during my last visit there (and probably my last): “There are good people all over this town but with the exception of a visit Wednesday night to River Oaks, where the really rich folks live and where the oak trees are huge and the grass is moist and fragrant, Houston seemed less than abundant with down-home charm. And if you’ve been to New York or Paris or London or Rome, it feels lacking in cultural refinement.

“To me, it’s an arid corporate hee-haw town. Not enough sidewalks. Cavernous malls. Lots of middle-aged guys with monster beer bellies. Expensive cars tearing around like they’re in the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, and all those revolting glass-and-steel towers. Not enough trees. Women with vaguely predatory vibes and long jaws. And the strip clubs — strip clubs! — as prominent and well located as the better restaurants, music stores and markets…nothing covert about them.

Cherry Kutac told me before I came that Houston is like L.A. but without the soul, and I think that just about nails it.

“Early tomorrow morning I’m going down to the courthouse where the Enron trial is happening. And then I’ll drive by St. John’s, the private school where Wes Anderson shot Rushmore, and maybe visit MacLaine’s Terms of Endearment home.”