One of the things that helps adapt to a new environment (read: routinely above 100 this summer) is to immerse one’s self in the culture.
Over the last week, we’ve viewed two Tulsa films; one a classic, the other, well, less so.
S.E Hinton’s The Outsiders, published in 1967, is set in Tulsa. The 1983 film version directed by Francis Ford Coppola was filmed in the city and its environs. Neither the film nor the book paint the most flattering portrait of the city.
Having come from Chicago, the usual rich-poor dichotomy is inverted: here, South Tulsa is the moneyed side of things where the “Socs” (pronounced sosh, with a long o sound) live. The “Greasers” come from much grittier (and still hardscrabble) North Tulsa.
The population of North Tulsa is now mostly African-American and Latino. We’ve been told that the average life expectancy of an African-American male in North Tulsa is fourteen years less than that of the average south Tulsan.
North Tulsans have less of everything: educational opportunities, parklands, commercial ventures, grocery stores, safety. The only thing that’s in abundance is poverty. Our medical school is working to improve access and health on the north side.
A quick web search of fan sites reveals that S.E (Susan Eloise) Hinton was born, raised, educated and still lives in Tulsa. All of her books are either set in or have some connection to the city. Her legacy in the pantheon of young adult authors is secure. Seems she’s a very private person; her website gives you just enough information to keep you wanting more.
The other film is called Leaves of Grass, starring Edward Norton and directed by Tulsan Tim Blake Nelson. Norton plays a set of identical twins, one an ivy league classics professor, the other an industrious but underachieving hydroponic marijuana grower with some big debts.
The plot is far fetched, but worth watching for a couple of reasons. Norton is great as divergent twins. It reminded me a little of his breakout performance in Primal Fear (1994), where he showed similar range between a dimwitted ‘victim’ of justice to a psychopathic cold-blooded killer. Director Nelson is great in a sidekick role to Norton’s country twin, and Richard Dreyfuss plays a compelling Jewish drug kingpin named Pug Rothbaum.
***Addendum: True fans of The Outsiders film and Tulsa cinema will remember the Admiral Twin drive-in theater. It burnt down in September 2010, but the owners have pledged to rebuild it. A recent story related that it will reopen in 2012.