Monday, February 21, 2011

Pimps Don't Cry Revisited | The Other Guys | 2010

From "If There Were An Oscar for Film Titles," New York Times, February 20, 2010: 
Even so, the winner of my unofficial “Best Film Titles” award is a film that wouldn’t otherwise be an Oscar contender: “The Other Guys,” an American comedy in which a giant financial fraud is foiled by pair of hapless detectives... the closing sequence is a stunning series of animations that deconstruct the details of Ponzi schemes, bank bailouts, bumper corporate bonuses and their impact on the global economy...  the sequence is smart, funny and thoughtful, if slightly at odds with Saul Bass’s vision of good title design — because it’s much, much better than the movie.
I wrote about end credits for The Other Guys back in January (suck it Grey Lady), and though I'm not sure I can agree that the end credits are better than the film, I definitely think they make the film better.  And not just because a little slice of stunning was tacked on at the end.  It's that the tone and quantity of the information in the end credits seems so incongruous to the film, that it begs a quick mental review of the previous 100 or so minutes. and that's when it becomes clear that The Other Guys aren't only underdog buffoons.  

Throughout the end credits, the Other Guys of the world are getting screwed by an increasingly oligarchical U.S., but that environment didn't keep the two detectives in the film from doing their job and fumbling their way to successful closure of a big case.  Their lives aren't diminished by their milieu.  And ours don't have to be either.

Not that the status-quo should be accepted, or allowed to progress without challenge.  It is beyond unfortunate that a Police Captain has to work a part-time job at Bed, Bath and Beyond in order to put his son through college.  But even if that continues to be the norm, there is still value in living an open, honest, sloppy, embarrassing and mistake ridden life.  The important thing is to just keep showing up and be the incorruptible constant.

"9:15!  Let's have a great day everybody!"

Friday, February 18, 2011

MY MAN GODFREY | 1936 | Then & Now

MY MAN GODFREY begins with the title character living in the city dump, where he is discovered by Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard).  She convinces him to allow her to deliver him to the judges of a scavenger hunt, so she can win as the first to bring in a "Forgotten Man".  He tries to leave after she's won, but she has already fallen for him and insists her mom hire him as their butler.  It soon becomes very clear that Godfrey is not what he appears.  Still, he must navigate the chaos of this wealthy, spoiled and eccentric family in order to keep his job and rebuild his life.

I may write more about that later, but what's standing out to me after my latest viewing of the film is that early in the film, Mr. Bullock expresses concern about his finances and the changing market by saying, "I don't mind giving the government 60% of what I make, but I can't do it when my family spends 50%..."

This is one tough rich guy.  Even though he is paying significantly more taxes than today's wealthy, Mr. Bullock isn't complaining about taxes.  He is so matter-of-fact about the 60% figure that it seems he's accepted it as part of the challenge, the way a golfer accepts course hazards as an intrinsic part of the game.  Currently there's a lot of bluster about how the current tax rate ties the hands of businesses, rob hard-working people of jobs, and funds programs that support people who should be out earning their own money.  As if any person that makes use of any social program is weak, lazy and/or whiners.  Compared to Mr. Bullock, the folks who rigidly adhere to this line of thought are the cry-babies.

The beauty of capitalism is opportunity.  The promise of America is that any one, no matter their beginnings, has a shot at improving their financial lot in life.  If you're able to make yourself a fat-cat (or maintain a long family lineage of fat-catness), why not pony up some cash to pave the roads that hauled the goods that made your fortune, and to teach kids math and science so that the fortune can be managed by competent professionals and/or increasingly advanced software.  Toughen up buttercups!

Think of it this way, there's a reason the shot put involves weight.  It makes the activity challenging, and it makes long distances possible.  If the thing were light and easy to throw, it wouldn't travel very far.  Like the (fictional) President Andrew Shepard said, "America is advanced citizenship."

Released: 1936
Director/Producer: Gregory La Cava (Oscar Nomination)
Leads: William Powell (Oscar Nomination), Carole Lombard (Oscar Nomination), Mischa Auer (Supporting Oscar Nomination), Alice Brady (Supporting Oscar Nomination)
Writers (screenplay): Eric Hatch (Oscar Nomination), Morrie Ryskind (Oscar Nomination), Gregory La Cava

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Seven Wonders of Preston Sturges | Vanity Fair | May 2010

In just four years, 1940–44, Preston Sturges wrote and directed seven classics reflecting the America he loved and laughed at  ––  a fast-talking, unpredictable melting pot that seems more real than the visions of Frank Capra or John Ford. Then his luck ran out.

Why you should read this Vanity Fair piece on Preston Sturges, and why you should watch his movies:

     ...  Sturges pictures were a jab in the ribs, a sexy joke whispered in church—a wink, a kiss, and a hiccup. His pictures of life in this country are a lot like life in this country: messy, noisy, sometimes tough to take, sometimes hard to beat.

     ...  Sturges films are not sentimental about America, free speech is dealt with as it is in real American life: people ignore it, make fun of it, or talk over it, and then get back to trying to make a buck.

     ...  “Listen, zipper-puss! Some day they’re just gonna find your hair-ribbon and an axe someplace.”

     ...  Sullivan: Aw, what do they know in Pittsburgh …
          Executive: They know what they like.
          Sullivan: If they knew what they liked, they
          wouldn't live in Pittsburgh!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Museum of Possibilities

Here's  the deal:  A new public space was to be developed in Montreal, and the citizens were asked for input.  People wrote ideas on cards, attached them to flexible rods topped by large, round balloons, and then anyone who wanted could vote on the idea.  The effect is a bit message in a bottle as lollipop garden, or what the world would be like if Kate Spade designed voter booths.  At the end of the day the balloons were given away and the information that had been gathered was used to inform the direction of the new space.


*This isn't pristine art.  It will cost money to build whatever ends up in the place, and wherever there's money there's business, but it's not as overt here as it is with the VW Fun Theory.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

MIDNIGHT | 1939 | Remember in MIDNIGHT, when... That was awesome.

"The baby must've had one highball too many."

Eve Peabody (Claudette Colbert) is a gold-digger.  She's not the crass unlikeable variety, but a saucy and pragmatic one.  She feels some chemistry developing with Tibor Czerny, but he's just a cab driver in Paris.  Afraid of falling for Tibor, she ditches him.  Soon after, she attracts the attention of Jacques, a wealthy ladies man.  Georges Flammarion (John Barrymore) encourages the connection because prior to Eve, Jacques (Francis Lederer) had been romancing his wife Helene.  Georges concocts a plan to help Eve land Jacques, in order to regain his wife's dedicated affection.  All the while, Tibor searches for Eve, because he is confident she feels the same as he does.  By the time he finds her, Jacques is preparing to ask for her hand in marriage.

I am months late to write about this one.  When I don't do something, there's a whole mess of legitmate and lame-ass reasons, and this is no exception.  The spin I'm putting on it, though, is that I didn't write about it because I love it too much.  All I can really do is list out what I think is awesome about the film.

Which is really all I've been able to do about any of these films.  I thought that by now I'd at least be dipping a toe in the pool of a thesis or blanket opinion or something or other about screwball, rom-com or comedy, but I got nothing.

I hate to give in to legitmate reasons for not doing something, and hate being a lame-ass, ever, and so I'm going to follow through with this damn thing and keep watching the freakin' movies.  The whole experiment may devolve into a blog ala Chris Farley, but the only way I'll know is if I keep showing up and floundering my way through.

Alright then, about "Midnight" - - -

Eve (Claudette Colbert), in evening wear, arrives in Paris on a rainy night.  She's broke, left what few things she owns in Monte Carlo.  She looks around, and, "So this, as they say, is Paris, huh?  Well from here it looks an awful lot like a rainy night in Kokomo, Indiana."