Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Screwball Spotlight | Edward Everett Horton is Not a Shoeshine.

If Edward Everett Horton has had to find work as a shoeshine, then maybe we were wrong to mock Starbucks today, maybe it is time that we "Come Together" - for the love of Edward, people!

For.  The.  Love.  Of.  Edward.

If you're not familiar with Edward Everett Horton, here's a little refresher:

On-screen, he was a supporting actor in a number of Astaire/Rogers films (THE GAY DIVORCEE, TOP HAT, SHALL WE DANCE), he was in a few Lubitsch films (TROUBLE IN PARADISE, BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE), and he featured prominently in one of my all time favorite films - HOLIDAY.

Off-screen, he has a street named after him.  He owned an estate called Belly Acres, and in the late 1930s F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there as Edward's guest.

That's enough for me, but here's a few other things some folks find impressive about Edward:  He narrated Fractured Fairy Tales, he inspired much of C-3PO's personality, and he was called out by name in a Yosemite Sam rant.

Now that I think of it, if things have gone this far - if the man behind all of that has become a common shoeshine - well, then, we're likely beyond the point where any kind of caffeine fueled togetherness has a chance at making a tangible impact on our collective future.

Gawd have mercy on our souls.

(So great).

Read more about Edward Everett Horton:

Edward Everett Horton's Encino Ranch Estate and the 101 Freeway; How A Celebrity Lost His Ranch to Suburbanization (San Fernando Valley Blog, April 4, 2012)

Horton's House Grew With Film Career (Los Angeles Times, April 12,1997)

Edward Everett Horton Biography via The New York Times

Edward Everett Horton via Rotten Tomatoes

Thursday, December 13, 2012


For this DIY Double Feature, first watch HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, then SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD.  It won't work if you try to watch the other way around, because there won't be home or holidays after the end of the world.  Duh.

Each of these movies is about moments - the moment here, the moment there, a big moment, a little moment, the possibly inevitable moment, a holy-cats-I-never-thought-this-moment-could-happen moment.  Each is also about how to identify the moments as they happen, how to see them for what they are, and how to cultivate them.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS ends with a sort of first date between Claudia (Holly Hunter) and Leo (Dylan McDermott).  They're sitting on a plane and planning to "just sit, quietly, and think..." and when the plane lands, maybe they'll just go their separate ways.  Or maybe not.  Either way, at least if their world ends abruptly, they'll have had that time, those moments.  And those moments ahead are important and significant - not for where they'll lead, not as a stepping stone to a standard movie "happily ever after" but simply because they happened.

What's the point?

Well, there is no point.  Except, y'know, if we get 
hit by a bus some day, at least we'll know we had those 
two hours together.  And we won't have to wonder...
And no one will be the wiser.

Except us.  

While over in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, Dodge Petersen (Steve Carell) and Penny Lockhart (Kiera Knightley) are facing a real, imminent, abrupt end.  And while the world is beginning to be destroyed around them, they discover that Claudia and Leo were right - the important thing is that they had the time that they did.

I wish I'd met you a long time 
ago.  When we were kids.

It couldn't have happened any other way, 
it had to happen now.

But it isn't enough time.

It never would have been.

I thought somehow we'd save each other.

We did.

And that's what I get from these two movies, a little reminder that the magical, glimmering moments of life are extremely rare, will always end before I'm ready, and will always occur amidst a whole lot of other really-not-great stuff.  

Which is why I never try to wait out a rain storm here in Portland, OR.  It doesn't work, the rain always gets me, one way or another, without fail.  And, if I did sit inside, what I'd actually risk missing is one of those rare moments, sometimes just a fraction of a moment, when the clouds break and it feels like the sun is shining only on me, and only for me.  As if it had been waiting for me all along.  

Of course, as soon as it happens, it's already over - the Earth has already begun to spin away, and new clouds are forming.  But that's okay.  Actually, that's more than okay.  That is what makes each and every moment, even the rain soaked ones, so truly valuable.

Released: 1995
Writer:  Chris Radant (story), W.D. Richter (screenplay)
Director:  Jodie Foster
Leads: Holly Hunter, Dylan McDermott, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning
Plot summary and reviews of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS @ Rotten Tomatoes.


Released:  2012
Writer:  Lorene Scafaria
Director:  Lorene Scafaria
Leads:  Steve Carell, Kiera Knightley
Plot summary and reviews of SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD @ Rotten Tomatoes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT | 1945 | May Every Day Be Like Christmas, and May No Movie Be Worse Than This One.

There's nothing screwball about CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT.  With a few tweaks, it could have been, but as-is, it's just not.  Instead it's a pretty decent holiday movie - easy on the schmaltz.  It's also pure, straight-ahead rom-com.  Not top-shelf rom-com, but solid and respectable.  Very Nancy Meyers.

That sounds like a slam, but it's not meant to be.  Because, actually, viewing CIC solely on its rom-com chops, I'd say that no rom-com should ever be worse than this one.  They frequently are, but there's no reason for it.  If you look really closely, CIC has got some weak spots - the set-up is a bit clunky and the way the ending pulls together isn't super-strong - but despite that, it manages to be entertaining each step of the way.

Which is huge.

But it shouldn't be.  Movies, as entertainment, should be entertaining - at least.  And yet, so many just aren't.  Especially rom-coms.

If I ran the world I'd set up a sort of Olympic trial for rom-coms, and CIC would be the score to beat in order to be allowed into competition.*  That way, a whole mess of movies just wouldn't be made, and those budgets would be funneled into better movies, or job-training for displaced starlets...  or a cure for Alzheimer's.  I dunno, I'll work out the details later.  But my eye would on achieving more consistent quality.  I know it's possible.

Then, maybe this genre wouldn't be quite so maligned.  Or, at the very least it'd be easier to defend.

Until I can get all of that going, watch this film and then accept nothing less from your other entertainments.

Happy Holidays!

*If I actually do end up running the world, this rom-com-thing wouldn't get tackled in the first hundred days or anything, but definitely within the first 500.  For sure.

Released:  1945
Writer:  Lionel Houser, Adele Comandini, Aileen Hamilton (story)
Director:  Peter Godfrey
Leads:  Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, S. Z. Sakall
Genre:  Rom-Com
Plot summary and reviews of CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT @ Rotten Tomatoes.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Screwball Spotlight | Laura Dern (and me) on Barbara Stanwyck

Below is a lovely little thing about Barbara Stanwyck by Laura Dern (via Turner Classic Movies).

I wasn't always a fan of Barbara, but writing this blog has made me one.  It's not like I disliked her.  I liked her okay.  I mean, who doesn't love DOUBLE INDEMNITY?  But it's the movie I'll be writing about in my next post that made me a fan - CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT.

Actually, now that I think of it, that's the one that both started and finished the job.  After I watched it, I watched BALL OF FIRE (again), and then THE LADY EVE (again), and then MEET JOHN DOE (again x3) - one right after the other.  And then I made my way back to CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT.  And then...  before the movie was finished, it was all over, I was a fan.

I'll write about all of those films, eventually.  But a post about the holiday film will be up sooner than later.


Yes, I promise all zero of you.

Until then, here's this: