Thursday, July 25, 2013

Screwball Study Goes Scorsese... Next Summer. Maybe.

Dear Internet,

A few weeks back I thought I might make Screwball Study into Scorsese Summer, but that's not going to happen.  Not this summer.

Initially, it failed to happen because I had no discipline.  Well, I had it.  I just couldn't find it.  I had put it down somewhere.  On purpose.  I do that sometimes.  Often, actually.  But this time, when I went back for it, it was gone.

I heard rumors it had packed a sandwich, grabbed its toothbrush, and sped off for Moab with "Wonderwall" repeating on the car stereo.

Which made sense, really.

I had taken it for granted.  No.  Worse.  I had used it as a scapegoat.  I thought it made me all corners.  Too serious.  Too intense.  Unapproachable.  Unlikeable.

But then I realized I was all those things without it, but an unproductive loser to boot.  And so I started doing the things I used to do when it was around.  After awhile, I guess word got to the desert, or something, because it came back.

So, I'm not writing Scorsese Summer.  But not because I'm lazy, unfocused and apathetic (for a change), but because I'm working on other stuff.  I have entered a "getting things done" montage in the movie of my life, and I've got to keep going until the song is done. 

Besides, the article that inspired the Scorsese Summer idea was just a bunch of films referenced in one conversation with Scorsese and not, as Fast Co. claims, the "films you need to see to know anything about film".  Nice Cosmo-style headlining there Fast Co.  Meh.  I get it.  A magazine has gotta do whatever possible to pull folks away from whatever it is they're practicing at, working on, etc.

Not me, man.  Not falling for that again.  

Well, not for a little while, anyway. 

Until next time...

Mandy Sue B.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jim Shepard: A Deal at Twice the Price.

Last night I went over to Reed College to listen to some writers read as part of the Tin House Summer Writer's Workshop.  They hold these things in a pretty amazing setting.  Around dusk, the writers stand at an outdoor podium with Reed Lake in the background and they share their work for a bit.

My favorite part of the evening was Jim Shepard, but there was another part that came a close second.  Maybe a distant second.  Let's just call it second.

While Major Jackson was reading his poetry, I noticed people gathered on a nearby pedestrian bridge over the lake.  I don't imagine the PA system was strong enough to carry that far, but it was fun to think of folks out for a stroll at dusk on a hot summer evening who, after passing through cool-ish breezes off the still water and clouds of flying bugs, were then confronted by Major's words pulsing through the air.  Lucky folk up there on the bridge, getting the full summer experience.  If they could hear poetry, they were lucky just that much more.

In the end, I didn't regret my choice to pay five bucks instead of slinking in and attempting to blend among the honest and flush (as per usual).

EASY LIVING | 1937 | Cinderella meets Looney Toons

I started this post in October 2012.  I thought I'd published it, but just saw it was still a draft, so I opened it and saw that it wasn't finished at all.  

All it said was this:

Looney Toons meets Cinderella meets AMELIE.
Jean Arthur: There isn't anyone better.

Now that I look at it, maybe that is a finished post.  It's all that really needs to be said about this film.  Except the AMELIE part.  There are hints of it, but not enough to make it worth exploring any further.

But this is a blog about Screwball Comedies, so I should make an effort to dig a bit deeper, so here goes.

It's definitely a Screwball Comedy, but I'm not sure if it's Classic Screwball...  I'm not sure if it's in the company of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, PLATINUM BLONDE, MY MAN GODFREY, and MIDNIGHT.  I want to put it there, but something is stopping me.  Let's talk this through, maybe I can figure out why it's more of a 20th CENTURY or TO BE OR NOT TO BE player (not a bad place to be, really).

Class Conflict?
A little bit.  But not really.  Mary Smith (Jean Arthur) is fired because her employer is alarmed by the very expensive fur coat she's wearing.  When an automat descends into chaos, the holler of "Free food!" brings a large crowd streaming in off the street.  There are characters who belong to different classes in this film, and they conflict with each other, but only for laughs.

Urban Setting?
NYC and no where else.

Art & Fart?
Check and check.  There's some great physical comedy that will have to count as the Fart end of the spectrum (food fight at the automat, a bath/shower large enough to clean an elephant is as difficult to turn off as it is to turn on, a fish bowl falling off a balcony, and more).  The art of it all is, as per usual with Sturges, in the dialog.

Baseline dissatisfaction with the status-quo?
I think this is what makes it screwball and not Classic Screwball.  Characters in this movie are dissatisfied with their status-quo, but not necessarily The Status Quo.  Well, actually, our hero Mary seems pretty content with the status quo, but then ends up belonging to the family of a top banker so wealthy his wife spends $58,000 on a fur coat.  And John Jr. is upset with the status quo, but mostly because his banker Dad scolds him for buying an Italian race car.  And, in the end, the banker is as wealthy as he started, his wife values him a little bit more than his money (just a little bit), and his son is making good banking and relationship decisions.  Class divisions are drawn, but mostly reinforced by the end of the story.

Which is fine.  I don't mind it.  I love the film.  But it just doesn't tick all the same boxes the really strong Screwball Comedies do, the Classics.

Oh, I should have left this at the two lines.  There's so much to say about this one and I've just phoned it in, really.  I'll try to circle back to this one.  Either updating the post or creating a supplemental post.  

Released: 1937
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Leads: Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland
Writer: Vera Caspary (story), Preston Sturges
Genre: Screwball Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Classic Screwball
Plot Summary and reviews of EASY LIVING @ Rotten Tomatoes

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day, Judgment Day, and Jerks You'll Meet in Heaven aka Perks of Being a Leftover

If being a leftover after Judgment Day is anything like being in the city during a holiday, I'm totally OK with that fate.

While knocking about town on a holiday like Independence Day, I will feel pangs of jealousy when I think of folks at the river, the mountains, the shore, the coast, etc., but mostly I love the short lines, ample parking and lack of foot traffic.

I've experienced quite a few cities emptied out for one holiday or another, and that's when I like them best.  There's a certain kind of camaraderie among everyone who didn't get out.  We get to reap the benefits of the various advances of the last 30 years, without having to tolerate the increased population of jerks.

I imagine it'll be similar after I'm dead.  Jerks of one strain or another will get into heaven, and though I'll be sad I didn't make the cut, I'll be relieved that I won't have to make small talk with any of 'em.

The thing about heaven is, people talk like you'll be recognized for who you are and you'll get to hang out with, say, Winston Churchill or Charlie Chaplin...  Um, I guess most people don't think of those two, maybe more like Bob Marley or John Lennon?  Cripes, I dunno, but that's not the point.  The point is whoever you think you'll meet in heaven, you won't.  You didn't here, and you won't there.  The same shit that happened here will happen there.

It's a numbers game, really.  The size of our living population is so much smaller than our dead population,  and yet I have never even gotten a so much as a glimpse of a classically significant individual while alive.  The odds will be worse when dead.   

And this "classically significant" I'm talking about isn't the same as the whole we're all significant as the star of our own movie.  I still think each of you is a special, unique little snowflake.  Honest.  All I'm saying is that heaven isn't thick with Frank Sinatra's.  He is as in-demand there as he was here.  And your circle there will be as far from his there, as your circle was from the Rat Pack, et. al. here.  As it was in the beginning, so it will be in the end.  

Or something like that.

And seeing loved ones and pets again?  Nice thought, but all of your pet cats hanging out with all of your pet dogs?  Think about it.  And, can you imagine generation upon generation of familial dysfunction sharing the same space and time?  There isn't a TV big enough to get my currently existing bloodline to shut up and get through a 22 minute rerun in peace, heaven with all of 'em?  Ugh.

Heaven?  You can have it.

Holidays away from the city?  If you can swing it, go for it.  Please.

Yeah, I know there are a ton of holes in this post and I didn't fully flesh out the parallels, but...  I'm done anyway.

Monday, July 1, 2013

WORLD WAR Zzzzzz, Malcolm Tucker and Planning a Pandemic Suitable Wardrobe

WORLD WAR Z started strong enough, but quickly became so boring that it was just a thing going on in front of my eyes while I thought about other things.

I was so checked out that when Peter Capaldi appeared that I exclaimed, out loud, "Oh, I love that guy!"  I'm usually a so-wrapped-up-in-the-story-that-the-rest-of-the-world-doesn't-exist sort of a moviegoer, and always the sort who doesn't talk during movies, and yet I was so out of Z movie that I felt fully comfortable proclaiming my fondness for...  well, let's be honest, for Malcolm Tucker.

On the goodwill built up by the ever reliable Malcolm, Peter can make...  um, let's call it three...  three stinkers before I lose faith in him.  The count begins with WORLD WAR Z.

So, yeah, for most of the film I just sat there planning my Zombie Pandemic Wardrobe (something fit for a variety of apocalyptic-style circumstances).  My primary plan is to die in the first wave of whatever comes our way, but if that fails, I don't want to be walking around with "Juicy" on my ass.  That hasn't happened to my backside during "good" times, but who knows what will be going style-wise when shit goes down.  Not to mention availability; I could be wearing something spot-on, but then it could be ruined by zombie guts, and then I'd have to scavenge for replacements.  I best know what my needs are going to be, and what will work best, if I am to reclothe myself in a timely, functional, and - hopefully - stylish way.  It just seems wise to take the time to think it through now and plan ahead.

I actually have more to say on that, and a few things to say about the choice to put Brad Pitt's family on an off-screen shelf and out of immediate peril for the bulk of the movie, but... I've got things to do.

So do you. You need to watch this: