Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Clip 2014 | Cows & People Alike, Conflicted about the Office Holiday Party

Less than a week until Christmas.  I don't think Christmas Clip 2014 is gaining any momentum.
I know these things don't happen in a vacuum, I've got to bring something to it...  but...  well...  here we are.

I have a stack of holiday movies sitting near the TV (THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, ELF, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, HOLIDAY, WHITE CHRISTMAS, etc.)  I've even watched a few this year.  And those few I've watched a few times.  But, honestly, it's a bit of a blue Christmas and I'm not sure I'll rally for the clip project this year.  I'm just focused on getting through this season.  Some years it's all about decking halls and joining choruses, while other years not so much.  Currently I'm in the not so much part of the cycle.  And there's nothing demanding that I make myself fake it until I make it, so I'll just...  not be fake.

Until the movie clips come, if they come, here's this video of cows listening to holiday music.  I love this because the cows come to check out the music, and it's a sweet gesture and all that, but what I especially love is the expression on the faces of the cows.  I think I've had that expression at more than one office holiday party.  I see a mixture of:
"Well, I guess this is ok, but maybe if you weren't jerks to us all year you wouldn't have to do this to assuage your guilt."
"Seriously, they're filming this?!?  Clearly this isn't really for our benefit."
"Couldn't you have saved the money you spent on this shin-dig and just given us the afternoon off?"
Perhaps I'm projecting on these adorable cows.

And, really, it is very sweet that these men are playing music for the herd.  Anything that leans in the direction of gentleness and kindness is very good.  A little sad the impulse seems to be seasonal, and focused on only one day a year, but on the flip-side, one day per year is a start.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Clip 2014 | SNL | Sump'n Claus

So, I guess I might be doing this Christmas Clip thing after all.  This is the second holiday clip this month, I think that might be the start of some momentum.

Why?  What's motivating the 2nd clip?

Pride in my 10+ year long celeb crush on Martin Freeman.

I watched SNL last night and I actually laughed.  Not just mildly amused snorts.  Actual laughs!  At SNL!  It's a Christmas Miracle.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Re-Re-post | ARSENIC AND OLD LACE | 1944 | Spooky Screwball

I don't know enough about the history of Halloween to describe how it started, how that differs from the way we currently observe it, and explore how the changes reflect how we're evolving as a people.  And you can thank goodness for that.  (I know I do).

All of that said, best I can figure, Halloween seems to be a whole lot about wish fulfillment. Way back when it was about hoping that if you celebrated the dead, perhaps the creeps wouldn't jump you or your livestock during the long, dark, vulnerable winter nights.  Now it seems to be about hoping that if you get drunk enough to believe you're making the sexy nurse costume work, then everyone else will somehow agree.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is delightful, suspenseful, takes place on Halloween, and dramatizes one of my greatest wishes: To be sat down and told I'm not related to my family.

That sounds mean, but it's not.  Despite my best efforts, I assure you they have the same wish.

Mortimer (Cary Grant) is a famous New York theater critic who wrote a book called "Marriage: A Fraud and a Failure," and "sneers at every display of love."

When we meet him, Mortimer is in line at the Marriage License Bureau preparing to marry Elaine, the girl next door (literally).  Next, before a Niagara Falls honeymoon, the newlyweds head to Brooklyn so they can share the news of their nuptials with Mortimer's Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha and with Elaine's minister father.

While at his Aunt's home, Mortimer discovers a dead man hidden in the window seat. At first he figures his Uncle Teddy, who believes he's Theodore Roosevelt, has progressed to murder. But Teddy's sisters quickly clarify that they poisoned Mr. Hoskins (the man in the window seat), and that Teddy had nothing to do with it.

Well, except that as part of his delusion, he digs locks for the Panama Canal in the basement (which Abby and Martha then use to bury their victims). Mortimer now feels like he needs to take care of his family by ensuring the murdering stops and that no one ever finds out, not even his new wife, sitting next door, waiting to go on their honeymoon.

His efforts are complicated when his brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) returns home with a plastic surgeon named Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre). The two have a dozen murders in their rear-view mirror, a fresh kill in their car (a "hot stiff on their hands" as Dr. Einstein calls it), and have recently escaped a prison for the "criminally insane". Their immediate plan is to hide-out at the aunts house, and while they're there, have the alcoholic doctor give Jonathan a new face so he can't be identified and hauled back to the big house.

If it were summer, I'd probably explain why this isn't a screwball comedy.  But because it's October, I'm going to argue that it's a variety of screwball.

What I've learned from this study is that screwball comedies include: something to do with marriage (getting engaged, married, or divorced), some kind of class conflict, adults struggling with what society expects from grown-ups (comic anti-heroes and general dissatisfaction with status-quo), a primarily cosmopolitan setting (though often the adventure of the story occurs in the country), a mixture of high and low comedy, and alcohol.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE doesn't handle all of these traits in the ways most Classic Screwballs do. Most notable is that the alcohol isn't cocktails in a nightclub, a posh hotel room, or on a butler's tray - it's in a glass carafe on a sturdy wood table in a quaint Brooklyn house. And it's poison (not in a "choose your poison" way, but actual poison).

Class and setting are mixed together in that Mortimer's rabbit hole is the trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn. He goes from famous Manhattan theater critic without a shred of domesticity, to crossing the river and finding himself dealing with serial killers, basement graves, escape convicts, a cop aspiring to be a playwright, and more, yet he's unable to walk away because it's his family. So class is not simply rich vs. poor, but sane vs. insane, evil vs. innocent, criminal vs. lawful, nature vs. nurture, culture vs. domesticity, independence vs. interdependence, and cosmopolitan city vs. provincial borough.

Over the course of the film, Mortimer transforms from selfish, immature and romantically petulant, into a selfless family man. Though his family is nuts, he risks his reputation to protect them. And, once he's aware precisely how seriously crazy his family is, he attempts to cut Elaine loose to shield her from the insanity. It's a dramatic change, but it's so seamless that it goes down easy and is totally believable.

And then, and only then - warning, nearly 70 year old spoiler alert ahead! - Mortimer learns he is not actually related to his aunts, his uncle or his brother, and so he can be with Elaine. And after the events of the evening, he now knows what that really means, and it's not anything to do with all the trite cliches that had previously turned him off marriage and the like.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE covers all of the Screwball Comedy bases (at least my working definition), plus it is every bit as strong as the films on my Classic Screwball list, so I'm calling it Screwball.

It's my blog, I can do that.

Happy Halloween!
(originally posted October 2011, lazily reposted October 2012, completely forgotten in 2013, shamelessly re-posted with a few edits in 2014)

Released: 1944 (filmed in 1941)
Writer: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein (based on play by Joseph Kesselring)
Director: Frank Capra
Producer: Frank Capra, Jack L. Warner
Leads: Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Peter Lorre, John Alexander, Raymond Massey, Priscilla Lane
Genre: Black Comedy, Screwball Comedy

Romantic Comedy Expert | SNL | October 25, 2014

Not only the Rom but also the Com.  But not the Screwball.

"That is not actually why we brought you here."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Because, that's life.

Because I haven't posted in awhile.
Because I have MY FAVORITE WIFE sitting inches from my hands, ready to be watched again and then written about.
Because that's not going to happen tonight.
Because I seem to be genetically engineered to repost Frank singing this song somewhere on the Internet at least once per year.
Because, that's life.

A post about MY FAVORITE WIFE will be here...  someday when I'm good and ready.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Prince George Wore in 2085

There's a blog called What Prince George Wore, and I hope it lasts for the better part of a century.

Not necessarily in a "long live the King" sort of a way, but because it seems it would be fascinating to document any life in that way.

Not that I don't think there won't be plenty of documentation of Prince George over the years.

But looking at the blog I got a flash of a handful of scenarios from a second coming of a British Empire that the sun never sets on, to a Max Headroom-like scenario where most of the world lives in tin sheds but everyone has some kind of a computer, to one where humans get a 3 minute break per day from slaving underwater for their manatee overlords --- and in each one there is at least one person looking at an antiquated blog to see what 72 year old George is wearing.

I continue to watch and re-watch Screwball Comedies, so I'll get back to writing about all of that soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

WE ARE THE BEST! | 2013 | They really are.

I adore this film so much.

I have no more to say about it.
I just adore it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

DIY Double Feature | THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY and ABOUT TIME | You know - things, life, whatnot.

Now seems the best time for me to tell you that these DIY Double Features aren't necessarily about pairing two good movies together.  The quality of the film is often an after thought.  The point is to pair movies that have a similar thesis and/or theme, and I find the overlap interesting enough to want to encourage you to spend some time there yourself.

If anything it's the less good movies that make better DIY Double Features.  If a film is less good, you won't be sitting rapt in front of a screen and your mind will be more inclined to wander a bit, then circle back to the story, and then wander off again.

With that, let's get to it.

Watch THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY and ABOUT TIME, and think about time.  Think about how to make the most of it, ways to sort of make it up when you lose it, and how to use its malleability to your advantage.  On the one hand time is a ruthless bastard, marching ceaselessly forward.  But on the other hand you can control how you spend it, and that makes all of the difference.

To be clear, I don't mean control it in the sense that you can indulge in an escape fantasy and piss off to some tropical island or whatever your lottery-winner daydream might be.  Well, maybe you can, but most people can't.  Or they probably could if they tried, but they chose to stick with, like, making their kids dinner and/or taking the dog out at sunrise and sunset each and every day.

Which is what I love about most people.  Seriously love this about them.  Anyway, back to the Double Feature.

In THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY we witness a shy, bunged up guy (Ben Stiller) with an overactive imagination step into life and start taking chances.  He travels the world, he jumps out of helicopters, he runs toward volcanoes, he meets warlords, climbs mountains, and talks to the woman he's been crushed out on from afar.

But for all of Walter Mitty's flights, both real and imagined, he ends up on the cover of Life Magazine because he does good work (and he's also a good boss).  Not to say he should have continued as he had been, his life was definitely out of balance; it's just that he didn't have it all wrong.  And living a bold life doesn't necessarily mean you have to do something big and exotic.  It sometimes seems that the most revolutionary thing to be done with your life is to take a deep breath and be a decent person.

In ABOUT TIME, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns that all the men in his family are able to travel through time, but only their own timeline.  Initially Tim uses this as a blunt instrument to smooth over social faux pas, fix problems for loved ones, and earn the heart of his future wife.

Then around early middle age, he begins to use his magical skill to repeat the day he just lived through, not ala GROUNDHOG DAY, but just one more time.  First, he lives it the way he - and all of us - tend to:  stressed, anxious, irritated, threatened, on auto-pilot and prone to a bit of melodrama.  Next he lives the exact same day one more time, only this time he's more - for lack of a better term - present.  He makes eye contact with a friendly cashier, where previously he had hustled through as though a machine had rung up his order, he helps his coworkers not get too torqued up about minor insults, he weathers minor inconveniences with humor and grace, etc.  In time, he learns to do this the first time through, and comes to genuinely appreciate each day for the amazing thing that it is.

It sounds trite, I know.  But ask anyone who has lost a loved one, experienced any kind of health issue, or even had a minor car accident - each standard issue day is truly remarkable.

Walter dreamed of glamour and achievement, and he got it by showing up each day and doing his best.  And by the time he was acknowledged for his steady, long-term, tortoise-like contribution in a big, glossy way, he'd become so engaged with his life on a more meaningful level that the magazine cover was nice, but not really the end-all-be-all.

Similarly, Tim learns that satisfaction is not to be found in time travel and the ability to put yourself in the best light and erase all of your mistakes, but in living each day as it comes and loving the sloppy mess of it all.

So, yeah, these movies weren't great, but they did get me wondering how my life would be different if I were a little less with the auto-pilot.

Read THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. Because James Thurber is awesome.
Watch THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (1947). Because Danny Kaye is awesome.

Released: 2013
Writer: Steve Conrad
Director: Ben Stiller
Leads:  Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine

Plot summary and what not of THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY @ Wikipedia

Released: 2013
Writer/Director: Richard Curtis
Leads: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie
Plot summary and what not of ABOUT TIME @ Wikipedia

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nora Ephron's Birthday and my Lame Horizon.

Around noon today I learned that it was Nora Ephron's birthday.  Ever since, I've been wondering if it was sexist of me to not include her on the Mt. Rushmore of Screwball.

I don't know.  I don't think so.  Beyond the fact that she simply skews more rom-com than screwball, it's kind of a no-brainer that Wilder would fill the Teddy spot.

What I do know is that Nora was never my favorite.  And without a doubt that's due to pure, unbridled jealousy.  I wanted to be Nora, but Nora was already being Nora, and so I kind of hated her for it.  As much as I loved her.  It was pretty easy to cloak my envy with "objective criticism" because she actually was pretty uneven.  But, really, who isn't?  (Especially us creative-types).  When she was bad, she was indeed horrid, but most important and significant is that when she was good she was very good indeed.

I'm pretty sure that was sexist of me.  Would I have used a poem about a crying baby girl to describe Lubitsch?

Hmmm...  I wouldn't not do that, I don't think.
Actually, yes, I can see myself doing that.  For sure.

But that's less evidence against sexism and more an indictment of my lack of originality and bone-deep lame-ass-ness.  Longfellow?  Really?

Pfft.  Yes, really.  I mean, I write a blog about screwball comedies and rom-coms, my Lame Horizon is far and wide.

All that said, let's overlook me and spend a moment contemplating the very good Nora Ephron.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Frank Capra's Birthday, Puttering and Mt. Rushmore of Screwball

Today is Frank Capra's birthday.


I adore this puttering scene.  It is perfect on so many levels.  Just perfect.

What can I say?  If there were a Mt. Rushmore of Screwball Comedy, it'd be Capra, Sturges, Lubitsch and...  Wilder, probably.

The way I see it, it's a very good thing Frank was born.

Monday, May 5, 2014

I love you again, Screwball Study! Well, I'm temporarily interested in spending more time with you, anyway.

G'ah!  It's been so long since I posted.  I watch the damn movies and it would take moments to write something, anything, but I don't.  It's a mystery.  Probably obvious to all but me.  My life is like a police procedural:  I'm in it yet have no idea where it's going, but any casual viewer with the TV on background while they do the dishes can tell instantly.

Thankfully, no one is looking even that little at my life.  Not even me.  Which is probably part of the problem.

Anyway, dear Screwball Study, where do we stand?  I owe you a post about I LOVE YOU AGAIN.  I know that much.   And I'm pretty sure that a million years ago I said I was also going to write about UGLY BETTY as the Dickens of Screwball Comedies, so I owe you that too.

And probably much, much more.

But not today.

Today, just to keep the cobwebs off this site, I share with you news of another romcom deconstruction (read about the other one I wrote about here).

Romcom Descending a Staircase.

Even if THEY CAME TOGETHER proves to be no good, it will likely help get the genre somewhere better.  Eventually.

Even if it turns out that better is dead and gone.

Released: 2014
Writer: David Wain, Michael Showalter
Director: David Wain
Leads: Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd
Plot summary and what not of THEY CAME TOGETHER @ Wikipedia

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Everything is A-ok with David Letterman

Dave.  I love the guy.  Not like a stalker who breaks into his home.  Not like an obsessive fan who duct tapes him to a chair for an intimate dinner.  More like I loved my bicycle when I was a kid.  Or something similarly essential and integral to who I am, a brick in the foundation of my personality, from way back when, but not something I make much fuss about on a day-to-day basis.  Yeah, like my bicycle.

It was 1984 or 1985.  I was 13 or 14 and spending the night at my sister's house so we could catch an early flight to Chicago to visit our Grandparents.  My sister and her husband were up late, packing and doing laundry.  I was bored and not tired, just sort of floating around their house, unsure what to do with myself, and so they told me to watch this show they had on.  So I did.

When I returned from Chicago, I programmed the family VCR to tape Late Night each night and watched it each day after school.

The reason I'm writing about this isn't to stake a claim, or to somehow create a virtual band T-shirt to prove that I was there first.  I wasn't.  I was a kid.  And I was there a couple of years late.

But I was loyal.

But that isn't even the point.

The point is:  I'm not sure what to do without Dave.

I was raised by television, and during key years I was mostly raised by Dave.

And as an adult with regular insomnia, or rather an adult who experiences occasional restfulness, I still catch The Late Show a lot.  It's comforting and soothing to me.  It's like I can still take my bike out and coast down the empty backroads of the exurb where I grew up, pink, purple, blue summer sunset on the horizon.  When I spend time watching Dave's show, it's like time flattens and compresses, every time is occurring at the same time, and all is a-ok.

To think that won't be an option soon makes me seriously concerned about my world.  Well, that sounds dramatic.  Maybe more dramatic than accurate.  No, that's it.  I am seriously concerned.  It's not like this is a surprise.  I had been feeling like the end was coming soon, and that Dave was nearing "Imminent Carson" (an appropriate, classy and elegant exit).  Intellectually I understood it and supported it, but now that it is here I find I am wholly unprepared.

Look, I know his retirement will be a-ok, too.  He is leaving me with a similarly bright, nerdy, AP-class kind of a guy who, like Dave, has learned to use his powers for good and not evil.  Not always nice, but definitely good.  Plus, I've got some time to adjust to the idea.

Yes, I know it's all going to be a-ok.  I'll always be able to find him on YouTube or whatever comes after that, and whatever comes after that.  And no matter what year I find him, and no matter the year of the clip I find, nor the quality of the clip, I will feel the calm, cool confidence of tooling around on my purple bike, wearing my purple Esprit sweatshirt, surrounded by a purple dusk - all alone, but a-ok.

Still, right now, I'm just not sure about it all.

Regardless, it's time for me to stuff my feelings about all of this and focus on the day:  Happy Birthday, Mr. Letterman.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, yours is the only celebrity birthday I have memorized.  I know that says something about me, and whatever that is, I'll take it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

DIY Double Feature: THE KING OF COMEDY and NETWORK | Past, Prescient and Future

THE KING OF COMEDY and NETWORK.  I know, not a super inspired pairing, but I owe this blog a post, so...  Let's get to it.

When you watch these films, think about the cliche things everyone thinks when they watch these movies now.  Specifically, how eerily prescient these pictures were.  Think about how quickly these movies went from illustrating where we might be going, and instead are about where we are...  And then think about what things will be like 20 years from now.

Then think about how great it is that we don't live that long.
So many lesser and greater horrors out there just itching to become the norm.

A lot of beauty and redemptions ahead, sure.  But the point still stands:  Getting old and dying isn't the worst thing.

Maybe it's not so bad that the U.S. ranks 35th in life expectancy.

Stay tuned, it feels like this unnecessarily bleak jag of posts is about to let up soon.

Released: 1976
Writer: Paddy Chayefsky
Director: Sidney Lumet
Leads: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall
Plot summary and what not of NETWORK @ Wikipedia

Released: 1983
Writers: Paul D. Zimmerman
Director: Martin Scorsese
Leads: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard
Plot summary and what not of THE KING OF COMEDY @ Wikipdedia

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ALL IS LOST | 2013 | Me Watching ALL IS LOST at Home, Alone

Oh, this is going to be all ambient noise and linear storytelling, I'm going to need a snack.
(Press pause).
(Make nachos).
(Press play).

Oh, no.

Was this character the guy at the marina who was annoying with his can-do attitude?  Or is this just lifelong experience coming to fruition, preparation meets "opportunity"?

Oh no.

Chomp, chomp, chomp (me eating nachos, otherwise watching in awed silence).

This is amazing.  I'm watching this.  I feel like this isn't enough, like this shouldn't hold my attention, but I can't look away.

Oh no.

Extended silence.  No nacho eating.  No thoughts.  Silence.  Watching.

And then came the part in the film where the last grand gesture goes horribly wrong.  Me, out loud:  Are you fucking kidding me?!?

And then the end.

And then I got it.

Well, got it for me.

For me, the ending just pushed everything I'd seen before into allegory territory.  In life, in general, you succeed if you are honest and give your all.  Our Man (Redford) used all of his skills.  He pushed himself mentally and physically.  He took risks.  He took honest stock of himself.  And he acknowledged he made mistakes.  Even if he died, he succeeded.

But that's my take.  It turns out, a lot has been written about the meaning of this movie and what actually happened.  The debate about the actual fate of Our Man is the least interesting to me (All Is Lost. Or Is It?, Slate, 10/18/13), but I'm a fan of ambiguity.  

I do like the interview that Slate article references (The Sun-Dried Kid, The New York Times, 10/9/13), because it turns out I'm pretty much with Mr. Redford on this one.

(I got it right!  I totally nailed the single correct interpretation of this rich, multi-faceted story!  I like ambiguity, but I love being right). 

(OK, maybe that's not the only single correct interpretation, but it's the best, because it's so similar to Robert Redford's.  You see, no matter how you slice it, I totally aced the non-competitive experience that encourages personal reflection.  High-five me!) 

As far as other interpretations, I can absolutely see this as a parable for old age (All is Lost - Review, The Guardian, 12/26/13).  I can see the commentary on self-destruction via consumerism a little less (The Strong, Largely Silent Type, The New York Times, 10/18/13), but, sure, there's something to that too.

For now, I'll stick with my own, it suits where I'm at right now.  For me, for now, like Redford, “I’m interested in that thing that happens where there’s a breaking point for some people and not for others...  You go through such hardship, things that are almost impossibly difficult, and there’s no sign that it’s going to get any better, and that’s the point when people quit. But some don’t.”

I get why people quit.  I sometimes think they're the wise ones.  But, as long as you're here, breathing, what else are you going to do?  You have to not quit.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I LOVE YOU AGAIN | 1940 | Review from The New York Times

I'll be writing about I LOVE YOU AGAIN, soon.  Possibly a post about GRAND HOTEL first.  Not sure yet.  Anyway, here's a review of I LOVE YOU AGAIN from The New York Times (August 16, 1940).

I agree with the review, but I'll probably write about some other angle.  If history is any indication, I will somehow make it all about me.  Because that's a good time for everyone.

Either that or it will be like The Chris Farley Show.  I get that way when talking about my favorite films, and this is one of 'em.  Maybe not tip-top, but top.

Point is: One way or another, more is coming.

For now, the review...

THE SCREEN (The New York Times, August 16, 1940)
William Powell and Myrna Loy Back Together in 'I Love You Again,' at the Capitol
By Bosley Crowther 

Having pretty well set down Mr. and Mrs. Nick (Thin Man) Charles in dull domesticity on their third and last time around, Metro has now changed the names of William Powell and Myrna Loy and has graciously remarried them in an anything but dull domestic comedy entitled "I Love You Again," which came yesterday to the Capitol. Old family friends of the Charleses may sigh for their more suave and wordly airs, but certainly no one can complain that the new Larry Wilsons are less congenial or less delightfully full of surprises. For Mr. Powell and Miss Loy, no matter what their names, are one of our most versatile and frisky connubial comedy teams, and, given a script as daffy as the one here in evidence, they can make an hour and a half spin like a roulette wheel.

Wisely, Metro has not departed from basic principles. In the "Thin Man" series, the humor derived from gagging up essentially grim melodramatic plots. In "I Love You Again," all the sport comes from kidding the old dual personality theme. For nine years, it seems, Mr. Powell had been wedded to Miss Loy, and a duller or more exasperating husband no poor woman had ever been forced to endure. Then, while away on a sea vacation (at the beginning of the film), he gets a clonk on the head and wakes up another fellow. For the nine years that he was pompous and boring Larry Wilson of Haberville, Pa., he was just a victim of amnesia. Actually, he is George Carey, a slick and far from pompous confidence man.

What happens, then, when his—or Larry's—lovely wife, who is Miss Loy, meets him on the pier on his return and threatens to divorce him for being such a dud? What happens when he goes back to Haberville to try to purloin Larry's bank account? Naturally, he has to feel his way, not knowing beans about himself. But, familiar as every one is with Mr. Powell's astringent comic style, you can let your imagination fancy what occurs when he discovers that he is general manager of a pottery, an officer or director of every purity league in town, a trumpet player, a pinch-penny, a taxidermist and a leader of the Boy Rangers. You may fancy—but you'll probably fall far short. No Spartan ever endured like Mr. Powell.

As heretofore, Miss Loy makes a formidable foil for his acid humors. "You've turned my head," says Mr. Powell, in a gallant attempt to recourt her. "I've often wished I could turn your head," she replies, "—on a spit over a slow fire." With Mr. Powell and Miss Loy back at that sort of thing, with fearful surprises popping all over and with Frank McHugh, Edmund Lowe and a troop of pesky Boy Rangers to complicate affairs, "I Love You Again" is a sure screwball for the corner pocket. Mark it up!

I LOVE YOU AGAIN, screen play by Charles Lederer, George Oppenheimer and Harry Kurnitz, original story by Leon Gordon and Maurine Watkins; based on the novel by Octavus Roy Cohen; directed by W. S. Van Dyke 2d: a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production. At the Capitol.

Larry Wilson & George Carey  . . . William Powell
Kay Wilson  . . .  Myrna Loy
Doc Ryan  . . .  Frank McHugh
Duke Sheldon  . . .  Edmund Lowe
Herbert  . . .   Donald Douglas

Saturday, March 22, 2014

DINNER AT EIGHT | 1933 | Laughing with, at and through losing.

DINNER AT EIGHT is on AFI's 100 Laughs List

Let's review the cast of characters:

There's the sweet Oliver Jordan, who runs a business that's been in the family for generations, and is now failing.

There's Carlotta Vance, an aging actress with financial woes, who sells some stock and inadvertently helps to make her dear friend Oliver Jordan officially poor.

There's Larry Renault, an aging actor with ego and alcohol problems, both things that probably served him well in younger days (or were at least more forgivable), who chooses suicide over being thrown out on the street.

Larry leaves behind a young lover, Paula Jordan (yes, Oliver's daughter) who is also engaged to a solidly nice and much more age-appropriate guy (Ernest DeGraff).  When Paula learns Larry has taken his own life, she wants to go to him but is coached to stand-by her fiance and never say a word about Larry ever again.  Wisely she chooses the man who is alive, but starting out with such a large secret in the foundation to their union, what chance to they really have?

And then there's Dan and Kitty Packard, the classless and clueless social climbers who are fully awful and sure to reproduce.

Laugh riot, AFI.  

In this movie, as in life, a certain type of person thrives and survives, but what they're fittest at concerns me.

My hero in this film isn't one of the sure-to-survive, but I really want things go well for Oliver's wife Millicent after the credits role.

Through a majority of the picture Millicent is actively unaware of Oliver's struggles, dismissing any hints of distress that he lets slip.  She makes herself crazed in her single-minded pursuit of pulling off a dinner party that will impress Lord and Lady Ferncliffe. But when she learns Oliver is ill and the business is done, she immediately shifts her focus to Oliver and her family.  After a few understandable tears, she is instantly resilient and resourceful.

It seems she was the very best manager of the upper-crust Jordan household, and so she'll be the very best at scaling back, and the very best at whatever is required of her future life roles.  Her adaptability is the only genuinely bright spot in the film.  Bright, but not funny.  Very rough times may be ahead of the aging Jordan's, but they have each other and that seems to be something.

Millicent is my hero in this film, definitely.  However, my favorite character is Ed.  His wife is related to Millicent.  When the Lord and Lady Ferncliffe cancel at the last moment, Ed and wife are invited as seat-fillers at dinner, brought in to help keep the quorum so to speak.  Ed would rather be at the movies, and isn't shy about saying so.

So, in summary, I may have to disagree with AFI.  DINNER AT EIGHT is funny, but I have a hard time calling it a comedy because it always leaves me feeling very serious and little bit sad.

Released: 2013
Director: Dan Mazer
Leads:  Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Lee Tracy, Edmund Lowe, Billie Burke
Writer:  Frances Marion, Herman J. Mankiewicz
Genre: IDK
Plot review and other information about DINNER AT EIGHT @ Wikipedia

Saturday, March 15, 2014




...  and think about loss.

Think about the inevitability of loss.
Think about how that sometimes makes personal reinvention a necessary.
Think about what you can learn from inconvenient travel companions - be they a gorgeous marmalade cat or not; be it a brief road trip, cradle-to-grave, or something inbetween.

This may not sound like a super fun DIY Double Feature, but it's not bad and will probably prove useful, so just suck it up and do it.

It's a fact of life.  We're always losing.  We're all losers.
It's probably best to make friends with that idea sooner than later.

Related Reading:
Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference Between Success and Mastery

Released:  2013
Writer:  Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Director:  Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Leads:  Oscar Isaac
Plot summary and what not of INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS @ Wikipedia

Released:  1974
Writers:  Paul Mazursky
Director:  Paul Mazursky
Leads:  Art Carney
Plot summary and what not of HARRY AND TONTO @ Wikipdedia

Monday, February 17, 2014

DIY Double Feature, Periodical Style: Self-Improvement is an Unnecessary Time Suck.

There is a link between these two articles.

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators


Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule: What It Actually Takes to Reach Genius-Level Excellence

I'm trying to finish reading a book and don't want to stop to think this through, but I feel there's an intersect/overlap there.

I also think/hope there is vindication for my catch-as-catch-can approach to...  everything.

There's a time and a place for everything, even consistency.

More later.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Coo-Coo Ka-Cha! Coo-Coo Ka-Cha!

I'm starting with that video because this post is probably going to be lame. It's mostly about something no one cares about... what's being eaten and why.

I can't think of anything more boring.

Well, that's a bit dramatic.  But, on the inside, I am still about 81% petulant teenager.

(Calling on Arrested Development now seems appropriate on multiple levels).

It's just that now and again I try to engage with normal folks about normal things, and they often take the conversation toward what's being eaten and why, and I walk away pushing my glasses up high on the bridge of my nose while thinking, "On the surface it seems to be about bonding, but it also feels like they're learning from each other, perhaps it's a leftover impulse from when life depended on knowing how to cook things so you didn't get sick and die."

And that probably makes me at least 11% robot.

Well, robot sounds extreme.  Accurate, but extreme and might give you the wrong impression.  For example, a friend and I are currently spending an inordinate amount of time debating what the next fetish desert food will be.  It's a conversation that's been going on for months, and takes place a few times per week.  We take delight in dismissing efforts like cronuts and doughscuit (trying too hard, not occurring naturally, less grassroots and more astroturf...  generally insincere and lame).

Point is:  I'm a robot, not a monster.

Well not 100% monster.  If you've got a dietary restriction, tell me and I'll have something you can eat when you come over to my home and I'll let you pick restaurants.

But not 100% NOT a monster:  Unless your dietary restrictions come with a slam bang story, I don't really want to hear your reasons.  

Which is why I am so sorry to be writing this blog post.  But something happened and I want to work it through.

My story:

Food-wise I tend to go through phases.  Sometimes crazy indulgent (think bacon bits in chocolate), sometimes nothing but crap (think microwave popcorn sprinkled with M&Ms), sometimes super-healthy (vegan), most of the time moderately healthy (vegetarian).

I can't recall the last time I had a crazy indulgent phase.  The older I get the longer the healthy and super-healthy phases stick around; now only occasionally broken up by an afternoon of crap here and there.  But throughout it all, no matter what phase I'm in, when I'm out at parties and restaurants I have always been a bit "when in Rome" about it all, and would eat what was offered.  I didn't want to be high maintenance.

So I was "in Rome" yesterday and I had chicken for dinner. It was the first time I've had meat since the week before Christmas (a holiday party that was all charcuterie all the time).  I've definitely gone much longer without it, and I didn't miss it, but last night, I dunno.  I ordered it because none of the vegetarian items really jumped out at me.  I didn't give it a whole lot of thought.

It was a lovely dish, top-notch quality and preparation, but the meat just didn't do much for me.  I probably wouldn't have thought much of it, probably would have continued to phase in and out, except that what I ordered was called "brick chicken" and the table joked about how it was called that because that was how the bird was killed.  As I listened, it wasn't like I was offended or judged the jokers or anything, it was just...  well, it was like a switch got flipped and I was done.

At least that's how it felt.  Never before has a phase dropped in on me like that, definitely never while sitting at the table.  Suddenly I just felt done.

Done because I really do think it's silly to have a pet dog while eating a cow.  And I really do think the meat industry is mostly and profoundly inhumane.  And I really think if you eat a creature that had a horrible life, that horror is going into your system.

And, honestly, I've already got plenty of horror that's all my own.  It's not the worst, it's not more than a person can bear, but I definitely got some.  And, if energy can only be changed and not be created or destroyed, then it feels like the misery the animal experiences has got to go somewhere.

Perhaps some systems are strong enough to take that and turn it into fuel, but not mine.  I'm pretty sure the animal misery meets my intrinsic misery and they breed creating full-on misery guts.

Whatever all of that is, I am 8% that.  A walking and talking open-wound, maybe?  Catholic guilt run amok?  Whatever.  8%.

Besides, I figure my cosmetic unctions and salves have been cruelty-free for years, so perhaps it's time to true things up.

Done & done.

Beyond that, well, I've already quit with the down blankets & coats.  Wool?  I don't know yet.  Belts and shoes?  I'm not sure what the future holds there.  Give me some time.

I will say that it kind of sucks to discover that things I thought were just ideas I was kicking around, vague and general preferences and leanings, might actually be principles.  Like, I think I was "me" out-of-the-box but I just never took myself seriously.  I feel the opposite of self-aware.

Fat lot of good all of my introspective, loner ways have done me.

But there it is.
I yam what I yam.

And now that I've written it down here, I hope I will never feel compelled to explain myself when out in the world.  Because, really, no one gives a damn.  Nor should they.

Oh and sorry it took me so long, Moz.
You were right.
Of course you were right.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

DIY Double Feature, Mixed Media Edition | STUCK IN LOVE and "Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles" | Advanced Torch Carrying.

Read "Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles" by Ron Currie Jr. and then watch STUCK IN LOVE (aka WRITERS).

This DIY isn't as much about the quality of the works as it is about their themes. The book and the movie are about writers and love... specifically the kind of love that makes everyone uncomfortable, the carrying a torch kind, the "it's time you move on" kind.

We love it in our dogs, but not so much in our friends, and definitely not in our exes.

The thing is, as long as you're not being a creep, work through whatever you've got going on in your own time.  (If necessary, take the advice of the nice police officer and get some professional help).

You might regret the time you spent stuck.  No.  You probably will regret it.  Whether it's hours, days, months or years, regret will probably be a factor.  But, regret isn't so bad.  It's underrated, really.

It'll put hair on your chest.

Besides, sometimes the only chance you have of getting out is through.  If you try to skip ahead, if you think you're smart enough to get by on Cliff's Notes, you might get through some pop quizzes, but you will likely struggle with the essay final.  And that's most of the grade.

Love:  It's not easy, but it's doable.  There's a kajillion ways to get it right.  And as long as you're breathing, you've got a chance at getting it right.  Probably not the way you imagined, hoped or planned, but right just the same.

Well, right-ish.  Right adjacent.

If not, you can always get a goldfish.

Release:  2012
Director/Writer: Josh Boone
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, Logan Lerman, Kristen Bell
Genre:  Rom-com, probably
Plot review and other information about STUCK IN LOVE @ Wikipedia

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles @ Amazon
Author: Ron Currie Jr.
Publisher: Viking Adult

Sunday, January 19, 2014

DIY Double Feature: TOOTSIE (1982) and SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

This pairing is obvious, I know.  Doesn't mean it's not good.

The viewing order is Dealer's Choice.  I think that phrase applies here.  I don't know.  I'm not big on poker.  It's just a phrase I've had stuck in my head for a few weeks, and I'd love to shake it...  So, I thought maybe if I used it, even if incorrectly, I'd be done with it.

Anyway, watch SOME LIKE IT HOT:

And watch TOOTSIE:

But before you watch either picture, watch this:

Then, while you watch the movies, think about all of the books you've judged and dismissed based on their covers, think about advantages or disadvantages you've had in life just because you were born you, think about what you could start doing tomorrow if you didn't keep yourself within the lines of your assigned demographic, etc.

But don't think too hard.  That guy is a fantastic actor and who knows whence those tears doth come.

Released:  1959
Writer:  Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Director:  Billy Wilder
Leads:  Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe
Plot summary and what not of SOME LIKE IT HOT @ Wikipedia

Released:  1982
Writer:  Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal, Barry Levinson, Elaine May
Director:  Sydney Pollack
Leads:  Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray, Teri Garr
Plot summary and what not of TOOTSIE @ Wikipedia

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I GIVE IT A YEAR | 2013 | One Uneven Step Forward for Rom-Com Kind.

I'm not sure why I clicked on this one when Netflix recommended it, and I'm really not sure why I kept it on.  It looked terrible, and within the first few minutes it was pretty clear it was terrible, and yet I kept watching.  Maybe I'm coming down with a cold, but I didn't turn it off.  Whatever the reason, I'm glad I kept it on because in the last 15 minutes or so, something interesting happens.

We all know rom-coms culminate with the big reveal, some version of "I love you" and/or "Will you marry me?" but in I GIVE IT A YEAR, the question that is popped is:  "Will you divorce me?"

After a (very) brief search of the Internet, I learned this film was lauded as groundbreaking for deconstructing the romcom genre.  I'm not sure about that, but I am sure that the last 20 minutes were the goal of this film - the spark of life; everything else was just a bunch of blah, blah, blah to get us there.

I don't recommend that you watch the movie, it's a really tough slog for a few bright, shining moments near the end.  That said, the near end is pretty great.  I kind of love it.  A generous and honest break-up.  Josh (Rafe Spall) asks Nat (Rose Byrne) for a divorce, explaining she's perfect but not perfect for him.  And she is thrilled!  I wish I could share the scene with you, but it's not up on the Internet yet.

I also really love how they stick the landing for the scene too, when Nat looks at the best friend of her soon to be former husband, and...

(Let's be honest, that's often the highlight of a break-up).

I don't love the additional scene on the train station platform where the couples realign to be with the best, most appropriate partner but, like the divorce scene, it is similarly generous and honest.  And sweetly idealistic, really.  Plus, it fits nicely in the tradition of "so tidy they're fully cheesy" screwball/early-romcom endings (see:  THE PALM BEACH STORY, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, THE AWFUL TRUTH and, well, probably a whole lot more).

Apparently Dan Mazer wrote this script because, with the exception of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and KNOCKED UP, he was unsatisfied with the genre of late.  Which is saying something, those films are twenty-five and seven years old, respectively.  Mostly I agree with him, and I'm sad I can't get on board with this film.  That said, I think his effort could prove to be a good evolutionary step forward.  Perhaps I GIVE IT A YEAR will inspire another rom-com, and maybe that one will feel fresh and smart.  Maybe?

If you like romcoms, treat the existence of this one the way you would a news article about advances toward a cure for the common cold.  Not a reason to get too excited as it'll be years before you benefit, but take pleasure in the fact that there are people laboring to create a better future...  One with, maybe, a few solid rom-coms.


Released: 2013
Director: Dan Mazer
Leads:  Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver
Writer:  Dan Mazer
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Plot review and other information about I GIVE IT A YEAR @ Wikipedia

Friday, January 3, 2014

January 2, 2014, at approximately 1:40 p.m...

This might be an asshole of a thing to do, but I'm going to do it anyway.  Because I just might be an asshole, and no sense in hiding from facts.

Yesterday I left my home to meet a friend right round 1:38pm.  I remember because I looked at the clock, noticed I was late, and calculated how many minutes I'd have to pick-up in my walk downtown; no time for a relaxed amble.  As I headed up the main street that runs by my home, a parade of emergency vehicles went the other direction.

A parade.

Police.  Ambulance.  Fire.  Multiples of each.

Enough to make me pause at the top of the hill, look back toward the hollow, and think about returning home to make sure everything was OK.  But that's a slippery slope, that kind of behavior.  A person could spend all day checking to see if stuff was left on, plugged in, running, burning, unlocked, etc. and so I kept moving forward.

Later, I saw this tweet:

According to Google, the Vista Bridge is 0.3 miles from my home.

I clicked the link and read:
This afternoon, January 2, 2014, at approximately 1:40 p.m., Central Precinct police officers responded to the report of a male subject shooting himself and falling from the Vista Bridge. Officers are on-scene and attempting to render assistance to the person. The incident is ongoing and information is limited at this time. 
And this is the potentially asshole part.  I don't mean to use someone else's tragedy as a Soap Box for my own message.  Well, I do.  Obviously.  No way around it, that's what's happening here.  But only because if I said only what I wanted to say, I could just use Twitter.  Because all I really want to say is:  Please look out for each other out there.

But if I just tweeted that line, it would just seem like I was fumbling a quote from Hill Street Blues.

To say what I want to say, and have it carry some degree of heft, I need some context.  And the quickest way to get that is to use the actual one.

For the record, I didn't read that tweet from Portland Police and begin looking at the bridge in my background differently.

This incident wasn't, like, an eye-opener for me.  That's not why I feel compelled to say something.

It's called Suicide Bridge for a reason.  Oddly, the same reason I make it a point to call it Vista Bridge.  Not because I can't handle the good and bad of the bridge, but because I'm not a fan of making suicide cutesy or jokey.

That said, it's better to be talking than not, and if you have to be cutesy or jokey to get talking, then go ahead.  My tastes will probably always err in another direction.

I don't like all of the pink ribbons and sundry pink sugar surrounding breast cancer either.

I know, I'm a killjoy.

I guess the thing is, the thing I have said out loud a few times since last night, and once already in this post, yet still feel like I want to say it again here, is:

Please look out for each other out there.

It's a gross simplification, but I'm not designing a program or proposing public policy here, it's just a request.

As much as you can, please look out for each other out there.