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