Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I have to take a short hiatus from posting to concentrate on schoolwork. No worries, I'll be back. In the meantime, I leave you with a funny scene from A Night at the Opera (1935). It's a little fuzzy, but still enjoyable. Please enjoy. With two hard-boiled eggs! ::honk:: make that three hard-boiled eggs!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Searching for A Patch of Blue in cloudy skies

When I started my last semester, taking on a full-time school load as well as maintaining a full-time workload, I had a burning desire to watch Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) (see previous entry). Something about 2 people tackling on a ginormous family gave me comfort with my load which seemed tiny in comparison. This time however, at the eve of the Spring semester, I felt like watching a very different movie from the Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda comedy.

On the eve of the Spring semester, I watched a film that I absoltutely love. I throw around the word "love" pretty loosely when talking about films. But in this case I have an emotional attachment to this particular movie as it finds its way into the recesses of my emotions and touches my heart on a deeper level than most of my regular cinematic experiences ever dare to delve into. This film is A Patch of Blue (1965).

A Patch of Blue has been on regular rotation on TCM for a few years. There is a good chance that on a quiet Sunday afternoon, you may find this playing on the channel. My first instincts were to change the channel. But after I watched the short documentary "A Cinderella named Elizabeth" (1965), which shows how Elizabeth Hartman got her first movie role as Selina D'Arcy in A Patch of Blue, I was curious to see how her performance turned out. The result, a movie that took my breath away.

If you haven't seen it yet, in a nutshell, this film is about a young African-American man, Gordon (played by the very handsome Sidney Poitier), who befriends a blind girl who is optimistic about life even though she lives with her promiscuous and abusive mother, Rose-ann (played by Shelley Winters), and her drunk grandfather (last performance by Wallace Ford). The two fall in love in a society in which miscegenation is a threat to a society that values the separation of races.

Why do I watch this film now, before my last big crazy-busy semester of my graduate school career? Because I love it and watching a film I love always comforts me in times of crisis. And also because watching poor Selina D'Arcy live a horrid life of destitution and abuse, on top of being blind, and to watch her still have a happy outlook on life reminds me to appreciate what I have and to not complain!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thank you so much!!!

I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who responded to my inquiry for some classic tune recommendations for their feedback. I got a lenghty list of greats and will no longer be lost wandering around the Jazz section at my favorite bookstore or online wondering what I should get. I plan to make a nice Excel spreadsheet of all the recommendations ( I love Excel spreadsheets ) to keep handy everytime I need to invest in some good ole jazz!


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

God Speed Heath Ledger (1979-2008)

We've lost a genuinely good actor at his very prime. It's just not fair. I think that 50 years from now people will still remember Heath Ledger as a fine actor and will be lauded for his performances, especially for my personal favorite, Brokeback Mountain (2005). God Speed Heath!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Breaking the Code: Sunday Night Double Feature

On Sunday evening, my friend Kevin and I headed over to the Harvard Film Archive to watch a Pre-Codes double feauture. They were having a Pre-Codes marathon weekend (those words together are like music to my ears). For those of you who aren't familiar with Pre-Codes, they are a group of films made from the 1930-1934 before the Hays Code really clamped down on censoring. So filmmakers during this time period got a way with a lot more than they could in the late '30s up until the '50s. Pre-Codes are little gems and I'm always excited to watch ones I hadn't seen before.

Kongo (1932) - This was the first film we saw. It stars Walter Huston (of the royal Huston line) as a wheelchair bound man in Zanzibar lusting after revenge against the man who he blames for leaving him paralyzed, stealing his wife and getting said wife pregnant. He uses illusions, magic tricks and sugar cubes to wield power over the natives in the jungle. He lives with two outcasts, both of whom obey his every command, and as well as his highly-sexed Portuguese girlfriend, played by Lupe Velez. Everything changes when a drug-addicted doctor, Conrad Nagel, arrives at his hut at the same time the daughter, Virginia Bruce, of the man he despises is being sent from a convent into the middle of the unforgiving jungle.

The film was very interesting if you get past all the racism as well as the vast amounts of baby oil the actors had to rub on their bodies to give off the appearance of being in a constant state of sweat. What I liked best is that the actors, except for Lupe Velez, all looked the antithesis of glamour. They were dirty and grungy and Walter Huston especially was not pleasant to look at. But what else would you expect from living in the middle of a sweltering jungle? I liked that sense of realism that got lost during the reign of the Code until film noirs started making a presence. And Virginia Bruce is outstanding in this film. And I hold to the fact that I think she looks shockingly like contemporary actress Alexandra Holden.

The Sign of the Cross (1932) - Worth every penny and every second! This is exactly what I envision a film about the end of Rome and the rise of Christianity to be. Kudos to Cecil B. DeMille for this wonderful and grand epic. It's pro-Christian and anti-Roman Empire as you would expect, but it doesn't feel force fed. The Christiniaty in this movie is new and not fully formed. The Christians themselves don't have a full understanding of what it is to be a Christian but they hold on to the knowledge they have of the life of Christ and the power of the sign of the cross and that's what keeps them going. In that its very realistic. And the Romans are of course hedonistic and brutal but there is a humanity that is brought to them through the main protagonist, Marcus, a high-ranking official under the rule of Emperor Nero, who falls in love with a Christian girl. I can't really go on without ruining the story for you, but the realism in the film keeps it from being overly sentimental.

There a few things that stand out of this film to me that I would like to mention. The first being DeMille's very cruel use of a little Christian girl. She's strategically placed in key scenes to wrench out the tears of the even hardest of hearts. It's DeMille's special sadistic touch. Then there is Frederic March who is absolutely amazing as Marcus. I didn't even recognize him as I'm sure he had to buff up to play this role. And he wears very form-fitting and revealing clothes and he's very charismatic overall, and my heart fluttered a little every time he graced the screen. The last thing I must mention is the infamous scene (no not the orgy) with a nude Claudette Colbert bathing in a huge tub filled with donkey's milk. That's right folks, milk straight from donkeys. And you watch as the servants are milking sad donkeys and pouring buckets into a big well which connects to the bath inside. Bleh! The scene itself is very provacative and its said that DeMille took a week to shoot that as he was trying to get a glimpse of Colbert's naked body every time she stepped out of the bath. But a quick-thinking assistant was ready with a towel and DeMille never got his lustful glance.

Kongo is not on DVD but Sign of the Cross is. So if anything, try to watch at least one of these amazing Pre-Codes!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Recommendations Needed!

I know this is not movie-related but it is somewhat relevant to the "out of the past" theme of this blog!

I am looking for recommendations on music CDs. I just got an gift card and I'd like to invest in some 40s/50s/60s jazz music, some 20s/30s dance music and some 50s/60s pop music. I'd like to build my library a bit with artists or collections that I don't already have.

I've got what I need of Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. Any other big names that you recommend? It would be nice to get a themed or "Best of" collection on one CD. I really love the "For Lovers" series.

For 20s/30s dance, I have the Original Dance Music of 1920's & 1930's which I absolutely love, but am scared of trying another compilation. Anyone out there have one similar to this that they adore and would suggest to me?

For 50's/60's pop, all I got is Bobby Darin. Now I love me my Bobby Darin. In fact, I love him so much that when I bought my copy of Bobby Darin: The Hits Single Collection at Barnes & Noble 2+ years ago it went from the store to my car and hasn't left the car since. Literally! I listen to it on long drives, short drives, even medium-length drives. I love to sing along really loudly in the privacy of my Toyota Corolla. But I digress. I'd really like to try something else fun from this time period. Probably a collection, but a single artist would be fine too.

Please! Help! Comment or e-mail! Thank you in advance!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Check it out!

Turner Classic Movies is now posting feature film length videos on their MediaRoom website. Up until recently, you could only watch trailers, shorts and promos in the form of short video clips. Now, they are posting entire films! Mostly obscure ones not available on DVD. The quality is good and the video screen is larger than your normal online video clip would be. I highly recommend watching one. I recently saw Living On Love (1937) on the website and was very happy with the experience. Here is their current selection.

Living On Love (1937)
Way Out West (1937)
One Million, B.C. (1940)
Go Johnny Go! (1959)

If you don't mind really tiny, poor-quality video screens, then you can also try Internet Archive's Moving Images library. I love this website, mostly because I can find my old music page on there from back in the day in their Wayback Machine, but also because you can find feature-length films as well as old shorts in the Moving Images section. So, what are you waiting for? Check it out!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Classic Movie Night

On Saturday I organized my first ever Classic Movie Night. I invited 9 of my very closest friends and we had dinner, drank wine and watched Scarecrow (1920), a Buster Keaton short and Bachelor Mother (1939), my favorite film from the '30s. I themed my apartment with movie posters and people went home with take-away goodies. Fun was had to be sure! I hope I am able to make this a semi-regular event.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Breaking the Code: Blow-Up (1966)

In my journey to discover those films that broke the Code, it was imperative that I watch Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966). It's been heralded as the film that not only broke the Code, but threw it in the garbage can and lit said garbage can on fire. A veritable middle-finger in movie form.

Blow-Up is a really quiet film about just that, a blow-up. And it's title has a two-fold meaning. There is the literal blow-up, which is the picture that reveals a murder that Thomas, a visually hungry fashion photographer played by David Hemmings, blows up in order to study hidden details. Then there is the figurative blow-up which results in his discovery of the crime. You could add a third meaning, in the film's "blow-up" of the conception of what a movie is or what it should be.

If it had a precedent or if it had come later in the decade, I'm not sure that this film would have been so important in film history. People could have just seen it as another weird, swinging '60s flick. However, there are some things that make it quite remarkable. Its star, David Hemmings, is probably your best reason for watching the film. He epitomizes what one would expect of a London swinger. A gorgeous stylish man who just doesn't give a damn about propriety and is in search of his conception of the ultimate beauty. Then there is Vanessa Redgrave, who plays Jane, the woman threatened by Thomas' pictures of her at the crime scene. She is amazing to watch as she is the contemporary, troubled '60s goddess.

Finally there is the scene, that is the film, more than the actual film is the film. You know what I'm talking about. Hemmings sits on top of his model (played by Verushka) screaming "yes, yes, more, more" as he takes pictures of her as she writhes seductively on the floor. That one scene is iconic of that decade in film.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Robert Mitchum's Sad Eyes: Defaced

It 8:45 am when I step into my desk area one weekday morning. The usual suspects were there, and all seemed quiet. That was until I saw the remnants of a crime so hideous I knew that even the toughest gumshoes wouldn't be able to crack the case.

There he was. Quietly situated on my desk partition. As he was every morning. But this morning he was smeared with some unidentified hideous green goo.

Someone had defaced my printed picture of Robert Mitchum, the veritable king of film noir. Why Mitchum? I couldn't quite figure it out. Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were all left alone. But there was Mitchum. Handsom Mitchum with smeared green goo all over his pretty mug. Defaced by someone who I'm sure just didn't appreciate film noir.

The criminal mastermind behind this atrocity may never be found. But I got one message for the sorry loser, and I'm strictly on the level. There will be more pictures of Robert Mitchum posted on my partition, you can be sure about that. And the next time I see that green goo, plastered over another pretty face, it will be war!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Night at the Opera in a Whirpool with some Duck Soup. And two hard-boiled eggs. ::honk!: Make that three hard-boiled eggs.

I finally got to watch A Night at the Opera (1935) last week. Rip-roaring good time was had. My favorite scenes include Groucho and Chico discussing a sanity claus, Groucho ordering food from the ship's steward and Harpo swinging from the ropes backstage during the Opera. I highly recommend it! (Although Duck Soup (1933) is still my favorite).

You know you've watched too many movies when you rent the same movie twice! I didn't realize that I had already seen Whirlpool (1950) until I rented it again recently and when I watched the very first scene, I told myself the ending of the whole movie! Egads.

Here is a clip from Duck Soup (1933) for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

God Speed - 2007

I always cry when I see the annual TCM Remembers montage in dedication of those in the movie industry who have passed away. This is this years if you haven't yet seen it.

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