Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Super-Sensitive Viewer; How Violence Is NOT GOOD

Today is the 15th anniversary of the murder of Tejano singer Selena. So I'm in a bit of a sad mood.

Several things have happened recently which just reiterate the fact that I'm a super-sensitive viewer.

On Saturday night, I was at some trashy bar and there were some 100 screens showcasing the UFC 111 - Ultimate Fighting Championship. My eyes could not avoid the fight. I would have to look down at the ground or up at the ceiling if I didn't want to see two guys beating the living daylights out of each other. We had seen 3 fights and when they were on the George St. Pierre vs. Dan Hardy fight, I had had enough. My heart couldn't bear seeing Hardy's eye almost pop out of his head and both his arms be almost dislocated. I just had to get out of that bar and away from that fight.

Please don't beat up this guy. He's got a nice mohawk! And he's from Nottingham, England.

On Sunday, by good friend Mark (super genius awesome author extraordinaire) wrote a post about the film Beyond Rangoon (1995). It's a film I could never bring myself to watch. I had caught a pivotal scene in the beginning of the movie on TV some years ago and I have been traumatized ever since. The scene involved Patricia Arquette's character arriving at her home only to discover that her husband and young son have been brutally murdered. I immediately switched channels and have not touched the movie since. That one scene still haunts me to this day.

BrubakerA couple of weeks ago, Classicflix randomly chose to send me Crime School (1938) in the mail and I'm glad they did. It was such a wonderful movie and I can see why certain bloggers like the Dead End Kids. My beau Carlos found many correlations between this movie and Brubaker (1980) and encouraged me to watch the latter and compare the two films. The plots are very similar yet Brubaker has a lot more violence. In one part of the movie, the new warden played by Robert Redford discovers that one of the prisoners has been there a few years longer than his sentence required. Just as this older gentlemen is to be released the bad bad prison guards decide to kill him since he holds many secrets, including the locations of the graves of murdered prisoners. When I asked Carlos if the sweet old man was going to die, he admitted that he would and I burst into tears. We had to stop the DVD so I can regain composure. Needless to say, we had to skip over that part because I just couldn't deal.

Do you remember when I told you that I hyper-ventilated the first time I saw Strangers on a Train (1951)? Yeah.

Something about an old lady being choked at a party just rubbed me the wrong way.

Anyways, Carlos tried to calm me down by telling me that these were only actors and this wasn't real. EXCUSE ME? For me at least, the whole point of watching a movie is to be swept away by it. Not to see it as something fake, but to momentarily be taken into another world, into other people's lives, into other experiences. Carlos likes to find goofs, bad cuts and other errors. He likes to figure out the plot as early on as possible. I like to find literary/cultural references and to ride the magical ride that the plot takes me on. So no. To me this isn't fake this is the real deal.

And guess what? Brubaker is based on a real story.

And guess what else? The older gentleman who was murdered in the story died in real life before the movie hit theaters. So no Carlos. This isn't fake. That man really did die. So yes, I have a real reason to shed my tears.

So for me this is all to real. I can't take the violence. Fake violence (Brubaker) or real violence (UFC 111), to me it's bad. Really really bad. I find it sad that most people are so immune to images of violence that it doesn't even faze them. I don't want to be immune. When I see someone being hurt, I want to be able to empathize. I don't want to be insensitive.

So when the character Bullen (played by the delightful David Keith) tells us about his unfortunate upbringing and the brutal murder of his twin brother, we should feel empathy. When the prison guards eletrocute him a bit to punish him, we should feel empathy. When Bullen meets his demise, we should be sad.

Isn't that the whole point of a story? That it should get us to feel something? It makes me feel too much because I am too sensitive but I worry about those who don't feel anything anymore.

P.S. Carlos doesn't force me go to trashy bars, watch UFC fights or see violent movies against my will. He's a very sweet boyfriend, I promise!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Glass Wall (1953)

The construction of United Nations Secretariat building in New York City, New York was completed in 1952. Although it is in New York and activities that happen on the premise are under state and local jurisdiction, the land on which this building stands is considered international territory. The edifice stands at 505 feet tall and has almost 40 stories. It was designed by architects Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer who created a modern building that stood out from the classic architecture that surrounded it. What is unique about the Secretariat building is that it looks like a giant glass wall. You can see the reflection of the city's skyline in the continuous rows of windows. It represents the uniting of nations to create a more cohesive world yet the building seems less like a beacon and more like a giant impediment. On the other side of the building is the East River which flows into the Atlantic. In some ways, the building looks like a wall blocking the US from the world and the world from the US. And the building, it's significance, it's placement and it's appearance proved to be perfect fodder for film noir.

The UN Secretariat building features prominent in The Glass Wall (1953) making the title of the film very apropos.  Peter Kaban (Vittorio Gassman) has reached a glass wall. He can see through the wall to the other side, where there lies hope for a new life and for freedom. But the wall is an illusion and he can't get through. He tries to shatter the glass wall but doing so comes with major repercussions.

After spending nearly 10 years in concentration camps and watching his entire family die in a gas chamber, Peter escapes Aushwitz and walked 300 miles to get on a shipping vessel headed towards America. He gets on the ship as a stowaway and when he gets there, he is denied entrance because of his illegal entry. He tries to reason with the goverment officials using Statute Six which allows people of Allied forces who have helped the American cause to enter America. Peter helped an American soldier named Tom but only knows very rudimentary information about his American friend and cannot convince the officials. Determined not to go back to Europe, as it would be a death sentence for him, he escapes the docked vessel and goes on the lam, looking for his friend Tom. Tom is his one chance at staying in America and for his salvation but like any good film, finding Tom isn’t easy, even when Tom starts looking for Peter.

Peter has a naivete and a wholesomeness that makes us sympathize with him. He's been through so much and it pains us to watch him go through more pain and anguish. There is an amazing scene where Peter walks around Times Square and looks around in wonderment and awe at all the flashing lights, people and general hussle and bussle. He is the film noir equivalent of a lost puppy and we are desperate to save him.

Peter becomes a psuedo-celebrity. His face is plastered on the front page of the newspaper and many people in the city recognize him because of that. He runs and runs even past the point when he doesn't have to run anymore and running would do him more harm than good. We watch Peter’s slow descent into delirium as his body starts to lose it's battle against the broken ribs that threaten to puncture his surrounding organs. His physical deterioration adds to the ascent to the story's climax. When Peter reaches The Glass Wall, he sees the reflection of the building through a puddle. It's the last beacon. It's his final destination. It's his biggest obstacle that he must face. Can he make it? Can he push himself just a bit more? Can he take himself to the brink of death in order to save his life?

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the film’s biggest shining star, Gloria Grahame. She has a formidable role of Peter’s love interest and friend, Maggie. Maggie is disillusioned by the same system which has also rejected Peter. She's used to men wanting her body and forcing themselves on her. She's fed up with not having money. She has nothing to fight for until she meets Kaban and she'll rob small children to help him out. Maggie is as desperate as Peter and in this way they complement each other. Grahame always excelled in roles in which the character’s were jaded and fed up. She emoted frustration very well especially with her characteristic frown and pout.

This film comes at a time when Americans are still reeling after the effects of WWII and of the horror that has come to light about the Holocaust and concentration camps. A massive influx of WWII refugees infiltrated the United States, many coming through Ellis Island which is also featured in the film. Many of these immigrants were know settling into their new lives in the US and trying to become part of the local fabric. Many abandoned their pasts for their futures while others never forgot where they came from. When Peter (a Hungarian) is on the lam, he runs into a sympathetic Hungarian-American who takes him in to her home. The sympathy they show for a complete stranger, and a well-known criminal at that, really demonstrates the bond between immigrants and the people from their homeland.

This is what I call an effective movie. It’s relevant to the times, it’s shot on location, the characters are interesting and sympathetic, the pacing works and the rising tension keeps you at the edge of your seat. There are some great shots of New York City and the inside of the UN Secretariat building. The pinnacle of the film is a superb monologue delivered by Vittorio Gassman (Peter) in an empty UN conference room. If that scene doesn’t move you, you have no soul.

The Glass Wall (1953) is highly underrated and overlooked. In my honest opinion, it has to be one of the best and effective film noirs out there. I’m very appreciative that it’s finally got it’s debut on DVD through the Bad Girls of Film Noir Vol 1 boxed set. And maybe with it’s availability, this little noir will get the recognition it deserves.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Carlos!

This is a special Happy Birthday greeting to my beau Carlos who turns ::mumbling:: years old today. xoxo

This is Carlos channeling Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler (1961):

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Guest Post on Noir of the Week

Please go check out my guest post on Noir of the Week on the excellent Noir The Glass Wall (1953). I'll be reposting it here with my own pictures when the next noir replaces mine. Check out this excellent poster that Steve picked out for the post!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Les Girls (1957)

Les Girls
The year is 1957. Major movie studios are feeling pressure to get people back into the theaters and away from their television sets. Cinemas were losing business and subsequently closing locations. International moviemakers, who had fewer restrictions in showing sex and other themes in the films that were not friendly to the still active Hays-Code, were luring American viewers away from domestic films. So what we see during the late 1950s are American studios making desperate attempts to produce films that will capture the public's eye and make movie goers reach for their wallets.

What we get during are a lot of films that push boundaries and test the waters. Films like Baby Doll (1956), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959). Studios were using the shock value of their new films to keep themselves in business. So where does a tame little movie like Les Girls (1957) come in?

Let's take a look at what was on television in 1957:

Perry Mason
Leave it to Beaver
Have Gun - Will Travel
Wagon Train

What did 1957 American television not have?:

A Metrocolor musical directed by George Cukor starring Gene Kelly with Cole Porter songs and wardrobe designed by Orry-Kelly.

Who cares if Les Girls (1957) comes out like Les Blech?! As long as it's pretty, has song and dance numbers, has a lot of big names attached to it all while Gene Kelly's ego can be fed, then why the heck not. It's pure money.

For the moviegoer who can't go to Broadway to watch a big theatrical production, a film like Les Girls is the next best thing. It's a reason to get out of the house. It's a reason to abandon the TV. It's a reason to spend some of your money.

And yes. I feel a bit strange having seen this film on my own home television.

I didn't much care for this movie. It seems like the sort of film that was made just so Gene Kelly could be pleased (and hey, it was his last musical so why not!). As Millie from ClassicForever describes it, the film is Gene Kelly's love letter to himself. However, this film still managed to fascinate me. I think it's mainly because it's so different from the other 1950s films that I'm normally drawn to.

I like how it's a sign of the times. I like how it's so bad that you can't help but watch the whole thing. I like how pretty all the women look and how I want each and every single outfit they wear. I like the fact that the title is "Les Girls" but it's really about "L'homme".

And on a final and somewhat related note, I'm oddly curious about Kay Kendall, and have been ever since I saw The Reluctant Debutante (1958) . She passed away of Leukemia in 1959 at the tender age of 33, only a couple of years after Les Girls (1957) hit theaters and after she had been diagnosed. At the time of her diagnosis, she was having an affair to then-married Rex Harrison. He learned of her diagnosis, knew she only had two years to live, didn't tell her about it, divorced his wife and immediately married her to take care of her. But Harrison and his original wife planned to remarry after Kendall died. Huh?! She went on working in films, theater and television until the day she died. All the while she thought she had an iron deficiency. Harrison never remarried his original wife because she fell in love with someone else. How did Harrison get the diagnosis? Why didn't the doctor tell Kendall? Doesn't this strike you as odd?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Charles Emmett Mack ~ America (1924)

AmericaIn my quest to be the world renown expert on all things Charles Emmett Mack (McNerney), I have been trying to get my hands on as many films of his as I can. I had waited not-so patiently, for well over a month, for ClassicFlix to send me America (1924) (only to discover that Netflix had it as available immediately, darn!). The film overall was a bit of a disappointment. It's directed by D.W. Griffith, known far and wide as the man who created such epic and controversial films as The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. Griffith was a jerk to say the least and a racist one at that. I don't like him nor do I care to learn anything about him. However, he is an important figure in Charles Emmett Mack's life. Griffith discovered Mack when Mack was a prop boy and took him under his wing, placing Mack in several of his films. These included Dream Street (1921), One Exciting Night (1922) and The White Rose (1923). Their last collaboration was America (1924).

America would prove to be Griffith's biggest failure and it marked the beginning of the end of his career.

America tells the story of the American Revolution. Like many directors in the Silent film era, Griffith took on a big subject and focused it by telling a larger story through the lives of a few characters. The problem is Griffith got carried away with the larger story and lost focus of the smaller one and the film turned out to be a complete mess. Nathan Holden (Neil Hamilton) is a farmer and a Rebel. He's in love with Nancy Montague (Carol Dempster), a delicate British belle who sympathizes with the king. Though they are at odds politically, they fall in love. Charles Emmett Mack plays Charles Montague, Nancy's brother. He's got a dual personality. On the outside he's the epitome of British pomp and frill and privilege. On the inside, he deeply admires General George Washington and wants to fight with Nathan and the rebels, even though doing so would shame his father. Oh yeah and Lionel Barrymore is in there too as Captain Walter Butler.

It's a good concept but the story gets muddled. As a collection of American Revolutionary War reenactments, this film is superb. I was very impressed by the scenes of Paul Revere's midnight ride and the fact that they shot on location in places such Lexington, MA and Concord, MA (nearby towns for me). However, the main story gets lost in all these reenactments and the confused audience loses track of the characters and what they are doing. The title cards are horribly written, the characters hardly get any dialogue and we, as viewers, are left puzzled. Griffith threw tons of money at this movie and sincerely hoped it would be his next epic but it was cursed from the very beginning. Even his favorite actress, Lillian Gish, didn't want to be associated with the film (she was originally singled out to play Nancy Montague).

Charles Emmett Mack is only a minor character in this film and I wished his character would have been more substantial because I thought his storyline had potential. I managed to get some screen shots of him and I thought I'd share. Also, my new discovery, Neil Hamilton who was quite the looker.

Neil Hamilton

Charles Emmett Mack

Here Mack's Character Montague meets and embraces General George Washington.

Angry Face!

Fighting with the rebels!

Monday, March 1, 2010

TCM comes to a city near you. Whether you like it or not.

TCM is doing a 5-City Tour called Road to Hollywood that will lead up to their first Classic Film Festival. I think TCM might have a vendetta against me (I don't know why that is because I love them). First of all, I haven't been able to afford the channel (that will change later in the year though, I hope). Then, they hold an awesome Classic Film Festival on the other side of the continent and make it so prohibitively expensive that I can't afford to go. Then they give me the ultimate tease. They tell me they are coming to Boston for a day. Really? Yay! Their visit will comprise of Ben Mankiewicz and a movie from 1982? Boo. That really sucks TCM. Couldn't you send me Robert Osborne and a pre 1970 movie instead? The only good thing I can see in all of this is that it will bring people to the Brattle, my favorite repertory theatre. If you are in Boston and you like the 1980s and you like things that are free, this one is for you!

Here is the press release if you want to read it.
For Release: March 1, 2010

Turner Classic Movies Heads to Five Cities for Road to Hollywood Tour,

Leading Up to Launch of First-Ever TCM Classic Film Festival

All Screenings Free to Public;

Tickets Available Beginning March 1 at

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is taking its love of great movies to five cities nationwide with the Road to Hollywood tour, a slate of special free screenings building up to the launch of the first-ever TCM Classic Film Festival. In the weeks before the festival, which will take place in Hollywood April 22-25, TCM will travel to Boston (March 18); New York (March 23); Chicago (March 30); Washington, D.C. (April 8); and San Francisco (April 21) for presentations of five outstanding films, each set in the city in which it will be screened.

Most of the films will be introduced by TCM host Robert Osborne or weekend daytime host Ben Mankiewicz. In addition, TCM is planning celebrity appearances for each screening. OscarÒ and EmmyÒ-winning actress Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront) is scheduled to appear in Chicago for the presentation of the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest (1959). Broadway legend Elaine Stritch (Company) will be on-hand for the screening of All About Eve (1950) in New York. Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) and popular San Francisco film critic and show business reporter Jan Wahl of KRON, will introduce the Orson Welles thriller The Lady from Shanghai (1948) in San Francisco. Producer George Stevens Jr., founding director of the American Film Institute, will take part in the screening of his father’s film The More the Merrier (1943) in Washington, D.C. And Boston Herald film critic James Verniere will take part in the Boston screening of The Verdict (1982).

“We couldn’t be more thrilled that we’ll be able to bring the excitement of our first TCM Classic Film Festival to folks in these five great cities,” said Osborne. “This is a great opportunity for us to connect directly with the TCM community across America. We look forward to meeting our fellow movie lovers and sharing our passion for great films.”

Below is a complete schedule of TCM’s Road to Hollywood screenings. Although the screenings are free to the public, tickets are required for entry. Tickets will be available beginning March 1 at

The Brattle Theatre in Boston – Thursday, March 18, at 8 p.m. – The Verdict (1982)

Ben Mankiewicz and Boston Herald film critic Jim Verniere will introduce this emotionally powerful legal drama directed by Sidney Lumet and written by David Mamet. Paul Newman earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as an alcoholic lawyer who is having difficulty keeping clients. He lands a dream case, however, when he is hired to sue a hospital for negligence.
 The Music Box Theater in Chicago – Tuesday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. – North by Northwest (1959)

Robert Osborne will by joined by Oscar and Emmy winner Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront) in Chicago for this presentation of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s biggest and most enduring hits. Cary Grant plays an everyman mistaken as a double agent and chased across the country by people on both sides of the law. Saint plays the woman unwittingly roped into helping him. James Mason, Leo G. Carroll and Martin Landau co-star.

The Avalon Theatre in Washington, D.C. – Thursday, April 8, at 8 p.m. – The More the Merrier (1943)

Ben Mankiewicz and producer George Stevens Jr., founding director of the American Film Institute, will introduce this highly entertaining film directed by Stevens’ father. Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea star as a pair forced to share a D.C. apartment during a wartime housing shortage. Charles Coburn won an Oscar for his deliciously comic performance.

The Castro in San Francisco – Wednesday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. – The Lady from Shanghai (1948)

Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show), who is an expert on the films of Orson Welles and was a close friend of the director, will be joined by popular San Francisco film critic and show business reporter Jan Wahl of KRON as they introduce this memorable thriller. The story involves a fake murder plot that turns out to be all too real. Welles stars along with Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane and Glenn Anders. The film’s extraordinary imagery includes an exciting hall-of-mirrors sequence that remains a cinematic masterpiece.

About the TCM Classic Film Festival

The first-ever TCM Classic Film Festival will take place April 22-25, 2010, in the heart of Hollywood. The network is inviting fans from around the country to join this new festival and share their passion for great movies. This landmark celebration of the history of Hollywood and its movies will be presented in a way that only TCM can, with major events, celebrity appearances, panel discussions and more. The four-day festival will also provide movie fans a rare opportunity to experience some of cinema’s greatest works as they were meant to be seen – on the big screen.

The festival will involve several venues in a central area of Hollywood, including screenings at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which has a longstanding role in movie history and was the site of the first Oscar ceremony, will be the official hotel for the festival as well as a key venue for festival passholders.

The central gathering point for the TCM Classic Film Festival community will be Club TCM. This area, which is open exclusively to festival passholders, will be abuzz with activity during the entire festival, providing fans with unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Among the events slated for Club TCM are a book signing and display of original art by Tony Curtis; a special screening of Joan Crawford’s home movies, hosted by her grandson, Casey LaLonde; a presentation by special effects artist Douglas Trumbull; and numerous scheduled conversations with festival guests. Club TCM will also feature several panel discussions, including Casting Secrets: The Knack of Finding the Right Actor; A Remake to Remember: Hollywood’s Love Affair with Updating Movie Classics; The Greatest Movies Ever Sold: Classic Movie Marketing Campaigns; Location Location Location; Film Continuity: When Details Count; and TCM: Meet the People Behind the Network.

Club TCM will be headquartered in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This lavish room is steeped in Hollywood history as the site of the original Academy Awards banquet.

The TCM Classic Film Festival is being produced by TCM. Serving as festival consultants are Bill and Stella Pence, who are well-known in industry circles as co-founders of the Telluride Film Festival.

The TCM Classic Film Festival is sponsored by Vanity Fair, the official festival partner and host of the opening night gala; Buick®, the official automotive sponsor; Delta Air Lines, the official travel partner; and Fekkai, official luxury hair care sponsor of the Vanity Fair’s Tales of Hollywood program.
Festival passes and additional information are available at

Turner Classic Movies is a Peabody Award-winning network celebrating 15 years of presenting great films, uncut and commercial-free, from the largest film libraries in the world. Currently seen in more than 80 million homes, TCM features the insights of veteran primetime host Robert Osborne and weekend daytime host Ben Mankiewicz, plus interviews with a wide range of special guests. As the foremost authority in classic films, TCM offers critically acclaimed original documentaries and specials, along with regular programming events that include The Essentials, 31 Days of Oscar and Summer Under the Stars. TCM also stages special events and screenings, such as the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood; produces a wide range of media about classic film, including books and DVDs; and hosts a wealth of materials at its Web site, TCM is part of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company.
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company, creates and programs branded news, entertainment, animation and young adult media environments on television and other platforms for consumers around the world.

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