Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo (1948) is a fine film indeed because of it's acute attention to detail. It's character and plot development are straight on. We learn so much from so little. Let's take a look at some details that really stand out:
  • Dual storms - There is a hurricane outside and an equally dangerous storm brewing inside the hotel. This duality increases the tension and makes for great suspense.
  • Ridiculous Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) - He's in the midst of unforgiving tropical heat, spends his days in a tub of cold water with a fan oscillating next to him. Yet he'll still don a full-on robe complete with pocket square, scarf and lit up cigar even though it's the most ridiculous ensemble to wear in such heat. He also refuses to bring in his boat during the hurricane and eventually loses it. To top it all off he brings his drunk girlfriend Gaye (Claire Trevor) who foils his plans every which way she can. For such a smart conniving gangster, Rocco becomes a complete idiot in Key Largo and that says something about his future.
  • Conflicted Frank McCloud (Bogie) - He survived WWII through his cowardice. He doesn't know whether he's coming or going or whether he should be brave and take action or whether he should just let things happen as they will. You can see the conflict in his eyes. The desire to be a better person but the debilitating fear that grips him.
  • Native Americans - Perhaps this is a John Huston touch. The camera focuses at one point on a group of Native Americans and Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) spends a considerable amount of screen time introducing us to a 100+ year old woman. The camera adores her wrinkled constitution focusing on it so closely that her face takes up the whole screen. It humanizes the story in many ways.
  • Lionel Barrymore in a wheelchair - How can this not tug on your heartstrings? If you are familiar with Barrymore's earlier work, you'll understand that it's difficult to watch him in this state towards the end of his career. It's not just the character in the wheelchair it's the actor too.
  • Lush versus Widow - Juxtaposition of two opposing female characters adds a lot to the story. It makes us understand each of the two characters and their interactions with both Rocco and McCloud help us understand those male characters too.
  • Uncomfortable - Those goons at the beginning of the picture made me terribly uncomfortable. They made the other characters uncomfortable too. The way they spoke, their restlessness and their short fuses made me scared of what was to come. It was tension before the real tension even started.
You can see this film in many ways. As a Bogie film. As a Bogie-Bacall film. As a Bogie-Robinson film. Or even as a Bogie-Trevor film. But what anchors the film is Bogie himself. He's what all the plot points depend on even when he seems to be lurking in the background. In the end, this is really a Bogie film.

Monday, November 29, 2010

God Speed Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

Oh Leslie, you broke my heart yesterday when you passed away. I don't ever think I got a chance to really express how much I appreciated you. Let me take a moment to thank you for a few things:

1. Thank you for entertaining us. You were devilishly handsome and grew up to be quite a distinguished looking older gentleman. But you were never stuck up. There was always a childish quality about you. You had a silly youthful spirit and you made so many of us laugh until our sides hurt. So thank you.

2. Thank you for being there when I got my first period. I know, it's a very strange thing to thank you for. I remember watching Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994) at home and being surprised by a visit from mother nature. It's a difficult time for a young girl but I had you to entertain me for a couple of hours and you know what, that made things a lot easier for me. So thank you.

3. Thank you for Katie and Orbie. I was a teenager with a strong interest in children's entertainment. Who knew I'd end up working at a children's book publisher later in my life. That early interest of mine helped me with my career path. Kate and Orbie was such an unusual show. Canadian produced, semi-animated and with a heart of gold, you narrated the whole thing. You told the story, you did all the voices, it was all you all the time. And you know what? It was lovely. I will always remember that show. So thank you and God Speed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gentleman Jim (1942) and Opportunities

Merriam-Webster provides the following two definitions for the word "opportunity":
  1. a favorable juncture of circumstances
  2. a good chance for advancement or progress

We talk about opportunities passing us by, grabbing an opportunity when we can, and scolding others for being opportunists. Opportunities are tricky things. Some we are lucky to stumble upon, others we can't take because of extenuating circumstances and other opportunities we create ourselves.

James J. Corbett (Errol Flynn) is an opportunist in the fullest meaning of the term. He finds opportunities but for the most part he makes them. He's not satisfied with a little success, he wants it all. He wants to be a gentleman, he wants the girl and he wants the fame that comes with being the best Victorian prize-fighter in San Francisco. Corbett will take any circumstance and turn it around into an opportunity. Even when the odds are against him.

Again we see Flynn in a based-on-a-true-story film which wildly exaggerates the truth in order to entertain audiences with a hot-shot opportunist character who triumphs through sheer determination. That's a real "American" story is it not? He's an Irishman from humble origins and we want to see him rise to the very top. Why? Because we want the same for ourselves. We want those opportunities. We want to be the best. We want to overcome our circumstances and triumph.

This film lavishes it's attention on the Corbett who starts at the bottom and reaches the top. Because that's the most interesting story. However, we see the downfall of another boxer, John L. Sullivan, and although we may ignore our gut feeling, Corbett's heading for the same fate. No matter how successful we are and how many opportunities we seize, we will all be replaced by someone younger. It's the sad inevitable truth of life. All we can ask for is to be remembered kindly and to hope that our triumphs inspire future ones.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Warner Archive Black Friday Sale

(click the image above to go to the Warner Archive store)

This sale ends 11/29 (Monday) so if there are some Warner Archive DVDs you've been lusting after NOW is the time to get them. This is a really great deal. $10 each for 5 single-disc DVDs and no shipping cost. Plus, plus, plus. 

Are you going to take advantage of this sale? What are you going to get? If you've already made your purchase, what did you buy? This is what I got:

The Bachelor Mother (1939). You guys have Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz but for me the crowning jewel of 1939, the Golden Year of Movies, was The Bachelor Mother (oh and The Women, I can have two jewels right?). It's by far one of my favorite films and easily takes a spot in my top 5. It's a film I love to watch at any time during the year but especially during Christmas and New Year's. I watch it alone or I share it with friends. It's just the most divine movie ever and I curse Warner Bros. for not putting it out earlier. Now I have a proper DVD but I also had it on a burned DVD thanks to a kind friend as well as a VHS version which has gotten lost twice. Now I will have a proper DVD with keepcase and everything!

Keep Your Powder Dry (1945). This is a notable film featuring one of my favorite actresses Susan Peters. I've mentioned it before in my tribute to Susan Peters and while I had a VHS recording of it I was really happy to purchase a DVD copy. I'm starting to develop a strange interest in patriotic films from the 1940s and this is one of the better ones in my opinion. And Lana Turner is not even the least bit annoying in it!

Boy's Night Out (1962). This one is a total wild card. I have a VHS recording of this but it was missing a significant chunk so I have never seen it. I was contemplating getting this because of the cast, the story and the fact that it was remastered. I wasn't fully sold until I got recommendations from Terry from A Shroud of Thoughts, Millie from ClassicForever and Casey from Noir Girl. They sold it to me!

The Easiest Way (1931). A favorite early talkie. I loved it so much I dressed up as Anita Page! I only have a VHS recording of this so I'm very glad to be able to own it on DVD.

Their Own Desire (1929). Another top favorite film which I've written about on here a couple of times. It's Art Deco at it's finest, Shearer & Montgomery's first picture together and it's just a great example of an enjoyable early talkie. I'm so glad to be able to own a proper copy of this with such a beautiful design for the keepcase!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Elia Kazan Collection: Selected by Martin Scorsese

(watch me present the boxed set in this newest vlog!)

A Letter to Elia (2010) - Scorsese documentary
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
Boomerang (1947)
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
Pinky (1949
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Viva Zapata! (1952)
Man on a Tightrope (1953)
East of Eden (1955)
America America (1963)

Full Disclosure: I received this boxed set as a birthday present from my beau Carlos. <3 xoxo

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Robert Mitchum with his sons Chris and James)

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with lots of family and friends and good home-cooked food. And classic movies of course!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Charlie Chaplin and a Rack of Ribs

I was at a Grill/Bar of questionable respectability on Sunday evening. I enjoy frequenting such places because I can usually get a good drink as well as indulge in some people watching. This Grill/Bar features waitresses in themed attire, that evening it was Patriots themed, a full bar, booths and other dining tables, poker tables and a variety of flat screen televisions showcasing different cable channels on mute. After some socializing, a so-so appetizer and a fantastic personal sized pitcher of grapefruit sangria, we headed out when I spotted something. Above the bar there are 8 flat screen televisions, 4 on either side of the partition. One one side I saw 4 screens, 2 showing Sunday night's football game, one showing a music video and another showing a Charlie Chaplin movie. Charlie Chaplin?! I looked over on the other side and saw another screen showing the exact Chaplin movie! Wha?! At first I thought it was a clip of a movie that was being shown on some television program. So I stood there a little while watching. Nope they were playing the film. Then I thought, it might be TCM's Silent Sundays. TCM is a cable channel, perhaps they flipped the channels to the wrong one and left it on by mistake. The next day I looked up TCM's schedule for the previous evening. Not only was TCM not featuring a Silent Sundays line-up there was no Charlie Chaplin film on the schedule either. So then I looked up the local PBS station to see if they had shown a Chaplin film during prime time. Nope. I couldn't figure it out. Why would this Grill/Bar show a Chaplin movie?

This is what I have seen at this bar:

  • a DJ playing 80s/90s dance hits
  • a bartender in a hot pink outfit that barely covered her body which made me do a double take
  • a man dunking his head into a vat of whipped cream while he fished for gum balls in the name of charity
  • a random couple groping each other in front of the men's bathroom
  • a cartoon of a woman holding up a plate of ribs while men check out her "rack"

What I don't expect to see at this bar... A Charlie Chaplin movie! For one thing, a silent film is perfect for a bar. Especially a funny one. All the TVs are on mute anyways and you don't need to hear dialogue when watching a silent movie like you would a TV show. You can guzzle your beer, nosh on your greasy hamburger AND laugh hysterically at Chaplin's hijinks. Plus plus plus.

Where is the strangest place you have seen a classic film movie or a classic film poster?

While you chew on that thought, let me leave you with a clip of the famous Chaplin dinner roll dance scene. Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Action in the North Atlantic (1943)

A fine World War II movie, indeed.

What a superb war movie. It's got all the right elements: action, adventure, interesting characters, a couple of love stories, brains versus brawn, patriotism, etc. Plus, you have Humphrey Bogart as the effortlessly cool (I say that a lot huh?) Lt. Joe Rossi. That's delicious buttercream icing on an already fantastic cake. It does what a war movie in 1943 should do: make you hate the Germans and pump your fist in the air when the American prevail. Or in my case, make you clutch your soft blue blanket in fear when the German submarines DARE to fire off underwater torpedos at my beloved American ship. How DARE they?!

And now, a special message from Chris Rock:

(click on the image to watch the video. NSFW)

No matter what a stripper tells you, there's no Robert Mitchum in this Bogie movie.

IMDB and other sources claim that Robert Mitchum has a bit part and one line of dialogue in this movie. Mitchum? Really? I was so excited! I looked and looked and looked and looked for him. Couldn't find him. It was a big fat lie. Mitchum wasn't in the movie at all. I looked through Lee Server's bio of Robert Mitchum and Server devotes a section to 1943 when Mitchum was getting his start in Hollywood playing lots of bit parts. No mention of Action in the North Atlantic whatsoever. Again, it's a big fat lie. Unless you can show me proof, I'm calling this one's bluff. Moral of the story: don't believe everything that IMDB or Wikipedia tells you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The world's best remake

We hate remakes don't we? Hollywood seems to be money hungry now, milking the last few drops out of the golden teats of brands just to make some dough. Nothing is sacred. All those classics you hold near and dear are just waiting to be butchered by some big studio wanting to make a fast buck. It's just a matter of time until classic power houses such as Casablanca (1942), The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939) are remade for today's contemporary audience. However, remakes aren't new. They are an old tradition in the movie business. Let's take The Maltese Falcon (1941) for example. Not only is it a remake of the 1931 version it's also preceded by another remake Satan Met a Lady (1936) with Bette Davis and Warren William. 

I often wonder what goes into the decision making process of 21st century movie studios when they decide to remake a classic. I like to envision that young upstarts at these studios, fresh out of film school but have not yet made an emotional connection to certain classics come up with these ideas only to have them robbed by the powers that be that throw money around to make it happen. Then they see who's hot, who's available, who's willing to butcher and/or remake this film to cash in on some big box office dough. Some remakes are good but the unfortunate truth is that most are really bad. But audiences will still flock to theaters because these established names are recognizable. Who wants to take a chance on an unknown when there is something safe and familiar instead?

One thing about The Maltese Falcon is that if they ever remake it again they can NOT top the cast. Humphrey Bogart was effortlessly cool as Sam Spade. Mary Astor as the dangerous, scared and alluring Brigid O'Shaunessy was simply divine. And I couldn't imagine any other team of criminals than Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr. Or could I? While I watched the film I looked closely at each of the actor's faces and tried to come up with the first contemporary actor that came to mind. In some cases it was physical appearance in other cases it was a random association based on essence. This new cast could either prove as a nightmare or a decent possibility to you. For me, it would only work if they did something fresh and new with it. If they do ever remake this, there is no way they will be able to find an actor like Bogie. He has no equivalent. There is no replacement. Bogie was Bogie, 'nuff said.

Humphrey Bogart

Ben Affleck
(I have this strange Bogie-Affleck thing. Don't ask)

Mary Astor

Julianne Moore
(Astor pouted in the same way Moore does)

Sydney Greenstreet

James Gandolfini
(Gandolfini can't play loveable but he can sure play a big round intimidator)

Peter Lorre

Johnny Galecki
(Hair, eyes, they sort of resemble each other. Plus some guy called Chuck Lorre produces the Big Bang Theory. I didn't even realize this until I was looking up the actor!)

Elisha Cook Jr.

Casey Affleck
(eh. They just look alike!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fox 75th Anniversary Sets at Target

Carlos went to Target some weeks back and saw that they were carrying several DVD boxed sets at $9.99. These were 75th Anniversary 20th Century Fox Studio Classics sets. A great deal. You get 4 movies for $10.00. That's only $2.50 a movie. And it's much less expensive than investing in a larger boxed set with many more movies. These make great gifts! We got the following:

(Click on the image to go to the Target.com page for the item for more information. However, these DVD sets are only available in Target stores.)


and here are some others of note:

Full Disclosure: Carlos found these at Target and we purchased two. 
Also, don't bother with the poster codes. Fox either run out of posters or the codes don't work.

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