Wednesday, June 28, 2006
MacNamara creates additional problems for himself through a very personal relationship with his secretary. When his wife becomes suspicious, he works overtime to put out the fires at home. His imminent promotion is nearly derailed when Pamela is added onto MacNamara’s roster of duties. She absconds from his watch, runs off and gets married to a communist activist. It’s up to MacNamara to put the best polish on the whole situation before her parents arrive to meet their new son in law.
Otto, Pamela’s beau, is a unique challenge to the controlling businessman, as they are equally strong willed in their opposing convictions. Otto’s youth and enthusiasm create an energized counterpoint to MacNamara’s skill and experience. Any film is improved when actors become unclothed, and much to the audience’s benefit, Mr. Wilder makes excellent use of the handsome Horst Buchholz.
As the story is set primarily in the office of an international corporation, politics becomes a part of the problem. Wilder’s political commentary brings a weight and realism to the story, yet the characters’ dialogue is light and carefree. The conflicts of political opinions seem both deadly serious and insignificant. Stereotypes are played with and against. Wit and mischievous innuendo bring a refreshing mood of cool openness into the environment. However, the American Spirit is a strong presence throughout the film as Captain MacNamara steers the ship.
Billy Wilder made fantastic films. His well-crafted scripts bubble with sparkling humor and clever conversation, and bring out the best in the actors and actresses. Exceptional musical scoring and well-paced editing bring a near flawless perfection to the production. His movies age well with time, so many generations to come will surely enjoy the excitement and amusement of his work.
The mail bag is getting a wee bit low. Finknottle needs your questions to keep the little wheel in his brain squeaking. Be sure to email them to jeph43 "at" hotmail.com or comment in one of the threads. Client/doctor confidentiality will not be honored.
Arresting the Deserter (1885)
The Trooper (1892)
The Advance takes the portrait of the Trooper one step further, so far as action is concerned. The man in the lead appears to be the same officer. Does anything sit more erect in the saddle that a U.S. cavalry officer?
The Advance (1898)
Fight for the Water Hole (1903)
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
A new play is saying that Butch and Sundance did not go out in a blaze of glory ala the 1969 classic, but rather, killed themselves while surrounded by Bolivian cops and armed townspeople:
"God is witness that we did what was possible to find a new life," says Sundance. "Butch. I'm hurting. It's bad. Butch. Help me please," he says.
"I will help you," says Cassidy, picking up his gun and holding it to Sundance's forehead. "God bless you, kid."
He shoots his partner and anxiously cries, "It's too late." Cassidy then shoots himself through the forehead.
Presumably, that would mean Butch didn’t live out his years up in the Pacific Northwest.
I assume that if the movie was made in the 70s, this would have been the ending.
(cat-Butch and cat-kid picture from here)
His use of day for night paint was extraordinary.
Cheyenne Scouts Partrolling the Big Timber of the North Canadian, Oklahoma (1889)
A beautiful dusk to go with this picture that tells a little story:
Coming to the Call (1905)
And, of course, the eco-friendly forms of communication:
Monday, June 26, 2006
Sunday, June 25, 2006
The Gander Pull (1888?)
And just check out the skill!
Remington knows how to frame a picture and has a great sense of depth - much like John Ford. Plus, he can create dust out of pen and ink:
In the Desert (1888)
A Troop Picket Line (1901)
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Three black and white sci fi films with lots of military men from the fifties. X from 1956, and the others both 1951. I mixed them up. Every time an alien creature would appear, I would stop the movie and switch to another.
However, after watching all three opening credits, I would have preferred to play them all at once on three separate screens. They are all 80-90 minutes long. Lacking this ability, I continued with shuffling them on my one screen.
Right away I noticed that in The Thing, actors are stepping on each other’s lines, or, speaking over each other. The attitude is very casual, loose, and a little lazy perhaps, as if a lot of filming was done in one take. The dialogue in The Day, by contrast, is sharp, precise and clear.
X reminded me of an idea I had a while ago, to make a sci fi movie with no special effects. Have all of the actors reacting to things offscreen. X did have some special effects here and there, but they are very quick. Mostly you have people examining something and then screaming.
In The Day, lots of stock footage is used, or, a lot of things happened that could be from stock footage. Operators working switchboards, newspaper presses rolling, people in foreign lands listening to radio broadcasts. I would really like to see a sci fi movie with no special effects, any suggestions are welcome.
Sometimes there are long periods before a creature will make another appearance. So I changed the rules so that I would switch movies every time a military guy read some official correspondence about the situation. In all three films, it is refreshing to see the military forces stocked with youthful, handsome men.
Unfortunately that leaves the women with the “Hey, What’s Going On Here?” roles.
It is very interesting to observe the decreased level of security depicted in the films, from the view of our current time. The potentially dangerous site of the appearance of the alien is surrounded with a flimsy structure, in one case, a rope on sticks, and only one or two low ranking soldiers are sent to guard it. They hang out, thinking that nothing will happen but eventually something does happen and the men are easily knocked out. Whoever is the first to report something as suspicious, he is dismissed right away and told that he just imagined it.
Radioactivity was popular at the time. Geiger counters were hot. People were just learning about what all that meant. One scientist describes uranium as ‘mud’. How do you kill mud? What do you do if this radioactive mud becomes ‘smart’ and takes on a lifeforce of its own? Among the scientists, it was nice to have at least one guy say that the idea was ‘rubbish’. Aren’t those higher elements metals anyways, not just dirt.
Radioactivity was created at the same time as Theremin music. In a strange way, they were meant to go together. By far the best thing in any of the films is the fantastic music of Bernard Herrmann. I would think it a great movie night to have a trio of movies all with Bernard Hermann scores, and play them all at the same time.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Most of the movie happens on a submarine, but before the MGM Lion roars, the film is preceded with a musical overture, accompanied by the big all caps word OVERTURE written across the screen. Maybe this created undue excitement and high expectations. The well designed stage sets do create a good sense of the close confinements inside a submarine. So Rock Hudson gets in this submarine with a lot of goodlooking guys in army and navy outfits, they even get wet, but at no time do they ever take off their shirts, and we never get a chance to see any good backside shots of Hudson. Instead, the plot involves someone supposedly sabotaging the submarine because it is trying to rescue some people or something. But then there is an INTERMISSION, with Intermission Music, and then, there is an ENTR'ACTE, with Music for that, too. I began to get excited again. But not only was there no skin in this movie there weren't any musical numbers, either. I don't know what to make of it. Rock Hudson is weird.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Friday, June 16, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Better surroundings, Alexander believed, would reduce or eliminate the apparent dependence. To test his hypothesis, he built Rat Park. It was 200 times the square footage of a standard laboratory cage. There was companionship, with 16–20 rats of both sexes in residence, an abundance of food, empty tins for burrowing, balls and wheels for play, a special space for mating, shavings for nesting, and a private place for giving birth. The results of the experiment appeared to support Alexander's hypothesis. The control group housed in the usual laboratory conditions consumed up to 20 times more morphine than the rats in Rat Park, and even those already addicted weaned themselves off the drug once moved there. They wanted to play, eat, and mate, Alexander concluded, not be anesthetized. "Nothing that we tried," he wrote, "instilled a strong appetite for morphine or produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment."
Rat Park shows, he believes, that the "belief in drug-induced addiction, at least with respect to heroin and cocaine, has no status as empirical science, although it has not been disproven. It is believed for some reason other than its empirical support." Chemicals do not cause addiction "in the way that the measles virus causes a rash of red spots".
Monday, June 12, 2006
A monkey, at one with the trees, messes with tigers
Monkey vs dog.
Cowmonkey - complete with local news commentary. The monkey riding the dog was always a highlight of the rodeo for me - especially with the little hat and little chaps.
Monkey hits soldier. Give a monkey an opportunity and he'll use it gosh darnit.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Morning Mist Rising, Plymouth, New Hampshire (1830)
Mt. Etna (1842)
Mr. Cole has a ruin-fetish, but then again, so do I
Aqueduct Near Rome (1842)
Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1828)
Expulsion - Moon and Firelight (1828)
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Temple of Doom lost it on me though. The girl in this one was not good or necessary comic relief. The opening sequence of this one, at the table in the lounge, had me questioning everything from the start. Everyone recognizes and knows Indiana Jones. Why would the villain bring the antidote along with the poison? Why did Indiana bring along the girl? The story seemed much more like the typical cartoon novella, and a lot of it fell flat for me, but having Mr. Ford on the screen brought me back into it.
I was in disbelief with the cure for Indy’s final challenge, escaping from the temple after having a potion poured down his throat, making him possessed. Somehow Indy’s sidekick figured it would be the touch of a torch, which would snap him out if it. A bipolar set, these two films make an interesting pair.
Then most enjoyable to see a youthful Steve Martin doing his thing in The Jerk. Quite well done, Mr. Martin, much like Mr. Ford, is an enchanting presence on the screen. A scene in a bathroom, with Steve taking a bubble bath in the tub, seemed shockingly realistic, as they actually had a tub full of hot water and soapy foam, Steve was glistening with sweat. We get to see more of him when he runs outside wearing only a dog. He cuts a nice figure for a comedian.
Double Suicide, which I was not at all familiar with, is now one of my favorites. It is a film that I would want to watch from time to time. A complex situation dramatized purely and simply, it captures storytelling in a most beautiful way. The minimalist images are of the same intensity as any modern photography. The characters are well spoken. The music used throughout is excellent, I would very much enjoy an audio recording of it, it has an attitude John Cage would appreciate, I think. I would for sure add this title to my own personal library. Another Japanese title I liked very much is Blind Beast.
The author appreciates the opportunity to have a variety of new movies on hand to view, and pleads that this commentary may provide meek compensation for the privilege.
Monday, June 05, 2006
The opening scene immediately disabled my suspension of disbelief. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), an esteemed something or other of symbology – the half-baked science of…symbology?... is speaking to an auditorium full of students. He flashes images up on a giant screen and asks the audience to guess what each one is so that he can show them that they are all wrong. And the audience participates!? I mean, what the hell?
And who knew the Holy Grail was Rosebud? I did - about halfway through the movie. So did most everyone in the audience. Why? Because the movie came out and said so. Yet, at the end of the picture, the same information was revealed as if it was not already known. If I was rating this picture with eyerolls, it would get a perfect 5 out of 5. Such was the movie: a jumbled mess where clues are scattered like bird shot, not in a way that invites the audience to make their own deductions/conclusions, but to lead them like sheep to the next scene – and the film didn’t bother to think more than a scene ahead or a scene behind.
Still, I did learn a little something.
The Louvre has a major graffiti problem. Renegade secret brotherhoods are going around at night marking up classic art with cryptic messages that can be seen in black light – and the penmanship ain’t pretty. Luckily, I'd brought my secret decoder ring.
About twenty minutes into the movie I took out my ticket stub and rearranged the letters and found that the Truth was in the men’s restroom, somewhere underneath the center urinal marked “American Standard”. I left the auditorium, grabbed a stanchion from the lobby and made haste to the men’s room. I had a hell of a time busting through the floor with the stanchion. Apparently, this wasn’t the shoddy work of the Masons that you see in so many movies, and though I hammered away, I couldn’t penetrate the floor. As hard as the floor was, it wasn't as hard as the manager, who didn't understand my explanation and left me little recourse but to return to the theater and watch the rest of the feature.
By the 35 minute mark the movie had so many surveillance devices in it that I was hoping the Super Secret Brotherhood of Exterminators would intervene and spray Paris down with some virtual DDT. Was I watching Dull Vinci Code or Mission Impossible to Understand 6?
For the folks worried that this huff and puff poses any sort of threat to the pillars of our Christian faith, your wasting your time. As Obi Wan once said: “This little one is not worth the effort.” I’m tempted to describe, in detail, all the fascinating characters – but I’m at a loss to find them. There’s Silas, the insanely pale acolyte with anger issues, whom I would hitherto call the Darth Monk, except that there won’t be a hitherto. Oh well, he was almost interesting. Jesus’ great grand (to the x power) daughter? Not hot enough, says this believer. Her legs were toothpicks, not shapely or round like you'd expect from the Son of God's non existent offspring. I'm looking for someone who's divinely hot. She may’ve been fine in Amelie (which I never saw), but if her character is the descendent of Christ…well, not only does the movie negate Christianity, but it negates evolution as well.
I’ve no malice against Opie or Buffy Wilson, but it would be a shame if this movie bombed for any other reason than disinterest.