29 October 2009

Nosferatu, A Symphony of Angles, Shapes, Shades and, Not Incidentally, Horror


It's all angles. Shapes. Shades. A camera that holds focus one beat longer than we expect.


The director was F.W. Murnau. He was messing with people's minds.

Nosferatu is like a nightmare. Not a gross disgusting one that you want to run away from. No this is a bewitching, beguiling nightmare that despite the better angels of your nature you want to behold. More than that, you want to follow -- where will it take me? Surely this is ultimately harmless, it's only a dream (a movie). All those haunting images and that's not even including Count Orlock (Max Schreck).

Murnau was perhaps the leading practitioner of the expressionist school of film making that came out Germany in the 1920's (maybe it was Fritz Lang, I dunno). Give him the story of a vampire, indeed the vampire story, Dracula not at all thinly veiled, and well you're in for a spectacle.

The notion of the undead is frightening. A predatory killer is frightening. Innocents preyed on at night is frightening. You combine these three elements into a world that is itself a nightmare and you've got the full title of the movie -- Nosferatu, Symphony of Horror. One of the definitions for symphony is "something that in its harmonious complexity or variety suggests a symphonic composition." That's the film right there.

Imagine your worst nightmare come to life. Not the events so much as the look of it. All is abstraction and distortion. Nothing has more than two eyes, but the eyes are too long. Buildings do not float, or laugh or bleed, but they seem out of shape. There is gargoyle in everything but nothing being unreal, just distorted. Is a gargoyle so impossible a creature, or is just a little beyond what we know?

In Nosferatu so many objects seem to point to the heavens, they're so sharp. Like Orlock's incredible fingers, the masts of a ship and structures. The evil one's castle, at first view, looks like an erect phallus. Strong and angry and pointing.

Roads and alleys tilt, some seem endless like you could drown in them. All that sharpness yet the sense you could be swallowed up. Forest seemed menacing despite their beauty. Mountains are majestic, sure, but they are also foreboding. Windows are not ways to look out so much as ways to be seen, and view a nether world.

Young eyes might look at this relic of the silent era, their eyes washing out all the eccentricity of it. "That's not scary!" they'd exclaim. Obviously preferring a film that is the equivalent of someone sneaking up behind you and yelling "boo!" in your ear. Or perhaps a cinematic version of a steaming pile of feces being thrown at someone. "Yuck! Gross!" But if you let your imagination have any play within the world Murnau created, it'll scare the bejeezus out of you. And you know what else? The lack of voices just adds to the eeriness, making it all the more like a dream state.

Nosferatu is rightly famous for the curious Mr. Schreck's performance. He's meant to look like a rat, the notorious plague caring rodent part and parcel to the story and to many human fears. Herr Schreck lacks the sophistication of Bela Lugosi's Dracula. There isn't the intelligence that can make a predator all the scarier. But there is the inexorable malevolence of the creature totally without reason or the slightest chance of conscience. There is no negotiation with his Orlock, no nuance. Just like a rat he merely is.

The is he is is creepy. In a still photo he may appear silly. But when you watch him move, or worse, not move but watch, you'll shudder.

Nosferatu is a not your silly teenager vampire story of today. It's not about the teeth or bright red oozing blood. It's about creating a world that is your worst nightmare...but you can't look away.


28 October 2009

The Damned United, A Damn Good Sports Movie


I love sports and I love movies. When the twain meet? Not so much. Most sports movies are cliche ridden, emotionally manipulative fantasies.

Most exceptions to the rule have come in the form of boxing films. Indeed I found enough good boxing films to compose a blog entry of my 11 favorites and with some really good ones left over. I'd be hard pressed to name 11 good movies from all other sports combined. But as of today I've got one I could add to such a list. Namely The Damned United which has only recently hit theaters here in the colonies.

Michael Sheen stars as English football (that's soccer to you Yanks) manager Brian Clough whose glory days stretched from the 1960'a through the 1980's. Sheen has now convincingly portrayed three famous Brits, two of whom are very much alive today, David Frost in Frost/Nixon (2008) and Tony Blair in The Queen (2006). No word yet whether he'll be playing Ricky Gervais or David Beckham anytime soon.

What makes The Damned United so different from your traditional sports film is that it's closer to being a riches-to-rags story than your usual rags-to-riches. No, our protagonist does not end up down and out, but this is a story of mid career failure in a life marked by soaring success.

Clough was, as most great coaches are, charismatic and Sheen captures that. I wanted to jump on screen and play for the man, quite unlike the players at Leeds United who he alienated seemingly to a man during his brief stint there. Clough was a man of strong opinions that he expressed without filtering. If you liked him he was refreshingly honest. If you didn't like him he was an obnoxious braggart. It wouldn't surprise you at this point if I were to reveal that he had an enormous ego. Again a characteristic shared by many of the greats in the world of sport.

Such a massive ego can have disastrous consequences. Blinded by our sense of purpose in life we can lose sight of the fact that there are fellow travelers along with us. Many of whom we rely on. No man is island and all that. Suffice to say that while ruffling some feathers, Clough cut off his nose to spite his face to mix some metaphors.

As we see in The Damned United, when Clough succeeded all glory, in his mind, went to Clough. When he failed others had let him down.

The manner of Clough's failures and success and whether he learns his lesson is best left to be discovered by seeing the film.

Question: Did I especially like the film because of my experiences playing soccer and coaching it and because of my knowledge and love of the British game? Sure. That said the film will have its appeal to Americans. After all the movie transcends sports and the minor cultural and vernacular differences between the world's two leading English speaking nations. In great measure Sheen is responsible. He has a wonderful screen presence, combing both a handsome face and a likable persona. He also is a damned good actor. No more example need be given than to repeat his success at playing a troika of recently famous figures. In this latest instance we see a man who previously looked and sounded quite like Blair and Frost, look and sound one helluva lot like Clough.

The Damned United also benefits from excellent directing by Tom Hooper who'll likely not be a relative unknown for long. The mixture of archival footage is often seamless, as good as you've seen. The rest of the cast is a who's who of British supporting players: Colm Meany, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent and the always wonderful Stephen Graham, an inspired choice to play the pugnacious Leeds midfielder Billy Bremner. The film captures the intense love and hate that is British football (why on earth Americans adopted the name football for the sport with the funny shaped ball and all that tackling is beyond me). I'm loathe to say that the Brits are more passionate about their football than Americans are about theirs or any other sport. Actually I believe they are but it's an impossible thing to quantify and thus measure. It is in large part different because of the geography of England is so different with all these teams crammed onto that island right next to each other. There are also less other sports diverting a fan's attention. In America a disappointed baseball fan might at the end of the season point with hope to his favorite basketball team's forthcoming campaign. In England a football fan is much more attached to this one team and does not find solace in other sports.

The Damned United gives a feel for this passion and the mythic figures that have bestrode the British football world. It is like an inside look into how one such person ticked (sometimes when he maybe should have tocked.)

This is what sports movie can and should do. Instead of tugging at our heart strings with sentimental pap they should provide the sort of life lessons that are inherit in athletic competition. When playing or rooting on your team athletics is very much about winning and losing. But stories of sports can explore so much more. We've had quite enough of last second touchdowns, stunning upset victories and improbable comebacks. Real sports has enough of those and they're completed unscripted and far more fantastic to behold.

Sports is an integral part of most cultures, certainly every dominant one in the world today. It thus deserves better tellings with the kind of depth and meaning provided by a film such as The Damned United. Either that it should be left alone by films entirely. That would be damned shame.


26 October 2009

A Riku Writes Classic: Trick or Treat or Movie, With All New Content


In October of last year I wrote a widely acclaimed post with recommended Halloween season films for your viewing pleasure. As a service to my readers (both of us) I am reproducing that post in toto below. As an added bonus I am suggesting a half dozen other Halloween appropriate films that you may enjoy, all good for scare a laugh or at least your amusement. So within this post you'll find films that feature isolated castles, terrifying ghosts, hideous monsters, strange apparitions, mysterious powers, blood curdling screams and things that go bump in the night. Most of all you'll find some wonderful cinematic alternatives to bumming candy off your neighbors or enduring a silly costume party.


First the post titled "Trick Treat or Movie" from October 23, 2008.

Halloween is just around the corner (how's that for hokey intro!). Many of us old geezers no longer play dress up. And if the kiddies are too old to trick or treat (at least with parents in tow) we're free to stay at home and enjoy a scary movie or two.

Hollywood has been churning out horror films since the silent era. Sadly, the genre has recently morphed into slasher films that emphasize gratuitous gore. But there's still plenty to choose from from days of yore. Here's a sampling of choices for your Halloween viewing pleasure.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Not just the best of the classic horror films of the Thirties, a wonderful film in its own right. The great James Whale's direction along with an intelligent script for a seemingly preposterous story outshine even the magical performance of Boris Karloff. Colin "it's Alive!" Clive is the now conflicted scientist and Elsa Lanchester is the blushing young bride. But Ernest Thesiger as the evil Dr. Pretorious is an absolute scene-stealer. This is a must-see film.

Frankenstein (1931) How about a shout out for the original? While out shined by the sequel its still an excellent film. Clive, Karloff and the prototype of the angry mob star. Excellent cinematography and some touching moments highlight this classic.

The Old Dark House (1932) It was a dark and stormy night. Let's see a group of travelers seek refuge from a driving rainstorm in a forbidding looking mansion. What could go wrong? You'll see. The residents are a decidedly odd lot with a temperamental butler. Amazing cast including Melvyn Douglass, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Charles Laughton that man Karloff again and the delightful Thesiger (watch and listen as he offers his guests potatoes). This is my third straight Whale selection. Obviously he had the Gothic horror story down cold.

Alien (1979) No, no, no it's not science fiction it's a horror film. This time the role of the haunted mansion is played by a space ship and the victims/heroes are astronauts. This does not change the fact that all the elements of the horror film are at work. While the Alien is terrifying (and set the standard for many years to come) it's those moments when it is lurking off screen that are tense and scary.

The Exorcist (1973) I was reading the book in college on a weekend when my roommates all happened to be out of town. I slept in the living room with lights on and though not a religious man I've worn a cross around my neck ever since. The movie is just as frightening even after repeat viewings. An innocent young lass is possessed by the devil (don't you just hate that). Satan is profane, duplicitous and oh so dangerous. A great film by any standard.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) I like this better than the original (my God I've got a sequel and a re-make on this list, who'd of thunk). An absolutely terrifying concept expertly done by director Philip Kaufman. Alien clones are invading bodies and the human race is in peril. Will star Donald Sutherland save humanity or fall victim to this alien plot? The very notion of retaining your human form but your mind being taken over is chilling (hey, that sounds like Scientology!).

Psycho (1960) I know you've seen it a few times already but like a lot of Hitchcock's finest it gets better with each viewing. It never loses its suspense (how did Hitch do that?). Just don't think about it in the shower. Janet Leigh and Vera Miles star along with the creepy Anthony Perkins and his..um "mom.."

Young Frankenstein (1974) Why not some Halloween chuckles? I've never been a huge Mel Brooks fan but I love this film. This is, of course the classic send off of the Frankenstein film with Gene Wilder as the doctor and Peter Boyle as the monster. The all star cast includes Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman and Marty Feldman as the funniest Igor you'll ever see.

The Ring (2002) What's this? I have a film of recent vintage? Yes. I obviously quite liked it. It's a mystery as much as a horror film (many scary movies are) with an intelligent plot. The opportunity to enjoy Naomi Watts is a plus. She's both a great beauty and a great actress.

The Shining (1980) If he'd a mind to Stanley Kubrick could likely have directed a lot of good horror films and Jack Nicholson could have starred in them. Their respective directing and acting styles lent themselves to the genre. The Shining is proof. A family of caretakers in a snowed in mountain resort. The father goes bats. Supernatural events take place. Kudos to Stephen King's story and Kubrick's adaptation of it.

Omen (1976) What could possibly be scarier than the anti-Christ? I can't think of anything either. Gregory Peck is an American statesman who's got the bad fortune of being the anti-Christ's father (and you thought your kid was a little devil). Richard Donner was the perfect man to direct this. It's got grisly deaths, tension and excitement and maybe a little something for bible thumpers and agnostics alike to think about. There are sequels and remakes aplenty but stick to this, the original.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) What could be worse than fathering the devil? How about giving birth to it? That was Mia Farrow's lot in this wonderfully scary Roman Polanski film. The worst part is that everyone seems to be in on it. Not knowing whom you can trust is scary stuff indeed. What's really scary is when there's such a sense of normalcy but you gradually discover something is amiss. Horribly so.

Dracula (1931) We close with this absolute classic. No one will ever be better in the title role than was Bela Lugosi. His performance is one of the reasons that this Dracula version ages so well. A seductive and intelligent demon is the worst kind to deal with. Repeat viewings only increase the film's allure.

And now for this year's addendum.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Here's a real poser, try providing a synopsis of this movie. Suffice it to say everyone should see it at least once. Many have seen it dozens and dozens of times. The ultimate cult classic. Tim Curry as...whatever he is, steals the show So what is it? Why it's....
It's just a jump to the left.
And then a step to the right.
With your hand on your hips.
You bring your knees in tight.
But it's the pelvic thrust.
They really drive you insane.
Let's do the Time Warp again.
Let's do the Time Warp again.

Poltergeist (1982). I watched it again this weekend for the first time science it first hit theaters (thanks TCM). I'm pleased to say it holds up pretty well. By no means a classic but it does tap into some very real fears: loss of a child; not safe in your own home; unseen forces at work and goblins in your TV set of all places. It's also a cautionary tale about building tract houses over graveyards.

The Invisible Man (1933). I love this movie. The feature film debut of the great Claude Rains (photo above) and what a debut it was. He's a cackling but diabolical mad scientist who's gone and got himself invisible (don't you just hate when that happens?). He checks into a typical English country tavern to try to sort things out and the next thing you know Una O'Connor is screeching left and right. Another horror classic from my man James Whale.

Carrie (1976). The granddaddy of all oh-my-God-I-totally-didn't-see-that-coming-I-thought-all-the-scariness-was-over movies -- to coin a phrase. Brian DePalma directed, Sissy Spacek stars in this story of a teen with telekinetic powers This is not someone you want to p*ss off and wouldn't you know, pretty much all of her classmates conspire to humiliate her, and at the prom no less. Hell hath no fury like a girl with telekinesis scorned.

The Mummy (1932). Our old friend Karloff again, this time he's all wrapped up in his work (pause while readers roll on the floor emitting gales of laughter). For God's sakes folks don't waste your time with any of those silly Brendan Fraser mummy movies of recent vintage, you want this classic. British explorers discover an old Egyptian tomb and let loose a killer mummy. This was an easy sell for audiences back in its time because of the supposed curse on discoverers (disturbers) of King Tut's tomb. Karloff is wonderful as is a supporting cast that's mostly unfamiliar to today's viewers.

Nosferatu (1922). Today silly vampire movies are a dime a dozen. We've even had silly vampire TV shows with equally silly slayers of said vampires. It's being done -- you should excuse the expression -- to death. But here we have the original, preceding even Lugosi's blood loving count by nearly a decade. Moreover it comes from legendary German director F.W. Murnau. I'll not say more about it now because I'm going to screen Nosferatu in a day or so and do a separate post on it soon.

23 October 2009

Let's Try It Again, Betty, This Time Try To Put A Little Life Into It


Other than The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) and the above clip I haven't seen a lot of Betty Hutton, but what I have seen I've loved. You go, girl.

19 October 2009

The Bold and the Beautiful, The Education of Jenny


Here's to Cathy and Patty, Marcia and Jan, Gidget and all those other teen girls of the 1960's. A toast to your purity! Yes, there were hi jinks, you had old dad worried a couple of times, but in the end you never -- what was that oft used sitcom phrase? -- "did anything wrong." No siree. You stayed a virgin, stayed in school and eschewed cigarettes and alcohol and, God forbid, drugs. Perhaps best of all, you remained, forever young.

Now here's to Jenny. An altogether different teenage girl from the Sixties and no we're not talking about the fact that she's from England. Jenny is more clever by half than the rest. Set for Oxford, not just off to State (rah, rah, rah!). Here's another teen girl giving dear old dad fits while good ole reliable mom tries to get a stain out of the casserole dish at 25 minutes to 12 on a Friday night. She's an independent sort (aren't they all?) a bit of wild streak (aren't they all?). Pretty as a picture (aren't they all?). Obsessed with all things French (aren't...hmmm). Maybe it's because Jenny lives in a movie rather than a TV show but she actually....

Danish director Lone Scherfig's An Education opened in theaters across the U.S. last weekend. It's the story of Jenny, a precocious 16 year old (she turns 17 during the course of the film) who meets an older, richer man who gives her an education unlike the one that is preparing for university. Carey Mulligan is Jenny and I think it safe to say a star has been born. Peter Sarsgaard is the corrupting influence, David. He's marvelous and we're quite used to that from him.

Jenny puts her counterparts from the small screen to shame. This is in no way a celebration of her smoking, drinking and..um, you know. We are acknowledging a young woman who thinks for herself and acts for herself and learns some great lessons in the process -- for herself. The single most important of these lessons is to take the very bold step of asking questions. To her school's headmistresses (Emma Thompson as, shall we say, you've never seen her before) she says that it is not enough that she and her school provide "an education" you must, Jenny says, explain why you're providing it.

Why. The single most important question a young adult can learn to ask. Don't just accept at face value that you must do this and have to do that. Insist on knowing why.

The importance of understanding the necessity of that question comes not through an intellectual process but by having acted. Jenny acts.

Innocence lost. Sad for a parent to see, another step in our loss of that baby who once clung to us. She's going to leave home someday. A woman.

We mostly grow up in fits and starts. It's rarely smooth. It can even be fatal. We can only be led by the hand so long before we're on our own. Sink or swim. At some point we dive into life ourselves. Take a chance. Experience is the worst teacher, it gives the test before presenting the lesson, someone once said.

We do these things when we're in our late teens, early 20's, life altering. Take off for Europe, jump in the sack with the wrong person, "experiment" with drugs. We start one thing and quit another. We think we know it all and only years later do we realize how bloody stupid we were. Or at least that's how we seem. But how could we have known? We had to try. It's best not to regret the follies of our youth. Live with them. Revel in the fact that you were once young and bold enough to take chances. Especially if you learned from them.

Jenny...Can't say, really. It would spoil the movie. It's safe to tell you that she grows very fast. There's a bit of that, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger stuff. One thing here -- and its important -- is that she has fun. We should never lose that, that recklessness, that urge to have a good time. It's not just that she's with David either, there are his glamorous friends, Danny and Helen (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike) and there's Paris for crying out loud. And nightclubs, and jazz and sophistication and class and...who could resist? They go on adventures! This education for Jenny is kinesthetic as well as auditory and linguistic. It's done with elan, not books.

An Education works because there are no stock figures. Jenny's father in particular (Alfred Molina) is wonderfully bigoted and pliable at the same time. Olivia Williams as Miss Stubbs is nuanced as "the teacher."
Sure, Ms. Mulligan steals the show. Not much of a film if she doesn't. She's got a face made for the big screen. She can play innocence and guile and wisdom in one take. Wonderful.

Yes, I love the sitcom teen girls of my youth. There were some crushes there. But they're pretty pathetic next to Jenny. A young woman who has the cheek to ask, "why?"

17 October 2009

It's 'Easy Living' with Jean Arthur Characters


It's hard to know what to make of Jean Arthur.

One assertion I feel comfortable in making is that she tended to wind up in a lot of really good movies and indeed was part of what made them enjoyable.

I wouldn't use the word "beautiful" to describe her and certainly would abstain from referring to her as at all sexy. Then again she was quite attractive. And I know this sounds strange, but she was more the marrying type then the kind you fooled around with. You either fell all the way or hoped she met someone nice and if it was a friend or relative that was just jake.

In other words, Jean Arthur was just flat out adorable. More so than just about anyone at anytime in anyplace.

Unlike say Lombard, Loy or Shearer she could not play the wealthy heiress or society dame. But she did the just-getting-by roles or working girls with the best of em. Hell, maybe she was the best of them.

First of all there was that voice. The glamor set does not have squeaky, rapid fire voices with working class accents. But that hard working dame you see on the way to way every morning? The one with the nice enough gams and the sweet disposition? That screwy voice works on her just fine, thank you very much. That talking mouse voice coming out of her puss was initially tolerable. As you got to know her, it was downright endearing.

Ms. Arthur was all silly smirks, scowls, funny frowns and wide eyed wonder. She was great at being put upon, annoyed and positively delighted. Jean had her own range of emotions that fit nicely with any character she took on.

Maybe it wasn't her best work but in many ways the ultimate Jean Arthur character was Mary Smith (dig that craaa-zee name!) in Easy Living (1937). (And then again maybe it was her best work.) Mary was a working girl just getting by, though the loss of that work would put her on the streets. Fate intercedes (as it so often does in films) and a mink coat falls on her from the heavens during the morning commute. Long story short, she loses the job but quickly gains a fortune and a new beau. Along the way much slapstick hilarity ensues. It sounds remarkably like a Preston Sturges which is funny cause he didn't direct it but he did write the screenplay, if you must know.

But this is about Jean....

Let's try this one on her for size: plucky. She's that in spades. In Easy Living, Mary Smith rides out the earthquakes of life and forges ahead through all the temblors. It's not what happens to you that's important, but how you react to what happens to you that is important. Mary Smith, like other Jean Arthur characters, is nonplussed by most anything. Oh sure she may bash an ex boss over the head with a painting (he was framed!) but she don't cry over the spilt milk. And when fortune shines and through no machinations of her own that fallen fur can be parlayed into other riches, who is she to say no?

How could the young Ray Milland of Easy Living not fall for? Him and the mink both dropped in her lap from the sky and she wore them both with equal joy. Milland's John Ball Jr. would be a sap of the first order not to accept fate's mandate that he and Smith, as they say in modern parlance, hook up.

In other films it was Joel McCrea, James Stewart, Robert Cummings, Gary Cooper or Cary Grant who went daffy for this sometimes dizzy dame. Those of us in the audience always bought it. The chemistry was there because Ms. Arthur was an alchemist cooking up her own love potion. Men fall for her because she was pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough and she's way way more good-hearted and sweet than any of the male gender deserve. This is not to be resisted. It can't be.

So if you've read this far and yet are unfamiliar with Jean Arthur the best way to get acquainted would be to start with Easy Living. You've got more treats ahead such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The More the Merrier (1943), Talk of the Town (1942), The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936). You're gonna love getting to know her.

Easy Living also features a perfectly wonderful performance by Edward Arnold. Often the prosperous villain conniving against regular folk, here is a far more nuanced financier who manages to blend a soft heart into that whole rich and powerful mix.

You may come for Milland, Arnold or Sturges but you'll stay for Ms. Arthur. This is her picture more so than perhaps any other. And that's a good thing.

16 October 2009

"One for The Road....Please"


I had a friend who refused to see the film You Can Count On Me (2000), (pictured above starring Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo) in theaters because she didn't want to go up to the ticket window and say, "you can count on me." I saw her point.

I felt a little strange going up to the ticket window last Winter and saying I Loved You So Long.

I do plan on seeing the latest film based on a Cormac McCarthy novel, The Road, and will see it alone so I can say, "one for the road."

Wouldn't it be cool if there was a movie called, Tea? A couple could go up to the ticket window and say, "two for Tea." The ticket seller could reply, "and tea for two."

I've had difficulty buying tickets for movies that have titles that are difficult to pronounce as last fall when I saw Synecdoche, New York. And I felt silly two years ago asking for a ticket for Before the Devil Knows Your Dead (2007). I notice some theater goers shorten titles when they ask for tickets, as in saying "two for the 'Before the Devil.'" I'm sure most people got tickets for "Eternal Sunshine" rather than talking up valuable time saying Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind (2004).

Sometimes you don't actually say the number of tickets you're buying allowing a finger or two to denote the number. This proved embarrassing when I saw Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001).

And what was it like in 1963 when a couple went to see that rollicking Western/Comedy starring Frank Sinatra and said "two for 4 for Texas"? Or what if it was two couples asking for "four for 4 for Texas"?

Remember David Finchner's thriller Se7en (1995)? Yes, some patrons said "two for seven." If they wanted to see the 7 O'clock showing they could have said "two for seven at seven." Then again if it was a matinee it could have been "two for seven at two."

There was a quickly forgotten film in 2006 called Two Tickets to Paradise (2006). So did people ask for "two tickets for two tickets to paradise."? I'm just wondering.

In days of yore, before the advent of the multiplex, there was only one film, or a double feature playing in theaters, so film goers never had to say the name of the movie. This saved anyone from going up to a ticket booth in 1932 and saying, I Am a Fugitive from A Chain Gang. And people going to see Charlie Chaplin's The Circus (1928) avoided the confusion of stating their desire for "two ticket for the circus."

And imagine going to see the Frankenstein sequel and saying two for The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). You just now some wiseacre behind you would crack, "let her buy her own tickets." The same wag would offer the same quip to someone asking for two tickets for The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). In more recent times, a descendant of this same wiseenheimer might have had a field day in line behind people buying tickets for the Farrelly brothers film Dumb and Dumber (1994). And what about when the same duo released Me, Myself & Irene (2000). "I'll have one for Me Myself and Irene." Perhaps in this instance our smart aleck would be the ticket seller who would retort: "you'll need three tickets!"

The moral? Better to buy your tickets online and avoid potential embarrassment.


12 October 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things....






James Cagney walking into a room in The Public Enemy (1931).

Parker Posey.

Louis Armstrong playing, "Chinatown, My Chinatown."

Fred Willard telling a story.

Martin Short appearing on Letterman.

Groucho and Margaret Dumont.

Jean Gabin hiding from the cops in Pepe le Moko (1937).

Audrey Hepburn learning to break an egg in Sabrina (1954).

Sinatra.

Dustin Hoffman in the pool in The Graduate (1967).

John Barrymore hamming it up in Twentieth Century (1934).

Denzel Washington embodying the title character in Malcolm X (1992).

Joan Blondell and Aline McMahon scamming Guy Kibbee and Warren William in Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933).

Dick Cavett interviewing...anyone.

Fred and Ginger dancing, of course.

Jack Benny violinist.

Woody Allen wooing Diane Keaton in Manhattan (1979) (photo above).

Woody Allen wooing Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (1977).

Joe Pesci trying to understand his own sense of humor in Goodfellas (1990).

The stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera (1935) (photo above).

Henry Fonda producing the same knife in 12 Angry Men (1957).

William Demarest doing pratfalls in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944).

Jean Harlow talking circles around everyone in Red Dust (1932).

Barbara Stanwyck fully in control in The Lady Eve (1941).

Charles Coburn, match maker in The More the Merrier (1943).

Natalie Portman's puss (photo above).

Etta James singing "At Last."

Bogie and Bacall and oh by the way Brennan (Walter) in To Have and Have Not (1944).

Cary Grant and Constance Bennet doing the town in Topper (1937).

Bill Murray, cab driver, solider in Stripes (1981).

Barney Fife crime fighter.

Joel McCrea in pursuit of the big scoop in Foreign Correspondent (1940).

Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan in 30 Rock (photo above).

Ann Sheridan.

Loretta Young faces the jury in Midnight Mary (1933).

Edward G. Robinson talking tough.

Melanie Laurent bravely takes questions from the Gestapo in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Glee, Wednesday night.

Brando explaining Napoleonic law in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).

William Powell and Myrna Loy tippling.

Ann Dvorak.

Kristen Stewart and Jessie Eisenberg, weird but effective screen chemistry in Adventureland (2009).

The Who sings "My Generation."

Harold Lloyd hanging out in Safety Last (1923) (photo above).

Faye Duneway gladly reveals that her profession is bank robbing in Bonnie & Clyde (1967).

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, back to back.

Giuletta Masina dances in Nights of Cabrira (1957).


Monument Valley photographed so beautifully in John Ford films.

Ricky Gervais.

Kim Novak wakes up in Jimmy Stewart's apartment in Vertigo (1958).

Ella Fitzgerald sings and Duke Ellington plays.

John Cleese at the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Marylin Monroe seducing Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot (1959).

The Godfather (1972) from beginning to end.

Kissing my wife.

11 October 2009

I Want to Shout From the Rooftops of my Undying Love for Ann Dvorak (I Just Hope the Wife Doesn't Find Out)



As the old song goes: "I fall in love too easily. I fall in love too fast." In my case these massive crushes are safely confined to female film stars, most of whom enjoyed their halcyon days some 75 years ago or so.

My crush on Ann Dvorak was re-ignited this weekend when I watched a flamingly mediocre film called Dr. Socrates (1935) which starred Paul Muni. Dvorak, and those eyes, oh my God she's looking right at me from three quarters of a century ago, quite naturally stole every scene she was in. Hell, she stole some she wasn't in cause you're thinking about her, wondering when she'll be on camera again.

Dvorak was one of the countless actresses who suffered from the enforcement of the production code. She still got roles, they all did. But it was pretty tame stuff. For Dvorak cutting loose, getting to be a full fledged woman in every sense, would have been great stuff. One could argue that Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck could be stars in any circumstances, but that someone like Ms. Dvorak suffered more for having to squelch her evocative nature.

As it was she was sexy but not in an inaccessible way. You watch someone like Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner and think, "well, she's out of my league. You've got to be a Sinatra or Orson Welles to have a chance." But Dvorak is sexy and the girl next door.

I know how guys think, both from being one and spending time with them. There a lot of us who really go for the Dvorak type. We think that Ann would actually give regular blokes like us the time of day, maybe even give me us tumble. Anyway those Hayworth, Gardner types are too high maintenance.

There was a unique combination of strength and vulnerability to her. You can be a partner with someone like that. Ann Dvorak characters were smart, self assured but at some point they were going to need you. In Dr. Socrates she had set out to hitchhike across country to California where there was promise of a job -- and she a single young woman. You believed it though. She was all guile and moxie and uncalculated risks. She ran afoul of some gangsters (it happens) and was going to need the help of kindly doctor Paul Muni. That's my Ann. (If only I could have been her rescuer.)

Dvorak is best remembered for Scarface (1932), Three on a Match (1932) and there's a few other good films like The Crowd Roars (1932) and G Men (1935). Really not a whole lot to speak of. She was the featured player in none. Hollywood really screwed the pooch. Dvorak had too much talent and "it" quality to be a second banana in a handful of good movies and many mediocre ones. Maybe Hollywood didn't know what to do with her. Was she a nice girl led astray? Was she a naughty girl? If the latter the production code really hemmed her in. True, her contract hassles didn't help. But you'd have thought someone would have developed a star vehicle for her.

Maybe the raw deal she got (and say, she took it on the chin in a number of her films too) just makes her all the more endearing to guys like me. She was Muni's hard luck kid sister in Scarface so she could play the victim too. But there's not much of a career in that.

Whatever kept her from bigger and better roles, Ann Dvoark is one of my lost loves. Unless, of course, I can start making progress on that time machine....

10 October 2009

Seriously, You Should See This Movie


Okay movie, take me somewhere unexpected. Come on, surprise me. Really, I don't at any time want to know where you're going. I just want to be along for the ride. Please, no formulas, no one dimensional characters. Give me a little depth. And leave me something to think about, to interpret. I'm a big boy, I can be left to decide for myself about the whys and wherefores. In fact, I insist upon it. You don't have to dazzle me with fancy schmancy special effects. I don't want hand held cameras and let's not overdo the odd camera angles. I want a story first and foremost and one that leaves me wanting more, not less.

If that's what you want out of a film I've got just the thing for you. It's the latest from the Coen brothers, A Serious Man. It's a movie that trusts you think for yourself. Hell, it insists upon it.

The cast is relatively unrecognizable, although many of the actors are of the I-know-I've-seen-him-somewhere-before variety. Trust me, the relative anonymity of the cast adds to the film's charm.

A Serious Man centers around one Larry Gopnik (Michael Sthulbarg) who we watch go through a series of episodes that would make Job weep. Wife, job, children, brother, health, money and legal issues all seem to be conspiring to bring this upstanding citizen down. He's really a likable sort. Not adorable, like too many film leads are, but someone who we empathize with and wish not the slightest ill will. He doesn't seem to be asking too much of life, nothing more than he's owed -- isn't that what we all want? Our just rewards? Don't you just hate it, seriously hate it, when the unexpected and undeserved gets in our way? Of course you do.

A young rabbi that Larry visits for counsel gestures out the window of his office and exclaims, "just look at that parking lot!" Of course.

Another rabbi tells a long story. Is there a point? Will it help? I better not say.

The third rabbi, the oldest and wisest is too busy thinking to deal with our friend Larry Gopnik. Oi vey.

Did I tell you Larry is of the Jewish persuasion. You guessed! And no, no, no, no you don't have to be Jewish to appreciate the film, I'm far from, though it may (or may not help).

Our story is set in a Minneapolis suburb in 1967 which is as good a place to set such a story as any, don't you think? You wanted this thriving Jewish community in New York? Been there. Done that. You don't get cliches in A Serious Man. You don't get well trodden ground. All virgin territory. You should trust me on this.

Family. Such a blessing, such a curse. Larry's wife is unhappy with him and has found love in the arms of a long time family friend -- Sy Ableman. Fred Melamed plays Sy and I've got to dig into my adjective bag for him and say he's "fantastic." Not that anyone in the cast is lacking. Sy just shines. Larry has a daughter who just wants to wash her hair and a son who likes dope and F Troop and a brother who...

You know its hard to tell a heckuva lot more detail without getting into areas that viewers should discover for themselves. Suffice it to say you've got the music of the Jefferson Airplane, one randy neighbor and another quite Aryan neighbor (is he frighteningly so? You decide). You've got dental work, of sorts, dream sequences, a desperate Korean college student, physics. You have to have physics. You get a bar mitzvah and marijuana and hey how about if the twain meet? You've also got one of the best closing shots since 400 Blows (1959). You know what you've got here? A seriously good movie.

But, and again I'm totally serious, it's funny too. Not at all in broad way. You're not going to fall out of your chair laughing. Nothing silly. You'll smile a lot though. You'll think a lot too. It's very brave in these days of Transformers and Hulks and Spidermen to make a film that asks the audience to think. The Coens are nothing if not brave. These are serious men, or at least serious film makers.

(What, you're still here, you should go see it already.)


08 October 2009

More News & Notes from Riku Writes


I am spearheading efforts to encourage the Nobel Prize Committee to annually award the best film blog....

Construction is actually ahead of pace on the Riku Writes Museum scheduled to open in June. We are pleased to have America's most preeminent civil engineer, Paul Tjogas, attached to the project....

A reminder, please no flash photography! Thank you for your cooperation...

You're all encouraged to wear costumes while visiting this site on Halloween. Best get up wins a prize!....

Congratulations to my imaginary friend Ulrich who recently married his long time partner Consuela. Best wishes to the happy couple....

VIP membership to Riku Writes is available at only $29.95. Get access to exclusive content, be taken on special tours and enjoy valet parking. Ask one of our sales reps for details...

Congratulations to the Riku Writes staff rugby team which defeated the defending champs from Luigis's Classic Golden Age Oldie Film Blog, 36-17 last week. That's a photo from the match above.....

I'm again offering my services to mediate the ongoing feud between Millie from ClassicForever and Kate of Silents and Talkies. Too much blood has been shed and property damage in the millions is unacceptable. You two have got to find some common ground and I'm reaching out to help....

Please, while reading Riku Writes, hold your applause until the end of the post....

Congratulations to our September Employee of the Month, Elspeth over in customer service. You go girl!....

The boys in research and development are working on making an audio version of all posts, it should be available soon. Details to follow....

Hey, while you're here why not visit our new Fisherman's Grotto? The all new menu includes Carp, Yellow Coaker, Eel, Grouper, Hake , Grey Mullet and Piranha, along with all your regular favorites, all grilled to perfection....

Per your many, many requests the gift shop is now featuring the popular Riku Writes sweatshirts in children's sizes....

Finally, a shout out to regular reader Tony/Tina recovering from a successful gender re-assignment surgery. You go girl (?).

07 October 2009

Part Two of Movies For Your Inner Leftist, That Are Suitable For All Political Persuasions

Without further ado I present the second of my two part look at movies that appeal to the leftist in me but that can be enjoyed by people of all political leanings. The premise was explained in part one which appeared on this blog Monday and is linked to this sentence.

Talk of the Town (1942). Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Coleman star in this comedy from director George Stevens...Not so fast. Grant plays Leopold Dilg, a union agitator framed for arson and murder by the boss man. Coleman is supreme court nominee, Michael Lightcap who is intrigued by Dilg's passionate, if common sense view of the law and business. Lightcap is also stunned by the cavalier attitude towards the law held by a local judge. Jean Arthur provides most of the romance and comedy. It is in my mind the most underrated film of all time. It also has a very clear message about the abuses of big business, their often all to cozy relationship with the powers that be and the exploitation of workers. And as Dilg says: "What is the law? It's a gun pointed at somebody's head. All depends upon which end of the gun you stand, whether the law is just or not."
Grapes of Worth (1940). You must be familiar with the story. The people versus the cold hard establishment, usually represented by the police but most deadly in the form of greedy banks and exploitative farm owners. Wait a second...banks greedy? Land owners taking advantage of people? Henry Fonda as Tom Joad symbolizes the worker who's essentially mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore. He's emboldened by this radical notion: "A fellow ain't got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then..." That sound downright socialist! Yes, Tom is a symbol as he himself says: "I'll be all around in the dark - I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too."
Bullworth (1998). An already liberal politician, Senator Bullworth (Warren Beatty) veers far left and adopts hip hop music and culture to convey his message. Why not? Having put a contract out on himself there's nothing to lose in telling the truth. That's right, the truth as he sees it. The rich are getting richer, the middle class poorer and the poor increasingly irrelevant to the rich and powerful. His screed is the progressive's manifesto of rapacious rich entrenching their power while marginalizing and exploiting the working class. Through characters portrayed by Halle Berry and Don Cheadle, we see the reality of life in the hood (anyone remember when America cared about the depressing cycle of poverty in African American inner city communities?). Sothe senator doesn't just tell, he shows.
The Mayor of Hell (1933). James Cagney is a former gangster who decides to reform a reformatory school. This is a no hold barred look at juvenile delinquents and the twin evils of corruption and cruelty to young men. With the help of an idealistic nurse, Cageny, supposedly a political appointment just around for show, puts the kids in charge. He correctly reasons that sparing the rod is a good thing if you replace it by vesting the young uns with responsibility. The Mayor of Hell, directed by Archie Mayo, is a cry for education reform and against old school discipline.
The Americanization of Emily (1964). To say it's an anti-war movie would be trivializing it's powerful message. Set during World War II and starring James Garner, James Coburn and Julie Andrews, on the surface TAOE is a romantic comedy. But a few listens to screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky's dialogue will fix that notion. To wit: "War isn't hell at all. It's man at his best; the highest morality he's capable of. It's not war that's insane, you see. It's the morality of it. It's not greed or ambition that makes war: it's goodness. Wars are always fought for the best of reasons: for liberation or manifest destiny. Always against tyranny and always in the interest of humanity. So far this war, we've managed to butcher some ten million humans in the interest of humanity. Next war it seems we'll have to destroy all of man in order to preserve his damn dignity. It's not war that's unnatural to us, it's virtue. As long as valor remains a virtue, we shall have soldiers. So, I preach cowardice. Through cowardice, we shall all be saved." See what I mean?
The Front (1976). Woody Allen plays a cashier at a deli who "fronts" for blacklisted writers during the height of McCarythyism. Allen is an apolitical nebbish always looking to make a buck, fronting for writers is as good a way as any. But as Allen sees first hand what the writers and a comic played by Zero Mostel are going through, he becomes politically aware and damn angry. Eventually he's called before the witch hunters at HUAC and a radical is born. Any ambiguity about the film's message will be cleared up the very last frame. Directed by Martin Ritt.

06 October 2009

I Pause Now to Admire a Painting

The artist is the late great Edward Hopper. As you can see the painting relates to film.

05 October 2009

Movies For Your Inner Leftist, That Are Suitable For All Political Persuasions


One of the beauties of cinema is that we all see movies in different ways. One person's anti-war picture is another person's heroic action pic. One person's satire on elitism is another person's rollicking comedy. Duck Soup (1933) is not only a my favorite comedy but it's also my favorite skewing of egomaniacs who lead nations into unnecessary wars. To you it might just be a laugh out loud comedy.

Today I offer the first of a two-part look at some great films that are not only entertaining and engaging but appeal to me for what i perceive to be their political message. All have enjoyed wide spread popularity, so I feel it safe to say that those of other political persuasions would enjoy them as well, albeit for different reasons. I suppose exceptions should be made for Nazis, the Taliban and others of ultra extreme beliefs. (Then again did you know that one of Adolph Hitler's favorite films was The Lives of a Bengal Dancer (1935) starring as-American-as-apple-pie, Gary Cooper?).

In some cases these movies were made by directors who intended to convey a liberal message. In other cases any such message was unintentional and is a product more of either one's own interpretation or the intent of a screenwriter. Frank Capra, for example, was a republican yet he made several movies that speak powerfully to the left, such as Meet John Doe (1941).

What follows is a half dozen wonderful films that appeal to all audiences, but maybe mostly to lefties.

Reds (1981). Let's see ,we we've got the story of John Reed and other characters include Big Bill Hawyood, Emma Goldman, Louise Bryant and Max Eastman (if you're unfamiliar with these people you really need to bone up on your American history). Safe to say that lefties will like it. But who did the film's director and star Warren Beatty screen it for? Then president Ronald Reagan, Mr. Government-is-the-problem his own self*. Reagan reportedly quite liked the film. Many might see it as depicting the failure of the early 20th century leftist movement in the United States and the hypocrisy of the Russian Revolution. To others its many messages, such as this one spoken by Reed: "Look, what does a capitalist do? Let me ask you that, Mike. Huh? Tell me. I mean, what does he make, besides money? I don't know what he makes. The workers do all the work, don't they? Well, what if they got organized?" and its romantic view of Reed's passionate radicalism, make it a celebration of radical chic.

Our Daily Bread (1934). Talk about subversive! This is the story of a a disparate collection of unemployed men and their families getting together during the Depression and SHARING their resources and talents to create a large and successful farm! No hierarchy to speak of, no one reaping a huge profit, its' share and share alike --socialism all the way. From director King Vidor starring Karen Morley, Tom Keene and John Qualen, it is the ultimate collectivist film.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). You can argue that any movie that depicts war is prima facie an anti war film. In the case of AQWF however, it was an explicit message and one that was delivered most convincingly. Young men are encouraged to join the army and win glory for their country and themselves. They happily join up only to discover the harsh realities of life at the front. First scared witless, later virtually inured to the slaughter, they become cynical and bitter, finding comfort only in the brotherhood of their fellow soldiers. Yes brotherhood!

The Male Animal (1940). A professor faces possible dismissal because he wants to use a quote from martyred anarchist Bartolomeo Vanzetti in a lecture. Three professors at the same university have already been dismissed under suspicion of Communist leanings. The professor, played by Henry Fonda, must also concern himself with an old flame of his wife's who's in town for the "big game." The lovely Olivia de Havilland and Jack Carson, are the wife and ex football star, respectively. Yes, its a delightful comedy with many a light hearted moment, but to me it's as much an impassioned plea for academic freedom as anything else. While the entire community seems far more interested in the coming football game, the professor must weigh adhering to principles against maintaining a job.

Milk (2008). This actually might be the toughest for the right to accept. Not only does it concern a liberal politician's heroic struggles but he's openly gay. This docudrama is based on the political career of America's first openly homosexual politician elected to public office, Harvey Milk and it features Sean Penn's brilliant Oscar-winning portrayal. While its true that some conservatives who are especially strict about civil liberties support equality regardless of sexual orientation, gay rights has been a cause most closely associated with the left -- as has support of most repressed groups. The male kissing scenes will probably be especially icky to straight men on the right, especially those stuck in closets.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). It's been blasted by both ends of the political spectrum, but today is mostly pooh poohed by the right. It shows the U.S. government at its very worst and its very best. Corrupt politicians abound, many in the pockets of an avaricious and unseen political machine. I see it and say: "see how susceptible our government is to the greedy? See how they can manipulate and profit illegally!" But I also see it and say; "see how one person can make a difference? Do you see that our government has within it the avenues by which one may combat those evil forces?" Mr. Smith tells the story of America quite neatly, showing the tragedy and hope that are side by side within our government.

Next time I'll look at six more films that have particular appeal to the progressive that lies within.

* For a rebuttal to this, government is the problem nonsense, see this wonderful website. (You do know that in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the American government is of the people, by the people and for the people. Therefore if government is the problem then "the people" are the problem and must be reigned in by their corporate overlords, for that's truly what Regan was saying. When government is weakened who is strengthened? Not the common people, no weakening the government usually is in the name of corporate freedom.)

04 October 2009

More on My Cold, Childhood Reminiscences and Eventually Some Stuff About Movies


I don't know how I wrote the previous post. I was as sick as the proverbial dog and as weak as a kitten, to name two types of pets. (Hmm... did I molt like a parrot or was as as vulnerable as a goldfish?) Not only did I write it while in the throes of the bubonic plague -- that's the common cold to you non drama queens or kings -- but it was actually lucid -- at least for me.

I'm particularly amazed because I feel so much better today and yet its still a struggle to write. The great temptation every waking second, is still to slump on the sofa or bed. In moments of great strength I can lift the newspaper or a book high enough to read it. Otherwise I stare either at the TV or out a window. Unless there's a good movie or compelling sports event on the screen the window usually provides more entertainment. At least it doesn't distract the mind from the very important business of thinking. I'm a great fan of thinking and am sorry that it has been de-emphasized in modern culture. In lieu of letting our minds wander we occupy them with TVs, texting, iPhones, twitter, Internet games or blogs that are not as high toned as this one. What's especially grievous is that we've taken away idle time from our children. Bad enough they've got all manner of electronic devices to busy their minds, they tend to have their calendars filled filled faster than a CEO's. That they have calenders at all is a bad sign.

After school ballet lessons or soccer practice, piano lessons, or karate, math tutoring, school projects and the most heinous of all, play dates. I grew up in a different time (yes when dinosaurs roamed the earth, very funny, Kate G.). We used to do fine making our own "dates" and actually got together and organized our own baseball games or football games. We managed without adults "organizing" or "supervising" us. In elementary grades I had a lengthy walk to school. I went not to the neighborhood school but to the one a block from grandma's house so I could have lunch at her home everyday (most of which I fed to her golden retriever). No sane parent alive today would allow their child to walk such a distance, such is the state of paranoia that pervades our society. (For the record, I never let my daughters walk half that distance alone until they were in middle school.) Were our parents negligent? Did they not want to be bothered? Not at all. They just let us do a lot more of our growing up ourselves.

We grew up a lot more self reliant and with the benefit of years of idly thinking. I actually had time to quite regularly go into the backyard and "play." Without benefit of electronic gadgetry I was forced to rely on my imagination. Today children have imaginations provided for them by companies with huge profit margins. People don't much trust their own minds anymore which is why so many folks watch TV commentators and shows that merely re-enforce their already rigidly held beliefs. No use challenging yourself to think when some blowhard with a TV show will do it for you.

True I spent far too much time sitting in front of the TV ("yabba, dabba doo!" I've probably seen every episode of The Flintstones, God help me). But we only had five channels to choose from. If there was "nothing on" we were left to other devices.

Is this one of those blog posts in which he doesn't write anything about movies?

So am I saying that I grew up in the "good ole days?" No, it wasn't Camelot (anymore than today is Spamalot). We didn't know it at the time but for movie watching those were the dark ages.

Finally, he's mentioned movies!

You wanted to see a movie back then, you went to the theater. Or you could watch a movie being shown on the telly, riddled with commercials and if of recent make, edited so you were spared "adult situations." In other words your choices were limited. You might watch The Maltese Falcon (1941) at a revival house, otherwise you waited for it turn up on TV. You wanted to go to the ball yard that night it was on? Make a choice. No such thing as VCRs, DVRs, Tivo or DVD players. Oh and and if you did watch the movie, be prepared for a commercial to pop a long, usually when they got to a "good part."

Today if we I want to watch The Maltese Falcon I walk over to my shelf of DVDs and there it is, I own the damn thing. Let's say I wanna watch Bogie in Key Largo (1948). Well I don't own that but my local video rental establishment is a three minute walk from the house. Checked out? Gosh, I may actually have to wait a few days. All this of course gets back to my vicious cold, which, by the way, I'm beginning to suspect might actually be malaria.

Home bound by illness? Not a problem. I can settle on the sofa with The Marx Brothers, a Preston Sturges film, The Godfather (1972), maybe a Fred and Ginger film or a Busby Berkeley or one of my Bogie DVDs. Not in the mood for any one of them? The video rental store is a stone's throw away and of course TCM (the world's greatest TV station period exclamation point) might have aired something recently that I wisely recorded for later viewing.

All of this is to say that I have survived this recent illness with the help of Vitamin C, Tylenol, cough drops, Kleenex, a comforter and the magic of being able to watch feature length motion pictures right here in my own home. How cool is that?

Way cool, dude!

Hey italics guy, you're freaking me out. Stay the heck out of my posts.

Just trying to help, you're attitude totally --

Out, damn you!

I hope to resume regular film posts featuring my sharp wit, wry observations, insightful comments and hyperbolic adjective laden praise in the next day or so. And if you're wondering why the picture of Melanie Laurent atop this post my response is...you have to ask?