Class of ’53: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

This is the beginning of my semi-spontaneous series of films from the year 1953. I’ve selected nine (9) films to watch from the year of 1953 that I’ve never seen. I doubt I’ll blog about all of them but we’ll see what shakes out from this.

gentlemen-prefer-blondes

This may be my fourth/fifth film by Howard Hawks that I’m watching, it’s definitely my third film starring Marilyn Munroe and I’m starting to believe that both aren’t quite my cup of tea entirely.

Let me take that back. I’m wrong. Hawks has given me the whimsy of Only Angels Have Wings, the tenacity of His Girl Friday, the lunacy of Bringing Up Baby and the dark beauty of Rio Bravo. So why am I thinking that this might not work out? A 4 for 5 batting average ain’t bad (or so my baseball friends tell me).On the other hand seeing Marilyn in playing the famed dumb blonde that people satirize her for. It was insufferable. Continue reading

Blindspot: The Great Dictator (1940)

The Great Dictator 2

Two years ago I watched City Lights, my very first Charlie Chaplin film. There’s something about firsts that stay with us. No matter what we’re always seeking to replicate that feeling while at the same time always remembering the joy it brought us. It’s an impossible feat for anything to accomplish on it’s second or third attempts at hitting that very same experience again. So why is it I feel so bitter sweet about this one? Continue reading

Blindspot: Sholay (1975)

Sholay - 1

The reason why I love films like The RockDrunken MasterThe Good The Bad and The Ugly and even Blazing Saddles is that more than anything else the films have that “did you see that?” quality to them. They’re ridiculous, flashy and keep us moving in a way that doesn’t ask too much of the audience. Sholay is a film that does just this and possibly more. Infusing western cinema with the idea of the vast western, riffing on well known motifs, and sometimes even lifting complete shots from films such as Once Upon a Time in the West and The Magnificent Seven we see the answer to the question of what would be if India adopted Westerns with a tone of Blaxspoitation cinema and threw some musical sequences in the middle of it all.

It seems apt that I make Sholay my blindspot entry from the month of May, because it feels like the perfect summer movie. It feels as if someone was in a lab constructing this film from all the best elements of entertainment for maximum enjoyment while at the same time lost in how to reign in any sense of control over what they were doing. When half-way through the film we discover the reason for Thakur’s (Sanjeev Kumar) reason for his need to have Gabbar (Amjad Khan) captured you feel as though we’ve seen a too much. Continue reading

‘Bad Words’ Seems Like the Right Kind of Asshole

Jason Bateman has been an actor I can never quite peg down to be honest. He has this off-kilter way too nice a guy dad in Arrested Development, and after that he always seems to play these comedic roles that almost asks him to be as unfunny as possible. He’s always played the proverbial butt of all the jokes in his films I find. Here however he’s continued to play that same wrong end of the stick guy, but he owns it. He owns his own weird thing in doing a children’s spelling bee on technicality and it just looks so amazingly right. He has the right brand of asshole written for him, so I’m down.

What do you think of the ‘Bad Words’ Trailer?

Blindspot: Sherlock, Jr. (1924)

Sherlock Jr - 1

Last month the Blindspot Series went into the realm of silent cinema with Metropolis and this month it continues to wander around in the same vicinity as the 1924 film directed and starring Buster Keaton, Sherlock Jr takes a spot forfront in my mind for discussion.

I spoke about the fragility of comedy over the years, decades (and more), when I discussed Chaplin‘s City Lights last year and somehow I find myself hard pressed not to fall in love with this as I did with Chaplin then. The physical jokes are things which comedy has based its entire pretense on over the years so much that we’re no longer watching their derivative but their derivative’s derivative’s derivative; which makes it that much more surprising when the desired effect is still found in an audience today.

The film begins with a simple idea that one cannot push your focus between two differing studies and expect to do either justice. With Keaton playing a Projectionist who’s hoping to be a detective that one day is given a mystery of a stolen watch that he can’t quite solve takes to thought whilst falling asleep in the projection booth of the cinema — stay with me here.

Sherlock Jr (3)

Where this film rises above a lot of even today’s films is in it’s visuals. Something about films of today are so understandable by the audience. When someone goes to watch Avengers there is an understanding by him and the film even before a frame is shown that we already know how 99% of the film was made and the part of one’s brain that spends rattling around trying to figure out how we got a Hulk to take down a big Alien ship living thingy (whatever that was) is completely disengaged through the experience. However, watching Sherlock Jr that part of your brain is constantly engaged attempting to figure it all out because unlike with today’s films there is no understanding before the film begins.

The understanding is exactly the opposite. We, the audience, understand in that at the time they were still in an analog filming process and would’ve had to have accomplished all these things we see before us with a lot more time and cleverness than we’re willing to attribute to technology of today. It’s as if a magician came to town and had a dove pop out of his empty hat. At one point in time there was no way of us knowing how it was done, but with google and all we can now look it up and see how it was probably done and once we’ve created a logical explanation for the fantastical and dangerous it becomes the opposite of that completely.

Sherlock Jr (2)

With all that said this film is peppered with those moments and I’d love nothing more than to spend the next thirty (or hopefully less) years of my life watching the film frame by frame figuring out how to have done what Keaton did. From jumping into a dress, to setting up a stage so it looks like a screen of film and having him interact with it in a very Last Action Hero style manner, or as simply as playing that perfect game of pool that he does. Moments like the later can be easily said that, “He was that good,” but I want to give him a more magical explanation than that because the rest is just that… more magical.

What do you think of Sherlock Jr.?