Twitter (i.e., Michael McKean) asks: What 5 movies are you confident you’ve seen at least 10 times?
HE sez: Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, The Hospital, Mean Streets, Heat, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Notorious, Network, Out of the Past, The Guns of Navarone, Some Like It Hot, High Noon, Red River, Only Angels Have Wings, The Thing From Another World, Barry Lyndon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 12 Angry Men, Double Indemnity, King Kong, Lawrence of Arabia, The Departed, Gunga Din.
Angie Dickinson: Who knows more about movie cameras? You or me?
Dean Martin: Maybe you.
Angie: Ever directed anything?
Angie: How do you adjust the focus?
Dean: Beats me.
Angie: Is it this little wheel doo-dad?
Dean: Hey, how come you’re dressed like Cyd Charisse in a Fred Astaire movie?
Angie: Gee, Dean, I dunno.
Dean: Because ya got great gams?
Angie: Howard told me to wear tights.
Dean: Can you dance?
Angie: Not like Cyd Charisse.
Dean: So what’s this movie about anyway? Besides me playin’ a drunk and Duke and I facin’ down the bad guys every so often? And singin’ a couple of songs with Ricky Nelson?
Angie: It’s Howard’s answer to High Noon.
Dean: He told me it’s a hang-out movie.
Angie: What’s a hang-out movie?
Dean: One that kinda ambles along.
Hollywood Elsewhere to Scott Alexander: Don’t shit me.
In France they kiss on Main Street, and in India they poop whenever the mood strikes, and right out in the open. And then they laugh about it.
HE to Alexander: Did you like the “laughing uproariously while squatting and shitting” scene, Scott? I ask because the photo above is from this exact moment in the film. Squatting and shitting is what the main protagonist is laughing about. He and some other laughing, sophisticated fellow.
I thought it was…uhm, mildly appalling. But then I’m a prissy metrosexual dandy type. I wish I could say that the memory of this scene will fade, but it won’t. It’s been burned into my brain. Or smeared, I should say.
When was the last time you, Scott Alexander, defecated in public while enjoying a hearty horse laugh? I myself have never done this. Oh, it’s never done in Los Angeles, you say? It’s a lower-caste Indian culture thing? Okay. Well, it sure was exotic!
Maybe it’s just a matter of cultural conditioning. We all tend to nature on a daily basis — why not do it publicly and laughingly?
What if American cinema had at least acknowledged public shitting as something that happens from time to time? What if, say, Cary Grant had decided to drop a deuce by the side of the road during the crop-dusting scene in North by Northwest? What if Dana Andrews had taken a big steaming dump while inspecting those old dusty WWII bombers near the end of The Best Years of Our Lives? What if Gary Cooper had decided to (heh-heh) mark his territory in the middle of Main Street in High Noon when Grace Kelly and Katy Jurado were clopping by in a horse wagon? “Do not forsake me, oh my darlin’…”
Streaming films at home means you’re watching from inside a kind of isolation tank — whatever you’re feeling or not feeling, it pretty much belongs to you alone (and possibly to your significant other or kids), and is probably being expressed in some sort of muted fashion.
But things are a lot different when you see a dynamically effective film with a responsive audience. (Remember?). Key moments can feel like emotional explosions or symphonic crescendos, and they’re really quite intense.
Yesterday on Twitter Edgar Wright launched a conversation about this. He began by recalling a major moment when he saw Adrien Lyne‘s Fatal Attraction in a packed house. Wright: “Anne Archer‘s line to Glenn Close over the phone, ‘If you come near my family again I’ll kill you’, made the place ERUPT in applause.”
In his Criterion Bluray High Noon commentary, film prof Howard Suber claims that 1952 audiences went nuts when Grace Kelly, a devout Quaker, shot one of the bad guys (Robert Wilke) during the final gunfight. I can understand that. It’s quite a payoff.
Many have spoken of great audience excitement when all the superheroes gather for battle at the end of Joe and Anthony Russo‘s Avengers: Endgame.
One of my favorite audience reactions happened during a showing of Ridley Scott‘s Alien (’79) in an Upper West Side cinema. As Sigourney Weaver‘s Ripley is preparing to leave the Nostromo inside a small space cruiser, she returns to the Nostromo’s danger zone (i.e., where H.R. Giger‘s alien might be lurking) to look for her cat “Jonesy.” The audience (especially the African American members, if I’m allowed to say this) started howling when she did this. “Ohhh, mann…whatchoo doin’? Jeeezus….fuck the cat, man…FUCK THE CAT!”
Please share any such moments from your collective memory pools…thanks.
Tatiana has been on a Grace Kelly kick for a couple of weeks now. Partly because she’s an admirer of three or four Kelly performances**, but mostly because she’s preparing a short video on the late actress, who was born on 11.12.29 and would be 91 today had she not been killed in a 1982 auto accident.
Today we visited two Los Angeles locations where Kelly lived — a Bel Air hotel suite rented in ’53 or ’54, and a Pacific Palisades home (321 Alma Real) that Kelly rented sometime during ’55 and perhaps into early ’56. (It’s hard to pin this stuff down.)
To make the experience complete, Tatiana wore an outfit similar to the one Kelly wore in the opening scene of Rear Window. We also figured that as long as we were exploring Bel Air bungalows, why not settle in for some vittles?
Probably my favorite photo of the late actress — zero makeup, no glam, no effort to “sell it”
Kelly rented this simple, tree-shaded Spanish-style bungalow sometime in ’55. A hop, skip and a jump away from the mouth of Santa Monica Canyon.
Bel Air hotel, 9.26.20, around 3:55 pm.
Like every teenager who ever walked the earth outside of the usual suck-ups, brown-nosers and goody-goodies, I saw myself in almost every sneering, anti-authoritarian character who came along. I began to grow past that in my early 20s, but I’ve always felt a certain kinship with outlaws, contrarians, rebels, malcontents.
And yet, paradoxically, the first movie character that I felt I truly understood was Gary Cooper‘s small-town marshall in High Noon, which I first saw on my parents’ TV. Because he embodied a kernel of an idea that had begun to chill my soul at an early age — that life is a solo journey**, and that when push comes to shove fair-weather friends aren’t worth a damn, and that you can’t count on anyone but yourself. Of course, I didn’t fully understand this until I hit my 30s.
What's the first film where you felt like you saw yourself on screen? pic.twitter.com/BQq2B1dpGf
— Film4 (@Film4) September 4, 2020
** Ida Sessions (over the phone): Are you alone, Mr. Gittes?” Jake Gittes: “Aren’t we all?”
In last night’s “Four Ain’t Enough” thread, “Bob Hightower” trotted out the old “anyone who prefers High Noon to Rio Bravo doesn’t really like Westerns” line.
I tapped out a pretty good Rio Bravo vs. High Noon piece 13 years ago, but here’s another go, written this morning and mostly freshly phrased.
I like Rio Bravo enough to own the Bluray and re-watch it every two or three years, but it’s mostly a laid-back, hang-out, easy-does-it thang by way of the lore of Hollywood westerns.
On top of being an anti-High Noon argument piece, of course — a refutation of the Carl Foreman idea that when push comes to shove, fair-weather friends (or 95% of those who behave as if they like and care about you, especially at parties) aren’t worth a damn, and when things get tough you’ve only yourself to rely upon. Which is precisely how I feel about life anyway.
The best westerns aren’t just about genre conventions and cliches, but about the human condition…right?
From the ’07 piece: “You know from the get-go that High Noon is going to say something hard and fundamental about who and what we are. It’s not going to just poke along some dusty trail and go yippie-ki-yay and twirl a six-gun. It’s going to look you in the eye and say what’s what, and not just about the political and moral climate in some small western town that Gary Cooper‘s Will Kane is the sheriff of.”
Rio Bravo is not really invested in the “uh-oh, the bad guys are coming to break Joe Burdette out of jail and kill us in the bargain” situation or even in the characters except for Dean Martin’s broken-down alky. Sweat, nerves, tremors of seal-loathing — 100% believable.
The best scene, of course, is that dialogue-free beginning in the saloon, although it never made a lick of sense that Martin would bash Wayne on the head with a wooden club simply because Wayne has given him a look of well-deserved disgust when Martin is about to reach into a spittoon to retrieve a silver dollar, which is course is par for the course for the town drunk.
It also makes no sense that Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) would casually shoot Bing Russell in the stomach at close range, as there’s been no real provocation. It’s almost on the level of “aaah, I’m bored, here’s a bullet.”
On top of which Ricky Nelson’s high-register, pipsqueak speaking voice is too late ‘50s, too eighth-grade, too malt shop, too “Be-Bop Baby”…it lassos Howard Hawks’ studiously self-conscious, movie-ish western and sends you right back to Ozzie and Harriet-ville every time he opens his mouth.
And that sing-along jailhouse scene (“My Rifle, My Pony, and Me”, which uses the same Dimitri Tiomkin melody that was heard over and over in Red River but with new lyrics) is a real curiosity. It was thrown in to placate Nelson’s and Martin’s fans, but it stopped the movie cold, of course, especially when Walter Brennan‘s “Stumpy” joins in on “Get Along Home, Cindy Cindy”.
You know what would’ve been cool? If Hawks had cut away to Joe Burdette in his jail cell, smiling and quietly humming along.
Also from ’07: “Does Rio Bravo have a sequence that equals the gripping metronomic ticking-clock montage near the end of High Noon? Is the dialogue in Rio Bravo up to the better passages in Zinneman’s film? No. (There’s nothing close to the scene between Cooper and Lon Chaney, Jr., or the brief one between Cooper and Katy Jurado.) Is there a moment in Rio Bravo that comes close to Cooper throwing his tin star into the dust at the end? Is there a “yes!” payoff moment in Rio Bravo as good as the one in High Noon when Grace Kelly, playing a Quaker who abhors violence, drills one of the bad guys in the back?”
And don’t forget my “Tarantino’s Once Is Kin To Rio Bravo” piece from last July.
The Ox-Bow Incident, Red River, High Noon, The Naked Spur, Shane, The Searchers, The Big Country, (not Rio Bravo), The Magnificent Seven, North to Alaska, One-Eyed Jacks, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Professionals, The Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Silverado, Unforgiven, Open Range, The Assassination of Jesse James, No Country for Old Men, The Revenant, Hell or High Water. (22)
Julia Marchese has a “friend” who’s “never seen a classic black and white film before”? And she wants suggestions about what b&w classics she could show this person, who’s almost certainly a Millennial or a Zoomer? First, make sure that the film is an HD or Bluray-quality presentation. And second, show him/her Out of the Past, The Train, Cold War, Dr. Strangelove, High Noon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, On The Waterfront, Schindler’s List, Manhattan, Stardust Memories or The Hustler.
On second thought forget the whole idea. Anyone who’s reached the ripe old age of 22, 26 or 30 without having watched a single black-and-white film has probably avoided a lot of other things that might expand their vistas (books, plays, museums, travel, peyote buttons). I would guess, in fact, that they’re almost certainly lacking in basic curiosity about God knows how many other aspects of life on planet earth.
In short, their future is mapped out. They can’t be helped. They’ll never attain enlightenment. They’re a lost cause.
All great or extra-impact films say something that audiences recognize as truthful — things they’ve learned and accepted through their own travails, and which prompt a muttering of at least two things — (a) “Yup, that’s how it is, all right” and (b) “this movie knows what goes.”
The Social Network said that even cold-hearted geniuses have emotional needs and vulnerabilities. The Godfather, Part II said that close-knit families were drifting aport and falling into spiritual lethargy, especially given the fact that mafia karma is a bitch. High Noon says you can’t trust your fair-weather friends — only yourself. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold says that little people will always get squashed in the eternal battles between ruthless governments. Prince of The City says that you can’t purify your soul without ratting out your friends so live with your misdeeds. Shane says that being a gunslinger is a stain that can’t be erased. Sunset Boulevard says we all need to live in the present and that constantly looking back will kill you. North by Northwest says you can’t live a life of shallow, affluent diversion — that you have to man up and do the brave and noble thing. Raging Bull says that if you live like an animal, you’ll end up a lonely animal in a dressing room. Unforgiven says you can’t escape your basic nature, and that no one blows guys away like snarling Clint.
The Irishman says a lot of things, but the most profound takeaway is you can’t lie to your children or keep them at arm’s length. Well, you can but at your peril. Because old age, walking canes, Depends and death are just around the corner, and you might want a caring someone to talk to and hold your hand during the downswirl. Nobody gets out of life alive.
Consider the following capsule assessment of texasartfilm.net‘s Dustin Chase: “Two good performances and some technical wizardry doesn’t warrant [The Irishman‘s] excessive running time and crippled pacing. [For it] gives the audience very little to take with them or apply to their own lives.”
The natural, obvious, fall-on-the-floor response is “WHAT?” Followed by “what kind of a life has Dustin Chase lived?” God knows, but it hasn’t involved much in the way of mortal meditation. When I staggered out of that first Irishman press screening everyone was feeling gut-punched and gobsmacked by those last 30 to 40 minutes. An older actress friend had tears in her eyes.
And “two good performances”? Try 11 or 12, minimally — Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Stephen Graham, Marin Ireland and the wordless Anna Paquin are the stuff of instant relish and extra-level pulverizing. Not to mention Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Kathrine Narducci, Domenick Lombardozzi as “Fat Tony” Salerno, Sebastian Maniscalco as “Crazy Joe” Gallo, etc. Everyone in this film is perfect. The awareness that you’re watching actors giving performances goes right out the window almost immediately. You’re just there and so are they and vice versa.
“Excessive running time“? The Irishman feels like two, maybe two and a half hours, max.
“Crippled pacing”? Who is this guy?
Industry guy: “The real time and one-continuous-take thing is cool and all, but I hear 1917 is more of a commercial play than an awards thing. Children of Men is incredible, but that wasn’t an awards thing either. Even Dunkirk, which mounted a big below-the-line Oscar campaign, as 1917 could also be doing, didn’t win the big one, nor did Nolan pose a serious threat that year for the Best Director prize.”
HE to Industry Guy: “WHAT? Universal is going to promote the hell out of this as a Best Picture candidate. Movies shot in real time constitute a very proud tradition, going all the way back to High Noon and The Set-Up and on through Linklater’s Before Sunset and Greengrass’s United 93. On top of which 1917 delivers ‘shot in real time’ AND captured in one continuous shot a la Birdman…are you effing kidding me?”
“Children of Men was the best film of 2006, and eff the Academy slackers who didn’t or couldn’t recognize that for lack of brain cells. Dunkirk was blazing drop-dead brilliant. People are idiots. They voted for The Fucking Artist in 2011…empty Coke bottles, no hope.”
Industry Guy: “Universal is going to push it, of course, but is that the kind of movie that typically wins, Birdman notwithstanding? It feels gimmicky. It’ll all depend on the emotion of the story. Agreed on Children of Men. but just because something is the best, doesn’t mean the Academy will recognize it as such. are YOU fucking kidding ME? Dunkirk was very good, but hardly a masterpiece. Mendes is a warmer filmmaker than Nolan — I’ll grant you that. American Beauty has heart, ditto Road to Perdition.”