So I thought I’d seen The Godfather Part III

 

This has become a most unexpected slice of Shame. Having rewatched Godfather and Godfather Part II to brush up on my Corleone lore for the recently recorded Cinema Shame podcast, I kept right on rolling into Godfather Part III. Why not? The wife and I were invested, hip-deep, quoting the films and proffering our own community-theater Brando impersonations. Of course we would complete the cycle.

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But a funny thing happened shortly after beginning the final Godfather installment. I discovered none of this felt familiar. The wife began probing me for clues about the film’s outcome. I knew the crucial deaths and a few choice quotations. But how we got there? Not a morsel of information.

It’s not uncommon to begun watching a movie and realize I’d actually seen it, but not once in my movie-watching history (at least to my recollection, which I’ve just called into question, so… grain of salt) had I convinced myself that I’d seen a film when I actually hadn’t.

It’s a strange sensation.

My Shame has taken on a completely new twist. I went into Godfather Part III expecting re-evaluation. Only I had no initial evaluation to reconsider. I suppose latent images and trace memory from my readings had convinced me I’d seen the film. Frequently, the Cinema Shame phenomenon occurs because popular culture has hammered home particular aspects of a film, causing us to feel like we’ve already experienced the story. We already feel like we’ve seen it through the eyes of popular culture. The phenomenon is real and perhaps too powerful. I’m living proof.

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Let’s first put a few thoughts on the table before moving on. The Godfather Part III has a bad reputation. It’s considered a lesser film. Our frame of reference will dictate whether we consider it a lesser film or just a lesser Godfather film. The discrepancy is important. The critical mass has duly documented Sofia Coppola’s performance as legendarily bad. Movie-killing bad. As a direct result, this final installment just isn’t properly considered when discussing the Godfather saga.

I may only be merely one voice in a sea of film criticism, but I cannot abide this treatment any longer.

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The abandoned Corleone Lake Tahoe compound.

The abandoned and dilapidated Corleone Lake Tahoe compound opens the film, an affecting sequence of still images that sets the tone and propels our expectations. Before anyone sets food on screen, the audience has been primed for one ultimate outcome – the destruction of Michael Corleone and potentially the entire Corleone dynasty. The Godfather Part III offers no misdirection; this film, unlike the first two chapters, promises only tragedy, it promises the end of our anti-hero Michael Corleone and potentially the entire Corleone family. It comes as no surprise to learn that Francis Ford Coppola wanted to name the film “The Death of Michael Corleone.”

The Godfather Part III embraces darkness. Perhaps this river of bleakness offers one reason that audiences failed to embrace the film. It entertains notions of mortality and regret rather than a celebration of machismo and initiative. There’s no measure of hope or optimism for the future. The aging and now ill Michael Corleone attempts to make amends for his familiar failures and repent for his crimes, to scrub clean the Corleone family name. He wants to rekindle the old world familial bonds that he’s eschewed in favor of money and power. The Don has lost sight of the tenant that his father, Vito Corleone, held most dear. Family first. If Don Vito Corleone represents the American Dreamer, Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III represents a cultural disillusionment with our greatest institutions. Capitalism. Religion. The nuclear family.

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The loss of the Godfather’s pro-active anti-hero from Parts I and II shifts the tone dramatically. Michael manages his diabetes, weighs the value of his life and attempts to return his misplaced focus to the family. His inaction and hesitancy to call for immediate retribution in the face of an obvious assault on the Corleone name takes on an air of defeatism, a far cry from the Michael Corleone that assassinated Sollozzo and McCluskey and launched his career in the family business. He’s staring down a modern world stripped of its moral compass and opting out.

In Michael’s stead, Part III instead provides Andy Garcia’s Vincent (Sonny’s illegitimate son) as the Corleone representation in this new world order. Leather-clad, brash and hyper-reactive, Vincent accepts the bestowal of Godfather status from Michael – an unthinkable development in the Corleone business model. Vincent isn’t even a Corleone. Management of the family business has been outsourced. Plus he’s having sex with his cousin Mary, Michael’s daughter. The corruption of the family from within.

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Vincent (Andy Garcia) striking back against a couple of low-level hitmen. 

Godfather Part III also benefits from Connie (Talia Shire) coming into her own as an invested and active member of the family rather than just a failed homemaker. She too represents a modern dynamic. The women were once relegated to a shadowed, maternal existence. Willingly naïve of the family business. Connie emerges as a strong central figure, giving orders during Michael’s incapacitation. One could write an entire book on Connie’s journey to investiture in the family business and how that represents the emergence of feminism in the Godfather narrative. She becomes perhaps the most interesting figure in the entire saga.

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Connie rise to power charts a fascinating course through the Godfather Trilogy.

The obvious criticism of Part III remains Sofia Coppola’s portrayal of Mary. It is unfair to judge the Godfather Part III on Sofia Coppola alone. Yes, she’s distracting. She’s an amateur acting alongside Diane Keaton, Al Pacino and Andy Garcia. She was destined for failure. Context is important, however. Winona Ryder dropped out of the production at the last minute. Coppola, fearing that Paramount would pull the plug on the whole film, asked his daughter to fill the role as an emergency measure to preserve the production. Without Sofia there might not have been a Godfather Part III at all. Just something to think about.

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Sofia Coppola is not an adequate scapegoat. This is no Christmas Jones, people.

There’s so much more to the film than Sofia Coppola’s performance that relying on that as criticism feels patently lazy. Intricately woven themes of redemption and mortality remain in play throughout the film. Part III offers a complex and multifaceted analysis of the ways in which power and money has corrupted not only Michael Corleones of the world but the greater institutions designed to protect us.

This sense of total corruption snowballs into a thirty-minute white-knuckle finale that rivals the baptismal conclusion of the first Godfather in terms of complex, layered cross-cutting. The opera assassination sequence features the most tense and thrilling moments in the trilogy. It is masterful filmmaking.

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George Hamilton photobomb at the opera.

Only a small bit of comic relief (supplied by Connie) breaks the persistent tension. And rightly so. This is the climax of the entire trilogy. The reckoning for past misdeeds coming to call on Michael in the form of a reaper-like assassin sent by his powerful enemies. The opera house becomes the gateway to the future of the Corleone family. The Corleone hopes and dreams, the plausibility of redemption all hang in the balance.

The film shocked me. I thought I’d merely forgotten, but aside from certain culturally accumulated catchphrases, I’d never really known it at all. The accepted and perceived order of the Godfather films clouded my judgment and distorted my conception of the film. I know now that many of these criticisms had merely been formed based on overly critical and small-minded comparisons.

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The Godfather Part III was not only worthy; in many ways it surpassed its supposedly greater elders. It’s not the cinematic perfection of its predecessors, but it tells a very human story, a very relatable story – and perhaps as a result it cuts too close and too deeply. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II allowed the viewer a measure escapist distance. The violence and human horror framed in otherness. As part of the mafia, as part of a narrow band of Italian immigrant experience. The Godfather Part III is the human condition – it is all of our stories.

 

 

So The Postman Always Rings Twice sizzles and fizzles.

As I have a tendency to do, I went overboard with my shame. This time I overindulged in The Postman Always Rings Twice penance. I watched the film and the 1981 remake (which we’ll not worry about for purposes of this conversation), but that wasn’t enough. So I tracked down a copy of James M. Cain’s anthology of noir novels and novellas at the library and read that. And that wasn’t enough. I learned that the 1943 Luchino Visconti film Ossessione was one of two earlier adaptations of the novella. So I found a copy of the Visconti and now I’m working on locating the 1939 French film Le Dernier Tournant with English subs. I’ve put my best Francophiles on the case.

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Why satisfy the Shame but continue on down this path of obsession? …or Ossessione?

Truth time. I watched the film and thought, “That’s it? That’s the movie I’ve been hearing so much about for so many years?” This is not disappointment; this is the danger of Cinema Shame — the damning expectation that comes along with the term “classic.”

I’m going to lay this out for you, reader. I found this uncontested (at least to my knowledge) classic to be a minor chore. I enjoyed the film, but never felt the film grip my lapels and hoist me up by my own petard. Film noirs should sizzle – a slow burn, a candlewick burning, dwindling until it folds onto itself upon the end credits. The layers of wrongdoing and malice eventually extinguished with one final gasp for air.

“Then I saw her. She had been out back, in the kitchen, but she came in to gather up my dishes. Except for the shape, she really wasn’t any raving beauty, but she had a sulky look to her, and her lips stuck out in a way that made me want to mash them in for her.”

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Lana Turner’s first appearance in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Cain describes the Cora character as sulky and without any “raving beauty.” 

James M. Cain describes the first meeting between Frank and Cora in a way that portends the ugliness to come. Frank sees Cora and the sight drives him to combine sex and violence into an unsettling mélange. She’s no “raving beauty” he says, but notes her shape and especially her lips. The raw, animalistic aggression contained within the study of her her lips provides a platform for their relationship and the ugliness that it ultimately inspires.

If there was any doubt about Cora’s reciprocity, look no further than their first sexual encounter.

“I took her in my arms and mashed my mouth up against hers… ‘Bite me! Bite me!’

I bit her. I sunk my teeth into her lips so deep I could feel the blood spurt into my mouth. It was running down her neck when I carried her upstairs.”

When I first read this passage from the novel, I understood precisely why I’d felt underwhelmed by the 1946 classic. Not one part of me truly believed Lana Turner embodied “Cora” to John Garfield’s pitch-perfect “Frank.”

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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) purposefully references Cain’s popular source material, but ultimately undermines the thrilling ugliness of the novel.

Garfield’s very visage – scarred, mottled like that of a boxer – conveys Frank’s demons. As Cora later tells him, “you’re smart but you’re no good.” Even though I’d not read Cain’s prose before seeing the film, Garfield felt authentic. I, of course, brought in extratextual information. Garfield’s performances in films such as He Ran All the Way, Body and Soul, and Force of Evil all contributed to my expectations and acceptance.

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The flip side is of course Lana Turner’s enduring image. The pristine, Hollywood-groomed beauty of Lana Turner could not conjure the woman who married the slovenly Greek twice her age, the woman who displayed masochistic sexuality, the woman who helped author the plot to murder her husband. Lana Turner was not Cain’s Cora. After reading James M. Cain’s prose, the more convinced I became.

In order to go along with The Postman Always Rings Twice, one must believe in the uncontrollable animal magnetism between Frank and Cora. Though Cora certainly commits misdeeds in the film, she lacks the character’s purposeful impetus from the novella. In Tay Garnett’s film, she’s almost a passenger, propelled by Frank’s delusional self-prowess. She wields her sexual potency with no certain end. A more in-depth conversation about the film could explore how Lana Turner’s sexuality in The Postman Always Rings Twice merely entertains the audience’s gaze rather than also function in service of narrative propulsion.

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“No one can know what that means to a woman. To have to be around somebody that’s greasy and makes you sick to the stomach when he touches you. I’m not really such a hell cat, Frank. I just can’t stand it any more.”

Cain’s Cora lacks measurable self-confidence; Frank feeds her ego with his sexual aggression. She’s painted as an average beauty, one consumed by the attention bestowed upon her by Frank. Lana Turner presents the self-assurance of someone who’d never be wanting for male companionship or attention. That she’d ever become the wife of an owner of a greasy diner or that she’d turn her life upside down for a wandering miscreant ring false. I can’t fault the casting of Lana Turner here, because her presence in this film belongs in the realm of pure spectacle, but I can also challenge the casting choice as a detriment to the merit of the film.

By definition the femme fatale is “a mysterious and seductive woman who whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.” The archetype figures prominently in the folklore and mythology of many ancient cultures including the Sirens of Greek mythology, most notably in Homer’s Odyssey.

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Sirens and Ulysses by William Etty, 1837.

I concede that Cora’s overt malice would likely have been marginalized by the production code. Double standards existed for female on-screen decorum. And this film had already pushed the boundaries of acceptable mainstream cinema. Cora’s character has been recalibrated as a partial victim.

I would argue that the on-screen portrayal shows that she did not pro-actively lead Frank astray, but rather that Frank nudged her astray and their obsession and plotting gathered momentum like a snowball. With that in mind I do not believe that she is acting as a true femme fatale. I think it is important to differentiate Cora’s actions from that of a character such as Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyillis in Double Indemnity. Phyillis manipulates Walter Neff from the moment he first walks in the door. If Lana Turner’s Cora manages Frank in this way, we don’t see that conveyed adequately on screen.

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Consider the conscious ways that Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) manipulates Walter Neff in Double Indemnity versus how Cora does not purposefully control Frank.

Turner’s performance is not wanting, however. And I must agree with the critics that cite her role in Postman as a dramatic landmark in her career. She charges her scenes with a shocking amount of eroticism for 1946 – especially considering the Production Code’s decade long fight to prevent this story from being seen by American audiences. I just do not see this character using her sexuality as man bait. Cain’s text clearly shows Cora manipulating Frank.

Critics don’t seem to agree with my judgment of her character. Writing in 2000, Stephen MacMillan Moser in the Austin Chronicle writes “from the first glimpse of her standing in the doorway in her white pumps, as the camera travels up her tanned legs, she becomes a character so enticingly beautiful and insidiously evil that the audience is riveted.” Even if you place Visconti’s Ossessione next to Tay Garnett’s Postman one can immediately notice differences in the way the two filmmakers went about establishing malice and intent in Cora.

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Visconti’s Ossessione (1943) starring Giovanna Bragana and Gino Costa. 

Ossessione portrays Cora as having clear and purposeful intent in a way Turner’s Cora does not. It may seem like splitting hairs to challenge a grade-A certified classic film noir over a subtle characterization, but after lining up all these various adaptations of Cain’s novel, Cora’s clear intent to kill her husband and manipulate Frank make this a far more interesting dynamic than a girl just getting swept up in a seedy romance.

Visconti’s Osessione and Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice perfect the minor keys that this Hollywood classic could not perfect or did not even attempt due to the watchful eye of the production code, abandoning the full depiction of femme fatalism by casting as unbesmirchable as Lana Turner.

I’m using my Shakespearean license to declare “unbesmirchable” a real word. I think that if you also line up all your Postman Always Rings Twices you will also come to see a similar value in the grit and grime of the Visconti. It might not be the certifiable grade-A certified piece of film noir, but it rings true. And maybe the answer is as simple as citing Visconti as a genius of understand emotional turmoil and Tay Garnett as a talented, but unspecialized cog in the studio machine. You be the judge.

So Zatoichi is kinda like James Bond, except blind – Vol. 1

I’ve had this Zatoichi Criterion box set on my shelf. It’s a very pretty box set, filled with lots of movies, 25 to be exact. After procuring the set for Christmas some years ago, I watched the first Zatoichi film, The Tale of Zatoichi. What a superb film!

And then there was silence.

I don’t have an explanation. I just have SHAME.

Last year for my Cinema Shame, list I vowed to complete the set. The 24 other Zatoichi films. This in addition to my regular allotment of SHAME. It might come as no surprise that I failed in this endeavor. But this is a new year, with new lists and new motivation. I’ve made certain promises to myself. That I will watch more, read more, write more. I promised to be better to myself and ignore the noise that has distracted me from doing the things I love. Noise is the urge to pick up my phone for no good reason and scroll through social media bullshit. Noise is a DVR filled with episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I haven’t actively wanted to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory in years.

For January, I began my journey (and my 2017 Shame) through this Zatoichi set once more. To make this exercise more manageable, I’ll break the massive word-spewing down into a few different posts. I’ll watch four Zatoichi movies per month and leave my thoughts here for you to consider.

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Gawkers consider the lowly masseur/legendary swordsman in The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)

The first Zatoichi film, The Tale of Zatoichi, showcases a potent character study about the friendship between two warriors (with elevated moral codes) on opposite sides of a clan dispute. Light on swordplay, long on philosophy — but effective at establishing the cavernous division between the moral right and the moral wrong with a conservation of action and language. Our blind, pacifist swordsman vs. a world of human ugliness.

Continue reading

So I’m back to fight the evil Shame in ’17

I screwed the pooch last year. I drafted an elaborate Shame Statement from here to Baja, California and I made a wrong turn at Albuquerque. Okay, I lied. I made a wrong turn in Columbus, Ohio, likely when I needed a White Castle fix.

We don’t have any White Castles in Pittsburgh, okay!?!?

I don’t want to get into the ways in which I failed my Shame Statement. It would just be rehashing old wounds. Instead, I’m going to move on. I’m going to move on from 2016 and all that mess and my blown Shame Statement. 2017 is a new year. New Shame. New rules. No more Mr. Nice 007hertzrumble.

Let’s get back to the basics. 12+ movies. 12 months.

I’ve again consulted my handy dandy Entertainment Weekly Guide.

EW GUIDE TO THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER MADE

I’ve lost the benefit of free will this year due to my failings in 2016. For my first Shames, I’m taking the first unwatched entry in each genre and moving forward.

DRAMA:

#1. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942) – #16 Drama

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Honestly, I’ve never felt shame for not having seen The Magnificent Ambersons, but the book shames me. So I will oblige.

 

#2. Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970) – #20 Drama

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I’ve planned to watch Five Easy Pieces for years, decades. I’ve just never done. I’ve owned the film on DVD and I just recently upgraded to Blu-ray. That makes sense, right? I’ll watch it twice to make amends. I watched a few clips during film school and the sense of having seen it probably proves detrimental to the actual, legitimate watching.

 

COMEDY:

#3. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925) – #25 Comedy

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Another film school casualty. In fact, I could probably blame film school for my woeful lack of Chaplin, whereas I’ve devoured both Keaton and Lloyd. Having seen dozens of individual moments from Chaplin films, my memory gets a little foggy regarding the ones I’ve actually watched start to finish.

 

#4. It’s a Gift (Norman C. McLeod, 1934) – #29 Comedy

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The TCM Slapstick Fall class sold me on catching up on my W.C. Fields education. I’ll retitle this section of my Shame Statement “It’s a Shame!”

 

ACTION/ADVENTURE:

#5. The Black Pirate (Albert Parker, 1926) – #8 Action

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Apparently I’m pretty well versed in Errol Flynn, so the Book has dictated that Douglas Fairbanks requires attention. So it goes.

 

WESTERN:

#6. Ride the High Country (Sam Peckinpah, 1962) – #7 Western

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There’s only so many times I can write about how I’m going to watch this movie. And I’ve hit that limit. It’s not like I don’t like Peckinpah. I REALLY LIKE PECKINPAH. And it’s not like I haven’t watched dozens of B-level Randolph Scott movies. BECAUSE I’VE WATCHED DOZENS OF B-LEVEL RANDOLPH SCOTT MOVIES.

 

#7. My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946) – #10 Western

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I bought the Criterion Collection edition of My Darling Clementine for just such a Shameful occasion.

 

MYSTERY/SUSPENSE:

#8. The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946) – #8 Mystery/Suspense

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Postman currently resides on my DVR, which is handy.

 

HITCHCOCK

#9. Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948)

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It’s a Hitchcock movie starring my favorite actor. SHAME. All caps.

 

#10. Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)

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I figure one good Hitchcock movie set in one spot deserves another.

 

HORROR:

#11. Henry: Portait of a Serial Killer (John McNaughton, 1986) – #13 Horror

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Truth time. I really don’t want to watch this movie. I’ve been told to watch this movie. I’ve read how amazing it is. Everyone seems to think this movie is the absolute bees knees. I’ll save this for October and my 31 Days of Horror Movie Marathon when maybe I can trick myself into watching this by putting it in the Tremors 4 case.

 

MUSIC:

#12. Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1986) – #15 Music

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When one of my favorite bands has done a rockumentary and I haven’t watched it that’s pitch-perfect SHAME, friends.

 

#13. The Commitments (Alan Parker, 1991) – Personal Pick

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This is a movie that fits squarely in the “I’m going to f’ing love this” box and I haven’t seen it. I know it might not be your particular ball and chain, but knowing I haven’t watched this weighs heavily on my conscious.

 

#14. Viva Las Vegas – (George Sidney, 1964) – Elvis Shame

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1964 Elvis and Ann-Margret, directed by George Sidney. Time to fix this oversight.

 

LONG PLAYS:

Zatoichi Criterion Box (Various, 1964-1973)

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I started this endeavor last year. I did not finish. Carry on, Zatoichi.

 

I’m determined to take on 2017 with everything I’ve got. No more Mr. Passive Resistance. I’m here to kick some Shame butt.

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31 Days of Horror: 2016 Shame-a-thon

For the past few years, I’ve gathered the fearless masses during these pre-Halloween weeks, encouraging them to indulge in a horror movie shame-a-thon, sponsored by Cinema Shame. The notion was simple. List 31 unseen horror movies you feel obligated to watch and tackle as many as you can during the month of October.

It may seem impossible, but October’s creeping up on us all yet again. I know this, you see, because it’s my birthday tomorrow and my birthday is a harsh reminder. The whole end of summer, end of one more year of existence combo-malaise. Pumpkin picking, hay rides, apple cider, arguing about costumes with small people… and then Halloween.

This year, I’m again following my Cinema Shame method, but adding a new twist. Fellow Pittsburgher @ElCinemonster has been organizing his Hoop-Tober Challenge on Letterboxd.com for three years now. Each year he lays down some challenges to help guide the viewing of his monstrous minions. Anyway, that’s been a smashing success, and I’ve enjoyed watching the event from afar. This year I’ve decided to combine my Cinema Shame Horror Shame-a-thon with @ElCinemonster’s Hoop-Tober Challenge to create the most unwieldy title in the history of movie blogging and watching.

Welcome to the 2016 CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile 31 Days of Horror Shame-a-thon

31 days of horror 2016

So let’s lay down the laws, shall we? Continue reading

So… the Red Shoes are, well, really f’ing red.

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When first conceiving my 2016 List of Shame I scanned my shelves for especially shameful movies I’d owned but never watched. The Red Shoes stood out. It’s red and white text, bold and conspicuous against the sea of low-numbered Criterion black. Somehow the act of purchasing and procuring magnifies the Shame. Here, I intend to watch you, I do, but for now you’re going to sit on this shelf over here and look pretty. It’s the “We’ll do lunch” of movie watching. During the last Barnes and Noble Criterion Collection sale, I broke down and purchased The Red Shoes, Powell and Pressburger’s early Technicolor masterpiece. I’d read all this hyperbolic praise for The Red Shoes, including some from the likes of Martin Scorcese who ranks it among the finest films ever made. And there it was all beautiful and Blu-ray-y.

Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), a young ballet dancer from a well-to-do family, snags an audition (courtesy of her Aunt’s connections) with Boris Lermontov, the hardass, take-no-prisoners impresario of the Ballet Lermontov. This is the kind of guy that believes art begets suffering and suffering begets art and anything else is just tiddlywinks and glue sniffing. When Lermontov loses his prima ballerina to the nefarious institution of marriage, he creates a starring role for Vicky Page in his new ballet, an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Red Shoes.” It’s your typical happy-fun-times HCA bauble. A peasant girl becomes obsessed with a pair of red shoes. The shoes begin to move and dance on their own. She can’t stop dancing. She can’t take them off. She asks and executioner to chop off her feet. The shoes continue to dance. There’s apparently a scene where the girl’s amputated feet lead her down the aisle at church so she can show everyone the red shoes again. She begs God for mercy and then her soul flies off to Heaven. The End. What the actual fuck, Hans Christan Anderson?

Based on the fairy tale, you can guess where this movie’s going as life begins to imitate art. Lermontov’s The Red Shoes becomes a huge success, catapulting Vicky Page into ballet superstardom. All goes well until Page falls for her Red Shoes composer and their coupling throws Lermontov into hysteria. He boots the composer. She leaves the company, knowing she’ll never have the same success elsewhere. Lermontov also retains the rights to The Red Shoes.

So that’s the story. But that’s not why it’s beloved. Powell & Pressburger’s use of color in The Red Shoes stands as a monument of visual filmmaking. Red jumps off the screen as if in a third-dimension. I also can’t recall a film framed in the Academy ratio that felt this big. And it’s not about scope and scale. It’s about the use of light and shadow, a conservation of space and timely deployment of color.

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The film leaves images imprinted on the brain. Like that one above. And this one.

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Meanwhile contemporary critics of the film often panned The Red Shoes as derivative. Hrm. It seems to me there’s a disconnect here in 1948. A rarely used color development process. Some of the most arresting visuals in cinema this side of D.W. Griffith. So what’s the problem, jerky critics? Ahhh. Yes. There’s that story I mentioned earlier.

In many ways, The Red Shoes is a quintessential entry in the “backstage melodrama” genre. Aggressive, petulant showrunner. Delicate but driven ballet dancer. Forces of nature collide. Tears happen. Hearts are broken. It’s done well. It’s a competent, time-tested love quadrangle. If we keep Hans’ original story for The Red Shoes in mind, we know the narrative’s ultimate destination. I won’t spoil it in case you’re slow on the uptake. The question that you then must ask is whether or not Powell and Pressburger earn that ending. That’s a touchy question to ask in the face of millions of adoring fans claiming The Red Shoes to be an inarguable classic, a pinnacle of early British cinema.

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Controversial opinion alert:

My immediate gut says that The Red Shoes doesn’t earn its ending. The film packs an inordinate amount of character shift into the final five minutes, sprinting to the finish, perhaps as the amputated shoes raced down the church aisle for their final bow. If we know the story of the fairy tale, we have already injected that into our interpretation of the film. I remember wondering with ten minutes to go if I’d read the film entirely wrong and we weren’t going for the movie imitating the ballet within the movie conclusion that seemed so very assured after Lermontov first describes ballet he wants to produce. The final shot fails to resonate for that reason. It all happens in a relative blink without any time to dwell on the finer points of character.

While I adored much about The Red Shoes, I can’t give this my highest recommendation. The rushed ending and perhaps indeed derivative narrative detracted from my overall reception. I’d pre-written the OMFG 5-star review in my head during the journey but by film’s end I realized I needed to rewrite the script. I’ve reduced my overall impression to OMFG that cinematography! that Moira Shearer! and ehhhhh… what just happened?

Shame #1 is in the bag for 2016. But I’ve got a long year ahead. Join me, won’t you?

So… I am super shamed in 2016.

You’d have thought that after two years of Cinema Shame treatment I’d feel slightly less guilty about the films I hadn’t watched. Nay! NAY! I feel more guilty because not only do I have movies I should have watched but I also have movies I should have watched that I’ve put on Shame! lists and still haven’t watched! Shame ^ 10.

2014 Cinema Shame List / 2015 Cinema Shame List

I did eliminate two-time offenders Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Deer Hunter. Huzzah! At least I completed my 2014 list in 2015.

Entering 2016, I’ve made a vow to watch more of the unwatched films currently in my collection. This proves tangential to my vow to take control of my unwieldy stash of DVDs and BDs. I’ve run out of space on my shelves. I’m double stacked. There’s bins in the closet. This is the year I enjoy what I’ve amassed. This is the year that the movies watched exceeds the new acquisitions.

In theory, anyway. The best laid plans of mice and obsessive DVD collectors and all that jazz. This year, I pay my penance for overextending my budget and my available space. This year, it’s the grinder.

Now, I present my 2016 List of Shame.

1. The Red Shoes (1948, Powell & Pressburger)

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After hearing nothing but hyperbolic praise for The Red Shoes, I purchased the Criterion Blu-ray during the last Barnes and Noble sale. It’s time to see what the fuss is all about.

 

2. Hitchcock Shame! Rope & Lifeboat

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Hitchcock always gets the shaft when I sit down to watch a flick. I’ve seen bits and pieces from dozens of films I studied in school. Consequently, I rarely feel compelled to make them a priority. Here are two Hitch classics, viewed in film school bits and pieces, but never in totality.

 

3. Spartacus (Kubrick, 1960)

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Much like Ben-Hur two years ago, I feel like I’ve seen it even though I clearly haven’t. 2016 is the year I own up.

 

4. The “Other” Adventures of Antoine Doinel! Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, & Love on the Run

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I’m a big fan of Truffaut. I’m a big fan of The 400 Blows. Yet the rest of Antoine Doinel’s adventures sit on my shelf unwatched. No excuses.

 

5. Aki Kaurismäki’s Criterion Eclipse Sets

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Proletariat: Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, The Match Factory Girl

Leningrad Cowboys: Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses, Total Balalaika Show

I counted La Vie de Boheme among my favorite first-time watches of 2015. I abruptly went out and picked up Kaurismãki’s Criterion Eclipse sets. Bring it on, Aki, you Finnish deadpan fiend.

 

6. Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

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Point of clarification: I’ve seen the first Zatoichi film. It’s time to watch the *gulp* other 24.

 

7. The Complete Fritz Lang Dr. Mabuse – Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, & Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse

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The Complete Mabuse set from Masters of Cinema is gorgeous. Yet, all I’ve done is admire the thing. Break the seal.

 

8. Warner Archive Backlog – Any 10 WAC Titles

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A case of my eyes and moviewatching aspirations are bigger than my available watch time. I have an entire shelf of Warner Archive titles. They’re shamefully unopened. SHAME! It’s a good thing WAC stopped having those 5 for $50 sales or I might have had to watch 20. (I don’t mean that. It’s a terrible, horrible, no good thing.)

 

9. The Essential Jacque Demy

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Auto-buy because I love The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Well, I’ve watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg but I’ve yet to view Lola, Young Girls of Rochefort, Bay of Angels, Donkey Skin or Une Chambre En Ville. At all. As in I’ve never seen any of them. I had Young Girls of Rochefort in my DVD player once. But I never actually hit play. SHAME.

 

10. Cinema Shame Horror Shame-a-thon 2016!

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We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I can’t be bothered with this yet.

 

11. Batman Television Series

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I cracked this open immediately after purchase and watched one episode. I’m still dying to know what happens in episode two. So maybe I won’t finish this, but let’s try to make a dent, okay? Maybe a little nick. Let’s just watch some Batman and see where it goes.

 

12. Unfulfilled Past Shames

1. Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen Shame!)

2. What’s Up, Doc? (Bogdanoshame!)

3. Ride the High Country (Peckinpahah Shame!)

4. The Guns of Navarone (Essential War Shame!)

5. Big Heat (Noir Shame!)

6. Fellini Satyricon (Fellini Shame!)

7. Ikiru (Kurosawa/Criterion Shame!)

8. Five Easy Pieces (Everyone-Told-Me-I-Need-To-Watch-It Shame!)

9. Viridiana (Bunuel Shame!)

 

So that’s it. Whattya think, sirs?

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