So I’m probably never going to watch ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’. My 2019 Shame Statement

2019 means a clean slate. 2019 means a brand new Shame Statement.

To recap, my 2018 list:

Five Easy Pieces
Lifeboat
Stop Making Sense
The Black Pirate
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Paris, Texas
Wuthering Heights
Paper Moon

Sunrise
The Conversation
Victor/Victoria
Once Upon a Time in the West
Ikiru
Help!

Additionally, I watched the following for the Cinema Shame podcast:

Musical Shamedown:

Footlight Parade
The Harvey Girls
The Flower Drum Song
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Burt Reynolds Memorial:

The End
Semi-Tough

Hammer Horror Shamedown:

Kiss of the Vampire
Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter

I could have done better. I am shamed. BUT BUT BUT THE PODCAST. I had to do a lot of work on the podcast! Yeah, but you watched almost 300 movies last year and I assume some of them featured Judge Reinhold. Fine. Fine. I could have watched Ikiru or Victor/Victoria. I put off watching Sunrise because it was announced as a TCMFF 2019 movie. I did have The Conversation in the Blu-ray player a couple of times. And then there’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer that’s been on my list for three years now. I should just give up or something and just watch Seinfeld on DVD.

I don’t have time for your nonsense. 

Fine. 

Fine!

Now let’s hash out some new targets for 2019, and I’ll definitely watch all of those plus the ones I missed in 2018. There. Are you happy now?

Maybe. Time will tell. You do constantly disappoint me.

I’ll pull some ideas from my old familiar EW Guide to the Greatest Movies Ever Made, but I’ll also consult some other essential tomes: The Best Film You’ve Never Seen by Robert K. Elder and Danny Peary’s Cult Movies Vol. 1. I’ll denote the book in which the movies appeared with EW, BFYNS or DP. Ready?

Get on with it already. This ain’t Al Capone’s Vault.


Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) – #25 Drama EW

Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears, 1988) – #31 Drama EW

Aquirre, The Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972) – #13 Foreign EW, DP

Can’t Stop the Music (Nancy Walker, 1980) –  Jonathan Levine – BFYNS

Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988) – #30 Foreign EW

The Last Waltz (Martin Scorcese, 1978) – #5 Music EW

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971) – #17 Western EW

Tarzan the Ape Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1932) & Tarzan and His Mate (Cedric Gibbons, 1934) – #5 Action/Adventure EW

Patton (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970) courtesy of @elcinemonster

Shane (George Stevens, 1953) – #4 Western EW

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford, 1949) – #11 Western EW

The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1983) – #83 Drama EW

The Bellboy (Jerry Lewis, 1960) – #68 Comedy EW

The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 1982) – #55 Drama EW

Plus those that I avoided in 2018, of course. You’re damn right you will.

So 2018 is still shameful.

In 2017 not only did I tackle a great many Shames, I also started the Cinema Shame Podcast. As a result, I checked off some unforeseen Shame and helped others scratch their biggest itches.

As a refresher here was my 2017 list (watched):

The Magnificent Ambersons
Five Easy Pieces
The Gold Rush
It’s a Gift
The Black Pirate
Ride the High Country
My Darling Clementine
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Rope
Lifeboat
Friday the 13th
Stop Making Sense
The Commitments
Viva Las Vegas
Zatoichi: The Long Game (completed Zatoichi 1-10)

Additionally I watched the following as a result of the Podcast:

Fatal Attraction
Godfather Part III

Not too bad, if I do say so myself. But that merely sets up 2018 to be one of the most Shameful years in moviewatching history. The Shame! rolls ever onward. Behind every Shame! is another Shame! and still another and still another… you get the picture.

To compile my list for 2018, I took a slightly different approach. Like past years, I consulted by Entertainment Weekly lists and carried unwatched Shame! over. For 2018, however, I solicited lists from my followers on Twitter. Send me your favorite movies, I said! The first four responses contributed to my 2018 Shame Statement.

My trusty Shame! companion:

EW GUIDE TO THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER MADE

.

And now on with the shame.

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

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Carry over from 2017. I can think of no logical reason I’m avoiding Five Easy Pieces. It’s on my Criterion shelf, readily available.

 

Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)

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More carryover. A few more Hitches and I’ll have seen all of his sound films.

 

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

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Carryover. Sigh. I’ve built this concert film up in my brain so much that I keep waiting for conditions to be perfect for viewing.

 

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

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I’ve seen my share of Errol Flynn swashbucklers. After seeing Fairbanks’ Zorro on the big screen earlier this year, I’m jazzed to catch up on some of his other films. I’m considering a Quadruple Shame! of The Black Pirate, The Crimson Pirate (1952) starring Burt Lancaster, Vincente Minnelli’s The Pirate (1948), and The Pirate Movie (1982). Maybe I’ll plan an entire week of Pirate movies. Hrm.

 

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (John McNaughton, 1990) – #13 Sci-Fi/Horror

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I know plenty about this movie and no part of me wants to watch it. I even swapped it out last year for Friday the 13th without hesitation.

 

Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984) – courtesy of @emily_dawn

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Wenders is a bit of an enigma for me. I’ve seen a couple of his films and they were fine, but I slacked off after that and Paris, Texas fell by the wayside despite *knowing* I needed check this box. When @emily_dawn shared her favorites list with me and I saw Paris, Texas up at the tippy top, I knew its day had come. #DoItForHarry

 

Wuthering Heights (William Wyler, 1939) – courtesy of @Journeys_Film

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All signs pointed to Wuthering Heights this year. The Pure Cinema Podcast recently lauded Wyler’s film. While digging up Orson Welles information for an upcoming Cinema Shame podcast, I read a fair amount of criticism linking Wuthering Heights and The Magnificent Ambersons. Then Kristen came at me with her list of favorites and Bob’s your uncle.

 

Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich, 1973) – courtesy of @arbogast1960

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No excuses. I love Bogdanovich. I own this movie on Blu-ray. I even have the soundtrack on vinyl. I guess I just needed a kick in the pants from @arbogast1960.

 

Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927) – courtesy of @wez_Luigi

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Another obvious choice. @wez_Luigi made me aware I’d forgotten about F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece.

 

The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) – courtesy of @ElCinemonster

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Fuel for an upcoming Cinema Shame episode courtesy of @ElCinemonster.

 

Victor/Victoria (Blake Edwards, 1982) – #24 Comedy

victor-victoria

I consulted the EW Guide for my highest rated unwatched comedy. I’ve been meaning to watch Victor/Victoria for many moons.

 

Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968) – #16 Western

Once Upon a Time in the West 3

Yeah. Clearly an oversight.

 

Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)

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I’ve watched a lot of Kurosawa. Clarification. I’ve watched a lot Kurosawa samurai films. I could fill an entire year of Shame! with the non-Samurai Kurosawas I haven’t seen.

 

Help! (Richard Lester, 1965) – #4 Music

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The EW Guide ranked Help! above A Hard Day’s Night. So I had to see about all the fuss.

 

Ongoing Long Plays:

Zatoichi Criterion Box (Various, 1964-1973)

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I watched the first ten last year, time to finish the job.

 

So I hope to be W.C. Fields when I grow up

I was aware of W.C. Fields as a rosy, round-faced comedian at a very early age. My aunt had a copy of one of his films alongside her Monty Python videos. (I watched those Pythons, but ignored the Fields.)

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This most closely approximates the trace memory of that specific VHS tape. 

My first real exposure to Fields occurred during my first days in undergraduate film studies. We viewed clips of The Bank Dick and I thought to myself, “Self, that’s a movie you should probably watch.” But here’s the thing about film school. You are constantly watching movies for reasons other than pleasure. There’s pleasure to be had, of course, in a formal cinematic education, but you’re so booked with screenings and research-watches that watchlists grow without and grow and grow until they’re more like Audrey II than a notebook with “To Watch” scribbled atop the first page.

Oh those simple, freewheeling days before Letterboxd.com. Cue South Park’s member berries: REMEMBER VIDEO STORES? REMEMBER NEVER BEING ABLE TO FIND THE MOVIE YOU WANTED!?

Audrey-II

Feed me more movies you’re never going to watch, Seymour!

Fast forward sixteen or so years. I sign up for the TCM/Ball St. online slapstick course. And what clip greets me in the early sound curriculum? That same Bank Dick scene where W.C. Fields walks into the bar. At this point, further avoidance of The Bank Dick offends my own sensibilities.

A sample:

I take one more step. I buy the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume 1. I have no excuse now. Except for all the other movies I want to watch! Omigoodnesstherearealotofthem! Enter Cinema Shame. I put it on my list. I state my ignorance for the world to see. And I bring the W.C. Fields collection with me when we take the family to Santa Fe to visit my wife’s parents. I have the W.C. Fields DVDs and nothing else… except his Netflix subscription and my Vudu movies. So relatively speaking, I have *nothing* to watch.

So let’s get on with this. Let’s talk a bit about The Bank Dick.

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I’m wondering how I’ve lived this long without W.C. Fields and The Bank Dick in my life. I love movies about drunks. I especially love movies about amicable drunks that believe they’re the smartest and most capable men in any room. This is the general philosophy behind W.C. Fields’ persona and the guiding light that drives this, perhaps his best known film. Upping the stakes in The Bank Dick, not only is W.C. Fields the smartest drunk in the room, but he’s the smartest drunk in charge of security detail at a local bank.

Part of the charm of this W.C. Fields film is the ambling, directionless nature of the film (and this would prove to be a consistent part of Fields’ charm as an on-screen personality). The film opens with Fields enduring familiar breakfast table grief before wandering over to the bar to get soused (and here I would be remiss to overlook the brilliant gag that is Fields’ character’s name in The Bank Dick – Egbert Sousé) and then stumbling out of the pub to direct a motion picture and catch two bank robbers. All in a day’s hard-earned inebriation.

The high concept here is that by bumbling and exaggerating himself into heroism, the bank gives Egbert a job at the bank. Naturally, he’s a terrible security guard and oversteps his duties to give terrible financial advice in addition to the terrible security and soon everything looks bleak for our drunken sod… but in the end, everything just falls into place. I won’t spoil the machinations of the narrative, but Fields must keep a bank examiner occupied for days in order for his wrongs to be made right.

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The Bank Dick has no concern for strict continuity or narrative logic. W.C. Fields, even though he’d graduated to feature length comedies after a full career of shorts, still plays in the sketch sandbox. Some jokes come back around in the end, but by and large, Fields is most concerned with the short, even in a full-length narrative. The vision and genius lies within the individual scenes and within the melody of his purposeful, booze-soaked dialogue.

Luxuriate in this choice exchange:

Egbert: Ten cents a share. Telephone sold for five cents a share. How would you like something better for ten cents a share? If five gets ya ten, ten’ll get ya twenty. A beautiful home in the country, upstairs and down. Beer flowing through the estate over your grandmother’s paisley shawl.

Og: Beer?

Egbert: Beer! Fishing in the stream that runs under the aboreal dell. A man comes up from the bar, dumps $3,500 in your lap for every nickel invested. Says to you, “Sign here on the dotted line.” And then disappears in the waving fields of alfalfa.

The Bank Dick (and now that I’ve watched six of Fields’ films, I’m qualified to say this) stands out in the W.C. Fields oeuvre not just because of the finely tuned delivery, but also because the film embraces the spectacular potential of slapstick comedy better than any of his other films (at least those on Vol. 1). It’s not just the W.C. Fields persona working full throttle here; it’s also director Edward F. Cline (director of some Buster Keaton’s finest moments) taking W.C. Fields beyond his character’s standard set of old-timey linguistic gymnastics.

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The real coup de grace, of course, is an overlong madcap car chase that boasts some of the most impressive and almost orchestral stuntwork I’ve seen in an early Hollywood comedy. In many ways, The Bank Dick feels like a Keaton film with a verbose character at the center. This really is the best of all comedy worlds.

All that said, I’d have been just as happy spending 80 minutes in the bar with W.C. Fields. Someday, I too hope to be such a clever and witty drunken sod. I’m often a drunken sod, but I lack the certain, specific lexicon and energy that made Fields’ a legendary drunk. It’s something to which we can all aspire.

Or we can err on the side of lesser intoxication and just quote W.C. Fields more often. *Sigh* The latter is far more responsible after all. And I can’t hold my liquor quite like W.C.


 

2017 Shame! Progress:

The Magnificent Ambersons
Five Easy Pieces
The Gold Rush (watched, pending)
The Bank Dick 
The Black Pirate
Ride the High Country
My Darling Clementine
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Rope
Lifeboat
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Stop Making Sense
The Commitments (watched, pending)
Viva Las Vegas
Godfather Part III
Zatoichi 1-4 / 5-8 / 9-12 / 12-15 / 16-19 / 20-24