We are at the cusp of ending another successful year of Cinema Shame. The flurry of everyone’s best of lists for 2018 is starting to fall upon the internet. David Ehrlich’s release of his top 25 countdown is what I view as the first signal of this time of year. I think the end of the year gives us a perfect opportunity to focus on recent releases and announce our views on what current releases will be future Cinema Shames, years down the road. Does the cinematic class of 2018 include some future Cinema Shames? We need to know.
If you have a list of your top five, top ten, or top whatever feel free to shout them out on Cinema Shame. If you want to focus on several movies from this year, write up a post and let us know what needs to join the ranks of future Cinema Shame lists. I look forward to sharing my favorites from 2018 and I hope to hear about yours I missed from our contributors.
Submit what you think will be future Cinema Shame by tweeting @CinemaShame or emailing us at email@example.com.
“Only Angels Have Wings” was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2017. I didn’t know it was held in such high regard, its release on Criterion should have been a hint. I watched this directly after “His Girl Friday,” a screwball comedy directed by the masterful Howard Hawks. Knowing “Only Angels Have Wings” starred Grant, I was thinking it would be a natural follow-up to “His Girl Friday.” I went in completely blind and was expecting a comedy with a dash of romantic elements, the Criterion cover art should have clued me in that it was more action-oriented. “Only Angels Have Wings” could easily be classified as an early precursor to “Top Gun.” An action, adventure movie spilling over the brim with masculinity, pilots proving themselves by flying dangerous missions in some South America village. Jean Arthur plays Bonnie Lee, a character who arrives by boat to the tiny village. A simple layover ends when she becomes enchanted with Geoff Carter played by Cary Grant, the lead pilot of Barranaca Airways. Lee pines for Carter and tries to understand him and why he chooses to fly these ridiculous missions. As a viewer, we don’t get any real reasoning for their need to fly, in fact when Lee asks The Kid (Thomas Mitchell) his response is “I couldn’t give you an answer that would make any sense.” Basically, it’s dangerous or being one with the sky, or to touch the limits, or insert any type of daredevil statement. I find it easier imagining Humphrey Bogart giving a no response and throwing back a shot versus the responses from Mitchell and Carter. While I found the story to be a letdown, the action is top notch. There is pure craftsmanship in the flight scenes, remarkable effects that build a lot of tension as you wonder if they can land the aircraft. One amazing scene is the landing of a plane on a plateau, still an impressive feat 79 years later.
Jean Arthur should have put this film over the top for me. However, after watching “His Girl Friday” I was expecting a groundbreaking female character like Hildy Johnson. Bonnie Lee had no real purpose besides pining over Grant’s character. Arthur’s performance is good, she brings a lot to of a character to one that is basically one note. I read there were issues between Arthur and Hawks but in the end, I think it was the screenplay that hampered her versus direction or acting. All the males in this film are the same, stoic men unable to emote until they are on their deathbeds. The inability to show emotions reminds me of the recent release of “First Man,” where Neil Armstrong struggles to discuss his feelings with anyone. Another movie around flying and men. Maybe the correlation is that a career in flying impacts emotion instead of gender.
I didn’t dislike “Only Angels Have Wings” just disappointed. “To Have and Have Not” fits in the same genre and does a better job of creating more realistic and interesting characters. I wonder if the World War II backdrop adds more gravitas to the movie versus mail delivery in South America. The stakes were higher with a war backdrop instead of trying to win some contract for postal service. I look forward to a rewatch of “Only Angels Have Wings” (seems to be the case for a lot of Cinema Shame films) and hopefully I won’t hold this up so closely to “His Girl Friday.”
The director of “The Big Sleep” and “To Have and Have Not” is not who I would expect to be the director of “His Girl Friday”, a fast-paced, screwball comedy. Not to say there aren’t comedic moments to those first two films mentioned. The encounter between Bogart and the Acme book clerk in “The Big Sleep” shows comedic undertones, even though its covered by a thick layer of seduction. For Hawks to go from a classic standard of noir to a screwball comedy is a big leap in my view. The change to various film genres embodies the skill Hawks had as a filmmaker. Several features on the Criterion edition reiterate this point, stating his ability to work in a wide range of genres. Hawks was a director who placed a lot of emphasis on a good story and characters.
In “His Girl Friday” we have Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) appearing with her new finance to break the news to her ex husband and former boss, newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Burns is shocked, not by the fact she will have a new husband but by the fact that she is leaving the newspaper business to be a housewife. Burns recognizes Johnson’s skill as a reporter. The wheels start churning for Burns to prevent her from leaving the paper. Burns hatches multiple plans, lies, and schemes to draw Hildy in with one more story. Once Grant and Russell are on the screen together, the movie kicks into high gear, with its overlapping dialogue and multiple storylines. A lot of the reviews give more positive words to Grant but I think Russell The one aspect I was surprised by regarding the story, was the lack of views from characters stating that a woman couldn’t be a reporter or shouldn’t be in his business. She was viewed as an equal by the other reporters and viewed as the best by Burns. A surprising development considering the movie’s release was in 1940. Not to say that Johnson’s new beau doesn’t expect their marriage to be following the more stereotypical gender roles, such as him being the breadwinner and her staying home with the kids. Excluding Bruce, everyone defines Russell as a news reporter, not by her gender or as a female reporter, she is their superior if not their equal. Her peers state disbelief in the fact she could only be a housewife, the newspaper business is a career she could never leave behind.
The film’s pace and dialogue are insanely fast. This will require will require a rewatch because I’m sure there are jokes and even storylines I wasn’t able to comprehend or completely missed. As soon as Russell and Grant appear together the movie is moving along at a breakneck speed, slowing down only when Russell interviews a convict. This slowdown could be a potential way to place emphasis on skill as a reporter. The introduction of new characters is nonstop. Not simple characters stating a few lines and then never to be seen again. We get characters who get involved and drive the story. A few examples include Johnson’s new mother-in-law, the sheriff, the mayor, the waiter, the convict’s friend, and even the waiter at the local restaurant play parts in moving the plot forward.
I definitely recommend everyone to check this movie out. It is worth your money and time. Criterion’s version comes with the original film “His Girl Friday” was based on “The Front Page”, here is a link to the release on Barnes and Noble website, which is currently having their 50% off sale (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dvd-his-girl-friday-cary-grant/3622238?ean=0715515189514). I’m looking forward to a rewatch of “His Girl Friday” and deeper dives into the filmographies of Rosalind Russell and Howard Hawks.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY is a film that I hadn’t seen and hadn’t sought because it was one that I thought I would never have had an interest in. I like comedy, but I never had an interest in classic Hollywood screwball comedy. That is until earlier in 2018 when I watched Greta Garbo in NINOTCHKA via FilmStruck (RIP’). I found myself rolling with laughter at deadpan humor exhibited by the amazing Garbo. Had I been wrong all these years? Can I, a man born in the 1980s find humor in classic cinema? I love classic cinema and was surprised that this was an area that I never broke into. I purchased HIS GIRL FRIDAY, during the July 2018 sale at Barnes and Noble. Since this was not only an unopened Criterion, it was a film I never saw as well and therefore was perfect for this November 2018 prompt.
In the supplemental features of the Criterion edition of HIS GIRL FRIDAY, film scholar David Bordwell discusses how the film is one of the most American films ever made. This wasn’t just in terms of the ideology or sensibilities portrayed on screen, but in the filmmaking process. Director Howard Hawks was considered to be one of the great American directors who is not a household name. I can see why this is. Hawks manages to keep your eyes strictly on what is on screen without you paying attention to how he sets up, blocks, lights and all those things related to the process of filming. This is the opposite of someone like Stanley Kubrick (one of my favorite directors), who has your eyes on screen and you notice how he puts it on screen. While both ways work perfectly, you can see why a defined visual style sticks in folks memory much longer. However with HIS GIRL FRIDAY, you don’t need a visual style. For this film, the viewers are given one of the fastest, snappiest and wittiest films ever.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY, is the second adaptation of the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The first was directed by Lewis Milestone in 1931 under the same name. That film, also included on the Criterion, I felt had a bit more flourishes in regards to the direction as opposed to Hawks. It also felt like a filmed stage play. Yet while entertaining it lacks Rosalind Russell who outshines Cary Grant like the sun sitting next to a light bulb. Her breakneck delivery of the film’s razor sharp dialogue is one of the best performances I’ve seen. It’s also quite physical without becoming slapstick. This is where my eyes opened to classical Hollywood comedy. It was the delivery that made me laugh, even if the joke itself was outdated. I will say, the Ralph Bellamy bit was a fantastic piece of fourth wall breaking.
This film also doesn’t let you forget that it’s based around the world of newspapers and newspaper writing. The film’s humor never detracts from this premise and also manages to never go into parody no matter what left turns the story takes. Hawks excelled in keeping the whole thing balanced and none of the film’s strengths ever got so high that it felt it was covering up a weakness.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY, is a great piece of cinema comedy and engaging as a look into the journalism business. The back and forth humor was some of the best I’ve ever seen in a film and the world of classic Hollywood comedy is a bit broader to me now and something I seek to understand much more thoroughly.
The world lost a cinematic legend on September 6, 2018. I was in California when a friend called and told me the news about Burt Reynolds’ passing at the age of 82. “Smokey and the Bandit” is a staple of classic cinema in the South, an area that loves racing, drinking beer and the occupation of driving semis. My first introduction with Burt was in middle school when I watched a double feature of “Days of Thunder” and “Smokey and the Bandit”. The latter was a film that was on constant rotation throughout college, every road trip playlist included “East Bound and Down”. It was just last year I went with some friends to see to “Smokey and the Bandit” for its 40th anniversary, a nearly sold out theater for a Sunday afternoon showing. The Alamo Drafthouse had a special screening on September 16th in honor of Mr. Reynolds. Even though Hurricane Florence was pouring heavy rain around the area, the screening was sold out, a testament to the love of Reynolds.
Mr. Reynolds’ filmography is something I have neglected for years, with a lot of his major work, the work that started his career such as “White Lightning”, “Deliverance” and “The Longest Yard” always on the peripheral of films to watch. I’ve caught up on that deficit in my cinema shame over the past few weeks, watching some of those classics and even some of his more recent work. I knocked off “Deliverance”, “White Lightning”, “The Longest Yard”, “Cannonball Run”, and a release from last year “The Last Movie Star”. Each one having various aspects of quality, but the one constant is Burt’s magical charm shining through, even in “The Last Movie Star” that beautiful smile is still there.
I think the best way to celebrate Burt’s life is to share his work with others. I’m hoping my discussion of his work can maybe persuade to watch his work. I know James Patrick is working on an episode discussing Reynolds and I cannot wait for it to be online. If you haven’t had a chance to read his obituary in The New York Times: (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/06/obituaries/burt-reynolds-dead.html) I highly recommend taking the time to read it. It is elegantly written, presenting the whole picture of Burt; the positives and negatives, the lows and highs.
If you have the chance please join us and share your thoughts on Burt Reynolds and raise a Coors to toast the legend.
Happy August, Cinema Shamers! We are back on schedule with our prompt being released on the 1st of the month. So, get up and catch those shameful watches on the run. This month our prompt is going to focus on the most famous critic in the history of film criticism, Roger Ebert.
The show he shared with Gene Siskel, At the Movies, was a big influence on my early years of film watching. I will say I always preferred Siskel to Ebert. Siskel always felt more like a blue collar critic, or maybe I just agreed with Siskel most of the time.
For the month of August, we are going to focus on movies Ebert loved… but also the ones he hated. Ebert released four books in his series titled “The Great Movies,”totaling 409 films, a list that could keep you busy for years, let alone a month.
As with most critics they let know about their favorites, but they’re also well known for the films they reviled. I knew he didn’t like Blue Velvet due to an infamous debate on “At the Movies.” I will admit I was surprised by some of the films listed, one of which was a favorite of mine during my teenage years, Tommy Boy. I would highly recommend checking out that Hated list, there were some shockers on that list. The star rating of these hated films range from zero to 1.5 stars.
Links to the lists appear below. Browse the entries for your next potential Cinema Shame. You can pick one from the hated or the beloved, maybe even both for the completists. I know I’m going to finally give Caligula a watch because Ebert walked out even before it was over.
“‘Caligula’ is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after two hours of its 170-minute length.”
Ebert’s List of Great Films: https://www.icheckmovies.com/lists/roger+ebert+the+great+movies/
Ebert’s Most Hated Films: https://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/eberts-most-hated
As always, submit your Cinema Shame by tweeting your post to @CinemaShame or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you… at the movies.
It’s the end of July, which closes out our prompt on Summer Blockbusters. Thanks to all our contributors. I know for myself I didn’t complete my post or even watch the two I picked for myself, which was “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “War for the Planet of the Apes.” While I didn’t get to see these, I did get to see a current summer blockbuster, that will most likely be a future Cinema Shame contender for those unlucky few who decide to miss out: “Mission: Impossible Fallout.”
Cinema Shamedown – show the contributors some support through their twitter handles and their blogs
@requelstecher discusses – “Le Samourai” – http://www.outofthepastblog.com/2018/07/le-samourai.html
@Campbelldropout covers “Broadway Melody” -https://cinemashame.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/broadway-melody-1929-musical-prompt/
@realweegiemidget reviews “Misunderstood” – https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/misunderstood-1984/
@TakingUpRoom writes on “How to Steal a Million” – https://takinguproom.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/how-to-steal-a-million/
@007hertzrumble reviews “Heaven Can Wait” – http://thirtyhertzrumble.com/heaven-can-wait-cinema-shame/
@007hertzrumble steps into the jungle with “Rambo: First Blood Park II” – http://thirtyhertzrumble.com/rambo-first-blood-part-ii-cinema-shame/