Only Angels Have Wings

“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.”

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“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.

Getting on the Same Page: His Girl Friday and How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comedy

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.

November – Criterion Collection and Film Struck

For the month of November, the focus for Cinema Shame will be films released through the Criterion Collection and ones available on Filmstruck. With the recent disappointing news of the beloved streaming service discontinuing on November 29, 2018, it would be a great opportunity to support this platform during its final month. If we crash the service from overuse maybe it’ll at least make a statement about the importance of classic film. There have been a lot of recommendations floating around the web on what to watch before the service ends and those suggestions are listed below.

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With the holiday season rolling around, you can always count on Barnes and Noble’s 50%-off Criterion Sale, which starts November 2nd and runs through the entire month. ‘Tis a joyous time when my twitter feed becomes flooded with people stressing about the small things in life… such as which Criterions to purchase, multiple failed attempts to get the clerk to accept a coupon, or the lack of selection at your particular B&N. After those small quibbles, photos appear of recent hauls, creating envy, and influencing wish lists. Should I purchase the Ingmar Bergman box set? My wife says no, but the Internet says YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES (but only after you’ve sold your already owned Bergman’s to cover the cost). The Criterion sale is a beautiful celebration, but also a double-edged sword of film consumerism.

You may be asking yourself, “So wait… I have to spend money to participate in this Cinema Shame prompt?” Of course not. If you’re like me, someone who owns a large quantity of unwatched Criterions beautifully gathering dust on a shelf, there is no need to purchase more than you already own. (But I probably will.) I know the following discs are upstairs waiting for me: Gilda, Nashville (a long time Cinema Shame), Cat People, His Girl Friday, The Last Temptation of Christ, just off the top of my head.

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As you prepare to pick your Cinema Shames, don’t forget to share watch recommendations and maybe even a few potential blind buys. There is always room on your Criterion shopping list.

A petition has been going around to “Save Filmstruck.” If you enjoy classic cinema I highly recommend signing it. It can’t hurt to let these soulless media conglomerates know that classic film matters. Here’s a link to the “Save FilmStruck” Petition – https://www.change.org/p/warnermedia-keep-filmstruck-alive

FilmStruck Recommendations:

A Classic Film Blog’s Recommendations – @classicmovieblg – https://www.change.org/p/warnermedia-keep-filmstruck-alive

Alicia Malone’s Watchlist on Letterboxd – @aliciamalone – https://letterboxd.com/aliciamalone/list/my-filmstruck-watchlist/

New York Times Recommendations – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/movies/filmstruck-closing-best-movies.html

If you have a Filmstruck To-Watch-Before-Service-Ends List, tell us on twitter @CinemaShame and we’ll send it out through the loudspeakers.

Don’t forget to check out Episode 16 of the Cinema Shame Podcast where James Patrick and Dan Day, Jr. discuss Hammer Horror:

Subscribe on iTunes / Stitcher Radio

Direct Download (right click, save as): http://traffic.libsyn.com/cinemashame/CinemaShame_HammerHorror.mp3

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Episode 16: Hammer Horror Shamedown / Dan Day

Dan Day, Jr. serves up a Shamedown of 6 Hammer Horror films you might not have seen. We talk about why Hammer Film’s horror output endures in 2018 and why some folk have written the films off as more of “that Hammer garbage.”

Subscribe on iTunes / Stitcher Radio

Direct Download (right click, save as): http://traffic.libsyn.com/cinemashame/CinemaShame_HammerHorror.mp3

CREDITS:

Talking Heads:

James David Patrick (@007hertzrumble) – Somewhere between casual Hammer aficionado and obsessive.

Dan Day, Jr. (@CushingLee) – Hammer Horror expert, movie blogger at The Hitless Wonder.

Clips Contained in this Podcast:

“Dracula” by James Bernard
Martin Scorsese from Hammer, The Studio that Dripped Blood, 1987
Son of Svengoolie introduction to The Horror of Dracula, 1983
Anthony Hinds from Hammer, The Studio That Dripped Blood, 1987
The Quatermass Xperiment (aka The Creeping Unknown) trailer
Peter Cushing interview, 1989
Christopher Lee from Hammer, The Studio That Dripped Blood, 1987
Scream of Fear trailer
Kiss of the Vampires trailer
The Gorgon trailer
“Addams Groove” by MC Hammer
“Suite from The Gorgon” by James Bernard
Plague of the Zombies trailer
The Reptile trailer
Captain Kronos trailer
“Captain Kronos Theme” by Laurie Johnson

Mentioned Hammer Horror on Physical Media and Streaming:

Buy Hammer: Amazon storefront featuring all Region A Hammer Horror offerings.

Scream of Fear – Mill Creek Double Feature (Region A)
Kiss of the VampireUniversal 8-Film Hammer Horror Collection (Region A)
The GorgonMill Creek Double Feature (Region A) / Indicator Hammer Vol. 1 (Region ABC)
Plague of the ZombiesComing Soon from Shout Factory (Region A)
The ReptileUnavailable (Region A) / Studio Canal (Region B)
Captain Kronos Vampire HunterStreaming (Region A) / Shock (Region B)

Recommended Reading:

Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography by Tim Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio
The Hammer Story: The Unauthorised History of Hammer Films by Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes

Recommended Shopping:

We’ve loaded the Cinema Shame Amazon shop with all available Region-A playable Hammer Horror films on Blu-ray.

 

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Recorded in October 2018. Copyrights are owned by the artists and their labels. Negative dollars are made from this podcast.

 

Episode 15: The Burt Reynolds Special Vol. 2

In case you missed it: The Burt Reynolds Special Vol. 1

I invited some more friends to come on the Cinema Shame Podcast to celebrate the life and work of Burt Reynolds. In the second of two episodes dedicated to the Bandit, my guests and I talk about The End, Stick, Heat, Switching Channels, Breaking In, and Boogie Nights and just about everything in between. Despite the 80’s being a tough decade both personally and professionally, Burt delivered a number of interesting performances in movies that are largely forgotten or just underappreciated.

Subscribe on iTunes / Stitcher Radio

Direct Download (right click, save as): http://traffic.libsyn.com/cinemashame/CinemaShame_Burt_2.mp3

CREDITS:

Talking Heads:

James David Patrick (@007hertzrumble) – never misses an opportunity to champion underappreciated Burt Reynolds. Owns Burt’s album, Ask Me What I Am, on vinyl.

Brian Saur (@bobfreelander) – Documentary filmmaker, movie blogger (rupertpupkinspeaks.com), podcaster extraordinaire on the Pure Cinema Pod and Just the Discs Pod.

Grant the Carey Troweller (@mentorscamper) – Twitter personality, Movie Obsessive and a blasphemous individual who denies Carey Lowell’s status of Bond goddess.

Kerry Fristoe (@echidnabot) – Movie blogger (prowlerneedsajump.wordpress.com/) and fabulous Twitter personality.

Clips Contained in this Podcast:

Burt Reynolds laughter from Hooper.

Kristy McNichol, Mel Brooks and Burt Reynolds on The Mike Douglas Show (1978)

The End trailer

The End clip

Burt Reynolds on Late Night with David Letterman (December 11, 1984)

Stick trailer

Heat trailer

Heat clip

Malone TV spot

Switching Channels promo

Ruby Wax Meets… Burt Reynolds (March 3, 1996)

Breaking In trailer

Burt Reynolds on Conan (March 19, 2018)

Boogie Nights trailer

Boogie nights clip

Burt Reynolds Golden Globe acceptance speech (January 18, 1998)

Apollo 100 – “Joy”

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Recorded in September 2018. Copyrights are owned by the artists and their labels. Negative dollars are made from this podcast.

October Prompt: Horror, if you must

October is here which brings us to our prompt focusing on the genre of films involving the United Nations to celebrate United Nations Day on October 24th!

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Hold on. I’m getting word that nobody cares about United Nations Day. You goddamn xenophobes. It’s about what? Horror? Well, alright then. Horror it is.

For me personally this is a genre that I’ve always overlooked, I assume its because I’ve seen more bad horror movies than good. I grew up with middle of the road horror in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as the return of the teen slasher film (Halloween H20, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legends), a large influx of PG-13 horror movies  (The Ring, What Lies Beneath, Darkness Falls) and a flurry of remakes (The House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax, 13 Ghosts).

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Due to my bad choices, I have some gargantuan Cinematic Shames to hack off the list. This is going to be the month I eviscerate some big ones off the list. Such as John Carpenter’s The Thing, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre and Browning’s Dracula (1931).

The saddest part of that incredibly sad confessions is that I own all of these films. The Thing has been sitting on my self for two years collecting dust. I’m hoping these films will give me a broader foundation for the horror genre. I want to be better!

If you want to do an extreme challenge for this month there is the Hooptober Cinco rules (https://letterboxd.com/cinemonster/list/hooptober-cinco-your-terror-is-a-locked-room/) created by The Cinemonster. There are rules and guidelines but the overall objective is to watch 31 horror films during October. You can view 007hertzrumble’s post about his October plans here.

Let us know what horrible and terrifying Cinema Shames you have planned. Along with that, throw in your Halloween costume ideas. Submit your Shames by tweeting your post to @CinemaShame or emailing us at cinemashame@gmail.com. Use the banners below to tag your posts and spread the horrific October Shame! Or UN Shame. Either way.

-NB

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