2019 Shame Statement

Time for another year of penance. I know I haven’t been consistently writing, but I definitely am still consistently watching. One thing I try to do each year is expand my knowledge of a genre. Last year it was supposed to be westerns and I managed to get a few first time watches in. This year I’m going to move onto comedies.

The journey into comedies is inspired by my discovery and newfound love of screwball comedies after watching His Girl Friday for the first time in November 2018. I followed up with Bringing Up Baby and His Favorite Wife and wouldn’t you know? I liked something new that I had no idea I would. Hence 2019 will be exploring humor. Here’s gonna be some of them I certainly plan to watch:

The Naked Gun Trilogy – All I’ve seen of these films is the “that’s my policy” bit that spoofs Dirty Harry. That’s all I needed to see to decide it’s finally time to knock these off the list.

Joes vs The Volcano

Inspired by CinemaShame’s very own James Patrick, I hear about how much this film means to him, so I need to see what is going on. I like hearing when movies are special to people that aren’t the usual suspects.

Young Frankenstein

I’ve been working on my Mel Brooks watching for a while now. Yet I’ve still haven’t seen his magnum opus. I own it, so it should be one of the first I knock off this year.

That Thing You Do!

Some more Tom Hanks here.

Chasing Amy

One of many still unwatched Criterion disc. Also the one Kevin Smith film I was always genuinely interested in.

So this is the opening salvo. Obviously subject to change. Or not at all. Here’s to 2019 and all your first time viewing!

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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.

A World of Pain–April shame prompt

CinemaShame_TCMFF_hisgirlfriday

The April shame prompt was to watch and report on a film shown at the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Now this is an event in which I envy all who attend, since I probably never will. But I perused the list and knew right away which movie I had to see: The Big Lebowski. I have had no end of shame over not knowing anything about this movie, and never getting the cultural references that everyone else seems to get. So I got some popcorn, some raisinets, and settled in to learn something about The Dude, and why he abides. I had high hopes, as I am never disappointed in anything I see Jeff Bridges do.

 

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Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here

 

The coolest thing about this movie is that it is impossible to put it into a slot. Some movies are dead on Noir, Action, comedy, horror, and so forth. This one was a mixed bag of tricks that surprised me. Loved it. I give it a four out of five stars, which is very good for me as I never give anything five except the movies I could watch over and over and never get tired of, like The Third Man, Groundhog Day, and The Big Sleep. Down-side? A bit frequent on the f-bombs, more than my taste, and a pedophile, but then who didn’t deal with pedophiles in the late 90’s?

It was all part of it–the sexually ambiguous 90’s. Nothing clear and standing out like the 50’s where you knew what was morally ‘right’ to society and what you were supposed to do. You knew your role. The 90’s had slackers and hackers, terrorists and sexual predators. Yeah, I know, every era has had them. But now the general public was aware, and bothered–and I would maintain, titilated by the whole situation we’d found ourselves in. But then, this is not an analysis sort of movie review. I really hate those. You know the ones that dig into Nietzsche and Freud and tell you what to think about film history. I know what I think, and I know what I like. I like movies that don’t look like every other movie–and surprise me.

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Speaking of The Big Sleep, I did not expect this movie to feel like a noir film. The premise seemed silly to me. Not that silliness puts me off. I love it. But I thought it would be a straight comedy. It totally wasn’t. What I like about the noir films that have caught my attention is their ability to tell a story and keep me engaged, without necessarily putting closure on the plot. Like life, you finish watching the movies knowing that life will go on with those characters, as it does for us.

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Mark it zero!

 

Oh, and there are femme fatales, of which this movie has two, depending upon your view.

The noirs of the 40’s were pulpy and fiction-y, and the moment and atmosphere felt more important than the plot. Like Raymond Chandler. Oh dear, I do love his writing. I know, I know, it is not Shakespeare. It is not even Ian Fleming or Grisham. It had it’s own style and is very quoteable, even by those who say they don’t like pulp fiction. But I have digressed from The Big Lebowski. The Dude. A lazy-ass sonofabitch who goes to the grocery store at the start of the movie and writes a check for sixty-nine cents.

check

Which brings me to my final point about this film, and what I liked about it the best. The running gag, or point, or philosophy, if you must about the rug. The Dude brings it up at the most infuriating of times, to some, seeming to be a minor issue, this rug he feels ought to be replaced by the older, crippled, mega-wealthy Lebowski. I found it funny, odd, and something like I would do. After all, who wants to live in a world, where someone can just walk into your place and piss on your rug, with no consequences?

Well that was enough for me, and alone made the film entertaining, even without the bowling, the white russians, the nihilists, and the kidnapping. But maybe you feel differently. Maybe this film didn’t do it for you, or you prefer to see something deeper into the plot.

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man.

your opinion

 

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or come and say hello to me on Twitter at @areyouthrilled for poetry and artsy stuff or @movielovebogart for movies and television