sewhite2000

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Everything posted by sewhite2000

  1. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Jan. 15 Thousands Cheer (MGM, 1943) Source: TCM Alicia Malone warned us before this movie aired that it's essentially two movies divided at roughly the halfway point: a military romantic comedy between Kathryn Grayson and Gene Kelly and a rally-the-troops showcase for MGM's talent. So, I had some idea going in, but the cutoff between the two halves is relatively brutal and brings all narrative momentum to a crashing halt in favor of musical numbers and comedy routines. Grayson plays an opera-singing ingenue named Kathryn (what was it about MGM giving her characters the same first name as her? It also happened in Andy Hardy's Private Secretary) who's apparently risen to prominence as the featured soloist with Jose Iturbi's orchestra, though she appears to have barely crossed the threshold into adulthood. She abandons her career for the duration to move in with her Army colonel father (John Boles) and his new post to serve as an unofficial private providing morale for the troops in the form of entertainment. This seems like a spectacularly bad idea given how h o r n y the average American soldier is/was, and indeed, she's wooed by her father's aide-de-camp and some goofy-looking comic relief private. But she only has eyes for Kelly, whom she meets cute at the train station, where they're the only two unattached persons standing around while hundreds of soldiers are kissing their girls goodbye, so Kelly kisses her (I read Debbie Reynolds' memoir in which she said Kelly pretty much gave her her first-ever kiss in Singin' in the Rain by jamming his tongue down her throat. I wonder if he gave Grayson the same treatment 75 years before Hashtag MeToo. Imagine Reynolds revealing Kelly's actions on her Twitter account, and him never being able to work at any acting job again for the rest of his life). Kelly plays a trapeze artist who can't believe he's been conscripted to the infantry when he clearly needs to be soaring as part of the Army Air Corps. He thinks if he gets flirtatious with Grayson, she'll want to help him live his dream and persuade her father to give him a transfer. But as they both genuinely begin to fall for each other, he feels guilty and decides he wants to stay close to her. The question becomes whether he, a self-admitted slacker, can gain approval from either the colonel or his ex-wife and Grayson's mother, played by Mary Astor, appearing in her first-ever color film. A word about THAT relationship: we learn that Grayson doesn't even know her father, he having divorced her mother when she was an infant. Astor seems totally cool with Grayson going off to live with Boles, however. All Grayson wants to do is manipulate Mommy and Daddy into being around each other and hopefully re-falling in love. This plot thread probably doesn't qualify as its own genre, but I swear there were several films in which a just barely grown or not quite grown female child of divorce works tirelessly to reunite her parents divorced so long ago she doesn't even remember a time when they were together. There's Gale Storm in It Happened on Fifth Avenue, Deanna Durbin in Three Smart Girls and (though considerably later) Haley Mills and Haley Mills in The Parent Trap. Grayson is in charge of organizing a big celebrity wing-ding for the boys of the camp before they get shipped overseas, and both major subplots get completely set aside for 45 minutes or so while we watch a cavalcade of MGM stars entertain the troops: Mickey Rooney, Eleanor Powell, Frank Morgan, June Allyson, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Red Skelton, Margaret O'Brien, Virginia O'Brien (any relation?), Ann Sothern and Lena Horne, not to mention musical accompaniment by Iturbi, Bob Crosby, Kay Kyser and Benny Carter. This is all pleasant enough, but if you were watching the movie for any sense of story, that's all over. The Grayson-Kelly and Boles-Astor romantic plots only resume in the last couple of minutes and have to get extremely hastily delivered resolutions. Rooney actually does pretty good Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore impersonations. SOTM Grayson is pretty enough, and she's adequate as a young girl experiencing first love, if not MGM's brightest ingenue. Her operatic singing style, like Durbin's, is a bit grating to modern ears. I think it would have behooved her to perform more numbers in a more contemporary singing voice. Kelly was on his way up. I've read MGM hadn't really figured out what to do with him until they loaned him out to Columbia for Cover Girl. Only then, the light bulb went off, and they put him in Anchors Aweigh, again with Grayson. Total Movies Watched This Year: 16
  2. sewhite2000

    colorizing deserves another shot

    Boy, if any image ever made Nipkow's pants go crazy, this is it!
  3. sewhite2000

    Actress Carol Channing (1921-2019)

    Wow, James Mason! He'd stopped doing that by the time I was born.
  4. sewhite2000

    Actress Carol Channing (1921-2019)

    Thanks for the detailed write-up and all those pics! Wow, halftime performer at the Super Bowl! Times have certainly changed. I'm of an age where I really only knew her from whatever she did on '70s television - shows like The Love Boat, and I'm guessing she was one of the roster that would show up on those '70s game shows where celebrities assisted the contestants like Match Game and Hollywood Squares? I knew who she was from probably the age of seven or eight, but I didn't really know anything about why she was a celebrity until much later, after buying the CD of the original cast recording of Hello, Dolly! and watching Thoroughly Modern Millie as an adult.
  5. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    I saw this movie when it was a TCM premiere six years ago (and they've only aired it once since then), but I remember very little about it. I'd like to see it again.
  6. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Jan. 13 A League of Their Own (Columbia, 1992) Source: TCM Well, there was some spirited debate on a recent thread about whether Dottie dropped the ball, intentionally throwing the game so her sister Kit cold score the winning run. Particularly passionate were the people on the side that said this was not the case. Honestly, it had been at least 15 years since I last saw this movie, so I really didn't remember if we got any visual cues. Usually, when a movie character does something that's contrary to their stated actions or beliefs, we get some kind of telegraph in the form of a facial expression or something to clue us in. I didn't catch any explicit shots that convey Dottie's true intentions, although the whole movie she's been insisting that the game doesn't really mean that much to her. Also, everything she's been trying to do the whole movie is for the purpose of benefiting Kit, so it doesn't seem to be insane to assume she let Kit, who seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown before she goes up to take the critical at-bat, to win. So, I think it's open to interpretation (let the debate begin again)! Anyway, baseball is one of my four big passions in life, along with movies, music and history. It's disappointing to me how few really good baseball movies there have been, but this is one of them. Its' interesting Tom Hanks, who was on a meteoric rise at the moment - his back-to-back Oscar wins were just around the corner - took what was arguably a supporting role, even though he gets top billing over Geena Davis, who has a much bigger part. That may be some indication of his desire to work again with Penny Marshall, who maybe doesn't get credit for giving him his breakout movie role - that would be Ron Howard - but she definitely gave him the opportunity to keep the ball rolling. I noticed Marshall also cast her brother Garry and her longtime co-star from Laverne & Shirley, David L. Lander (Squiggy), as the announcer of the World Series game (Lander went on to become a major league scout). I remember at the time quite a bit of ballyhoo about Jon Lovitz' role in the movie, maybe even some buzz he might get a Best Supporting Actor nomination. I'd forgotten how small his role is. He disappears not much more than 20 minutes into the film and doesn't return. Certainly an unlikely movie star. It was maybe the most prominent role he ever had in a big box-office success. He even reprised the role in A League of Their Own TV series. Some of the jokes at the expense of the homely girl Marla probably wouldn't make the final cut in these more PC times. The movie moves on from these relatively quickly and tries to make her something of a three-dimensional character. Oh, and I didn't even mention Madonna! The banter between her and Rosie O'Donnell provide the movie some of its best bits. "You think there are men in America who haven't seen your bosom?" sounds like an improvised line, but maybe it wasn't. Total Movies Watched This Year: 15
  7. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    I didn't see Cube, but I did see two or three of the Saw movies, including the first one, which I thought was pretty clever. The original Saw was like an extremely low budget escape room! As I say, in this movie, they super-ramp up the CGI, and it feels like it would have taken billions to build such a place.
  8. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Wow! Well life imitates art ... or something. I would like to think the people who designed the escape room didn't set off a real fire, but things seem to be a little less regulated in Europe than here.
  9. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Jan. 14 Escape Room (Columbia, 2019) Source: Theater I saw my brother's family over Christmas, and they participated in a real-life escape room just the weekend before. The first one I ever heard about was maybe 10 years ago, but they seem to have really become the rage in the last year or two. You go into a mockup of some real-life location - in the case of my brother's family it was the teller room of a bank, complete with a vault you had to figure out how to open - and you have a certain time limit to accomplish some kind of goal - usually getting out of the room, but there can be additional goals. Anything in the room might provide a clue or be used as a tool to advance toward your goal (his son-in-law broke one of the keys by trying to open the wrong item with it, but he was told after it was over that this had happened before). It costs like $30 a piece, so not a terribly expensive evening, if you get together with your friends (in my brother's case, I suspect he paid for everybody, so it probably ran him about $200). They got out before the deadline, and it appears each member of the group made at least one significant contribution to the effort, so they all left with a sense of accomplishment. Anyway, just a funny coincidence that I heard a detailed description of a real-life escape room just a couple of weeks before watching this movie, in which the writer or writers thought it was an ideal scenario for a suspense thriller/horror movie. This is, I assume, a fairly low-budget affair, featuring virtually no stars (the only cast member I'd ever heard of was Deborah Ann Woll, who gets top billing and was on True Blood, an HBO show I used to watch), relying instead on the concept to draw in viewers. Six people who are strangers to each other each receive an intricate puzzle box, they think from someone they know, that when opened, reveals information about how to get to the escape room, which is inside a 15-story skyscraper and the news that the first party member to get out will win $10,000 (I don't think I'd have to worry about getting killed. I never would have opened the damn puzzle box! I gave up on the Rubik's Cube after like an hour). It's a modern PC blend of genders and ethnicities. There's a painfully shy female quantum physics undergrad, an arrogant stockbroker who fancies himself a Master of the Universe, a financially struggling stockboy in a grocery store, a female veteran of the Iraq combat, a nerdy computer geek who's done 50 previous escape rooms and assumes this one will be a cinch, and a truck driver who'd love a cash infusion before his profession gets taken over by self-operating vehicles (I liked this reference to a possible real-world future). These movies are usually populated by young, beautiful people, and indeed, all the members of the group appear to be under 35, except for the truck driver, who's about 50. As it turns out, they all have one very specific thing in common, and it's the reason they were invited, though we don't learn what that is until about two-thirds of the way in. What they think is the waiting room actually turns out to be the first escape room, a room-sized replica of a working oven in which they begin to be cooked! They all barely survive this encounter but begin entering a seemingly endless series of rooms, each of which activates some deadly trap minutes after they enter it, a trap that can only be escaped by finding clues within the room and interpreting their meaning. After the first room, they begin losing party members at the steady rate of one per room, and pretty soon, it begins to look like no one will make it out alive. The various death scenarios are clever, and the movie keeps the tension amped up. It was a pretty good thrill ride. But ... just don't think too hard about what it would actually take to set up all these rooms and who could finance such a project. I feel like it would cost a hundred trillion dollars to make these rooms that would be good for one use only, as they all pretty much destroy themselves. And all this to kill six people? There are revelations about the nature of the setup in the final five to ten minutes that are just absolutely ludicrous. They didn't completely ruin my enjoyment of the movie, but as I say, it's definitely a flick that it's better to just roll with and not pester your brain with questions like, "Yeah, but why ...?". The traps are impossibly hard, both mentally and physically, and it's probably ridiculous to think any of the party would have even survived one room, much less a half dozen or so. It was a fun watch, but predictable. I correctly guessed who would be the first member to die and who would be a (the?) survivor (I won't reveal if there was more than one). There's also a setup for a sequel, which is par for the course with this kind of movie these days. Total Movies I've Watched This Year: 14
  10. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Thanks for bringing that up! I meant to include that in my review. Surprised they could get away with that. And I love how the judge finally got the joke like 30 seconds later!
  11. Boy, I would argue the contention that they weren't as popular as the Beach Boys. Even in the US, the Stones had 23 Top 10 hits and eight #1's, while the Beach Boys had 15 and four, respectively. The Stones had nine #1 albums in the US, and the Beach Boys had one!
  12. Did The Ballad of Buster Scruggs get any kind of theatrical release? If not, I assume it's ineligible.
  13. sewhite2000

    Treasures From The Disney Vault

    I think I recall one all-Disney evening before this that didn't necessarily have the title "Treasures from ...", but it actually had Robert Osborne interviewing Leonard Maltin as each feature or short was introduced. Beginning with this Dec. '14 airing, though, the title solidified, and it was just Maltin by himself.
  14. From Second Avenoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Noo?
  15. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Jan. 12 The Fly (20th Century Fox, 1958) Source: TCM No real spoilers, I don't think, but if you don't want to know anything about the movie at all, you probably shouldn't read My first time to watch this very well-known horror movie. Being from Fox, it's certainly not a TCM regular. Movie Collector's database says it's aired eight times in the network's history, though it was on in both December and January. People who seem to understand these things better than me say TCM probably has to agree to air a movie multiple times within a certain time period in order to lease it, so this seems to be one of those movies that shows up twice in TCM on the space of six weeks and then doesn't air again for five years. I completely missed the December airing, but I'm glad I caught it tonight. Anyway, I was well familiar with David Cronenberg's 1986 remake, and I see that it at least follows the basic concept of how The Fly came to be as the original. Ben Mankiewicz said in his intro that Vincent Price was added to the cast only after Fox decided to amp up the budget and make it an A-list pic. I presume Herbert Marshall, too. Now after having seen it, I'm curious if Price and Marshall's scenes were filmed only after this upgrade. They both appear almost entirely in a framing sequence, the first part of which covers a fairly substantial portion of the film. Price appears only briefly in the main story in the middle part of the film and Marshall not at all. It has a bit of a feel of perhaps not being part of the original screenplay, but I guess I'll have to do some reading about that. Price and his brother are in the scientific research business together in Montreal, and one of their contractors appears to be the Canadian government. Price appears to handle mostly the business end, his brother Andre (Al Heidison) the actual research. I won't reveal the specifics of the framing sequence, which give away all the movie's resolutions. In flashback, we learn Andre has built a teleportation device in his laboratory basement that disintegrates atoms in one chamber and reintegrates them in another. He movies in very reckless and unprofessional short order from zapping around dinnerware to house pets to trying the thing on himself. On his second attempt on himself, his young son carries an unusual-looking fly brought into the house to show his dad. The fly escapes the boy's cupped hands and ends up in the basement disintegration chamber just as Andre hits the on switch, simultaneously teleporting their particles but not reassembling them exactly as they were when they entered. The nature of how the teleportation transforms human and fly is different from the remake, in some ways less messy and maybe not as horrifying as what happens to Jeff Goldblum's character. But still ... not good. The flashbacks finally make clear the confusing, seemingly insane behavior of Alan's wife (Patricia Owens) in the framing sequence. After the actions she takes, I'm unsure anything could have been done to save Heidison's character, although Marshall taking a virtual boulder to a spider web when maybe he could have just brushed the spider away ensures there will be no saving. So, curiously, Price doesn't actually play The Fly, as I'd always assumed in all the years I'd been aware of this movie. This really marked the beginning of his dominance of the horror genre. He'd been in House of Wax and The Mad Magician in 1953 and 1954, respectively but didn't really kick off working almost exclusively in horror until 1958. He only gets third billing in this movie, despite practically being the main character, possibly the result of his late edition to the film. Mankiewicz said there's been much debate about whether this is actually a great movie or just a great idea turned into a so-so movie ... an unusually frank discussion on a TCM intro/outro about the quality of the presentation. A 7.1 imdb score would rate as only "pretty good", I think. Personally, I found the movie to be really plodding with not nearly enough moments of suspense. I don't know that the framing sequence, in which we already sort of know the end was the best way to handle things. I also watched the first 40 minutes of Return of the Fly, which appeared to be a stronger movie, but I'm too sleepy to finish it. Total Movies Watched This Year: 13
  16. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Jan. 12 Replicas (Entertainment Studios, 2019) Source: Theater Some Spoilers, But I Won't Reveal Anything Specific about the Second Half of the Movie! Keanu Reeves plays a genius biomedical researcher who's relocated his family to Puerto Rico to head a top secret project in which he and his team are attempting to imprint human consciousness onto an artificial life form. Whenever a mortally wounded soldier who still has brain function is brought in, Reeves and his assistants try to transfer a DNA replica of their brains into an ultra-sophisticated android with as much freedom of movement as the human body. Why so many soldiers keep getting mortally wounded in Puerto Rico in peacetime isn't explained, but at the beginning of the movie, a seventh such attempt is being made, which once again results in failure. The brain doesn't accept the new body and begins trying to harm itself, forcing Reeves to literally pull its plug. Though patience among those providing funding is growing short, Reeves is sure he's near a breakthrough - for the first time, the android spoke intelligible sentences after receiving the new brain pattern. Reeves plans to take his family on a weekend boating trip. His wife is played by the beautiful Alice Eve, whom I immediately thought was too young to be playing a mother of three, but I see on imdb that's she's 37. They have three kids - a high school age girl, a middle school age boy and an elementary school age girl. They run into a storm that rivals the one in The Bad and the Beautiful (or maybe The Rains Came - I mean, it's a doozy). A tree collapses through the front windshield of their SUV, impaling Eve and apparently killing her instantly. The car goes off an embankment and into a lake, and everyone but Reeves dies. Recruiting his loyal assistant played by Thomas Middleditch, an actor I know only from the Verizon commercials, Reeves launches a seemingly mad scheme to collect DNA samples of all his family members and grow clones of them in his own basement, into which he can then imprint their consciousnesses using his experimental technology and have them pick up their lives right where they left off. We're told this process has worked before with animals, but never with humans. At this point, I was wondering if he's really this smart, why wasn't he trying to clone people from the start, instead of just putting the DNA of their brains into an android, but the movie doesn't explain this, either. He hits a couple of snags during the "incubation" period, which we're told will last 17 days. First of all, thinking only of bringing his family back to life, he initially forgets to come up with any explanation of their sudden absences from their daily lives. This results in a humorous scene in which he tries to cover for each of them via their social media devices, during which he discovers, among other things, his older daughter has a boyfriend he didn't know about. More seriously, he discovers to his horror he only has the technology to bring three of his four loved ones back to life. Not wishing to burden the others with the terrible decision he then has to make, he removes all memories of this one person from the brain patterns of the other three - apparently he can get that specific with his imprint technology. After which, he has to remove all evidence of this person's existence. To its credit, the movie does take a little time to show how impossible it would be to remove all physical traces of one's existence, especially in the social media age, and how painful it is for Reeves to even attempt it. Okay, I won't reveal any more. Except to add: I saw no trailers before watching this movie and had no idea where it was going. It appears for quite some time to be in the fairly narrow "scientist plays God, rues the consequences" genre of horror/sci-fi, which we've seen in everything from Frankenstein movies to The Fly (on tonight!) to Dr. Moreau. That probably would have been a more interesting movie, frankly. Instead, it turns into a "father will do anything to protect his family, runs a lot" movie more like everything Liam Neeson has done in the last 15 years. What to say about Keanu Reeves, who took time to make this movie in between John Wick installments? He's an actor I've actually liked when he sticks to his strengths (or, to put in harsher terms, avoids his very obvious limitations). He's best when he's mostly a blank slate, largely emotionless, determined and single-minded. This movie requires him to emote a lot. He's supposed to be expressing grief, rage, panic, even happiness, and boy, there's just something weird when he smiles in this movie, like he doesn't really know how to do it. The dialogue for all the characters, which is pretty leaden, doesn't help things. And, as I say, the interesting ethical and psychological implications of realizing what it means to be cloned aren't really dwelled upon, as the movie quickly devolves into a conventional family-on-the-run thriller. So, not highly recommended, but fans of Reeves and/or sci-fi might get something out of it. It's getting a 5.5 on imdb, the lowest rating of any movie I've seen this year. Total Movies Watched This Year: 12
  17. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Jan. 11 Young Mr. Lincoln (20th Century Fox, 1939) Source: TCM For a brief stretch, this film covers some of the same ground as Abe Lincoln in Illinois, the RKO release with Raymond Massey that came out the following year. Both films make me aware I've never devoted much reading time to Lincoln's life prior to his presidency, so I have no idea if they have any accuracy. Someone who knows, enlighten me: was Stephen Douglas really a romantic rival with Lincoln for Mary Todd? This romantic triangle scenario crops up in both films, and if this is complete Hollywood fabrication, it seems odd that the exact same fabrication would appear in two different films made at two different studios, unless the same writer worked on both screenplays or something. The two films also share a courtship scene with young, doomed Ann Rutledge that are very similar and a scene of Lincoln out of his element at a fancy society ball which he's attended at Miss Todd's invitation. Anyway, the two films don't trod the same path for very long, as Young Mr. Lincoln pretty quickly takes a sharp left turn into a courtroom drama, when young Perry Mason, er, I mean Abraham Lincoln, finds himself having to defend a pair of young farm boy brothers who've traveled to the "big city" for a Fourth of July picnic only to find themselves accused of murder when a local bully who's been tormenting them and their female companions all day long ends up stabbed to death after scrapping with the two boys in a clearing in the woods not far from the town square where all the festivities are going on. It takes the deductive reasoning of Lincoln and the fortuitous use of the Farmer's Almanac (no one actually glanced up at the sky the entire night of the murder to see what phase the moon was in? I thought people paid attention to that kind of stuff all the time in 1837!) to give him any chance at all at what initially seems to be an open-and-shut case. Fonda is good casting as the stoic, plain-spoken Lincoln, who carries sadness within him but doesn't seem as tortured as Massey's version (or Daniel Day-Lewis'). I couldn't help but looking at his nose for a good deal of the movie. He's possibly wearing some kind of putty attachment to make him look more Licoln-ish (I was about to say prosthetic, but that sounds like a really advanced word for 1939). The film is very Fordian with frontier civilization Americana full of folks rough around the edges but at heart good, decent American folk the way the old movies wanted us to believe they really were. The folk of Springfield get all riled up about the unfairness of the apparent two-against-one nature that seems to have led to the murder, and a lynch mob descends upon the jail only minutes after the boys have been arrested, but Lincoln intercedes, Atticus Finch-style, and appeals to their better nature, even though they still grumble about it ("Don't seem right to have gone to all this fuss and not gotten at least ONE hangin' out of it!", one old coot grumbles, and we're supposed to believe he's a good dude, not a bloodthirsty neanderthal). Alice Brady is an actress I mostly know for playing very flighty, broadly comic types in The Gay Divorcee and My Man Godfrey, but here she has a weighty role as the mother of the two boys who's unconscionably nearly forced into making a Sophie's Choice decision about which one will hang and which one will be spared, and you can see the pain this causes her. This was her final film. She died at the age of 46 only four months after the film was released. Donald Meek is also cast against type as the unctuous prosecutor, who's on the wrong side but shows more spine than any other Donald Meek role I can ever remember. Ford also used him that same year in Stagecoach. And Ford reliable Ward Bond has a pretty important role as the friend and fellow bully of the victim, on whose testimony the entire case hangs. He barely sneaks into the opening credits as the 12th and last-billed cast member (the guy who plays Douglas doesn't even get billed, though he's in several scenes. I love the quirkiness of billing in old films!). I don't know that there was any necessity to make a film that puts Lincoln in such a fantastic scenario that has no connection to actual history, but the film itself is a fun watch, and the use of so famous a figure probably makes it more compelling to the audience than making the protagonist just any small town 1800s lawyer. Total Movies Watched This Year: 11
  18. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    The only thing I know about Godfrey is he hosted a show called Talent Scouts, so I had no idea there was any connection. Now, I want to read about him!
  19. sewhite2000

    I Just Watched...

    Jan. 9 A Face in the Crowd (Warner Bros., 1957) Source: TCM Mild Spoilers Alert The first time I ever heard of this movie was on Bob Costas' really terrific Later show in the early '90s, in which he would interview only one guest for half an hour (some interviews spilled over into multiple episodes), and this particular night, Ron Howard was his guest. They devoted part of the show to discussing his time on The Andy Griffith Show. Costas said he'd recently seen A Face in the Crowd and that he was blown away by how powerful Griffith was in a heavy dramatic role. "Did he ever indicate to you why he never really did anything like that again?" Costas asked, and Howard replied, "One time, he told me, 'You know, that acting stuff is hard!'", which I thought was an interesting window into Griffith's mindset. He was such a natural at the roles he typically played, he really didn't even think of it as acting (Griffith probably also suffered from the long-standing mindset in Hollywood that comedic acting doesn't rate as much praise as dramatic acting). This is the tale of the rise and fall of a demagogue I guess modeled most closely after Will Rogers, but definitely more sex appeal - let's say Rogers with a little Elvis Presley thrown in. Larry Rhodes (Griffith) is sleeping off a hangover in an Arkansas jail after being picked up on a drunk and disorderly charge the same morning local radio personality Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) has shown up hoping to get some of the jail's occupants to contribute to her populist "Face in the Crowd" program. Wanting to make good with the local media, the sheriff agrees to convert Rhodes' one-week sentence to time served if he'll perform a number on the air. Jeffries gives him a little color by dubbing him "Lonesome" Rhodes. The meteoric rise begins from there: Rhodes gets his own show at her radio station, then gets his own TV show in Memphis. At first, he defiantly holds on to his integrity - being forced to play up his corporate sponsor, a mattress company, is so distasteful to him, he can't do it with a straight face. But he learns to play the game, embracing his next sponsor, an energy supplement called Vitajex, with relish. He's introduced to generals and presidential candidates and becomes what we would today call an image consultant, using his show to promote a political agenda that he increasingly co-opts as his own. He's ably supported by an ambitious salesman at the mattress company (Anthony Franciosa), who becomes his manager, though eventually the two men have a falling out. Meanwhile, Jeffries is his behind-the-scenes conscience and rock who also falls for him like a ton of bricks. A writer on Rhodes' show (though he doesn't really use writers) played by Walter Matthau, has a soft spot for Jeffries, even as his distaste for Rhodes grows. Rhodes definitely has fidelity issues. Immediately after Rhodes proposes to Jeffries, a wife he's never legally divorced shows up. And while stopping back in Arkansas to judge a baton-twirling competition on his way to getting a quickie divorce in Juarez, he's besotted by a teenybopper played by Lee Remick (and who wouldn't be? She's sexy as all get out in this movie, as is Neal in a different sort of way - she's sexiest when her character is experiencing her greatest emotional torment) and takes her along for a quickie marriage. Although I think the mayor tells him Remick's character is "almost 17"! She practically disappears from the movie after being introduced, until we discover her engaging in infidelity of her own, after which Rhodes tries to pick up right where he left off with Marcia, though by now, she's afraid of his power, setting up the confrontation in the final act. Along the way, there are some only mildly subtle allusions to certain characters having sex with one another, allusions that were only gradually beginning to be allowed by the changing censorship standards. First things first: Griffith's performance is a powerhouse. Really, all the leads are great, and I'm surprised no one got an Oscar acting nomination for this (Franciosa was nominated for A Hatful of Rain that same year). It's one of those movies that inexplicably slipped through the Oscar cracks, though Elia Kazan films typically wallowed in nominations. I don't know how the film did with critics. I suspect its extremely cynical message about the power of TV personalities to persuade and the equivalence of selling a candidate with selling vitamins or mattresses probably didn't go over so well. This was a few years before Kennedy became the first "TV president", famously winning that debate among television viewers while Nixon won among radio listeners, but Budd Schulberg's script does allude to the Checkers incident only a few years after it happened and while Nixon was still vice president, so the power of television to convey a message was already a thing people were aware of. This is maybe my fifth or sixth time to watch this movie, and some of the heavy-handedness and sledgehammer-to-the-skull symbolism becomes more painfully obvious on repeated viewings. The way Rhodes gets exposed as a fraud just feels like lazy writing to me; I wish Schulberg had figured out something more clever. And the collapse of Rhodes' power in the time it takes for him to ride the elevator from the 42nd floor to the lobby is probably a little fast for 1957 (though it could certainly happen in the social media age). The movie completely ignores some TV realities like shows re-airing at later times on the West Coast or the law that required equal air time for all candidates. There is an unpleasant epithet hurled by Griffith at the all-black staff hired to serve at the black-tie dinner at which he's left alone that I found out of character for Rhodes, no matter how drunk on his own power he's become. But these minor complaints aside, the movie is mainly worth watching for its incredible acting (Kazan worked with actors who were great already, but he got especially great performances out of a lot of them) and refreshingly cynical message (if "refreshing" is the right word!). The media probably didn't get skewered as violently again until Network. Face has an 8.2 rating on imdb, the highest of any film I've watched so far this year. Movies Watched This Year: 10
  20. You're not completely off-base. Sam Rockwell won an Oscar for playing a dim-bulb police officer whose job status is on thin ice after he roughed up a black suspect without cause (this happens before the action of the movie starts - we don't see it). Without giving too much away, his character has something of a redemption arc, although it isn't tied to helping any black characters. A racist police officer who has a redemption arc more like what I think you imagined might have happened in Billboards is the one played by Matt Dillon in Crash, and I think he also got an Oscar nomination, and that film was a surprise Best Picture winner.
  21. Given what happened to Stephen Biko, Denzel's role in Cry Freedom was necessarily limited, and I think his placement in the Supporting Actor category was correct. Kevin Kline was the main character in that movie.
  22. I would add Mississippi Burning to your list. I think most black viewers (if there were any) weren't exactly thrilled a pair of white FBI agents were the heroes in this thing.
  23. One thing he said is if his son started showing gay tendencies, he would kill him.
  24. I feel like they did something similar two years in a row. The reaction of the tourists annoyed me. To a person, they got out their phones and started recording the movies stars they were feet away from. I mean, I suppose you're never going to be that close to Amy Adams again. Recording the moment is a natural instinct. But we couldn't even see the presumed joy on their faces, all of which were obscured by their phones. I'm so old that I usually don't even think about my phone until some recording-worthy moment is already past, but people under, say, 40, that's an automatic reaction for them.
  25. I've watched every ceremony since Star Wars was nominated for Best Picture (my reaction at the end of the show: Annie Who? Woody what?), so yes, I saw this one. I watched in a college dorm room with my two besties, and our jaws were on the floor during that Rob Lowe/Snow White number. I honestly don't remember it, but there was, I think, another big number that year showcasing the Stars of Tomorrow, some of whom went on to have careers, many who were never heard from again. There was a big article about it in Entertainment Weekly's Oscar issue last year.

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