ameliajc

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  1. Upon considering this scene, I reflect on the stereotypes involved. Class has talked about this particularly in relationship to the narrow way blacks are perceived, and I admit that there only seem to be two options for women in this film: dutiful, loving and long-suffering wife vs. the manipulative sexy vamp. But honestly, these stereotypes for women seemed to fit in right along with all the other roles we've been seeing for women in these movies. In the Harvey Girls, there are only good girls vs. bad girls, and the good girls may be waitresses instead of laundresses, but the message is still that they should tend to domestic roles and serve. Marriage is still the only option for women, and the faults of the men don't seem to matter much. Ethel Waters puts love ahead of all the male faults and is quite aggressive in defending her marriage, not unlike the women who must do the chasing for their partners. I do see that black women seem to have less range of action and fewer options than white women, but Stereotypes hit me over the head, especially in these post-WWII productions.
  2. Me, too. It's great for getting the American Songbook.
  3. I went back and watched parts of this again. The Black Mack sequence is truly worth it, and if you take it as being a romp, that goes a long way to making it pleasurable. It also makes sense as a way to get Gene and Judy in a film together. With her an established star and he a newcomer, the plot plays on that exactly. Her campy performance also foreshadows a lot of her later stage/TV career, so maybe this is more "Judy" than we care to think. Not my favorite from either one of them, but I'm placing it at a higher level than before, especially with some of the information we got today about the "Below the Line" talent. Thanks for your response.
  4. As someone else confessed, I didn't take this movie too seriously when it was on Tuesday -- kinda half watched it, wasn't that attracted to the plot (I hate baseball), and actually had already deleted it from the TIVO to make room for Thursday before even getting to the material for today. Now I'm going to see if I can retrieve it from the Trash to watch it again more seriously. What I'm learning from this course is that it takes a lot of skill to make a musical, and even the ones that aren't flat-out-4-stars operate at a very high level. I guess that's what makes this the golden age of the musical, and why MGM is so appreciated as the maker of consistently quality product. Watching this sequence as a quasi-dance number is enlightening. Of course it was tightly blocked, orchestrated, what have you. Contrary to what some others have said, I like this kind of scene in a musical. For some reason it feels more natural to me and the segue into the "dance" makes sense. We see Frank coming out of the doorway accompanied by some seemingly random, jaunty walking music that could be the kind of background that you hardly pay attention to, but as Betty pounces, the music punctuates each move she makes, and then you realize that the sound is perfectly synchronized to each movement. I recognize that this is "low-level dancing," but it is high-level movement, and makes the chase scene more lively and more interesting. Watching these two court each other (as also in On the Town), I hardly know how to contextualize this storyline where Frank is so shy and Betty so aggressive. I'm not sure how it relates to various war-time messages to women, because women were always taught to pursue a man, although usually passively-aggressively. But the motif of a man-chaser is pretty common throughout stage history, so I don't know if this is exactly new or not, even if women are taking more charge. But the messages in these films is that there are two types of women: the beautiful ones are chased, and the less attractive ones must do the chasing. Interesting that in the end, both types get their man. I guess there are two types of men, those who chase and those who must be pushed a little. I certainly know what category I fit into!
  5. The Wizard of Oz is definitely the first Judy Garland movie I remember seeing, but old movies were a fixture around my house, and my mother taught me to appreciate female vocalists, so I suppose those old Andy Hardy movies might have been in my early consciousness, as well. What I'm appreciating about today's material is organizing all my impressions of Judy into a coherent biography of her movie achievements. Thinking about the mature Judy takes me to her TV show and her immense popularity in the gay community as an icon of Camp, so for me, she defines that kind of big, show-tune performer. What these clips focus on is her immense talent as an actress and dancer, as well as singer, and that's good to remember. I confess that I would have appreciated some class commentary on The Pirate. It's a film I've never cared for much -- too goofy a costume drama, not much drawn to the Gene Kelly character, can't remember a single song from it. As the last film on the list of Judy's films for this week, it doesn't seem like a very impressive culminating point. I will try to sit through the film again for this class, but my thought is always -- Judy, it's time to move on from the MGM musical, you're done now. Can anybody enlighten me here?
  6. So many good answers, and very little to add. But I found myself appreciating the framing element provided by the Oval Office. This opening scene of visiting FDR and the White House does a lot of work to justify why the film is telling the story the way it is, and why the story is being told at all. It's not just the biography of a great singer-dancer, but of a Great American. It establishes that a Performer can be as important as a President. There is a dignity to the work that both men do, their family credentials, etc. -- all contributing to the American enterprise. As someone previously noted, the Irish received their share of discrimination, but by this time, you could argue that they were integrated into society, rehabilitated as true (white) citizens, with ethnic pride but true patriots. This discussion between Cohan and FDR about their mutual commitment to the U.S., something that transcended their individual differences, lays the groundwork for a very particular set of reminiscences about Cohan's life, one that will emphasize patriotism, and one that will demonstrate Cohan's growth from a cocky youth to a mature hero.
  7. During the lecture notes on Every Sunday, in which Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland square off with classical vs. popular music, I couldn't help but thinking of the Ella Fitzgerald standard "Mr. Paganini (You'll have to swing it). Same theme -- we've heard your great classic music, but if you really want to make good music, it'll have to be swing style. Same year 1936. I'd like to know more about the relationship between those two musical numbers, if any. In my family, in which all types of music are studied and appreciated, we especially liked Ella's ongoing championing of the virtues - rigors - overall value of modern styles. The influence of jazz and other pop styles into classical music is a fascinating topic, and I was delighted to see this little pairing of Deanna and Judy, great voices both!
  8. Good point -- parallel to standards about women's looks, weight, etc. There's a lot narrower range about what's acceptable for women than for men, and it doesn't surprise me that men are allowed more variation on what's romantic and appropriate. I wasn't really laughing at the ending of "You're Getting to be a Habit with Me" at the end of 42nd Street, when the woman walked off with the nerdy guy. It just doesn't happen the other way around!
  9. Even reading only part of the answers, it's intriguing that there is so much discussion on the board about "the Battle of the Sexes." Not all of us see this dance as part of that "Battle," and I have a hunch that we aren't all working with the same definitions of that Battle, either. There are such strong gender roles here -- he is the aggressor, she is being pursued. Is it an example of her dominance that she starts off by saying No? I don't really think so. Is the Battle about which sex is smarter and more capable? If so, the dance is a nice contest, showing them to be equal, not just at matching what the other offers, but at coming up with new bits to perform, and both enjoying what they're doing. The parallel dress and the ending handshake establishes them as partners, and that's some of what I sense in this new cultural context, as well. Both men and women needed to work in the Depression, and both need to take responsibility for the dancing. A wonderful clip!
  10. I'm only now getting started on watching the films, but I'm intrigued with the idea of Luise Rainer being "miscast" in this role, and in general how much "talent" these women had. Rainer's Academy Award for "The Good Earth" is more unsettling to me, in the notion of whites cast to play Asians. That might be beside the point, but I think it speaks to how ideas of star power work against true-to-type casting (her French accent is equally put-on and stereotyped). But Broadway Melody of 1929 seems similarly thin to me on female "talent" -- I honestly didn't realize that Anita Page was the star (the most beautiful face in Hollywood?) until I looked at the TCM movie database comments. We can still accept male crooners as having talent, so the men's performance in these films translates better. The females seem to be required to strike poses, engage in coquettish gestures, and sing in a much thinner way than we prefer. I personally find Rainer's performance very appealing, and think she gives personality to the role. I'm not sure what the choices were to the directors of the time, but I'm finding it intriguing to see these odd female characters and voices in these early musicals (Tuesday night) and rather than labeling them mis-cast, I'm wondering what casting criteria are actually in place. Thanks for the comment that got me thinking about this.
  11. What fun to think about a next course. I think that a lot of effort has to go into any decision. As a teacher myself, I would be surprised if Prof Edwards would be comfortable picking a topic brand new to him, so my vote would be for an online version of a course that he's already tried out in his face-to-face teaching and has some resources assembled for. So, my first choice would be whatever is his first choice. I agree with those who would like to see the Film Noir course repeated. I think a lot of us would come back for another round, and that one was spread out over a longer time and was just Fridays, which might help out some of the obvious time crunch in this class. And now that Eddie Muller is involved so regularly with TCM, that collaboration would be pretty interesting, perhaps more like Wes Gehring has been in this class. A few participants in this course have also revealed that they teach or otherwise know their way around film history, so perhaps reaching out to some new professors would be a great idea. (Nothing against Prof Edwards.. and who says that there can't be more than one a year?) Of course you have to work with what TCM is willing and able to program, so another method might be to look at some of the upcoming featured themes or performers and see what might come from that. For years I have been impressed with the way that TCM would bring in very knowledgeable guest programmers -- including academics, practitioners, and super-fans -- to guide us through these themes. Most recently Gays in Hollywood, but I recall looking at Asians, Blacks, Women, pre-code. Last year was Trailblazing Women, with Ileana Douglas and a fab co-host line-up, but a few years earlier scholar Molly Haskell was on hand to help out. My own colleague Lloyd Michaels just came out with a book on Woody Allen and it made me see even those famiiar films in a different way -- I'd love to see him do an online course. Classic French films? German expressionist cinema? I think TCM has the most innovative programming going. (My favorite TCM evening is still the one in which every film featured someone who had been blind for at least a portion, but my husband was pretty psyched about the Hot Rod evening this last month.) One of the most difficult areas for me to get into has been the Silent Era, and so a course on that would really help me see what all the fuss is about. The material on Hitch's silent era production and how that expertise continued to serve him was one of my big take-aways in this course. Plus, TCM already schedules a lot of silents, so maybe just moving one or two to a featured weekday primetime in the summer plus supplementing them with the Sunday evening regular showings would work. In case folks haven't already figured it out, I'm a fan of these courses. Thanks again to everybody involved. The fact that they are free blows my mind. I'm not sure who said "you get what you pay for" in one of the more critical comment threads -- I think that's just wrong. We're getting So Much for our time investment. Plus, I'm assuming that Prof Edwards and others are compensated, and that TCM realizes how key this has become for educating and maintaining its fan base, so it's probably a bargain in terms of advertising costs. But still, what a deal! Definitely looking forward to the next one, Here's hoping that there IS a Next One. Cheers!
  12. I've often thought of David Lynch as we've discussed Hitchcockian techniques. Blue Velvet, with its working premise that the innocent-seeming middle-class suburbs are the true sites of horror, to say nothing of Isabella Rossellini as an homage to Ingrid Bergman. I also count Hitch as a leader among the many filmmakers who proceed with a Freudian (or Jungian) premise about the causes of crime -- starting with mothers and latent homosexuality. The "hidden" elements of horror in Hitch's world are often not external, but internal ones. I wouldn't count every one as being influenced by Hitch, but I tend to group these psychoanalytic thrillers together. Here I have to recommend the fine article in The Noir City e-mag No. 21 featuring "Headshrinkers" discussed a nice grouping of these, Phantom Lady, Possessed, White Heat, Angel Face, along with Hitchs Spellbound and Strangers on a Train. Because this kind of psychoanalysis works so easily with method acting, I'm always surprised, that Hitch disliked The Method so much, but I think the effectiveness of his Innocent Man Accused motif is a certain lack of self-awareness on the part of the hero, at least in his refusal to see his complicity in criminal situations.
  13. Thanks for your response, Professor. I have appreciated your observations during the live tweets, nearly always helping me better see the cinematographic techniques in play, or identify the ongoing motifs. Works better for some films than others. I can see that TCM's decision to show the films chronologically left very little wiggle room for choosing what would be shown at 8 pm on Fridays. In fact, because some of the films you featured ended up being shown at 3 am, I just have to watch them at a later date. Must add that my favorite part of your courses are the Daily Doses -- I really appreciate a close reading of a (signature) scene. Your live tweets continue that approach. So, again, thanks!
  14. I found myself thinking about this as I watched last night's TCM feature A Double Life, with Ronald Coleman in his Oscar-winning performance. Was it really that great? Not so sure. And so a lot of the previous comments ring true. There was a concerted campaign to promote this film and Coleman, who was definitely a studio favorite. Not only does the Academy not tend to like the genre films, i.e. thrillers, but they LOVE films about films and "acting", which this one definitely was. To the extent that Hitch was courting box-office success, perhaps he didn't fit the image of the professional that people (say they) admire. I don't think nominations are any less "political" than winners -- and I'm not sure what "political" means in this context, anyway. But the top 5 or 10 list is certainly meaningful and gives a broader sense of what is being done than just the final choice. I also think there's a certain anti-mystique about those who are frequently nominated and don't win (like Meryl Streep). There's an impression that they "always" get nominated and give it to somebody else for a change. (I'd say the Academy outright adores first-time, very young folks, at least among the actors). I find myself more impressed with Hitchcock after this course than when I started, with his penchant for constant innovation at the top of my list. That auteur-ship is the kind of quality that takes a while to emerge, and is marked by a number of "lifetime achievement" awards that he did win. I guess I don't know enough about each individual nomination to say whether they were intended as "snubs" or whether he just didn't win. But this is an interesting question as we look at his entire body of work.
  15. For me, the effect of this opening scene in Frenzy is one of drilling down. We start with the big picture and the pomp-and-circumstance music suggesting the grandeur of London / Britain, with its magnificence and authority. We come in over the water, with more details in the view -- iconic images to be sure, like the Tower Bridge, but also a certain dinginess to the water and ugly black smoke of the boat. As we narrow in on the crowd, it takes us a moment or two to figure out what the topic is, but the theme is cleaning up the pollution, implying what was already hinted, that the water is dirty and contains hidden contamination. The disruption over the dead body with Look! takes place just as the speaker is suggesting that there is something "foreign" in the water, and we end up with an overhead shot that focuses on a single floating body. One returning theme from Hitchcock is the idea that corruption lurks in places that seem not only normal, but admirably pure. Evil things are always just under the surface: dead things submerged in the water, contaminants hidden in the molecules, and, by implication, there are dark thoughts lurking in the mind, in the personality, or in Freudian terms, the id or the drives of libido. This focus is not unlike the view into the eye in Vertigo (gosh, great credit sequence there, as I noticed again last night). The Lodger's opening took us in a different direction, outward as the news spread, not inward. But the contagious and viral quality is still evoked. We might imagine the opening sequence of Frenzy reversed as the sensation of the dead body spreads. This sequence leads us from the general to the specific, from the world as we have it mapped in our mind into the unique story of one particular situation. As with other openings, Marnie in particular, this one urges us to be wary of appearances, because much is hidden. We learn that people will be trying to root out the dirt and reform the bad behavior, but that it's never easy, and perhaps impossible. As usual, it is a sensational story that piques our interest, and it is a lurid, eroticized body of the icy blonde heroine (not a traditional femme fatale, but Hitch's take on it.) Btw, I was also glad to see the Hitch cameo right away -- i find myself anxious until it appears -- I'm so worried I'll miss it. But I shouldn't have worried, since his penchant for self-promotion at this point means that he's hard to miss. In this case, he figures himself as one of the respectable British crowd, paying attention to what he's supposed to be paying attention to. No insider knowledge here -- just Himself.

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