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Jeff Netto

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Everything posted by Jeff Netto

  1. These old Technicolor movies -- this one in particular -- always remind me of my grandparents' house. Their home is like a 50s time-capsule. Once you cross their threshold, it's as if time in that place has frozen. Carpet, plastic sofa covers, countertops, curtains, everything you see is pure vintage. And the color of everything! I'm not sure if Technicolor became the industry standard because it was best able to render the color palette of the day OR if the color palette of the day gained popularity because it made real life look like life in a Technicolor movie. I also loved the way this
  2. I'm so glad Jacques Tati made the lineup! Mr. Hulot satirizes the excesses of modernity, while also appreciating some of what it has to offer. He is indeed complicated in this regard. The wildly inconvenient architecture of his building contrasts with the hyper-modern convenience of his nephews house in the film. The sterility of the hyper-modern house is at obvious odds with the communal ambiance of this kooky old, retro-partitioned house. For the most part, Hulot seems like a remnant of the pre-WWII era -- a less alienating time. But he also, at times, seems to enjoy fooling around with
  3. I've been enjoying the interviews with Wes Gehring, but I find myself disagreeing with his dismissal of contemporary slapstick. I understand that the apparent vulgarity of this modern comedy might make it seem crude, unpolished, and distasteful through and through. But one of the ways we've been asked to look at slapstick is through the lens of its subversive potential. Slapstick, from the beginning, set its sights on the dictates of refinement in taste. It's always been a rough and tumble kind of comedy -- at the opposite end of the spectrum from our chuckles at Wilde's more polished witticis
  4. The world of W.C. Fields seems like a darker place than the world of some of our other comedians. Children strike and embarrass their parents in this world. Beaten down men turn to drink for solace, but they still don't necessarily roll over and take their beatings without a fight. Fields fights back, and his own exaggerated ferocity tends to shed light on the bullying nature of the characters and situations that assail him. He fights fire with fire, saving the water to rinse his hands after a good tipple. If the later Fields is less physical with his slapstick, I think his comedy still pl
  5. It's not too much of a stretch to accommodate all five of our characteristics of silent slapstick within Dale's description of the varieties of verbal slapstick. Exaggeration -- Sure enough. Speed, volume, verbosity. The thickness of an accent. There are lots of humorous exaggerations possible in verbal delivery. Physical comedy -- Sure enough. The mouth of the comedian might contort humorously over the pronunciation of a term, the body may sway or jerk over the course of a line's delivery as the rhythm or emphasis of a word or phrase is physically enacted during pronunciation. The phy
  6. What I like most about the integration of sound into slapstick (and vice versa) here is the way Chase's verbal delivery helps to establish his character. Exasperation is only part of it, and we do hear a certain edge to his voice at times. But I think it's his bustling, man of the modern city manner that seems decidedly new. Chase's delivery, while not the gattling-gun onslaught we'll get with Groucho, is electricity-quick, with an upbeat urban rhythm to it. It's pretty much the exact opposite of Buster Keaton's verbal style. Through this "clean-up gag," this guy talks quickly, moves quickly,
  7. I agree with Schickel. Lloyd's "boy" is more realistic than Keaton's boy or Chaplin's tramp. In think maybe the essence of slapstick comedy is that we have one foot in the kooky world of childhood fantasy and one foot in the real, everyday adult world we all recognize. We get to move back and forth between these worlds, and we relish those moments when the real world of maturity goes childishly kooky on us. That's a huge part of the fun. In the nineteen-teens, the photographic capacity of cinema to capture and document scenes of real life out in the real world kept movies somewhat rooted
  8. Keaton's world and the situations he confronts tend to be predominated by machinery -- usually machinery that is broken down in some way. Again and again, Keaton needs to find a way to fix something or to fashion a tool or combination of tools to fix things. He's a tinkering hero trying to patch together a broken universe with the tools and materials at hand. Chaplin, on the other hand, seems to resist the machine-aspect of his world. It's like he's hanging on to his humanity and refusing to let the machines take over. Whether the machine in question is the factory conveyor belt in Modern Time
  9. 1. I'm not sure if this is what Canby has in mind, but it seems to me that silent film in general demands a whole lot more attention from the audience. We are encouraged to look harder at the screen to follow what's going on and how the characters are feeling towards one another. In slapstick, this attention is rewarded by the climaxes of the gags. The greater investments in attention tend to yield bigger payoffs in humor. We feel the suspense of the scene even more keenly as the cook tries to catch the tramp in the act of stealing food. When we first glimpse the cop, we ourselves choke just a
  10. 1) Was the silent era a golden age of comedy? Absolutely. This is not to say that Melissa McCarthy isn't just as hilarious as Buster Keaton. It's just that Keaton was part of the group of groundbreaking geniuses that made the genius of McCarthy possible. Keaton was one of the inventors. And he's still my personal favorite among those inventors. I still feel something of the "newness" of this form of comedy when watching Keaton's films. Melissa McCarthy and Jim Carrey feel like they are refining and distilling some of the comic invention Keaton bequeathed. 2) Is the comedy of silent film p
  11. I think there's a kind of subtle violence in these I Love Lucy scenes. It's the violence of mechanical disciplining imposed on the body of the character and the body's dogged resilience in resisting this kind of discipline. I'm thinking of the opening scene of Chaplin's Shoulder Arms here. The army training is inflicted on Chaplin, violently inflicted on him. But his body unleashes some undisciplined, disorderly violence on the drills he can't quite pick up. He goes the wrong way. Not a violent struggle between people hitting one another. It's a struggle between imposed order and a natural, hu
  12. There's just something about the way Lancaster suffers that makes him ideal for film noir. He looks young and old at the same time, naively earnest in his clipped speech and tortured and weary in his slow grimaces. And where he provides the suffering, Yvonne De Carlo gives us all the stunning style we could ever want. Who wouldn't kill for the opportunity to suffer in her presence? These daily doses have been the highlight of the course for me. I've fallen in love with the TCM message boards this summer, and I look forward to hanging out there some more.
  13. Continental philosophy is one good touchstone for interpreting this scene. History is another good one. The musical accompaniment to this scene of torture calls to mind the story about American soldiers' finding an edition of Rilke's poetry in a guard station as the Allies were liberating the concentration camps. The stinging irony here is that the people who are apparently the most inhuman are still enthralled by the humanities. It's the very "humanness" of these inhuman monsters that makes us shudder when we hear about Nazis reading poetry. If they are at least somewhat human like us, then m
  14. Expressionistic lighting? You betcha. As the lamp swings back and forth and the beating moves off-screen, we watch the still faces of the heavies, who in turn watch the off-screen beating. We hear the blows and grunts, but all we see are the faces of the mobsters in the variable lighting of the swinging light. And in a strange sort of way, we actually see much more than we would have if the camera had framed the actual beating. The faces of the mobsters are immobile, but the swinging of the lamp sets in motion a play of shadows and highlights across these two faces, as if they are changing
  15. Several posts have suggested how the Huston's quasi-documentary depiction of the unnamed city gone to seed recalls the early neorealist films in postwar Italy. I think that's an excellent observation. I love these discussion boards and the way they help me think about the clips! In the Italian movies (Bicycle Thieves, Open City, Germany Year Zero, etc.), we get a sense that some of the social forces that provided the foundation for life in these cities are suddenly laid bare in the blasted and crumbling ruins through which the characters move. It's as if institutional corruption and progre
  16. What a beautiful opening! I've read through several posts here that helped me understand and appreciate it, and I got pretty familiar with the "like" button today. I'm not very familiar with jazz, but I will definitely need to pick up some Miles Davis now.
  17. I haven't yet seen this entire film, but I for sure intend to watch it. I loved today's daily dose. It reminded me of lots of my other faves in this class. Psycho killer jumps a train? Hello La Bete Humaine. "Issue Films" that make their point all the more forcefully through a noirish detour? Hello Mildred Pierce and Border Incident. Granted this guy in our daily dose is not your typical film noir protagonist. He challenges our conventional definitions of film noir -- just like the illegal migrant laborer in Border Incident did, and just like the divorced middle-class housewife in Mildr
  18. I think self-parody is probably one of the key ingredients of the hardboiled style per se. The world weary detective always seems a bit bored and sometimes amused by the cliches that surround him. Think of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. He laughs at Brigid O'Shaughnessy when she tries to play the damsel in distress. He tells her her act is good, and that it's good enough to make her dangerous. How does he know this? What makes him such an expert on the wiles of these femmes fatales? Well, he's seen them all before. One of my favorite moments when Spade mocks the cliches of the hardbo
  19. Lots of people have touched on the fact that we root for and identify with criminals in heist films because we enjoy watching the mixture of daring bravado and consummate professionalism these criminals display for us. We see a similar mixture in detective films, where the detective displays not only a fair amount of daring, but also a whole range of highly specialized skill-sets. The heist film can set us up for a detour through noir territory just like the detective film sometimes does. For no matter how well a crime is studied, there are always unknown variables that can take us by sur
  20. Great point! This scene really illustrates the social conditions that led to the rise of the femme fatale in film noir. That figure gets more and more powerfully dangerous as the men she deals with become more and more beaten down by life.
  21. The direction and acting in this scene very effectively convey Walter's evident discomfort and his need to establish his dominance over Sam. Walter perches on the edge of a coffee table and tensely hovers over Sam, who casually sits back and lets his old acquaintance posture. Walter speaks crisply, and at a good clip. Sam sort of has this Joseph Cottonish easy-goingness when it comes to smooth speaking and sitting back on a sofa. When both men stand up, it looks as if Walter is evidently uncomfortable about Sam's obvious height advantage once he leaves the sofa. Walter's ominous tension seem
  22. Good Analysis! I love how Lisbeth Scott's face changed -- like she was suddenly animated by a new personality entirely. No longer the quarreling wife, she becomes something darker, something more noir.
  23. Hitchcock is a really strong personality, and he naturally puts his own spin on film noir -- the style, the genre, and the movement. As we follow in the footsteps of these two pairs of shoes, each pair the photographic negative of the other, we note that they are converging beneath a table in a train car. Just before the shoes and their wearers meet, we see -- from the point of view of the locomotive -- the train swerving to switch tracks and veering hard to the right. The hitchcockian touch, for me anyway, comes when the sequence cuts back to the shoes. The black shoes -- Guy's shoes -- brush
  24. Our victim seems very purposeful as he negotiates the maze of offices and corridors in the police department, intent on making his way to the homicide bureau office. He has made a decision to tell his own story, in his own words – the story of his life, or at least the end of that story. When he announces that he is the victim of a homicide, the immanence of his death would seem to lend a certain air of authenticity to the story he is about to tell. But something about this scene ironically undercuts that air of authenticity, and that something erupts when the man in charge of homicides unexpe
  25. The setting in a prison reminds me of another movie I watched for the first time last Friday, They Live by Night. In that film, we follow along in the footsteps of a young couple who are on the lam but nevertheless still imprisoned within the criminal underworld. They want nothing more than to escape out into the daylight world of middle-class normalcy. They hold hands and watch from the sidelines as ordinary people play golf, go dancing, and go to work, and they long to break free of the underworld and join in such daylight activities of legitimate people. But that's just an impossible dream
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