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Jeff Netto

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Posts 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 tilted trailer sort of gives a kooky 50s update to the tilted cabin gag from Chaplin's Goldrush

    • Like 4
  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 new-school technology.

     

    Love this clip!

    • Like 2
  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 witticisms and subtler ironies. 

     

    So if you start off from the 1940s and flash forward sixty-some years, you move from the bluster and banter of the Marx Brothers and Abbott & Costello to the shock-comedy slapstick of Ben Stiller. Is Stiller's comedy more crude? Certainly. About sixty years more crude. But maybe that's what's necessary to give slapstick the same bite in 2016 that it had in 1948. I think we should look for continuities rather than contrasts when we examine the comedies of then and now. Nostalgia for the then can blind us to the wonderful innovations of the now.

    • Like 1
  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 plays because the world around him is so physically oppressive that it picks up any slack in activity. The world fights dirty and hits him hard, but without hurting him so much that he can't come back with a slurred and drawling zinger to put the things that offend him back in their places.

     

    I think the comedy of W.C. Fields takes us closer to tragedy than that of any other comedian. We're laughing, but we're also getting awfully close to the verge of weeping. The funny one-liners abruptly re-channel our emotions at the last minute, but there's always a hint of residual uneasiness lingering in the background.

     

    "I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I'm so indebted to her for."

    • Like 2
  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 physicality of uttering speech provides lots of opportunities for humor.

     

    Repetitive or ritualistic gags -- Lots .of parts of parties. These get funnier and funnier as the contractual ritual unfolds. My favorite, moment of ritualistic verbal humor in this film comes when Groucho keeps asking for two, no three eggs in the stateroom scene.

     

     

    Make Believe -- Sure enough. The verbal lunacy of sound-era slapstick often highlights the genre's departure from any sort of realism. The simple fact that straight-men and straight-women listen to these gags and try to make sense of them is hilarious. Mr. Driftwood's zany approach to sweet-talking Mrs. Claypool out of her fortune could never come close to succeeding in the real world. But in the world of this film. this kooky seduction is allowed to continue, and it's hilarious.

     

    Violence -- Sure enough. There are all kinds of verbal violence, insults and lies being only the most straightforward violations of decorum and truth. And Otis Driftwood manages to get a lot of comic mileage out of this type of verbal violence. But this clip showcases another, less straightforward kind of verbal violence, a violence directed against language itself. In the reading of the contract, its terms are verbally chopped and chewed even as the written text is literally shredded. The climax of this violence against language is the punning malapropism at the end: Sanity Clause. You can't a-fool me. There ain't a-no Sanity Claus.

     

    We wince from the sting of this verbal violence, even as we crack up.

    • Like 2
  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, and thinks quickly -- just like the fast and noisy world around him. He is maybe even a little quicker than the world, and this is what lets him maneuver in this gag.

    • Like 1
  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 in the everyday adult world. Characters themselves might then take up residence on the childish fantasy side of things. But by the second half of the 1920s, it seems that childishly kooky characters might be losing at least some of their footing in reality. This is maybe when the Tramp became more human, more capable of genuine adult feelings. And this is when Harold Lloyd's everyday Joe, "the boy," began to appeal to audiences. Lloyd's character definitely comes from our adult world, and he mostly seems to live in it. He's the soda jerk next door. It's when he goes into places like Coney Island, where childhood fantasy naturally erupts into our everyday world, that the real zaniness of his slapstick can be unleashed while he keeps one foot in the real adult world.

     

    Watching this, I couldn't help noticing how closely it paralleled Clara Bow's date scene in It. Lloyd obviously borrowed here, and he polished it up as well. I think both of these films are good examples of the way slapstick kookiness tended to get more realistically contextualized in the late 20s.

    • Like 2
  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 Times, or the well-oiled military drills of WWI in Shoulder Arms, Chaplin seems to resist becoming assimilated and fully integrated. Keaton, on the other hand, tends to find kooky and creative ways to fix problems in the machines he encounters. His fixes don't always work in a practical way. But they always manage to manufacture laughter.

  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 bit on that piece of cake the tramp has shoveled into his mouth a second before. Because our eyes are so glued on him, our gullets and our gut feelings are invested in him as well. Watching these movies is more visceral for me. And I think it's because of the concentration that they demand.

    • Like 2
  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 purely visual? NO. A lot of it is visual, though. But it leans on the kinds of narrative irony and verbal punning of other kinds of live comedy like live theater and radio. Those zingers in the intertitles are hilarious in themselves. And when the outdoorish girl in The Balloonatic steals a kiss from Buster in the final moments of the film -- calling up memories of the kiss he may have tried to steal from her in the tunnel of love at the beginning of the film -- the fun isn't purely visual. Silent comedy definitely leaned hard on it's silent gags. But it was much too sophisticated to rely on these gags alone.

     

    3) I think that documentaries and narrated compilations definitely distort and water down the brilliance of silent comedies -- assuming audiences haven't seen the films in their entirety before. For example, if you watch something like Youngson's Days of Thrills and Laughter, you walk away with a certain sense of Snub Pollard as a sort of weird Chaplinesque knockoff. That's assuming you haven't already watched It's a Gift in its entirety. That film  brilliantly takes a Keatonesque fascination with homespun technological invention and weaves it together with a real social and economic situation (ie, fluctuating gasoline prices and the demand for affordable fuels). In Youngson's compilation, Pollard's film seems sort of primative, but the film is anything but primitive. It is oddly relevant to today.

    • Like 2
  11. I agree with your assertion that all slapstick isn't violent. I Love Lucy also came to mind for me. Slapstick is often physical and most certainly over the top, but it isn't always violent, and Lucille Ball is the perfect example of it. I'm thinking not only of the conveyer belt scene, but also her ballet class: exaggerated and physical, sure, but not really violent. 

     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, human disorder. A different kind of mayhem.

    • Like 1
  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.

    • Like 3
  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 maybe we're at least somewhat monstrous like they are.

     

    In Brute Force, the torturer's choice of Wagner to accompany his brutal labors resonates with the post-war discoveries of Nazi atrocities in the camps. Wagner, the composer most associated with the valorization of German culture and national myths, is here used to drown out the sounds of blows and groans. Perhaps the Nazi guard with a taste for poetry similarly used Rilke's verse to distract himself from the cries of his victims.

    • Like 6
  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 -- morphing into something inhuman. Its as if the dark spirits incarnated in these two villains were emerging through their skin and causing the flesh to warp and buckle before our eyes.

    • Like 5
  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 progressive ideals were both mixed into the mortar of the buildings and then plastered over and ignored. The corruption and the ideals of prewar Italian society seem to seep out of the blasted rubble of these buildings.

     

    I think we get a similar sense of seepage from the opening of Asphalt Jungle. Only instead of social ideals and corruption, its more a matter of moral & psychological ideals and corruption. Out of the rubble in this seedy industrial part of town, we see forces of conscience and desire laid bare and put back into circulation.

    • Like 1
  16. 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  Mildred Pierce did. This guy finds himself in a situation where his passions are suddenly ignited and demonically fueled to the point where he succumbs despite all the reasonable objections that come to (our) mind. And he will no doubt pay a terrible price. Mildred was lured across class boundaries -- despite Veda's bitchy objections. The poor migrant laborer was lured across the national boundaries -- despite his lack of a legal work visa and all of Ricardo Montalban's warnings. And both the immigrant laborer and the divorced housewife were confronted with the hellish consequences of their decisions. 

     

    Over the course of our course, I've learned to stretch my understanding of film noir a bit further than  I was accustomed. In learning to appreciate  the degree to which film noir seeped into other kinds of film -- like the "issue film" -- I came to understand film noir a bit better AND I came to understand the issues that are documented in those films better (or at least from a different perspective). I'm thinking this will again be the case with Beware, My Lovely.

    • Like 2
  17. 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 hardboiled style is when  he similarly critiques Wilmer's (the gunsel's) manner of expressing himself: "The cheaper  the crook, the gaudier the patter."

     

    Self-parody doesn't  mark the end of hardboiled movies. It marked the beginning of that style.

    • Like 2
  18. 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 surprise, forcing us to confront a series of shadowy blind-spots and uninvited players. Strange passions are triggered by these unexpected encounters, and  these strange passions can fatally trip up even the most carefully planned (dare I say perfect) criminal pursuits.

     

     

    • Like 1
  19. Hmm, noticing some reoccurring themes in this week's Daily Doses: love on the rocks, greed, conformity, and corruption (even Strangers on a Train contains these themes, though they aren't so prominent in the clip we watched).

     

    The ex-showgirl's reluctance to start a gas station reminds me of Lana Turner's character in The Postman Always Rings Twice. She wants to BE somebody, dammit!

     

    I think this scene illustrates the themes of evolving gender roles in film noir than any of the clips we've seen. The man feels a little stiffed that he's no longer the big boxer he once was, and his wife feels empowered by the increasing societal status of women and is ashamed of the man's fallen status. 

     

    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.

  20. 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 seems to stand out all the more against Sam's casual (or is it studied?) obliviousness.

     

    Walter has apparently taken over the town (and the girl) since Sam left. How has he managed this domination? What powerfully sinister forces has he learned to channel? Will Sam be able to stand up to those forces? What will that effort cost him? By subtly provoking these questions, this scene very smoothly shifts us into a noir gear.

  21. We(the viewers) are definitely going down a winding road in "Too Late for Tears". It appears to be a

    typical couple heading out for a dinner with "friends" when the wife expresses her dislike for the host's wife (His diamond studded wife). She is complaining, wanting to go back home when a sudden hurtling bag lands in the backseat of the couple's car. That mere act was like a switch that turned things around. Lisbeth Scott's face(her whole demeanor) physically changed before our eyes when the contents of the bag was revealed. Greed now becomes her mission. No longer is she going to be the wife that goes along with what her husband wants. It becomes a role reversal. She is in charge now and it seems that her husband (Arthur Kennedy)is going to go along with what ever plan she comes up with to please her. Though he knows it is wrong, her feminine charm manipulates the situation. We are

    hooked down this long dark winding road.

     

    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.

    • Like 3
  22. 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 against the white shoes -- Bruno's shoes -- and Guy's destiny veers into a new track. It has the same sort of feel as when Janet Leigh pulls into a certain hotel and when Jimmy Stewart looks into a certain apartment window. Destiny is swerving into an unexpected trajectory. Characters are going to discover a darker -- more noir -- side of their own desires. Pausing on that moment of the swerve -- that's part of the hitchcockian touch.

  23. 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 unexpectedly supplies our victim’s name and takes an APB regarding him out of his desk drawer.

     

    The arrival of Frank Bigelow has already been anticipated by the bureaucratic machinery of the police force. A certain space has already been prepared for his testimony and an agent of the law is prepared to transcribe that testimony into an official file that has already been opened in the case. The unexpected degree of bureaucratic involvement in this case before Bigelow even shows up to tell his story effectively compromises some of  that story’s spontaneity and its air of authenticity. The decision to tell his story, in his own way, seems less like his own decision when someone else is telling him to tell his own story, in his own way. And so we might be a little suspicious of the flashback we’re about to watch. Is this flashback a cinematic rendering of Bigelow’s own memory? Or is it a cinematic transcription of the written transcript anticipated and ultimately penned by the bureaucratic engines of the police force?

     

    I haven’t seen this entire film yet, and I haven’t read the noir-existentialism piece by Porfirio yet, either. But  I’m  really enjoying the opportunity  to speculate a little bit  about these daily  dose film clips before I have all information laid out  for  me.

    • Like 1
  24. 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 for them. They are always conscious that they are looking at the normal world from outside of it. That's sort of the sense I get from the opening scene viewed from the barred window of a paddy wagon.

     

    There's one particular shot in the opening sequence from Caged that really seems to scream "Warner Bros." Right before the film cuts to the entryway into  the women's prison, we get a low angle shot of the side of a tall building from the point of view of the frightened woman who appears to be going  up  the river for the first time. She is looking up through a window (one without bars, this time) at the side of the  building, and on the window in the foreground there's this glob of dirt or bird poop or  something. For me, this shot is wonderfully emblematic of the Warner's house style: urban  realism shot from up so close that the camera's lens itself picks up some of the filth.

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