Friday, December 25, 2009



(Bronco Billy, Justus and Frank ride into a clearing and clumsily dismount from their horses. Justus and Frank begin dancing in celebration of their successful gold theft.)

Bronco Billy: HEY! You boys need to simmer down. We got big problems here!

(Justus and Frank stop their dance and stare at him)

Justus: What you mean? We got the gold!

(Justus throws a handful of gold pieces at Bronco Billy)

Bronco Billy: The gold? And what is it you’re planning to do with all that gold?

(Justus and Frank give each other a confused stare.)

Bronco Billy: That’s right. You have no idea! And do you know why?

(Justus and Frank shake their heads)

Bronco Billy: Cause we was spose to be killed by a posse and that was gonna be the end! That’s why! Your fellas ain’t even real.

Justus: Ain’t real? You been smokin' that Injun loco weed? And how is it you know so darn much? And whar is this here posse?

Bronco Billy: They was gonna ambush us in our regular hidin’ spot. That’s why I made you fellas come here instead.

Frank: I don’t get it.

Bronco Billy: Think about our regular hiding spot that we was going to. Do you ever remember bein’ thar before?

(Justus and Frank shake their heads)

Bronco Billy: That’s cause we AIN’T never been thar before. It’s just our reglar hiding place cause the script says so.

Justus: Because the what says so?

Bronco Billy: Look. You know when we ride or rob...when you look out to the side? You know, the black space? Don’t you wonder what’s in the black space?

Justus: (Scratching his head) Never thunk about it.

Bronco Billy: That’s cause you’re thinly written. But I thunk about it. And while we was riding a ways back, I slipped my hand into the black space and came up with this.

(Bronco Billy shows his accomplices a movie script.)

Frank: What’s this? We can’t read.

Bronco Billy: Written here is all that we are. All we’re suppose to do. We did just what it said to the last part when I took us a detour to here.

Justus: This is crazy talk! You’ve been drinking some kinda moonshine.

Bronco Billy: All right smart boys. Tell me what is it you are plannin’ to do with all that gold?

Frank: I don’t reckon I know. What was we gonna do Justus?

Justus: (Thinking for a moment) I got it! Women!

Bronco Billy: And what is it an outlaw is suppose to do with a woman? Tell me.

(Justus and Frank think for a moment.)

Justus: I got it again! Virginia Reel!

(Frank and Justus throw down their guns and begin hooting as they grab each other by the arms spinning as if doing the Virginia Reel.)

Bronco Billy: Stop It! The only thing you know about women is doin’ the Virgina Reel with ‘em cause that’s all that’s in this here script! Us cowboys won’t get fully developed for more until later through the films of Ford, Hawks, Mann and Leone.

(As the outlaws quit dancing they look at Bronco Billy in silent confusion.)

Bronco Billy: Never mind. I’m not sure whar that came from myself. Anyway, remember when you shot that guy at the station, how he flailed around like a chicken with his head cut off, grabbed his heart and plopped to the ground?

Justus: Yeah! Got him good.

Bronco Bill: NO! People don’t react that way to being shot. And there was no blood! Not a drop. And when you threw that guy off the train. That was no man. It was just a stuffed dummy.

Frank: Come to think about it Justus, He did feel kinda light.

Bronco Billy: And didn’t you notice how the scenery kept changin’ behind us while we was up on the train?

Frank: That’s why I got so dizzy!

Bronco Billy: (Slapping the script in his hand) We is in something called a movin’ picture.

Justus: I’ve seen pictures o' course. But how does they move?

Bronco Billy: Don’t rightly know. Guess if you run them together fast enough, they kinda tell a story.

(The other two outlaws look at each other and begin to laugh. As Bronco Billy doesn’t return their laughter they stop. The three outlaws now contemplate in uncomfortable silence.)

Justus: So what happens next?

Bronco Billy: I don’t know. I think we have to do things on our own now.

Justus: Interesting.

(Justus raises his gun to Bronco Billy)

Bronco Billy: What in tarnation do you think you’re doing?

Justus: Seems to me like we was doin’ fine til’ you brought up that big lump of paper. Maybe that thar’ script jus’ needs a new endin’.

(Justus fires at Bronco Billy who drops to the ground, grabbing at his bloodstained chest.)

Bronco Billy: You fool! The posse will for sure come for you now.

Justus: You was right Billy. That’s real blood this time.

(Bronco Billy dies. The posse hears the shots and comes riding toward the outlaws. Frank runs to pick up his guns. Before he can reach them, a bullet from the posse explodes in his head killing him instantly. Justus grabs his gun. He turns and fires into the black space one last time.)


Monday, December 21, 2009


I just finished watching the 1957 film, Sweet Smell of Success. Hmmm.
You know, I’m not really a professional movie critic and I’m a little stuck on what to say here.

Let me give it a shot:
Sharp dialogue from screenwriters Cliff Odets and Ernest Lehman.
-No, critique too cliché.
How about- The film's vision of New York City during the 1950’s seemed authentic?
-No, critique too obvious!
Or maybe- The performances were good, even Tony Curtis?
-No, critique too boring!

Looks like I’m going to need some extra help on this one and since the whole film is set in New York City, I’ll go to the original source and see what New York Times critic Bosley Crowther said about it when it came out in 1957:

Sweet Smell of Success has caught the mannerisms and the language of the hustling guys and dolls in search of power, fame and a fast buck. -Bosley Crowther.
(Hey, that’s more like it. Succinct and to the point. -Me.)

The basic motivation of J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), the columnist sought after by the famous and infamous, remains unexplained. -Bosley Crowther
(I have to disagree here. Hunsecker’s motivation is not wanting his precious sister taking up with a Jazz musician, even if the musician really seems to be an okay guy who doesn't even smoke marijuana! -Me)

Much clearer is the mental makeup of Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) the publicist who has practically devoted body and soul to getting “items” muddy or otherwise into Hunsecker’s syndicated columns.-Bosely Crowther
(I can still remember the day when newspapers were important. Wasn’t it like three years ago? -Me)

Susan Harrison evokes sympathy as the columnist’s distraught sister. - Bosley Crowther.
(As she does as a ballerina in the “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” episode of The Twilight Zone. Just like to slip in a Twilight Zone reference every once in awhile. -Me)

Martin Milner is sincere and believable as her indomitable romantic vis-à-vis. -Bosley Crowther
(I just added this quote because I can’t ever remember ever typing out vis-à-vis before.-Me)

It is not a towering, universal theme the producers have developed in their indictment of this small, special segment of society operating in a tiny domain know intimately only to the cognoscenti. -Bosley Crowther
(Mr. Crowther really liked to throw out four-dollar words like “cognoscenti.” In a separate review, he refers to Liberace as being in “oleaginous” form. Though I’m still not what sure it means, I’m willing to bet Liberace was often most "oleaginous." –Me)

The characters are mighty interesting but rarely lovable. -Bosley Crowther
(That about sums it up. Thanks for the help, Bosley -Me)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933), GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), 42ND STREET (1933)

Looking at the 1001 Movies list, you realize quickly what a small number 1001 is when you are talking about 100 + years of films. You could make a pretty good supplemental list, but 1065 Movies You Must See Before You Die doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. So the obvious question is which films should be cut?

I have a definite fondness for the old Busby Berkeley musicals from the 30’s. I really like them better than many of their more glitzy MGM musical counterparts. And I do think one of these films should definitely be on the list.

But 1001 Movies lists three. Do we really need three?

So I’m taking it onto myself to cut two. I’m appointing myself the coach and there’s only one position at flanker open. It’s a tough profession, kiddo. Thems the breaks sometimes.

Vying for position: 42nd Street, the most famous film of the three, which I admit might be hard to leave out, Gold Diggers of 1933, which does have the advantage of being my personal favorite of the three and Footlight Parade, which does have the biggest star, James Cagney.

Footlight Parade
Footlight Parade does boast a nice role for Jimmy Cagney, who gets to show off some dance moves along with his usual fast talking characterization. (Could Cagney ever talk slow?). Also funny, if somewhat whiny, is Frank McHugh as his constantly pessimistic dance director. Joan Blondell is also on hand as the swooning secretary, but I honestly like her in Gold Diggers more. And there are plenty of other Cagney movies on the list. (Can you tell I’m trying to eliminate Footlight Parade and get to the other two movies?) Fun and impressive production numbers from Mr. Berkeley including Sitting of a Backyard Fence. (Dancing cats long before that musical with Rumpleteazer came out). It’s also interesting historically that Cagney’s character is doing prologues before the featured films to enhance the new talking-picture experience.

See the film by all means. But I’m sorry, Footlight Parade is cut. You’re a swell kid, but you’re just not my choice.

Gold Diggers of 1933
As I said, Gold Diggers of 1933 is my favorite of the three. It begins with the famous production number We’re in the Money featuring a young and saucy Ginger Rogers. It’s a strong start to the movie, though I could have done without her singing part of the song in Pig Latin.
Insufficient funds and the show shuts down. But tough talking, cigar chomping producer Barney (Ned Sparks) has a new show to make everyone forget about the depression, it’s well, no, it’s actually about the depression.

We meet the girls in the production, each of who embody certain types. They sort of remind me of a younger, depression era version of The Golden Girls.
There’s Fay (Ginger R. playing the slut), Polly (Ruby Keeler, the sweet innocent) Trixie (Aline McMahon, the wisecracking one who steals ever scene she’s in) and Carol (Joan Blondell, the star).

Keep in mind these films were made before the infamous Hayes code neutered and spayed American movies after 1934. Ginger Rogers later went from the sexy young dancer in these films to the elegant and sophisticated dancer in the Rogers-Astaire films. Joan Blondell went from the sensuous blonde who casually brushes her hair while almost falling out of her slip in this film to a respected “comedienne” in Topper Returns and other films. (Never been too happy with Mr. Hayes!)

Continuing with the plot: The girls hear juvenile crooner Brad (Dick Powell) playing the piano in the next apartment. Polly has a thing for Brad. (Of course, Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler have a thing for each other in every Busby Berkeley musical.) As only happens in the movies, Barney hears Brad on the piano from the girl's apartment and thinks he’s different and has class and wants him to do the music for the show. He does. But Brad has a secret and won’t appear in the production, but somehow has the money to help finance the show.

To make a long story short, the show opens, Brad has to go on and is discovered to be from a prominent family. Brad’s older brother Lawrence (a rather stiff Warren William) wants to get rid of this showgirl Brad’s been seeing. He and family lawyer Fanny (Guy Kibee, who is in all three of these films) come to buy Polly off. However, Lawrence mistakes Carol for Polly and the girls and Brad decide to teach the older brother a lesson.
However, Lawrence falls for Carol as Polly. Carol falls for Lawrence as himself. Brad and the real Polly get married. And to top it off, old duff lawyer Fanny falls for Trixie and they too get married! And of course Lawrence and Carol also plan to get married. (Just wondering: Are Brad and Lawrence’s parents still alive? What would they think if both their blueblood sons announce their marriage to showgirls simulataneously and I think I thought this through too much.)

The show goes on and ends with the extravagant number Forgotten Man. (Joan Blondell succeeds in making this the sultriest song about unemployment I’ve ever heard).

Still a fan of the film and I’m thinking about going ahead and putting Gold Diggers of 1933 on my team…no, I’ve got one more to go.

42nd Street
In 42nd Street, stage director Julian Marsh (broke, sickly, obsessed and well played by Warner Baxter) tries to make a success of his production of a show called Pretty Lady.
Ginger Rogers is back. Don’t mean to say she’s playing a slut here too, but her character is known as Anytime Annie. Guy Kibbee is also on hand again as Abner Dillon, the production’s financial backer who is only happy when star Dorothy (Bebe Daniels) pays attention to him. Eventually, Dorothy gets tired of coddling Abner and throws him out. Dorothy also sprains her ankle. She can’t go on! Abner finds a new star for the production-Anytime Annie! But Annie knows that she can’t pull off the staring role, but knows someone who can—chorus girl Peggy (Ruby Keeler again and yes she does end up with Dick Powell!)

Before understudy Peggy goes on, Dorothy comes up to her with tears in her eyes and quivering lips and says, “Now go out there and be so swell that you'll make me hate you!” Corny? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. And why don’t we describe people as being swell anymore? I think the word in this context is ripe for a comeback.

It’s really the film in this series that’s the best showcase for Ms. Keeler. Her tap dance to the 42nd Street production number is one of the most famous bits in any musical.

Gold Diggers of 1933, you’re pretty swell, but I hope you can catch on with some other list as I’m changing horses in midstream and going with 42nd Street.

Thems the breaks.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Brent Musberger: We are…LIVE from Pauley Pavilion for the finale of the 64 film tournament as the battle for the definitive Christmas movie sweepstakes has reached its highly anticipated climax.

To recap: A Christmas Story defeated Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Black Christmas (which forfeited for being directed by A Christmas Story director Bob Clark and therefore creating a conflict of interest), National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Holiday Inn to reach the final four where the instant classic last second victory over the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol earned the coming of age story of Ralphie and his hunt for a Red Ryder BB gun a spot in the finals.

In the other bracket, It’s a Wonderful Life defeated Ernest Saves Christmas, Elf, Jingle All the Way, and Christmas in Connecticut to reach the final four where the story of George Bailey defeated Miracle on 34th Street in double overtime.

Onto the final: It’s a Wonderful Life vs. A Christmas Story:

Round 1
The protagonist:

It’s a Wonderful Life: George Bailey
George’s best moment: Loans out money to Bedford Fallians to prevent Potter from taking over the building and loan.
George’s worst moment: yells at his kids after Uncle Billy loses $8000.

A Christmas Story: Ralphie Parker
Ralphie’s best moment: Saves his family from Black Bart
Ralphie worst moment: He says THE word and it wasn’t fudge!

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. The everyman is just more sympathetic than the everyboy.

Round 2
The villain:

It’s a Wonderful Life: In the person of Mr. Potter and in the set of circumstances that keep George in Bedford Falls.

A Christmas Story: The heavies here are assorted bullies, teachers, parents and grownups whose sole purpose seems to be preventing getting Ralphie his Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. Mr. Potter (the very definition of evil) is the difference here.
Potter to George: “Look at you! You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me a warped frustrated old man. What are you but a warped frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help…Why don’t you go to the riff raff you love so much. You know why? Because they’d run you out of town on a rail!”

Evil. Evil. Evil

Round 3
Supporting cast:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy or Henry Travers as Clarence.

A Christmas Story: Darren McGavin as Dad

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. McGavin is most funny as the long-suffering, cursing dad with the obsession for leg lamps, but he did steal the fra-jilly joke from The Marx Brothers.
Nobody does nincompoop like Mitchell and nobody can order “Mull wine, heavy on the cinnamon, light on the cloves” like Travers.

Round 4
Auteur curriculum vitæ:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Frank Capra directed Arsenic and Old Lace, Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon, It Happened One Night, and You Can’t Take it With You. One of the most famous American directors with one of the most impressive resumes.

A Christmas Story: Bob Clark’s less impressive film output includes: Rhinestone, From the Hip, Porky’s I and II, Baby Geniuses I and II, and of course the TV movie classic Karate Dog.

Winner: A Christmas Story. Seems like no comparison, but since Mr. Clark dug so deep to come up with one classic within a career of such mediocrity, that I think even Mr. Capra would love this underdog story. Imagine Ed Wood pulling off Lawrence of Arabia.

Round 5
Recreation of the era:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Most of the story is set in the 1940’s and the film was made in the 1940’s.

A Christmas Story: Entire story is set in the 1940’s

Winner: A Christmas Story. The recreation of a simpler time at a simpler age is what makes the film work. It may not be a fair comparison since It’s a Wonderful Life was set in its own time, but George Bailey knows that life is not fair.

Round 6

It’s a Wonderful Life: Lots of candidates, but “Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings” is probably the best. It’s certainly better than Sam Wainwright continually saying “HEE-HAW”

A Christmas Story:”You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”

Winner: A Christmas Story. Close call, but “You’ll shoot your eye out” defines A Christmas Story.

Round 7

It’s a Wonderful Life: Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett

A Christmas Story: Jean Shepherd

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. You’d think I’d know who wrote the screenplay for a movie I’ve seen twenty times, but I admit to having to look it up. As retribution I’m giving this to Frances and Albert. Sorry, Jean.

Round 8
The strange cameo competition:

It’s a Wonderful Life. The guy that opens the gym floor to make George and Mary go into the water is Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer of Our Gang.

A Christmas Story: Ubiquitous screenwriter Jean Shepherd has the wonderful credit line of Man in line for Santa.

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. How can you beat getting dunked by Alfalfa! Sorry Jean, that’s 0-2.

Round 9
Narrator wars:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Mostly Henry Travers as Clarence

A Christmas Story: Jean Shepard

Winner: A Christmas Story, Well Jean, your narration style that was later copied for The Wonder Years finally gives you a win.

Round 10
Musical interlude:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Buffalo Girls

A Christmas Story: Deck the Halls from the Chinese restaurant.

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. As funny as “Deck the Halls with boughs of horry” is, Buffalo Girls is sung by George to woo Mary and later played as George asks Mary to marry him. George lassos the moon on this one.

Round 11
Longevity award:

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Christmas classic since the advent of television

A Christmas Story: A Christmas classic since the advent of cable

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life: It may not be fair to punish A Christmas Story for only being 25 years old, but you know-sometimes you get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and sometimes you just got to drink your Ovaltine and like it!

Round 12

It’s a Wonderful Life: Bedford Falls has Christmas lights, bells, carolers, a movie theater showing Bells of St. Mary’s, and the wonderful old Building and Loan.
Pottersville has bars, blaring sirens, night clubs, pool halls, fights every Wednesday night, pawn brokers, girls-girls-girls burlesque, and a Dance Hall where Violet Bick gets picked up for prostitution!

A Christmas Story: The leg lamp or the bunny suit

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. But you got to admit that sometimes it’s more fun to live in Pottersville than Bedford Falls.

Round 13
Hot mom award:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Donna Reed

A Christmas Story: Melinda Dillon

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. Melinda Dillon was much more attractive in other movies such as Slapshot and Close Encounters as she was a bit frumped up here to be believable as Darren McGavin’s wife.
Donna Reed was at the height of her beauty here, at least when she’s not closing up the library!!!

Round 14
Citation for scene disparaging to libraries:

It’s a Wonderful Life: When George asks Clarence where Mary is in the reality in which George was never born, Clarence informs him that the ultimate tragedy has happened: First she’s an old maid and even worse: “She’s closing up the library!”
I’ve got to dock It’s a Wonderful Life for this one.

Winner: by default is A Christmas Story

Round 15
Evilest teacher:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Mrs. Welch gets admonished by George when she checks on Zuzu. Mr. Welch later punches George. Should Mrs. Welch suffer for the sins of Mr. Welch?

A Christmas Story: Ralphie’s teacher can’t seem to understand the importance of the Red Ryder BB gun!

Winner: A Christmas Story. Sorry, Mrs. Welch. Nobody punches out George Bailey and gets away with it!

Round 16
Remake Problems:

It’s a Wonderful Life: I know I shouldn’t keep punishing for the sins of others, but the 1978 television remake with Marlo Thomas as the female equivalent of George Bailey and Cloris Leachman as the female equivalent of Clarence was just wrong and someone should be held responsible!

Winner: A Christmas Story, but I just found out it has a sequel of it’s own called It Runs in the Family from the 90’s. I’ve already awarded the round, so A Christmas Story may have gotten away with one here.

Round 17
Unsympathetic authority figure:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Gower the druggist smacks George on his bad ear. Booooo!

A Christmas Story: Santa Claus can’t seem to understand the importance of the Red Ryder either. Booooo!

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life. Mr. Gower wins because he does become a good guy and a friend to George (Except in the world without George where he is an alcoholic child murderer!) Ahem. Wait a second. George isn’t born and Gower becomes a drunken killer? On second thought, A Christmas Story wins. Santa just doesn’t want him to shoot his eye out, after all. He doesn’t kill anybody!

Round 18
I discovered it:

It’s a Wonderful Life: It’s just been around forever so gets no credit for discovery for me.

A Christmas Story: I was the one to discover this movie. Okay, not really. But I was one of the first to appreciate it. “Why wasn’t this more popular?” I said when it first came out. Now it is.

Winner: A Christmas Story

Round 19
Dumbest kid stuff dealing with ice:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Harry Bailey sleds onto thin ice and almost drowns.

A Christmas Story: Ralphie’s friend sticks his tongue to a frozen flagpole.

Winner: A Christmas Story. Equally stupid thing for a kid to do, but funnier in A Christmas Story.

Round 20
The ending:

It’s a Wonderful Life: George’s friends bail him out, his family embraces him and they sing Auld Lang Syne.

A Christmas Story: Ralphie dreams of making hip shots with his gun.

Winner: It’s a Wonderful Life: A Christmas Story’s ending is OK. It’s a Wonderful Life’s ending might be the most inspirational ending in filmdom. A no-brainer for It’s a Wonderful Life.

Brent Musberger: And the winner in the definitive Christmas movie sweepstakes is…wait a minute, here comes Tiny Tim Cratchit and the Little Match Girl…What could they want? Tiny Tim seems to be trying to tell me something. Excuse me…we seem to have a new development. Little Match Girl, are you in agreement? All right then. Everyone grab hands. George, Ralphie, Uncle Billy, Mr. and Mrs. Parker, Bert, Ernie, Flick, Mary, Department Store Santa...come on out. Form a line.
The final decision from these two adorable little children is that you the viewer need to find room in your holiday season for both of these Christmas classics.

Merry Christmas everybody! This is Brent Musberger reporting.


You know those You Tube or Jay Leno videos where they ask Americans simple questions like “Who is the vice-president?” and they say Donald Trump or “Who was the first man on the moon?’ and they say Don Knotts or “Name a country that starts with U” and they can’t come up with anything. (You people haven’t heard of Uzbekistan?)

I can only imagine the kind of answers we would get for “What do you know about the Bosnia-Serb war?” Or “What do you know about Bosnia or Serbia in general?” (I think Brian Bosnia was a middle linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks in the 80’s and wasn’t Serbia the one that sang Smooth Operator?)

Anyway, I’ve never seen a movie filmed primarily in Bosnia-Herzegovina, let alone one about the Bosnian war. The only choice I have in this regard and still sticking with the 1001 canon is the 2001 Danis Tanovic film No Man’s Land.

Labeled a black comedy, it doesn’t make light of ethnic cleansing, but it does make light of the folly of war. I try to not use the term anti-war because it makes me think of Kurt Vonnegut’s quote from Slaughterhouse-Five, “writing an anti-war book is like writing an anti-glacier book, both being futile endeavours, since both phenomena are unstoppable.” Besides, if something is anti-war, isn’t it from the perspective of the losing side (All Quiet on the Western Front)? If it’s from the winning side (Saving Private Ryan) would that be pro-war?

In No Man’s Land, we have two soldiers from opposing sides in the conflict thrown together. A third has a bomb underneath him that will detonate if he moves. Every time it seems the two main soldiers are beginning to bond, they end up shooting or stabbing each other and whichever one manages to get control of the gun makes the other say that their side started the war.

We also learn that UN peacekeepers are well meaning and ineffectual and journalists are vultures. My favorite line in the movie is after a shooting, the journalist’s instinct is not to help or feel the horror, but to turn to the cameraman and say, “Did you get that?”

I kept wondering where I had seen actor Simon Callow before. The answer according to IMDB was the performer that pays off Mozart in Amadeus. How did I ever manage before the Internet Movie Database?

A good film with universal themes even if you don’t know who Slobodan Milošević is.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


What is the scariest film on the 1001 movie list? The Excorcist? Psycho? Halloween? Nightmare on Elm Street? There are many candidates, but there is only one movie that has struck such fear through my heart that I have avoided it for thirty years. But because I am trying to go through every type of movie on this blog, I am going to take a deep breath and watch the one movie that I have never quite been able to muster the courage to view before. I am talking about...Alain Resanis’ 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad.
Some viewers have found it the greatest work of art ever put on celluloid. Many others…many others have been driven to madness or have tried to burn down the theater in which it is shown. I can only hope I feel more of the former than the latter.

POLICE REPORT-This is Officer Krupke reporting, I have what may be a 11-45 and I need an 11-96, yes backup, a SWAT Team. We have a librarian on the roof, not of sound mind and..yes…yes…keeps yelling that he just saw something called Less Year at Merry Abandon or something. Irregardless, please send…wait the team is here. 10-4, Out.

The crack SWAT team emerges from their vehicle and trot to the bottom of the library’s front steps. They are equipped with bullhorns and begin to speak to the librarian (known as C) who is hanging precariously from the ledge of the top floor of the building.

Captain Renault: What a wonderful bibliotheca you have here C. Why don’t you come down now, mon ami?

C: (Yelling down): No, I’m too upset with what I have just seen. My entire sense of reality has become something I don’t recognize. Last Year at Marienbad (He struggles to get the very words out) has forever corrupted my sense of reason.

Corporal O’Reilly: Perhaps this will help. (He holds a copy of Cahiers du Cinema and starts to shake it)

C: No, It’s too late for any crash course in critical theory.

Lieutenant Dan: Don’t be that way. I’ll buy you a cup of joe and a Cuban and we can discuss the pros and cons of the auteur theory.

C: Are you trying to talk me down or make me jump? I don’t buy into that…At least I don’t think I do…You see, it’s made me so confused!

General Turgenson: Boy, you just can’t accept a solipsistic viewpoint. You just don’t have the guts to take the bull by the balls and be in control!

C: Why is that my responsibility? Isn’t that the filmmaker’s job?

Ensign Pulver: Come on! Aren’t you grown up enough to accept a modernist approach?

C: Don’t yell at me! (He puts his hands up to his ears) Everyone’s yelling at me!

Captain Picard: Maybe the whole reality of that world was based on an implementation of holographic image reality.

C: (He throws his hands down in disgust) Come on Patrick! That’s nonsense.

Private Benjamin: And what about the rape scene?

C: There was no rape scene, Goldie! It wasn't Straw Dogs! Trying to pinpoint a rape scene is just critical propaganda; it’s not the truth.

Colonel Jessup: You can’t handle the truth!

C: (Almost in tears now) You’re right. I know you’re right.

Captain Spaulding: Is Cubism somehow involved? It’s like the time I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.

C: (now laughing) That joke is still funny. I needed that.

Private Ryan: And you got to admit, the mise en scene was very impressive

C: (Sheepishly) Yeah, I guess

Warr Officer Paul Brenner: And it did start to grow on you after awhile. Admit it.

C: Well, maybe a little. The organ music seemed less frightening in the second part. And some of those visuals, I’ve got to admit they were pretty impressive.

Private Ryan: Mise en scenemise en scene

C: (Smiling) Yes, Mise en scene.

Private Benjamin: And the rape scene?

C: (Nodding acknowledgement) Yes, I guess it might have been a rape scene at that if you choose the right school of interpretation.

Captain Kurtz: And in my time I’ve certianly seen worse horrors.

C: Me too, Marlon. I just sat through Grease afterall!

(All laugh except Warr Officer Paul Brenner)

Officer Krupke: So you coming down, kid?

C: Yes, I’m coming down.

C crawls through the library window. He becomes temporarily enamored with his comeover in the reflection of the elevator mirror as he heads to the bottom floor. He makes his way down a seemingly endless corridor to the front door.

C hears the applause of the SWAT team as he descends the steps at entrance of the library. When he comes out, C notices the SWAT team members have become frozen in place.

C wonders if they are frozen in time as well, loses his train of thought, shrugs, and goes home.