Friday Art: Movies, Five Cents by John Sloan (1907)

I’ve posted Sloan before and will again since I’m a big fan of the Ashcan School material. Even if much of it centers around city life in New York where I’ve never lived, everyday modern city life is, well, everyday modern city life everywhere, really. So I always like seeing the simple scenes of everyday people livin’ the life.

And what a tiny movie theater Sloan shows us here – such a small, cramped space with that hint of a wall and lowering ceiling in the upper left – but that’s the way it was in 1907, barely out of the nickelodeon era, right around the time DeMille and others began filming in Hollywood and not New Jersey. In 1907, no American knew who Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton or even who DW Griffith was yet. It was all in its infancy, usually depicting plain and boring domestic dramas, hints of which Sloan gives us on that black and white screen.

Our audience is prety well dressed, racially mixed, and unlike modern audiences, not texting on their damn smartphones. They’re all fixated on the screen, except for the center figure looking right at us, as if we’re the ones coming down the aisle with the popcorn to sit next to her.

And if movies were five cents again, maybe I’d go more often.

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Edward G. Robinson Needs To Behave Himself, Twice

In 1944 & 1945, Edward G. Robinson appeared in two similar noirs alongside Joan Bennett as the femme fatale and Dan Duryea as the sleazy blackmailer/crook in a pair of films directed by Fritz Lang. And both of them are well worth seeing.

Robinson finally got to stop being typecast as tough-guy gangsters by the late 1930s, and made a bunch of films in the 1940s where he played more dweebish and often psychologically damaged men confronted with the awful price of their desires, like his role in The Red House (1947) (No, not THAT Red House with best youtube ad ever). While his Pete in The Red House is crazy with a deep dark secret, the pair of characters he plays in Lang’s The Woman In The Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945) are simply nebbishes who wind up way in over their heads when they fall for characters played by Joan Bennett.

In “Window,” Robinson plays a bookish professor who sends his family off on vacay and then swoons over a painting hanging in a gallery outside his stuffy men’s club, only to meet the model herself, played by Bennett. Soon he’s having a drink with her, her angry boyfriend shows up, starts a fight and winds up dead. Robinson and Bennett conspire to hide the body, and then Raymond Massey as the District Attorney friend of Robinson’s actually calls him in to work on the case, even though the truth of it will lead to him. And then, things get more complicated when blackmailer Dan Duryea shows up…

Continue reading “Edward G. Robinson Needs To Behave Himself, Twice”

Oscar 2019

And that’ll be me, during the awards.

I used to watch the thing at a big gathering akin to a Superbowl party, every year.

No more.

It broke me, what can I say? I can’t sit through what is perennially an AWFUL show where a very, very troubled industry that feels like a total shell of its glamorous past kisses its own ass in front of an ever-shrinking TV audience. Sure, if they brought back Rob Lowe singing to Snow White, maybe… but I’ll pass.

There are some good and great movies among the nominees and eventual winners, I’m sure. A lot of the people being honored are great talents, both in front of and behind the camera.

And I can always watch the movies themselves later. I don’t need to sit through the award show drek.

I don’t even bother making predictions anymore, as I used to on this blog in advance of filling out a betting pool ballot at whatever part I attended that year. Best Picture? Probably Roma, but who knows? Glenn Close will probably get a career nod and win Best Actress. Rami Malek has won every other award so far, so Best Actor won’t be a surprise. And the rest…. I just don’t care.

The only 2018 films I saw (so far) were The Incredibles II (disappointing after loving the first one so much, all the noms you’d expect and it will probably lose to Spiderman Into The Spiderverse for animated feature), The Death of Stalin (excellent, and did not get any major noms, which figures) and The Favourite (not bad, not great, maybe I’ll write a detailed review soon, got a ton of noms). There are others I’ll see eventually. Whatever. But I’ll have to cull my way through the overloaded landscape of assembly-line Marvel/DC/Star Wars comic book adolescent crap and find whatever they made for adults.

And get off my lawn.

I’d rather have an Oscarcast overloaded with big-name glamorous movie stars whose presence in a film immediately sparked your interest in seeing it… and that explains why I watch so many old movies. I’ll have a post on a couple of old Fritz Lang noirs with Edward G. Robinson up soon. And if you love film, don’t those 2 names spark your interest? I’d be hard pressed to think of nearly any leading actor/actress in 2019 whose mere presence in a cast would get me interested in seeing the movie. Maybe Hollywood should work on that.

A Pair Of ’70s Crime Capers: The Silent Partner (1978) and St. Ives (1976)

The vast majority of the crime ‘n’ mayhem category in my to-watch list are old black & white b-movies from the ’40s and ’50s, and I was more in the mood to see some out of date fashion and even more out of date social mores in living color, so I watched these two. One was very good nearly great, the other not so good but not terrible.

Do you like my precise review categories? Why, you’re welcome.

Let’s start with the good-to-great The Silent Partner, directed by long-time TV director Daryl Duke and scripted by none other than Curtis Hanson, from the novel “Pick Any Number.” Gould plays a nerdish bank teller in Toronto who puts himself into a chess-like battle of power and brains with a psycho robber played by Christopher Plummer. Gould figures out that Plummer is casing the bank, sets it up to skim money from the robbery, but then Plummer finds out, and wants his money…. and then the two of them keep trying to screw the other one over. And it’s wonderfully clever and fun.

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When An Army Of Cats Doesn’t Kill Enough: “Eye of The Cat” (1969)

You’d think a movie about a house full of cats who’d kill to protect their crazy sick old lady owner from a murder-inheritance scam would be a great movie, but alas… this one fell way short.

I was surprised I’d never heard of this one before last week, and it went right to the top of my considerably long to-watch list. (I know how most men brag about the length of their to-watch list, but mine really is huge.)

Eleanor Parker was only in her late 40s when this got made, yet she plays the crazy old dying-of-emphasema aunt living in a big ol’ San Francisco mansion filled with hundreds of cats. (I guess that’s where you end up after being so thoughtlessly used by Stephen Boyd in The Oscar). Michael Sarrazin plays the free wheelin’ free lovin’ wayward nephew recruited by Parker’s hairstylist (Gayle Hunnicut, pictured above) to return home, get the will changed in his favor away from the cats, and then to knock off the Aunt for the money, to be split with said hairstylist.

But he has a DEATHLY AND PARALYZING FEAR OF CATS dating back to childhood, so this will…

Oh Gawd…. this movie took what was a decent basic concept and blew its potential in so many ways, I don’t know where to begin.

Continue reading “When An Army Of Cats Doesn’t Kill Enough: “Eye of The Cat” (1969)”

Some Fun Science: How Dolphins Get High

Pufferfish will spew out a toxin when threatened that’ll paralyze or kill their enemies.

But dolphins only get stoned off it. And being dolphins, amazingly intelligent animals, they’ve learned to seek out & pass pufferfish amongst themselves, all taking hits off the bong, according to this Smithsonian article.

Money quote: “The dolphins’ expert, deliberate handling of the terrorized puffer fish, Pilley told the Daily News, implies that this is not their first time at the hallucinogenic rodeo.”

Fa loves pa, but loves getting blasted a bit more, I guess.

Me? I’ll be finishing a bottle of wine I started the other day with my dinner tonight. Flipper was not invited.

Possibly The Greatest Cast Ever Assembled

Let’s park ourselves on the sofa for tonight’s entertainment, shall we?

Sweet! Another cop-gone-bad early ’50s crimefest, with tough talkin’ fedora wearin’ men and dangerous dames.

Our cop gone bad finds a dark alley, shoots a numbers runner in the back and lifts the twenty five grand he carried. And then he starts the big cover up, claiming the guy ran on him and a shot went bad.

You can tell the bad cop by the Bill Belichick scowl and ciggie… none other than Edmond O’Brien, stalwart character actor found across genres. His former protegĂ©, now Det, Sgt, is John Agar, who’d go on to appear in tons of westerns and some notably awful scifi like Attack of the Puppet People.

So why did O’Brien murder for money? Well, to afford his 1950s dreams of domestic suburban bliss, you dummy! Can’t do that on a cop’s salary, ya chucklehead. Watch him take his good-girl squeeze to the model house in the new neighborhood.

A swell modern living room.

Yes, a fully furnished model! None of this real estate-staging BS for these two. A place where you can dream that every dinner party has the candelabra for that Liberace feel.

The innocent girlfriend is Marla English in her first credited role. She’d do a few more minor films in the ’50s before getting married for real and leaving the biz behind. I’d like to think she got an actual living room like that.

But outside…. our crooked cop is hiding the dough.

And it goes from there.

Continue reading “Possibly The Greatest Cast Ever Assembled”

Bookending Anthony Mann, 2 Movies: The Great Flamarion (1945) and A Dandy In Aspic (1968)

I’ve always liked Anthony Mann’s directorial work, especially the old cheap noirs he mostly started his career with, as well as the string of westerns he did throughout the 1950s. While deciding to work my way through his later 1960s material by beginning with his final film, 1968’s A Dandy In Aspic, I also wanted to go back and hunt out any other noirs or westerns I might have missed out on.

The late 40s-early 50s noirs like Raw Deal or Border Incident are especially good, so I thought I’d check out an earlier cheapie from his catalogue, 1945’s The Great Flamarion, with Erich Von Stroheim, Mary Beth Hughes and Dan Duryea.

Told in flashback, this one has a nice creepy vibe throughout. Von Stroheim tells us the story of how he fell prey to scheming femme fatale Mary Beth Hughes. It’s weird to watch Von Stroheim as a would-be romantic in this movie, especially knowing all the entertaining stuff about his real life escapades, never mind not being able to blot out the image of him playing Max in Sunset Boulevard every time he turns up on screen.

And the vaudeville act he does will make yer skin crawl! Hughes and her husband (Duryea) pantomime a wife & her lover sharing a drink, but then in what is supposed to be comedy, the angry husband returns (Von Stroheim) and his sharpshooting act begins.

Continue reading “Bookending Anthony Mann, 2 Movies: The Great Flamarion (1945) and A Dandy In Aspic (1968)”

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