Movies postsThursday February 21, 2019
IMDb's algorithms aren't getting better. Can you figure out who this is?
The second movie is a bit of a giveaway if you‘re a fan of the film. And maybe the kids know him for “10 Cloverfield Lane.” But for the rest of us? Who first saw him maybe in a Foot Locker ad, and wasn’t there a Snicker's bar ad, too, where he's singing on a tarmac in a cowboy hat, but either way he really came into focus as the lead in David Byrne's “True Stories,” which was followed by “Raising Arizona” and “Punchline” (a movie that maybe doesn't deserve to be so forgotten?), and even though I didn't watch “Roseanne,” most of the country did, and so why isn‘t that on there? You could even go into the sad ’90s movies he made when he was so popular they turned him into a lead: “King Ralph,” “The Babe,” “The Flintstones.” He was so beloved, when they did a “Blues Brothers” sequel 15 years after the death of John Belushi, he was essentially tapped for Belushi.
Or good god how about “The Big Lebowski”??? The fuck? Dude abides but he doesn‘t? Or “Monsters, Inc.”??? Sullying Sully’s name?
Earlier thoughts on the same problem. Here, too. Plus IMDb still hasn't fixed the Chinese name issue. Plus you still can't do a character search like you could five years ago. Think of the history that's lost, or impossible to reach, because someone made that corporate decision.
Maybe it's time to nationalize IMDb for the greater good?
FilmStruck, We Hardly Knew Ye
Last night, the last night in existence for FilmStruck, the streaming service that combined Turner Classic Movies, the Warners archive, and the Criterion Collection, I watched “The Sword of Doom,” a 1966 Japanese samurai/ronin movie directed by Kihachi Okamoto, and starring Tatsuya Nakadai—the gun-wielding Elvis samurai villain from Akira Kurosawa's classic “Yojimbo.” He's a villain in this one, too—a lethal, dead-eyed warrior who only gains some aspect of humanity when he comes across a greater master—Toshiro Mifune, of course. It's a beautiful, horrifying and strange movie, with an end that compares to Kurosawa's “Throne of Blood” in the lengths it takes for the protagonist to fall. I fell in love with young Yoko Naito, who only made movies from 1965 to 1970. She's barely online.
Now neither is FilmStruck, thanks to AT&T. The partners go their separate ways and each tries to come up with their own Netflix, whose lack of classic films led me to FilmStruck in the first place.
This was part of my Watchlist at the end:
I'd already seen some of these but wanted to watch them again—including Edward Yang's four-hour masterpiece, “A Brighter Summer Day,” about Taiwan in the late 1950s.
The site was obviously designed by people who love movies. AT&T, no doubt, will give us a website designed by people who love money.
Goodbye, FilmStruck. Thanks for the Cagney movies. Thanks for being a happy place when I needed one. Au revoir, adios, sayonara, auf wiedersehen, 再见。
Fun with Subtitles: The Mayor of Hell (1933)
Watching Hollywood movies with the subtitles on can lead to some interesting discoveries.
The two images below are from the 1933 Warner Bros. flick “The Mayor of Hell,” nominally starring James Cagney, but really starring a group of ne‘er-do-well kids, led by Frankie Darro, who are somewhere between Our Gang and the Dead End Kids. They’re sent to a reform school, which is more prison than school, with a corrupt superintendent smoking a fat cigar. One of the few people in their corner, besides eventually Cagney, is the nurse, Dorothy Griffith (Madge Evans), whom the boys always call Miss Griffith. Except the subtitles are more progressive than that.
I assumed that honorofic didn't even exist in 1933 but according to Wiki it was first used in the 17th century, derived from the title “Mistress.” It was also bandied about by reform-minded folks for the first six decades of the 20th century but never caught on until the women's movement of the late ‘60s and early ’70s. Anyway, it's a mistake here. The boys are saying “Miss.” It's actually spelled on her door that way. But the subtitles keep saying “Ms.”
If the subtitles are progressive with feminist honorofics, they‘re less so with languages other than Anglo-Saxon English. One of the gang kids is Jewish, and, per the time and the stereotype, focused on money and mercantilism more than the other kids. He even begins to run a store in the reform school. But one hungry kid steals a candy bar from him and this is how he responds.
He’s saying gonif, Yiddish for thief, ya schmucks. I'm a gentile kid from Minnesota and even I know that. But then I had Philip Roth to help raise me.
George Papadopoulos in Crime School
Last night I was watching the 1938 Warner Bros. movie “Crime School,” a remake of the 1933 Warner Bros. movie “The Mayor Hell,” which was remade again as the 1939 Warner Bros. flick “Hell's Kitchen.” They‘re all about a gang of tough kids sent to a draconian reform school, run by a corrupt superintendent, and the adult, a former tough guy, who helps them out. Since they’re Warner Bros. flicks, they‘re more about reforming the reform school system than the kids. In the last two movies, the gang is played by the Dead End Kids: Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, et al.
Early in “Crime School,” after they’ve been caught in the midst of a serious crime—seriously injuring or possibly killing a corrupt pawn broker—and after they refuse to rat on the one kid who struck the blow, everyone is brought before a judge to explain themselves. Most of the kids have monickers: Squirt, Goofy, Fats, Spike, Bugs. But the judge calls them by their real names. This is the real name for Fats (Bernard Punsly):
I practically fell over. Afterwards I kept on the lookout for any Manaforts, Cohens, Flynns, Kushners or Trumps that might creep by. Crime school, indeed.
By the way, here are the stars who play the adult tough guy/social reformer in the various movies. See if you can spot the dropoff:
- The Mayor of Hell (1933): James Cagney
- Crime School (1938): Humphrey Bogart
- Hell's Kitchen (1939): Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan—social reformer? Of course, he was a Democrat then. And Jack Warner wasn't a rat.
Yes, George, it is.
Last night, my friend Nick IMed me about recent deaths. For Burt Reynolds, he said, “My fave of his is Breaking In, directed by Bill Forsyth (Local Hero &) , written by J Sayles (that guy). A little jewel.” I said I'd just gotten a Filmstruck subscription (Criterion, Warner Bros.: expect a lot of Cagney reviews) and had come across my own forgotten Forsyth jewel: the once beloved “Gregory's Girl.” A few years back I'd been looking for good movies about adolesence/growing up for my nephew, got a few good ones (“Dazed and Confused”), couldn't find others (“Twist and Shout”), and had completely spaced on “Gregory‘s.” For shame.
“Whatever happened to Forstyth?” I wondered. “Is he still making movies?”
Nope. Done before 2000, according to IMDb. This quote in his bio may explain:
And so the passion ultimately fizzles out because of the limitations of the goal; because movies are really not that important. At the very end of the day you’re sitting with an audience of four or five hundred people and all they want is to be entertained. You see we‘re dealing with a medium which really only wants to involve itself in the superficial manipulation of emotions.
That’s one of two “personal quotes” IMDb lists. As much as it jibes with my own experience, I think I like the second quote better. It's actually a lot like the first, it just sounds more Forsythian. I‘ve put it in dialogue form:
Reporter: Why aren’t there any bad guys in your films?
Forsyth: Everybody has reasons.