erik lundegaard

Movies posts

Saturday March 02, 2019

Cagney? Yella?

At the bottom of its trivia section for each movie, IMDb includes facts with spoilers. They use this warning:

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

And sometimes very suspect plot points. This was among the trivia items for “Angels with Dirty Faces”:

For years, viewers have wonder whether or not “Rocky” Sullivan (James Cagney) really turned yellow as he was being strapped into the electric chair. Some have wondered if he was faking it in order to keep his promise to Father Jerry. When asked about the scene years later, Cagney says he chose to play it in such a way so that the audience could make their own decisions as to whether or not he was faking.

I shouldn't slam IMDb alone since others, including film scholars, have said the same. But what idiot watches “Angels with Dirty Faces” and thinks Rocky actually beccomes scared at the sight of the electric chair—that he isn't pretending to turn yellow to help Father Jerry, who wants to make sure the Dead End Kids don't idolize him into death and possibly follow his path (into crime and death). The movie is almost pointless if you think he's actually scared; his sacrifice is the point. He's not only giving up the one thing that matters most to him but the only thing he has left: his honor, his street cred, all of it. That's why Father Jerry looks heavenward with tears in his eyes: He knows the sacrifice his long-time friend has made for him and the kids. Forgive him, Lord, for he knows what he does. 

Good god, people, it's not close to ambiguous.

“Angels”' trivia page also includes this: “The film takes place in 1923 and 1936.” It's actually 1920 and 1938. I‘ve submitted a correction to IMDb. We’ll see if it takes. (Reader: It did!)

Ending of Angels with Dirty Faces

Walking the last mile. The question is “Will he fake it?” not “Is he faking it?”

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Posted at 05:58 AM on Mar 02, 2019 in category Movies   |   Permalink  
Saturday February 23, 2019

Beware Public Domain Movies

Just a reminder when searching for movies to stream: If it's a movie that's in the public domain you‘ll probably get more than one option. Last weekend I watched “Beat the Devil” for the first time and began it with a dead-awful version: blurry and dark (bottom pic). I recovered with the top-pic version, which has a vague, stretched kinescope feel to it, but at least you can see what you need to see. Chiefly Gina Lollobrigida. 

two versions of BEAT THE DEVIL

Both of these were on Amazon Prime ... which, it turns out, has a third version, which I found after I’d finished the film. That one's even better.

Thus the lesson: If you‘re watching a really shitty streamed version of an old film, chances are it’s in the public domain. Look around. 

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Posted at 03:18 PM on Feb 23, 2019 in category Movies   |   Permalink  
Thursday February 21, 2019

‘Known For’

IMDb's algorithms aren't getting better. Can you figure out who this is

John Goodman known for IMDb

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? 

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Posted at 07:02 AM on Feb 21, 2019 in category Movies   |   Permalink  
Friday November 30, 2018

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:

FilmStruck RIP

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。

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Posted at 03:22 PM on Nov 30, 2018 in category Movies   |   Permalink  
Saturday September 22, 2018

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. 

 Mayor of Hell: Ms.

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. 

Mayor of Hell: gonif

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.

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Posted at 04:16 AM on Sep 22, 2018 in category Movies   |   Permalink  
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