Quote of the Day postsTuesday June 09, 2009
"Free, White and 21"
James Allen: Must you go home?
Helen: There are no musts in my life. I'm free, white and 21."
—from "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" (1932). The Worldwide Dubya isn't much help with the phrase. One assumes it was a semi-common, possibly regional (i.e., southern) comment back in the day, but I don't see any specific reference to it before this film—which, I should add, includes a lot of black actors in roles that, while mostly non-speaking, aren't too embarrassing for the time. The line subsequently wound up in a few other films from the era: "Dames" (1935) and "Kitty Foyle" (1940). It also became the title of indie movie from 1963 about an African American on trial for the rape of a white woman.
Now That's Good Writing: Denby on “Up”
“Up,” which begins in the nineteen-thirties, is steeped in the style of that period, with its gee-whiz appreciation of exotic adventure and its worship of heroes who have journeyed to strange, distant places. A little boy, Carl, watches newsreels at a theatre, and sees an explorer, Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), first celebrated then humiliated: no one believes the skeleton of a large flightless bird that Muntz has brought back from South America is authentic. When Carl leaves the theatre, he imagines the newsreel narrator describing his walk home, turning his stepping over a crack in the sidewalk into a vault over a canyon. It’s a gracious moment: the co-directors, Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, who also wrote the screenplay, pay affectionate tribute to daydreaming as a noble and necessary human activity. In dreams begin responsibilities, and in dreams begin movies, too.
—David Denby on “Up” in the June 8th New Yorker. Read on and discover why Denby feels Pixar at its best is better than Disney at its best.
...And he's only 54
“In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, [John] Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.”
—Jeffrey Toobin in his New Yorker article “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” Worth reading in its entirety. I was a little perplexed that we got this now, rather than at the end of June when the decisions in the more controversial Supreme Court cases are announced. And the end of the piece is a little weak, particularly for Toobin, who's such a good writer. But worth reading, and considering, as the more vocal part of the conservative nation picks-a-little, talks-a-little about Pres. Obama's recent U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
The Do-Little Academy
"The Academy Awards race was hardly a gentleman's game in the 1960s. If campaigning was less costly and public than in more recent years, it wasn't due to a sense of decorum as much as to the fact that the Academy itself was half the size it is today, much more heavily populated with rank-and-file studio employees, and thus easier to manipulate and control. Oscar prognostication was not yet a blood sport; each year, the movies that would be the subject of campaigns were selected by their studios, and then essentially dictated to selected gossip columnists and writers from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and the Los Angeles Times, the only major publications that then took much notice of the nominating process."
— from Mark Harris' "Pictures at a Revolution," pg. 385
"Beatty had tried to plan his entire career by studyng the work of directors he admired, but as Bonnie and Clyde's producer, suddenly he was feeling impatient with auteurism. 'To attribute [movies] wholly to their directors—not to the actors, not to the producer, not [to] the leading lady...well's that's just bullshit!' he fumed. 'Those pictures were made by directors, writers, and sound men and cameramen and actors and so forth, but suddenly it's "Otto Preminger's Hurry Sundown"... It's not healthy."
— from Mark Harris' "Pictures at a Revolution," pg. 247, citing a Beatty quote from The Bonnie and Clyde Book
"If [Mike] Nichols felt relaxed as production [on The Graduate] began, the reason was probably that, as he puts it, 'I saw the whole thing—I knew what the movie was.' In that, he was a minority of one."
— from Mark Harris' "Pictures at a Revolution," pg. 312, citing an author interview
"The auteurist critics look for recurring patterns, the incandescent joining of visual style and idea. You can’t find such patterns, or even a consistent visual motif, in [Victor] Fleming’s movies. But you can find a powerful grasp of fable... He didn’t direct the entirety of either of his two classics [The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind], and he wasn’t, by definition, an auteur. But this absence from the list of the blessed suggests a fault in auteur theory and not in Fleming—a prejudice against the generalists, the non-obsessed, the “chameleons,” as Steven Spielberg called them, who re-created themselves for each project and made good movies in many different styles."
— from David Denby's article "The Real Rhett Butler: The forgotten man behind two of Hollywood's most enduring classics," in the latest New Yorker