San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Thursday, September 15, 2016

µ-Blog – Starting to Worry



µ-Blog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Our neighborhood borders a largely Latino neighborhood. There's a street where about every block is a store selling pinatas. They have them hanging from the awnings out front. Every one of them had one of these (right).

To me, this can only mean one thing, The Latino community is starting to embrace Donald Trump, as evidenced by making somewhat grotesque statues out of paper, filling them, and having small children beat them with a stick until they break open spilling their treasure on the ground. Make America great, indeed.

All I know is Hillary better watch her butt.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Happy 5th Birthday, #TCMParty

Today is #TCMParty's 5th birthday. I was kind of late to the party. In fact, I was kind of late to Twitter. I joined Twitter in October 2011. Most social media platforms have a heyday. It's safe to say that Twitter was well past its heyday in late 2011. I honestly don't remember why I joined Twitter. I do know that I didn't do very much with it in the first year or so and often wondered why I bothered.

I stumbled on #TCMParty one night when I was watching TCM. I noticed tweets in my feed with the #TCMParty hashtag, and it dawned on me that they were talking about the movie I was watching at that moment. It didn't take long before I joined in. 

My first tweet containing the #TCMParty hashtag was in February 2013, about On the Waterfront:

#tcmparty Why don't you drop dead now, so we can test the theory. Great line

At the time, I had done about 400 tweets. Of the more than 20,000 tweets since then, about three quarters have been on #TCMParty. It's been a great ride, lots of fun times, great people, good friends, and amazing talk on the movies I love, ranging from snarky to informative to heartfelt to intelligent.

Happy birthday, #TCMParty. Many happy returns.

Friday, August 26, 2016

µ-Blog – Bette Davis vs Brangelina


µ-Blog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

The following showed up in my Facebook feed recently. It was quoted from a famous Hollywood feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford:

REPORTER: Miss Davis, is it true that Joan Crawford would sleep with the producer in order to get a good part? 
BETTE DAVIS: My dear! Joan Crawford would sleep with the producer to get a good part -- in her HAIR!


Oh my God, that is so much better anything from any modern celebrity feud.

Bette Davis: A gazillion
Brangelina: Nil

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Remember the Alamo???

Yesterday, I was out and saw the most odd bit of graffiti I think I have ever seen in my life. It was written on the side of a building that houses a thrift shop. Why would anyone write a graffiti message that was the battle cry harkening from an event that happened 180 years ago, Remember the Alamo. It just didn't make any sense. Maybe if I was in Texas, there would be some modern but now defunct thing named the Alamo that needs to be remembered. But I'm here in San Diego, and we don't exactly embrace things, Texan. I can only think of two explanations for this anomaly.

Possibility 1 is that somewhere in Texas in the 1830s, a Texican with the rage from the Battle of the Alamo still hot in his blood managed to step into some space-time displacement portal. He was transported both through time and geographically through space to San Diego in 2016. Confused and disoriented, he still feels the need to spread to the word about the infamous event at the Alamo. He would have money, coins very likely, which could be sold as antiques or for the value of silver or gold they are made from and converted to modern currency. Using this modern currency, he could buy a Sharpie and inscribe the message that is burning in his heart. 

Possibility 2 is that a modern person, a supporter of a certain billionaire presidential candidate, has been listening the hateful rhetoric of this candidate. This person has come to think that the problems in this country are not caused by the very rich manipulating the system to give them advantages ordinary people could never dream of. This person has come to think that our current woes are caused by Latino immigrants coming across our Southern border and is using, Remember the Alamo, as a way of protesting this.

I like to think that Possibility 1 is the reason for the graffiti. I'll admit that time travel seems highly unlikely. But someone adopting a nearly two-century-old catch phase as a way of shifting the blame from the very rich to the lowest rung of our society seems equally bizarre to me. I hope that Texican manages to find his way back to where he came from.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Well, That Explains Reno

Note this post does contain spoilers on the 1934 Pre-Code film, This Man is Mine. It's a great film, well worth watching. While I do give away plot details, I don't think it would ruin your enjoyment. It's more how things unfold that make it good rather than what actually happens.

As a classic movie person, I'm well aware of the significance of Reno, Nevada, in old movies. In short, Reno means divorce.  Much of what I know about divorce in the first half of the 20th Century comes from old movies, specifically, The Women. Most of the major characters in The Women go to Reno to get their divorces, and divorce is a major theme in the film.

I honestly don't know what the Hays Office (Motion Picture Production Code) had to say on divorce. Clearly, it was openly mentioned as in The Women. His Girl Friday also refers to Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant being divorced, with Rosalind Russell speaking of spending six weeks in Reno. All I know is that when I'm watching an old movie, if Reno is mentioned, I know that means divorce.

I remember one time watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a non-classic movie friend. At one point, he asked me, "Wait, a second, I thought she was married." I had to explain that she also said she had just got back from Reno (code for divorce). Well, I always assumed that divorce was illegal in most states (it may have been in some states), but obviously not in Nevada. 

This morning, I was watching a Pre-Code film, This Man is Mine, and learned something new about divorce in the 1930s. In the film, Ralph Bellamy is married to Irene Dunne. Bellamy has an affair with an old flame (Constance Cummings) and asks Irene Dunne for a divorce. Irene Dunne says, she will give him the divorce, but only if they wait six months (figuring that Constance Cummings will move on to someone else in that time). 

Toward the end of the movie, Irene Dune changes her mind and decides to get the divorce. But instead of going to Reno, she files for divorce in New York. It is clear from the ensuing dialog that New York divorce is quite a different animal than a Reno divorce. A New York divorce meant a trial and witnesses and proof of infidelity, specifically dragging Constance Cummings character's name through the mud as the other woman. 

I assume that most normal people at the time couldn't afford a Reno divorce. Then again, the newspapers wouldn't care when Joe the plumber got a divorce. However, they would care for a wealthy society person, and the details would be quite a scandal for public figures. Hence, the Reno divorce, not a legal necessity, but a way of ending a marriage without all of the sordid details being made public. This is a nuance that I had never known before. 

Apparently, this was a nuance that my wife was unaware too. "Well, that explains Reno," she said as we were watching it unfold. That explains Reno, indeed.


Monday, August 22, 2016

µ-Blog – TCM/Ball State Slapstick Course

µ-Blog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Last night, I was watching TCM, and a promo came on for a new course in slapstick, Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies. I'm assuming this will be similar to the Into the Darkness: Exploring Film Noir course last Summer. Now, my first thought was Film Noir is a meaty subject. What could you really do with slapstick? Then again, the Exploring Film Noir course was awesome. I have every confidence that they can pull off something great with slapstick. 

With that in mind, that just leaves one question. When I finish, do I put it on my resume? I am out of work right now. I can just see how it would play out.

Interviewer:  I see you have completed a course in Exploring Slapstick in the Movies.

Me:  Why, yes I have. Do you have a cream pie handy?

For more details on the Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies course, see tcm.com/slapstick.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Lady Eve and Sleight of Hand

Last night, Film Geeks San Diego took over the Museum of Photographic Art in Balboa Park for a screening on the Preston Sturges Screwball Comedy, The Lady Eve. On hand to introduce the film and provide context to the card cheating in the movie was sleight-of-hand artist, Jami Ian Swiss. Now, I tend to not be real big on magic. I can't imagine going to a magic show, but Jami was great. I entered the lobby, and he was doing card tricks for the 25 or 30 people already there. 

Since I had just come in, he ask me to think of a card and tell him what it is. He then made it appear on the top of the deck. Of course, there is a trick. He pulls the card from somewhere and puts on top of the deck. But he did have his sleeves rolled up to mid forearm. Also he has no idea which of the 52 cards I'm going to pick and has to get access to it and somehow place it on the top of the deck, all without any of the 30 or so people standing all around him seeing how he did it. All of this makes it a pretty damn good trick.

He then turned to my 16-year-old daughter Jasmine and did an equally good trick for her. Her reaction was priceless. That alone was worth the price of admission. She didn't know what to say, which if you've ever met Jasmine, is a rare thing indeed. Since he got such a great reaction out of her, he proceeded to do two more tricks on her getting equally good reactions there as well. We then went into the theater.

The Lady Eve is a great film, one of Preston Sturges' best and one of the best Screwball Comedies you'll find as well. I never really thought about it being a con film, mostly because it works so well as a comedy. In his introduction, Swiss spoke of how well and accurately the con elements are handled. Sturges who wrote as well as directed the film really did know a little something about cheating at cards. Jami Ian Swiss pointed out that the con in con man comes from the word confidence. Confidence men work by getting their marks to believe in them, and the story they are selling, a huge part of the film.

*** Spoiler Alert *** Minor spoilers to the plot are contained in the following paragraph.

In the film, Barbara Stanwyck (Eve) and her father, Charles Coburn are confidence men who set their sights on Henry Fonda (Hopsie), an ultrarich beer baron/Ophidiologist (snake expert), who cares more for snakes than the beverage that made the family fortune. Eve does the unthinkable. She falls for her mark and decides to protect Hopsie from her father. When Hopsie learns the truth about Eve and her father, he is hurt and breaks off their engagement, despite the fact that they really do love each other. Eve decides to get revenge on Hopsie for spurning her, but ultimately cons into realizing that he really does love her.

*** End of Spoiler Alert ***

How could I not think of this as a con movie? The answer is simple. It works so well as a Screwball Comedy that you don't really think about the fact that the entire movie, Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck are actively trying to take Henry Fonda to the cleaners. 

The Lady Eve is one of those great old movies where the cast is great from top to bottom. Henry Fonda is perfect as the likable innocent dupe. Charles Coburn is also brilliant as the card-cheating father of Barbara Stanwyck. Of course, Stanwyck is wonderful as well and has great chemistry with both Fonda and Coburn. Rounding out the cast is William Demarest as Fonda's crusty, but well-meaning man servant. Finally, in a small role is Eugene Pallette, playing Fonda's father. It's the type of role that Pallette played over and over again, but could do so well that you never tire of it.

The Lady Eve has everything you'd want from such a film, good story, great performances, and humor that ranges from subtle to extremely broad, but all handled perfectly. The Film Geeks are hoping to do a series of con films next year and if The Lady Eve is any indication, it will be great. More info on the Film Geeks can be found on their facebook page. In addition, here's a sample of Jamy Ian Swiss' act from the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: