Sunday, August 16, 2020

Hitchcockian Blogathon – Jumpin' Jack Flash

This post is part of the Hitchcockian Blogathon,


All of the other posts will be linked to from here as they become available.


In 1986, I don't think there was a single actress who had come as far and as fast has Whoopi Goldberg at that point in time. She had just come off a hit one-woman show on Broadway that was recorded for a HBO Special that was released to a very well-received home video. 

At this point, she only had two motion pictures under her belt, a small independent film called, Citizen, and a little film that you might have heard of from Steven Spielberg called, The Color Purple. Whoopi Goldberg was nominated for best actress for the role. Personally, I think she was robbed. In fact, I think The Color Purple was robbed (11 nominations, no wins, don't get me started). In spring of 1986, she would star in an episode of the hit TV series Moonlighting, which would bring her a nomination for a  prime-time Emmy for outstanding guest actress in a drama series.

Next up, is the discussion of today's post, Whoopi Goldberg's 3rd film, Jumpin' Jack Flash. The film is the feature film directorial debut of Penny Marshall, and from my point of view, it seems like it was built around Whoopi Goldberg's unique talent for characters and comedy. Reading the Wikipedia post on the film, Jumpin' Jack Flash originally started as a vehicle for Shelley Long. I assume but the entire film had to be reworked for Whoopi Goldberg. I can't see Shelley Long doing any of the things that Whoopi Goldberg does in the film. 

At the box office, it was a modest success, made its money back and then some. The critics on the other hand hated it almost universally. The critic for the New York times said that Penny Marshall directed Jumpin' Jack Flash "as if she were more worried about the decor than the effect of the performance." Ouch. Me, I loved it then, and I love it still. I love Whoopi Goldberg's performance. I love the kitch 80s decor and totally outlandish clothes that Whoopi wears. And the story, I thought it was a clever little Cold War thriller. You heard that right, I said Cold War thriller. This blogathon is about films emulating the films of Alfred Hitchcock, and this story puts it right in the wheelhouse.

Whoopi Goldberg plays Terry Doolittle, a computer operator at a New York bank, working in the department that handles foreign transactions. It turns out that the bank shares a satellite with Russian television and about once a day, she starts picking up a Russian aerobercise  show on Soviet TV.

Though Terry practically runs the place, she is always at odds with her conservative boss over her attire, the tchotchkes adorning her monitor, and her penchant for having private conversations with her customers. After completing business, she talks to her customers about everything from trading Springsteen bootleg tapes to exchanging recipes to hearing the down and dirty of one her French client's erotic escapades. Called on the carpet by her boss who admits she is his most productive employee, her boss tells her that if she cannot refrain from private chit chat, she will be looking for work elsewhere.

Almost immediately afterwards, Terry receives a private chat message on her machine after business hours:
Anonymous User: KNOCK KNOCK

One of her co-workers (Carol Kane) thinks that it must be her boss trying to trap her, but she knows better. Her boss is way too square to come up with something like Jumping Jack Flash. In the brief conversation that ensues, she discovers that this mysterious user is a British agent trapped in Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain. In order to help him, she must guess his code key, so they can speak privately without others eavesdropping.

From that point on, Terry is drawn into a world of spies, killers, CIA operatives, KGB moles, and an uncooperative British government as she tries to help "Jack" obtain an exit to escape Soviet-controlled territory. She must use her wits, computer skills, and quirky personality to navigate this web of intrigue.

I don't want to say much more about the plot for those who haven't seen it, which I'm guessing at this point is most people. Admittedly, certain things may seem goofy, but it plays off Goldberg's strengths for doing characters and handling outrageous situations, like when she infiltrates a British Consulate Ball, by posing as a Diana Ross impersonator.

The cast is good, a mix of comic actors that you do know and others that you do not or at least have to think about where you saw them before. Carol Kane is great as one of Terry's coworkers, the office tramp. Annie Potts is also good as one of Jack's spy contact's wife. SNL alums Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman have small roles as Terry's co-workers at the bank. Veteran actor Roscoe Lee Browne adds a little dignity as one of Jack's contacts, who despite sympathizing with Jack and Terry's predicament is unwilling or unable to help. James Belushi it's actually pretty menacing as a heavy. Finally, there's a cool cameo from Michael McKean and Tracey Ullman.

Most of the rest of the cast, you're left kind of scratching your head trying to figure out where you saw them last. Stephen Collins is good as another of Terry's seemingly square co-workers, as is John Wood as a British Consulate bureaucrat. Jeroen Krabbe (shown to the left) shines in a brief role as one of the spies.

Last but not least, we have Jonathan Pryce as Jack. You only see him in the last 2 minutes of the movie, but at one point early in the film, Terry goes into Jack's apartment and listens to his answering machine. From that point on, Terry's chat conversations with Jack feature his voice-over. Honestly, I can't think of what I've seen Pryce in before or since, though he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for The Two Popes last year. What I like about him in Jumpin' Jack Flash is the big reveal. All too often spies are portrayed as a hybrid of male model/superhero in a white dinner jacket. Jack just looks like a guy, not bad looking, but not supremely handsome either.

Production-wise, Jumpin' Jack Flash is a film of the 80s. Terry wears some of the most outlandish outfits, but her character is a quirky young woman, and that's how people of a certain ilk used to dress back then. It works for me. Her apartment looks a bit like a Spencer's exploded, then again so did mine at the time. At one point, she is forced to defend herself when she has an unannounced guest show up, and she attacks with a gigantic toothbrush. Stupid, yes, ridiculous, yes, but also funny, yes. And I remember seeing those giant toothbrushes back when, and Terry is just the type of person who would have one. The walls of her apartment is also covered with classic film posters, also a thing in the 80s, and you have to love that.

The film does suffer the typical pre-1990 computer anachronisms that most films involving computers from that era do. You get computer graphics that are reminiscent of a cell phone startup screen from when cell phones were the size and shape of a Three Musketeers bar, and they're rendered on a Sperry business machine, which probably wouldn't have had the software or processing power to render graphics anyway. Terry's monitor goes from amber to color and back again at will. Part of this is understandable, the chat messages have Jack's messages in blue and Terry's in red, which does make them easier to follow. For people who don't know, most computers in the mid-80s had either amber or green monitors that only displayed simple graphics, like lines and boxes, and text in amber (or green) on a black background. Then again, pretty much any film from the 80s looks terribly terribly dated whenever the camera is pointed anywhere a computer screen. 

All in all, I love Jumpin' Jack Flash, despite what the critics say. For me, it's a fun mix of comedy and action, poured into the mold of a Cold War thriller. As a vehicle for Whoopi Goldberg's unique brand of comedy, it works great. It was her one woman show that got her noticed and made her a star in the first place. Jumpin' Jack Flash definitely takes advantage her talent for characters and voices and making humor out of a weird situations. After all, what is an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, but one big weird situation. You take an ordinary person and throw them into a web of spies. It doesn't get much weirder than that. Admittedly, Whoopi Goldberg's character is not ordinary, but she is believable and so is the situation. Jumpin' Jack Flash has humor, intrigue, betrayal, action, and suspense, wrapped up in a Cold War spy story. If that's not Hitchcockian, I don't know what is. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Hitchcockian Blogathon - The Wrong Trousers

This post is part of the Hitchcockian Blogathon,


All of the other post will be linked to from here as they become available.


When you think of the films of Alfred Hitchcock, or in this case, films inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, probably the last thing you would think of is clay stop-motion animation. Of course, that is what makes, the Academy Award-winning The Wrong Trousers such a treat. 

The Wrong Trousers is the second a series of clay-animated films, directed by Nick Park and featuring inventor Wallace and his trusty dog Gromit that spawned two more short films, one feature-length film, and several TV spinoffs. Still not seeing it? Yeah, I kinda get that, but let's look at the story of The Wrong Trousers. Okay, for the sake of people who have never seen the film and not wanting to do spoilers, let's take a very high-level look at the story, like 40,000 feet. An man and his trusty companion are running short on money and decide to rent a room to a mysterious lodger, who they come to learn has nefarious plans.

Sound a little be more like something that Alfred Hitchcock might be involved in? See I told you. Okay, you do have to look past the fact that Wallace is an inventor whose gadgets include a system that drops you out of bed, down to the breakfast table, and dresses you just in time for the toast to pop up. And Wallace's trusty sidekick Gromit is an anthropomorphic dog, who doesn't talk, but communicates every bit as clearly through gesture and facial expressions. 

 Putting Hitchcock aside for a second, Wallace and Gromit and all of Nick Park's films are cute and funny and at times have almost roller coaster action, and The Wrong Trousers is no different. The gags are clever, and even background objects like sets and props are a hoot to look at. All of the Wallace and Gromit films are first-rate productions from top to bottom.

In The Wrong Trousers, Wallace has invented techno-trousers as a birthday present for Gromit, a mechanical pair of pants designed to take Gromit for walkies. Gromit is less than thrilled with the idea. Discovering they have piles of unpaid bills, Wallace decides to rent out the spare room. The lodger is a penguin, and despite an upbeat taste in music, Gromit suspects he's up to no good. There's even a chicken who's wanted by the police, but you're going to have to watch it to figure that part out.

I honestly don't know whether director Nick Park was consciously trying to parody Hitchcock or not, but I see it all over the place, from dramatic strains of music to heighten the tension to way he lays out the shots, going from a perspective shot to what's being looked at and then turning on a dime to lead into a truly funny gag. 

The Wrong Trousers gives you love, betrayal, action, suspense, a music score that works just the way it needs to, great perspective shots, clever visual story-telling, a jewel heist, a fight on top of a train, and situations where the feeling goes from fear to relief to humor with a grace and style that would make the Master of Suspense proud. Things go sideways and you even find yourself pulling for the bad guy, or penguin. The climactic chase is just something you have to see for yourself. In  a scant 29 minutes, The Wrong Trousers gives you everything you'd expect in one of Alfred Hitchcock's better films.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Hitchcockian Blogathon - Celebrating the Greatest Films Hitchcock Never Made

The Hitchcockian Blogathon focuses on the greatest films that Alfred Hitchcock never made. So what is Hitchcockian? Simply put, movies reminiscent of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Prime examples in no particular order would include:

  • Charade
  • Cape Fear (either version)
  • Wait Until Dark 
  • Blow Up
  • Play Misty For Me
  • Body Double
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Basic Instinct
  • Match Point
There are no restrictions on era and genre, though if you're going to shoot for My Little Pony: The Movie, you better really sell it. Still, I would love to see someone do, The Wrong Trousers. I'm going stake my claim on a Whoopi Goldberg comedy, Jumpin' Jack Flash, and I might just do The Wrong Trousers as well if no one else does.

I'm going to allow duplicates, but not triplicates (two posts on the same film, but not three). 
If you're interested in joining in, post a comment on this page with your name, the name of the film you want to do, and of course the name and url of your blog. in terms of duplicates and triplicates, first comment first served.

The Hitchcockian Blogathon comes to near you on August 13 (Hitchcock's birthday, falls on a Thursday this year) and continues through the weekend to August 16.

When posting, please use the graphic above with a link back to this page. And I will add links to individual posts from here. 

Entries so far:

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Saturday, August 15, 2020
Thursday, August 13, 2020

Saturday, April 11, 2020

TCMFF Social Distancing Madness

As we all know, the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) had to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturally, this is a huge disappointment. We're all going to miss seeing all our film cronies and hanging out and spending the better part of week geeking out about old movies.
TCM in grand style has decided to respond with a virtual Festival featuring a special weekend of programming films from previous Turner Classic Film Festivals, TCMFF Special Home Edition. Plus, many in the TCMFF community gave responded with virtual events to take the place of some of the social interactions we'll be missing by not being in the same place at the same time. With any luck, there may be more hanging out than in a normal year because we're not all running from theater to theater trying not to miss anything.

Another thing is that we don't have to make those agonizing choices when the schedule drops. Inevitably, there are always spots in the schedule where there are two or three films you want to see playing opposite each other. In years past, I have done my pics of TCMFF schedule in NCAA tournament bracket format. Frankly, I missed doing them this year. Then I thought, maybe I can do them anyway.

Next week, the TCMFF Special Home Edition will feature 45 film/programs. NCAA tournament brackets work best in multiples of 4, 8, 16 and so on. The number 45 is just shy of 48 making for three brackets of 16. The three empty spots I have set up as passes. I printed out a copy of the schedule, and cut out each film or program event onto a separate slip of paper. Then I put them in my hat, my TCMFF hat, and drew them out one at a time to put in the brackets. The first one chosen in each bracket got a "by" in the first round.

From there, it's simply a matter deciding who would win in each contest. Obviously, this is not a time machine. Some of the programs are interviews stars who have since passed away. I don't think it would be a fair to imagine I could go back in time and see them while they were still with us. This is just looking at these films and events as they are now in the Pandemic of 2020 and choosing what I think is best.

Now, I know what you're thinking, how do you get a final four with three brackets of 16. Good question, well, you get a final three, and I pick up fourth from the runners-up in the three brackets. My game, my rules. Then just to keep things fair, I did a random pic (titles in my TCMFF hat again) to see which of the three bracket winners goes up against the runner-up.

For the sake of brevity, something I'm not very good with, I'm going to limit myself to discussing just a handful of the most interesting contest in each bracket for the first two rounds. So without further ado, I give you my 2020 TCMFF Social Distancing Madness picks.

Round 1

Group A – TCL Chinese Theater

I'm not a fan of The Good Earth. It's a good thing it got the round one "by" because it never would have survived. Next, The Creature from the Black Lagoon takes on Sounder. Sounder is a good film but hey, it's up against The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Another interesting battle is The Passion of Joan of Arc vs Luise Rainer Live, not because I am huge fans of either but because of ambivalence. The Passion of Joan of Arc is a very good film, but it's sort of like watching a snuff movie. Still not a fan of Luise Rainer either so Passion moves on.

The most difficult battle in Round One Group A is North by Northwest vs The Setup. If it was a real Festival, probably the choice would be much easier. North by Northwest is a long film and would likely mean skipping two films. Plus, I have seen North by Northwest in the theater a number of times. The Setup, it's a great film noir about the crooked world of boxing with Robert Ryan. At a normal Festival, The Setup would take it. But this year, North by Northwest, my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie moves on. Shame that a film as good as The Setup gets knocked out in the first round.

Group B – Egyptian Theater

There are only two matchups to gave me a lot of trouble in this bracket. Jezebel vs. Auntie Mame, both great films in totally different ways. I saw Auntie Mame in the theater a couple of years ago, not many people there, but almost all of them were gay men who knew the film by heart, so it more than made up for the sparse attendance. This is a really tough decision. At the Festival, I don't know what I'd say but here I'm going to give it to Auntie Mame.

At the festival, Safety Last against Eva Marie Saint Live would be agonizing especially since I’ve always missed seeing Eva Marie Saint at TCMFF. She's still around so there's still a possibility of seeing her. Safety Last at the Festival would likely have a live orchestra. It would be a really really tough decision if we were in Hollywood. Social distanced, I will give it to Safety Last.

Group C – Club TCM

I saw both A Hard Day's Night and Lawrence of Arabia at TCMFF the years they played and both are awesome in their own ways. Here the edge goes to Lawrence of Arabia. A Hard Day's Night, fun movie, Lawrence of Arabia, great movie. Vitaphone Shorts was one of my favorites the year they showed it, easily moves past Neptune’s Daughter. I'm going to be there with bells on for this one.
Norman Lloyd Live against Casablanca. Again, I saw both at the Festival in years past. Norman Lloyd was awesome, he's so sharp and had great stories, my favorite story didn't even make it to the edited version they showed on TCM afterwards. Still, Casablanca is my favorite film of all time. I have to go to with Casablanca.

Round 2

Group A – TCL Chinese Theater

My toughest choice here is Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story vs Metropolis. Harold and Lillian is just a very very cute movie about a side of the movie industry that you never see. Metropolis I've only seen in the theater once back in the 80s, when they colorized it and did a New Wave score. Surely, at the Festival, Metropolis would have a live orchestra with added footage restored. That would probably be enough to do it for me. Guess what, Metropolis alone is still enough to do it for me.

Then you have, Kim Novak Live vs North by Northwest. Again Kim Novak is still with us, so this could possibly happen. Still, North by Northwest is North by Northwest, and it moves on.

Group B – Egyptian Theater

The toughest choice here is Auntie Mame up against Safety Last. Both are really great comedies, in totally different ways. I'm going with Auntie Mame.

The other tough call here is The Lady Vanishes vs Singin' in the Rain. TCM shows Singin’ in the Rain quite a bit. The Lady Vanishes, not so much. Have to go with The Lady Vanishes.

Group C – Club TCM

The toughest choice here is She Wore a Yellow Ribbon up against Victor/Victoria. Again both are great films in totally different ways. I'm going with Victor/Victoria mostly because no matter how many times I watch it, it always makes me laugh.
I just watched the trailer for Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, and wow, it looks good. At the Festival, this would be, Floyd Norman all the way. I've seen Casablanca a number of times in the theater. It's not exactly hard to do, even in a place like San Diego where they don't have a lot of theaters that show classic film. But we're not in Hollywood I have to go with Casablanca, because Casablanca. Don't get me wrong I'm going to watch Floyd Norman: An Animated Life. And if it's on it's on weird time and I can't watch it, I'm going to record it, but Casablanca.

Round 3

Now the going gets tough, only 12 left.

Group A – TCL Chinese Theater

As luck would have it, there are only two science fiction/horror movies on the list, and of course they come up against each other. This is a really tough choice for me. I'm going with Metropolis mostly because they show The Creature from the Black Lagoon fairly regular.

I've never even heard of Bardelys the Magnificent. It made it this far mostly through luck of the draw. It's a newly restored version that was scheduled to show at the 2020 TCMFF. Up against the North by Northwest, Bardelys doesn't stand much of a chance, kinda like my high school basketball team playing Gonzaga, but it still looks mighty interesting. I'm still going to try to catch it. Starting at 10:45 Sunday night my time, not sure, I'll make it, but I will record it. Regardless, North by Northwest moves on.

Group B – Egyptian Theater


Some Like It Hot vs They Live by Night is not all that tough of a choice. It's a case of good movie vs great movie, Some Like It Hot takes it.
At the Festival, the next choice would be a really tough call. The Lady Vanishes is a great movie that you never get to see in the theater. But we’re not seeing it in the theater. Thanks, Pandemic. I like Auntie Mame better, and it moves on to the Final Four.

Group C – Club TCM

Vitaphone Shorts is like that little college in the NCAA tournament that nobody expects to go anywhere, but ends up taking out some of the top teams. Here it's no different, Vitaphone Shorts over Network.

This brings us to Victor/Victoria vs Casablanca. I think you know what I'm going to say here, Casablanca.

Round 4

And then there were six.

Group A – TCL Chinese Theater

This one’s really tough. I love both Metropolis and North by Northwest, but if I really have to pick one over the other, which I do, that was the whole point of this, I have to go with North by Northwest.

Group B – Egyptian Theater

Another tough choice here, Some Like It Hot up against Auntie Mame. Frankly, I think Some Like It Hot is somewhat overrated. I definitely don't call it the greatest comedy of all time. It is a great movie and a very good comedy, but I really think Auntie Mame is funnier. Rosalind Russell for the win.

Group C – Club TCM

This one is a heartbreaker, my favorite film of all time, Casablanca, up against up against one of my favorite things I ever saw at any of the six TCM Film Festivals I've attended. Vitaphone Shorts was so cool, but here we go again, I have to go with Casablanca.

The Final Four

As I mentioned previously, for the fourth spot in the final four I was going to pick my favorite of the last round runner-ups. That honor goes to Vitaphone Shorts. I put Vitaphone Shorts in the lower left of the one bracket and then did a random draw (again from my TCMFF hat) to fill in the rest.

In case you were wondering, this is what the hat looks like
when not full of Social Distancing Madness slips of paper.

It is with great sadness that again I go with something other than Vitaphone Shorts. It comes down to I really think Auntie Mame is better, dammit. Cinderella story comes to an end.

Then we have Casablanca vs North by Northwest. My favorite film of all time against my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film. That's tough. Actually, no it's not. I knew going in that Casablanca was going to take it all.

That just leaves the final matchup of Auntie Mame vs Casablanca. This is like one of those championship games where it's a total rout. Auntie Mame is good, but good as it is and as much as I love it, it didn't really stand a chance here.

That just leaves the consolation game North by Northwest up against Vitaphone Shorts and as you probably can guess North by Northwest takes it.

Thanks a lot for playing along. I hope to get to talk to you a lot of you next week and again IRL at TCMFF 2021. So long!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival and COVID-19

The Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) Is scheduled for April 16-19 and many classic film fans are about over how the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) might affect the Festival. I'm going to start by saying that I am not a virologist. The closest I have come is my first real job out of college was a proofreader at a company that published science journal. I did proofread on numerous occasions a journal, titled Virology, but that was roughly thirty years ago. Thus, my expertise in virology is mostly limited to being able to recognize when certain words are misspelled.

I do have some experience running comic conventions, specifically Comic-Con International. Effectively, though I have no insight into the inner workings of TCMFF, but I feel it is safe to assume that the challenges TCM faces putting on TCMFF are fairly similar to the challenges Comic-Con faces running our events.

COVID-19 in Los Angeles

Though as mentioned before I am not an expert in virology, I do know a little about it, and I also know about media hype. First, if you want information about COVID-19, I suggest you go to cites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( and the ( These are the orgnaizations charged with tracking COVID-19 and protecting the public from it. These sites will give good information without trying to color it with worst-case scenarios that the 24-hour news media thrives on.

Before we move on, let's look at one of the bits on info you will find in the mainstream media. The following map was saved from (got there from a link from MSN News). By the way is a geographic information service, not a news or health organization.

Looking at this map, Holy Moses, it's frightening. If each one of these red dots was a nuclear bomb, it would spell the end of life as we know it. Fortunately, the dots do not represent nuclear bombs. For example, the red dot in Western Australia, represents two cases (per as of 11:00 hrs on 9 March 2020).

Still, the map is pretty scary. Let's see what happens when you zoom in on Los Angeles. The following is as far as the map will let you zoom in, before the dots disappear.

The large dot in Los Angeles represents (according to the Los Angeles County Board of Health, 9 March 2020) 11 cases. The dot in San Diego, where I live (according to the San Diego County, Department of Health of and Human Services, 6 March 2020) represents two cases, listed as, "Individuals on repatriation flights (2/5/20 and 2/7/20) from Wuhan, China under federal quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar."

TCMFF will be held in Hollywood in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles has a population of 10.6 million people and has reported 11 cases of COVID-19. That is a number I can almost do the math on in my head, slightly less than 1 in a million (1 in 963,636 to be exact).

The situation might get worse. This is just the way it looked on the morning of 9 March 2020. TCM has no control over this. We have no control over this, other than taking reasonable precautions, washing hands more frequently, avoiding touching the face, and so on. The situation might get worse, but it might get better, or at least, slow the rate at which it gets worse.

We are all familiar with the term, cold and flu season. Most years, the cold and flu season ends in March. In bad years, it might run as late as May. It's probably safe to assume or at least consider the possibility that this is a bad year. My understanding of the cold and flu season is that viruses thrive in the cold weather and when they become airborne, live longer. Regardless of whether or not this is a bad cold and flu season, every day that passes takes us one day closer to the end of it. Also, Southern California warms up faster than most of the country. That likely bodes well for the COVID-19 situation on Los Angeles.

TCMFF and the COVID-19 Outbreak

First off, I have met quite a few of the people who work for TCMFF. They are good people. I am sure that none of them want to put anyone in danger. I am sure they are monitoring the situation very closely. I am also sure that if a bona fide health organization suggests they cancel, they will do so. Now, I know what you are thinking. Why not just cancel it anyway, just to be safe?

Well, if you ask me, one in a million is a risk I am willing to take, and that seems like a reasonable amount of risk for not cancelling TCMFF, at least at this point in time. There is another reason for not cancelling.

You might not like it. Ready?

Money. TCM stands to lose a whole lot of it if they cancel, especially if they cancel right now. Figure every penny that has been spent to have people work on the Festival is just gone. You can't go to your employees and say, You know that project that you have been working on for 40 hours a week for the last however many months, we need that money back because TCMFF isn't happening this year.

Some things probably aren't that big of a deal. Presumably, film rentals, you don't show the films, you don't have to pay for them. Other things, not so much. You have blocked out rental of several theaters months in advance, do you get the money back that you put down to reserve those theaters? Probably not, you might get some of the money back, but it's unlikely that you would get all of it back. Hotel reservations, hotel function space reservations, and flight reservations would likely work the same. Just about anything where a deposit has been made, getting all of the money back is going an uphill battle, especially if you are cancelling just to be safe.

It's a different situation if the California Department of Health, acting on info from the Centers for Disease Control, tells you that you need to cancel. Then, you have a better chance of the getting money back, but it's unlikely that TCM would get all of it or even a large portion back.

Another issue that you might not have considered.  I think the credit card fees on normal transactions is 2.9%. TCM already paid the processing fee, when the passes sold. TCM figured that into the cost of the pass. It's the cost of doing business. If they have to refund everybody's money, they get to pay those fees again. Now, 2.9% might not seem like a lot but on a $749 Classic Pass, it's about $20 times however many passes they sold. It would be close to $60 on a Spotlight Pass. These fees would add up quickly.

I am confident that TCM has the best interest of its fans and the Festival in mind. At this point in time, deciding to continue with the TCMFF is the right decision.  I am sure TCM will continue to make the right decisions. Unless the situation gets a whole lot worse, next month, we're going to have a great time and another great TCMFF.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Best $5 Ever

I just spent the best five dollars of my life at Kobey's Swap Meet. Let me explain. For the last, two or three months my phone has been giving me trouble charging. I would plug in, and the phone would poop out the USB cable, for lack of a better term. After it first started, I googled it, and someone suggested that the problem might be dust in the charging port, so I got a floss pick and used the toothpick end to clean it. That fixed it for about two charges.

It got so bad, that the only way I could get it to charge was to use a right angle USB charger and plug it in, with the USB pushed into something like the side of a bookshelf, so the weight of the phone would keep it from unplugging itself. Even that stopped working, so I had to power down the phone, plug it in, so it wouldn't poop out. Then I had to look at it make sure it was charging. Even then, about half the time it wouldn't charge.

So I'm at Kobey's Swap Meet, and I see this guy, who fixes broken phone screens. I walk up to him and explain what's going on. He takes out a dental pick, not a plastic floss pick, but the metal thing the dentist uses on your teeth. He proceeds to pull out just a buttload of dust, lint, and God knows what. After about three minutes, he says, "Now, I can see the bottom." He works for another two or three minutes, still pulling out big glops of crap. He plugs it in. "There, 37% and charging."

"Cool, what do I owe you," I say.

"Don't worry about it," he says.

"Let me give you five bucks."

"I'll take it."

Friday, January 24, 2020

The African Queen (1951)

This post is part of the Wedding Bells Blogathon, hosted by Hometowns to Hollywood:

More posts can be found at

When you think about weddings in classic films, probably one of the last people you would think about is John Huston. Best known for his crime films, The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, and The Asphalt Jungle, or his adventures, Across the Pacific, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Man Who Would Be King, you don't really think matrimony when you think of John Huston. He makes movies about men, and often, the women serve as foils for the actions of the men.

Normally when I write about old films, I try to avoid spoilers. I can't seem to do this post without doing spoilers. If you haven't seen The African Queen and would be upset by knowing details of the plot, stop reading right now. 

Just the fact that I'm doing a post in a Wedding Bells Blogathon is something of a spoiler right there. Katharine Hepburn is the only woman in the cast. If this is about weddings, obviously Katharine Hepburn gets married, and you don't have to be Stephen Hawking to figure out whom she marries. It's not Robert Morley, who plays her brother. Eewww.

In fact, if you haven't seen the film in a while, you might have forgotten that there was a wedding in it at all. So why did I pick this film? Well, mostly, it's unique in that the audience is privy to the entire relationship of bride and groom. Their whole relationship takes place on screen. Also, one of the funniest lines in the movie and one of my favorite quotes about weddings relates directly to the ceremony.

The African Queen is not a romance, it's an adventure. And the two characters falling in love don't fall in love because of looks or romance, but because of their shared experiences on this adventure. Set in German East Africa at the outbreak of World War I, Katharine Hepburn is a missionary who lives with her brother trying to convert the natives in a small village. Their only contact with the outside world is Humphrey Bogart who delivers the mail in his boat, the African Queen, one of the only boats that can navigate that part of the Ulanga River.

Katharine Hepburn is something of a spinster, having lived a sheltered life with her missionary brother. When war breaks out, the German army burns the village and forces all the men into their army. When Katharine Hepburn's brother protests, they hit him not killing him outright, but he dies shortly thereafter from fever and possibly the injury.

With nowhere else to go, Katharine Hepburn leaves the village with Humphrey Bogart, a man she hardly knows. As British subjects, Katharine Hepburn, English, and Humphrey Bogart, Canadian, they are in a bad spot. The British forces are being held off by a German gunboat, the Königin Luise, that patrols a large lake downstream. To make matters worse, the Germans would want the cargo that the African Queen carries, a large amount a blasting gelatin

Katharine Hepburn comes up with the wonderful plan of turning the African Queen into a torpedo and using it to sink the German ship. Bogart thinks the idea is suicide and decides that the best way to dissuade Katharine Hepburn of her plan would be to take her down some rapids in the African Queen, a boat definitely not made for rough water. To his surprise, she's not frightened but exhilarated by the experience. Not only has he not dissuaded her, he has strengthened her resolve. Frustrated, he gets drunk and tells her that there's no way he's taking the African Queen down river. While Bogart is drunk and incapacitated, Katharine Hepburn, deeply offended by demon booze,  pours out his supply of gin, at least a dozen bottles.

Stuck in this little backwater and on the Ulanga River, Katharine Hepburn refuses to speak to Humphrey Bogart. Guilt-ridden, Bogart agrees to go along with her plan, even though he knows it is virtually suicide. The voyage will take them past the German fort, where surely they will be fired on. Beyond the fort, are more rapids much worse than the ones they'd already gone through.

Fortunately, luck is on their side. The sun is the German sniper's eyes, and he can't get a clear shot. The native soldiers shooting more or less randomly at African Queen manage to not hit their explosive cargo. Almost immediately after clearing the fort, they hit the rapids, and through providence, come through unscathed, So excited from surviving the ordeal the German fort and the rapids, they embrace and kiss for the first time. I always got the impression that this was the first time Katherine Hepburn's had kissed any man.

On their trip, they encounter swarms of mosquitoes, crocodile infested waters, and more rapids, damaging the African Queen's propeller, which they have to repair working underwater and using only simple tools. Eventually, the river becomes clogged with reeds, and they must pull the African Queen along with a rope through the reeds, the mud, and the muck. I won't mention the leeches. Oops, I guess I already did.

Humphrey Bogart becomes sick with fever. He knows they will never have the energy to move the African Queen off the mud. Katharine Hepburn fears they have failed and will probably die soon. She prays that God will be merciful to them on the Judgment and will judge them not on on their but their love. Just then the rainy season hits, and the Ulanga River swells with water lifting them off the mud and reeds, and onto the lake. They had only been a few hundred yards away.

They proceed with their plan to sink the German ship. Unfortunately, a storm hits, and the African Queen is lost. Humphrey Bogart is separated from Katharine Hepburn, and he assumes she has drowned. Captured by the Germans and heart-broken, he doesn't protest when the German Captain, sentences him to death as a spy. Just then, more Germans appear with Katherine Hepburn, whom they also accuse of being a spy. When Bogart tells her that he is to be executed, Katharine Hepburn says they should at least have the pleasure of telling the German captain of their plan to sink the Königin Luise.

Sentenced to death as spies, Humphrey Bogart asks the German captain if he will marry them. "It would mean a such lot of the lady."

I won't tell the rest of the story. I'm sure anyone who has read this far already knows the end of the movie. And that line, the one I said was probably the funniest in the entire movie. It's spoken by Peter Bull, the German Captain, "By the authority vested in me by Kaiser Wilhelm the Second, I pronounce you man and wife — Proceed with the execution."