Friday, May 30, 2014

As easy as 1-2-3

Alright, alright, alright...

In ten years of self-publishing comics, I never got as many "awards" as I've gotten in not-quite-four years of blogging! Anyway, thank you, Aurora, for bestowing upon me this latest laurel, the ABC Award. 

Y'know, as I sit here today, looking out over this virtual sea of faces through my laptop, I think about how I got where I am today... it didn't just take hard work and dedication. Nor did it take a passable knowledge of film history and a sharp, bracing wit that has made Wide Screen World a legend from one side of my bedroom to the other... No, it took something more. Something deeper... something more important than all of these things put together!

It took $2.50 off of my Metrocard!

Okay, so what do I gotta do here? Use each letter of the alphabet to describe myself? As if I haven't bored you all to death about my so-called life already? Sure, I can dredge up a few more tidbits. Why not?

These are the ABCs of me, baby...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Books: Main Street

The 2014 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge is an event in which the goal is to read and write about a variety of books related to classic film, hosted by Out of the Past. For a complete list of the rules, visit the website.

When I first saw the movie Dodsworth, it genuinely moved me in a way that movies sometimes do. In time, I learned that it was based on a book by a writer named Sinclair Lewis, whom I had never heard of. When I saw a later movie also base don one of his books, Elmer Gantry, I found I recognized it as being of a piece with Dodsworth; that is, I could imagine it as also being based on a work of his, even though Gantry was made later, by different people. (No, you didn't miss anything; I never wrote about Gantry. I don't write about every movie I see.)

I knew then that I had to seek out one of Lewis' books. Instead of Dodsworth or Gantry, however, I picked a novel I was completely unfamiliar with: Main Street, one of his earliest. Lewis was born in Minnesota, attended Yale, and moved to New York for awhile where, after several preceding novels, his professional literary career took off. Main Street came out in 1920 and was his first big hit. Subsequent books included Babbitt, Elmer Gantry, Dodsworth, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Arrowsmith, which made him the first American to win the Prize for literature.

Main Street was made into a movie twice: a silent version in 1923 and a talkie in 1936, with the unfortunate title I Married a Doctor. (You'd think it was a 50s horror movie with a title like that.) I know this because of a Twitter conversation I had months ago with fellow film bloggers Page and Cliff. Cliff, you see, had just written a post on his blog about Doctor, which led to an extended chat about the works of Lewis.

Sinclair Lewis
 In Main Street, Carol and Will are newlyweds living in Gopher Prairie, a tiny Minnesota town. He's a doctor, she's a housewife. Carol is new to Will's hometown, having come from the much bigger St. Paul, and she wants it to be a little livelier. She wants to bring culture and class to a community that prefers a more laid-back and insular vibe, and this longing leads to conflicts between her husband and the residents of her new home.

My attitude towards Carol kept changing. At first she came across as stuck up and judgmental for looking down her nose at Gopher Prairie. After awhile, though, she was much more sympathetic because I could easily imagine wanting the same things if I were in her shoes. The residents of GP aren't necessarily bad people, but they are provincial and set in their ways, and if I were forced to live among them every day, I'd get bored after awhile too. Carol does her best to try and fit in, but many (not all) of her neighbors don't make it easy for her.

The story is long - over 500 pages - and I thought it really dragged in the middle. It reached a stage where we just kept seeing, over and over, variations on "Carol tries to liven up Gopher Prairie," "Carol doesn't feel close to Will anymore," "Carol can't relate to other people in Gopher Prairie," etc. 

'I Married a Doctor,'
w/Pat O'Brien & Josephine Hutchinson
Near the end, she makes an important decision and I thought that would be the finish, but the story goes on, past the point where I thought it was really necessary. Without getting too spoilery, I thought the simple fact that she found the strength to make this decision was enough, given what she had gone through to that point. What came afterwards seemed a little anticlimactic, leading to a slightly unsatisfying (for me) ending. 

Still, it's a decent book, and Carol is a strong character. Main Street is insightful as a time capsule of the early 20th century. Lewis works cultural references into the story, and in the copy I have, the Barnes & Noble Classics edition, footnotes are provided explaining their significance. Lewis captures the fictitious town of Gopher Prairie well, including lovely descriptions of the surrounding countryside. I'd be willing to sample another one of Lewis' novels, though not just yet.

Look for more entries in this series throughout the summer.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Indie movies in small(er) towns

...I often complain that Huntsville is not a movie person's town. It's a two hour drive in any direction to the nearest art house or revival theater. This is an engineer's town, a NASA town, so I know the population doesn't get all worked up about Joan Blondell and Buster Keaton the way I do. You would, however, think there would be a strong interest in a movie about physicists discovering the Higgs-Boson particle and a movie about the struggle to adapt one of the most influential science fiction novels of all time into a revolutionary film. Engineers love science, right? Aren't they really into science fiction? 
Living in New York, it is so damn easy to take the accessibility and availability of movies, past and present, Hollywood blockbusters and no-budget indies, for granted. Last week, I put together my schedule of outdoor films to watch this summer, a list that currently includes, among other things, a silent film, a French film, an Italian film and a classic Hollywood musical. These older, somewhat esoteric films are all gonna be shown for free - and if past experience is any indication, I expect each and every one of these films to be well attended.

So when Jennifer put up this piece about the tough time non-Hollywood movies have in her hometown, it reminded me, once again, of the year I spent living in the Midwest, far away from a major market city, and what the audience for indie films was like there.

Wexner Center for the Arts
Columbus, Ohio is a college town - proud home of Ohio State University and the dearly beloved football Buckeyes. As such, it attracts a diverse crowd, one that certainly favors the arts. The monthly Gallery Hop, in which the SoHo-like neighborhood of the Short North opens its galleries late for one Saturday night, attracts huge crowds and is always festive and lively. The Wexner Center for the Arts is one of the Midwest's best multimedia venues and consistently attracts world-class visual and performing arts exhibits.

And one can see independent films in Columbus. The Drexel in suburban Bexley is a classy art-deco theater that brings in top-notch indies. The Wex often presents indie films, sometimes with filmmaker appearances. And the Gateway Film Center usually mixes indies in with mainstream Hollywood stuff.

My experience with indie films in Columbus was mixed in terms of audience size. The Wex tended to consistently attract the bigger, more sophisticated crowds, relatively speaking. I saw the low-budget animated film Sita Sings the Blues there, and that drew a decent crowd for a film that had to rely completely on word of mouth. I also saw Steve McQueen's first film Hunger there; it played at the Wex before it came to New York, in fact. I don't remember the size of that crowd but it wasn't small - and this, of course, was long before McQueen became an Oscar-winning director/producer.

The Drexel
I would often go to the Drexel on Mondays, which is their cheapie day, so crowds tended to be a little bigger on those days. Still, audience sizes varied. I remember seeing the documentary Religulous there with maybe three or four other people, but Milk had a much bigger crowd. As for the Gateway, one of the first films I saw in Columbus was there; Frozen River. That also had a tiny audience, though it was a mid-afternoon show. In addition, there was a tiny one-screen theater on the west side of town (since replaced by a newer one) where I saw the documentary Man on Wire, to another tiny crowd. That theater was on its last legs at the time, though. Plus, Columbus, believe it or not, has the distinction of hosting North America's oldest film festival.

At the time, I felt grateful I could see movies like these, even if I had to wait a little longer for them than I would in NYC. The Drexel was in some financial trouble for awhile when I was there, and I do remember thinking that it wasn't getting the support it deserved. They're still around today, so I can only conclude that people do still want indie films in Columbus. Other than that, though, I don't remember consistently thinking that indies had it rough there. I suspect crowd size depended on stars & subject matter, venue and visibility, among other things. I still follow the Drexel on Facebook, and they still bring in quality indie films, foreign and domestic, so somebody's watching them.

From LA to Little Rock, indie films will always have to compete with big-budget Hollywood films for attention at the box office, and Hollywood will always have the upper hand, especially in the summertime when everyone wants to see superheroes and cartoons and whatnot. I've never been to Huntsville, so I can't speak to what it's like there, obviously, but there are times when I'll see a small crowd for an indie movie at the Kew Gardens here in Queens, and I'll feel the same sense of frustration as Jennifer - "Why aren't more people seeing this?" Still, theaters aren't going away anytime soon, even in this age of online streaming and video-on-demand, and as long as that continues to be true, I figure all we can do is continue to turn out for indie movies, whether it's one person or a hundred... because the theater is still the best way to see a movie. Any movie.

Friday, May 23, 2014


seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

I used to work in Williamsburg, which is adjacent to Greenpoint - about as far north as you can get in Brooklyn before you hit Queens. Greenpoint is - or perhaps was is more accurate - a Polish neighborhood. Actually, I suppose you can still say "is" because plenty of Polish people and businesses still thrive there, so it hasn't completely gentrified yet.

Manhattan Avenue is the main drag. You'll see lots of storefronts with Polish names on the signs and items: bakeries, cafes, restaurants, markets, all mixed in with Dunkin Donuts and 7-11 and McDonald's and Starbucks. There's a deli I'd go to before work in the morning, right after I got off the train, where I'd get a makeshift breakfast of orange juice and a croissant. And since my workday began at seven, I came to rely on it a lot.

I can't say I know a great deal about Poland outside of the context of World War 2. I'd hear Polish jokes as a kid without knowing why Poles were made fun of. I knew a Polish-American girl in college. That's about it. So watching this movie Ida was quite illuminating. (I'm pretty sure I've seen other Polish movies before, but not many, and I can't think of any right now.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Spoiler Experiment pt. 2: Million Dollar Arm

Spoiler Experiment pt. 1: Draft Day

Million Dollar Arm
seen @ Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas, Jamaica NY

I first watched the trailer for Million Dollar Arm sometime in late January/early February, and while I knew this movie would serve well as the "spoiler" movie in my Spoiler Experiment - i.e., the movie I'd learn everything about in advance - I have to admit it didn't exactly excite me. 

Like my "blind" movie, Draft Day - the one I went into knowing almost nothing about - it's about a middle-aged sports businessman searching for new talent through unconventional means, which is why I chose to pair them for this experiment, but it's also a Disney movie, based on a true story, so I knew it would also be a safe, middle-of-the-road, unchallenging piece of cinema. (Not that I thought Draft Day would be the Last Year at Marienbad of sports movies.) Basically I was going for as similar an experience as possible.

Monday, May 19, 2014

5 movies set at World's Fairs

The Unisphere, the symbol of the '64 Fair
Yesterday, I attended a very special event - a festival celebrating the anniversaries of the two World's Fairs held in New York: the 1939-40 Fair and the 1964-65 Fair. Both Fairs, as well as yesterday's festival, were set here in Queens, at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, across the street from CitiField and the 7 train, home to tennis' US Open and repository of many childhood memories.

I played and hung out in Flushing Meadows a lot as a kid, and though I had a vague awareness that it was home to the World's Fair, it existed only as something from the dim and distant past, long before I hit the scene. Naturally, I saw the relics of the Fair - the Unisphere, the New York State Pavillion, the Terrace on the Park - but to me, these were just cool looking objects that were part of the park, like slides and swings were part of my grade school park.

This year, I've had cause to re-examine Flushing Meadows from a historical perspective. For instance, the Museum of the Moving Image currently has an exhibit featuring clips from promotional films for the '39 and '64 Fairs. Seeing the park from the context of the Fairs, as part of a worldwide attraction that was visited by tons of people, was exciting. I especially liked seeing the Unisphere being built. A giant steel globe tilted at an axis and mounted on a base, the Unisphere was built for the '64 Fair and has since grown to represent Queens in general, but once upon a time it had a much larger significance, and now I feel a bit more aware of that.

The New York State Pavillion
At yesterday's festival, there was a wide variety of music, food, park-related exhibitions, art, and more that commemorated the past and celebrated Queens in general. The Pavillion, a giant circular structure which has since fallen into disarray since its construction for the '64 Fair, was open to the public, and I had the distinct pleasure of walking around inside it for the first time ever. 

You've gotta understand - in all the years I've been to Flushing Meadow, playing in it with friends as a kid and hanging out in it as an adult, I've always taken the Pavillion for granted. I knew next to nothing about its history other than that it was once part of the Fair. It meant little to me - for a long time, I didn't even know what it was called - and now, to have been inside it and to fully grasp its significance... it was quite a moment. (Incidentally, there's a movement afoot to save and preserve the Pavillion.)

On top of all this (though by pure coincidence), I'm currently reading the true crime book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, the story of a serial killer who operated during the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 (great book!). So it's safe to say that I've had World's Fairs on my mind lately. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a look at five examples of how they've been depicted in movies.

- Meet Me in St. Louis. Might as well start with the best known one. The St. Louis Fair of 1904 was the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, commemorating the centennial of the notable land deal with France that gave America much of its Midwest. Among the highlights included a large bird cage, the world's biggest organ (at the time), a wireless telegraph tower, and a concession devoted to the Anglo-Boer War. Dr. Pepper and Puffed Wheat cereal debuted at the fair.

Meet Me in St. Louis was, of course, inspired by the song "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis," which is in the movie. Judy Garland is radiant, and the songs she sings, such as "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," have become American standards. Could've done with a little less Margaret O'Brien, but otherwise it's an all-timer.

- It Happened at the World's Fair. Seattle is the setting here. They had their Fair, the Century 21 Exposition, in 1962, during the "Space Race" with the Soviet Union, and science & technology was a major motif. The Space Needle was constructed for the Fair and has since become the symbol of Seattle in general. In addition, the Monorail and the sports facility now known as the KeyArena were built for the Fair.

It Happened at the World's Fair was an Elvis movie, made after Jailhouse Rock but before Viva Las Vegas. He sings a song called "Take Me to the Fair" on a ukelele to a kid. There's a scene in the Space Needle, of course. It's also Kurt Russell's debut film, back when he was a child actor. He kicks Elvis in the shins!

- Charlie Chan at Treasure Island. San Francisco's Golden Gate International Exposition was held in 1939-40 (the same years as the New York Fair) on Treasure Island, an artificial island built for the Fair. The Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge were relatively new at the time, and the island is where the two spans meet. The Pacifica statue, an 81-foot sculpture of the goddess of the Pacific Ocean, was the symbol of the Fair.

The 22nd Charlie Chan movie (and the third featuring Sidney Toler as Chan), he heads out to SF during the Fair to investigate the death of a friend. Was it suicide - or murder? There's real footage of the fair, including aerial shots, in the film. Some say the Zodiac killer was inspired by this film to go on his killing spree. Plus, a young Cesar Romero.

- So Long at the Fair. Paris' Exposition Universelle was held in 1889 and it gave the world the Eiffel Tower, named for its designer, Gustave Eiffel, and though people were less than thrilled with it at first, it would go on to become world famous and synonymous with Paris, and indeed, France itself. Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley performed there as part of their Wild West Show.

So Long at the Fair is a Jean Simmons movie in which she searches Paris during the Fair for her missing brother, whom no one acknowledges as ever having been in Paris - even though he was. It's allegedly based on an urban myth. The title comes from a lyric to a popular song at the time.

- Gamera vs. Monster X. Expo '70, or Osaka Banpaku, was held in Osaka, Japan in 1970. IMAX debuted there. A moon rock from the Apollo 12 mission was on display, as were mobile phone prototypes. The Landmark Tower was built for the Expo, as was the Tower of the Sun, a structure with three human-like faces on its facade, moving staircases and an artificial tree inside. It inspired a song by Shonen Knife.

Even a Japanese monster movie has a Fair connection! Gamera is basically a giant turtle. He debuted in 1965 and there have been twelve films in the series (so far; now that the new Godzilla seems to have done well, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we see him again). Gamera vs. Monster X (AKA Gamera vs. Jiger) was actually filmed at the Expo. It sounds like a cheaply made kiddie film, but I'm sure it's loads of fun.

Friday, May 16, 2014


seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens NY

It's those dresses. They're... distracting. Whenever I watch a period piece set in the 19th century or earlier, I just can't help but be distracted by them. Yes, I realize that it's the corsets underneath them that create all that generous cleavage, and yes, they're probably uncomfortable as hell, but... usually, they're the only thing that keeps me awake whenever I watch a period piece. Most of the time, all those movies about Lady Such-and-Such and her secret burning passion for Sir So-and-So as they wander around their English mansions with their butlers and maids and tea bore me to death. Though there are exceptions, of course.

I wish I could say Belle was one of them. It's unfortunate that this came out so soon after the superior 12 Years a Slave. Comparisons have no doubt been drawn, even though the two films are quite different, and while I could tell from the trailer that Belle would be much more glamorous and Hollywoodized than the Best Picture Oscar winner, I still felt obligated to give it a look at least - unless it turned out to be irredeemably bad.

It was not irredeemably bad. But even if it did not suffer from living in the long shadow of 12 Years, I still wouldn't think much of it beyond its earnest effort to shine a light on the history of the slave trade - and "earnest" is definitely the word to describe Belle. It wants you to respect and love it, whereas 12 Years couldn't give a damn what you think of it.

You can figure out the plot from the trailer: 18th century English white man fathers a biracial girl from a black slave; she's raised in a white family of prestige but is never truly one of them; falls in love with a white man and must fight for her right to party be treated equally. Plus some real world stuff. This whole movie, in fact, is based on a true story. (Everyone calls her Dido but the movie is called Belle. Did the filmmakers assume people would think of the singer instead?)

The first half is exactly what you'd expect - Belle as tragic mulatta, right down to the scene where our Halfrican heroine pulls and picks and tears at her cafe au lait-colored skin, ashamed of all the trouble it's brought her. I don't mean to sound cynical about it all, especially since this is directed by a sister, but this is all familiar territory. It's Imitation of Life and Pinky in fancy dress. Still, I suppose it is necessary to set up the other side of the story, regarding a slave ship lost at sea and whether or not the crew threw its slaves overboard as a cost-cutting measure - a case that Belle's adopted father must judge. It's a fascinating bit of history, but it's supplementary to our heroine's tale, and the outcome is never in doubt.

When I wrote about 12 Years, I said that that I was worried that Hollywood would continue to mine black history at the expense of modern black stories. I'm glad that a black woman director, Amma Asante, got the opportunity to make this, and that a young new actress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, got to star in it, and I hope they both get more opportunities in the future, but seriously - it's past time for some more modern black movies. Belle pretty much does what it's supposed to do and no more, and while it's totally not fair to compare it to 12 Years, that movie will set the standard for how slave trade stories are told from now on. Belle is decent, but it's nowhere near in that league.

Had a bit of a surprise at the Kew Gardens: Actual Black People were in the audience for this movie. I know this because I heard them providing the audio commentary. (That and I saw them in the lobby afterwards.) It was at least two middle-aged women, sitting on the far side of the auditorium and several rows up from me, and every so often they felt the need to audibly react to certain dramatic moments in the movie. I was tempted to throw something at them but I wasn't sure if I'd hit them or not and I'd have hated to have targeted the wrong person.

On the one hand, I love the fact that Actual Black People came to see Belle! It's not playing at the Jamaica Multiplex, a theater in an actual black neighborhood, and I've talked before about how I think such theaters should support movies like these as well as the Tyler Perry ones. Still, I don't know if these women went out of their way to see Belle (Kew Gardens is a Jewish neighborhood). That said, is it asking so much to not live up to the stereotype for a movie like this? This is not The Queen Latifah Show, and you're not watching it in your living room.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who will control the Loew's JC?

The nonprofit company that has managed the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre in Jersey City said today that if the city allows Live Nation or A.G.E. to take over the former movie palace, Jersey City will be robbed of a "rounded, cultural institution." City officials announced today that those two concert promoters, the two biggest on the globe, are among four bidders vying to restore and manage the Loew's, a Journal Square institution.
I talked about the tug-of-war over the future of the Loew's Jersey Theatre here before, but in recent weeks, the situation has escalated, and Friends of the Loews (FOL), the volunteer group that keeps the theater in shape, is now facing threats beyond just their local government. They're counterattacking through their website, by presenting the facts about what they've done to preserve the theater and making their case to the public as to why they deserve to maintain control.

Even though it's roughly 21 miles and two rivers away from home, getting to the Loew's is a trip that I gladly make whenever I can, and whenever there's something good playing (which there usually is). Still, prior to the news of this conflict going public, I had never thought of the place as a potential arts center before. The fact that they play old movies was always enough for me. I can't guarantee that I would be able to come out to Jersey City to see plays or concerts, in addition to movies, at the Loew's, but whether or not I could is besides the point. I like this place a lot and I don't wanna see it lose its uniqueness, its distinctiveness. 

If you go to the sidebar under 'labels,' you'll see the Loew's Jersey Theatre tag, which will take you to all my posts about movies I've seen there. Go through some of them if you've got a moment to spare. In a few short years, I've accumulated quite a number of memories from the place. I've taken friends there and made friends there; I've gone on rainy and snowy nights; I've seen silent films and recent Hollywood blockbusters; I was there the weekend before Hurricane Sandy; I've seen old movie stars talk about their careers and learned a thing or two about the grand history of this wondrous movie palace. 

There's a lot to love about the Loew's, and FOL has made it a place worth caring about. They've earned the right to stay in charge of it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Road to Bali

Road to Bali
seen on TV @ TCM

When I was growing up, Bob Hope was just that funny guy on TV. He'd always appear in a star-studded special of some sort, crack a few jokes, and that'd be it. I never imagined that he had a career as an actor in Hollywood. I always thought he was just a TV comedian who entertained people at events. Of course, I couldn't have been expected to know more than that.

Then I learned more about who he was. I understood that he was a Hollywood big shot, but I don't think I ever thought of him as being funny the way I thought of more contemporary comedians like Eddie Murphy or Billy Crystal or Robin Williams as funny. 

I suspect part of it had to do with context: every time I'd see Hope, it was as part of some gala TV event with a bunch of old people I'd never heard of where he'd tell a lot of inside jokes which I rarely understood (and no joke, the number of TV specials he made was insane). He seemed less like a former movie star and more like some plastic TV personality. I couldn't relate to someone like him and I damn sure didn't think he was funny. Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live - now that was comedy!

I had planned to watch one of Hope's old "Road" movies with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour for this blog years ago. I had devoted a week to old comedy movies and was gonna do a sequel to that which would've included a "Road" movie, but plans changed and it never happened. (If you've followed WSW long enough, you have some idea of how often I change directions if I think something's not working.) So I'm glad I finally got the opportunity to rectify that when I watched Road to Bali last week.

Once again, I have Paddy to blame for this, though in this case, I honestly think I would've watched this even if she hadn't recommended it - though, of course, I'm glad she did. The "Road" movies strike me as a bit of an odd duck in the sense that the three principals appear in every installment, doing variations on more or less the same story premise, but they don't play the same characters. 

If these movies had been made today, in the era of the ongoing-story franchises, they'd be quite different, to say the least. I'm sure there'd be fewer song-and-dance numbers and more stunts and explosions mixed in with the jokes (see the Hangover movies by way of comparison) - although there's a fair bit of action in Bali too.

Long story short: I LAUGHED MY ASS OFF! This was terrific! How could I have ever thought Bob Hope was unfunny or unrelatable? You totally do not need to have been born during the Depression to get the humor here because the jokes, for the most part, revolve around the characters and the crazy situations they get themselves in - and indeed, Bali plays a lot like a cartoon at times, especially a Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck one, where there's a competitive spirit between the two, and the latter is always trying to one-up the former, who makes it all look easy (which would make Hope Daffy and Crosby Bugs). There are some inside-Hollywood jokes (the African Queen bit was truly inspired), but at least I understand most of them now.

Hope & Crosby had an extraordinary rapport with each other. It's such a shame that you almost never see comedy teams anymore - unless you count the likes of Jay & Silent Bob or Harold & Kumar or Bill & Ted (which I wouldn't). The bickering and competitiveness of Hope & Crosby's characters was lively and playful and even extended into their shared musical numbers. And while I'm sure it wasn't a conscious acting choice on their part, looking at them through modern eyes, it seems blatantly obvious to me that while they may be fighting over Lamour (a hottie), they're totally gay for each other - and I am so not the type to read homosexual innuendo into everything.

I admit to wondering at first how the movie would work with only one chick and two dudes. Who Lamour ends up with seemed like an arbitrary decision to me - not that I expected this to be like Design for Living or anything like that (although she was prepared to marry them both at one point!). It didn't bother me, though; I liked seeing Hope & Crosby compete for Lamour's affections. She, for her part, seems more amused by their bickering over her than anything else - and can you blame her?

Bali is quite a lavish production. Between the costumes, the sets, the musical numbers with loads of extras, the special effects, a live tiger, and an exploding volcano in the climax - and all in Technicolor - there's a lot for the eyes as well as the ears. And we never even see the characters make it to Bali in the end! I can only hope that the rest of the "Road" movies are this funny and this well-made.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bridget Jones's Diary

The Romantic Comedy Blogathon is exactly what it says on the tin. It is hosted by Carole & Co. and Backlots. For a complete list of participating bloggers, please click on the links at either site.

Bridget Jones's Diary
seen on TV @ AMC

There's been some talk lately about the decline of the romantic comedy. It's one of the oldest and traditionally most lucrative genres in Hollywood, and as such, it's bound to change and evolve, as storytelling genres do. But I gotta say... if a movie like Bridget Jones's Diary is an example of modern romcoms, then it's either due for a major overhaul or a major burial. 

I know this was a hugely popular movie when it came out, based on an equally popular novel, but is a movie like this really supposed to represent what the modern woman thinks about when she goes dating? Needless to say, this provided me with precious little insight, partly because it's a poorly-made movie, but mostly because I don't know anyone even remotely like Bridget Jones - and I get the impression that she's supposed to somehow be representative of Single Women Everywhere.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Links of future past

This month my Spoiler Experiment continues with the movie Million Dollar Arm. This is the one which I'm learning everything I can about in advance, letting myself get completely spoiled by it. It comes out the 16th, so my post on it will likely go up no later than the 19th, and afterwards, I'll sum up my observations. You can read about the first half of my experiment with the movie Draft Day, the one I learned nothing in advance about, here, and you can follow my experiment on Twitter at [#spoilerxpmt].

In other news (albeit not quite movie-related), I've looked into possibly attending, for the first time, the Book Expo America here in New York in a few weeks. It's a great big convention for book publishers and authors, held in Manhattan. Reid has been going to it for years and he's constantly nagged at me to go with him, so I figure perhaps this will be the year, if for no other reason than to shut him up (ha ha). I'm sure it'll be worth it, though, for two reasons: free books and celebrity photos (there will be some film and TV stars present), so if I end up going, I'll keep an eye out for some film-related books to write about here.

For those of you in the New York area: beginning this Sunday, the Kaufman Astoria Studios here in Queens will host a flea market on Sundays, this month and next month, on their backlot. The weather currently calls for sun and clouds in the mid-60s, so I'm betting it'll be a good day for this unique event. Come out if you can - I'll be there taking pictures, which will go up next week on the WSW Facebook page.

Your links for this month:

As much as I appreciated all of the Diamonds & Gold Blogathon posts, I have to single out Jacqueline's piece on the Rosalind Russell film A Majority of One in particular because it made me rethink an important topic.

Pam writes about a notorious anti-porn censor from the 70s.

Danny remembers why the original Mummy was so scary.

Fritzi from the blog Movies Silently has a cautionary tale of what happens when even film historians get their facts wrong.

The increased demand for genre films and television has meant more actors now have to be in the best shape of their lives.

Liam Neeson wants to keep the horse-drawn carriage business in New York alive.

How badly do parents want Frozen merchandise for their kids? This badly.

Times Square has undergone a radical restructuring of its streets to a more pedestrian-friendly configuration. So why isn't this change reflected in the movies?