Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


"The Japs don't understand the love we have for our women. They don't even have a word for it in their language." 

The dialogue is from Delmer Daves' "Destination Tokyo."  And the actor reciting it is Cary Grant, of all people.  Grant was never the most macho of actors.  In fact, he seemed to purposely work against machismo in his films.  But in this piece of 1943 World War II propaganda, he made like John Wayne. As the captain of a U.S. submarine attempting to infiltrate Tokyo Bay, Grant spends most of the film pontificating negatively about Japan, not just as an unworthy enemy, but also as an awful culture.

The film itself demonstrates America's misguided sense of superiority at its worst and it was part of one of Turner Classic Movies' recurring events - its annual Memorial Day Weekend film marathon, during which one war movie after another is relentlessly screened. Usually, I pass. Not interested.

But, this year, I took notice - which wasn't difficult, given that Turner is always beaming somewhere in our house. What I saw - or, rather, heard - was jaw-dropping and disturbing but, in all honesty, not entirely surprising.

Most of the titles screened, like "Destination Tokyo," were filmed and released during the WWII years, and it seems that every time I walked past our television, some supporting actor was salivating about killing "Japs." Of course, it was a different culture decades ago, but still: Really?

While I'm a self-confessed bleeding-heart liberal who would never condone book burning, I also can't understand why blatantly racist films are routinely screened or why even Memorial Day needs to be "celebrated" with a film festival.  Yes, I was offended.  Just as I am offended by Mickey Rooney's notorious Oriental schtick in Blake Edwards' irrationally overrated "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) or by the shameful and demoralizing "blackface" production numbers that mar both MGM's "Babes in Arms" (1939) and Warner Bros.' "My Wild Irish Rose" (1947).

Turner Classic Movies unreels movies breathlessly, 24/7.  It's like a repertory house, only it never closes and it's more convenient, operating non-stop out of our living rooms - or family rooms or bedrooms or dens.

Its programing is rather free-form and appealingly unpredictable.  But, several times a year, it interrupts its flow with one of its recurring "events," such as the Memorial Day weekend marathon.

Then, there's "31 Days of Oscars," which hauls out the usual, ubiquitous suspects ("Lawrence of Arabia" and "West Side Story," chief among them), and also its Easter Sunday line-up, which offers several titles that make it possible to watch Christ being crucified six or seven times in a row.


Note in Passing:  I could do without the annual Oscar marathon, not only because it rather shamelessly panders to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but also because it eschews the usual monthly birthday tributes. Full disclosure: Jack Lemmon, my favorite actor, was born Feb. 8 but, because of "31 Days of Oscar," his birth has never been celebrated. So, both the Oscars and celebrity birthdays can't be be accommodated?


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

the brothers bridges

In one of her many reviews, Pauline Kael once wondered exactly what Lloyd Bridges fed his two sons, Beau and Jeff.  I guess she speculated because they both seemed so hearty as young men and so natural as young actors. You could never catch either of them "acting."

Not even for a second.

I like both, although my alligance has always been with Beau who seems a tad less ambitous and more freewheeling than Jeff who has accumulated a trio of Oscar nominations (plus one win) throughout his career.

The boys acted together only once - in Steve Kloves' "The Fabulous Baker Boys" in 1989 - but their careers crossed paths many years before that.  Both of them played essentially the same role earlier in their careers - the struggling, wannabe writer - in two striking, underrated period films.

In Norman Jewison's ”Gaily, Gaily” (1969), based on the book by Ben Hecht, Beau played Hecht's alter ego, Ben Harvey, a farm boy who hightails it to bustling Chicago, lands a job on one of the city's dailies and falls in a disreputable lot (Brian Keith and Melina Mercouri, both memorable, among them) who take the cub reporter under wing.

Meanwhile, in Howard Zeiff’s "Hearts of the West" of 1975, Jeff plays the author of dime novels about the Old West who finds himself among movie people who actually make films about the Old West, working with an impatient director (Alan Arkin) and a jaded older actor (Andy Griffin).
Note in Passing: Jeff's leading lady in "Hearts of the West" is Blythe Danner who, coincidentally, had acted opposite Beau a year earlier in Sidney Lumet's (also underrated) "Lovin' Molly" (1974), which contains Danner's most luminous screen performance to date, hands-down.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


Grace and Cary, between shots, tweeting

Monday, May 04, 2015

life imitating art

Inconceivable as it is to the logical mind, but back in 1986 when he directed his first and only film, the brilliant new-style musical, "True Stories," David Byrne somehow anticipated the fashion trends of 2015.

In a wildly memorable sequence, Byrne staged a wacky fashion show at a shopping mall in Allen, Texas wherein each outfit became weirder and more deranged - but not that different from what major celebrities wore to this year's Met Gala (that would be New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art for all you yokels out there), as overseen by the ubiquitous Anna Wintour.

Above, that's SJP (that would be Sarah Jessica Parker for all you yokels out there), wearing a compelling design by Philip Treacy at the Gala.

And, below, are the runway models in Byrne's witty film.

I knew that Byrne is something of a Renaissance man, but I never realized to exactly what extent.

Note in Passing: In all fairness, the attendees at the Met Gala were advised to wear costumes to the event, and not the usual couturier garb.  And for the record, the fashion show in "True Stories" was the brainchild of Byrne's scenarists, playwright Beth Henley and actor Stephen Toboloswsky (Henley's then-boyfriend), and it's staged while one of the film's game stars, Annie McEnroe, sings Byrne's lilting "Dream Operator."