Blogger Recognition Award

I used to love it when fellow bloggers would nominate me for Liebster Awards. It was like getting recognition from your peers, and it allowed me to share a little bit about myself. But after receiving a half-dozen Liebster nominations, it got kind of old. Also, part of the Liebster ritual is that you are to nominate 11 other bloggers for a Liebster and get them to respond. After a while, the process seemed as annoying as chain letters, so I quit participating.

But Quiggy, my good online buddy at the blog The Midnite Drive-In, recently nominated me for something similar — a Blogger Recognition Award. He did it good-naturedly, so I’ll be glad to participate this one time.

Here are the rules that each award nominee is supposed to follow.

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and feature a link to their blog in your award post.

Thanks, Quiggy! The link to his blog is posted above. Check it out, it’s a fun read.

2. Post the award somewhere on your blog.

It’s posted at the very top.

3. Share the reason why you started your blog.

For years, I had been sharing my movie reviews on personal websites that didn’t get many visitors. Then, five years ago, my supervisor at work informed me of a blog she had created in order to promote online products that she liked. She had 1,100 followers, which sounded pretty good to me.

So I created Movie Movie Blog Blog, wherein I posted all of my old reviews and blogged fresh material as well. It got 400-plus followers before I accidentally locked myself out of the blog. So then I created this blog as a “continuation” of the first one. Check out the first blog if you haven’t already. And please encourage others to subscribe to this second blog; I lost an awful lot of followers when I had to “re-start.”

4. Share two pieces of advice that could benefit new bloggers.

First, unless you intend your blog to be specifically political, try to keep politics out of it. I subscribe to a couple of general-topic blogs that often deal with hot-button political issues, and they seem to maintain a good balance. But whenever I try to do that, I get a lot of ranters and trollers in response. These result in arguments that neither side can really win, and it ruins the fun of the blog. Try to stick with your blog’s Topic A as much as possible.

My second piece of advice is: Write first, edit later. You don’t have to press the “Publish” button the moment you’ve finished your first draft. Re-read it carefully once or twice before you commit to it.

And I’m not talking only about pruning the hot-button issues. Take a good look at how your blog actually reads. Does your blog entry have a series of run-on sentences or sentence fragments? Do you have to scroll down in order to completely read a run-on paragraph? Don’t intimidate your reader before he or she even has a chance to savor your writing. Think of your blog as a light conversation between friends.

Beyond that, just have fun with your blog. And delight in the fact that others are taking time out from busy web-surfing to read your work!

5. Nominate a maximum of 15 other bloggers.

Sorry, not gonna do it. See my chain-letter comment above. If you really want to participate in this, nominate yourself and say that I did it. Better that than for me to be presumptuous about the writing time of 15 other people.

6. Tell your nominees about your award post so they can participate.

See my previous comment.

Hope you enjoyed my blathering on about my blog. Thanks again to Quiggy for the nomination. And if you do decide to participate in this, let me know your blog’s name and URL so that I can promote your entry!

A personal seal of approval from Eric Idle

Yesterday I announced An Alan Smithee Blogathon at this blog. Click on the blogathon’s name if you want more info or would like to participate. In the meantime, here’s the ‘thon’s seal of approval from Monty Python’s Eric Idle, who starred in An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn.

Announcing AN ALAN SMITHEE BLOGATHON!

We figure it’s long past time to pay tribute to Hollywood’s most ubiquitous director with

AN ALAN SMITHEE BLOGATHON

Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of him. From 1968 to 2000, Smithee presided over some of the most notorious movies ever made. The only thing that would have further enhanced his legend is if he’d been a real person!

Actually, “Alan Smithee” was the pseudonym used by the Directors Guild of America whenever a movie director, dissatisfied with the final product, claimed that he or she had not been allowed to exercise complete control over the movie. So let’s have some fun with this, and investigate the wide varieties of movie stories and styles used by Mr. Smithee!

(We think you’ll be surprised at some of the big names involved here. Directors and actors as varied as John Frankenheimer, Dennis Hopper, and Kiefer Sutherland have resorted to the “A.S.” technique.)

However, before you commit to this blogathon, please carefully read the rules below. The name “Alan Smithee” has been applied to an awful (and I do mean awful) lot of Hollywood projects. So if we don’t establish some ground rules, we could be writing about Alan Smithee all year!

Do’s and Don’t’s

  1. Please, write only about a theatrical, direct-to-video, or TV movie in which Alan Smithee is credited as the main director. No Second Unit Directors, no music videos, no TV network- or airline-edited movie versions, and no other media such as video games or comic books. (And frankly, the only reason I’m allowing any exceptions to be reviewed is that I’m just dying to read someone’s review of The Birds II: Lands End.)
  2. If you need a starting point to find an Alan Smithee movie, click here to go to Wikipedia’s listing about Alan Smithee, or here to find a similar listing at the Internet Movie Database. Or Google “Alan Smithee movies,” and a listing of them will appear at the top of your computer screen.
  3. No duplicate entries, please. The listing of blogathon entries is below and will be continually updated. Be sure to check the list so that you don’t choose an entry that is already taken.

Instructions

  1. In the “Comments” section at the bottom of this blog, please leave your name, the URL of your blog, and the movie you are choosing to blog about. The one and only banner for this blogathon is at the top of this blog entry. Please display it on your blog, and link it back to this blog. (Sorry, I didn’t see much point in creating elaborate banners since Alan Smithee is not as familiar a director as, say, Alfred Hitchcock.)
  2. The blogathon will take place from Fri., Aug. 30, through Sun., Sept. 1, 2019. When the opening date of the blogathon arrives, leave a comment here with a link to your post, and I will display it in the list of entries (which I will continually update to the beginning of the ‘thon, so keep checking back!).
  3. I will not be assigning particular dates to any blog posts. As long as you get your entry in by the end of the day on Sept. 1, I will be satisfied. (That said, the sooner the better!)

Again, be sure to leave a comment below and grab our banner, and have fun with your blog entry! Here’s the line-up so far:

Movie Movie Blog Blog II – An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997)

Movierob – Death of a Gunfighter (1969) and Solar Crisis (1990)

The Midnite Drive-In – Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991)

Realweegiemidget Reviews – Catchfire (a/k/a Backtrack) (1990)

LAURA (1944) – Shades of a woman

The following is my contribution to The Noirathon, being hosted by Maddylovesherclassicfilms from July 27-29, 2019. Click on the above banner to read bloggers’ tribute to their film noir favorites!

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In a sense, Laura is a film-noir about movies.

Think about it. Laura begins her characterization in the movie as a portrait on the wall of her apartment. Into her milieu comes detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), who is investigating Laura’s murder that occurred in that apartment.

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Via McPherson’s investigation (and some convenient flashbacks), we meet the two primary males who inhabited Laura’s life. The first is Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), Laura’s milquetoast fiancee. It seems strange that the two are engaged, since Shelby gets along far more famously with Laura’s acerbic aunt Ann (Judith Anderson). Shelby seems to want Laura more for her social standing than for any romantic interest.

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Shelby has a way with a quip but not with a job, until Laura hires Shelby to work at her advertising agency. And how did Laura come to work at an ad agency? Through the machinations of Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb, who performs grand theft larceny on the movie), a nationally known columnist with whom she had crossed paths.

Clifton Webb Laura

Waldo carries on and on about his love for Laura, but his affection for her is as false as Shelby’s. Waldo’s way of showing his affection for Laura is to sic a private detective on any man besides Waldo who tries to start something up with Laura, Shelby included.

During Waldo’s endless narration of the story, he casually lets it drop that Laura was 22 years old at the time of her murder. And Waldo makes it clear that he and Laura have known each other for five years. It’s also made clear that Waldo (and definitely Clifton Webb) is no spring chicken. So, besides the movie getting one past the censors, it’s quite obvious that beautiful, spritely Laura is little more than a trophy girlfriend for aging Waldo.

Finally, there’s MacPherson. He puts together all of the information he’s gotten about Laura, looks at the only pictorial evidence he has of her — that painting (Didn’t these suitors ever take a photograph of her?) — and mounds it all together to form his vision/version of a woman, as a sculptor would mold some clay.

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Isn’t this the same thing we all do at the movies? We project our thoughts and ideas into or onto those characters on the screen. That’s why you don’t see a particular movie character in the same way that your friend or your spouse does — and why three different men have completely different visions of Laura, none of which hold up under the harsh light of reality.

But as Waldo Lydecker would say, this psychological analysis is for another place. Suffice to say, this movie is still riveting, with sparkling photography, dialogue, direction (Otto Preminger’s directorial debut), and performances. So project all you like onto Laura — like the characters in the movie’s second half, you’ll still get a lot of surprises.

THE GREAT BUSTER (2018) – Lovingly constructed documentary about Buster Keaton

Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary The Great Buster doesn’t cover a lot of new ground about the famed silent-film comic, but at the same time, Bogdanovich can hardly be accused of slacking off. There are a lot of talking heads in this movie, but at least Bogdanovich went to a lot of trouble to get the best of them — from Keaton’s acting contemporaries James Karen and Norman Lloyd, to comedy legends Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Dick Van Dyke, to modern comics Keaton influenced such as “Jackass'” Johnny Knoxville and “SNL” alum Bill Hader.

(My only complaint in this area: Why actress Cybill Shepherd, other than that she used to be Bogdanovich’s girlfriend? She’s certainly not renowned as any silent-film or comedy expert.)

Even in covering such familiar material as Keaton’s life story, Bogdanovich manages a few quiet surprises. I probably should have known this already, but I hadn’t known that Keaton turned down a chance to debut on Broadway in a surefire hit in order to make his film debut with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. And for years, fans of Keaton and Charlie Chaplin have debated whether each tried to steal the other’s thunder in their only film appearance together, in Chaplin’s Limelight (1952). Norman Lloyd, who also appeared in the movie, finally and definitively ends that debate, showing that the duo worked together to make this scene the best it could possibly be.

And Bogdanovich brings together some lovely Keaton material — such as many of the silent-film-style TV commercials in which Buster appeared, and some choicer material from his later, weaker short subjects for Educational and Columbia — to prove the point that, even after Keaton fell from his creative heights of the 1920’s, he gave every project the best he had and never just walked through a scene.

Bogdanovich takes an unusual narrative path for his movie. He spends the movie’s first two-thirds documenting Keaton’s life story (with choice Keaton scenes and gags liberally sprinkled throughout), and then fills the film’s final 40 minutes with generous footage from Keaton’s amazing feature films of the 1920’s. (I am also grateful to Bogdanovich for stating a minority and unpopular view — which I happen to share — that Keaton’s first big-studio feature, M-G-M’s The Cameraman [1928], is not the masterpiece that most Keaton buffs make it out to be.)

For Keaton buffs, The Great Buster is like a familiar tale from an excellent storyteller, but dotted with some lovely detours along the way.

WHAT’S OPERA, DOC? (1957) – Chuck Jones’ melodramatic masterpiece

There’s every reason that What’s Opera, Doc? shouldn’t work at all, yet it works perfectly.

As anyone who knows their Looney Tunes knows, this cartoon takes the long-familiar motif of milquetoast Elmer Fudd hunting wily Bugs Bunny and places it in a melodramatic opera setting. Or as stated by the cartoon’s director, Chuck Jones, “We took the entire Ring of the Nibelungen music and crushed it down to six minutes.”

We usually expect a Looney Tune to be filled wall-to-wall with gut-busting laughs. What’s Opera, Doc? transcends expectations, for sure providing a sufficient amount of laughter (love that opening shot, where the foreboding shadow of a mighty warrior turns out to emanate from diminutive Elmer) but replacing a lot of the laughs with just plain awe.

First off, notice the deliberate staginess of the cartoon. Waterfalls stand still, and trees don’t sway from any breeze. It’s obvious that Jones wanted this to look like a staged opera; the only thing missing is a proscenium frame.

Once the setting is established, Jones takes familiar Bugs-and-Elmer motifs and stylizes them to the hilt. Normally, Bugs would be setting off one trickster scheme after another. Here, a single trick is drawn out to provide a big, glorious guffaw: Bugs dressed as the beautiful Valkyrie Brunhilde, riding in on a gargantuan horse.

From there, the audience’s footing is uprooted in the same manner that Alfred Hitchcock defied movie logic at the halfway point of Psycho (1960). We find ourselves laughing and feeling for cuckolded Elmer at the same time. And when Elmer summons his almighty revenge on Bugs, it holds a lot more power than that silly rifle he could never manage.

All of this builds to a climax that is so beautifully melodramatic, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. (Don’t worry — Bugs sways the final vote.)

This amazing cartoon was accomplished with trickery that would have made Bugs himself proud. Each Looney Tunes cartoon was usually manufactured within five weeks; this cartoon took seven weeks. To allay any front-office suspicions, Chuck Jones created a subsequent Road Runner cartoon that he finished off in only three weeks, and he had his entire crew doctor their time cards to balance out the two-week discrepancy.

An often-underrated member of Jones’ unit was his art director, Maurice Noble, who brought extra depth to Jones cartoons such as Duck Dodgers in the 24th-1/2 Century. Here, Jones let Noble have carte blanche on creating colors and shadows that added to the cartoon’s atmosphere. (Noble said in one interview, “They thought I was bats when I wanted to put all those purples on Elmer.”)

IMHO, What’s Opera, Doc? is the peak of what might be considered the Golden Age of Looney Tunes. There were still many wonderful cartoons to come (before the original group of Warners cartoon directors, known as the guys from “Termite Terrace,” were officially disbanded in 1963). But none of those subsequent cartoons were to be nearly as awe-inspiring, or as rich with possibilities.