Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Red Dust (1932)

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“Don't you think I could be happy?”
“Would you mind if I made it my job to see that you are?”

            Any film that takes place in warm locations such as Africa or South America, make my skin crawl. It has nothing to do with the cultures and most of the time the stories are good. What makes my skin crawl is seeing the characters sweat like crazy from the heat and being in areas of the world that are so remote you would have to be insane to chose to go there let alone there. I despise the heat with so much passion. I love to say that in the cold you can pile on the clothes but in the heat you cannot strip down to your underwear if you are in public. I hate feeling like I am going to combust from the inside out when I am hot.
            Anyway, there is somewhat of a point to my rambling… maybe. The 1932 film Red Dust takes place in a remote part of Asia where the sun is constantly high and there is no relief from the heat. And all the characters are sweating their asses off.
            Dennis Carson (Clark Gable) is the owner and manager of a rubber plantation in the middle of the jungle in China. A prostitute named Vantine (Jean Harlow) is on the run from the law in Saigon and came across his place to stay. At first he wants her out but then he lets her stay the night after they have a “talk”.
            The following day Dennis wants Vantine out of the house and away from his plantation because he has a new worker, Gary Willis (Gene Raymond) and his wife Barbara (Mary Astor) coming in by boat that afternoon. When Gary and Barbara come in, Dennis boards the boat to help them with their things. Gary is on the bed not looking too well. Barbara first gets a load of Dennis through a mirror and stops right in the middle of what she is doing to stare at him. As soon as they get back to Dennis’ place he can see that Gary is ill with some kind of jungle virus. He gives Gary some pills and tells him to stay in bed until his sickness passes.
            Vantine comes back that night much to Dennis’ dismay. The boat broke down and will not be fixed for a few weeks. Dennis is now worried about giving off the wrong impression to Barbara by having Vantine around.
            While Gary was sick, Dennis and Barbara become close. After he carried her home during a rainstorm they kissed and from then on carried on an affair. Things get serious between them and they want to tell Gary that they are together. Dennis had sent Gary out to the plantation to do some work. He goes out there to help kill a tiger. Dennis had planned on telling Gary about he and Barbara going away together but after Gary tells him about his plans for the future with his wife he cannot go on with his plan. Dennis heads back to camp during a downpour to be with Barbara. One of Dennis’ workers drunkenly slips about Dennis and Barbara. Gary gets into a fury and heads back during the downpour as well.
Image result for red dust 1932
Image result for red dust 1932
            Back at the house Dennis tells Barbara he cannot go off with her anymore and that their relationship was all a lie. She had heard Dennis crashing around the table with Vantine while she was in bed and grabbed her gun in case it was an intruder making noise. When Barbara sees Vantine with Dennis she gets upset and shoots Dennis in the side. Gary comes home just after the shot went off. Barbara tells her husband that Dennis tried to make a move on her and she shot him. Vantine backs her up by saying Dennis is in love with Barbara and has been trying to get with her all the time he was away.
            There should be hopefully no shock that Vantine and Dennis end up together totally in love at the end.
            I am not usually a Jean Harlow fan but I loved her as Vantine. I think I can finally say I have seen a film where I can understand how and why Harlow was considered a sex symbol. She was definitely sexy in Red Dust and her smart, sarcastic, quick attitude was perfect. There is a scene where Vantine gets mad at Dennis and she sits down hard on a chair and put her feet on the desk. Her dress falls down around her thighs and she picks it up. I was in awe of Harlow in that scene. That is the scene where I finally understood her appeal. And damn woman had a great pair of legs on her! Clark Gable is Clark Gable. He never does anything for me. He does not have sex appeal that is believable and it always baffles me how his characters get the girl (or a girl). Mary Astor was perfect. I have loved every performance I have seen her in. Gene Raymond like Gable really does nothing for me.
Image result for red dust 1932
Image result for red dust 1932

            Red Dust is a good film. I think all the heat and the sweating that at least the male characters did added to the tension and drama of the story. I for one would never stand living in the jungle. If I ever had a husband who told me he was going to work in the jungle in China or anywhere else in the world and wanted me to come with him I would tell him go to hell I am staying in civilization! Red Dust is a fantastic example of a Pre-Code film with seduction, Jean Harlow barely dressed half time and swimming naked around in a barrel of water, and Harlow and Gable making out on a table. Red Dust is definitely worth a watch for any Old Hollywood fan. 
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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Silent Sundays: Joyless Street (1925)

Joyless Street is a film I remember trying to watch years ago when I was first becoming interested in classic films. The film is included in a pack of one hundred classic films that my mom bought me for Christmas one year. I tried watching Joyless Street since I had never seen Greta Garbo in a film before but at the time I was not completely interested in silent films. I had tried before this to watch a silent Alfred Hitchcock film and that did not work out too well. And now look at me I run a movie blog where I watch silent films every Sunday!
            The story takes place in Vienna after World War I. There are more people living in the slums than there are living in comfort. In the slums the poor and their needs are taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. In one slum the only rich people are a butcher and a woman named Madame Gill who runs a boutique for the wealthy as well as a cabaret.
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            A girl named Maria comes home one night without any food. Her father chases her into her room and nearly beats her. Upstairs from Maria, lives a father with his two daughters. He has worked as a civil servant for many years and is thus making some money and is able to put some food on the table. His oldest daughter Greta (Garbo) goes to wait outside on a line just to try to get meat. From standing all night Greta faints from exhaustion but must head back home since she has work the following morning.
            At work two other women in the office snicker at Greta’s beat up fur lined jacket. The boss comes down and wants to see her in the office. All the other workers think Greta is doing something with the boss and the boss thinks she is a prostitute and is always looking to have his way with her. The boss gives Greta her pay in advance since he can see on her face that she is exhausted.
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            Greta’s father sees in the paper that as a civil servant he will be able to cash in his pension. He is given the option to cash the whole thing in or put it towards investing in a company. He decides to invest it in a mine. Unfortunately the mine he invests his pension in is being run by crooked men who want to create a rumor about the mine and drive the stock prices down and sell it. Obviously the father does not know this information. He believes that he will be making a lot of money. He tells Greta to go out and buy herself a nice coat. The next day Greta wears her new coat to work. The boss now definitely believes she is a prostitute and tries to have his way with her. She fights him off and in anger tells her to never come back that he does not want a girl like her working in his office.
            With no job and now her father’s pension no more she decides to rent out the extra room in their apartment and sell her jacket. Apparently she bought her jacket from Maria but Maria tells Greta to keep the jack and pay her back when she can. A young American working with a relief commission has come to town to help the poor. He is taken to a nightclub where all the rich have gone to dance and have a good time. He is upset it is not the Vienna he has come to help and declares that he is going to find a room in a poor neighborhood. Well as luck will have it he finds the room that Greta is letting. Of course after some time Greta and the American become close.
            Eventually Greta and her family become desperate for money. She decides to go to Madame Gills for a job in her cabaret. The American finds her before she can go on stage and becomes enraged that she would stoop so low. Her father comes just in time to tell the American the only reason Greta took the job was because of him since he could not bring in any money. But now he has been given money back from his pension so Greta does not have to work at the cabaret. The American goes to her to bring her back home.
            The original run of Joyless Street is over two hours long. The cut that I was able to find and watch ran for an hour. From what I was able to find of the plot there are several more characters and storylines which were cut for English speaking audiences due to censorship issues. I did not mind the story in the version that I watched. I felt terrible for Greta’s father who was ripped off just so rich people could make even more money. Sadly the world is still running that way. Garbo was fantastic as always. Her face and body language just conveyed so much more than words could say about her character’s position and feelings. Joyless Street is worth watching to see Greta Garbo in her first leading role. It is available to view in full on YouTube
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

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“Bye Bye Birdie I’m gonna miss you so; Bye Bye Birdie, why’d ya have to do? No more sunshine, It’s followed you away; I’ll cry Birdie, Till you’re home to stay.”

            If there has ever been a film that speaks to me in the deepest of fangirl feels it is Bye Bye Birdie. At twenty-seven, I fangirl over things like I am a damn teenager. If it is something I like I will get super into it and become obsessed and want every piece of merchandise that accompanies it (shout out to Orphan Black and YouTube’s Holy Trinity). I was doing so well for a few years with keeping the fangirl feels at bay until I got back into watching TV shows last winter. It started with Leverage and Orphan Black and now I am full blown fangirl about everything I get into lately. When I was younger if there was a hot guy on a TV show I liked or was a member in a boy band I listened to forget it I would beyond fangirl over them. I related a little too much to the girls’ obsession with the character of Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie and me relating to them made the musical so much more enjoyable and funny to watch.
            Singer Conrad Birdie has been drafted to fight in Vietnam. Girls all across America and the world are in mourning. In Washington DC girls even get together to picket the White House with signs saying to take them and leave Conrad alone.
            In New York City, a failed songwriter named Albert Peterson (Dick van Dyke) may be the only male in the country that is upset to see Conrad go off to war. He was hoping to give his management a new song of his. Albert is also really upset because his mother’s dreams of him becoming a famous songwriter have come crashing down. First of all songwriter was his mother’s dream not really his. Albert has a degree in science. He is also upset because his secretary and fiancé Rose DeLeon (Janet Leigh) has gone off to the Ed Sullivan Show. He thinks she is jumping ship since his business tanked. Rose is really over at Ed Sullivan to make a deal. She pitches the idea to have Conrad on the show to do a farewell segment to a new song that Albert will write and after he sings the son Conrad will kiss a girl who will represent all his fans. Ed and his show runner love the idea and let her set up the whole thing.
            Rose and Ed decide that a girl from Ohio will be the perfect choice to be the one to get a kiss from Conrad. Rose goes to the Conrad Birdie fan club and picks out a file on a girl named Kim McAfee (Ann-Margaret). Rose tries calling Kim but the line is busy. Kim is on the phone with her friend to tell her that her boyfriend Hugo has given her a pin as a symbol that they are going to steady. She feels like now that she has a steady boyfriend and she is sixteen she is becoming a real woman and is ready to do grown-up things. Kim sings her feelings about being a woman in a little number all the while she changes into jeans, a baggy sweater and a baseball cap. When she goes downstairs there is a call from her from Rose about Conrad. Kim is in total shock that she has been chosen to receive a kiss from her number one crush.
Image result for bye bye birdie 1963
Image result for bye bye birdie 1963
            Back in New York City, Rose tries to explain to Albert her plan but he just keeps going on and on in such a negative way she cannot get a word in for a little bit. When she is finally able to reveal her plan Albert loves her all the more. Their tender moment is interrupted by his pushy, annoying, coddling mother. Next to the definition of “Mama’s Boy” there would be a picture of Albert and his mother. Albert and Rose have been engaged for six years and have never told his told his drama queen mother and it is starting to bother Rose that her fiancé chooses his mother over her.
            On the day Conrad is come to her hometown, Kim’s boyfriend Hugo and all the boys in town become insanely jealous. Hugo is worried that Kim will not want him anymore and no matter how many times Kim explains to him that he is the only one for her Hugo does not really listen. When Conrad rides into town on his motorcycle the girls lose their freaking minds and literally fall to the ground when he points at them. Kim’s father comes home in an uproar over Conrad being in town. Mr. McAfee and some of the other townspeople want Conrad and Albert and Rose out immediately. Mr. McAfee’s routine has been thrown off a bit and his home has been slightly taken over which makes him mad. Rose and Albert hear all this and decide to play to Mr. McAfee who runs a fertilizing plant. Albert realizes that the McAfee son has created a concoction with his chemistry set. The concoction can speed things up such as animals and plant growth. He tells McAfee is that if the concoction works on animals and they can market and sell the product they can go into business together but just as long as Kim can get into the show. The father agrees to go along with the plan only if he can get on the Ed Sullivan Show to which Albert agrees to do.
Image result for bye bye birdie 1963
Image result for bye bye birdie 1963
Image result for bye bye birdie 1963
            Other things happen to Kim and Hugo and Albert and Rose that I will spare you the details on. Just know that Albert and Rose end up happily ever after and his mother is taken out of the picture and Kim and Hugo make up when she realizes that Conrad is not all he is cracked up to be.
            I am not a Janet Leigh fan normally I find her so annoying but I cannot even tell you how much I LOVED her in the film! Oh my goodness she was fantastic! First of all, where did her acting come from? I usually think she is quite crap but in this she was acting so well! Second, she had black hair instead of her insanely bleached hair and she looked amazing. Third, she was singing and sounded great. Fourth, and final, she was dancing and did a great job! Seriously, it was like watching a totally different Janet Leigh. She made the film for me. Ann-Margaret I believe I have only seen in the movie Tommy up to this point. She will forever be Tommy’s mom singing “Tommy can you hear me?”. She was good I liked her. There was this big dance number for all the young kids in it and her dancing skills were incredible. Dick van Dyke usually drives me nuts too but I really liked him in this. I loved his number “Put on a Happy Face”.
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            Bye Bye Birdie was so much to watch. If I had to pick who I am hardcore crushing on at the moment it is Arthur Darvill who played Rory Williams on Doctor Who. If he were to come to my town and had to plant a kiss on me for a TV show I would faint just like all the girls in the film did! Actually the one actor who if he were to come by and just say hey let’s go, would be Carmine Giovinazzo (Formerly Danny Messer from CSI:NY). I am not even going to go into detail about my love for that man because I would sound like a pathetic lovesick girl. The musical numbers were a great time. I will now most likely have Ann-Margaret singing “Bye Bye Birdie” stuck in my head for the rest of the week along with “Put on a Happy Face”. You do not have to know what it feels like to be a fangirl to enjoy Bye Bye Birdie. Everything about it is entertaining and silly and fun making it a definite watch.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Laggies (2014)

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“You can't keep putting aside what you want for some imaginary future. You've gotta suck it up and go with your gut.”

            Ever feel like you have no idea what you want to do with your life or you do know what you want to do but do not really know how to start? Both scenarios are going on with me at the moment. I thought I always had a passion for what I went to school for but I feel that passion is burning out and it does not completely interest me anymore. That totally sucks only because I do not really have any other skill sets in my life and I paid so much damn money for school! Where my true passion lies is with movies and talking about them and film history but there are less jobs for film buffs than there are for museum and art buffs like me. So needless to say I am fucked no matter what.
            I will at least say that I have never run away from something that scared me or made me crazy no matter how much I wanted to. I have had to push myself to get on with life and things in it more times than I care to count. I never used to push myself I used to give up. Looking back at my younger self that is frustrating and I hate myself for doing that. When a character in a movie decides to give up on things or says no to things that could help them I go crazy. That is exactly what the character of Megan does in the movie Laggies.
            Megan (Keira Knightly) is just floating through life. She has been seeing the same guy since high school and he absolutely adore her, she is working for her father’s accounting agency as a sign holder out on the sidewalk, her friends from high school all have their shit together and are super serious about everything, and she seems to have zero ambition in life. Megan’s mother plays the bad parents reminding her to go to career searching workshops and career centers. Megan just blows it off mostly because her father lets her stay in the house and work for him.
            At the wedding for one of her friends, Megan’s boyfriend proposes and she says yes. After that she finds her father cheating on her mother with the mother of the bride. Megan cannot handle what she sees and storms out of the party. She comes to a liquor store where a group of kids are hanging out. One of the kids, Annika (Chloe-Grace Moretz), asks Megan to get them some alcohol with the few bucks they have on them. Megan comes out with beers for them and hangs out with them for a while.
            When Megan gets home her now fiancé suggests that they go elope instead of having a big wedding. She sees that as a good idea but delays the elopement by saying she has a week-long career seminar she wants to go to. Megan gets her chance to escape for a week in form of Annika. Annika needs Megan to pretend to be her mother and come down the guidance office to speak to a counselor. Megan gives Annika a ride home. She asks her new friend if she can stay at her place for a week. Annika says that will fine but the only thing is she lives with her dad and Megan will have to hide from him.
            The plan for Megan to hide from Annika’s father Craig backfires he of course finds out almost right away.
            To wrap this up summary up quickly, Megan lies that to Annika and Craig that she needs a place to stay because her lease on her apartment is up and not because she is getting away from her fiancé and parents, she and Craig of course fall in love, Megan’s entire plan goes to shit and her cover is blown, she goes back to her fiancé but just as she is about to get on the plane she tells him that she cannot marry him, and Megan winds up going back to Craig whom she has real feelings for.
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            Big gigantic shock that ending.
            Despite being predictable I really liked Laggies. I liked how it was the girl who did not have her shit together instead of the guy.  With stories like this it is always the guy who is aimless in life and not the girl. There are plenty of women out there in the world who are wandering aimless through life it is not just guys. The story of Megan I felt was handled very well and was played excellently by Keira Knightly. Chloe-Grace Moretz seems so much older than she is and I loved that about her. Her chemistry with older actors and actresses is awesome. With Laggies I finally found a character that I can really relate to, well, except for the running away aspect. Sometimes even though I push myself to keep going and keep looking for jobs and other things in, there are times where I feel aimless.  Laggies is a great movie and one I definitely suggest seeing