Vertigo

I did my laundry and shopped for groceries before going to work for six hours.  I talked with other people about the big crowds that saw “Black Panther” over the weekend.  After the shift was done, I stopped for a hamburger before I went home to see “Vertigo” again.  I can’t recall whether I’ve ever seen the movie on Blu-ray, but this edition that I saw did look impressive.  I found the Argosy bookstore scene interesting.  The set was modeled after the Argonaut Book Shop at 336 Kearney Street, which opened in 1941.  After a Bank of America headquarters opened nearby, their rent increased from $350 to $1350 a month, so they moved to 786 Sutter Street.  Anyhow, the puzzling thing about the scene is that it gets darker and darker inside the store, and then when Scottie and Midge are outside, the scene brightens.  It is hard to imagine Vera Miles or Lana Turner being more interesting than Kim Novak was in this film.  I always wondered about Scottie in this plot.  For someone involved in police work for such a long time, he seemed awfully gullible about the whole story about Madeleine’s psychological makeup.  I guess you could say that love made him blind.  Speaking of love, the relationship between Scottie and Madeleine sure progressed quickly in two meetings.  It seemed that the redwood forest was an unusual place for them to go.  I think it would have been interesting if Joseph Cotten had played Gavin Elster, considering that he had also been in “Shadow of a Doubt” and “The Third Man.”  Madeleine’s apartment building is at 1000 Mason Street, and Scottie’s house is at the corner of Lombard and Jones.  The McKittrick Hotel was the mansion at 1007 Gough Street, which was demolished in 1959.  Ellen Corby’s character sure was strange.  She was another of those mysteries about this movie.  Ransohoff’s closed in 1976.  Midge never meets either Madeleine or Judy.  The Empire Hotel was at 940 Sutter Street, and Judy lived in Room 501.  It seemed that the ledge of the bell tower was a long way from everyone was at the end for a person to stumble accidentally.  It’s almost as if you had to be running backwards.  That bell tower sure was a busy place during the times we see it, and people left the scene without being noticed.  Scottie’s dialogue as they made their way up the staircase was remarkable.  It was looking like the person responsible for the crime in this movie was going to get away with it.  That’s what made the ending so shocking, but it appeared to go against the production code of the time.  It’s still a good movie, as it creates this fascinating and mysterious atmosphere.  Seen today, though, women might take issue with some of the dialogue, like “It can’t matter to you.”  Some people thought that James Stewart’s age negatively affected ticket sales for the film.  I thought that 49 was not too old an age for Scottie’s character, but maybe things were different in 1958, after Elvis Presley had become a big star of the day.  Maybe people missed the point that Hitchcock was revealing some things about himself, or maybe they didn’t care about that aspect of the film.  Kim Novak became one of the greatest Hitchcock stars with just this one movie.  Her character was more fascinating than Ingrid Bergman in “Spellbound.”  You can watch this movie over and over and think for a long time about what you’re seeing.  Most movies aren’t worth thinking about the first time you see them.  This film did have two of the greatest shots of the Golden Gate Bridge in the history of movies.  Another unusual shot is Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo, which shows him carrying what looks like a musical instrument case.  I read on IMDB that it was actually a costume mask case.  Reading through the Roger Ebert review of the film from October 13, 1996 was helpful.  Kim Novak is the one star of this movie who is still alive at age 85.  We can see her in this weekend’s Saturday Night Movie on KQED, “Picnic.”  I wondered what happened to Pat Hitchcock.  Apparently, she is still alive at age 89, and living in Solvang.  Some of the people who died on February 22 include Florence Ballard (1976), Alexander Scourby (1985), Andy Warhol (1987), John Fahey (2001), and Chuck Jones (2002).  Today is a birthday for Drew Barrymore (43), Kyle MacLachlan (59), Julius Erving (68), and Julie Waters (68).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for February 22, David Crosby’s album “If I Could Only Remember My Name” was released in 1971.  In 1983, the Journey album “Frontiers,” featuring the hits “Faithfully” and “Separate Ways,” was released.  Also in 1983, the Styx album “Kilroy Was Here,” which included “Mr. Roboto,” was released.  Marni Nixon was born 88 years ago today.

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A River Runs Through It

The morning was nearly freezing cold, which inevitably led to people from the East telling us how soft we are.  I don’t care if you’re from Washington or Minneapolis.  If the temperature is near 32 degrees, we feel uncomfortable because living beings are made of water, and that is freezing.  I didn’t want to get up out of bed until after sunrise.  I watched some Match Game, and then got up, had my breakfast cereal, and headed out to the office.  I slowly got my work for the day done, preparing homework assignments and a lecture.  I graded some papers but didn’t finish before I had to go to class.  I talked for two hours and dismissed the class.  I bought a chicken burrito on the way home and watched the Blu-ray disc of “A River Runs Through It.”  One Sunday years ago when my family was all together in the house, my mother suggested that we all go to see a movie, and this was one that was in the theatres at the time.  I never saw the movie until last night.  It did strike a chord with me, though, because in the years that have passed, my own brother has died.  This story shows two brothers growing up in Montana with a stern minister father.  They go fly fishing, which represents a sort of religion with lessons in life, the world, and nature.  Craig Shaffer is the older brother Norman, more serious in his outlook, studying literature.  I would say that his performance wasn’t entirely convincing, however.  Brad Pitt, fresh from “Thelma and Louise,” is the younger brother Paul, getting into trouble for gambling and fighting.  He is the better fisherman, though.  River Phoenix auditioned for this part, but I didn’t see him as the right fit.  It is hard to believe that Brad Pitt was ever that young.  Tom Skerritt was the father.  I didn’t know what to think of him after he was in “Top Gun,” but he was pretty good in this film.  His character fades from the film as the brothers face their future, though.  Norman goes on to success because he finds love and a bigger life outside of Montana, while Paul wallows in immaturity, getting into trouble with a lot of potential danger.  The featurette on the making of the film tells us that Robert Redford tried out about twenty people for the voiceover before just going ahead and doing it himself.  The odd thing is that he is the voice of Norman, but Brad Pitt in some shots resembles a young Robert Redford.  The voiceover is done because the author’s voice was a strong aspect of the book, but I thought it was too much.  It goes on and on and makes the film feel like there’s not enough going on in it.  Some people have described this film as too long.  The shots that linger on the fly fishing and the scenery contribute to this feeling, although the cinematography is impressive and deserved the Oscar.  It’s showing life in a different era, certainly unlike the 1990s.  The movie touches on meaningful themes, and so many people have discovered it over the last 26 years.  I liked it overall, although I think the criticism that it moves too slowly is largely true.  Redford did his best work as a director with “Ordinary People,” and the films he made after that were interesting, but didn’t match that level.  One amusing thing is the appearance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the young Norman.  He was born in 1981 and so was 11 years old in 1992.  The fly fishing was supposed to look authentic, and most people seemed to think that was the case.  The film did look exceptionally beautiful on Blu-ray, so anyone who wasn’t seen it in high definition might want to take another look at it.  Some of the deleted scenes were interesting.  The movie would have been about 16 minutes longer without the editing.  Some of the people who died on February 21 include Hieronymus Bock (1554), Jethro Tull (1741), Malcolm X (1965), Margot Fonteyn (1991), and Robin Moore (2008).  Today is a birthday for Ellen Page (31) and Kelsey Grammer (63), and Anthony Daniels (72).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for February 21, the big winners for Best Motion Picture at the 9th Golden Globe Awards in 1952 were “A Place in the Sun” for Drama and “An American in Paris” for Musical or Comedy.  In 1968, “Child is Father to the Man,” the debut album by Blood, Sweat and Tears, was released.  In 1971, Sly and the Family Stone had the Number One single in 1971, “Thank You.”  In 1990, Milli Vanilli won the Grammy for Best New Artist.  Kelsey Grammer celebrates his 63rd birthday today.

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The Three Musketeers

I went out to Emeryville to see “Early Man” again, and I also went out to see the Oscar-nominated short animation films.  When I got back home, I watched “The Three Musketeers,” the film from 1973 that was part of my childhood.  It gave me such pleasure when I first saw it years ago.  It loses something when you watch it on television.  The opening sequence with Michael York doesn’t have as much life to it.  I wondered what this movie would have been like with The Beatles and Ursula Andress in it.  As it is, the cast is very good, with Michael York as d’Artagnan, Oliver Reed as Athos, Richard Chamberlain as Aramis, and Frank Finlay as Porthos.  Charlton Heston was Cardinal Richelieu, Faye Dunaway was Milady de Winter, Christopher Lee was Count de Rochefort, and Raquel Welch was Constance Bonacieux.  Geraldine Chaplin and Roy Kinnear were also in the cast.  I always liked the scene with the dogs as chess pieces, and I wondered how difficult it was to get the dogs to do what the director wanted.  The scene with the musketeers taking the food while fighting was not one of my favorites.  If the action is more like a joke than something convincing, then I don’t like it as much.  The shot of Athos falling down a well seemed strange to me because of the rope.  You would have thought that he had fallen halfway to the center of the Earth.  Faye Dunaway didn’t get to be in “The Great Gatsby,” which was a shame, but this turned out to be a good film for her just before “Chinatown.”  I didn’t see Malcolm MacDowell as a good choice for a’Artagnan.  I thought Michael York fit in well and was pretty likable.  I remember him for this movie and for “Logan’s Run.”  What happened to him after 1977?  Charlton Heston had been in “Soylent Green.”  He has a strong presence in this film, although I can’t look at him without thinking of the NRA.  Raquel Welch was at her most beautiful, and this was a career highlight for her.  She wasn’t completely in the right place in this British film, however.  She never was the master of accents.  Apparently, all the cast members suffered some kind of injury from fighting scenes, and Oliver Reed acted like an animal.  Not all that much happens with the lot, which has to do with the queen’s diamonds.  It involves a potentially embarrassing situation, rather than life or death.  A lot of people are injured along the way.  It’s hard to understand why the second part of this movie, made into a separate movie called “The Four Musketeers,” turned out to be a lesser film.  If it was made into one long film, it would not have been so successful.  No one would have wanted to sit through more than three hours of this stuff.  It would have been exhausting.  Richard Lester was the director of “A Hard Day’s Night,” and this was one of his best.  If the Beatles had made this movie, there should have been more comedy and a few songs mixed in.  I would say that after 45 years, this film is not quite as wonderful in my eyes, but it still brings back good memories.  We would see “The Sting” during the same year, and “Young Frankenstein” the following year.  I thought back on the movies from 1972 to 1977 and how much they meant to me.  When I saw “Black Panther” during the weekend, I didn’t have that same feeling.  Some of the people who died on February 20 include Robert Strauss (1975), Dick York (1992), Toru Takemitsu (1996), Gene Siskel (1999), Rosemary DeCamp (2001), Sandra Dee (2005), John Raitt (2005), Hunter S. Thompson (2005), and Curt Gowdy (2006).  Today is a birthday for Cindy Crawford (52), Charles Barkley (55), Patty Hearst (64), Jennifer O’Neill (70), Sandy Duncan (72), J. Geils (72), Buffy Sainte-Marie (77), and Sidney Poitier (91).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for February 20, the controversial film “Freaks” was released in 1923, leading to the end of the film career of director Tod Browning.  In 1969, “Goodbye Cream,” a documentary about Cream’s last concert, opened, getting poor reviews for its audio quality and its bizarre editing.  In 1974, the Steely Dan album “Preztel Logic,” featuring “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” was released.  In 1997, Ben and Jerry’s introduced their ice cream flavor inspired by the rock group Phish.  In 2007, Britney Spears entered rehab.

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In Which We Serve

I took the 72R bus from Jack London Square, then transferred to the 51B to go home.  I browsed through the record store and bought the Beatles singles “Help!” and “Yellow Submarine” with picture sleeves, and the album “Introducing the Beatles.”  The cashier forgot to give me my 75 cents in change, the second day in a row that happened to me.  I listened to the Robert Hilburn Rock ‘n’ Roll Times radio program on KCSN.  He played songs by Buffalo Springfield, Poco, and Neil Young.  I watched the DVD of “In Which We Serve,” a wartime film with Noel Coward, Bernard Miles, and Celia Johnson.  Richard Attenborough had a role, and Juliet Mills appeared as a baby.  Noel Coward and David Lean shared the direction credit, as Lean had the knowledge of filmmaking to make the project go forward.  The film shows the men on the ship Torrin, fighting in the Battle of Crete in 1941.  The fighting is rough, and the German planes are unrelenting.  The ship eventually takes a fatal hit, and the crew has to abandon ship.  Some of the crew hangs on to a float, and we see flashbacks of these men going over their memories.  I didn’t want to see more of the ship in the past, and what was interesting was one of the men getting married, and the peace of leave.  The scene of the Germans bombing the British towns made me think of “Hope and Glory.”  I thought perhaps it was a bit too much to see the survivors of the crew give three cheers to the ship as it sank, and the Captain at the end went on a bit too long about the love of the ship that everyone had.  It was rather presumptuous.  Do all the little people really love the ship?  This movie was a piece of propaganda, but it did show how tough the fight against the Germans was, and it had many moving moments.  It was a strong movie, and it seemed that David Lean contributed quite a bit to the success.  It was one of the most successful British films in the United States.  I have stronger memories of films like “Yanks” and “Hope and Glory” because they were released during my lifetime, but this was a good film.  It had some informative special features in its Criterion Collection edition.  Noel Coward would appear in “Brief Encounter,” “Around the World in Eighty Days,” “Our Man in Havana,” “Bunny Lake is Missing,” and “The Italian Job.”  He died of heart failure on March 26, 1973.  Celia Johnson appeared in “Brief Encounter.”  She suffered a stroke while playing a game of bridge and died in 1982.  Bernard Miles was in “Great Expectations,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” and “Moby Dick.”  He died in 1991.  Richard Attenborough appeared in “The Great Escape” and “Jurassic Park,” and won a Best Director Oscar for “Gandhi.”  He died on August 24, 2014, five days before his 91st birthday.  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for February 19, Lou Christie had the Number One single, “Lightnin’ Strikes,” in 1966.  In 1972, Paul McCartney released his single “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” which was banned by the BBC.  In 1980, Bon Scott of AC/DC died at age 33 after passing out during a night of heavy drinking.

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Early Man

I watched CBS Sunday Morning and waited for my parents to phone me.  The program showed profiles on Willem Dafoe and Jimmy Buffett, and the Almanac segment noted that it was Vanna White’s 61st birthday.  I went out to Trader Joe’s to buy a few things, and then I went out to Jack London Square to catch a movie.  All but three of the screenings of “Black Panther” were sold out before I got to the box office.  I got a free popcorn as a reward.  The popcorn tasted better than what they had at the AMC theatre.  I was one of the few people in the place getting ready to see “Early Man.”  The characters lived in a world that seemed like an actual world.  The Aardman animators seemed to have refined their technique, because the film doesn’t have that Gumby look to it.  Eddie Redmayne played the main role of Dug, and he was as good in this movie as in anything else he has been in.  The Stone Age world brought to mind The Flintstones.  At least that is what I thought about the shaving device.  When the tribe was out hunting for rabbits, I somehow suspected that Mr. Rock would play an important part.  Those scenes had to remind me of Bugs Bunny, except a bunny that couldn’t talk.  I wasn’t too excited about seeing a soccer game as the big finish, since this is the United States, and no one here watches soccer.  The family sitting behind me was impatient with the movie.  The kids were too young to understand the humor.  The two elderly ladies sitting to my right chuckled at times.  I enjoyed this movie, although it wasn’t the best from Aardman.  I liked the Wallace and Gromit movie from some years ago.  “Early Man” brought in only $3.15 million over the weekend, and so finished in seventh place, behind “Black Panther,” “Peter Rabbit,” “Fifty Shades Freed,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” “The 15:17 to Paris,” and “The Greatest Showman.”  All the movies that finished ahead of “Early Man” were louder.  That is what America’s taste in movies seems to be.  I’m interested to see what China will think of “Black Panther.”  Some of the people who died on February 19 include Adolfo Celi (1981), Michael Powell (1990), Charlie Finley (1996), Stanley Kramer (2001), Johnny Paycheck (2003), and Harper Lee (2016).  Today is a birthday for Benicio Del Toro (51), Jeff Daniels (63), and Smokey Robinson (78).

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

In the middle of the night, I found that I couldn’t get back to sleep, and so I lay in bed watching “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”  It had Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman in the big roles, in a tale of war in Spain.  Ernest Hemingway reportedly wanted to see these two in this story.  I wasn’t too sure that I could see Gary Cooper as a former schoolteacher.  What would he be like in the front of a classroom?  Ingrid Bergman’s face looked beautiful, perhaps too much for her character.  Maria went through the suffering that Ilsa in “Casablanca” had talked about, but there was some physical evidence in the hair.  This movie seems like a predecessor of “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” and “The Guns of Navarone.”  It was a very popular movie when it was released in 1943.  It felt like not much happened in the movie.  This group has a mission to blow up a bridge.  Cooper seems like the same man he was in numerous other films.  I haven’t noticed a huge amount of range in his acting, although he was in a comedy like “Ball of Fire.”  Bergman’s appearance in this movie meant that “As Time Goes By” remained in “Casablanca,” as a reshoot with another song was cancelled because of her haircut for this film.  What kind of real-life experiences did Ernest Hemingway have?  He seems to know about things like the motivations of rebels and how to explode a bridge.  What was a movie audience in 1943 thinking about as they were watching this film?  If they had loved ones fighting the war overseas, it could have been very difficult to watch.  Cooper and Bergman were the main attractions of this film, although one member of the cast was Akim Tamiroff, who appeared in “The Great McGinty,” “Tortilla Flat,” “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek,” and “Touch of Evil.”  He died of cancer on September 17, 1972.  “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, and won one.  Katina Paxinou received the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.  She appeared in “Mourning Becomes Electra” in 1947 with Rosalind Russell and Kirk Douglas, and “Mr. Arkadin” in 1955 with Orson Welles and Akim Tamiroff.  The version of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” on DVD had an intermission, and its running time was 166 minutes.  It looked like the color could use some restoration.  I thought the movie was worth seeing for the two stars.  It ran a bit too long, but it takes you back to a different time when the photography and editing of a movie didn’t make you dizzy and nauseous.  I’d rather see Gary Cooper in “High Noon” and Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca,” but there was a powerful ending here.  Cooper had a strong last scene.

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Casablanca

I watched Seamus Mullen’s chef segment on CBS This Morning.  Some of his signature recipes include Kale salad with prune vinaigrette, “Simply the Best” granola, Basic roast chickens, Marinated spice-grilled carrots with mint, yogurt and pistachios, and Roasted sweet potatoes with coconut, maple syrup, and espelette pepper.  I looked up the American Top 40 playlist for the weekend.  The Top 10 songs on February 15, 1975 were “#9 Dream,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” “Lonely People,” “Fire,” “Black Water,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Best of My Love,” “Pick Up the Pieces,” and “You’re No Good.”  I went over to the AMC theatre in Antioch, and while everyone else was seeing “Black Panther,” I was one of the two people who was there for the early showing of “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.”  I liked it a little more the second time.  I rode the bus and BART back and browsed through the record store.  I found something I’d sought for quite a while, a DVD copy of “The Three Musketeers” with Michael York and Raquel Welch.  After doing some grocery shopping, I returned home to see the Saturday Night Movie on KQED.  It was “Casablanca.”  I was three months late for the 75th anniversary, but it was good to see this movie again.  The cast was great, although Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid aren’t perfect with their dialogue.  I wondered what happened with Sam after Rick left.  Would he really want to stay on working for Ferrari?  It seemed that Emil the croupier shouldn’t have handed Louis his winnings just after he closed down the place.  Did Laszlo touch his wife even once through the entire movie?  He is so distant in his marriage that I couldn’t imagine these two staying together for very long.  I thought that Sam’s piano was not a good place to hide the letters of transit, but then I could see how Louis was not very musical.  Sam suggested that he and Rick go fishing, although I wondered where they would go fishing.  There were no waters in Casablanca.  Rick’s employees didn’t show good judgment when he let the desperate young man win at roulette.  They showed emotion right in front of everybody.  They don’t know how to keep quiet in a place that is very dangerous.  I wondered who the man was who told Rick that when they came to get him, he hoped he would be of more help than for Ugarte.  How many people in this movie dared to insult Rick like that?  We can only imagine how painful Ugarte’s death was.  Peter Lorre had an addiction to morphine, and he would die of a stroke in 1964.  His last movie was “The Patsy.”  I thought it was practically a miracle how the script worked out.  Michael Curtiz was a good director.  I also wondered about the pickpocket.  I don’t know how someone like him could last for too long in Casablanca.  I could imagine Laszlo coming to America and boring everybody with his speeches.  Paul Henreid’s last movie was “The Exorcist II” in 1977.  He died in 1992.  The last surviving cast member was Madeleine Lebeau, who was Yvonne.  She died on May 1, 2016 at age 92.  I can’t watch “Casablanca” without thinking about Billy Crystal’s comments about it in “When Harry Met Sally.”  Some of the people who died on February 18 include Michelangelo (1564), Frank James (1915), Eddie Mathews (2001), Johnny Paycheck (2003), and Maria Franziska von Trapp (2014).  Today is a birthday for Molly Ringwald (50), Dr. Dre (53), Matt Dillon (54), Vanna White (61), John Travolta (64), Yoko Ono (85), and Toni Morrison (87).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for February 18, “The Red Skelton Show” won the award for Best Comedy at the 4th Primetime Emmys in 1952, while “Studio One” won for Best Dramatic Show.

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