Make Way for Tomorrow

I watched the Leo McCarey film “Make Way for Tomorrow” from 1937. Some of the stars were Victor Moore, Beulah Bondi, Fay Bainter, and Thomas Mitchell. It shows what happens to an elderly couple after a bank takes their home. None of their children has room for both of them, so they are split up. Lucy disturbs her daughter-in-law’s bridge class with her creaking rocking chair and her loud phone call. Barkley catches a cold sleeping on the sofa of his son’s apartment. Their children view them as a nuisance in a culture oriented towards youth. The plan turns into sending Lucy to a nursing home and shipping Bark off by train to California. Lucy and Bark spend a final, precious five hours together. The film is sad and moving, and it was a credit to McCarey that he didn’t change the ending to something soft and unbelievable. I thought of the John Prine song “Hello in There.” Two of the cast members, Bondi and Mitchell, were prominent in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “Make Way for Tomorrow” inspired the Ozu film “Tokyo Story,” regarded as one of the great Japanese films. Beulah Bondi was exceptional in this film. Did she ever give a better performance? It’s surprising that Hollywood could produce a film like this in 1937. Apparently, few people went out to see it back then. McCarey also directed “Duck Soup,” “The Awful Truth,” and “An Affair to Remember,” but this might be his best film. It seemed to be a favorite of his, as he commented that he won the Oscar for the wrong film. Beulah Bondi played James Stewart’s mother in the four movies “Of Human Hearts,” “Vivacious Lady,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Her last appearances were as Martha Corinne Walton on “The Waltons” television program. She received an Emmy Award for the episode “The Pony Cart,” aired in December 1976. She suffered broken ribs after she tripped over her cat, and she died at age 91 on January 11, 1981. Victor Moore’s last two movie roles before he died at age 86 in 1962 were the Marilyn Monroe films “We’re Not Married!” and “The Seven Year Itch.” Leo McCarey went on to direct “Love Affair,” “Going My Way,” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s.” His last films were “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!” and “Satan Never Sleeps.” He died at age 70 of emphysema on July 5, 1969. Some of the people who died on January 20 include Alan Freed (1965), Johnny Weissmuller (1984), Barbara Stanwyck (1990), Audrey Hepburn (1993), Carrie Hamilton (2002), Al Hirschfeld (2003), Reynolds Price (2011), and Etta James (2012). Today is a birthday for Rainn Wilson (54), Bill Maher (64), Paul Stanley (68), and Buzz Aldrin (90). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 20, The Byrds covered Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 1965. In 1979, Chic had the Number One single, “Le Freak.” In 1990, the Golden Globe Awards went to “Born on the Fourth of July” and Tom Cruise.

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Stalker

I watched the Andrei Tarkovsky film “Stalker’ from 1979. Tarkovsky was the director who gave us “Andrei Rublev” and “Solaris.” This one showed us a future world in which three men go into a restricted area called The Zone. Their guide is The Stalker, and the two men who pay him for this weird and dangerous trip are The Writer and The Professor. Rather like “The Wizard of Oz,” the journey goes from a world without color to a place where there is color, even though it’s not the rich Technicolor of an MGM musical. You have to wonder if the Stalker is a fraud as he tosses metal nuts tied to strips of cloth to test for traps in the Zone. What is he doing, making up rules like a child playing a game? There is a low budget quality to this adventure. I’m going to guess that “The Goonies” cost more to make than this picture. The Room is supposed to be a place that grants a person’s deepest desires. It seems right, and right for Tarkovsky, that this Room is in a decayed building. There is a lot of water in the movie, and the men wade into it and fall into it. I felt uncomfortable watching all of this and felt almost as though my own feet were wet. I had to note that one other shot broke the illusion of the movie because it showed some passing cars behind the trees in the background.  The stalker’s wife breaks down the fourth wall and addresses the camera at the end, reminding me of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” also from the 1970s. Their daughter Monkey has special abilities with her mind, although it looks fake on the table in a low budget way. This film does have a fascinating quality, and you might want to see it on a double feature with “Solaris” if you are adventurous. It was based upon the novel “Roadside Picnic” by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. Tarkovsky said that all his film had in common with the novel were the words “Stalker” and “Zone.” After “Roadside Picnic,” the Strugatsky brothers published the novels “The Doomed City,” “Beetle in the Anthill,” “Limping Fate,” “The Time Wanderers,” and “Overburdened with Evil.” Arkady died at age 66 on October 12, 1991, and Boris died at age 79 on November 19, 2012. Some of the people who died on January 19 include James Dickey (1997), Carl Perkins (1998), Hedy Lamarr (2000), Tony Franciosa (2006), Wilson Pickett (2006), Suzanne Pleshette (2008), Stan Musial (2013), Earl Weaver (2013), and Miguel Ferrer (2017). Today is a birthday for Paul Rodrigues (65), Katey Sagal (66), Dolly Parton (74), Shelley Fabares (76), and Michael Crawford (78). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 19, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” reached Number One on the Billboard album chart in 1980. In 1990, “Tremors” was released.

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Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant

After watching the playoff game between the Ravens and the Titans, I sat down to watch “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,” a film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It had an all-female cast, and it was based on a play written by Fassbinder. It is miles away from George Cukor’s “The Women.” Petra von Kant is a fashion designer living in Bremen. Her apartment has a huge reproduction of Poussin’s “Midas and Bacchus.” Another designer named Marlene lives in the apartment, but Petra mistreats her. Petra falls in love with a pretty blonde named Karin, but Petra’s jealous, self-centered behavior makes the situation intolerable. The confined setting of the film adds to the tension of the drama, but we could have used more to look at other than Petra’s changing hair and clothes. I don’t know that I have seen a movie based on a play that didn’t feel limited. It does feel like the dialogue drags on and makes us feel restless at times. We’re being held prisoner by both Petra and Fassbinder, which seems to be the intended effect. I was interested in the moment when Petra said that she had a love for algebra, while Karin said that she didn’t understand the point of using letters in place of numbers. This was a good film, although if I were forced to see a Fassbinder film of my choice tomorrow, I would go with “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.” Hanna Schygulla, who played Karin, came into conflict with Fassbinder over low pay, but she would appear in “The Marriage of Maria Braun,” “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” and “Lili Marleen.” She was also in “The Delta Force” and “Dead Again.” She is now 76 years old. Margit Carstensen, who played Petra, is also known for appearing in several of Fassbinder’s films, including “Berlin Alexanderplatz.” She was born on February 29, 1940. Some of Fassbinder’s films with gay and lesbian themes were “Fox and His Friends,” “Satan’s Brew,” and “Querelle.” Fassbinder was only 37 when he died of an overdose of cocaine and barbiturates on June 10, 1982. I watched CBS Sunday Morning. One segment paid tribute to Buck Henry, who died on January 8 at age 89. We’ll remember him for Get Smart, “The Graduate,” and Saturday Night Live. The program also had Mo Rocca interviewing Kim Novak, who was mingling with fans at an exhibition of her paintings. We will always remember “Vertigo.” Some of the people who died on January 18 include John Tyler (1862), Rudyard Kipling (1936), Curly Howard (1952), Sydney Greenstreet (1954), Carl Betz (1978), Kate McGarrigle (2010), and Glenn Frey (2016). Today is a birthday for Kevin Costner (65). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 18, The Beatles settled a defamation suit that Pete Best filed against them in 1969. In 1975, “The Jeffersons” debuted on CBS. Also in 1975, Barry Manilow had his first Number One single, “Mandy.” In 1978, the Warren Zevon album “Excitable Boy” was released. In 1986, Dionne and Friends, consisting of Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John, reached Number One on the singles chart with “That’s What Friends Are For.”

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Au hasard Balthazar

I finished watching “Au hasard Balthazar.” It followed the life of a donkey as it goes from being a children’s pet to circus act to beast of burden to discarded property. Meanwhile, young Marie travels a similar path through life. She becomes involved with the cruelest character I’ve seen in a Robert Bresson film, a despicable young man named Gerard. Anne Wiazemsky, the young woman who played the part of Marie, was reminiscent of Scarlett Johansson. The film was inspired by Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” and the seven parts of Balthazar’s life represent each of the seven deadly sins. It’s a lot of pain and suffering. Gerard’s treatment of Marie is hard to take. The party at the bar was not realistic, as Gerard breaks bottles with no one reacting. The way that Balthhazar goes from one owner to the next reminded me of “Winchester ’73.” The suggestion that a person or creature does not have much control in life is disturbing, and I can see how American audiences would not like this film. There is also a refusal on the part of Bresson to instruct us how to view the events. He takes the acting away from the actors, so I guess a donkey is the right centerpiece for the story. I did think of Jacques Demy’s “Donkey Skin” as I watched this film. “Au hazard Balthazar” is one of Roger Ebert’s Great Movies, but I’m not sure if I would put any of Bresson’s films on my list, although I thought this was possibly his best film. I read a bit more about Anne Wiazemsky. She was 18 when she appeared in this film, and she appeared in Jean-Luc Godard’s films, such as “La Chinoise,” “Week End,” and “One Plus One.” She and Godard were married from 1967 to 1979. She wrote novels, such as “Jeune Fille,” which was based on her experience working on “Au hazard Balthazar.” She was 70 years old when she died of breast cancer on October 5, 2017. Some of the people who died on January 17 include Rutherford B. Hayes (1893), T.H. White (1964), Billy Stewart (1970), Betty Smith (1972), Richard Crenna (2003), Art Buchwald (2007), Bobby Fischer (2008), Erich Segal (2010), and Don Kirshner (2011). Today is a birthday for Michelle Obama (56), Jim Carrey (58), Steve Harvey (63), James Earl Jones (89), and Betty White (98). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 17, Dean Martin’s son Dino was arrested for trying to sell an AK-47 to an undercover officer in 1974. In 1976, Barry Manilow had the Number One single, “I Write the Songs.” In 1983, the Randy Newman album “Trouble in Paradise,” featuring “I Love L.A.,” was released. In 1986, “Iron Eagle,” starring Lou Gossett, Jr., was released. In 2011, record producer Don Kirshner died of heart failure at age 76 in Boca Raton, Florida.

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Le trou

I watched “Le Trou.” It was about an attempted prison escape, and it was very enjoyable and interesting to watch. I had to admire how thorough and resourceful these men were in their work. Some of the shots showed just how difficult it was to pound a hole through a floor or a wall, and how much risk these prisoners were taking. The film starts off with a breaking of the fourth wall, as we’re told that the following story was true. We see a prisoner changing prison cells right into this plan, and the others decide whether or not to trust this guy. They get packages from the outside with food that is better than what the prison gives them. The story has shades of “The Great Escape,” even though this story was something less than great in its scale. It’s interesting that we root for these men to escape even though it is nearly impossible that it will happen. The approach in showing the action in all its detail made me think of the classic “Rififi.” This is a movie that I could watch several times. I compared it in my mind to the Get Smart episode “The Not-So-Great Escape.” Some of the people who died on January 16 include Amilcare Ponchielli (1886), Léo Delibes (1891), Carole Lombard (1942), Arturo Toscanini (1957), Ted Cassidy (1979), Bernard Lee (1981), Ron Carey (2007), Russell Johnson (2014), Dave Madden (2014), and Eugene Cernan (2017). Today is a birthday for Debbie Allen (70) and John Carpenter (72). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 16, the Cavern Club in Liverpool opened in 1957. In 1963, “Son of Flubber,” a sequel to “The Absent-Minded Professor,” was released. In 1966, the James Coburn movie “Our Man Flint” was released. In 1970, The Who began a tour of European opera houses, performing music from the “Tommy” album. In 1972, Ross S. Bagdasarian, known as David Seville, died of a heart attack at age 52. In 1980, Paul McCartney was arrested in Tokyo for marijuana possession.  In 1984, Paul McCartney was arrested for marijuana possession in Barbados.  In 1987, the Richard Pryor film “Critical Condition” was released. In 1988, George Michael was at Number One on the album chart with “Faith.” In 1991, The Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1995, UPN was launched with an episode of “Star Trek: Voyager.” In 1996, Jamaican authorities mistakenly fired upon Jimmy Buffett’s airplane with Bono inside as a guest.  In 1998, “Fallen,” starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, and James Gandolfini, was released.

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Chun gwong cho sit

I watched “Happy Together.” We see the principals go from Hong Kong to Argentina. It’s a love story with clashing, opposite personalities, and some of us don’t really want to see something like this drag on for an entire movie. I wanted them to break up and stay apart from the beginning. The director was Wong Kar-wai. He was inspired by Manuel Puig. I wasn’t excited by his other famous films, “Chunking Express” and “In the Mood for Love.” Some of the people who died on January 15 include Ray Bolger (1987), Sammy Cahn (1993), Harry Nilsson (1994), Minnesota Fats (1996), Junior Wells (1998), Susannah York (2011), Nagisa Oshima (2013), Kim Fowley (2015), Dan Haggerty (2016), and Carol Channing (2019). Today is a birthday for Margaret O’Brien (83). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 15, Don McLean’s “American Pie” was the Number One single in 1972. Also in 1972, the NBC television series “Emergency!” which was created by Jack Webb, made its debut.  In 1983, Men at Work had their second Number One hit, “Down Under.”  In 1987, Ray Bolger of “The Wizard of Oz” died at age 83.  In 1993, the last episode of “Santa Barbara” aired on NBC. In 1994, Harry Nilsson died of heart failure at age 52.

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Gabbeh

I watched “Gabbeh,” which was a beautiful and colorful film. The director was Mohsen Makhmalbaf, also known for “Kandahar.” The magical quality of the carpet actually made me think of Gumby. The cinematographer was Mahmoud Kalari. The DVD copy of the film that I watched wasn’t very good. It’s a film that could use the Criterion Collection treatment. I read through the Roger Ebert review of the movie, he compared the primary colors with “Ju Dou” by Zhang Yimou. He also said that movies like this work like meditation or music in guiding us to what is important. Some of the people who died on January 14 include Lewis Carroll (1898), Humphrey Bogart (1957), Barry Fitzgerald (1961), Peter Finch (1977), Donna Reed (1986), Shelley Winters (2006), Ricardo Montalban (2009), Susannah York (2011), Conrad Bain (2013), and Alan Rickman (2016). Today is a birthday for Carl Weathers (72) and Faye Dunaway (79). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 14, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio in 1954. In 1972, “Sanford and Son,” starring Redd Foxx, made its debut on NBC. In 1976, “The Bionic Woman” with Lindsay Wagner debuted on ABC. In 1977, “Fantasy Island” with Ricardo Montalban debuted on ABC. In 1982, the science fiction horror film “Scanners” was released. In 1986, Donna Reed died of pancreatic cancer at age 64.  In 2009, Ricardo Montalban died at age 88.

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