Thursday, December 17, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 56

Ivan Grozny - Part 1 (1944, Soviet Union, Eisenstein) - A delirious fantasy about Russia's great and all-powerful Führer, a man who is worshipped by The People and will soon make Russia into a Third Rome, ready to unleash its holy fury on all who stand in its way. Watched it all. Starring Gaahl as Ivan the Terrible.

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944, USA, Rapper) - Mark Twain was born under a comet, and grew up with Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and slaveboy Jim. At twelve, he lectured the elders at the temple about the scriptures, and everyone was amazed at his understanding. Watched: 7 minutes.

National Velvet (1944, USA, Brown) - England in the 1920's. A land of green meadows and stern but nice authority figures. Watched: 20 minutes. Introducing Elizabeth Taylor as a horse-mad 12-year old.

The Halfway House (1944, UK, Dearden) - A magical inn in Wales appears from thin air whenever someone needs help to work out their problems. The problems in this case include a couple who wants to get divorced, a captain who thinks he's a coward, and a girl with an Irish boyfriend. Watched it all.

The Uninvited (1944, USA, Allen) - Some uninteresting people move into a house that may or may not be haunted. Watched: 12 minutes.

The Lady and the Monster (1944, USA, Sherman) - It was a dark and stormy night. The mad scientist was hard at work in his castle, connecting dead monkeys to electrodes. Watched: 8 minutes.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keep Your Mouth Shut (1944)

The talking Nazi skull's plan for victory:

1. Give all the epilectics in the audience a seizure
2. Make everybody else feel guilty for having killed their loved ones
3. Victory!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 55

Murder, My Sweet (1944, USA, Dmytryk) - This is about as good as noir movie titles get. And the movie itself is good too. I've seen it before, which may be why I was able to follow much of the plot, but the plot is incidental. The approach is expressionistic: Thugs, dames and cops, and Philip Marlowe in the middle. Watched it all.

Wilson (1944, USA, King) - Here I draw the line: A presidential biopic that plays the Hail to the Chief in the intro?! (Every time I hear that tune I think of Blazing Saddles.) Watched: 11 minutes.

Hotel Reserve (1944, USA) - The pre-war French police asks an amateur photographer for help to find a German spy. It's no wonder they lost. Watched: 17 minutes.

Voodoo Man (1944, USA, Beaudine) - Bela Lugosi is kidnapping women for use in a ritual that will bring his dead wife back to life. Finally an enjoyable B-horror! Watched it all.

Dragon Seed (1944, USA, Conway) - Americans pretend what it's like to live in China, an exotic country that is so far away that it was not even possible to get hold of Chinese actors. Watched 13 minutes, then fast forwarded to see what the Japanese soldiers looked like: Mediterranean, with moustaches and lecherous grins.

Bride by Mistake (1944, USA, Wallace) - It's nice to be a veteran. You can relax and play ping-pong, and there's a rich woman living right next door you can go flirt with. Watched: 12 minutes.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Scalzi's unsuccessful holiday specials

John Scalzi presents The 10 least successful holiday specials of all time, not including That One.
Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas (1951)

In this hour-long radio drama, Santa struggles with the increasing demands of providing gifts for millions of spoiled, ungrateful brats across the world, until a single elf, in the engineering department of his workshop, convinces Santa to go on strike. The special ends with the entropic collapse of the civilization of takers and the spectacle of children trudging across the bitterly cold, dark tundra to offer Santa cash for his services, acknowledging at last that his genius makes the gifts — and therefore Christmas — possible. Prior to broadcast, Mutual Broadcast System executives raised objections to the radio play, noting that 56 minutes of the hour-long broadcast went to a philosophical manifesto by the elf and of the four remaining minutes, three went to a love scene between Santa and the cold, practical Mrs. Claus that was rendered into radio through the use of grunts and the shattering of several dozen whiskey tumblers. In later letters, Rand sneeringly described these executives as “anti-life.”
Also: An Algonquin Round Table Christmas, and The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: “A Most Illogical Holiday”.

40's movies marathon - part 54

Lifeboat (1944, USA, Hitchcock) - A group of strangers are thrown together in a lifeboat, and must find a way to tolerate each other. One is a Communist, another a self-centered reporter - and then there's a Nazi from the submarine that just sunk their ship. Watched it all.

Enemy of Women (1944, USA, Zeisler) - I expected war movies made during the war to be less like Lifeboat, and more like this, a cheap, sensationalistic character assassination of Joseph Goebbels. I was wrong. Watched: 13 minutes.

Once Upon a Time (1944, USA, Hall) - Where lesser people would only see a worm that wiggles, theatre producer Cary Grant has the vision to see a caterpillar that can dance. Watched: 21 minutes.

Champagne Charlie (1944, UK, Cavalcanti) - Ealing Studios celebrates the popular culture of their grandparents. Two music hall artists in the 1860's compete with each other about making the most popular song about alcohol. Watched it all.

Standing Room Only (1944, USA, Lanfield) - Factory girl Paulette Goddard tricks her way into the highest position a woman can dream of: becoming the handsome manager's secretary. Watched: 9 minutes.

Return of the Vampire (1944, USA, Landers) - Foggy graveyard: Check. Boring people who struggle to fit the supernatural into their narrow little scientific minds: Check. Watched: 8 minutes.

Port of 40 Thieves (1944, USA, English) - Turns out there are noir movies that aren't the least bit interesting. Watched: 15 minutes.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 53

Henry V (1944, UK, Olivier) - Hey this is fantastic: It starts with the play being staged in the Globe Theatre in front of an audience, who cheers and jeers and laughs at the jokes. It's all a bit clumsy and self-deprecating. Then it gradually moves out into the real world, still looking cheap, but with Laurence Olivier radiating every single moment he is on the screen. Watched it all. Released in July 1944, when Britain was fighting a war in France that, unlike Agincourt, actually deserved this scene:

The Fighting Rats of Tobruk (1944, Australia, Chauvel) - I've been waiting for a really bad war movie to come along, and here it is! Watched: 9 minutes.

I bambini ci guardano (1944, Italy, De Sica) - A bunch of unlikeable Italians have marriage problems. Watched: 18 minutes.

The Mask of Dimitrios (1944, USA, Negulesco) - Peter Lorre researches the life of Dimitrios, a criminal genius who has been murdered but is such a clever character that it's no surprise that he isn't dead after all. Considering the silly plot twists of some recent movies, it is actually a bit of a let-down that that is all there is to it. I was hoping that Dimitrios would turn out to be Peter Lorre, who had undergone cosmetic surgery and was retreading his own past just to mess with the minds of his enemies. Watched it all.

None But the Lonely Heart (1944, USA, Odets) - Cary Grant with an atrocious English accent. Watched: 13 minutes.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 52

To Have and Have Not (1944, USA, Hawks) - Casablanca 2 - he's back, and this time he .. still doesn't give a damn about anything, but he'll stick up for the good guys in the end. It's a shame that this is so similar to Casablanca, because that makes you notice the ways in which it isn't quite as good, such as Bogart's Jar Jar-ish drunkard friend. Watched it all.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, USA, Minnelli) - Yes, two are the types of musicals that I hate: Patriotic war musicals and old timey musicals about the good old days. But the opening number, where people sort of randomly take over the song from each other, is brilliant. Watched: 7 minutes.

Two Thousand Women (1944, UK, Launder) - A group of British women are interned in France - in a fancy hotel, two to each room. This must have been where the Nazis stationed all the nice Germans, the ones who were maybe a bit strict but essentially harmless. Watched: 15 minutes.

Miyamoto Musashi (1944, Japan, Mizoguchi) - Further proof that Japan can't help but being awesome, even when they're assholes. Admittedly it isn't a great movie, but still: Samurais, yay! Watched it all.

Kismet (1944, USA, Dieterle) - The Thief of Bagdad, without the magic. Watched: 6 minutes.

And Now Tomorrow (1944, USA, Pichel) - And now: A serious movie about serious people dealing with serious problems. You know, I'm getting fed up with flashbacks. Watched: 7 minutes.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Med vaiende faner og felte gevær, i stormskritt og marsj går arbeidernes hær

Det som fascinerer meg mest i Den store ml-boka av Jon Rognlien og Nikolai Brandal er all hemmeligholdelsen ml'erne drev med. Ingen skulle vite hvem som var hvem. Man brukte dekknavn, snudde seg vekk fra fotografer, og lot være å ringe og sende brev. Man skulle oppføre seg som om man alltid ble overvåket.

Ml'erne levde egentlig litt som de paranoide tenåringene i Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. Og sikkerhetslinjen fungerte. Det er ikke enestående at studenter har voldelige visjoner om en kommunistisk utopi. Men det er litt imponerende at en gjeng med norske marxisme-nerder - i fredstid - klarte å holde så mye av det de drev med skjult for et overivrig overvåkningspoliti.

Tross hemmelighetsholdelsen fungerte det hele som en enhetlig bevegelse, med en felles visjon. Når ledelsen bestemte at alle skulle bli proletarer, så gjorde man det. Det førte riktignok ikke til noe, men det var arbeiderklassen som sviktet. Organisasjonen fungerte. Demokratisk sentralisme i praksis.

Hvor mye dette minner om en religiøs bevegelse, som berører alle aspekter av livet, kommer godt fram i intervjuene med ml-barna. Jeg vokste også opp med sommerleirer og merkelige læresetninger i en avgrenset subkultur, med egne forfattere og egne musikere - og fortellinger om Kina! Men da i kristen regi.

Kristne har hatt lang tid til å venne seg til at Dommedag ikke kommer med det første, og at man derfor kan ta det litt med ro. Ml'erne var mer som en nyfrelst kult-bevegelse, de ville ha Revolusjonen med en gang. Da er det vanskelig å holde ut i lengden.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 51

The Hairy Ape (1944, USA) - Two egos collide on a steamboat: A spoiled, rich girl and a grunt from the engine room. This is an odd movie in many ways, some good and some bad. The best way to watch it is as a non-fantasy version of King Kong. Watched it all.

Cobra Woman (1944, USA) - Some guy goes to Cobra Island, where the cobra people live, to find his cobra woman, who has been kidnapped by her evil cobra twin. In glorious cobra color. Watched: 18 minutes.

Since You Went Away (1944, USA) - Claudette Colbert in a Serious Role, further proof of the evils of war. And who decided that 3 hour movies needed overtures? Watched: 12 minutes.

Pin Up Girl (1944, USA) - Betty Grable sings and dances, and there's a sort of plot here too. Light and fun. Watched it all.

The Conspirators (1944, USA) - Spy vs Spy in Lisbon. This sort of movie works better with Cold War communists. Watched: 23 minutes.

Buffalo Bill (1944, USA) - Joel McCrea is a simple man out of the West who sympathizes with Indians and feels bad about all those buffalos he helps slaughter. Watched: 49 minutes, which is the time it took for McCrea's unceasing earnestness to grind me down.

Phantom Lady (1944, USA) - A man's wife is murdered while he's out with an inconvenient alibi. I feel a hunt for the real killer coming on. Watched: 11 minutes.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Little more than a 15-minute nervous breakdown

At war's beginning, few men who wrote the news, and fewer still who broadcast it, could resist the purple technique of dire warnings, manic-depressive cycles, sweeping prognostications. Many a news commentator offered his audience little more than a 15-minute nervous breakdown. Not so Elmer Davis. His voice was calm, incisive, with a Hoosier twang as reassuring as Thanksgiving, as shrewd as a small-town banker.


But last week to Elmer Davis, as it must to all wartime officials, came pots of trouble. His ears had scarcely finished burning from attacks on the expense and political tone of Victory, the de luxe glamor magazine designed to sell the U.S. to the world as a kind of Hollywood 3,000 miles square, when his sprawling OWI issued a cartoon booklet on the life of President Roosevelt, also designed for distribution abroad. A U.S. soldier sent a copy to New York's Republican Congressman John Taber. Mr. Taber, who has a low irritation point, was moved to cry: "Purely political propaganda, designed entirely to promote a fourth term and a dictatorship. . . . How much longer are the American people going to have that kind of stuff pulled on them?"
- TIME, March 15, 1943

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40's movies marathon - part 50

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944, USA) - Betty Hutton gets drunk, married and pregnant with a soldier - and wakes up not remembering who with. This being a Preston Sturges movie, it's all quite cheerful and noisy. Favorite line: "This is the greatest thing to happen to our state since we stole it from the Indians!" Watched it all. Contains an early version of the Hitler YouTube meme.

Summer Storm (1944, USA) - The old tsarist aristocracy was silly and decadent and out of touch with the people. Watched: 27 minutes.

Till We Meet Again (1944, USA) - Nazi schweinhunds bother French nuns. Watched: 9 minutes.

Know Your Ally: Britain (1944, USA) - Why Americans should trust the British. "There's nothing wrong with Britain that couldn't be cured with a correspondence course in showmanship." What I found most interesting were a couple of map details: Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain, Vichy France is not ruled by the Nazis, and the British Empire is quite small and insignificant, hardly any evil empire at all. Watched it all. First in a series - I wonder how they presented the Soviet Union.

Follow the Boys (1944, USA) - Vaudeville stars pat themselves on their backs over how bloody patriotic they are. Watched: 8 minutes.

The Fighting Lady (1944, USA) - Life on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, with battle footage from the Pacific. It's odd to see World War II actually being fought. Watched it all.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 49

Dark Waters (1944, USA) - A traumatized shipwreck survivor moves in with her relatives, whose insensitive behavior, bordering on the sadistic, drives her towards a nervous breakdown. Probably the scariest movie in the marathon so far, (admittedly with little competition). Everyday events are made to seem evil, without apparent reason. Watched it all.

The Keys of the Kingdom (1944, USA) - Gregory Peck has had a suspiciously tragic life: His father was beaten to death for being a Catholic, and his mother drowned, both on the same day. Watched: 11 minutes.

The Princess and the Pirate (1944, USA) - Bob Hope is a humorous humor person on the Seven Seas. Watched: 9 minutes.

Hets (1944, Sweden) - A latin teacher makes life hell for his students, but at least they have their adult life to look forward to. He must continue to live in the dark world he's created for himself, alone, forever. Watched it all. Written, but not directed, by Ingmar Bergman, his first.

Mr. Skeffington (1944, USA) - Bette Davis trying to look dumb and pretty is just creepy. Watched: 18 minutes.

A Canterbury Tale (1944, UK) - Cheeky city youngsters get in touch with their cultural roots in the countryside. I love the attitude here, cheerful and solemn. Favorite line: "We get a much better view of the cathedral now", said by a woman in a bombed out area of Canterbury. Watched it all.

Christmas Holiday (1944, USA) - Heartbroken lieutenant ends up in brothel, finds love! Watched: 19 minutes.

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