A Note on Spoilers

I decided it might be a good idea to make what’s known as a “sticky post” here on the front page for those coming in who might be concerned about spoilers. In these posts I’m going to be talking about varying aspects of movies that I’ve been watching, This may include writing about things that some would consider spoilers, including, at times, the endings of these movies. Those who are particularly spoiler averse may want to avoid reading these posts if they are planning to watch the movie in question. In certain circumstances where I will be discussing events towards the end of the movie, including the ending in at least a vague way, or when a movie contains a particular plot twist that might be considered major, I will try to post a more specific spoiler warning, because I do recognize that even though I may be writing about a movie that is decades old, it’s still going to be new to some people. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Batman Teams With LBJ To Sell US Savings Bonds And Stamps

bats2Yesterday I posted a bit of a rant about Batman and heroism today. (Trust me when i say it was only “a bit of a rant” I easily could have gone on on the topic much longer.)   Now, I’m not necessarily suggesting that we need the pendulum to swing back the other way as far as what we see in the video below, but it’s hard to imagine the president of the United States calling upon the creature depicted in that post to appeal to kids to help their country by buying savings bonds and stamps. Unless, of course, the message was along the lines of a growling “Buy these bonds or I’ll come to your school and beat all your little heads in!”

Of course, it’s also tough to imagine today’s “heroes” selling Twinkies and Hostess cupcakes and the like either, but that’s another post for another time, I think.

Batman Delivers A Beatdown On Surrendered Criminals – But That’s What Makes Him A Hero, Right?

If you’re one of my friends on my personal Facebook page, then this little rant may seem familiar, since I first posted it there yesterday. After a bit I decided I’d also edit it just slightly and share it here, in order to reach a bit of a different audience.

So yeah, there’s this page from one of the 237 batman comics out today (specifically Arkham Manor #1), and it perfectly illustrates what’s wrong with our take on “heroes” today.


The criminals have surrendered, they’ve even apologized to the woman whom they (apparently) mugged, they’re completely ready to be turned over to the cops, and yet bats still proceeds to give them a beat-down that he knows beforehand will be so bad that he tells the woman to call 911 for them.

Woohoo! Now that’s what I call a hero! He’s certainly someone I want my children to look up to and emulate.

am1Yes, I know as well as anyone that “comics aren’t [necessarily] for kids anymore” and all that – Heck, I was around and buying comics off the racks and in the comic book shops when Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which pretty well began the most recent “grim and gritty” take on Batman was coming out as a (kinda, there were delays) monthly series, and was one of the ones at the time cheering the more “adult” take of some of these characters on – and that this is just part of an ongoing trend, etc. etc… But really, that’s part of the point. Or maybe it’s the point.

It’s not just this comic, and it’s not just Batman. It’s that this type of thing has become the rule instead of the exception. Again, that’s what made Miller’s Dark Knight (and for that matter, his take on Daredevil, which was such a radical departure from what had come before) so much of  a standout. But it’s also one of the reasons why I no longer spend any money on comics except for the very rare exception (well, that and the fact that most comics on the stand are going for $4 to $5 a pop, but that’s a completely different rant) even though I do still keep up with what’s going on with them (obviously).

Oh well, at least we’ve got the upcoming new Superman movie to look forward to. After all, he’s always been referred to as the “big blue boy scout” of comics and held up as a role model for kids around the world, so DC and Warners would never go “dark” or “grim and gritty” with him.

What’s that? Man of Steel? Oh… yeah…

Y’know, forget it… just forget it…

Classic Television Thursday #010 – You Asked For It (1950-1959)

you1You Asked For It was an odd little show which aired from 1920 to 1959. Originally titled The Art Barker Show, the title was changed to You Asked For It in 1952. Each week, host Barker (who left the show in 1958 to be replaced by Jack Smith) would introduce and host segments responding to requests sent in on postcard from viewers throughout the country.

There were two very interesting things about the show that made it stand out from the crowd. First, because of the very nature of the show, viewers never quite knew what they would be getting from week to week. One segments might be a “where are they now?” type update, another might be some type of expose, while another might be a recreation of a scene from a classic novel or movie, such as William Tell shooting an arrow off his son’s head.

Second, because the show aired live (with some pre-recorded filmed inserts) there was always the possibility that some of the stunts might go wrong, making it even more enthralling at times.

Here are some clips (and even a couple of full episodes) from the show:

You Asked For It has had a number of revivals since its original run, and it occurs to me that in this age of e-mail and twitter and so many shows being based around “fan interaction” the time may very well be ripe for yet another incarnation of this classic show.












How About A Brand New Poster To Go With That Avengers: Age Of Ultron Trailer?

Hot on the heels of the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, here’s a new poster, too:


No, I don’t find any of this exciting at all.

(Yeah, right…)

Blame Hydra? Blame Tony? It Doesn’t Matter. The Trailer For Avengers: Age of Ultron Is Here

a2Supposedly this trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t going to premiere until next week’s Agents of Shield, but here it is, and yep, it’s official. Marvel says to blame Hydra, but personally from the looks of things, I’d say blame Tony.

Whatever the reason, I’d go ahead and take a look while the lookin’s good, ’cause there’s no promise that TPTB won’t change their minds and try to take it down.

Yeah, this looks like it’s gonna be epic.

Update: From the Credit-Where-It’s-Due Department: It appears that once word got to them that the trailer had somehow leaked online, Marvel/Disney smartly decided the genie was out of the bottle, so they went ahead and quickly put out an official version of their own, which is the one linked to above. Hey, when you’ve got Thor on your team, there’s no need to let somebody else steal your thunder, right?

Top 250 Tuesday – #015 Late Spring (1949) – Part Two

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #015 on the list,  Yasujirō Ozus Late Spring. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

ls7Last week I began my look at Yasujirō Ozu‘s 149 film Late Spring, so if you missed that, you can get caught up by clicking here.

Last time, I spent a lot of time writing about the set-up of this film, my personal history with the works of Ozu, his place in Japanese cinematic history, the plot of the film, and some of the set-up dealing with the evolving tensions between older Japanese traditions and new, more Western ideas that were “invading” the country, largely due to the post-WWII occupation by troops from the U.S. and other countries.

Today I want to take more of a look at the film itself, and spend some time on the expertise, innovation, and beauty that Ozu brings to the screen.

All one really has to do is looks at some of the stills from the film to see that Ozu, along with his cinematographer Yuuharu Atsuta had an incredible eye not only for the natural beauty that surrounded the city of Tokyo at the time, but also for interior shots and set-ups that made the most of the glorious black and white imagery they were creating.

Whether it is a set-up shot of the mountains, an interior shot that shows the household life of Noriko and her family, or a close-up of one of the characters, each scene is deftly composed, and the focus is just right to convey not only the actions that are taking place, but even the most subtle shifts of thought and mood that are occurring and that inform not only what is going on in the moment, but what is to follow.

ls9At the same time, Ozu seems to bring a special touch to drawing out from his actors not only what is necessary to convey the actions they are taking, but the reasoning and feeling behind those actions, making them not just characters, but living, breathing people, who are not just going through motions to further the plot, but actually being affected internally by not only what is being done and said by them but also what is being said to them and what is happening around them, which is a huge part of what makes Ozu perfectly suited for and a master of the shomingeki genre. (As noted last time, or for those just catching up, shomingeki refers to a genre of film dealing mainly with the ordinary daily lives of the working and middle class people of the times and their personal trials and tribulations.)

Nowhere is this skill more apparent than in the performance that Ozu gets from his main star Setsuko Hara, who plays Noriko.

ls11Noriko is a woman who is deeply conflicted by not only her personal desires and feelings, but by the pressure that is put on her by society at large, and by almost all of those surrounding her, including her most intimate family and friends. She makes it clear very early on that she, personally, does not want to get married, as she would be perfectly content and happy to simply live out her days in her father’s house, loving and caring only for him, and that she is, in many ways, opposed to the idea of marriage in general, especially a marriage to a man who she barely knows and for whom she feels no real affection.

In the hands of a less skillful director, this would be the stuff of melodrama, and would be conveyed mostly though the actions and words of Noriko, and there are times when Ozu walks right up to that line, but he always manages to pull back, instead focusing quite often on the face and features of his actress, a face which reveals that what is going on inside both her mind and her heart is quite often very much opposed to what she is saying and agreeing to.

ls13Of course, in choosing this way to portray the character, Ozu also has to trust Ms. Hara to be able to show us this inner conflict, which she often does simply via a subtle shift in her facial features or the look in her eyes rf the set of her mouth. This is truly a collaboration between a director who knows exactly what he is trying to get from his performer and an actress who has the necessary skill to give him just that.

If it were only a case of the performance of  Setsuko Hara being so strong, we could perhaps mark it down as an incredibly skilled actress bringing her “A-game” to a film and thus elevating it, a situation which often happens in movies which have become renowned. However, there really isn’t a false note portrayed by any of the actors in the movie, which again brings the focus back to Ozu and his skill at drawing these performances out of those whom he has chosen to populate this small slice of the world.

ls12Chishu Ryu, who plays Noriko’s father, Professor Shukichi Somiya, and with whom Ozu worked in most of his films, also shows his ability to walk a fine line here, giving us a portrait of a loving and caring father who doesn’t wish to break the independent spirit or heart of his daughter, but at the same time doing, and trying to get her to do, what he sees as best for her, even if he knows that she doesn’t truly desire it or see it the same way. He is a man who ultimately shows that he is, in the end, even willing to lie to her if it will cause her to follow what he sees as the right path. Yet again, director Ozu is not willing to let the Professor be a one-note character, determined to force his will upon his daughter at all costs, thereby allowing the audience to see him as a sort of villain in the piece, but, just as we do with Noriko, we really get a sense of the struggle that is taking place in the heart and mind of the Professor, again raising the movie beyond the level of mere melodrama and into classic status.

I could easily go on about the other performances that Ozu gets from the supporting actors in his company, but there is one other aspect of this film that I want to get to before I begin wrapping things up.

But that’s going to have to wait for next time, I think. (Yep, folks, it looks like this is going to a part three, and honestly no one’s more surprised than I am.)

In the meantime, here’s a short clip from the film showing some of the interaction between Noriko and her father:




Saturday Morning Cartoons #009 – The Flintstones: The Great Gazoo

gaz2If the Internet had been around in 1965, I suspect that rather than talking about a show “jumping the shark“, we would instead be talking about it “Gazooing”.

The Great Gazoo first appeared approximately halfway through the Flintstones TV show’s final season of it’s initial run. (Yep, kids. it’s true, The Flintstones made it’s debut as a prime-time animated series in September of 1960 and ran through April of 1966. It really is that old.) An alien from the planet Zetox, Gazoo had been exiled from his home planet, dislocated not only in space, but in time. He had seemingly magical powers such as being able to make objects appear and disappear and freeze time. He also had the ability to make himself visible only to Fred, Barney, and their children, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm.

gaz1Basically, Gazoo was a genie-like character, voiced by comedian Harvey Korman, (probably best known for his appearances on the Carol Burnett show) who considered himself indebted to Fred and Barney for freeing him from his space-ship, and thus was constantly trying to “help” them, though of course, in the best sitcom genie tradition, his efforts to help would usually simply cause more problems. At the same time, there was a through-line to his story about him trying to get back home which, due to the show’s cancellation at the end of the season, was never resolved.

As I implied above, the introduction of Gazoo, while certainly not the cause of the show’s decline, didn’t help things either, (let’s just say he was no Barnabas Collins who managed to cause a turnabout in a flagging show’s fortunes and keep it on the air longer) and could easily be pointed to as an indication that those behind the scenes were desperate to try anything that might give them a ratings boost and that it had hit something of a creative nadir – pretty much the textbook definition of “jumping the shark”.

Anyway, here’s the episode that introduced the little fellow, appropriately titled “The Great Gazoo”, which first aired on October 29, 1965.