Old Time Radio Thursdays – #019: A Thanksgiving Sampler (Part One)

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

Just as we did with Halloween during October, I thought we’d take a look at some Old Time Radio shows that revolve around a Thanksgiving theme for at least part of this month. So here you go folks, a roundup of shows that hopefully you won’t think are turkeys:

Next week? Even more Old Time Radio shows to be thankful for.

Until next time, Happy Listening!

Top 250 Tuesday: #053 – Rear Window (1954)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #054 on the list, Alfred Hitchcocks Rear Window. 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 in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

alfred_hitchcock_rear_window_movie_poster_2aIt’s a question anybody who writes or talks about movies a lot eventually has to face: What’s your favorite movie of all time? Of course, a lot of times, this question is followed by a lot of hemming and hawing and discussion about whether you’re talking about favorite movies or movies that we consider to be “the best”, discussion about mainstream films versus arthouse versus genre, talk about how one’s perspective of movies and favorites can change over time, discussion of “guilty pleasures”, etc. But really, all of those discussions are designed to do simply one thing: to avoid really giving a quick, definitive answer.

Lately, however, I’ve decided to forego all the delay, and simply throw out the answer “Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.”

Yeah, I’ll be the first to admit that there are certainly “better” movies. If you pushed me, I might even admit that there are better Hitchcock movies. But when it comes down to those intangibles that make a movie one’s “favorite” – things like rewatchability, enjoyability, all those factors that simply make you smile whenever you think about watching an old favorite and anticipate having an excuse to watch it again, well, for me, it all comes down to this film.

title_rear_window_blu-ray_First of all, there’s the setting, where Hitch manages to give us an entire world in one simple set-up. In a simple bit of economic storytelling, rather than giving us the kind of ’round the world chase that we see in, say North By Northwest, by confining the entirety of the film to what James Stewart‘s Jeff Jeffries can see from the window of his apartment, the master manages to give the film a sense of confinement, of near claustrophobia, while at the same time allowing for a variety of characters that keeps that single-set feeling from becoming overwhelming, as it does in something like Rope.

This also leads to the second point, which in a way echoes the first. By confining Jeffries to a wheelchair while he recovers from injuries he received prior to the film’s start, Hitchcock subverts the usual, expected role of Jeffries as the “hero” who is going to swoop in and save the day, or at least is going to be the one to do most of the “legwork” and eventually save Grace Kelly‘s damsel in distress, and turns those tropes on their ears. Instead it is Kelly and the largely under-praised Thelma Ritter who must assay those roles and go beyond the expected stereotypes.

rear_windowThis, of course, brings us to Kelly herself, who in my mind has never looked better on screen than she does here. Not only is she both strong and gorgeous, but then we get to that kiss and… well, let’s just say it never fails to make me a jealous man.

Then there is the central mystery of the film. Actually, as is often the case with Hitchcok’s movies, there are two mysteries, and the first is whether there even is a mystery to start with. This is an idea that Hitchcock plays with many times in his career, going back at least as far as 1938’s The Lady Vanishes. Because we as the audience almost always see the goings-on totally from Jeffries’ perspective, and he never actually witnesses the supposed crime, we are left, until the climax, to wonder just exactly what has happened, and whether the photographer’s obviously active imagination and bent for story telling has simply gotten the best of him and are leading both him, and the audience, on a wild goose chase.

Of course, I could bang on and on about all of the things that make this such a great film, I could talk about the voyeurism of the movie, the use of mostly diegetic sound rather than a full on score, I could pick apart the various aspects of Hitchcock’s camera work that show that at this point in his career he is a true master who has complete control over every aspect of the film and is totally at the top of his game here.

Sure, I could do all of that, but when it comes down to it, all that I really need to tell you about how I feel about this move is what I said at the top. Nowadays, whenever anybody asks me for my favorite film, the one that rally encapsulates the movie-going experience for me, I simply say “Rear Window”. And that’s all that I need to say.

So what are your thoughts on Rear Window? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Let me know below.

Saturday Double Feature: About Time (2013) and…

Saturday on the blog means Saturday Double Feature, right? Remember, the basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

So I hear there’s some sort of superhero movie that’s getting a lot of buzz this week, but instead of that one (which I’m sure we’ll get to eventually) I thought I’d instead see about pairing something up with the other big Hollywood film opening this week, the time-travel rom-com About Time:

Again, this is one of those movies that provides for a fairly obvious pairing, but Groundhog Day actually didn’t come out until 1993 so it falls outside of our 1980’s or before parameters. So instead, let’s go all the way back to 1980, which saw Christopher Reeve portray a very different time traveler in the justifiably classic Somewhere in Time

Hey, guys, let’s be honest – which of us wouldn’t find a way to go back in time if we knew Jane Seymour was waiting there for us?

Any other ideas for pairing films with About Time? if so, let me know below. And also let me know of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

Old Time Radio Thursdays – #018: My Favorite Husband (1948-1951)

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

DenninglucycolorSo today we come to the question “Who loves Lucy?” Of course, we all know the answer is “I Love Lucy“, but just who is that titular “I”? Well, for an answer to that, we actually have to travel back to the show’s origins, which, perhaps surprisingly to most (though obviously, considering that this post comes under the heading of “OTR Thursday”, not to you, faithful and insightful reader), can be found in the Golden Age of Radio.

In 1948, CBS radio decided they wanted to start a comedy radio show based on the Isabel Scott Rorick novels Mr. and Mrs. Cugat, the Record of a Happy Marriage and Outside Eden. The show, titled My Favorite Husband, initially featured Richard Denning as upper-class banker George Cugat and Lucille Ball as his wife Liz and dealt with their life in high society. After twenty or so episodes of this, however, it was decided that some changes needed to be made.

First of all, the name of the couple was changed from Cougat to Cooper. The reason for this was very simple: it was felt that the name Cougat conjured up too many images of then-popular bandleader Xavier Cougat. However, along with the name change came a change in the couple’s situation, as the couple were from that point on portrayed as more middle-class, rather than the upper-crust family they had been.

myfavhusbandInterestingly, the couple’s best friends were George’s boss, Mr. Rudolph Atterbury, and his wife Iris. Rudolph was portrayed by Gale Gordon, who would eventually go on to play Lucy’s boss on television, and Iris was played by Bea Benaderet, who would eventually give voice to another wife’s best friend, Wilma Flintstone’s neighbor Betty Rubble.

Anyway, CBS eventually decided they wanted to do a television version of the show, with Lucy in the lead. She, however, reportedly refused to do it unless her real-life husband Dezi Arnaz was also allowed to play her fictional husband. Thus, the show was reworked into what finally became I Love Lucy. And thus was television history made.

Oh, and as for that television version of My Favorite Husband? Well, it did hit the airwaves in 1953, and starred Joan Caulfield and Barry Nelson as Liz and George Cooper. This show, however, went back to the radio shows earlier days. with the Coopers returning to their upper-class status. It lasted for around two and a half seasons.

So there you go. The somewhat odd and circuitous roots of another all-time favorite television show with its beginnings in radio. Now let’s listen to some episodes, shall we?

Until next time, Happy Listening!

Short Film Wednesday 009 – Surveyor (2012)

I really hadn’t planned to do a Short Film Wednesday this week, but I happened to run across this one earlier today, and thought I’d share it with you all.

Director Scott Blake calls his short film Surveyor an “anti-western”, and it’s easy to see why. Filmmaker Magazine describes the short this way:

Set in the mid-1800s, Blake’s film follows a surveyor as he pushes West, forging a path for settlers and the American government. Amidst stunning widescreen visuals there’s a terse shoot-out with a villainous stranger, a hallucinatory, tragic finale, and an overall air of mystery and introspection.

Director Blake is largely self-taught, and despite some initial success with the film, has found himself kind of stranded as he has tried to shop it around to different festivals. He does however, seem to be a name to watch in the future, and I really wouldn’t be surprised to see more from him and to see him get more acclaim as he moves on to other projects and larger works. There’s really quite a bit to like here, and I  think he shows a lot of promise with many of the choices that he makes in the shooting of this film.

Here, take a look for yourself:

For more in formation on Blake, the history of Surveyor, and his plans for the future, check out this article on the Filmmaker website.

You Already Know Their Voices, Now See Their Faces

They’re the people whose work you’ve enjoyed so much. The people that provide the voices for cartoon characters, animated commercials, radio spots, and other forms of entertainment. Most of the time, they do so in near anonymity. Almost never do you actually get to see their faces. They are people like Mae Questel, Billy Bletcher, Alan Reed, Jean Vander Pyl, Arthur Q. Bryan, George O’Hanlon, Frank Nelson, Bill Thompson, Hans Conried, and so many many more. Well here’s your chance to see what these people actually look like, and to put faces with those voices.

Thanks go out to YouTuber RRaquello, who has obviously put in a lot of time, effort, and love for the medium for putting these compilations together and giving us all a chance to enjoy them.

Top 250 Tuesday: #176 – Goodfellas (1990)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #176 on the list, Martin Scorcese‘s Goodfellas. 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 in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

GoodfellasSorry for the absence of Top 250 Tuesday the past couple of weeks, folks, but between the 31 Days of Halloween posts and some other things that came up, well, something had to give, and unfortunately this was part of it. Hopefully, though, things are back on track, and will stay that way for awhile.

So… Goodfellas. Directed by Martin Scorcese. Starring Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro.

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.

So says Henry Hill (Liotta) and eventually we get to see his wish come true. Unfortunately, there’s a certain adage that Hill should have remembered.

Be careful what you wish for.

Look, it would be very easy for me to heap more praise on this movie, but the truth is, it’s already been done time and again. According to Wikipedia’s “reception” section in their article on the film,

The film was released to critical acclaim and currently has a 97% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a 89 metascore at Metacritic.  In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert wrote, “No finer film has ever been made about organized crime – not even The Godfather.In his review for the Chicago Tribune, Gene Siskel wrote, “All of the performances are first-rate; Pesci stands out, though, with his seemingly unscripted manner. GoodFellas is easily one of the year’s best films.  In his review for The New York Times, Vincent Canby wrote, “More than any earlier Scorsese film, Goodfellas is memorable for the ensemble nature of the performances… The movie has been beautifully cast from the leading roles to the bits. There is flash also in some of Mr. Scorsese’s directorial choices, including freeze frames, fast cutting and the occasional long tracking shot. None of it is superfluous” USA Today gave the film four out of four stars and called it, “great cinema—and also a whopping good time”.David Ansen, in his review for Newsweek magazine, wrote “Every crisp minute of this long, teeming movie vibrates with outlaw energy”. Rex Reed said “Big, Rich, Powerful and Explosive. One of Scorsese’s best films! Goodfellas is great entertainment.”] In his review for Time, Richard Corliss wrote, “So it is Scorsese’s triumph that GoodFellas offers the fastest, sharpest 2½-hr. ride in recent film history”.

goodfellas2I’d love to be a nay-sayer to all of this acclaim, to somehow knock this movie down a peg or two, but the truth is, I can’t. Is it a perfect movie? No. There are certain scenes I have problems with, but in the lingo of the film itself, that would just serve to make me look like a schnook. This is a movie that has earned its reputation, and I don’t feel it’s an exaggeration to say that if Scorcese had never made another film, he still would have to be considered among Hollywood’s elite. Fortunately he has made many more both before and after, proving that he is far from a one-hit wonder.

The bottom line? My only real regret having now actually seen Goodfellas is that I’d put it off or so long before. But that’s something I don’t have to worry about anymore. Because now, I, too, have been made.

So what are your thoughts on Goodfellas? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Let me know below.

Saturday Double Feature: Ender’s Game (2013) and…

Saturday on the blog means Saturday Double Feature, right? Remember, the basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

It appears the big movie opening this weekend is going to be the new adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game.

So, looking back at space movies of the past, and especially those involving space wars, what do we come up with for an interesting double feature with that? Well, how about this one from Japan’s Toho studios? Released in 1977, (yes, the same year as another, similarly-titled American film), we have Wakusei Daisensō: Za uō in Supēsu otherwise known in English as The War in Space:

So, do you have any other ideas for pairing films with Ender’s Game? if so, let me know below. And also let me know of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!