Rain all day, but that’s all right. Started out warm, but that was just yesterday wrapping up its business. Typed all day, except for the times when I didn’t; did a brief PJTV interview that ended when the webcam connection froze and left up a picture that made me look as if I was trying to blow a smoke-ring, or was attempting to swallow an invisible hot dog without chewing.
The theme of the conversation was responsibility, and why no one in the current crisis seems willing to own up to this mess. I said that no one could see an advantage to admitting culpability, however small, and if I had thought of it I’d have brought up the Japanese; can’t have a big failure over there without someone sweating, bowing, apologizing, banging his head into the table, generally behaving as though he deserved to be stoned. And those are the showy ones who earn only contempt; it's the guys who go home and hang themselves that really get a round of applause. It’s almost impossible to imagine that here, what with the diminished likelihood of hosswhipping, or a dispassionate, sustained interlude of public caning. If we interviewed any of the people responsible for this situation and asked them what they planned to do now, we wouldn't be surprised if they said they were going to Disneyworld.
Then again, the market was up today; if that was a dead-cat bounce, he landed on Flubber. Buy Flubber futures! On the margin!
This certainly qualifies as the weekly Black and White:
You might be confused: it looks like a shot from a classic old movie, but it’s widescreen. (I’m pretty sure that’s the New York Municipal Building behind him.) No one would put this in a movie today unless they’d crafted something pomo-twee and preciously ironic. Why, surely someone’s going to burst into a tune from “No, No, Nanette” any second now. Not quite. But close. The movie isn’t to everyone’s tastes, especially if you need large budgets, whipsaw plots, and consistent tone. Which is to say it was made on the cheap, wanders all over, and veers from mildly comic to hilarious to musical set-pieces to dance numbers to derring-do, and back around again. It’s “Man of the Century,” and it’s about Johnny Twennies. He’s a newspaperman in 1999 New York, but everything about him – his dress, mannerisms, slang, apartment, morals, jokes, tastes, habits – is from the 20s. It would be wearisome if the star, Gibson Frazier (who wrote the movie, which helps) didn’t invest Johnny with snappy brio from the moment we meet him. (Mouse over the clip to reveal the controls; that curious, 21st century innovation called "Flash" is required.)
You could listen to him all day, and as it happens, you do: he has the majority of the dialogue, and doesn’t repeat a slang line once. Even though it’s set in fin de siecle Manhattan, it works in as many 20s themes as possible, including the vogue for all things Egyptian. Here’s a nightclub:
Johnny addresses the bandleader as "Lester" - happens to be his name, too. Here’s another shot during the completely necessary Charleston sequence. (The actress who plays Johnny’s baffled girlfriend has a series of facial expressions in this scene which should have got her the Oscar for an actress in an indie film successfully communicating her surprise at doing the Charleston.) Here's Lester - better known as Lester Lanin, 92-year-old bandleader. He's dead now, but his band and website are still around.
His obit makes interesting reading, including the fact that he kept the band playing one night until the founder of Radio Shack 's parent company fell over and died.
The restroom attendant? Well, it’s some strange club that has Bobby Short handing out towels and advice:
As I said, there are musical numbers, but they make sense. Almost. At the end of one impromptu jam in a record store, where Johnny leads everyone in a chipper, crackerjack uptempo version of “You Were Meant For Me,” a strange man walks over to one of Johnny’s friends, and introduces himself. All right, folks: name this actor. (Mouse over for controls.)
Maybe I’ve just seen the clip too many times, but that’s some baaad acting towards the end. Not that it matters; the scene is funny in context, and as with almost every second of the movie, you forgive it. I’ve rarely watched a movie I wanted to enjoy more, and did, constantly. Why, it even has the sense to shoot a few setpieces in silence, such as Johnny’s undercover adventure at a police station. Hello, Harold Lloyd. (Mouse over for controls.)
(That’d be the Mills Brothers doing “Diga Diga Doo,” it would.)
(And the overacting actor? Frank Gorshin.)
If you expect too much, you'll be disappointed; if you sign on for 77 minutes of unique amusement, you'll get it. (Warning: the bad guys, being modern, all swear horribly, if that sort of thing bothers you.)
We'll be back to regular old old movies next week.
Today: the #12 hit.
New comic, keeping with our 1929 theme (yesterday's Matchbook was a bank, you know. Although if the market goes up another 800 I'll have to think this over again. Everything's jake! Right?
See you at buzz.mn! Tomorrow: the monster screed.