12.19.11: It's a Wonderful Lie


Step one: insert disk into media player. Sit back to enjoy a thick slab of noise and whimsy, with every character riding the rails defined by the franchise so as to ensure that any ancillary manifestations, from books to toys to theme park rides, do not deviate from the expectations.

Realize that you really don’t want to watch it, even if it does have Penelope Cruz. You don’t give a good dogdamm, frankly, whether Jack Fargin’ Sparrow does this or does that. Some other night, perhaps. But now, with the minute hand tickling the scrote of midnight? No. So. Check Netflix.

Hey, there’s a movie I actually want to see.

Hey, the sound is out of sync. Again. This happens a lot. Tomorrow you might wonder whether it’s a result of the ongoing online backup to the Backblaze servers. If you put the slider all the way to fast backup, you’ll be solid cloud-wise in 9 days. If you put it all the way to Faster Computer, you will be backed up in 110 days. Really. Whatever: the sound is out of sync, which seems to be the case with almost everything on Netflix these days. In olden times a person in a movie theater who observed a deficiency in the projection would yell FOCUS and hope someone would do something; now you flip open a laptop and do a search to see if someone else had the same problem. Why - why yes!Yes they do. That’s the comfort of the internet: someone else always has the same problem. My paper-mache giraffe falls apart when I drag it into the orchid hothouse to be witness when I sacrifice a paper bag of beetles to Baal; anyone else have this problem?

Yahoo! answers comes back with a suggestion that you stiffen up the glue in your paper-mache mixture. Three out of five people found this helpful!


So I went to the DVR to see if there was anything recorded I wanted, but during the course of the day wife and / or child had pushed buttons that made it impossible to get au audio feed. It’s now 12:40. I am not in the modn to sit on the floor and push buttons on the amplifier to get the right combination that will allow me to hear what’s going on. I know, I know - it’s better to not hear the show at all than hear it in some degraded format. Some people are content with mere stereo, but hah! You should demand nothing less than the immersive sound provided by your amp, if you could just find the right buttons . . . there’s input, then there’s room, then there’s A/B, then there’s options, and then there’s the realization that you’re wearing headphones. There is no point.

So you slap in the ROME Blu-ray and figure, well, half an hour of this.

It’s the disk you finished the night before. Remove. Put in the next one. Ah. Finally. Something works and it’s great. But the headphones hiss, as every single cordless headphones have hissed in all the years you’ve suffered through this. Why? The broadcasting unit is THREE FEET AWAY. You’re not running a Tesla coil in the same room. Yet there is hiss and static. Sometimes it’s a battery issue. Change the batteries. Doesn’t help.

Turn everything off.

Go to bed.

But earlier I watched this:




Hadn’t seen it before. WHAT? Yes. It’s the sort of movie I usually don’t like. Madcap screw-ups based on misunderstandings that require stammered lies and uncommonly gullible people, plus a Decent Upstanding love interes, and a comic-relief character who always gets put in a closet when things get hectic. All is forgiven at the end, too, even though most of these scenarious would result in fistfights or divorces. I know it’s a beloved genre, but I’d rather pass. Unless it’s done very well, and here it’s done very well. Thanks to:


and . . .



All you need to make a movie endurable. Plus, the premise is good: what if the most popular magazine chronicler of domestic bliss was actually an unmarried city girl, instead of a married mom living in the country? What if indeed, you say; wouldn’t someone have noticed that? Especially her boss? But no. When he invites himself to her house for Christmas - and she cannot possibly say no, can she? Because he blustered over her objection, and that’s all movies need. So it’s settled then. She can’t admit the truth, because he’ll fire her. So she has to get a husband and a house and a baby in short order, then run around stomping out smoldering fibs while fresh lies bloom anew in the next room.

Helping her cook:


Recognize the face? It’s Cuddles. That was his nick, Cuddles Sakall. Like many, I first saw him in “Casablanca,” where he played the same sort of role. He was born Gero Jeno, but used a stage name Szoke Szakal - the Hungarian version of the Kono-as -Zulu credit. Hey, what’s the diff? Well, Szoke Szakal meant “blonde beard,” which he had. His movie name was S. Z. Sakall, with the initials standing for the first two letters in “Szoke.” According to his wikipedia bio, he almost didn’t take the “Casablanca” role, because he didn’t like it. Tired of playing prickly-yet-lovable-yet-befuddled waiters, maybe.

He had more screentime in "Casablanca" than Greenstreet, by the way.

Anyway. Stanwyck’s character is supposed to be terribly modern, a career woman without beau or bairn, inept in the kitchen, all thumbs with a baby. (The only one who knows how to take care of a baby is a recently demobbed sailor.) In 1942, I suppose she was terribly modern and quite Stanwyckian. They remade the movie in 1992 with - hoo boy - Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson. Its failure as a piece of cinema may be due to its director. Yes, really. Him.

It’s being remade again, with Jennifer Garner in the lead role. At least it’ll have people in it. Sunday I was sitting in a parking lot enjoying a fresh, small hamburger with lots of pepper, and noted the marquee on the movie theater:

Sherlock Holmes (old characters, redone)

Arthur Christmas (not real)

Chipmunk movie (not real)

The Muppets (based on felt)

Some Loud Action Movie with Wisecracks

Nothing in the way of a simple story, economically told, with a deft plot and a satisfying conclusion. Nothing, in other words, in the way of a well-made B picture. They used to make them by the hundreds.

But it's tempting - oh so incredibly tempting - to mistake these old artifacts for signs of a Simpler & Better Time, which isn't the case. The entertainments have attributes which seem interesting now for their rarity, but the premise of the entire movie is founded on the media's manipulation of its audience to appeal to virtues they honor but do not subscribe to. That gets lost when you see images like this . . .



. . . and think O, Once It Was So. But it wasn't, even then. Who took a sleigh in the mid 40s? The snow's fake. It was shot in July. Lies, all of it, LIES! But wonderful ones, and harmless. Just because it's fake doesn't mean it didn't happen. Why, there's the proof. Right before your eyes.



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