Friday should have been perfect, and from the outside it was. Work went well; dog was walked, and played with; had pizza; did radio and a podcast; drove around after dark; watched an old black-and-white movie.
What more could you want?
It was 46 and blustery and overcast, that was the problem. It was dank in the AM, and in the afternoon when the sun came it brought a new cohort of winds with fresh strength, and as I walked the dog I saw the limbs bend and the leaves detach, and it seemed as if The Scouring had begun to soon. It was 80 last week. It can’t be this cold now. There’s green on the ground and green above. There are flowers. Three days ago they were mowing lawns in the neighborhood.
No, no. Well, October’s like that. Whip it, and whip it good: back and forth, giveth and taketh.
Picked up daughter after soccer and took her and two friends to another friend’s house. Three weeks since we’ve had the traditional family Friday pizza. I knew this was coming and had prepared accordingly: got a frozen version of the pizza we usually have, and it sufficed. When it was time to get daughter - at 9 PM, the sun long gone - I arrived early, and rather than yank her from the bosom of Teen Bonding I parked by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and listened to the BBC and stepped out to take a picture.
I prefer the bone-white columns, to be honest. This is like a feather boa around the bust of Cato.
At home the dog would not shut up, being a puppy and all spun up by the pack being together. Wife was tired. Daughter was tired. Everyone hit the hay early and I finished my movie in my studio with the headphones.
The rain came back at night, hard and cold. Here in the kitchen at midnight, standing at the island, typing in the quiet house, thinking: it could be a hard October. And I hope it’s a long one.
Wrote this on Friday night: Watching Captain America. It’s a modern reflex: when I see the monuments of Washington in the beginning of the movie, I assume the film will rub my nose in the fact that the founding ideals have been traduced. I look forward to being proven wrong.
Briefing for the mission: Steve says about the ship “So it’s not off course, it’s trespassing. I’m getting tired of being Fury’s janitor.” Plants a seed. Trespassing is wrong, ergo SHIELD and perhaps Nick Fury is wrong, and that’s why it was taken over by those dread French Mercenary Terrorists? Cap is being sent in to clean up someone else’s error, which wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been trespassing, i.e., being Arrogant and American and all that? Because no other nation does that. Subsequent action is hard to enjoy, since there seems to be something rotten inserted into the story at the start.
I knew something would be amiss when the project got Robert Redford as a top-secret National Security guy, because of course he’s going to be the bad guy. For the sake of Cinema in General. Circles back around “Three Days of the Condor,” you see. Then I thought: it’s obvious to everyone he’s bad. He’s too content and secure and vaguely amused to be good. He is a super villain; the only question is what kind.
Wrote this after:
But then we realize the bad guys are actually . . . bad guys. Not nominal good guys who are actually evil but actual bad guys. And then I could relax and enjoy, and I did. It’s lots of fun, with some tremendous action sequences. A few notes:
1. SHIELD might not be a super-secret organization, but you’d think they’d design the headquarters so the elevators aren’t out the outside of the building. Even if the glass is bulletproof, it would be easy to detect who’s coming and going, right? From six miles away with special HYDRA scopes.
2. The idea of building a massive hanger for the fleet under the Potamic is idiotic. Well, sir, here are the plans for building the fleet. We’re going to do in in the desert. We’ve set up four dummy locations, each with their own satellite-blinding arrays, but the real hangar is underground in a cave excavated in ’74 for nuclear testing and waste disposal. Of course, it’s been our backup facility for years, but we’re finally ready.
No, that won’t do. Built it under the Potamic river.
Hah! That’s amusing, sir. They warned me about your sense of humor.
I’m serious. Under. The River.
But - but sir, leaving aside the logistics of getting the construction equipment and materials in an extremely congested urban area, there’s the matter of the weight of the river on the hangar roof. It would be incalculable. Well, not incalculable, but off hand I’d say the budget would double, just to maintain structural integrity.
Just DO IT, dammit!
3. Scar-Jo looks weird in this one. Lumpy. There’s really not that much to her character, either.
It would be nice if he went after Real Enemies, just as the Cap of old fought Nazis, but I suppose that’s too much to add. Next thrilling episode: Cap takes out an Islamic State base! No, it appears he’s going to be Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, neither of whom means much to me.
This week in Nonstop Pumpkinization ofThings, it's the Traders Joe edition. I could do two weeks of TJ items, and perhaps I will. This is notable, though: do you know why?
Because it's not pumpkin spice soup. It's pumpkin, brother, straight up and no bones about.You think you like pumpkin? Here. Readjust your expectations accordingly.
Not a review. A look at the styles, actors, tropes, and vocabulary of a bygone art form.
Not everything shot in black and white is a Noir. Most of it isn’t. But if there are dramatic shots and stark contrasts and people do bad things, it gets tagged as a Noir. Especially if it has a dramatic name:
It’s a strange dramatic name. It’s something a committee would come up with after every effort to adopt the story’s original title had failed. (It’s based on a book called “Wild Calendar.” Really.) It’s a melodrama that looks like a noir, because it had a great director, and because it seems set in the seedy world of Noir:
That’s Barbara Bel Geddes as a young model who wants something more, and why wouldn’t she? We like her because she’s sweet and earnest, though; she’s not a grasping striver who wants to get what’s hers. When she gets an invitation to a party on a ship, the film takes pains to remind us how alone and vulnerable in the world she is:
Shots like that make the film worth watching.
As the movie unfolds, you realize that nearly every shot consists of someone illuminated by a beam of light against a murky world of dark gloom:
That's the bad guy, played with a tinge of psychotic mania. Pitiless and self-contained, the peerless Robert Ryan:
This isn't a review, as I always say, but I have to give you context. He's a rich guy who marries our heroine, because she turns him down for a one-night stand, and he just has to have what he can't. He's obscenely wealthy controlling, capricious, and hypochondriacal. In short, he's the man the director had tangled with on previous films.
The film fills in the plot with newspapers, and before one of them swoops up to fill the screen, there's this shot - lasted no more than almost-a-second for the audiences of the day, but we can pause and advance frame by frame.
What's in the news today?
Really? Banner headline?
This is America! Car-hop born in humble circumstances, snags a gazillionare. Girls everywhere, take heart! It could happen to you. If you have the look:
Mother has an interesting definition of "success."
Let's look at some of the body copy:
"The advancement in our relations which I have sketched rests upon a common acceptance of certain fundamental principles for which we fought in our struggles for independence." Talk about burying the lede.
Everyone picks up on the car-hop angle. That sells papers. And what sells movie tickets? A love triangle with a plummy-voiced doctor:
Soon after marrying Smith Oilrig, or Ohlrig, she realizes he's a monster, and flees. She sets herself up in a cheap apartment and goes looking for secretary jobs, landing at James Mason's clinic for the poor. Of course, they fall in love. Of course, there's a showdown:
Again, the lighting. Every moment, every movement, every detail has its own key light.
In a weak moment she sleeps with her husband, and gets pregnant. This leads to a happy reunion, right?
Let's let the newspapers tell the rest of the story, and be grateful we have these examples of typography and illustrations:
Seems unlikely that the Olhrig gossip would be set in different type and placed between items about a boxing kerfluffle. The
The tone's quite different, too. Well, let' see what the Voice of Manhattan has to say:
Note the last item, cobbled together from two slabs of dummy copy.
Jebbo the Murder Clown! Well, we know it's not going to end well, but this has to be the first time in a major movie where a millionare got so drunk he almost killed himself playing pinball:
It's a stunning movie to watch. As a story?
Eh. It's a melodrama.
Not that I'm opposed to those. Speaking of which . . .