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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Apartment

Ahh....December.  It's the worst month for getting ordinary things done.  Who has time to write a blog post on some old movie? Well, I do.  Let's call this my Christmas post.

The Apartment.  This movie should be of great interest to the readers as of late.  It begins with C.C. Baxter, loser.  He is the worst kind of nice guy who lets anyone and everyone walk all over him.  He's an office drone who allows his bosses to use his apartment for their extramarital affairs.  In turn, they dangle a promotion above his head.

Personally, I'd take an issue with other people having sex in my bed, but that's me.  Also, this movie was released in 1960 and may--or may not--have set the premise for Mad Men, what with all the skanky broads and New York heavies sleeping with a new one every night.  But I digress.

For a such a tragic film, I'd say the jokes are pretty good

--A cab?  Why do all you dames gotta live in the Bronx?
---You mean you bring other girls up here?
--Certainly not!  I'm a happily married man.

Anyway, C.C. Baxter has a crush on his building's elevator operator, Fran Kubelik, supposedly a nice girl who doesn't respond to any of the boys in the office.

Baxter gets a call to report to the office of Jeff D. Sheldrake, douchebag.  He's the VP or something and an absolute scumbag.  But more on that later.  Sheldrake lets Baxter believe he's in trouble, since he's been recommended for a promotion by 4 different managers and there is a rumor of a mysterious key floating around the office.  Baxter spills all, thinking he's been caught.  But Sheldrake has aspirations to use the apartment for himself.  He even pretends to be nice about it mentioning a "shift in personnel" and offering tickets to The Music Man in exchange.  How nice.

Baxter decides to ask Miss Kubelik to the show that night, but she has to meet a man-friend for a drink.  She offers to meet him at the theater after.  Baxter is ecstatic.  Meanwhile, guess who that man friend is.

That's right.  Jeff D. Shelldouche.  Actually, what follows is a magnificent scene with some fantastic writing and excellent delivery by Shirley MacLaine.  She calls Shelldouche out on his bullshit and his lying and his stringing her along, but then he drops the bomb:  he is leaving his wife.  (of course he's lying)  And so they go to the apartment.  And Baxter gets stood up.

Fast forward, Baxter gets his promotion and a nice office while Miss Kubelik is getting screwed in his apartment.  At the office Christmas party, Sheldrake's scorned secretary gets drunk and tells Fran all about Sheldrake and his lying, cheating, scummy-scum-scumminess.  Later on at the apartment, she is "celebrating Christmas" with Mr. Sheldrake and she gives him his present, a record that would have made a very thoughtful gift if Mr. Sheldouche had ever had an honest bone in his body in his entire wretched life.  He forgot to get her anything, so he gives her a $100 bill.  He leaves and Fran decides to take an overdose of sleeping pills.  (see?  this is a Christmas post.)

Meanwhile, C.C. Baxter is getting drunk in a bar downtown where he meets a young lady of questionable character.  (She's actually married, but her husband is in jail.  BTW-her husband is a jockey, we never see him, but the whole scene is peppered with jockey jokes, which I love.  Jockeys are creepy mo-fos.  I once took a spin class that was taught by a jockey, a wisp of a guy with way too much energy who kinda made me wish I were on a real bike so I could frantically ride far far away from him and his jock jams.  But I digress.  Again.)  They close down the bar together, so Baxter decides to take Mrs. Jockey home with him.  But his romantic endeavors are stalled by a nearly-dead Fran Kubelik.

Luckily, his neighbor is a doctor and they manage to save Fran (or else this would be a very different kind of movie and the jockey jokes would have been in pretty poor taste.)  Baxter has been taking the rap for his coworkers' indiscretions this whole time, so Fran's case is no exception.  Everyone in his building berates him for ruining that poor girl.  He takes it upon himself to nurse her back to sanity.

Thus begins the transformation of C.C. Baxter.  It is interesting to watch him grow a pair and stop being such a loser.  He gets another promotion, but it's short lived because he stands up to Sheldrake and refuses to let him use his apartment.

Actually, I've only described about half of the movie.  I won't ruin it for you.  Though it shouldn't be hard to guess at.  Rom-com scripts tend to follow the formula, though this one being a Billy Wilder project and all, it's fairly believable for what it is and brilliantly written.  Highly recommended.

And with that, some pictures for your viewing pleasure....

I found this picture of Billy and Shirley on the interwebz.  I think it's cute.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thank you, Internet, for connecting continents and generations.

The internet is a gold mine for a film geek like me.  As much as I may wax nostalgic for the early 20th century, I am SO grateful to have been born on the cusp of the 21st.  I wish I could go back in time and show a 1950's film snob what it's like to watch Un Chien Andalou on my phone.  Whenever I want. 

If it weren't for the internet, I would never have discovered this amazing 1960s band that does great arrangements of 1920's jazz standards.  They're nearly impossible to find in the US.  I'm hoping that, by posting this video, they will become popular enough that I can buy an LP at Amoeba. 

And now...The Temperance Seven

Monday, December 5, 2011

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Last night I went over to visit an old friend at her parent's house for dinner and a movie.  One of the interesting things about growing up in Los Angeles is that sometimes the guy who used to drive you home from swim practice is a card-carrying SAG member.  (I think).  Lisa's parents are Bob and Marsha, industry people, or at least, they were before they had kids.  This family takes movies very seriously.  I have to give them a lot of credit for piquing my interest in old movies at such a young age.  Anyway, last night we watched What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.  Lisa's been trying to find a horror movie that scares me for years and if she can't scare me, she at least wants me to be disturbed.  Unfortunately she is destined to fail because I have read Geek Love in it's entirety and I thought it was awesome. 

And so...
the most disturbing movie poster I could find.

The most disturbing thing about this film is Bette Davis' face/costumes/hairstyle/cackle/singing/heart-shaped-mole/overall performance.  She is absolutely brilliant.  Joan Crawford is good too, but her role as Blanche Hudson is such a subtle character that she is effectively upstaged by Baby Jane. 

This movie is pretty famous so I don't think I need to do a synopsis.  Jane Hudson was a child star while her sister Blanche was a big fat nobody, but then later, Blanche Hudson was a glamorous movie star while her sister Jane was a washed-up, alcoholic, has-been.  There was a mysterious car accident...and then in the "present", 1962, the sisters are living in a dilapidated old mansion.  Blanche is a paraplegic recluse and Jane is still an alcoholic has-been.  A local TV station has started showing all the old Blanche Hudson movies, generating some fan mail which makes sister Jane jealous, which triggers a series of psychotic episodes.  There.  That's all you need to know.

If you get a chance, pay attention to the character's shoes in the movie or any Joan Crawford movie for that matter.  She must have had a shoe clause in her contract that provided amazing shoes for the cast.  It's prevalent in Mildred Pierce where everyone is wearing gorgeous shoes, including Butterfly McQueen who plays a maid teetering around in nose-bleeder stilettos. Obviously JC couldn't wear shoes in this movie since she plays a cripple, but everyone else got to show off a nice pair.  (I apologize for this tangent, but the internet being what it is, maybe somebody else noticed it.  Or else, I just have a simmering shoe fetish and it's a really good thing that I don't use credit cards.)

Did you know Miss Jane has been going through your mail and throwing it in the trash?
Sorry Blanche, but your pet parakeet flew away.
lol j/k I cooked it for your lunch
and I've decided to revive my old vaudeville act.  I've always looked great in giant hair bows.
uh-oh.  I forgot to feed my sister and she's dying.  "let's go to the beach and make sand castles before you die, k?"

Baby Jane is 133 minutes of exquisite gothic horror with a pretty awesome twist at the end.  It's also a black comedy with a lot of train-wreck-appeal.  If you haven't seen it, go see it now.  If you have, share your thoughts in the comments section. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Road to Whatever

If you've ever watched Family Guy, you know all about Road To... movies.  They use Brian and Stewie to spoof them all the time.  (Actually that's how I knew that Seth MacFarlane is the man of my dreams.  Seriously.  If you're reading this, leave a comment.) (It's a long shot, but worth trying.)

The Road To.. series was a popular franchise in the 1940s starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.  There were 7 films in all, but the plots are all the same.  Hope and Crosby are either some kind of con men or they desperately need money, Crosby devises a scheme to get some and then Dorothy Lamour shows up as a princess or something and they boys fight over her and then at some point Hope and Crosby end up kissing each other or married to each other or if they're really lucky, they get in on a threesome with Lamour.

Basically, the plot is irrelevant.  It's just a vehicle for Hope and Crosby to tell jokes and be ridiculous.  But they're funny.  And their brand of humor translates quite nicely into the 21st century.  I think its safe to say that Road To... is the original bromance.

Just a couple of straight men singing a song on a camel.

Tonight I watched Road to Morocco.  In this one, the boys are cousins or something who find themselves shipwrecked because Hope decided to smoke a cigarette in a room full of gun powder while they were stowaway-ed on a freight vessel.  They find themselves washed up on the shores of Northern Africa and on the Road to Morocco.  Dorothy Lamour is some kind of princess who is engaged to a trigger-happy desert sheik, but she has a private astrologer who predicts that her first husband will die a violent death within a week of marriage but her second will live a long and fruitful life.  And of the boys gets to be the first ex-mr-Dorothy-Lamour and of course they fight over it.  Actually, I'm not going to talk about the movie any more.  I'm just going to post a clip where Bob Hope pretends to be a retard with hilarious results.  Enjoy.

There.  I think that's all you really need to know.  Go rent the movie.  Or better yet, buy it.  I got mine for $2 on amazon.