Monday, September 26, 2011

If You Click This, You Will Most Likely Be Dissapointed

Hello Friends!

I have an essay due. Still wondering why I chose right now to blog? You shouldn't!

Because I'm actually not blogging, I'm procrastinating.

(Procrastinate: 1.To put off repeatedly. 2. To keep postponing something supposed to be done. [Latin procrastinare, from pro- "forth" + crastnus " Of tomorrow", from Cras "Tomorrow"]

Now that that is off my chest, I feel bad for starting this and making you click it. So I will give you two pictures of baby Peter Lorre. Yes, you heard me correctly. Two baby pictures of Peter Lorre. Here is number one, (he is the small one, as usual):

His mother's name is Elvira. Wouldn't you just know her name would be Elvira?

This is another one:

I didn't photo shop the arrows. I don't were they came from. I was gonna offer you a prize to fugure out which one is him, but I decided that was stupid. So from left to right, little brother Andre (Andrew), Lazlo (Peter Lorre before they started misspelling his name), stepsister Lesl (Don't know what that becomes), and little brother Ferenc, which by some stretch of the imagination becomes Francis in English. I read this out of a library book, and the library doesn't lie.

And that is it. That's all I have for you. I hope the idea of little bug-eyed baby versions of much-mocked Hungarian/German actors was exciting enough to make your time worth while.

If it does your weirder than I am.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The...Blogpost Behind the Mask...Or Something...

I said I'd post today, and I am! I am totally amazing!

(I wrote that two days ago. I thought the irony of it was amusing)

Unfortunately being punctual usually means I have little time with which to write with, hence the unusually low amount of witticisms and serious nature in that last post and, probably, this one too. I read about this movie in research for my "I've got a lot of money to blow" list that I was making, looking for some obscure but interesting 30's films to make my collection look... interesting. Peter Lorre was one of the actors I've seen a lot of material from, so I thought I'd see if this one was the public domain before I bought it off of Ebay for a couple of cents. I don't know about the public domain, but I found it anyway, and watched it the dark. Thank you Peter Lorre, that was possibly the most depressing hour and a half of my life. But since I think that's what they were going for I can't necessarily call this a crummy movie. But let's try and give this one a thorough analysis:

My initial reaction was "corny", but I'm not quite sure that adds up like you'd think it would at first. It advertises like a B-grade horror flick, as the poster clearly condones, but it isn't quite; it's's like...that part in the national geographic documentary when it's talking about snake's eating habits and it shows a cute little mouse chewing something and then the scary music starts playing and your thinking "Oh man, I so don't want to see this" and that uncontrollable desire to flip ahead comes over you. It's like an examination of the viciousness of Murphy's law, or what happens when you get a really terrible fortune cookie. In other words, you take a completely innocent guy (Peter Lorre, if you can believe that) and make things get as bad as possible for him. What's more, make you guy a chubby happy Hungarian immigrant and have him run around the first half of the movie being big-hearted and optimistic about everything, and you've got yourself a 30's depression fest no one can laugh about. Except me.

THE PLOT: Peter Lorre plays the happy chubby etc. immigrant I mentioned, Janos Szaby, a watchmaker who comes to New York City with the unquestionably good intentions of making enough money to move his sweetheart over and start a watch shop. I'm completely serious. He then befriends a cop who directs him to a hotel in which there is a completely unrelated subplot about a no-cooking in the rooms rule (?). The hotel burns down and Janos' face is horribly mutilated in the fire. And from that point on it just gets better and better! He can't find work, he tells his girlfriend he's in love with someone else, he tries to commit suicide...then as if the movie wasn't cruel enough he is rescued by a man named Dinky of all things...gets involved with gangsters who don't even have funny accents, meets a pretty blind girl (figuahs, don't it) falls in love, quits gang, gang kills blind girl, flies gang out to the middle of the desert in a revengeful spree and they all die, alone and afraid. Yessir. I couldn't have thought up something worse than that if tried for weeks. The most disgusting part about it (aside from the obvious "Gee I wish I'd never started watching that" feeling it gives you) is it's predictability. The Murphy's law gone wild formula is pretty easy to follow: whatever horrible, life altering tragedy can happen is gonna happen to this guy.

So on to the fun part:

1. There figures prominently a man named Dinky who does not die a horrible fiery death like most of the other characters.

2. The main character has an awesome name. This is bad because it is a bad movie and at some point I'm going to have to tell my adorable little boy that that is where I first heard that name, and he will be angry with me. Thank you Peter Lorre for messing up my relationship with my son!

3. The woman reminds me of that nature-girl from "Open Season", only she's not actually supposed to be annoying which makes it twice as bad.

4. We see Dinky without a shirt on. No joke.

5. By the time your finished with this movie And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie will read like Pippi Long-stockings. And I don't mean the dubbed Swedish film version either.

THE ULTIMATE BAD POINT: This movie is a bleak "life sucks" drama that tries way to hard to be poetic film noir. And it makes you feel bad for a character that Peter Lorre plays. That oughtta tell you something is off.

1. The universe managed to make Peter Lorre say "Dinky." That made me snicker once or twice.

2. If your one of those sick people that likes to see cheesy characters die this is a very satisfying film. That's a sick good point but I'm scrounging here.

3. If you hate Hungary, watchmakers, little schnauzer dogs, people who love listening to the radio, hotels, or men named "Jeff" this is the movie for you.

THE ULTIMATE GOOD POINT: There isn't one. If you went through this movie like I did waiting for something good to happen your in for bitter disappointment brother.

So that's it. I'm not being vindictive, just telling it like it is. This is a movie that would have worked way better with S.Z. Sakall rather than Peter Lorre (aw! I take that back. That would suck even worse) as a believable good guy. In fact, it would have worked way better as a soap opera. That was never made.

Peter Lorre really does not appear to be enjoying himself here. Maybe I'm wrong. It just seems like when he's hopping up and down like Chico Marx at the piano, in Groucho glasses and a mustache, singing his heart out to "Ja, Die Polizie" or playing a crazy spy named colonal Gimpy (a strange, strange movie called Crack Up from 1936) he looks happier than when he's surveying his crushed hopes and dreams for the future. Let me illustrate:

Happy Peter Lorre:

Sad Peter Lorre:

Happy Peter Lorre:

Sad Peter Lorre:

Happy Peter Lorre:

Oh wait...I got mixed up. So long folks!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Dead End Blog Post

I'm going, for the sake of time and my own shame, to pretend like I haven't been absent from blogging for over a month and a half. So, moving on...

Last night was one of those times when God blesses me with the little things. Ruby wanted to watch a movie, I'd been putting her off for weeks on account of my rushed Foundations Collegium schedule and the constant necessity to use all of my spare hours trying (and failing) to sound like Regina Spektor at my new electric keyboard. I wanted to watch and MST3K, she didn't. She wanted to watch one of our old Marx brothers movies, I wasn't in the mood. We finally decided on the very un-hopeful solution of looking to see what was on Netflix...and low and behold they had just added one of my all-time favorite Bogart movies: Dead End.

I love this movie: I love it for a variety of reasons. In my Leanord Malton world of thinking myself an expert on these things, I love it because the scripts are understated and meaningful and theme of the movie drives it's point through in a captivating way. I love the cozy noir feel of it, with the limited amount of sets they had to make it look like a New York City slum. On my girlier Locksley side, I love that Bogart makes me wanna cry and all the kids sound like Bugs Bunny. But on to reviewing.

Dead End has two...or maybe three or four...plot lines, one involving those Bugs Bunny kids I mentioned earlier. Well-meaning rough teenagers who hang out at a dirty peer under the Brooklyn Bridge, fighting other gangs, avoiding the neighborhood cops and trying to taunt the rich kid who's lavish house sits above their playground. The leader of the gang, Tommy (Billy Halop) , is supported by his hard-working sister Drina (Sylvia Sidney), who is on strike with the union. Since her childhood, Drina has been in love with Dave, an architect who went to college but can't seem to get a job now. Meanwhile, a notorious gangster named Baby-face Martin returns to his childhood home, intending to visit his mother and former girlfriend. He ends up teaching Tommy some tricks with a knife, which gets him in serious trouble when he stabs the father of the rich kid who was trying to get him arrested. Martin is rejected by his mother, now old and ragged and decrepit. Then his girlfriend Francey...well...let's just say there's disappointment there too. He plots to kidnap the rich kid,and (in a sarcastic snarky tone) It's up to big brave wonderful Dave to save the day.

The point of the plot, however is not an examination of either gangsters or architects, or even despite what it looks like at first, a comedy about making it through the depression. It's a serious but captivating examination of, as Leonard Malton puts it "Humanity at the breaking point in N.Y.C. tenements." The metaphor can be summed up pretty well in the single set a great portion of the movie takes place on: the dirty dock where the apartments of the rich look directly down at the problems of the poor.

This film was made in 1937...the perfect time for a movie about the problems of the poor people to make a hit- as the dividing line between the wealthy and the desolate grew larger and larger by the day. Like I said, the script is great, the sets are interesting, but it's the directing that really shines through here. Humphrey Bogart is perfect, Joel Mcrea as boring as anyone competing against Bogart would be. I talked about this as a dramatic, or sad movie, which was being honest. But there's a good amount of humor mixed in too, mostly from the Dead End kids, who went on to make mostly comedies that banked off the same principle. It was originally a Broadway play; and a small budget one, so the caster did the obvious thing when looking for child actors to play street kids; he hired a bunch of street kids. Unfortunately their realistic dead end-ness cost United Artists some money when they got a hold of a truck and crashed through a sound stage. Not surprisingly, Untied Artists sold their contract to Warner Brothers as soon as the film was complete.

All in all, I think this is the perfect film for people above that "It's black and white and therefore boring" attitude who want to see what genius film making looks like. Also a great time-capsule from that era, just like Casablanca says so much about the 40's.

That was decidedly unhumorous, but you can blame the movie I review tomorrow (look at me making promises) on that.

I love you all, but dividing my time between Johnny Dollar, Rosetta stone, and my book is hard enough without trying to write. So until further notice, we will call this the end.

P.S....Bogie changes a baby's diaper....seriously, this isn't doctored.....

I don't know what the relevance of that is but I figured you might enjoy it.

P.P.S. No, I still haven't seen Citizen Kane. Call the classic film police if you want to.