Another shameless plug for my Laurel & Hardy Blogathon

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MovieMovieBlogBlog is proud to announce the 1st Annual Laurel & Hardy Blogathon!

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When: Sat., Oct. 4, 2014.

Where: Right here, at moviemovieblogblog.wordpress.com. (If you have never participated in a blogathon before, click here for an excellent explanation of the procedure, from a fellow movie blogger.)

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How: To sign up, leave me a comment on this blog, or IM me at my Facebook page. (I don’t check my email frequently, so it is best that you contact me through one of these venues.) I will be keeping a roster of all the participants and will frequently update it at this blog.  I have banners at the bottom of this post that you can put on your sites.  During the blogathon itself, when your post is ready to go, simply leave me a comment with your link, or send a message. Please be sure to email me the title and URL of the blog where you will be posting your entry!

Also, I ask that you have your entry posted at least by 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 4, if not sooner. I have previously participated in a blogathon where many of the advertised blogs were not posted by the date of the blogathon, which makes things confusing for anyone who wants to stop by and read people’s entries.

 

What to submit:

I am looking for posts that review/critique any movie that stars or co-stars Stan Laurel and/or Oliver Hardy. Let me make this clear. You can blog about:

* any of the Laurel & Hardy silent and sound short subjects and feature films

* any movie in which Laurel & Hardy made “guest appearances” (e.g., Hollywood Party)

* any short subject or feature film that stars or co-stars Stan Laurel or Oliver Hardy solo (without their partner)

* also, there are a few documentaries about the team — Cuckoo, Laurel & Hardy: A Tribute to the Boys, and Laurel & Hardy: Their Lives and Magic. I welcome any blog about any of these as well.

 

What not to submit:

* Please, no general reminiscences about how you “came across” Laurel & Hardy. I would like your blog to be related to a movie that fits one of the above categories.

* Please please, no reviews of:  any theatrical cartoons with L&H caricatures; any made-for-TV Laurel & Hardy cartoons; or that feature-film abomination, The New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy: For Love or Mummy.

 

Other rules:

* As I said, I will keep a running tally at this blog of which movies have been chosen for blogging. If you let me know what movie you want to blog, and I inform you that it’s already taken and you’ll need to choose a different movie, please don’t take it personally. The key words here are variety and fun.

* Please blog only text and/or photos. Do not include any links to online Laurel & Hardy movies, videos, or clips from YouTube or any other Internet media. I would like this blogathon to be seen by as many people as possible, and some sites will not link to blogs with L&H vids due to copyright issues.

* Keep your blog in the bounds of good taste. Stan and Babe are watching from above.

* Blogs can be positive or negative. If you want to express your love for your favorite L&H film, by all means, do so. Conversely, if you think a particular L&H film is overrated and you want to say why, go for it. All I ask is that you couch your comments in thought-out critical terms, as opposed to “Laurel and Hardy suck.”

 

Roster: Here is the roster of movies and bloggers as of Sept. 20.

THE LUCKY DOG – Silent-ology

FROM SOUP TO NUTS – Way Too Damn Lazy to Write a Blog

THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE – Once Upon a Screen

WAY OUT WEST – Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

 

Let’s make this blogathon as big of an online success as the live Oliver Hardy Festival!

 

Disclaimer: This blogathon is not in any way related to or endorsed by The Oliver Hardy Festival of Harlem, GA.

 

Banners:

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Buster Keaton in BATTLING BUTLER (1926) – A tale of two Butlers

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(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

Buster Keaton rated Battling Butler as one of his favorite movies, and though it isn’t one of his greatest, it’s easy to see why Keaton thought so highly of it. Though much of the movie’s “gaggery” comes close to situation-comedy, the movie finishes with a genuinely emotional fight climax that’s every bit as involving as the boxing match in Rocky.

As with Seven Chances, Keaton had to make the best of a stage-show adaptation that had been foisted upon him by Joe Schenck. In this case, the play was a musical comedy about a pampered rich man, Alfred Butler (played in the movie, of course, by Keaton), who happens to have the same name as a championship boxer. When rich-man Butler is forced to impersonate the boxer in order to impress his wife (who married him under the mistaken impression that he was the boxer), he fears for his life when he is forced to compete against a fighter with the charming moniker of “The Alabama Murderer.”

[From here on, for brevity’s sake, I’ll refer to Keaton’s Butler as “Buster.”]

The movie’s biggest debit is that much of its comedy derives from the kind of mix-ups associated with farce, the very genre that Keaton so abhorred. To cite just two examples, the real Butler gets quickly exasperated when he mistakenly assumes that Buster is trying to make time with his wife – yet Butler follows Buster around for seemingly half the movie before he decides to make an issue of it. And when Buster/Butler signs a hotel register, wouldn’t you think he’d notice that the same-named Butler signed in directly above him?

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Also, though Keaton has played milquetoasts before, never had he played such a brazen coward. Granted, most regular Joes would be as terrified of fighting in a boxing match as Buster is. Still, after you’ve seen Buster fearfully jump into the referee’s arms two or three times, you tend to lose a little sympathy for him.

The one area where Keaton came up with something unique and stunning is the movie’s ending. In the original play, rich-man Butler is saved from having to box, but Keaton felt he’d be cheating his audience if he didn’t fight after an hour of build-up for it. And Keaton delivers in spades. After an hour of farce, the climax – with the cold-blooded Butler pounding Buster, only to have Buster rise in fury and counter-punch him – is completely dramatic and thoroughly believable. (Director Martin Scorsese has acknowledged the climax as an inspiration for the boxing scenes in his 1980 movie Raging Bull.) Keaton proved to be few comics’ equal in terms of gag construction and gasp-inducing stunts; this climax proved him to be a superb dramatic actor as well.

The supporting actors are nothing to belittle, either. Snitz Edwards (shown above with Buster), Keaton’s wonderful sidekick in Seven Chances, again proves to be a great second-banana as Martin, Buster’s sympathetic valet. Mary O’Brien proves one of the more charming and intelligent Keaton heroines. Best of all is Eddie Borden as the boxing manager. Indeed, the movie’s funniest scene is probably when the manager spies on the preliminary match and pantomimes the loser’s injuries to Buster in gruesome detail.

Keaton’s happy memories of the movie were bolstered by the fact that Battling Butler was Keaton’s most financially successful feature. In retrospect, the laugh factor is so-so on the Keaton scale; it’s the sincerely emotional ending that makes the movie work.

Les Blank’s GAP-TOOTHED WOMEN (1987) – One of the most life-affirming movies you’ve never seen

I’ll be very surprised if you’ve even heard of this movie, much less seen it. But it’s worth blogging about, and it’s worth seeking out. I saw it at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles in 1987, and I was mesmerized.

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Most people give me one of those “You’re kidding” looks when I recommend Les Blank’s documentary Gap-Toothed Women to them. It’s barely available on video (though you can find it for sale online at http://www.lesblank.com), and the only place I’ve seen it on TV was years ago on The Learning Channel. This is a great pity, because it’s one of the most charming, life-affirming movies I’ve ever seen.

Film critic Roger Ebert believed that the best documentary subjects are the simplest. Here, famed documentarian Blank takes a look at 30 of the title subjects. Some of the interviewees are definite notables, such as actress-model Lauren Hutton and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. But most of them are “regular” folk who tell tales about growing up with a complex in their minds over the gap in their mouths. One woman tells how she went to bed every night wearing a rubber band across her mouth, trying to “stretch” her mouth back into place. Another gap-toothed woman became an artist who explored the use of such women as seductresses in art.

The movie is quietly witty, never less than fascinating, and in its own modest way, it says a lot about the expectations our society puts on women whose forms are less than “perfect,” though it’s that very lack of perfection that shows these women at their most charming. The final interviewee is a belly dancer who subtly but movingly tells how she overcame cancer, and now even her worst day is something to look forward to.

As per usual with motion pictures, the best films are usually the most overlooked. Gap-Toothed Women is one of the most unjustly underrated movies in all of cinema. It’s short and sweet, and it would be a perfect companion piece to Steve Martin’s Cyrano de Bergerac update Roxanne (released in the same year as this movie). Inferiority complexes work both ways, after all.

Here’s three minutes from the start of the film:

Let me say it again: Laurel & Hardy Blogathon. Here. October 14!

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MovieMovieBlogBlog is proud to announce the 1st Annual Laurel & Hardy Blogathon!

When: Sat., Oct. 4, 2014.

Where: Right here, at moviemovieblogblog.wordpress.com. (If you have never participated in a blogathon before, click here for an excellent explanation of the procedure, from a fellow movie blogger.)

How: To sign up, leave me a comment on this blog, or IM me at my Facebook page. (I don’t check my email frequently, so it is best that you contact me through one of these venues.) I will be keeping a roster of all the participants and will frequently update it at this blog.  I have banners at the bottom of this post that you can put on your sites.  During the blogathon itself, when your post is ready to go, simply leave me a comment with your link, or send a message. Please be sure to email me the title and URL of the blog where you will be posting your entry!

Also, I ask that you have your entry posted at least by 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 4, if not sooner. I have previously participated in a blogathon where many of the advertised blogs were not posted by the date of the blogathon, which makes things confusing for anyone who wants to stop by and read people’s entries.

 

What to submit:

I am looking for posts that review/critique any movie that stars or co-stars Stan Laurel and/or Oliver Hardy. Let me make this clear. You can blog about:

* any of the Laurel & Hardy silent and sound short subjects and feature films

* any movie in which Laurel & Hardy made “guest appearances” (e.g., Hollywood Party)

* any short subject or feature film that stars or co-stars Stan Laurel or Oliver Hardy solo (without their partner)

* also, there are a few documentaries about the team — Cuckoo, Laurel & Hardy: A Tribute to the Boys, and Laurel & Hardy: Their Lives and Magic. I welcome any blog about any of these as well.

 

What not to submit:

* Please, no general reminiscences about how you “came across” Laurel & Hardy. I would like your blog to be related to a movie that fits one of the above categories.

* Please please, no reviews of:  any theatrical cartoons with L&H caricatures; any made-for-TV Laurel & Hardy cartoons; or that feature-film abomination, The New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy: For Love or Mummy.

 

Other rules:

* As I said, I will keep a running tally at this blog of which movies have been chosen for blogging. If you let me know what movie you want to blog, and I inform you that it’s already taken and you’ll need to choose a different movie, please don’t take it personally. The key words here are variety and fun.

* Please blog only text and/or photos. Do not include any links to online Laurel & Hardy movies, videos, or clips from YouTube or any other Internet media. I would like this blogathon to be seen by as many people as possible, and some sites will not link to blogs with L&H vids due to copyright issues.

* Keep your blog in the bounds of good taste. Stan and Babe are watching from above.

* Blogs can be positive or negative. If you want to express your love for your favorite L&H film, by all means, do so. Conversely, if you think a particular L&H film is overrated and you want to say why, go for it. All I ask is that you couch your comments in thought-out critical terms, as opposed to “Laurel and Hardy suck.”

 

Roster: Here is the roster of movies and bloggers as of Sept. 16.

THE LUCKY DOG – Silent-ology

FROM SOUP TO NUTS – Way Too Damn Lazy to Write a Blog

THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE – Once Upon a Screen

WAY OUT WEST – Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

 

Let’s make this blogathon as big of an online success as the live Oliver Hardy Festival!

 

Disclaimer: This blogathon is not in any way related to or endorsed by The Oliver Hardy Festival of Harlem, GA.

 

Banners:

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Charlie Chaplin in THE NEW JANITOR (1914) – Charlie cleans up

 

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(WARNING: Spoilers abound!)

Quickie plot summary: Charlie has just been fired from the title role (!) when he manages to thwart a bank robbery.

Charlie is the janitor at a bank, and some of the business leading up to his firing is amusing, but far too much time is spent on the “straight” story of one of the bank executives trying to embezzle funds from the bank’s safe.

The pay-off, however, is terrific: Charlie, having stooped down to help a fainted bank secretary, nevertheless holds a gun between his legs to keep the bank exec at bay. The ending, too, is interesting: A policeman, having heard gunshots, rushes to the scene and impulsively takes Charlie away, assuming from his grubby demeanor that he is the bank robber. This finale is played strictly for laughs, yet it seems to look forward to Chaplin’s later, more thoughtful shorts such as Police. A flawed but intriguing short.

The Laurel & Hardy Blogathon – Here, on Sat., Oct. 4, 2014!

Every year in the first weekend of October, The Oliver Hardy Festival is held as a tribute to Mr. Hardy in Harlem, GA., Oliver Hardy’s birthplace. This year’s Festival will be held on Sat., Oct. 4.

Don’t you wish you could show your affection for Mr. Hardy and his partner, Mr. Laurel? Well, if you can’t make it to Harlem this year, here’s how you can do it from the comfort of your keyboard!

MovieMovieBlogBlog is proud to announce the 1st Annual Laurel & Hardy Blogathon!

When: Sat., Oct. 4, 2014.

Where: Right here, at moviemovieblogblog.wordpress.com. (If you have never participated in a blogathon before, click here for an excellent explanation of the procedure, from a fellow movie blogger.)

How: To sign up, leave me a comment on this blog, or IM me at my Facebook page. (I don’t check my email frequently, so it is best that you contact me through one of these venues.) I will be keeping a roster of all the participants and will frequently update it at this blog.  I have banners at the bottom of this post that you can put on your sites.  During the blogathon itself, when your post is ready to go, simply leave me a comment with your link, or send a message. Please be sure to email me the title and URL of the blog where you will be posting your entry!

Also, I ask that you have your entry posted at least by 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 4, if not sooner. I have previously participated in a blogathon where many of the advertised blogs were not posted by the date of the blogathon, which makes things confusing for anyone who wants to stop by and read people’s entries.

 

What to submit:

I am looking for posts that review/critique any movie that stars or co-stars Stan Laurel and/or Oliver Hardy. Let me make this clear. You can blog about:

* any of the Laurel & Hardy silent and sound short subjects and feature films

* any movie in which Laurel & Hardy made “guest appearances” (e.g., Hollywood Party)

* any short subject or feature film that stars or co-stars Stan Laurel or Oliver Hardy solo (without their partner)

* also, there are a few documentaries about the team — Cuckoo, Laurel & Hardy: A Tribute to the Boys, and Laurel & Hardy: Their Lives and Magic. I welcome any blog about any of these as well.

 

What not to submit:

* Please, no general reminiscences about how you “came across” Laurel & Hardy. I would like your blog to be related to a movie that fits one of the above categories.

* Please please, no reviews of:  any theatrical cartoons with L&H caricatures; any made-for-TV Laurel & Hardy cartoons; or that feature-film abomination, The New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy: For Love or Mummy.

 

Other rules:

* As I said, I will keep a running tally at this blog of which movies have been chosen for blogging. If you let me know what movie you want to blog, and I inform you that it’s already taken and you’ll need to choose a different movie, please don’t take it personally. The key words here are variety and fun.

* Please blog only text and/or photos. Do not include any links to online Laurel & Hardy movies, videos, or clips from YouTube or any other Internet media. I would like this blogathon to be seen by as many people as possible, and some sites will not link to blogs with L&H vids due to copyright issues.

* Keep your blog in the bounds of good taste. Stan and Babe are watching from above.

* Blogs can be positive or negative. If you want to express your love for your favorite L&H film, by all means, do so. Conversely, if you think a particular L&H film is overrated and you want to say why, go for it. All I ask is that you couch your comments in thought-out critical terms, as opposed to “Laurel and Hardy suck.”

 

Roster: Here is the roster of movies and bloggers as of Sunday morning, Sept. 14-

THE LUCKY DOG – Silent-ology

FROM SOUP TO NUTS – Way Too Damn Lazy to Write a Blog

THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE – Once Upon a Screen

WAY OUT WEST – Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Let’s make this blogathon as big of an online success as the live Oliver Hardy Festival!

 

Disclaimer: This blogathon is not in any way related to or endorsed by The Oliver Hardy Festival of Harlem, GA.

 

Banners:

1  LH2  LH3  LH4  LH5  LH6  LH7

CITIZEN KANE (1941) – Orson Welles, unhappy with the world, successfully creates his own

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The following is my entry in “The Great Movie Debate Blogathon,” hosted by the blogs The Cinematic Packrat and Citizen Screenings. Be sure to visit them on Sept. 13 and 14 at, respectively, thecinematicpackrat.wordpress.com and citizenscreenings.wordpress.com, and read fascinating “for” and “against” blogs related to classic movies!

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(WARNING: Major spoilers ahead!)

I have trouble naming any movie the greatest of all time. But is Citizen Kane one of the greatest? No argument there. Its innovative uses of sound, photography, sets, editing, and good old American dialogue make it a movie feast to be savored over and over.

The facts: Orson Welles had made a national name for himself with radio’s Mercury Theatre, especially its infamous Mars-invasion broadcast on Halloween night in 1938. For his first movie (which he co-wrote, directed, and acted in at age 25), he was given unprecedented freedom to do what he chose — a freedom Hollywood was never foolish enough to extend to Welles again.

Welles worked with Herman Mankiewicz (who produced The Marx Brothers’ early movie comedies, among other notables) on a screenplay initially titled The American. Unfortunately, the American they chose to depict was a thinly disguised version of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who hit the roof and other skyward destinations when he got wind of the project.

Hearst

Hearst

Threatening every punishment under the Hollywood sun, Hearst nearly cowed the studios into buying up all of RKO’s prints of Citizen Kane, to be burned. Fortunately for posterity, Welles sneaked the movie out to some New York critics, where some rhapsodic critics ensured Kane‘s place in cinema history. In the end, even Hollywood begrudgingly awarded Welles and Mankiewicz an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Kane

Welles’ Hearstian alter ego was Charles Foster Kane, who forever felt alienated after being separated from his well-meaning mother after she inadvertently inherited and passed on a fortune to him. Thereafter, as one of Kane’s associates put it, he “was unhappy with the world, so he tried to create his own.”

Kane

That world included Thatcher (George Coulouris), who seethes when Kane takes over a newspaper and turns into the definition of yellow journalism; Bernstein (Everett Sloane), Kane’s faithful associate; Jed Leland (Joseph Cotten), Kane’s college buddy, who eventually sees through Kane’s scheming; and Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore), a modestly talented singer/ex-wife at whom Kane threw money to transform her into an opera star.

All of these people tell Kane’s story — and, besides the movie’s legendary technical wizardry, it is this fragmented version of one man’s life that make Kane so fascinating. Each segment reflects a different mood as well as a different portion of Kane’s life. Thatcher’s part of the story is snippy and officious; Leland’s segment reflects a childhood hero who is soon shown to have feet of clay; and the story of Susan’s singing career uses eerie music (by later-Hitchcock-veteran Bernard Herrmann), vocally and wordlessly, to dramatize a simple woman in the hands of a manipulative tyrant.

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And of course, there’s “Rosebud” — Kane’s final utterance, that provides the mystery that these fragments try to unravel. After more than 70 years, the final revelation of “Rosebud” seems nothing less than a cosmic joke that Welles wanted to play on film posterity. But until that punchline at least, Citizen Kane is one of the finest movie concoctions ever — a multi-layered piece that makes anthills of most current Hollywood product.
(Postscript: In what is now a commonplace practice but was fairly radical in 1941, none of the movie’s credits appear until the end. Watch, and be amazed at some of the now-familiar actors and technicians whose first movie this was.)(Heck, even the movie’s trailer is pretty innovative — see below.)