My blog’s 2nd anniversary

I just realized (three weeks late) that my blogathon has now been on the Internet for two years. So, since I haven’t had much to write about lately, I thought I’d take this opportunity to publicly pat myself on the back.

First off, thanks to the 179 (!) followers of my blog. I hope it’s been entertaining enough, or at least readable.

Second, I thought I’d mention a few of the blog’s recent highlights.

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The year I went blogathon-happy. You know how you get an idea in your head that won’t let go until you jot it down? In my case, that resulted in an awful lot of blogathons in the past year — six, to be exact, or an average of one ‘thon every couple of months. And those are just the ‘thons that I created — I shouldn’t even count the number of ‘thons in which I participated.

(Which reminds me — my Monty Python Movie Blogathon is only two months away! Click on the banner below for more information!)

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The year that I discovered the Twitter Live Tweet. Do you enjoy watching movies with an audience but can’t always get out to see a movie? Twitter.com has “Live Tweets” throughout the week (usually at night) where you can click on a link and watch a movie online for free while commenting on it with other Tweeters. I do a Live Tweet on Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. EDT named #SatMat, where I “screen” mostly B-movies and the like. Other Live Tweets throughout the week focus on drive-in fare, action movies, and outre sci-fi.

If you’re a Twitter member, check out some of the Live Tweet hashtags and start enjoying movies-with-audiences in the comfort of your own home! (If you need help navigating the Live Tweet universe, message me on Twitter at #SatMatTweet. Meanwhile, I advertise my weekly Live Tweet movies in a banner on the right-hand side of this blog.)

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Sybil Danning’s fandom continues. As I noted on my first-anniversary blog, I posted a review of They’re Playing with Fire (1984), a movie starring Sybil Danning that is completely negligible save for one astounding sex scene showing Sybil at her nudest and most enthusiastic. I made it very clear that my review was tongue-in-cheek, but amazingly, this review continues to be my blog’s biggest draw; since I posted the review on March 19 of last year, it has received an astounding 4,764 views. No “Comments” or “Likes,” though — I guess the movie’s viewers have been too busy studying the movie’s cinematic qualities to leave me a comment about my review.

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Adrienne Barbeau. I’ve made her my blog’s mascot and have mentioned her on this blog every chance I’ve had. How come she never returns my phone calls?

Anyway, thanks again to my loyal readers. I’ll try to make this blog interesting enough to last at least another year!

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#SatMat Live Tweet movie for Sat., July 23: Jayne Mansfield in THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT (1955)

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No less than The Beatles described this raucous comedy as an influence on their own style. (Paul McCartney does a brief but superb critique of the movie in Chapter 1 of The Beatles Anthology video.) Among other treasures, this one boasts director Frank Tashlin’s famous cartoon-like gags (he began as a director of Warner Bros. cartoons), Little Richard and other great rock-and-rollers of the time… and, oh yes, Jayne Mansfield. If that isn’t enough to grab you, a synopsis of the plot won’t help, but I’ll try:

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Do we have your attention?

Jayne Mansfield is the moll of a gangster (Edmond O’Brien) who gets her a milquetoast agent (Tom Ewell, who played a similar patsy to Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch) and, of course, eventually gets less than professional with him. The opening gag, where Tashlin makes elaborate fun of the wide-screen CinemaScope process, doesn’t play quite as well on your computer screen but is still a hoot. Then there’s Jayne Mansfield (and darned lots of her) who, if she didn’t pose a threat to Marilyn Monroe, at least passes for more of a thespian than her latter-day supermodel counterparts.

So join us this Saturday on Twitter.com at 4:30 p.m. EDT, and enjoy Jayne’s (and this movie’s) considerable charms!

TROY (2004) – Hellin’ in Troy

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The following is my entry in The Sword & Sandal Blogathon, being hosted July 8-10, 2016 by Debbie at her blog Moon in Gemini. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ critiques of cinema’s odes (reverent and otherwise) to ancient empires!

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“You wanna brush up on your Greek, Jamison. Well, get a Greek and brush up on him!” — Groucho Marx to brother Zeppo, in Animal Crackers

Brad Pitt fans, rejoice. If you’re a viewer of Troy, the only person who’s seen more of Pitt than you with this movie is Angelina Jolie.

Ancient-Greek fanatics will also be well served, because the movie doesn’t miss a marker. There’s the facially ship-launching Helen of Troy (Diane Kruger), the surprise Trojan horse, and (spoiler alert here) Achilles’ heel.

And finally, Gladiator fans who have been aching for another rip-roaring movie of bloodletting won’t be disappointed. It’s amazing to find a film that’s rated R almost solely for its violence, but this one has only implied sex and briefly profiled nudity, and no bad language. So if you’re jonesing mainly to watch men bleed and tear off each other’s body parts, this is your movie of the year.

For anyone else, the entertainment value of a movie based on an epic poem by Homer (who doesn’t even get a screen credit here) seems a bit fuzzy. And like it or not, a movie story with such a thin motivation for a war — a namby-pamby Trojan prince (Orlando Bloom) steals the voluptuous Helen from a macho Greek king — had uncomfortable resonations in its particular movie year. (Watch the movie’s final moments, where Greeks topple Troy’s statues, and tell me it doesn’t remind you of some other foreign icons getting smashed to pieces around 2004.)

Sadly, the negative parallels with timely headlines are the only resonances this movie has. Troy is handsomely mounted, but the endless violence is numbing in a two-and-a-half-hour movie. The performances are negligible, save for wondering why vets such as Julie Christie and Peter O’Toole even participated in this mess. And James Horner’s score — mostly plaintive goddesses moaning on the soundtrack — is easily one of his worst.

A final observation: The movie is filled with thousands of warring, macho guys. It has about a half-dozen women, who either cower in the corners or implore their men not to fight. I’d have loved to see just one scene of a Trojan woman kicking her guy out on his keyster and telling him to take an anger-management class.

W.C. Fields in THE DENTIST (1932) – What an extraction!

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The following is my entry in the blogathon Hot and Bothered: The Films of 1932, being co-hosted on July 9-10, 2016 by Theresa and Aurora at their respective blogs CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch and Once Upon a Screen. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ critiques of films released in 1932, just before instigation of Hollywood’s notorious Production Code!

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The Dentist is best remembered for two reasons:

(1) It was the first of four short-subject collaborations between W.C. Fields and the movie’s producer, Hollywood’s former “King of Comedy,” Mack Sennett.

(2) Fields was quite misanthropic in all of his movies, but this is one of the few where he has just about no redeeming qualities. Even Fields himself, after viewing the finished product, resolved to tone down his character’s nastiness in future productions.

(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

The movie wastes no time in showing off its pre-Code origins. Fields (whose character is unnamed throughout the movie, other than “Dentist”) is at his breakfast table, reading the morning newspaper. He reads about a local woman he knows who has had a baby and decides he must tell his daughter about it.

Fields walks to the kitchen, sees his daughter (‘Babe’ Kane, whose character is also unnamed) bent over at the open refrigerator, and slaps her on her behind to get her attention. As if that wasn’t enough, the daughter, thinking that the slapper is her fiancee the iceman, nonchalantly demands, “Fifty pounds, and chop it fine!”

Unhappily for Fields, this is the first he’s heard of his daughter’s impending marriage, of which he has no intention of allowing. “No more ice in here,” Fields says. “I’m going to buy a Frigidaire!”

Fields calls to his nurse (His dentist’s office is in the room next door!) to find out when his first appointment of the day is. She says it is at 10:30, which gives Fields just enough time to play a cantankerous round of golf. (The golf scenes were filmed at Toluca Lake, CA’s Lakeside Country Club, one of Fields’ favorite courses in real life.) During the course of Fields’ golf game, he knocks out of a fellow golfer with one of his shots and then, in a later fit of anger, throws his entire set of clubs and his caddy into a nearby pond.

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As Fields is seeing his first patient of the day, a woman (Dorothy Granger) comes in screaming from the throbbing pain in her mouth. While Fields is bragging to the patient about his previous antics on the golf course, the nurse indicates the screaming patient, to which Fields replies, “Oh, the hell with her!”

The first patient eventually leaves, and when the woman comes in, Fields indicates the patient chair and says, “Put it in there, please.” The woman extends one of her long legs and asks Fields, “You won’t hurt my leg, will you? My doctor says I have a very bad leg.” Fields responds, “Your doctor is off his nut. I don’t believe in doctors anyway. There’s a doctor who lives right down the street. Treated a fella for nine years for yellow jaundice, then found out he was a Jap.”

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The woman stands up and says, “You know, a little dog bit me the other day.” She bends over to point at her ankle and says, “He bit me right here! It was a little Daschund.” Fields is unconcerned about the bite, as the woman’s behind is now practically in his face. Fields tells her, “You’re rather fortunate it wasn’t a Newfoundland dog that bit you.”

The woman sits back down, and Fields asks, “Shall I use gas?” The woman replies, “Well, gas or electric lights — I feel nervous to have you fool around me in the dark.” Fields tries several times to insert a needle into the woman’s mouth, but she screams so loudly before he even gets that needle in that she scares off another patient who was in the waiting room. Finally, she rushes out in fright.

A very tall patient (Elise Cavanna) enters the room, and Fields twice commands his nurse, “Tell her I’m out!” while the woman is standing there. The nurse turns Fields around, and he politely (and hypocritically) tells the woman, “We’ve been waiting for you.” The woman sits in the patient chair, and Fields tells his nurse — quietly, but not so quietly that the woman can’t hear him — “When I tell you to go out and tell one of these palookas that I’m out, go out and tell ‘em I’m out! Don’t have these buzzards walk in on me…”

The nurse indicates that the woman can hear him, so Fields drops his voice to a whisper and continues his tirade. The nurse again indicates that the woman can still hear him, so Fields kicks the pedal on the patient chair out of spite. The woman is rightly annoyed and gets up to leave, but Fields stops her and asks, “Did you just come in for the ride?” The woman grudgingly sits back down.

Fields examines the woman’s mouth and demonstrates more of his charming professional demeanor by requesting of his nurse, “Hand me that four-hundred-and-four circular buzzsaw, will you?” As Fields begins work on his patient, his daughter comes in, dressed to the nines, and announces that since he wouldn’t let the iceman come into the house, she is going to see the iceman. Fields responds by marching his daughter up to her room and locking her in it. The daughter angrily and continually stamps her feet on the floor, making plaster rain down on Fields’ exam room and into the mouth of his patient.

Fields gets his daughter quieted down and then returns to the patient. There follows one of the most infamous scenes of Fields’ movie career. Fields asks, “Have you ever had this tooth pulled before?”, implying that if the patient is a “tooth virgin” now, she won’t be after he’s finished.

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Fields works on the extraction so vigorously and relentlessly that eventually, the patient is pulled up out of the chair and has her long arms and legs wrapped thoroughly around Fields. The sexual/comedic symbolism of this scene was not lost on TV censors, who cut it to ribbons for decades of television broadcasts.

After the woman collapses back in the chair, Fields says he’s going to give her gas, but the daughter resumes her plaster-dropping routine. Fields rushes upstairs to give his daughter tough love, which in his view involves lightly tapping on the door and muttering, “Stop it! Cease!” When Fields returns, the woman has inexplicably left the office. Guess she just wanted a one-dentist stand.

A patient (Billy Bletcher) with an incredibly full beard enters the office. The man’s beard is so full that Fields can’t find the man’s mouth until he uses a stethoscope and has the man say “Ah” over and over. At one point, a bird even flies out of the beard.

The nurse discovers that Fields’ daughter is trying to run away with the iceman and informs Fields of this. Just as Fields tries to stop them, the son of the man whom Fields knocked out on the golf course comes up to Fields and hits him in the jaw. The iceman defends Fields’ honor by knocking the man out cold. Fields’ daughter looks adoringly at her fiancee and says, “Father, you’re not really going to buy a Frigidaire, are you?” Fields grudgingly tells the man who just helped him, “Fifty pounds, and make it snappy!” and goes back to work.

The Dentist is quite funny but more often simply eye-popping in its flaunting of movie convention and taste. For that alone, it makes interesting viewing, for students of both pre-Code and W.C. Fields movies.

 

And now for something completely different — announcing THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON!

 

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(DISCLAIMER: This blogathon is not in any way connected with or endorsed by Python [Monty] Pictures Ltd. or any member of Monty Python.)

On Oct. 5, 1969, the British comedy collective soon to be known as Monty Python first made its presence felt when “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” made its world premiere on the BBC. As the show was the final broadcast for BBC’s Sunday-evening programming, Python member Michael Palin said that their original audience consisted of “burglars and insomniacs.” From those humble beginnings sprang forth a laugh factory that influenced generations of British and American comedy makers.

To honor this hallowed anniversary, I announce The Monty Python Movie Blogathon. I know it’s ironic that I’m creating a film blogathon for a comedy troupe that began in TV — but let’s face it, if we allowed the Pythons’ TV entries into this ‘thon, it would be running for months! So here are the rules.

No duplicate entries about the same movie. You are about to be provided with a menu of choices generous enough that no blogs should have to overlap.

Do’s – You may blog about:

  • obviously, any of the Pythons’ team films, from And Now for Something Completely Different through The Meaning of Life. (Although not all of the Pythons participated in the three Secret Policemen’s Ball concert films, these can be included as well. If you wish, you may also review the DVD of Monty Python Live [mostly], the 2014 reunion concert of the surviving Python members.)
  • any movie — comedy or drama — in which a Python member played a starring or supporting role.
  • any movie in which a Python member participated in the writing and/or directing. (This obviously includes the vast filmography of Terry Gilliam.)
  • any filmed biography of the Pythons.

Don’ts – Please, no reviews of any of their TV work, as a group or separately, or as I mentioned, we’d be here for days. That said, I will make two exceptions to this rule: (1) any aforementioned Python biographies that happened to appear on TV; and (2) The Rutles (1978), Eric Idle’s irresistible mock-biography of The Beatles.

How Do I Join the Blogathon?

In the “Comments” section at the bottom of this blog, please leave your name, the URL of your blog, and the movie you are choosing to blog about. At the end of this blog entry are banners for the ‘thon. Grab a banner, display it on your blog, and link it back to this blog.

The blogathon will take place from Sat., Oct. 1, through Mon., Oct. 3. When the opening date of the blogathon arrives, leave a comment here with a link to your post, and I will display it in the list of entries (which I will continually update up to the beginning of the ‘thon, so keep checking back!).

I will not be assigning particular dates to any blog posts. As long as you get your entry in by the end of the day on Oct. 3, I will be satisfied. (That said, the earlier the better!)

Again, be sure to leave me a comment and grab a banner, and have fun with your blog entry!

Here’s the line-up so far:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The movie version of Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography

BNoirDetour – Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

Cinematic Frontier – Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King

lifesdailylessonsblog – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The James Bond Social Media Project – John Cleese in the James Bond films The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day

Moon in Gemini – John Cleese and Michael Palin in Fierce Creatures

The Midnite Drive-In – Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Radiator Heaven – Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – Eric Idle in National Lampoon’s European Vacation

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