THE APRIL SHOWERS BLOGATHON is here!

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Let a smile and a PC be your umbrella as we commence with The April Showers Blogathon! For the next three days, bloggers will weigh in on their favorite movie scenes or plotlines revolving around rainy weather.

If you are one of the blogathon entrants, please post the URL to your blog entry in the “Comments” section below, and I will link to it as soon as possible. Please have your entry posted by the end of the day on Sun., Apr. 2 (and if I may, the sooner the better!). If you are just stopping by for some great reading, please give this blog bookmarked, as entries will continue coming in for the next three days.

Here’s the blogathon line-up, in chronological order:

Movies Silently – The Seine Flood (1910)

Movie Movie Blog Blog – Buster Keaton’s One Week (1920)

Sister Celluloid – Brief Encounter (1946)

Musings of a Classic Film Addict – Thunder on the Hill (1951)

Whimsically Classic – Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Caftan Woman – Shane (1953)

Moon in Gemini – The Rainmaker (1956)

Cinematic Scribblings – Two English Girls (1971)

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The Midnite Drive-In – Blade Runner (1982)

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews – Forrest Gump (1994)

ThoughtsAllSorts – Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

lifesdailylessonsblog – Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – Shutter Island (2010)

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THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) – There’s a light

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The following is the second of my two entries in The April Showers Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from March 31 to April 2, 2017. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to rainy scenes in cinema!

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The initial appeal of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not something easily explained; it helps if you were there at, or near, the beginning. I first saw the movie at age 16, by which time it had already been established as a midnight-movie favorite for two years. For me, at least, it was a place where the social misfits could have a weekend party of their own. I saw the movie 50-plus times throughout my high school and early college years.

It’s a terrific rock-and-roll horror movie mash-up. The main part of the story occurs after the setting shifts to a Gothic mansion, where an out-there scientist, Dr. Frank-n-Furter (Tim Curry in a bravura performance), is bringing his carefully chiseled creation, the muscular Rocky, to life. But how do we get to the mansion in the first place?

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With the help of the newly engaged and deeply naive Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), that’s how. They’re on their way to visit a former teacher and tell him about their engagement. But in the midst of their rain-soaked journey, a tire on Brad’s car blows out. When Brad contemplates going out for help, Janet asks, “Where will you go in the middle of nowhere?” And as the knowing movie audience yells out, “What’s white and sells hamburgers?”, Brad strokes his chin and recalls, “Didn’t we pass a castle back down the road?”

The couple seems to get ample warning from the gods against following this plan…

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But they do it anyway, while singing a cheery song about how the light from the castle sprung up from the darkness to save them. If they only knew what was on the other side of that castle fence…

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“Close-up, please? Thank you!”

So rain is a definite trigger of portent to come in this movie. (It also briefly figures later in the movie, when a frightened Rocky breaks out of the castle and tries to escape.) Indeed, wetness abounds in this film, in other ways that I won’t tastelessly disclose here.

The musical number is embedded below. (If you liked this blogathon entry, click here to read my first one.)

Buster Keaton’s ONE WEEK (1920) – Rain, rain, go away

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The following is the first of my two entries in The April Showers Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from March 31 through April 2, 2017. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ takes on a wide variety of rain-soaked movie scenes!

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Until my dying day, I will continue to tout Buster Keaton’s silent short subject One Week as one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. Like all of the best comedy, its premise is rooted in reality, so that when the craziness comes, it’s nevertheless plausible and relatable to audiences.

(WARNING: Spoilers abound!)

The plot is that Buster and his newlywed wife (utterly charming Sybil Seeley) have received, as a wedding gift from Buster’s uncle, a do-it-yourself house to put together. (This kind of house was all the rage at the time of this movie.) Unbeknownst to the newlyweds, Sybil’s seething ex-boyfriend Hank has sabotaged the numbers on the kit, making the finished house quite the structural deformity.

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Move-in ready?

Buster and Sybil go through more than a few misadventures in trying to furnish the fiinished house. But the highlight is surely the couple’s housewarming party.

As Buster leads his guests through the house and tries to enumerate the house’s (few) virtues, he suddenly feels moisture on his neck. Buster looks up and sees that the roof is smattered with holes. Always one to make the best of a bad situation, Buster opens up an umbrella and continues his spiel to his guests.

When the guests begin getting rained on, Buster decides to step outside to check the severity of the weather. It’s severe, all right — huge wind gusts send the house twirling around and around, making it almost impossible for Buster to re-enter the house, try as he might. The gusts don’t do Buster’s guests any favors, either, giving them dizzy spells as they try to keep their balance.

For all of the wonderful film history we have of the silent era, it’s our loss that nobody ever documented how Keaton & Co. managed to create that never-ending sight gag of a house. Thankfully, we still have the movie itself to stare at wide-eyed in awe when it’s not making us laugh ourselves silly.

One Week is embedded below. The housewarming scene begins at the 13:53 mark, but don’t deprive yourself of the rest of this delightful movie as well.

(If you enjoyed this blogathon entry, click here to read my second one.)

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony

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It’s great to have a second childhood. I’ll be indulging in mine this Saturday night, when Bugs Bunny at the Symphony comes to town.

It’s a live program featuring some classic Warner Bros. cartoons (mostly starring Bugs Bunny), with the cartoon’s scores performed by a local symphony orchestra conducted by guest conductor George Daugherty.

Daugherty has a long and fruitful history with the Warner Bros. cartoon gang, starting with two late-1990’s cartoons he scored for director Chuck Jones: Jones’ final Road Runner cartoon Chariots of Fur, and Another Froggy Evening, the sequel to Jones’ 1955 classic One Froggy Evening.

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Chuck Jones, George Daugherty, and some animated friends.

In 1990, Daugherty and his collaborator, David Ka Lik Wong, came up with the idea of a Looney Tunes road show, providing classic Warner Bros. cartoons with the full symphonic treatment. The first show was on Broadway and was given an extended run after its first sold-out performances. Daugherty and his cartoon program have been touring worldwide ever since.

Cartoons to be screened include the Road Runner in Zoom and Bored, and Bugs and Elmer Fudd in the opera send-ups The Rabbit of Seville and What’s Opera, Doc? There will also be “cameo” on-screen appearances by Tom & Jerry, The Flintstones, and Scooby-Doo.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve revered Chuck Jones’ work ever since I started reading movie credits. I’ve been hearing about this show for years, but I always figured it would remain on my bucket list. Happily, it’s coming to Jacksonville this weekend, and I’m dragging my son along (he got hooked on The Rabbit of Seville years ago).

Click on the banner at the top of this blog to visit the show’s website and see if it’s coming to or near your city. If so, I hope it makes you as happy as it’s already making me.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts On: “Hugo” (2011)

Another beautiful blog from Silent-ology, this one being about one of my favorite movies-about-movies.

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Sometimes one of today’s films will take you by surprise. Judging by the trailer, you expected it to be pleasant and entertaining enough, but it turned out to have more depth than you’d thought. When it came out on DVD you ended up buying it, and found yourself re-watching it from time to time. One day you realized it’s become one of your go-to classics.

In other words, you’ve fallen for Hugo (2011).

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Released during the brief Silent Film Awareness Renaissance of 2011 (when The Artist won Best Picture, remember), Hugo was a film that took many people by surprise. For one thing, it was a magical 3-D family film by Martin Scorsese, of all people, creator of Raging Bull and Gangs of New York among many others. And contrary to what the trailers implied, it was a little less about the boy Hugo himself and more a tribute…

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R.I.P., Chuck Barris, and a salute to THE GONG SHOW

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Game show impresario Chuck Barris died two days ago at age 87. He leaves behind a legacy of pop-culture residue: a one-hit-wonder song named “Palisades Park,” a book and movie wherein he claimed he worked undercover for the C.I.A., and several no-bad-taste-holds-barred game shows such as “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game.”

I always thought all of his game shows were trashy, especially “The Newlywed Game,” in the way that it brought out the worst in its husband-wife contestant teams just so they could compete to win a washer-dryer.

But Barris eventually sucked me into his whirlpool of wacko when he created a little gem titled “The Gong Show.”

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I first saw this tacky time-capsule entry when I was 15 years old, at which point any kind of comedy that seemed “honest” really spoke to me. “All in the Family” turned family sitcoms on their ears with the sounds of family members arguing and toilets flushing. “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” presented clueless adults doing outrageous things as though it was just another day at the office. And “The Gong Show” was the anti-talent show.

Barris said he had first intended the show as a tribute to genuine amateur talent. But when the terrible audition acts outweighed the good ones, Barris flipped the format and went full-tilt-bozo for the trash. Unhappy with his show’s original host, who didn’t get the joke, Barris himself turned TV-show hosting into Amateur Hour by doing it himself.

Initially, the show was fairly tight. A voluptous Swedish actress named Sivi Aberg introduced Barris at the top of each show. One by one, a parade of acts (mostly bad) appeared on stage. Three celebrity contestants observed the acts, and after 90 seconds, if at least one celeb decided the act was no good, it got gonged.

Little by little over its two-year broadcast span, the show unraveled. Barris amused himself by bringing on a little stock company of crazies, including “The Unknown Comic” (“Sonny & Cher” regular Murray Langston with a bag over his head) and an eccentrically dancing NBC stagehand who was dubbed “Gene, Gene, The Dancing Machine.”

Once the show became wildly popular and began commenting on itself, it started losing its way. Sivi Aberg was eventually replaced by busty porn star Carol Connors in a bikini. Barris himself admitted he was nearing a nervous breakdown, which is why he eventually pulled the plug on the show.

But even as it capsized, the show always remained fun, with did-I-just-see-that acts appearing on network television to “normal” viewers’ surprise.

Everyone’s favorite bad memory of the show is “The Popsicle Twins,” two teenage girls who sat on stage eating Popsicles. While one girl ate her treat quite normally, the other one gave her Popsicle quite the merry time.

I still remember other outre acts, including:

  • “The Embryo Twins,” two guys who came onstage covered by a large, yellow plastic bag and proceeded to sing Paul Anka’s “You’re Having My Baby.”
  • “Dr. Flamo,” who arranged a series of small-to-large lit candles like piano keys and then held a bare hand over them so that he could shriek out the notes of the song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
  • And most memorably, “Miss Dolly,” an extremely plus-sized, barely covered woman who did a hoochy-coochy act that mainly showed off her extreme case of cellulite. This caused a speechless Jamie Farr to bang the gong with his chair.

I never felt the least bit guilty about laughing at these acts, even when these unknowing people humiliated themselves at their own expense. Why should I? They wanted to get famous somehow, and for at least 90 seconds, an ultra-cheap TV show gave them their wish.

(In that way, at least, Barris was ahead of his time. The executive producer of any TV reality show should be tipping a battered hat to Barris’ work from three decades previous.)

Barris’ party persona hid a very unhappy personal life. He was married three times and divorced twice. Della, his daughter from his first marriage (who occasionally did the intro bit for “The Gong Show”), eventually died of a drug overdose. And in 1980, Barris co-wrote, directed, and starred in The Gong Show Movie, which died within a week of its theatrical release and has only recently made it to DVD.

But I think you have to give the guy credit. Even in outspoken 1976, other than the Norman Lear string of hit sitcoms, there was rarely a TV show that let it all hang out at any time, much less at 10:00 in the morning.