LONDON SYMPHONY (2017) – Silence is golden

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“It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkie instead of the other way round.” – Mary Pickford

Thanks to 265 Kickstarter backers, director-editor Alex Barrett was able to grant Ms. Pickford’s wish — for one magnificent movie, at least.

London Symphony is a bracing, beautiful, cinematic stay-cation. You watch Barrett’s ode to life in London — flawlessly photographed (by Barrett and several others, in glorious black and white) and ethereally scored (by James McWilliam) — and 72 minutes later, you’re relaxed and refreshed.

The movie is split into four “movements” — city, nature, places of worship, and night life — and that’s about all I want to divulge about the movie’s outline. (Rahim Molendina gets a writing credit — but, not to belittle his work, how do you write something like this?) Beyond the film’s countless settings, the point of the movie seems to be that there’s beauty in everything. And Barrett goes out of his way to prove it, with alternately static and sweeping imagery that makes even discarded trash look as though it had a preordained shape to it.

Sometimes the movie shows the simple beauty in stasis, and then sometimes it captures movements that look candid, yet provide their own lovely commentary. A passing train is reflected in an oval light, and the light ends up looking as though it’s smiling at us. There’s a long shot taken on a bridge that shows a flowing river below, and suddenly feet appear at the corner of the screen. Is somebody going to jump off the bridge? No, he’s just standing on the bridge’s glass walkway.

It’s amazing how often people use visual media to record an event, and then they’re so worried about their audience getting bored that they have to insert useless talk into their recording. (Would it kill TV’s football-game announcers to shut up once in a while?) London Symphony lets the images speak for themselves, and it reestablishes your faith in the human spirit.

(Many thanks to the lovely Lea at the blog Silent-ology for passing this movie along to me, and to Flicker Alley for distributing it.)

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Do your part to support net neutrality!

This is the first and (hopefully) only time I will address a political issue on this blog. But it seems important enough to warrant the attention.

Please do the following for Net Neutrality:

This is an actual, effective thing everyone can do, a super-quick and effective way to support net neutrality:

1. On your computer (not your phone!),- go to: www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express

2. Under the heading “Proceeding,” enter 17-108.

3. Under “Comments,” state you support Title 2 oversight of ISPs. Also state that you support net neutrality.

Fill in the form carefully; they’ve made it less friendly and impossible to fill in by phone, on purpose. Go for it!

 

 

*Don’t be silenced. Do it now. Pass it on. Copy and paste.

I LOVE LUCY – “Lucy Does the Tango,” first broadcast on 3/11/57

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The following is my contribution to The Lucy & Desi Blogathon, being hosted by Michaela at the blog Love Letters to Old Hollywood on Dec. 1-3, 2017. Click on the above banner to read bloggers’ tributes to the stars of “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz!

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(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

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Every Lucille Ball fan has his or her favorite Lucy episode or moment. For me, it’s “I Love Lucy’s” 20th episode of Season 6, “Lucy Does the Tango.” When the punchline to that tango routine comes, I feel as though I’ve died and gone to comedy heaven.

The best thing about “I Love Lucy” was that executive producer (and, of course, co-star) Desi Arnaz realized that Lucy Ricardo’s craziness had to be rooted in reality and logic. Once a plausible situation was established, then the comedienne could go to town.

“Lucy Does the Tango” establishes that premise exquisitely. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (Ball and Arnaz) and their best friends Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance) are co-running a farm in Connecticut. They invest in full-grown hens, but the hens aren’t laying any eggs. As Fred is the primary farm runner, he’s taking a loss, and Ricky won’t listen to his pleas for a salary. The two men feud, and Fred threatens to move himself and Ethel back to New York if the hens don’t start laying eggs.

Lucy and Ethel are crushed at the thought of separating. So they buy a huge load of eggs, which they plan to hide under the hens to fool the men into thinking the hens are producing. Fred is watching over the farm, so the women decide to hide the eggs in the clothing they’re wearing and sneak past Fred to dispatch the eggs.

Unfortunately, the plan never gets to its last part. Just as the women are swollen with hidden eggs, Ricky makes a surprise daytime appearance at the house so that he can rehearse the couple’s tango number that they’ll be performing for the local PTA.

The only thing better than this premise’s plausibility is its anticipation of what’s to come. The episode begins with Ricky and Lucy properly rehearsing the tango, so you can see how it’s really supposed to go. When they rehearse the second time, you just know what’s going to happen, and the tango routine takes its own sweet time in getting to the climax.

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But when it does, the payoff is delicious (for everyone except Lucy). Watch how Ball mines every possible laugh from that payoff. (And you can all but see Arnaz chewing on his tongue to keep from breaking up.)

Here’s some fun trivia about this episode. Lucille Ball’s reaction to the broken eggs was genuine. When she and Vance rehearsed the episode, they didn’t use real eggs because Ball wanted to get the spontaneity of the big crash on film. Also, Lucy’s reaction to the broken eggs prompted the series’ longest continuous laugh — 65 seconds’ worth. The laugh had to be cut in half to get the episode back on track.

The famous scene is embedded below. Savor it for yourself.