Announcing NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!)

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Spring cleaning at the ol’ Movie Movie Blog Blog has yielded some interesting surprises — which, in the generous spirit of spring season, I’d like to pass along to you. Therefore, it is with bated breath (for which I’m seeing a doctor) that I happily announce…

NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!)

(Yes, I know — Nuts in May is the title of a Stan Laurel solo film, not a Laurel & Hardy team film. But I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.)

Let me start by saying that if you’re interested in participating, you’re going to have work fast on this one. For, as befitting the ‘thon’s title, it will take place on Monday, May 1, 2017.

So now you’re saying, “Prizes, schmizes! I can’t enter a blogathon that’s coming up so soon!” Well, hold on, snootie, we haven’t announced the prizes yet!

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Third prize is the Kino Video/Lobster Films 2004 DVD of Laurel & Hardy’s 1939 film The Flying Deuces. (NOTE: This is not a Blu-Ray edition.) This is a restored, uncut version of the movie that was transferred from a nitrate 35mm negative discovered in France. The DVD also includes:

  • The Stolen Jools, a 1931 all-star short subject made for charity. Laurel & Hardy have a short but funny cameo in it.
  • The Tree in a Test Tube, a 1943 educational short subject featuring Laurel & Hardy in color, performing pantomime.
  • The notorious 1955 segment of “This Is Your Life” in which Hardy and a polite but reluctant Laurel are featured.
  • 1932 newsreel footage of Laurel & Hardy’s trip to the United Kingdom.
  • Copies of stills and promotional material for the movie.

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Second prize are the 1997 Laurel & Hardy “70th-anniversary” dolls featured in the above photo. (NOTE: The prize is the dolls [as shown above] and their props. The dolls are no longer in their original packaging.) Props include an umbrella for Hardy, a suitcase for Laurel, and small doll stands that contain replicas of Laurel’s and Hardy’s autographs.

And now for the grand prize. Are you sitting down?

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First prize is a near-mint-condition copy of Randy Skretvedt’s Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies – The Ultimate Edition. Yes, this is the 632-page hardback book that was released to huge critical acclaim last year. It’s loaded to the max with updates from Skretvedt’s initial 1987 book, including tons of photographs and trivia to savor.

So here are the rules — read them carefully!

  1. Blogathon participants are asked to write a review of one of the 106 films in which Laurel and Hardy were paired from 1926 to 1951. (That includes the early Hal Roach/Pathe productions in which Laurel & Hardy co-starred in the same film but were not featured as a team.) Please choose only from this list of movies — no “This Is Your Life,” compilation films, TV specials, or anything that deviates from said list. (A listing of this group of films can be found here.)
  2. No duplicate entries are allowed for this blogathon. At the bottom of this blog is a list of blogathon entries that will be regularly updated. Please check the list before you begin writing your entry, to see if someone has already taken your choice.
  3. Your review does not necessarily have to be positive — for example, if you want to review a L&H/20th Century-Fox film that you don’t like, that’s fine. All I ask is that the review be well-written, thought-out, reasoned, and entertaining.
  4. I will be the sole judge of the blogathon entries and will determine which entries win first, second, and third prize. So re-read Rule # 3 if necessary.
  5. Banners to promote the blogathon are posted at the bottom of this blog. Once you have written and posted your entry at your blog, grab a banner, post it with your entry, and link the banner back to this blog. Also, please leave your blogathon entry’s URL in the “Comments” section below so that I can read your entry.
  6. Your entry must be posted at your blog by 12:00 midnight Eastern Time on Monday, May 1, 2017. I will announce the blogathon winners as soon as possible after that time, possibly the next day. All blogathon entries will be linked here, and I will post the first- , second- , and third-prize-winning entries at this blog.

So for my and Laurel & Hardy’s sake, think hard, write well, and have fun! Here’s the line-up so far:

Movies Silently – Duck Soup (1927) and the talkie remake Another Fine Mess (1930)

The Movie Rat – The Music Box (1932)

CaftanWoman – Me and My Pal (1933)

thoughtsallsorts – The Live Ghost (1934)

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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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Announcing THE APRIL SHOWERS BLOGATHON!

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Spring 2017 is almost upon us, as is the month of April. Put them together and you have…

THE APRIL SHOWERS BLOGATHON!

Have you ever thought about the many ways in which rain has been used as a plot point in movies? Well, now is your chance to blog about your favorite such movie! (Click here if you need some ideas.) Here are the April Showers Blogathon rules.

1. Write a blog entry about one of your favorite use of rain in a motion picture. It can be a single rain scene that sets off a plot development, or it can be a movie in which most or all of the plot revolves around rain.

2. No duplicate entries, please. Carefully check the listing of current entrants (below) to ensure that your first choice has not already been taken.

3. Your blog can be either a general review of the movie you choose, or your blog can center around the pivotal rain scene that you are discussing. Just be sure that you write about why rain is so important to the movie’s plot.

4. 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.

5. The blogathon will take place from Friday, March 31, through Sunday, April 2, 2017. 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!).

6. 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 April 2, 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, 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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STEEL MAGNOLIAS (1989) – A film filled with fascinating females

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The following is my entry for the Girl Week 2016 blogathon, being hosted by Dell on Movies from Nov. 21-27, 2016. Click on the above banner, and read Dell’s and other bloggers’ takes on interesting female leads in movies!

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(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

So many movies are content to show killings, or even destructions of entire civilizations, with nary a shrug. One of the many virtues of Steel Magnolias is that it takes the time to show the importance of a single person in one’s life, and what a hole that person leaves when she dies.

That person is Shelby (Oscar-nominated Julia Roberts), who is based on the sister of playwright-turned-screenwriter Robert Harling. Like Shelby, Harling’s sister Susan suffered and eventually died from Type 1 diabetes, and he wrote this play-turned-movie as a way of dealing with his sister’s death.

The movie centers around soon-to-be newlywed Shelby and her female friends around town, all of whom frequently gather at the local salon for beauty treatments and (let’s face it) gossip. Truvy (Dolly Parton) runs the salon and hires milquetoast Annelle (Daryl Hannah) to work for her.

(Annelle’s characterization — at least the latter part of it — is about the only problem I have with this movie. Annelle begins as a very conservative Christian, owly eyeglasses and all. Then later in the movie, she loosens up considerably and transforms into — again, let’s face it — beautiful Daryl Hannah. But then after feeling guilty about acting so worldly, Annelle goes back to the conservative look and the owly eyeglasses again. I’m no woman, but I have to think that, once you’ve had the opportunity to turn into Daryl Hannah, you’d never want to look back.)

The salon’s customers include wisecracking Clairee (Olympia Dukakis), widow of the town’s late mayor and owner of the local radio station; and Clairee’s Frankensteinian friend Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine), who freely admits she has not been in a good mood for several decades. About the only local woman with whom Shelby does not always get along is her contentious mother M’Lynn (Sally Field), who does not approve of Shelby’s wanting to have a baby due to Shelby’s fragile physical state.

There are a few men in the story (you gotta love M’Lynn’s happily wacko husband Drum [Tom Skerritt]), but the movie’s centerpiece is the relationship between the women. The plot doesn’t advance far from its initial starting point, but the women are so fascinating that it doesn’t matter much.  Sometimes movies, especially play adaptations, can easily turn into to snoozy talkfests. But here, the dialogue truly enhances the characterizations, and the acting as well — there’s not a bad performance in the entire ensemble. These are well-defined, strong women whom you can easily imagine having lives of their own after the movie has ended.

Be prepared to laugh and (most definitely) cry at Steel Magnolias. And brace yourself for one of the most hilarious closing shots in any movie ever — in a scene that had to have been added for the movie, because it could never have been performed on a stage.

Laurel & Hardy: The eternal friendship of Stan and Ollie

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The following is my contribution to the You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon, being hosted Nov. 18-20, 2016 by Debra at the blog Moon in Gemini. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to some of cinema’s most memorable friendships!

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Usually, anyone who writes about Laurel & Hardy dwells on their comedy highlights (and justifiably so). But in this instance, I’d like to discuss some of their more thoughtful moments and show why, as L&H biographer Randy Skretvedt once said, they have more “depth” than most comedy teams.

It’s not for nothing that, within their fan base, Laurel & Hardy are just as likely to inspire a tear as a laugh. The most commonly cited instance is the famous softshoe dance from Way Out West (1937; embedded below), in which the deep bond of Stan and Ollie is just as obvious as their superb comic timing.

But there are plenty of other instances — not as funny, maybe, but just as touching — that illuminate Stan and Ollie’s friendship. I’d like to cite just four of them. (SPOILER ALERTS)

At the climax of their short subject Below Zero (1930), Stan and Ollie have just been, literally, knocked out and thrown out of the back of a greasy-spoon cafe for not paying their dinner tab. (They thought they had sufficient funds to pay for it, but you know, it’s Stan and Ollie.) When Ollie regains consciousness, he doesn’t see Stan anywhere, and he yells for Stan several times — first in a normal tone of voice, then with fear that his friend is missing or has been physically harmed. All of this is conveyed simply by Ollie calling Stan’s name four times, followed by Ollie grabbing a large piece of wood and rushing to the cafe’s back door to bang on it.

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This is also a tribute to Oliver Hardy’s often-underrated acting. (And of course, Stan turns out to be all right — I’ll let you discover the movie’s silly ending for yourself.)

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In L&H’s first feature film Pardon Us (1931), The Boys have been sentenced to prison for trying to sell bootleg liquor (to a cop, as it happens). Stan has a troublesome lisp that makes the end of his every sentence sound as though he’s blowing a raspberry. It’s determined that Stan needs to go the prison dentist to get a loose tooth pulled. Stan has grave misgivings about this idea, especially after seeing a couple of patients in the dentist’s waiting room who are vocalizing their agony. Suddenly, Ollie sneaks in, takes a seat next to Stan, and declares that he’ll stay with Stan all through the dental visit. It’s a tiny moment that’s not dwelled upon, but Stan’s delight at seeing a cheerful, familiar face in a hostile environment speaks volumes.

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In Busy Bodies (1933), Stan and Ollie are having a back-and-forth physical row with an antagonistic co-worker (Charlie Hall). At one point, Stan hits Ollie by mistake. Charlie laughs and starts to make friends with Stan, telling Stan he has “a kind face.” Stan starts to get chummy with his new buddy and offers him a cigar. Ollie’s look to the camera — a device that always conveys Ollie’s exasperation to the audience — has an undertone of pity in this instance, as Ollie fears that Stan has turned on him. (Not to worry. Stan gets Charlie ejected from work — theirs is a “No Smoking” place of business.)

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The most profound instance of Stan and Ollie’s loss-and-regaining of friendship occurs at the end of their feature film A Chump at Oxford (1940). (Major spoilers follow.) Stan and Ollie are attending Oxford University on a scholarship. Unbeknownst to them, Oxford once had a brilliant professor named Lord Paddington who, one day, inexplicably walked away from Oxford for good. Paddington’s former servant notices Stan’s resemblance to the former genius and declares that Stan is Lord Paddington returned to his old stomping grounds. Ollie laughs derisively at the idea.

OLLIE: Why, I’ve known him for years, and he’s the dumbest guy that I ever saw. Aren’t you, Stan?

STAN: I certainly am.

But when Stan leans out a window and is conked on the head by the window’s pane, Lord Paddington’s memory returns — as does Lord P. in all of his snobby glory.

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There follows a delicious scene in which Ollie is justly punished for all of his years of condescending treatment of Stan, as Ollie is demoted to being Lord P.’s lackey. At one point, Paddington instructs Ollie on how to behave with more poise. “Lift your chin up,” he tells Ollie. When Ollie duly lifts his chin, Stan instructs him, “No, no, no, both of them!”

Ollie eventually loses it, telling Paddington that he’s had enough and that he’s returning to America without him. As it happens, some of Lord P.’s followers are singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” outside his window. Lord P. goes to the window to listen, the window pane does its business again, and Stan is returned to his old self.

Ollie is still on a rampage when Stan starts to cry at the thought of Ollie deserting him. Eventually, it dawns on Ollie that Stan is back to normal. Ollie laughs in happiness and throws his arms around his old buddy, briefly looking down at his derided double-chin before resuming his joy at the return of his old friend.

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You have to think that Stan Laurel, as the uncredited co-creator of most of Laurel & Hardy’s movies, felt compelled to add these subtle grace notes to L&H’s characterizations. They’re minor, but they’re there for anyone who looks for them, and they add a little emotion to what could have simply been (superb) slapstick comedies.

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Day 1 Recap of The 2nd Annual ‘One’ of My All-Time Favorite Cartoons Blogathon

With more than half of our blogathon entrants showing up on the first day, it’s time to whistle a happy tune as we present

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If you missed any of the entries, click on the appropriate blog’s name below to link to them.

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BNoirDetour gave us some stylish laughs with the the delicious film-noir parody Key Lime Pie.

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Once Upon a Screen showed how Porky Pig dealt with a wartime egg shortage caused by a Swooner Crooner.

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Silver Scenes revived a colorful ode To Spring from the 1930’s.

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Caftan Woman gifted us with Richard Williams’ rendition of the holiday chestnut A Christmas Carol.

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Realweegiemidget Reviews provided an unusual adventure in the form of The Lego Movie.

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Wide Screen World waxed nostalgic for Saturday-morning memories of Hanna-Barbera’s World of Super Adventure.

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The Midnite Drive-In declared “Adults only” with his screening of the 1980’s anthology Heavy Metal.

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And finally, yours truly offered the unique double feature of Mickey’s Garden and A Single Life.

And that’s not all, folks! With two more days left in our salute to cel work, you’d be wise to bookmark us to enjoy further blog entries of animated gems. See you soon!