A word to (and on behalf of) women

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I make it a point to never, ever get political on this blog. But with the GOP and a few million other yahoos spitting in the face of a woman sporting substantial evidence that she was raped by Brett Kavanaugh, I think it’s time to make an exception.

From all that I’ve written on this blog about Jane Russell and similarly zaftig women, you might not think that I have a feminist bone in my body. But I am thrilled for any woman who defies the odds of a male-oriented society to accomplish anything. (Tops on that list is my wife of nearly 30 years who, two years ago, became the publisher of the local newspaper for which she wrote and edited for more than 30 years previous.)

I am sick to goddamn death of ignorant old (and in most cases, rich) white men who get rattled whenever the status quo is disrupted. I do not feel threatened by intelligent women. I feel very threatened by politicians whose consciences aren’t the least bit weighed down about immigrant children in cages, or women who get jeered at or worse when they deign to disclose that political officials or nominees raped them.

There is a mid-term election coming up. Let’s all vote these dinosaurs out of office and get some elected officials who actually care about the future of our country more than they do about lining their pockets and keeping women in their place — a place that exists only in the minds of ignorant old (and in most cases, rich) white men.

Feel free to unsubscribe to my blog if it makes you feel better.

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MANHATTAN (1979) – A pain in the “But”

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(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

When I saw Manhattan upon its first release, I was only 18 years old, I was already a rabid Woody Allen fan, and the 1970’s were…well, the ‘70s. But the movie is getting a radical revisiting in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and I now see the movie as a mass of contradictions — or, to put it more plainly, a lot of “But’s.”

The movie begins smashingly, with a gorgeous montage of New York scenery sumptuously photographed by Gordon Willis, and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” playing in the background. Amidst this assertive opening, we soon hear the reedy voice of TV writer and author Isaac Davis (Allen) “writing” the first chapter of his book (i.e., dictating it into a tape recorder). It’s a beautiful visual and a funny introduction to the movie’s themes.

But…Isaac’s description of New York includes a reference to “street-smart guys who know all the angles,” juxtaposed with a shot of leering construction workers eyeing a curvy brunette who’s crossing the street. Don’t look now, but some ‘70s sexism is slipping through the crevices.

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In what is probably the movie’s most underwritten character, Meryl Streep, in an early movie role, plays Jill, Isaac’s second ex-wife and the mother of their only child, whom Jill is now raising with her lesbian partner Connie (Karen Ludwig). A major plot point of the movie is that Jill has written and published a tell-all book about her marriage with Isaac and his reaction to his later discovery of his wife’s lesbianism (he tried to run them both over with a car).

But…this entire part of the plot seems contrived and unfocused. At one point, Isaac freely admits to a friend that he tried to run the couple over, but later he tries to claim to Jill that it was an accident. Worse is Streep’s strange acting in the movie. In her first, confrontational scene with Isaac, Jill is cocky about having the book to hold over Isaac’s head, but later, in her own apartment, Jill nervously tries to avoid Isaac’s inquiries, as though he still has some unknown power over her.

Another major plot point is that of Isaac’s longtime best friend, a professor named Yale (Michael Murphy). Unbeknownst to Yale’s wife Emily (Anne Byrne), he has been having an affair with a neurotic and pretentious woman named Mary (Diane Keaton). Yale, Mary, and Isaac have quite the partner-changing routine, as Yale nervously “passes” Mary off to Isaac when he decides to stay true to his wife, only to later selfishly reclaim Mary and destroy both his marriage and his friendship with Isaac. This is meant to serve as Allen’s moral compass of the movie, as he has Isaac give Yale a kiss-off speech telling him how selfish he is.

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But…this moralistic high ground doesn’t easily gel with the movie’s May/December elephant in the room: Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), Isaac’s high-school-age girlfriend who is a full quarter-century younger than Isaac. Even if you are willing to separate the art from the artist (you know — Allen, who infamously married his much younger [not-really-his] stepdaughter), Isaac cannot completely joke his way out of a relationship that seems, at best, morally iffy. (Where are Tracy’s parents throughout this roundelay? Strangely unseen and undiscussed, at least until movie’s end, where Tracy is given a throwaway line about their looking for an apartment for her in London, where she has just earned a scholarship.)

And there’s no question that the Isaac-Tracy romance is the movie’s biggest moral quagmire. Isaac is forever making speeches about ethics, but he is forever leading Tracy on while keeping her at arm’s length, until he finally gets a shot at Mary and breaks off with Tracy. And as soon as his chance with Mary goes kaput, he goes running back to try to get Tracy back into his life.

So there are a lot of wonderful touches to enjoy in Manhattan, as long as you can evade the “But…” angel who keeps tapping you on your shoulder and telling you that this is not really a cautionary tale, for the 1970’s or any other decade.

(POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that even Allen himself seems torn by contradictions about his own movie. When it became his biggest box-office success to date, he said, “People really latched onto Manhattan in a way that I thought was irrational.” Yet in 1980, when New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael wrote a long and scorching diatribe against not only Manhattan, but Allen’s movies Annie HallInteriors, and Stardust Memories, Allen felt compelled to end his years-long friendship with Kael.)

Announcing THE POPEYE BLOGATHON!

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After serving for four years as the “breakout star” of E.C. Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre, Popeye the Sailor Man made his movie debut on July 14, 1933 and became as big of a hit in animated cartoons as he was in comics. To honor the 85th anniversary of his film career, we proudly announce…

THE POPEYE BLOGATHON!

The rules are simple. Write a blog about any aspect of Popeye you like. Here are some ideas:

  • E.C. Segar’s Thimble Theatre
  • Theatrical cartoons:  the Fleischer Bros. era (1933-1942), and/or the Famous Studios era (1942-1957)
  • TV cartoons: King Features (1960-1962), Hanna-Barbera (1978-1983, 1987-1988)
  • Robert Altman’s 1980 movie adaptation, starring Robin Williams

Again, any aspect of these subjects is fine. (For example, you could write about the entire Fleischer Bros. era, or you could write about just your favorite cartoon from that era.) Also, if you have an idea of your own, let me know, and if it relates to Popeye, I’ll gladly accept it.

My only request: No duplicate entries! At the bottom of this blog entry, I will keep an updated list of blogathon entrants. Be sure to check the list to ensure that your idea isn’t already taken.

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 trio 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 Friday, Sept. 28, through Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. 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 Sept. 30, 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 1935 theatrical cartoon For Better or Worser, and a “psychological examination” of Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, and Bluto

Caftan Woman – the 1936 theatrical cartoon Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor

Realweegiemidget Reviews – Alternate casting choices for Robert Altman’s Popeye movie

Movierob – Fox TV’s 2004 CGI special “Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy”

The Midnite Drive-In – Robert Altman’s Popeye movie

Talk About Cinema – Seasin’s Greetinks! (1933), Let’s Celebrake (1938), Mister and Mistletoe (1955), and Spinach Greetings (Popeye TV cartoon)

It Came from the Man Cave! – “There Goes the Neighborhood,” Episode 12 of Hanna-Barbera’s “Popeye and Son” (1987)

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