THE YEAR AFTER YEAR BLOGATHON – Day 1 Recap

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future…so we’d better get going on

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We received a lot of great entries on the first day of this ‘thon. Just click on the names of the individual blogs below to read them!

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Growing up isn’t easy for sisters Tootie and Esther (Margaret O’Brien and Judy Garland) in Meet Me in St. Louis, as A Shroud of Thoughts tells us.

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The Stop Button takes a look at the troubled life of boxer Jake La Motta (Robert DeNiro) as depicted in Raging Bull.

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Reelweegiemidget Reviews shows how life for Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson (Paul Dano and John Cusack) wasn’t all surf and sun in Love & Mercy.

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The Midnite Drive-In observes a day in the life of Phil Connors (Bill Murray) — over and over and over — in Groundhog Day.

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In the first of his three blogathon entries, Movierob watches a Jewish Hungarian family struggle to hold onto their values through three generations in Sunshine.

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Dubsism gives us the ups and downs of three vacationing couples/friends (including Carol Burnett and Alan Alda) during the course of The Four Seasons.

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And finally, yours truly enjoys Mel Brooks giving us a twisted history lesson in the comedy History of the World Part I.

We still have two days left in this timely blogathon, so keep us bookmarked!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE YEAR AFTER YEAR BLOGATHON is here!

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Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s make it official with The Year After Year Blogathon. Join us for the next three days as film-loving bloggers provide their takes on a variety of movies with multi-year themes.

If you are one of the ‘thon participants, please leave your blog’s name and the URL of your ‘thon entry in the “Comments” section below, and I will provide a link to it here ASAP. If you’re simply here for some fun reading, the entry list (below) will be updated regularly throughout the ‘thon. I will also provide daily updates to same on my blog. Enjoy, all!

Here is the list of participants. Click on the individual movie names to link to the blogathon entries. Start reading ’em — the new year is flying by already!

Movie Movie Blog Blog – History of the World Part I

A Shroud of Thoughts – Meet Me in St. Louis

The Stop Button – Raging Bull

thoughtsallsorts – Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight

Realweegiemidget Reviews – Love and Mercy

The Observation Post – The Best Years of Our Lives

Moon in Gemini – Little Women (1994)

Taking Up Room – Blast from the Past

The Midnite Drive-In – Groundhog Day

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Portrait of Jennie

Movierob – The Birth of a NationSame Time Next Year, and Sunshine

Dubsism – The Four Seasons

Dell on Movies – Malcolm X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART I (1981) – Mel Brooks as the million-year-old man

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The following is my entry in The Year After Year Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from Jan. 4-6, 2019. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to movies whose story spans one year or longer!

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(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

History of the World Part I did middling box-office (as did all Mel Brooks movies from this point on), but for my money, it’s one of Brooks’ funniest. Having cemented his comedic reputation early on with the 2000-Year-Old Man, it seems inevitable that Brooks would eventually take on the spectrum (or sphincter, as he might put it) of world history. And in the age of the Farrelly Brothers, Brooks’ ideas about bad taste seem almost quaint.

It begins with a lot of black-out gags (the first such gag amounting to, Ape Man = Onan) and takes off from there. The first sustained sequence, The Roman Empire, probably goes on a bit too long, and it “introduced” a buxom actress named Mary-Margaret Humes who, justifiably, went right back to obscurity shortly after the film’s release. But there are also many enjoyable moments: Gregory Hines’s mellow film debut, Madeline Kahn’s ecstatic song tribute to her well-endowed male slaves, and most of all, the Last Supper sequence at the end — completely messed up time-wise (it puts Jesus and Leonardo da Vinci in the same shot), but all the more hilarious because of it. (John Hurt plays Jesus, and as in Brooks’ Spaceballs [1987], his straight-faced seriousness just makes the insanity around him that much funnier.)

The next sequence (embedded below) is one of Brooks’s best: The Spanish Inquisition as a Marx Brothers-style musical number, with Mel Brooks as a socko Torquemada, beating out a rhythm on his victims’ shackled knees. This sequence alone justifies Brooks’ existence as a comedy director.

The sequence depicting The French Revolution has two main objectives in mind: show off as much of (1) British comedienne Pamela Stephenson’s bust and (2) Brooks’s wee-wee humor as humanly possible. Nevertheless, it has its moments, with Cloris Leachman as Madame Defarge, and Brooks as a randy king.

The final short sequence, a trailer for Brooks’s non-existent History Part II, is worth the bother just for one of those moments that makes me laugh for no discernible reason: a scene from “Hitler on Ice,” showing Brooks’s favorite nasty German as an Ice Capader. This ersatz trailer is enough to make me wish Brooks had really made a sequel. I doubt it would have turned out any worse than Spaceballs.

 

STAN & OLLIE vs. Laurel & Hardy

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(WARNING: This is not a review of the new movie Stan & Ollie, which has not yet come to my area and which I have not yet seen. However, the hyperlink in this blog leads to another blog which does give SPOILERS about said movie. So if you want to see the movie before reading some major plot details about it, avoid the hyperlink.)

I was looking forward to seeing Stan & Ollie. The general consensus of the film’s mostly glowing reviews is that the film mucks up a few facts about the events in question but generally gets the details right about the friendship between the real Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

But then I read the blog of Mark Evanier, a feverish Laurel & Hardy fan. He has seen the movie, and his blog points out the voluminous facts that the movie shunts aside in favor of tearjerking dramatics.

Reading this account of the movie angers me, though I do not blame Evanier for my ill humor. I blame it on a simple fact: I have never seen a single movie or TV show about Laurel & Hardy, either biographical or fictionalized, that does not take some kind of liberties with the facts about L&H’s history.

My late father-in-law, a Navy veteran of two wars, said he could never watch any Navy-themed movie because he knew what real Navy life was like, and Navy-themed movies always managed to get the details wrong. Evanier and I, along with generations of hardcore L&H fans, have done much reading about our two comedy heroes, and we seem to have the same problem with L&H-themed movies that my dad-in-law had with movies about Navy-based films.

Let me give you just three examples regarding L&H:

  • A 1992 direct-to-video compilation movie titled Laurel & Hardy: A Tribute to the Boys was hosted by comedian Dom Deluise. Aside from the movie showing colorized clips from The Boys’ comedies (I’ll spare you my condescending opinion of colorization), at the end of the movie, DeLuise stated when Hardy died, Laurel was at his bedside, holding his hand. A touching image, to be sure, but it’s totally false. Laurel was too ill to even attend Hardy’s funeral, much less be at his bedside to hold Hardy’s hand at the time of his death.
  • Cuckoo, a generally well-meaning 1974 British documentary about L&H, sports the oft-quoted “fact” that Stan Laurel was married eight times. Wrong again! As Evanier points out, Stan was married to and divorced from three different women (one of whom he remarried before divorcing her again).(If you’re looking for a happy ending, Laurel’s fourth wife, the former Ida [pronounced “E-da”] Kitaeva, turned out to be Laurel’s soulmate, and they were married for 18 happy years before Laurel died.)
  • Just yesterday, another well-meaning tribute to L&H was broadcast on “CBS Sunday Morning.” Half of it was a plug for the Stan & Ollie movie, while the other half was a L&H mini-history of The Boys that included several clips from their classic comedies. All well and good, except that CBS listed the wrong years for two of those comedies. If you are going to bother to list their movies’ release dates in the upper-left hand corner of the TV screen, why not go to the trouble of getting the dates right?

Sadly, Laurel & Hardy are not alone in this rewriting of movie comedy history. In 1971 came a book titled W.C. Fields & Me, written by Fields’ on-and-off mistress of 14 years, Carlotta Monti. Fields biographers (including his own grandson) have since established that the book was a vanity account in which Monti played hard and fast with several of the facts about her relationship with Fields. But nobody knew that in 1976, when Universal made a film version of the book, starring Rod Steiger as Fields and Valerie Perrine as Monti.

The movie played even harder and faster with the book’s fantasy version of the story, stating that Fields was a somewhat impoverished comedian who came to Hollywood accompanied by a midget sidekick (played by Billy Barty). Truth: Fields had no such sidekick, and he was already fairly wealthy from his stage and Broadway careers. The movie claimed that Monti met Fields when she attended one of his parties anonymously and was brusquely put to work by Fields as the party’s waitress. The truth, at least according to Monti, was that she first met Fields when she was a starlet appearing in a screen test for one of his movies.

So it appears that Hollywood has a thing for exploiting the personalities of its comedy legends, but when it comes to getting the facts right, Hollywood figures, “Ah, they’re just comedians — who cares?” And it seems to me that Laurel & Hardy have suffered the most from this lackadaisical approach to comics’ biographies.

You might think that I’m being a little too sensitive about this kind of thing. I dunno. If a good friend or relative of yours died, and you commissioned an outside party to film or tape a tribute to that person, how pleased would you be if said party got most of the facts wrong about your beloved? Many Laurel & Hardy buffs will tell you that they regard The Boys as friends. And friends should not be so carelessly wronged.

With that in mind, I’m still interested in seeing Stan & Ollie. But I will probably do so with a far more disparaging eye than that of some exceedingly generous film critics.

#PayClassicsForward, Year 4

I adore playing along every December with Aurora at the blog Once Upon a Screen. Every year, she “gifts” readers with 12 movie-related categories (a la “The 12 Days of Christmas”) and invites other readers and bloggers to do the same. Click here for Aurora’s 2018 list. As for mine, see below!

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One movie, one performer

Richard Pryor Live in Concert

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Two Everymen in historical events

Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen) in Zelig

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) in Forrest Gump

 

Three dressings-down

Cop Victor Mature daring gangster Richard Conte to shoot him in Cry of the City

Rex Harrison ripping Rudy Vallee’s coat apart in Unfaithfully Yours

Ruby Dee giving a motherly lecture to her gangster son (Denzel Washington) in American Gangster

 

Four TV-to-movie adaptations

The Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew

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The Addams Family

Wayne’s World

The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle

 

Five cross-country movies

Gun Crazy

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North by Northwest

The Cannonball Run

Lost in America

Rain Man

 

Six baby plot twists

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

Labyrinth

Raising Arizona

Three Men and a Baby

Angie

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Junior

 

Seven comic chases

Buster Keaton, some brides, and some rocks in Seven Chances

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Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy aboard a runaway airplane in The Flying Deuces

The Marx Brothers tearing apart the train in which they’re riding in Go West

W.C. Fields’ car ride with a bandit in The Bank Dick

Ringo Starr getting sprung from jail in A Hard Day’s Night

Mel Brooks’ Western movie spilling out into the streets in Blazing Saddles

Nicolas Cage evading practically everyone after a robbery in Raising Arizona

 

Eight film critics

Gene Siskel

Roger Ebert

Pauline Kael

James Agee

Andrew Sarris

Stanley Kauffmann

David Denby

Carrie Rickey

 

Nine sexy moments

Jean Harlow unknowingly parading half-naked through a hotel lobby in Laurel & Hardy’s Double Whoopee

Joel McCrea helping Claudette Colbert unzip her dress in The Palm Beach Story

Lauren Bacall shaking her hips at the end of To Have and Have Not

The camera panning up Jane Russell’s legs in Son of Paleface

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The “Shall We Dance?” number in The King and I

Sophia Loren climbing out of the water in Boy on a Dolphin

Sharon Stone kissing a train window in Stardust Memories

The upside-down kiss in Spider-Man

Adrienne Barbeau bouncing bralessly in Swamp Thing (Sorry!)

 

Ten lovely movies

Love Happy

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Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Love and Death

Endless Love

Sea of Love

I Love You to Death

Shakespeare in Love

Down with Love

Must Love Dogs

Love Actually

 

Eleven nastier-than-nasty villains

The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) in The Wizard of Oz

Vera (Ann Savage) in Detour

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Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) in Kiss of Death

Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in The Godfather Part II

Noah Cross (John Huston) in Chinatown

Darth Vader (body by David Prowse, voice by James Earl Jones) in Star Wars

Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) in Die Hard

Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) in GoodFellas

Amon Goth (Ralph Fiennes) in Schindler’s List

Judge Claude Frollo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) in No Country for Old Men

 

Twelve movies by the numbers

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Man with Two Brains

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Three Ages

4 Little Girls

Five Easy Pieces

The Sixth Sense

The Seven Year Itch

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years

9 to 5

“10”

11 Harrowhouse

12 Angry Men