Swing Time

  • Title:  Swing Time
  • Director:  George Stevens
  • Date:  1936
  • Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures
  • Genre:  Musical, Comedy, Romance
  • Cast:  Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore, Betty Furness
  • Format:  Standard, Black and White
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“My talent is gambling, Pop, hoofing is all right, but there’s no future in it. I want to spread out.”– John “Lucky” Garnett (Fred Astaire)

“Listen, no one could teach you to dance in a million years! Take my advice, and save your money.”– Penny (Ginger Rogers) to Lucky

“It’s funny how we met… and all that’s happened to us since.”– Penny
“The way we’ve been sorta’… thrown together and everything.”– Lucky
“As if  it were all meant to happen.”– Penny
“It’s quite an experience.”– Lucky
“No, it’s more than an experience.  It’s sorta like… a romance.”– Penny

Swing Time is one of my three favorite Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals (the other two being Shall We Dance and Top Hat). This time, Fred plays John “Lucky” Garnett, a professional dancer who’s about to marry his high school sweetheart. The guys in his touring dance troop know they will be out of a job if Garnett leaves the stage for marriage and a serious job, so they arrange for him to be hours late for his own wedding. When he misses the wedding the girl’s father actually makes a deal with Garnett… if he can make $25,000 then he will let him marry his daughter. Lucky takes the challenge and goes off to the city to make his fortune.

In a large city, presumably New York, he runs into a girl, Penny Carroll (Ginger Rogers). He follows her and finds out she’s an “instructress” at a dance studio. Deciding to have a little fun, he dances badly, causing several prat falls with Penny… who gets so frustrated she tells him no one will ever be able to teach him to dance, he should save his money. Unfortunately, her boss over-hears this and fires her and her maiden aunt (Helen Broderick). Lucky feels bad and decides to show Penny’s boss that she has taught him a thing or two and the two dance together. Penny’s boss is so impressed he gets them an audition at the Silver Sandles club.

Unfortunately, unbeknownest to Penny, Lucky is flat broke, he only has the wedding clothes he’s wearing to his name. He sends his friend Pops to get some money, but Pops isn’t as good a gambler as Lucky. He brings a drunken gambler to Lucky’s for a game of “strip pichet” (no idea… a card game that looked like some version of gin). Lucky’s never played the game before and loses.

Penny gets mad at Lucky for blowing their audition. But he gets them a second tryout. She relents after he sings to her while her hair is covered in shampoo. At the club, they dance together on the crowded dance floor, but before they can perform their number… the orchestra leader cancels and leaves. He’s had a crush on Penny for awhile, and refuses to play to see her dance for another man.

Lucky gambles again for the orchestra… and wins it. He and Penny get their audition. Penny and Lucky, with the orchestra, become a star attraction, and the owner of the Silver Sandals offers Lucky 50 percent of the take. Mindful of his deal with his ex-fiancee’s father, he argues it down to 25 percent. He’d earlier quit his bets at the roulette wheel because he was afraid of winning too much.

Lucky, Penny, Pop, and Mabel (Penny’s maiden aunt) head out to the country to relax, even though it’s the dead of winter and it’s snowing.

They return to the city and the Silver Sandals is re-opening after it’s make-over. Ricardo, the band leader, tries to give Penny jewelry and she refuses it. Mabel challenges Penny to kiss Lucky. She’s determined to, loses her nerve, and then they do… off screen, hidden by an open door.

Lucky, with his dancers and chorus girls, dances to “Bojangles of  Harlem” as the new opening number of the club.

Margaret, Lucky’s ex-fiancee arrives at the club. Pops plays card tricks with some wise guys in the audience of the club.  Unfortunately, they are the ones Lucky won the orchestra from. Even worse… they now know Pops palmed the Ace for Lucky… something even Lucky hadn’t realized. Confronted with the evidence that he cheated, Lucky decides to re-draw cards and loses.

Penny finds out about Lucky gambling… and losing… and gets really upset, and even more upset when she finds out about Lucky’s ex-fiancee.

Ricardo (the orchestra leader) proposes to Penny, and in a fit of pique, she accepts him.

Fred sings “Never Gonna Dance” to her and they dance together, but it is a dance of love and loss, and at the top of the Silver Sandals set, the two part company.

But Margaret is there to give John a “Dear John” letter… she’s fallen in love with someone else. Meanwhile Lucky is completely in love with Penny. In the end, Pops and Lucky pull the same gag with cuffed trousers on Ricardo as his band had pulled on Lucky in the prologue, giving Lucky enough time to talk to Penny and stop the wedding.

List of  Musical Numbers

  • Pick Yourself  Up – Fred and Ginger vocals, and dance – Ballroom & Partner Tap
  • The Way You Look Tonight – Fred, vocals
  • Waltz in Swing Time – Fred and Ginger, dance – Ballroom & Partner Tap
  • A Fine Romance – Ginger and Fred vocals
  • Bojangles of Harlem – Fred & Chorus – dance
  • Never Gonna Dance – Fred, vocals – Fred and Ginger – Ballroom Dance

Swing Time is just pure fun. Fred and Ginger are in fine form, and the picture mixes romance with comedy and irony. For example, Fred sings the lovely ballad, “The Way You Look Tonight” to Ginger — while her hair is covered in shampoo and she’s annoyed with him, rather than in a traditional romantic setting. “A Fine Romance” is a sarcastic song with both Fred and Ginger spitting lyrics like – “A Fine Romance… with no kisses”. The film also uses the RKO Players like Eric Blore and Helen Broderick to fill in the comedy moments of  the plot. The only real out of place number is “Bojangles of Harlem” which is, unfortunately, done with Astaire in blackface. Otherwise, it’s a fine number (which includes Astaire dancing with three shadows… that suddenly start to not follow him). But yeah, dated, is the kindest word for it. The Silver Sandals set is a lovely two-level art deco set with a black and white dance floor below, and a shining black dance floor above. The two floors are connected by two staircases, one on each side of the main dance area.The picture in the banner of this review is of Fred and Ginger dancing “Never Gonna Dance” on the beautiful Art Deco Silver Sandals set. The set is used particularly well when Fred and Ginger dance to “Never Gonna Dance” — a song of love and loss, that ends with them parting, which at that point in the plot they do. It’s lovely.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Thin Man

Bruce Wayne isn’t Crazy – Book Review – “Batman and Psychology”

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  • Title: Batman and Psychology A Dark and Stormy Knight
  • Author: Travis Langley
  • Format: Trade paper

I loved this book. Often “pop culture and academic subject” books are great 101-level introductions to whatever the academic subject is (Philosophy, Physics, Science, etc) but the pop-culture references are shoved in with a shoe-horn, almost as if a research assistant summarized Buffy or Star Trek or Doctor Who for the author who didn’t really understand it, and the book was written with few, if any, good examples drawn from the pop culture source — though the 101 academic info is always good.

Batman and Psychology, however, is different — Batman, the dark, complex alter ego of Bruce Wayne is a deeply psychological character that begs for serious analysis. Langley is obviously a fan of Batman comics, graphic novels, and the Christopher Nolan films (even including the third film of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, though this book pre-dates the film’s release. Langley gives a detailed history of the Dark Knight, and some of his companions (such as the Robins) and different versions of his rouges’ gallery villains (such as Joker). Plus this book introduces basic concepts of theorists and founders of psychology: Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, Erikson, etc.

If you would like an introduction to psychology, a history lesson (an interesting history lesson) about DC Comics and one of it’s most enduring heroes – Batman, and to read a good psychological analysis of Bruce Wayne/Batman and his friends and enemies, buy or borrow this book. You will most probably enjoy it, I did.

This review previously appeared on my Goodreads page, and on my Live Journal blog.

Suspicion

  • Title: Suspicion
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Studio: RKO Radio Pictures
  • Date: 1941
  • Genre: Mystery, Film Noir, Drama
  • Cast: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Leo G. Carroll, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce
  • Format: B/W, Standard
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“I’m honest because with you I think it’s the best way to get results.” — Johnnie

“Monkey-face, I’ve been broke all my life!” — Johnnie

Suspicion starts like any light romantic comedy. Johnnie (Cary Grant) meets Lina on a train and tries to pick her up, but she’s unimpressed. They run into each other again at a fox hunt. He talks her for a walk on a Sunday and makes a date for later that afternoon. Lina announces this to her parents, but he breaks their date for that afternoon, and for a week, Lina is miserable because she hasn’t seen him in so long. However, he returns just in time for the hunt ball. Very soon after, Lina sneaks out of her parents’ house and the two are married at the registry office. The two go on a whirlwind European honeymoon, then return to a new house – where Lina discovers that Johnnie has no money.

Suddenly, instead of a light romance, the film resembles Gaslight. Over and over, Lina picks up on her husband acting weirdly, or suspiciously. But she has no proof, no idea what’s really going on, and every time Johnnie’s money troubles seem to catch up with him, he suddenly comes up with the money he needs (such as a £2000 pound windfall that Johnnie claims he got from the track). Lina notices her husband is fascinated with detective and murder stories… but at first, thinks nothing of it. But when Johnnie’s dear friend, Beaky, dies under mysterious circumstances, Lina goes to their mutual friend Isobel, a mystery writer. Isobel talks about her recent mystery, where a man causes another man to walk over a weakened footbridge and fall to his death. Isobel says that morally it’s murder if the first man knew the bridge was weak. She then casually says “It’s the same with Johnnie’s friend, Beaky.” Beaky had died after drinking a large amount of brandy in a drinking contest – despite his allergy to brandy. Lina freaks at this because she knows that Johnnie knows about Beaky’s allergy and that Beaky would sometimes still drink brandy even though it caused him to have fits, and trouble breathing. Later, Isobel, her husband, Lina, Johnny, and a strange blond woman dressed as a man have a dinner party. Johnnie’s dinner conversation though not only focuses on murder but on untraceable poisons. Lina’s so freaked she won’t let him into her bedroom that night.

Things finally come to a head when Lina decides to go home to spend a few days with her mother. Johnnie insists on driving her. On a winding road, Lina thinks he’s trying to kill her, but he pulls her back into the car, then yells at her. When they talk, Lina comes to the conclusion that Johnnie was considering suicide as a way out of his money problems, and for her to get his insurance money to settle his debts for once and for all. Lina throws herself into his arms, and they drive back towards their house.

In Gaslight, Ingrid Bergman gradually comes to realize that her husband is a criminal who only married her to have access to the empty house next to hers, where he thinks there’s a treasure. The husband manipulates his wife, trying to make her think she’s going insane – and she’s only saved at the last minute by a kind policeman.

Suspicion is much more unsettling. Cary Grant is very menacing – and switches from his “happy go lucky”, “everything is fine” personality to someone who is truly scary like lightning. He clearly seems to not only not want to work, but to only have a talent for losing money – and he routinely borrows money to pay off his most insistent debtors. Yet, at the same time, Joan Fontaine’s Lina seems almost paranoid. We see her getting little pieces of evidence that her husband’s up to no good, such as when she goes to visit him at his office and learns from his employer and a family friend (played brilliantly by Leo G. Carroll) that Johnnie was fired weeks ago after £2000 went missing from the business. But each time she finds something out, he has an explanation and she forgives him and realizes that she loves him.

What makes the film brilliant is that because of Grant’s superb acting, and the way he flips back-and-forth between menace and light-hearted kindness, one is never sure of his motives. Does he want to kill his wife for her money? It doesn’t appear so, he never actually does anything to her. Yet, at the same time, he’s almost slimy in the way that he always has an answer for everything. At times, Lina seems very alone, but at others, she has no problem going out – she visits Isobel with no problems, and sees other friends who seem jealous of her relationship with Johnnie. Suspicion is a masterful, and short (only 99 minutes) film with no concrete endings. I highly recommend it.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Swing Time

Green Lantern Emerald Knights

  • Title: Green Lantern Emerald Knights
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2011
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, SF
  • Cast: Nathan Fillion, Jason Isaacs, Elisabeth Moss, Henry Rollins, Arnold Vosloo
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“He held the first construct, no longer a scribe, now a warrior, the First Lantern.”— Hal Jordan, Narrating

“When you shape the light of your ring, you walk in the footsteps of the First Lantern.”— Hal Jordan, Narrating

Emerald Knights is really six short stories interwoven into an arc-plot. Each of the separate stories are written and directed by different people, though this is part of the DC Animated Universe, so Bruce Timm produces and Andrea Romano is the voice director for the entire thing. The stories are pulled directly from the DC’s Green Lantern Corps comic books. I loved the movie. In many ways, I liked it better than the live-action Green Lantern movie, which was only so-so. This film really showcased the rich history of the Green Lanterns, bringing in several characters and plot lines. And because Hal is telling these tales to Arisia, a new Green Lantern recruit, it’s like he’s explaining the history to the audience. Nathan Fillion does an excellent job of playing an older, more experienced, Hal — who still remembers his younger days and wishes to help a fellow recruit get her feet under her.

The six stories are:

  • The First Lantern
  • Kilowog (based on “New Blood”)
  • Mogo Doesn’t Socialize
  • Abin Sur (based on “Tygers”)
  • Emerald Knights
  • Laira (based on “What Price Honor?”

My favorite in terms of pure story was “The First Lantern”, just because it was so awesome to see how the Lanterns first came to be — and I love how Avro wasn’t willing to give up, and thus figured out how the rings were supposed to be used. I also loved the visual image used to show the first Lantern’s ring being handed down from Lantern to Lantern throughout the centuries, and finally to Abin Sur and from him to Hal. That was awesome!

“Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” was amusing. It’s a great story, and probably would have had more impact if I hadn’t had it spoiled for me.

“Kilowog” gives background and a bit more of a human side to the Lanterns’ drill sergeant by showing us his own drill sergeant. Still, it’s the same old “new recruit is terrorized by the drill sergeant but learns to love the tough love approach” story we’ve seen many times before.

“Abin Sur” is weird because it shows he and Sinestro working together, and also the criminal that Abin Sur arrests and jails makes several predictions, which I’m guessing come true in the GL continuity. Abin Sur, of course, doesn’t believe the predictions, especially of Sinestro, his dear friend, going rogue.

“Laira” is probably the darkest of the stories — but it’s fascinating and highly, highly enjoyable. I really liked that one too.

Finally, “Emerald Knights” is the name of the wrap-around story and the finale. Yes, it’s excellent. The entire film is extremely well done, enjoyable, and I just loved it. I highly, highly recommend this movie.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Spreading the Word – HitRecord – Snow

hitrecordjoe:

hitrecord:

LET’S ALL MAKE RECords TOGETHER REGARDING SNOW!

Now that we’re in the midst of winter, we want to explore the theme of snow. Let’s start collaborating to make art around this theme, including the following questions:

Where were you in your first snow storm?

Have you never even seen a snow storm?

How does snow make you feel?

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Here’s how you can contribute to this collaboration:

* WRITERS: Write a story, poem, or memory about snow.

* ILLUSTRATORS: Create some imagery about snow.

* MUSICIANS: Make a song about snow.

* CINEMATOGRAPHERS & FILMMAKERS: Film some footage of snow & snowy activities, or download some snow resources on hitRECord & make a short film.

* EVERYONE ELSE: Take out your cameras & RECord yourself talking about your thoughts, feelings, & memories of snow.

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You can contribute your RECords to the collaboration HERE!

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Thanks!

SNOWWWWWWW! :oD