Friday, February 26, 2010

The 30 Greatest Preston Sturges Character Names

1. Trudy Kockenlocker (The Miracle of Morgan's Creek)
2. Luisa 'Lu" Ginglebuscher (The Good Fairy)
3. Judge Alfalfa J. O'Toole (The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend)
4. Wife of Wienie King (The Palm Beach Story)
5. Homer Quimby (The Great Moment)
6. Harold Diddlebock (The Sin of Harold Diddlebock)
7. Algernon McNiff (The Sin of Harold Diddlebock)
8. Jasper Hawkins (Never Say Die)
9. Dr. Zodiac Z. Zippe (Hotel Haywire)
10. Norval Jones (The Miracle of Morgan's Creek)

11. Sgt. Heppelfinger (Hail the Conquering Hero)
12. James R. Smoke (The Sin of Harold Diddlebock)
13. Hugo Standoff (Unfaithfully Yours)
14. E. J. Waggleberry (The Sin of Harold Diddlebock)
15. Dr. Max Sporum (The Good Fairy)
16. Charles Poncefort Pike (The Lady Eve)
17. The Princess Centimillia (The Palm Beach Story)
18. Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith (Hail the Conquering Hero)
19. Mr. Julius Hingleman (The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend)
20. Ursula Kornheiser (Sullivan's Travels)

21. Juno Marko (Never Say Die)
22. Mayor Wilfred T. Tillinghast (The Great McGinty)
23. Blackie Jobero (The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend)
24. Poppa Ingleborg (Never Say Die)
25. Maurice Schlapkohl (The Good Fairy)
26. Ambrose 'Muggsy' Murgatroyd (The Lady Eve)
27. Mr. Johnny Valdelle (Sullivan's Travels)
28. Mayor Everett D. Noble (Hail the Conquering Hero)
29. Formfit Franklin (The Sin of Harold Diddlebock)
30. John D. Hackensacker III (The Palm Beach Story)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Coming Attractions: The Lady Eve

Wednesday, March 3rd at 7 & 9 PM

Giveaways: Sullivan's Travels DVD courtesy of Scarecrow Video and a gift certificate to Cinema Books respectively.

See you there!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including, Sita Sings the Blues

Top 5 Films Directed by Women:

1. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Ackerman, 1975)
2. Cleo From 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)
3. Oxhide II (Liu Jiayin, 2009)
4. The Hitch-Hiker (Ida Lupino, 1953)
5. Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, 1943)

Top 5 Epic Poems I Haven't Read:

1. Paradise Lost (John Milton)
2. Paradiso (Dante Aligheri)
3. The Aeneid (Virgil)
4. The Mahabharata (Vyasa)
5. The Nibelungenlied

Top 5 Non-Indian Films Set in India:

1. Black Narcissus (Powell & Pressburger, 1947)
2. Gunga Din (George Stevens, 1939)
3. The River (Jean Renoir, 1951)
4. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg, 1984)
5. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007)

Top 5 Non-Disney, Pixar or Ghibli and Non-Anime Animated Films:

1. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lottle Reiniger, 1926)
2. Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)
3. Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001)
4. The Secret of NIMH (Don Bluth, 1982)
5. Fantastic Planet (René Laloux, 1973)

Top 5 Films of 2008:

1. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)
2. A Christmas Tale (Arnauld Desplechin)
3. 24 City (Jia Zhangke)
4. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas)
5. Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Links: Sita Sings the Blues

The official homepage for Sita Sings the Blues can be found here.

Roger Ebert discovers Sita Sings the Blues, a watershed moment in the film's quest to find a distributor and comply with copyright law.

Art of the Title Sequence interviews writer/director Nina Paley.

Another interview with Paley comes from the digital pages of Wired Magazine.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Boognish Sings the Blues: The Mollusk Musical

This week, in honor of Nina Paley's astounding one-woman tour-de-force Sita Sings the Blues, I would like to officially unveil the plot of my long-gestating film which in many respects shares an affinity with Sita.  Be forewarned that a passing knowledge of the Scotch Guard-huffing musical duo Ween is highly recommended.

Exhibit A: The Boognish

Before I get started I must confess that I am not a huge Ween fan.  In fact I think that they're one of the most hit-or-miss bands in the history of music.  Apologies to all hackey-sack-kicking Evergreen College alumni.  For every great song (and admittedly Ween has at least a few full album's worth) there is a song so annoying that it ruins my appreciation of their stronger work.  I know that this juxtaposition is the main appeal for many fans but it just doesn't work for me.  Plus, I'm just not much of a fan of poop/penis/fart jokes, a comedic road Dean and Gene Ween have trod far too often.  Lastly, Ween are incredible musicians who can take on any musical style with an amazing proficiency but for me, that doesn't mean that they should.  Over their twenty-year career they have written songs in the vein of Afro-Caribbean funk, speed metal, and Jimmy Buffett.  Just because.

That being said, sometimes the planets align, lightning strikes and Ween makes a thoroughly solid record.  In fact, they've done it more than once (I enjoy their version of Nashville Skyline, 12 Golden Country Greats, quite a bit) but the Ween album that I unequivocally uphold as a flat-out masterpiece, a flawless record from start to finish is 1997's nautically-obsessed The Mollusk.  Like ZZ Top's great Tres Hombres, The Mollusk is a collection of wonderfully realized songs by a group of master craftsmen.

Although the Mollusk has a decidedly oceanic feel, there is no overarching concept, the songs have no lyrical connection to one another, they do not inherently tell a unified story.  So I made one up.  I didn't set out to but after several months of intense Mollusk scrutiny, a story began to work its way out of the speaker, creating in my mind a highly realized world.  No, I was not smoking pot at the time.   I became so enamored with my concoction that I wrote out a film treatment in my notebook and even had a meeting with a roommate who was a film student at UC Berkeley and whose short film Fanny Pack I had scored with my band, in hopes that he too would fall in love and help me bring my Mollusk musical to life.  I pitched the following to him in a fit of unbridled enthusiasm.  I had no idea how impossible mounting such an insane project would be.  The whole thing takes place under water for goodness sake!!!  Anyway, since I have no drawing skills and my free time is occupied with writing inanities on blogs around the world, the Mollusk musical fell by the wayside.  I present it below as a means of cleansing my soul.  Enjoy.

The Mollusk Musical by Ween and Michael Strenski

Silent Short: "I'll Be Dancing in the Show Tonight"

The Mollusk starts out incongruously with a short little ditty composed in the 1920s called "I'll Be Dancing in the Show Tonight".  Since it is about entertainment and performance and it doesn't really fit with the theme of the rest of the record, I envisioned a black-and-white short comedy preceding the feature.  It takes place on a subway train (actually a BART train, since I was living in Oakland at the time).  A man gets onto a car and sits down.  He pops a cassette copy of the Mollusk into his Walkman (I told you I had this idea years ago, iPods did not yet exist) and he immediately falls asleep.

As "I'll Be Dancing in the Show Tonight" plays, he dreams that he is in a grand ballroom, dancing with an elegant and beautiful lady.  In reality he is precariously sleep-walking across the subway, in and out of the doors at stops, facing increasingly grave danger at every turn.  Passengers try to save him but he keeps falling out of their grasp, a beatific smile on his face the entire time.  When the song comes to an end, he dreams of taking the girl in his arms and kissing her.  Instead he awakens in the embrace of a cop who hits him with a billy club and hauls him away.

Prologue: "The Mollusk"

The camera scans the grey, desolate beach of Half Moon Bay.  It centers in on two figures who we see are a boy of about seven years old and an elderly man.  They are rooting around in the tide pools, poking at starfish and snails.  The boy finds something grand, reaches down hoists up a giant mollusk which he brings excitedly over to the old man who takes it up with great pride.  The title song then plays.

The old man pulls the boy aside and tells him that the mollusk had reminded him of a story that happened many, many years ago.  The yarn he subsequently spins makes up the rest of the film.

Act I:

Once there was a beautiful couple who were out for a leisurely romantic afternoon on their tiny boat.  The idyllic scenes of them fishing, sun bathing and snuggling are suddenly dashed when an unforeseen storm strikes, causing massive waves to capsize the ship.  The man manages to grab hold of a life preserver and find his way to safety.  The girl alas hits her head on the hull, going unconscious and falling ever deeper into the murky water.

She awakens on the ocean floor where her initial fear is quelled by the fact that she can somehow breathe underwater.  She walks a ways and comes upon a fantastic ocean city where strange anthropomorphized creatures move to and fro, including a whale with a polka dot tail and a man with eight-fingers on his hand.  Hence "Polka Dot Tail":

The girl makes her way into the city, looking for help getting her back home.  All of the creatures are uninterested in her plight.  She soon finds herself stumbling around the seedy outskirts of the city where at the moment when all hope is apparently lost, she sees a man dolled up like Marlon Brando in the Wild One, white T-shirt, black jeans; a 50's style greaser with a Cadillac to match.  He and only he, offers to help the wayward girl.  She is gracious, yet concerned for this man seems inherently dangerous.  He has a brusque, roguish attitude.  Having no other options though, she reluctantly accepts.  They get into his Cadillac and start heading out of the city into a panoramic ocean vista.  In the car she thanks him and asks where exactly they are going.  He tells her that he doesn't know how to get her home but he knows who would and he's taking her to them.  She then asks why he was willing to help her.  It's because this rebel is Johnny on the Spot:

They soon approach a fanciful house and as they approach it Johnny warns her that the two they are looking for are a trifle weird.  The door opens and two Tweedle-dee/Tweedle-dum characters appear.  They speak in gibberish and non-sequiturs.  This culminates in their duet on "Mutilated Lips":

After the song, the twins inform them of a wise sage many fathoms away who will have the ultimate answer of how to return to the surface.  Johnny and the girl leave the crazy house and pass by a raucous saloon called the Blarney Stone which intrigues the girl who wants to go inside.  She is discouraged by Johnny who seems to have a distinct dislike of the place.  The audience though is given a taste of the rowdy atmosphere within as a fight breaks out in the corner but is unnoticed due to the entire bar drunkenly singing "the Blarney Stone":

Act II:

We cut to the girl's boyfriend who is commandeering a rescue boat.  As they float above the deep waters, he looks down longingly.  Simultaneously the girl and Johnny drive quietly across the vast ocean floor towards the mystic sage.  "It's Going to Be Alright" plays:

Time passes and they reach a much smaller town where there are only a few buildings.  One of them houses the wise old man with a hideous visage.  After listening in silence to the girl's description of her plight, the old wizard stands, reaches for his giant aquarium which houses a mystical golden eel that will prophesy what must be done to get the girl home.  "The Golden Eel":

Following this performance, the sage tells the girl and Johnny that they need to break into the palace at Buckingham Green where they must steal the glass eye of the princess.  The eye will lead her to an escape route to the surface.  This and only this will send the girl home.

Now that they have been on the road for sometime, Johnny and the girl have begun to open up to one another.  She has penetrated his thick exterior and discovered a sensitive soul.  They talk often of her lover and now Johnny tells the story of how his mother pined for his father who died years ago and how it eventually drove her insane.  The traditional Chinese ballad "Cold Blows the Wind" narrates the tragic tale as shots of Johnny and his mother at his father's grave are shown:

Johnny wraps this story up by telling the girl that he vowed never to fall in love after seeing the damage it did to his mother.  Of course, he does not let on that his feelings for the lost girl are deepening.  The girl cries.  It is all very sad.

Act III:

We now reach the perimeter of the castle which is heavily guarded.  Inside, a child without an eye, wearing a patch, makes life miserable for her servants as she demands a number of things.  Her anger and hatred is palpable.  We cut between her evilness and Johnny and the girl who devise a cunning scheme to enter the fortress by digging under the sea floor.  They pop out in the middle of the royal garden.  After some close calls Johnny and the girl come across the throne room where the glass eye is kept in a bell jar.  As they lift the case and retrieve the eye the princess and her guards find them.  All the while the song "Buckingham Green" plays:

Johnny and the girl soon escape and he helps her get to the surface with assistance from the eye which points the way.  As she reaches the surface, there is a tiny rowboat, floating alone in the vast ocean.  The lone sailor aboard the ship is a younger version of the old man telling the story to the boy in the prologue.  He is the Ocean Man and he reunites the girl with her boyfriend.  All is happy:

We assume the story is over, with the happy couple reunited, but the little boy wants to know what happened to Johnny on the Spot.  The Ocean Man looks puzzled and says that he doesn't really know what happened to Johnny.  Cut to the Blarney Stone, where amidst the rowdiness, Johnny sits at the bar, nursing a drink and pining for the girl.  "She Wanted to Leave":

The end.  You can see why the prospects of completing such a picture were daunting enough to discourage me.  Plus it's basically Alice in Wonderland meets the Wizard of Oz meets Finding Nemo.  Where were the songs "Pink Eye (On My Leg)" and "Waving My Dick in the Wind" you ask??  Why they're running during the credits silly!

Disclaimer: I may be a lazy sod but if members of Ween, Pixar, Studio Ghibli or frankly anyone on the planet thinks they see potential in the above and want to give me tons of money, I will accept it all most graciously.  Salud!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Coming Attractions: Sita Sings the Blues

Wednesday, February 24th at 7:00 & 9:00.

Giveaways: Persepolis DVD courtesy of Scarecrow Video and a gift certificate to Cinema Books.

See you there!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


At 6:45 & 9:10.

Bob Fosse for the Day

Finally, we have Paula Abdul's music video for "Cold-Hearted Snake". It's a direct homage to a memorable sequence in All That Jazz and was directed by none other than David Fincher.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here's Liza Minnelli, star of Fosse's Cabaret (a former Metro Classic) performing the song "All That Jazz" from Chicago at a 1988 concert.

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including, All That Jazz

Top 5 Bob Fosse-Related Films:

1. Kiss Me Kate (George Sidney, 1953)
2. Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972)
3. The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (Don Weis, 1953)
4. Lenny (Bob Fosse, 1974)
5. That's Entertainment, Part II (Gene Kelly, 1976)

Top 5 Musicals from the 1970s:

1. Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972)
2. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
3. New York, New York (Martin Scorsese, 1977)
4. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971)
5. Bound For Glory (Hal Ashby, 1976)

Top 5 Movies about Movie Directors:

1. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)
2. Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941)
3. White Hunter, Black Heart (Clint Eastwood, 1990)
4. Passion (Jean-Luc Godard, 1982)
5. Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)

Top 5 Movies Featuring Music by Vivaldi:

1. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
2. Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears, 1988)
3. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
4. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
5. Mamma Roma (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1962)

Top 5 Films of 1979:
1. Manhattan (Woody Allen)
2. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)
3. The Life of Brian (Terry Jones)
4. Alien (Ridley Scott)
5. Nosferatu, The Vampyre (Werner Herzog)

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here's Verdon and Chita Rivera performing a couple of numbers from Chicago on the Mike Douglas show in the 70s. All That Jazz was inspired by Fosse's overwork-inspired heart attack suffered while simultaneously trying to edit his Lenny Bruce biopic Lenny and directing the original stage version of Chicago:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here's an amazing Fosse performance as The Snake in the 1974 film of The Little Prince, a dance that might seem familiar to Michael Jackson fans. His singing is pretty good too.

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here's Fosse and Verdon on a TV show in the early 60s demonstrating the staging of a "What Lola Wants" from Damn Yankees:

Links: All That Jazz

The Film Experience hosts a lengthy critical appraisal of All That Jazz.

An original review of the film comes from The New York Times.

More recently in the New York Times, Matt Zoller Seitz praises the film.

Bye-bye love.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here's Fosse singing and dancing in Damn Yankees with Gwen Verdon, his wife for 27 years and the basis for one of the main characters in All That Jazz:

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here he is dancing with Tommy Rall in My Sister Eileen:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here's the trailer for Give a Girl a Break, which again teams Fosse with Debbie Reynolds, this time with Stanley Donen directing. I haven't seen it, but it looks pretty awesome. The trailers got some nice Fosse acting, and even singing!

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here's Fosse dancing in a former Metro Classic, Kiss Me Kate. He's the one that looks like he was choreographed by Bob Fosse instead of Hermes Pan (Fred Astaire's regular collaborator and the choreographer for the rest of this film). Oh, and it appears to be from a dubbed German TV broadcast.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bob Fosse for the Day

Here's the director of this week's film, All That Jazz, dancing in The Affairs of Dobie Gillis with Barbara Ruick, Bobby Van and Debbie Reynolds.

Classics Calendar Update

We have finally solidified the bookings for the second half of this series and I would like to take a moment to unpack my weathered bugle and herald the arrival of two phenomenally fantastic feature films. We are happy as punch and pleased as clams to present Robert Zemeckis's dizzyingly hilarious blend of noir and cartoons, the madcap Who Framed Roger Rabbit; and the Coen brothers' waggishly withering Barton Fink. Both films will be joining Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. under the three-week Notoriously Hollywood heading. It's going to be a doozy.

I would also like to formally unveil our brand new sponsor for this twelve-week juggernaut, Cinema Books, the wonderful specialty shop located directly between the Metro and our other weekly giveaway partner, Scarecrow Video. We truly cannot thank these businesses enough for their gracious generosity in support of our humble enterprise. Give them all of your money.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone that turned out Wednesday night to make Swing Time our most popular Fred Astaire feature to date. Thanks so much for kicking off this series in such a splendid fashion. We hope to see you all in the coming weeks.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Coming Attractions: All That Jazz

Wednesday, February 17th at 6:45 and 9:15.

Giveaways: 8 1/2 DVD courtesy of Scarecrow Video and a gift certificate to Cinema Books.

See you there!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including, Swing Time

Top 5 Astaire & Rogers Films:

1. Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935)
2. Shall We Dance (Mark Sandrich, 1937)
3. Follow the Fleet (Mark Sandrich, 1936)
4. The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich, 1934)
5. The Barkleys of Broadway (Charles Walters, 1949)

Top 5 Fred Astaire Films Without Ginger Rogers:

1. The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953)
2. Funny Face (Stanley Donen, 1957)
3. Yolanda and the Thief (Vincente Minnelli, 1945)
4. Silk Stockings (Rouben Mamoulian, 1957)
5. Easter Parade (Charles Walters, 1948)

Top 5 Ginger Rogers Films Without Fred Astaire:

1. 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
2. Monkey Business (Howard Hawks, 1952)
3. Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933)
4. Tight Spot (Phil Karlson, 1955)
5. Once Upon a Honeymoon (Leo McCarey, 1942)

Top 5 George Stevens Films:

1. Gunga Din (1939)
2. Giant (1956)
3. Shane (1953)
4. Woman of the Year (1942)
5. The More the Merrier (1943)

Top 5 Films of 1936:

1. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin)
2. Sisters of the Gion (Kenji MIzoguchi)
3. Show Boat (James Whale)
4. Fury (Fritz Lang)
5. Follow the Fleet (Mark Sandrich)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Links: Swing Time

A lovely little review of Swing Time comes from Slant Magazine.

Roger Ebert canonizes the film in his Great Movies series.

Lastly, Clothes on Film praises Ginger's day dress as a fantastic piece of fashion.

'S wonderful.