A Laurel & Hardy Party #2: “Berth Marks”

This is one of the lesser lights among Laurel and Hardy’s dozens of two-reeler talkies, but it’s still funny with that all-important mean streak. Our heroes hop a passenger train—just barely making it, of course—and chaos ensues. The centerpiece gag is a bit that runs a little too long in which they slapstick their way in and out of a berth for a much-needed nap after a long day of being complete idiots.

Still, the funniest thing here is that Stan Laurel is a musician, lugging around a cumbersome upright bass, and Oliver Hardy is his manager. Just the idea of that is funny. They’re blundering bohemians on their way to a vaudeville gig in Pottsville. THAT’S the movie I want to see. Stan screwing up his performance, breaking a string or two, accidentally knocking over the rest of the orchestra with his instrument. Then, Ollie struggling to get paid after the show, arguing with the shyster theater manager, finally getting what he and Stan are due, after which he steps outside and trips over the bass. The money flies in the air and is carried away by the wind.

And maybe they made that one. I’m still making my way through the 10-DVD box set. Bear with me.

Tha’ Disastah’ Ah’tist

THE DISASTER ARTIST  (2017; director: James Franco)

I’m not one of those people who is obsessed with The Room. Never threw plastic spoons at a movie screen after midnight, never took a photo with Tommy Wiseau, never think to quote it in my daily life. Yell out “You’re tearing me apart!” for a laugh and I’ll at first think that you’re referencing Rebel Without a Cause. I am what is technically called “out of it”. It’s not that I hate The Room. It’s alright. It’s a big thing with millennials, I guess. Me, I’m too busy checking nutrition labels on food products for fiber content to think much about Tommy Wiseau’s auteur statement. I saw it ten years ago and it got a couple of smirks out of me, but then I moved on. If so-called bad movies are your thing, there’s a whole world of ’em out there. As memorable as it is, Wiseau’s botched melodrama is merely another Froot Loop in a big, Tor Johnson-sized cereal box.

Furthermore, I’m of the view that the unintentional comedy of bad movies is usually the LEAST interesting thing about them. How many times can you laugh at the same instance of clumsy ADR? Or chuckle at someone’s over-acting? Or giggle at a rough special effect? How many times can you chortle until you start to get bored with feeling superior? Of infinitely greater appeal to me is the treatment of these films as strange artifacts from outside the bounds of good taste. Films that are unique, even if by accident, in a business where most things that come out are test-marketed pieces of plastic.

The Room has been a cult phenomenon since the mid-2000s. Everybody’s already made all of the jokes. Nobody’s coming up with new ones. Now is a good time for the masses to appreciate the determination and insanity that went on behind the scenes.

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Chandu the Blu-ray Review

I got this on Blu-ray because it struck me as a great way to give another chance to a film that put me to sleep when I was 13. As a teenage classic movie weirdo dorkface, all Bela Lugosi movies I’d seen at the time were winners, except for Chandu the Magician from 1932. This movie STUNK. It was choppy and uninvolving–and actor Edmund Lowe’s impersonation of a piece of wood as the titular hero didn’t help.

What did I know back then, though? I didn’t know how to drive a car. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t know that my clothes and hair looked stupid.

But decades have passed and things have changed. (I can drive now.) Maybe my opinion on Chandu has similarly changed.

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THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL and Why Everything New is Old

THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1941; directors: William Witney and John English)

Believe it or not, but there was a time when superheroes were considered strictly B-movie fare. No big star would’ve been caught dead in a cape and mask. No major screenwriters or directors would have considered it. The most popular characters from the comics page only made it to the screen in weekly fifteen-minute serial chapters spread across 3-4 months.

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“Heroin, Peppermint-Flavored Heroin”

CHARADE (1963; director Stanley Donen)

A romantic comedy that happens to also have brutal, violent murders in it. Sounds like perfect holiday season comfort food viewing to me.

With these amazing players and director Stanley Donen, there needs to be a major fuck-up somewhere for this to turn out bad—and there is no major fuck-up. I’m not sure if every puzzle piece in the plot fits together, but I can say that I don’t care. There’s too much sparkling dialogue here for one dwell on silly things like that.

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The Internet’s Very First Review of THE LAST JEDI

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017; director Rian Johnson)

Here’s the kind of Star Wars fan I am: A few short months ago, I was talking with a co-worker about our mutual enjoyment of the series, up to and including the latest movies, and then this person asks me “So, what do you think is really going on with Snoke?”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

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I LIKE THE STAR WARS PREQUELS #1: The Fandom Menaced

STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999; director: George Lucas)

Under George Lucas, Star Wars is not for the geeks, no matter how fiercely they claim it. When this film was released in 1999, series creator Lucas was 55 years old and did NOT relate to grown men with sealed action figure collections and beer bellies packed into Darth Vader T-shirts. He doesn’t know why they’re here. He can’t explain them. He’s too rich to need them. He doesn’t seem to like them (and I can’t say that I blame him).

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WONDER WHEEL

WONDER WHEEL (2017; director: Woody Allen)

Woody Allen’s sense of tragedy is relentless, traditional, bears a powerful whiff of the theater stage and is as unfashionable as could be expected from an 82-year-old writer/director who’s been criticized for his hermetic approach for decades—and it’s only gotten more extreme as he’s aged.

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A Laurel & Hardy Party #1: “Unaccustomed as We Are”

My Christmas gift to myself in 2016 was the Laurel & Hardy Essential Collection 10-DVD box set.

Christmas 2017, I’m finally watching it because that’s how I roll: Slowly, forgetfully and focused on things that no one cares about it.  I intend to write about EVERYTHING on this monster, even if one of the special features turns out to be a ninety-minute interview with Stan Laurel’s dentist. I will be here to report.

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