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movies I'm not writing up for my movie-picks col

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Some of you will remember from my "Movie classics for the pious" thread that I'm writing a weekly column of short movie reviews of 3 movies per week suitable to be recommended to a Christian readership that is substantially conservative not just theologically or politically but in terms of their approach to movies as well. Of the three weekly picks, one is to be a "recent release" (2000 - present), one an "older release" (1960s - 1990s), and one a "classic" (prior to 1960s).

Recent picks have included Greek Wedding, Bringing Up Baby, Final Solution, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Sahara, and Destry Rides Again (thanks Alvy for that last!).

Unfortunately, I'm learning that despite my attempts to research and pick recommendable movies before actually watching them, I still end up watching movies that I then have to reject as being unsuitable. Sometimes these decisions come as a surprise (not to say an annoyance), since my impression of the movie before watching it is more positive than it ends up being afterwards.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to mention a few films I've recently watched and rejected, and discuss why I rejected them, hopefully leading to interesting discussion about the strengths and/or weaknesses of these films, or of similar or contrasting films, or why others agree/disagree with my takes on the films in question, and perhaps other tangents and directions that I can't predict. Or maybe no one cares and the thread will just die. :) Anyway, I thought it was a relevant film & faith type topic.

So to start off with, I recently (re)watched two very similar screwball comedies, both starring Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy as two-thirds of a romantic triangle, and made within a few years of each other: The Awful Truth (1937) and His Girl Friday (1940). In both films, Grant is divorced from the heroine (Irene Dunn and Rosalind Russell, respectively) who is engaged to marry the Bellamy character, in both films a slow-speaking, honest, decent, corn-fed sort of fellow with short apron strings to his mother (Esther Dale and Alma Kruger, respectively). The Bellamy character contrasts to the Grant character, who is sharp and shrewd and manipulates the situation to get his wife back while seeming not to want to get her back, professing that he doesn't deserve her and that Bellamy will do much better by her than he (Grant) could ever have done, etc, though really Grant out to make Bellamy look ridiculous. And in both films the Bellamy character is ultimately disillusioned with the heroine and winds up going off with his mother, while Grant winds up with the heroine.

I'd seen both pictures before, but rewatching them now with my current assignment in mind, I found The Awful Truth, first of all, to be far too blase about its divorce-and-remarriage plot. Sometimes these comedies use the divorce to teach its protagonists how much they really belong together; but in this case what struck me was how little either seemed to value their relationship from the outset, how much of the film was spent with the two of them trying to show up the other, and ultimately how trivial and unmeaningful their eventual rapprochment seemed. The film jokes about how relationships have to be based on trust, satirically observing that neither spouse trusts the other -- and neither deserves trust -- the problem being that neither learns any lesson or becomes particularly redeemed by film's end. Some funny scenes, but ultimately not a romantic relationship or even characters I particularly cared about, in contrast to The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby, for example.

Hawks's His Girl Friday was even worse (some spoilers ahead). Here Russell was a former newspaper girl who was editor Grant's employee as well as his wife, but had escaped what is repeatedly painted as the fundamentally dishonest and callous reporter life to marry Bellamy. Grant's efforts to keep her around and show up Bellamy reach new lows in this film: He repeatedly has Bellamy arrested on false charges, and even has his grey-haired old mother carried off by a strongarm thug. The girl's no better: Her callousness in the face of a quick interview with a condemned death-row inmate who seems to have gotten a raw deal I found extremely off-putting; she completely made up a false rationale for his actions, not to get him off the hook, but for political purposes. The death-penalty thing and, worse, an attempted suicide I found to be in very dubious taste. And though the Russell character knows the Grant character well enough not to put anything past him, in the end when she discovers that his supposedly noble attempt to persuade her to escape the newspaper life and marry Bellamy is really a sham since he's had him falsely arrested yet again, her reaction to this is that Grant must really love her after all. Am I the only one who finds all this not very funny and ultimately rather alienating?

Radically shifting gears, I had rather high hopes for a 1995 TV movie called The Piano Lesson, based on a stage play by August Wilson who adapted his own play for the screen. Set in 1930s Pittsburgh, it's the story of a black brother and sister a generation removed from slavery who quarrel about whether or not to sell a unique piano with a special family significance in order to buy the land their family worked as slaves. Without getting too spoilerific, there's also a ghost-story angle, though that in itself wasn't a problem for me, nor was the miminal sexual content.

I liked a lot of things about the film, and for nearly all its running length it looked like a movie that would work quite nicely in my column. But then in the very last scene it went in a completely unacceptable direction (in terms of recommendability for my Christian audience). For those who want to know (major spoilers), the piano is haunted by the ghost of the siblings' parents' and grandparents' former master, but that's not the problematic bit. The problematic bit is this: They call in a family friend who's now a pastor of a storefront Bible church to try to exorcise the ghost, but he fails -- and the ghost is finally exorcised when the sister, maniacally playing the piano, calls on the ghosts of slaves murdered by the master in an act of vengeance to come and exorcise the ghost of their murderer. Yeah, that'll go over well. :)

I hate it when I don't find out until the very last scene that I won't be able to recommend a film. Other times I've sat down with my latest Netflix rental and wound up ruling out the film as a possible recommendation within the first half-hour or so. Much more time-efficient that way. :)

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Originally posted by SDG:

Recent picks have included
Greek Wedding, Bringing Up Baby, Final Solution, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Sahara
, and
Destry Rides Again
(thanks Alvy for that last!).

Yippee! I am useful round here! :D

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Oh, btw, if you are still on the lookout for pre-1960 movie picks, there is one I think I forgot--but eminently deserving--Howard Hawks's Only Angels Have Wings (1938?) starring Cary Grant and Jean Arthur. How could I overlook such a classic? Good family one, too.

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Steve,

I think you're being much too harsh on His Girl Friday. I don't think that Howard Hawks had it in his intentions to glorify the behavior of Grant and Russell (and indeed the entire newspaper profession in those days). Obviously, anybody who participates in the behavior that Cary Grant did ought to be arrested or worse.

But I love the film. I think films like this allow the viewer to see the corruption and callousness in the newspaper industry while still enjoying the comedy. In fact, I find it more effective to do it this way. By having the audience enjoy the dialogue in the film, and the convolutedness of the story, and the continual one-up-manship between the two leads, it's almost like the defenses are down, and people can feel free to watch these heinous acts with new eyes, perhaps clearer than if it was an Upton Sinclair version of the industry. Satire does that.

On a related note, I love this list, and I understand that many folks here truly disliked Chicago this year--but I loved that film for much the same reasons. The filmmakers certainly do not condone the actions of the leads, and they trust the audience to not follow suit with their actions. But by putting us in their shoes, we are able to appreciate the comedy that ensues--the comedy's basis being the contrast of us sympathizing with acts so heinous they cannot be endorsed, but done without gravity or weighty repurcussions. In HGFs case, an innocent man was saved from execution because of this.

For those easily impressionable, it may appear that the lifestyle is a ringing endorsement. But for the morally strong, the lifestyle is the basis for the comedy, which is the satire, which is funny because of the casualness and lightness of the heinous acts, and the emotional disconnect between the film and reality. The stronger the disconnect, and lighter in tone, results in a funnier film, and a stronger resolve to not fail in morals.

Nick

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Alvy, thanks again -- and yes, I am still in the market for as many wholesome VHS/DVD movie recommendations as I can get, both pre-60s and post-60s! (Perhaps I should reprint the list of titles I've gathered already.) Incidentally, they don't all have to be family fare (titles like Dead Man Walking, Saving Pt. Ryan, and Schindler's List are fair game), though explicit sexual content will pretty much kill a title, as will too much profanity.

Nick - Thanks for stepping up to the plate! After challenging Lawrence of Arabia and then outright criticizing The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday, I was beginning to wonder how provocative a guy had to be around here to get a rise out of people. Oh well, I guess everyone's at Cornerstone. biggrin.gif

Here is why I stand by my guns -- and incidentally since you'll see my His Girl Friday and raise me Chicago, I'll match you. You say Chicago doesn't condone the amoral antics of its merry murderesses, but what bothers me about Chicago is not just its celebration of the guilty, but that in conjunction with its lack of any admiration or respect for the innocent -- i.e., Mr. Cellophane and Miss Catholic Not Guilty. There's some poignancy to their characters, but no dignity; they're basically saps who don't know how to get what they want in this life. I can deal with a movie in which the guilty live happily ever after while the innocent suffer, but the innocent deserve their due, and this movie doesn't give it to them.

As for His Girl Friday, I agree with you that we aren't meant to condone Grant's shady expoits. But we are meant to root for him rather than Ralph Bellamy to get Rosalind Russell, aren't we? (Incidentally, isn't it a hoot that Grant, asked to describe the Bellamy character, says "He looks like that fellow in the movies -- Ralph Bellamy"? Very meta!)

And why are we meant to root for Grant over Bellamy? Apart from Grant being Grant, it's because Bellamy lives in Albany with his mother and carries an umbrella and doesn't have a job that requires him to be a professional scoundrel or that will keep him from ever having a decent marriage or home life. When, very plainly, Russell is not cut out for a decent life with a caring man and a house and children; no, she has newspaper ink in her veins, she belongs with a telephone glued to her ear and typewriter keys pounding under her fingers.

It doesn't work for me. Call me an Albany-living mama's boy, but when Russell tells her male colleagues that she's going to be a woman, not a news-getting machine, and have babies and take care of them, and give them cod-liver oil and watch their teeth grow, and not have to worry any more about crawling up fire escapes, getting kicked out of front doors, or eating Christmas dinners in one-armed joints -- well, I for one thought that dream sounded kind of nice, and I found it hard to indulgently shake my head and say "Who's she kidding? Raise babies when she could be eating Christmas dinners in one-armed joints? Not for Hildy Johnson! She'll soon figure out what's good for her!"

At least in The Awful Truth Bellamy more clearly had something wrong with him -- the apron strings were obviously way too short, and I found it easier to buy Irene Dunne not being cut out for Oklahoma ranch life than Russell not being cut out for life in Albany married to an insurance salesman. Grant, too, was less obnoxious in that movie -- at least, he and Dunne were almost equally obnoxious, and it was easier to feel that they were right for each other, though not exactly to root for them to wind up together, or to feel much satisfaction in their eventual rapprochment.

But in Girl Friday, when Russell goes back on everything she's said at the first sign of a scoop and reveals herself for the newspaperwoman that she is, my two basic reactions were (a) this is a plot contrivance, not a real decision by a real woman, and (cool.gif to the extent that I accept this at all, she's basically choosing not to be happy, which makes it hard for me to care about what happens to her.

Having said all that, I did like Grant's idea of the "old-fashioned" idea of divorce as something that lasts forever not really meaning anything: "Just a few words, mumbled over you by a judge. We've got something between us nothing can change." This reapplication of modern marriage ideas to divorce was clever; if only the movie had focused more on this supposed bond between them, and less on their common love of the newshound business.

Incidentally, I recently contrasted both of these films with another, superior Cary Grant romantic comedy of divorce and remarriage: The Philadelphia Story, which spares Grant the need of resorting to underhanded tricks to show up his stuffy, unsuitable rival (John Howard) by throwing another spanner in the works: surprise contender Jimmy Stewart, whose unexpected play causes the heroine sufficient conflict and uncertainty in her relationship with Howard that Grant is allowed to be quite straightforward about his opinion of Howard and his intentions generally. (My review will be online in a couple of weeks.)

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Yes, apart from one early scene of spousal physical abuse, Philadelphia Story is quite wholesome.

laugh.gif

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SDG wrote:

: And why are we meant to root for Grant over Bellamy? Apart from Grant

: being Grant, it's because Bellamy lives in Albany with his mother and

: carries an umbrella and doesn't have a job that requires him to be a

: professional scoundrel or that will keep him from ever having a decent

: marriage or home life. When, very plainly, Russell is not cut out for a

: decent life with a caring man and a house and children; no, she has

: newspaper ink in her veins, she belongs with a telephone glued to her

: ear and typewriter keys pounding under her fingers.

Just wondering something. I believe His Girl Friday (which my parents and my siblings and I all love, for whatever that's worth) is an adaptation of a play called The Front Page (which has, itself, been filmed several times), except in the original play, the reporter who wanted to leave the news business was a man, not a woman. That is, instead of being the editor's ex-wife, the reporter who wanted to leave the news business was merely the editor's star reporter, but he was still prepared to give it all up for the sake of getting married and getting a "respectable" job and settling down somewhere -- and I believe the editor in the play also tries to sabotage the star reporter's plans in order to keep him working at the paper. If I've got that right, then I wonder how your response to the original play might compare to your response to this film.

: But in Girl Friday, when Russell goes back on everything she's

: said at the first sign of a scoop and reveals herself for the

: newspaperwoman that she is, my two basic reactions were (a) this is a

: plot contrivance, not a real decision by a real woman, and (cool.gif to the

: extent that I accept this at all, she's basically choosing not to be happy,

: which makes it hard for me to care about what happens to her.

I don't believe she is choosing "not to be happy" so much as she is choosing that which makes her feel alive. And some real women ARE made to feel alive by something other than raising families.

: Having said all that, I did like Grant's idea of the "old-fashioned" idea of

: divorce as something that lasts forever not really meaning anything:

: "Just a few words, mumbled over you by a judge. We've got something

: between us nothing can change." This reapplication of modern marriage

: ideas to divorce was clever; if only the movie had focused more on this

: supposed bond between them, and less on their common love of the

: newshound business.

I don't see a clear distinction between the two -- it is the newshound business that draws out the qualities in both of them which bind them. (Though again, I wonder how much of this might be due to the fact that this film is based on a play in which BOTH characters were male and there was, presumably, no "bond" between them -- just their common love of the newshound business.)

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Peter T. Chattaway wrote:

Just wondering something. I believe
His Girl Friday
(which my parents and my siblings and I all love, for whatever that's worth)

You're in the majority, for sure. I've never heard of anybody else having my complaint with the film.

I'm not pleased to be having reservations about it; any film I don't have reservations about is one more film I get to write up for my column. My decision is reluctant, but I can't help making it.

is an adaptation of a play called
The Front Page
(which has, itself, been filmed several times), except in the original play, the reporter who wanted to leave the news business was a man, not a woman. That is, instead of being the editor's ex-wife, the reporter who wanted to leave the news business was merely the editor's star reporter, but he was still prepared to give it all up for the sake of getting married and getting a "respectable" job and settling down somewhere -- and I believe the editor in the play also tries to sabotage the star reporter's plans in order to keep him working at the paper.

That's my understanding also.

If I've got that right, then I wonder how your response to the original play might compare to your response to this film.

I don't think my objections would apply to the story in its original form. As a satire of the newspaper racket (in the "dark ages" when "'getting that story' justified anything short of murder"), I think the film works just fine. It's the romantic-comedy angle I find problematic.

: But in
Girl Friday
, when Russell goes back on everything she's

: said at the first sign of a scoop and reveals herself for the

: newspaperwoman that she is, my two basic reactions were (a) this is a

: plot contrivance, not a real decision by a real woman, and (
cool.gif
to the

: extent that I accept this at all, she's basically choosing not to be happy,

: which makes it hard for me to care about what happens to her.

I don't believe she is choosing "not to be happy" so much as she is choosing that which makes her feel alive. And some real women ARE made to feel alive by something other than raising families.

It's not the choice of career over family that I question (as a plot point in a story, I mean), but the unconflicted transition from "So long you wage slaves, no more Christmas dinner in one-armed joints for me" to ace-reporter mode. I can see a real woman making either choice; but no woman is so hell-bent on escaping the4 newspaper racket and settling down one instant and then the next instant unquestioningly, almost instinctively accepting that Getting That Story is the One Thing Needful.

: if only the movie had focused more on this

: supposed bond between them, and less on their common love of the

: newshound business.

I don't see a clear distinction between the two -- it is the newshound business that draws out the qualities in both of them which bind them. (Though again, I wonder how much of this might be due to the fact that this film is based on a play in which BOTH characters were male and there was, presumably, no "bond" between them -- just their common love of the newshound business.)

Bingo (to your parenthetical point). I don't see the newshound business drawing out any qualities that bind them together. Grant gives Russell what she wants (what "makes her feel alive" as you put it) in exchange for what he wants (the story). Their interaction is completely pragmatic, not personal. In The Four Loves Lewis says that lovers look at one another, that is, in opposite directions, while friends look in the same direction at a common interest. Grant and Russell look in the same direction, not at one another. And they aren't even really friends, let alone lovers; not only is their relationship pragmatic, but he exploits, uses, and deceives her.

And when it turns out his supposed "nobility" in being willing to give her up seems to have been a deceit (since Bellamy had been falsely arrested yet again), she is supposed to take this as a sign that he really cares after all. Uh huh. Was it the woman he loved he wasn't really giving up, or his ace reporter? The story is fundamentally confused, due to the shallow transposition of the source material.

I prefer Bruce Almighty's picture of Jim Carrey finally reaching a level of unselfish love where he really would rather see Jennifer Aniston happy with someone else who could see her as he never did and give her what he was never able to -- only then was he finally worthy of her himself. This is the very attitude that Grant fakes, and, when it turns out to be a fake, Russell is supposed to be touched.

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SDG wrote:

: Their interaction is completely pragmatic, not personal. In The Four

: Loves Lewis says that lovers look at one another, that is, in opposite

: directions, while friends look in the same direction at a common interest.

: Grant and Russell look in the same direction, not at one another.

Ah, gotcha.

: I prefer Bruce Almighty's picture of Jim Carrey finally reaching a level of

: unselfish love where he really would rather see Jennifer Aniston happy

: with someone else who could see her as he never did and give her what

: he was never able to -- only then was he finally worthy of her himself.

: This is the very attitude that Grant fakes, and, when it turns out to be a

: fake, Russell is supposed to be touched.

If I took these particular films more seriously, then yeah, I would agree with that.

Speaking of Bruce Almighty (and the newshound aspect of it in particular), I came across this interesting review of the film by Mark Steyn yesterday -- he focuses far more on the newshound aspect of it than the God aspect of it (and in particular, he focuses on the real-life newshounds who may have inspired Jim Carrey), which I think is a refreshingly unusual perspective to be coming at it from:

http://www.marksteyn.com/index2.cfm?edit_id=26

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Nick - Thanks for stepping up to the plate! ... incidentally since you'll see my His Girl Friday and raise me Chicago, I'll match you. You say Chicago doesn't condone the amoral antics of its merry murderesses, but what bothers me about Chicago is not just its celebration of the guilty, but that in conjunction with its lack of any admiration or respect for the innocent -- i.e., Mr. Cellophane and Miss Catholic Not Guilty. There's some poignancy to their characters, but no dignity; they're basically saps who don't know how to get what they want in this life. I can deal with a movie in which the guilty live happily ever after while the innocent suffer, but the innocent deserve their due, and this movie doesn't give it to them.

I've not been able to respond to this until now, and even now my time is limited. But I've been thinking about this since I read it, and think I have a good angle as to why I'm not so bothered by these aspects in Chicago.

First and foremost, Mr. Cellaphane is by no means a figure to hold up on a pedastal--his very downfall is his stupidity and naivite. He may be honorable for raising money to pay Richard Gere's lawyer character, but the honor is not fully there if he is doing so out of being deceived into doing so, into thinking that his wife is pregnant with his child, into thinking he would have her in the end, when it is all-too-obviously not the case. In contrast, Jesus died for sinners, contemptible folks who sin again and again, with full knowledge if ever they were to truly accept his gift or not, and dying for them even if they don't know what they do.

Regarding Miss Catholic Not Guilty... I thought about this one a long time and have finally come to a conclusion that I think is worthy of understanding. Suppose that the person who was executed was truly guilty of her crime, one of the other "he had it comin'" dames. Do you think the dramatic turn of events would have had the same impact on the audience? Absolutely not!

Bob Fosse, I believe, had developed an intriguing side-story that added emotional resonance in the film, the same shock and horror, but for very different reasons, between Roxie Hart and the audience. Roxie, first off, does not know whether Miss Catholic Not Guilty is truly not guilty or not. We know, because we play "eye of God", seeing her story played out. Roxie, to be fair, probably doesn't even care about her, or anybody in the penitentiary, and is only concerned with her own well-being and success.

When we see the execution, we are thrust into the reality about death. Death is real. Death is horrifying. In this case, it's all the more horrifying because of Miss Catholic Not-Guilty--we care for her a little, we sympathize with her plight, but we don't really know all that much about her except that she was innocent. If anybody else were in those shoes, we would not likely care as much, because they would get what they deserved.

But when Roxie sees the execution, she sees the very motivation that would lead to a series of events that would have her escape those very clutches. She gets terrified and thus motivated to do the next outlandish thing. And this is just to move the story forward.

You fail to mention that Chicago has many, many other characters throughout that are decent. They are the "silent majority", if you will--the folks that buy the newspapers, the members of the jury and the judge, the audience in the club, the fellow musicians and the emcee. We don't know anything about these characters, but it is to be assumed that they're normal folks, just like the audience for the film. You may not like that, but that's the energy level for the film for ya. If there was a portrait of a Sister Helen Prejean in the film, speaking to Miss Catholic Not-Guilty en route to her execution, we can count on the very fact that the film will stop dead in its tracks.

Back to His Girl Friday--Ralph Bellamy's character is just like Mr. Cellaphane, not normal just because he's the most normal of the main characters. As the guest lecturer of the Greenwich Film Series had remarked--he carries an umbrella. The contrast isn't between decent vs. immoral--it's between mundane vs. exciting, or, specifically in Hildy's case, burying your talents vs. using your talents.

That Hawks does this, while still articulating his anger against the journalism industry (during the only significant stretch of silence in the film), is nothing short of genius.

[Pause reading for dramatic effect. Moving onward...]

Don't forget, as in Chicago, His Girl Friday has an entire city filled with "normal" characters, ordinary decent folk who are devout to their wives/husbands and honoring God. They're just not characters in the film. They're the buyers of the newspapers, or the human interest stories in the paper itself.

Hold a magnifying glass on the despicable aspects of a society and you get a two-for-one--an indictment of such aspects, plus a novel way to tell a story. (Do I raise you with Pulp Fiction next?)

God Bless,

Nick

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: You fail to mention that Chicago has many, many other characters

: throughout that are decent. They are the "silent majority", if you will--the

: folks that buy the newspapers, the members of the jury and the judge,

: the audience in the club, the fellow musicians and the emcee.

Huh? The members of the jury and the judge are just as easily deceived as Mister Cellophane was, and the film explicitly indicates that "the folks that buy the newspapers" are partly responsible for the fact that Velma and Roxie were able to turn their crimes into fame and fortune (remember how Roxie points at her audience, and thus at us, and says, "We couldn't have done it without you"?). We THINK we're decent, but the film tells us we're not -- and that is partly why I left the theatre feeling dirty.

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: You fail to mention that Chicago has many, many other characters

: throughout that are decent. They are the "silent majority", if you will--the

: folks that buy the newspapers, the members of the jury and the judge,

: the audience in the club, the fellow musicians and the emcee.

Huh? The members of the jury and the judge are just as easily deceived as Mister Cellophane was, and the film explicitly indicates that "the folks that buy the newspapers" are partly responsible for the fact that Velma and Roxie were able to turn their crimes into fame and fortune (remember how Roxie points at her audience, and thus at us, and says, "We couldn't have done it without you"?). We THINK we're decent, but the film tells us we're not -- and that is partly why I left the theatre feeling dirty.

When O.J. was acquitted, did you rejoice? Most didn't. But I assure you, a lot of newspapers were sold that day.

When there's a new fad in place, do you automatically jump in? A new hairstyle? A lot don't jump in, but a significant number does.

I think Chicago is smart enough to recognize that a fad's prominance, or a celebrity's gossip, or an unjust verdict, is not the opinion of the majority, but the opinion of enough folks that it has a level of prominance. It doesn't show the upright "silent majority"--to do so would break the tone of the film. It doesn't have to. But the silent majority is the hidden backdrop of the film, coz somebody's gotta buy all those papers.

It's not everyday a movie comes out and tells you, point blank, how less-than admirable types have manipulated the media for their own gain. I'm not at all thrilled that our media seems more interested in the rollercoaster relationships of Britney and Justin, J Lo and Ben, and now Ashton and Demi, than the thousands/millions of suffering individuals in Iraq.

And here ya go, a movie that relishes the "fun" of that very media manipulation that's in place, more prominent today than in the 20's, paparazzi and E! True Hollywood Story didn't quite exist back then. Sit back. Enjoy the fun songs. Be dazzled by the choreography and inventive directing. And, oh, yeah, by the way, souls are being corrupted by moral filth, and here's how it was done nearly a century ago.

It's the best form of satire.

Nick

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: It doesn't show the upright "silent majority"--to do so would break the

: tone of the film. It doesn't have to. But the silent majority is the hidden

: backdrop of the film, coz somebody's gotta buy all those papers.

Um, I agree that the nameless, faceless masses who buy the newspapers are the hidden backdrop of the film, but I don't see any evidence in the film that this "silent majority" is "upright".

: It's not everyday a movie comes out and tells you, point blank, how less-

: than admirable types have manipulated the media for their own gain.

Eh? Didn't this thread begin with a discussion of the 1940s media satire His Girl Friday? Haven't SDG and I been discussing Lawrence of Arabia on another thread? Media manipulation is an old, old subject and there is hardly anything unique or groundbreaking about the way the theme is explored in Chicago. I remember, when the trailer for Chicago first came out and it included that sound clip of Richard Gere saying, "If they hang you, it would sell more papers," I rolled my eyes and hoped the rest of the film wouldn't be that clich

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: It doesn't show the upright "silent majority"--to do so would break the

: tone of the film. It doesn't have to. But the silent majority is the hidden

: backdrop of the film, coz somebody's gotta buy all those papers.

Um, I agree that the nameless, faceless masses who buy the newspapers are the hidden backdrop of the film, but I don't see any evidence in the film that this "silent majority" is "upright".

You don't see the evidence... hence, the word "hidden." As satire, it doesn't need to. As history (since the plot is loosely based on a true-life incident), then it undoubtedly must.

Not to keep jumping from movie to movie, but another Chicago-based film with everybody is either a criminal or corrupt in some manner comes to mind. Just curious, do you have the same opinion about Some Like It Hot?

: It's not everyday a movie comes out and tells you, point blank, how less-

: than admirable types have manipulated the media for their own gain.

Eh? Didn't this thread begin with a discussion of the 1940s media satire His Girl Friday? Haven't SDG and I been discussing Lawrence of Arabia on another thread? Media manipulation is an old, old subject and there is hardly anything unique or groundbreaking about the way the theme is explored in Chicago. I remember, when the trailer for Chicago first came out and it included that sound clip of Richard Gere saying, "If they hang you, it would sell more papers," I rolled my eyes and hoped the rest of the film wouldn't be that clich

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: You don't see the evidence... hence, the word "hidden."

There is no evidence ... hence, you're imagining things, or reading things into the film that are not there.

: As satire, it doesn't need to.

Ah, but the film points an accusing finger at US as much as anybody else. So what is there in the film that can counter-balance this? What is there in the film that tells us "silent majority" types that we are "upright"?

: Just curious, do you have the same opinion about Some Like It Hot?

Haven't seen that one in years, but I don't remember it pointing an accusing finger at the audience.

: Still, what is your central complaint? Before it was about feeling "dirty"

: after seeing it, and now you're saying it's the stilted dialogue.

Huh? When did I ever say anything about the dialogue? My "clich

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Hi Peter...

We seem to be on different planes. Everytime I write something, you respond "Huh?" Please, allow me take a step back.

I have to go back to the O.J. Simpson question. This is significant and relevant to the film. That's because when Chicago was first released on Broadway in 1975, the play flopped. Critics called it too cynical.

When it was re-released in the mid-nineties, it became an all-out critical and commercial success. I've heard it to be the longest (or second-longest) revival in Broadway history. Pundits have been asked the reasons of its success. Most pointed to the O.J. Simpson verdict, a national event which uncannily had many of the same elements as the Roxie Hart trial. People could never point to the central plot device in Chicago as cynical without seeing the very same events happening in the OJ Trial.

How did you respond to the OJ trial? If you responded with disgust at today's blind justice system, then be relieved--"Chicago" isn't pointing a finger at you, even tho you may have inadvertantly supported the media "three-ring circus" by catching glimpses of the trial on CNN, and then inadvertantly purchasing a product advertised therein.

By using those parallels, and knowing my gut reactions to the O.J. trial, I have to believe that, in real life, there was the same moral outrage and public divisiveness regarding the true-life Roxie Hart trial. But I am not offended when it refrains from showing this side --it was all-too obvious, it had a particular tone to sustain (being a satire and a musical), and being a film almost entirely being Roxie's vain pov (whose imaginings being the impetus of all-but-one of the musical numbers).

But you disagree. And that's all there is to it, I guess.

Side note regarding my "stilted dialogue" jab: It was in response to your response to Richard Gere's cliched line in the trailer. Consider me confused. I guess what was a problem for you in the trailer isn't a problem in the final film, I dunno. I'm of the belief that judging a trailer is irrelevant if you've already seen the film, or the film becomes an unqualified success (to which the trailer did its job effectively). An interesting note is that the folks who made Chicago pitched it mostly as a drama, which is odd, since it's nearly wall-to-wall music numbers. But this is all irrelevant if it was meant to be an aside, one that we are blowing way out of proportion.

Tying it back to Some Like it Hot: there's tons of parallels between Chicago and this, especially in regards to the time the film is based in, the location, and the fact that nearly every character is corrupt or bad in some form. But I suppose that if it pointed a finger at the audience as being responsible for the Valentine's Day massacre, I suppose it would be a stretch... unless you consider prohibition to be at fault, and you like having an occassional beer now and then. [baehr mode]Tsk! Tsk![/baehr mode]

Tying it to HGF: Not much to add here that I haven't written elsewhere. Except, [sr. Helen Prejean mode] you gotta marvel how profoundly anti-capital-punishment this film is [/sr. Helen Prejean mode].

Nick

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: How did you respond to the OJ trial?

Paid it no attention whatsoever, actually. I know activists of one sort or another made a big political football out of it (uh, no sports double entendres intended), but I had no interest in the subject.

Anyway, the parallel doesn't really work, because I don't think anyone is saying that O.J. got a career boost, the way Roxie Hart does, from whatever murders he may or may not have committed.

: I guess what was a problem for you in the trailer isn't a problem in the

: final film, I dunno.

Exactly -- a passing line of dialogue in the film can become a Major Theme in the trailer if it is given a certain emphasis.

: I'm of the belief that judging a trailer is irrelevant if you've already seen

: the film . . .

Agreed. I mention the trailer only because you seem to think the film was exploring new themes, and I can remember how, when the trailer emphasized these themes, I thought oh how old they were.

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: How did you respond to the OJ trial?

Paid it no attention whatsoever, actually. I know activists of one sort or another made a big political football out of it (uh, no sports double entendres intended), but I had no interest in the subject.

Am I to assume you didn't have a "I'll always remember where I was when..." moment when the OJ verdict came in?

Anyway, the parallel doesn't really work, because I don't think anyone is saying that O.J. got a career boost, the way Roxie Hart does, from whatever murders he may or may not have committed.

Au contraire. Roxie Hart's musical success was a complete failure, she was a has-been, until Velma Kelly partnered with her in the very last act. If the parallel doesn't hold up 100%, it's because OJ doesn't have a Velma Kelly to partner with. However, we live in the times of Celebrity Boxing, The Surreal Life and The Anna Nicole Show, where the Tonya Hardings and the Corey Feldmans can re-energize their dormant careers by virtue of kitsch name-recognition publicity stunts--not unlike what Roxie and Velma did.

: I guess what was a problem for you in the trailer isn't a problem in the

: final film, I dunno.

Exactly -- a passing line of dialogue in the film can become a Major Theme in the trailer if it is given a certain emphasis.

And you know why they emphasized that line, as well as other throwaway lines, don'tcha? Because the marketing department went overboard in pushing Chicago without mentioning that it was a musical. Being nearly wall-to-wall music in its running time, they had precious little to work with.

Nick

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: Am I to assume you didn't have a "I'll always remember where I was

: when..." moment when the OJ verdict came in?

Yup, exactly, I had no such moment whatsoever.

: : Anyway, the parallel doesn't really work, because I don't think anyone

: : is saying that O.J. got a career boost, the way Roxie Hart does, from

: : whatever murders he may or may not have committed.

:

: Au contraire. Roxie Hart's musical success was a complete failure, she

: was a has-been, until Velma Kelly partnered with her in the very last act.

I think it would be more accurate to say that Roxie was a never-was, rather than a has-been. But yes, she found success when she partnered with Velma Kelly -- and the whole POINT behind their partnering was that two murderesses who got off scot-free were a guaranteed box-office draw.

: However, we live in the times of Celebrity Boxing, The Surreal Life and

: The Anna Nicole Show, where the Tonya Hardings and the Corey

: Feldmans can re-energize their dormant careers by virtue of kitsch

: name-recognition publicity stunts--not unlike what Roxie and Velma did.

True, there is a similarity there.

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