Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
On Paper (2014)
Heart and Head
Lindsay Hartley is a book editor working out of Portland Oregon with a great head for pulling the best points out of a book and a lousy heart for guys to fall in love with. So, when her best friend calls her down to Los Angeles to edit best-selling author Morgan Fairchild's latest trashy romance novel, she finds herself trapped between Miss Fairchild's take-it-or-leave-it attitude and two guys. One of the guys looks perfect on paper; he's a rising entertainment lawyer. The other is a nice ne'er-do-well.
Well, it's a Hallmark romantic comedy, so we know how it will turn out, complete with the well-mannered Black boy Lindsay and the nice guy mentor. Nonetheless, director Ron Oliver gets some good performances out of his actors. Morgan Fairchild shows some subtlety and frozen humor in her role, quite at odds with the writing. In fact, the script seems to have extraneous issues stripped out to pace the whole show faster and funnier than it rates to be.
It's still not great, but it is a very watchable time-waster.
Hot Pepper (1973)
Following Him Around
Les Blank's documentary about Clifton Chenier, is a seemingly casually documentary. It consists of following "The King of Zydeco" as he plays in clubs, cleans his back yard and jams with his cousin on a back porch: ordinary moments with no more obvious commentary than occasional titles translating the Creole and Cajun lyrics into English in a font that suggests it was made of twigs. The camera watches him, but it's up to other people to talk, until he addresses the camera directly at the 40-minute mark.
It's a documentary that calls more attention to its techniques, to its purity, than to its subject. Nonetheless, it is of obvious interest, both as a documentary of a particular time and place, and for the zydeco music that its subjects play in a fashion that seems as off-handed as the film.
Doctor Who: Time Heist (2014)
Tell Me Where is Fancy Bred?
Clara is on her way to a date with Danny when the phone rings -- the TARDIS phone. The next thing you know, she and the Doctor are on their way to rob a bank with a shape-shifter and a chip-augmented hacker - and no memory of why.
This is a fast and furious episode of Doctor Who, with a lot to recommend it, including some very interestingly performed wipes -- the visual transitions from one scene to the next, with lots of action and a couple of scary threats to keep the adrenalin running.
Mostly, though, it works very nicely on the level of subtext, where it continues to examine the season's theme of identity. Is the Doctor a good man? What does that mean? Who are we and why do we do what we do? Does identity lie in one's genetic code? The shape? Does it lie in the brain? Or does it reside in what we do, what we want? The episode comes down squarely on the side of the last, but even if you ignore those issues, you still have a fine episode.
Helen's Marriage (1912)
The Story as Telegraphed by the Biograph
There are some good comic bits in this Biograph comedy directed by Mack Sennett before he broke for his own company, Keystone: the interrupted elopement, the shooting of Eddie Dillon's hat and the hefty man in drag are all pretty good.
Where the piece falls apart is the telegraphing of the conclusion partway through. Eddie watches a movie company shooting a marriage scene and gets the idea of setting up his own fake camera and getting sweetheart Mabel as the bride when the "movie" bride collapses -- and communicates this plan to Mabel by a letter which is reproduced on the screen. And it all goes off without a hitch.
The flawless proceedings make the remainder of the movie pretty much a yawn. Even the extreme comic reaction of Frank Opperman as Mabel's father can't do much.
The Mended Lute (1909)
Love Among the Indians
Florence Lawrence loves Owen Moore, but her father prefers James Kirkwood, so Florence escapes from James' tepee -- did I mention these are Indians? -- and flees with Owen in a canoe, pursued by the rest of the tribe.
The major problems with this one-reel story is that only Miss Lawrence seems to have caught onto the more restrained acting style that D.W. Griffith was developing; and the fact that I have seen this plot a dozen times or more from Mack Sennett, offered as a comedy. Griffith used the chase as a dramatic measure, but it was already well established as a comedy centerpiece. It would take extensive cross-cutting -- which Griffith would begin to tackle this year with works like THE SEALED ROOM -- and a subdued style of acting to make the chase a dramatic thriller.
In the meantime, Griffith works on his compositions, both the group shots -- notice the early shots in which everyone is doing something reasonable and individual -- and his background shots. A lot of this is shot by and on the water and those compositions are quite lovely.
It still doesn't quite work for me because of the many times I have seen the story as travesty and the chase as comic. However, Griffith was still finding his feet.
Doctor Who: Listen (2014)
Fled is that music:Do I wake or sleep?
The strongest stories of Doctor Who have been those that deal with childhood fears. Show runner Steven Moffat has shown a talent for creating new and creepy monsters, like the Gas-Mask Zombies of Season One, the Weeping Angels and the Silence. With this episode he tackles fear itself, not just in its classic childhood form -- is there something under the bed? -- but adult fears like dating and showing weakness: of being perceived as being afraid, especially by yourself; loss of control of your own fate; and what the future may bring. The script considers all of these, abetted by a creepy, discordant score and sound effects.
It also tackles the question "Doctor Who?" in a new manner. This season has not investigated the question in the in-joke fashion that the show's title suggests. Instead, the Doctor has gone on a quest of introspection, to find out who he is and how he can make himself a better person. That lends this story a quiet tone of terror that earlier, bigger, bluffer Doctors would have reduced to something tangible, definable and so not particularly scary.
The answer offered is almost satisfactory except... when everyone hides under the bed, what is that thing on top?
Women's Rights (1900)
The Right to Gossip
Well, this one seems mean-spirited. Two women are standing next to a fence, yammering twelve to the dozen when two youngsters come along and nail their skirts to the fence.
Of course, all humor is cruel to some one else and it is undeniable that if you are standing somewhere, talking so loud that you are oblivious to someone walking up with a hammer and banging a nail into a fence right next to you, pulling on your clothes in the process, that you are not paying proper attention to your surroundings. I've wandered about, similarly oblivious and have not reaped my deserts as perhaps I should have. Still, how these ladies could be expected to hear a hammer in a silent movie is beyond me.
The Five-Inch Bather (1942)
I Don't Care If We're All In It Together, Get Out of the Tub
This is a wartime conservation film urging people to use less water in bathing, and we'll beat Hitler all the sooner for it. Fill your bath tub to a depth of only five inches and Goerring won't stand a chance.
Britain being a rather damp Island, mostly due to standing right in the way of the Gulf Stream, water conservation seems likely to have been unnecessary. I can only assume that either the pipes were less likely to be in poor shapes (the drains certainly were) or fuel to heat the water would be better used elsewhere. I think I'll go with the last.
It's all done so quickly and with such good humor (including a rendition of "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor") that's there's little to object to.
Nankin Road, Shanghai (1901)
According to the BFI, whose Youtube site this appears on, this is the only extant film shot by Joe Rosenthal, war correspondent to China during the Boxer Rebellion.
It's hard to be terribly impressed by this important actuality. It's a well-composed one-shot view of the Street that lasts 73 seconds. A variety of individuals walk past, but more than a century later, nothing is noteworthy save the number of rickshaws and the uniformed soldiers who march past. There is nothing in the shot to differentiate it from other city streets in China and the lack of focus on any individual or group gives it a happenstance quality.
This sort of shot had been established for half a decade, originally by the Lumieres, who tried to place something typical of the city in their shots. Apparently Mr. Rosenthal thought the immense number of Chinese people in the shot was enough. Back then, it might have been.
Olio for Jasper (1946)
Olio: a hodge-podge
The Scarecrow wants Jasper's yo-yo and to convince the child to give it to him, he tells Jasper a long hard-luck story. Before he can finish it, the short ends.
George Pal was one of the greats of stop-motion animation, possessed of a clear cartoon sensibility. If he is not remembered for them, it is because most of his work for Paramount in the 1940s consisted of shorts starring Jasper, a small, rural Black boy continually led astray by the Scarecrow. The voices used were the stereotypical Black voices of the era -- the Scarecrow sounds like James Earl Jones doing a Stepin Fetchitt imitation.
Nonetheless, if you can get past the characterizations, you will find this a very funny short subject.