Dillinger (1945) Max Nosseck

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Lawrence Tierney as John Dillinger is pure evil in this Poverty Row “epic” film from Monogram Pictures. From the opening moments right down to the expected final shoot out at Chicago’s Biograph theater there is not one second where you feel any sympathy for the infamous outlaw. It was a breakout role for the actor who would go on to play a series of criminal type roles in films like Badman’s Territory, Hoodlum and Born to Kill.  With the latter film, you knew you were on solid ground after reading New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther’s, infamous for hating many crime films now considered classic in the genre, scalding review. He called it “not only morally disgusting but an offense to normal intellect.” Continue reading

Celluloid Comfort Food

imagesJ0UJ5EBKThere is a certain reassurance in watching your favorite films over and over and over again. The act of repeated watching is like getting together with an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. You talk about the same old stories, you laugh or maybe even  cry about those bygone glory days. Similarly, when watching a favorite movie you know where the jokes are. You can anticipate those laughs long before they come on screen. If it’s an old gangster film, you know you have to watch just one more time as James Cagney takes that long final walk toward the electric chair. Either way, there is a level  of contentment  that flows in you with the familiarly of repeatedly watching a favorite film. You forget about the world outside, the troubles inside your head, for two hours and relax with pure celluloid comfort food.

In the traditional sense, we all have our comfort foods. For me, it a good chocolate chip cookie and I mean a “good” chocolate chip cookie and not just some run of the mill store bought cookie with the sort of chemical additives added into the ingredients that you cannot identify or even pronounce. If I am going to eat fattening stuff, it’s going to be the best.

But comfort food can come in various forms meaning not junk actual food. Recently I got into a mental funk and needed a few comforting movies to get over it. Whenever I am down, a movie, the right movie can help bring me back. However, it isn’t always easy to find the right film or films. I began by taking a took a look at my extensive collection and found nothing was appealing to me. I kept receiving these negative vibrations inside my head. No, not that! Don’t feel like that one. God, why did I even buy this one? All I wanted to do was watch a couple of films that I knew so well and enjoyed that I could just sit back in my chair and watch without having to think. This went on for a couple of days. I just could not find anything that was going to help. Continue reading

BIll Cummingham New York (2010) Richard Press

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Photographer Bill Cunningham admits he is no artist. He is neither a commercial photographer like Bert Stern nor a documentarian such as Dorothea Lange. But what he does, he does well. Cunningham is a well-known photographer in the world of fashion but don’t pin that label him either. That’s not what he does. He emphatically says so himself. He says this though he has worked for Vogue, the original Details and currently works for The New York Times. Continue reading

Oh, Grow Up!

JoanThe world could not afford to have lost two talented, funny people like we just did in recent weeks. Fanatical religious factions, power hungry world leaders and a seemingly uncontrollable breakout of Ebola just seem to have made the world a much sadder and frightening place.

Just a few weeks ago we lost the genius of Robin Williams and now Joan Rivers, leaving us in a much darker place with less to smile about. Like Williams, Joan Rivers was brilliantly fast with the comeback. She was an equal opportunity offender who targeted herself just as much as she did the rest of the world. Insensitive at times? Shocking? Offensive? Rivers would reply, “Oh, grow up!” Continue reading

Tomorrow Night: “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” on PBS

LangeTomorrow night on the PBS American Masters series at 9PM (check local listing for exact time and date in your area), the premiere of a full length feature documentary on photographer Dorothea Lange. According to press releases “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” will feature “newly discovered interviews and vérité scenes with Lange from her Bay Area home studio, circa 1962-1965, including work on her unprecedented, one-woman career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA.” The film is produced, written and directed by Emmy award winning Dyanna Taylor, the granddaughter of Lange and her second husband Paul Schuster Taylor. Continue reading

Colombo: Murder by the Book (1971) Steven Spielberg

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I was never a big fan of Colombo. I did watch it. However I found the disheveled, cigar chomping, looking like he just rolled out of bed, wearing the same clothes he wore the day before, annoying. For some people, that was all part of his charm. That everydayness quality made him the guy next door.

Colombo seemed to be the kind of guy who did not have a clue. You wondered, how the heck he ever made Lt. But you soon come to realize, underneath this rough exterior, he was way ahead in the game. The sloppy clothes, the clueless look were all a façade, at least the clueless look was, all distractions to throw suspects off. That said, there were two reasons why I would watch the show. There were many episodes that rose above the ordinary TV fare and second, Peter Falk. Falk always had a down to earth quality.  Oh yeah, he also had some cool friends like John Cassavetes and Ben Gazarra (1). Continue reading

Mary Stevens, M.D. (1933) Lloyd Bacon

MSMDStereotypes run amuck in this Warner Brothers pre-code from 1933. Yet it is these categorizations that make this pre-code interesting to watch. It begins on the Lower East Side of New York, Orchard Street to be specific, an ethnic neighborhood which at various times was filled with Jewish, German, Italian and Puerto Rican immigrants among others. The script focuses on an Italian family. Tony has called for a doctor, his wife is giving birth, and he’s crying for help. An ambulance arrives with a doctor in tow, our heroine, Mary Stevens (Kay Francis). Tony is shocked. My God, the doctor is a woman! No, no, no, he wants a real doctor…a man! Having already lost one child, he threatens Mary with a machete if she fails to help his wife through to a successful birth. Mary locks herself in the bedroom with the expectant mother while Tony is being restrained by the police (called earlier by the frightened ambulance driver). As expected, the baby is successfully delivered and all is well. This short opening scene reveals how far we have come in our labeling of people and yet it also reveals how far we still have to go. I am sure there are still men out there who do not want to be treated by a female doctor just because she is a woman. Continue reading