What The Bleep Do We Know – Day Twenty – #40movies40days

Cas-AWell, I’m half way through my Lenten Project.  This was a great movie to mark that milestone. Here are some fundament things I believe are true and that the movie touches on:

I am who I say I am.  I am the story I tell about myself– to me and to others.

I chose my story and I continue to chose it consciously or unconsciously every day.

Events in the past do not create or destroy my character– my reaction to, attitude toward and interpretation of those events is what creates or destroys my character.

For example:  Two individuals might be violently assaulted and robbed at an early age.  Or a parent might die while two different individuals are very young.

How each person reacts to those events and what they tell themselves about what those events mean shapes who those individuals are.

For one person each event is tragic and proof they are unlucky and the world is a hostile dangerous place. For another person each event is tragic but proof of their own resilience and the miracle of unexpected kindnesses offered by others.

synapseExactly the same events can happen in exactly the same way but be interpreted completely differently by two different people.  The only thing that changes in the scenario is the individual reaction, attitude and the meaning each imposes on the event.  The only thing that changes is the story the person tells about him/herself and the world at large.  That story is the individual’s “reality.”

As each person goes through life he or she continues to focus on and interpret each event in light of what story the person is confirming about themselves (and the world he or she lives in).  We are all constantly looking for relationships and situations to confirm what we believe is true. (You see…!)  We are constantly shaping our own reality.

The person who believes the world is hostile and dangerous will consciously or unconsciously interpret and mentally edit all sorts of events to confirm that story.  He or she won’t really notice, connect with or strongly react to the hundreds of events large and small that refute the story.  (Yes, but…. )

Likewise, the person who sees life as a miracle waiting to happen will follow the same pattern. He or she will not really notice, connect with or strongly react to all the large and small events that might contradict to that story.  (Yes, but…. )

BrainElectricalActivityHalts_thumbEach of us is continually shaping and reshaping ourselves, the world and reality itself to fit our story. We tend to discount or dismiss anything that doesn’t fit into our own perceptions or the reality we have constructed.  If you absolutely believe something is true– for you it is true.

In order to do anything, first you must believe it is possible.  If you tell yourself it’s not possible then, by definition, you can’t ever achieve it.  “It is impossible to act differently than how you see yourself or how you see your world.”  That statement is the basis of all my story consulting.

For example:  For as long as running has been clocked as a professional sport every one “knew” it was impossible to break the 4 minute mile barrier.  That was the universally accept fact.  It was the reality– until Roger Bannister broke the barrier in 1954.  The “four minute barrier” has since been broken by hundreds of male athletes.  And now, it is the standard by which all professional middle distance runners are judged. In the last 50 years, the mile record has been lowered by almost 17 seconds from Bannister’s early achievement.

Once Bannister changed the story (and reality itself) by proving it was possible to break the “four minute” barrier– the barrier was immediately broken again and again until now it is the common measure of a professional middle distance runner.

That is the way anyone changes reality.  You believe something is possible (or true) and then you set out in a systematic way to achieve it (or prove it).  “Dare to dream a dream and it will come true.”  “If you dream it you achieve it.”

whatisthisThe only thing we can absolutely control or change is our attitude. Changing our attitude changes the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories we tell about the world we live in. It changes what we believe is true or is possible. It changes our consciousness and the nature of reality itself!

If you want to change yourself, change history or change the world, first you have to change the story.  Gandhi famously said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

What the Bleep Do We Know has been accused of being a mishmash of pseudo science and New Age wacky thinking.  But there is a solid kernel at its heart that I absolutely believe is true. “It is impossible to act differently than how you see yourself and how you see your world.”

If you believe your possibilities are limited, then they are.  If you believe you will fail, you will. If you believe you can change your story, then you can.

I am trying to see myself in a different light and to change my own story.  I will report my results at the end of the project.

The Awful Truth – Day Thirteen – #40movies#40days

awful truth 4I chose this film because it’s a classic I hadn’t seen before.  The following is a wonderful description of the film from Wikipedia with edits, inserts and additions from me–

The Awful Truth is a 1937 screwball comedy film starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) returns home from a trip to find his wife, Lucy (Irene Dunne), is not home. When she returns in the company of her handsome music teacher, Armand Duvalle (Alexander D’Arcy), he learns that she spent the night in the country with him, after his car supposedly broke down. Then, Lucy discovers that Jerry hadn’t gone to Florida as he had claimed. Mutual suspicions result in divorce proceedings. The film follows the great lengths the couple goes to to ruin each other’s post-separation romantic escapades.

Lucy: It’s enough to destroy one’s faith, isn’t it?

Jerry: Oh, I haven’t any faith left in anyone.

Lucy: I know just how you feel.

Jerry: What do you mean?

Lucy: (She tosses the “California” marked orange at him and he notices his incriminating mistake.) You didn’t happen to mention in any of your letters what a terrible rainy spell they were having in Florida. The papers were full of it.

Jerry: Well, I can explain that, Lucy.

Lucy: You can?

Jerry: And don’t try to change the subject. You think a great offense is a great defense. Don’t try to justify your behavior by insinuating things about me.

Lucy: But I haven’t any behavior to justify. I’ve just been unlucky, that’s all. You’ve come home and caught me in a truth and it seems there’s nothing less logical than the truth.

Jerry: Hmm, a philosopher, huh?

Lucy: You don’t believe me.

Jerry: Oh, how can I believe you? The car broke down. People stopped believing that one before cars started breaking down.

Lucy: Well, his car’s very old.

Jerry: Well, so’s his story.

http://www.filmsite.org/awfu.html

Lucy: It’s enough to destroy one’s faith, isn’t it?
Jerry: Oh, I haven’t any faith left in anyone.
Lucy: I know just how you feel.
Jerry: What do you mean?
Lucy: (She tosses the orange at him and he notices his incriminating mistake.) You didn’t happen to mention in any of your letters what a terrible rainy spell they were having in Florida. The papers were full of it.
Jerry: Well, I can explain that, Lucy.
Lucy: You can?
Jerry: And don’t try to change the subject. You think a great offense is a great defense. Don’t try to justify your behavior by insinuating things about me.
Lucy: But I haven’t any behavior to justify. I’ve just been unlucky, that’s all. You’ve come home and caught me in a truth and it seems there’s nothing less logical than the truth.
Jerry: Hmm, a philosopher, huh?
Lucy: You don’t believe me.
Jerry: Oh, how can I believe you? The car broke down. People stopped believing that one before cars stopped breaking down.
Lucy: Well, his car’s very old.
Jerry: Well, so’s his story.The film was directed by Leo McCarey, who won the 1938 Academy Award for Best Director.  The film received nominations for Best Picture, Irene Dunne was nominated for Best Actress, Ralph Bellamy for Best Supporting Actor and Viña Delmar for Best Adapted Screenplay.The Awful Truth marked the introduction of the light, witty, suave comedic role Cary Grant played in almost all of his subsequent films. Arguably, it’s the film that ignited his unique star power.

the-awful-truth-cary-grant-irene-dunneWriter/director Peter Bogdanovich has noted that after this movie, when it came to light comedy, “there was Cary Grant and everyone else was an also-ran.” McCarey is largely credited with concocting this persona, and the two men even shared an eerie physical resemblance.

Grant fought hard to get out of the film during its shooting, since McCarey seemed to be improvising as he went along.  Grant even wanted to switch roles with co-star Ralph Bellamy.

Although this initially led to hard feelings, it didn’t prevent other McCarey-Grant collaborations, My Favorite Wife (1940), Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942), and An Affair to Remember (1957), from being made later.

The continuing relationship was probably based on Leo McCarey winning the 1938 Academy Award for Best Director for The Awful Truth. It also received a nomination for Best Picture, Irene Dunne was nominated for Best Actress, Ralph Bellamy for Best Supporting Actor and Viña Delmar for Best Adapted Screenplay.  The film was a box office smash.

The Awful Truth is one of a series of films that the philosopher Stanley Cavell calls “comedies of remarriage”, where couples who have once been married, or are on the verge of divorce, etc., rediscover that they are in love with each other, and recommit to the idea of marriage.

Other examples include The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday, both released in 1940 and both starring Grant, and the Noel Coward play and film Private Lives. The original template for this kind of comedy is Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  Although the Character Types in each of these films are different they are all in the same situation. You rarely see this type of “rediscovering love” comedy any more.

mccarey_AwfulTruthMany of the classic screwball comedies of this era are based on the predicaments of people who are too clever and witty for their own good.  In the beginning of the story, they outsmart themselves and then have to untangle the wounded feelings, misunderstandings and ego problems that ensue. Foolish pride gets in way and the situation escalates.

The thing that struck me was the sparkle of wit and intelligence that characterized this film and the “golden era” of romantic comedies.  Everyone in the film is an adult.  Today comedies so often feature a man-child, who is a bit of slob and adolescent in behavior or lacking responsibility or commitment, but who somehow gets the gorgeous girl anyway.  Where have all the adult men gone in comedies today?

For me The Awful Truth is a comedic lesson on how quickly a situation spins out of control when we are blinded by jealousy, pride and our own vanity.  It’s a lesson I have to learn over and over.

Howard Suber on Despair and Success

Here is a great interview with Howard Suber, lecturing in Japan, talking about what makes a writer or filmmaker successful–

His book The Power of Film is well worth reading.

My Dog Skip – Day Seven – #40movies40days

mydogsk2I decided on some lighter fare for my day seven viewing–  A whole week now!  My Dog Skip is based on an autobiographical book by Willie Morris.  Morris grew up in the small town of Yazoo Mississippi in the 1940’s.

He was scrawny boy, shy and small for his age, more interested in reading than playing ball.  It was not a good combination for making friends or being socially accepted in the South.  

When town high school sports hero and kindly next door neighbor, Dink Jenkins (Luke Wilson), enlists in the Army, Willie (Frankie Muniz) is bereft.  His determined charismatic mother (Diane Lane) defies her husband (Kevin Bacon) and buy a dog for the lonely child.

Skip teaches Willie some of life’s greatest lessons: how to be a good friend, how to engage with and be curious about others and the world around us, the power of forgiveness and how to be brave, loyal and true.  He helps Willie make the difficult transitions from childhood to boyhood to manhood with confidence, optimism and joy.  At one point, Willie almost loses Skip in selfish and traumatic incident and that only makes their bond stronger.

ec34x2wjpfcx432xMy Dog Skip is a great family film, which I missed on its initial release.  It is an instant streaming film on Netflix and a worthy addition to your queue.  It reminded me of my own first dog, Penney. She was a darling beagle pup who grew into a faithful companion.  

I too was a shy kid, most comfortable in my room with my nose in a book.  Penney got me outside and like Skip, she attracted other kids. We spent hours teaching her to do tricks and putting her through her paces on elaborate obstacle course I built out of croquet hoops, small garden objects and cardboard boxes. She was ever patient, ever enthusiastic and ever willing to try new things.  Just exactly the way I wanted to be.  I still think about her.

A small note about the author.  Willie Morris was a writer and teacher of writing and had a wide circle of friends, including Yazoo City childhood buddies and well-known writers like James Jones (From Here to Eternity), Winston Groom (Forrest Gump’), William Styron (Sophie’s Choice), John Knowles (A Separate Peace), James Dickey (Deliverance) and Irwin Shaw (Rich Man, Poor Man). Another of his books Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood was made into a TV movie entitled The River Pirates.

My Dog Skip won the Broadcast Film Critics Award for “Best Family Film” for the year 2000, Silver Medal Giffoni Film Festival Award, Best Cast Young Star Awards, Silver Angel Award winner, ArkTrust Genises Award and the Christopher Award for Best Family Film.  It  came in at number 4 of Variety’s “dollar for dollar” most profitable films of the year 2000 and remained in Variety’s Top Ten video sales charts for five months after its video release.

Willie Morris, the book’s author, suffered from a heart attack right after the film was completed in 1999. Morris saw a preliminary screening of the film in New York and praised it as “an absolute classic.” Morris died a couple of days later and never saw the final cut. The film is dedicated to his memory. That sad fact gives the opening an even more poignant tone.  This is wonderful Power of Idealism film dealing with memory, loss and coming of age.
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The first few minutes are below:
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Baby Face – Day Six – #40movies40days

280px-Baby_Face_BarbaraI chose Baby Face because I thought it was a romantic comedy– it’s not.  I also love Barbara Stanwyck– and she is amazing in this.

I learned the film is notorious for its unrelenting and  unsavory look at women’s lack of power in society and commerce (except for sexual power).  Baby Face was the film that finally compelled the movie studios to enforce the Hays Office production code that would, for decades, censor American movie morality. It was drastically recut for it’s original release to satisfy the censors.

The version I saw was the prerelease uncensored cut.  This original negative was discovered by Mike Mashon, curator of the Motion Picture Division at the Library of Congress.  He struck a print of the unsanitized version and it was a sensation at the London Film Festival in 2004.

The uncensored cut had its American premier at New York’s Film Forum in 2005.  That same year it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry.  Time.com named it one of the 100 best films in the last 80 years.

Baby-Face-1933-classic-movies-4826052-1600-1200In Baby Face, Lilly Powers is a sardonic smart-mouthed bar maid in her father’s speakeasy.  It’s established from the outset that she’s been “rented out” to the men her father needs to impress, mollify or obtain favors from including a sleazy politician (who protects the place from a police raid).  Lilly is called the “Sweetheart of the Night Shift.”

“Yeah, I’m a tramp and who’s to blame? My father! A swell start you gave me! Ever since I was 14! Nothing but men! Dirty, rotten men– and you’re lower than all of them!”

Only one person recognizes how whip smart she is, a German immigrant cobbler and book binder.  He urges her to leave before she is beaten into submission as a victim.  He advises her to use the only thing she has as her ticket out of the grimy dead-end factory town.

“A woman, young, beautiful like you, can get anything she wants in the world. Because you have power over men. But you must use men, not let them use you. You must be a master, not a slave. Look here— Nietzsche says, ‘All life, no matter how we idealize it, is nothing more nor less than exploitation.’ That’s what I’m telling you. Exploit yourself. Go to some big city where you will find opportunities! Use men! Be strong! Defiant! Use men to get the things you want!”

When her father’s illegal liquor still explodes, killing him, Lilly doesn’t shed a tear. Instead, she heads out of town in a box car.  She has an unusually equal and frank relationship with the black girl who is the scullery maid in the speakeasy.  The two girls leave together.

images-1When the girls hit the big city, Lilly heads to the biggest building in town–  A financial institution the size of a skyscraper.  She uses her wiles to land her first job as a file clerk.  She is smart and a hard worker.  A very young John Wayne describes her as the sharpest girl in the office.  But ability alone won’t get her far– lots of other girls never get the job they need and, if they do, never get out of the file room.

Lilly seduces and uses each of her bosses along the way, until she is promoted all the way to the top floor. She becomes the assistant/secretary to the Bank Vice President.  He’s engaged and Lilly allows his finance to catch him in his office romance with her.  The fiance tearfully runs to her father, the Bank Chairman. He tells the Vice President to break it off or he will.  When the Chairman “fires” Lilly he falls for her as well.  She leaves the office and is “kept” in high style by the wealthy older man.

The distraught Vice President catches the two together and kills his now father-in-law and himself.  The murder-suicide is a major scandal.  Newspapers everywhere cover the story.  Lilly is offered $10,000 for her story and diaries of her time at the financial institution.  (That was worth a little over half a million dollars in today’s terms).

The bank’s Board of Directors call her in to offer her the same amount NOT to publish her exploits.  She puts on her innocent act (she just want to do honest work and her notoriety now ensures no one will ever hire her).  The new Chairman calls her bluff.  He sends her to the Paris office and sets her up in a job there.  No big payoff for Lilly.

babyfSeveral years later, the Chairman arrives in Paris and is surprised to find Lilly is the head of the travel department.  She has excelled and has boosted profits over 30%.  The Chairman falls for her and this time she holds out for marriage.  He showers her with diamonds, cash and bonds.

When the Chairman is indicted for bank mismanagement (and probably embezzlement) he wants her to give back all her treasures to mount his defense.  She refuses and then changes her mind. She rushes to him but he has shot himself.  The final scene is in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  He has a good chance at recovery and she is willing to give up everything to help save him.

I guess what I took from this film personally is how much and how little things have changed for women in Hollywood between 1933 and now.  During the 30’s and 40’s strong women filled the screen.  Now not so much.  There are more women in executive suites but has that improved or expanded the stories about women on the screen?

A recent example of the lack of women in big Hollywood pictures  is The Adjustment Bureau. The only female part of note is Matt Damon’s love interest, she functions only vis-a-vis his story. Emily Blunt is wonderful in her role, smart and sassy.   But Damon makes all the decisions for her– first by abandoning her so she can have the great career the bureau promises and then to pull her through the door to be with him without telling her what that choice means for her (teaching dance to six year olds and never achieving artistic fame and fortune).  Shouldn’t she be allowed to choose for herself, knowing the options?

Where are the other women in the film?  There is a largely mute bartender at the bar that Damon frequents.  There is Emily Blunt’s female friend, who is used mainly a sounding board to discuss the situation with Matt Damon.  That’s about it.

Sister Rose Pacatte in an interview with the writer/director, George Nolfi, asked about the lack of women in the story and the total absence of any kind of female persepective:

When I brought up these issues to Nolfi he said that in the scene where David and Elise run through a huge library, all the images along the side are base reliefs of female figures.
“However,” I replied, “They are nameless and inarticulate.”
It is no surprise that most Hollywood films are about men — as the films released in 2010 demonstrated. Many stories are told from a white male perspective and are about the male as the symbol of universal human experience. But does it have to stay this way?
As I noted in my review of Peter Rodger’s 2009 documentary “Oh My God”, as long as 50 percent of the human race is not included in the stories that ubiquitous Hollywood films tell — whether documentaries or other genres — reality as presented in cinema will continue to reinforce the idea that men do indeed rule the world, and that women, along with children, and other minorities, are not part of the solution to any conflict, real or imagined.
An argument could be made that this is the subversive point “The Adjustment Bureau” is trying to make. But I don’t think so.
When I brought up these issues to Nolfi he said that in the scene where David and Elise run through a huge library, all the images along the side are base reliefs of female figures.
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“However,” I replied, “They are nameless and inarticulate.”
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It is no surprise that most Hollywood films are about men — as (most of) the films released in 2010 demonstrated. (Too) many stories are told from a white male perspective and are about the male as the symbol of universal human experience. But does it have to stay this way?
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As I noted in my review of Peter Rodger’s 2009 documentary “Oh My God”, as long as 50 percent of the human race is not included in the stories that ubiquitous Hollywood films tell — whether documentaries or other genres — reality as presented in cinema will continue to reinforce the idea that men do indeed rule the world, and that women, along with children, and other minorities, are not part of the solution to any conflict, real or imagined.
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An argument could be made that this is the subversive point “The Adjustment Bureau” is trying to make. But I don’t think so.
The lack of women’s voices and women’s stories is the major reason I created the Beyond Lemonade project with FremantleMedia.  The upcoming drama series and online publishing and storytelling platform will showcase the whole range of extraordinary stories that women have to share.

Here is the first 10 minutes of the film Baby Face:

The Shopworn Angel – Day Five – #40movies40days

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Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart 1I selected this movie because it was on our VCR at home.  My husband had recorded it and I watched it while cleaning up the kitchen.  Pretty soon I was sitting down and snuffling a few tears at the end.

The Shopworn Angel is Waldo Salt’s first credited screenplay.  He joined the American Communist Party in 1938, and was a civilian consultant to the U.S. Office of War Information during World War II.[citation needed]
Salt’s career in Hollywood was interrupted when he was blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1951. Like many other blacklisted writers, while he was unable to work in Hollywood Salt wrote pseudonymously for the British television series The Adventures of Robin Hood.[3] After the collapse of the blacklist, Salt won Academy Awards for Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, and a nomination for his work on Serpico.
The Shopworn Angel is Waldo Salt’s first credited screenplay.  It’s an oddly subversive anti-war film wrapped in sentimental patriotism. It speaks powerfully of the cost of war.
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Beautiful young men like the young private in the film  get chewed up in the maw of unceasing of greed and fear that launches every war machine.  Is it a good thing or a bad thing to preserve the illusions– honor, glory, courage, country– that allow young men to be sent to certain death?
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Salt was blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1951. Like many other blacklisted writers, he wrote pseudonymously for projects in the UK.  After the collapse of the blacklist, Salt won Academy Awards for Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home. He was nominated for his work on Serpico.
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The Shopworn Angel features the second screen pairing of actors Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart. He is so young in this picture, barely in his twenties!
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At the time of their first picture together, Stewart was a minor contract player at MGM. When Sullavan brought up Stewart’s name the studio casting-directors had never heard of him.  At Sullavan’s suggestion, Universal agreed to test him for her leading man and he was borrowed to star with Sullavan in Next Time We Love.
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imagesAccording to Wikipedia:  Stewart had been nervous and unsure of himself during the early stages of production of their first film together. He had had only two minor MGM roles which had not given him much camera time or experience. The director, Edward H. Griffith, bullied Stewart during that first production.
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“Maggie, he’s wet behind the ears,” Griffith told Sullavan. “He’s going to make a mess of things.”
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Sullavan believed in Stewart and spent the evenings coaching him and helping him scale down his awkward mannerisms and hesitant speech that would soon be famous around the world.
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“It was Margaret Sullavan who made Stewart a star,” director Griffith later said. Bill Grady the casting director from MGM agreed. “That boy came back from Universal so changed I hardly recognized him”.
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The inevitable gossip in Hollywood at that time (1935–36) was that William Wyler, Sullavan’s then-husband, was suspicious about his wife’s and Stewart’s private rehearsing together. When Sullavan divorced Wyler in 1936 and married Leland Hayward that same year, they moved to a colonial house just a block down from Stewart.
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Stewart’s frequent visits to the Sullavan/Hayward home soon restoked the rumors of his romantic feelings for Sullavan.
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The Shopworn Angel (1938) was their second movie together. “Why, they´re red-hot when they get in front of a camera,” Louis B. Mayer said about their onscreen chemistry. “I don’t know what the hell it is, but it sure jumps off the screen”.
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Walter Pidgeon, who was part of the triangle in The Shopworn Angel later recalled: “I really felt like the odd-man-out in that one. It was really all Jimmy and Maggie … It was so obvious he was in love with her. He came absolutely alive in his scenes with her, playing with a conviction and a sincerity I never knew him to summon away from her”.
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Eventually the duo would do four movies together from 1936-1940 (Next Time We Love, The Shopworn Angel, The Shop Around the Corner and The Mortal Storm).
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shopwornThe plot of The Shopworn Angel is simple.  A dreamy innocent young soldier from Texas, Private Pettigrew (Jimmy Stewart), is awed by big city New York.  Crossing the street he is almost run down by a private limousine.  The cop at the fender bender insists the car’s occupant deliver the soldier to the nearby camp.  The young man climbs in to meet a famous cabaret singer, Daisy Heath (Margaret Sullavan).
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He lies to his buddies and tells them that Daisy is his sweetheart.  The guys insist on meeting her at the stage door. Daisy, taking pity on the awkward Pettigrew, plays along.  Pettigrew mistakes her pity for genuine interest and keeps coming back.
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She is entranced by his simple sincerity, his innocence and his enthusiasm for life.  She is deeply jaded and only cares about career, comfort and luxury.  Her boyfriend finances her show.  They have a contentious relationship based mostly on  party-going and self-interest (she needs him to bankroll the show and she is the draw that brings the customers in).
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In the short period of time before Pettigrew ships out, the soldier and the cabaret singer grow close. He is starry-eyed and Daisy is his dream girl.  He knows he is cannon fodder, being amongst the first wave of soldiers sent to France.  He know he’s going to die, so does she and so does the audience. In 1938, when the film was made, the horrific carnage of the “Great War” was well documented.  And the world was gearing up for another World War.
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Pettigrew’s pure honest example teaches Daisy and her boyfriend Sam (Walter Pigeon) the meaning of real love.  Daisy discovers she truly love Sam and he loves her.  But Daisy can’t break Pettigrew’s heart. She marries him to give him a dream to hold on to.  Sam stands by her and the inevitable happens. Pettigrew dies in battle.
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In this movie love is an illusion but it is also real.  Daisy does love Pettigrew but she knows he has no future.  Sam is her true love.  He proves worthy of Daisy’s love by allowing her to do this one unselfish thing. They delay their happiness to give Pettigrew his.
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Pettigrew talks about spending his whole life pretending– imagining what his sweetheart would be like. Now he doesn’t have to pretend because he has the real thing– her.  But she isn’t really his.  She is just on loan to him for a time.  She has another destiny and he is blissfully unaware of that.
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Perhaps we are all just on loan to each other. Perhaps love is always part illusion and part reality. Perhaps the most important component of love is kindness– and that’s what makes it real.  It is kindness that makes Daisy fully human and worthy of love.  It is kindness that works the same magic on Sam.
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Perhaps an easier all encompassing commandment would be:  Be Kind.  If I could just do that it would eliminate the need for most of the other rules.  Here is my first decision of the journey.  I will be kind.  At least for the remainder of these 40 days I will mentally stop before I say or do anything and ask:  “Is it kind?”
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Of course just this morning, as I walked to my office, any number of rude remarks popped into my head about a particularly annoying jogger, I mourned the gossip and witty sniping I would have to forgo.  And I can snipe with the best of them.
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Be kind!  Blah– Such a simple statement will be incredibly hard to put into practice.  It is the death of one-ups-manship.  It allows no room for desperation or insecurity.  It requires the solid assurance, the simple faith if you will, that I will get what I need.  That I can afford be generous. And that I can be comfortable with being patient.
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Will this make me a doormat or a victim?  Not if being kind extends to myself.  Sometimes the kindest thing is to move on, say no or end a relationship.  The kindness comes in doing so without ill-will, in good humor and with quiet conviction (rather than with excuses, accusations or verbal fireworks).   I’ve been cleaning out physical clutter in my office.  Perhaps being kind is a way to help clean out the emotional clutter in my work.
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Here is the film in it’s entirety:

The Woman in the Window – Day Three – #40movies40days

1 Comment

fritz_langI selected this Fritz Lang psychological thriller because I hadn’t seen it, I admire Lang as a director and it starred Edward G. Robinson (who rarely disappoints).  And it was available as a “watch instantly” selection on NetFlix.  Again, a somewhat random choice.

The Woman in the Window tells the story of Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) whose beloved wife leaves with the children for a long summer holiday in Maine.  On the way to have a drink at his club, Wanley sees the portrait of a beautiful woman in a gallery window.  His friends arrive to meet him and they too remark on the portrait as their “dream girl.”

One of Wanley’s friends at the club is District Attorney Frank Laylor (Raymond Massey).  The men bemoan the lack of adventure in their lives.  Laylor muses about middle-aged men kicking up their heels and speaks of his experience as a prosecutor:  “Trouble often starts from little things,”  he says. “Genuine actual tragedy issues directly out of pure carelessness or the merest trifle.  It results from the casual impulse, the idle  flirtation or just one drink too many.”

woman-in-the-window-title-stillAnd of course that’s exactly what happens.  As Wanley leaves the club, just a little tipsy, he stops to admire the portrait once again and sees the actual woman’s face in the window.  He is surprised and turns to find she is very real.  The woman occasionally stops by to look at the painting herself (and it amuses her to see the reaction on men’s faces as they admire it.)

She flirts.  Wanley buys her a drink.  They end up in her apartment, where she has a portfolio of other portraits of her by the same artist.  Her jealous boyfriend bursts in and, in a struggle, Wanley kills the intruder by stabbing him in the back with a scissors.  Wanley and the woman discuss calling the police and then decide to cover up the crime instead.   Guilt, blackmail and a tightening noose of suspicion ensue.

Unfortunately an unsatisfying ending was forced on the film by the Hays Office morality code.  It’s a cheat and the easy way out.  In a strange way I suppose it is emblematic of the “easy way out” that ruins Wanley’s character.  Despite this fault, the film is an interesting early version of American film noir.

According to Wikipedia:  (The Woman in the Window is) based on J. H. Wallis’ novel Once Off Guard. The story features two surprise twists at the end. Scriptwriter Nunnally Johnson founded International Pictures (his own independent production company) after writing successful films such as The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and other John Ford films.  (His partner was William Goetz.)  Johnson chose The Woman in the Window as the production company’s premiere project.”

nunnallyJohnson had an incredibly prolific career and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath and for the Directors Guild of America Best Directors Award in 1956 for The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. He also wrote How to Marry a Millionaire, The GunfighterMy Cousin Rachel, The Three Faces of Eve and The Dirty Dozen. He wrote over 60 films over the course of his career.  That works out to a least one film a year every year from 1933 until 1967 (and often two or three films in a year).

A couple of things struck me about this film.  First of all, by  silly co-incidence, the book Wanley takes down from the library shelf to read in his club is The Song of Solomon.  That poem happens to figure prominently in a project I am working on right now.  I love those odd and slightly thrilling little “signs” that occasionally pop up as you are nursing a project along, don’t you?

The second thing that struck me is the issue of integrity. Wanley is a good a man.  He has loving family whom he adores.  He is a well-regarded professor and a generally decent guy.  He is foolish enough to follow a beautiful charming woman to her apartment.  Although he has no intention of sleeping with her, he is a bit vain and allows himself to be flattered by her attention.  He is surprised by the jealous lover and clearly kills him in self-defense.

If Wanley had called the police, he would have found himself in the center of a scandal.  He would have been embarrassed and humiliated in front of his wife and perhaps might even have lost his job at the college.  But his dilemma is one caused by simple human male stupidity.  The matter becomes criminal when he doesn’t report the death, dumps the body and lies to the police.  He then plots a second murder to cover up the first.  The simple act of picking up the phone and then putting it down strips him of his first bit of integrity.

Evil always starts with a small thing– stupid carelessness, hurtful blurted words, a harmless flirtation, a bit too much to drink, an unchecked impulse.  This quote by Edward Tufte says it all– “Evil does not have horns or breathe fire or call explosive attention to itself.  It is a force (or a fear) that slowly and imperceptibly erodes our standards, clouds our judgements, lulls (or paralyzes) us into submission and, before we realize it, has lead us down a regrettable path from which there is no return.”

We lose our integrity bit by bit, decision by decision, one small choice at a time.  Thoughts (or fears) create action. Action creates habits. Habits build (or destroy) Character. Character creates Destiny.  That’s part of the larger question I am looking at for myself.  Just how do I want to direct my own destiny? What new choices need to be made?  What new habits created?

Here’s the first nine minutes of the film–

Kathryn Bigelow at the DGA

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This week (December 10, 2010) the Hollywood Reporter released its list of the 100 most powerful women in Hollywood.  While there are women in power all across Hollywood, especially in the executive suites, one place that still is very difficult to penetrate is the directing ranks.
The Hollywood Reporter list confirmed that fact.  Only one woman director– Kathryn Bigelow — made the list and she was at number 53.
If we created a list of most powerful men in Hollywood (like we need to do that) I would venture to say that there would be several (ok, a lot) of male directors on the list.  Here are just a couple who have the clout to get films made: Tim Burton, James Cameron, Michael Bay, John Favreau, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Judd Apatow, Todd Phillips, JJ Abrams, Roland Emmerich, Tyler Perry… and I know I am leaving out many.  These are the guys that regularly get gigs at the studios and make millions each year (Perry does work with Lions Gate and yes he still makes millions and that he got to direct For Colored Girls.)
Who are the women who are the most powerful directors?
Nancy Meyers, Nora Ephron, Anne Fletcher, Betty Thomas, Catherine Hardwicke…and now Bigelow herself. And let’s be honest none of these women makes money anywhere near the guys on the list.
So could winning awards help women get more clout?  Sure.  The prestige factor is a big deal.  That’s how Bigelow got on the list.  Everyone want sto work with an Oscar winner.
But really, does the Oscar nomination help?  I looked at the list of people nominated for an Oscar last year to what life has been like for them since their nomination.
James Cameron made a fortune from Avatar and has announced that he will next direct two sequels to Avatar.
Quentin Tarantino was recently roasted at the Friar’s Club but has not yet picked his next film.
Lee Daniels has been trying to raise funds for Selma a civil rights drama and signed a deal to write and direct The Butler for Laura Ziskin.
Jason Reitman is back behind the camera directing Young Adult written by Diablo Cody and starring Charlize Theron.
Kathryn Bigelow — the winner — did a pilot for HBO, The Miraculous Year, which did not get picked up for series and is now shopping an thriller to be written by Marc Boal before she directs Triple Frontier in 2011.
Let’s look at the last couple of winners:
Danny Boyle – 2008 winner – is back in the running with 127 Hours and is also the artistic director for the London Olympics opening ceremony.
Joel and Ethan Coen – 2007 winner – are back in the running this year with True Grit.
Martin Scorcese – 2006 winner – released Shutter Island this year
There are two women still in the major discussions for possible Oscar nods — Debra Granik and Lisa Cholodenko.  Though it would be another huge deal if another woman gets a nomination for best director this year, the truth is that women directors still have little commercial power.  As LA Times said: “nearly all of the beloved indy female directors are unemployable at major studios…”

kathryn-bigelowLast night I went to the DGA program honoring Kathryn Bigelow for her achievements as a director.  I went with my friend Sister Rose Pacatte, who writes a popular blog on cinema and spirituality.

She was a VIP guest, having been on the first jury to make an award to The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s break-through multi-Oscar-winning film.  The Ecumenical Jury at the Venice Film Festival was the first to launch the critical acclaim that would carry the film to an historic win for Bigelow as Best Director at the DGA and the Oscars.

The reception was lovely and the program was heart-felt and was a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman.  But I couldn’t help remembering a Women in Hollywood article I had read the week before.  It recounts the rather dismal reality in the aftermath to Bigelow’s stunning achievement.

Let’s look at the last couple of winners:

Danny Boyle – 2008 winner – is back in the running with 127 Hours ($18 Million budget) and is also the artistic director for the London Olympics opening ceremony.

Joel and Ethan Coen – 2007 winner – are back in the running this year with True Grit ($35 Million budget).

Martin Scorcese – 2006 winner – released Shutter Island this year ($100 Million Budget).

There are two women still in the major discussions for possible Oscar nods — Debra Granik and Lisa Cholodenko.  Though it would be another huge deal if another woman gets a nomination for best director this year, the truth is that women directors still have little commercial power.  As LA Times said: “nearly all of the beloved indy female directors are unemployable at major studios…”

Okay– So am I incredibly small minded for not just enjoying the evening?  But the truth is all this wonderful director could line up after her win was an HBO movie.

As far as my search revealed her next film (at a low $10 million dollar budget) may or may not be financed a year after taking home the Oscar.  Reports are conflicting.

Directors Roundtable: When a scene doesn’t work

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Picture 2From the LA Times Roundtables, watch the discussion between Ben Affleck, David Fincher, Lisa Cholodenko, Ethan Coen, Darren Aronofsky and Tom Hooper:

http://allreetnow.posterous.com/directors-roundtable-when-a-scene-doesnt-work

Rom Com Cliches to Avoid

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photo_04_hiresHere is an interesting survey of Rom Com cliches and in what movies they appear.  The Daily Beast says:  Cute dog? Clothes montage? Quirky BFF? Last minute sprint?  Working girl in need of balance?  Please — we’ve watched these twenty-four overly familiar romantic-comedy staples a million times, and, well, we think it’s time we started seeing other plot devices.

Here is the slide show and list of films and cliches.  http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20464382,00.html?cid=hp:beastoriginalsC5#20578800