Archive for It’s Always Fair Weather

The Sunday Panty-Title: “…And That Girl Had a Wooden Foot”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2014 by dcairns

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I wanted to call my thoughts on Michael Ritchie and Jerry Belson’s SMILE (1975) by the title SMARM, in honour of one of the great essays of recent times, but Fiona insisted I use the inspirational anecdote delivered by Michael Kidd. Also, the movie is structured around the days of the week, as announced by what turn out to be Annette O’Toole’s panties.

Somehow I’d never seen this film until last week. Did I have some kind of trepidation about it? Maybe because it seemed like it would be an Altman copy. And though I love a good Altman, a bad Altman can wear out the will to live faster than a bad almost anything. Fortunately, the aspects of this which are Altmanesque (and the girl with the braces smiling at the start seems like something Altman himself lifted for A WEDDING) are really cool — the movie knows what it’s aiming at, and is scathing without being unwarrantedly vicious, altogether misanthropic, or self-important. When your subject is a beauty pageant, how outraged can you get? And even if you use that for a kind of state of the nation address, a bit of gentleness is warranted.

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Also, much of the film doesn’t play quite like Altman at all — much of the footage has a sly, caught-on-the-hop quality, as if Ritchie really did set up a scenario, leave it to play out naturally, and capture it documentary-style. But I don’t think the dialogues is  improvised — we have people like the great and insanely hot Annette O’Toole who ALWAYS seems to be behaving rather than acting, in anything she appears in. Anybody who can seem like they stepped off the street and into CAT PEOPLE or SUPERMAN III must have an in-built sense of truth, justice and the American way, a kind of faultless naturalism compass. And she smiles like Veronica Lake… sigh.

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The film’s star is Bruce Dern, in a performance that supplies the centre of his career and screen personality, something I now realize I was missing all these years I loved him. (In Telluride, I nearly got handed his luggage by mistake, suggesting a potentially awesome alternative reality where I go on to live his life and collect an Oscar nomination for NEBRASKA while he slinks back to a tenement in Leith and a pitiful existence ranting on the internet about unbelievably obscure movies.) He plays a sort of happy idiot, a used car salesman who’s SINCERE, I suppose a guy who believes all the lies, and likes it. He’s unable to help his depressed friend (Nicholas Pryor, also great) except by making him laugh occasionally, and in fact the friend manages to chisel a chink in Dern’s armour of sunshine, and the poor man nearly withers on the vine as he suddenly sees beyond the veil of acceptable optimism and into an existential abyss. Being indefatigable and all-American, he soon slams the door on THAT unwelcome insight.

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Michael Kidd plays the pageant’s choreographer — a great dancer and choreographer himself, he made intermittent movie appearances, including a star turn in the superb IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, and so this is a relatively rare chance to see him act. Great face, great voice, and the greatest portrait of a hard-bitten, essentially decent, dogged professional in any profession that I can think of right now. Just superb work. You don’t get near-heroes like that in Altman.

Oh, and Geoffrey Lewis practically doing a Pangborn, something I never expected to see.

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I think the other reason I never hurried to see this was that I got to know Michael Ritchie’s work via FLETCH (inoffensive but very minor) and THE GOLDEN CHILD (whaaaa?). One can’t judge a filmmaker by their worst projects, but it seemed from that perspective that Ritchie was minor, and already washed-up, a flash-in-the-pan kind of guy. But now I’m of a mind to try THE BAD NEWS BEARS, PRIME CUT, THE CANDIDATE, SEMI-TOUGH. From this fresh perspective, it may be that Ritchie enjoyed quite a nice little run.

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Goodbye, Cyd

Posted in FILM with tags , on June 18, 2008 by dcairns

Euphoria #5

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , on January 1, 2008 by dcairns

 mwah!

Progress report: have uploaded David E’s ciné-bliss excerpt to YouTube, but it hasn’t appeared yet. Probably the system is overloaded with patriotic Brits downloading the Queen’s Speech (we must start calling it OneTube). Am just uploading Craig K’s example of movie-jubilation in the B.G. as I type this.

But if, like the population of HOGMANAY CITY, where I reside, you have a woken this morning with a sair heid and a pocket full of sticky pennies, you will undoubtedly be needing a fresh fix of soothing cinematic satori, this time suggested by regular reader Levi Stahl.

IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER should sooth those troubled brows.

 “My euphoric moment would probably also be a musical number: Gene Kelly’s dance on roller skates in It’s Always Fair Weather. For a cinematic depiction of floating two feet off the ground because of love, you can’t do much better.”

For me, it’s not just the song, it’s not even the dancing per se, it’s the GLIDING (which is part of the dance, OK). And also the WIDE SIDEWALKS. Nothing mean about these streets. Not only is Kelly happy (and the lyrics do a great job of conveying the surprise of happiness to those not used to the sensation) but, as in so many of the best musical numbers, the world redesigns itself around him to allow the emotion to be expressed through the media of song and dance, the crowds miraculously part and thin to allow him to move with total freedom. Kelly is in tune with the universe, and my belief that the true nature of cinema is expressionistic gets a boost.

Best wishes for 2008 from Shadowplay.