Wednesday, December 28, 2016


The richest character ever played by the greatest movie actor of all time ~ in The Philadelphia Story (1940), C.K. Dexter-Haven embodies everything: weakness, sympathy, anger, tension, joy, sorrow, addiction, fear, freedom, elegance, bravery, secrets and remarkable openness. Above all, naturalness. He has been destroyed by the woman he loves, to the point of collapse and alchohol sickness. In a movie of astonishing self-aborption, Dexter-Haven absorbs all. He is always listening and watching, off the edge of the frame, humanizing all around him with his generous-hearted presence. He is never not sorrowful in the picture, while bringing the only joy into this otherwise arch and joyless romp. Everything is elevated by his broken ardor. His physical grace and attraction are immense, yet he uses his powers to put others at ease, to relinquish control. His love comes at us slowly, like a slow dark wave. Yet always isolated, in perfect isolated darkness, outside the world.

Here are Dex's 46 minutes, with all the rest of The Philadelphia Story cut out.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Lost Claus?

Never lost.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Long Remembered

Perhaps the most deeply felt sequence in all American movies.

Merry Christmas Eve to all!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Holy Night

"There is such an amazing tragic stillness about her. She never steps out of it, and she never puts it on. It is always there." -- Douglas Sirk
The most romantic and tender-hearted Christmas movie I know is Mitchell Leisen's Remember the Night (1940), a storybook comfort written by Preston Sturges in his directorial debut year of The Great McGinty and Christmas in July. A jewel thief (Barbara Stanwyck) is arrested days before Christmas with her trial ~ because of the holiday ~ postponed. Nowhere to go and without money, she is taken by her prosecutor (Assistant DA Fred MacMurray) back home to Indiana, where the girl is also from, to spend the holidays with his family and friends. Back in New York after New Year's, both now in love, he tries to throw the trial -- but she pleads guilty to prevent him from hurting his career. In between is an enchantment road movie, with two detours: a meet-up with a vicious farmer and a small-town hanging judge (whose chambers Stanwyck sets on fire); and a terrifying "reunion" between daughter and mother. Ultimate destination: hope and transcendence and elation.

Curiously hating what Leisen did with the script, but embracing Stanwyck and promising he would write her a great comedy, Sturges would give us the incomparable Lady Eve in '41. Compared with Eve, the Leisen movie is less smart and less funny (in fact, it isn't a comedy at all), less knowing and brilliant, less artful. Less a work of "genius." For me, however, Remember the Night is the higher and richer work. Perhaps because the culture has turned against what makes the movie great: kindness, forgiveness, redemption, quiet. All of the picture is set in the enthralled emotional key with which The Lady Eve ends; and in the scene where Hopsie (Henry Fonda) declares his love for Stanwyck in the moonlight: "I saw you here and at the same time further away and then still further away and then very small. . ."

Remember the Night (thanks in large part to the great Ted Teztlaff) is all moonlight, with an ending worthy of Dreyer.

At the movie's center is Stanwyck. Our current screen harridans, like the culture producing them, pimp for toughness and "independence" and smarts. Without a whiff of contradiction allowed. Stanwyck, the real deal, never moves without the light of ambivalence shining through. Her voice -- both flat and expressive, both nasal and husky; not the huskiness of booze, debauchery, or a come-on. But tears, fully wept. The voice of someone cried out. And what the guardians of Personhood don't have: a simple, straightforward sincerity; something immovable and deeply reserved; a tension between experience and innocence. It's what gives her her glow -- the agony of consciousness. Here she dwells in the enchantment. And is alienated from it. Yet there is a promise throughout, especially at the end, that she may break free altogether, to have at last a time purely for her own joy. And ours.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas: Komaneko

Tsuneo Goda's Komaneko Christmas (for all ages and languages).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas: FKB

Not a Christmas show, but very much in the Christmas Spirit. "Bud the Philanthropist" from April of '57.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016

It's a Wonderful Life?

George Bailey's nightmare.

Gambling, alcohol, pool, pawnbrokers, dancing, and floozies!

A nightmare worthy of the iron heart of Rudolph Giuliani. . .

Frank Capra was a phony. While obviously a technical master within a factory system humming on all cylinders -- and the director of many interesting and speedy movies before he became classical Hollywood's Social Artist of the Day (American Madness, The Miracle Woman, Forbidden, Platinum Blonde, and the very special Bitter Tea of General Yen) -- Capra-the-Award Winner (and that happened fast) played it safe, took the road most traveled by while adding nothing new to it, and became increasingly sexless, reactionary, anti-romantic, witless, and slow, with every Oscar. (Also, his "Know Your Enemy" entry on Japan must be seen to be believed, worth sharing company with The Eternal Jew and Jew Süss.)

A different sort of nightmare. Produced by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, here's a view of 1946 a lot closer to the daily concerns of the daily American, for all its technical messiness.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Message from the Devil

Courtesy of Chris Floyd:
“You are taking a path into darkness. It began years ago, with your acceptance of crimes and inhuman practices on a vast scale. In the late 20th century, your leaders once confessed on national television that they had killed 500,000 innocent children with death-dealing sanctions — then declared this atrocious massacre was “worth it.” Yet there was no outcry, no outrage, no uprising, not even a peep of protest. Indeed, the leader who carried out this massive slaughter of innocent children ended his reign at new heights of popularity and forever after was considered a beloved elder statesman. Your next leader lied brazenly to start a war that killed a million innocent people and led directly to decades of murderous instability in numerous countries. He too ended his days in wealth and comfort and public regard. Your next leader refused to prosecute the crimes of aggression and torture openly committed by his predecessor; instead, he continued his practices, enshrining many of the heinous practices into settled law, waging undeclared war in more than half a dozen countries and personally signing off on extrajudicial murders every week of his reign. By this time, the moral degradation of the people was so complete — they had countenanced, cheered or ignored so many crimes and so much corruption on so many levels — that they easily fell prey to a voracious, half-crazed demagogue and the forces of fascism, feudalism and lawless rule that he brought into power. This was the nominal end of your democracy, but it was already deeply rotted from within — rotted by your years of turning a blind eye to monstrous crimes committed in your name by both factions in your power structure.
“Because of your shameful acquiescence, your shallow understanding of the forces that ruled you and used you and manipulated you, your bedazzlement by public image, your astonishing credulity at the transparent lies and hollow, sinister pieties you were fed, we, your descendants, have lived in squalor, rancor, violence and despair all our lives, for generations. There is no hope for us unless you abandon your slavish ignorance, your adherence to partisan fantasies about the factions of the power structure that rules you and rise up to overthrow it. Instead bring fearless clarity to bear on the reality of what you have accepted. The murder of 500,000 children. The millions murdered in the wars you started and the wars bred by your wars. Assassination. Torture. Dehumanization and demonization of your fellow human beings, both at home and abroad.
“It is your acceptance of these things that has brought you to the final turning point represented by a berserk demagogue’s rise to power. Now there is nothing left for you to do but resist: resist with all your might, with every means at your disposal — but always, always, with the full knowledge of how you came to this place, and your own connivance and collusion in this descent. Keep this in mind as you fight, so that it doesn’t happen again. You are not exceptional, you are not plucked out by God for special favor: you are human beings like all the rest, and like so many human beings in so many societies down through the ages, you have failed to look your own evil in the eye, you have failed to confront and condemn acts that make you shudder with horror when you hear of them committed by  other nations.
“Own this knowledge — this terrible, tragic knowledge — and let it guide as you fight the putrescence that past crimes have now brought gushing forth, and as you build something better in the aftermath. Otherwise, you are lost, and we are lost, the world itself is lost.”

Monday, December 12, 2016


Maybe the funniest character in maybe the funniest cartoon series ever, her full name is Goo Goo Ga Ga and she is IN-sane.

"Go Goo Go" from November of '05.

Friday, December 9, 2016

God Speed

John Glenn, RIP.

Friendship 7.

The following year, two months before Dallas, at the United Nations:

National Security Action Memorandum 271, 10 days before Dallas:

The Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

SUBJECT: Cooperation with the USSR on Outer Space Matters

I would like you to assume personally the initiative and central responsibility within the Government for the development of a program of substantive cooperation with the Soviet Union in the field of outer space, including the development of specific technical proposals. I assume that you will work closely with the Department of State and other agencies as appropriate.

These proposals should be developed with a view of their possible discussion with the Soviet Union as a direct outcome of my September 20 proposal for broader cooperation between the United States and the USSR in outer space, including cooperation in lunar landing programs. All proposals or suggestions originating within the Government relating to this general subject will be referred to you for your consideration and evaluation.

In addition to developing substantive proposals, I expect that you will assist the Secretary of State in exploring problems of procedure and timing connected with holding discussions with the Soviet Union and in proposing for my consideration the channels which would be most desirable from our point of view. In this connection the channel of contact developed by Dr. Dryden between NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences has been quite effective, and I believe that we should continue to utilize it as appropriate as a means of continuing the dialogue between the scientists of both counties.

I would like an interim report on the progress of our planning by December 15.
The proposal died 10 days later.

Glenn Redux

Pure exhilaration, from Phil Kaufman.

Friday, December 2, 2016

And Now. . .

Chris Hedges:
We await the crisis. It could be economic. It could be a terrorist attack within the United States. It could be widespread devastation caused by global warming. It could be nationwide unrest as the death spiral of the American empire intensifies. It could be another defeat in our endless and futile wars. The crisis is coming. And when it arrives it will be seized upon by the corporate state, nominally led by a clueless real estate developer, to impose martial law and formalize the end of American democracy.

When we look back on this sad, pathetic period in American history we will ask the questions all who have slid into despotism ask. Why were we asleep? How did we allow this to happen? Why didn’t we see it coming? Why didn’t we resist?

Our ruling mafia will use the crisis much as the Nazis did in 1933 when the Reichstag was burned. It will publish its own version of the “Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State.” The U.S. Constitution will be in effect suspended. Personal freedom, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to organize and freedom of assembly, will be abolished. Privacy will be formally eradicated. Search warrants will be unnecessary. America’s emergency decrees will cement into place what largely exists now. When they come, the loss of freedoms will be openly acknowledged and made permanent.

Anyone who is not white or “loyal” will be attacked, first verbally and then physically. Everyone will be constantly watched. The prisons will swell. Militarized police will no longer be confined to operating in marginal communities. Lethal, indiscriminant force by the state will be common. The courts will condemn with little or no evidence. The press will utterly unplug itself from reality and speak to us as if we lived in a functioning democracy.  Academics will burrow deeper into their holes of obtuse jargon and quantitative irrelevance. The last remnants of our labor unions will be crushed. Religious institutions, as silent about the evils of corporate capitalism as Goldman Sachs, will take the safe route of spirituality and piety rather than social justice. The lawyers, courts and law schools will serve the law even when the law overturns our constitutional rights by judicial fiat and is a tool of naked repression. Hollywood and the rest of mass entertainment will churn out the usual tawdry fare of sexually explicit and violence-drenched spectacles. The military “virtues” of hypermasculinity and patriarchy will be celebrated.

There will be rebels. They will live in the shadows. They will be the renegade painters, sculptors, poets, writers, journalists, musicians, actors, dancers, organizers, activists, mystics, intellectuals and other outcasts who are willing to accept personal sacrifice. They will not surrender their integrity, creativity, independence and finally their souls. They will speak the truth. The state will have little tolerance of them. They will be poor. The wider society will be conditioned by mass propaganda to write them off as parasites or traitors. They will keep alive what is left of dignity and freedom. Perhaps one day they will rise up and triumph. But one does not live in poverty and on the margins of society because of the certainty of success. One lives like that because to collaborate with radical evil is to betray all that is good and beautiful. It is to become a captive. It is to give up the moral autonomy that makes us human. The rebels will be our hope.

Thursday, December 1, 2016