Posts tagged “film”.


I knew absolutely nothing about The Favourite before seeing it. Frankly, all I saw was a poster with three women in period costume and I thought, I AM SO THERE.

After an unpleasant incident with another audience member who has no idea what designated seating means, the movie began and I was delighted to see that I was seeing a menage a trois of power involving an ailing Queen Anne, her lifelong friend Lady Sarah, and Sarah’s poor relation, Abigail. And while not everything depicted happens, these were three real women and we mostly see them on screen and it totally must pass the Bechdel test! [I didn’t see it listed.]

It is sometime in the early 1700s and Queen Anne is the last of the Stuarts on the throne, and she’s ailing. Gout and other mobility issues leave her in a lot of pain. Her longtime friend Sarah has much influence over the Queen despite Anne being a Tory and Sarah a Whig. Often at issue is whether to keep attacking France (Whig position) or not (Tory) and Sarah is there to plead the Whig’s position. She is also close enough to the Queen to tell her when her makeup makes her look like a badger.

Speaking of wigs… the men here are often done up in lots of make up and powdered wigs and seem to be parodies of themselves.

Abigail (Emma Stone) is unceremoniously assigned to the kitchen staff but she is shrewd and takes to the woods to concoct a natural herbal plaster to help ease the Queen’s pain. She is a bit presumptuous, going into the Queen’s bedroom and applying the potion on her person without asking, but this is enough to give Abigail an opening and a be the wedge that causes a rift between Sarah and the Queen. Plus, Abigail is NICE to Queen Anne. Never calls her a badger, for example.

Much of this is reminiscent of All About Eve, one of the bitchiest films ever made, plus a great example of social climbing and hangers on.

The writers and director Yorgos Lanthimos take some liberties. For example, Anne has one rabbit for each child she has lost (seventeen lost to miscarriages, stillbirths, smallpox and the most difficult, losing a son who lived to see his tenth birthday). In real life, Anne did not keep rabbits as pets… they were more likely dinner fare. But Lanthimos does a great job of humanizing a monarch who is supposed to be remote and the head of the Church of England. There’s a great “Don’t look at me!” scene between Anne and a footman.

Queen Anne was  the last of her line. The Glorious Revolution that put her sister (Mary II) and brother-in-law (William III) on the throne after deposing their Catholic father (James II) also mandated no non-Protestants on the British Throne. So Anne’s passing was an end of an era, as 50 Catholic heirs in the line of succession were passed over in favor of George of Hannover, whose descendant is on the throne today. It’s sort of incredible that this woman was at the head of an empire in two continents, the head of a church, but made quite malleable by her physical pains and whomever was nicest to her.

There is no real evidence of any lesbian aspects to the relationships of Queen Anne with Sarah or with Abigail, but there was a strong rumor at the time to that possibility. Also, men don’t really get the friendships of women.

The problem with “based on a true story” is that movies just do what they want to do to make an entertaining movie, and this is no exception, but the point of the movie seems very true to the power triangle here as Abigail (a Tory) gained more and more power at court. Also, the lives of women of that era were often not recorded or cared about, and it’s always great to see the lives of women of other eras faithfully portrayed on screen.


UNDEREMPLOYMENT CINEMA — Horror Hotel [City of the Dead] (1960)

I saw this movie as a child and for many years all I remembered about it was that when the clock struck THIRTEEN, a woman was about to plunge a knife into a blonde student’s heart and the film suddenly cut to Susie slicing into her birthday cake. And that was all I remembered. I think I was about ten when I saw this on either Creature Feature on channel 5 or Chiller theater on on channel 11.

Then I spoke to a co-worker about it in 2000 and he said it sounded like Horror Hotel and finally 18 years later it was on TCM!

The only actor I recognize at all here is a younger Christopher Lee. The film is in black and white but possibly the most atmospheric b/w I have seen. John Moxey sets up an atmosphere of encroaching danger nicely as a mob comes through the fog to “burn the witch!” As a horror film, it works really well, quite likely because there are not a lot of bodies piling up and the action moves quickly and logically. There aren’t a lot of jump scares or twists and turns here. And not a lot of stupid stuff happens here, either, like going upstairs when you should run screaming to safety elsewhere.

The witch burning scene that opens the film is actually a dramatization of a history about the witch Elizabeth Selwyn being read by Professor Driscoll to his class. Student Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is interested in doing more research into witchcraft and the witch Elizabeth Selwyn. Driscoll recommends she go to the tiny town Whitewood, and recommends an inn.

There is a LOT of FOG in Whitewood and a lot of extras with no dialogue staring at Nan as she walks around town, and it gets even creepier when her brother comes looking for her after she mysteriously disappears. It’s also hard to imagine this movie in anything but black and white. It just aids the creepy goings on at the Inn, like people dancing in the lobby but disappearing once Nan opens the door and decides to join them.  And of course there’s a mute woman. And the innkeeper looks so much like the witch killed back in the 1600s!

There are some stupid moments as most horror movies have, like picking up creepy hitchhikers. But people did stuff like that in 1960. Horror Hotel is a very effective horror movie without a lot of slashing or gore (if you don’t count three dead birds and a human sacrifice). And like Psycho, which came out the same year, the blonde heroine of the movie dies in the first half of the movie and is never seen again.

Some actors sound very British; the film was filmed in England. The actual title of City of the Dead, based on the notion that during Satanic holidays the dead rise up and take over the town.

LAST SEEN: 1973.

UNDEREMPLOYMENT CINEMA — That Hamilton Woman (1941)

Fresh off her success as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, we have Vivien Leigh in the title role of Emma Hamilton. Well, she did two other movies in 1940. But That Hamilton Woman takes advantage of Leigh’s figure and beauty and we see her in an endless parade of shimmering gowns and big hats, and that might almost be enough for me, quite frankly. But there’s an actual story it’s a good one.

The film starts out with Emma down on her luck in Calais, tossed in jail for stealing a bottle of wine.  Actress Heather Angel as “a street girl” is in the brig with her and Angel urges her to tell her story, “whether it’s real or not.” And she tells the girls about how she came to Naples with her mother, was practically sold off by her fiance to his rich uncle, the British Ambassador, and how she married him, learned French and Italian, and wound up best pals with the Queen of the Two Sicilies. Eventually, Horatio Nelson shows up needing 10,000 troops to trounce Napoleon and Emma succeeds in 10 minutes where her husband would have failed in a week.

It takes a while but (married) Admiral Nelson (Laurence Olivier) and Emma become lovers. Josiah, his stepson, seethes and writes home to mother complaining about “That Hamilton Woman.”

As things progress, the Two Sicilies are overrun by the French, so Nelson goes back to Naples to “save the Royal Family” but it’s all about Emma. The whole thing is a wonderful fantasy until they get back to London and of course, the vinegary wife of the Admiral and of course society are keeping a close eye on these two.

There are also a LOT of speeches about how awful Napoleon is and how all of Euopre is cowering and that the only way to deal with a dictator is to SMASH HIM, and of course, the movie is  filmed in 1941 so all these speeches against Napoleon are all about Hitler.

CASUAL MOVIE RACISM: Since this is Italy in 1799, there are no black servants to denigrate, but Emma’s mother later complains about how all the Italians “smell of onions,” and how the smell gets worse when they are excited about something. This reminded me of Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life complaining about “those garlic eaters.”

SPOILER ALERT: After Nelson dies, we cut back to Emma in jail, looking like a very haggard Greta Garbo, and Heather Angel says, “And then what happened?” and Emma doesn’t give a real answer, so we never find out how Emma, who rose from being a dancer and a courtesan to helping Nelson destroy Napoleon’s armies and ships more than once, wound up falling from grace and stealing booze in Calais!

LAST SEEN: I think I only saw part of this movie while in high school, on a Sunday afternoon at Grandma’s house.

Cinema Non-Paradiso

A few weeks ago I went to see The Favourite at the Regal Union Square, which requires designated seating for everyone in the audience. Sigh.

I get to my seat and there’s someone in it. I start to mention that they are in my seat, they probably just need to move one over, and the younger of the two women immediately and dripping with entitlement starts a screed. “Look, my grandmother is 88 years old and she want to sit HERE, so why don’t you just sit THERE,” indicating the empty seats in front of her. I start to answer, “Well, I don’t need to deal with the problem of whomever has THOSE seats,” and she immediately yells, “For God’s sake, those are our seats! Just take them. What is your problem?”

“My PROBLEM is your attitude. Why are you screaming at me?”

“Well, I don’t have an attitude and I am screaming NOW.”

“Why are you screaming AT ALL?”

So I take their seats, and as I am getting settled, the preview on screen is pretty loud and the younger woman starts to talk to me so I just replied, “Look, I can’t hear you, and since I don’t really care what you have to say at this point, STOP TALKING TO ME, IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?”

Of course, I get a look from her like,”What’s HIS problem?”

Now, if the woman had just said to me, “Oh, my grandmother is settled in here and those are her seats just ahead of us. Do you mind taking our seats?” of course I would have agreed and there wouldn’t have been a single extra word about it. This is why I hate assigned seating in movie theatres. You’re stuck if you get jerks nearby, and who in New York City wants to start the “you’re in my seat” problem

Luckily the movie was wonderful and except for a few times when Grandma behind me kept kicking my seat, there was no further incident.

NOW, in the old days in New York City, if I didn’t want to sit near anyone for any reason, I just got up and moved to another seat. I once changed my seat three times before a movie started because I just KNEW the people near me were going to be a problem. (Cell phones, loudness, odor, you name it.)

I really do prefer seeing movies in cinemas but I really don’t like having lots of people around me. The once time I have gone recently to a Saturday night film, it was A Star Is Born and two women next to me started talking loudly, and gesturing wildly, the moment the movie started. I gave them “the look” and a quarter turn and they stoppedat

I don’t get it. You’re paying anywhere from $11 to $15 to see this movie. Why the hell are you talking!? Just shut up for two hours. It’s not that hard. Just put your lips together and keep your eyes open.


From the start, this movie has an unrelentingly positive attitude about teenagers, and I suspect it is because there were so many movies about reckless teenagers in the mid- to late-1950s. Here, teenage Steve (played by 27-year-old Steve McQueen) witnesses the Blob overtake a doctor, and he tries in vain to get the cops to take him seriously. Later, he has to round up other cleancut, wholesome teens to help get the authorities’ attention–the highlight being when they convince the school principal to help them bust into the school for the much-needed fire extinguishers to vanquish the Blog.

I saw this on TV back in the 1970s like everyone else. Some friends remember being terrified by the Blob as kids, but the Blob itself doesn’t have much screen time. The movie seems to spend more time on the well-intentioned teenagers. Aneta Corsaut, who played Helen Crump on the Andy Griffith Show, is Jane, the female well-intentioned team.


Some folks seem puzzled and even confused about UNDEREMPLOYMENT CINEMA, and it’s two older sisters, BROKEN ANKLE CINEMA and UNEMPLOYMENT CINEMA. It’s pretty simple: When a windfall of extra free time came along, it gave me a chance to watch more movies. It started earlier in 2018 when I broke my ankle and had to stay off my feet and lived in the living room 24/7.

I went back to work in May and then two months later, the powers that be fired half the editorial staff at the New York Daily News and all but one of the library staff. I was head librarian; I was not kept.

So while I was unemployed I started recording a lot of movies to my DVR–mostly from Turner Classic Movies but also some from Fox’s FXM channel and some others.

ACTIVITY THUS FAR: I have been posting small capsules on Facebook with screenshots off the TV.

CRITERIA: I have been trying to watch movies that I have either never seen or those I saw once but quite a long time ago.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: There are MANY classic movies that I have never seen. I have never seen Casablanca (except for the last five minutes). I have never seen the Godfather. I have never seen The Graduate! There’s just a lot I have never seen, for a variety of reasons. First, growing up in the 1970s, we tended to repeat viewings if a movie was on TV. Maybe you saw a movie two or three times in the cinema if you were really crazy about it. Unlike kids who grew up in the 1980s, we did not have VCRs so we could re-watch a Disney movie every blessed day.

Another problem was film-student snobbery. In college I came to learn that movies on TV were chopped up (like much of the first third of Psycho) and some movies were meant for viewing on the big screen. And in the 1990s, our TVs in general were much smaller and reading subtitles was more difficult. I mean, I would read them, but a 13-inch screen is not the way to see a lot of these classic movies.

But now, we have 50-inch screens and a million and one things streaming, and my part-time job is only 15 hours a week, so… UNDEREMPLOYMENT CINEMA!


All My Hitlers

I just saw a commercial for a new Tarantino movie about… Nazi killers. There’s some actor as Hitler yelling, “Nein nein nein nein nein!” and Brad Pitt yells, “Yes yes yes yes yes!”

It got me to thinking… a LOT Of actors, good and bad, have played Hitler. What if we did a biopic of Hitler featuring a wide array of the actors who played him at different times in his life? We could call it, “That Obscure Aryan of Desire.” In the Bunuel movie, “That Obscure Object of Desire,” two different actresses played the female lead. A lot of critics thought it was a symbol of how deluded the obsessed man (Fernando Rey) was. In fact, Bunuel and the producer had trouble agreeing on an actress, so they used both. I didn’t even notice the first time I watched.

So, why not do a movie starring about 40 men playing Hitler, and use them as extras in other costumes for the scenes in which they are not playing Der Fuhrer himself?

As a musical, it has a lot of possibilities with a big finale for everyone playing Hitler. It would be like that episode of “Buffalo Bill” in which the studio is overrun by Jerry Lewis impersonators.

Actually, a human-scale chess game featuring Hitlers on one side and Jerry Lewis impersonators on the other might really be something else!

“Easy Virtue”

Tony and I went to see Easy Virtue tonight in Manhasset. The film is based on a Noel Coward play of the same name.

Easy Virtue features a young rich Briton who suddenly marries Larita, an American lady race-car driver, much to the disdain of his mother (Kristin Thomas Scott) and two sisters (Kimberley Nixon and Katherine Parkinson) back home on the estate that’s been in the family for seven generations.

Larita (Jessica Biel) has a tough road ahead of her facing the Big Three. Larita is a modern liberated woman, a divorcee, and far too American for the Whittakers’ liking. She speaks her mind. She’s posed nude for cubist painters. This doesn’t sit well with her husband’s mother or frumpy, unloved virginal sisters. Set circa 1932, one has to remember that this is England, which couldn’t tolerate its own King (Edward VIII) marrying a divorced woman.

Having married impulsively on the Riviera, Larita hasn’t seen John (Ben Barnes) in his native environment, and a quick visit to get introduced to his family turns into an interminable stay, with days turning into weeks and then months. The tensions escalate, and it becomes clear that Larita has more in common with the servants and John’s father than with almost anyone else. And since John’s mother and father (Colin Firth) are estranged yet living together, any time the young couple enjoys any kind of intimacy, it drives the Mom and the gruesome virginal twosome nuts.

Director Stephan Elliot (Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) does a good job of showing the entrenched English stuffiness and class struggles–most period pieces like this do. Kristin Thomas Scott excels as the uptight aristocrat, torn by propriety converging with the financial pressures of maintaining a centuries-old farming way of life during the Depression. Jessica Biel does a pretty good job of standing up to all the pressures. The film has a lot of funny moments, and a stupendous period soundtrack punctuated by Cole Porter and Noel Coward songs. Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian of the Narnia Chronicles), as Tony pointed out, was prettier than all of them put together.

Interesting enough, the Hitchcock adaptation of the play puts much more of the drama on the Larita character being a divorcee with a very shady past. Here, Larita is set up as the victim, doomed from the moment she crossed the threshhold of the family estate. In the Hitchcock version, the Whittaker matriarch acts to “save” her son by digging up dirt on Larita.