Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bogie Watch: To Have and Have Not (1945)

Based on an Ernest Hemingway novel, To Have and Have Not (1945) stars Bogart and Bacall as two folks avoiding the war who stumble across one another on the French-Caribbean island of Martinique.  As near as I can tell from a quick glance at Wikipedia, in the 8 years or so from the book's publication and WWII led to the adaptation undergoing some significant alterations, changing up quite a bit, including Nazi-sympathizing Frenchmen, and basically - WWII in general.  I haven't read the book yet (actually getting through most of Hemingway's novels is a bucket list item for me, but I get so easily distracted), so I'll have to trust the internets.

The movie takes place on the French island of Martinique, a place in a precarious position as Germany has taken over France, and the influence is felt even this close to the United States.  Bogart plays a captain of a small fishing vessel who has successfully avoided participation in the war and is mostly interested in getting by and saving his own skin.  Bacall plays a pickpocket and hustler who has landed on the island with no money and no prospects except for grabbing the wallet of Bogart's latest client who owes him nearly $1000 (and who planned to skip without paying).  He's also being asked to help out some French Resistance locals, but doesn't want to get involved, but when the German-controlled authorities get into a shootout with the resistance, Bogart's customer dies in the crossfire before he can pay and the local police Captain seizes what money Bogart does have.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 6

Congrats to Mike Sterling on 12 years (in a row!) of Progressive Ruin (which is not an adjective-verb-combo in this case)

It probably was at least a decade ago that I first tumbled across Comics Blog Progressive Ruin.  Back in that era, I was kinda/ sorta doing a Comics Blog/ Comics-Lifestyle-Nerd-Back-When-That-Meant-Something site over at League of Melbotis.  I've quit numerous times, only to get bored and start blogging again, but for 12 years, Progressive Ruin proprietor Mike Sterling has been steadily producing content and talking comics when those of us with a lesser constitution can't remember the last time we wrote about an actual comic book.

Mike was a manager of a successful Southern California comic shop, but in recent history he took his experience and bank roll and has opened his own Southern California comics shoppe, Sterling Silver Comics.  Buy stuff from the eBay store.  It's not free, but it is easy.

In addition to a well-reasoned viewpoint I always find interesting, the site has a unique voice and some long time regular features such as End of Civilization, which details the more colorful contents of the Previews catalog.  He's also written for several other projects such as The Fake AP Style Book.

Mike's managed to retain a realistic but uncynical view of the Comics Industry, and has a long-view of comics that 99% of the folks writing about comics tend to lack.  He's been there for the up's and downs of stories, characters, industry, editorial... you name it, as reader, fan, critic and comics shoppe employee and owner.

The site features the sort of "Big Tent" approach I like, and he's got sort of a cast of characters that float around the site that we've had here from time to time.  To my complete surprise, he seems to be aware I exist, which is flattering and kind of fun.  The internet is an interesting place.

So, whether you're getting into comics, still into comics or were at one point, or you're just looking for a good read, I suggest going over there and make Progressive Ruin a regular part of your internet readings.

But don't go over there and embarrass me.

Holiday Watch: It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

My understanding is that, for a span of years, It's a Wonderful Life (1946) fell into some sort of legal limbo and the film entered the public domain.  Back when cable was still a relatively new concept and far more attention was paid to local affiliates, the movie became a staple for UHF channels to play over and over during the Christmas season.

That's not really my memory of the movie, but I came in on the tail end of that.  By the time I became aware of It's a Wonderful Life, it may have already been spoofed on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere.  It was already baked into the zeitgeist.

I actually do remember seeing the movie for the first time, but I'd have to do some math to figure out which year that would have been.  I know I watched the movie on a Christmas Eve when I was in middle school, and I recall I was in a mood because - as was usually the case - our house was packed with relatives and had become quite stuffy with that many warm bodies.  To make a showering and prep schedule work, I had been ordered to get cleaned up for Christmas Eve services very early in the evening.  This mission accomplished, I was sitting around in church clothes, overheated, hours before we were scheduled to leave.  So, I watched almost the entire movie, as I stewed in my least comfortable clothes, but I was absolutely rapt.  I loved the movie.  I won't say it saved Christmas for me (as long as I got to get home and get into street clothes again, I was good), but it certainly cast how I was thinking of the next few hours in a new light.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 5

Happy Birthday, Uncle Walt

Today marks the 114th Birthday of Walter Elias Disney.  Maybe you've heard of him?

Since the 90's it's been both fair game and fun for the internet to point out Disney's many flaws from a modern context.  Yup.  The man was a product of his times, both in the best and worst ways, and his influence on the world magnified those traits considerably.  Also, if you think Walt was somehow unique in those questionable opinions, it's both a testament to the progress of American culture that we've reached a point where the documentable sexism, classism and racism seems weird, and - if that surprises you - maybe a sign you're not much of a non-fiction reader.

I recently watched the American Experience doc on Walt Disney, so you can probably pick up my opinions from that.

In the meantime, as we consider the absolutely gigantic multimedia empire Disney has become (TV networks, cable carriers, movies, innumerable TV shows, print and web, Amusement parks, cruise ships, private islands, that Frozen Freefall game Jamie plays non-stop)...  it all started with a Mouse, and one I have a lot of affection for.

"A Very Murray Christmas" is the Christmas Special Gen X Needs

Murray is categorically a Boomer, but since we all saw Ghostbusters on VHS if not in the theater, he's been riding out in front of Gen X, the patron saint.  Whether he was unflappably dealing with Gozer, an alien in his own skin in a Japanese hotel bar, or deciding to take his crew on an ill-fated voyage to the depths of the seas while they all wore matching outfits, he was the guy we aspired to be when we hit whatever age he happened to be in his latest project.

I dunno.  Maybe that's just me.  But I've ordered speedsuits for all of you.  You'll have to attach your own name patches.

Few actors play exhaustion and pulling at the end of their wits and muttering about the insanity of it all to himself in quite the same manner as Murray.  And that's kind of been the story of Generation X, something the Boomers weren't paying attention to as they Me-Generationed, and something the Millennials are oblivious to as they wonder aloud why more people aren't listening to their ideas.

Generation X is tired.*