Archive | March, 2014

Avuncularity: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

6 Mar

kind-hearts-and-coronetsOh, the Darkness of Kind Hearts and Coronets. I forget how darkity dark dark some of the Ealing Studios comedies are. They’re innocent little things without boobs or expletives, so they must be nothing to worry about. (I did warn the Nephews about the N-bomb at the end of this one and tried to put it in a bit of context – “to Victorian Imperialists it was racist, yes, but racism for them was just fine in a nursery rhyme, so that’s why something that for us is a MAJOR meaningful word choice happens out of nowhere here. Stay calm.”)

kind_hearts_and_coronets_01But these boys have already been introduced to the wide acting range of Ben Kenobi – that wizard is no crazy old man to them after The Ladykillers. So the whole he-plays-eight-different-mostly-murdered-D’ascoynes was a significant draw. This one was chosen by Nephew The Younger (who enjoyed it more, though I got the impression that was for the common sibling reason that if one chooses something, the other has to be at least a little bit against it) back in December, when Throne of Blood won the toss and we didn’t have time/focus for another full movie.

I spent some of the setup scenes explaining to them the short version of A History of British Class-Based Snobbery (assisted greatly by a viewing of the first episode of Fawlty Towers a couple of days later).

fawltytowersThis got them through until the killing began, which kept them both focused, and by the fight with Lionel (husband of the just awful, awful Sibella), the unjust trial (the announcement of which got “What?! No!”s from The Younger), and the gleefully inconclusive ending (more “What?! No!”), they were ensnared.

sibellaBut the payoff for this one came after, when we played a few rounds of Cineplexity with the family, which the boys had never played. The game involves an Apples To Apples sort of thing wherein two movie element cards are put down and players come up with a movie that contains both of them. (One card says “A dog or dinosaur,” another names “Cary Elwes, Cary Grant, or Kate Winslet.” Bringing Up Baby, perhaps? There are others.) Anyway, Kind Hearts was used as an answer from one of the boys in at least three different rounds, as were a couple more of our Avuncularity viewings. My work here is – not done, but going quite well, thank you.

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Avuncularity, Delayed: Throne of Blood (1957), The Boat & The Goat (1921)

5 Mar

throne blood 1A couple of days before Christmas (as I said, I’ve been quite busy) the Aforementioned Nephews were given a choice of several semi-randomly selected movies, and they leapt at Throne of Blood (which was generally agreed to be a much better title than Spider’s Web Castle) when they discovered it was a) another samurai movie that was b) based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Now, neither has read or seen Macbeth and I didn’t ask why this interested them for the clear reason that one’s nephews asking to watch Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood is what they call a Gift Horse. Its teeth looked fine from my vantage.

They were fairly mentally focused, as always, despite the constant physical fidgeting and the occasional and entirely legitimate questions about this and that throughout (usually Japanese military hierarchy/armor, some of which I could clear up and some of which I told them was wild guessing). It’s much easier to answer that sort of question when the movie is either silent or not in English. We can all stare at the screen and still discuss. Handy, that.

throne of blood ghostIt was so nice to watch this with a virgin audience that also knew nothing of Macbeth beyond a general awareness that it involves murder, witches and sleep-washing. No one knew beans about any walking forest, but they figured it out ahead of time, which made them feel particularly sharp. The ghost in the forest was, as it was when I first saw this, the source of immediate giggles followed by a seriously unsettled feeling. “What is that thing? Wait…what is that thing?” And after another moment of pride – “I KNEW it would end with the song again!” – the now-12-year-old asked, “So…when do the beginning and end parts happen again? Is that, like, now or…when?” A terrific question, I thought.

My only fear is that now when they finally see a production of Macbeth, no matter how good it is, the Thane’s death won’t be anywhere near as exciting as Mifune perforated by arrows. And yes, afterwards we told the story of that day on the set, which for them made it even better.

busterbw2That one is pretty heavy, though, so we finished our evening with some more Buster Keaton. The Boat was chosen first because the word “Damfino” had been discussed at our last Keaton viewing and that gag still packs the necessary gigglepunch for a 12- and a 13-year-old. The question remains: “Is it worth my limited disposable income to buy them memberships that they may be official Damfinos?”

There’s little story here to worry about, just gag after gag. For these boys, the funnel-in-the-floor moment was when they truly lost their shit. Why that? Why then? Who can say? But it was. The running bit with the world’s sturdiest pancakes wore them down as well.

They’re also still at the age where no matter what we watch there’s a moment of “that’s not real” or “that could never happen” which they just HAVE to vocalize. They really can not help it. Even when they’re enjoying themselves, “that’s fake” has to be said aloud – it’s comforting for some reason I don’t remember (but shared). My response is usually, “But the talking dragon (or whatever) isn’t a problem for you?”

I say this only because it’s Keaton alone that doesn’t inspire this. In The Boat, the collapsible masts and the uphill/downhill sailing nonsense is, even for them, so far gone, so over the cartoon-logic boundary, that he breaks them immediately of that habit. It’s fun to watch.

BusterwantedThen, The Goat, which I’ve seen more than other Keaton shorts for no particular reason. The weeping moments for them in this were the fur stole mustache and the whole elevator chase, but I have to mention the early moment where, delicately extricating himself from the presence of a cop, Buster puts on his coat around a pole and is trapped. This was met with no laugh of any kind but instead a wonder-laden “That’s funny!” as if a laugh would not be enough. Some genius of gag construction was recognized – or maybe just the idea that gags are a constructible thing, not just an event but a crafted moment dawned on them. As before, such fun to watch, these dawnings of the sun over Marblehead, as they say in Boston.

buster pole