Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nice Beaver

I have caught a cold, so instead of getting snot all over my artwork I'm drinking hot chocolate and watching a Leslie Nielsen double feature. Naked Gun also stars George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson and in smaller roles Tony Soprano's mom and Elaine Benes' dad. It's hard to choose favourite scenes. Maybe the one with the pen and the fish.... Or the one with Queen Elisabeth... For a European viewer the energy drops maybe a bit during the baseball game. It's difficult to get all the references. Airplane! also stars Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays and Lloyd Bridges. It's still funny. Maybe the scenes with Johnny a bit less.

Top Secret is probably my favourite, though. Maybe because it is the less known one. Kentucky Fried Movie is uneven, but the Martial Arts sequence is very good. The Zucker Abrahams Zucker films peaked at Naked Gun, I think. They were now established and less hungry. The ones they made after that it became just another film. For Nielsen also it only went downhill from there. In the parody films he made later the comedy was too broad and it was often just a collection of gags and no story.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blood and Black Lace

A beautiful model is killed. The killer will strike again. And again... Directed by Mario Bava.

This is the film that started the whole giallo genre. It had deserved a better print than this. The colours are not as rich as they should have been and the light is flickering when the camera moves. The plots in giallo films can often be very mechanical. The characters are seldom very credible or have much personality. I saw the first half of the film one day and the second half the next, something that made me a bit confused about what was going on. It was a bit difficult to remember who the characters were and what they were talking about. I actually got a bit bored between the murder scenes. And why weren't the models taking showers? Very disappointing, I must say.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Born Yesterday

Got some dvds that don't really have that much in common except that I haven't watched them yet. First up is Born Yesterday. William Holden is a journalist hired by loud and vulgar tycoon Broderick Crawford to tutor his dumb girlfriend Judy Holliday so she can be presentable in Washington DC society. Directed by George Cukor.

I don't really understand why this film is considered a classic. It's not funny. Holden is looking a bit Rip Kirbyish here with glasses. Holliday does the squeaky voice that seemed to be expected at the time to portray dumb. It gets annoying pretty soon. Maybe it worked on stage where Holliday also played the part, but less so in a film if the goal is to create something more than a cliché. Of course it turns out that she is not that dumb, but it's still a mystery why Holden would fall for her.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trolls and dragons

This is from a story done for a Norwegian newspaper sometime in the mid nineties. I did the drawings, script by Kaj Clausen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's A Wonderful Life

James Stewart wonders if he has wasted his life. An angel shows him otherwise. Also starring Donna Reed and Thomas Mitchell, directed by Frank Capra.

A lot of the Capra films have dated. This film also, but at the same time it has a timeless quality. It's like a fairytale or a fable. The bad guy, Potter, is taken right out of Dickens. The film famously flopped when it came out, only later to be rediscovered on tv. What can I say about it? It's an incredibly emotional experience. For some films it must be allowed for even a grown man to cry. This film tops that list. Other films on that list in my case is ET and The Searchers (the moment when John Wayne picks up Natalie Wood in his arms and says, Let's go home Debbie.) Hell, I've even cried during episodes of The Simpsons (the one where Bart is caught shoplifting and the one where he sells his soul.) It must be part of growing older, I guess. The twelve year old me would be so disgusted.

Anyway, even if there is a cynical part of you that says it's not that simple, there are no angels, and life in a small town can't possibly be that idyllic (just watch Twin Peaks for chrissake!), it's difficult not to be affected by the film. Try.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Philadelphia Story

Katharine Hepburn is about to be remarried. Her first husband, Cary Grant, turns up the day before the wedding, bringing along reporters James Stewart and Ruth Hussey. Directed by George Cukor.

Can there be a more perfect film? Let's see - Casablanca, The Godfather, Days of Heaven, Paris Texas... well, I guess there can! But still... It's a pretty much flawless film. There was a moment in time when these people got in front of the camera, 70 years ago actually, it's on film, and we get to watch it in our livingrooms, today or five years from now. The actors, the script and the direction, everything came together for this little masterpiece. Even the girl playing the little sister is good, she's not as annoying as kid actors often can be. Stewart is especially funny in the scenes where he's drunk. It's he who has the most showy part of the male actors; Grant, bless him, doesn't try to steal the spot light, but rather delivers a low key but very appealing performance.

In the beginning of the film Hepburn has no tolerance for human weakness; she is referred to as a goddess to be admired, not a real human being. During the film she learns a lesson, not to put herself or others on a pedestal. It's a bit ironic that that's exactly what has happened with these actors - they have become immortal gods and goddesses. I think it's a bit too easy to have this nostalgic awe for the past and say, Ah, they don't make movies like this anymore. Well, mostly they don't, but I think, say, Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt and George Clooney could have done the job just as well. I'm not talking about a remake, but if it had been an original film made today. And I don't really see any reason why the script couldn't have been written now. Teenagers would be bored out of their skulls watching this film, of course, sending text messages during most of it, but fuck them anyway.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


James Stewart has an invisible friend, a two meter long rabbit called Harvey. Directed by Henry Koster.

This must surely be one of the best performances by James Stewart. I can't really think of an other actor from that period that could have done the job as well. As with a lot of old comedies I find this film to be more appealing than actually funny. The times it IS funny it's always character based. You don't get the feeling the film makers tried to cram in as many jokes as possible, just to get the laughs. If there is something that separates this film from modern comedies I can't really think of an other word than CLASS. That works both ways, of course, since the opposite of class, rudeness and tastelessness, often is very funny.

It's made me think of what recent comedies I've liked, and I can only think of Liar Liar and Knocked Up. They're both sort of exceptions. I don't like most of the films of Jim Carrey or Judd Apatow. Two of their films, Fun With Dick And Jane and Funny People actually made me angry of having wasted my time after having watched them. That can't really be a good thing for comedies, I would think. A lot of these films seem to be based on improvisation. You take actors that are known to be funny, put them together and hope that at least one of them will say or do something funny. Sometimes it works. Most of the times you get unfunny drek like The Wedding Crashers or The Hangover. But to be fair, it might be a generation thing. Animal House and Stripes I still find funny and can watch over and over.

Oh, another thing, while I'm up on my soapbox - why are trailers for comedies so awful? It might be a good film, but based on the trailer, the last thing you want to do is go see it. Oh, well... Next up: Philadelphia Story!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Man From Laramie

James Stewart is looking for the man who killed his brother. Also starring Arthur Kennedy.

It's maybe the best of the Mann / Stewart films I've seen so far. I'm not sure if it deserves to be called a true classic. I think I still prefer Mann's film noirs (like Raw Deal and Desperate) to his westerns. They're fine, but he doesn't seem to have it in his blood the same way John Ford did. However, crime films fell out of flavour in the 50s, and westerns was the big thing. Directors who wanted to work didn't have that much of a choice. This film was apparently one of the first westerns to be shot in cinemascope, a choice that makes sense for a genre where the landscape is such a big part of the story.

Bend of The River

James Stewart is a man with a past, guiding a band of settlers to a new life in the west. Also starring Arthur Kennedy, Rock Hudson and Julia "Creature of the Black Lagoon" Adams.

It's a pretty traditional western, not one of the best, but not bad either. The film asks the question, can a man change? And the answer is yes. And no.

Monday, November 22, 2010

James Stewart

I've been watching season 8 of 24 on dvd lately, so there has been less time for movies. It was another disappointing season after the equally disappointing seasons 6 and 7. And it seriously started to repeat itself. A mole at CTU, really?! The show has always been a mix of the exciting and the silly, there's been both the death of Chappelle and Bauer's wife getting amnesia, but at it's best you were up at three in the morning, watching just one more episode.

Writing about the Cary Grant films made me want to rewatch Philadelphia Story and also some other James Stewart films like Harvey. But first some westerns he made with Anthony Mann. It's still a bit difficult for me to believe in Stewart as a cowboy. The skinny guy from the Capra films in a cowboy hat?! But I guess he came back from being in World War 2 a changed man. First up is The Far Country, where Stewart and Walter Brennan go mining for gold in Klondike. Jack Elam is third bad guy to the left. Where's Lee Van Cleef? I guess he was busy shooting another western that week.

It's not a bad film. I could write a paragraph about it's theme of the individual versus the community, but I mostly watch these films to see cowboys fighting indians or cowboys strumming a guitar and serenading their horse.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An old cartoon

-Isn't it difficult to play by notes when you're blind?
-Yes, I can't C.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Only Angels Have Wings

Cary Grant runs an airfield in South America. Fresh off the bananaboat comes dancer Jean Arthur. Also starring Rita Hayworth and Thomas Mitchell, directed by Howard Hawks.

I get a feeling of Milton Caniff from this film. Okay, there is no Terry or any pirates, but Grant plays a Pat Ryan or Steve Canyon kind of guy. It has some of the same spirit. All that is missing is a villain who talks of himself in the third person. It's a story about bravery and sacrifice, I guess. Jean Arthur is the Hawksian woman that prefers to hang out with the guys, and Grant gets to show that he can also look good in a leather jacket. It's old Hollywood at it's best.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Theater actress Ingrid Bergman falls for diplomat Cary Grant, who claims he's separated from his wife who won't give him a divorce. Directed by Stanley Donen.

Grant and Bergman are being very sophisticated, going to the opera, having an affair and living in big, luxurious apartments. It's all very grown up. But it's a bit hard to care about their characters. Their lives are just a bit too idyllic. You almost feel you should wear a tuxedo and drink dry martinis while watching.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My favorite Wife

Cary Grant has his wife Irene Dunne declared dead so he can marry another woman. Then Dunne turns up alive, having been shipwrecked with Randolph Scott for seven years. Produced by Leo McCarey.

It's a RKO film; I've always liked the logo with the tower in the opening. Anyway, it's not a bad idea for a film, but it doesn't really have that perfect structure the best screwball comedies have, where all the pieces fit in the end. Scott has more of a guest appearance than a real role. Too bad, since he could have been a real competition for Grant - the opposite of Ralph Bellamy in The Awful Truth. It's also the funniest part of the film, Dunne showing Grant a short, bald guy as the man she was shipwrecked with, and Grant already having found out the truth . As is often the case in these films, the plot is based upon people behaving irrationally. Why couldn't Grant just tell his new bride that his wife had reappeared, in the beginning? But then, of course, the film would only be ten minutes long.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Awful Truth

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne is a couple facing divorce. They have regrets and try to make the other person jealous. Also starring Ralph Bellamy, directed by Leo McCarey.

It's a sophisticated screwball comedy. Dunne isn't quite Katharine Hepburn, but still does okay as a partner for Grant. It's Bellamy, though, that almost steals the film. The energy drops after he exits two thirds into the film and the last half hour isn't quite that funny. Grant again gets to show how well he does physical comedy. The bit with the hat is probably the funniest part in the film.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cary Grant

Three reasons why it's difficult to take the Oscars seriously:

1. Cary Grant never won for best actor.
2. Hitchcock never won for best director.
3. Crash won for best film. One of the worst films ever made; it's more of a lecture, actually, than a film, without a single credible character or line of dialogue. It's like a guy yelling "Racism is bad!" in your face for two hours. Or one hour in my case since I left the cinema - the only time I've walked out on a film before it was finished.

Anyway, back to Grant. It's difficult to choose, but I'd say His Girl Friday might be his best performance. I haven't seen all his films, though. I've been buying some more of them lately. I had planned on watching Operation Petticoat first, but gave up after half an hour. Apparently not all his films are masterpieces, especially from his later period. So I rather popped in Holiday, his second film with Katharine Hepburn, directed by George Cukor. If you base a comedy on how many times you laugh, this is a poor film. It's more appealing than actually funny. Grant gets to show off some of his acrobatic skills, and of course he's got great chemistry with Hepburn. The film's got class, okay?

Oh, and reason number four: Al Pacino won for best actor - not for The Godfather or Scarface or Dog Day Afternoon, but for Scent of a Woman.

Monday, November 8, 2010

15 favourite cartoonists

Charles Schulz
Hugo Pratt
Dan Clowes
Jaime Hernandez
Chester Brown
Lewis Trondheim
Jim Woodring
Julie Doucet
Christopher Nielsen
Joe Matt
Serge Clerc
Christophe Blain

This list is from a facebook challenge of naming 15 favourite cartoonists that have been an influence, in less than 15 minutes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Return of The Fly

The son of the original scientist apparently didn't learn anything from that film and keeps messing with nature. Starring Vincent Price.

The original The Fly has it's moments. The sequel is a lot sillier. You can imagine the scriptwriter having sleepless nights trying to come up with a reason for the son of the scientist also turning into a manfly. And producers breathing down his neck: "We not only want a manfly, we also want a manrat. Have the script finished on Friday." The sollution doesn't make much sense. On the other side - we learn that the story takes place in Montreal, so that explains the French accent in the original film. And it's only 75 minutes.

It makes you wonder, though, were people actually frightened by these films? Or were they giggling in the aisles back in 59? It's sort of a horror movie for kids. I would have liked to see this film when I was nine or ten.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another page...

... from L'Île aux 100 000 Morts. Script by Fabien Vehlmann, colours by Hubert. To be published by Glenat in January.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Trying out a pen nib

From 1980, I'd guess.

Easter Parade

Fred Astaire's dancing partner, Ann Miller, goes solo. Astaire chooses chorus girl Judy Garland as his new partner. Also starring Peter Lawford.

This is a perfectly fine musical, with big numbers and bright colours, but I grew a bit bored during the film. It doesn't really have the charm that the best of the Astaire / Rogers films had. Those films seemed smaller, more intimate, and were funnier. It wasn't all about the razzle dazzle. There are two numbers that stand out, though. One is a trick sequence where the background dancers move at regular speed, while Astaire, in the foreground, dances in slow motion, the other is A couple of swells, where Astaire and Garland are dressed as hobos.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Broadway Melody of 1940

Small time dancer Fred Astaire has the opportunity to work with Broadway star Eleanor Powell, but through a misunderstanding the job goes to his partner, George Murphy. Astaire has to choose between career and friendship.

Powell is a good dancer, but there is not much chemistry between her and Astaire. She's no Ginger Rogers. Or Hayworth for that matter. Maybe the problem is there are no scenes to establish why Astaire has fallen for her. Time is wasted on some vaudeville acts that don't really have anything to do with the story. And to be fair, there are only so many variations you can do on this kind of stories, and the best ones were maybe done in the Astaire / Rogers films. All that is left is the tapdancing numbers that are fun to watch, and shown in long takes with minimal cutting - about as far away from MTV as you can get.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some books I've read

Barney Google, by Billy DeBeck, from IDW.

I question the choice of only putting one strip per page. Four strips would have been perfectly readable, and you would have gotten four times as much story. Anyway, this is a hilarious book. Some old comics you read almost out of obligation, just to get to know the history of the medium, but these strips are genuinly funny. They feel very fresh - I laughed out loud several times. And you can see where Crumb got some of his style from. Forget Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; Barney and Sparkplug is the love story of the previous century.

Hallowilloween, by Calef Brown, from Houghton Mifflin.

This is the sixth book I own by Calef Brown, they're all great. Mostly I buy them for the illustrations, just to have to look at, but the rhymes are also funny. You don't need to be a kid to enjoy them.

Love and Rockets, new stories no. 3, from Fantagraphics

There's already a lot of reviews out about how amazing Jaime's stories are in this issue. I don't really have anything to add. It's all true. It's very touching, truly a masterpiece. But let me also say how much I love the cover illustration. I keep looking at it - the perfect composition, the colours, the weird, blue sun, the small details (like the baby held by the woman in the background), the boy being separated from the others, not looking at the viewer the way the girls do, the adults looking another way. It means even more when you've read the story. Jaime has already created a lot of iconic covers, but this might be the best one.

The Sky's The Limit

Fred Astaire is an Air Force pilot on leave who meets photographer Joan Leslie. He won't tell her he's a war hero, so she believes he's a layabout. Also starring Robert Ryan and Robert Benchley.

This is an unusual Astaire film. For one thing, it is less brightly lit. Some scenes have almost a film noirish look. Astaire, though, is very funny and appealing here. He's got more of a wisecracking personality; he even wears a cowboy hat! There's also the return of Eric Blore as an English butler, but unfortunately he exits after one short scene. Why on Earth include Blore and not give him anything funny to say or something for him to raise an eyebrow over? The comic relief is rather given to Robert Benchley, who in one scene does a confused presentation of aircraft production that I suppose is meant to be funny, and lasts forever, but that completely sinks like a stone. There's also some problems with the story. Why exactly can't Astaire tell Leslie he's a pilot? And why does he fall for her but then try to set her up with Benchley? An extra polish of the script would have helped. However, there is a fantastic scene of Astaire in a hotel bar, drunk as a skunk, singing One For My Baby, written for this film, and then doing a dance and trashing the whole place. It's as if it was Fred Astaire's evil twin brother! The film is worth watching for this scene alone. The ending, at an airport, where Leslie finally finds out the truth, would not look out of place in a Milton Caniff strip.

The film was a flop when it was first released, thought to be too dark; it's one of Astaire's least known films. Which is a shame. It's not perfect, but is definitely worth a rediscovery, and has become my favourite next to Top Hat.

Monday, November 1, 2010

You Were Never Lovelier

Fred Astaire's second film with Rita Hayworth. Taking place in Buenos Aires, Astaire has to choose between Hayworth and his career as a singer. Also starring Adolphe Menjou.

It's a better film than You'll Never Get Rich, with a better constructed script, but the story is still Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl in the end (Not that there is anything wrong with that!). It has several good musical numbers, including I'm Old Fashioned and Shorty George. The ending was later ripped off in Pretty Woman.