Saturday, May 16, 2009

Crazy Eights

Since Lolita, Ginger, and Nicole were all kind enough to tag me, I thought I'd take some time out of our irregularly scheduled movie-related rambling to do this meme. I'm not sure who's left that hasn't been tagged, so I'll just be lazy and tag everyone.

8 Things I Look Forward To
1. Studying in Paris! I'll be there for all of June in a Fine Arts program, taking Contemporary French Cinema and Art & Architecture of Paris, and hopefully brushing up on my fran├žais on the side.
2. Shopping, in preparation for the aforementioned trip. My wardrobe sorely needs updating from the ripped jeans I've been bumming around campus in all year.
3. Being able to relax for the next couple of weeks, now that I'm done with finals.
4. Getting back onto a less insane sleeping pattern. I actually miss waking up before noon.
5. Seeing the Gaslight Anthem perform live again. This may or may not happen while I'm in Paris, but if it doesn't then I'll definitely catch them the next time they come back to Jersey.
6. Going back to Rowan in the fall. I miss my friends, I miss my apartment, I... even kind of miss my classes.
7. Expanding my DVD collection. Which brings me to...
8. Having a disposable income. Or even simply an income. I must remind myself how much I look forward to this, because I certainly do not look forward to returning to my summer job.

8 Things I Did Yesterday
1. Woke up.
2. Laundry. Lots of it.
3. Relived the '90s via the first two discs of Beverly Hills 90210, season 1. I still think Brenda Walsh is the most realistic fictional teenager ever invented.
4. Spent some quality time with the internet.
5. Listened to "Engines" by Snow Patrol multiple times. Set a line from that song as my Facebook status without knowing my roommate had been using it as an away message, thereby accidentally managing to convince a mutual friend that there's a conspiracy afoot.
6. Ingested more caffeine than is probably healthy in any 24-hour period.
7. Played the Sims 2 until I got annoyed with my slow laptop.
8. Tinkered with the layout on my Dreamwidth blog. Gave up tinkering and picked a premade layout as a placeholder.

8 Things I Wish I Could Do
1. Learn languages easily. I've been working on French on and off for seven years, and I'm nowhere near fluent.
2. Find a profitable way of combining writing with film history.
3. Cook. I can feed myself adequately, if I have to, but I wish I had the desire to try it more often.
4. Sit down with some of the important figures in film history and talk about what went on in their time periods from their perspectives.
5. Sit down with Joss Whedon and talk about why exactly going back to Fox seemed like a good idea, and also, can we have more Victor pretty pretty please?
6. Finish writing something without having a grade and/or the shame of losing NaNoWriMo dangled in front of me like a carrot on a stick.
7. Be a professional student.
8. Invent a weather-controlling machine.

8 Shows I Watch
1. Dollhouse... which is actually the only show I've actively been following this season, so the rest are DVDs and/or reruns on TV.
2. House
3. Family Guy
4. Supernatural
5. Firefly
6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
7. The X-Files
8. Beverly Hills 90210
9. Scrubs
10. And of course, anything on TCM.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Now just because you got your neck washed, you think you're a gentleman...

The semester's finally over, which hopefully means I'll have a couple of weeks free to catch up on all the TCM I've been missing. I did have the chance to watch one movie in between finals, parties, presentations, and move-out last week, and naturally it was the one starring Bette Davis: Bordertown.

Of course, the film really centers on Paul Muni's character, Johnny Ramirez. After studying for five years to become a lawyer, Johnny's first real case reveals that his education just didn't match up to that of his richer opponent. He devotes himself to earning as much money as possible, and moves from L.A. to a town on the Mexican-American border, where he gets a job working for casino owner Charlie Roark. Now, Johnny didn't leave his law practice behind just to be a bartender -- he climbs the ladder all the way up to the top, becoming Charlie's partner. So our protagonist made good. The end, right?

Not even close. Charlie has somehow (and we're not explicitly told how) procured for himself a young, feisty wife who's quite interested in Johnny -- and who wouldn't be? Marie Roark actively despises her husband, though he's oblivious and Johnny just plays dumb. In fact, Ramirez tells her outright that he's more interested in money than in her, but since the plot wouldn't move very far if she respected that, Marie is just crazy enough not to care, and just crazy enough to do something about it when the opportunity presents itself:

As the film progresses, Marie slowly goes mad with guilt or paranoia, becoming ever more obsessed with the man she killed her husband for. While doing his best to ignore her, Johnny pursues a relationship with the woman who cost him his law career almost as relentlessly as Marie pursues him, although with much better results. Up to a point, at least.

It's impossible to discuss this movie without discussing the ending, so if you haven't seen it this might be your cue to turn elsewhere. For the rest of you: The film seems to be sending mixed messages about the status of Mexican-Americans. On the one hand, Johnny is presented as an intelligent and capable character; his love interests are two white American women, and his friends and employees all seem to like and respect him. On the other hand, there's, well, everything else.

To be fair, although there are incidents of racism scattered throughout the film, it feels much more like an accurate portrayal of the way these characters would act and think than an actual statement the movie is trying to make. Miss Elwell calls Johnny "Savage" because that's how she sees him; the audience is not necessarily meant to agree. Then suddenly at the end, the message is "go back to your own kind," the implication being that Johnny somehow isn't worthy of the society he's been functioning just fine in up until then? It feels like something that was tacked on to appease the general audience of the time, rather than an organic conclusion to the story. It would have felt more natural to have Johnny go back because he had an epiphany about losing sight of the people he'd originally intended to help, making the character come full circle rather than simply hit a brick wall.

Clearly the ending didn't age well at all, but I still enjoyed the movie as a whole. Bette Davis excels at bringing the crazy, and Paul Muni sizzles with every woman he shares screen time with.