Wednesday, April 7, 2010

'Notorious!' Open Thread


  1. Well, I might get Notorious by tomorrow, but I'm trying not to count on it. (Remember Ralphie, in A Christmas Story, checking the mailbox on his way home from school every day, watching for his Little Orphan Annie decoder-thing?)

    But, before I forget -- OK if we pick something from the Watch-It-Now options for next week? I'm going to be staying with The Kids next week, while my sister goes to a conference with her husband. (I can fake the homeschooling with one of the kids at a time, but these April visits are quite humbling!)

  2. Sure, I'll watch whatever you like.

    You are homeschool instructing your sister's children? That sounds like a daunting task. I always wonder how mom's do that, when I have a great deal of trouble just getting Brennie dressed for church!

  3. Only for 4 days' worth, so hopefully they won't get too far behind! And just the boys this time, as Colleen will be away also. Which is NOT a good thing, as she actually knows how to keep things running in their house. Plus, i love being around her. But, she's coming back with me for a couple of days, so we'll get to do some girly stuff then.

    Brennie -- that's pretty. What is she like? I've wondered whether you are simply being cautious, or if maybe you hadn't been able to spend as much time as you'd like together. (Obviously, NO[my}B, so ignore as preferred!)

  4. I actually have two daughters, though I have to keep reminding myself not to forget to mention that. Bren is the youngest, and is a delightful little six year old that loves to run and jump and wrestle. She loves cats, and animals in general, and she makes the cares of the world disappear with her cheery smile and sunny disposition. She likes to ask me questions a lot, often about what is the meaning of the words I just used, such as:

    "What does 'Everything will go amiss' mean?

    "It means it would be a disaster."

    "What does 'It would be a disaster' mean?" "

    I see her once every week for four hours, and every other weekend for the whole weekend. But they are the best days! I used to take her on trips to the coast and up to the mountains, different adventures that I hoped she would enjoy and remember. But it turns out she is very much a home-body and would prefer 'we' work on a garden or watch a movie together, or just play. She loves to go to the park.

    Hallie is my older girl. She has long brown hair and is the sweetest little girl you could ever hope to meet. She is very bright and sensitive, and I am very proud of her. She is nine years old now, though I haven't seen her for five. April wrote a really great piece a while back called Six Years, and I spoke of her a little there. I think of Hallie every day, though I have to catch myself from saying my daughter, when in my heart Bren is really my younger daughter. There is another one that I haven't forgotten. It's just that it has been a long time.

  5. Nick, I remember that older post. I was hoping so much that you'd seen Hallie since then. I am so sorry; it seems to cruel to both of you. Are you able to have any communication with her?

    Bren sounds wonderful. I can well imagine that she loves just having time with you, and a garden seems like a wonderful thing for the two of you to make together. She might enjoy the adventures more when she's older, but I really think it's the special moments that come out of just being with each other that will make the important memories, of loving and being loved.

  6. Please forgive me if I'm not overstepping; this is just pressing on my heart. Make sure Hallie knows how you feel -- even if you have to write letters now that she won't get until she's 18.

  7. Indeed, it's the time and attention devoted to the child which is important. There is no such thing as "quality time" in showing a child that you love it.

    How it must hurt both the children, but especially Hailie, the way your ex-wife is behaving. What seeds of discord between the two girls she is planting.

  8. Netflix is cooperating nicely -- I got Notorious in today's mail.

  9. And don't let the motherly looking woman on the left in the bottom frame fool you. She is penetratingly smart, tough as nails and ruthless. She was great.

  10. Ilion, I am so glad things are sounding more encouraging: I was guessing the job you did the "test" for didn't pan out, since you hadn't mentioned it for awhile. Thanks for the catch-up -- you're still on my list. ;)

  11. Cathy, I'd eventually assumed that it didn't pan out, since I hadn't heard anything more from them. But then this week they did send me a note to actually let me know. It was disapointing ... but at least they had the courtesy to let me know.

  12. Ilion, that's great! Meanwhile, I'll lend you five bucks. Now everyone stop talking. Who brought the popcorn? Cathy, are you all settled on the comfy chair with your blanket? Okay, let's start the movie....

  13. So, this isn't an open thread which is notorious?

  14. How do you begin to comment on Notorious! For a film from 1946, it hides its age and draws you in remarkably well. Soon you are living in the world of post-war America. Remarkably well paced, engaging, entertaining and suspenseful story, well acted, well directed, and interestingly photographed. I thought even the musical score was well done.

    Being familiar with the story, I am somewhat freed up to watch the actors. Ingrid Bergman - good heavens! She was at once acting on two different levels, playing the charming love interest for Alex Sebastian, the suave Nazi financier, and for us revealing the heartache of the young women turned agent, throwing herself away for her country. At one moment smiling warmly as Alex invites her to dinner, then turning away as he calls to the waiter, and the smile fades and guilt and remorse creep in. What is she doing? Where is this taking her? Will she ever be able to get back?

    And Cary Grant had the chops as well. So cold and heartless in dealing with Alicia, completely walling himself off from her... and perhaps from himself(?). Yet with Prescott and the boys it is clear that he as aghast at what he has asked her to do. He does not want her to do the mission, he wants her to refuse, but he lends no hand, as though she must prove herself...and how can she do that? By being a patriot and going undercover to penetrate the spy ring? How can she do that and keep a future for herself and the man she is in love with, the hard, darkly dangerous and unavailable Mr. Devlin? It is almost an unresolvable love story. Because, though a great spy story, I see it as a romance..a very strange romance to be sure...but perfect in its suspense, human failings and torturous journey to resolution.

  15. Come on, Ilion. Rent the movie! You know you want to see it!!

  16. Nick, I wouldn't let myself read your comments until after watching the movie -- and, of course, you've captured it beautifully! The performances are the strength here, quiet, contained, all forced conversations and inner turmoil. And the little truths about what marrying Sebastian cost Alicia, her deliberately brittle remarks about getting through the evenings, reminding Devlin that, because of him, she was doing what he despised her for.

    I felt the writing at the front end was just a little clumsy, almost as though small bits were missing here and there (though from the point they arrive in Rio everything fits together very smoothly).

    (I really enjoyed the diminishing champagne inventory as the 'ticking time bomb'.)

    I loved how everything about Sebastian's relationship with his mother seemed a little too interdependent -- a little creepy -- culminating in the great scene with Alicia, now seriously ill, "seeing" the two of them almost intertwined, their voices merging on top of each other's, their combined evil more than she can withstand.

    That last scene for Alicia and Devlin making their escape is delectable -- he having reassured, and held, and bundled her as much as one would a badly hurt child; she looking up from her wrappings, so weak, but so trusting and happy.

    And then the end, Sebastian left to walk painfully back up into the house, is so chilling.

  17. Yes, there is so much in this movie to like. Just the post-party hangover shots of Devlin, from Alicia's point of view. And that tall, straight figure at the door, a striking contrast to the disheveled and groggy Alicia Huberman, spinning round as he approaches her, with a concoction to help her with her hangover. Or Madame Sebastian, after Alex tells her that he needs her help, sitting up and putting that cigarette in her mouth...oh my gosh, she was creepy. And you're right, of course about the two of them...yikes!

    Oh, and the shot at the party, from the top of the stairway down, down, down to Mr. and Mrs. Sebastian, all the way down to the back of her hand, and inside her nervous grasp.. the stolen key to the wine cellar! And those disappearing champaign bottles! My gosh, every time you turned around some smiling fool in a black coat was going round with another tray full of champaign glasses... it was flowing out like water. You wanted to scream out "Hey!! What are you doing? Slow it down!!"

    But the ending was so good. The guy has been a creep (weak, really) all through the show, and in the end he comes in to the heart of danger to find Alicia. Thinking fast, making tough, bold calculations, playing one bad guy off the next, bluffing Alicia right out from under their grasp. And with all the cards on the table, Dev holds back no longer, and tells her what she had hoped for all along "I love you, Alicia" and her response "Oh, you love me!"

    I tell you what, I loved the ending to that movie. The final, complete and full confirmation of a love that we tortured ourselves with them to reach. It was just exactly what you wanted him to say... and you knew it was just exactly what she wanted more than anything to hear. After all the hard things they had said to one another, the hurtful things they said to protect themselves and to wound the other, there was something really good in achieving that though the great struggle against all odds in reaching it made it all the more precious to me.

    Dev was very happy to have Alicia, safe and by his side at last, and she was very happy to be there. They both had been wrecked by life, and yet love had come through and redeemed them.

    Yes, I really enjoyed that show. Thank you for watching it with me.

  18. Oh, Nick, thank you for recommending it. I'm really glad I got to "share" it.

    And wasn't that "Oh, you love me!" perfect. I think at that moment she believed she was dying, and it didn't matter; he loved her.

    Your comments always bring back all the best parts of the movie.

  19. Yes, I think you are in the right of it, that she was so weak and groggy that she had all but given up hope, and was glad just to know that he had come. That in itself was worth it all for her. Of course, Dev was now bringing his considerable talents to bear. He knew they had a chance and he was going to make the most of it. And no matter, he wasn't going to leave Alicia.

    What of Prescott? Was he aware that an attachment had formed between Alicia and Devlin? Did he ignore what he feared might be the case, hoping it would go away? And why? Was he of the opinion that Miss Huberman was not the sort of person one of his agents should be involved with - a woman of that sort, and mixed up as she was with Nazi sympathizers? And in the scene were Dev breaks free from Prescott's management, Dev is upright and sharp in his thinking, preparing to take action, while Prescott is lying in bed, putting cheese on his crackers?! Who would of thought to occupy Prescott in that manner to lower his stature in such a thoughtless, domestic manner - loved it!

    Also when Prescott's FBI associate maligns Alicia - "I think we all know what sort of woman Alicia Huberman is", Dev brings him up short with a response that was right on the money, the moral clarity he had in this case, showing that he knew the dirty work being done by Alicia was for a good purpose, and was in fact a testament to the fine person she really was... he just couldn't bring himself to say so in front of Alicia. Too risky. Too bad. We all had to suffer for it, but it made for a great movie!

  20. Being familiar with the story, I am somewhat freed up to watch the actors.

    I do think these great movies really do need a second viewing to appreciate the details of technique, because the first time through you're just carried along in the story. Like that last scene with Prescott -- I was disgusted with his complacency, but I so enjoy seeing how cleverly it was depicted.

    But it's more than just multiple viewings -- you have a real eye, and heart, for the little moments, and gestures, the nuances that make the story-telling richer and deeper. I am very lucky to have the benefit of it -- both in the things you call to my attention, and in renewing my own enjoyment of really looking at the details.

    But, no pressure! ;)

  21. I know. It's like on one level I can't stand Prescott's complacency, and at the same time I enjoy the fun of it. I mean, in Hitchcock's mind was something akin to 'Let's have this discussion between Devlin and Prescott, and Devlin will decide to take action, and Prescott will caution him not to mess things up, but in the end will not stop him ....and let's put Prescott in bed at the time...and he can be doing something, say eating crackers.'

    It was so effective, but who thinks like that?

    You have a a great eye and feel for these shows, Cathy. Better than I, by my reckoning. Different anyways certainly. It adds a lot. I don't mention it that much, but I really do enjoy them. I guess I am going with the less is more theory, but I hope you know I appreciate what you have to say. It makes it really fun!

    But hey, you didn't answer my question on Prescott - were they inferring that he knew there was an attachment, or was Prescott unaware? And what would it say about Prescott if the first case were so?

    Also when Alicia told Devlin that he could add Alex Sebastian to her list of playmates, she was lying to him, wasn't she? She just made that up...but why? Was she looking to hurt him, or was trying to get a reaction out of him, or get him to say that he cared about her? Something. And next thing you know there is that clown Sebastian, applying the pressure to her. Yes, I'm glad he had that long walk back to 'speak with ' Mathis and the boys at the end.

    Answer these two questions then, and you can start to ponder the third, which of course is...

  22. You know, I went back to look at those scenes with Prescott again, but it still seems very ambiguous to me. There is the scene where Devlin is told what the job for Alicia is -- and Prescott picks up on Devlin being pretty hostile, and we see him (Prescott) looking at the forgotten champagne bottle with some concern. When Alicia comes to them about Sebastian's proposal, Prescott doesn't even seem very engaged in the conversation. And in that crackers-and-cheese scene, he doesn't even seem interested in the possibility that Alicia is ill, much less that Devlin might be involved with her. Perhaps all to point out how coldly exploitative the whole system was, so we don't have to care if Devlin messes up their case?

    As for Alicia telling Devlin he could add Sebastian to the list -- I think she was telling him the truth. There had been no sparring up to that point, and she has to push herself to say it, then tries to turn it into a laugh. The pain and anger appear after Devlin's reaction. I think her aversion to Sebastian is evident in her reaction to Devlin warning her that he is approaching them -- I don't think that would be the case if Sebastian were still gallantly courting her. (Remember a comment earlier in the film, when Alicia is explaining how she could change, become "nice" again? She tells Devlin that, after learning what her father was, she didn't care what happened to her. Devlin was supposed to be her new beginning; when she concludes that he was just using her for his mission, she gives up again. There is an element of defiance in her taking on the "job", but I think it was directed as much at Prescott as Devlin. And that spark of defiance fades to utter desolation when they congratulate themselves on their good luck in having Sebastian want to marry her.)

    And now, please, question number three... ?

  23. "Perhaps all to point out how coldly exploitative the whole system was"

    That's a great comment, Cathy. That's it exactly, isn't it? Devlin's subtle attachment to Alicia is only important to Prescott in relationship to how it may affect the FBI's mission. Miss Huberman's happiness, her life itself, is of little concern to Prescott. So then, it turns out the cold and distant Mr. Devlin was really the far more compassionate, caring and feeling of the two men.

    As to Alicia's comment to Devlin at the race track, it was intended to wound him, or perhaps force him to show his hand, that he did in fact care for her...but I am still not sure about the truth of the statement. When Alex arrives to 'check on how she is doing', he accuses her of having feelings for Devlin, and then contrives to force her hand, by saying "I would like to believe you, Alicia. Would you like to prove to me that he means nothing to you?" or something close to that. Hmm. These good old shows leave a lot off camera, and I kind of like it that way. It certainly was a very romantic show. These days we are all about showing more, but are we not left with less? I think so.

    And now the question on everyone's mind: what will be your pleasure for next week's movie adventure?

  24. These days we are all about showing more, but are we not left with less?

    Geez, there's a whole other discussion there.

    As for the next movie -- How about "classic screwball comedy" It Happened One Night?

  25. Okay! Clark Gable in his heyday. This movie had a lot of talk at the time.

    I keep thinking you are going to bring us to the more classically women's movies.. Little Women.. Prince of Tides...The Bridges of Madison County...Thelma and Louise...The Jagged Edge...Private Benjamin. Things I probably would not have seen, but that might have something there for me anyway. I suppose I actually have enjoyed a number of shows on my own that would rightly be called a 'chick flick', such as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Jane Eyre and the like, but those are really screen adaptations of fine literature, and as such should not really qualify as a women's interest type of show. Anyway, I am delighted to check out whatever has your interest.

    Hey, did you ever see the movie "The Family Stone". Now there is a show that my brother brought over for the whole family, and I sat down to dutifully slog through the two hours...and guess what? It was really a good show! Anyways, on to It Happened One Night. I should have the comment thread up some time early next week. I will have Bren this weekend and so will not be checking in.

    I wonder if one of these comment threads will ever pop up on someone's search down the road, and two years from now someone drops in to leave a comment on "Splendor In The Grass"?

    Talk to you soon.

  26. Have a wonderful weekend! And don't give a thought to the plotting I shall be doing, now that you have gone on record (permanently, as Darrell is wont to point out!) that you are open to the dreaded Chick-Flick. ;)