Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Desk Set' Open Thread

What did you think?


  1. This could be good fun! It's a Christmas movie? I've never seen it before. Okay, should be here in a couple of days!

  2. Crickey! Netflix has experienced a sudden surge in demand for both Desk Set and The Bishops Wife, so they have sent instead Black Narcissist and the first part of some series I had requested starring Julianne Marguiles.

    You guys go ahead, and I'll catch up!

  3. I just finished watching Desk Set. I
    can't really say my life is better for having done so. Let me reflect on it.

  4. I can say that it really isn't a Christmas movie, at least one with a message relating to Christmas. Yes, it is celebrated during the movie. But then again, that is true with a couple of the Die Hards.

  5. You're right, Darrell, I should have clarified that the movie is only set around Christmas-time, and less about observing or celebrating Christmas than some of the others. And I'm sorry that you didn't watch Desk Set with different expectations, so you might have enjoyed it more.

    The more I thought about it, the more I realized most of the movies I considered aren't really about Christmas, even if they are set around Christmas events. Miracle on 34th Street is about learning to believe in others; It's A Wonderful Life is about recognizing the blessings in your own life, and believing in yourself; White Christmas is a buddy movie/romantic comedy. I almost went with A Christmas Story -- The Husband's favorite -- which is at least very funny in its depiction of how most kids think about Christmas.

    Really, my favorite Christmas "show" is the Charlie Brown Christmas, with all its goofiness, its pokes at what Christmas can too easily become, and its beautiful, unambiguous reminder of what Christmas is. Especially when I think of the determination it took for Schulz to get it on the air intact

    There is a kid's book that I love called The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson), which is funny, and touching, and has probably been banned in most public school systems by now. I have no idea how good the TV-movie version of it is, but we listened to a great audio-book version, read by Elaine Stritch, a year or two ago with the niece and nephews. It's a happy thing.

  6. If it's got Christmas in it, it counts! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, huh? Sounds like it's got some play to it, but first I have to wait for Netflix to come up with my copy of Desk Set. I wish they had just waited and sent me one when it came back in, rather than send me something else that I now will have to immediately send back.

    We all realize how mistaken first impressions can be. Look, it has Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in it. There's sure to be some fun to be had there.

  7. Oh, Darrell. Not even the lunch interview? Goulash for dinner? A "civilized" dessert?

    Mr. Smithers?

    The Mexican Avenue Bus? The car driving slooowly around the block?

    Not even "And you chose to go into reference work with a bad memory?"

    Not even a little? ;)

    Mind you, no spoilers!

  8. I didn't say that I wasn't amused. At times. But we all bring a different perspective along with own hulk when we sit in that movie seat. Having spent years in research, working along side lots of Bunny Watsons and handling public inquiries myself, perhaps I'm a bit too close to the subject matter. I also expect realism, to be able fully accept what I see on the screen because it rings true with my life experience. I liked Katherine Hepburn's Bunny Watson. Her character is even believable for me, having met
    similar women in that job. Spencer Tracy's
    Richard Sumner? Not so much. I'll put the blame on the writers for lack of better information. His lunchtime interview was simply a test of short-term memory--something he constantly showed he lacked when he was playing the absent-minded "engineer" up to that point. And given Bunny's performance on that test, I would have judged her to have an eidetic memory--at least in the short-term. Now ask yourself what would be the point of that test? Is it surprising that answering reference questions might have something to do with information retrieval and memory? The skill set required for the operators of the machine he was about to bring in would be quite different, wouldn't it? Now analyzing fun (what a screwball comedy is supposed to be)always makes the analyst look silly, but you forced my hand.

    The Mexican Avenue Bus? Doesn't ring true.
    A drunk would more likely distort the ending of the word. And Lexington is a word that should be ingrained in every American's brain.

    Mr. Smithers? Doesn't resemble any corporate lawyer I've ever seen. And offering a ride when cab fares were a dollar and your car is already full doesn't seem to be very helpful.
    Plus are you going to put coworkers with an in-law
    (after a long trip, especially)?

    "And you chose to go into reference work with a bad memory?" Well we know that was because of Bunny's ill conceived little lie, but since information retrieval is a big part and a different skill set, it would be as silly as it first seemed. Plus researchers would rather have someone actually retrieve the data and read from the text rather than rely on memory alone, when it really counts.

    Spencer Tracy over Gig Young? Just as believable as that movie Barbara Streisand produced a few years ago where she was chosen over a nice, intelligent Elle Macpherson. I know the heart wants what the heart wants, but I never saw Tracy go out of his way to do anything nice for Bunny--or even woo her. Gig Young did rely on her, but he also proposed and immediately started to plan their life and talk about buying a house in Cali. Now I could see her cautioning him about leaving her out of the planning process, but that moment of exuberance is exactly what people usually want. Seven years is a long time, but there was no hint that he ever strayed given the large number of attractive women at that company. And people were more likely to see the need for reaching a point in one's career when they could propose marriage with financial stability included. In any event, I didn't buy the change of heart and I understand that movies often don't have the time to lay the framework.

    And what's wrong with goulash for dinner? I didn't buy Tracy's sudden hearing loss for that setup, either.

    You may have picked up that I'm not a great Tracy fan. You would not be wrong. It has something to do with him being a sadistic bastard to young women in real life--stuff that is usually hidden in the telling of the myth.

  9. Sorry -- that sounded snarky.

  10. Hey, found the show in a combo set of four for $10.00 at Target. I'm on for tonight!!

    As to the argument, I doubt Darrell is wrong in anything offered, but still has held back what he enjoyed about the show. There was something about it he kinda liked. I can't be certain, but I'm pretty confident of that.

    I would offer that the sailing sequences in "Wind" missed the mark by a good ways, both in their over simplification and just plain awkward unbelievablility... but I still loved the ending of the movie, and a lot of it was just beautiful, photographically. So for what it's worth I believe it is possible to miss on some levels and still hit on others.

  11. By the way, "The Bishop's Wife" is up next (I've seen pieces but never have watched it through - really looking forward to it!), and then another by Cathy - "Charlie Brown's Christmas"? Whatever is your pleasure.

  12. I enjoyed the intelligent dialogue at times and the fact that they attempted to research the subject matter--computers--at least a bit when so many other movies didn't even bother. Too bad they went for the cliché at the end with that pink slip foulup. That was obviously operator error and I would have fired all the people that didn't notice all that pink paper being used in the process (especially since they would have had to end all those terminations into the computer in some fashion. It was a cheap way to get that moral in--that no matter how efficient machines are, you still need people. Yeah. Who else is going to throw that monkey wrench in? I liked Kate Hepburn's performance (with the exception of her excess with Longfellow's Curfew). I'd like to work with Bunny. I liked that they didn't play Gig Young as a user and womanizer with Bunny as his silently suffering victim and whipping post. I won't even say what current New Yorkers are thinking about Bunny's house on Lex. Or the link in my mind between the Federal Broadcasting Network and NPR/Public Broadcasting.


    Been thinking a lot about why I've always like this movie so much, while I'm watching it, and I'm realizing how much a woman's movie it is. I've always loved the women of the Reference Department, supportive of one another personally and professionally, comrades who become each other's family. And the heads-up calls from women in other departments is part of the same caring for one another, ensuring no one is caught unprepared. This all rings very true for me, particularly from my single days.

    I suppose it's that same difference in perspective that makes it so easy for me to see Bunny choose Richard Sumner over Mike Cutler. Seven years is a terribly long time to wait and wonder. It leads to extreme efforts to convince yourself that you're happy with whatever positives you can focus on ("Oh, Peg, he asked me!"), while you refuse to hear truth from friends who care about you.

    If Cutler couldn't decide in seven years to commit himself to spending his life with Bunny, he either didn't really want to -- or he did, but knew he could get away without having to give her what he knew she wanted. Which was obviously the case, since he was suddenly gung-ho on getting married when he believed he was in danger of losing her. It was entirely about his own happiness.

    Bunny wasn't a victim of anything but her own conviction that everything would fall into place "soon." It happens to a lot of women. But then you're years into a relationship that may be good in many ways but is caught in a sort of closed loop and the major events of the year repeat themselves over and over, and you're still no closer to the life, the marriage, home and family, you thought you both wanted. When Mike asks Bunny "Don't let our relationship be destroyed by what happened here tonight," -- the relationship he had just described as "no strings on either of us" -- as he leaves, she sits down, serious, realizing that she is the only one who has been interested in "soon."

    The one good thing about his stalling for so long, is that Bunny meets a man whose company she enjoys, and to whom she is surprised to find herself attracted. A man who truly values her, and wants to share his future with her; and she is, blessedly, still free to seize that happiness.

    I know Darrell doesn't buy into Tracy's absent-minded-engineer, but having known quite a few IT-types, a couple of whom are honest-to-goodness geniuses, I can safely say that a firm grasp of the more immediate details of their existences in NOT a universal attribute. (The type of cluelessness depicted in the rooftop picnic scene is not too terribly far-fetched, but, fortunately, that's not universal, either.)

  14. I know Darrell doesn't buy into Tracy's absent-minded-engineer...

    It's not that I don't buy into the possibility of an absent-minded engineer, it's that I don't buy Tracy's depiction of one. Or the fact that he would construct a test that basically measured short-term memory when he seemed to lack same. Or long-term memory, if you recall his answer to that Santa's reindeer inquiry.

    Tracy is only shown having two somewhat normal conversations with Hepburn--at her home and at the Christmas party. He didn't even share his conclusions with her to install the computer in her department (or details that it wouldn't affect staffing). He did say the women were good for, what, "etc. and sex" [I know the "etc." isn't right but it's something like that.] Charming. Maybe it was the story of how he dumped
    his model girlfriend/fiancé, the one 5-10 in stocking feet, by passing her off to an army buddy. And the fact that she was the only woman that was ever significant in his life, from his intro to the tale.

    And those "heads-up" calls from other departments? "Treason!" All employees owe their loyalty to the company. You don't have to report wrongdoing, but you shouldn't help cover up either. I put those calls on the same level as a hotel desk clerk calling a guest to tell them that the police are on the way up. You know the ones where the detective usually tells the clerk that he will break his arm if he reaches for the phone.

    Cathy, I'm just re-laying my case based on your redirect:The give-and-take of movie debate. Have at 'em! It's part of fight, err.., movie club fun! Which we never talk about, of course.

  15. I enjoyed this show for a number of reasons, and will try to expand a tad further later, but even so the female friendships did not resonate with me as they did Cathy. I can see it now that she has explained her perspective. I only had one sister and four brothers, so there are a lot of girl things I never seem to get. It has been really helpful to have that perspective, never more so than in such works as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Very much appreciated, Cathy. Anyway, whether management views those girls as treasonous or not, they certainly do not see themselves that way, which is the moral perspective the picture is viewing it from. They are simply looking out for each other. Thanks for sharing those thoughts with us.

    I will write more later, but I am going to go ahead and put up our next Festival offering: 'The Bishops Wife'!

  16. Darrell, I have a question that I truly do not mean as a challenge. Could you give me an idea when the remark about women being good for something-or-other "and sex" takes place? It bothers me that I've never picked up on that.

    For my part, I'll try to clarify what I meant about heads-up calls among co-workers, as I really didn't have helping each other cover up wrongdoing in mind. I worked in an office where I had less than a cubicle as my work space, which looked far from its best when I had been juggling calls about different projects for any amount of time. And since I generally ended up with a couple of pencils in my hair, and (yes, it's true) my shoes kicked off under my desk, it meant a great deal to me when a friend in the Executive Director's office would give me a buzz to say he was on his way to see my boss, who was two layers behind me, so I could pull things into a tidier appearance. That's all I was talking about.

  17. Oh. I thought this was a morbidity and mortality conference.

    The debate is over a star or two in my rating, not whether it should be destroyed or something. Seems to me that everyone commenting here has picked apart some element in every film under discussion. Every view or opinion is welcome and valid and I do read them all and ponder them. I just don't always agree in the aftermath. I was late to this movie group, directing my attention to April's Book Club and the MO there, so I missed the "Home On The Range" prime directive.
    I've been doing a lot of things wrong here, I guess. Like putting up films that I'd like second and third opinions on. Or films that I think people should be aware of, for some reason--not necessarily that I personally liked the film.

    Desk Set is a pleasant little film that
    kept me watching until the end. I am glad that it was on the queue.

  18. I'll tell you what, when Bunny came in with that green dress and her team were all a panic because Sumner was in her office, and she brushed them off with:

    "Good heavens, pull yourselves together. I was her till 10:00 last night and was here this morning at 9:00. I stopped at the shop on my way back from IBM, for goodness sake."

    That was grand, and her way of telling her teammates:

    "Back to your desks, girls. Let's do some work while we're on the companies time"

    that is what I would want in a manager. She very much was capable, worked hard, was efficient and had the respect of her fellow employees. She definitely could lead them.

  19. That discussion takes place during the Christmas party when Hepburn joins him playing the bongos.
    I think. It is there. Somewhere. I know the first part isn't "etc." but it's some catch-all term like that. If you have the movie handy, it would probably be easier for you to check it.
    I had some problem finding it in the dark alleys of the web, iykwim.

    And I'm wondering why someone mirrored that first picture up there, when Spencer Tracy was on the left in the film, and Gig Young on the right.

  20. Speaking of April's Book Club -- how did I get so far behind on Stargate, after waiting so long for the blasted episode to show up?

    (Don't answer that.)

  21. "And I'm wondering why someone mirrored that first picture up there..."

    I caught that too. I could be wrong, but I think it is taken off a slide that was placed incorrectly.

  22. No bongos, but it's right after they are pretending to be at the rail of a cruise ship (and he says it's his first time, but don't tell anybody...Why not?...Because I'm the Captain.) "Tell me, Skipper, why have you never married? Don't you like women? Oh, yes, sure, sure...I like women...Specifically...the sex...specifically...(then Hepburn says) But not pacifically(sic) enough to get married?"

  23. Well, that's the problem with the dark alleys of the web -- everybody mumbles.

    He's not saying "the sex"; he's saying "as a sex."

  24. Kids, this is supposed to be fun. It is meant to be a fun diversion. I'm half tempted to fix it by just deleting away as is my whim, or better yet just start all over on this one.

  25. Yeah, but...

    I was just...

    Oh, O.K.