Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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Thank God for Fort Apache.

I confess, I know I've been writing a lot of bad reviews lately, for famous movies, and some somewhat-famous movies. Or just old movies. Some of you have probably stopped reading them. Even I wondered if perhaps I'd lived too long to appreciate the virtues of another age.

Then comes Fort Apache, which I watched on March 20.

In many ways, it's a very mannered movie. Which sometimes I love, and sometimes I don't. In this case, I do.

Henry Fonda is indeed a martinet, even though he denies that label verbally early in the movie. And he is so good at being the bad guy. No, he's not quite the utter bad guy he was in Once Upon a Time in the West (a movie that impacted me strongly as a lad). But he is a bad guy in the sense of being an unbending, cruel man of self-certitude. Which hurts not only the people he loves, but he himself.

It hurts his fame, which is important to him. It hurts his daughter, whom he loves. It hurts his command, which is the only path he has to redemption. He is hurting himself, and he's the only one who doesn't get it.

That's very modern.

No, wait, it's very old!

It's the sort of Greek tragedy that is immortal, which is very old, and very much the story of humanity. It's the story of hubris. Like all the good stories.

Also, the first time I saw this (at least, I think I have seen it before, although I might be thinking of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) I didn't know anything about the Civil War, or the Irish immigration to the New World, and so forth.

But now I know a lot more about history. Now I understand why so many of the troopers were obviously Irish, due to the waves of Irish immigration in the 1800s and 1900s, and probably more commonly known when this movie was made. The idea that so many troops were recent immigrants isn't really important, but it's context.

Also: The Confederacy.

In this movie, if you fought in the Civil War for the Confederates, you have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal Union troops, and you should be respected. (In one scene, only the Confederate can ride a horse, and the drill sergeant says something pleasant about his service.) There's more: The Fonda character is an admirer of Robert E. Lee, and somebody else compliments Nathan Bedford Forrest. They are heroes!

Despite being, you know, traitors to the U.S. Constitution.

Did you know that Robert E. Lee killed more American soldiers than Hitler? It's true; I Googled Army of the Potomac casualties vs. the ETO in WWII. And yet, there are statues to Robert E. Lee in this country, a man who took up arms against the United States Army! Yet knuckleheads with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks invariably say they are patriots who "support the troops." Well, evidently they don't support the troops who wore blue in the Civil War. They were Army troops, who represented our nation and defended the Constitution against an insurrection. And the heroes of today's white nationalists did their best to kill them, and they killed a lot of them! That's not exactly supporting the troops.

And I am from Nathan Bedford Forrest country. I know all there is to know about him. The white nationalists love him -- and there a lot of those hereabouts -- but he was a terrible person and should not have statues built to him.

Anyway.

I can't fault Fort Apache movie for this, because ALL media has been doing that for 150 years (mostly to avoid offending Southern customers). It's why we have statues of traitors like Forrest and Lee all over the country (they just removed a statue of the former from Downtown Memphis, from the former Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, now called Health Sciences Park). It's why we have neo-Nazis marching brazenly in Virginia. We had a chance to stamp out his sickness in 1865, but we allowed the former Confederates to romanticize the Lost Cause, instead of labeling it the treason it was. And the infection, instead of being cut out, spread.

Anyway, as I say, I can't fault this particular movie for lionizing the Confederacy like everything else in America. It's a discordant chord for me, but that's particular to me, not the movie.

Anyway, back to Fonda: Despite being a glory-seeking martinet, he even has strains of being a good guy! But we, the audience, are told, and Fonda the actor reinforces: Being a selfish little Napoleon is not just unpleasant, it's a moral wrong that gets people killed.

But guys like Wayne's character have adapted to the frontier, instead of trying to change it ... and are better for that flexibility. Fonda, on the other hand, has the ghost of Custer hovering over him the whole movie.

Good! This reinforces my belief in a fair universe. And it does so in B&W style!

Although, I have to confess, I've gotten old enough and sophisticated enough that I can tell when the actors are standing in front of a painted screen, and when there is actual location footage. (And, as we all know, John Ford was great at Painted Desert footage.) But I've also gotten old and sophisticated enough that I don't care. Tell the damn story, and if it takes a painted background for John Wayne to stand in front of while he pontificates, then fine. And in Fort Apache a lot of that happens. And it's fine!

Also, I love John Wayne when he's NOT the hero of the movie. He isn't the protagonist here, thank God; he's just what John Wayne is best at -- the frontier guy who knows his business, but answers to a higher power because he has to. In movies where he's the protagonist, he often represents a kind of masculinity which, to modern eyes, can be pretty toxic (Red River, The Searchers). And he has his own hair in this one, I think.That's always a plus.

I even liked Shirley Temple in this movie. Before I watched this as an adult, I didn't realize what I didn't like about her as a younger man, or more likely, a pre-adolescent. She's the girl who acts super-cute to get what she wants, which is irritating. (My older sisters LOVED her!)

And in this movie she lets every emotion play across her face without any subtlety at all. That works better on the stage than in the more intimate view of the movie camera. But in THIS movie, it works. She's just a function in a clockwork machine, and her transparent function (as opposed to being a human being) worked for the clockwork.

And that's what Fort Apache is. It's not subtle, or clever. It's just a big, bold, old-style Western with pretty scenery (albeit in B&W) that tells a simple story that we've all heard a million times.

And I enjoyed it. Even in my dotage.

I used to empathize a little with people who had ancestors in the Confederate service. They didn't want to think of their ancestors as being wrong, let alone evil. I got smarter. I found out that Nathan Bedford Forrest, and probably other commanders, murdered captured black U.S. troops and even invaded U.S. Army hospitals, murdering wounded black soldiers. He ordered it done, and they did it! Theoretically, the concept of an illegal order didn't exist then, but they must have known better. Once a black man took up arms he was treated like a rabid dog. Then Forrest went on to found the KKK! 

Caps passionate review brings to mind the remake of True Grit. Rooster and LaBeaf bicker constantly over wether or not Quatril ( leader of Quantril's Raiders, and Jesse James Civil War commander) was a patriot or a traitor/butcher.

Quantrill was a thief, cattle rustler and murderer before he started raiding and killing with the Raiders. The Raiders were more bandit gang than guerrillas, and included "Bloody Bill" Anderson, Cole Younger, Jesse James and Frank James. There are no doubt statues of Quantrill somewhere.

I do apologize for getting political in the review. This is not the place for that. I've toned some of it down. But I have had my fill of Confederate sympathizers and Southern apologists, and will call it out wherever I see it.

It's been a long while since I heard of it, but I finally watched 50 Years of James Bond -- The Supercut.

The gimmick here is that it's a feature-length film that's stitched together from five-minute chunks of all the James Bond flicks from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace, in sequence -- that is, minutes 1-5 of Dr. No, minute 6-10 of From Russia With Love, minute 11-15 of Goldfinger, minute 16-20 of Thunderball, etc. 

It's interesting to watch in a weird kind of way. It starts with the assassins in Dr. No and you follow along as James Bond chases around the world after a McGuffin, and isn't that really what James Bond movies are all about? 

Throughout, there's a caption in the lower right corner that lets you know which movie is on screen at any given moment, which is helpful. It's really amazing, though, how the transitions from one movie to another aren't that jarring.

For example, the bit from On Her Majesty's Secret Service has George Lazenby's James Bond in a office building, cracking a safe (and reading a Playboy magazine to while away the time while the safe-cracking machine does its work). He's wearing a light grey suit with a white shirt and black necktie, and when the scene ends, he enters an elevator ... and then we're in Diamonds Are Forever, and Sean Connery's James Bond -- also wearing a light grey suit with a white shirt and black necktie -- is in an elevator with some goon, fighting for his life. More than a few of the transitions come together neatly like that.

I was surprised to see how frequently Q (Desmond Llewelyn) got out of the office and into the field. I wish there was a classic "My name is Bond ... James Bond" moment, but it does get said.

Unfortunately, very few of the stunts James Bond movies are known for are not included, although we do get the woman gilded to death in Goldfinger and Roger Moore's James Bond fighting Jaws, the big man with the metal teeth, in a cable car, in Moonraker. And there's Daniel Craig's James Bond in Venice, fighting to rescue Vesper Lynd through an army of gunmen while the building they're in sinks into the sea.

Give it a look:

Tried to watch Each Dawn I Die. I taped it because it had George Raft and James Cagney in it, and I never knew they were in a movie together.

It starts out as crusading newspaper reporters trying to bring down the local gangster chief, but very quickly it turns into a prison movie. Cagney is supposed to be a crusading reporter, but he comes across as a gangster, because he apparently just can't help himself. Then, when he goes to prison (he is framed), he buddies up to George Raft.

Or, I presume he will. That's obviously where the movie was going, and I didn't care to see it go there. (I'm guessing Raft and Cagney will buddy up, then escape, but Cagney will be cleared, and then Raft will die, because he's a bad guy, but he will have an emotional scene with Cagney when he does it. If I'm wrong, feel free to tell me so.) I mean, they were hammering the audience with the direction this movie was going to go. I just wasn't interested.

I will say that I found it funny that Raft and Cagney were supposed to be these super-bad gangster types, but in every scene they were both very tiny, whereas the character actors and extras loomed over them as the large men that gangsters generally are. It made me laugh sometimes, when they were the "tough guys" when everybody else in the scene could step on them like bugs.

Captain Comics said:

Tried to watch Each Dawn I Die. I taped it because it had George Raft and James Cagney in it, and I never knew they were in a movie together.

It starts out as crusading newspaper reporters trying to bring down the local gangster chief, but very quickly it turns into a prison movie. Cagney is supposed to be a crusading reporter, but he comes across as a gangster, because he apparently just can't help himself. Then, when he goes to prison (he is framed), he buddies up to George Raft.

Or, I presume he will. That's obviously where the movie was going, and I didn't care to see it go there. (I'm guessing Raft and Cagney will buddy up, then escape, but Cagney will be cleared, and then Raft will die, because he's a bad guy, but he will have an emotional scene with Cagney when he does it. If I'm wrong, feel free to tell me so.) I mean, they were hammering the audience with the direction this movie was going to go. I just wasn't interested.

I will say that I found it funny that Raft and Cagney were supposed to be these super-bad gangster types, but in every scene they were both very tiny, whereas the character actors and extras loomed over them as the large men that gangsters generally are. It made me laugh sometimes, when they were the "tough guys" when everybody else in the scene could step on them like bugs.

I saw that movie a long long time ago. I believe this is the source of the legend of James Cagney saying "You dirty rat." Not because he says it himself in this movie, but because it's said to him, at least twice. 

Another source often cited as the origin of Cagney's immagined statement "You dirty rat" is "Blonde Crazy", wherein Cagney does say "Why, that dirty, double crossin' rat".

All in all, its an entertaining film about two cons (Cagney and Joan Blondel) who team up for a big score. Cagney falls for Blondel, who for her part plays it as all business. SPOILER ALERT- In the end, Cagney takes the fall for con gone bad (hence the aforementioned quote) and goes to prison. No, Blondel is not the rat, there's a third party involved. In fact, it's only at that point that Blondel expresses any sign of interest in Cagney. The final scene has Cagney laughing at the seeming irony of the outcome. As with most films of this nature, I couldn't help feeling as if Cagney should have come out on top.

"It's been a long while since I heard of it, but I finally watched 50 Years of James Bond -- The Supercut."

That sounds very cool. We'll watch it this weekend.

Never seen a Cagney movie.

You're missing out

"Top of the morning, Ma!"

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