Monday, March 19, 2012

I don't want to go into all the side effects, but i didn't really have that many during treatment, but the side effects started to pop up last week by Monday, and by Wednesday (the day after the radiation therapy ended)... well, there they were! For example: i started to get a rash (from dry skin) on my right leg. I've been putting cream/lotion on it, and it's slowly going away, but it didn't show up during the actual treatment (my legs were exposed during the radiation) but it happened at the end. Oh, well....

So i took it easy. But one note: yesterday (March 18) would have been Damian Bona's birthday; instead, there was a memorial service for him. I couldn't go (i was afraid i wouldn't be able to sit for more than half an hour without rushing to the bathroom), but Damian's death (January 29, 2012) was particularly poignant, coming as it did just before the end of award season. Damian represented one of the great paradoxes involved with movie love: he and Mason Wiley had done such meticulous research for their book "Inside Oscar" (and Damian would update it after Mason's death), so he really didn't have any illusions about the way the Motion Picture Academy was set up. Yet Damian couldn't get over wanting the more deserving (in his view) nominee to win. He still felt that it was unfair that Grace Kelly had won for "The Country Girl" as opposed to Judy Garland for "A Star Is Born" in 1954. But that's the way the Oscars work (which is why i never bother with "Who Should Win" in those various Oscar polls; often, the best person isn't even nominated). And Damian would know it, but he couldn't help getting involved in the idea that the Oscars should represent some standard of excellence. (Should, but rarely do.) And Damian would always have very pointed comments about the insanity involved in the not-quite-campaigning that some stars go through.

Saturday (March 17) was St. Patrick's Day. For the occasion, TCM showed a bunch of "Irish" movies, and i watched "Shake Hands With the Devil", "The Rising of the Moon" and "Young Cassidy". "Shake Hands With the Devil" i had seen as a child, and i've been afraid of seeing it again, because i had memories of it as being particularly brutal. Well, it wasn't (really) but it was the fact that, by the end, the character played by James Cagney becomes so fanatical in his rebellion that he starts to execute people he feels have betrayed the cause. When he shoots Glynis Johns's character... that was one of those moments which really struck me when i was young. So i was glad i saw it again, it does hold up as an intriguing look at the Irish rebellion. (Michael Anderson was one of those directors who seemed relatively anonymous; he's credited with the elephantine "Around the World In 80 Days" but his better movies include "Chase a Crooked Shadow", "The Wreck of the Mary Deare", and this one.)

I didn't know if i'd actually seen "The Rising of the Moon" before; it's such a rare film, and it hasn't shown up in decades. But once the movie started, so many scenes were so familiar that i realized, yes, i must have seen this. (For example: the line-up of the protesters in front of the prison in the last segment.) I think it's one of the better John Ford movies from the 1950s, and i find it infinitely preferable to his other Irish idyll, "The Quiet Man". The film seems modest (it's in black-and-white, and it's less than 90 minutes long) but it's crowded with characters (and Ford allows the mostly Abbey Theater cast a lot of leeway) and each of the three segments doesn't really overstay its welcome. It's a lovely example of Ford's particular talents, and i think it should be better known. (I also feel that way about his London-set film, "Gideon of Scotland Yard".)  John Ford has become a rather ambivalent figure in cinema history; some of his worst traits (his sentimentality, the pictorialism that can slow down the pace, the traditionalism) have turned off a lot of people in the past few decades. Once, Ford was the most universally acclaimed American director, but that started to erode in the 1970s. There were a lot of reason for this, one of which was that, by then, Ford was often in ill health, but he would get contentious when people would come to interview him, and that didn't go over well. And there would be a lot of sniping: of his four Oscar wins as Best Director, it's now fashionable to say that Alfred Hitchcock was "robbed" in 1940 (when "Rebecca" won Best Picture, but Ford won Best Director for "The Grapes of Wrath") and Orson Welles was "robbed" in 1941 (when "How Green Was My Valley" won Best Picture, and Ford won his third Best Director Oscar for that film). Hitchcock (in fact) would always gripe about that. (I don't see why: even in 1941, when the New York Film Critics gave "Citizen Kane" the award for Best Picture, the award for Best Director went to Ford.) And no one seems to feel that Ford was robbed in 1939, when it was obvious he should have won for Best Director for "Stagecoach" (he won the New York Film Critics award, and was nominated) as opposed to Victor Fleming for "Gone With the Wind". Come on: it was known (at the time) that Victor Fleming didn't direct the whole thing, but that kind of block voting was so common for the Academy. Still, Ford may have been "overrated" (whatever that means) but now, he's often severely underrated. And "The Rising of the Moon" shows him in a modest but very pleasing mode, and its current obscurity doesn't seem warranted. And for sustained achievement, Ford's run from 1939 to 1941 ("Stagecoach", "Drums Along the Mohawk", "Young Mister Lincoln", "The Grapes of Wrath", "The Long Voyage Home", "How Green Was My Valley") really is spectacular, even given the one bummer in that period, "Tobacco Road". (And "Tobacco Road" has its defenders, though it is so severely compromised that it comes off as a precursor of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies.)

I remember going to see "Young Cassidy" when it first came out; it's one of the better examples of the Hollywood biopic, though i never understood why Sean O'Casey wound up being renamed Johnny Cassidy.


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