Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Dissing "The Searchers"; Praising the Union; Coveting Titles...and Animal Husbandry
By Paul Levine
NEW ON DVD: The 50th anniversary edition of The Searchers, John Ford’s scenery-rich but cornball western. I’ve never understood why the movie was named to the American Film Institute’s Top 100 list. So I was glad to see Robert Duvall’s comments in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. Duvall, who has appeared in six films on the Top 100 list, says he struggled to get through The Searchers, “finding it too stagy and Ford’s frontier men unrealistically ‘up, up, up’ and with a superimposed energy, not their own.’”
In other words, Ford’s direction of the actors was just lousy. Spencer Tracy once said that the trick was “not to let them catch you acting.” If so, The Searchers fails miserably. And it’s no excuse that the movie is 50 years old. The Maltese Falcon is 65 years old and holds up well. Sorry, but pretty shots of Monument Valley (ludicrously standing in for Texas) and cinematic symbolism (John Wayne, the outsider, standing yep, outside the door frame) aren’t sufficient to make a great movie.
MEDICAL QUIZ UPDATE: Last week, I asked readers to guess my hospital bill at Cedars-Sinai for a 26-hour visit. First prize: a new knee. No, wait. I got the knee. The first person who came within 15% of the actual bill would get a signed book. But no one who posted here or sent e-mail to me directly came close. Most guesses were too low; some were too high.
The correct answer: $57,886, not including the surgeon or anesthesiologist. (Like some motels on Ventura Boulevard, the operating room charges by the hour: $11,424 for the first hour, $9676 for each additional fifteen minutes. Clean sheets are free).
Now, before you start chipping in, I have excellent insurance thanks to battles fought before my time by unionized screenwriters. I’m a member of the Writers Guild of America, and my share of that bill is $950.
TITLES I WISH I’D THOUGHT OF:
The Only Good Lawyer by Jeremiah Healy
Legal Tender by Lisa Scottoline
Hot Damn by James W. Hall
BEST HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: "For His Next Trick, My Husband Will Put the Seat Down." It's in Sunday's"Modern Love" column in The New York Times, where Amy Sutherland writes that she learned how to deal with her husband by working with wild animals. [My wife Renee asks, what's so surprising about that?] Ms. Sutherland writes: "The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't. After all, you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband."
LEGAL BLOGS: No...not, as opposed to illegal blogs. I'm talking about blogs that comment on the courts, law firms, and the general dissaray of the so-called justice system. As a recovering lawyer, I'm addicted to these musings. You'll find a good selection at Law.com. One of them, the lively May It Please the Court, by Newport Beach lawyer J. Craig Williams, was just named "best individual weblog" by the Los Angeles Press Club.
And that's the news from Lake Hollywood and Sea World...Paul Levine