Annie [1982)


Yesterday was a rough day for me.

Yeah, nicotine withdrawal.


Maybe the roughest 24 hours of my life.

They say nicotine is more addictive than heroin.

I can neither confirm nor deny that.

But after a day like yesterday, I was ready for tomorrow.

And, to quote Stereolab, “tomorrow is already here”.

So when I saw this little gem on Netflix, I thought, “This is the perfect kinda movie I need tonight.  Something light.  Not too spicy.”

But as the classics of naïveté always do, this one reduced me to a sobbing snot factory.

[sorry for the vividness]

Back in the day (you know, the day), it didn’t matter to me who directed a movie.


Is that like a really smart person?

Oh, no…that’s savant.]

But then I got into all this movie business.

And it started to matter.

Because certain directors consistently turned out magic…even when they were all-but-thwarted by external sources.

[and sometimes internal sources]

So it bears repeating that Annie was directed by THE John Huston.

[kinda like THE Ohio State University]

Apparently, Sony Pictures’ subsidiary Colombia Pictures thought in 2014 that Annie would be a good film to remake.

You know?

Because it’s just a musical, right?

And there had only been one other adaption of it (the one under review)…and that had been directed by some guy…Houston, or something…

So, yeah…let’s get Will Gluck (WHO?!?) and it’ll all be groovy, baby…yeah.

Well, I’m not here to pass judgment on a film I’ve never seen (Annie from 2014).

I’m just here to say, when you start fooling with perfection (like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory [1971]), then you’re probably in trouble.

Tim Burton got a pass (just barely) with his Charlie…

But I pity the Will Gluck,

ok…let’s discuss–

Why Remaking Annie Would Be A Wholly Unenviable Task.

Because John Huston started his directing career in 1941 with The Maltese Falcon (!)…

Key Largo…The African Queen…

Yeah, those were his.

You know, Huston is not high in my list of favorite directors.

[maybe because I’m a moron]

But this film, Annie, which he made five years before he died, is really remarkable.

But who the hell am I, right?

I’m just a no-name in San Antonio, Texas.


San Antone…

Never felt so good!

Yes, the villain of our film, Carol Burnett, hails from my hometown.

It’s not often we can say that.

Lucille LeSueur (sorry, erm…Joan Crawford).

Pola Negri later in life (Apolonia Chalupec).

Yeah, that’s about it.

And Wings.

That’s San Antonio.

[as far as cinema goes]

But I’m here to tell you, John Huston’s Annie is really special!

Even Jay-Z digs these tunes (apparently).

[couldn’t care less]

Which is to say, sampling?  Cool.

Covering?  An entire film???

Again, I pity the fool…

Because Annie is an ass-kicker.


You’re gonna abuse animals?

Watch out.

Annie’s got some punches–some moves!

[and that’s before her karate lesson with Roger Minami]

{not to be confused with Mini Me}

Yeah…The Asp!

And Punjab!

[who was also in Live and Let Die (1973)]

Yeah, nothing Punjabi about Geoffrey Holder.

But that’s alright 🙂

These were the Reagan years.

And Annie is a not-so-gentle nudge for Republicans to embrace their warmer sides.

[Albert Finney rolling his eyes at the George Washington painting is priceless!]

So yeah…Annie is basically a good kid.

The best!

An animal lover.

A big heart.


An encourager.

[As Punjab says, “Buddha (?!?) says, ‘A child without courage is like a night without stars.'”]

Yeah, and Ann Reinking sees that joy in Annie.

I mean, this film has it all!

Bolsheviks!  Rockettes!  Greta Garbo!

Yes, there’s a film within a film.

And I think Edgar Poe would approve…with his glass half-full of brandy (and the other half absinthe).

Judging by Garbo, the year is 1936.

Tough year to be out of work.

And a good year to have some juniper berry syrup.

And a bathtub.

Yeah, Albert Finney knew the art of the deal.


[not the tripe on MSNBC]

The concept.

Aileen Quinn is really fantastic in this film.

Following Daddy Warbucks around.

Like on a Monopoly board.

Hands behind the back.

And Daddy’s gotta sell some fighter-bombers…and BUY, BUY copper!

Albert Finney is driving the economy.

Pushing the leading indicators.

And Annie is honest.

And a little honesty goes a long way.

And in sets fakery.

Looking for some dupes.

Yeah, you can only fool a Warbucks so long.

Nose upturned.

From Liverpool, mind you!

Bootstraps!  Horatio Alger crap!!!

And it ain’t crap.

Positive thinking.


I guess you gotta be willing to give it up.

The ultimate test of faith.

Where is your heart?

In steps FDR.


Who can know?

Why we fight?

So it’s up to us orphans to run down 5th Avenue.

If we have something to say.


These little G-Men (G-Women, in this case) are citizen journalists.

Town criers!

Extra!  Extra!  Read about the fakery!!!

Because time is of the essence.

And you gotta keep climbing even though you can see the steps run out.

God bless the parents of this world.

Those who want to give their kids a warm bed.

And sweet dreams.

Penny on the dollar for your fireworks!

You can even ride the elephant 🙂


Passage to Marseille [1944)

The Maginot Line was the greatest “oops” in the history of military strategy.  It’s not often we walk into a movie theater and hear about this relic, nor about the Siegfried Line on the other side.  That is why we must look to classic cinema for these and other lessons.  Make no mistake, this film is not primarily about that ill-fated Titanic of fortifications which was outflanked.

Sydney Greenstreet makes mention of both lines in the fictional build up to real war.  Greenstreet is once again the slippery villain…this time a Major in the French army who would side with Petain and the Nazis.  Peter Lorre, for once, is a good guy (though a pickpocket/safecracker by profession).  Claude Rains is convincing and distinguished as Captain Freycinet, but it is Humphrey Bogart as Matrac who leads the show.

For Bogart’s character Jean Matrac we must look to another chapter of history:  that of Jean-Paul Marat.  Bogart plays a radical journalist who ends up being framed by the government of France and sent to the penal colony at Cayenne, French Guiana.  Sound familiar?  To Francophiles it certainly should.  We must remember Lieutenant-colonel Alfred Dreyfus (another great “oops” of French history).  Dreyfus was wrongly accused of being a spy and sent to (you guessed it) French Guiana [in fact, to the worst part:  Devil’s Island].

And so…we have Bogart and Lorre and three other “convicts” (some legitimately guilty and others, like Bogart, there on dubious charges) escape in a canoe.  I won’t go too much into plot detail in case you feel like actually watching this thing (what a concept!).

The theme, on the other hand, is worth elaboration.  We are dealing with patriotism in spite of corrupt governance.  As St. Thomas Aquinas said (and I paraphrase), “An unjust law is no law at all.”  Another page from history.  Here we see the principle of Natural Law which would attract none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. (who cited the same sentiment in his Letter From Birmingham Jail in 1963).

We now live in a time and (we in the United States) a country which is as dynamic with vile antagonists as was France during WWII.  Knowing history becomes paramount.  Knowledge (as James Madison pointed out) is essential for popular governance.  Facts are weapons.

Bogart ends up worthy of being a subject for Jacques-Louis David by film’s conclusion (I’m being purposefully cryptic), but not before giving the Nazis a good lashing.  Bogie’s character is similar to the one he played in Key Largo.  Matrac’s disillusionment almost makes him become the complete opposite of his former self.  In an instance fit for bystander law, Bogart intercedes on behalf of a young boy.  The young boy revives the national pride in Bogart–that fire for justice.

We in America would do well to remember the Maginot Line when disillusioned with a government we feel no longer represents us.  Even the Prophet Mohammed spoke of the scholar’s ink as superior to the martyr’s blood.  Everyone with a mouse to click is fighting.  Every blog, post, and tweet is a riposte.  Every dollar a vote.

Vive la France!  And long live the United States of America!


Key Largo [1948)

By 1948, John Huston had honed his craft.  This may not be as highly-esteemed a movie as The Maltese Falcon, but it has several dimensions more depth.  The whole thing is a situation (meant in the philosophical sense). It reminds me most of Hitchcock’s minor masterpiece Lifeboat.  There is also a bit of Rope in this film which never leaves the Hotel Largo once all the major players are inside (save for the end which, like Lifeboat, takes us into the wine-dark sea).

There is something of Frank Capra in the touching scene where Bogie relates the death of the hotel patron’s son in the recently-ended war (a bit like Meet John Doe in the whole tone of it).  Perhaps, however, a more accurate comparison is to the heart-wrenching tenor of Anatole Litvak’s Out of the Fog.  It is interesting how Huston sets up Bogart’s character to be a hero, but surprises await.

Edward G. Robinson’s emergence from the bathtub is such an iconic film moment…smoking that cigar, a glass of brandy (perhaps) on the tub’s edge…a man worried about nothing…slipping into his silk bathrobe.  Robinson is fantastic as the cruel Johnny Rocco…most of all because Robinson’s depiction has such depth.  This is, after all, a man who we will shortly see is afraid of storms (to his credit, it is a proper hurricane).

This whole film is (for most of the movie) a very strange role for Bogart.  It is as if he were being thrust back into the days when he had to play second fiddle to actors like Robinson.  The beautiful Lauren Bacall loses faith in Bogart’s character as he not only seems to cower, but also contradicts the idealism of her father-in-law (the father of her dead husband…a genuine war hero).

It is no wonder Claire Trevor won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her work in this film.  When her alcoholic character is baited into singing a song from her long-gone heyday we are again gifted a one-of-a-kind film moment:  a pathetic has-been warbling out of pitch and just wanting a couple fingers of scotch.  It is, strangely enough, this point at which Bogart regains his cajones and pours the drink which Robinson would withhold on account of her shabby performance.  Bacall regains her faith and apologizes to Bogie.

I don’t want to spoil the ending.  [Now ain’t I nice?]  This is a must-see film and it only further adds to the Bogart legend which has been built upon his performances in more well-known films.  Sail on Bogie!