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 🙂


The African Queen [1951)

For people who try to do the right thing, the world is a cruel place.  Ebola virus disease was named after the Ebola River in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Near the start of this film we see a hurried burial of the Methodist minister Samuel Sayer (played by Robert Morley).  That scene was filmed near the village of Biondo (DRC):  about 450 miles from the Ebola River.

In 1951 (and ostensibly 1914) it was the Germans who came to burn huts and round up the villagers of Rev. Sayer (most likely forcing the natives to become soldiers). In 1976 it was a strange virus which came to the region near the Ebola River to inflict terrible and mysterious suffering.

This tangent serves the purpose of relating our subject (an amazing piece of cinema) to the present times.  Our principal players (Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn) gradually made their way about 300 miles northeast to Lake Albert (actually further…to the Ugandan side), but not before many real and fictional travails.

Reality and fiction…  The Ebola River is the headstream of the Mongala River.  Fact.  The Mongala River is a tributary of the Congo River.  Fact.  Scenes of the African Queen (the boat) going over the falls were filmed at Ubundu (formerly Ponthierville) on the Lualaba River in the DRC using a model with tiny Bogart and Hepburn figurines.  Fact.  The Lualaba River is the greatest headstream (by water volume) of the Congo River.  Fact.  Ebola virus disease is a naturally occurring phenomenon.  Definitely maybe.

Everyone needs a little help from their friends.  Hollywood makes no pretense to being anything but a pretense–except when the projector is rolling.  The suspension of disbelief which is at the essence of fictional films requires audience participation.  Rarely have directors taken a different approach to the process, but one notable exception was Roberto Rossellini.  His version of Neorealism created a tributary in reverse (flooded by directors like Godard) which traced cinema’s roots back to the source:  truth.  Twenty-four times per second (historically) a frame was given its moment to shine.  The shift was imperceptible.  Through the phi phenomenon we perceive motion on the screen.

We see Charlie Allnut scratch his steamer beard.  We see Rosie Sayer transform from a teetotaling harmonium pumper into a war strategist for improvised explosives.  We laugh when Bogie monkeys around.  We swoon with the romance and gravity of it all.  We relate to Sisyphus as skipper–mired in mud and pulling his own ship with a rope.  After the Spar torpedoes eventually serve their purpose, we believe that our heroes swim to safety in Kenya.

But what we really learn is to not drink the water.  For director John Huston and Bogie it was whiskey all the way (while filming on location in Africa).  They were the only two not to succumb to dysentery.  Hepburn had to play the pump organ with a bucket nearby (in case she got sick).

Through immense struggle we learn not to drink the Kool-Aid.  I bet Humphrey Bogart wouldn’t have dismissed Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz without giving Emerging Viruses (1996) a fair shake.