Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Watching Movies with My Entire Family, "Ain't I a Stinker" Edition



As we near the January halfway mark, the Siren wonders if her sister, brother-in-law and mother have forgiven her for tricking them into watching Leo McCarey's masterpiece, Make Way for Tomorrow, on TCM on Christmas Eve. The Siren baited her hook by telling them that it was one of Orson Welles' favorite movies, which it was.

Only after the fadeout, as her sister buried her face in the sofa cushions, her mother sat in dumbstruck amazement and her brother-in-law put his hand on his forehead, did the Siren mention that what Welles said was that "it would make a stone cry."

Yes, the Siren knows she's a stinker. But she's a stinker in a grand cause, yes?

32 comments:

Jake said...

Oh Siren, on Christmas Eve? I don't know that I could handle it. I would like to write something on Make Way For Tomorrow, but I know that to do so would mean revisiting it, and I have to steel myself first. The last (and first) time I watched it, my apartment neighbor came knocking on my door because I was crying -- not sniffling, not blowing my nose but hit with wracking sobs -- so loudly she thought something was wrong. I saw Tokyo Story a while before this and thought that was previously the most devastating movie ever, but to find out that movie came from this one put me on edge and, sure enough, this hit me even harder. I know I'll watch it once more this year, if for no other reason than to try to get to the gaps in my memory from when I was too much a wreck to process anything else. It's a masterpiece, but damn is it a hard one to watch. Never has it been more evident that underneath every comedian is a well of earnestness and raw emotion that is intimidating.

ratzkywatzky said...

I first read about it in James Harvey's Romantic Comedy book, and have wanted to see it ever since. I bought it the day the DVD was released, but haven't worked up the nerve to watch it yet. I think I need to have company before I do.

gmoke said...

I thought Christmas Eve was reserved for "It's a Wonderful Life," that scary movie about capitalism.

"Teacher says that every time someone new watches 'Make Way for Tomorrow" another angel weeps."

It's a dead honest film about hard realities. Tragic as Lear.

You are an evil woman, Siren.

The Siren said...

OK, OK gentlemen, guilty. But really, who's more evil here, me for wanting company when I watched it again, or Robert Osborne for programming it on Christmas Eve? He noted in his intro that he chose it himself. Sometimes TCM just messes with us, if you ask me.

Vanwall said...

Youch! Even I didn't force that on son and daughter-in-law. Weird choice for TCM. I'm not sure Cellini's father got a better swing in than you - they'll remember it, for sure. Poor things.

John said...

One of the most touching films ever. The family dyanamics hit very close to the bone.

Peter Nellhaus said...
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Jake said...

To be honest, Siren, I'd rather watch Make Way for Tomorrow on Christmas Even than Yogi Bear, which my family insisted on seeing on Xmas day until I practically prostrated myself in desperation. Thankfully, we got snowed in, and since I am in the South my entire family were too panicked to even go outside, much less drive anywhere. Almost made me believe in God.

But I love that TCM is so peevish at times. It's how you know they've got the right people working there.

Ryan Kelly said...

You should have thrown in, "Come on, how heavy could it be, it's by the guy who directed The Awful Truth, and this is another movie about a couple that separates..."

Well it's basically true.

The Siren said...

Jake, it's so true. Did you spot the TCM Father's Day lineup last year?

Ryan...I um, kind of did remind Mom about The Awful Truth.

*hangs head*

But look everybody, they all said the movie was a tremendous work of art and that's what matters, right?

The Siren said...

And also Jake, well do I remember how a teeny bit of snow shuts down everything down South. They have more now that when I was growing up. It always rained on Christmas in Alabama. I'm glad you were saved from Yogi Bear. So far my kids don't seem to know it exists.

Dave said...

Personally, I thought the Christmas night dysfunctional-family-a-thon of "The Lion In Winter," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Ordinary People," and "Indiscretion of An American Wife" was genius, and proof that the programmers at TCM are people who get it.

Paulette said...
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Paulette said...

After having only read about this film and then being amazed it was being shown on TCM (and getting all excited) - I wasn't permitted to watch this one. Chinese husband said, "it's not good to watch sad movie on Christmas Eve." (Bossy Buddhist!)

BUT it was ok to watch Christmas in Connecticut because Chinese husband thinks any day, even a holy day, is perfectly fine to watch Miss Stanwyck.

I've resigned myself to the fact that certain films, he will never give a chance. But Lion In Winter (we watched Christmas night) and he was blown away. I was thankful to be able to view in peace.

Thankfully Make Way was recently released on dvd and is on my short list.

Yes the genius programmers at TCM gave us some real gems this holiday. Now if they could only get over their fascination with Breakfast at Tiffany's.

PS- I wonder if John Boehner would dissolve and melt away if he watched MWFT?

The Siren said...

Dave, it's true, and Lion in Winter is indeed a Christmas movie, and one I love. It was the source of a huge NYFCC throwdown once upon a time, as IIRC it won over some New Hollywood movies that the younger Turks were sponsoring that year, and I'm sure whatever it beat (can't remember at the moment and disinclined to look it up) was superb. But I am crazy about it for the witty dialogue and it has one of Hepburn's best performances.

Paulette, I myself discovered over Christmas that while it never occurred to me that some Muslims might have strong feelings about the proper decoration of Christmas trees, there are several in my life who absolutely do. So I feel you.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I should have mentioned this before when we were discussing it at length in here by My Son John is the psychotic nightmare version of Make Way For Tomorrow

Lou Lumenick said...

David raises an intriguing possibility. My Son John as a new TCM Mother's Day classic!

Phillip said...

Okay, I have to admit that I had never heard of this film until I read about it here. I don't think I ever want to see it though. It it as sad as "Penny Serenade"?

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's Kay Francis Day on TCM!

Raquelle said...

Superb! Everyone needs to watch this movie. I got a couple of people to watch it but not necessarily the way you did. :-)!

I know of one blogger who's heart must be harder than stone because she proclaimed she didn't feel bad for the parents because they deserved what they got. That person lost my respect forever.

cinefille said...

I watched this for the first time a few weeks ago. It had me bawling. Such a touching movie and I can't stop thinking about it (so much so that I am probably going to write about it in the coming days...)

Trish said...

I watched Make Way for Tomorrow on Christmas Eve, having first seen it a few months ago. My 82-year old father is squeamish about aging, so he retired to his room to watch a hockey game instead. My mother was very matter-of-fact about it and pronounced the movie "accurate". As for me, I appreciate the way McCarey reminds us to honor our father and our mother, then shows us the difficulties of keeping that pledge. Frankly, I'd much rather watch MWFT than It's a Wonderful Life...

hamletta said...

I was just perusing my local library site, reserving some movies, and I saw the Criterion MWFT. I hesitated, but remembered your previous writing about it and passed.

Reading what everybody has to say here, I'm glad I did. I'm fighting the banksters for my house right now, so I don't think I could take it.

I love TCM's cheeky (counter-)programming! I remember when they did "Mothers From Hell" one Mothers' Day. Can't remember all the line-up, but I know "Now, Voyager" was in there.

A few years ago, they did Jewish-themed movies on Christmas night, and I made the mistake of visiting their comment forums. Oh. Mah. Gawd. You'da thought they roasted The Baby Jesus and ate him with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

And let's not talk about the reaction to "Hispanic In Hollywood" and Bollywood month.

OK, just a little: Someone was ranting about how Ricardo Montalban should have learned to speak English right, without that damn accent. I asked her how else would the phrase "fine Corinthian leather" have carried such weight? She was forced to admit I was right.

I haven't been back since Jeffrey Zeldman's crew redesigned the site, so maybe it's improved. But damn! Good thing they don't listen to those people.

gmoke said...

I saw Make Way for Tomorrow on the library's DVD. Saw a copy of 24 Eyes on the return cart (I play library roulette and scan the return carts for books, movies, and music I wouldn't ordinarily think of) the other day but didn't pick it up. Now that I know it's there though...

It's always Christmas at the library. You never know what presents are under the tree.

pvitari said...

Next Christmas, Siren, treat the family to Grave of the Fireflies.

Tucker said...

I've always though Christmas Eve was a perfect time to weep.

B said...

MWFT is a great film and I'm delighted to see it finally getting the recognition it deserves - but IMHO, in terms of dangerously depressing films, it does not hold a candle to "Threads", the made for TV English film from the 80's about the aftereffects of a nuclear holocaust.

For those who like MWFT and Tokyo Story, may I suggest another Ozu film from the 30's called "The Only Son"

gmoke said...

There is a DVD of "The Only Son" with "There Is a Father" (Chishu Ryu, Chishu Ryu) that I, again, got from the library. Both are well worth seeing. And sad. Not Grave of Fireflies sad but sad nonetheless.

Karen said...

Siren, you truly ARE a stinker, but I am having a great time trying to imagine you saying that like Bugs Bunny.

MWFT is a killer film, and has--I thought--a really unexpected performance from Victor Moore.

Saskia K said...

MWFT is indeed not a piece of family entertainment for a light, frothy evening with the folks but I don't think anyone will ever feel sorry watching it, even on Christmas Eve. When I saw the movie for the first time a couple of months ago, I had a huge lump in my throat and tearing eyes.

Question for the day: is MWFT the saddest movie ever? I think Grave of the Fireflies packs an even greater emotional punch (quite an acccomplishment for an animated movie!)

Skimpole said...

I have never seen "The Lion in the Winter." I suspect Michael Gebert's book on movie awards alluded to a critical consensus when he said it was better than the other three movies Hepburn won an oscar for, but not nearly as good as four, or eight other choices. 1968 was also the year of "2001," "Oliver!" and my choice "Yellow Submarine."

As it happens 1968 was also the year Barbra Streisand (also) won an oscar for "Funny Girl", while Liv Ullmann won for "Shame" from both the National Board and the National Society of Film critics, while Joanne Woodward won for "Rachel, Rachel," from the New York critics. Woodward and Streisand won the golden globes that year. I haven't seen Woodward, Streisand is good, but Ullmann is much better. Mia Farrow was also very good in "Rosemary's Baby," but nobody thought to give her an award. Patricia Neal (The Subject was Roses) and Vanessa Redgrave (Isadora) were the other two oscar nominees, and I haven't seen them either.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Subject Was Roses was on TCM today. Neal is quite good in it but it's a pretty simple role compared to A Face in the Crowd or Hud.

The Lion in Winter was a Broadway flop. But Hepburn saw a great part for herself so she set the wheels in motion and had it filmed. I found it insufferable. But then I find Hepburn highly problematic after the 1930's -- save for Adam's Rib.

Rachel Rachel was rather damp and pinced, IMO. Vanessa Redgrave was a teriffic Isadora, and the film as a whole is quite good -- though I prefer Ken Russell's TV movie Isadora: The Biggest Dancer in the World with Vivian Pickles.

I saw Streisand on stage in Funny Girl and she was really great. She was teriffic in the movie too -- especially the very end where she sings "My Man" with more force than anyone imagined possible. A total knockout.

She's far from my favorite singer, but the girl's got talent. I'm very excited by reports that she wants to remake Gypsy. Mama Rose is to musical theater what Hamlet and King Lear are to drama, and it will give her an opportunity to let loose with the barely supresse rage that underlies everything she does.

SING OUT LOUISE!