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Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - 2021 Edition

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So my cousin tells me we rented Broken Blossoms back in the VHS era but I'm afraid I don't remember anything about it. I tend to get my Pickfords and Gishes confused.

Last year I found myself watching a ton of Yellowface (not by design, it just turned out that way), and it's a weird thing. There's the outright racist stuff like Lon Chaney's Mr Wu, a "Chinese" man who murders his daughter because she'd fallen in love with a white man. But then there's Karloff's Mr Wong, who is unquestionably the good guy, the smartest guy in the room, and an excellent detective. But he's also Chinese for some reason? With Karloff's unaltered English accent? I mean, I'm thankful that Karloff didn't attempt a Chinese accent, but why did he have to be Chinese in the first place? Or, heaven forbid, why not hire a Chinese actor? (I know the answer to that last one, I'm just ranting here.) Broken Blossoms is from 1919, but the stuff I was watching went well into the 40s. Weird.



Well, Mr. Wong is based on a set of 30s short stories about a Chinese detective, so the character is supposed to be, well, Chinese. Why cast Karloff goes to your other question, and the answer is probably for the same reason they usually cast Caucasian actors in such roles during those times. I mean, was there any notable film from USA/UK featuring an Asian actor in the lead role?
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Well, Mr. Wong is based on a set of 30s short stories so the character is supposed to be Chinese. Why cast Karloff goes to your other question, and the answer is probably for the same reason they usually cast Caucasian actors in such roles during those times. I mean, was there any notable film from USA/UK featuring an Asian actor in the lead role?
Right, that's what I meant. (I don't spend a lot of time composing my posts, so I often have to explain myself later. )

Bravo for portraying an Asian as the good guy for a change. Why undermine your gesture by hiring Karloff? There were 4 or 5 Wong films and Keye Luke actually played the role in one of them, and he was great. I wonder if audiences at the time would have accepted Asian leads if they were presented to them, or if this is just another case of studios underestimating what audiences would embrace (a thing that's still happening).



I'm not that willing to throw in the towel to the studios but it's obvious that there were a lot of things that Hollywood, et. al. were mostly oblivious to, while there were others that they weren't willing to budge. Add to that the different wars, which involved Asian countries, and I suppose it was a big no-no for an Asian to play lead.



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Highly recommend this podcast. I am already a regular listener, myself!
Oh man, I'm flattered. Thanks for the kind words.

I'm a bit delayed on the first episode of this year, but we'll be back soon!



I'm not that willing to throw in the towel to the studios but it's obvious that there were a lot of things that Hollywood, et. al. were mostly oblivious to, while there were others that they weren't willing to budge. Add to that the different wars, which involved Asian countries, and I suppose it was a big no-no for an Asian to play lead.
Yeah, another thing that fascinated me was the actual Asian actors in supporting roles. Like, what was it like having to do a scene with Karloff? Or if you're Karloff, how do you face these guys with your weird eye makeup? So I think the real answer is, yes, we were just that racist.



For those interested, I edited the second post with a lengthy summary of what I saw last year.



RUDDERLESS
(2014, Macy)
A debut film



"♪ What is lost can't be replaced,
What is gone is not forgotten,
♫ I wish you were here to sing along...
my son... my son... my son..."

Literally speaking, a rudder is a blade located underwater at the stern of a boat that, along with the helm, is used to move it towards a certain direction. Lacking one will probably leave the boat drifting at the mercy of the waters and winds, with no way to control it properly. Metaphorically speaking, being "rudderless" means lacking a guiding strategy or a clear sense of one's aims.

That is the title of William H. Macy's debut feature film, which follows Sam (Billy Crudup), a successful advertising executive that has to cope with the tragic death of Josh, his teenage son, during a shooting at his university. 2 years later, Sam has abandoned his former life, while living in a boat and resorting to alcoholism. Eventually, he seeks refuge in the recordings of his son's music, who was an aspiring musician.

The titular term can be used to define Sam's life, as he just goes along with the flow with no clear purpose or goal in his life. His son's music provides a rudder as he, reluctantly at first, begins playing it. First, alone in his boat, but then during open mic nights at a local bar. When a young man called Quentin (Anton Yelchin) finds himself captivated by Sam's music, he reluctantly agrees to play together, which eventually leads to them starting a band which they call... Rudderless.

Inspired by Sam's boat, the term can also be applied to the band per se, as none of them seem to be clear about their musical goals at first. Is it just to pass the time or for the thrill of the performance? Is it to get girls or make money? Sam is obviously using it as a cathartic exercise to cope with his son's death, which is something he doesn't share with his new bandmates. Maybe because of this or because of age, he isn't willing to commit to this project... he's rudderless, just going along with it with no clear goal.

Unfortunately, the titular term can also be partly applied to the film's execution and narrative. Like a one-man band, the script tries to play too many things, too many sides to the story which results in most of them not feeling fully realized or ultimately necessary. For the former, we have the poorly executed conflict with Josh's ex-girlfriend (Selena Gomez). For the latter, we have a somewhat pointless conflict between Sam and the supervisor of the lake resort where Sam's boat is. Like the titular term, Macy doesn't seem sure of where to lead the audience, which makes the film feel a bit scattered.

But despite those faults, the film manages to stay in course, thanks primarily to committed performances from Crudup and Yelchin. Although the way their relationship unfolds isn't perfect, there is good chemistry between the actors, and Crudup has some solid emotional moments towards the end. The second thing that anchored the film for me was the music. This soundtrack was right down my alley and I've found myself humming, tapping, and listening to it since I finished the film. Kudos to Crudup and Yelchin for actually playing and singing on it.

In the end, there are several things I would've changed that I think could've kept the film more focused, but as it is, Rudderless has enough good in it to keep it afloat.

Grade:



VAMPIRE'S KISS
(1988, Bierman)
A film with Nicolas Cage



"Oh, Christ! Oh, Christ, where... where am I? Where am I? Where, where am I? Oh, c... Christ, where am I? I have become one. A vampire. Oh, God..."

Nicolas Cage is probably one of the most enigmatic actors out there. Eclectic filmography, eccentric lifestyle, undeniable talent, and unique and memorable performances. That's what you'll usually get from Cage, no matter what. In the words of a good Twitter friend "he has never half-assed anything in his life". And that's right. You can usually expect to see Cage firing all cylinders in any role. Doesn't matter if he's playing a bumbling wannabe parent, a struggling alcoholic, or in this case, a wannabe "vampire".

Vampire's Kiss follows Peter Loew (Cage), an executive at a publishing agency that likes to work and party, while sharing his relationship and commitment issues with his therapist (Elizabeth Ashley). But when a one-night-stand takes a turn to the bizarre, Loew finds himself believing that he's slowly turning into a vampire. In the process, he torments a young secretary (María Conchita Alonso) by demanding her to find a specific contract buried in the archives.

Although the film was a commercial flop, it became a cult hit while also giving birth to several popular Internet memes that feature who else but Mr. Cage. And that's because, as said before, regardless of the material, Cage gives it his all. His performance is completely bonkers as we see Loew becoming more and more unstable in progressively crazier and more hilarious ways. The peak, IMO, is when he dons cheap plastic "fangs" because he thinks he isn't developing his own, which is absurdly funny by itself, but also lends itself to some great physical comedy.

Vampire's Kiss is not perfect; most notably, the subplot with the secretary is awkwardly executed. Despite that, he film is definitely worth it only to watch Cage crank it to 11, while making others wonder if Loew has changed or has he always been like this. If we look at Cage's career evolution, we might end up wondering the same about Cage; has he changed or has he always been like this? I think this film provides the answer.

Grade:



The alphabet scene is worth one star all by itself.
Oh man, yeah. I suppose some of its *charm* has lost its luster as most people have probably seen some of these "meme'd" scenes on YouTube (I had seen the "buggy" eyed scene a while ago), but to see it all in one package, so to speak The alphabet scene I hadn't seen, though. But like I said in my write-up, the one that got me was him putting the plastic fangs and mimicking Count Orlok at the club I was losing it all through that scene



Oh man, yeah. I suppose some of its *charm* has lost its luster as most people have probably seen some of these "meme'd" scenes on YouTube (I had seen the "buggy" eyed scene a while ago), but to see it all in one package, so to speak The alphabet scene I hadn't seen, though. But like I said in my write-up, the one that got me was him putting the plastic fangs and mimicking Count Orlok at the club I was losing it all through that scene
I have to admit the memes maybe enhanced it for me, like, ah, this is where that's from. The fangs are great.

But:
"I've never misfiled anything! Not once! Not one time!" This is f***ing gold, my god.



After some, uhh, scheduling issues, technical difficulties, and 100 hours of editing, the first episode of the year of Thief's Monthly Movie Loot is out! Check it out.

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot 29 - The First Loot

Spotify users, click here

I want to thank my first guest for joining me in talking about first films, directorial debuts, and whatnot. We also share our Top 5 directorial debuts!




La Casa Lobo (The Wolf House)

Our old friend Slentert from Corrie recently logged this on Letterboxd, so credit goes to him for introducing me to it. From what I gather the subject matter is pretty grim and some knowledge of Chile is necessary to fully understand it, but the animation technique looks incredible. I'm gonna shell out the bucks for a rental soon. Just throwing that out there for your animation category.

Great one. An American friend recently mentioned this is on Shudder now, btw.