Monday, February 20, 2012

The Lady Eve/Forty Guns

The Lady Eve
Forty Guns
seen @ Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, Queens, NY

It's been a rather dull holiday weekend for me, at least the first half of it. I've mostly spent it catching up on my art and watching TV. (ironically, I just got rid of an older TV earlier in the week). Most of the time, I try not to get distracted by the boob tube because it's so easy to become addicted to it. I still haven't decided if I'm gonna bother watching the Oscars this year. There's only one race I care about and I can always YouTube the acceptance speech the next day. As for the art, I was up against a deadline, so I really had no excuse to sit enslaved by the idiot box for too long anyway.

The rest of the weekend, though, is different. Later today I'll hang out with Vija and friends. This will be the first time I've seen her this year and I've missed her, and besides, I'll get the opportunity to show her what I've been up to art-wise. She's currently in the midst of a long series of paintings of notable women in world history, and she's been posting them on Facebook. I hope she finds a gallery willing to exhibit them, so I can see them all at once.

Also, I had the great pleasure yesterday of returning to MOMI to catch a Barbara Stanwyck twin bill: The Lady Eve and Forty Guns. There's a new biography of Stanwyck coming out which examines her career in great detail. I'll review it tomorrow, but let me just say here that it's always a bit of a letdown to discover your idols are human after all, but reading about her life hasn't diminished my affection for her as a great actress.

Eve, with Henry Fonda, is a Preston Sturges joint about a con artist who falls for her mark. I own this film on DVD. Sturges has always been a favorite director of mine for his witty writing and the great comic performances he got out of his actors, and Stanwyck's is one of his best. Guns, a Western written and directed by Samuel Fuller, was Stanwyck's last film as an A-list movie star before she transitioned to television. I had never seen this one before, but unfortunately, I went to bed really late the previous night and the lack of sleep finally caught up to me while watching this one, so I can't tell you much about it. Stany rides around on a white horse a lot. There's a tornado. People get shot. (It does make an appropriate spiritual predecessor for her TV role in The Big Valley, though.) There's also a singing cowboy-type character who, every time he appeared, I kept wanting John Belushi to come along and smash his guitar against a wall and say "Sorry."

I don't think I've talked about MOMI's main theater. It's really nice - stadium seating facing a screen with a fairly wide stage that includes a podium off to one side. The curtain has an unusual trompe l'oeil pattern of elongated, multi-colored pyramids radiating outwards in all directions from the center. It looks like something you'd see in a modern art museum, which I suppose MOMI is, after all. The walls are a deep cobalt blue, curving upwards to the ceiling, with spotlights on both sides. The ramp leading up to the main door is also back-lit in blue. The aesthetic value of a place like MOMI cannot be underestimated; a lot of thought went into its architecture and it's a big part of its appeal.

At both screenings, there were a lot of people shushing each other in the audience, especially during Eve, which was a bit surprising. One would think that a MOMI crowd would be more respectful of the movie than your average multiplex audience, but maybe this was a fluke. Then again, unruly audience members have been popping up in unlikely places, and more and more people are demanding that theaters do something about it. I didn't think it was out of control yesterday, but this is a general problem that could kill the theater-going experience for good unless it's seriously addressed, and soon.

Books: Barbara Stanwyck - The Miracle Woman


  1. I wish you could have been more rested up before seeing Forty Guns. I saw a new 35mm print at a theatre recently and it was one of the most eccentric, audacious and bizarre westerns I've seen.

    The Lady Eve, conversely, has left me cold, even after watching it twice. My main complaint is that it doesn't strike me as funny - odd, since I love so many other Preston Sturges films.

  2. I thought the cinematography and editing of 'Guns' was unique, from what I remember of it. There's one scene where a guy's slowly walking towards another dude as if he's about to shoot him and it's drawn out longer than you'd expect, as if there's gonna be a real butt-whooping, and in the end he just knocks him out with one punch (the other guy was drunk). I thought that was unusual.

    Perhaps I'll watch it again another time.

  3. Wow, The Lady Eve on the big screen? I'm really jealous.

  4. Well, compared to 'Guns,' the screen wasn't that big!


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