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C. T. Murphy

Part-time writer, sometimes blogger.

Now Playing: 42nd Street (1933)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


Next up, we return to New York City for “42nd Street”, a comedy musical from 1933. Well, that was the implication at least. The movie takes place almost entirely in rehearsal for the upcoming in-movie musical, Pretty Lady, before the show opens up in … Pennsylvania. Yeah, we didn’t get it either.

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It’ll take you most of the movie to get to the “shrimp dip” of women.

We won’t bore you as much as this movie did us. The first two-thirds of the film is a vaguely humorous exploration of practicing for a big musical. There’s some broken hearts and star-crossed lovers, a Harvey Weinstein-esque producer who uses his money/power to force the show’s lead to go out with him, a gangster named Slim Murphy, and dancing.

The acting was pretty good. Warner Baxter plays a soon-to-retire director named Julian Marsh. He lost all his money in the stock market crash and this show is his last chance to make enough money to quit show business for good. He was easily the most convincing of all the actors, from his yelling at the dancers to how worn out he looked in several scenes.

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There is a subplot about the director dying that never goes anywhere. Still, great job acting.

The rest of the cast has their charms. The focus of most of the story is on Peggy Sawyer (played by Ruby Keeler). She’s a fresh face and this is her first show. She manages to straddle that line of ignorant amateur and doe-eyed girl next door without teetering too far toward being annoying. That said, she’s hardly an underdog with everyone rooting for her by the film’s climax.

Though “42nd Street” was mostly a waste of our time, the last twenty minutes were a big hit for both of us. The musical Pretty Lady didn’t make any damn sense, but the choreography, staging, how it was shot, and the music itself were all great. It all stands the test of time too, especially the folding train scene, the stairway to the New York skyline, and of course the forest of legs.

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This speaks for itself…

If you are a sucker for Broadway and you want to see Old Hollywood’s take on it, “42nd Street” is okay. Diane and I both struggled to say much more about the movie than this if that tells you anything. Still, if you are a sucker for Broadway and you don’t want to waste your time, skip to ~1h9m mark and enjoy the only show that really entertained.

Here – I’ll save you some of the trouble:

Persona 5: One “Dungeon” In

Over the last month plus, I’ve been trying to tackle my first ever Persona game and … my feelings are mixed.

When Persona 5 dropped (and, to be honest, before it dropped too), it was a huge hit. My days of playing every JRPG are largely behind me, but the game did peak my curiosity. A friend offered to loan it to me after he was done, which is how we’ve arrived at this point.

I don’t think I have ever been more confused, more interested, or more overwhelmed all at once by a video game. I wouldn’t say I love it, but after beating the first palace (which seems loosely equivalent to a dungeon), I am ready for more.

The game is a weird mix of living an alternate life AND playing a JRPG, only you do it at the same time. Just like my real life, I have to carefully balance the few hours I have in the day for entertaining, self-improvement, relationship building or some mix of the three.

It isn’t my ideal game or my ideal RPG, but it is growing on me. I am genuinely excited to find out what sort of pseudo-psychology, acid trip we are going on next. BUT I don’t want to be playing this game for the next three months either.

We shall see.

Now Playing: Grand Hotel (1932)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


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Source Wikipedia.

1932’s “Grand Hotel” is the first movie on this list to have more than one name that Diane and I had heard before. It stars John Barrymore (the grandfather of actress Drew Barrymore), Greta Garbo, and Joan Crawford. The movie, originally adapted from a play, takes place entirely in the Grand Hotel of Berlin and follows in the lives of some of its guests as their stories slowly interconnect.

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The lobby does a great job of establishing most of the characters early on, well before they’ve formally met one another.

For a movie where, to quote the Doctor who permanently lives in the hotel “nothing ever happens”, enough did happen through its nearly two hour runtime to convince us both to put it at/near the top of the list of the movies we’ve watched for this series thus far. Compared to my favorite so far “Cimarron”, “Grand Hotel” is wonderfully subdued – give or take any scene with Greta Garbo – and incredibly small. The movie takes place entirely in the Grand Hotel, shifting from the lobby to various hotel rooms, never leaving the premises or the actors’ sides.

Despite its smallness, “Grand Hotel” feels large and all-encompassing. All of the characters are interesting. We owe the acting for that. The plot too kept us engaged as it blended just enough mystery, drama, and humor as each character moved from vignette to vignette, crossing over, never crossing at all, or double-crossing one another.

 

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Joan Crawford was fantastic in this film. I really loved her wit. She oozed, “Woman who doesn’t give a fuck.”

Not to give too much away, but the movie ends with both a death and a birth. In a sense, the Grand Hotel is the cosmos itself as it lets in and lets off its passengers. It may seem slow moving at first, but “Grand Hotel” picks up speed without you realizing it. Whether its Joan Crawford’s tart secretary or John Barrymore’s friendless baron, there’s a lot of reasons to watch this movie. By focusing on these characters and others all at once, “Grand Hotel” manages to captures a series of stories all unfolding in the middle of their arcs simultaneously and pulls it off spectacularly.

I imagine its interwoven story comes from the movie being based off a play. Still, it’s cinematography and set design keeps it from ever feeling boring or two dimensional. The Grand Hotel is no Overlook Hotel like in “The Shining” with its own personality and importance, but the 360 degree desk in the lobby makes the “Grand Hotel”’s setting feel like its own place.

The opening of the movie begins with a series of shots in a phone booth as each character takes a turn introducing themselves and alluding to their background directly to the audience through an ingenious use of a phone. It almost predicts the more modern “confession booths” of reality television.

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Lionel Barrymore, the older brother of John Barrymore, did a fantastic job with the dying accountant Otto Kringelein. Though, at least in this scene, his accent was more Southern (US) than German.

From there, as each character is introduced as they live and breathe within the Grand Hotel, we also eventually see all of their rooms. Most of the characters are having extended stays in the hotel, so rather than cookie cutter rooms each reveals more insight into the character.

For example, Greta Garbo plays a depressed ballerina whose room is a maze of fine clothes with a clear path to the bed where she spends most of her time. Contrast that with the dying accountant whose savings are being spent entirely on enjoying luxury in his final days.

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Everyone else in this hotel seems to live here, but the accountant hasn’t even unpacked his one suitcase yet.

After begging for a larger room, the one we eventually see him in is massive, luxurious, and empty save for the dresser that holds his hat and umbrella. By dressing the rooms much as the actors wear costumes, the hotel comes to life in the kind of way that only a movie excels at.

And for once on this list, this movie holds up almost entirely to a modern eye’s scrutiny. There’s no racism to point to and the boss who wants to have sex with the secretary (Joan Crawford) he just hired for his business trip is sadly a still familiar and relevant plot line. Even more relevant is the importance placed on money, especially in how the dying accountant whose former boss (the same one with the secretary) is also staying at the hotel though as part of him running his business.

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Oh Greta …

Diane and I did share one weakness for the film: Greta Garbo. While researching the movie after watching it, I saw several reviewers praise her acting, but for us it was over-the-top and silly. It didn’t help that the camera kept zooming in on her face whenever she spoke. Also, the romance plot she was involved in didn’t make much sense to me. Greta Garbo fans or people who watched this movie when it first came out in the 30’s might’ve been able to fall in love with her after only one real look, but I couldn’t.

For some, “Grand Hotel” may be a boring movie where nothing truly happens, but for us it was a treat. The cinematography still holds up, as does the acting. The plot is nothing revolutionary, but so well executed that I felt engaged for most of the movie. We both recommend “Grand Hotel” to anyone who wants a film that likely deserved its Best Picture Academy Award.

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (PS4, 2017)

During my blogging hiatus, I revisited Final Fantasy XII with its Playstation 4 remaster.

For the longest time, FFXII was my least favorite in the series, much to the chagrin of my sister-in-law who is a huge fangirl for the game. Anytime I brought up my hatred, I’d get a side eye from her, whereas most of my other friends who happened to be Final Fantasy fans never even touched XII when it originally came out on the Playstation 2. After playing it again, I can safely say that Final Fantasy XII is pretty okay.

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My history with the original goes back to Blitz: The League, an arcade-style football game that has absolutely nothing to do with Final Fantasy or Square Enix. “Back in the day”, my friends and I would meet after school to play Blitz. On one occasion, a friend who I eventually served as Best Man at his wedding, got so excited in a Blitz win that he jumped up. In so doing, he ended up pulling the console down onto the hardwood floor by a connected controller cord (praise be to wireless). Thus ended our time playing Blitz and my time being a Playstation 2 owner.

A year later when Final Fantasy XII came out, I couldn’t afford to purchase a new Playstation 2. By then, I had mostly moved onto being an Xbox fanboy. Still, as Final Fantasy X and X-2 faded into memory, my need to play the latest and greatest Final Fantasy game increased. Plus, it was set in the same world as Final Fantasy Tactics, my absolute favorite Final Fantasy game.

Through shame and guilt, I made my friend loan me his Playstation 2 until I could finish Final Fantasy XII, which contributed to the first reason why I disliked the game: I rushed it.

Final Fantasy XII is not a game you should rush. With its open world setting, a real contrast to Final Fantasy X, it had an exploratory quality that the series had been missing for some time. Plus, the extra boss fights are both easy to miss and fun to do, so a large part of the game can be ignored if you aren’t looking beyond the plot.

As I previously mentioned, Final Fantasy Tactics was and is my favorite Final Fantasy game. Final Fantasy XII shares the setting of Ivalice, but is set in a different time, in a different part of the world, and all of its callbacks to Tactics are done through flavor text. In other words, it was not a successor, spiritual or otherwise, to Final Fantasy Tactics. This was the second reason I disliked the game.

Despite not being another Tactics, FFXII does have better characters. Sure, the plot was terrible in comparison, but that’s true of 99% of video games because FFT really was that damn good. I didn’t even mind Vaan, though I was pretty tired of the teenage boy shtick for Final Fantasy leads and would’ve much preferred any of the game’s more mature characters to be the sole focus.

For my final reason, I point to the combat. Final Fantasy XII was a huge departure since you only control one party member at a time, though you can switch around. Combat is still turn based, but it takes place out in the open world, and the game promotes automating most of it to the Gambit system. Gambits work as a sort-of customizable AI mini-game that allows you to set conditions for how the AI should play your party mates.

In 2006, I hated gambits, so much so that I refused to use them. Instead, I micromanaged everything in combat, rapidly switching from character to character, queuing actions and hoping for the best. This made Final Fantasy XII harder, but when compared to my more recent play through, far less enjoyable.

Part of the beauty of Final Fantasy XII, much like Bravely Default, comes from powering up your party, creating unique combinations, and finding ways to automate things for efficiency. By skipping over that entirely in 2006, I really missed out. Playing the game as intended and using gambits to their fullest is so much more fun. I loved farming and grinding so much that I did every achievement but kill the secret boss Yiazmat because fuck a boss that takes hours (not hyperbole) to defeat.

I loved Final Fantasy XII this last time around. It is a great example of marrying classic Final Fantasy with a then-modern twist (MMORPG-esque open world, revamped approach to combat, etc.). I hate that the series has only moved further away from its roots, but FFXII was a happy compromise if only I had recognized that fact then rather than last year.

Why then do I say it is only okay?

Because the plot sucks, most of the characters would be better off in a narrative that wasn’t “crappy Star Wars”, and it wasn’t Final Fantasy Tactics 2.

Sorry! Some things don’t change.

Now Playing: The Public Enemy (1931)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


“The Public Enemy” from 1931 was a movie in which Diane and I both struggled to see its significance. While many of the pieces were in place for a proper gangster movie, none of them seemed to fall into place. Outside the horror of the final scene, “The Public Enemy” kept me engaged while I waited for something to happen. Nothing much did.

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Nothing says wholesome family movie like a kid blowing the foam off his horribly poured, probably hot, beer.

The film begins with an all-text PSA about how they do not intend to glorify hoodlums. It then opens on the streets of Chicago and two children drinking from a pail of beer. Prohibition folks! The movie quickly establishes (FADES TO BLACK) that Tom (FADES TO BLACK) is an already rotten kid (FADES TO BLACK) and that his best friend Matt (FADES TO BLACK) will follow him anywhere. (FINAL FADES TO BLACK THANK GOD MY EYES WERE STARTING TO HURT FROM THE ON AND OFF SCREEN BRIGHTNESS)

Tom and Matt belong to a local club where a man named “Putty Nose” plays them and a bunch of other kids songs on his piano. He also fences their stolen goods and I presume teaches them how to steal. It isn’t explored.

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Don’t worry children. A creepy man and a supply of beer from the day you were born will turn you all into adults in the next two minutes of this film.

Years later, all of the kids in the club have turned into men of approximate age with Putty Nose. Tom and Matt return to the club to do their first real job as older teenagers. Putty Nose hands them guns, tells them to rob a fur store, Tom and Matt get scared by a stuffed bear which they promptly unload their guns on. The noise attracts a cop who starts firing on their lookout man before finishing, “Don’t move.” Tom and Matt gun down the cop and run. The only real fallout is they lose their contact with Putty Nose and have to go in with an Irish mobster, Paddy Ryan.

I have seen some reviews that praised the acting. Outside of Tom (James Cagney) and Matt (Edward Woods), Diane and I both thought the acting was overall sub-par. All of the female side characters – besides Tom’s mother – act like the props they are. There’s also next to no screen time or character development devoted to them, though there is a whole scene where Tom admits to his girlfriend that he doesn’t understand her and she chats him up about how she likes bad boys. It was a waste of time.

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I didn’t know this was famous until I read it was famous …

The movie was very violent though. I am not sure if this is the first movie to feature blood, but when Matt is gunned down by a machine gun, they show him coughing up blood. There was also an instance of domestic violence, the film’s most famous scene, where Tom hits a woman in the face with a grapefruit.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH TOUCHES ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE. FEEL FREE TO SKIP OVER IT.

Though I doubt they would’ve called it rape at the time, there was a very peculiar part late in the film. Tom and Matt, along with other members of Paddy Ryan’s gang, are hiding out at Paddy’s when he leaves to round up the rest of his mob. Paddy’s woman friend is thirsty for Tom’s dick and she plies him with hard liquor all night long. When he leaves to go to bed, she follows him soon after and helps him undress despite him covering himself up and not wanting her to be there. He is in no state to give any kind of consent, but she persists.

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No racism in this movie, but there is the other ‘r’ word.

The movie doesn’t explain or explore this plot thread other than the morning after when she pours him a cup of coffee and references their night before. This causes him to storm out, clearly upset and violated.

Finally, the film’s climax and my personal favorite part, was easily one of its most heart wrenching and horrifying scenes. After Tom goes on a shooting spree to avenge his friend Matt, he wakes up in the hospital with a head injury. His family rushes to his side, despite the fact that his brother has spent the entire film using his morals to put Tom down for the path he has chosen for himself. When it seems like Tom is set to come home, he is kidnapped by the rival gang. His brother finally gets a call that he has been found and will be home soon. He lets his mother know, who immediately rushes upstairs to prepare a room for Tom.

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Jokes and dislike of the movie aside, this scene and this stare sold me on James Cagney.

When Tom’s brother opens the door, a restrained Tom, clearly dead, falls face first into the house. The scene cuts back and forth from the totally oblivious and happy mother to the brother who knows Tom has finally reaped what he sowed.

I would not put “The Public Enemy” as last on this list thus far, but Diane certainly considered it. While there were elements of a better movie sprinkled throughout, this relatively short film never seemed to amount to much. The movie attempted to be a realistic portrayal of the life of a gangster, including the dangerous rise and the deadly fall, but it fell flat for us both.

Random Quotes:

  • “All because you saw a stuffed bear …”
  • “Fuck the baby! We gotta put a bunch of booze in this stroller.”

Drabble: Christmas Lights

Winter Lights

The Christmas lights glowed ethereal, calling out to lost spirits in search of a home on the loneliest day at the loneliest hour when you have nowhere else to go.

Two such ghosts gathered there, each strangers, each lost.

The younger ghost broke the ice first. “Cold night, isn’t it?”

“Wouldn’t know. I have no body.”

“I don’t have anybody either!” They hugged by occupying the same physical space, though they could not touch one another. They cried, and for a moment, a floating snowflake made one ghost appear to have produced actual tears.

They decided to pass eternity together.


I originally wrote this after challenging Diane to give me a topic to compose a drabble. She chose “Christmas lights” – the first thing she saw.

Onward to Distant Worlds

This past weekend, Diane took me on a (very delayed) anniversary trip to see Final Fantasy Distant Worlds in St Petersburg, Florida. It was fantastic!

Highlight of the Evening

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Nobuo Uematsu was there and most of the crowd, save for one older gentleman sitting next to Diane who smelled like a marijuana, recognized him. The volume of applause went noticeably up anytime he was present.

It’s not that I feel like no one knows who he is or that people at a Final Fantasy concert wouldn’t recognize him, I just didn’t expect the level of respect shown him for his work was that evident in his fans’ passion.

It was a pretty spectacular thing to witness.

Oh and there was a sing-a-long for ‘One-Winged Angel’ where we all got to yell SEPHIROTH back at Nobuo himself. Amazing.

Lowlight of the Evening

There weren’t that many cosplayers, but there was one really amazing Zack. He was so good that we spent some of the evening just watching people walk up to him for pictures (it was a lot of people).

Diane and I were conflicted on this, but the reason this excellent cosplayer is a lowlight for me was because during ‘Swing de Chocobo’, he and his date started swing dancing in their balcony seats. People started pointing it out during the performance too, so I felt like it was a bit too much “hey, look at us and not these talented musicians currently performing right now”.

Best Song of the Night

I was really hoping for something from Final Fantasy Tactics or Final Fantasy XIV. I got the latter featuring the Tampa Master Chorale, which included one singer who absolutely floored both Diane and I with her singing.

The song? “Heavensward”:

Top 3 Songs I Wish They Had Played

For fun, here’s three songs I still wish I could hear played live:

Final Fantasy Tactics “Ultima, the Nice Body”

Final Fantasy VI “Aria di Mezzo Carrattere”

Final Fantasy XIV “Good King Moggle Mog’s Theme”

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