Author Archives: humanizingthevacuum

Ranking my favorite Cary Grant films

I sympathize with Roger Thornhill’s plight in North by Northwest: all he wants in the first third of the movie is to make his date at the Winter Garden Theater in Manhattan. After spending an anxious few minutes locked in Eva Marie Saint’s top bunk, he pouts upon realizing he broke a pair of snazzy sunglasses. The movie dawdles another few minutes so that Thornhill can crack a couple of okay jokes regarding a thumb-sized razor he insists Saint lend him (he’s got the faintest suggestion of bristle — unacceptable!).

This is the essence of Cary Grant: acting perfectly serious about frivolities. When I read last decade David Thomson’s declaration in The Biographical Dictionary of Film that the actor was “the best and most important actor in the history of movies,” I nodded. In four decades, through indifferent movies, terrible ones, and several great ones, Grant showed actors how to incarnate desire; how to make oneself the tabula rasa on which the audience projects its lust and admiration. He loved physical comedy, was never happier in Sylvia Scarlett (1936) and Holiday (1938) than showing off his acrobatic training. He was the most recessive of film actors. He was so self-composed that when he (reluctantly) let women seduce him it never feels like an example of his narcissism; it’s more like they’re doing him a favor, possibly reassuring the audience of his commitment to heterosexuality. Self-mockery has never looked this easy. But when he brooded it came from an inner darkness, shared at the peril of female costars, as Ingrid Bergman and Doris Nolan learned in Notorious and Holiday, respectively.

Below is a partial ranking. I don’t see what others do in the sodden Arsenic and Old Lace.

The Hague

An Affair to Remember

Meh

Arsenic and Old Lace
I Was a Male War Bride
Indiscreet
Operation Petticoat

Sound, Solid Entertainments

Sylvia Scarlet
Penny Serenade
Bringing Up Baby
In Name Only
None But the Lonely Heart
The Talk of the Town
People Will Talk
To Catch a Thief
Suspicion
Topper
That Touch of Mink

Good to Great

Notorious
Only Angels Have Wings
Holiday
The Awful Truth
His Girl Friday
Charade
The Philadelphia Story
North by Northwest
Gunga Din

Ranking Def Leppard’s top 40 singles

So…are you REALLY GEDDINIT?!?!

The Hague

Make Love Like a Man
Stand Up (Kick Love into Motion)

Meh

Miss You in a Heartbeat
Two Steps Behind
Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad

Sound, Solid Entertainments

Rocket
Armageddon It
Let’s Get Rocked
Rock of AGes

Good to Great

Animal
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Photograph
Hysteria
Love Bites
Foolin’

Ranking Bob Dylan’s UK and American hits

I’ve written about this person a couple times, okay?

The Hague

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Baby Stop Cryin’

Meh

Hurricane

Sound, Solid Entertainments

Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?
I Threw It All Away
Watching the River Flow
The Times They Are a-Changin’
Just Like a Woman
Gotta Serve Somebody
George Jackson

Good to Great

Maggie’s Farm
Like a Rolling Stone
Positively 4th Street
Tangled Up in Blue
Lay Lady Lay
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
I Want You
Subterranean Homesick Blues
One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Rolling Thunder Revue’ captures Dylan at the peak of his post-sixties inscrutability

He may regard Wildean concepts as philosophical lodestars, but Bob Dylan had the strongest bullshit detector in rock and roll. Based on the menagerie that crowded round him during the Rolling Thunder Revue, it’s a wonder he didn’t kick them in the teeth. Martin Scorsese’s documentary about the 1975 tour depicts counterculture standbys like Allen Ginsburg, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell as grown men and women who babble like eleventh graders, with Dylan as the scowling headmaster. “How was it?” he’s asked after a performance of “Isis.” “How was what?” is the response. Someone else refers to Ginsberg, a Method actor in his roly-poly guru phase, as the tour’s father figure. “He was anything but a father figure,” Dylan growls, after which Scorsese cuts to an explanation of the poet’s sexual appetite for straight thin young men (as if these dudes weren’t chasing every female teen they spotted!). After listening patiently to Mitchell explaining why she joined what she calls, with chemically imbalanced precision, “this experiment in communal existence,” Dylan snaps, “I think you better come on stage right now.” This from a man who wore a straw hat with plastic fruit and smeared what looked like whipped cream on his face. Continue reading

Ranking Eminem’s top ten singles

As the list below swells in a depressing way, let’s be thankful he didn’t earn more top ten hits in the Trump era, for example the 2017 “River” in which “Shoulda knew to use protection/’fore I bit into your forbidden fruit” confirms what you suspected about Ed Sheeran’s shows of sensitivity even when he hides behind the cliches of Old Testament imagery.

Continue reading