Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cinema Tuesdays {The Wheeler Dealers}

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From 1963, The Wheeler Dealers is a prime example of the art of Gamesmanship, which is an essential skill to those who follow Stephen Potter's teachings of One-upmanship. What exactly is Gamesmanship? Well, it's the art of winning without actually cheating. Everyone would like to win when playing the game of life, but sometimes one can't do it by being entirely honest. And that's where Gamesmanship comes in.
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James Garner plays Henry Tyroone, a wheeler dealer from Texas. Actually, he's from Boston and went to Yale but if he says he's from Texas and he has the accent then people naturally assume he has pots of money.
Henry is a very successful wheeler dealer, because he always thinks of a way for the taxman to take most of the loss of whatever business venture he thinks of. He believes that "you wheel and deal for fun, money's just the way you keep score".
Henry's had a string of bad luck with his oil wells this year and his accountant sends him to New York in order to pick up 1.2 million in "shopping money" or else he'll go broke. And rich men can't afford to go broke.
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These are Henry's buddies: Ray Jay, Jay Ray and J.R. They live on an airplane and follow Henry around in order to get a piece of the action.
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After raising some money from some investors that owe him a favour, Henry goes to see Mr. Bear on Wall Street in order to see about investing in the stock market. Now, it just so happens that Bear's firm is losing money and he has to let go of some of their worthless stocks and one of their analysts. He's decided to give the Universal Widget stock account to Molly (Lee Remick) and to give her a month to do something with Widget and then he'll have an excuse to fire her.
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Molly is also practising gamesmanship, or at least trying to. Since she wants girls to be accepted on Wall Street, she wears boxy suits with bow ties in order to show that she's serious but she also wear pastel colours in order to show that she's still a girl.
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Guess which analyst Mr. Bear introduces to Henry.
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So now Henry has two missions in New York: raise the money and get together with Molly. Will he be able to do it?
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He starts by giving Molly two dozen roses and she starts by taking him to one of those chic French restaurants where you spend three hours at the bar before you get a table.
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Henry finds this set up interesting and he manages to get a table by speaking Italian to the head waiter. He then disappears for a few days.
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He then takes Molly to the same restaurant, which he has now bought.
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He also doubled the size of the bar, since it was more profitable then the restaurant.
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Molly just can't quite make Henry out.
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So she takes him to one of those pretentious post-modern art gallery openings.
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Henry can't quite figure the paintings out. Until he sees the asking price.
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He then meets the artist, who is also another wheeler dealer and the artist tells Henry that he can make a nice profit by investing in collecting paintings. Henry and the artist then disappear for a few days.
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Check out the hair dryer that Molly's room mate is using to set her hair while vacuuming.
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I like this robe, but you will have noticed that Molly's wardrobe is very business-like and not very revealing. That because she's working in the man's world and has to dress in order to blend in. Plus, she's not considering marriage and that's not normal for 1963.
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Henry and the artist have been buzzing around Europe, picking up German Expressionists in order to display them in a museums and get a deduction on their taxes, until Henry thinks the time is right to sell.
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Molly still can't figure Henry out.
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Meanwhile the boys show up to get in on the action with the German Expressionists.
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Henry and Molly finally decided to take a look at the Universal Widget site in order to see what kind of prospects an investment would have. It burned to the ground in the 19th century.
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They go to see Mr. Wimple, the president of the Universal Widget company and he says that the only reason why they are still a company is in order to avoid paying taxes on the AT&T stock they bought in 1899.
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Even in the country, Molly still has to wear boxy suits, of course she is in the country on business.
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Henry tells Molly that he will help her sell the worthless Widget stock in order to make her a success on Wall Street and encourage other girls to become stock analysts if she agrees to come to Texas to be his assistant for six months.
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They get started on the drive make to New York.
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Henry then goes to see two P.R. men in order to get the word about Widget out. What exactly is a widget? Who cares.
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The boys at the club are pleased to see that people are finally taking an interest in Widget.
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John Astin (pre Gomez) works for the Federal Security Commission and he doesn't like the sudden rise that Widget has been making and he's going to investigate for fraud.
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Meanwhile, Jay Ray, Ray Jay and J.R. go to see Mr. Bear in order to get Molly fired because they think she'll be happier in Texas and married to Henry.
So, Molly gets fired and her registration as an analyst revoked, for which she blames Henry. She then finds out that Henry is really from Boston and went to Yale.
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Her room mate then suggests that she get her revenge.
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Notice how once she's been removed from the man's world of business, she's allowed to wear something sexy.
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So, what happens to Molly and Henry? And what does John Astin's investigation turn up?

The Wheeler Dealers used to only available on an old VHS copy, which is why my screen caps look washed out. However, The Wheeler Dealers was just released yesterday on a multi-region DVD as part of the expensive Warner Archive collection.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Last Thursday, just before I went to Portland, I had my graduation ceremony which my university calls Convocation. My uni is on top of a mountain, which is why the ceremony took place six months after my last exams when the weather was nice and not raining. And I didn't trip over my robes like I did when I graduated from high school.
I now have a shiny new Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Humanities to call my own from the top comprehensive university in Canada! And I did not have to get any student loans. Huzzah!
Did you know that all four of my grandparents went to university? I'm always proud and impressed by this fact.
This wasn't the university I thought that I would go to when I graduated from high school five years ago, nor was it the subjects I thought I would get a major and minor in. My focus changed when I went to college and this is the degree that I'm so very happy with.
I should point out to any international readers that in Canada, universities are were you go to get actual degrees and colleges are were you go to get certificates or associate degrees or to transfer into universities. Does that make sense?
I would never have been able to get the math requirement to go to university straight from high school, so I did my first two years at college and then transferred for my third year. I'm glad that I went to college; it was a nice place to transition, I learned how to write a damn good essay and I changed my mind about which uni and major and minor I wanted because I had such good professors there.
This past spring, I've been thinking long and hard about what I want to do with my life now that I've finished university. I want a job that I love to do and that will allow me to wear whatever I want to. If I wanted a job that I could make a ton of money at, I would not that done a degree in English and Humanities. I have since come to the realization a few weeks ago that I have been genetically programmed to teach. I've always thought that I was born to be a teacher, but I've been in denial about it, because it is the hardest job ever and the pay is rubbish. However, it is also the most rewarding job ever, which is why I have to be one. It'll be a long, hard road in order to become qualified and get tenured at a high school. But if I decide to stay in Vancouver, then I'll be the fifth generation on my Dad's side to teach in this city. I just hope that I don't end up teaching at my old high school, that would be weird.


This is the dress that I was wearing under my robe. You may recognize it from this movie. I got it from Heart My Closet on Etsy. If it doesn't rain this week, I'll do a little photo shoot with it, since it's such a beautiful dress and for a $100 custom made dress, the quality is excellent and it fits perfectly!
I hope to have all of my Portland photos edited and uploaded for tomorrow night, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cinema Tuesdays {Hopscotch}

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I came to the realization a few years ago that Hopscotch is my favourite movie of all time, I Know Where I'm Going is a close second but this is definitely my favourite. It's hard to pick a favourite movie for anyone, especially for me since I've seen somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1200 movies. Some people find it odd that considering how much I love classic and silent cinema that a little known movie from 1980 is my favourite, but this is one of the few movies that I can watch several times a year and still enjoy it as much as I did the first time that I saw it.
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Walter Matthau plays Kendig, a long time field agent for the CIA. He's very good at his job. Unlike most other spy movies, you wouldn't expect him to be a spy since he doesn't look or act like a spy.
Hopscotch also has the best soundtrack ever and it was chosen by Walter Matthau. He also wears most of his own clothes in the film, which adds to the realism.
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While finishing up a routine spy job, Kendig gets Yaskov (Herbert Lom) to hand over the important microfilm. Yaskov is the head of the KGB Western Europe section and he and Kendig have been friends for twenty years and they do this sort of thing all the time since they know how each other works and they protect each others jobs since it makes their spy work easier knowing who their counterparts are and now doubt if the situation were reversed, Yaskov would expect Kendig to hand over the microfilm.
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Unfortunately when Kendig returns to Washington, he gets chewed out by Ned Beatty as Myerson, the sailor mouthed new head of his section. Myerson used to be the head of the Dirty Tricks section and the only reason why he's been with the CIA for so long is that he has tapes on everyone. Myerson decides to retire Kendig behind a desk because he's too old and he doesn't play by the rules, even though he always gets the job done.
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Kendig finds this objectionable, so he decides to quit by shredding his file and flying off to Salzburg to see Mozart.
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He also meets up with his old girlfriend Isobel, who also used to be a spy but is now a wealthy Austrian widow.
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Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson have wonderful chemistry together and I wished that they had made more films together. Plus Glenda Jackson is always so fabulous at playing comedy.
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They quickly fall back into their old comfortable relationship and play gin while Kendig thinks of what he wants to do next.
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While having a drink, Yaskov jokingly asks if he's going to write his memoirs. That isn't such a bad idea.
I also spotted Walter Matthau wearing this exact same sweater when he hosted Saturday Night Live a few years before and Jim Hutton also wore it a couple of times when he was in Ellery Queen (the greatest show you've never heard of) in the Seventies. Must have been a popular sweater.
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Meanwhile the CIA have finally figured out that he's quit and start following him and tapping Isobel's phone to figure out what he's up to.
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Kendig starts writing his history of all of the CIA's dirty secrets as well as details on the operations that their currently working on.
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"You're insane!"
But she'll help him anyway.
What follows next is the ultimate way to one-up your entire company and quit your job at the same time, although Kendig's method is not recommended for everyone.
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While Isobel is mailing out the first chapter of his book to every spy agency, Kendig drives to France to pick up some false passports.
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Myerson naturally over reacts to Kendig's retirement plan and orders Sam Waterston as Cutter, Kendig's former trainee and replacement to find him and kill him before the KGB gets to him.
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Remember when you could just walk into an airport and buy a ticket for the first plane out? Neither do I.
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Kendig is having fun playing with the CIA by keeping one step ahead of them and knowing exactly how they will react. Really this is the best way to quit your day job.
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Meanwhile, they start harassing Isobel, but they can't get past her dog.
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Kendig then brilliantly rents out Myerson's vacation house from this nice Southern realtor lady.
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Looking at his hated boss's picture really gets his creative juices flowing.
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During his heavy writing period, the CIA declares him to be the most dangerous man in the world. This is not what one would expect the most dangerous man in the world to look like.
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Once he's finished writing most of his book, Kendig phones Isobel to let the CIA know which house he's been staying in.
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He then sets up a complex system of firecrackers.
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"He's actually had the balls to hide out in my house!"
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Kendig then leaves out the back while the FBI destroy Myserson's beautiful house.
Now, that is how you one-up someone!
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And now Kendig and Isobel moves into the final stage.
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Myerson and Cutter finally track down Kendig's publisher in London, only he wont be intimidated by death threats. How could anyone threaten a man with such a beautiful fireplace in his office?
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Myerson, Cutter and Yaskov then find his hotel room and the final chapter, which has the really dirty stuff in it. The KGB actually have now interest in catching Kendig, but Yaskov does want to know what he's friend is up to.
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So, what his plan to quit his job? Well, it involves blowing up an airplane, but it does void his CIA pension.
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Hopscotch is available on Regions 2 and 4 and on a Region 1 Criterion DVD.
Here is the original trailer:

Here's the trailer for House Calls, the first movie that Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson made together and it's well worth watching.