Archives for the month of: December, 2012

This is a leftover observation from an article I’m just wrapping up. It’s really just a “look at this interesting little thing” kind of observation – it doesn’t really go anywhere in particular.

In Burt Reynolds’ first film as a director, Gator, Mayor Caffery is your garden-variety southern politician, the sort of guy who tells the crowd at his rally, “We gonna have the best city south of Baltimore. Who the hell gives a damn what’s north of Baltimore?”


At the rally, Mrs Cavanaugh, carrying “Cafferey is a pinky commie” sign, is escorted aside by a police officer. After hitting him over the head with her sign, she explains, “You must understand that I am not hitting you. I am hitting Mayor Caffery and all his corruption. And here’s another blow for freedom!” As she’s being dragged away she yells to the onlookers: “What about unemployment? What’s Caffery gonna do about that? What’s he gonna do about supporting the underprivileged?”

Gator pinky commie

Gator police haul her away

What’s odd about all of this is that Cavanaugh, who’s mostly a crazy person (to the point of crazy-cat-lady absurdity), is right about pretty much everything except Caffery being a pinky commie. Cavanaugh is Aggie Maybank’s (Lauren Hutton) source for an expose. Cavanaugh reveals that there are two sets of books – and he doesn’t pay taxes on the big earning book: “Apex Finance. Dixie Entertainment. All those gas stations. All of them owned by Caffery and McCall. And all of them exploiting the masses.” Cavanaugh she leads Gator and Aggie to the courthouse’s archive, and at the courthouse there’s a slapstick chase involving two house cats, two accounting ledgers, two local cops, and a stolen police cruiser. Aggie, Gator and Cavanaugh give the evidence to the Feds and it’s legit evidence.

Gator two sets of books

There are two obvious readings of the pinky commie sign. The more obvious one is that Cavanaugh is using the “communism = bad” thinking that never fails, especially in the 1970s South. Or there’s the crazy like a fox reading of Cavanaugh using communism as a stick to beat the too-good-at-capitalism Caffery. Either way, Cavanaugh’s deployment of communism as a cudgel would be an interesting little piece of trivia were it not for another Burt Reynolds-directed film, Sharky’s Machine.

After getting busted down to the vice squad, Sharky’s sent out to arrest Mabel for prostitution. She demands fifty dollars from her potential John, which he finds a little bit pricey. Her response: “I’m a trained professional and I demand a decent wage.” All of this transpires in a long shot that keeps Mabel’s book – and its KARL MARX cover in frame. Then, in the police station after the arrest, Mabel makes a systemic critique of the criminalization of prostitution – and the approach that imprisons the women and lets the men go free. And, after that, it is Mabel’s reaction to a pimp under questioning that leads Sharky’s Machine to their first set of leads to a Big Case.

Sharkys Machine I'm a trained professional I demand a decent wage

In both cases, women who, though they are marginalized both within the narrative and by the film’s director, are proven right in the end.  It seems odd that one of Burt Reynolds’ signatures as a director would include women having a grasp on Marx and the essential information for the narrative.

Contagion’s film-closing montage of the progress of a virus from bat to pig to Gwyneth Paltrow is one of those please-teach-me-in-101 moments, but I’d probably go with a different montage if I were to teach the film. Steven Soderberg and Stephen Mirrione’s global supply chain sequence compresses time and space by honing in on shipping containers,

Contagion global supply chain

and since to live in Christchurch is to know shipping containers quite intimately, I’d probably use the shipping container bit to talk up montage (this is next to Alice’s):


Tom Conley’s Cartographic Cinema pays close attention to maps that appear on screen, and the maps in Contagion create a set of boundaries not unlike the world represented in this Risk advert that obscures New Zealand completely and leaves about twenty percent of Australia peeking out:


Adding to the work of the montages in establishing a globalized world, maps fill the edges of Contagion’s mise en scene with reminders that the danger is expanding to every corner. Contagion bases a fair amount of its scariness on the way in which the virus hits the developed world – and its hypermobility – so hard. But that’s not to say that the virus spreads over the entire globe.

Contagion map outbreak 1

Contagion outbreak 5

Contagion outbreak 4

Contagion map outbreak 2

Contagion map outbreak 3

In all of the outbreak map appearances, New Zealand doesn’t even appear, protected by oceans, distance, and a tendency to forget that almost five million of us live down here. However, I see a large swath of red covers southeast Australia. Who’s the lucky country now?

The first I heard of Raising Arizona was on the radio, on the way home from a travel-league soccer game. There was a piece on it on NPR (so long ago that my now-Tea-Party-father would still listen to NPR) that featured HI’s nickel tour of the trailer.

Raising Arizona that theres the kitchen area

My favourite viewing of Raising Arizona was at the Music Box, where they thumbed their nose at the fire code to pack at least thirty more people into their small auditorium for a midnight screening. I remember that there were long stretches of the movie when you couldn’t hear the movie for all the laughter.

In an attempt to get a break from some extra-depressing shit, I popped in Raising Arizona and was shocked at a little visual flourish that I’d missed for the last 25 years. The recurrent Barry Goldwater portrait is too easy to miss.

Raising Arizona con with Goldwater picture

Raising Arizona doctor's office 2However, I’d never noticed that HI’s cellmate has a little portrait of JFK next to him in bed.

Raising Arizona con with JFK picture

This is a moment that I’m a little embarrassed about – how did I miss the red and blue in the flag given the shot’s colour palette? – but that I’ll be thrilled to include when I’m lecturing on the importance of looking to the edge of the frame, where the film fills in details of the fictional world if we’re careful enough to look.