THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

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This is a sweet, fairly well made teen coming-of-age story, set in the early 90s. It’s well traveled territory made fresh by the chemistry between the two leads, Logan Lerman and Emma Watson. Watson is a real revelation, spirited and sexy but suggesting greater depths than her somewhat conventionally conceived character would seem to have promised on the page.

Perhaps unwisely, one of the characters in the film says, “It’s official — my life has become an ABC Afterschool Special!”  That is in fact pretty much what this film is, though with better acting and better production values than ABC usually offered.  Why did anyone think it was a candidate for the big screen?

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Well, the novel it was based on was a huge bestseller, Emma Watson’s participation probably meant an automatic green light, and the producers, who had also produced Juno, undoubtedly thought it had the same breakout potential.  But Juno wasn’t a period piece — it was seen as a cutting-edge look at teen girl culture today, and it kept its appealing female protagonist front and center.  The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is told  from the point of view of its male protagonist and Watson, the picture’s real treasure, has more of a supporting role.

One can only hope that Watson finds better vehicles than this for her wonderfully promising talents.  Meanwhile it’s worth taking a look at her here to get a sense of what she might be capable of in the future.

Click on the images to enlarge.

BLACK JACK

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I love watching the horses in the rebroadcasts of the various processions connected with JFK’s funeral — the calm and patient white ones that drew the caisson, and Black Jack, with the empty saddle and boots reversed in the stirrups, who couldn’t keep still. He was having none of the solemnity. “I’m alive!” he kept saying. “I’m alive!”

Black Jack was never an easy horse to deal with — he was chosen for funerals because he was so handsome. The soldier who handled him in the Kennedy processions deserved a medal for keeping him from bolting, all the while maintaining his own self-possession and dignity.

Black Jack delivered a subliminal message of vitality and high spirits that would not have been appropriate for any human mourner in the proceedings — but it was an essential message, a message of hope. He represented Kennedy’s spirit in a doleful time.

SEX APPEAL

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Women have a hard time being ironical about their sex appeal. Sly and cynical they can do — see Madonna and Lady Gaga and Sarah Silverman and their ilk. Pious and self-important they can do — see just about every modern movie “sex symbol”. But good-natured irony is reserved for the few geniuses of sex — Clara Bow, Marilyn Monroe, Dita von Teese and Miley Cyrus.

Men are oddly relieved when women laugh at their lust, without judgment.

BACKLASH

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This is an entertaining Western from 1956, expertly directed by John Sturges. Donna Reed, who plays a tough-talking adventurer, looks hot on a horse — hotter than you might imagine, even though her horsebacking skills seem to have been somewhat limited.

I noticed something very strange while watching it, related to one of the Western paintings of Robert McGinnis, identified on some web sites by the title “Alder Point Station”:

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It duplicates, almost exactly, a shot in Backlash, although McGinnis has eliminated one figure on foot, changed the time from day to night and altered the signage on the stage station from Benton’s Trading Post to Bently’s Trading Post.  Backlash was a wide-screen film, and this painting echoes the composition of the shot with uncanny precision.

I can’t find any information online about this borrowing.  McGinnis doesn’t seemed to have contributed to the advertising art for the picture, and one is tempted to imagine that he just remembered the shot and reproduced it unconsciously, although the change to the sign suggests something more considered.

McGinnis once partially duplicated a scene from The Searchers as a tribute to John Wayne and to the film:

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This was, however, an acknowledged homage.  “Alder Point Station” seems to be an unacknowledged lift from the Sturges film.  In any case, it’s a wonderful painting.

Click on the images to enlarge.

[Update: Facebook friend Todd Fletcher recognized the rock formation in the back of the McGinnis painting as Gates Pass, which is located near the “Old Tucson” Western filming complex in Arizona:

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A quick search at the IMDB confirms that Backlash was indeed partially filmed at the Old Tucson location.]

FRAUNCES TAVERN

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[Image via Paul Pearson & Shorpy]

Fraunces Tavern, seen above in 1900, is sometimes called the oldest bar in New York City, though it has not been in continuous operation since it started selling spirits in the 1760s.  It’s presently housed in a somewhat conjectural reconstruction of its original building, where George Washington bade farewell to his officers after the Revolutionary War:

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The oldest continuously operating bar in New York City is McSorley’s Old Ale House, which claims to date from 1854 but may have actually opened in the 1860s.

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In any case, McSorley’s has hardly changed at all since John Sloan painted the picture above in 1912.

Click on the images to enlarge.