4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!
Today, the Shattered Lens honors both the birth and the legacy of the great filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa! It’s time for….
4 Shots From 4 Akira Kurosawa Films
Seven Samurai (1954, dir by Akira Kurosawa, DP: Asakazu Nakai)
The Hidden Fortress (1958, dir. by Akira Kurosawa, DP: Kazuo Yamasaki)
Dersu Uzala (1975, dir. by Akira Kurosawa, DP: Asakazu Nakai)
Dreams (1990, dir by Akira Kurosawa, DP: Takao Saito)
Chris Morrell (John Wayne) is an honest cowboy who keeps an eye on Nina (Shirley Jean Rickert), a little girl whose Indian mother died when Nina was just a baby. When oil is discovered on land that belonged to Nina’s mother, Nina is offered $50,000 for the land. Because Nina is only eight years old, her legal guardian will be responsible for taking care of the money. Chris and Nina set out to find Nina’s father so that he can sign the guardianship papers and make Chris into Nina’s legal guardian.
When outlaw Sam Black (Yakima Canutt) decides that he would rather be Nina’s legal guardian, Chris sends Nina to a ranch owned by his old friend, Bud Moore, while he defeats Sam and his men. At the ranch, it turns out that Bud Moore has died and the new ranch owner is another outlaw named Vic (Jack Rockwell) and Vic wants Nina’s oil claim for himself. What Vic doesn’t know is that Nina’s father is one of his ranch hands.
For a 52 minute programmer, there’s a lot going on in ‘Neath The Arizona Skies. There’s actually too much going on and, with that short of a run time, it feels as if more than a few important plot points were glossed over, like how Chris came to look after Nina in the first place. John Wayne is stiff but likable as Chris while Yakima Canutt does his usual double duty as both an outlaw and a stuntman. There are a few good action scenes, especially when Chris runs off Sam’s gang for the first time. Sheila Terry plays Wayne’s love interest, who has to be first convinced that Chris isn’t actually an outlaw. As Nina, Shirley Jean Rickert is energetic but you’ll quickly get tired of her yelling, “Daddy Chris!” whenever anything happens. This isn’t one of the best of the 50 poverty row films that Wayne appeared in before Stagecoachmade him a star but, even in this film, there are still hints of the screen presence that would later become Wayne’s trademark.
Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001. The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!
This week, Chris meets a princess and L-Train becomes Mr. History.
Episode 4.8 “Kodak Moment”
(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 14th, 2000)
Chris, Al, and L-Train are standing at a newsstand when a blonde (Kristen Miller) with a fake British accent runs up and kisses Chris.
“Do you always kiss strangers?” Chris ask her.
“I do if they’re cute,” she replies.
“Wooooooooooo!” the audience replies.
My immediate reaction was to assume that Chris was being set up by a human trafficking ring and that he would soon be finding himself in Hostel-style situation. And, to be honest, I didn’t really have an objection to that because Chris is a pretty stupid character and, considering everything that has happened to him over the course of the last four seasons, it’s kind of hard to see what else was really left for the show to do with him. He’s served his purpose so why not use Chris as a cautionary tale?
However, it turns out that the blonde is actually Princess Sarah, a member of European royalty who just wants to lead a normal life but who can’t get away from the paparazzi. Poor thing. Who cares? Anyway, Chris and Princess Sarah go on a date but then Chris sees Sarah kissing another man and he decides the best way to react is to work with Al and L-Train to get a picture of the princess that they can then sell to the press. But then Princess Sarah puts on a fake mustache so she can sneak onto campus and explain to Chis that the man was her ex-boyfriend and she was just kissing him to say goodbye. Chris forgives Sarah but he forgets to call off Al and L-Train. Al sneaks into Sarah’s hotel room and takes a lot of pictures. Chris learns a lesson about privacy and I get a migraine. To escape the paparazzi, Sarah returns to the UK because, as we all know, the British tabloids are notorious for respecting the privacy of the rich and famous.
(If Sarah were played by a British actress, this episode would perhaps be a bit less annoying. But the fake accent on top of all the usual City Guys foolishness just makes the whole thing unwatchable.)
Meanwhile, Jamal, Dawn, and Cassidy try to catch a ghost on camera. Ms. Noble eventually joins them. It’s meant to be a parody of the Blair Witch Project. It turns out that there isn’t really a ghost at Manny High Instead, there’s just Ms. Noble and the janitor playing a practical joke on the students. What? Didn’t Ms. Noble just get married? Why isn’t she on her honeymoon?
This was dumb. Let’s move on and meet Mr. History.
Episode 4.9 “Meet Mr. History”
(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 20th, 2000)
Ms. Noble remembers that she’s supposed to be a teacher so she assigns everyone a research report. The students have to track down an old person and interview them. Chris and Jamal don’t know any interesting old people so they turn in an interview with Jamal’s fictional Uncle Jesse. Ms. Noble is so impressed that she arranges for Uncle Jesse to appear on a local television show. Uh-oh. Time for L-Train to dress up like an old guy and go on television! Of course, L-Train is in no way believable as an old guy so everyone ends up getting yelled at by Ms. Noble. Chris, Jamal, and L-Train attempt to apologize to the producer of the television show but end up getting their apology broadcast to the entire city. The show presents the apology as being the right thing to do but there’s no way that Chris, Jamal, and L-Train aren’t going to get mugged the next time they get on the subway. The entire city of New York now believes them to be a bunch of …. well, jerks! (As well all know from the mock trial episode of City Guys, jerk is the worst thing you can call someone in New York.)
Amy Winehouse. Her talent is missed more with each day that passes.
This beautifully shot video takes place at a funeral. What’s being buried? Amy’ heart, after another failed love affair. Originally, the video made this clear by featuring a close-up of the tombstone, announcing that Amy had just buried her heart. After Amy died in 2011, that shot was cut from the video. That’s an understandable decision and I think it actually adds an extra hint of mystery to the video. That said, I’ve always wondered if that’s the same decision that Amy would have made if she had some sort of say in the matter.