Archive for May, 2009

A home for missing comments

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

It appears that this post won’t accept new comments (or accepts, and counts, but doesn’t display them).

That may be a consequence of the work needed to rescue the blog after incredibly heavy traffic (related to that post) shut it down.

So, well, feel free to add your appropriate comments here.

For starters, here are two comments received but apparently not visible:

From El Aura:

Blu-ray probably will not be as successful (ie, reaching the same market share) as the DVD because DVDs are in a sense ‘good enough’ and because of the competition from downloads. That is what is compared against, its predecessor.
The predecessor for the Kindle are some earlier Sony eBook devices.

Any judgement or classification needs a benchmark.

From Steven Kaye:

To be fair, there’s also skepticism that Blu-Ray won’t be replaced by yet another format in short order, while Kindles can read a variety of file formats.

My responses:

To El Aura: I think that’s an awfully high benchmark for “success.” I’d suggest that Blu-ray is a success if it’s profitable and achieves mass-market status. (Most companies these days would be delighted with the first criterion…and there are a lot of niche success stories.) I’d also suggest that the predecessor for the Kindle is the Rocket eBook Reader; the Sony is a contemporary competitor. (And at $280 at Target in today’s flyer, I would suggest that Sony hasn’t given up the competition.)

To Steven: Really? I haven’t heard many suggestions of any new physical video format–and Blu-ray players are fully backward compatible with CD and DVD, with most of them also able to handle MP3 CDs, so they can certainly read a variety of file formats. There may be skepticism–but there are also sales an order of magnitude greater than Kindle (that is, >10x as many).

From Russell Frost:

Inevitable can be a difficult word.  It’s a sword that cuts several ways.

Extend the graph of vinyl sales back just a little beyond the convenient of 1991 and it’s clear where that format is headed.  Go back just one year, to 1990, and total vinyl LP sales were 38 million.  Getting excited about 1.88 million vinyl LP sales is something, relative to a specific time period but it’s an awfully tiny share of the market.  As you said, “small business”.  Add in the fact that those 1.88 million pieces were shared between a dozen or more companies and then ponder that the two million piece sales mark was a respectable hit for a single title from one artist but by no means a blockbuster a mere twenty years ago and you have, perhaps, some better perspective on vinyl sales.  Keep in mind that even during the early boom years of the CD vinyl sales were in the hundreds of millions.  In the three years from 2005 to 2008, digital download sales went from (as charted by the RIAA) zero to over 50 million.

Vinyl is cool and there is a case to be made for the album format as it relates to some music.  The idea however that vinyl is resurgent in any real sense of the word is silly.  At least at this point and I would tend to think, forever.  LPs died for a reason and that reason is usually ignored by the more romantic amongst us who are either fans of the medium or simply misinformed.  It doesn’t surprise me that maybe 50,000 or 60,000 people still buy vinyl but again, that’s very small potatoes in the context of the US market.

And make no mistake the public walked away from the vinyl LP format because the vast majority of people felt they were served better by different technology.  And in most senses, I would tend to agree with them.

So when discussing perceptions versus reality I would gently suggest that perhaps the vinyl LP example did not demonstrate what you intended.

My response: I’m one of those who abandoned vinyl and never looked back. My comment in the original post may have been misleading, but what I was saying is that vinyl did not die, even though its role in the marketplace changed from being a major force to a niche market. (I was about to say “the dominant playback medium,” but fact is audiocassettes outsold vinyl before CDs came along!)

You’re absolutely right that LPs are no longer a major market, and probably never will be. But they’re not dead. They’ve become an interesting little niche market. There are lots of interesting little niche markets around…if you believe some who throw around the word “inevitable,” everything’s becoming a niche market anyway.

50 Movie Comedy Classics, Disc 6

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Million Dollar Kid, 1944, b&w. Wallace Fox (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, William ‘Billy” Benedict, Louise Currie, Noah Berry, Herbert Heyes, Johnnny Duncan. 1:05.

Yet another East Side Kids flick—but one of the more heartwarming, if you can deal with the premise of this large band of young adults with no jobs, no visible means of income but also a firm opposition to any actual criminal activity. (“Young adults” gets to be more of a stretch over time…)

In this one, the Kids hear about muggings taking place on their turf that could damage their reputation. They encounter one of them: three punks taking on an older man. They fight off the punks, rescue the man…and find his wallet in the trash, money intact. Then the cops pick them up, but the man comes to the police station and identifies them as his saviors. He convinces them to drop by his house (there’s a nice little class-warfare scene involving the butler) where he shows them a well-equipped gym and invites them to use it. They also meet his daughter, a looker who Muggs falls for instantly.

Rest of the plot? One son’s a pilot overseas; the other seems a little lost (and spends his time in a pool hall filled with unsavory characters). The daughter’s semi-engaged to a Frenchman who seems a little off…and her father’s managed to alienate most of the servants so she’s not sure who can cook or serve at a party she wants to throw. The Kids provide the cook and servant, and along the way discover that the Frenchman’s a grifter with a phony accent (and reveal that to her in the right way), the son was one of the muggers (but he’s mostly confused, not really bad), and manage to convince the son to clean up his act. All sweetness and light, and occasionally amusing—and for a change the Kids get along pretty well with the cops. Unfortunately, the sound track is noisy and there are just enough missing frames to be annoying. $0.75.

Bowery Blitzkrieg, 1941, b&w. Wallace Fox (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Keye Luke and the usual gang. 1:02 [0:59]

This time the plot concerns Muggs being sent to reform school on a phony charge, getting out as long as he’s training (as a Police Athletic League rep) for a boxing tournament, claims by a local hood that he’s getting Muggs to throw the bout and lots more. The culmination: Muggs donates blood to save his pal (that’s all involved with the bout-throwing; it’s complicated and has to do with some of the less ethical or more stupid ESKs) on the day of the Big Bout…but all comes out OK in the end, of course.

That’s a short summary because I didn’t write it up right after seeing the film, and there was really no long-term memory of the movie. It was OK, better than some, and—as with most of these—really for people who love Leo Gorcey and the gang. For that crowd, I’ll give it $1.

Three Broadway Girls (aka The Greeks Had a Word for Them), 1932, b&w. Lowell Sherman (dir.), Joan Blondell, Madge Evans, Ina Claire, David Manners, Lowell Sherman. 1:19.

Not an East Side Kids picture—instead, a comedy about three gold-diggers, whose methods are tipped off by an opening title, noting that half of the women in the world are working women—and the other half are working the men. It’s amusing, and all three women are interesting characters, but it’s also a bit forced: One of the three repeatedly undermines any chance for happiness or love by the others, and you’d think the other two would freeze her out at some point. But that would be serious, and there’s nothing serious about this flick. It’s amusing, it’s distinctly amoral in a pre-Code way, and I’ll give it $1.25.

Swing High, Swing Low, 1937, b&w. Mitchell Leisen (dir.), Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Charles Butterworth, Jean Dixon, Dorothy Lamour, Anthony Quinn. 1:32 [1:22]

Comedy? Really? Maybe a musical romantic “comedy,” but even that’s a stretch. Maggie, working on a cruise ship, meets Skid (Fred MacMurray), just getting out of the army, while on her way through the Panama Canal locks. She winds up with him in a nightclub, there’s a brawl, they wind up in jail, she’s stranded… He turns out to be a great trumpet player.

Events ensue. They get married. He gets a great offer to play in New York—and he’ll send for her later. He’s a big hit. Except that another woman, the singer in New York, Anita Alvarez (Dorothy Lamour), makes sure he’s always broke and, when Maggie takes a ship to New York on her own, makes sure he doesn’t get the telegram to meet her…and takes him back to her room.

Maggie gets a divorce. He falls apart completely—even though he’s really never spent much time with her and has always treated her badly, as far as we can tell. It all ends well, I guess—but I never quite see why she doesn’t just dump this self-centered schmuck and go marry the cattleman who clearly loves her. Maybe I’m just not romantic enough. Maybe the missing 10 minutes is important.

Ah, but it has Lombard, MacMurray, Lamour and more—there’s also Charles Butterworth doing a fine turn as a piano player and others doing good work. Well photographed, reasonably well acted, some good music. As a comedy, though, it’s a washout. Charitably, $1.25.