Cinema Cinema Shame

2023 Cinema [Shame] Statement

I turned the calendar over to January, which means two things. I posted my Top 100 songs of the past year on Spotify, and it’s time to take stock of my year in moviewatching for Cinema Shame.

I’m sure it should signify something else, too, like committing to being more patient with my kids or vowing to do yoga at least once week. I’ll work on those, too. I will. (I really would like to do more yoga because my back is a mess and I have to clean out the basement for some home renovation.)

That’s a post for another day. I’m redoing the home theater setup and all my physical media is currently living in boxes and I only kinda sorta know where everything is and I kept some stuff out, like stuff I needed to keep out for Cinema Shame podcasts and manuscript research but mostly I feel empty, like the bookshelves that used to house all my DVDs. [Exhale.]

I’ve gathered some old Shame that I never got around to watching and I’ve merged it with some new Shame and presto bango I’ve got a new list for 2023. Check out the 2023 Cinema Shame call for Shame here.

Old Business

2022 cinema shame statement

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (John McNaughton, 1990)

It’s been on the list since 2018 and at this point not watching it might be the point.

Aguirre, The Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)

Not even the 1972 Shamedown prompted me to put this DVD in the player.

Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)

Since I need to write a blurb about this one for a DVD Netflix article I’ve got in the works, it’s time to watch the 4K disc I purchased last year. Seriously, guy.

Can’t Stop the Music (Nancy Walker 1980)

My co-host on the Cinema Shame podcast will probably club me like a baby seal for this one.

Tarzan, the Ape Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1933)

The variety of Shame in which I’ve watched the other Tarzan movies of the period (because pre-code swimming nudity!) but not the original? Here’s a video I recorded at the 2019 TCM Film Festival about the creation of the Tarzan yell.

The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1983)

Many people consider this the best movie of 1983. I just see a very long space melodrama without any pew pew pew. I’m sure it’s good, but my boosters aren’t firing.

Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)

You can still count the number of non-samurai Kurosawas I’ve seen on one hand.

Once again I’ve consulted my favorite guide for new entries on this list. The Entertainment Weekly Guide comes out once a year when I mark off movies I’ve watched and add movies I need to watch to this list.

New Business

DODSWORTH, Walter Huston, Mary Astor, 1936

Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1946)

It’s the next man off the bench in the book’s list of Best Dramas, checking in at #30.

Hail the Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges, 1944)

I honestly can’t remember if I watched this one. It checks in at #42 on the Comedy countdown, so we’ll give it a spin. If it turns familiar, I’ve got Adam’s Rib waiting in the wings, another movie I think I might have watched at some point or another.

The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)

The second Wyler comes to me courtesy of the AFI list. It’s a movie I studied in film school, but never watched all the way through. Despite that, I knew it really well. There was never a sense of discovery about it. Time has passed. I’ve forgotten everything I knew.

Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)

BFI says. I’ve started this one twice, late at night during Hooptober Horror marathons, and fallen asleep. Not the movie’s fault. Now I’m staring down the 1973 Shamedown episode in a month or two.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (Chantal Akerman, 1975)

Sight & Sound made a statement by making this their #1 film in 2022. That I haven’t seen the #1 movie on Sight & Sound cannot stand.

The Three Musketeers (Richard Lester, 1973)

It’s so much a movie I should have watched by now that I have to remind myself that I haven’t actually.

Slaughterhouse Five (George Roy Hill, 1972)

Noah Baumbach adapted my favorite novel, Don DeLillo’s White Noise, for the screen. I anticipated it eagerly. This made me wonder why I haven’t watched the cinematic adaptation of my other favorite novel… a movie that’s been available to me my entire life. It’s just right over there waiting to be watched.


Own up, friends. Let’s make a promise to watch some excellent movies in 2023. Not much is going right in the world, but we can definitely tend our own gardens, watch great movies and talk about them on the Internet.

Cinema Cinema Shame

The Bellboy (1960): Cinema Shame

the bellboy posterI’m playing a bit of double catch up with this viewing. Technically, I’m playing catch up on a movie I had on my Shame Statement from 2019 and I’m playing catch up because The Bellboy turns 60 this year. That’s a lot of catch up. What do you do with all that catch up? Make hot dogs, probably. But I don’t put ketchup on my hot dog, so the whole thing is moot. Sauerkraut, mustard, relish, onions. These are all acceptable hot dog toppings. Honestly, my feelings about ketchup mirror my feelings about Jerry Lewis. I’m glad they exist, but I can do without both.

My prior exposure to Jerry Lewis came with a side of Dean Martin to wash it down. That’s my preferred method of ingestion.

So Jerry Lewis is Always Jerry Lewis Even When He’s Not

The Bellboy makes me actively frustrated — not because I disliked it, but because I would have loved it had most every scene not concluded with a hammy shot of Lewis mugging facial contortions for the camera. His schtick seems to function akin to a sitcom laugh track. In case you missed the joke, here’s a face you can’t overlook. I loved the setting. Fountainbleu Miami Beach, just a few years before James Bond and Auric Goldfinger cross paths in the very same hotel. Photographed by someone named Haskell B. Boggs, the hotel becomes an omnipresent character in Lewis’ farce. The winding staircase (also seen in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), the corridors, the ins and outs, the cavernous gathering spaces where Jerry Lewis runs amuck as a bellhop named Stanley (and as a comedian named Jerry Lewis).

the bellboy 1960

I felt the influence of Jacques Tati’s Mr. Hulot through every perfectly calculated movement, every stumble down a step, every gesture, every glance. Jerry Lewis exclamation point face! He’s a meticulous performer, but that’s not an observation. There’s nothing about his performance in The Bellboy that doesn’t feel calculated and choreographed like a Fred Astaire tap number, which makes the moment that he breaks the spell all that much more aggravating. It happens as often as it doesn’t.

Lewis wrote and directed The Bellboy (his debut), and the film’s tone and precision reflects a tightly controlled production. It opens with a studio executive (played by Jack Kruschen in an uncredited role) describing the aimless exploits of a single bellboy. It feels more like a pre-apology to American audiences who wouldn’t have been expecting a plotless comedy featuring sequences of ridiculous situations stacked one on top of the other. I wouldn’t exactly classify them as “blackout gags” in the strictest sense — which I’ve always associated with Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In. Rapid-fire, vaudevillian, abruptly transitioned. Jerry Lewis spends more time developing a visual joke before abruptly moving on to another transitory vignette.

jerry lewis mugs with a sleepy lady in the bellboy

Aside from Tati (and Harpo Marx and a dash of Charlie Chaplin while we’re at it), Lewis creates an obvious through-line to Laurel and Hardy. He’d consulted his friend Stan Laurel about perfecting a kind of silent pantomime and even included a Stan Laurel lookalike character, played by Bill Richmond, who appears randomly throughout the film. Other than causing some amusing asides from the already amusing asides, the visual homage doesn’t contribute a great deal. That speaks to how I felt about most of the film.

Jerry Lewis conducts an absent orchestra
In one of the best “bits” in the Bellboy, Stanley (Jerry Lewis) conducts a persnickety and non-existent orchestra.

The Bellboy Final Verdict

Generally amiable, sometimes obvious, intermittently genius, and inevitably followed by an unwelcome round of mugging, The Bellboy succeeds and irritates in equal amounts. I did, however, cue up another viewing of Four Rooms (1995), a film obviously inspired by in part by The Bellboy. I’m happy I have more Four Rooms context and I’m happy I finally got around to giving Jerry Lewis some more of my time, but I’m just as happy that I finally get to scratch it off my list of Shame.

Watch The Bellboy on Amazon Prime. 

Cinema Cinema Shame

2020 Cinema Shame Statement: So This Time It’s Totally Serial

For the uninitiated, Cinema Shame is site that emboldens cinephiles to finally watch those nagging classics pinging the back of your brain every time you ask yourself “What am I going to watch tonight?” Our diet doesn’t need to be a steady stream of certified Grade-A classics, but we also shouldn’t be afraid of them. I also host the podcast that gives viewers the opportunity to share their thoughts about how these movies stand the test of time and hype. Every year Penitent Moviewatchers create a new Cinema Shame Statement to help direct their viewing schedule.

I’ve done a Cinema Shame Statement or two over the years and my 2019 has the rare distinguish of being the only one I ignored for the duration. Congrats, 2019, you’re totally shameful! It’s not that I was a lazy moviewatcher (Letterboxd tells me otherwise), I just got sidetracked by #Watch1989. And for the uninitiated, #Watch1989 was my year-long marathon of movies released in – that’s right – 1989. I watched more than 70 1989 movies, first-timers and rewatches included.

For this year’s Cinema Shame Statement, I’m going to try a slightly different method that helps direct my monthly moviewatching trends (but also makes that DVD/BD watchpile a little less embarrassing). I tend to get sucked into self-inflicted marathons and really enjoy sticking with a theme… it prevents me from staring at my library for hours on end wondering what to watch next.

Once again I consulted my favorite tomes: EW Guide / The Best Film You’ve Never Seen / Danny Peary’s Cult Movies. And away we go….

2020 Shame Statement consultants
Three of my go-to books for finding movies I should have watched by now.

Theme #1: Unwatched Criterions

I love buying movies almost as much as I love watching movies. (Okay, we’ll call it a draw.) The flaw inherent to the system is that it takes me much less time to buy movies than it does to watch them. Hence, I have a lot of Criterion Collection discs I had every intention of watching… at some point… in the near-to-immediate future. I plan to watch at least one of these beauties per month. After consulting EW’s surprisingly non-traditional lists in The Greatest Movies Ever Made, I selected 12 candidates I already have in my possession.

2020 cinema shame statement

Blow Out (Brian de Palma, 1981) – #85 Drama
Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945) – #91 Drama
Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983) – #28 Comedy
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970) – #96 Comedy
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976) – #55 Sci-Fi
Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973) – #65 Horror
Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa, 1980) – #80 Int’l
Fellini’s Satyricon (Federico Fellini, 1969) – #11 Int’l
Viridiana (Luis Bunuel, 1961) – #26 Int’l
Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952) – #23 Int’l
One Eyed-Jacks (Marlon Brando, 1961) – Sleepers
High & Low (Akira Kurosawa, 1963) – Sleepers

Theme #2: #Watch1990

I won’t tackle #Watch1990 with the same zeal as #Watch1989 because the movies aren’t nearly as good and honestly I’ve seen a much larger percentage. I turned 12 in 1990 and I could walk to the Woods 6 in Grosse Pointe just about whenever the mood stuck me. A moment ago I scanned the list of Top 50 moneymakers from 1990 and I’d seen 48 of them (only Internal Affairs and Child’s Play II missed the bus and I’m not in a hurry to see the latter. Talk to me again during October). I really had nothing else to do, apparently. Here are Internal Affairs and 11 others that I missed. There’s some rhyme and reason to the movies below — except Side Out. I have no explanation for choosing that. Some movies just cry out for attention.

Cry-Baby 1990

Internal Affairs (Mike Figgis, 1990)
Where the Heart Is (John Boorman, 1990)
Love at Large (Alan Rudolph, 1990)
The Ambulance (Larry Cohen, 1990)
Side Out (Peter Israelson, 1990)
Cry-Baby (John Waters, 1990)
Blue Steel (Kathryn Bigelow, 1990)
I Love You to Death (Lawrence Kasdan, 1990)
Chicago Joe and the Showgirl (Bernard Rose, 1990)
Henry & June (Philip Kaufman, 1990)
Avalon (Barry Levinson, 1990)
State of Grace (Phil Joanou, 1990)

Theme #3: Taking Care of (Old) Business

I’ve seen that James Belushi classic from 1990 a few times, but it seemed thematically relevant to this 2020 Cinema Shame Statement. If we are unable to keep our word, there’s nothing separating us from the beasts who think that the only stuff worth watching is on Netflix. That might be overly dramatic. I’m just saying that I’m going to atone for the sins of my Cinema Shames past. These are the movies I promised to watch over the previous years and just never did…

The Conversation 1974

Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears, 1988)
The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 1982)
Aquirre, The Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)
Can’t Stop the Music (Nancy Walker, 1980)
The Last Waltz (Martin Scorcese, 1978)
Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
Victor/Victoria (Blake Edwards, 1982)
Tarzan the Ape Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1932) & Tarzan and His Mate (Cedric Gibbons, 1934)
Patton (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970)
Shane (George Stevens, 1953)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford, 1949)
The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1983)
The Bellboy (Jerry Lewis, 1960)
The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)

…and… it wouldn’t be a Cinema Shame list without the empty promise to watch…

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (John McNaughton, 1990)


That’s a lot of goddamn movies. Own up, friends. Let’s make a promise to watch some excellent movies in 2020. Not much is going right in the world, but we can definitely tend our own gardens, watch great movies and talk about them on the Internet.