Author Topic: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon  (Read 24052 times)


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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #80 on: January 14, 2011, 05:38:48 PM »
My life is more complete because Smirnoff has written another epic review.  And there is another movie I never have to watch.  *snif*   :'(  Thanks, 'noff.
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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #81 on: January 14, 2011, 06:29:43 PM »
I've missed these sooo much! ;D Love it, smirnoff.

Basically. You are my god.
I actually consider a lot of movies to be life-changing! I take them to my heart and they melt into my personality.


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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #82 on: January 14, 2011, 06:49:35 PM »
I've missed these sooo much! ;D Love it, smirnoff.


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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #83 on: January 14, 2011, 06:52:33 PM »
Thank you so much for the responses guys, really. It was fun putting this together :)

That was brilliant.  These epic pic heavy reviews have been missing from my life and this does not disappoint.  I didn't hate White Squall.  It looks great, most of the acting is good and the squall sequence is exciting, but you're right on every point.  It's like Plinkett without the voice or sick side trips.

High praise indeed! Too high but thank you! And I agree with you about the visuals and performances and action. Just a tad more grit and a bit less Hollywood, that would've done it good. But, for what it is, yeah, there's not much one can complain about. A decent 90's mainstream epic.


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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #84 on: January 14, 2011, 07:21:52 PM »
Hooray for smirnoff reviews! Great job as always.


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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #85 on: January 14, 2011, 08:44:24 PM »
You redeem the internet, smirnoff.
There's no deceit in the cauliflower.


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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #86 on: January 14, 2011, 11:49:46 PM »
Thanks you two :)


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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #87 on: February 03, 2011, 03:56:29 PM »
I never have to watch this movie now. This post is a thousand times more entertaining.  8)

This is the genius of Smirnoff.

When's the next marathon?
To the Elmore Leonard marathon!
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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #88 on: February 03, 2011, 04:00:37 PM »
When this one is finished. I'm slow though. Keep getting sidetracked :)


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Re: Flotsam & Jetsam: A Sailor's Marathon
« Reply #89 on: April 17, 2011, 08:04:15 PM »
Captains Courageous
(Victor Fleming, 1937)

Before I get into the film I just want to highlight how the opening credits were done, which I found pretty unique. Waves crashing into the hull of a ship and each time the water rolls off it reveals new names.

Here’s the thing though, the letters aren’t just graphics superimposed over the image off the hull, they are physically part of the ship. As the water runs down you can see it curling around the words. This means for each new credit they had to completely strip down and reset the type.

At least that’s sure how it looks. I’ve watched the opening credits a dozen times to try and figure out if it’s just an illusion or if I’m really seeing what I think I’m seeing. It’s a helluva lot of work to do it the way I’m suggesting which makes me doubt that’s how it was done, but then I see it again and I think, yeah. Anyways, not terribly important, but perhaps it shows the lengths they were willing to go to for this film. A good sign.

The film begins the same place every film so far in the marathon has begun. On land. Oddly counter-intuitive considering the theme, but perhaps not so surprising when you think of the stories being told. Across the board they bring us into the sea-faring world through, let us say, pig-out-of-mud characters (the more common metaphor being rather inappropriate given the circumstances).

This is Harvey, the only son to a single father, who happens to be a very wealthy business tycoon.

They live in a large mansion surrounded by maids and butlers. Harvey never wants for anything except maybe his father’s attention. As such, he has become a bossy, conniving, manipulative, condescending little brat.

He has school chums over to his place for a sleep over and casually gives them expensive gifts like a first edition of Treasure Island (how fitting).

But not 10 minutes later on the car ride back to school Harvey presses the kid to get him into the some prestigious club saying things like “don’t you want to do an act of friendship?”, and when that doesn’t work he starts making threats about his father cancelling contracts with the other kid’s father.

He goes one step further, writing a short piece for the school paper outlining how he and the other boys spent their Easter Holidays, clearly meant to put more pressure on Charles, the kid in the club.

When Charles runs to a teacher to tell him what Harvey is doing the teacher confronts Harvey about it. Harvey turns it around though accusing the teacher of accepting a bribe earlier that year when he stayed with Harvey’s Father at their mansion (which is just a distortion of the truth).

He crosses the line with that little trick and it lands him in Coventry (no speaking).

This doesn’t stop Harvey from waltzing into the printing room later and bossing the other kids around (something he feels entitled to do since his father is the one who donated the printing press to the school in the first place).

The kids try to ignore him since speaking to someone in Coventry will get them in just as much trouble as Harvey.

When that doesn’t work the kid socks Harvey in the kisser.

This shuts him up alright but doesn’t change what kind of kid he is.

Harvey immediately sets into motion a plan to get that kid in trouble, along with the teacher who put him in Coventry.

He shows up at his dad’s office building (by which I mean the office building his dad owns) and spins a web of lies hoping his father will use his influence to see the the people punished.

The father tells his assistant to set up a meeting with the teacher and headmaster. Harvey in anticipation says to his father “oh, I bet they’ll try and tell some awful lies about me”. Refreshingly, Harvey’s father isn’t the typical idiot movie-parent. Instead of blindly defending his sons actions or accusing the school of wrongdoing like you might expect he apologizes and takes the school’s advice to spend more time with Harvey. The decision is made to take Harvey along on his next business trip.

This first act is a really solid bit of character development. Harvey’s father isn’t portrayed as bad or inept, in fact when he puts his mind to it he’s a very good dad. He doesn’t coddle Harvey or let him get away with his usual crap. He’s simply busy and Harvey takes advantage of his absence. The film gives you realistic look at the difficulties of being a single-parent without making that the point of the movie.

Harvey is written with an eye for small details. The writer must’ve known a kid just like him to have come up with some of this stuff. Like how you see him treat, or rather mistreat, animals for instance.

Rough, unkind. The film doesn’t linger on it but it’s a very insightful addition that says more about who Harvey is than anything else so far. I know it’s more often abused children who end up mistreating animals rather than neglected ones, but the point is well-made.

The movie poses quite a challenge to the viewer at this point. Harvey is wholly unlikable and yet we must endure him, and remind ourselves that it’s not his fault. There’s a kid inside who just needs some love. You can see it in his eyes on the few occasions he’s alone with his thoughts.


Harvey and his father are now on a steamer together as part of Harvey’s rehabilitation.

As soon as Harvey’s dad leaves him alone though he gets right back to his usual shenanigans. First he brags about how his father owns the ship (not exactly true), and then he goes on about how his father is going to take him up to the bridge later. When the boys ignore him and don’t let him join in their game he makes like he didn’t want to play anyways. Then he says “I’m going to get go eat ice-cream” making a big deal about how he can get ice-cream even if the restaurant isn’t open yet. The boys follow along to see if Harvey is full of crap (which really just encourages him).

They get to the bar and Harvey buys them all sundaes, but not before making a point of asking the other boys if they have money to pay, which he knows they don’t.

Harvey talks down to the bartender like a servant, and when the other boys say they’re full Harvey calls them wimps and orders 4 more sundaes for himself.

Shortly after Harvey runs out on deck to feed the fish.

The other boys come out looking for him.

Harvey hides behind the life boats not wanting to lose face along with his lunch.

Notice how there’s no railings :)


Nobody can hear Harvey’s screams over the sound of the ships horn which is tooting non-stop because of all the fog.

Looks like Harvey is fish food himself.


It’s Spencer Tracy speaking foghorn. He has a lengthy discussion with the passing ship entirely for our benefit. He’s either been out at see way too long or he’s just a very silly man.

Then he spots something in the water.

He hauls Harvey into the boat like he was 50 pound tuna.

And then he demostrates how he keeps in touch with the fishing fleet he’s a part of. A toot on his conch and off in the fog he hears a bell return the call.

The film highlights a lot of the seafaring ingenuity used by fisherman along the Grand Banks (or makes it up, I don’t know). Either way it gives the whole thing a very authentic feel.

Fast forward to the next day. Harvey wakes up in the bunk of a mystery ship.

He climbs up on deck and first person he encounters is this old sea-dog who, on top of speaking in indecipherable nautical riddles, has a very heavy accent and a squeaky voice.

Harvey demands to know where the captain is despite not understanding a word the man has said. The old salt points to the front of the ship.

Harvey says “you’re the captain?!” in disgusted disbelief. In his mind a captain wears clean clothes and looks more distinguished.

Harvey does nothing but complain and demand the ship take him to New York. The captain has no intention of leaving the area while there’s fish to be caught. It’ll be three months until the season is over and only then will they drop Harvey off. The captain’s solution is to put Harvey to work and pay him 3$ a month (Harvey’s dad gives him ten times that much a week as an allowance). Harvey refuses to work and goes on complaining and making life aboard the ship miserable for everyone.

The captain gives him an ultimatum. Shut up and stay out of the way, or do your work.

Harvey threatens to send everyone to jail when he tells his dad what they’ve done.

The captain’s heard enough.

*SLAP* He knocks the sou’wester right off Harvey’s head.

In this day and age seeing a kid get smacked as a means of discipline is so taboo that it caught me completely off guard. I mean it’s just not done. In this case it’s not abusive or done with any sort of ill-will though, it’s just the pack leader putting the cub in his place. The important difference with this situation and the first time we see Harvey get hit back at the school is that he doesn’t have his Daddy to run to now. He’s going to have to deal with this situation on his own. You can listen to the whole sequence here. It’s quite entertaining, you’ll get a feel for the tone of the film and a taste of the maritime accents.

Not surprisingly Harvey’s initial reaction is to sulk in silence (since opening his mouth again is liable to get him smacked).

Later the captain approaches him with a simple job to do before he can come below deck and eat (throw fish heads over the side). Harvey responds with “I not going to eat”. “Suit yourself”, says the captain. Typical childhood stubbornness.

Down below deck there’s a discussion going on about what to do with the kid. It’s bad luck to have a passenger on a fishing boat. The captain argues that since he’s paying the kid to work he’s not a passenger. This appeases the men somewhat, but it’s only when the captain orders Manuel (Spencer Tracy) to take Harvey on as an apprentice (i.e. babysit) that the issue gets settled fully.

Manuel first tries making a big show about how good the food is, but Harvey doesn’t budge.

Then Manuel tries to negotiate, “just do a little bit of work and you can go eat, I’ll do the rest”. He does his best to make it sound fun.

Still Harvey does nothing.

Then Harvey tries to make off with one of the smaller fishing boats to row himself home.

Manuel grabs him by the scruff of the neck and holds him until he quits thrashing around.

“I can do this all day”.

Eventually Harvey quits struggling but still doesn’t give in to doing any work. Manuel has a solution for that too.

Manuel lets Harvey go eat after that hoping that the days events will teach Harvey something. Maybe after a hot meal he’ll have a new attitude.

You can see though that it’s going to take more than a few fish heads over the side for the rest of the crew to embrace him.

The film carries on this way for a while. Harvey behaving like a brat, Manuel not letting him get away with anything. Slowly but surely though we start to see changes in Harvey attitude. It’s very satisfying to watch. In fact it’s just a terrific bit of writing and slow, thoughtful filmmaking. This is the best film of the marathon so far so there’s actually very little to razz it for. :)

One of the biggest lessons Harvey learns comes after he and Manuel have already become friends. Another fisherman on board gets on Manuel’s case about his style of fishing (jigging instead of trolling), basically calling into question the ability of Portuguese fisherman. He bets him 50 cents (a month’s wage is $3 remember) that Manuel can’t catch more fish than he can in one day. Manuel accepts, but is forced to wager a straight razor his father gave him because he doesn’t have any money.

Harvey acts as Manuel’s dory-mate, rowing and even pulling in a fish of his own to help Manuel win the bet.

Meanwhile on the other dory the fisherman who challenged Manuel is caught up in his own rigging.

Harvey proudly tells Manuel that he intentionally fouled the man’s lines so that Manuel would win the bet.

Manuel quits speaking to Harvey, throws his fish back into the sea and returns Harvey to the ship.

The captain doesn’t know the specifics of what’s happened, but offers Harvey what advice he can. I liked his simple captain-y wisdom so much I captured the audio.

Later on Manuel happily gives Long Jack (that’s his name) the razor he won. A man always pays his debts.

Long Jack accuses Manuel of snarling his lines. Knowing Harvey is looking on (and feeling guilty) Manuel suggests that maybe Long Jack just drank too much rum (egging him on).

Long Jack comes at Manuel with a knife but Harvey steps between them, confesses it was him who tangled the lines and apologizes.

Manuel stands back glowing with pride because for once Harvey has done the right thing, even if it did cost him the razor he cherished so dearly. 

The film really comes together in the final fishing musical montage. After months on the ship Harvey has transformed. We seem him rubbing elbows with the other men instead of butting heads, and learning the kind of satisfaction you get from working with your hands. We also see the flurry of activity that is fishing. It’s a terrific sequence. Everybody smiling, lively music... it’s infectious.

The film also features some astounding footage of the ship in rough seas and high winds. I mean actual footage, not just people off camera throwing buckets of water at the actors. :)

I like these shots especially:

Wrap up:

I purposely left out anything from the third act because first of all, a lot happens, and second I don’t want to rob anyone of a real experience. This is a terrific film with a lot of heart. I watched it many months ago and have watched it a couple times more (in bits and pieces) while writing this review. I’ve really come to love with it.

I enjoyed Spencer Tracy as Manuel. He’s sort of zany the way he speaks to himself, but it never failed to crack me up. There’s a lot of good lines in the film in fact. It was fun listening to listen to Tracy sing too and rock the hurdy gurdy (You can listen to it here. A good scene)

Hurdy gurdy, yeah, that’s an actual thing. When they said it in the film I thought they were just talking nonsense. Turns out that’s really what it’s called.

What a bizarre/awesome instrument.

The kid who plays Harvey, Freddie Bartholomew, was really excellent. IMDB tells me he’s one of the most popular child actors of his day. I can see why. He’s got a very sophisticated way about it him for someone that young. I guess you could say that’s bad, that it’s not nautral, but for the purposes of this film it necessary. I liked all of the other actors as well. The captain especially.

Overall, Captain's Courageous is a wonderful discovery.

« Last Edit: April 17, 2011, 09:58:27 PM by smirnoff »