Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - A Year in Movies (Let's Talk Numbers!)

When I came back to the site at the end of 2014, I picked up in 2015 with enough hubris and energy to decide to write about each movie I watched this year.  Unless something weird happens in the next few hours, I am able to accurately state that I posted on every movie I watched which I watched in its entirety in calendar year 2015.

I did not mention every movie I did not watch all the way through, usually because I tuned in for a bit to a movie I'd seen before and wouldn't bother to finish or came in very late.  I also didn't do full write-ups of a few movies, but no one seemed to mind that I had nothing to say about Spies Like Us.

So, in this post - let's talk numbers.  I'll give out awards later.

For the breakdown on a spreadsheet, feel free to click here.  It's also at the bottom of the post, if you hate clicking things.

As of 2:18 PM on December 31, 2015 I watched and said something about 181 movies.  

The last time I kept count was 2012, when I watched just 136 movies.  As I recall, we were watching a lot more TV that year and I was working like crazy.

That said - that's a whole 45 more movies, at about 1.75 hours a piece, that's about 79 more hours of movies - or two working weeks.  Plus, I dunno, maybe 45 minutes per post.  That's about 34 hours of post-time.  So, a total of about 113 hours more than 2012.

(edit:  I actually checked and back in 2012, we were double-posting movies a lot.  It was 136 posts and 147 movies.  Corrected numbers - 34 more movies in 2015, an average of 59.5 hours of movies, 25.5 hours of posts, so - let's call it 85 hours more than 2012).


If we figure 181 movies at 2.5 hours of watching and posting, that's 452.5 hours I've give you people this year, or more than 11 weeks of work.  And it's likely more than that as a lot of the movies were more than 1.75 hours, so let's not think too hard about this before I start really worrying about what I'm doing with my life.

Anyway, here we go...

New Years Watch: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

The movie neither begins nor ends on New Years.  Instead, it's the morbid spectacle of New Years Eve in the Desmond mansion that's the crucial turning point in the movie as screenwriter Joe Gillis decides to stop fighting the pull of Norma Desmond.

With a night out (a rarity of late) ahead of us for New Years, I figured whatever I put in at 9:30 PM on 12/30 would be the last movie I'd watch for the year.  Sunset Boulevard (1950) is a movie I am afraid I came to quite late, and one I wish I'd paid attention to years ago, though I am uncertain that - as a 20-something - if I would have seen it as much more than highly enjoyable melodrama and camp.  Certainly I'd understand it was loaded with enough real star power behind it to lend it an air of legitimacy, but it's in watching the movie as an older viewer that the movie resonates in a way that I'm unsure it would in quite the same way for a younger viewer.

Joe Gillis is a down-on-his-luck screenwriter, a tarnished golden-boy, unable to produce the same kind of work that landed him some big gigs in Hollywood in recent memory.  Now, though, at 30-ish, he's yesterday's news, unable to sell a story, laden with debts at his heels, the finance company ready to take his car.

Avoiding those repo men, he turns into an overgrown driveway on Hollywood's famed Sunset Boulevard, finding himself on the grounds of a decaying mansion, an echo of the glory days of the silent era.  Inside he finds former silent star Norma Desmond, an actress who vanished - as so many did as the industry moved from silent to sound.  She's survived, wealthy enough to keep the world outside at bay, her manservant, Max, helping to protect and shield her from the world which has forgotten her and moved on.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is Candy for Morons

No.  It isn't.

But it is the biggest movie ever, and people seem to like it.  So, if I'm looking for clicks to my website, it's likely I'll write some post with a deeply inflammatory headline to (a) make people who agree with me have something I can link to when I'm internet squabbling with my pals or (b) get folks who did like the movie mad and argue with article in their head.

If I'm mad at the movie, hey, here's the thing that will calm me temporarily until I see some stupid eight year old who's so dumb, he thinks he liked the thing.  If I liked the movies I must read the article to see how I can frame an argument in my head why the author is a stupid jerk who doesn't like good things.

Here's the thing - maybe the movie wasn't the thing that is going to fill that empty space in your soul, maybe it's not quite the cataclysmically cathartic experience your nerdy little life needed, but - no matter.  Just be aware, (a) this is not a culture war worth fighting, (b) yeah, the internet is where you change people's minds, and (c) someone is making money off your clicks.

Not me.  I mean, I literally am not making any money with this site.  But someone at Google is likely making $0.0001 every time you click here, I guess.  Somehow.

In short, stop clicking on those articles.  You'll sleep better.

But when it comes to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I think we can all agree, it was no Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bond Watch: Goldfinger (1964)

So, we just finished Goldfinger (1964), and I may have mixed myself a Vesper halfway through.

A Vesper is:

  • 3 parts Gordon's Gin
  • 1 part whatever Vodka I have around (Tito's.  God bless Austin, TX)
  • 1/2 part Lillet 
  • and a lemon twist

Shaken, not stirred.  And operate no heavy machinery after enjoying one.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Lemmy Merges With The Infinite

I'm not going to pretend I'm a Motorhead fan, or that I could pick out any of their songs other than "Ace of Spades".  But like everyone else of a certain age-range, I knew who Lemmy was, and was sorry to hear today that he passed.

I read an article within the last year that Lemmy was raging against the dying of the light, still playing shows and pushing on.  The man had a spirit that caught the imagination of folks even like myself who never bought a proper metal album in our lives.

But, hell yes, I just got done listening to "Ace of Spades", because that's what you do.

Godspeed, Lemmy.  You'll be missed.

Star Wars Watch: Episode VII Re-Watch

These were the tickets I'd bought a while back when I found out I was responsible for getting my family out to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).  In case you missed it in my prior Star Wars posts about Growing Up Star Wars back in the 70's and 80's, Star Wars was for me (and a lot of us) a family affair.  So, I couldn't be too surprised when my mom and brother (everyone lives in Austin.  Don't knock it til' you haven't had to travel on a holiday in five years.) separately suggested we get together to see the movie.  In the end, once we added on JuanD, there were eight of us, total, out to see the movie.  Jamie, her dad, my dad, my mom, Jason, Amy, Juan (Solo), and myself.

I now have the official Alamo Drafthouse collector's glass and magazine and all that.

Oh, yeah, spoilers below the "read more" break.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bond Watch: From Russia With Love (1963)

As I mentioned in my chat on Dr. No, Jamie got us the "50 Years of Bond" BluRay boxed set for Christmas.  We're fans of 007, and it looks like we're going to gradually make our way through the Bond movies in chronological order.

I should also mention, I'd seen this movie another time in recent years, but my comments were brief, to say the least.

It's amazing to see the jump from a sort of rough sketch of Bond movie we get with Dr. No (1962) to a full Bond film with From Russia With Love (1963).  Of course, if you start in the Marvel Cinematic U, even the much-celebrated Iron Man that launched the whole enterprise feels a bit primitive in comparison to what we're now getting.*

This adventure sends Bond to Istanbul in 1963 as the Cold War is underway.  SPECTRE has recruited a top SMERSH agent (Rosa Kleb, who has effectively defected to SPECTRE), but only the top Kremlin brass have that intel.  This agent grabs one of the top SPECTRE prospects, played by Robert Shaw, to execute the plans given to her by the chief SPECTRE strategist.  Their plan is... incredibly convoluted - but they'll have an attractive staffer at the Russian Embassy in Russia throw herself at Bond with the gift of a Russian code-device.

Wrapping Up 2015 - Those Who Merged With The Infinite

Here at The Signal Watch, we try to mark the passing of folks relevant to the content of the site.  We certainly don't catch every single passing, and it's a bit of arbitrary business deciding who we'll mention and who we won't.

In Reverse Order:

  • Robert Loggia - actor
  • George Barris - Automobile designer and creator of the 1966 Batmobile
  • Maureen O'Hara - actor
  • Bevo XIV - Mascot at the University of Texas
  • Jack Larson - actor, playwright, Jimmy Olsen of TV's Adventures of Superman
  • Wes Craven - Director
  • Yvonne Craig - Actor, model, Batgirl on TV's Batman
  • "Rowdy" Roddy Piper - Wrestler, actor
  • James Horner - Film Score creator and conductor
  • Blaze Starr - A Lady with some History
  • Christopher Lee - Actor, metal musician, former WWII spy and saboteur
  • BB King - Blues musician
  • Grace Lee Whitney - actor, Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek
  • James Best - actor, Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard
  • Leonard Nimoy - actor, writer, Spock in many iterations of Star Trek
  • Lizabeth Scott - actor, noir femme fatale
  • Edgar Froese - musician, Tangerine Dream
  • Donna Douglas - actor, Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies
We bid a heartfelt good-bye to these talents who made their mark on the world.  We're better for having had them here.  

To see the posts, look for the "Passing" tag on posts, or click here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Bond Watch: Dr. No (1962)

It's been so long since I've seen Dr. No (1962), and I remembered so little of it, that I'm calling this the first time I've seen the movie.  I remembered a few things from the movie - the look of Dr. No, Ursula Andress and Quarrel, the local fellow who rightfully does not want to get all that mixed up in Bond's adventures.

For good or ill (for you people), Jamie's Christmas gift to me was a 2012 boxed set of "50 Years of Bond", so, yes, I now have every single Bond movie on BluRay, so you can probably expect we'll be looking at a lot of Bond over the next few months.

The timing isn't entirely coincidental (I just asked for confirmation on this).  Jamie ordered the set partially because (a) she knows I've always liked Bond, and I've become more interested in Bond in recent years and (b) I was reading the books.  Also, Jamie (almost) always likes Bond, so it's not like I need to wait for her to go to bed to put one of these movies on.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 25! Merry Super Christmas!

Merry Christmas, every buddy!

In this time of thanksgiving, let's take a moment to reflect on the goodness and generosity we've received this year, and maybe how we can repay that into the great karmic circle in 2016.

For now, I wish you a day of peace and joy.  May you be with loved ones, or at least be in touch with them on this day.  And I hope, as this year draws to a close, you can cherish the good moments and put the bad behind you, with lessons learned from both.

Have a Merry Christmas, however you celebrate the day.  Jamie and I wish you the best.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 24

Some More Song Selections for Christmas Eve

Yesterday we put forth some songs for your melancholy Christmas Eve.  After scrolling my Google Play, I found a few more to consider.  Maybe with a little less to discuss.

The Walkmen: No Christmas While I'm Talking

No one is going to think this is a new Christmas standard, but it's a good way to get into the evening.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

For Your Christmas Eve Listening

Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve.  As we head into the evening, when you've tucked the kids away (or the parents), and you've got the house lights turned low, with only the soft glow of the Christmas lights on the tree to carry you through (and maybe some Elijah Craig, neat) - and it's time for some music to take you through the evening.

I can't remember a Christmas Eve in the past 30 years when I wasn't the last one awake in the house, and so it comes that I think of the night as one of solitude and of waiting.  In the morning, we'll have breakfast and coffee, then gifts and talking.  In the afternoon, we'll head over to my folks for dinner.

But on Christmas Eve we watch our family and friends drift off to bed, one by one, and, as always, we know we'll never get any sleep.  There's no use in watching a movie or opening a book.  It's time for some music and quiet contemplation.

But what do you listen to in order to maintain the mood?

Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans: The Bells of St. Mary's

Originally written in 1917, most folks today know the song as a Bing Crosby crooned ballad from the 1945 movie of the same name.  The Bells of St. Mary's gets the Phil Spector treatment, and the world is better for it.

Still, catch the movie sometime.  It's a real tear-jerker and a fine Christmas film with Ingrid Bergman in angel mode.

TCM Remembers 2015

TCM Remembers the talent we lost in 2015.  Always a tremendous tribute.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 23

Star Wars Watch: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Ah, Return of the Jedi (1983).  The much-debated finale to the original trilogy, where people get mad that the Empire is defeated by a band of teddy bears.

Look, it doesn't bother me.  In fact, I like it.  The Emperor has "foreseen" how all will unfold.  He's moved the pieces into place so that the Alliance will finally be crushed, caught in a Battle of the Bulge scenario as the Rebel Fleet is trapped between the fully-operational Death Star and some portion of the Imperial Fleet.  But ol' Darth Sidious here did not account for the forest weirdos he considered so lowly they couldn't play a part in his schemes.  And, not only do they show the Rebels a backdoor to the Imperial Base/ Generator - they take out local security in guerrilla warfare.  So they were kinda cute mammal things.  So what?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Holiday Watch: White Christmas (1954)

It seems like Holiday Inn (1942) used to be the Bing Crosby Christmas movie of choice for television, but the past few years, probably because it's in color and because they don't have to cut out any super-racist blackface scenes, White Christmas (1954) has been the Bing Crosby film that AMC has really been pushing.  

In my book, White Christmas is the Pepsi to Holiday Inn's Coke - both are fine, but I'll usually start with Coke (well, Coke Zero or Diet Coke) and work my way backward to Pepsi.  Again - I don't want to say Holiday Inn isn't hugely problematic by any standard after 1952 or so.  It is.  But when you cut out that President's Day sequence (shudder) the story just works better.  For me, anyway.  Plus, I like Fred Astaire a magnitude more than I'll ever like Danny Kaye.

But we don't have Holiday Inn, we have White Christmas.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 21

Star Wars Watch: Star Wars Episode V -The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This is the holy mother of Star Wars movies, and it's always a funny one to watch, because I don't disagree, but it's a movie that doesn't make a lot of sense.  The Empire Strikes Back (1980) should be the measuring stick you're using when you start coming at me with plot holes in the new movie, because if you found a few there, this one is like the remains of a tattered sheet hanging on a laundry line after ten years in an Oklahoma back yard.

But I still love it.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Star Wars Watch: The Force Awakens (2015)

Due to the surge and servers blowing up, etc...  when the pre-sale began, I didn't buy tickets for opening weekend of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).  I was also deeply skeptical of another stab at the movies by a director for whom I have no particular affinity, and who has been involved with some things I thought were downright bad.  In October I wrote a bit about trying to remain optimistic, but cautiously so.  After all, I'd already had not one but three bad experiences with Star Wars, and this would mean the end of my interest in the franchise.

My original plan was to just wait for the reviews to roll in and then pull the trigger on buying tickets or (shudder) not buying them and waiting for the movie to eventually cross my path, but I was talked into buying tickets for my family.  And, good luck finding a day or time before Christmas to get that whole crew in one place.  So, we were headed to see the movie on December 27th.

Then the reviews came out, and they averaged toward very, very good  Not that I read any (I still haven't), but a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score is usually a good indicator of something.  Then word of mouth from trusted sources came back, all spoiler-free, and I was a bit sad I wouldn't see the movie for many days yet.  Then my former boss, who has a 7 year-old son who thinks he's Anakin Skywalker, started texting me, assuming I'd seen the movie, and I realized:  I am going to get this movie ruined for me by accident.  If not the internet (which has done a remarkable job of keeping it's mouth shut.  Which... when has that ever happened?), then someone at the comic shop or at work on Monday was going to blow it.

So, I bought two tickets for 8:00 AM today, the only two remaining seats, I think.  And after getting up at 6:30 AM and arriving at the theater at 7:30, we sat in our front row seats and waited for the scroll.

I am happy to say, I actually very much enjoyed The Force Awakens.

Before continuing - I am well aware of the Spoilers problem around this movie, so if you want to remain Spoiler-Free, best to just say "okay, Ryan was cool with it" and move on.  Because we're just going to talk about the movie after this.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 20

Birthday of Audrey Totter

Today marks the birthday of film and television star Audrey Totter, born this day in 1917 in Joliet, Illinois.

The 12th marked the second anniversary of her passing.  We remain big fans of Ms. Totter and continue to enjoy her work.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 19

Star Wars Watch: Star Wars (or, as you kids call it, Episode IV: A New Hope)

where the hell are Leia's sleeves?

I believe I've already done a fair job already talking Star Wars Episode IV in context in recent posts, so I'll let you kids read that and come back, if the Force compels you or whatever.

Back in October I posted about how I was trying to remain calm and reasonable about the new Star Wars movie until reviews were in.  I wasn't even planning on buying tickets until after the first mass of reviews hit Rotten Tomatoes.  So, I wasn't supposed to be seeing the movie until the 27th.  I know, crazy, right?

Well, I also realized - Disney is not really all that hyped about not making money, so my belief that Episodes IV-VI would be readily available on cable this week was just fundamentally stupid.  And, to give you guys how much of an idea of how much I've been not paying attention to Star Wars, I didn't own a copy in any format.  But, a quick perusal of Amazon fixed that, and my BluRay copies of the Special Edition discs showed up (don't worry, they were pretty cheap, actually).

But it may have been 10 years since I last watched Star Wars, which is mind-boggling when I realize I've seen Three Amigos twice in the past two years.

Tonight we threw Episode IV in the ol' BluRay and gave it a whirl.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: "Live and Let Die" by Ian Fleming (aubiobook)

Reading the first two Bond books is a bit of an odd experience.  This is still a Bond that's not yet been made into a film, and the books feel oddly slight, especially in comparison to the meandering nature of the typical Bond movie.  I'm not sure if I should rehash that the Bond of the book, at this point, is not equipped with super-science gear or any of the trappings I think of when I consider my first exposure to Bond via the movie For Your Eyes Only.  And after the exotic locales of the first book (to Americans, anyway), setting much of Live and Let Die in Harlem and then St. Petersburg, Florida is oddly pedestrian despite the death traps and odd goings on.  But with the 3rd act change in scenery to Jamaica, it does move the action to a locale I readily associate with the Bond franchise and, of course, Ian Fleming's base of operations when writing his Bond novels.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 18

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Growing Up With Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (and Beyond)

This is the 3rd and last in a series about being a kid in the 70's and 80's and being a part of the generation that was exposed to Star Wars first hand.  All recollections are subjective and are not intended to represent those of the other billion kids who were also around.  For Part 1 about Star Wars click here, for Part 2 about Empire, click here.

My memories about Return of the Jedi come with a lot of "firsts" attached.

It is the first movie I remember anticipating.  The Empire Strikes Back has ended on a cliffhanger, and so it only made sense that from the second we saw the Skywalkers staring off into space and the credits rolled, I was signed up for the third installment.  As I discussed in talking Empire, we moved into speculation.

What you kids have to remember is (a) there was no internet and (b) the sector of the population that obsessed over what movies were coming and when was much smaller back then.  My first inkling that the movie was actually, like, really, really coming was a slide that appeared before some other movie my mom took us to.  I don't think it said Revenge of the Jedi, I just processed that - yes, we were finally getting a 3rd movie.  But the slide was really bland - just a title and a picture of a greenish planet, if memory serves.

After that, I do believe images began to trickle out in magazines and on television.

It was also the first movie I spoiled for myself.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 16

It appears The Force is strong with Star Wars VII

The reviews are in.  I'm in a bit of shock.  But could not be happier.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TV Watch: Fargo Season 2

I was on blogging hiatus during the first season of Fargo.  In the year since returning I haven't talked about the program a great deal, but if you're a regular reader (Hi, Dad!), you may have seen me make mention of the show and the Season 1 star, Allison Tolman.  Hollywood, find this person work.  She's great.

When the show came back on again this Fall, I didn't care to write about this season of Fargo on an episode-by-episode basis.  When writing about television with its weekly installments, with its endless trails of breadcrumbs leading you in to the next episode and into the next season, you wind up tallying plot points, punching holes, checking boxes and idly speculating.  I do it here all the time when I talk TV.  

But with programs like FX's Fargo in this new era of American television, we're getting a new form of the medium, something akin to the novel for motion pictures.  Obviously, TV has grown and changed.  In many corners its unrecognizable from the industry and story-telling I grew up with, and while I find the idea of "binging" a show kind of weird and self-defeating, I can understand the desire to move from chapter to chapter and stay up late to finish a good book.

Fargo the TV series was never going to be the film of the same name, and seemed a hugely risky endeavor, a tight-rope act of television.  It was to be produced by the Coens, but that's code for: they'd get a check, but have no real participation.  Instead, it was the creative vision of Noah Hawley, a guy who worked on Bones and some other shows, but who didn't seem to have made a name for himself, exactly.  Few modern filmmakers are as highly regarded as the Coen Bros., and few have been as routinely successful in plunging into new territory, film after film.  And while you can enjoy a Coen Bros. film upon a first viewing, they bear repeat viewings and never disappoint.  And the Coen Bros. are prolific. 

The movie of Fargo arrived in 1996 to well-deserved critical acclaim and solid box office.  A noir-ish tale of avarice, crime, and human monsters with the soft glint of decency still living on the edges, painting the warm bed and the mundanities of life as a refuge - a good thing - in a world that has darkness always lapping at the edges.  The film struck a chord with a wider audience than the Coen Bros. had previously enjoyed, even when the studios tried to push them front and center with Hudsucker Proxy.  Sure, a lot of folks went to see the cop movie with the funny accents, but they wound up seeing a pretty good picture, too.

So what could we expect out of a TV show with a seeming lack of participation from the Coens?

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 15

Monday, December 14, 2015

22 years

Today is the 22nd Anniversary of the passing of Myrna Loy.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 14


Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet at Christmas

Star Trek: Now Safe for Dumbs (AKA - Space Bros: Bros in Space)

Did watching people talk about Prime Directives and interstellar anomalies make you... uncomfortable?  Maybe even angry?  Were you just waiting for that bald guy to quit talking and for the boney-headed guy to shoot somebody?  Was it weird that the old Star Trek was... old and stuff?

Well, buddy, have I got a Star Trek for you!

Featuring space people who KICK-ASS, CRACK-WISE and ARE SEXY AS HELL™, this ain't your DADDY'S STAR TREK (not that your Dad would have ever watched that p***y s**t, anyway.  He was more of Beastmaster guy).  We've fixed your lame-ass Star Trek to give it all the same excitement as pounding a Coors Silver Bullet while you ride your jet ski through a flaming hoop with a topless model straddling your junk!

Like 20 year old pop songs?!!  SO DOES CAPTAIN KIRK!!!  Like aliens that look mean as hell but who you could still beat in a fist fight?  We got 'em!  Like the idea of banging alien broads?  Well, Kirk was always into that.

So, stop worrying, bud!  That way Star Trek used to work where those @#$%s wouldn't just shoot first and sort it out later?  We've taken care of that.  And we've got funny @#$%ing jokes for the guys to say.  Say adios to that feeling you used to have where you just wanted to give a wedgie to every last one of those space-nerds.  Now you'll want to blast the speakers in your Camaro with your space bros while you swing through the Party Barn and grab a case of Milwaukee's Best.

@#$%.  Yeah!  They finally fixed it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tracy & Hepburn Watch: Desk Set (1957)

I admit to not having watched too many/ any of the classic Spencer Tracy/ Katherine Hepburn pairings.  It's not that I don't like either Tracy or Hepburn.  Look, I'm busy, okay?

I'm not.  There's no excuse.

But I have wanted to watch Desk Set (1957) for some time.  Neither Hepburn nor Tracy were kids anymore by the time this movie shot - Hepburn at 50, Tracy at 57.  And the movie dealt with the era when computers were first making their way into companies as a sign of progress as much as for the practical considerations.  What I didn't know was that the movie would actually touch the area I work in, tangentially, but certainly in recognizable ways.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 13

Holiday Watch: Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

I'm at the tail end of low-grade but extremely annoying cold.  Today it settled in my chest as this loud, dry cough.  So, I've been basically laying around since about Wednesday, which may explain why you've seen so much blogging and movie watching.

I really miss being twenty-five and never being sick for more than 48 hours.

I can't say I'm the world's biggest fan of Christmas in Connecticut (1945).  It's a sort of mid-century American farce.  Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is the Martha Stewart of 1945, a popular home-making writer for a Redbook-like magazine, providing lifestyle and cooking tips from her New England farm as she makes delectable meals for her husband and baby.  What America doesn't know is that Lane is actually a city girl, unmarried and childless, who is sharing the recipes of her friend Felix, a restaurateur.  It's a wartime film, and so it follows a sailor who survives a U-Boat attack by drifting at sea and is considered a war hero.  Through some convoluted chicanery, Lane's publisher, Alexander Yardley (the always fantastic Sydney Greenstreet) invites both the sailor and himself to Lane's farm for Christmas.

Not wanting to lose her job, Lane borrows her stuffy suitor's farm for the event, having him pose as her husband and she manages to borrow a baby.  Like I said, it's got quite a bit of farce to the whole thing.

The movie is a bit of frothy Christmas fluff, a bit of something for the whole family.

Happy Belated 100, Frank

You're correct.  You will never be this cool.

December 12th marked the 100th birthday of singer, actor, Ava Gardner sexer, and true 20th Century man, Frank Sinatra.  Old Blue Eyes himself.

Sinatra was a complicated man, and he is beyond our judgment.  Like Thomas Jefferson, we can only try to understand such a wild contradiction in life as a product of his times and his nature.   For every nightmare story about the guy, there's a dozen about him as a humanitarian.

And now, the first Sinatra song I ever learned specifically because it was Sinatra: "Strangers in the Night".  All you need to know about why I learned the song: fifteen year old boys are weird.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 12

Sci-Fi Watch: Tomorrowland (2015)

Before typing up anything, I had to re-read NathanC's take and Gerry's comments on Tomorrowland (2015).  Both are parents, both have an affinity for the Disney Parks that I get, but I am not in the same league.  I'd highly recommend you guys read their posts as Nathan and Gerry cover both the Disney aspect and other aspects of the context of the film in a way I'm just not going to.

Frankly, this movie is a mess - something that explained itself immediately when I saw the name Damon Lindelof appear in the credits as soon as the movie ended.  But it was the beginning of the movie, the clunky framing device of George Clooney's Frank Walker talking at the screen and being unable to decide where to start the story, where I felt my hackles first rise.  The conceit feels like an in-joke, like the creators couldn't figure out how to start their movie, and made their indecision part of the film.

From there on, I'd argue we have two or three completely different scripts competing for screentime, something I felt to be true of Lindelof's Prometheus script as well.  Is this a straightforward sci-fi thriller where we have a Chosen-One who has to outrun the baddies until the mystery of their special-ness is explained and they fulfill the prophecy?  Is it a talky sci-fi film exploring deeper ideals?  Are the characters wacky 2D stand-ins or three-dimensional people with motivations?

Growing Up With Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

At five years old, I'm not sure I really understood the concepts of cliffhangers or ennui, so this was more or less my intro to those ideas.  I've read elsewhere about people my age who freaked out about how bleak they found The Empire Strikes Back (1980), or got wigged out that it didn't have a tight ending where the heroes saved the day.  And while I get that, I wouldn't say that was my take away.

Prior to the screening, I only vaguely recall being aware that there was a new Star Wars movie coming out because my mom ordered a Boba Fett toy through the mail (yeah, we were one of those families).   But one morning The Admiral grabbed my brother and I, tossed us in the car and drove us to a gigantic theater somewhere in Dallas (I've had Dallas-dwellers identify the theater for me a dozen times based on the description, but I can never remember the name), and we watched The Empire Strikes Back with hundreds of other people.

Friday, December 11, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 11

And, lo, there was yet another X-Men film. Hopefully not one too disappointing.

I believe I'm now legally obligated to see this movie.  I'm not even sure I'm happy it exists, but I suppose I'll be catching a matinee at some point.

I kind of feel the way about X-Men movies the way I do about X-Men comics.  It's how I got into comics, but I kind of lost interest at some point, but I'd be sad if they went away.  Also, too much Wolverine.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pixar Watch: Toy Story (1995)


I sure as heck am not bothering with a plot synopsis on this one.  If you're old enough to read, you've seen this one.

Disney had a special on Thursday evening talking about the production and legacy of Toy Story (1995), and it was well worth catching.  I'd forgotten Joss Whedon was on scripting duties for the movie, and its actually a bit of fun to remember the state of technology and animation from the era.  If you get a chance to catch the special on TV or on a DVD extra sometime, I suggest giving it a whirl.

This year marks 20 years since Toy Story hit the big screen and changed animation and entertainment forever.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 10

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holiday Watch: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

I think the first time I saw Miracle on 34th Street (1947) was in high school when some teacher or other was trying to kill time before Christmas break.  Between you, me and the wall, what I probably remember most from that first viewing was Maureen O'Hara.  Yes, I was a teenage boy.  Sue me.

But even with that viewing, I dug the spirit of the whole thing.  It's a great example of a true all-ages movie you could take the kids and Grandma to and enjoy it yourself.  It's a fantasy, yeah, but it's one that exists in the adult world of drunk Santas, incompetent counselors, exhausted parents, Bellevue Hospital, legal issues, politics and divorce.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 9

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holiday Watch: Krampus (2015)

Yeah, yeah.  Someone was going to go see this, so it might as well have been me.  SimonUK and I talk each other into all sorts of things.

I don't think I'd ever heard of the notion of The Krampus until sometime in the last decade, and I can't remember if the Venture Bros. were my first exposure to the character or not, but I remember being very, very excited about The Krampus.  It certainly wasn't part of American Yuletide tradition when I was growing up.  All we had was The Grinch, and that was a very, very different kind of story.

In a way, The Krampus is both enforcer of the spirit and meaning of Christmas and the antithesis of the Coca-Cola version of Santa that I think maybe people get a little worn out on, so the idea that there's a version of St. Nick/ Santa/ Father Christmas/ Papa Noel that goes around with a demonic jerk that will hit you with birch switches just sort of appeals, I guess.  After all, Christmas is a holiday of behavioral extremes.  This season of goodwill and charity is also topped off with family violence, Black Friday brawls over electronics, and spikes in depression.

Krampus (2015) is a product of Michael Dougherty, the same guy who wrote and directed Trick r' Treat, which we watched and quite liked just this last Halloween.  Unlike the latter film, Krampus is not an anthology film - it's a pretty straightforward pressure-cooker horror flick that, instead of going after sexy but dumb teenagers or college-kids, or yuppies in a secluded house, takes place in what seems to be the suburban mid-west and pretty much your typical American whitebread family Christmas get together.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 7