Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Noir Watch: Human Desire (1954)

weird.  I used that same tag line in my wedding vows.



Watched:  09/20/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM 
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Fritz Lang

First - this episode of Noir Alley was hosted by Eddie Muller and actor Dana Delaney, and what a goddamn delight.  Delaney has a presence and intellect that fits in perfectly with the TCM vibe.  She's a total cool kid who knows her stuff.  This wasn't, as happens on TCM from time to time, some actor wandering in who kinda-sorta likes a topic or film.  She wrote articles on Gloria Grahame for this quarter's Noir City magazine - so she was more than a bit prepared.  And, as long as she's Dana Delaney, she's going to be great talking about any topic.

Human Desire (1954) has enough elements going for it that it's totally watchable, but there's a reason I haven't returned to it til now.  Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star.  It's directed by Fritz Lang.  There's a budget behind it.  You can do worse than Broderick Crawford.  My memory of it was the last act sort of falls apart, and before the movie opened, Delaney basically explained why:  I guess they totally rewrote the last act from the book and French movie it was based upon, and for some reason give Glenn Ford's character a moral high ground he hasn't earned and Graham's character is totally thrown to the wolves despite this making no sense in the film.  

Monday, September 20, 2021

PODCAST: "Miller's Crossing" (1990) - A Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ JimD and Ryan




Watched:  09/09/2021
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown (well over 30x)
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Coen Bros.



JimD looks in his heart and joins Ryan to discuss a shared canon film. It's the third from the Coen Bros. and one that is seemingly being forgotten by the current generation of film fans. Join us as we twist and turn, up is down, black is white. We're talkin' about friendship. We're talkin' about character. We're talkin' about - hell. listeners, I ain't embarrassed to use the word - we're talkin' about ethics.




Music:
Miller's Crossing Opening Titles -  by Carter Burwell
Miller's Crossing End Titles - by Carter Burwell




Signal Watch Canon:




Roller Watch: Unholy Rollers (1972)




Watched:  09/18/2021
Format:  TCM Underground
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Vernon Zimmerman

Probably most famous for its editor of all things (a young lad name of Martin Scorsese), it's a Roger Corman movie about the rise and fall of a wayward young woman with a temper who finds stardom in the Roller Derby!

Starring Claudia Jennings - a person I'm surprised hasn't had a movie made about her life - it's a no-budget production that mostly relies on the drift in what you could show on a screen in 1972, and that meant lots of casual partial nudity.  Which was what I associated with Roger Corman when I first knew who he was as a teen, and isn't really accurate.  

The movie also has, oddly, Joe E. Tata! of 90210 fame, and Kathleen Freeman looking like she doesn't want to be there more than usual.

Look, it's a cheap and trashy movie, and that's the fun of it.  I didn't tune into Unholy Rollers (1972) because I was expecting a David Lean film.  That it shifts gears and tries to tell a story about the perils of roller derby stardom is almost weird.  But if the movie lasts long enough, I guess it's going to tell some kind of story one way or another.  I'm just not sure why they went for a downbeat ending.  

I mean, it's not Mean Streets downbeat, but it's also not a "and she skated happily ever after".

Anyway.  It does a great job of explaining and showing off roller derby, and made me miss going to bouts.



Saturday, September 18, 2021

90's Super Watch: Mystery Men (1999)




Watched:  09/17/2021
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  Unknown.  More than 2, less than 6.
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Kinka Usher (his only movie)

This movie was unnecessary, but it had a lot of fun bits.  It just came out totally without context, and would make way more sense in a world with 20 superhero shows on and 5 or so mega superhero movies per year. 

It's adapted from a comic, which would have made a ton of sense in a comic shop in the late 1980's - 1990's.  After all, people in a comic shoppe have enough of a feel for comics to understand satire over the camp of the 1960's.  And it's kind of not a surprise that in a decade that saw 3 Batman movies and not much else, the idea of Too Many Superheroes and Wannabe Superheroes didn't exactly land.  

I read something that said "the film is too self-aware" and that, I think, is a big problem with it.  Everyone feels sort of like they're both aware of superhero movies, and camp superheroes, and they're doing a very long sketch about superheroes where they're kind of looking at the audience going "see?  see what I did there?"

Friday, September 17, 2021

Happy Birthday, Cassandra Peterson




As we're like to do around here, we're wishing actress, activist and savvy business-person Cassandra Peterson a happy birthday!  

You know her best as Elvira, Misteress of the Dark!  She and Shudder are teaming up for a Halloween special this year, she's got projects going in comic books, and she's got fashion lines and collectibles out there, as well as her work with fan conventions and whatnot.  

Anyway, she's got a lock on October as the spookiest of all months, so check in on what she's up to!  

Here's the announcement of the Special Special:


Bye-Bye Brooklyn 99




Sometime before COVID, Jamie was watching that comedy cop show on Hulu that I think was on Fox.  I knew about it, and found it curious that it co-starred Andre Braugher, who I'd seen in several things, but had thought was a fine dramatic actor from his Homicide: Life on the Streets days (a show I did not watch religiously, but would tune into specifically for Braugher).  I liked Andy Samberg well enough, but I was mostly not checking out Fox sitcoms at the time.  

Well, as often happens when - in pre-COVID times, when I wasn't here all the time - Jamie was watching episodes on her own.  And she'd watch them if I was around and doing other things, and I'd I listen enough that I eventually I would stopped what ever else I was doing and watch a couple of episodes.  Anyway - I was into it.  

I planned to catch up after she went to bed, starting over myself on Hulu, but she offered to re-watch the show with me from the beginning, which is always a sign it's an okay show.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Noir Watch: Drive a Crooked Road (1954)




Watched:  09/15/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Richard Quine

Before the movie, Muller pointed out that this film sure feels like the same story they use in The Killers from 1964.  If you asked me which to pick, I'd say to reach for The Killers, unless you have the option of the 1946 The Killers, which shares only some cosmetic similarities.  

But, Drive a Crooked Road (1954) was better than I figured, but still not setting the world on fire.  Starring Mickey Rooney as a lonely-hearts mechanic and would-be-race-car-driver, it hits all the beats of noir in a very small scale and is intended to give Rooney a new persona as far from Andy Hardy as possible. 

It doesn't hurt that a young Kevin McCarthy plays a bank-robber who sets up Rooney to fall for his girl, the Rita Hayworth-ish Dianne Foster, and get him wrapped up into a bank robbery as the get away wheelman.  

And, unlike most noir films, they do literally perform the action of the title and drive a crooked road to get away from a bank as we turn the corner into the third act.  

Foster is... okay.  She was clearly signed because she... looks good on film.  But she never quite knocks it out of the park in the charisma department or has that ineffable quality that would have made a really solid femme fatale role one for the ages.  She's not boring, and you get how Rooney's character can't believe how his fortunes have turned when she shows interest, but I can imagine the role in someone else's hands (Rhonda Fleming, honestly) and how much more they might have squeezed out of the part.

McCarthy and his pal played by Jack Kelly are a buyable counterpoint to Rooney's guileless driver.

What really struck me was the third act feeling like crime fiction of the era and earlier, with the quiet, doomed ending when I expected the usual Hayes-approved turn to escape and a happy life for our protagonist as his bad-girl turns good.

Nope.

Anyway, a great installment for this week's Noir Alley.

Waters Watch: Cecil B. Demented (2000)




Watched:  09/13/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  John Waters

2000 was a year for us at our house.  So, I'm not surprised that we missed the release of Cecil B. Demented (2000).  

You could easily release this film today and it would mean as much or more as it would have in 2000, when at least you were coming off an era of people *pretending* to care about indie cinema, if not outlaw cinema.  But here in 2021, the movie - if you ignore the casual violence and how you'd need to reframe it a bit now - is perhaps more relevant than ever as the studios have been purchased by mega corporations and warped the face of the film industry.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Disney Store is No More - 3 Summers in the Sweater

this probably isn't my store, but it's incredibly similar


My first two jobs were working for cartoon mice.

The first job, when I was 16, was at Chuck E. Cheese.  You can read up on that life-altering event at an old post at the first blogsite.  

I don't think I ever got around to writing about the three summers I worked for Mickey at The Disney Store in Houston, Texas.  Well, it seems The Disney Store is no more.  But in the summers on 1993- 1995, and Christmas of 1993, I worked part-time at the satellite representation of the happiest place on Earth.  

It's been a very, very long time since this gig, and as I age, memories tend to grow fonder.  Mostly, these days, I think about how that goofy job where I wore a cardigan and long pants in Houston summer of 98 degree days with 95% humidity, and I wonder how I'm not dead.  But I also think of it as the place that taught me the most about how to put on a game face with co-workers and customers alike, and you get better/ best results out of both.  It's not just stuff I use to this day on the job, it's stuff people pay huge money for in real life Disney Customer Service academies.  No foolin'.  

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sneaky Snake Watch: Anaconda (1998)

This is an infograph of how much you'll care about each character



Watched:  09/10/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second or third
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Some guy

I dunno.  It's a movie about people heading up the Amazon to find a lost tribe who come upon a snake that is huge and doesn't act like a snake at all.  It has JLo and Ice Cube.  So, how bad can it be?

I saw this one opening week in the theater, and what really stuck with me over the years was that Jon Voight is in it, and it made me realize very famous actors can make hilariously bad choices.  And every instinct Voight has in this movie is... so bad it's good.  Paraguayan accent?  Check.  Constant scowl?  Absolutely.  

I am sure there's some conversation that occurred that said "well, Voight's character is the REAL anaconda!  He's the one who sneaks up on you and surprises you with the kill!"  But that's kind of dumb and not right.