Sunday, July 25, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Highlander (1986)




Watched:  07/23/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:


I hadn't watched The Highlander (1986) in years.  It was a movie I saw on VHS as a kid, loved it, and include it's mythology and catch-phrases as part of my Gen-X slang.  I mean, it did give us the phrase "there can be only one", which I think has leaked out into the popular consciousness, even if lots of folks don't know where the phrase came from.

But like The Beastmaster, The Highlander was part of the lingua franca of geek culture for Gen-X nerds.  It had a not-particularly charismatic lead, Connery chewing schenery, a woman throwing herself at the lead for absolutely no reason (and against all logic), swords, trenchcoats, a crazy-ass villain in the form of Clancy Brown as a mad Cossack, and a soundtrack by mid-80's Queen.

And sparks.  So many sparks.

Going in, I knew the movie wouldn't be what I remembered when I was 12, even if the movie was exactly what I remembered from when I was 12.  It's.... fine.  A little slim in the character department in favor of the plot and exposition departments.  And it's also a funny movie because it does feel like it should be the first installment in a series until you think about the plot and realize "nope, this is it."  Not that movie didn't generate three sequels and a TV show.  

I will never understand the idea behind casting Christopher Lambert as a Scotsman.  I will never understand casting Sean Connery as an Egyptian Spaniard.  And yet, I support both.  It's absurd.  And somehow just part of the fabric of the movie.  

I do like how the movie merges present with flashbacks to tell the story - this was not particularly common to sci-fi or fantasy at the time, and trying to imagine someone explaining all of this in realtime in the present would have been deadly.  Clancy Brown makes a hell of an impression as a badguy who has flipped his lid - maybe not new to cop thrillers by 1986, but new to fantasy.  And the bit with the girl MacCloud saved during WWII who is still with him is a brilliant little touch, even if she should have been introduced earlier and their relationship clarified.  I mean, there's a whole movie in that somewhere.

But it's also not something I think anyone should take particularly seriously.  Connery sets the right tone - this is crazy, and we should enjoy it.  The ending is telegraphed nonsense, but still fun.  

Now we'd be treated to someone's plans for a franchise, with massive world building and a wide array of characters.  Here, we get... four Immortals in the modern era?  And no women at that?  (So 1980's).  So I do appreciate that it's both semi-thoughtful, but smart enough to just tell the story and get out.  

Anyway. Highlander.  


TV Watch: Ted Lasso (for the folks who haven't seen it, and maybe those who have)




The pandemic has caused some major shifts to my television viewing.  I was not a binge watcher, and basically didn't follow all that much television until I was locked in my house for the better part of two years.  

I've recently watched the 10 episodes of Ted Lasso's first season three times through.  Kind of... all in a row.  This is not a thing I do.  You're lucky if I don't bail on a show after three episodes.  Season 2 has debuted on Friday, July 23rd.  I'm making my recommendation, so take it or leave it.  Also, the show was just nominated for a boat-load of Emmy's, so.  Someone other than me thought this was done well.

I, myself, had heard about Ted Lasso coming to Apple TV+ here and there, and then saw people yelling "I love Ted Lasso!" on social media, but, let's be honest.  People go nuts for shows all the time that are... not good.  None of us are to be trusted when recommending shows, especially unsolicited.  Hell, in the geek-o-sphere, I think we double-down on terrible shows, but that's a post for another day.  

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Happy Birthday, Lynda Carter

Happy birthday, Lynda Carter!

Today is the 70th birthday of actor, singer, performer, and icon Lynda Carter.

She's got a new album out in a few days and her Wonder Woman episodes are streaming on HBOmax - so go get on it!  (And just last week, TCM aired her Mark Lester directed movie Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw).  

So, make it a Carter-tastic day!  Go listen to one of her records or watch a WW episode!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Friday Watch Party: Highlander - Friday night!




There can be only one movie where a Frenchman plays a Scotsman and a Scotsman plays a Spaniard and an American plays a Cossack.  And no one cares!

It's the 1980's fantasy favorite all the nerds loved back in the 1990's til the sequel came out and made it all seem ridiculous.  But the original is pretty good, has three great leads and music by Queen.  So...

Don't lose your head!  We're doing it 

Day:  Friday 07/23
Time:  9:00 Central/ 7:00 Pacific




Art House Watch: My Dinner With Andre (1981)




Watched:  07/22/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Louis Malle

I would guess more Gen-X'ers know My Dinner With Andre (1981) by reputation than have actually seen the film, by a country mile.  Held up as the epitome of intellectualism in film by the time I hit film school in the mid-90's, I remember an art teacher in fifth grade (circa 1985) telling us about the movie, the same guy who also showed us Talking Heads videos, including what I think was Stop Making Sense.*  

As much of a reputation as the movie earned, it also became a sort of cultural shibboleth and punchline.   In the era of "Woody Allen is an intellectual genius" and last days of New York as the cultural epicenter for America (arguably shifting to LA by the late 1980's), the idea that a film would take on such heady topics as the nature of performance and theater, and, in fact, consciousness with a bent that's new-agey post-hippie "awareness" dressed up in tweed and fine dining was like pushing every button for the culture, especially in outposts outside of New York that longed to see themselves embroiled in such conversations.  Of course it played well to both the audience it portrayed and the audience of art-majors and film critics across the country.  That's not a dig - I'm just not surprised.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Murder Watch: The Last of Sheila (1973)




Watched:  07/20/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Herbert Ross

What a weird combo of talent on this film.

I recorded this on my DVR when Rian Johnson indicated it had helped inspire the sequel to Knives Out, recently filming in the French Riviera, where this film, The Last of Sheila (1973), takes place.  

I did not know that it was written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins - two guys not known for Hollywood movie scripts.  Then, it was directed by Herbert Ross, who you may know as the director of The Secret of My Success or Footloose.  The cast is small, but as in Agatha Christie style, everyone has to carry their weight.  

But what a cast:  James Coburn as a movie producer, Dyan Cannon as a talent agent, James Mason as a director past his prime, Raquel Welch as a starlet with a past, Ian McShane as her iffy boyfriend, Richard Benjamin as a screenwriter seeing his career fail, and Joan Hackett as his heiress wife.

The titular Sheila dies in the opening scene, the victim of a hit-and-run as she drunkenly leaves a party to walk her Bel-Air neighborhood.  A year later, Coburn invites a handful of the attendees to his yacht in the South of France for a week of games, one of which is a game of his own making.

I won't say anything else.  No spoilers.  But the movie is a murder mystery with more twists than an industrial drill.

Go check it out sometime.  



Disney Watch: Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)




Watched:  07/18/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  
Don Hall
Carlos López Estrada
Paul Briggs
John Ripa

I had very much wanted to see Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) in the theater.  Disney and Pixar are creating big-screen-worthy films left and right, and I already have two Pixar films under my belt since December that I will see if they're re-released post-COVID.

For some time, Disney has been making Princess movies from all over the planet, from Frozen, to Moana, to Tangled and now Raya and the Last Dragon.  I admit to some confusion in this film because the film skips around a wide swatch of Southeast Asia and the various islands and archipelagos, but it's all Disney Fantasy Land, so I think marrying yourself to any particular culture here is as useless as figuring out which Scandinavian country where Frozen takes place.  But, nonetheless, you may find yourself saying "is this Vietnam, or Thailand, or...?"

Anyway, I was surprised in a very good way that RatLD turned out to be an action/adventure picture - really the first in the modern Disney era.  Expect no song and dance sequences - this is a straight adventure where the Maguffin is "friendship".  Because Disney.  But, yeah, Disney has definitely done non-musical movies in recent years with the Wreck-It-Ralph movies, Zootopia and Big Hero 6, but if you see "princess" and think "what is her 'I Want' song?", you will be disappointed.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Totter Watch: Alias Nick Beal (1949)




Watched:  07/18/2021
Format:  Kino Lorber BluRay
Viewing:  Second (and kinda third)
Decade:  1940's
Director:  John Farrow

I saw this one a few years back at the Austin Noir City fest hosted by Eddie Muller, but haven't seen it since.  It's a prime example of a good movie to sit down and say "is this noir?", because I don't know.  It sure as hell feels like noir, minus the supernatural elements.  

This time I was able to watch the film and then immediately come back (when Jamie had gone off to bed) and watch the film with commentary by Eddie Muller.  It's worth noting - because, as he states, it's been years since he did a commentary track, but he did this one because he likes the movie that much.   

The film itself is a very 20th-Century flavoring of how a good man with the best of intentions can compromise his way right into corruption when it comes to elected office - with an extra shove in the wrong direction from a sharp-dressed demon.  It doesn't hurt to understand a bit about 19th and 20th Century political machines, but the film is mostly concerned with literal forces for good and evil over a man's soul (the evil being Nick Beal), tempting the pious Joseph Foster with the ability to do good at scale, if he just compromises endlessly along the way.  And, of course, turn his eye from his matronly wife (his voice of piety) to Audrey Totter.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Neo-Noir Mitchum Watch: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)




Watched:  07/16/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Peter Yates

I've been hearing about this one for a while, and I can see why.  Mitchum was in a weird period here where he was far older than in his prime two decades earlier, but his age and everything he'd done to himself for his adult life comes with him when he shows up in a role.  Add in his bona fides as part of the noir movement and his already naturalistic (if swaggerish) acting style, and he fits into the era well.  That said, I've not seen his outings as Marlowe, so that's soon, I think.

It's funny, I've definitely had the same thoughts that I saw reflected in this article from The Ringer that I read yesterday about the 1990's neo-noir movement.  Particularly the thought that resonated was that the 1990's noir movement had as much or more to do with filmmakers of the 1990's wanting to make movies like they grew up with in the 1970's than it had to do with anyone wanting to remake Kiss of Death (which they did, and is not the original, but it's fine).  And, likewise, the filmmakers of the 1970's using noir tropes to say something about the same world that insisted on Donnie and Marie.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

PODCAST: "Luca" (2021) - it's Pixar Talk with Ryan Michero, JAL and Ryan S



Ryan Michero is back to go shed some light on the latest Pixar film! We go deep on our transformative journey, talking about Ryan M's work on the film, as well as what makes this one a bit different, and, therefore, special. And, what's Pixar like during pandemic times? Sadly, I forgot to ask any questions about the cat. I loved that cat.




Music:

Portorosso - Dan Romer, Luca OST
Un Baccio a MezzanoteQuartetto Cetra


Pixar Talk: