Sunday, September 15, 2019

90's Comedy Watch: Cabin Boy (1994)


Watched:  09/13/2019
Format:  BluRay from Kino Lorber
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1990's

Well.  I mean.  We may not agree on Cabin Boy (1994), is what I'm saying.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Catch-Up Watch: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)


Watched:  09/11/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

I wouldn't say this movie was mismarketed, exactly.  But how reviews I read described it made it sound exceedingly joyless, but interesting.  The premise held enough promise that I planned to get to it eventually, but wasn't in a mad dash to do so.  However, Jamie watched it somewhere along the line when I was off at a breakdance party or whatever I do, and informed me it was very much in my wheelhouse, and, indeed, she was correct.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) is the true story of Lee Israel, an NYC based writer of bios of celebs of bygone eras (she's working on a Fanny Brice book during the movie's circa 1991 timeframe), which don't really sell, so she tries to hold copy-editing positions, etc...  to pay the bills.  But as a caustic, misanthropic drunk, turns out holding a job can be tough. 

She becomes re-acquainted with a down-on-his luck bon vivant, played by the always-amazing Richard E. Grant (a charming drunk, here), just about the time she has some bills due (cat gets sick), and has to make some money, quick.  Through a series of small discoveries, she learns of the world of memorabilia and letter collectors, and begins forging letters supposedly penned by luminaries long since passed, including everyone from Noel Coward to Louise Brooks. 

Melissa McCarthy stars as Israel, and it's not exactly a revelation to see her this good - I think she's kinda brilliant as a comic actor, so seeing what she can do with a dramatic part was a "well, sure" revelation.  She's always been so specific, with undercurrents and layers of sympathy, pathos, and thoughtfulness, even in goofy stuff like The Heat (which I really enjoy, y'all), doing same but for a dramatic role makes sense.  And, it seems, the work done here by she and Grant earned them both Oscar nods.*

Because the arc of the film is fairly obvious, I'll refrain from spoilers.  Instead, I'll just tip my hat to the actual technical work, character work, and script.  Director Marielle Heller has a sparse directing and acting filmography, but seems to know how to get a performance, and I'm now doubly interested in the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Mr. Rogers biopic coming, as she's the one wearing the puffy director's pants there, too. 

I also quite liked the DP work by Brandon Trost, and almost laughed out loud seeing this is the same DP as the Crank movies, which I'll just let all of us ponder if we think we ever have someone's style nailed down. 

Anyhoo... I'm just recommending this one.  Give it a go.


*which... honestly, we should be expecting movies with these levels of performance in movies all the time, but that's reserved for TV these days.

Friday, September 13, 2019

PODCAST: "Secret Origins: Brandon Zuern" - It's a Kryptonian Thought-Beast Episode

The man, the myth, the manager - our own Brandon Zuern

We're trying this thing out where we're trying to stray a bit from the "let's talk about a movie" formula and we delve into comics and the people who love them.








It's the launch of "Secret Origins", where we talk to comic-folk about how they got into comics and how they got to where they're at as collector, creator, comic retail pro, etc, et al. We start off by visiting with the manager of what's been our longtime LCS (Local Comic Shop, for you new kids). Get to know Comic Book Brando, our own Brandon Z! Learn about Austin Books and Comics, its sister stores, and two guys discussing the winding paths to comics fandom.

For more Kryptonian Thought-Beast, you can always visit our, uh, satellite site?  Something like that.  OR our sister Soundcloud.

The Center of Austin Fandom below...!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Sci-Fi Watch: Brainstorm (1983)



Watched:  09/10/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's

There are a whole bunch of movies that are not the same movie that I thought were the same movie that came out between 1980 and 1987, that all have sort of meaningless names, and I thought were the same movie.  Brainstorm (1983) is one of these movies.

The thing is, I'm not even sure what is what, but these movies all had pictures of people wearing headgear or having lasers pointed at their brains and often had to do with virtual realities, walking around in people's dreams, stuff like that.  I guess.  All I know is that, from this pile, I had never seen Brainstorm despite very much remembering the box collecting dust at Video Station and Video III when I was a kid.

Monday, September 9, 2019

PODCAST! "Empire Strikes Back" (1980) - What is Love? #4 w/ Jamie and Ryan


Watched:  07/28/2019
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Oh, gosh...
Decade:  1980's

We turned to our wife of more than 19 years and realized we were heading into tricky territory as we asked "What is Love?" Fortunately, she came back with "Star Wars". Join Jamie and me as we use The Force and talk what was maybe the first great movie romance a lot of us clicked to: Leia, Han, a broken down ship and some mynochs to keep it interesting.



Music
Han Solo and The Princess (Love Theme) - John Williams, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back OST
Han & Leia Suite (Theme) - John Williams, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back OST


"What is Love?" Podcast Series



And, snowsuit Leia

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Gaiman Watch: Stardust (2007)



Watched:  09/06/2019
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's

I have to say - the marketing team absolutely dropped the ball advertising Stardust (2007).  I recall hearing the movie was coming, based on Gaiman that I hadn't yet read, saw the trailer and decided: eh, I'm good.

My memory of the trailer was that it looked like a doofy guy trying to woo Claire Danes in the basket of a hot air balloon or some such.  I wouldn't say I took a hard pass, but I didn't see it til 2019, so...

Very, very Neil Gaiman in character and ideas, the movie has the feel of a familiar fairy tale or legend, but spun from pieces of zeitgeisty-concepts and all new notions.  Castles, kings, pirates, magic, rights of ascension...  There's the matter-of-factness of a 19th Century story for children in the telling, which uses that semi-lecturey tone to insist "of course there's a fairy-tale land with witches.  Everyone knows this."   And whether we respond to this as adults out of nostalgia or training, I can't say - but it's a great way to frame a story. 

Kaiju Watch: Godzilla - King of the Monsters (2019)

be careful.  Even under the sea, you can step on a Lego


Watched:  09/04/2019
Format:  Google Fiber Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

In all fairness, at least two of you people warned me.

I didn't care much for 2014's Godzilla, the first in the series to relaunch Big-G from an American studio, leaping from Toho Studios to WB/ Legendary.  It didn't help that the movie was pitched as a Bryan Cranston vehicle at the height of Breaking Bad's popularity, and then removed him from the story about 1/3rd of the way in leaving us with an uninspired story about two characters who never were much beyond their wardrobe of "soldier" and "nurse".  We got Ken Watanabe in practically a walk-on role and Sally Hawkins as his sorta side-kick, but neither was given much to do but stare in awe at screens.

The movie was followed by Kong: Skull Island (2017), which I was in the minority as finding kind of boring and relying too much on Toho's take on prior renditions of King Kong rather than the 1933 original, for which I have a deep love.  I didn't find the way it "borrowed" from Apocalypse Now particularly charming or even appropriate.  The movie turned Brie Larson into a talking tank top, and if you asked me what happened in the movie to whom, I couldn't tell you.  Something something MONARCH.  But it also assembled a wild array of A and B list talent including Marvel heroes and villains taking a side-gig.  Ditching the notion that Kong would leave Skull Island in this episode, instead we're stuck with "look how many ways soldiers and scientists can die over the span of 90 minutes", which is a formula I mostly find deadly dull.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Today is the 31st Anniversary of Siouxsie & The Banshees' "Peepshow"



As was noted today by Post-Punk (srsly, follow these people), and our own JimD (follow Jim, too, he could use the emotional support), today is the 31st anniversary of the release of Peepshow, the 9th album by Siouxsie and The Banshees.

Peepshow was one of those albums that, as the kids would say, got me through high school.*  While I liked the single of Peek-a-Boo when it debuted on MTV, I didn't actually buy the full album til the following year.  In practical terms, I listened to this album over and over, nurtured a fanboy crush on front woman Siouxsie Sioux, and felt things deeply while listening to said album on tape, which I was in danger of wearing out when I got my first CD player.



I tend to think of Peepshow as a very complete album.  It's more than a smattering of songs from a band, and it's not just that every song is single-worthy, or so I believe, but that the band found a flow to the songs that takes you from point to point.  It isn't a "concept album" nor does it tell a story, really, but it just clicks, track after track.  And, mostly, makes me miss the thing where you just lie on your bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to a record.

Here's to Peepshow, the first sexy depressing album with a dollop of S&M and pop fun that got me to hang posters of a woman on my wall that I know my mother did not approve of at all.

I did see Siouxsie and The Banshees in 1991 at the first Lollapalooza in Dallas, TX when they toured in support of Superstition, which also had some great singles.  And, yeah, they were pretty great despite the fact it was 98 degrees when they hit the stage.




*one day I suppose we should tackle this notion of "got me through high school" on the podcast with Maxwell and MRSHL.

Happy Birthday, Freddie

Because this and "We Will Rock You" were two of the first rock songs I remember, full stop.



I'll never not be sad I didn't see Freddie live.

Weird Al Watch: UHF (1989)



Watched:  09/02/2019
Format:   Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  No idea.  Must be a dozen
Decade:  1980's

My claim to fame is that I saw this movie twice in the theater.  Once - because it was summer, Weird Al had a movie, and it was mid-afternoon.  The second time I caught it was the day before I started high school, kicking off the tradition I kept up through college where you got and see a movie the day before the school year starts so you're thinking about something else.

You've either seen UHF (1989) or you haven't.  Starring "Weird Al" Yankovic, already quite famous by 1989 thanks to several hit novelty records and MTV airplay, the movie is basically a bunch of music videos and really funny sketches tied together with a razor-thin plot about running a broke, non-network TV station on the edge of town.  It's an underdog story about big corporate stations being run by mean people vs. underdogs who break the mold and come out on top thanks to creativity and a sense of community.  Or something.

It's also a reminder of how much weird comedy could get in the 1980's, with skits like Gandhi II and Spatula City, and that firing a firehose into a kid's face can be hilarious in the right circumstances.

The cast is weirdly impressive when you realize it features both Michael Richards and Fran Drescher just before they broke big just a few years later, but also Emo Philips, Billy Barty, David Bowe, Victoria Jackson, Gedde Watanabe, David Proval and a handful of "oh, that guy!" actors.  And, of course, in a stunning coup of casting brilliance - Kevin McCarthy as the evil network affiliate owner and operator.

I dunno.  There isn't much to say about the film.  It's still fun, even when you know not everything aged well or fallen out of relevance.  But a lot of it still has that magic (ex: Conan the Librarian continues to work all too well). 

And I genuinely like some of the gags, like the homeless guy asking for change to break a dollar.  Just gold.

Anyhow- for some early Michael Richards genius and pre-Nanny Fran Drescher, you can do way worse.  And Weird Al is just funny as all hell in this thing.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

New Classics Watch: Wings of Desire (1987)



Watched:  09/02/2019
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  Third
Decade:  1980's

Originally, I'd put this film on as I've pondered doing my own episode of "What is Love?" for the PodCast, but - like others who took on the task - I am also faced with the dilemma of a stable relationship of many years.  I like movies that include or which are about people finding each other in this mixed up world, but it's almost like a High School movie to me - I have been there.  I have done that.  I am now elsewhere.

Wings of Desire (1987) is part of a movement of film that we called "Art House" back in the day, and which I am afraid is fading out.  A film like this, today, would get festival accolades, play about twenty theaters in the US for a couple of weeks and then vanish, popping up on Netflix with zero fanfare and a description which did the casual browser a disservice.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

PODCAST: "Aquaman" (2018) - Kryptonian Thought-Beast Episode 01 w/ Jamie and Ryan


Watched:  08/29/2019
Format:  HBO Streaming on Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2010's

We launch our Kryptonian Thought-Beast series with an (exhausted) examination of our fishy friend's blockbuster cinematic success! And we ask "Why? Why did people like this movie? For it is not a good movie." Join Jamie and I as we discuss the dude-bro who would be king of 3/4ths of the Earth.




Music:
Aquaman Theme - Power Records, Sounds and Stories about the Justice League of America


Kryptonian Thought Beast PodCast Series

Aeroplane Watch: The Dawn Patrol (1938)


Watched:  09/01/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1930s

This is, apparently, the second version of the same story.  Just this weekend Jamie and I were discussing reboots and relaunches, and I made some noise about "well, they've always remade popular stuff" and this is a pretty good example.  The first version of The Dawn Patrol from 1930, I have not seen.  This remake comes from just eight years later with a shift in casting as Elynn, Niven and Rathbone step in front of the lens.

The Dawn Patrol has curious timing - released in 1938 as the US was watching Germany roll over Europe.  It's an anti-war film, and I found the Wikipedia entry on the film a bit odd, shrugging it's shoulders and saying they were romanticizing combat aviation because of high numbers of deaths, etc... that were part of the genre but gave it kudos for showing the scars of the commanders sending out the untrained pilots.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Our Bro In-Law, The Dug, Has Appeared on a PodCast talking "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

Joseph Scrimshaw is a comedian and writer who focuses on geek-culture topics.  Ask the man about Star Wars.  I dare you.

He also has a podcast called "Obsessed" where he interviews folks about their personal, well, obsessions.  His latest episode features someone near and dear to us here at The Signal Watch, Jamie's brother, Doug. 

Late last year Doug saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  And then he saw it again. And then again.  And then again, and so forth. 

I love Scrimshaw's format, and I'll likely be borrowing some of his ideas as he roll forward at The Signal Watch, and Doug is as Doug in this podcast as a Doug can Doug (this is a feature, not a bug).

Art19
Stitcher:
  

Into the Spider-Verse on Apple PodCasts (starring DOUG)

Google Play PodCast

Thursday, August 29, 2019

PODCAST: "The Breakfast Club" (1985) - High School Movies Back2Skool Speshul w/ Maxwell and MRSHL


Watched:  08/17/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's


It's our first Back2Skool Speshul! We finally pull off the band-aid and talk about "The Breakfast Club" (1985), a seminal movie for Gen-X'ers, that taught us to live, learn, laugh and love and that maybe we're not all that different underneath. Except for how we are, and that's important, too. Or something. And that when we grow older, we're going to either suck or work tough, soul-crushing jobs or both.

Anyway, this PodCast is, like, two hours, so buckle in, every buddy.





Music:

Don't You Forget About Me - Simple Minds, The Breakfast Club OST
I Don't Like Mondays - The Boomtown Rats, The Fine Art of Surfacing


High School Movies Playlist

Sunday, August 25, 2019

SHUT UP, I LIKE IT Watch: StarCrash (1978)

there were legit reasons for this being what one wears in space, but I missed it


Watched:  08/24/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing: at least fourth
Decade:  Baby, this is the REAL 1970's

Yeah, I watched this movie the first time because Caroline Munro, but it has so, so much more to offer.  Star Wars may be the preferred 1970's era sci-fantasy film, but StarCrash (1978) has Christopher Plummer gamely lending his gravitas to a movie with a space-ship shaped like a hand and a 10 story robot with nipples.  And, man, that's just. the. start.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Hitch Watch: The Wrong Man (1956)



Watched:  08/21/2019
Format: TCM on DVR
Viewing: First
Decade:  1950's

I had no idea what this movie was about prior to giving it a watch, so real quick:

Directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, this is based on a true story (apparently?) of a musician who goes to his insurance company to see if he can take out on a loan his wife's life insurance for some dental work, only to be identified by the clerks as the man who committed two robberies of the company in the prior 9 months or so.  The police pick him up, assuring him that if he didn't do it, there's nothing to worry about, but in a line-up, he's identified by multiple witnesses (the robber also hit a few stores) and even his handwriting sample seems to match.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Happy Birthday, Lois Lane

According to long-lived Superman site The Superman Homepage (it's old enough to still be called a Homepage!), it's the birthday of everyone's favorite comic-book intrepid reporter, Lois Lane!



Lois is having a pretty good year.  She's been key to the entirety of the Rebirth efforts around Superman as the comics squared the Superman/ Lois romance/ marriage once again, and gave them a son in Jon Kent.  Since Bendis came on the Super-books, he's put Lois back at the fore, first as someone Superman missed as she left for space, and then as a source of consternation as she's deposited herself in Chicago rather than Metropolis.

There's no question Lois's storyline is just getting bigger, and it sure doesn't hurt that she's starring in the super-books, deeply involved in Event Leviathan and currently has her own 12-issue maxi-series by Greg Rucka (a great fit for Lois) that I'm actually really enjoying.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

PODCAST: "The Piano" (1993) - it's #3 in our 'What is Love?' series - w/ MRSHL and Ryan



Watched:  06/21/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing: Second
Decade:  1990's

click for a complete list of tracks and Playlists from The Signal Watch PodCast

Become a Patron!


Just a couple of 40-something dudes, sitting around contemplating the nature of a woman's desire, the qualifications for feminist film, symbology and visual storytelling, and what's a woman to do when you find yourself in New Zealand in 1852 and married to a dud?




Music:

The Heart Asks Pleasure First - Michael Nyman, The Piano OST


Playlist - "What is Love?":

Lego Watch: Lego Movie 2 - The Second Part (2019)


Watched:  08/15/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

I just checked Box Office Mojo and if you want to weep for humanity, this movie made $190 million and Minions made over a billion dollars.  I think I'm beginning to understand how we reached our current state as a people.

Anyhoo...

If you haven't seen Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), it's now streaming, so now's a second chance. 

With the device revealed at the finale of the first Lego Movie, and a reasonable assumption being that we understand that the adventures of the movie are in part a kid playing with Lego and in part a kid working things out - the movie is able to play a bit more with the premise. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Chandler Watch: Marlowe (1969)



Watched: 08/14/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's

People take a lot of liberties when adapting Raymond Chandler novels to screen.  It's not a huge surprise.  After all, Chandler's books are winding, complicated, and don't exactly make it easy to translate Marlowe's inner-monologue or exposition in a way that's easy to cram into 90 - 120 minutes and keep the audience with you.  To this day, people complain The Big Sleep is "too complicated".

It's been a while since I read The Little Sister, I think the fifth Marlowe novel and the work upon which the studio based Marlowe (1969).   Between reading several Chandler novels in a row at that time and years inbetween, not every detail of the plot had stuck with me, but impressions of various characters remained, and as the movie unspooled, it did provide me with a roadmap and certain expectations for the film that gave me a leg up vis-a-vis following the plot and keeping up.  A glance at some contemporary reviews suggest that even Ebert and Siskel found it a bit muddled.

Still, the story sticks surprisingly close to the novel, updating some factors for 1969 that would have looked very different in the original setting of 1949.  And, I'll argue, while people feel like they've got a grip on Chandler by way of reputation, in practice his novels tend to feel like a morass of detail until the denouement.  That's part of the fun (and Hammett did same in books like The Thin Man).

Spooktacular Watch: Supernatural (1933)



Watched:  08/14/2019
Format:  Alamo S. Lamar
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1930's

Say what you will about Austin, but I just got home from a Tuesday 9:30 PM showing of a 1933 horror movie almost no one has seen who is currently alive, and the place was hopping.  I know this is true in other cities, but this one is mine.

For whatever reason I enjoy what the studios were up to with horror in the pre-Atomic Age films, a mix of the occult, mythical beasts, ghost stories and sometimes just creepy old houses with a Boris Karloff in them.  Supernatural (1933) would have come out on the heels of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) in the era where not just Universal, but other studios, were getting in on the horror genre and the Hayes office wasn't yet really enforcing any codes.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

MST3K Watch: Killer Fish (1979)



Watched:  08/12/2019
Format:  Netflix MST3K - The Gauntlet
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's

Sometimes movie stars just want to take a vacation and maybe shoot a movie while they're there.  You see it all the time in these peculiar movies that don't look very good but star people who actually cost some money - and the movie is in, say, Hawaii.  They're called "postcard movies", and the deal is usually that the star maybe asks for less because they're being put up in a really nice hotel in Maui for two months to make some romcom or whatever.  Their family comes out and they go boogie-boarding on their days off.

I kind of suspect something similar was afoot in 1979 when Killer Fish went into production.  The movie doesn't have the world's biggest stars, but in '79 Lee Majors was a pretty big deal and Karen Black was still bankable.  I imagine selling the movie as "come down to Rio de Janeiro for a couple months" was a pretty good deal.  I'd also mention, this movie was part of the short-lived Fawcett-Majors Productions, a go at producing from when Lee Majors and Farah Fawcett were Hollywood's foremost couple.  And, no, you've never heard of this movie or the other films that they produced.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Western Watch: The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)



Watched:  08/11/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR from a looooong time ago
Viewing:  first
Decade:  1940's

Well.  Between this and The Lost Weekend, I picked quite the double-bill for the weekend.

I mean, I knew.  I'd rented this movie twice in college but when I'd think about what it was about, I'd never hit "play" on the ol' VCR.  And I'd recorded it a half-dozen times on the DVR and never watched it.  But this time I did.

The Ox-Bow Incident (1942) is about a small town in the old west who finds out that a local rancher has been killed, and so they pull together a posse to go track down the killers.  It's a mish-mash of local color and yahoos, rationalizing why they don't need to follow the rules, exactly, and supported by the ineptitude and slack nature of some local authority.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Wilder Watch: The Lost Weekend (1945)



The Lost Weekend (1945) is one of those movies that you always know you should watch, but when you know what it's about, it's sort of hard to get fired up to put on.  But with Billy Wilder behind the camera and with a "co-written by" credit, it did nudge me toward "okay...", and knowing it featured Ray Milland, whom I like well enough, and Howard Da Silva, whom I really like, it put it in the "yeah, I need to see that" direction.

But in the past month two things happened.  (1) I read that Wilder wrote the movie after working with Raymond Chandler to write Double Indemnity.  Chandler certainly suffered from alcohol addiction and, as it will, the addiction impacted his professional and personal life.  I'm unclear on whether Chandler was dry during Double Indemnity, but I'm also sure working with Wilder would drive him to drink.  While the two never got along, it's noteworthy that whatever he saw and respected in Chandler was mixed up with how he saw his alcoholism.  (2) Our own JimD referenced the movie and asked me when the last time was that I'd seen it, which was "never".  Mid-tweet response I decided to watch the movie this weekend.

Myrna Watch: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)



Watched:  08/11/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's

I guess it's considered punching down to make fun of high-school kids, especially girls (and right now, I can feel some of you out there tensing your fingers to respond why in the comments), but, I mean, c'mon.  The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) is a sorta-screwball comedy that hinges entirely on a particular flavor of high schooler who decides they're more sophisticated and mature than all of their classmates, and entangles a swinging post-war playboy-type.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Super Satire Watch: The Boys (Amazon Prime)



I haven't actually read Garth Ennis's The Boys series.  I read the first trade and always intended to follow up to see where it went from the set-up, but never quite got there.  I'll make up for it now, but it's gonna take some purchasing power, I guess.

Flat out, Garth Ennis is one the three or four best writers in comics, and, on some days, I think he's just "the best".  Some of us stumbled upon him due to his bizarre ability to make gore and violence absolutely hilarious (in the right context) but stayed for the amazing characterization, astounding turns to genuine sympathy for unsympathetic characters, and his ability to grasp humanity and the tragedy and comedy of his characters enough that they feel can feel three-dimensional.  All while existing in profane, graphically violent, sexually frank or ridiculous situations that seems like it would send many-a-comics-twitterer running for some pearls to clutch.

Friday, August 9, 2019

PODCAST: "Crawl" (2019) and 'Rogue" (2008) - Gator/ Croc Cinema! w/ SimonUK and Ryan



click for a complete list of tracks and Playlists from The Signal Watch PodCast

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Watched:  Crawl 07/31/2019, Rogue 08/06/2019
Format:  AMC Barton Creek and DVD
Viewing:  First for both
Decade:  2010's/ 2000's

SimonUK and Ryan take a bite out of two movies that burst from the depths to surprise us. We compare and contrast a pair of films that rolled us over and made us take notice, but definitely felt we could sink our teeth into.



Music:
Crocodile Rock - Elton John, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
See You Later, Alligator - Bill Haley and the Comets


Playlist - SimonUK Cinema Series:






Thursday, August 8, 2019

In the wake of two mass shootings

This weekend saw two mass shootings.

You don't need for me to tell you why those shootings happened, or describe the tragedy of what occurred and what was taken from families, friends and communities. Or that it didn't always used to be this way.

But it sure is now.

The pair of shootings seemed to have stemmed from the politics of the shooters, one far right, the other far left, each running to extremes.  At some point those divergent points of view seem so far apart they, in fact, curve back toward the same point.  (Look, the El Paso shooter left a manifesto and was taken into custody, and is far less of a mystery to me than the misogynist antifa fan in Ohio who was dead within a minute of opening fire.  But "making sense" is not usually something I associate with mass murder).    It leaves us with some common traits between the shooters, not the least of which is the ability of anyone off the street to arm themselves like they're storming Baghdad and pop off if they're having a bad day and feel misunderstood.

I'm tired of men who can't handle their shit or that life wasn't what they expected turning their self-loathing on others, their shame metastasizing into a need to prove their place in the world with juvenile fits and the tools of a soldier.

Once again, a lot of politicians made bland statements, the media conglomerates handled it within their brand standards, and the paid spokespeople took to cable.  Horrified and mourning people were treated like exotic animals on safari by national news.

I had a whole lot more written, but I deleted it.  I'm just done.  This is impossible to write.

We're exhausted.  Exhausted from knowing something could be done and, for some reason, won't be.  And exhausted because every time you open your mouth about how obvious it is that this situation is insane, there's someone there who cares more about middle-school debate club needling and badly reading a single sentence than they care about piles of dead people.  And there's no other way of looking at it anymore.

I'm tired of knowing people want to run for office and tell people how to live who don't care if the people they're supposed to represent live at all.

We can do better, if we want to.  But I don't see anyone who wants to do better, and I can't begin to understand why.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Noir Watch: Thieves' Highway (1949)

this quote is exactly what Jamie said to me when we met


Watched:  08/04/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

There's a surprising number of movies about or including the work of "trucking" in this category we call "noir".  I suppose it makes sense given the world of people operating mostly alone, moving from place to place by day and night.  Add in the shadiness of transportation companies and both the folks sending and receiving goods, and it's fertile soil for drama.  And it's not like people like myself who've never ridden in a truck are oblivious to truckstop shenanigans. 

But who would have thought moving produce would lead to excellent noir drama?  But, at it's core, Thieves' Highway (1949), which is 100% about moving produce, contains a lot of what I think of when I ponder what comprises the "noir movement".  Characters in over their head pursuing goals due to hubris or lust (this one has both), a disaffection with the status quo and everyman status, a woman on the make pulling the wool over some schmuck's eyes...  it's all there.  Plus a heavy played by Lee J. Cobb and a morally gray protagonist played by Richard Conte.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Noir Watch: In a Lonely Place (1950)



Watched:  08/02/2019
Format:  Criterion BluRay
Viewing:  Second or third
Decade:  1950's

Nicholas Ray has an earned reputation as a director, if, for no other pop cultural reason than Rebel Without a Cause and - for noiristas - They Live By Night.  I hadn't realized, til watching the extras on this Crtierion disk, how much Ray's work helped spawn the thinking in Europe that led to auteur theory of film.  It's not a theory I necessarily subscribe to anymore, but like anything - some directors are better in general, are more attuned to their work and/ or manage to find work that better suits their sensibilities than other directors.  I do get excited when the names like Fritz Lang, Edward Dmytryk, Robert Wise and Jules Dassin (and many, many others) cross the screen.*

And, in some productions, those reputations as the driving force behind the movie makes sense.  There's no doubt whose movie you're watching when you're watching a Tarantino movie or a lot of Spike Lee's features, especially when they wrote the thing to begin with.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

PODCAST: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004) - What is Love? #2 w/ Maxwell


Watched:  06/01/2019
Format:  Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2000's


We stir up memories of what makes a fine romance in film with a blast from the recent past. Fall in love all over again with this mid-00's classic starring an all-star cast you've probably forgotten appeared in the film. Walk back through the film with us, and see if you can recollect what made it work.



Music:
Theme - Jon Brion, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" OST

Playlist:





Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Noir Watch: While the City Sleeps (1956)



Watched:  07/30/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's

I'm always going to support a movie that features Ida Lupino slinging back drinks, dropping snappy dialog and not exactly being coy about her interests.  She's, however, just one of many name talents in While the City Sleeps (1956), an ensemble drama about the women and men at work in a major metropolitan newspaper.  Directed by Fritz Lang, this one features:  Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, John Drew Barrymore, Sally Forrest and more, all bringing their A-game and making for a fun, unsentimental look at how the sausage is made in the big news game.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Apollo 11 - 50th Anniversary and PBS's "American Experience: Chasing the Moon"



The past couple of weeks marked the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, thanks to the crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.  Plus, the might of NASA, contractors to NASA, government bureaucrats, politicians and, us, the voting and tax-paying public.

From July 16th to July 24th, 1969, three brave people hurled through the void of space, two walked the face of an alien landscape, and then all returned, safely, to Earth.  All of this just sixty-six years after the Kitty Hawk Flyer took to the sky and 27 years after the first V2 rocket.  The scope of progress and achievement during this window was unprecedented in human history as two nations threw down the gauntlet to see who could place a boot onto lunar soil. 

Sick Day Watch: Clue (1985)


Watched:  07/21/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown.  6th or so.
Decade:  1980's

I watched this while I was having my worst day of my cold and running a fever.  I mostly remember clicking through options on Amazon and finally saying "ha.  Madeline Kahn."  And then I was watching Clue (1985) again.

A while back I watched this movie and actually didn't like it that time, except for some particular bits here and there, but on this viewing, I enjoyed it immensely (again.  I used to quite like this movie.),

Anyway.  Ha!  Madeline Kahn!

Friday, July 26, 2019

PODCAST: "The Fly" (1986) - Episode 01 of "What is Love?" - w/ SimonUK and Ryan


Watched :  03/03/2019
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's

It was called @#$%ing Panchos and you losers let it go out of business the last time. Fun flags and all. Absolutely glorious. Don't @#$% it up again, Austin.



Music:
Main Title - Howard Shore, The Fly OST
Unknown Track - Howard Shore, The Fly - Opera
Help Me - Bryan Ferry, The Fly OST


"What is Love?" Playlist:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Christmas in July Watch: A Christmas Wish (2016)



Watched:  07/21/2019
Format:  Hallmark Channel's Christmas in July
Viewing: First
Decade:  2010's

I was suffering a fever and whatnot over the weekend, and that's part of why this happened.

Around July 1, The Hallmark Channel began running Christmas movies 24/7, and I guess that's the gameplan through the end of the month.  It's clearly a trial balloon to see if they should just go ahead and launch a fulltime Christmas movies channel, as in - all year it's Christmas.  Which would make Jamie snap, and, thus, I support this idea.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Noir Watch: The Tattooed Stranger (1950)



Watched:  07/18/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

So....  I don't know that I'd want to actually recommend The Tattooed Stranger (1950) to anyone.  It's far more of a curiosity of production than it is a watchable or good movie, and in the right, riff-able hands, could be wildly entertaining.  Pre-film, Muller explained that it had been a producer of RKO's Pathe office, who wanted to try their hand at cheap narrative films, exploiting their guerrilla film making know-how from decades of documentary films  and using the wealth of actors in NYC.

Rutger Hauer Passes Through The Tannhäuser Gate



I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. 
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. 
Time to die.

This one hit us all hard and never let up.

Monday, July 22, 2019

NASA Legend Christopher Kraft Merges With The Infinite



If you ever get a chance, read up on the amazing history of NASA.  It's fascinating today to see some of the unknown stories of the agency's history come to the fore in recent years, bringing to the fore luminaries like Margaret Hamilton and Katherine Johnson.  One name we did grow up with was Christopher Kraft.

Truly, no one was more "there at the beginning" than Kraft, who had been a NACA employee before the creation of NASA, and who helped build and shape NASA from the inside up.

Kraft served as Flight Director at NASA during Mercury and Gemini and as a manager of flight operations during Apollo.  Kraft's attention to detail and leadership were key to keeping all the moving parts together before, during and after each mission, keeping people alive as they hurled through space in experimental machines strapped to ballistic missiles.

He would go on to run the Manned Spacecraft Center into the early 80's, when he retired from NASA.  In the 1990's, he participated in a review of the shuttle program and published an autobiography in 2001.

Mr. Kraft passed this week at the age of 95, having pushed humanity higher, further and farther than anyone ever dreamed.  He deserves to be remembered alongside the astronauts and heroes who, themselves, went into space and those new legends of engineering, math and science.  The role he took on wasn't the one with the personal glory (although his name did become quite well known), but without the Christopher Krafts out there, you don't get the Apollo missions, either.

A statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Kraft's passing.




I've Been Sick, That's What


Last week I traveled for work and somewhere along the line I picked up a nasty cold.  I have my suspects who may have passed along this infernal malady, but shall name no names here in the record of my life which will be preserved and shared for generations.

I got home from work very late last Wednesday (really Thursday morning) and was doing fine.  I worked out on Thursday, ate dinner and was doing the dishes when I got the spins for a minute.  "That's odd," I said to myself.  "But it has been a while since I worked out, and that didn't go very well, either."

And then the symptoms started coming in, and I knew. 

Look, it's not dramatic.  It's a cold.  As of this writing I am now past the point of ear canals screaming at me, a sore throat and a fever.  I spent most of the weekend laying on the sofa watching TV, I think.  I don't really know.  I think I watched all of Clue last night, but I'm not sure.  But I did go to an Urgent Care Sunday not because I think they can cure the common cold, but because I have no idea what OTC meds to take when you do have a cold.  PLUS - I really did not want get a sinus infection on the other side of the cold.  And, you never know.  Day 3 of a fever is a good time to ask a pro if you're dying or not.

Anyway - I'm on the road to recovery.  Doing much better than I was and have moved into the "coughing a lot and, oh, look, it's producing phlegm" part of the program.  Some minor stuffiness.  And I'm way more lucid, which I see as beneficial to everyone. 

The poor dog, who hasn't seen a decent walk in days, just thinks I suck.

Thanks to Jamie who has been a hero through all of this and hasn't seemed to have acquired this cold, against all odds.  But, yeah, she is used to me Man-Flu'ing my way through all illness, but it is in no way fun to watch a giant, sweaty man lay on your sofa and just keep saying "I don't care" about literally everything not related to his phlegm production.  Of course she's wrestling with summer allergies, so as I recover, I hereby swear to be deeply sympathetic to her fight via Austin allergens.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Netflix Watch: Stranger Things Season 3



In some ways I'm amazed I haven't totally turned on this show.  It can be twee, it's a lot too precious in some scenes, and the "look, we're doing the 1980's!" while getting a lot of details wrong should have pushed me over the ledge.*

Sometimes I wish they'd just turn to David Harbour and Winona Ryder and ask "is this actually right?  As someone who was a young person in 1985, is this accurate?"  Because it works *better* for those of us who were around this age when the show is on.  And it is on *a lot*.  But when it's off, it takes you right out.

The horror was more or less abstracted to a general horror-movie sort of problem this season, giving the characters less specific rules-sorting to do, which I support.   At times the visual and filmic references to other things was so heavy handed, though, the show almost folded in on itself.

Still, somehow, the show works.  I still really enjoyed it, and I know why.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Signal Watch is now a "Cats: The Movie" Stan Site



Look, it's @#$%ing inevitable that I'll watch the movie version of Cats, so I might as well lean into it.  I promise you can now look to The Signal Watch as Your News Site for the movie of Andrew Lloyd Webber's goofiest achievement (and he did Starlight Express), Cats.  And I hereby swear I will watch this movie opening weekend.

Fact:  I saw the musical of Cats touring once when I was sixteen and a theatre-kid in high school.  I mostly remember dancers in very tight costumes bending and flexing a lot and the woman playing Grizabella knocking it out of the house.

Fact:  I subsequently owned the two-tape soundtrack to Cats which I listened to twice before realizing "I do not think I actually like 85% of the music in Cats" but felt that as a theater-kid, I couldn't get rid of the tapes - but I did quietly migrate them to my mom's tape collection.

Fact:  I saw Cats a second time in college when it came through Austin and a friend said "hey, I've never seen Cats", and I was like "well, you should see it sometime," and then me and Peabo got tickets.  We looked at each other during the first number, realizing "oh god, we've made a horrible mistake" and that feeling never let up til the final curtain.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Poppins Watch: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)



Watched:  07/13/2019
Format:  BluRay
Viewing: Second
Decade:  2010's

Y'all, I @#$%ing love Mary Poppins. 

I already talked a bit about this movie back in December when we went to go see it as a holiday-timed family outing. 

Honestly, as much as I liked it the first time, on a second viewing, I liked it even more.  Once you're past the "what am I looking at?" aspect of such a big production and get over everything they're throwing at you and can process it as a movie with a story and things happening and songs you're not hearing one after another for the first time and dance sequences you're just trying to process...

Honestly, it's really a very well put together bit of entertainment and a fine companion piece to the original.  And I like it quite a bit. 

Yes, you can still both absolutely map the movie scene for scene as a remake of the original, but it is, in fact, a sequel, so it also has a new plot and new problems and works in elements of the original as plot points, creating some terrific continuity.  I *liked* the songs the first time, and on a second viewing, I really liked the tunes.  They may not have the immediate impact of soft-rock favorites in the manner of Moana or Frozen, and they remain so much in the vein of the Sherman Bros., we aren't going to get a Broadway showstopper akin to Let It Go, but the song-craft is still tremendous and the songs almost as powerful as carrying the story forward as Moana

And, of course, Emily Blunt's take on Mary Poppins is...  well, she's pretty great.

Anyway - I won't belabor it.  I rewatched the film, enjoyed it again, and will watch it again in the future.  This movie could have been a trainwreck and dimished the original - instead, the level of attention of detail in recreating the world of a movie from 60 years prior and updating it to a different period is phenomenal.  Not to mention the recreation of Disney's 2D circa 1960 animation house style brought into this new film.  The spirit is so much the same from head to tail on this movie, it's an astounding feat.

And whether it's the Julie Andrews original film or this belated follow-up, I still @#$%ing love Mary Poppins.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Stewart the Corgi Merges with The Infinite


2019 was the year I finally started watching Brooklyn 99, and like everyone else who watched the show, I became a big fan of Cheddar, the pet Corgi of Captain Raymond Holt and the lynchpin of more than one episode.

Sadly, a pup doesn't live forever, and Cheddar performer, Stewart, has merged with the Infinite.

Pouring one out for you, buddy.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

PODCAST: Spider-Man - Far From Home (2019) - a quick Marvel movie chat with Jamie and Ryan



Watched:  07/08/2019
Format:  Alamo Slaughter Lane
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

Jamie and Ryan just saw ol' web-head's European tour, and rather than being all Mysterio about their reaction, we grabbed a microphone to shatter any illusions that we wouldn't cover this latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Join our first totally unedited reaction podcast!



Music:
Spider-Man (1967 cartoon theme song) - Paul Francis Webster and Robert "Bob" Harris

Marvel Movies Playlist

3D Noir Watch!: Inferno (1953)

absolutely no one swings into action on top of a couple having a cuddle in the course of this movie

Watched:  07/11/2019
Format:  Alamo South Lamar
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

Well, somehow Wednesday became my Robert Ryan double-bill day.  SimonUK and I headed over to the local cinema to take in this novelty 1953 film.  Ostensibly noir, this movie is both in technicolor (not a disqualifier) and in 3D (a curiosity for noir, to say the least).  It also takes place in the desert and is 65% a tale of survival in extreme conditions, and - while I get why it gets lumped in with noir, I'm a bit on the fence. 

If the movie borrows from noir, it's trying to borrow from the best - in some ways asking "yes, but what if the husband in Double Indemnity had lived?" and pairing it with a survival tale in which the husband is not on an urban railroad track but thrown from a horse in the Mojave Desert. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Noir/ Lupino Watch: On Dangerous Ground (1951)


Watched:  07/10/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950s

If I were to buy this movie on Bluray (and it's Lupino, so don't count me out), I would wish it had Eddie Muller's conversations which bookended the showing on Noir Alley.  Muller says he's doing "barroom, not classroom", but I'll argue that by showing a wide variety of films on Noir Alley and talking about why we should pay attention, discussing what happened during production, etc... and not just lauding whatever it is we're about to see, Noir Alley is one of the best movie-watching experiences and educations you can hope for.  And, yeah, he makes it all as casual as a talk over cocktails. 

On Dangerous Ground (1951) is directed by Nicholas Ray and stars two of my favorite denizens of Noir Alley, Ida Lupino* and Robert Ryan (here wearing a coat and hat and a tough cops face in a way I wish with all my heart I could pull off).  I'd meant to watch it some time ago, and I can't recall why it fell off the list - but now was the time!  Muller certainly discussed details of the film and production, but his real focus was on the Bernard Herrmann score.  And it is very, very much a Bernard Herrmann score, which is almost off to see against an RKO b&w cop picture. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Picture Tour of Locations from "Anatomy of a Murder" - my vacation pics from the U.P. - Part 2


The week of the 4th of July, I was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit some old family stomping grounds.  The Marquette/ Ishpeming/ Negaunee area is where my mom's people landed after arriving from Finland.  My grandfather worked in iron ore mines for forty years while my grandmother cleaned houses and other odd jobs.  And, when my mom arrived as a surprise when they were in their 40's, then raised the sparkplug that is the lady we call "Mom".

This area is also the setting for the novel Anatomy of a Murder.  When Otto Preminger decided to adapt the book circa 1958, he brought the entire production up to this remote area.




You can read more about it in Part 1 of this photo tour.

A Picture Tour of Locations from "Anatomy of a Murder" - my vacation pics from the U.P. - Part 1



This year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder.  If you've never seen it, it's a terrific film and holds up far better than you'd expect considering the changing mores, attitudes, laws and and more since 1959.  In some ways, it's covering territory we seem to cover over and over as a society and may be more relevant now than ever.  A legal drama, it should be a bit out of my wheelhouse, but instead it's been one of my favorite films since college.

Starring Jimmy Stewart, it has a terrific cast of well-known and lesser known actors.  Eve Arden, a very young George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzarra, Arthur O'Connell, and Kathryn Grant (a University of Texas alumnus and, at the time, just married to Bing Crosby).  And, a bit bizarre for the time and place, Duke Ellington.

The movie, however, was based on a novel written by Robert Traver.  Traver was the pen name for attorney John Voelker, who lived in Ishpeming, Michigan and served as the city prosecutor, ran for other public office and was generally highly involved in public life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Signal Watch Reads: "The Long Goodbye" (1953) and "Playback" (1958)



At long last, I read both The Long Goodbye (1953) and Playback (1958), the last of Raymond Chandler's novels centered upon detective Philip Marlowe.

You'll note a lengthy dry spell between books here, and there's a precipitous drop-off between the two in depth and strength.  It's curious as The Long Goodbye feels less like a detective novel and more like an author wrestling with himself, working through the point in his life where he'd enjoyed success and some fame and found neither amounted to much as he was still living with himself as an alcoholic, a writer of genre fiction, and now a widower.*

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Noir Watch: Woman on the Run (1950)



Watched:  06/30/2019
Format:  BluRay
Viewing: First
Decade:  1950's

First - this poster is doing Ann Sheridan no favors.  She's a gorgeous woman, and here she looks like a wax museum figurine that's been set too close to a lamp.  Second - like many-a-noir, this title isn't actually accurate.  The movie is about a woman seeking out her husband, who is a dude "on the run".  Unless this is when I find out "on the run" in this era meant "she's just moving about quickly", which I don't think it did.