Thursday, December 31, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Guest in the House (1944)




Watched:  12/29/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  this one is confusing, but it's listed as follows on IMDB -  John BrahmJohn Cromwell...(uncredited) André De Toth...(uncredited) Lewis Milestone...(uncredited)

A dopey young doctor has fallen for his patient - a mental patient with a phobia of birds and a love of stirring shit (Anne Baxter).  Reasonably, he takes her to meet his idiotic family (minus one key player).  Unreasonably, he just f'ing leaves her with his idiotic family who just met her.  She gaslights the living shit out of everyone, including an 8 year old girl.

This movie features:
  • 3 great 1940's hairstyles on lovely women
  • 1 coocoo bananas psycho
  • Multiple dum-dums who clearly never met a Mean Girl
  • 1 Margaret Hamilton reminding you why it was hard for her to find work after Wizard of Oz seared her into your mind as a broom-riding funster
  • 1 wife who is wildly tolerant of 1 husband who is clearly banging his model no matter what the script tries to tell us
  • 1 man who has all the appeal of a soaked Ralph Bellamy that is, because filmed during wartime, the only man around sold to us as a real dream boat
  • 1 bird pining for the fjords
It is not a BAD movie, but it is also not hard to imagine how this movie could be better.  Also - how this sort of movie became a Lifetime movie, which would be called "Psycho Sister-In-Law".

However, this movie ALSO was released under the name "Satan in Skirts", which...  *chef's kiss*.



80's Watch: Romancing the Stone (1984)




Watched: 12/30/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Apparently, Robert Zemeckis

As a kid, I have two memories of this movie - 1) I think my parents thought itw as going to be risque, because the first time we watched Romacing the Stone (1984) it was with some family friends who had to tell them it was okay for 9 year old me, and 2) when I watched it again later - running on HBO or whatever, it just made me wish I'd rather be watching an Indiana Jones movie.  

I was, of course, not tuned in at all to what the movie was doing.  I had so clearly missed the point watching this as a kid, that five minutes into it this time (and I don't know if I'd seen this movie since I was 20), I turned to Jamie and said "I don't think I ever realized before that Kathleen Turner is supposed to be a nebbish.  I thought the idea was that she was a fancy lady from New York out of her element."  

So, yeah - TOTALLY missed the point as a kid.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Dawn Wells Merges With The Infinite

 



In an era of very few channels and endless repeats of syndicated shows 20 years old, Wells' portrayal of Mary Ann loomed so large in the minds of multiple generations that any  reference to "Mary Ann" was immediately understood (and continues so today with people born before a certain year).  

Godspeed, Ms. Wells.  


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

PODCAST: "Wonder Woman 1984" - a Kryptonian Thought Beast Episode w/ Stuart, Jamie and Ryan

spoiler: the movie was not released in October

Watched:  12/25/2020
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade: 2020's
Director:  Patty Jenkins


Our elite team of nerds comes together to discuss the hottest ticket on HBOmax and at the cinema. Is she a wonder? Has the world been waiting for her? We try to step inside the characters as we ponder what the film did and why, and, does it work? If you WISH someone could get to the bottom of this film - look no further! We're in our satin tights fighting for the right answers! 
Themyscira - Hans Zimmer, Wonder Woman 1984 Soundtrack

Pixar Watch: Soul (2020)




Watched:  12/26/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Pete DocterKemp Powers

I believe we're going to try to do a podcast on this one, so everyone sit tight.  

But, yes, very good.  Recommended.


Monday, December 28, 2020

Watching the Detectives: The Nice Guys (2016)




Watched:  12/28/2020
Format: Amazon Streaming
Viewing: First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Shane Black

This was exactly the movie I needed this evening.  

I dunno what to say about it.  Somehow Shane Black made a movie that managed to utterly surprise in every scene, was absolutely wrong, and absolutely hilarious.  Had a killer soundtrack, featured Keith David and gave Kim Basinger stuff to do.  

I am not sure liking this movie this much makes me a good person, but there we are.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

That Was a Movie Watch: Salome's Last Dance (1988)




Watched:  12/26/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Ken Russell

So...  I'm always on the hunt for something new to watch with folks during Friday Night Watch Parties.  For some reason unknown to me, Salome's Last Dance (1988) popped up as a suggestion from Amazon, and after reading the description - roughly: Oscar Wilde attends a production of his banned play performed in a brothel - I was like "huh, no idea.  Let's look."  

I got maybe 45 seconds in and saw "Directed by Ken Russell", and know more about Russell's reputation than his actual work, which is always at least *interesting* if you've seen Altered States, Lair of the White Worm or even Tommy.  So - I gave it a whirl.

Holiday Watch Party Watch: We're No Angels (1955)




Watched: 12/22/2020
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Michael Curtiz

In general I think of Michael Curtiz as one of the most versatile and best directors of the Studio Era of Hollywood.  This is not the movie I'd use as Exhibit A for that argument.  

I don't really get it.  This movie is well liked and features a cast of solid, well-known actors (I *do* include Aldo Ray in that statement.  I like Nightfall).  But it has a very, very strange pacing - like, a snail's pace - is not immediately or obviously terribly *funny*.  And, yeah, it's a comedy.  It's listed by AFI as one of the 500 funniest movies ever made, so...  what the hell do I know?  

But, yeah, it's about three Devil's Island prisoners (Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov) who hide out in a shop/ home owned by Joan Bennett and Leo G. Carroll - and, along the way - wind up helping out the shop and solving all of their problems.  

I do feel less crazy as I was not the only one watching the movie and I don't think any of us were fans of the thing.  

I dunno, maybe none of us were in the mood or something - but I think something about the stageyness of the production - that they seemed to pace it as a play they hadn't quite figured out the timing for - just really impacted the watchability.

All that said - it did have one of the darkest/ most leaning on gallows humor endings to a movie I can think of from this period, and maybe that has a great deal to do with how it's been received.  No idea.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas. Baby, Please Come Home.


I learned a long time ago that posting on Christmas Eve is a fool's errand.  I'll get about three clicks on this.

But here we go!

This year it's just Jamie and me for Christmas Eve.  While my family lives in town, it's too complicated with kids involved to co-quarantine with the other folks who live here.  So, my brother and his family are with my parents having a very traditional sort of Christmas Eve and morning.   My brother and the kids swung by today to drop off some gifts, and I got to see the wee ones go bananas in the front yard for a bit and we got to wish them a Merry Christmas.  We'll Zoom tomorrow, so that's okay.

Tonight we'll Zoom with Jamie's family and tomorrow Jamie's Dad will zip up from San Marcos for a bit so he can collect his Turkey dinner from us and to be festive for a while.  

Tonight:  tamales and queso.  I bought those red and green tortilla chips from HEB.  Jamie had to be up at the crack of dark for dialysis, so she's shutting down early.  But I figure we'll squeeze in part of A Christmas Story tonight (we already watched the new Star Trek).   Also, thank the little baby Jesus for Netflix's selection of Yuletide firelog videos - that's making some nice filler while I do this.

But - hey.  

It's been a hell of a year with the pandemic and the crazy "president" and the general f'd up state of the world.  A few things have gotten me through this.  There's Jamie, of course, who is a champ and listens to my insane ranting.  There's family who check in on us.  Scout, who makes sure I'm getting out and about.  

And there's y'all.  Who are out there reading the posts, listening to podcasts, making podcasts, and joining in on Watch Parties.  You kids are the absolute best.  

Also: booze.  Booze has helped a LOT.

Up above is Ms. Darlene Love, who performed the greatest of the modern Christmas music staples and set the stage for the moody Christmas music I generally prefer (although the Kylie Minogue Christmas album is a banger).  May the spirit of Darlene Love get you through the evening.  And may we all work toward a Christmas where we can be with loved ones next year.

Wonder Watch: Wonder Woman (2017)




Watched:  12/23/2020
Format:  HBOMax
Viewing:  No idea
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Patty Jenkins

Every time I rewatch Wonder Woman (2017), I'm stunned at the complexity and completeness of the character arc for Diana in the film.  But here, at the end of 2020, how much Diana's illusions and how she deals with them being shattered, resonates.  

From the first time I saw this movie, I know I've been saying it's one of the only superhero films to actually understand what a superhero is and what they do.  It's something comics themselves have forgotten as the writers have fallen into the traps of Hollywood script rules - and the movie itself does, in fact, play with those same rules.  But as a character, Diana is pure.  She's not out for revenge against someone who performed an injury of some sort upon her or a loved one.   She's outraged at the world of man and what they allow to occur - saying there's nothing that can be done.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Hallmark Watch: Christmas at Dollywood (2019)

Dolly's outfit needs more sequins



Watched:  12/18/2020
Format:  Hallmark Channel on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Michael Robison

Arguably, no one involved with this movie knows how anything works in real life and everyone but Danica McKellar's character should be fired.  And Dolly, of course, should always be held blameless.

We've watched a lot of parts of Hallmark movies this year, but watched almost none from start to finish - but when a movie promises to serve up Dolly in prime, post 2000 incarnation of Dolly as glamorous wise songstress and embodiment of goodness - I'm in.  I have, in fact, watched a good chunk of "The Coat of Many Colors" movie and everything.

Monday, December 21, 2020

PODCAST: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2005) - a Xmas Genre Xrossover w/ Jamie and Ryan




Watched:  11/28/2020
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Shane Black


Jamie and Ryan talk the 2005 neo-noir by Shane Black and starring RDJ jr. and Val Kilmer. We hadn't seen it and were heartily surprised by the film - a noir murder mystery sort of thing with a lot of classic detective pulpy roots as both text and plot. 
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Intro and Titles - John Ottman

Sunday, December 20, 2020

"It's a Wonderful Signal Watch: A Christmas Parable" - we did a 4 minute Xmas Sketch

Holiday Watch: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)


Watched:  12/16/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming (but it's also on Disney+ now)
Viewing:  ha ha ha...
Decade:  1940's
Director:  George Seaton

If Miracle on 34th Street isn't part of your personal Christmas canon, I don't even know, man.

Noir Watch: Tomorrow is Another Day (1951)




Watched:  12/13/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Felix E. Feist

I watched this film once before and did a brief write-up, so I won't belabor the points there.  Instead, I'll dwell on how there's always multiple reasons to watch a movie, starting with "is it any good?" and "was the story worth it?"  And, yes, and yes.  

Watching Tomorrow is Another Day (1951) again, I found  it seems to intersect at a lot of places in cinema and cinema history.  It's not breaking ground, but it does feel like 1951 is a particular time and place in what we're talking about, and the aesthetics of how that story is done.  And - it's helped along by the plot element of the basic set-up.

Steve Cochrane - who is becoming a personal fave - has just been released from prison after killing someone when he was still a teenager.  Now in his early 30's, he doesn't really know anything about post-Depression America.  Or how to function as an adult in society.  He's basically a 15 year old kid in a grown-up's body wandering the streets of post-War America with no context for anything from a 1950's era car with power windows to how to get a job.

One of the curious aspects of watching movies from the 1920's - 1960's is getting used to the wardrobes, ideas and fashions of each era - and getting your head around what the 50's looked like compared to the 1930's, and that can all bleed together in hats and suits in black and white.  But here it's a plot point to know the hat of 1951 is not the hat of 1935, and the cut of the suit is different (those of us who grew up in the 80's know our 1990's suit from our 2020 suit).  

For us sitting in 2020, who are staring at the taxi dancer sequence with wonder - this movie may have the most straight-forward presentation of what was going on in these places that doesn't assume a lot of audience knowledge (as Cochrane's character tries to sort it out).  

But the film also sits on the edge of the 1940's.  The urban portions, where Cochrane heads to NYC, feel like any movie from 1944-1950 (and miles away from the NYC of Sweet Smell of Success in 1957).  It's still dime-a-dance girls and tenement apartments.  But the back third of the film where Cochrane and Ruth Roman join seasonal workers picking lettuce - feels almost pre-war.  It's not the picture of post-war prosperity that we tend to think of, but which does show up in films like Border Incident and Thieves' Highway.  The hand-to-mouth existence of anyone wasn't always shown - but here it's a reminder of the struggles of a lot of America that the movies never really sought to show once the war came along.

It's not the way anyone really intended you watch the film, but every once in a while the structure or story of a film of the era can be a window into the period in ways that weren't necessarily intended, but wtill jump out at a modern viewer.  

I did like 95% of the movie again - but, man, that ending.

Happy birthday, Audrey Totter


 born this day in 1917


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Noir Christmas Party Watch: Lady in the Lake (1947)

 

Watched:  12/18/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Montgomery

I've written this up plenty.  And podcasted it.  No need to do so again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Friday Watch Party: (this one will cost you $2) "Lady in the Lake" from 1947



We figured out that if you rent it, we can all Watch Party it.  

This one WILL cost you $2 to participate.  I get none of the money.  

Day:  Friday - 12/17
Time:  8:30 PM Central


For this week's selection, I'm pulling out part of my personal Christmas canon - "Lady in the Lake".  
  • It's one of very few movies shot entirely from a single character's POV - essentially a videogame perspective, and done in 1947 with those giant cameras
  • Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
  • Starring Signal Watch patron saint: Audrey Totter
  • It takes place on Christmas


What's not to like?


Holiday Watch: Christmas in Connecticut (1945)



Watched: 12/13/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Peter Godfrey

The other night I was drinking and, as one does, decided what I really wanted to see was Sydney Greenstreet in a movie.  And, of course, it is the holiday season - and what better choice than Christmas in Connecticut (1945) when it comes to your Syndey Greenstreet/ Christmas movie viewing needs.

Basically a classic farce (but only with a hint of the bedroom about it), Christmas in Connecticut gets a lot of play, but seems like it never quite makes it into the zeitgeist like a lot of other films - even if it deserves to more than a lot of modern holiday favorites.  Genuinely funny with a terrific set-up and everyone on the same page giving sharp, punchy performances - it's got classic comedy chops to spare.

Stanwyck plays a cooking and homelife columnist for a popular "Good Housekeeping" style magazine.  She's essentially posing as America's perfect housewife - complete with husband, child and a picturesque farm house, when she's really living the life of a single-gal in the big city.  Fortunately, her uncle if a terrific chef and just tells her how he makes his best dishes, and she adds the purple prose.

But her pushy publisher (Greenstreet) is sent an idea for a promotion - the famous guru should take in a hero sailor (the movie is WWII contemporaneous) and show him true American hospitality.  But, of course, she can't do it - so she fakes it.

People are in and out of doors, people hidden from one another, and Una O'Connor plays the domestic not in on the shenanigans.  And - while faking a marriage she's actually dodging to a bore of a man (who owns the farm), Stanwyck meets the sailor in question and the smittening is mutual.

It's a terrific film - perfect for a comedy about the holiday that doesn't take it too seriously.  And, of course, Sydeny Greenstreet is brilliant. As always.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Happy Birthday to Helen Slater




Today is the birthday of Helen Slater, famous around these parts for playing Kara in Supergirl, as well as Lara on Smallville and Eliza Danvers on the CW show Supergirl.  She also starred in The Legend of Billy Jean, City Slickers, Ruthless People, The Secret of My Success, and has appeared in numerous shows, including the final episodes of Mad Men.  In addition, she loaned her voice to DC Superhero Girls as Martha Kent and Batman: The Animated Series as Talia al Ghul.  

If you didn't know, she's also cut a few records (she's pretty great!), and continues on her trend of being terribly crush-worthy.  

Monday, December 14, 2020

PODCAST: "A Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992) - a Xmas Genre Xrossover w/ Stuart & Ryan




Watched:  11/29/2020
Format: Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director: Brian Henson


Stuart and Ryan talk the Dickens out of a movie featuring a bunch of felt animals and a CBE for the arts of England. It's got ghosts, a weirdo pretending to be a great author, great sets and a missing song. Maybe not a huge hit when it showed up, it's now a staple of holiday viewing and both very much a Muppet movie and very much a Christmas movie - so it fits the theme for this year.
Music - Muppet Christmas Carol OST
Scrooge - Paul Williams
When Love is Gone - Paul Williams

Playlist - Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020

Watch Party Watch: Blood Beat (1983)

 


Watched:  12/11/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's

Sometimes you watch a movie that is so off the rails, the batshit-ness gains its own power.  

I *think* I basically get what occurred during Bloodbeat (aka: Blood Beat) (1983), but I am willing to hear any interpretation of events which unfold in the film.  

A woman living in rural Wisconsin welcomes home her kids from college for Christmas.  Her son has brought his girlfriend, unannounced.  NBD, but the mom is also on the skids with her rednecky live-in boyfriend, and she's a painter and psychic.  Sort of.  And she gets a weird vibe from the girlfriend.  

The girlfriend also hits a psychic tripwire upon arriving, so... They all go hunting.  The girlfriend does not like.

A samurai ghost shows up when the girlfriend is sexually aroused.  And the sister seems unable to get an outfit together that makes any sense.

Anyway - the samurai ghost kills the neighbors who try to put too many things on a waterbed.  

There's a psychic battle, stock footage of nuclear blasts, and some light nudity.  It all feels like a one off issue of X-Men circa 1984.

I genuinely enjoyed this thing.  DIdn't know where it was going from moment to moment, and was both just confusing and concrete enough to stick with for the 90 minute runtime.  Not a technical marvel, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Watch Party Watch: "I, The Jury" (1953)




Watched:  12/8/2020
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Harry Essex

There was a time before Mickey Spillane was a name everyone kind of knew, and before Mike Hammer books had been adapted by major studios.  I, the Jury is one of the first Hammer books, released in 1947.  This poverty row movie adaptation came out in 1953 - and it really isn't like anything else coming out at the time.  

Yeah, the acting in this film wasn't going to threaten the usual Oscar contenders, and at first blush, there's a lot of what you might have seen in a Marlowe mystery - but (a) this case starts personal and finishes even more so for our detective, and (b) this detective is going to punch his way through the mystery.  

Where Marlowe tries to keep his cool, often over the top of rage whichs pills over, Hammer starts at a ten and goes up from there.  When your mystery starts with a dead best friend and you're on the trail through a bunch of weirdos - any of whom could have done it - I guess I can see how you'd be testy.  

Star Biff Elliot who plays Hammer is a curious choice.  He's not the stringest actor and his decision to go "angry" in every scene means that there's nowhere to go, really.  He blasts into the frame the first time we see him, and barges into every room thereafter  - so we don't ever really see him in any other state.  And anger is an easy go-to for actors, but it's hard to maintain.

The rest of the cast is actually pretty solid.  Peggie Castle as a love interest/ psychologist and Margaret Sheridan as Velda are both pretty great.  And Frances Osborne - who I'd only seen elsewhere in Murder By Contract - was very good as the mourning girlfriend of the murder victim.  

I discussed Spillane's semi-controversial place in crime-fiction, and this movie doesn't do much to dismiss the notion.  It's got as gritty a crime and violence angle, adjacent to overt sexuality as anything I can think of from this era - but still coded deeply enough that it was going to fly past the censors.  But, man, that ending is something else for the era.

The film was shot by John Alton, who always makes any picture look far better than it has a right to look - and I'd argue this movie had a huge impact on Frank Miller and his Sin City look and feel, from the deep shadow and windy mystery to the cinch in Hammer's raincoat.  

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Noir (on Ice!) Watch: Suspense (1946)




Watched:  12/7/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Frank Tuttle

Jamie is not averse to noir, but I watch most of these by myself.  However, when I pitched her "it's a noir with figure skating as a key component", she was in.  She loves her some figure skating.

This is the third Belita-starring film shown on TCM's Noir Alley - and I'd guess the last.  She just didn't make many movies, let alone moody crime films.  I totally get why Eddie seems to have a soft spot for her - she's not exactly a powerhouse actress, but she does have a certain charm stemming from her own surprise at being in movies.

I'm mostly familiar with the King Brothers - producers on this one - from their movie Gun Crazy, part of my personal canon.   This was a follow up, and Monogram (who I mostly think of as having sets that look like high school play sets) upped the budget and talent.  Barry Sullivan stars as a hoodlum who lucks his way into a low level job at an ice-capades-type-show, and then parlays that into swiftly moving up the ranks as an ideas man - so they keep the ice show fresh and bring people back.

I mean - his big idea is a sort of oval full of swords that any film masters' student would have a field day figuring the Freudian messaging of, and doesn't seem like something any insurance company would okay - but whatevs.  Because Belita actually DOES the jump between the swords.  

Anyway, she's the wife of the older, mustachioed boss, and of course she feels an attraction to Barry Sullivan (because the script says to - he's not exactly Mitchum).  

Death, gunplay, avalanches, a cute dog and more figure skting figure in.  Plus, a scheming ex girlfriend and Eugene Pallette, the best Grumpy Gus in movies.  

It wasn't anything earth shattering, but I was pretty okay with it.  It can be hard to find a noir that Jamie wants to sit through, and I did it!  She was A-OK with this one.  But I don't think it will be easy finding more with ice skating.


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Disney+ Watch: Godmothered (2020)




Watched:  12/6/2020
Format: Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Sharon Maguire

Definitely a "fun for the whole family" all-ages offering from Disney+, Godmothered (2020) has a semi-complicated set-up that melts into a fairly standard magical comedy, but which I think more or less works, even if it's not exactly ground-breaking.

Apparently Fairy Godmothers come from The Motherland, a mystical realm where fairies train for seemingly centuries before being sent out on assignment.  But the trick is - no one has asked for help from a Fairy Godmother in centuries, and there's only really been one new fairy to sign up for the gig in the past few decades. And so - they're maybe going to shut it all down (the Motherland is run by Jane Curtain, who appears to be having fun).

PODCAST: "Anna and the Apocalypse" (2017) - a Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020 episode w/ SimonUK and Ryan



Watched:  11/21/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  John McPhail


SimonUK and Ryan have a holly jolly time biting into the 2017 multi-genre cult fave that has them singing and dancing in the aisles. Join us for a yuletide discussion of a newer film that might just be the Christmas treat you're looking for - it's a real slay ride. 
Christmas Means Nothing Without You - Roddy Hart, Tommy Reilly 
Hollywood Ending - Roddy Hart, Tommy Reilly 
 
Xmas Genre Xrossover Playlist

Monday, December 7, 2020

Chuck Yeager has merged with The Infinite



When I was eight years old, my dad took the family to see The Right Stuff.  I was a spacey little kid interested in Star Wars and fantasy, but we also were read stories of real-life heroes, from Jackie Robinson to Benjamin Franklin to Louis Pasteur.  I couldn't remember a time when I hadn't known about my father's interest in aviation and NASA.  We lived less than 90 minutes from the Johnson Space Center, and visited frequently.  

But by 1983, the names of the Mercury mission crew were no longer household names.  Let alone Chuck Yeager.  But as much as I admired those Mercury astronauts, and somehow got my head around what the movie was doing at age 8 - I think the person my brother and I asked about the most afterward was Chuck Yeager.  

My idea of who Yeager is will forever be enmeshed with the portrayal of Yeager by Sam Shepard on the big screen (oddly and sadly, Shepard died before Yeager, passing a few years back).  When I think of the heroes of post-WWII America, it's hard for me to not to put the idea of Chuck Yeager strapping himself into jet after jet and surviving, including that day when he got in the Bell X1.  Ignoring the very real possibility of death, he pushed boundaries willingly - gladly, in fact.  In a small, strange rocket with his wife's name painted on the nose.

 I've read articles about him, seen him interviewed, and followed him on social media when he participated for a while.  The first thing I look for at the Smithsonian is always the X1.  The carefully crafted myth-making of cinema is just that  - it's not who the man was, even when it is very much what he was and what he did.  

I'm glad he lived long enough to see himself become a legend, and a hallmark of American grit and courage.  I'm fine with Yeager being more myth than real in my mind. 



Sunday, December 6, 2020

Noir Watch: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)




Watched:  12/6/2020
Format:  TCM on Noir Alley
Viewing:  third?
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Robert Aldrich

Mickey Spillane is a weird sell in crime and noir circles.  I've never read any of his books (I'm fixing that ASAP), but the general idea is that his detective novels featuring Mike Hammer are (more) sexist (than other noir) and sadistic.  That's spilled over to the Mike Hammer films and other media, most of which I haven't seen or paid much attention to - but Kiss Me Deadly (1955) is a @#$%ing crazy movie, and you should check it out sometime.

Christmas Watch: Christmas Chronicles 2




Watched:  12/5/2020
Format: Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade: 2020's
Director:  Christopher Columbus

Look, I polished off at least 3/4ths of a bottle of wine while watching this, but it seemed great at the time - both the wine and the movie.

Stuart had vouched for the first Christmas Chronicles back in 2018, and it was genuinely much better than I figured.  Kurt Russell as Santa is just a good idea.  The Christmas Chronicles 2  ups the budget, expands the concepts, and adds Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus.  And, again, it just works.  I'll refer you to the link above for what I think this series does that makes it a cut above 90% of the "Santa" genre of movies of the past 20 years or so.*  

This installment, of what I assume will be a once per two years thing for a while, sees Kate Pierce from the first movie in Cancun with her mom and brother from the first film.  Mom is now dating Tyrese Gibson, who flew everyone down - but Kate has understandable feelings about (a) not being home for Christmas and (b) fears of Mom forgetting Dad (who had passed before the first movie).  Now, the set-up on this one is... a bit wonky.  I don't see even the drunkest parents leaving their under-18 kids alone in Mexico for 24 hours, especially one as sensitive as Tyrese's son, Jack.  

But an elf-gone-bad has set the whole thing up, and he hi-jacks Kate and Jack to the North Pole so he can use them as a distraction to get into Santa's Village and EXACT ELF REVENGE.

The movie splits into Jack learning he can be courageous (he's a bit of a wiener at the film's outset), and works through Kate's far more complex situation with the power of Christmas multiplied by the power of time travel.

This film builds on the terrific design from the first film - giving us a wider view into Santa's village and the workshops contained therein.  I dig the scale and decision to roughly ground things - the elves (which look like Finnish Magwai) kind of scuttling around everywhere, but not living inside cupcakes or anything.  It looks weirdly practical, and I very much enjoyed the "let me check my biases" moment as the kids ask why the village isn't named after Mrs. Claus, credited with the design of the town.

Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus is, honestly, as much of a kick as Russell as Santa.  It does not hurt to have two people with decades of cohabitation together playing a couple of several hundred years, but Hawn's sunny disposition and capacity for indicating depths with a glance is well served here in telling the adult audience a lot that might be going over the kid audience's heads.  

The kid actors aren't threatening anyone to nab Oscar nomination slots, but Columbus is no slouch when handling kids, and between a good script and getting the most out of his kid actors, he manages to also let Kate have moments of growth and insight - non-verbally!  She, like, listens and processes and does not have to say out loud what she's learning at each step.  

But, yeah, this isn't a heavy drama or anything.  There's plenty of goofy good stuff.  You can't go wrong with Darlene Love showing up to join in the requisite Santa musical number (I think Jamie heard me gasp when she first appeared for what I assumed was a cameo).  

It's just weird how far we lower the bar for Christmas content that anything remotely competent (this *is* Chris Columbus, who brought us Harry Potter, Home Alone, etc...) and isn't just indicating what they would like to convey, but actually delivering those messages like a real movie comes off like Avengers: Endgame.  

PS:  I found the flying hyenas delightful




*I do like Fred Claus more than you'd figure

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Christmas Watch Party Watch: Christmas Twister/ F6 Twister (2012)




watched:  12/4/2020
format:  Amazon Watch Party
viewing:  first
decade: 2010's
director:  Peter Sullivan

Woof.

This is the most insanely lazy movie I've seen in a while.  Like, it's one of those where you're watching and thinking "literally nothing in this movie is how that thing works".  Not how tornadoes work, meteorology, news reporting, children, school, architecture, accents, clouds, pregnancy, smoke, basements, emergency situations, college, glasses or Ft. Worth.  Or, in fact, Christmas.  

Like - why?  How did this script get written?  Was it by someone amazingly dumb?  Were they kidding and no jokes landed?  I just don't get it.  I am not an expert in ANY of the topics above, but I do live on earth, and I have a sense of memory of events and observations.

I really can't spend energy on this.  They didn't.  

But I did like Deb, the news producer.  


Friday, December 4, 2020

Friday Watch Party: Christmas Twister/ F6 Twister

 


Well, apparently this WAS called "F6 Twister".  now it is CHRISTMAS TWISTER.

Looks Christmassy!  And it takes place in Texas, which I am sure will be depicted accurately and with respect.  And they're starting well, because that is not any recognizable Texas town in the poster.

  • Day:  12/4/2020
  • Time:  8:30 PM Texas Twister Time

Link here, y'all



Watch Party Watch: Yellowbeard (1983)




Watched: 11/01/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First(ish)
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Mel Damski

I may have seen parts of this as a kid.  I vaguely remember it being on cable during one of the sporadic windows during which my parents would get HBO, see we were watching something very much like Yellowbeard (1983) and then pull the HBO subscription again for a year before they forgot and did it again.

Look, I appreciate that we all bring something to these Amazon Watch Parties, and Jenifer had fond memories of watching this as a kid - and I have a vague memory that told me I'd seen it - but I don't think I ever had.  Nothing looked familiar.  But this is not a much loved movie by critics, the 1983 audience or the folks in it.  If you want a hint - there are very famous, beloved people in this and yet no one talks about this movie.  So.  But they did get to hang out in Acapulco and make a movie - and this seems to have landed them a massive, all-star cast that should have been a hit just by default.

Graham Chapman.  Peter Boyle.  Cheech & Chong.  Marty Feldman. Madeline Kahn. James Mason.  Eric Idle. John Cleese.  Kenneth Mars.  Michael Hordern.  Susannah York. Nigel Planer. And a bunch I'm forgetting.  But, yeah, you have all these people sharing the screen, but the movie seems like they have no idea what is happening or how a movie works.

Anyhoo... I bet they had fun in Acapulco.  But, a weirdly not good movie.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Day of the Triffids




Watched:  09/18/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1963
Director:  Steve SekelyFreddie Francis

I forgot to write this up in September, and now it's too late.


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

PODCAST: "Shazam!" (2019) - Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020 w/ AmyC and Ryan

 


Watched:  11/13/2020
Format:  HBO
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2010's
Director:  David F. Sandberg




AmyC and Ryan say the word and find themselves checking out the heroic adventures of one of comics longest-lasting heroes who finally found his way to the big screen. And, it's a Christmas movie! We discuss the comics, the movie and what makes for holiday cinematic magic! 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

David Prowse Merges With The Infinite

 


Actor and bodybuilder David Prowse has passed at the age of 85.  

Prowse is most famous for his role as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, providing the frame upon which the intimidating Vader outfit was built.  And, of course, performing physical actions - that's him trying to get Luke to join him on Bespin.

We also know Prowse from a few other appearances, including Vampire Circus and A Clockwork Orange.    

Like Mayhew, Daniels and Baker - Prowse was still able to receive recognition for his work despite never having his face revealed.  He embraced his role as Vader during filming as well as the decades since.  

I am very sorry he has passed - he provided some of my earliest and fondest memories of modern mythologies.

Noir Watch: Fear (1946)




Watched:  11/28/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Alfred Zeisler

An adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, which I have never read (and I suspect few of you have, either) - and boiled down to a tight 65 minute crime thriller, Fear (1946) is a low-budget predecessor to a movie plot you've seen a dozen times over.  

Basically - upstanding guy commits crime, no one suspects him, and then a cop starts trailing him.  Meanwhile he meets a comely young lass.  

It's not actually that baaaaad.  It's just totally hamstrung by the cardboard sets and that they obviously had about 3 set-ups per scene per set.  If that.  Honestly, the acting is fine.  And the movie is short enough that you're in and out before you even get a chance to start pondering the movie's issues too much.

Anyway - not exactly something I'd recommend.  It feels more like a jot of an idea than an actual film.  But I've seen way worse, and the set-up kept me curious how they'd shake it out.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Working Girl (1988)




Watched:  11/27/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second, I think
Decade:  so, so 1980's
Director:  Mike Nichols (checks notes) huh.

When Working Girl hit theaters in 1989, I remember it was one of those movies everyone saw - both parents and kids.  A lot of kids with their parents.  It had the gloss on New York City business and the glamour that suggested in the late 1980's as being a part of the high stakes world of business at the heart of American capitalism after eight years of Reaganomics was the pinnacle of success - and a lot of pop culture flowed forth from that.  Right up to and including movies like this, Gremlins 2 and the novel of American Psycho.*

Dolly Watch: Christmas on the Square (2020)



Watched:  11/26/2020
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Debbie Allen, y'all

I don't know if you guys know this, but the past few years Dolly Parton has been producing a variety of movies - including a few which appeared on Netflix last year.  My memory is that prior movies were basically using ideas from one of her more popular tunes (I actually watched a good chunk of Jolene, but think I forgot to write it up).  But I think Christmas on the Square (2020) is based on a new song from her recently released album (a solid Christmas record, if you're so inclined).  

This was very much a movie musical - relentlessly so - and intended to give everyone's mother something to watch this Christmas that they could casually mention that they had seen - and then recommend.  Directed and produced by the great Debbie Allen, it's not really a surprise the movie features singers and dancers trying their hearts out, and the film is packed with folks with plenty of talent madly dancing and singing around our leads.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday Amazon Watch Party: Working Girl

 



Day:  11/27/2020
Time:  8:30 Central


My memory of this movie is that it's about a highly competent Sigourney Weaver who gets into an accident and her secretary schemes against her in her absence.  It's a tragedy of sorts.  Melanie Griffith, the secretary, even manages to woo away her supervisor's love interest, Harrison Ford.  

Anyway - we're watching it.  FRIDAY.


Thanksgiving 2020

Hey, y'all!

Well, yeah.  This Thanksgiving was weird, but good.  

First - I am thankful for Jamie and how much she looks after me and Scout and everyone else in general, but in COVID times, she's been extra great.  We're now however many months into this mess and she's been both dealing well with having to live with me and has been entirely key to me keeping an even keel throughout.

I'm thankful for a solid job that is unlike to see much damage as the situation around us remains fluid.  It can be crazy, but it's a challenge I am growing to appreciate more all the time.

We live in town with much of our small family, and I'm thankful we're doing well, and I can see people (socially distanced) even if high-fives and hugs are harder to come by.  We've got a solid support system here locally and in California, and that doesn't hurt.

And, of course, I'm grateful for all you knuckleheads who have made COVID-times bearable by staying in touch, co-producing podcasts, reading the blog, and doing Tuesday and Friday movie nights.  It's a heck of a thing that there's a network from New York to San Francisco and Seattle and back again through the midwest, Kansas City and onward to North Carolina and Tennessee.  Y'all are everywhere, and it's alarming.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

TASTE TEST: Brach's Turkey Dinner Candy Corn Assortment



Taste Tests at 

Today is the 100th Birthday of Noel Neill

Today is the 100th birthday of the late Noel Neill, the original live-action Lois Lane.  

Neill mostly famously played Lois Lane for five seasons of The Adventures of Superman alongside actor George Reeves.


Neill was active on the convention circuits and became a fixture at the Metropolis, Illinois Superman Celebration each summer until her very last years.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Whodunnit Watch: Knives Out (2019)




Watched:  11/21/2020
Format:  Amazon Prime Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson is one of those directors we need more of.  He's smarter than his audience (sorry, he is), and he's making stuff he'd want to see, and if we happen to come along and like it, too, great.  If not, it doesn't matter.  He made something *interesting*.  

On the heels of his stupidly controversial gigantic Star Wars movie that followed his usual way of doing things and managed to make maybe the only interesting Star Wars movie since Empire, he turned to the all-star murder mystery - a la Inspector Poirot films.  But not a murder mystery that relied on nostalgia, an exotic setting and romantic period in which the film occurs.  It's a family all brimming with motivations to take out the patriarch as they gather in the family a mansion in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb.