Friday, April 17, 2020

PODCAST: "Why Do We Watch Movies?" w/ SimonUK (episode 2)


We start our new series which asks "Why do people watch movies?"

No, really.

Why?

What do they mean to us? Why do we care about fictional characters doing fictional things? How do certain movies impact us more than others? What draws us in? What makes us come back?

And who better to ask about "Why movies?" than SimonUK?

Who he is and how he came to be!




Music
One Barrel Chase - John Williams, Jaws OST
Over The Rainbow - Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo╩╗ole


Why Do We Watch Movies? - Playlist







Noir/ Russell Watch: Macao (1952)


Watched:  04/15/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director: Josef von Sternberg/ Nicholas Ray


I've been trying to track this movie down for years.  Fortunately, this month on TCM, Jane Russell is Star of the Month on TCM.  And, in any circumstance, Jane Russell is just an excellent idea.

This one has not just Russell as a lounge singer, she co-stars with Robert Mitchum, with whom she was apparently pretty good pals.  It also has Thomas Gomez and Gloria Grahame in an oddly small role for her chops (this is five years after Crossfire and the same year she got an Oscar nom for The Bad and the Beautiful).   Throw in William Bendix (as one always should) and Brad Dexter, and you've got an interesting cast.  Not to mention the large cast of Asian and Asian-American extras and supporting roles.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Brian Dennehy Merges With The Infinite



Brain Dennehy has passed at the age of 81

I've been a fan since first knowing who he was thanks to Silverado, and enjoyed him in a number of films in the years since.  As a fellow larger gentleman, it was always nice to know he was out there representing. 

But, truly, he was a gifted talent. 


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Within Our Four Walls

From October of 2017 to August of 2019, I worked from home for, technically, Northwestern University in Chicago.  Really I was working for a larger open source software coalition 50%, and for a sub-group of that coalition 50%.  It was a weird and cool job, and I will always look back on it fondly.

But it also meant I got used to the rhythms of working from home long before all this mess started.  Waking up, showering and having a ten second commute is not uncharted territory.  But, man, the days of just sitting in the same chair all day can get to be a bit much.  Especially as it's all-screens all day, tied to video conferencing with colleagues.

Since getting sent home, I have not been getting up early to walk the dog, as my preference is to do it to unwind after work if I've been sitting in my chair all day.  Scout is an easy walker, and doesn't pull toward other dogs.  She just wants to stay within 4 feet of me as we go about our business.  We talk to neighbors from about 15-20 feet away.  Sometimes I linger, sometimes I keep on going after waving hello.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Oz Watch: The Wizard of Oz (1939)



Watched:  04/11/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Ha ha ha ha
Decade:  1930's
Director: Victor Fleming

It's hard to think of a film more universal in the American imagination than The Wizard of Oz (1939).  Watching the film is as much a right of passage as Kindergarten, organized sports or name-your-item for a good chunk of America, and has been for 80 years.

We refer to it in popular culture and literature, make allusion to the film (for surely the books would now be mostly forgotten without the movie) as often as Biblical reference, Superman, and, maybe Star Wars.  It's weirdly universal for a fantasy movie about a girl who has no idea what's going on, her three goofy friends and a witch who just wants a new pair of shoes.  The songs are all familiar as Christmas carols.  People on the street will automatically know Dorothy, rainbows, little dogs, tin men, flying monkeys...

And the weird thing is how the movie really doesn't get old.  And it holds up.

It's a technical marvel, and even in 2020 and an era with CG and everything in color, that door opening on Oz still works.  It doesn't matter how many times you've seen it.  Flying monkeys remain flying monkeys, and Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West remains a revelation.  As is Frank Morgan in about 20 different roles.

But the kaleidoscope vision of the movie, the dialog that has become part of the American venacular (ex: "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain", "we're not in Kansas anymore", "and your little dog, too!"), is just now part and parcel of how we've taken the movie in and refract it back out onto the world.  Similar stories may get lots of nods - Alice in Wonderland, for example - but it's hard to say the movie is more popular than the book, and perhaps it's Englishness and sheer nonsense has kept it from having exactly the same impact.  As familiar a film as Gone with the Wind has aged(... poorly) it's simply not considered something everyone should have to see at least once.  Star Wars stands a chance of retaining the same level of cultural integration if Disney doesn't accidentally kill the golden goose and gives it another 40 years.

I have seen the movie run up against Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and it is pretty crazy.  But I really do think it's a coincidence.  And, of course, we can endlessly debate whether or not Baum meant the story as an allegory for the Gold Standard v Silver Standard v Greenbacks that the liberty the studios took with the story kind of annihilates.  Still: Flying monkeys!

Anyway, it's The Wizard of Oz, and it's a sort of singular thing that is, really, everyone's favorite movie about hallucinations induced by head trauma.  But I will fight anyone who says anything negative about this movie.

45

Keep the Car Running
Arcade Fire


Every night my dream's the same
Same old city with a different name
They're not coming to take me away
I don't know why, but I know I can't stay
There's a weight that's pressing down
Late at night you can hear the sound
Even the noise you make when you sleep
Can't swim across a river so deep
They know my name because I told it to them
But they don't know where, and they don't know when
It's coming
When it's coming
There's this fear I keep so deep
Knew it's name since before I could speak
Oh, oh, oh, oh
They know my name because I told it to them
But they don't know where, and they don't know when
It's coming, oh when
But it's coming, keep the car running
If some night I don't come home
Please don't think I've left you alone
The same place that I must go when they die
You can't climb across a mountain so high
The same city where I go when I sleep
Can't swim across a river so deep
They know my name because I told it to them
But they don't know where, and they don't know when
It's coming, oh when
Is it's coming?
Keep the car running
Keep the car running
Keep the car running