Friday, August 21, 2020

J-Swift Watch Party: Thank God It's Friday (1978)



Watched:  08/19/2020
Format:  Amazon Prime Streaming Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director: Robert Klane

This was Jenifer's choice of movie for a Watch Party on Wednesday, and it was a great choice.  Not a *bad* movie, but a fun one with lots of stuff to talk about.  It all takes place in one night at a disco in LA, following multiple storylines.  And! it features Donna Summer, Jeff Goldblum, Debra Winger, the actual Commodores, and a cast of dozens you will never see again. 

It's super goofy and has that belief in discos that you one saw in a handful of movies by people you suspect hadn't really spent all that much time in a disco, but it is full of 70's-flavored male chauvinism, 70's sexism, 70's-flavored ideas about dating and marriage, and the eternal power of Goldblum and the Commodores.

Donna Summer can't act, exactly, but she was *fun*, so there's that. 

You will spend a good amount of the movie runtime wondering if the movie is going to go for an endorsement of swinging, which feels odd, and in the end, I think it split the difference. 

Good pick, Jenifer!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Ann Miller Watch: Kiss Me Kate (1953)

normally I wouldn't include a poster featuring spanking, but this was the image they stuck on *every* poster


Watched:  08/18/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  George Sidney

You know, I liked this one a lot.

Yeah, a lot of stuff dated very badly, but, I mean...*

No, Kiss Me Kate (1953) didn't feature enough Ann Miller, but nothing does.  The idea and execution worked for me.  The film works in the age-old tradition of a "play within a play", which is only fitting when adapting Shakespeare - as Howard Keel's leading man of Broadway tries to woo his ex-wife (Kathryn Grayson) back to the stage and back into his arms.   Even if he's also got Ann Miller lined up, and cast as Grayson's sister in the show. 

I've seen *some* Shakespeare, but never The Taming of the Shrew, which is the basis for the musical in the movie.  Still, it's tough to get through life in the English speaking world without getting some reference to the show at some point in life, and I'm familiar with the idea.  The film is adapted from a 1947 Broadway show - and in the film, Howard Keel has teamed with someone playing a fictional version of Cole Porter to put on a musical of Taming of the Shrew, so we get a framing first act and then jump to the opening of the show, including backstage antics, and parts of the show mixed in.  Complete with a theater full of extras on the stage and in the seats.

Of course the backstage and on-stage stories intermingle in theme and character arcs, and everyone ends up happy in the end.  But there's something about the contrivances and even "you said the quiet part out loud" bit where watching Shakespeare makes people feel smart - that actually kind of works.  Musicals have notoriously goofy plotlines piled on the oddness of people just busting into song, so keeping you busy with this much story just sort of works.

Miller has the big show starter with Porter's "It's Too Darn Hot" as a sort of tap burlesque,  and with Porter providing songs, it's kinda hard to go wrong.  Of course Keel and Grayson were musical stars of no small stature (well, Grayson looks to be about 5'1"), and play well together. 

The film is a visual spectacle, shot and released in 3D - I can only imagine how the sets and dance numbers looked for 1950's audiences.  That includes some sets and costumes designed with an almost Mary Blair palette approved by Technicolor.

It's also worth noting that the film includes a young Bob Fosse, who apparently got a big boost from his work on the film that led to him getting work on Broadway. 

Anyway - light, fun, better than I figured - it's a good time.  But I'd love to see it in 3D on the big screen.

*sometimes you have to think of the past as an exotic locale where you can have your opinions, but the locals are gonna do what they're gonna do.  You just gotta do better when you get home.

Happy Birthday, Amy Adams


Today is the birthday of one of the brightest actors on the big and small screen, Amy Adams. 

I *think* the public understands what we have in Adams, so I won't belabor the point.  Anyway, take a second today and raise a glass to one of the best.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Friday Amazon Watch Party: Elvira - Mistress of the Dark! (1988)



Where:  Amazon Watch Party
Day:  Friday, 08/21/2020
Time:  8:30 PM Central time

This Friday, we're doing something unthinkable and watching a movie I genuinely really like!  Normally, I watch this film annually around Halloween, but I'm not taking the risk they're pulling it from Prime between now and October 1.  So we're doing it now, friendos!

It's 1988's Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, a goofy supernatural comedy featuring a lead with two terrific things going for her:  acting chops and a terrific sense of comedy.

In the 1980's, Elvira started with a local show in LA hosting creature feature movies, made some appearances on Carson, and went national.  I am 90% sure we never got Movie Macabre in the Austin market, but by 1987 or so, she was in beer commercials, guest starring on TV shows and generally everywhere.  By 1988, she released a movie, and maybe it didn't do so great at the box office?  But over the years, folks have found the movie and watching it now, in a way, it was just ahead of its time.

It's a classic fish-out-of-water story, a journey of self-discovery and has some truly quotable lines (and visuals).  If ever you doubted the power of Elvira, this may be your game changer.  And you're really gonna want to hang in there for the final sequence.  You are not prepared.

 

Monday, August 17, 2020

PODCAST: "Le Samourai" (1967) and "The Conformist" (1970) - a European Neonoir Watch w/ JAL and RYan



Watched:  Le Samourai 07/28, The Conformist 07/31
Format:  HBOmax/ BluRay
Viewing:  third for both, I believe
Decade:  1960's/ 1970's
Director:  Jean-Pierre Melville  & Bernardo Bertolucci

For more ways to listen


Justin and Ryan head to Europe for some neo-noir! We swing through France for a hitman film and over to Italy for... well, he's not much of a hitman, really. One of these is absolutely noir and the other, we're kind of calling a noir - and we're pretty excited about both of them. Join us as for a double-bill, continental style!





Music:

Le Samourai Title Theme - Fran├žois De Roubaix
The Conformist Title Theme - Georges Delerue


Playlist - Noir Watch:




A Century of Maureen O'Hara


Today marks the 100th birthday of Maureen O'Hara.

God bless her.  She probably has an equal or greater part in the early development of my interest in non-modern movies as anything else. You watch Miracle on 34th Street for your reasons, I'll watch it for mine.

Born in Dublin, O'Hara had a career that spanned decades, weathered controversy and made her an icon.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Cyborg Watch: Running Delilah (1993)



Watched:  08/16/2020
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Richard Franklin

So, I was scanning the sale items on the Kino Lorber page and was like "Kim Cattrall in a spy movie?" so I read the description and was like "Kim Cattrall as a CYBORG in a spy movie?"  And promptly hit "buy".*

I think this was intended to be a pilot for a very 1990's TV show, probably in syndication.  What's weird about it is that all the pieces are there for what could have been a serviceable stand-alone movie.  In 1993, stars Kim Cattrall and Billy Zane weren't huge stars, but I knew who they were.  The director, Richard Franklin, had handled a couple of mid to low-cost films I'd similarly seen - FX/2 and Cloak and Dagger.   This came out in the wake of La Femme Nikita and multiple RoboCop films.  Instead, it's a reminder of what telefilm and a lot of television looked at during a certain window, and that sci-fi was not always well-served by this sort of production.

Cattrall plays Delilah, an undercover agent for a US law-enforcement agency (I never caught who), , collecting evidence against a Greek arms dealer (who seems to really want to see her eat Greek food for some reason).  Her handler, who is "running" her, is played by Billy Zane.  And the two spend about 7x more time talking about the fact they aren't going to bonetown than they do the case at hand.

Delilah is found out and the baddies take a flying attempt at killing her with lots of bullets.  Zane retrieves the almost-dead agent, and because he loves her (but phrases it as wanting to go to bonetown, because 90's), does as you do and brings her to a French cybernetics guy who happens to work in his building.  There's a bit where she, of course, believes she's a monster.  Remarkably, she gets over it really fast when she finds out she's now the Bionic Woman and can do all kinds of things within budget.  This is one chipper cyborg!

Comedy Watch: Stir Crazy (1980)



Watched:  08/15/2020
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  I'm calling it a first
Decade:  1980
Director:   Sidney Poitier

I think I saw this in part on HBO when I was a kid, but I don't remember anything but a few glimpses.  It's a Richard Pryor/ Gene Wilder comedy, and for whatever reason these were just never much on my radar.

I think what really struck me was not just how well Wilder and Pryor's sensibilities mesh, but that with Poitier as director, this movie has a certain POV that I'm not sure another, whiter director would have given it.

Crazy casting in this movie.  JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Barry Corbin, Joel Brooks, Jonathan Banks...

Anyway, it was a lot of fun! Glad to catch it at long last.