Sunday, April 11, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Danger Diabolik (1968)




Watched 04/09/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Bava

I mean, man, you had to be there

Legal Thriller Watch: Presumed Innocent (1990)




Watched  04/09/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Alan J. Pakula

It's fair to say, that when I saw this at age 16 or whatever it was (I would have been 15 upon the film's release, and didn't see it in the theater) I followed the plot, but I didn't "get" the film.  Recently I was discussing this film with some folks who said it was a good neo-noir, and I should give it a shot, so I did.  What the hell else am I doing?

I'd literally forgotten I'd seen the film until reading the synopsis on wikipedia, and realized I had, in fact, seen it, but didn't remember which of the circa 1990-era adult court mystery dramas I was thinking of when and if details from the movie crossed my mind.  Firstly "Presumed Innocent" is as untelling a title as what often gets applied to noir.  Second, until about 1997, I think every fifth movie coming out was an actor in a suit going to court for some reason or other.

So, yeah, seeing a film about betrayal in a marriage and the fallout wrapped up in a mystery, semi-erotic thriller works far better at age 46 and with 21 years of marriage under your belt.  Also, realizing how *good* everyone is in this movie was a delight.  And goddamn the early passing of Raul Julia, who was amazing here.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Pig Watch: Babe (1995)




Watched:  04/05/2021
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Chris Noonan

When Jamie and I started dating, I recall one of the things we agreed upon was Babe (1995), the movie about a polite little pig who unwittingly dodges the carving knife over and over while a quiet farmer recognizes his potential and figures him for an excellent sheep dog pig.  

I don't recall exactly why I saw Babe, but for a streak from 1995- 1999 or so, I was at the movies 3 times per week or so, watching a good chunk of mainstream cineplex content, but also hitting Austin's Dobie and Village theaters to catch the "college rock" options when it came to movies.  What I can remember is my utter shock at how *good* the film was.  I hadn't read any reviews, I really expected it to be a goofy little kids movie, and I kind of stumbled out into the sun afterwards unsure of what I'd seen.

And, believe me, sitting around drinking beers with your pals fresh back from summer and saying "you know what was really good that I saw this summer?  Babe, the movie about the talking pig."  This is early-days film school where everyone's trying to prove they've seen the coolest, artiest stuff and where people rolled their eyes at you for talking about techniques from Star Wars, so  - to suggest that a movie was something that they had decided it was not - was taken about as well as the idea of a pig herding sheep.  

Friday, April 9, 2021

Watch Party This Friday - It's Gonna Cost Something - Danger Diabolik (1968)




Next Monday is my b-day, so I'm picking a movie for this Friday with no consideration for others, and all of y'all can deal with it.  

But I am a fair and just ruler of the Friday Watch Party, so I wanted to let people know in advance - it will cost a few bucks.  One does not simply stream Danger: Diabolik for no extra cost on Amazon Prime.  So, get your moneys together.

If you've not seen Danger: Diabolik, it's more or less the story of a super-villain in a world with no super-heroes.  So, it's just a whacked out dude with a secret HQ and a costume tearing shit up for about 100 minutes, and to a goofy score that will lodge in your head forever.

Directed by Mario Bava, and filmed in Europe doubling as maybe America? it's a super funky answer to the super spy craze and seems like something Amazon should be developing as a show.

Day:  04/09/2021
Time:  8:30 Central
Where:  Amazon Prime Watch Party




Ida/ Noir Watch: Woman in Hiding (1950)




Watched:  04/08/2021
Format: BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Michael Gordon

Well, it's still coming up on my birthday, and Jamie said "watch whatever, it's your b-day."  And, with a Totter movie cleared we moved on to Ida Lupino.  Well, friends, while it may have started pre-pandemic, Jamie has thrown in with the Ida Lupino Fan train the past year, for sure.  So, this selection was saluted.

I'd not previously seen Woman in Hiding (1950), but picked it up cheap on BluRay, because: Lupino.  

I will argue that the noir movement splintered into several familiar genres, from the erotic thriller to the Lifetime Network's basic movie programming.  Film's with "women in peril" such as Sudden Fear and Beware, My Lovely - which definitely have precedents from the start of film found a home in the crime genres of the 1950's, doubling as "women's films" with plucky heroines (scared out of their minds) and some chisel-jawed dude who might come to the rescue.  By the early 00's: I mean - have you seen the names of movies on the Lifetime Network?*

Woman in Hiding follows Ida Lupino playing the daughter of a wealthy mill-owner in small-town North Carolina.  After the accidental death of her father, she marries the factory foreman, only to be met at their honeymoon cottage by a young woman informing Lupino "he was my man, he married you for the mill, and he probably killed your dad."

Freaked out, Lupino goes into HIDING (see - the title is accurate).  Here she meets Howard Duff (whom she's marry the next year) and shenanigans ensue.  

The film does contain a drinking game noir item - there's a convention in the hotel where they're staying.  

The film co-stars the lovely Peggy Dow in one of her very few film roles - she was also in the film version of Harvey that same year - and she was out of movies by 1952.  Which is a shame - she's great here and totally different from her character in Harvey.  

It also stars "that guy" actor Taylor Holmes, as well as Don Beddoe.  

This isn't my favorite Lupino role, but that's the script more than anything she's doing.  But, man, when confronted by Dow's character with what her new husband of less than a day may have done - she's got a lot to do there and nails it.  

Special nod on this one to cinematographer William H. Daniels.  He manages to get in some great stuff, especially in the sequence on the stairwell, on the bus and in the finale sequence.  Gorgeous looking noir stuff.  And letting the drafts in the stairwell kick at Lupino's skirt of her dress was pretty great (and likely a happy accident).  


*it's a parade of playing on paranoia re: domestic insecurity mixed with actual issues of domestic trauma, and it's a wild ride that Lifetime programs that shit 24/7 and then flips to "and now two months of movies about Santa being your boyfriend's dad".

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Totter Noir Re-Watch: Tension (1949)




Watched:  04/07/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  John Berry

It's relatively near my birthday, and so Jamie said "watch whatever you want", and-  me being me - I'd been wanting to watch Tension (1949) again as it had been a while.  

If you've not seen Tension, which Jenifer introduced me to years ago, thereby doing me the lifelong solid of introducing me to Audrey Totter's work, you should!  It's noir, but kinda goofy, has a career high performance for Totter as the femme fatale, Richard Basehart playing Richard Basehart, and Barry Sullivan and William Conrad as two cops I would have followed in any number of movies as they strode into rooms like they owned the place everywhere they went.

Weirdly, the film stars Cyd Charisse in a non-dancing role, something MGM must have been trying on for her to see how far she could push her acting chops.  And she's pretty good!  But mostly her job is to look lovely and be concerned about Richard Basehart, so she wasn't about to give Bette Davis a run for her money at this point.  

I won't describe the movie as "camp", but it's certainly a goofier entry in the annals of noir.  From the hook of the plot to the strategy of the cops trying to sort it all out, and topped by Totter's Claire Quimby - a whirlwind of badgirl behavior - it's a dang entertaining film.  You won't compare it to, say, The Third Man, but it does reward rewatching once you're familiar with the characters.  

Claire Quimby married Warren as a way out of whatever her life was in San Diego and because he was cute in a uniform.  He seemed like he was going places - but now she's living in a dingy apartment as Warren works 12 hours night shifts 5 days a week as a pharmacist, scrimping and saving to get her to the middle class life he thinks they both want.

Watch Cyd Charisse just want to smack the living hell out of Totter (but she's too nice)



At night, she's actually cruising the lunch counter in the pharmacy, looking to get picked up by guys who can show her a good time or provide her with her next step up (and with the looks to make it happen).  She runs off with a guy with a flashy car and a beach house, and Warren's attempts to get her back flop - he's beaten up and humiliated.  

SPOILERS

Thus, Warren dares to wear 1940's hard contact lenses to change his appearance, and creates a secondary life for himself as "Paul Southern", creating a persona unrelated to Warren so that the cops will look for this Southern person instead fo Warren when the time comes to kill Barney and reclaim his wife.

But - he meets Cyd Charisse, who apparently doesn't meet many men, because despite being Cyd Charisse, she's available and latches on to the mysterious cosmetics salesman who moved in next door.  Warren kinda realizes this murder scheme is dumb, his wife isn't worth it, and... hey... new girlfriend.  

Planning to let Cyd Charisse in on his charade and double life, he returns home, and so does Claire - letting him know Barney is dead.  

Enter our cops, trying to figure out what is going on with this weird couple - and so Barry Sullivan applies... TENSION.

IE: he sweats Warren and seduces Totter.  

Going for the Clark Kent Approved method of a "no glasses, different guy" disguise, was a pretty bold move in an era where Superman was already a pretty well-known figure.  But watching Sullivan deciding to go for Claire/ Totter, you really get the feeling he's okay with however this pans out and would take equal pleasure in jailing Warren and going to Acapulco with Claire or putting Claire away.  No big whoop.

END SPOILERS

It's a well shot, tight little film that does a lot with what it is.  And, really, it's a showcase for many of the things Totter does best when she gets to play a bad girl.  But add in a windy, multi-part plot and all the parties playing against each other, and while not exactly a mystery as to who did the murdering, it is a potboiler seeing how this thing will play out.

Anyway - can't recommend enough, if for no other eason than to see Totter's character's constant irritation with Basehart's character.  She is done, y'all.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Lady Frankenstein (1971)




Watched:  04/06/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Directors:   Mel WellesAureliano Luppi


Weirdly, this European produced take on Frankenstein co-stars film great Joseph Cotten.  I have no explanation other than Cotten wanted to have a stay in Europe for a while and this work was easy and probably wouldn't be seen by Americans, especially fifty years later on personal computers.  But here we are!  

The basic set-up for the story is that the good doctor (Cotten) is getting set for his grand experiment to bring a human to life when his daughter (Rosalba Neri) returns from med school, a fully licensed surgeon with amazing hair.  He has a sort of side-kick who helps him out in the lab, as well as the usual grave-robber types hanging about.  

But when the monster springs to life, he is super into murder, and starts with Baron Frankenstein.  Well, funny story, because his daughter Tania is way more of a freak than he.  So, as the monster runs around murdering pretty much exclusively copulating couples (viva Italia), the NEW good doctor gets to work on a plan for creating her own monster who will kill the first monster.  WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

She first seduces and marries her father's invalid sidekick, then convinces him to undergo a brain transplant into the local handsome moron.  

You guys, I'm not gonna lie.  This movie has a ton of nudity and sex, and then you remember "oh yeah, this is an Italian horror movie.  They think Americans movies are way too tame."  And so.  But it also creates a certain very dark take on the proceedings as Lady Frankenstein herself manipulates the men around her and seems to thrill in the more sadistic elements of what's going on - leading to an ending that had our watch party basically saying "well, huh" as the film wrapped.

It IS a horror movie.  Horrible things happen!  Some of it was some weirdly dark content I did not expect from what seemed initially like a goofy Hammer knock-off.  Because, man, there are some sharp turns there in the second half.  

I'll at least say: it was never boring!  But it is absolutely not for everybody.  Did I like it?  I mean, I was entertained.  I'm not sure it was a good movie, but it at least surprised me and wasn't entirely camp.  So.  I dunno.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

PODCAST: "Godzilla vs Kong" (2021) - Kaiju Throwdown! Stuart and Ryan talk Monsterverse!

 

Watched:  03/31/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Adam Wingard



Ape V Lizard! Who will win? You, the audience. Stuart and Ryan have a monster of a conversation about the latest installment in the Godzilla and Kong franchises! It's a podcast of epic proportions as we talk about how we got here, what's worked, what hasn't, and head right for the center of the matter. Stop monkeying around and join us as we go nuclear on the most important film you'll see about an axe wielding ape this year!





Music:  

Pensacola, Florida (Godzilla Theme) - Tom Holkenborg, Godzilla vs Kong OST
Godzilla Cartoon Theme, 1970's


Ryan's Random Cinema

Monday, April 5, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: Body Heat (1981)




Watched:  04/03/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Lawrence Kasdan

I'll go ahead and put this out there:  this may be the best of the neo-noirs I've seen, and most akin to the original noir movement.  

Also: finally watching Body Heat (1981) gives me a big clue as to how neo-noir took a left turn by the late 80's and saw a divergent strain that became the "erotic thriller", which, itself, had several branches on the movie cladogram.

Despite the popular vision of noir, it wasn't always sexy stuff with classy dames showing up in the offices of PI's desperate for help.  The movement encompassed a lot of takes on how things can go badly, and how lust could turn things sideways remarkably fast was just one (if a popular) angle.  Body Heat delivers a 1980's spin on the Joseph M. Cain flavor of crime melodrama that gave us Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.  No detectives here - just guys in over their head when they see a chance at romance with a woman out of their league (but aren't they all).

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Watch Party Watch: They Came From Beyond Space (1967)




Watched:  03/30/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Freddie Francis


Meteors fall to Earth, specifically Britain.  Scientists are dispatched to check them out - minus an American who just happens to mention having a silver plate in his skull.  I *think* the story is that alien brain waves were living inside the rocks?  Anyway, the alien psychic waves transfer over to the brains of the science team and build a little fort from which they begin shuttling people to the moon to make more brain transfers with more aliens.  And there's a plague?

I fell asleep for part of this movie, but not much, and it's been a week, but I can't really piece it all back together.  I do know the heroes wind up wearing goofy helmets and going to the moon where a badly made-up Michael Gough awaits them (wearing a robe, because: alien).  

I can't recommend the movie as "good", I can recommend it as "this is whackadoodle".   It's Jenifer's selection from last week, so here's her words on the topic.

I will say - the poster promises something the movie absolutely refuses to deliver upon, but I have heard Amicus and Hammer both made the posters first to get financing, and then made the movies.  And, somewhere along the way, whatever they had in their heads about folks with sleek helmets, catsuits and space ray flamethrowers got turned into this.



Noir Watch: The Third Man (1949)




Watched:  04/03/2021
Format:  TCM Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Carol Reed

One day I'll podcast on this film, and then we'll have a conversation.  

This is as close to a perfect movie as I can think of, so there you go.


Amazon Watch Party Watch: Piranha (1978)




Watched:  04/02/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Joe Dante

You can't discuss Piranha (1978) without pointing out that it's the first film by director Joe Dante- and is already very Joe Dante.  And that it's also written by indie film director and writer John Sayles.  

Here in Central Texas, we also always mention "you know, they filmed this partially around San Marcos".  But I didn't know the final bit occurred at now-defunct water park Aquarena Springs, which was a feature of summer-time-life for the strip between Austin and San Antonio along I-35 for decades, and then - somewhat inexplicably, went belly up while I was in college as parents decided it was no longer hip, I guess.

But, yeah, the movie is about a skip tracer looking for some kids who went missing (the young lady who played Louisa in Sound of Music), and who winds up pairing up with an alcoholic to learn a mad scientist has been breeding particularly nasty fish in a tank near his house.  And, whoops, he and Louisa accidentally release them into the local river that people live on, contains summer camps, etc...

And, of course, this being a horror movie, things go poorly.  

The movie includes Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, and for some reason, Barbara Steele.

Anyway, it's a lot of fun, the fish make buzz-saw/ bee sounds, and you see some pre-80's Texas.  

Here's a link to a trailer for a doc on Aquarena Springs, and they kinda talk about Ralph the Swimming Pig, which was something I desperately wanted to see in 4th grade, but didn't see til 7th.  You know what?  It lived up to the hype.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Goodbye to Scout

 


Today, very, very suddenly, we lost Scout, our dog of about 11 years.

I am definitely still processing what happened, and I expect the waves of ugly crying will keep hitting me, but in some ways, right now, anyway, I'm taking enormous comfort in that she suffered so little.

Just last night, she was doing exactly her usual routine.  She hung around while we were working in the kitchen and whenever we looked her way, she came in for a hug and then was looking for treats.  The night before she was playing with me in the yard while I grilled dinner, doing her favorite thing - which is picking up a leaf and throwing it in the air so we would cheer for her.  

This morning, she suddenly seemed not to be doing well after 9:45 or 10:00, and Jamie asked me to come down from my office and see.  I've learned not to rush dogs to the vet for every cough or twitch, but after watching her for a bit, I joined Jamie in her concern - but believed the issue was pain related to her legs or hips.  We had dropped her off at the vet by 10:50, and couldn't go in due to COVID restrictions.  Shortly, they told us that Scout had several tumors on her spleen, and one had burst - leading to the pain and discomfort.  At about 1:40, we spoke with the vet.  She would require major surgery, which might not go well.  And she was suffering kidney failure.  

We've done the "heroic efforts" route before, but I now believe the best thing - and hardest thing to do emotionally - is to not let your pet spend their final days, weeks, months or years in bewilderment and discomfort.  Had a few details been different today, we would have approved the surgery, we would be worrying about Scout recuperating at home.  But the cascade of what was coming meant a life in which I knew Scout would need surgeries and other treatments, and we'd likely lose her at any point over the next months, during which she would be unhappy. 

I knew she'd gone for a long walk yesterday, seen friends (socially distanced) over the weekend that she hadn't seen in a year, had seen our families in recent weeks... and we'd had so many adventures this year (I slept downstairs with her during the freeze), we wanted her final days to be her good days.  Her last mealtimes included grilled chicken, hamburger, and whatever else were eating.  She was living a good dog life.  It was the life we wanted for her every day, not just when she was ill or we were worried about her.

It's hard to explain - because all dogs are motivated by love and food, but Scout's entire personality was built around love.  She just wanted to be nearby, and available for hugs and not to cause a fuss.  She hardly ever barked, and mostly regarded people with cautious curiosity, and eventually deciding "okay, we're friends".  She flatly did not understand negative reinforcement - and I kicked myself every time I would get snippy at her for doing something that she shouldn't, because now there were bruised feelings and much apologizing that had to occur before she felt safe and secure again.  

The thing she absolutely understood and gave was love and kindness.

Scout and me among the firewheels


Maybe ten or more times a day as I puttered around the house, she'd slide up to me and walk between my legs so I'd lean down and give her pets for a while.  Sure, we went on lots and lots of walks, and she knew the neighborhood well, and would tell you which path she wanted to go on.  

But she never figured out "fetch".  In fact, some wire got crossed when Jamie tried to teach her how to play with Lucy, who was a retriever and never needed a lesson.  Scout wasn't interested in chasing a ball so much as picking one up and tossing it around, or pointing out "yes, here is the ball, I have found it".   Eventually, one of us saying "ball" became the only time she would bark.  Happily and enthusiastically, because we cheered her for it.  And she forgot the word was ever tied to her toy.*

We adopted Scout in the year after we lost Melbotis.  Lucy needed a pal, I generally believe in a two-dog house, and so we went to the ASPCA and walked around for maybe ten minutes when I saw her sitting at the end of her kennel.  I squatted down, and she popped up and came over to say hi.  Cautious optimism in all things with this dog.  In a room full of dogs banging off their cage doors, she was extremely gentle and sweet, and I figured: this dog will be good for Jamie. 

But, really, she was good for me.  Mel was brilliant by dog standards, and Lucy was full of personality and demanded attention.  Scout just needed love.  And treats.  And to play.  She learned our routines and insisted upon them - up to and including 10:00 PM walks in the summer, once the sun was down.  Which kept me moving.  But it's hard to say all the ways in which living with something that doesn't understand anger or raised voices makes you better, yourself. 

When we lost Lucy about three years ago, we figured Scout would be lost without her.  Lucy was the big sister and Scout followed her around.  But we quickly found out Scout was okay - she just turned up the attention she'd always given us, and seemed pleased not to have to compete, kind of coming into her own.  And, not knowing how long we had with her, that was okay.

I'll miss her gentle, polite spirit and earnest expressions.  I'm going to miss her delight at seeing me, and running right into my shins whenever I opened the door as she sought pets.  And how happy she would be when she'd slide between the coffee table and the love seat to get pets from Jamie while I rubbed her ears and face from the sofa.  I'll miss her prancing in the yard when we'd go out to spend time with her, or playing tag with her.  And, of course, the long neighborhood walks when she'd insist on one direction or another.  And in the last year when her hearing started to go, burying my face in the fur at her shoulders and telling her she's a good dog, making sure she could hear.  

It's not easy.  It never is.  I can't tell you how much I'll miss her.  

*our first dog, Melbotis, however, thought "toy" meant anything he particularly liked, including Jamie, as it turned out when one day I said "go get a toy" and he wandered over to Jamie.








Doc Watch: Tina (2021)




Watched:  03/29/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's

I've never been a hardcore Tina Turner fan, but like everyone of my generation I am familiar with her work, and have some idea of her pre Private Dancer life through cultural osmosis.  The first one of her albums I ever purchased was greatest hits collection, Simply the Best because I *loved* "Simply the Best" as a song, and figured "can't hurt to own the greatest hits".  And I have no timeline of how I came to really understand Tina Turner's story.  I *do* remember watching the video for "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and my parents sort of watching in amazement that (a) Tina Turner was on MTV and (b) their kids, 9 and 11, were like "this Tina Turner seems cool".  And then my folks saying something about a creep of an ex-husband.

And, we lost our minds over how cool she was in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  And she is.  Go back and watch it.    

I confess, I never had much affinity for biopics - 2 hours is not enough time to show a life, let alone how botched the movies tend to be vis-a-vis actual facts (which are always more interesting than the invention of the movie) - and I wasn't super interested in watching someone dressed up as Tina Turner get beat up for two hours.  But hearing about the movie is how I came to understand exactly how bad Ike Turner had been.  But I've still never seen What's Love Got to Do With It.

It seems I'm not alone in this opinion.  

Tina (2021) is a roughly two hour doc that uses intervies, original and archival, that charts Tina Turner's course from abandoned child in Nutbush, Tennessee to living in Zurch with her dedicated husband.  And it's a goddamn shattering ride.  And, as it turns out, possibly Turner's final word on her life to the public.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

PODCAST: "Paddington 2" (2017) - a Signal Watch Canon episode w/ JAL and Ryan




Watched:  03/22/2021
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Paul King



Justin returns to talk a movie everyone *should* agree on, the gargantuan movie about a very small and polite bear. It bears some discussion what makes it work and what makes it stand out in a crowded field of children and all-ages film. Have a good cry with two grown adults talking about everyone's favorite fellow from darkest Peru.



Music:
Winsdor Gardens - Dario Marianelli, Paddington 2 OST
Rain on the Roof  - Hugh Grant, Paddington 2 OST (originally Sondheim, Follies)

Signal Watch Canon:



Saturday, March 27, 2021

80's Watch Party Watch: The Secret of My Success (1987)




Watched:  03/26/2021
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade: so, so 1980's
Director:  Herbert Ross

I have no affinity for The Secret of My Success (1987).  I saw it upon its theatrical release in 1987, where I was carded as a 12 year old entering a PG-13 movie.  My friend's dad had to come into the box office and tell them it was fine.  So, thanks, Mr. P.

I also remember both the seduction of "Brantley" and the immediate revelation he'd been seduced by a distant sorta relative.  And the use of Yello's "Oh Yeah".*

And, of course, Helen Slater, who I didn't realize was Helen Slater until college or so.  And - the ruse which is the core of the film, which I thought I understood but missed something.  But I am here to tell you here in 2021 AD, I do not understand what Brantley was doing.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday Jamie Birthday Party Selection: Secret of My Success

 


Forewarning:  this one costs a few bucks to watch, so we'll understand if you bow out

Jamie puts up with A LOT, so if this is what she wants to do for her movie selection, we're fine with that.

This was the movie I assumed was gonna by filthy when I showed up at the movie theater to see a PG-13 movie and they *carded me*.  It's kinda not dirty, is crazy 1980's in many ways, and - most importantly - co-stars Helen Slater in business attire.

The no-nonsense shoulder pads that say "I can do a merger or take out Jim McMahon"


  • Day:  Friday 03/26 - Today
  • Time:  8:30 Central

Link here for Michael J. Fox


Comic Watch: X2 - X-Men United (2003)




Watched:  06/25/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Bryan Singer

Until Logan came out a few years back, I'd argue X2: X-Men United (2003) was the *best* X-Men movie, which may be a sign of how quickly I felt the franchise devolved, but it does wonders to build on the original, expand the world, mine the premise for narrative gold, and set us up for both continuing X-Men films and potential Wolverine spin-offs.  

Jamie was asking me if the movie was based on stuff from the comics, and while I could definitively say it was, I also don't know exactly when and who wrote them.  I didn't get to Uncanny X-Men until around issue 170, with the kind of third incarnation of the X-Men, but - and here's my argument to the Big 2 why you just go ahead and keep on your Chris Claremonts as long as you can - all of the stuff from those stories 50-100 issues prior still had impact in what I was reading years after the fact.  The writer knew and remembered the important stuff, and it was woven into the character's lives and informed how they behaved and thought about things. *

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Jessica Walter Merges With the Infinite


 

Jessica Walter has slipped the bonds of our existence and gone on to be amazing in another dimension.  

We're stunned and heartbroken at this news.  

RIP to a queen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Doc Watch: Operation Varsity Blues - The College Admissions Scandal




Watched:  03/22/2021
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Chris Smith

Full disclosure:  My current role is in IT management at a major American university, and part of my portfolio includes Admissions.  I haven't worked for this office very long, just about a year and a half.  But I do interface continually with the folks who process, review and make admissions decisions.  

If you followed the story of actresses Lori Loughlin or Felicity Huffman as they were exposed and charged with participating in, essentially, a massively scaled bribery scandal in which coaches provided entrance to kids as walk-ons to their teams in exchange for cash, you know the broad strokes of what broke in the news back in 2019.  

Happy Birthday, Ms. Crawford


 happy birthday to Ms. Crawford, born this date in 1904.

Monday, March 22, 2021

"Well, That Was Delightful" Watch: Paddington (2014)


Watched:  03/21/2021
Format:  Amazon prime
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Paul King

We're doing a podcast on Paddington 2 in a bit, so I expect we'll discuss this movie and Paddington in general at that time.  

This movie is fantastic, and you should watch it.

Shatner turns 90!


Happy 90th to the man who taught me it's all about hanging with your buds, having great hair and cruising around in a cool ride to meet girls and get into scrapes with the locals.  

Also, he was on Star Trek.

He's my Captain, and I salute him.  Happy birthday, Mr. Shatner!

PODCAST: "The Long Good Friday" (1979) - a SimonUK Canon episode w/ Ryan



Watched:  03/16/2021
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  John MacKenzie



We're still talking our personal canon, and SimonUK brings a favorite from the UK - and one hell of a film. We talk amazing performances, tight stories, and the real world of late-70's England that informed one of the hallmark films of the gangster genre. Join us for a long chat on a good movie.




Music:  

The Long Good Friday Theme, Extended Edition - Francis Monkman


Signal Watch Canon:

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Comics Watch: X-Men (2000)




Watched:  03/20/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  2000's
Director:  (ahem) Bryan Singer

Arguably *the* game changer for the entire comic book movie and TV genre - from goofy b-movies with occasional hits to the world we're in today with Justice Leagues, WandaVisions and  whatnot everywhere you look, X-Men (2000) arrived on the scene to an excited fanbase who saw a trailer that kinda/ sorta looked like an X-Men comics and seemed to treat the concept of X-Men with some faint degree of dignity.  

Now, many will argue that Blade was the kickstarter, and they're right!  But the thing about Blade was that it operated way more like a horror movie/ action adventure and less like a superhero flick - and there were maybe a couple thousand people walking around in 1998 who knew anything about Blade.  To this day, I have no idea if Blade has any real relation to the comics (and don't care.  Blade kicks ass.).  

From the late 1970's to the late 1990's, X-Men was a powerhouse franchise all its own, even within the Marvel line of comics.  It was more or less like the Game of Thrones of comics - even if you didn't read it, you knew about it, and the gravity well of the comic was massive.  In the mid-90's, I guess it was outperforming literally every other thing Marvel comics put out, so they rebooted their entire universe for about - I dunno - 6 months? minus X-Men.  Because X-Men was too big, baby!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

80's Watch - Watch Party: Footloose (1964)




Watched:  03/20/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Herbert Ross

Gee, why don't the young people want to stay in small towns?  How did we get to this divide between rural America and urban America?

I mean, Footloose (1984) is a story that seems ridiculous, about a town where "dancing" was made illegal (something that seems so slippery and un-First Amendment-y that it's breathtaking) and one not-even-rebellious teen who's mere existence as an "outsider" is so problematic adults are out to literally destroy him, that all of this seems absurd.  Except that this stuff was very real and happened.  Baylor University in Waco, 90 minutes up the road from my house, didn't allow dancing until the late 90's. 

So, yeah, small towns where no one was going to do much but stop to fill up with gas actually would and did have goofy rules.  This was Satanic Panic time that would culminate in the PMRC and Dee Snider of all people taking down a bunch of crusty representatives looking into literally regulating the music industry.  It was also the time of MTV, and I can just see a movie studio exec looking for a story that will appeal to a wide audience - but bring in those kids who like the MTV, and be very music-video-friendly.  

Friday, March 19, 2021

Friday Watch Party: Footloose (1984)




Day:  03/19/2021
Time:  8:30 Central


Next week is Jamie's birthday, and thus I'm picking a flick she requested a bit back.  

Let's explore the urban/ rural divide as a kid from "the city" winds up in Bumfuck, BFE and is confronted by future OAN viewers.

We're gonna remember that even a crusty old minister can't keep us from gettin' down.  So get ready to DANCE.  Everything else is bullshit!


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

: The Black Stallion (1979)




Watched:  03/17/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  Unknown - at least third
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Carroll Ballard

This is a strangely perfect movie.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home (1986)




Watched:  03/15/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Leonard Nimoy

Until Lower Decks and a few one-off episodes, one of the few attempts at light comedy/action in the Trek franchise, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home  (1987) caps off the trilogy that started in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, bringing our crew finally back to Earth after giving us the thrill of seeing them wandering the streets of 1986 San Franciso as a slightly disheveled away team.

I am 85% sure I've written this one up before, so I won't do it again.  It's the one with the whales.  


Faux-Doc Watch: A Mighty Wind (2003)


A Mighty Wind (2003) is not the same, tight-knit ensemble film we got in Waiting for Guffman, and doesn't have quite the laugh-per-minute ratio or Best in Show, but, man, is it watchable and weirdly moving.  Which, in itself is a trick.  

This one centers on a rush to put on a memorial show for a former producer and promoter of folk acts from the 1960's - and thus jumps the awkward bridge of time a lot of us saw on PBS in the 1990's as concerts of folk favorites like Peter, Paul and Mary became staples of fund-raising weekends - an attempt to appeal to the nostalgia of the boomers and their wallets.  

Monday, March 15, 2021

PODCAST: "Superman III" (1983) - a Kryptonian Thought-Beast PodCast w/ SimonUK, Stuart and Ryan




Watched:  03/01/2021
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Richard Lester

Other ways to listen

We assemble the finest trio possible to take on the third in the Salkind's Superman franchise - this one inexplicably very heavy on very adult comedian Richard Pryor. It's a future-shock story of the magic of computers and how they can make a Superman a grumpy gus. Join SimonUK, Stuart and Ryan as they get super excited over the sharp turn the franchise took into goofiness.


Music:
Main Title, The Streets of Metropolis - John Williams, Superman III OST
The Struggle Within/ Final Victory - John Williams, Superman III OST
 

Watch Party Watch: Staying Alive (1983)




Watched:  03/12/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  I dunno.  First?  I don't remember 95% of this if I saw it.
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Sylvester Stallone

Staying Alive (1983) is the un-asked-for sequel to the 70's cultural phenomenon, Saturday Night Fever.  If you've not seen Saturday Night Fever in a bit, it's not all about Travolta as king of the disco, it's also a story about directionless young people, misdirected energy, and generational schizms in a traditional family.  

Staying Alive picks up six years later and is terrible.  

Look, the point of the first movie was realizing the world was bigger and better than a disco on a Saturday night, but six years later, Tony has made maybe incremental progress and danced his way to a 0% bodyfat physique.  Stephanie from the first film is just... gone.  She has a surrogate character in Jackie, who is doing her best to look like a JJazzercised  Anne Murray.  Jackie is Tony's friend with benefits.  I thought she was supposed to be the female lead from the first movie, but she is not.  So, we basically know nothing about her aside from the fact that she's a doormat who Tony steps out on and then TELLS HER ABOUT IT.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Goin' Home - 1 Year Later


A year ago today marks the day the pandemic toppled our lives.  In the morning, I saw a message that my employing institution was closed and we were to not come to campus.  We spent the day scrambling, setting up impromptu work stations with our laptops we'd been instructed to take home nightly for weeks at that point.  

By late in the evening, Jamie had gone to bed and I was left with myself, sorting through the erupting confusion and fear, and then I saw the video of  famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing the familiar tune by Dvořák.  I won't lie - I sat here in this same spot on my sofa watching the recording on this same laptop and I sobbed.

Exhaustion, crippling uncertainty...   After a day of scrolling endlessly through stories of what was coming, what we didn't know, and the posts and communications between friends and family offering what we could in support and all feeling the same darkness closing in, Ma reached for kindness - a prescient kindness - with his simple recording. 

In a year that has seen horror and cruelty, that seemed to set the world ablaze over again each morning, I'm still stunned by how he seemed to know and know what to do.

"Goin' Home" is a sentimental song even without lyrics - it had some retroactively applied years after the song was originally penned.  And even with all of us stuck in our houses, "Goin' Home" - returning to a place of comfort, to a time when we can see our parents without masks, share a meal with friends - is something that made sense then as we peered into the unknown, and all the more a year later.   

Today Ma received his vaccine injection, and in the fifteen minute wait/ observation window, he brought out the cello and played some favorites.  

At the outset of the pandemic, celebrities tried to read stories or write poems and stay in touch with their audience.  Patrick Stewart gamely read Sonnets.  Ma partnered with painist Kathryn Stott and put out an album - the proceeds of which will support musicians struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.


80's Watch: 48 Hours (1982)




Watched:  03/11/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  1st as an adult who could follow the movie
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Walter Hill!

D'aw, hell.  It's a Nick Nolte movie.

On the heels of Coming 2 America, Jamie began pondering what Eddie Murphy movies she hadn't seen, so she dialed up 48 Hours, the 1982 blockbuster starring Nick Nolte and a ready-for-stardom Eddie Murphy.   

Reviewing the movie about 40 years after the fact is a bit of a challenge.  This was in my lifetime, and I remember both the attitudes, the casual racism and names associated.  And, I did actually see this movie a couple of times as a kid, which... maybe wasn't great?  But in the 1980's, who was paying attention to what the kids were up to and we had easy access to HBO at our friends' houses.   

Friday, March 12, 2021

Friday Watch Party: Staying Alive

...lllaaaaaadies!



Here's a thing I never remember - Staying Alive was directed by Sylvester Stallone.  

I saw this movie in part or in whole in 4th grade, and my memory was "this is kinda goofy and weird".  

It's now 35-ish years later.  What will I think?

The sequel to Saturday Night Fever (which is a very, very good movie, by the way) that no one asked for - this one says "yes, but what if that kid in that movie had decided to pursue... BROADWAY?"  Which was absolutely nowhere on the map or in the meaning of the original, but here we are.

Apparently the second most famous name in this movie is Finola Hughes, so that's... something.

Anyway, I just got my first shot of COVID vaccine, and we're still here a year into March 2020, so to celebrate that we're stayin' alive, we're doing Staying Alive.

Day:  03/12/2021
Time:  8:30 central

In a Time of Virus: One Year Later


29.3 million cases of COVID.   Now over 530,000 dead as of 11:37 PM on 03/11/2021.

Since I quit writing posts we had an election, and Trump was shown the door.  But then we had an attempt at a violent overthrow of the US Congress as they moved to certify the electoral college on January 6th of this year.  You can look it up - it was very bad.  In the wake of the election loss, the GOP has more or less dropped the final bits of illusion suggesting they give a shit about democracy or decency.  Meanwhile, the Democrats remain the same spineless twits they've always been.  

Vaccines started appearing at the beginning of the year, and as of this writing, Jamie has her first shot, my parents and my brother have both of theirs, as well as my father-in-law and cousin.  The way they've rolled it out is intended to first serve the most vulnerable as the disease tends to hit, so first take care of older people and people with medical conditions.  But even as I write this, the picture is changing on a daily basis.  The White House is working on its plan to get vaccines available, and it seems to be actually working.  Meanwhile, the governor of Texas decided he's done with COVID and we're opening everything back up.  So, look for our numbers to spike uncontrollably for a while.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Cattrall Watch: Meet Monica Velour (2010)




Watched:  03/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Keith Bearden

I'm not really sure what qualifies as an indie film in this day and age, or even what constituted an indie movie in 2010 when Meet Monica Velour was released.  But it had been a while since I'd watched a lower-budget film like this one - and it almost hums with "this is an indie film" in a way the big studio releases I've been watching simply do not.  

The movie pitches itself as a "career high performance" for Kim Cattrall, and I'll argue - maybe!  I have only seen a fraction of her catalog, but she is, indeed, very, very good in this movie.  I totally get why she jumped at the chance to play this character, especially when the general TV and movie audience was associating her with her character on Sex and the City.  And, frankly, she nails it.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Any Number Can Play (1949)


Watched:  03/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Trying to be an Audrey Totter completionist, I had planned to watch this movie at some point, but just never got to it.  Had I known how many people are in the film, I probably would have watched it years ago.

Beyond Totter, the headline stars are Clark Gable and Alexis Smith, but there's also:  Barry Sullivan, Frank Morgan, Mary Astor, Wendell Corey, Leon Ames, William Conrad, and a whole bunch more you're going to recognize.  

I thought it was *fine*, but I just checked and - holy cats - do people seem to hate this movie.  There's complaints about "this movie takes place within a casino and doesn't moralize about gambling" which is... a take, I guess. It kind of misses or dismisses the actual morals of the film (don't forget your family on your way to #1, the path to friendship and respect is via truth, honesty and fairplay no matter what you do for a living), but don't let that get in the way of a good complaint.  

It's certainly not the first movie to show a man in crisis/ at the end of his rope and how it resolves in a single night as all the threads come together.  But it's the earliest one I've seen that I can think of.  Until I think of one I've seen from earlier.

I admit, the movie moved a bit slowly, and despite plastering Audrey Totter all over the poster, she honestly wasn't in it much.  Still, she's having fun playing the bad girl and fed-up wife (something she was doing a lot in this era) of Wendell Corey.  It's nothing I'd go out of my way to recommend, but once I clocked to what they were doing, I did enjoy it a bit more.

Anyway - it's a gamble to watch it.

Monday, March 8, 2021

PODCAST: "WandaVision" (2021) - Marvel Television w/ Jamie and Ryan


Watched:  03/05/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director: Various
Creator:  Jac Schaeffer



Jamie and Ryan talk the first of the Marvel DIsney+ programs - a nine episode story that turns the spotlight on everyone's favorite Sakovian and her robot buddy. It's been a social media hot topic for months, so we're going to put it into re-runs and get nostalgic for two terrific Avengers.
A Newlywed Couple - Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, WandaVision OST
Agatha All Along - Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, WandaVision OST

Playlist - Avengers/ Marvel: