Monday, December 6, 2021
Director: Jim Cummings
I'm going to have to check out Jim Cummings' other stuff, because he's apparently his own one-man force within the film industry. I recognize him, but not as a lead - but he wrote, directed and starred in Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020), which is something people really don't do anymore. That era of auteurism has kind of gone the way of the dodo.
Released under the revived Orion films banner (and, my god, was it good to see that logo spin out in front of a movie again) - it's also nice to see genre indie distributors out there trying for something a bit different, and this film is a reminder of the positive results you can get from a single person with their hands on the wheel of a movie. Because Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) is arguably about a small-town cop relentlessly chasing down a killer werewolf despite the fact that is absolutely the plot of the film. And this is where people might mistakenly say "it's good for a horror film" - but we don't say that at this blog.
I think sometimes why reviewers might make that statement is that they want something more out of their movie than a monster murdering people and eventually being killed in return. I mean, *fair enough*.
Sunday, December 5, 2021
Senator Bob Dole has passed.
Dole was the GOP candidate in the first presidential election in which I could cast a vote, and so I spent no small amount of energy reading up on Dole, watching debates, etc... in an era where - personally - I was still understanding how my values, beliefs and personal predilections stacked up against the platform and policy of a candidate. And, Bob Dole and I might have not agreed on some things, but I came to understand him as a dedicated public servant, a brave veteran and a survivor of wounds that might have stopped others. Instead, he'd persevered and and pursued a remarkable career.
After the election, he was still as powerful a voice in public discourse as he'd been which led to his nomination. And I always understood why he held the stances he did (except for the pro-cigarettes thing, which... two years later, I don't think he would have leaned into that one).
Someone who was a tremendous force in American government and the direction of the country has passed, and he'll be assessed and written about for years to come, certainly. Hindsight is 20/20. But take note as a person who actually did things and wanted the country to be better, has passed.
Director: Bob Clark
I kind of start and stop my interest in slasher films with the Halloween films. But ever since I found out Bob Clark, the guy who directed A Christmas Story, also directed one of the landmark Christmas-Horror films, I've wanted to see Black Christmas (1974). Add in a pre-superstardom Margot Kidder, and it's a sell! But the movie had been a little hard to find in the past - until recent shifts in how the streamers work seems to have fixed that.
Anyway, it's now a whole lotta places, but I watched it on Peacock of all locations. I know! But if you watch like 2 minutes of commercials, uncut movie! (edit: I hit "publish" on this post, went to my email to read the Criterion Current email, and I guess Black Christmas is on the Criterion Channel now, too and an article about the weirdness of watching people get murdered on film.).
Black Christmas is dark. I don't want to beat around the bush on this one. I am glad I didn't pick it for a watch party, because it's not... fun. It's mostly just grim. Surprisingly well made, effective, etc... but sometimes I watch a movie and I'm kind of glad I don't need to worry about how Jamie was taking it in.*
Saturday, December 4, 2021
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Director: Henry Koster
The Bishop's Wife (1947) is one of those movies that I've known existed since the 1990's, but I never got around to seeing. I'd watched clips here and there, and I knew the basic plot outline, but just wasn't in a rush to see it. And, I did want to see the 1990's version, but I try to see the original before I see a remake 2 out of 3 times.
Anyhoo... I was originally going to program Bob Clark's Black Christmas for my Christmas Surprise package movie, but I just wasn't up for it on Friday, and Loretta Young is Loretta Young (which is good for *me* as a viewer, anyway), and who doesn't like Cary Grant? Or David Niven, for that matter? I'm a fan of all three, plus Christmas, plus a sort of fable-ish fairy tale seemed like the right thing to do.
That said, the movie was 80% exactly what I figured it might be - a comedy so light it's like watching dandelion bristles float away and making points like (as Jenifer said) "be nice" and "don't be a jerk", which... you know, *fair enough* I say as 2021 draws to a close. It's not like a whole lot of people can't learn basic lessons in not being horrible, selfish, and cruel.
The basic story is that a local and fairly newly minted Bishop (I'm assuming Episcopalian) has become consumed by the need to build a new Cathedral and other duties of his place. All of which are of a noble mindset, but have created the problem of both making him compromise in the name of the greater good in ways that make him unhappy, and that he is so focused on his work issues, he's both ignoring his wife and what once made them unhappy. Dude is in crisis, and so is Loretta Young.
Cary Grant plays an angel named Dudley who arrives on scene to assist - which mostly seems to consist of taking Loretta Young off David Niven's hands. Yeah, it would be super weird, but David Niven *believes* Dudley when he says he's an angel, so why not entrust him with his wife? This is not Zeus or Pan we're talking about here. Except - maybe Dudley wants to smash?
Anyway - it's a sweet movie, has two of the kids from It's a Wonderful Life (both Zuzu and young George Bailey), Elsa Lanchester as a domestic who just kinda *gets* Dudley, Gladys Cooper as a wealthy dowager, and a handful of "that guy!" supporting players. Still, the funniest joke in the film is some slapsticky physical comedy with a chair and David Niven, so maybe it's just too gentle for it's own good. Well, that and a never-ending bottle of liquor.
I'm not mad I saw it, it was all right and Christmassy - and I like the fact it works in so many story arcs, but it just wasn't my cup of tea, necessarily.
I have what I'd describe as a non-relationship with The Beatles.
I can't remember a time I wasn't aware of the existence of The Beatles, and since middle-school, I could pick out one of their tunes playing on the radio or over Muzak - but at some point when I was getting into music, I think I found the enormity of The Beatles as cultural force daunting, and their discography too big for me to get my head around. I also think I had a hard time - as a high schooler - reconciling the Ed Sullivan Beatles with the late-years Beatles. It was just so much.
I do know that in 1984 my parents took me to the movie theater to see Give My Regards to Broad Street. (That was when I first heard Eleanor Rigby and my wee brain was blown). But they, themselves, weren't huge Beatles fans.
Friday, December 3, 2021
Tis the Season for Friday Watch Parties!
Each week, we're going to watch a different film that will be a surprise when you click on through at the link. So until you do so, you'll be filled with the anticipation of Christmas, not knowing what is in the box under the tree!
|oh, boy! It's (insert movie name here)!|
No, I am not telling you what it is. All I'll say about this week's movie is that I haven't seen it, but it's supposed to be watchable.
Day: Friday - 12/3/2021
Time: 8:30 Central, 6:30 Pacific
Service: Amazon Prime
Thursday, December 2, 2021
Director: Richard Donner
Marshall delivers a visitation upon the podcast to impart the lesson he knew in life - everyone likes Bill Murray as Frank Cross. Join he and Ryan as they talk an 80's Christmas favorite, one of the best retellings of Dicken's immortal classic, and much is made of television then and now. It's a Christmas favorite here at Signal Watch HQ, and we're delighted to get to talk on it.
Scrooged Suite - Danny Elfman, Scrooged OST
Put a Little Love in Your Heart - Al Green and Annie Lennox, Scrooged OST
Christmas 2021 PodCasts
Monday, November 29, 2021
Director: Don Siegel
A tight little film from RKO, I thought maybe I'd seen The Big Steal (1949) when I saw it listed just based on the cast. William Bendix, Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum is plenty to get me to take a look. And, yes, given the non-descriptive names of many-a-film noir, I have to check to see what the movie is and if the summary of plot rings any bells. And even then, I'm often 5 to 10 minutes into a movie and realize "say... I've seen this before".
But... no. I hadn't seen the movie.
It's a lot of plot, a minimum of character, and swings between comedy, road trip movie and crime movie surprisingly deftly. Mitchum plays a guy on the run from the US Army, looking for Jane Greer's fiancé (Patric Knowles), Fiske. The fiancé swears he's on the up and up to Greer when she finds him in a Mexican hotel minus the $2000 he took when he split without a word. But he swears he'll have it. That very day, in fact.
And then he bounces as Greer takes a shower.
Mitchum and Greer team-up and go after him, and do that "they irritate each other" to "romance is blossoming" thing. Bendix pursues semi-ruthlessly. But the Mexican setting and characters are marginally more than a back-drop in this film. Ramon Navarro as the Inspector General and Don Alvarado as Lt. Ruiz are watching our Americans flail around and set their own plan in motion that's 2 steps ahead of our leads. Greer speaks Spanish and has an understanding of her surroundings that Mitchum lacks - and is way too distracted to learn more. But you do get an idea that this movie is trying harder than some others that treat Mexico as one big resort via Greer and our police officers and a few other players (the road crew boss is excellent).
Anyway - it's Mitchum playing Mitchum, Bendix playing Bendix and Jane Greer looking lovely and having some excellent beats, both comedic and otherwise. This film is two years after Out of the Past, which also teamed Greer and Mitchum, and my guess is they must have liked working together. But it's so... different. But, still, within their personas all three leads could really stretch and do whatever was needed. The much lighter tone here - I mean, the movie ends on a punchline callback - allows Greer to do some very different work than the few other films of this era where I've seen her. And we know Mitchum and Bendix can do comedy, and it all holds. The movie doesn't feel tonally off as it leaps around, it just goes with the adventure of the high-stakes road trip.
I dug it. Not going to set the world on fire, but it was enjoyable. And, hey, we got to see Jane Greer drive like a maniac.
Here's just over an hour of carefully selected Christmas tunes for you to rock to all month long. Play 'em in order and have an egg nog or cider and know The Signal Watch is giving you a confident nod and a lifting of the glass to share in your holiday merriment.
Randy was super cool and has turned this into a Spotify playlist as well! Thanks, man!
Sunday, November 28, 2021
Director: John Hughes
This may be a misperception, but it often seems to me that people discuss and possibly remember Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) differently from what the movie actually is (to me). The film definitely has some large and broad comedic moments, but it's not really a slapsticky comedy. And for long stretches, it's not actually funny.
I wouldn't say I don't like it, but it's also not a movie I rush into rewatching - as evidenced by the fact that Jamie and I have been married 21 years and tonight she mentioned she'd never seen this film. So, we put it on.
John Hughes wrote, directed and produced the film and it was part of his move away from the Ringwald teen movies and his move to not just be known as a director of those famous films. What's curious is how odd it feels seeing the same flow of his teen comedies, that move from comedy to more serious beats in the third act where lessons are sincerely learned, is applied here as well. And it works - I'm not saying it doesn't, but I think when I hear people discuss this movie, they always just laugh and say "those aren't pillows!", which, honestly is a gag that aged kinda badly and is nowhere near the funniest part of the movie (that's the car bursting into flames as they sit on the trunk on the side of the road).
Friday, November 26, 2021
|I like how you can see Harrison Ford thinking about literally anything but where he is in this moment|
Director: Steve Binder
Hubris, thy name is Signal Watch.
Jamie put up three options for us to watch the other night, and I was like "ha ha! I'm feeling daffy! Let's watch The Star Wars Holiday Special! It'll be great with Rifftrax!"
Friends, it was not great.
Look, Rifftrax is/ are fun, but they can't turn a broken sewer line into the fountain in front of the Bellagio. It's more about standing there, cracking wise at the broken sewer line. I mean, Lucas disavowed and tried to hide the existence of the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) for decades, but early tape decks and bootlegs at sci-fi conventions kept it alive and kicking despite best efforts to quash this thing's existence.
Star Wars was once upon a time a thing where there wasn't that much of it - unlike today's Disney-fueled production factory, we got a movie every three years and then some occasional oddball items. But every attempt to expand beyond the narrow confines of the feature films seemed to be met in disaster. I was jamming to Christmas in the Stars as a kid (a record that drives Jamie into a fury when I put it on), live-action Ewok movies, an Ewok cartoon and a Droid cartoon, all of which were... not great. But I hadn't even heard of the Holiday Special until college.
Thursday, November 25, 2021
I know that Thanksgiving is not always ideal. May you have as good a day as possible, and if you can, spend it with your squad, no matter what that looks like. Lord knows, ain't none of us perfect.
Take a beat and be grateful for what you've got. Maybe this isn't the year where it's a lot, and that's okay. Maybe next year. The holidays can be tough.
Wishing you the best.
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Viewing: Second? Third?
Director: Brian Levant
Stuart and Ryan are in a mad-cap race to find the perfect gift for you, our listeners - and that would be a terrific podcast, just like all the other kids want this year. Will we deliver as trip each other, threaten media outlets, terrorize children and generally fail to deliver as podcast hosts and law-abiding citizens? We take a look at a movie that was panned upon its release, but that younger generations have decided is GREAT (they are wrong). But you gotta love Arnie. And Sinbad, too.
Jingle Bells - Brian Stezer Orchestra
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Johnny Mathis
This is not by me. This is by The Dug, my brother-in-law. Credit where it's due.
Thanksgiving (to the tune of "Africa" by Toto)
I hear the drumsticks calling me to biiite /
in between the whispers of some racist conversaaaation /
I show up tired from the flight /
Scents compose a symphony of promised masticaaation /
I saw my uncle nine sheets to the wind /
braced myself for Trump quotes and his new conspiracy theeeory /
Mom turned to me as if to say, "Hurry boy, there's gravy there for youuuu" /
Gonna smile and nod and then preteeend to praaay /
Gonna gain a hundred pounds and chug some Caberneeet /
It's Thanksgiving not in Aaafrica /
Gonna drink a lot and pass the yams and humor Daaaaad
Format: Hallmark Channel!
Director: Kevin Fair
This year vis-a-vis Hallmark movies has been an emotional rollercoaster. We had to switch cable services and wound up on YouTubeTV (recommended), but it had no Hallmark Channel. I was a little sad, but I don't *need* to see my Hallmark Christmas stories, so I figured: time to move on. But then, I was informed a week or so ago that, NO, YouTubeTV now carried all three Hallmark networks. Feliz navidad, indeed!
But, Jamie now has a pretty hard rule about not putting on Hallmark movies til Thanksgiving night, so I honestly hadn't been watching. But this last week, the network debuted a new movie, Christmas Together With You (2021) - and the stars caught my eye. Harry Lennix portrayed General Swann in Man of Steel, and Laura Vandervoort played Supergirl (sort of) on Smallville off and on for half the show's run. Thus, it got recorded.
And, then, I needed to watch something that needed minimal attention while I worked out. So here we are.
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Director: Otto Preminger
I was looking for a new-to-me noir to watch for Noirvember and on some list of "best noir" saw Daisy Kenyon (1947), and that it starred Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, and Henry Fonda. All have some noir bona fides as actors, and Otto Preminger never lets me down, so I put the movie on.
Friends, Daisy Kenyon is not film noir. It's melodrama. And that's fine, but half-way through the movie I realized no one was going to shoot anyone, no one was going to make a decision that would end in murder, and realized "someone making that noir list had no idea what they were talking about". It happens.
Movies can reveal quite a bit about the times in which they were released. This is a post-WWII story and the aftermath of the war isn't the plot, but it's key. There are some surprisingly forward thinking elements that I wanted to see if they'd get mentioned in the NYT review of the time, but... not really? (I did find it funny how the reviewer treats the well-established leads as "you know what they do, and here they are doing it, just as reviewers would today).
Director: Bradley Cooper
I wanted to see A Star is Born (2018) in the theater so I could get the benefit of the theatrical sound for the music and sound mix, but I didn't. My memory of the release date is pegged to a lengthy work-trip. On a terrible tip from a bus driver - I found myself in the shittiest bar in Vegas, trying to get some karaoke together with librarians, but only me and three other people showed up. That night was the first time I think I heard "Shallow" from beginning to end, and I couldn't believe the song was already an option at karaoke as the film had just been released.
Anyway, that was a very long two week business trip, and that was only one of three dozen incidents along the way (I got shingles in Salt Lake City). When I got home, Jamie had seen the movie and I decided to wait for home video. And then didn't do that, either.
I did eventually want to get to it. Aside from feeling like I should see the movie here in it's fourth iteration, I think Bradley Cooper is a very solid actor who gets dismissed because he's ridiculously handsome. And I like Lady Gaga as a performer because *gestures at everything*. Plus, I found it interesting this was Cooper's choice for a directorial debut. Which makes sense.
Monday, November 22, 2021
Format: TCM Noir Alley
Director: Robert Rossen
Well, Johnny O'Clock (1947) is a ridiculous name for a movie, and a character. But here we are. It's maybe not a shock its hard to take seriously when I saw Johnny Dangerously years before I'd see a gangster or noir film the 1980's comedy was looking to emulate. But Johnny O'Clock is not a comedy - it's a straight film, but packed with plot, schemers and some very deeply rat-a-tat hard boiled dialog.
It's not a great movie, and it's entirely wrapped up in its own plot so much, it kind of forgets to do much with characters after an initial impression, but... I think Muller's take on it intersects with how I felt. This movie felt like someone had read a lot of snappy dialog in novels that didn't quite make it to the movies and wanted that to happen.
Everyone has an agenda, and everyone is willing to play for keeps - and by the time we show up as an audience, a lot of balls are already in motion. We're just watching the Rube Goldberg machinations go through their motions. So just buckle up and watch.
I've been a Dick Powell fan since seeing Murder, My Sweet a long time ago, and sealed the deal with Cry Danger. I am not against his song-and-dance-man persona that predates his move into noir, but I prefer him as the sardonic voice centering a crime film. And, of course, the film has Lee J Cobb as a cop on a case, super-actor Thomas Gomez and noir-favorite Evelyn Keyes. The movie also includes a very early appearance by Jeff Chandler.
I.. am still not sure why a key character is murdered early on in the movie, the flashpoint for everything else in the movie. They sort of suggest "oh, she might have known something so we bumped her off", but... why would they think that?
ANYWAY. Maybe not the first noir I'd suggest someone rush out to see, but it still played well.
Sunday, November 21, 2021
Director: Tom Donahue
Like any other self-respecting 1990's hipster, I have a warm place in my heart for Dean Martin. I spend less time thinking about Martin than I do Bing Crosby, who was a huge inspiration to the Rat Pack, but - hey - one of my earliest memories is my dad singing the intro to "That's Amore" to me as he tucked me in.
I would see Martin in Rio Bravo back in college, as well as Ocean's 11, and I started to get a picture of Martin and how he fit into the culture in ways that Frank Sinatra did not. Probably the easiest analog for us Gen-X'ers is Brad Pitt to George Clooney in the Soderbergh Ocean's films.
As a doc, Dean Martin: King of Cool (2021) works as a no-consequences sort of film. No one is out there debating Dean Martin in 2021. He was. He is. He's heard on the radio to this day, and his films are still okay. So it's about painting a portrait of a guy who was maybe a bit unknowable, even by his own children. And in that, what you wind up doing is - metaphor 1: seeing the silhouette of the guy against the backdrop of what we do know, and - metaphor 2: starting with the stone of what we know and chipping away til the statue of Dean Martin presents itself.
Format: I saw it on TV, but I believe they're trying to get you to watch it on Hulu
Director: Jodi Gomes
I was flipping channels and somehow caught what I thought was someone's rushed attempt to get in front of the "coming to Hulu" documentary by the New York Times about the fateful Super Bowl performance in which Justin Timberlake removed an item from Janet Jackson's wardrobe, exposing her breast on TV for a blink-and-you-miss-it moment. But, no, it was the actual doc.
I am not sure that Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Jane Jackson (2021) is the final word on the incident. I think it has a lot to say that I think is worth reflecting on, but at the center of the doc are a few gigantic questions it won't/ can't answer, and I am unsure some of the arguments are fully explored. What the doc manages to do is paint the most complete picture of the Super Bowl incident and the fallout, giving detail I'd not heard, following the incident's years-long legacy. But I can't quite sort what the doc is trying to say. Nor am I sure revisiting the incident is as compelling as cultural conversation as we'll treat it for a few weeks here.
Long time pal and now PodCast contributor, JuanD, goes under the nom-de-plume Chromaplastique when it comes to penning tunes. He's a longtime musician, and he's spent his COVID time making a bunch of new tracks.
Juan was technically contributing for years now as the guy who wrote our PodCast intro and outro.
I'm partial to Juan's stuff, and I hope you will be, too. His latest is a dreamy bit of electronic work with vocals supplied by another longtime pal, Nicole.
Without further ado:
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Viewing: Unknown guess is: 4th
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Look, adding rum plus talking to people in chat over a movie is probably *not* the ideal way to watch this twisty, turny noir classic. It did point out that Out of the Past (1947) may have some good performances, but it's harder to keep up with because there's so much plot versus character stuff in the movie (which is easier to follow when you're not a rum or two in, and you're cracking wise in the comments).
Still, I love Out of the Past. Poor old doomed Robert Mitchum falling for the absolute worst possible girl - and you get it! She seems great! Ain't nothing wrong with Jane Greer minus the fact she seems to get off and torturing people and seeing pain inflicted. Throw in Kirk Douglas, and that's a movie with a lot of strong chin action.
Plus: not enough Rhonda Fleming, Virginia Huston, Steve Brodie, and a handful of other RKO players you'll know from around RKO.
I invite you to check the movie out yourself.
Friday, November 19, 2021
Out of the Past (1947) is the film I think of when I think of as the ultimate Femme Fatale of noir. Jane Greer's Kathie saw Double Indemnity and was like "ppffffft. AMATEUR!"
A lot of stuff gets bandied about with people talking about noir who have a glancing familiarity with the topic, and a lot get it sorta-wrong. But this is the one about the dame with the heart of obsidian and the poor dope who can't get past those eyes I think a lot of neo-noir wound up trying to emulate. I mean, fair enough - it's Jane Greer, whose eye-game is only trumped by Bacall, with Tierney nipping at her heels.*
Anyway, watch folks make some incredibly bad decisions that all seem very right at the time.
Time: 8:30 PM
Format: Amazon Watch Party
*we can talk Marie Windsor and Audrey Totter eye-game, but that's a different sport
PODCAST: "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" (2021) - A Marvel Chronological Countdown episode w/ Jamie and Ryan
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Jamie and Ryan reveal their secret kung-fu-like prowess at podcasting as they dig into the next phase of Marvel as a new leading superhero takes the fore, alongside his wisecracking pal, Awkwafina, and Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley. Not to mention a few huge stars of international cinema in Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung. And a rad dragon. Join us as we circle around this film, and sort out what our friends at Marvel are up to now.
Xu Shang-Chi - Joel P West, Shang-Chi OST
Family - Joel P West, Shang-Chi OST
Thursday, November 18, 2021
December brings us the merriest season of all! I hope you've got your peppermint sticks and twinkly lights!
On the first three Fridays of December, we'll hold a Christmas watch party! And much like receiving a gift under the tree, we're going to keep it under wraps til the last minute!
What will we watch? I AM NOT TELLING.
But we will enjoy the finest in Christmas offerings! I would not steer you wrong!*
- December 3
- December 10
- December 17
Time: 8:30 PM Central
- Amazon Streaming
- Posts will be up by Tuesday each week at http://signal-watch.com or you can check up at the "Watch Party" tab at the top of that page to sort it out and review info about Watch Parties
- We will let you know if the movie will cost anything by Tuesday the week of the screening
- Be festive!
|Texas DPS has no time for your jolliness|
*this is a lie. I will drive this bus right off a cliff and take all of you with me.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
I'm *fine* with Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot. I still watch movies because they star particular talent, but most of those actors have been dead for more than 10 years or way longer, and I guess there's a few people I'd show up to see just because they did a thing. But it's more likely I'll avoid a movie as long as possible if there are particular actors starring. None of the three here fall into the "must avoid" category. They're all... fine. You know more or less exactly what you'll get, and Red Notice (2021) is not here to blow the door off of those expectations.
Best case scenario, Red Notice is a fun way to introduce your tween to heist pictures and globe-trotting comedy-action-adventure. There's a lot of A-Team style bloodless gunplay where no one is ever shot, people crack wise, and it's all a big goof. It's not a new format, and this one is particularly gentle, so it's a good entry point.
Director: Richard Linklater
I still think of this as a new movie, but it came out almost 20 years ago now. So, that's how time works, kids. All those adorable moppets are now adults in their 30's.
School of Rock (2003) is a sweet movie about someone who would absolutely land in an extraordinary amount of legal trouble and have trouble ever finding work again if the events of the film occurred in real life, not to mention taking Joan Cusack down with him.
I won't summarize, you've all seen the movie or get the basic gist.
Upon a re-view, I guess I decided that the movie is weirdly and profoundly lazy about its set-up and execution - something that bugged me the first time I saw this and now just feels confusing from a movie from a major studio.
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Detour (1945) is a bitter, furious bit of pulp noir with no budget, no bankable stars, cardboard sets and a half-assed set-up, and it is absolutely impossible to stop watching once you start. And, that's at least 85% Ann Savage, who doesn't even show up til the 1/3rd mark.
It had been a while since I'd watched Detour, but Jenifer selected it for a Tuesday watch party, and I was delighted she did. I have no idea what spawned this movie or even how it got made. It doesn't feel like a war-time picture, but it does suggest what would come in the months and years following the war. It's just lacking the gloss the studios would put on something like this - hard-scrabble talent working off a half-finished script and utterly buyable as drifters and wastrels of pre-War America.
Format: Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing: Second or third
Director: Don Siegel
I had seen The Lineup (1958) years ago, and remembered it was crazy and Eli Wallach was fantastic, but not much else. It was part of a set of DVD's I was watching in quick secession, and I just didn't get back to it. Which is too bad, it's a cool crime movie.
Bay Area residents will want to watch it just to see the locations in 1958, some of which are long gone, but most of which are still standing (something Austin would find horrifying. We knock everything down, willy-nilly.). As a police procedural in the years after The Naked City, the city itself is more than a backdrop, its geography and environs are crucial and inform everything, from the hook of the plot to the finale car chase.
Meanwhile, the cast is kind of interesting. There's the aforementioned Eli Wallach, but he doesn't enter the movie til the 1/3rd mark, along with Robert Keith (who I just learned is the father of Brian Keith) as a pair of heavies/ hit-men in from Miami. A baby-faced Richard Jaeckel plays their driver hired on by The Man - the mastermind pulling the strings. Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale from The Beverly Hillbillies) a manager of the San Francisco Opera who is involved in the case and Emile Meyer who seems like he's always a cop plays one of the lead detectives.
Monday, November 15, 2021
Director: Jaume Collett-Serra
This is part of why it's nice to have Disney+.
Before COVID, I think maybe I would have talked myself into paying to see Jungle Cruise (2021) in the theater. I'm partial to Emily Blunt, I more or less like Dwayne Johnson. The Disney park ride of The Jungle Cruise is a highlight of every trip I've ever had when I hit one of the Disney parks - it's wrapped up in nostalgia, certainly, but it's a fun thing to go do.
I was a little put off that the jungle cruise of the film was not in Africa, as that would mean no elephants, my childhood favorite part of the ride, but... you know. It's fine.
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Director: Howard Hawks
This is literally one of the most written about books and movies of the last century. Go out there and get nuts reading up on it elsewhere.
Like with the Universal Horror films, I've just been delighted to share these films with the usual gang, some of who've seen these films, some who haven't. I try not to be a pain interjecting factoids and whatnot, tag-teaming with Jenifer. It's definitely different watching *good* movies versus campy movies, but everyone's been terrific.
Friday, November 12, 2021
This Friday we take on one of the two most well known DETECTIVE NOIR films.* This one was originally written by Raymond Chandler, who we saw did scripting work on last week's offering. The Big Sleep was one of the Philip Marlowe detective novels, with a ton of twists and turns.
Famously, it wasn't exactly hard to bring to screen, but every once in a while someone on set would ask "wait, why is this happening?" and they'd go to the script, then the book, then call Chandler and he'd be like "I don't remember." But they made the movie anyway.
Frankly, I don't know why people find it so complicated. If you can keep up with the average prestige television shows and all the twists and turns, this really isn't that big of a deal. But it has its reputation.
It's also what crime and detective books love to knock off. If you can find an old, decaying man hiring a detective and there's a goof of a sexpot somehow attached, someone saw this movie or read this book (see: The Big Lebowski). Personally, I heart this film. It's Bacall and Bogie having a killer time, plus all the supporting players are fantastic - and it's where a million noiristas decided to love Dorothy Malone for being the most low-key thirsty girl in cinema.
Day: Friday - 11/12/2021
Time: 8:30 PM Central/ 6:30 PM Pacific
Service: Amazon Watch Party
*the other is Maltese Falcon
I started watching Supergirl from the pilot when the show had big ambitions and was going to air on CBS. The pilot of the show is... not great. You could feel the hands of CBS, home to a wide array of boring shows I don't watch, all over the show and kind of wringing themselves with all this superhero weirdness. But they did bring in a decent cast, and seemed to have some ideas for modernizing the Maid of Might from her incredibly goofy origins in Action Comics 252.
I won't get into it here, but Supergirl as a property allows for some flexibility as the character's titles never last, no one working on the latest iterations seems aware of prior incarnations, and once on the title, never seems to know what to do with the character for more than 3-6 issues. I have probably hundreds of Supergirl comics, and there's been exactly two modern runs that I would recommend.
The show started off on CBS, which was always an awkward fit and probably one of the things that drove DC and WB to realize that working with network suits was more trouble than it's worth. For the first half of the first season, the show felt deeply uncomfortable with itself, bucking against old network tropes and trying to make the domestic life of Kara Zor-El as basic as possible.
Thursday, November 11, 2021
Format: Amazon Streaming
Director: John Huston
Two wayward souls, maybe a bit past their prime and in over their heads, seek fortune and glory - and that's just our podcasters. Join SimonUK and Ryan as we head into poorly charted territory and look into a film featuring two of our favorite film stars in an adventure that probably needed some better planning. But you gotta admire the moxie.
Theme from The Man Who Would Be King - Maurice Jarre
Format: Noir Alley
Director: Henry S. Keslar
There's both too much and not enough going on this post-war roadtrip noir - that is barely a noir. But it does star Sterling Hayden as a guy in a hat, and Ruth Roman as a dame in trouble who pulls Hayden in over his head.
I hesitate to get into this plot-dense noir with a synopsis, because the plot isn't exactly nonsense, but how they go about it is a mess. But the basic gist is that Hayden's car breaks down en route from LA to Texas somewhere, and Ruth Roman offers him a ride if he can help her split the drive to Santa Fe so they can keep moving.
A mysterious nurse approached Hayden in a roadside stop and says they've been following Ruth Roman as she's an escaped mental patient or some such, but for some reason, they're just watching her? But, basically, it's a sinister spy story of former Nazis in the US (one played by Colonel Klink) trying to get ahold of some info Roman came into possession of whilst in Germany trying to get her brother out of East Germany (I think). People keep trying to convince Hayden Roman is crazy - but she clearly isn't. So.
Anyway, Hayden probably hated this script. His character is kind of boring and always right about everything (which is not where Hayden shines), and Roman is fine, but a little dull here. As is the movie.
I did not love it. I couldn't figure out why the CIA wasn't taking an active hand in the proceedings as so much was at stake and they were watching everything. None of the movie's story really had much of a reason for happening. I dunno. I've seen worse, but this one was just kind of not my thing. Except it's a ripoff in many ways of The 39 Steps, which I've only seen as a play, and I liked that.. so.
Format: Amazon Watch Party (Jenifer pick)
Director: Anatole Litvak
I had never seen this film, but Jenifer chose it for a Noirvember Watch Party, and it had Stanwyck, so I wasn't going to dodge.
Based on what seems to have been a very popular radio play, Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) is deep into noir-thriller territory, and achieves its goals totally differently, but just as effectively (or more so) as Beware, My Lovely or Sudden Fear.
Stanwyck plays an invalid rich girl who hears a conversation over crossed wires (this used to actually happen, kids. I remember getting pulled into other people's phone calls by accident as late as high school in the 1990's) wherein the two participants are planning a murder or an unsuspecting woman. Stanwyck is bed-bound, and her husband hasn't come home, so it's through a series of phone calls and flashbacks that we put together her background and what's going on with her husband and her.
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Directors: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
This doc came out while I was in film school, and I remember it being suggested viewing, but I don't recall an actual theatrical release locally, and then I just never got to it.
As a cultural touchstone, this film feels like it needs a review by The Kids(tm). It captures a moment in time, just before Gen-X would start driving the cultural conversation and the ending, cast as hope, now seems quaint in some ways and like a ship was missed in others. But if nothing else, the film shows the realities of what things came before the mid-90's and - extrapolating to the modern era - how much has and hasn't changed in what is a relatively brief period.
Monday, November 8, 2021
Format: Disney+ in JAL's yard
Director: Craig Gillespie
We got together with JAL and Co to watch a movie projected on the big screen in his backyard. With a kid in play, and because we're highly likely to watch PG movies anyway, we defaulted to a family-friendly suggestion of Cruella (2021), which received weirdly inconsistent reviews and reaction on social media from what I saw, to the point where people seemed to be watching 2 or more different movies, which was enough to make me curious.
I've not been overly interested in Disney's live-action remakes or prequels, and so had made no special effort to see Cruella upon it's release. I like 101 Dalmatians (the animated version) well enough, but mostly out of nostalgia and loving the character animation more than me thinking it's the world's best film. And I wasn't overly concerned about who Cruella De Vil was and how she came to be.
But, you know, I'm game for whatever.
I... loved this movie?
Sunday, November 7, 2021
Format: HBOmax, I think.
Director: Ralph Bakshi
In 1992, I made my brother go with me to see Cool World. It was my chance to jump on the Ralph Bakshi train, it combined animation and live action, and it had Gabriel Byrne and Kim Basinger. Mostly I remember thinking "this movie is not great" partway through, and being aware that for being the horniest thing I'd seen in movies in a very horny era at the movies, it never seemed to be willing to take anything as far as it could have. Or should have,
Here, 30 years later, I don't think I've changed my mind, and I'm willing to be more honest about it. I defended the movie a lot because it *tried* something new and different, and served it up to a mainstream audience. My suspicion is that Paramount ended up defanging the film. As there often is decades later, there are conflicting versions of events, but I tend to believe the Fritz the Cat guy was not shying away from a Hard-R and the studio flack decided to try and get teens into the movie.
Director: Sidney Salkow
My feeling is that they didn't make movies like this much post WWII. It's a movie, yeah, but it's a musical/ vaudeville/ what-have-you revue. It's got a basic framework, and that framework is not that of a musical where songs and bits are part of the story. Here - the story stops as characters perform for one another.
The basic premise is that a top Broadway performer drops her manager, so her manager teams up with Rudy Vallee and they become successful agents and promoters. But then the original manager hears his former talent is getting divorced and available to sing/ play snuggle-bunnies, and he decides to throw everything out the window to work with her. Meanwhile, Vallee discovers a still teen-aged Ann Miller as her maid, basically being Ann Miller, and decides to run with it.
We also get a fairly early appearance from a Shemp-less Three Stooges, Joan Merrill, Brenda & Cobina, Rosemary Lane of the Lane Sisters, and more.
Basically, it's as easy to watch as it is to drink a glass of Coke. You may not be nuts about it, but you'll suddenly realize you're at the end of it and shrug. It's cute and funny-ish, and only has a few problematic bits left over from days of yore.
Honestly, I watched it like 24 hours ago and had already forgotten about it, so. I mean, Ann Miller was still very young and just signed to Columbia, so they barely let her speak. As an Ann Miller movies I'd not previously seen, I'm glad I can check it off, but it's more of an interesting artifact than anything I'd need to own in 4K.
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Director: Billy Wilder
We're doing a short series of Amazon Watch Parties of the ultra-famous noir films you should probably see at some point in your life. Just three for Noir-vember. That also means these movies have been discussed endlessly, so I'm not gonna do it.
Friday, November 5, 2021
This November, we're having three Amazon Watch Parties to take a look at a few cornerstone films that help give a great idea of what characterizes the Film Noir movement.
You don't get Eddie Muller or Alan K. Rode, but you do get me and Jenifer, and we've seen some of these films.
THIS WEEK: BEST LAID-PLANS NOIR
Not all noir is detectives and whatnot. Sometimes it's folks just getting in way over their heads. Usually because they're chasing a woman they probably shouldn't. Or a man they shouldn't. YMMV.
This is *the* best-laid plans noir. Based on a book by James M. Cain, co-written by Billy Wilder and no less than Raymond Chandler, and masterfully acted by Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson and powerhouse Barbara Stanwyck, it's the top of the mountain for noir.
So get ready for some of the greatest dialog you'll ever hear in a film. And some of the worst people you'll see in one.
DAY: Friday, November 5th
TIME: 8:30 Central, 6:30 Pacific
FORMAT: Amazon Watch Party
Price: appears to be $4
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Watched: 09 and 10/2021
Format: Television Apple+
Juan and Ryan ponder what has come before to consider what is happening now and what will happen next as they take on the famously unfilmable series of books from one of the greats of American sci-fi. Join us as we run the numbers on a show that's epic in scale, and maybe dropping a space elevator on the fans of the books.
Foundation Main Theme - Bear McCreary
Director: Frank Tuttle
This was not at all what I was expecting. It feels almost like a rough draft of something like Heat, where we see both sides of the cop and criminal coin. It's a smidge longer as a result, has some complicated character stuff going on, and is shot in color, which is... very strange, honestly, for the type of movie it is.
But I also want to watch the movie with Jenifer or Tammy so they'll tell me what all of the San Francisco locations are. This is VERY San Francisco. You expect them to sit down and eat a bowl of Rice-a-Roni.
The story is pretty good, but the cast is pretty stellar. Alan Ladd is an ex-cop released from prison for a manslaughter charge that he believes was a set-up. He's been in San Quentin for five years, and despite his wife's desire to get back together, he's been refusing her while in prison and is still, for whatever reason, mad that she saw someone else while he ignored her for five years.* The wife is played by Joanne Dru (Red River), and you're gonna think Ladd is a moron for ignoring her, especially when she performs as a songbird in a nightclub.