Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Noir Watch: Drive a Crooked Road (1954)




Watched:  09/15/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Richard Quine

Before the movie, Muller pointed out that this film sure feels like the same story they use in The Killers from 1964.  If you asked me which to pick, I'd say to reach for The Killers, unless you have the option of the 1946 The Killers, which shares only some cosmetic similarities.  

But, Drive a Crooked Road (1954) was better than I figured, but still not setting the world on fire.  Starring Mickey Rooney as a lonely-hearts mechanic and would-be-race-car-driver, it hits all the beats of noir in a very small scale and is intended to give Rooney a new persona as far from Andy Hardy as possible. 

It doesn't hurt that a young Kevin McCarthy plays a bank-robber who sets up Rooney to fall for his girl, the Rita Hayworth-ish Dianne Foster, and get him wrapped up into a bank robbery as the get away wheelman.  

And, unlike most noir films, they do literally perform the action of the title and drive a crooked road to get away from a bank as we turn the corner into the third act.  

Foster is... okay.  She was clearly signed because she... looks good on film.  But she never quite knocks it out of the park in the charisma department or has that ineffable quality that would have made a really solid femme fatale role one for the ages.  She's not boring, and you get how Rooney's character can't believe how his fortunes have turned when she shows interest, but I can imagine the role in someone else's hands (Rhonda Fleming, honestly) and how much more they might have squeezed out of the part.

McCarthy and his pal played by Jack Kelly are a buyable counterpoint to Rooney's guileless driver.

What really struck me was the third act feeling like crime fiction of the era and earlier, with the quiet, doomed ending when I expected the usual Hayes-approved turn to escape and a happy life for our protagonist as his bad-girl turns good.

Nope.

Anyway, a great installment for this week's Noir Alley.

Waters Watch: Cecil B. Demented (2000)




Watched:  09/13/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  John Waters

2000 was a year for us at our house.  So, I'm not surprised that we missed the release of Cecil B. Demented (2000).  

You could easily release this film today and it would mean as much or more as it would have in 2000, when at least you were coming off an era of people *pretending* to care about indie cinema, if not outlaw cinema.  But here in 2021, the movie - if you ignore the casual violence and how you'd need to reframe it a bit now - is perhaps more relevant than ever as the studios have been purchased by mega corporations and warped the face of the film industry.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Disney Store is No More - 3 Summers in the Sweater

this probably isn't my store, but it's incredibly similar


My first two jobs were working for cartoon mice.

The first job, when I was 16, was at Chuck E. Cheese.  You can read up on that life-altering event at an old post at the first blogsite.  

I don't think I ever got around to writing about the three summers I worked for Mickey at The Disney Store in Houston, Texas.  Well, it seems The Disney Store is no more.  But in the summers on 1993- 1995, and Christmas of 1993, I worked part-time at the satellite representation of the happiest place on Earth.  

It's been a very, very long time since this gig, and as I age, memories tend to grow fonder.  Mostly, these days, I think about how that goofy job where I wore a cardigan and long pants in Houston summer of 98 degree days with 95% humidity, and I wonder how I'm not dead.  But I also think of it as the place that taught me the most about how to put on a game face with co-workers and customers alike, and you get better/ best results out of both.  It's not just stuff I use to this day on the job, it's stuff people pay huge money for in real life Disney Customer Service academies.  No foolin'.  

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sneaky Snake Watch: Anaconda (1998)

This is an infograph of how much you'll care about each character



Watched:  09/10/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second or third
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Some guy

I dunno.  It's a movie about people heading up the Amazon to find a lost tribe who come upon a snake that is huge and doesn't act like a snake at all.  It has JLo and Ice Cube.  So, how bad can it be?

I saw this one opening week in the theater, and what really stuck with me over the years was that Jon Voight is in it, and it made me realize very famous actors can make hilariously bad choices.  And every instinct Voight has in this movie is... so bad it's good.  Paraguayan accent?  Check.  Constant scowl?  Absolutely.  

I am sure there's some conversation that occurred that said "well, Voight's character is the REAL anaconda!  He's the one who sneaks up on you and surprises you with the kill!"  But that's kind of dumb and not right.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

9-11 Twenty Years On




It's been a while since I posted even an image to mention 9/11 on this blog.  

I was 26 when the planes flew into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and a plane fell in Pennsylvania, headed for somewhere else.  I saw online today that they now believe that plane was supposed to target the US Capitol.  As devastating as it was to see the towers fall and the footage of a plane slamming into the Pentagon, I can't imagine where we'd be had that plane headed into DC airspace, let alone reached its target.

At the exact time of the crash, Jamie and I were in a hotel room in Las Vegas.  She'd been laid-off, and I was still just figuring out a new job, and we were married for a year and a half. 

You can't really explain to young people, without sounding naive, that in the years before 9/11, the people on the news weren't always insane, and that they used to do actual, fact-based reporting.  Or that we knew our political systems was divided and a little broken, but we could agree on some list of fundamentals someone had to carry with them when they went to Washington on our behalf.  

It's hard to say that didn't fall with the towers.  

A lot of other things happened, then, too.  It wasn't just the endless cycling of footage of burning buildings and plumes of debris and ash filling New York's avenues.  

Friday, September 10, 2021

A Favor to Ask - Can You Read a Thing?




Hi.

I kind of figure the folks who follow this blog know me a little.  I've been doing this since 2003.  I've published something like 7400 posts between Signal Watch and League of Melbotis.  In there, there's been no small amount of writing and revealing of self.  

Since before 2003, on and off, I've noodled on a prose novel.  I'm in the last 1/4 of this thing, and can see the end on sight.  Which is exciting.  I can think about a second draft, I guess.


The ask:  Can you read as much of it as you stand?  And then send me whatever thoughts you have?  

You don't need to filter them - you can tell me whatever you like, even if it's "I hate it.  I hate everything about it."  That's fine.  It's not like, should this thing hit the light of day, someone won't say that online within 24 hours.

But feedback on confusing plot elements (and I am sure there are many), characters, motivations, scene and setting.  Any of it.  It's all feedback I can use.  Don't worry about punctuation and type-o's too much.  I always think people think I'm looking for a free copy-editor.  No, you're safe there.  

I'm looking at what works and doesn't work as a story or book.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Friday Watch Party: Anaconda (1997)



In 1997, the Bros. Steans + Jamie were big fans of talking each other into going to see whatever goofiness was at Ye Olde Cineplex.  This movie fell squarely into the sort of thing we were constantly convincing ourselves we needed to see.

When someone said Ice Cube and Jon Voight are in a movie with a giant snake, you could sort of see a Ryan-shaped cloud where I once had sat as I sped myself to the movie theatre.  

And, yes, I was aware of Jennifer Lopez at the time, and I did not cry that she was in a lead role.

Anyway - it is a simple movie about a riverboat full of people and the giant snake which eats them.  That's it.  That's the plot.

Starring:  Jon Voight! J.Lo!  Eric Stoltz! Ice Cube! Owen "prefame" Wilson! Kari Wuhrer!  Danny Trejo!  and nerd favorite voice actor Frank Welker as the anaconda!  I'm not kidding!

Join us!

DAY:  Friday - September 10th
TIME:  8:30 Central/ 6:30 Pacific
FORMAT:  Amazon Watch Party
COST:  $4



Brit Noir Watch: Cloudburst (1951)




Watched:  09/06/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:

There's trouble!  Right here in London City!

It's interesting that the French focused so hard on the American films they'd dub "film noir".  It's not like the British weren't making gloomy crime movies around the same time.  Night and the City, Brighton Rock and others point not just to the "noir movement" in England, but that the films made there weren't afraid to go incredibly dark.

Produced by Hammer (they did more than horror, kids), this one stars American Robert Preston as a Canadian in service to British Intelligence as a codebreaker still doing his work in the wake of WWII to help prosecute war criminals.  The film takes place just a year after the war, and Preston is married to a fellow intelligence officer whom he fell in love with during their time as POWs, where both were tortured.

They have a chance now at a happy, calm life, with a baby on the way, when - one night as they pause on a country roadside considering buying some property, Preston's wife is struck and killed by criminals escaping a murder.  

Monday, September 6, 2021

90's Watch: Without You I'm Nothing (1990)



Watched:  09/06/2021
Format:  TCM Underground
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  John Boskovich

This is a weird watch in 2021.  I couldn't remember where Sandra Bernhard was on the cultural radar in 1990.  I certainly knew who she was as I was exiting high school in Spring of 1993, and thereby hangs a tale for another day, but in 1990?  Was she yet TV famous?  

I will say this - I do remember kind of adoring Sandra Bernhard in high school.  She was, like, a lot.  But for a late-80's/ early-90's context, she was candid and caustic and smart as hell, and there wasn't much of that on TV (and less so in real life).  And, she had some talent!

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Wow Watch: Sorry To Bother You (2018)




Watched:  09/04/2021
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Boots Riley

Man, I am not even going to try to summarize or reflect on this movie.

What I do know is that AmyC was going to make me podcast this, and it would have been one in a series of movies Amy woud have shown me that would have blown my mind and then she would have been, like, "hey - react!"  I love that she does this, but I think I always spend the first 5-15 minutes of those podcasts trying to get my thoughts in order.

Anyway - HIGHLY recommended.   You haven't seen anything like it.



Saturday, September 4, 2021

Comics BioPic Watch: Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (2017)



Watched:  09/04/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director/ Writer:  Angela Robinson

Why do biopics exist?  

No, really.  Because I don't think producers really know.  

Taking someone else's life and presenting it to the populace in order to tell a story that you want to tell, when you can't be bothered with reality or facts, is a tremendous disservice to the people you're speaking for.  It also means that whatever story you're telling - the point of it, whatever that might be - is now hopelessly compromised the moment someone googles the subject of your film.  Whatever homily you hoped to make of a life isn't going to survive first contact with anyone wondering why the hell you changed so many things.  The hubris, man.

Look, I am not a William Moulton Marston scholar.  I've read possibly three or four books about the history of Wonder Woman over the past 25 years, and I've done my fair share of reading of articles on and offline on same, and therefore touched upon the people at the center of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017).  

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Screwball Magic Comedy Watch: I Married a Witch (1942)




Watched:  09/02/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Rene Clair

Uh, look.  I know this movie is well regarded, but it wasn't my cup of tea.  It had some great ideas, some terrific effects for the era (and during WWII, no less).  And, let's be honest, I'd watch Veronica Lake do her taxes.

But it never hit me as funny, somehow.  Which seems like a good thing for a comedy to do.  It felt like it should have starred William Powell, and the pacing should have been different.  But the co-stars have no chemistry, and I think I turned it off 3 times before I finished it.

So.  A good one for other people, but.  Not so much me, which I was a bit sad about.  I know people love this.



Signal Watch in October: Friday Watch Parties Classic Horror Film Fest



This year, every Friday in October we'll watch a Halloween film and make it an Amazon Watch Party (pending unforeseen scheduling conflicts).  

But we're not going to go for the usual schlocky faire as we scour the bottom of the Amazon Prime "free to me" barrel.  We're going to watch a handful of films that you will have heard about and maybe seen once or twice, but make for excellent Halloween Classics.  

It will set you back the cost of the rental or purchase, but, hey, these will be movies you should probably see, anyway.

Your host will be that wiley creature of the night, Count Dracula Jr., whom Jamie LOVES.  Yes she does.

SCHEDULE

October 1 -   Dracula (1931)
October  8 -  Frankenstein (1932)
October 15 - Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
October 22 - The Wolfman (1941)
October 29 - Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)




Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Cameron Watch: The Abyss - Director's Cut (1989)




Watched:  08/28/2021
Format:  DVD I bought on ebay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  James Cameron

I would have been about 14 when The Abyss (1989) hit, and it arrived as a sort of prestige sci-fi film.  I remember seeing it in a packed house on a Saturday within the first week or two it was out (with my pals), and it was a*very big deal*.  

It became a staple of our rotation, but one you had to make time for.  The thing was 2.5 hours long.  It felt smart and somewhat relevant.  A Cold War story and not so displaced from our own time and technology, an underwater oil platform made sense - especially as run by roughnecks and fairly blue-collar technical crew.  

Monday, August 30, 2021

PODCAST: "Shallow Grave" (1994) - a Signal Watch Canon Episode w. MBell, MRSHL and Ryan




Watched:  08/21/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  3rd or 4th
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Danny Boyle



What happens when three narcissistic jerks combine their powers and slowly turn against each other? You get a podcast! We welcome new contributor MBell to the podcast who brings us a suitcase full of surprises as we discuss the mid-90's Scottish indie film thriller that was a crucial bit of what was going on in the 90's cinema scene. Join us as we root around the attic of our minds and recall how this movie fit in for us as young adults and our appreciation of movies!




Music:
Shallow Grave Theme - Simon Boswell


Canon Episodes

Horror Catch-Up Watch: Candyman (1992)




Watched:  08/29/2021
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Bernard Rose

Interesting.

So help me, from 1992 until about, oh, 2016, I thought Candyman (1992) was just another quick, cheaply produced horror entry along the lines of (forgive me) Leprechaun.  I really thought it was horny teens saying "Bloody Mary" in a mirror and getting murdered, and that seemed.... stupid.  I don't really care about a lot of horror, and that seemed like a good one to not care about.

In college (1993) I lived on the "arts" floor in Jester West, and our two study lounges had large murals painted on the walls from students past.  One room had kinda Nagel-esque pictures of pianos or something, and the other had a (not amazing) mural of Jimi Hendrix.  One day, a very nice girl from my floor came in there while I was studying and was upset she couldn't use the other room for one reason or another, and I said "well, you can study here.  I'm just reading." and she said "Nope.  That mural looks like Candyman."  And I was like "from the horror movie?"  She nodded and backed out and that was that.  

Strong reaction, that, I thought.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Regret Interaction Watch: "Burlesque" (2010)




Watched:  08/27/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Kind of first/ Kind of second
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Steve Antin


I had never seen the beginning or end of Burlesque (2010).  A few years back I had a barber/ stylist who had set up a salon in her house, and instead of the mirror in front of you, she had a television.  And one time I went in and watched a huge chunk of Burlesque, because she'd get distracted by the movie or TV show she was watching, and what should have been a 20 minute haircut (my hair is so boring, I call the style "The Continental"), turned into a nearly 90 minute journey every time.  

Anyway - she was into the movie, and I know lots of people are.  But I come bearing bad news.  Burlesque is a super terrible film that has so much money and star power thrown at it, it looks like it should be good and people kind of accept that maybe it is.  But it isn't.

Ed Asner Merges With The Infinite




Actor and icon Ed Asner has passed at the age of 91.

Asner was a fixture of television - I remember him on reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show when I was a kid, just like everyone else.  But he was massively prolific.  In no way do I identify Asner with a specific role or era.  He simply was a fact of entertainment.  

The most surprising role I saw him take was as the voice of Granny Goodness on Superman: The Animated Series.  I still remember watching the cartoon when Jamie was in the hospital and her mom was reading a magazine, and she looked up at the TV and said "is that a guy voicing that woman?" and I said "that's Ed Asner" and she put down her magazine and took in some Fourth World mayhem.

He had some kind of relationship with comics and sci-fi, because he also voiced Daggett on Batman: The Animated Series, as well as voices on Spider-Man, Freakazoid and certainly Disney's Gargoyles.  The last thing I saw him in was in Season 2 of Doom Patrol.  

But the man played everything, up to and including Santa Claus in holiday staple Elf.  Just one of those actors that when he showed up, we'd be pointing at the TV and saying "is that Ed Asner!?"  Always good, always spot on in whatever he did, and seemed like a delight of a man.

I'm very sorry to see him go.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Return to Swashbuckle Watch: The Mask of Zorro (1998)




Watched:  08/27/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Martin Campbell

Having had just watched 1940's The Mark of Zorro, it seemed like a good idea to check out other iterations of the character.  I've been watching episodes of the low-budget 1990's TV show, but the last big splash Zorro made at cinemas were the two films starring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The Mask of Zorro (1998) came out just as I graduated college, and was considered kind of a minor action triumph at the time of its release.  It doesn't speak to the future of superhero film, instead playing like the best of the best of the pulp-hero films of the 1990's, but this movie and it's sequel The Legend of Zorro, spoke to the weird world building and return to franchises that would become a staple of media by the 2010's.  

For some reason, this movie is about Don Diego de la Vega failing and the shenanigans coming to an end, with two decades spent in a jail cell.  It's frankly a lazy and unbelievable scenario that Don Rafael would not have seen Zorro killed, as bloodthirsty as this film portrays its villains, but it does prop up the rest of the story - which also doesn't make a ton of sense.  In the melee, Don Diego sees his wife accidentally shot, and Rafael yoinks the baby, taking her with him as he runs off to Spain as the Mexican Revolution of 1821 will unseat him and possibly see him killed by revolutionaries.  

Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday Watch Party: BURLESQUE (2010)




So, I used to go to this woman's house to get my haircut, and she took forever because she was watching TV or movies while she cut my hair.  And the one that kind of broke me was the 2010 attempt at being good, Burlesque.  I didn't see all of it, but I saw enough of it.

First problem:  your lead is not a professional actor.  
Second problem:  somehow the movie makes seasoned actors seem like they, too, cannot act.  
Third problem:  the movie was written and directed by a guy whose credits included doing, like, two Pussycat Dolls videos

Feature, not a bug:  the movie is complete nonsense.  

Starring:  CHER, Alan Cumming, Peter Gallagher, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Julianne Hough, and Christina Aguilera AND MORE

DAY:  Friday, 08/27
TIME:  8:00 PM Central, 6:00 PM Pacific
Streaming Service:  Amazon Watch Party

Link to movie here (it's working now, H)

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Swashbuckle Watch: The Mark of Zorro (1940)



Watched:  08/26/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Rouben Mamoulian

I'm fully down with the idea of Zorro.  Back in the 1970's and 80's, the character was still relatively popular as our parents had come up on Zorro movies and the Disney television show.  We got a cartoon and Zorro the Gay Blade.  I did watch some reruns of the Disney show, and in 1990 I watched the first season or two of Zorro on the Family Channel.  And, I quite liked the two Antonio Banderas/ Catherine Zeta Jones films.

Somehow I'd never watched this movie.  Ironically, I once owed dozens of dollars in late fees on the movie when I rented it in college and lost it in my apartment (it somehow got kicked under the bed), but I never got to see it before I found and returned it.  So, here we are.  

Superman & Lois Season 1 - That Went Okay




Well, that went better than expected.  

If you watched, I invite you to jump into the comments.

It's hard to wrap up talking about an entire season of a television show, but I can say without reservation that it was considerably better than I figured we'd get.  I've done some due diligence - I watched *most* of Smallville, all of Supergirl to date, several seasons of The Flash, about 2.5 seasons of Legends of Tomorrow, and plenty of crossovers between the shows.   The CW DC shows are great to watch on the elliptical when there's a shortage of O2 headed to your skull, but none of it's working on the level of Watchmen or name-your-prestige-show.  

At this point, I've seen some remarkable comics adaptations on TV as well as the movies.  I'm still reeling from what Marvel has delivered on Disney+.

I didn't mind that DC and CW were afraid to take on a Superman show.  After all, Superman should be a movie-level property, even if Superman has traditionally employed serial and multi-episodic formats in radio, cartoons, television and more.   I mean, the Fleischers were so certain of this notion, they asked for a ridiculous budget to make Superman cartoons, and someone gave them that money.  And, 80 years later, those cartoons still look insanely good.  Superman: The Movie was massively expensive and, man, it's a singularly beautiful movie.  You can see how the character fell from grace as sequels worked with lower budgets, limping through Superman 4.  

But, as rocker David St. Hubbins observed:  It's such a fine line between stupid and clever.

Monday, August 23, 2021

PODCAST: Jurassic Park (1993) - a Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ Jamie and Ryan




Watched:  08/20/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Steven Spielberg



and 18 year old me also noticed the movie had lizards or something


We were so preoccupied with whether or not we could talk about the biggest movie of the 90's, we didn't stop to think if we should.

Jamie and Ryan take you on a (nsfw) podcast 28 years in the making! Join us as we splice together opinion, facts and memories to recall the gigantic beast of a movie that crashed down on an unsuspecting public and changed everything! We'll talk about how this movie was a moment of evolution for the film industry and entertainment, and how we (J & R) became fascinated with a movie about a day at the park not going super great. And, who makes khaki shorts work.




Music:
Jurassic Park Theme Revised - Jamie M. "Goldenpipes" Steans
Theme from Jurassic Park - John Williams
Jurassic Park End Credits - John Williams
Jurassic Park Theme Revised - I'm not really sure


Signal Watch Canon

Noir Re-Watch: The Big Heat (1953)




Watched:  08/22/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Fritz Lang

It's possible to say that The Big Heat (1953) is one of my favorite films.  I've seen it plenty, will watch parts of it when it pops up on TCM or wherever, and I think about parts of it a lot when considering other films.  I found it when I was discovering Gloria Grahame, and she's absolutely part of why I always come back to the movie.  She's so dang good in this movie as gangsters moll Debby Marsh - a plucky girl who has compromised a lot so she doesn't sink back into poverty.   To me, while she's very different from movies to movie, "excellent" is typical for the era from Grahame- but some consider this to be her final "great" performance.  Okay.  Fair enough.  She had some issues.  But what a way to leave a mark in cinema.

But I'm also fascinated by the story of the cop who spends his days and nights "white knighting" and not participating in the rampant corruption of his police department, only to lose his wife and... snap.  Like, Glenn Ford's Dave Bannion is not okay through a big part of the film.  It's an unusual fall from grace for a Hayes Era film, and while Bannion never quite breaks the Hayes Code, he sure seems like he might here and there.  

It's also got Lee Marvin in an early role, just filling up the screen and seeming like a whole lot more than the psycho second banana he's supposed to be, and playing it with a cool believability that his peers on screen aren't yet able to muster.

Anyway, I've written about this one before, and it's be a kick to podcast at some point.  So I'll duck out here.  But if you haven't seen it, give it a chance.  It feels remarkably modern for something 70 years old.

  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

70's Thriller Watch: Klute (1971)




Watched:  08/18/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Alan J. Pakula

In, I believe, 1996 the assistant manager at Camelot Records found out I was a film major.  
"Have you seen Klute?" she asked.
"No.  What is it?"
"Jane Fonda.  Donald Sutherland.  She's a hooker and he's a detective."
"Huh.  I'll need to check that out."
She'd check in weekly, really, to see if I'd seen it yet, and to be truthful, every time I went to rent it at I Love Video, it was checked out.  Or lost.  I didn't know, but it wasn't in.  But, yeah.
So, here we are, Jill.  25 years later, I finally watched Klute (1971).

Well, Klute is, actually, a very good movie.  Two thumbs up.  I dug it.  Nice, grimy pre-punk New York, Donald Sutherland nailing quiet intensity that I am sure made someone swoon.  Fonda maybe a little patrician for the role, but that's kind of the point, I think.  

Sutherland does play a private investigator, John Klute, searching for an executive who went missing a long time before.  The clues are scant, except for a letter that matches several that a call girl (Fonda) received, shortly after getting beat up by a john she barely remembers, one of a sea of faces.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Happy Birthday, Lois Lane

art by the great Nicola Scott



Well, the internets (and especially Max) tell me today, August 17th, is the observed birthday of intrepid reporter, Lois Lane.  

If you've hung around these parts long enough, you'll know I'm a Lois Lane fan, be it comics, television, movies, cartoons, what-have-you.  She's as big a deal to me as anyone else in comics and very much the key to Superman as a character.  

It's been an absolute delight to have Lois on my television this year and realized in the capable hands of the astounding Elizabeth Tulloch.  She doesn't just get the character through and through, she's managed to sort out the Lois of the show and made her her own.  And made 100% clear how she's at least 50% of this package.



Anyway, any excuse to celebrate Lois, I'm going to take.  

Happy birthday, Lois!


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Annie (1982)

pretty sure that's Aileen Quinn's head photoshopped onto someone else's body



Watched:  08/14/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  John Huston

Little Orphan Annie is a weird property that, frankly, I can't believe hasn't resurfaced in the past decade of "re-imaginings".  If you can have Archie Andrews battling supernatural forces, and... the same with Nancy Drew, it seems like a junior, globe-trotting adventurer with a dog and a potentially diverse cast seems like a pretty easy sell for a franchise.  

But for people to know that was what the strip was about would mean people read newspapers and therefore comic strips.  Instead, most of my generation knows the character from either the 1982 film Annie, or from one of the thousands of local theatre group productions of the musical upon which the movie is based (I've never seen it live).  

Friday, August 13, 2021

Friday Watch Party: ANNIE (1982)




It's the hard knock life.  For us.  

The year was 1982!  Annie the Broadway Musical was now going to be Annie: The Movie!  

If you were of a certain age, you were legally required to see Annie, and, indeed, we did.  Not really understanding the Depression, the politics, or the greatness of Carol Burnet, but totally getting that moving into a mansion with endless money on hand was rad as hell.

It's since been remade at least twice that I know about, but there's only one original movie.  


Day:  08/13/2021
Time:  8:30 Central/ 6:30 Pacific
Cost:  UNCLEAR.  It was $4.  Now it might be on Prime?  

BUT - just look at that CAST!  And directed by John "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" Huston!  It's a huge, splashy entertainment with a dog, helicopters and a shit ton of dancing!  Join us!


Thursday, August 12, 2021

PodCast: "The Suicide Squad" (2021) - a Kryptonian Thought-Beast Episode w/ Jamie & Ryan




Watched:  08/09/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  James Gunn



Jamie and Ryan take on a hastily assembled mission to watch the rebooty sequel to the 2016 disaster, this time with a heavy dose of what they were trying to do in the first place - get that James Gunn vibe. A wild cast lines up as our anti-heroes take a Caribbean tour and DC throws yet more stuff at the wall, utterly unsure of what they're doing, but with the promise of a whole bunch of nonsense looking you in the eye.




Music:
Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash
People Who Died, Jim Carroll Band


DC Movies and TV

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Noir Watch: Where Danger Lives (1950)




Watched:  08/11/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's
Director:  John Farrow

I had seen this before, about eight years ago, but only remembered bits and pieces of it.  

Mitchum plays an over worked San Francisco-based doctor who plans to leave the hospital to start his own practice (and not put in 24 hour days).  He's got a swell gal in the person a Maureen O'Sullivan, a very understanding nurse, and all is looking good.  UNTIL.  He takes on a suicide attempt in the person of Faith Domergue - pitched here as the sexy, wealthy, society gal who throws herself at Mitchum.  That is until he figures out that Claude Raines (in high Raines style here) is not her father, but her husband.  A scuffle ensues, and Raines ends up dead.  Plus, Mitchum ends up concussed when he was already drunk.

Domergue leads Mitchum on, and they make a pretty classic noir-era cross-country escape to get across the border and escape murder charges.   Meanwhile, Domergue might be a lunatic and Mitchum has a serious concussion that needs attention.

It has a bit of a fugitive The Live By Night, on the lam quality, a noir staple (I'm immediately thinking of a few others, including High Sierra).  And comparisons to Detour are inevitable and unfortunate as that shines a light on the fact that Domergue just isn't Ann Savage.  It's a bit unclear what the appeal is beyond "pretty".  As nutsy as Ann Savage was, she at least had personality to spare.  

Still, it's a good watch for a second viewing in 10 years.  Mitchum is surprisingly dialed in, playing the increasing medical trauma in a buyable, understated way that stretches him beyond "awesome dude with troubles".  Raines was probably on set for 3 days to get his part in, but he's terrific.  

There are a number of setbacks for our leads en route to Mexico, and, frankly, they feel both concocted to the point of stretching credulity and absolutely like the dumb things that can keep you from achieving what seems like very reasonable goals.  Especially while traveling.  

Anyway - I don't dislike it, but there's a reason I only sort-of remembered it before turning it on.  But from now on it'll be "the one where Mitchum gets way-layed by small-town folk and their insistence on beards".

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Noir Watch: Farewell, My Lovely (1975)




Watched:  08/09/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Dick Richards


I've read the Raymond Chandler novel upon which Farewell, My Lovely (1975) is based a couple of times, and seen the Dick Powell-starring 1944 film adaptation Murder, My Sweet (1944) a handful of times.  I do appreciate the 1970's neo-noir movement and the adaptations or interpretations I've seen, but there's always such a layer of 1960's or 1970's-ness all over the films, you feel like they can't get out of their own way making sure you know "we have updated this for modern times".

This movie, however, is a period piece, adhering as close to the source material as possible, with a definite romanticism for the genre, the book and the movies which it inspired.  While some updating occurs, the politics of the 1970's are only thinly layered on, and the story does take place just prior to WWII (the novel was released in 1940), but with the not insubstantial casting choice of a 58 year old Robert Mitchum.  And, look, you'll never catch me saying a negative thing about Mitchum, but this may be about 15 years too old for the character, no matter who that actor is.  The script changes the novel enough to take Mitchum's age into account here and there, and I absolutely get why the filmmakers were thrilled to get him.  Mitchum would have been ideal casting for a production from '50-'57.  

Saturday, August 7, 2021

PODCAST: "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" and "Loki" (2021) - Marvel Television PodCast w/ Jamie and Ryan



Format:  Disney+
Decade:  2020's
Director(s):  Kari Skogland  and Kate Herron



Jamie and Ryan catch up on two Marvel shows that made their way to Disney+, looking forward from the Infinity Saga, and maybe... sideways from the Infinity Saga? It's a far-ranging discussion of Marvel's efforts to bring their characters to living rooms everywhere, one week at a time. Maybe too much discussion for one podcast, but you get what you pay for.




Music:
Louisiana HeroHenry Jackman, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier OST
TVA Natalie Holt, Loki OST


Marvel at Signal Watch:


Monday, August 2, 2021

Doc Watch: Chris Claremont's X-Men (2018)




Watched:  08/02/2021
Format:  YouTube
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Patrick Meaney

Chris Claremont didn't invent the X-Men, but he did turn them from a middling Marvel team book that could have/ should have disappeared into a sprawling mythology with beloved characters that became a multimedia franchise (that Disney is probably losing a lot of sleep over how to properly exploit).  Chris Claremont didn't introduce me to comics, but he did write comics that hit me like lightning, over and over again, and made me a devoted comics reader - a habit that has lasted 35+ years.

While everyone is still young and healthy, a documentary crew put together what is really a remarkable doc explaining what Claremont's X-Men was, why it was so unique in the world of comics, and what eventually broke it.  Including interviews from people who broke it, still totally unaware of what they did 25 years after the fact, still high on their own supply.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

PODCAST: "Meatballs" (1979) - a Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ JAL and Ryan



Watched:  07/28/2021
Format:  Justin's backyard
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Ivan Reitman



JAL and I have some margaritas, watch a movie outside and then record a podcast outside about a movie that takes place outside. It's maybe ground zero for what became a genre unto itself in the 1980's (the camp movie), and a subgenre of the "misfits vs. the preps" - but this one actually has some heart! And some great gags. Join us after a few margaritas and this will all make more sense. FAIR WARNING: this is the most wandering podcast ever recorded here at The Signal Watch.




Music:
Are You Ready For The Summer? - North Star Camp Chorus, Meatballs OST
Meatballs - Rick Dees, Meatballs OST

Signal Watch Canon:

Watching the 2020 Olympics in 2021




So, our house is one of those that every few years shuts down whatever else we're doing - watching movies, watching baseball, etc...  and we watch the Olympics, both Summer and Winter.  This started when Jamie and I were dating, so you're talking going back to, like, 1996 (Atlanta).  

I've had my beefs over the years with the Olympic sports themselves, but mostly the coverage of the Olympics by NBC.  Now, NBC has multiple networks going, so you have about 3-4 options 24 hours per day, plus the Peacock app where you can watch events after the fact.

Full stop, my favorite things in the Olympics are:
  • Women's Beach Volleyball
  • Women's Soccer
  • anything during Track and Field
Look, I showed up for Beach Volleyball about 2004 for less than wholesome reasons, but that's long since in the rearview mirror.  And, yes, my favorite squad has transferred from Walsh-Jennings/ May-Trainor to Ross and Klineman.  I mean - Ross/Klineman kick ass.   

Friday, July 30, 2021

Happy Birthday, Arnold Schwarzenegger!

 


Today is the 74th birthday of bodybuilder, actor, politician and mammal enthusiast Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Arnold is not only kind of the John Wayne of my generation, he's kind of become larger than life in my imagination since I started watching his films starting with Conan the Barbarian.  

I've not always been on the same page as Arnie, but in a better world, this isn't a huge deal.  And I think Arnie is genuinely concerned with making a better world. 

At 74, he's still making movies, worrying about how to remain in great shape and passing along tips on how to do so - and being wildly encouraging to the readers of his newsletter about us getting healthy, too (I'm trying, Arnie).  

Anyway - I hope he's having a great day out there, wherever he is.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Thriller Watch: Cause for Alarm! (1951)




Watched:  07/27/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Tay Garnett

Much like Beware, My Lovely, also written by Mel Dinelli, Cause for Alarm! (1951) feels like it could have been a play just as easily as a film.  The action takes place in a very limited amount of time, in very few locations, and resolve not abruptly, but quickly and fairly completely (minus a body or two).  And, a very small cast.  I think there's maybe 8 characters with speaking parts, if that.

I try to keep up with Noir Alley on TCM anyway, but you can do far worse than Loretta Young as your star.  I'll categorize the movie as noir because, hey, Eddie Muller had it on his show, but like Beware, My Lovely, it feels more like a straight thriller than particularly noir, either from an aesthetic or thematic standpoint.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

PODCAST: "Black Widow" (2021) - An Avengers Countdown Episode w. Jamie and Ryan




Watched:  07/09/2021
Format:  Disney+ Premier Access
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Cate Shortland



Hey! We watched the latest installment in the ever-expanding Marvel media monolith! And we had so much to say, we came back and added a few more minutes to the end. Join us as we rush in to talk about our favorite Avenger from behind the iron curtain! It's a family affair as we meet the folks Natasha grew up with, and go home again to meet the world's worst sorority.




Music:
Natasha's Lullaby - Lorne Balfe, Black Widow OST
American Pie - Don McLean


Marvel Movie Discussion




Sunday, July 25, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Highlander (1986)




Watched:  07/23/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director: Russell Mulcahy


I hadn't watched The Highlander (1986) in years.  It was a movie I saw on VHS as a kid, loved it, and include it's mythology and catch-phrases as part of my Gen-X slang.  I mean, it did give us the phrase "there can be only one", which I think has leaked out into the popular consciousness, even if lots of folks don't know where the phrase came from.

But like The Beastmaster, The Highlander was part of the lingua franca of geek culture for Gen-X nerds.  It had a not-particularly charismatic lead, Connery chewing schenery, a woman throwing herself at the lead for absolutely no reason (and against all logic), swords, trenchcoats, a crazy-ass villain in the form of Clancy Brown as a mad Cossack, and a soundtrack by mid-80's Queen.

And sparks.  So many sparks.

Going in, I knew the movie wouldn't be what I remembered when I was 12, even if the movie was exactly what I remembered from when I was 12.  It's.... fine.  A little slim in the character department in favor of the plot and exposition departments.  And it's also a funny movie because it does feel like it should be the first installment in a series until you think about the plot and realize "nope, this is it."  Not that movie didn't generate three sequels and a TV show.  

I will never understand the idea behind casting Christopher Lambert as a Scotsman.  I will never understand casting Sean Connery as an Egyptian Spaniard.  And yet, I support both.  It's absurd.  And somehow just part of the fabric of the movie.  

I do like how the movie merges present with flashbacks to tell the story - this was not particularly common to sci-fi or fantasy at the time, and trying to imagine someone explaining all of this in realtime in the present would have been deadly.  Clancy Brown makes a hell of an impression as a badguy who has flipped his lid - maybe not new to cop thrillers by 1986, but new to fantasy.  And the bit with the girl MacCloud saved during WWII who is still with him is a brilliant little touch, even if she should have been introduced earlier and their relationship clarified.  I mean, there's a whole movie in that somewhere.

But it's also not something I think anyone should take particularly seriously.  Connery sets the right tone - this is crazy, and we should enjoy it.  The ending is telegraphed nonsense, but still fun.  

Now we'd be treated to someone's plans for a franchise, with massive world building and a wide array of characters.  Here, we get... four Immortals in the modern era?  And no women at that?  (So 1980's).  So I do appreciate that it's both semi-thoughtful, but smart enough to just tell the story and get out.  

Anyway. Highlander.  


TV Watch: Ted Lasso (for the folks who haven't seen it, and maybe those who have)




The pandemic has caused some major shifts to my television viewing.  I was not a binge watcher, and basically didn't follow all that much television until I was locked in my house for the better part of two years.  

I've recently watched the 10 episodes of Ted Lasso's first season three times through.  Kind of... all in a row.  This is not a thing I do.  You're lucky if I don't bail on a show after three episodes.  Season 2 has debuted on Friday, July 23rd.  I'm making my recommendation, so take it or leave it.  Also, the show was just nominated for a boat-load of Emmy's, so.  Someone other than me thought this was done well.

I, myself, had heard about Ted Lasso coming to Apple TV+ here and there, and then saw people yelling "I love Ted Lasso!" on social media, but, let's be honest.  People go nuts for shows all the time that are... not good.  None of us are to be trusted when recommending shows, especially unsolicited.  Hell, in the geek-o-sphere, I think we double-down on terrible shows, but that's a post for another day.  

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Happy Birthday, Lynda Carter

Happy birthday, Lynda Carter!

Today is the 70th birthday of actor, singer, performer, and icon Lynda Carter.

She's got a new album out in a few days and her Wonder Woman episodes are streaming on HBOmax - so go get on it!  (And just last week, TCM aired her Mark Lester directed movie Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw).  

So, make it a Carter-tastic day!  Go listen to one of her records or watch a WW episode!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Friday Watch Party: Highlander - Friday night!




There can be only one movie where a Frenchman plays a Scotsman and a Scotsman plays a Spaniard and an American plays a Cossack.  And no one cares!

It's the 1980's fantasy favorite all the nerds loved back in the 1990's til the sequel came out and made it all seem ridiculous.  But the original is pretty good, has three great leads and music by Queen.  So...

Don't lose your head!  We're doing it 

Day:  Friday 07/23
Time:  9:00 Central/ 7:00 Pacific




Art House Watch: My Dinner With Andre (1981)




Watched:  07/22/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Louis Malle

I would guess more Gen-X'ers know My Dinner With Andre (1981) by reputation than have actually seen the film, by a country mile.  Held up as the epitome of intellectualism in film by the time I hit film school in the mid-90's, I remember an art teacher in fifth grade (circa 1985) telling us about the movie, the same guy who also showed us Talking Heads videos, including what I think was Stop Making Sense.*  

As much of a reputation as the movie earned, it also became a sort of cultural shibboleth and punchline.   In the era of "Woody Allen is an intellectual genius" and last days of New York as the cultural epicenter for America (arguably shifting to LA by the late 1980's), the idea that a film would take on such heady topics as the nature of performance and theater, and, in fact, consciousness with a bent that's new-agey post-hippie "awareness" dressed up in tweed and fine dining was like pushing every button for the culture, especially in outposts outside of New York that longed to see themselves embroiled in such conversations.  Of course it played well to both the audience it portrayed and the audience of art-majors and film critics across the country.  That's not a dig - I'm just not surprised.