Saturday, February 6, 2021

Noir Watch: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)




Watched:  02/06/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Tay Garnett

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) is among the top ten films I'd recommend in a "what you need to know about noir" seminar.  It's got an earned place among the noir canon, and even though I've read the book and seen it half-dozen times, I find myself thoroughly enjoying every time I return to it.  It simply works.  

It shares a certain headspace with Double Indemnity, which makes sense as both started as novels by James M. Cain.  There's not just a gritty realism in how characters are and behave, it's matched by the worlds Cain created that seem not far off from our own.  Roadside diners, insurance offices.  Heck, throw in Mildred Pierce and you're in the suburbs and building up comfortable eateries.  

All it really takes is infatuation to become an obsession, and everything can go off the rails.  

Friday, February 5, 2021

Friday Night Amazon Party: Mannequin 2 - On the Move

 


You. Will. Know. Pain.

Day:    02/05/2021
Time:  8:30 PM Central
Source:  Amazon Watch Party


I've never seen this.  It's a 13% critics score on RT.  Metacritic doesn't even register it.

It's the second in a series of movies that asks "hey, would you @#$% a store mannequin?" and tells the tale of yet another fellow who absolutely would.

Christopher Plummer Merges With the Infinite

 


Actor Christopher Plummer has passed at the age of 91.  

Look, it's hard to get through Plummer's filmography, because he's been working for decades upon decades, and has been in so many memorable films - and I think he's amazing in the recent Knives Out.

But I also credit him with making me realize actors could be many things.  In 1987 or 1988, when I saw the comedic reboot of Dragnet on VHS, I remember snapping to "that... that's Christopher Plummer" as we were watching the movie.  I mean, I only knew him from Sound of Music and as a "serious" actor.  Seeing him in something so goofy, and what they were doing to leverage his gravitas, was kind of fascinating to me as a kid.  Anyway - it taught me a little something about actors and their range, and their desire to be more than one thing.  I won't say at age 12 or 13 that I stretched the idea beyond that - but over the years, watching him appear in film and after film, pulling off whatever was in front of him, was amazing.  

Of course, I didn't know at the time, either, he had entered this phase of his career and was just as likely to appear in serious drama as, say, Starcrash.  (He's actually very good in Star Trek VI).

But, man, what a life.  He'll be missed.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Ida Lupino at 103

 


Today marks Ida Lupino's date of birth, 1918.  She's a favorite here at The Signal Watch, and I probably go on about her too much, but that's just how we're gonna be.  I will defend this decision forever.




Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Noir Re-Watch: The Unsuspected (1947)




Watched:  02/03/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  4th?
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Michael Curtiz

Michael Curtiz directed innumerable good to great movies, and we find ourselves watching his output a few times per year one way or another, but since finding The Unsuspected (1947) as part of my "let's watch all the Audrey Totter stuff we can find" quest, I'm a little surprised it just isn't more widely discussed.  The cinematography alone is noteworthy, courtesy industry veteran Elwood Bridell.  Add in a Franz Waxman score, and multiple hooks for a story, and it already has plenty to recommend it before you point out Claude Rains stars.



Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Ida Watch Party Watch: Jennifer (1953)




Watched:  02/01/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Joel Newton


A thriller which lifts elements from plenty of Gothic mysteries, borrows from noir, and has an ending that's maybe whatever the opposite is of deus ex machina, Jennifer (1953) has some great things going for it, but was not my cup of tea, exactly, but I found myself actually fairly wrapped up in the mystery.

Starring the lovely and talented Ida Lupino, with photography by James Wong Howe (one of the best to ever DP a movie), it still feels oddly like a B- picture, and maybe it was.  The film runs (blessedly) short, relies upon a small cast where Lupino is the biggest star, and we see only a handful of locations.   
Lupino wasn't quite done with movies at this point, and two of my favorite of hers follow this one: Private Hell 36 and the phenomenal The City That Never Sleeps.  She'd just come off two great films with Robert Ryan, Beware, My Lovely and the icy On Dangerous Ground.  By the time she hit her 40's in the late 1950's, she was more or less transitioning to TV where she'd remain for the rest of her career - as, at the same time, she took to directing as much or more than acting.*

Monday, February 1, 2021

PODCAST: "Soul" (2020) - a Pixar Watch featuring Pixar Lighting Lead Ryan Michero! (and NathanC and me)

 


Watched:  01/30/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2020
Directors:  Pete DocterKemp Powers (co-director)


Ryan and Nathan are joined by Pixar Lighting Lead, Ryan Michero, to talk about "Soul", now available on Disney+. We take a deep dive into the technical wizardry and challenges of "how does one light a conceptual construct?" to discussing the process and storytelling that makes Pixar the best there is. Join us for a conversation with one of the folks who makes the magic happen!
 

Music:
Born to Play - John Batiste, Soul OST
The Great Before/ U Seminar - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Soul OST

Disney History Playlist

Television - some stuff I've watched



I'd originally started this post at the end of last year in order to relay what all we'd been watching.  At this point, it's kind of hard to remember through the haze that was 2020 and the endless hours in my spot on the sofa what I put my eyeballs on.  As you may know, I mostly watched movies, and baseball came back in July.  I even gave a go of becoming a fan of Korean baseball, but kinda failed at that.

In general, I don't binge TV shows (and quietly judge people on twitter complaining when shows come out once per week), but this year has been a year unlike others.  And I did plow right through some shows that I might otherwise have ignored.  

For example - I watched all of something called The Great Flower Fight, which I can't say I even liked, but at the start of the pandemic, it was the right show at the right time.  As was Love is Blind.

Frankly - I do not get how TV is funded in this era of a million channels and streaming services.  What constitutes a win versus a cancel.  It's all just a big mystery to me.  There's so much stuff out there, and while the same percentage of it is watchable, with the sheer volume, there's a lot of decent TV in existence at this point.  But, yikes, there's a lot of stuff on, and somebody is watching it.  

None of these shows are recommendations, but the list is what I've watched over the past 12 months or so between baseball and movies.  Some of it's pretty bad - but I somehow stuck it out. 

I'm also not looking for recommendations - and I know you all have them.  Good!  Say them very quietly inside your head and give a knowing smile to yourself.  Ahhh....  there's that familiar glow of a recommendation.

Anyway - here's my best possible stab at a list

  • Doom Patrol
  • Filthy Rich
  • The Righteous Gemstones
  • Supergirl
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (select episodes)
  • Star Trek:  Picard
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks
  • Star Trek:  Discovery (Season 3)
  • Fargo Season 4
  • The Great Flower Fight
  • The Vow (the NXIVM  doc)
  • The Mandalorian
  • Imagineering Doc
  • One Day at Disney
  • One Day at a Time
  • Disney Galleries - Mandalorian
  • Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2
  • DuckTales
  • On Pointe
  • The Expanse
  • The Good Place
  • Lego Masters
  • Brooklyn 99
  • Love is Blind
  • WandaVision
  • What We Do in the Shadows
  • Schitt's Creek
  • The Amber Ruffin Show
  • Reruns of The Nanny
  • Reruns of Seinfeld
  • a whole lotta KXAN News @ Noon


I'm just listing things here that I watched enough of to say I enjoyed it by finishing the series or season.  Unlike, apparently, a lot of you, I don't generally watch shows for a few seasons to see if they get good.  

So, yeah, I also tried a lot of shows, watched a few episodes and stopped.  For whatever reason, they just didn't settle with me.  Of the best items - probably Fargo Season 4, which was goddamn art, people.  So, there you go.

I want to go back and try a few shows now that I'm numb to COVID times.  It was not the best time to be watching Tales from the Loop, for example.  I avoided catching up with Chernobyl altogether.  I couldn't even muster the willpower for Lovecraft Country, which I may pick up soon.