Friday, November 26, 2021

Holiday Regret/ Rifftrax Watch: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

I like how you can see Harrison Ford thinking about literally anything but where he is in this moment



Watched:  11/22/2021
Format:  YouTube
Viewing:  third?
Decade:  1970's
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

Happy Thanksgiving


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

PODCAST 171: "Jingle All The Way" (1996) - Christmas 2021 w/ Stuart and Ryan


Watched:  11/03/2021
Format:  YouTube
Viewing: Second?  Third?
Decade:  1990's
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.




Music:
Jingle Bells - Brian Stezer Orchestra 
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Johnny Mathis


Christmas 2021

Thanksgiving - to the tune of "Africa" by Toto




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



you're welcome


Hallmark Christmas Watch: Christmas Together With You (2021)




Watched:  11/24/2021
Format:  Hallmark Channel!
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
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

Joan Watch: Daisy Kenyon (1947)




Watched:  11/23/2021
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
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).  

Catch-Up Watch: A Star is Born (2018)




Watched:  11/21/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
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

Happy B-Day, Jamie Lee Curtis

 

Today is the birthday of Signal Watch hero and our second favorite Jamie, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Y'all put out some good vibes into the universe today in honor of JLC.

Noir Watch: Johnny O'Clock (1947)




Watched:  11/22/2021
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
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

Doc Watch: Dean Martin - King of Cool (2021)




Watched:  11/20/2021
Format:  TCM 
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
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.

Doc Watch: Malfunction - The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson (2021)




Watched:  11/20/2021
Format:  I saw it on TV, but I believe they're trying to get you to watch it on Hulu
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
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.

New Music from Chromaplastique - "Why We Punish"

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: