Saturday, April 13, 2024

Finally Watched It: Road House (1989)

fighter, lover, terrible driver...  DALTON ROADHOUSE

Watched:  04/12/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  Rowdy?
Selection:  Me

So.  Yeah.  I'd never seen Road House (1989)

In 1989, there were a lot of great movies to see, and I saw a lot of them.  But seeing Patrick Swayze try on the part of action star in a movie about bouncers was not going to draw my interest.  My guess is that we didn't have HBO during whatever window most other people saw it, and so I didn't pay it much attention.

I do remember in college some folks effusing about the film, never quite an outright appreciation for the film, but the germ of what would become the meme-ification of the movie.  Also, in summer of 1996, I worked at Camelot Records, and we stocked magazines.  Kelly Lynch was the cover model on one of these, and the entirety of the summer, we did not move a single copy of the magazine, so all summer I pondered this woman on the cover I'd never heard of, and had to be told "oh, she's from Road House". 

And then, I dunno, the past 15-20 years, it seems like the movie took on a life of it's own.  "Road House is awesome" became the refrain.   But I still never got around to it.  Partially because people always assume you've seen it, so I'd had many parts of it discussed in front of me, around me, etc... and then folks would say "well, you must love this movie!" and I'd say "no, I never saw it."  And people would demand answers.  Which I think is kind of weird.  But is also a thing people do.  

Anyway, I have now seen Road House, and it's

Friday, April 12, 2024


"Safe to Run"
Esther Rose

Everybody's telling me good, good luck
I don't know what it means
Or have I got enough
What if I left the city behind
Just dreaming in the trees
Untie my mind

Flying down the highway in a borrowed car
I don't know who I am
Don't know who you are
But everybody's gotta be from someplace
I was born in the city
I was raised on faith

Oh, Julia, it was a false alarm
Don't leave the door open
Don't leave the light on
How does it feel to blow a kiss to the wind
And see where it lands
And see what you did?

Let the angels find me
I don't care
If the whiskey drowns me
In the poisoned air
You know there's no place
Safe to run
Angels surround

Ten miles down
Six miles in
Just to look at the Aspens shaking in the wind
Are we saving the earth one day at a time
Or are we just getting left behind?

Man, to be alive seems we just consume
Everything in sight becoming fuel
They're raising babies in their little home
Can I have it like that?
Am I bound to roam?

Let the angels find me
I don't care
If the whiskey drowns me
In the poisoned air
Fire surrounds me
From here to there
And the water's rising
You know there's no place
Safe to run
Angels surround
Angels surround

Noir Watch: Born to be Bad (1950)

oh, come on.  Clearly the artist forgot about the assignment til the night before.

Watched:  04/11/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Nicholas Ray
Selection:  moi

Uh.  So, this movie is not bad, no matter how it was born.  But Born to Be Bad (1950) is just not my cup of tea.  I can see how if you squint it's film noir, but it tilts much further toward just straight melodrama in my book.  

And I think it's odd I wasn't into it, even as a melodrama.  Directed by Nicholas Ray, starring Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan, Mel Ferrer, Joan Leslie and Signal Watch fave Zachary Scott, I thought it would be a slam dunk.  But it's like Diet Coke All About Eve or something (curiously, All About Eve is also a 1950 release).  

Joan Fontaine plays a seemingly sweet young woman who comes to San Francisco (seen in exactly one shot) who is going to rent a room from Joan Leslie, engaged to millionaire Zachary Scott.  Novelist Robert Ryan is floating around, and she goes for him, but also while undermining Joan Leslie and Scott's relationship.  

In short, there's no real crime or danger in the movie.  It's just... Joan Fontaine being a naughty person and people take a while to figure it out.  

Now, I think this movie would be a *blast* to do as a watch party or to riff.  It's very well made, but Fontaine is such a heel in this, and everyone else such a dupe, it seems like you could have some fun playing along.  It's sort of the spirit Mel Ferrer's character is engaged with the movie, anyway.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Trina Robbins Merges With The Infinite

Cartoonist, comics-maker, artist, historian and beloved comics icon Trina Robbins has passed.

I became aware of Robbins around 2003 or so during the comics blogging boom, and learned of her work in Wonder Woman and underground comix at about the same time.  I have to assume it was a CBR or Newsarama interview tied to her Go Girl! comic I was picking up.

She became a figure within modern comics culture as someone who carved her own path, wasn't afraid to speak her mind and was deeply knowledgeable about the history comics, especially about women creators.

The last Robbins thing I picked up was a reprint of her (and Tanith Lee's) Silver Metal Lover adaptation that went into reprint via Kickstarter.

I recommend taking a look at her Wikipedia page as well as any tributes you see.  I'm not going to do her life and career justice here, but we want to mark the passing of one of the greats.

Noir Watch: Violence (1947)

Watched:  04/10/2024
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jack Bernhard
Selection:  me

This was definitely a low-budget, poverty row B-movie, but:

  • It felt weirdly timely in regards to the nonsense politics and politicians backed by big business, appealing to people's worst instincts to get them to work against themselves
  • It has a full amnesia plot that involved getting bonked on the head to restore memories
  • Star Nancy Coleman is cute as a button
  • That Guy! actor Sheldon Leonard is pretty solid as the heavy behind the politician
  • Perry White (John Hamilton) himself is in this for a minute as a doctor
  • I think Michael O'Shea is a good actor who was terribly miscast here
  • I confess to being disappointed no one texted or called to ask what I was doing while watching to the film so I could say "watching Violence".
Maybe the most interesting thing about the film is the conflict external to that of our leads, and that's the state of living soldiers were asked to return to after 4 years in the Pacific and Europe, and the expectation that they'd just slot back in like good boys (and girls).  A movie doesn't need to be a message movie to convey the spirit of the moment, but movies can reflect what is going on at the time to illuminate what was taken for granted or being discussed in every day life.  And certainly the desire of veterans to have a better life than what they left upon their return is something we can still understand.

I didn't hate it, but it's definitely not a slick 1940's or 50's big studio picture.  But it's also not so far down in poverty row that you're worried the walls of the sets might fall over.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Noir Watch: The Damned Don't Cry (1950)

Watched:  04/08/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Vincent Sherman
Selection:  Me

First:  The Damned Don't Cry (1950) is an amazing, pulpy-perfect name for a movie.  I am not sure more movies need to do this in this age, but The Dead Don't Hurt coming soon as a Western is a pretty dang solid name, too.  Marketers, challenge yourself when selling movies!  

Criterion Channel currently has a series going on featuring noir films made in 1950 entitled "Peak Noir", and I'm going to catch all of them I haven't seen.  Honestly, shoving Joan Crawford into a movie from this series was going to get me to prioritize it, so here we are. 

Crawford plays a mother to a young child, married to a roughneck and living with her parents in near poverty.  After the tragic death of her child on a bike they couldn't afford, she splits and heads for New York.  She moves swiftly into modelling for a dress-maker, and finds it has a side-hustle that's not quite prostitution, but adjacent.  Meeting a harmless CPA, she sees a way out, and gets him better gigs working for shady operations (and I think it's assumed, they're friendly).  However, this means she meets a 50's-style syndicate boss, and she trades up to become his kept woman.  

Monday, April 8, 2024

A Total Eclipse of the Sun..!

taken with my Pixel 4

Well, here in lovely Austin, Texas, we were on the edge of the total solar eclipse.  Around 1:36 PM Central, we experienced about 90 seconds of totality.

I was, honestly, pretty excited about the eclipse.  I've seen probably 4 partial eclipses, including one last summer.  And one lunar eclipse back in middle school when my family was on vacation in Mexico and a guy from a restaurant was standing there looking straight up, and because I am that guy, I looked straight up, and me and that guy stopped and enjoyed a lunar eclipse together.

Austin was a big destination for the eclipse, because we are a very hip town for reasons that escape me, but for weeks we've known it was going to be cloudy here.  A month ago, to get ahead of how crazy things would get, local and state government got involved and declared a "state of emergency" so they could handle the influx of people supposedly coming in.  I heard crazy stories about no way to get a flight in or out for days on either side of today.  But I live here, so I didn't really see anything different.

We're expecting usual Austin-Springtime horrible weather over the next 24 hours or so, and so there was a chance we'd all be standing out looking up at the sun getting hit with hail.  

But that didn't happen.  

The weather sort of held on, delivered some swiftly moving cloud cover that allowed for occasional breaks and thinning of the clouds, so we could see El Sol.  Jamie and I were able to head out to the field and retention pond area in our neighborhood where folks brought camp chairs and blankets.  

I also brought a box of Moon Pies and distributed them to folks who wanted one.

Folks were kind of quietly excited, and I realized, thanks to my daily viewing of KXAN news and the breathless reporting they'd been doing on the eclipse for what had to have been six weeks in advance, I was quite the know-it-all about the cosmic event.  

Do bats come out for an eclipse?  NO.  It turns out that they work on an internal clock and are not paying attention to the sun.

I tried to take pictures to show the difference in how very dark it did get, but my camera auto-corrected, and you can't see the change.

I've been fighting allergies, so sitting outside was a bit concerning, but given this was a possibly-once-in-a-lifetime event, I girded my loins, and - giving Jamie a headstart to go chat with neighbors, eventually I headed out.

Honestly, it was an amazing event.  Writing it down is a little meaningless.  You've probably seen plenty of pictures or video.  And I'd argue being there with other people to witness the same thing is part of it.  For the people who were at big civic events, etc... I get it.

As the moon got into position, the sky absolutely got darker and the temperature dropped several degrees.  I wouldn't say the birds went completely quiet, but they certainly toned it down.  During totality, a small bird, maybe a finch? flew weirdly close to us, I would guess a bit confused and looking for cover.  I'd argue I noticed when the birds came back to making noise again a lot more than when it went away, which might have been gradual.

Likely because we were so close to the edge of the event, and because clouds would disperse light, we didn't experience the same total darkness I saw in Indianapolis or other locations on the same path.  I'd say it got as dark as twilight during summer when the light hangs on a long time and you can still see a bit down the street.  But the change was *fast*.  I was pulling my cardboard glasses on and off to look around, and every time I did, it was noticeably darker in the minutes leading up to the grand event.

My neighbor, Michelle, and I were pondering "oh, yes, you can see exactly why ancient cultures lost their minds about this" and I need to look into what another neighbor was describing about the ancient mounds built by the First People on North America, because I was vaguely aware of them for ceremonial purposes, but not their astronomic/ astrological significance.  

As the news had said, the totality was brief, maybe 90 seconds.  You can get a rough idea of what the corona or ring looked like in my pics.  

And, of course, these pics do it no justice.  It was genuinely beautiful and unlike even the partial eclipses I'd seen before.  And, due in part to the totality and the clouds, if you weren't just staring, you could look at it with the naked eye.

The sliver of light left just before totality is kind of lovely and almost sad, and then... the ring.  In our case it was white light shining through the clouds, just shimmering around the perfect circle of the moon.  Then, when the event is passing, you get the diamond on the ring as the first real rays of the sun break out at the edge and a spot of light formed on, to my eye, the lower left angle.  And it's really kind of lovely.

Did I eat a Moon Pie during totality?  Friends, you know I did, and it was perfect.

I don't know that I'm ready to chase eclipses around the planet, but it was something that will be locked up in my mind's eye, ready to remember.  Glad I saw it with Jamie and our neighbors.  

G Watch: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Watched:  04/07/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Jun Fukuda

I wasn't feeling great thanks to springtime allergies, and decided a rewatch of Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) was in order.  

My memory of the movie was mostly bi-furcated between the Children's Land storyline and maybe 1/3rd of the movie being some really pretty good kaiju fighting (as these things go).  And that turned out to be correct.  

For folks who are somehow shocked that the current Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire film is not a gritty, "realistic", edgy take on Godzilla - y'all need to sit down.  There were multiple eras of Godzilla, and within each of those eras - quite a few of the movies were for kids.  And I think you can see the spirit of the more kid-friendly movies at their best with this one.  

It's another alien invasion-via space-kaiju film, but also the promise of how cool it would be to build a Godzilla tower as the focal point of an amusement park.  I mean - we kinda really should have this, and I'm mad I can't stay in a hotel in Godzilla's belly and eat dinner in his head.  

The heroes are young hipsters, one of which is for no reason a karate-wielding bad-ass, and then a manga artist, a hippie and... girl?  Anyway, in the same era Hanna-Barbera was making shows about Youths having kooky adventures, so too was Toho.  

The villains are eventually revealed to be intelligent cockroaches, which is hilarious and gross.  

Anyway, the battles in this are really complex and really long, and that's not a complaint.  You paid to see Godzilla and Anguirus get in a scrape, and they sure do.  We're in the period, as well, where Godzilla was now a "protector" of the Earth, rather than an unknowable force that just rampaged from time to time.  This "protector" idea was picked up immediately by Monsterverse and was more or less their whole deal, which I didn't particularly love as an intro to Godzilla.  

The odd thing about the movie is that there *is* monster blood, which tells you that Toho was still seeing what they could and couldn't do, and what looked weird and changed the tone of the fights.  Overall, there's some fun stuff in the fights, because Gigan is a pretty creative kaiju with a great look.  

Anyway, not going to oversell it, but I think if you want a Showa-era movie, you could do worse.  

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Neo-Noir Watch: Femme Fatale (2002)

Watched:  04/07/2024
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Director:  DePalma

A while back I was watching some DePalma movies, and enjoying them, and made a mental note to watch Femme Fatale (2002) sometime.  And, then, whilst watching Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which stars one Rebecca Romijn as Lt. Commander Una Chin-Riley, I was once again reminded to watch the film, and bought it on DVD via eBay for, like, $4.  

And then promptly forgot to watch it.  

Well, no more!  I have now finally seen Femme Fatale, and...  this is a tough one to discuss.  

DePalma is a curious film maker.  I genuinely like some of his work, and, at minimum, find stuff like Body Double at least worth a watch.  He's like a film studies book come to life, but he also isn't afraid of every day adult things like "people get naked" and "have sex" and gets those are pretty major motivations for people, and so can be for characters.* But he's also usually telling a thriller/ neo-noir crime story (see: Dressed to Kill or Blow Out) and so there's something to hang that on.  

Femme Fatale plays all of DePalma's greatest hits.  It has the most breathtakingly bizarre use of the concept of "doubles", it absolutely makes our kinda hero (Antonio Banderas) a voyeur, it goofs on identity, fate and concept of a femme fatale.  Heck, it opens on Romijn watching Double Indemnity.

Romijn was still a bit green when she took on the role, and I note that she was nominated for an off-brand Raspberry type award for this, but if the past few years have taught me anything, it's that those awards tend to age badly and generally show more about the awards' intolerance for anything not fitting into neat categories of that year or talent stretching beyond what the committee *thinks* they should be doing for a living (Romijn had been a model - which will shock no one watching this movie).  

I think Romijn is actually *pretty good* in this.  The character is a bit of a cypher, by necessity, and when the woman behind the face pokes her head out, it's interesting and buyable.  She's not as good as she's been on Star Trek, but - again - early days, and dealing with some material that works as an academic exercise as much or more than a coherent film.