Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Monday, April 9, 2018
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Friday, March 2, 2018
Format: Kino-Lorber BluRay
I watched not one, but TWO Maigret mystery movies. And, shockingly, wrote them both up.
Here's my post over at Texas Public Radio.
Friday, February 23, 2018
Format: Kino-Lorber BluRay
I am reviewing a pair of excellent films for Texas Public Radio, based on a series of novels by a Belgian writing about a French Detective.
Here is the review for the first movie. Thanks to TPR for the opportunity!
Friday, February 16, 2018
Format: TCM Noir Alley DVR (from November. Yeesh.)
At this age, it's not often you wrap up a movie and are pretty sure you've just seen one of the best movies of its genre. But there you have it.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
I was unable to confirm yesterday when I saw the news, but now The Hollywood Reporter has it that actor Peggy Cummins has passed.
Cummins is in at least two fantastic movies, Curse of the Demon (1957) and, of course, one of my hands-down favorite films, Gun Crazy (1950).
You can read the linked article to get a notion of Cummins' career, which was fairly brief despite her obvious talents. Not everyone stays in pictures, or even in Hollywood.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
It's kind of funny that in this post and the last, I'm referring to movies referenced in my own title banner, but there you have it.
I checked, and it has been a while since I last watched George Pal's 1953 movie of War of the Worlds. A number of years now, in fact.
My interest was piqued by the idea of a Martian invasion in 6th or 7th grade when I learned about Orson Welles' and the Mercury Theater's 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast - which supposedly caused a panic (sort of, but not really). Click on the link and listen. It's a hell of a show.
Shortly after all this, around the age of 12, The Admiral found out I wanted to watch the original movie, and so he and I rented it and I think it was just the two of us who watched it.
Honestly, despite the fact it was not a gore fest or built on the tension-making trip wires of, say Ridley Scott's Alien, that movie scared the hell out of me.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Like most kids of my generation, I grew up with Wonder Woman as the default "superhero for girls". Sure, DC had a wide array of female characters, but a lot of "team" concepts aimed at boys included 1 or maybe 2 girls on the team no matter how big the roster got (see: GI Joe). And on Super Friends, Wonder Woman was the all-purpose female character who was not Jayna of The Wonder Twins of Wendy of Super Marv and Wendy (ahhh, the 70's).
|but at least they gave WW two villains from her rogues gallery|
Thursday, April 6, 2017
I'm not entirely certain what to make of The Blue Gardenia (1953), and possibly talking about it right after watching it is a mistake. It was this week's pick on TCM's "Noir Alley", introduced by the great Eddie Muller.
My current take on the film is that I like a huge amount of the pieces that made up the movie, but wasn't a raging fan of the movie itself. I mean, it stars Richard Conte, Raymond Burr and Anne Baxter (who does some kind of edgy stuff for 1953 - but that's noir all over). It's got a scenario as treacherous as many or most in noir, pulling the world down a normal person's ears because she made a bad decision or two. And it's one of the more straightforward "no means no" messages you're going to see in a movie, but baked into the social standards of the era - which makes it all the more challenging.
And did I mention Fritz Lang is the director? And Nicholas Musuraca (Out of the Past) was DP?
AND it had George Reeves in a supporting role as a wiseguy of a cop?
Yeah, I don't quite get why the movie felt a little flat.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
We're watching the new FX series, Feud: Bette and Joan (highly recommended), and it reminded me I'd been meaning to watch Sudden Fear (1952), a noirish potboiler starring Ms. Crawford, Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame.
Just the casting alone was enough to raise an eyebrow. Of course I've seen a number of Grahame's pictures, a handful of Crawford's, but when it comes to Jack Palance, I've seen Batman, Shane and, sigh, his pair of 80's City Slickers comedies.* And to see him in a movie where he has to act like a basically normal, functioning human was almost bizarre. Because by the time I was a kid, even in real life Jack Palance was acting like a cartoon weirdo.
It's a strong, taught thriller with some great cinematography, tremendous use of sound and Crawford putting it all out there as she does a large amount of her acting completely alone.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Lili (1953) is a mid-20th Century movie I'd never heard of before I started watching it on TCM this week. Probably best described as an all-ages musical with fantasy elements (and puppets!), I have no doubt that the sweet-spot for finding an audience for this movie is young girls, but, hey, I'm a 41 year-old dude, and I liked it just fine.
As with all-ages movies pre-1990 or so, there are plenty of elements no one thought twice about including in a story for kids (which explains why - now in command of online content, Millennials have made a cottage industry of getting the vapors writing about pre 1990 family entertainment and why its "secretly dark"). And it's hard to say that Lili is exactly a light-hearted movie. It's not. The main character is definitely going through a crisis during the entire run-time of the movie, there's the spectre of marital infidelity, suicide, acknowledgement of the costs of WWII...
But it's got puppets!
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Before the year (and my break) ended, I wanted to watch a couple of films as we say good-bye to a pair of women we're all going to miss.
No write up. It was actually great seeing them both in their pivotal roles again. We'll have these films forever, even if we've lost the women who made them.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Back when I was a little kid, Jason and I had a few books on movie monsters, and among them was the book Super-Monsters by Daniel Cohen.
On the cover of the book was a really pissed-off looking monster that I kind of assumed was an off-brand Godzilla-type thing (I didn't know the word "Kaiju" until college), and didn't think much about it except that I wasn't sure what movie this monster was actually associated with. Also, I don't know why my folks were like "hey, look, a snarling hell beast! The kids'll love it!", but this was the 1970's and back then we were still raising our kids to be ready for anything.
The book had short entries about the plots of various monster movies, and I can trace my interest in those strange creatures to this book. Even if this same book led me to believe Young Frankenstein was a very odd, badly made Frankenstein movie until I finally saw it and clued into the Mel Brooks canon.
But I had no idea who the monster was on the cover of this book until about 5-10 years ago when I stumbled across some information about the British horror film, alternately titled Curse of the Demon and Night of the Demon (1957). Last year I tried to watch this movie on or around Halloween, but realized I was exhausted and didn't pull it off. And then my DVR went crazy and I lost the recording.
But this year, SimonUK brought it over, and with Steanso in tow, we all gave the movie a whirl.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Some forms of comedy just don't work for me, and it's safe to say that I'm not a huge fan of Red Skelton. I know the guy was huge in his day, but whatever he's up to always feels a bit like he's opted for the obvious, crowd-pleasing, least offensive choice. If we were active today he'd be on a sitcom with an improbably good looking wife who would always be putting her hands on her hips and saying, "Oh, Red!"
I watched the movie for two reasons. (1) It took place in Texas in the 1950's, and I wanted to see what Hollywood thought Texas was like in 1951. (2) Ann Miller is in a smaller role in the movie as a girl with showbiz dreams and also ready to marry the first idiot who comes along.
The marquee names are Red Skelton and Esther Williams, the bathing beauty famous for her aquatic acrobatics and perfect make-up at 10 feet below sea-level. Which is an odd fit for the deserty Texas where the action occurs.
Look, I basically wanted to see what numbers they'd give Ann Miller, which was one song and dance number you can already find on YouTube. The rest of the movie, including an effects sequence with Esther Williams superimposed "swimming" around a bar as Howard Keel thinks about how much he's in love with her, is barely memorable.
There's an element or two that requires the movie take place in Texas, but 90% of the movie takes place anywhere but the titular carnival.
So. You got that going for you.
What was kind of funny was that i gave up on the movie, thinking it had about ten minutes of denouement left to work through and I'd catch it later. So I turned it back on this evening and it had literally 30 seconds left to go. I guess that tells you how much I felt invested in the movie.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Show Boat (1951) is one of those movies you see classic movie buffs referencing a lot, but which I'd never seen and didn't know anything about. Except that it stars Ava Gardner (bonus!) who doesn't do her own singing (...yeah...).
It is, indeed, about a big paddle-wheel steamer on the Mississippi that acts as stage and home to a troop of river-bound performers in a sort of vaudeville show, and the story of the Hawks family that runs the show.
Familiar faces include the aforementioned Ava Gardner, Agnes Moorehead playing a tightly wound matronly figure (shocking, I know), Joe E. Brown as the ship's owner and stage producer, and Kathryn Grayson as the daughter of Moorehead and Brown, who wants to be a performer herself.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
I've seen this movie a few times thanks to the power of MST3K. And if you're ever curious to see one of the movies covered in the Tim Burton film Ed Wood, I strongly recommend this one.
But I am not spending time writing up this movie. We all have lives.
Friday, July 8, 2016
The first time I saw Oklahoma! (1955) was in Spring of 1994. I was sitting on my bed/ couch (it's hard to explain, but anyone who ever lived in Jester at UT understands), when my roommate, Peabo, burst in through the door.
"Oklahoma! is on TV! Right now!"
And we turned it on and watched the whole thing, complete with commercial breaks.
I don't know that I saw it again for a few years, but I saw a rendition of the stage play at the Paramount in Austin circa 2000, and we own the DVD and have seen it at least twice.
Jamie's actually from Oklahoma (the state, not the musical), and her mom was a big fan of the show, so when Jamie arrived, part of the package was a baked-in enthusiasm for the music from the Rodgers & Hammerstein production.
Tuesday night Jamie and I hit The Paramount Film Series for the first time this summer (along with Cousin Sue) to see the movie on the big screen.
Whether you've seen Oklahoma! or not, it's a bit like Westside Story or other big musicals - you've heard the big hits whether you know that's where they came from or not. And in the case of Oklahoma!, the big hits are nigh every song in the show. So, even as bits in a commercial or co-opted elsewhere, you've heard 'em. The album has been a #1 record in both the US and the UK (circa 1957), certified multi-platinum and is consistently in production. If you don't know the music, I assure you - your parents do.
A lot of it's pretty damn catchy.
What's weirdest to me about Oklahoma! is the utter disparity between the sunshiney image of the movie - complete with upbeat music, sweetly naive bumpkin characters, hokey imagery - and the really pretty dark story at the middle of the play, as well as some pretty adult content. In short, you absolutely could not perform this play in a middle school without a lot of cutting.
Saturday, April 2, 2016
I hadn't watched Shane (1953) in more than a decade. Even the DVD I have is clearly a relic from the beginning of the DVD era. If I hadn't watched the movie in a while, it seems that Jamie does not care for Shane, and that's one of those things that you're going to have to endure if you want to stay married.
For my dollar, Shane is one of the great westerns, one of those stories of the expansion into the west and foretelling other great Western stories that explore the nature and fate of the gun-fighter like The Unforgiven, Beyond the loose definition of the Western genre, it's also, simply, a great film. Beautifully shot, well-acted, nuanced and better than you likely remember.
Contextually, the book the movie was based on and faithfully adapted from (and which JAL and I read in class in 7th grade if memory serves) was released in 1949, four years after the closing of WWII. That the book was told in a first-person perspective from the eyes of a child and the movie mostly retains that POV, makes sense. At it's heart, the story speaks to the naivete of what we see when we look at violence as an heroic act, of putting the gunman on a pedestal - as both writers of Western novels and Hollywood have always done. In 1949 and 1953, one can imagine all the GI's returning from WWII who had to endure the questions of both the folks who had seen the war from newsreels and kids who saw it as a comic-book adventure against cartoonish Japs and Krauts.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
I was actually planning to let this movie be a product of its time period and discuss the film's more problematic elements further down the post, but in looking for a copy of the movie's poster, I see I'm just going to need to deal with this movie's issues as the focus.
Back in high school I had exactly one "girly" poster up on my wall, a poster cropped from this image:
|This poster was okay. I got in trouble for a Sid Vicious poster, instead.|