Showing posts with label 1990's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1990's. Show all posts

Sunday, February 25, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla and Mothra - The Battle for Earth (1992)

Watched:  02/25/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Director: Takao Okawara
Selection:  Me

We decided to keep on our path of rewatching Heisei-era Godzilla movies in order.  We last watched this one about four years ago during our "hunker down and watch Godzilla because it's COVID-times" erratic sprint through Toho's G-output.  

Honestly, I didn't really remember this one at all until a scene would start.  There was a lot of "oh, yeahhhh..." as the movie unspooled.  And I attribute that to the fact the middle of movie is a mess.  The beginning is interesting enough, and the end is good Kaiju Kombat, but the middle feels like they're trying to make a point about stealing and environmentalism, but it's a little confusing as to how that's tying into our Kaiju problem.  And to further muddy the film, Godzilla - now a heel after the time-warp stuff of the prior film - isn't here to restore balance.  He's just... sorta... rampaging.  

What's funny is how it looks like the new Monsterverse stuff is taking cues from these movies.  This is the first of the Heisei movies to suggest ancient cultures knew of the Kaiju, and there was a balance to the world brought by the Titans.  But here they do it as an exposition dump *after* introducing The Cosmos (our faerie friends).  And the Monsterverse can't bear the thought of either the Cosmos or Mothra in her larval form - so I guess we're just stuck with the window dressing.

Curiously, one of the supporting actors looked so familiar I mentioned it to Jamie who figured out he was recast in Godzilla 2000 as a totally different character, but he had facial hair and a very different demeanor.  But I did feel less crazy (and he's actually in like four of these movies).  And that's just one of those things - I think everyone acting in Japan gets to be in 2-4 Godzilla movies if they play their cards right.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sports Watch: The Sandlot (1993)

Watched:  02/21/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  David Mickey Evans
Selection:  Jamie

I was wrapping up my senior year of high school when The Sandlot (1993) hit.  At the time, I was more interested in adult-oriented movies, and not at all into baseball, so the movie came and went without much notice on my part.  I'd have forgotten about it completely, but it's since become an inter-generational favorite, especially with baseball fans (which is by far the best sport to put in a movie), and has become a meme-generating perennial.  "You're killing me, Smalls" has escaped the fandom of the film and made it's way into pop culture.

Jamie pitched it for our evening viewing, and wanting to know what the hubbub was about, we gave it a whirl.

Absolutely, I was reminded of the era, circa 1980-84, when my family lived near a cul-de-sac in Spring, Texas, in the halcyon summer days when kids were kicked out of the house after breakfast, drank out of hoses, and would set up games of baseball to play all afternoon.  We used the cul-de-sac as our diamond, and our certainty we were terrible at baseball ensured we weren't putting out any windows.  My neighborhood was chock full of kids around our age, so getting a handful together to play was never a big deal.  In some ways, I was primed.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Watched:  02/20/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Third?
Director:  Kazuki Ă”mori, Koji Hashimoto, Katsumune Ishida
Selection:  Me

I'm finally trying to watch the Heisei movies in order-ish (we tried to watch Return of Godzilla and couldn't finish it.  It's a slog.), but after watching Godzilla vs. Biollante, we were ready to return to Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), which is bananas in the best way, and which I remembered fondly.

Work has been busy, so I was also ready for some kaiju kollisions on my television, and this one absolutely delivers.

Re-reading my post on the film from 4 years ago, I agree with myself here, so I'll skip summaries and whatnot.  

The movie *does* jettison the idea that Ghidorah is from space, which even the Monstervese films picked up.  It also low-key implies the villains are white Americans who have traveled through time to show up the Japanese of the future and remake the world in their image - and, man...!  OUCH.  But fair!

*Not All White Guys* is represented by a white guy robot (Jamie theorizes was inspired by T2, which seems very possible, even if just based on trailers the Toho guys had seen), and a sea-faring scientist in the 3rd act.  

The appearance of the US Navy in 1944 is treated as an invading force that's being repelled, which is... true-ish.  As seems to so often be the case with finding anglo actors for Toho movies, the Captain of the US navy battleship is curiously cast, but seems to be having a grand time.  I would love to know what the story was there.

Japan's role in WWII happening is often left murky in Godzilla films, but the war is frequently referenced.  

And this is somewhat why I wanted to get to this movie.  I was maybe five minutes into Godzilla Minus One when I started pondering this movie.  The two have very little in common, but it's hard not to draw a comparison between the appearance of a pre-atomic Godzilla facing off with the military in both movies, and soldiers having life-changing experiences with the beast and then have to reconcile seeing the same dinosaur roaming about at 20 times the size they last saw.  I mean, Godzilla Minus One is pretty good, but you can say it lacked in robots with super-speed and iffy make-up FX.

I do want to say:  the time travel in this movie has no internal logic, and I found it a bit baffling.  Everyone seems pretty aware of Godzilla even though he's been removed from the timeline, and our hero - a rapscallionish journalist - plans to write a book on Godzilla, who no longer exists at one point in the movie.  And clearly Toho was just like "whatever, man.  That's how time travel works."

Anyway, fun times.  

Sunday, February 11, 2024

U.S. G-Watch: Godzilla (1998)

the actual dick joke on the poster was probably the tell this movie was going to be straight garbage

Watched:  02/10/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Fourth?
Director:  Roland Emerich
Selection:  I have only myself to blame

Back in 1998, I saw Godzilla opening day with Jamie.  I'd been pretty excited about what a US studio could do with the concept.   We were five years out from Jurassic Park, so CG was a thing.  And seeing some actors we liked (who were not Raymond Burr) getting involved with the big guy seemed like a neat idea. 

I'd argue that at the time of the film's release, it had been since the mid-80's that a Toho movie really landed in the US, so there was some context for Godzilla for your average US movie-goer, but not a lot.  Mostly spoofs and lightly racist parodies.  Everyone knew Godzilla, but it was like... everyone knew Superman had comic books, but no one had read an issue since elementary school.  You knew the general look and some details, but... that was about it.

Looking at the box office, it's crucial to recall the movie had an absolutely gigantic marketing campaign.  This was back when movies didn't just advertise, they did a half-dozen corporate tie-in's, so Godzilla was going to be inescapable no matter what.  Heck, I very much remember the omnipresent Taco Bell chihuahua selling Big G.  

Tri-Star was going to make sure you were going to see this movie whether it was good or not.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

90's Watch: Quiz Show (1994)

Watched:  01/15/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Robert Redford
Selection:  Jamie

It's been 30 years since Quiz Show (1994) was released, and probably 29 since I've last seen it.  I'm now much older than Ralph Fiennes and Rob Morrow as our leads, and in the intervening years, the real Charles Von Doren, Richard Goodwin and Herb Stemple have passed (oddly with little in the way of news or media mention).

Sometimes watching younger film reviewers on YouTube or reading the film discussion of younger film enthusiasts, it's interesting to note the tilt to genre pictures of prior eras, and it's easy to forget that genre was largely in the margins thirty years ago.  At the time, something like Quiz Show was happily released by Disney when they had multiple outlets for producing movies for general and adult audiences - this one released through Hollywood Pictures (see also Touchstone and whatever their deal was with Miramax).  And we had name directors doing prestige pictures that were a thing to go see.

Monday, January 8, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla 2000 - Millennium (1999) - but, really, a quick history of how I decided to like Godzilla again

Watched:  01/08/2024
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  4th?  5th?
Director:  Takao Okawara
Selection:  All me, baby

I had to check, but somehow I've not written this one up, but I know I watched it during that circa 2020-era where I was dealing with the COVID lockdown by just watching an endless stream of Godzilla films.  

So, this movie is the key to my Godzillaissance.   

As a kid, I was a Godzilla fan via a few channels.  There was an American produced Godzilla cartoon that ran for a year or three.  I have some flickers of memories of watching Godzilla movies on TV with Steanso during long summer days.  We also had two key Godzilla toys.  My toy was the Shogun Warriors Godzilla, which I absolutely adored.  Steanso, however, had this amazing playset with Godzilla, a non-canon monster, a city backdrop and army vehicles, which I remember us setting up and having a good 'ol time playing with.  

But this was also the era of Star Wars, Tron and other fun, shiny stuff, and so Godzilla fell by the wayside.

Also, Godzilla was weirdly hard to come by.  Unless you were home to catch a movie on UHF, badly dubbed movies weren't something most channels wanted to run.  And you weren't going to get much in the theater.  

In fact, when Godzilla Returns/ Godzilla 1985 was released, I *wanted* to see it, but it came and went so fast, it wasn't until my 11th birthday party that I used my "I can rent whatever I want" pass to rent the movie.  What I don't remember is Godzilla films from Toho on the shelf.  I just have zero memory of Blockbuster carrying the movies, or the Mom & Pop places before Blockbuster.  That may have been an artifact of sorting out US distribution or me being distracted by trying to unlock the mystery of what was happening in those Sybil Danning movies on the shelf.  But given that I would rent stuff like Robot Jox without blinking, given the option, it seems like I would have picked up a Godzilla movie or two.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

90's 70's Watch: The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)

Watched:  11/10/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Betty Thomas

November of 2023 is about 28 years from when The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) was released.  Which is funny, because the TV show, The Brady Bunch, which this movie spoofs, ran from September 1969 to March 1974, meaning the movie - which was sending up the show was only separated from the final air date by 21 years.  That's some math, but we're~7 years further out now from this movie than we were from the show when the movie arrived.

While the US is too large and has too many people to have a monoculture, due to the nature of broadcast TV, and then early cable, in the 20th Century there was a shared experience for the youth of the United States in the form of mass entertainment.  With a minimum of programming aimed at youth, for millions of us, the politely banal episodic adventures of The Brady Bunch, playing in mid-afternoon reruns, were a common touchpoint.  As were a handful of other shows, to be sure.*

Musical tastes of the time could vary - you might like country or R&B or rock or metal - but you only had so many channels to pick from.  I cannot imagine today's kids have a concept of wanting to unwind after latch-keying oneself into your empty house after a long day at school and watching some TV, and, really, there's maybe two options across your 4 to 30-odd channels (if your folks sprung for cable).

So it was that, thanks to the power of cheap syndication, for about 20 years, The Brady Bunch aired daily, sometimes multiple episodes, as the six kids, two parents and their maid acted like weird, alternate-reality stepford wives and children, making mountains out of mole hills and speaking in an almost otherwordly way that became a common cultural currency for kids to discuss, make fun of, etc....  The tendency of TV execs to want to sanitize the world was so harsh and weird, it was like bleach had killed anything resembling actual life. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

HalloWatch: The Craft (1996)

Watched:  10/27/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Andrew Fleming

One thing I very much recall from the 1990's - perhaps a product of the era or just the age I was at the time (I would have been 21 seeing this movie) - was that there was what was going on, and then there was the LA regurgitation of what was happening.  The LA version was invariably stripped of the spirit of the source, and churned out product for a mass-market and to have a fast-fashion version.*  Often, folks didn't necessarily get the nuance or difference.  It's why mall-store  "Hot Topic" is absolutely hilarious to Gen X'ers of a certain stripe, and earnestly beloved by Millennials of a similar stripe. 

I think there's a whole book to be written on how anything and everything was co-opted and commercialized to the masses, stripped of its origins and meaning, and basically is now considered the Poochie-fication of mass media and product marketing

The Craft (1996) Poochifies the era and it's attempts to capitalize on multiple threads, from the exploding alt-rock scene, and the easy access to, and interest in, occult material - the inevitable result of being raised at the height of the Satanic Panic.  It's also *very* much a 1990's teen movie, replete with sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

HalloWatch: Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Watched:  10/21/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second, I think
Director:  Francis Ford Coppola

Firstly, this isn't Bram Stoker's actual Dracula.  This is Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).

I very much remember Coppola, with whose work I'd just become acquainted at age 15 or so, announcing he was going to remake the Universal Monster stuff using the source material.  And as a teen, I was jazzed.  Let's kick the dust off, ditch the stuffy 1930's stylings (I'd never seen the movies at this point) and lets make a Dracula for the 90's!  

All I can really remember from that first movie is that it was... a lot.  The reviews were mixed, but everyone was going to see it, and I was in a packed theatre when I watched it myself.  

Honestly, I remember thinking "well... that was a lot.  And I get why the reviews were mixed."  Halloween night of '93, I went to see the original, and was like "oh, wow.  This is rad.  I get why people love this." and, in fact, my interest in horror movie monsters I'd had as a kid was reignited (along with a VHS copy of Phantom of the Opera) to the point where I'm annoying about it to this day!

Over the years, I've not returned to the Coppola movie because (a) I didn't like it all that much to begin with, and (b) there's so many Draculas.  And one gotta catch 'em all.  

Monday, October 16, 2023

Hallo-Watch: Village of the Damned (1995)

Watched:  10/13/2023
Format:  Criterion, I think
Viewing:  Second
Director:  John Carpenter

So, Friday night I was wrestling with the two vaccines I'd had injected earlier in the day and wanted to watch something I'd already seen so it wouldn't really matter.  Plus, I wanted something Halloween-ish.  A quick scroll landed me on the John Carpenter directed 1995 remake of Village of the Damned.  

Now, here in 2023, I still have not seen the original.  But in the mid-90's, I kind of saw everything, and this starred Christopher Reeve and was directed by Carpenter, so I was curious.

What I remembered from the movie:  
  • Kirstie Alley looking smashing and chain smoking to great effect
  • Christopher Reeve giving it his all despite the fact this is nonsense
  • Mark Hamill as a pastor?
  • Creepy kids who just won't listen
And these things were all accurate.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Hallo-Watch: The Exorcist III (1990)

Watched:  10/15/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  William Peter Blatty

Way, way back in the 1980's my brother and I went on a spree of renting "movies you should watch" that included Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and The Exorcist.  It was... a lot for my 14-year-old self, and it was quite the impactful set of viewings as we watched the movies in pairs but over just 2 weekends.  

I can't remember which I watched with The Exorcist.  What I do remember is that there was a lightning storm while we watched it, and at some key point in the film I pushed back the curtain in the living room to look at the weather, and lightning hit nearby, making me see my own reflection in the glass, and I about wet myself.

The movie worked.  I won't say The Exorcist is my favorite horror film, I've only seen it twice.  But I get why it's held in such high regard and in no way do I dispute those arguments.  

Following that viewing, I was told "nah, the sequels are bad, and don't watch them", so I did not.  But this last month with the release of Exorcist: The Believer, aficionados popped out of the woodwork to discuss the franchise, and it seemed that folks were in agreement that The Exorcist III, based on the novel Legion by Exorcist novelist and screenwriter William Peter Blatty - and written and directed by same, was a slam dunk.

Again, I'm hard pressed to disagree.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Hallow-Watch: Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)

Watched:  10/02/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Ernest Dickerson

I didn't have HBO during most of the years when Tales From the Crypt was on television, so I was aware of the show, but didn't catch it very often.  In general, I wasn't really wired for it at the time (I wasn't into horror), but in 1995, I was sort of going to see everything that came out.  

My memory of the movie is that it's... fine.  It seems like maybe it could have been better, and a 90 minute run-time, even with Crypt Keeper book-ends, was still maybe a bit much and at some point, you feel like you get it, and this could have been 75 or 80 minutes.  The show was usually 30+ minutes, so you're essentially doing tight stories built on ironic twists, the hand of fate, etc...  the kind of stuff you may be familiar with from any number of anthology shows that preceded it.

Here, they needed to tell a longer story, and so we get a bit of an actioner on top of the horror, and a larger cast.  And what a cast!  How weird.

I only really remembered Billy Zane, but we also have a very young Jada Pinkett (pre-Smith), Thomas Haden Church, CCH Pounder, William Sadler, Dick Miller, Charles Fleischer, Brenda Bakke and Traci Bingham is in there somewhere as a "Party Babe".  It seems like the studio was like "hey, we're doing a Tales from the Crypt movie, and-" and everyone said "yes!".

The basic set-up is that William Sadler plays a guy on the run from an hilarious Billy Zane, who is a sort of Demon-guy.  Sadler is protecting "the key" which will turn Earth back to a pre-"let there be light" state and release demons and darkness onto the world.  He's trapped in a hotel (they keep calling a motel) built out of an old church along with the employees and residents of the motel, as well as some cops.

You've seen similar before as the cast bickers and fights and has their own little arcs and desires, which are exploited by Zane who uses their inner-most desires to get inside their heads and physically into the motel.  And he's funny and charming as he does so.

The movie takes place in just a few locations over a single night, which helps wrangle the story, characters and budget.  And makes for good horror-stuff.

There's a sort of post-80's/ we've-seen-Evil Dead 2 approach to some of it, and it's a pleasure to see so much done with puppets, creature design and practical FX.  The demons running around are given animal-like legs I can't believe the actors could walk on, but they even climb stairs.  There's some gore, but it's not, like, endless.  It's more of a punchline and tone setting.

All-in-all, it's a fun movie.  I'm not sure the format of Tales from the Crypt begs for a movie-length treatment, but it did make me think - there's no reason Max couldn't revive this show.  Horror does great, in general, and it would be terrific to see stuff that relies on the sorts of plot twists and ghoulish morality tales that made TV horror and sci-fi work for decades.  I don't know how much more I can get from another zombie-based TV show taking place in a world where they've never seen a zombie TV show before.

And, of course, it's kinda nice to have the Crypt Keeper making fun of the proceedings and the horrible fates of the characters instead of insisting this should all be taken very seriously, indeed.  I'm a firm believer in the horror-host, from Elvira to Crypt Keeper to Count Floyd.  We need a horror host we can all rally around, and who better?  Well, Elvira, but I think she hung up her dagger belt.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

PodCast 251: "Drop Dead Fred" (1991) - a SimonUK and Ryan Episode

Watched:  08/28/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  3rd?
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Ate de Jong

Ryan and his imaginary British friend delve into their respective inner children and try to figure out who is responsible for all the mess. We take a look at an early 90's cable staple!



Drop Dead Fred Suite - Randy Edelman 

SimonUK's Cinema Selections!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Riff Watch: Time Chasers (1994)

Watched:  08/27/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's


Jamie started scrolling through options and decided we were watching *something* by the RiffTrax or MST3K guys.  She settled on something called Time Chasers, which had been covered by MST3K at some point, but RiffTrax had covered it again during a live show a few years back, and that's what we watched.

Look, if this movie was good, it *probably* wouldn't be a RiffTrax selection.  

Edit: hours after watching this, a making-of YouTube video showed up in my algorithm, and I watched the first part.  It turns out, the movie was written and directed by a 19-year-old.  So, I am impressed in some ways.  I assume no real film school, and a lot of moxie.  And yet...

It's a movie that both really takes the concept of time travel seriously and works through the implications, but also has a plot that requires the characters be utter morons who have *not* thought out the implications - such as, hey, maybe selling your time travel device to a corporation could have consequences.  

It's your usual no-budget, big-dreams, let's use all the things we can borrow from friends, sci-fi indie feature that was a staple of MST3K programming and shoot-your-shot movie-making of the era.  Cast with people who were the best to audition, usually with regional accents, and the actress who looked closest to what a Hollywood actress might look like.  

Like a community theater production of a play that you realize isn't quite working, you still want to cheer everyone on.  Until you realize, no one has told anyone involved that this script needed some work, and you're allowed to leave things on the cutting room floor.  

Anyway, you get the picture.  

The Riff is a lot of fun, and I recommend.  

Sunday, August 27, 2023

90's Watch: The Fugitive (1993)

Watched:  08/19/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Andrew Davis

It's hard to convey to The Kids exactly how popular The Fugitive (1993) was upon its release.  I didn't see it for a week or so because it was sold out, but I did finally catch it in the theater, I think with my parents just before I headed off for college.  It went on to get Oscar nominations for Best Picture and other things, but snagged Tommy Lee Jones a Best Supporting actor, cementing Jones in a persona he'd take straight to No Country For Old Men.  

But in the intervening years, I'd argue it's not been forgotten by the original audience, but it's also not a movie I hear people talk about, rewatch as part of any canon, or pass down to The Kids as a pretty good movie.  It had its time as a popular renter and cable staple, but like a lot of movies aimed at a teens-and-up audience of the day, it's just sort of faded as adults don't imprint on movies and make them part of their world-view in the same way as a kid seeing a Star War.  It wasn't part of the character-driven indie movement which would catch fire at this same time, nor was it part of the FX extravaganzas that started appearing in the wake of Jurassic Park, released a few months earlier.  

But, also, even at the time, I thought the movie was just... strange.  These days I have my head wrapped a bit more around how movies work, and I stand with the choices made for this movie.  It's logical and lends a sense of realism to the movie - but, also, the filmmakers decided that our hero would have no friends and no one to talk to for most of the runtime of the film.  So, that weird feeling I had about the movie was really centered on the oddly-loose-fitting fiction-suit that was Richard Kimble.  

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Cubs Watch: Rookie of the Year (1993)

Watched:  08/20/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  Daniel Stern

So, every year before baseball starts, I tell myself "I gotta watch The Sandlot and Rookie of the Year", and then, I do not watch them.  I've never doubted they're fine movies, but both came out when I was not really watching non-animated kids movies, and baseball wasn't my jam at the time.

But movies were part of my interest in baseball.  I loved Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out (you have John Sayles to thank for my interest in the sport).  A League of Their Own is one of my "I'll sit and watch this" movies when it comes on TV.  

Anyway, I kind of had an idea of what this movie would be - and it was not that.  It's actually really funny and goofy in a way that sells the absurd concept, bordering on cartoonishness.  In a good way.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

90's Watch: South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999)

Watched:  07/23/2023
Format:  Max, I think
Viewing:   Unknown
Director:  Trey Parker

If you'd told me in 1998 or so that South Park, the goofy animated construction-paper show on a young Comedy Central would now be a permanent part of the cultural landscape in 2023, you could have knocked me over with a feather. 

Like any 20-something with cable, I was a watcher of the show and in 1999, shocked to see they were going to the big screen.  

July 4, 1999, Austin received some rain and fireworks were unlikely.  The folks who'd assembled at our apartment decided to load up and go see the movie to extend our day.  Mostly what I remember was that the theater was only partially full, and almost immediately, people were trickling out.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Material Watch: Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991)

Watched:  07/22/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Alek Kesheshian

It's probably a cultural bellwether that the biggest name in music right now is Taylor Swift, who is a fine singer/ songwriter and who is about as challenging as a pair of fuzzy socks.  Like, I get that she speaks to the suburban experience like no one's business, but she's not exactly out there getting angry notes from the Pope.

But not so Madonna circa 1990 when this documentary was shot and subsequently released.  The Material Girl was not poking anyone in the eye, but she was giddily pushing the envelope enough that she was constantly getting free publicity from outraged pearl clutchers.

I was something of a secret Madonna fan around the time this movie came out.  Attempting a persona as a fan of music which sat outside of pop and the Top 40, I didn't advertise that I knew all the words to La Isla Bonita.  That said, it was expected you'd seen Madonna's videos and knew her songs as both were inescapable through the mid 80's to the mid-90's.  And I wasn't avoiding Madonna.  She, uh, was not funny looking, and her songs were catchy, and on the radio, fairly non-threatening.  And, right out of the gate, she started with Like a Virgin, which always felt like it should be dirty, but you had to make it so, and so it landed on regular MTV rotation.  

Monday, July 17, 2023

WA Watch: Rushmore (1998)

I figure this is me and my nephew in about 8 years

Watched:  07/16/2023
Format:  Streaming Amazon
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Wes Anderson

Recently, I was watching some old Bugs Bunny cartoons, circa 1940, and I was surprised to see the name "Charles M. Jones" in the credits.  While "Chuck Jones" is synonymous with WB animation, he's really associated with a certain artistic style and flair that is characterized in certain styles of background, character design and with his comedic timing in everything from "What's Opera, Doc?" to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  But there was his name in plain text.

He had not yet timed how long it took an anvil to fall or for Wile E. Coyote to hang in mid-air before plummeting for maximum comedic effect.  He hadn't quite gotten the rise of an eyebrow or a sly look to the viewer.  But.  It's there.  

Jamie was the one who requested a watch of Rushmore (1998) a film we saw together way back at the Arbor IV upon its release.  And we've watched a number of times over the years.  And, for her, it was an academic exercise in "what was he doing in 1998?  and how does it true up to what's there in 2023 with Asteroid City?"

It's interesting how Anderson springs into a form we all would have been fine with here in 1998 and with his second feature (after the excellent Bottle Rocket).  He's locking in on some of the themes he'd return to (certainly distant, bad dads), certain camera shots/ edits, formal dialog fit more for a 20th century short story than a film in the naturalist mode, aesthetics of symmetry and retro-ism.  

It's also curious to ponder how much of the Wes Anderson story that Owen Wilson occupies.  The two were roommates at the University of Texas, and Anderson - maybe UT's brightest star in film - did not actually participate in the film program, but got a Philosophy degree.*  Bottle Rocket was a deep partnership between Anderson and the Wilson brothers and he'd co-star in the film as well as co-writing and appearing in Royal Tenenbaums.  And, of course, he appears in numerous other Anderson pictures, including French Dispatch, which I haven't seen yet.  

I assume the pacing of events means Anderson and Wilson wrote Rushmore while in their mid-20's to late-20's, and while there's certainly a level of goofiness to the proceedings and it is, in part, about a middle-aged man in a juvenile spat with a 15-year-old, there's some great character stuff that rings even more true here as I roll towards 50.  

I don't know that Anderson could do Rushmore again.  Maybe.  He's never quite given up on teen geniuses, including underperforming teen and adult geniuses.  He's still working through dead parents, bad parents, indifferent parents.  He's still invested in messy romance treated as a matter-of-fact.  I'm not sure a studio would be as ready to fund a movie about a teen and teacher with a complex relationship in the last 20 years.  

But, in general, there's nothing  - to me - about Rushmore that doesn't work.   

I'm glad it's shot in Houston.  Bleak, wintery Houston in all its no-zoning-laws glory and mix of industrial mess and bucolic park-like environs.  I love that dumb town.  

And, of course, it really gave the world Jason Schwartzman and a new view of Bill Murray.  Co-star Olivia Williams has remained feverishly busy, appearing in American works, from The Sixth Sense to Hyde Park on the Hudson (reteamed with Murray).  

But the film also has Brian Cox, briefly Connie Nielsen, Luke and Andrew Wilson, and the late Seymour Cassel.  Sara Tanaka and Mason Gamble seem to have retired from acting - but I think Tanaka is a cardiologist now?

Anyway, 25 years later, the movie still works as well as it ever did, and at this point, it's much more than a curious artifact of Anderson's early work - it's clearly pointing the way he's headed.


*Little tip for you brainiacs like me who burned through 5 years of college and panicked in their 4th year and also got a history degree

Friday, July 14, 2023

Dog Watch: Lassie (1994)

Watched:  07/13/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Daniel Petrie

Like all good Gen-X'ers, I grew up in the aftershocks of the baby boomers, and Lassie - the very clever collie - was certainly a character and concept we knew of, if not through direct experience, then by osmosis.  I guess there was a book, originally (1940).  Our canine hero starred in wildly popular movies beginning in the 1940's (it's where Roddy McDowall got his start as a lad) and television - running for a cool 20 years, from 1954-1974.  Plus several more movies and TV shows over the years people who are not huge Lassie fans probably are unaware of.

I know!  That's a lot of Lassies.  

The artificial monoculture created via mass media and limited outlets did, at least, give us a chance to have some familiar talking points, and you never knew where they'd coalesce.  Personally, I didn't watch Lassie in reruns.  Or the movies.*  For most of us, Lassie was one or two jokes about kids falling down wells and dogs alerting us to calamity.  Maybe we whistled the theme song at our dogs.  

This 1994 film is more or less an original story, but if you know anything at all about Lassie from the TV show, etc... this movie carries on quite a bit of the world's bravest, smartest, wisest dog *and* best friend to a boy who needs one.  This dog seems like it's ready to pick locks and drive cars.  Three cheers for Lassie.

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