Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
I had no idea what this movie was about prior to giving it a watch, so real quick:
Directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, this is based on a true story (apparently?) of a musician who goes to his insurance company to see if he can take out on a loan his wife's life insurance for some dental work, only to be identified by the clerks as the man who committed two robberies of the company in the prior 9 months or so. The police pick him up, assuring him that if he didn't do it, there's nothing to worry about, but in a line-up, he's identified by multiple witnesses (the robber also hit a few stores) and even his handwriting sample seems to match.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Format: Amazon Streaming
I just checked Box Office Mojo and if you want to weep for humanity, this movie made $190 million and Minions made over a billion dollars. I think I'm beginning to understand how we reached our current state as a people.
If you haven't seen Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), it's now streaming, so now's a second chance.
With the device revealed at the finale of the first Lego Movie, and a reasonable assumption being that we understand that the adventures of the movie are in part a kid playing with Lego and in part a kid working things out - the movie is able to play a bit more with the premise.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
People take a lot of liberties when adapting Raymond Chandler novels to screen. It's not a huge surprise. After all, Chandler's books are winding, complicated, and don't exactly make it easy to translate Marlowe's inner-monologue or exposition in a way that's easy to cram into 90 - 120 minutes and keep the audience with you. To this day, people complain The Big Sleep is "too complicated".
It's been a while since I read The Little Sister, I think the fifth Marlowe novel and the work upon which the studio based Marlowe (1969). Between reading several Chandler novels in a row at that time and years inbetween, not every detail of the plot had stuck with me, but impressions of various characters remained, and as the movie unspooled, it did provide me with a roadmap and certain expectations for the film that gave me a leg up vis-a-vis following the plot and keeping up. A glance at some contemporary reviews suggest that even Ebert and Siskel found it a bit muddled.
Still, the story sticks surprisingly close to the novel, updating some factors for 1969 that would have looked very different in the original setting of 1949. And, I'll argue, while people feel like they've got a grip on Chandler by way of reputation, in practice his novels tend to feel like a morass of detail until the denouement. That's part of the fun (and Hammett did same in books like The Thin Man).
Format: Alamo S. Lamar
Say what you will about Austin, but I just got home from a Tuesday 9:30 PM showing of a 1933 horror movie almost no one has seen who is currently alive, and the place was hopping. I know this is true in other cities, but this one is mine.
For whatever reason I enjoy what the studios were up to with horror in the pre-Atomic Age films, a mix of the occult, mythical beasts, ghost stories and sometimes just creepy old houses with a Boris Karloff in them. Supernatural (1933) would have come out on the heels of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) in the era where not just Universal, but other studios, were getting in on the horror genre and the Hayes office wasn't yet really enforcing any codes.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Format: Netflix MST3K - The Gauntlet
Sometimes movie stars just want to take a vacation and maybe shoot a movie while they're there. You see it all the time in these peculiar movies that don't look very good but star people who actually cost some money - and the movie is in, say, Hawaii. They're called "postcard movies", and the deal is usually that the star maybe asks for less because they're being put up in a really nice hotel in Maui for two months to make some romcom or whatever. Their family comes out and they go boogie-boarding on their days off.
I kind of suspect something similar was afoot in 1979 when Killer Fish went into production. The movie doesn't have the world's biggest stars, but in '79 Lee Majors was a pretty big deal and Karen Black was still bankable. I imagine selling the movie as "come down to Rio de Janeiro for a couple months" was a pretty good deal. I'd also mention, this movie was part of the short-lived Fawcett-Majors Productions, a go at producing from when Lee Majors and Farah Fawcett were Hollywood's foremost couple. And, no, you've never heard of this movie or the other films that they produced.
Monday, August 12, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR from a looooong time ago
Well. Between this and The Lost Weekend, I picked quite the double-bill for the weekend.
I mean, I knew. I'd rented this movie twice in college but when I'd think about what it was about, I'd never hit "play" on the ol' VCR. And I'd recorded it a half-dozen times on the DVR and never watched it. But this time I did.
The Ox-Bow Incident (1942) is about a small town in the old west who finds out that a local rancher has been killed, and so they pull together a posse to go track down the killers. It's a mish-mash of local color and yahoos, rationalizing why they don't need to follow the rules, exactly, and supported by the ineptitude and slack nature of some local authority.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
The Lost Weekend (1945) is one of those movies that you always know you should watch, but when you know what it's about, it's sort of hard to get fired up to put on. But with Billy Wilder behind the camera and with a "co-written by" credit, it did nudge me toward "okay...", and knowing it featured Ray Milland, whom I like well enough, and Howard Da Silva, whom I really like, it put it in the "yeah, I need to see that" direction.
But in the past month two things happened. (1) I read that Wilder wrote the movie after working with Raymond Chandler to write Double Indemnity. Chandler certainly suffered from alcohol addiction and, as it will, the addiction impacted his professional and personal life. I'm unclear on whether Chandler was dry during Double Indemnity, but I'm also sure working with Wilder would drive him to drink. While the two never got along, it's noteworthy that whatever he saw and respected in Chandler was mixed up with how he saw his alcoholism. (2) Our own JimD referenced the movie and asked me when the last time was that I'd seen it, which was "never". Mid-tweet response I decided to watch the movie this weekend.
Friday, August 9, 2019
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Watched: Crawl 07/31/2019, Rogue 08/06/2019
Format: AMC Barton Creek and DVD
Viewing: First for both
Decade: 2010's/ 2000's
SimonUK and Ryan take a bite out of two movies that burst from the depths to surprise us. We compare and contrast a pair of films that rolled us over and made us take notice, but definitely felt we could sink our teeth into.
Crocodile Rock - Elton John, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
See You Later, Alligator - Bill Haley and the Comets
Playlist - SimonUK Cinema Series:
Monday, August 5, 2019
|this quote is exactly what Jamie said to me when we met|
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
There's a surprising number of movies about or including the work of "trucking" in this category we call "noir". I suppose it makes sense given the world of people operating mostly alone, moving from place to place by day and night. Add in the shadiness of transportation companies and both the folks sending and receiving goods, and it's fertile soil for drama. And it's not like people like myself who've never ridden in a truck are oblivious to truckstop shenanigans.
But who would have thought moving produce would lead to excellent noir drama? But, at it's core, Thieves' Highway (1949), which is 100% about moving produce, contains a lot of what I think of when I ponder what comprises the "noir movement". Characters in over their head pursuing goals due to hubris or lust (this one has both), a disaffection with the status quo and everyman status, a woman on the make pulling the wool over some schmuck's eyes... it's all there. Plus a heavy played by Lee J. Cobb and a morally gray protagonist played by Richard Conte.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
Format: Hallmark Channel's Christmas in July
I was suffering a fever and whatnot over the weekend, and that's part of why this happened.
Around July 1, The Hallmark Channel began running Christmas movies 24/7, and I guess that's the gameplan through the end of the month. It's clearly a trial balloon to see if they should just go ahead and launch a fulltime Christmas movies channel, as in - all year it's Christmas. Which would make Jamie snap, and, thus, I support this idea.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
So.... I don't know that I'd want to actually recommend The Tattooed Stranger (1950) to anyone. It's far more of a curiosity of production than it is a watchable or good movie, and in the right, riff-able hands, could be wildly entertaining. Pre-film, Muller explained that it had been a producer of RKO's Pathe office, who wanted to try their hand at cheap narrative films, exploiting their guerrilla film making know-how from decades of documentary films and using the wealth of actors in NYC.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
|absolutely no one swings into action on top of a couple having a cuddle in the course of this movie|
Format: Alamo South Lamar
Well, somehow Wednesday became my Robert Ryan double-bill day. SimonUK and I headed over to the local cinema to take in this novelty 1953 film. Ostensibly noir, this movie is both in technicolor (not a disqualifier) and in 3D (a curiosity for noir, to say the least). It also takes place in the desert and is 65% a tale of survival in extreme conditions, and - while I get why it gets lumped in with noir, I'm a bit on the fence.
If the movie borrows from noir, it's trying to borrow from the best - in some ways asking "yes, but what if the husband in Double Indemnity had lived?" and pairing it with a survival tale in which the husband is not on an urban railroad track but thrown from a horse in the Mojave Desert.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
If I were to buy this movie on Bluray (and it's Lupino, so don't count me out), I would wish it had Eddie Muller's conversations which bookended the showing on Noir Alley. Muller says he's doing "barroom, not classroom", but I'll argue that by showing a wide variety of films on Noir Alley and talking about why we should pay attention, discussing what happened during production, etc... and not just lauding whatever it is we're about to see, Noir Alley is one of the best movie-watching experiences and educations you can hope for. And, yeah, he makes it all as casual as a talk over cocktails.
On Dangerous Ground (1951) is directed by Nicholas Ray and stars two of my favorite denizens of Noir Alley, Ida Lupino* and Robert Ryan (here wearing a coat and hat and a tough cops face in a way I wish with all my heart I could pull off). I'd meant to watch it some time ago, and I can't recall why it fell off the list - but now was the time! Muller certainly discussed details of the film and production, but his real focus was on the Bernard Herrmann score. And it is very, very much a Bernard Herrmann score, which is almost off to see against an RKO b&w cop picture.
Saturday, July 6, 2019
First - this poster is doing Ann Sheridan no favors. She's a gorgeous woman, and here she looks like a wax museum figurine that's been set too close to a lamp. Second - like many-a-noir, this title isn't actually accurate. The movie is about a woman seeking out her husband, who is a dude "on the run". Unless this is when I find out "on the run" in this era meant "she's just moving about quickly", which I don't think it did.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
Everyone but me has seen this movie, but we were staying in on a Saturday and it seemed like a good option for a bit of a light movie and to check off a viewing box.
Somehow, until about two years ago, it had escaped my notice that Sabrina (1954) was actually a Billy Wilder film, and so I wanted to give it a real shot, and I'm glad I did - it did surpass whatever bar I'd set for the movie. The movie isn't exactly what I expected, which was to see two brothers in escalating conflict, trying to win over Audrey Hepburn. You can read that as: I didn't want to watch two middle-aged guys duking it out over an ingenue for 2 hours - but it's not really that.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Format: Noir Alley TCM on DVR
The core idea of this movie is so... evil... I almost think it'd make for a swell comedy.
Ann Sothern - a sort of "America's sweetheart" of the era - plays a woman who murders her own sister but can pin it on her brother-in-law. BUT! Her niece saw the whole thing, so she won't go to the gas chamber, she's in a race to kill the little girl before Nancy Davis (read: Nancy Reagan) helps the the little girl recover her memory.
I mean, you can imagine the Looney Tunes quality of repeated murder set-up after murder set-up to kill a bright-eyed little girl who is working through her cloudy memories by playing dolls with Nancy Reagan.
This movie plays it straight, is a lesser entry in everyone's resume but that of child actor Gigi Perreau (still living, people!), and is good enough as yet another entry in the "psychology is a an alchemical force toward unlocking the mind" films of the era. It does co-star a pre-Ronald-betrothed Nancy Davis, who is better than I figured she'd be, but still very much Nancy Reagan.* It does not feature nearly enough Zachary Scott, whom I always like.
My favorite scene is one where Sothern poisoned the little girl's chocolate milk and it seems like anything can happen in this particular set-up, shot from the kids' eye level as her friend wanders in to see why she isn't drinking her milk. Just great stuff.
*I'm sorry - the lady just seemed like a scold all the time when I was a kid, and she feels that way here, too
Friday, June 28, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
A bit of lighter, post-war crime drama.
Garfield plays a former con-man coming back to New York to reclaim the girl he left when he enlisted, and the wad of money he left in her hands. She's thrown in with a club-owner and spent the money, and so he heads out to LA to reconnect with an old friend.
Running into some pre-war fellow goons, he's turned onto a scheme to rip-off a wealthy widow, who turns out to be less tired old lady and instead the lovely Geraldine Fitzgerald. Trouble ensues.
The movie is so light in places and features so many comedic bits, it barely feels like noir - but structurally, it fits the bill. Nothing ground-breaking here, but Garfield shows his chops as a strong leading man, and we get some great character actor performances and Fitzgerald demonstrates why she flirted with major stardom.
Format: TCM on DVR
A fascinating oddball of a movie - part epic, part recreation, part disaster film, part meditation on the futility of war, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) is an all-star retelling the of the real life events leading up to, and a recreation of, the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Originally this was supposed to be two separate movies, one Japanese and one American. And it almost is - the Japanese parts were directed by Japanese directors (Kurosawa was notoriously fired off the film!), and the American parts: an American director. I can only wonder how that would have worked in practice, perhaps better. Both sections reflect the mistakes made along the way - failure of diplomacy, duplicitous use of diplomatic formalities, bureaucratic loggerheads, etc... Each section reflects back the stance of the home country on what happened at Pearl Harbor in tone and approach, which can make for something of a split-personality to the film that doesn't always work, but probably informs the viewer in 2019 what was felt a generation after the war.
Saturday, June 22, 2019
For some reason folks try to file this movie under "noir", and... maybe...? But I'm going to just go ahead and say "drama". I'm not willing to do mental the work to turn a Jack London story on a boat into a noir.
I actually broke one of my own rules and purchased this BluRay a couple of months ago having had never seen the movie. Honestly, I looked at the starring names, looked at the source material and the name of the director and figured "I've spent money on far worse films".
A wildly timely movie - perhaps depressingly so - as the original story by novelist Jack London was adapted to reflect the times. A man on the run played by John Garfield joins up with a ship (agreeing after almost getting shanghied). Meanwhile, an escaped convict (Lupino) is hiding on a ferry to San Francisco when it's struck by a steamship. She and a writer (Knox) are rescued by the crew of The Ghost, but with no intention of setting them back to land. The Ghost is a 1900-era pirate ship, and those aboard are a crew of the worst of society, who hate themselves almost as much as they hate each other (and assume the worst in everyone).
Sunday, June 16, 2019
One of my earliest memories is being about three, hanging from the inside of the garage door and singing "We Will Rock You" and kicking the garage door to the beat. Who knew a 3 year old would have that kind of appreciation for a Brian May guitar lick?
It's hard to piece together what I knew about Queen and when. It doesn't help that time for kids is so distended, and what were minor hiatuses for the band were epic blocks of time to me back then. I do remember them coming back into my consciousness with "Radio Gaga". I remember a bit of Live Aid on playback (but not live). I remember Freddie passing.
And, of course, anyone around at the time remembers the post-mortem, Wayne's World supported explosion of "Bohemian Rhapsody", a song I can't say I'd heard before.