Friday, June 14, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
I've been meaning to watch this movie for decades. Literally. I've even owned a copy of it for a few years, but - let's be honest - unless you're one of the Silent Film buffs, it takes a bit of extra energy and focus to get through a 2-hour silent movie.*
I first stumbled across Louise Brooks just as I exited film school (I believe the doc Looking for Lulu was airing on cable), and back then, finding her work was incredibly difficult. I rented a few films in which she appears as a minor or background character, but the GW Pabst stuff eluded me. The DVD copies you were supposed to be able to get were expensive and of notoriously bad quality. But, the past few years, various groups have been restoring and making available some of that height-of-her-career/ powers material.
Friday, February 15, 2019
Format: Amazon Prime Streaming
Jamie and I went out for a lovely dinner for Valentine's Day, followed by catching up on Star Trek: Discovery, and then - somehow - I wound up watching this movie, and I think for the fashion choices alone, Jamie didn't object. I thought I'd previously seen Coffy (1973) when I started it - because it's currently streaming free to Amazon Prime subscribers, and, I didn't intend to actually watch it. But I hadn't seen it and the next thing I knew I was an hour in.
Sunday, February 3, 2019
Monday, December 3, 2018
Viewing: Unknown. 6th?
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
First of all, "The Killing" that occurs in this movie is not an assassination. It could refer to about five or ten different things, and I suppose that's intentional. I'd start with "they're gonna make a killing on this heist", but, of course, this is a 1950's-era heist movie, so you know it's not ending in sunshine and flowers.
The Killing (1956) sits on a curious edge when it comes to crime dramas/ noir. Marking maverick, young filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's first foray into studio-backed cinema, the movie feels part and parcel of the noir movement with a structure and an ending not atypical for a dime-store crime novel, retaining those rough edges that some noir eschewed. As much as I like The Asphalt Jungle and Rafifi - likely The Killing had more impact and reflects more of where the heist genre would go - especially in American cinema (at least marginally).
Saturday, August 4, 2018
As part of their Summer Under the Stars month-long programming event, TCM has blocked Monday, August 6th for a slate of films starring another patron saint of The Signal Watch, actress Audrey Totter.
There are several listed that I haven't seen yet and many I have. We think you should set your DVRs and watch an Audrey movie or three.
Born August 3, 1923 in Chicago. Passed in 1977.
You know her best as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain, but she was also in noir films like Side Street, Asphalt Jungle and No Questions Asked.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
"There ought to be a law against any man who doesn’t want to marry Myrna Loy." -Jimmy Stewart
Happy Birthday to the late actress, Myrna Loy, who would have been 103 today.
Loy is highly popular in classic film circles, and when you start making your way through her filmography, it's not hard to see why. She's strong as both a comedic and dramatic actor, is the force-to-be-reckoned-with up against powerhouse leading men from Cary Grant to Jimmy Stewart, and, most famously, William Powell. She's unaffected and a natural in front of the lens, whether playing a society damsel in a romantic tangle or the daughter of Fun Manchu (where it is deeply, deeply complicated to talk about how sexy she is in the role*). And her version of side-eye should be given a copyright all its own.
Loy's career extended beyond the usual ingenue lifespan. Like her friend Joan Crawford, she worked her entire life, remaining relevant (and never lost her looks, which, I mean, come on. I'm human.) and as strong an actress as you're like to see when she was shuffled into playing mothers The Best Years of Our Lives, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House instead of sloe-eyed, knowing girls. Or especially the judge/ spinster sister in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.
|Loy was deeply involved in American Red Cross and other ctivities in support of the fight against the Axis|
For people who find "old movies" too stagey or unnatural, Loy is an excellent cure for what ails you. She's style fits in neatly, and - I'll argue - informs a lot of what came after. In her comedies, she's hysterical, and in any movie her tone and manner captures what other actors are still trying to pull off today when it comes to presence. Pair her with a leading man worthy of her talents, and you've got a hell of a movie.
Happy birthday, Ms. Loy!
*yellow-face. She's in yellow face as an evil Manchurian. The past (and a lot of the present) is super-racist. Just FYI.
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Today is the birthday of Patron Saint to The Signal Watch, Ms. Lynda Carter. She's busy performing again this year, and set to reprise her role as POTUS on CW's Supergirl. If we're lucky, she'll also be in WW84.
Here's to Ms. Carter on another great year.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Format: BluRay (purchased)
I've already seen (twice) and talked about (once) Thor: Rangarok (2017), so the rest of this post is just me reflecting on what an excellent idea it was to cast Cate Blanchett as Hela.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
Friday, March 23, 2018
I noticed a lot of chatter online today about Joan Crawford and then that TCM was running some of her movies (I didn't watch them, I was doing other things). Today marks the 113th birthday of Joan Crawford, born in San Antonio in 1905 but mostly raised in Jamie's hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma.
I am happy to do what I can to be one of the folks who would like folks to remember Crawford for her long career, ever-transforming screen persona, and - frankly - stunning screen presence before she wound up in some campy movie in her final working years and was badly memorialized by Dunaway.
Even in not-great movies, Crawford is a force. All that is apparently a shadow of what she was like in person, and I am sure she would have terrified me if I'd met her, but since seeing Mildred Pierce during college, still one of my favorite films, I've been a fan. But there are still a ton of her movies I've yet to see.
Anyway, happy birthday, Ms. Crawford. I hope you're having a Pepsi somewhere among your fans and friends.
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.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
You probably know Gloria Grahame for her small but pivotal part in It's a Wonderful Life as Violet, the attractive blonde in Bedford Falls who fails to land Jimmy Stewart and is a headcase in the Pottersville segment of the movie.
But Grahame's career included a lot of noir, some musicals (she's in Oklahoma! as Ado Annie), and a life off-screen that was dramatic, to say the least. If you follow older films and want to see some top notch noir, I recommend (very highly):
- The Big Heat
- In a Lonely Place
- Human Desire
But this list is not even close to comprehensive when it comes to her body of work.
Like a lot of women of her generation in Hollywood, her rise was incredibly fast and her path out of Hollywood was rocky, to say the least. Curiously, Annette Benning is playing Grahame in an upcoming movie that covers the final years of Grahame's life, from what I can tell. Looks promising, as far as these movies go.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Today marks the 95th birthday of actor Veronica Lake.
I quite like Lake and she's in some great movies, from Sullivan's Travels to The Blue Dahlia. My favorite is This Gun For Hire. Lake's career in Hollywood was brief and tumultuous, and she was gone within a few years, but she left a tremendous mark few have been able to match.
Lake passed in the early 70's, but that's a whole other story. If you only know her from glamour photos, seek out one of her films.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Today marks the something-or-other birthday of Joan Crawford. Maybe 112th. As many actresses have done over the years, she lied about her age a few times, so it's hard to know exactly what year she was born.
I saw my first Crawford picture when they showed us Mildred Pierce in film school, and I've been a fan ever since.
I'm thrilled that it seems both the kids who are into TCM are placing Crawford in context - even my generation is lukewarm on the whole Mommie Dearest business - and now it seems FX's Feud: Bette and Joan is telling an audience about the person that was Joan Crawford (née Lucille LeSeur), and using the amazing What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? to do so ain't all bad.
She was born in San Antonio and lived in Lawton, Oklahoma - both places our own Jamie lived. In fact, I believe Crawford's childhood home was only about two blocks from Jamie's childhood home.
If you've never seen What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, do so, and then watch Feud: Bette and Joan. And then watch Mildred Pierce. And then Grand Hotel. She's got dozens of movies in her history. Not all of them are terrific or hold up, but it'd be nice to rehabilitate Joan Crawford's memory a bit and for her to be more than Faye Dunaway overacting.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
I don't know where to start or what, exactly, to say about Starcrash (1978).
I'd heard of the movie decades ago as it was always in with the sci-fi/ fantasy movies at video rental shops, but with Caroline Munro in a vinyl bikini on the box cover, I knew better than to bother to rent the movie. When I was young enough to have to ask my parents to rent something for me, I didn't want to put up with the questions and then the reporting my parents would gleefully do given the first opportunity (my family looooooves a good embarrassing story, and a 10 year old Ryan standing there with a video with a buxom space-lady on the cover would have been fodder for them for weeks, if not years).
When I got older and was renting movies on my own, and, I know it seems counter-intuitive if you've been following this site for a while, but I already knew any movie relying on a bikini-clad off-brand actor on the cover wound up as a terrible decision. Yes, it was also the kind of thing that became fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000 in it's later years when the cheaply produced post Star Wars/ post Mad Max knock-offs were showing up over and over at the video store, but without Joel or Mike to guide me through, it wasn't worth it.* And, I don't mind that at one point in my life I was subconsciously trying to understand what was and was not a good movie.