Showing posts with label movies 2020. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies 2020. Show all posts

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fosse Watch: All That Jazz (1979)




Watched:  09/15/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First (all the way through)
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Bob Fosse

Not that long ago I watched the FX limited series Fosse/Verdon, an FX television production following the later careers of Broadway and Hollywood director Bob Fosse and his ex-wife - famed performer, Gwen Verdon.  If you've not seen it, I can't recommend it enough.  It stars two of the greats of this era, Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell, and features some amazingly nuanced performances by both, in a co-dependent relationship/ partnership that's bigger than a failed marriage.  

I'm not a musical theatre follower - and certainly no historian of the second half of the 20th Century when it comes to musical theater or movie musicals, but it's not hard to see the impact Bob Fosse left on the form, and why everyone is still scrambling to keep up.  His stage show of Chicago (2002) managed to win Academy Awards when turned into a hit movie decades after his passing (1987).  And during his lifetime he was a huge part of the movement that made musicals relevant, updated dance on Broadway, and turned sexiness from something blushing and suggested to something overt.  And - he made the films Sweet Charity, Cabaret, Lenny, Star80 and All That Jazz (1979).

I'd seen parts of All That Jazz years ago, but on a channel that cut it for TV and for commercials, and given the flow, I threw in the towel with an intention to watch it all in one shot - which I never did.  But i did see enough of it to gather some basic facts - I figured it was a confessional auto-biopic from when "directed by Bob Fosse" came up, and saw what the film was about.  So I didn't go into Fosse/Verdon totally unprepared.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

PODCAST: "Fantasia" (1940) and "Fantasia 2000" (1999) - a Disney History PodCast w/ NathanC and Ryan

 


Watched:  Fantasia 09/08 and Fantasia 2000 09/10/20
Format:  Disney +
Viewing:  Unknown/ Fourth
Decade:  1940's and 1990's
Director:  multiple on each


More places to listen 

When does animation become become more than popular entertainment? What are the boundaries of art that separate Beethoven and cartoon alligators? What is high-brow entertainment and funny business for the whole family? Walt Disney had a vision to elevate the form of animation and create an entirely new experience. Today, we know the result as "Fantasia", which returned in 1999 with a sequel of sorts in "Fantasia 2000". NathanC and Ryan return to talk all about a pair of Disney classics! 

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - J.S. Bach
Ave Maria - Franz Schubert

Nathan's Fantasia buddies:


Ryan's Fantasia (and assorted Disney) pals:




Disney History Playlist:



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Crawford Watch: Johnny Guitar (1954)


 

Watched:  09/11/2020
Format: Watch Party
Viewing:  Third
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Nicholas Ray

I don't know how successful Johnny Guitar (1954) was upon its release.  As a Western, it plays with a lot of the tropes of expansion, cattlemen versus progress and settlement, gunslingers, robbing stage coaches and more.  But at the end of the day it's about two iron-willed women who really, really do not like each other, and how one self-righteous person can lead everyone down a path that ends in murder.

1954 was part of the second act of Joan Crawford's bumpy ride of a career that solidified nine years prior with Mildred Pierce.  The glamour days of Grand Hotel were 20 years in the past.  She still had the weirdo horror movie career ahead of her, and was just about to set out as America's foremost proponent of Pepsi Cola.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Muppet Watch: Great Muppet Caper (1981)

 


Watched:  09/12/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Jim Henson

The Muppet Movie is a beautifully constructed film on many levels, is gorgeous, has an amazing message, and we should all own at least one copy.  The Great Muppet Caper is just @#$%ing funny.

Leaning on the tropes of movies, movie-making, and doing occasional spoofs (Piggy's Esther Williams tribute), The Great Muppet Caper sings about what it's going to be, and is that - a pretty thin mystery plot as an excuse for Muppet mayhem.  And, along the way, makes it fun for them and for all of us, with terrific sight gags, 4th wall-breaking jokes, improvised moments (there's a scene with Kermit and Piggy in the park that cannot possibly have been in the script), and the patented Muppet formula of running jokes that just get funnier as they go along.

The cast includes the recently departed Diana Rigg (we didn't set out to watch a Diana Rigg film, but she's hilarious in this) and Charles Grodin in a star turn as Nicky, Rigg's ne'er-do-well brother.  But there's also UK-friendly cameos as well as those for an American audience.   John Cleese and Joan Sanderson's bit feels imported from another movie entirely, and I remember thinking it was very funny when I was 6, but now I find it hysterical.  

Anyway, this is an ideal one to watch with the kids.  Listen to everything the Muppets are saying, especially in throw-away lines.  It's like two separate movies for kids and adults, but I think everyone will still like it.

Forgot to Write It Up Watch: "The Bigamist" (1953) and "A Crime Against Joe" (1956)



 


Watched:  The Bigamist 09/02 and ACAJ 09/09/2020
Format:  Watch Party w/ Jenifer
Viewing:  First for both
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Ida Lupino and  Lee Sholem

Jenifer's been hosting Amazon Watch Parties on Wednesdays, and she's picked some good ones.  And A Crime Against Joe (1956).  

I was delighted to finally see The Bigamist, starring and directed by the great Ida Lupino.  And I watched A Crime Against Joe.  It was certainly a movie.

Not doing a write up of either, but suffice it to say, anything with Lupino is a pretty good idea, and seeing her get to direct is always a treat.

lovely eyes stare into middle distance
Lupino ponders how Edmond O'Brien of all guys landed two women at once



Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Bear Watch: Grizzly (1976)


 

Watched:  09/07/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  William Girdler

So, I very much remember this VHS box fading on the shelf of pretty much every video rental place I went from the mid-80's to the late 90's.  I think it was usually in the horror section, which is an inaccurate place to put the movie, but it's not action, either.  But I never thought much about it - I just didn't rent it.  Looked like a movie about a large bear eating people, and I was pretty far into my 30's before I realized I liked movies about large animals giving humanity a bad time.

So, apparently there's a sequel that was never released, and it includes actors like Louise Fletcher, John Rhys Davies, George Clooney and.. most importantly.. Laura Dern.  Shot in 1983, it's just NOW about to get a release.  And I figured "well, I don't want to not know what happened in the first one...", and even though the original is 100% Laura Dern-free, Jamie and I fired it up.  

Friends: what if Jaws, but bear?  

That is the question posited by Grizzly, the highest earning independent movie ever when it was released in 1976.  And I'm not exaggerating - someone went to see Jaws and wrote down the events of that movie, and tried to map their own script onto the story of Jaws.  But instead of a 25 foot shark, we have a 15' grizzly bear.  Instead of a Sheriff, we have a Captain of the Park Rangers.  

They even include scenes like the Captain getting drunk when someone gets killed, and a spooky monologue about a herd of grizzlies eating people.  There are three main characters, but one of them (played by "that guy" actor Richard Jaeckel) is a mix of Hooper and Quint (he even wears Hooper's little hat).  

There's a Park Manager who doesn't want to shut the park down, invites in hunters... you're maybe familiar with the plot.

Anyway - it's also kind of plodding and gives you an idea what Spielberg and his editors did so well that this movie did not.  But, again, wildly successful!  

Anyhoo... I want to podcast this with Simon at some point.  So, more to come.


Ann Miller/ Lucille Ball Watch: Too Many Girls (1940)




Watched:  09/08/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  George Abbott

I'd forgotten this was living on my DVR and I needed something to watch on the elliptical - and it starred Lucille Ball.

Too Many Girls (1940) is a particular breed of Hollywood musical that was about big dance numbers loosely tied together with characters working through a paper-thin plot, and really an excuse to get a whole bunch of characters on screen at one time for song and dance numbers.  The better ones are the ones choreographed by Busby Berkeley, and then there's stuff like this with dancers sort of just running around a lot.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Noir Watch: The Unfaithful (1947)


 

Watched:  I dunno.  A couple of months ago.
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director: Vincent Sherman

I just totally forgot to write this one up and realized that today whilst thinking about Zachary Scott.  As you do.

The Unfaithful (1947) is essentially a domestic version of The Letter, the extraordinary William Wyler film starring Bette Davis.  This version transplants the action from rubber farms in the Maylay Peninsula to suburban Los Angeles just after WWII and puts Ann Sheridan in the lead.  None of that is a problem, and were The Letter not such a bombshell of a movie, The Unfaithful would shine brighter.  

Super Watch: Superman - Man of Tomorrow (2020)




Watched:  09/07/2020
Format:  Blu-Ray
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Chris Palmer

The best thing about a movie shouldn't be the trailer for an upcoming Batman Kung-Fu movie that happens to be on the disc you're watching.  

Watch Party Watch: Girls Just Want to have Fun (1985)




Watched:  09/04/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  so, so 1980's
Director:

Sort of like Teen Witch from roughly the same era, Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985) feels a bit like the people putting it together didn't really know how to make a movie.  Or else they didn't have the money to do what they intended to do, which is probably evidenced by the lack of ability to license the Cindy Lauper version of the titular song of the movie.  

A very young Sarah Jessica Parker plays a Catholic High School girl who has just moved to Chicago.  She's moved around a lot, but is excited by this move as Chicago is the home of a very famous dance show she watches religiously, and she wants to try out to be ON the show as a regular featured dancer.  She immediately becomes besties with Helen Hunt, who is struggling to play rebellious and daffy and maybe punk?  But who dreams of being the "music news" portion of the show.

Anyway - there's a rich girl who is mean, a dopey looking biker guy who just wants to DANCE, and nuns.  Oh, and Jonathan Silverman playing an 80's-excess-loving entrepreneurial teen/ a dork.  

This is why 80's kids gravitated to John Hughes movies.  Even when they were maybe problematic or kind of hand-wavy when it came to stories, they felt competent, and the teens weren't just shrieking and running from place to place.  Parents were occasionally more than cardboard cut outs.  Kids have recognizable issues, like "I just want someone to like me" or "see me".  

But this movie has weird issues like being unsure if the main character lives in an apartment or house.  Her dad is so blandly written he feels like a goddamn monster, cowing daughter and wife.  And Helen Hunt is acting mostly through hair clippies.  

I dunno.  I am not a 10 year old girl in 1985, and that's who this was meant for.  

Concert Film Watch: The T.A.M.I. Show (1964)




Watched: 09/07/2020 
Format: TCM on DVR 
Viewing: First 
Decade: 1960's 
Director:  Steve Binder

A concert film featuring Jan & Dean as hosts, you get a look at 1964 as a watershed year in American music.  The show features performances by:

  • Chuck Berry
  • Gerry and the Pacemakers
  • Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  • Marvin Gaye
  • The Blossoms (group featuring Signal Watch patron saint Darlene Love)
  • Lesley Gore
  • Jan and Dean
  • The Beach Boys
  • Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas
  • The Supremes
  • The Barbarians
  • James Brown and the Famous Flames
  • The Rolling Stones
There's a 10,000 word essay on what was happening in America in 1964 (Civil Rights Act), what Chuck Berry did to music in 1958, what co-option of R&B and  Rock and Roll by white kids and white kids from England meant and what happened to the genres as a result.  

But for the TAMI Show, it's looking at the past, present and future of music on one stage in a tight package.  Not all of the acts will become legendary or household names - I never even heard of Billy J Kramer before this - and not everyone is amazing.  The awards show was the Teenage Awards Music International - or, essentially, Teen-Choice Awards.  Which is also a reminder that these genres were in the process of being turned into music for kids.  Which is an idea people respond to violently, but when you see a room full of teenage girls screaming themselves hoarse at the mere sight of Mick Jagger, it's a reminder that your parents dragged that music into adulthood with them and institutionalized it.*  This was new in the 1950's and 60's, when the very idea of a "teenager" was new in the wake of WWII and post-war prosperity/ marketing.  

But that said - I'm a product of the generation that was screaming its head off at these acts (my mother graduated high school in '64, for example).  All of this was more than a decade in the past by the time I was even born, but it was what was on the radio and in our parents' vinyl collections and played on soundtracks of movies as we were growing up, so it became our music, too.  

Anyway - it's a hell of a movie.  And if you want to see a very young The Supremes and James Brown before he became weighed down with legal issues and drama, or a chance to see The Stones as they seem to be realizing the extent of their power - this is an amazing bit of film.

Fun bonus - Toni Basil and Teri Garr are in this as dancers.  I spotted Basil, but not Garr.  




*And there's a pretty similar model for what happened to comics in the 1980's


Sunday, September 6, 2020

PODCAST: "Pride & Prejudice" (2005) - a Jamie Cinema Classic, w/ Ryan


Watched:  09/03/2020
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  00's
Director: Joe Wright

For More Ways to Listen


It's not all-genre-all-the-time at The Signal Watch! We jump on a literary classic translated to a very well received film from 15 years ago. We uncover Jamie's secret passion for this film, Ryan gets out of character discussing Jane Austen, and it's time to talk 19th-Century norms, fantasies that don't include being Batman, and much, much more!




Music:

Dawn - Dario Marianelli, Pride & Prejudice OST
Mrs. Darcy - Dario Marianelli Pride & Prejudice OST


Jamie's Cinema Classics Playlist:



Watch Party Watch: The Red House (1947)



Watched:  09/02/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Delmer Daves

In a lot of ways, I'd categorize The Red House as "American Gothic".  The story has DNA in Jane Eyre and other books about recluses living with a mystery. 

The film stars Edward G. Robinson as a a farmer who keeps mostly to himself (he cohabitates with a niece and his sister, played by Judith Anderson of Rebecca fame).   His niece brings a classmate over to see if he can work the farm to assist Robinson, who is aging and can't do what he used to, especially as he has an artificial leg.  The teen is warned to stay away from some woods near the house, and not cut through them for an obvious shortcut.

In general - I liked the film.  It's got a sort of twisty mystery, and at least the female heroine was likable (jury is out on the male lead).  Robinson and Anderson are terrific, and Rory Calhoun is a lot of fun as a dick-swinging country boy after the male lead's girl (played by chanteuse Julie London, who seems like 10x too much woman for the male lead). 

Glad Jenifer chose it because I might have easily missed this one.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

TPR-Watch-Party Watch: In the Heat of the Night (1967)


Watched:  09/01/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party (Texas Public Radio)
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Norman Jewison

What a phenomenal film, and so shockingly, depressingly timely for something 53 years old.

The energy between Poitier and Steiger is famously some of the best on screen.  The entire cast is on fire in this one, which uses the Buddy-Cop formula to highlight people from different worlds and show how they clash.  Of course, this story is that of an African-American, Philadelphia-based homicide detective who happens to stumble into murder in a hick town in Mississippi, who partners with the local Sheriff who, while totally out of his depth, has the intelligence to be *aware* he's out of his depth.

Anyway - this is a terribly famous film, and - I'd argue - well worth a watch. 

I happened to have the delight of watching the film with the Texas Public Radio film fan community via Amazon Watch Party.  Hosted by our own NathanC, the chatter during the movie was lively, Nathan brought the trivia, and after the movie we met up in a GoToMeeting to chat about it.  Good times!  A+  Would do again.

Monday, August 31, 2020

PODCAST: "Showdown in Little Tokyo" (1991) - A SimonUK Cinema Series Episode (w/ Ryan)


Watched:  08/22/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First, as it turns out
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Mark L. Lester

More ways to listen!


SimonUK and Ryan explore the 1991 film that brought Dolph Lundgren to the mean streets of LA's Little Tokyo as the ultimate Japanese man. It's action, mayhem, adventure and lots of nudity as Lundgren teams with the son of Bruce to take down the Yakuza before they something something protection racket/ sell pills in beer bottles. It's hard to say, but Tia Carrere is wrapped up in this mess, so you do have that going for you.





Music:

Showdown in Little Tokyo - David Michael Frank


SimonUK Cinema Series Playlist!


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Neo-Noir Watch: Nocturnal Animals (2016)



Watched:  08/29/2020
Format:  HBO
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Tom Ford

A lot of the coverage of the release of this film was that it was directed by Tom Ford, a fashion designer - which is an interesting idea.  One would assume a fashion designer has an eye for visuals, lifestyle cues, wardrobe and staging.  And - arguably, Ford delivers on all of these things.

He's cast beautiful people and dressed them well.  He's hired some beautiful people and dressed them down.  And, of course, there's the opening sequence which casts some (let's be honest) not gorgeous people and dressed them not at all.  For Ford - this is a hellish horror, absurd and tasteless, open to interpretation and meaningless, so awful its funny.  And knowingly hard to look at.  And... is, at best, a very small building block of what is arguably his point with the film, and set me to thinking about what and who a Tom Ford is and how that would set them for empathy and sympathy with characters in a story.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Noir Watch: Journey Into Fear (1943)



Watched:  08/25/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Norman Foster

Show on TCM as part of "Summer Under the Stars", Journey Into Fear (1943) was pitched as a Dolores Del Rio movie, and as I'd never seen a Dolores Del Rio movie and just knew who she was via a general awareness of classic film and talent. 

Well, first, Dolores Del Rio was a delight, and I look forward to watching her in more movies.  But I was also deeply curious as the film had Agnes Moorehead, my fave Joseph Cotten, and Orson Welles.  And if you're like "hey, that sounds like a Mercury Theatre production..." you are not wrong!

Honestly - this movie was terrific and I'd watch it again in a heartbeat.  It's a bit before the noir movement, but it features an everyman getting in way over his head by circumstance (but not obsession, which leaves me on the fence for calling it 100% noir).  There is a foxy dame (Del Rio) who is not his wholesome and unhelpful wife, shady characters abound, and the aesthetic kind of hollers noir. 

Cotten plays a munitions engineer on loan from the US to Turkey.  The Nazis figure if they bump him off, it sets the Turks back months or a year in Naval military advances.  And all Cotten wants to do is stay in the hotel with his wife - when he's whisked away by a cloying company man.  At a nightclub he's nearly missed as the target of an assassination attempt.  Welles, playing a bombastic head of the Turkish security forces makes moves to get him out of the city to meet up with his wife later. 

The boat which Cotten takes is full of folks who don't travel luxury class or in refined circles - and it's pretty great. 

There are a lot of really clever bits and touches that give the film character and texture.  Cotten himself wrote the screenplay, and he has a real knack for it.  The ending isn't even all that tidy, and we see his character go through a chance and arc.  But other characters are so well imagined (the businessman who became a Socialist to annoy his overbearing wife is brilliant), it's just a delight to watch.

I'd honestly love to watch it with an audience as there's plenty for classic film fans to chew on.

As a wartime movie, it's interesting none of these players served, and you get a bit of that "we're all on the same side here" stuff that makes wartime movies in non-American locales so interesting.  Before 42 and after 45, its tough to say that characters like Welles' Turkish character would be ancillary heroes of the film.  We'd return to making those characters untrustworthy and antagonistic.


Forgot to Post Watch: Catwomen of the Moon (1953)



Watched:  07/10/2020
Format:  Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Arthur Hilton

This is a very, very silly movie, but it stars Marie Windsor, so it can't be all wrong. 

They aren't women who are cats, they are women in cat suits.  Cat women.  You know. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Musical Watch: Sweet Charity (1969)



Watched:  08/23/2020
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Bob Fosse

I'd never been terribly curious about Sweet Charity (1969), but I watched - and was a huge fan of - Fosse/ Verdon last year (highest recommendations) and felt I owed the movie a look-see, especially after seeing Fosse in Kiss Me Kate.  And, I'm enough of a fan of Cabaret that I own a copy.

I'm not sure 51 years on what the legacy or reputation is of Sweet Charity.  In 2020 it wears its late-60's-ness like a cement block tied with a chain.  There's just a level of misogyny that pervades the whole film - which is essentially about a dime-a-dance-girl/ stripper/ possible sex-worker (depending on your reading) seeking marriage and happiness but who - for reasons the movie finds inessential - has no tools for doing so.  There's just no interest in ever really exploring who Charity is, herself.  And the characters feel oddly two-dimensional throughout.

In the inevitable comparison to Cabaret, Sally Bowles may have exactly the same issues and hang-ups, but we know who she is and get a few lines about how she got there.  Which I don't think we ever get about Charity.

The dance numbers are, of course, Fosse and in them the movie shines.  Absolutely.  Worth the price of admission.  Sammy Davis Jr. guests in a terrific number, and Maclaine is better than I figured as a song and dance girl.

The movie has some interesting editing quirks that now feel deeply dated.

But the ending... doesn't.  It's an unnecessary ellipses that doesn't leave the viewer feeling the ambiguity is the point - it feels like they failed to finish the script or didn't know how to wrap up the story and wanted it to have a sort of bittersweet ending that would feel heady, but it fails to earn it.  Like, literally anything could have happened as the movie wrapped, good or bad, and it would have not just felt like air coming out of a tire.

Have a point, movie.

Anyway - if nothing else, watch the most famous scene from the film, which is - frankly, amazing stuff.*




*and should be assigned viewing for any person about to enter a gentleman's club for the first time

Sunday, August 23, 2020

PODCAST: "The Straight Story" (1999) - featuring an interview with screenwriter John Roach! Disney History w/ NathanC and Ryan!


Watched:  08/08/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  David Lynch

For more ways to listen


NathanC returns for more Disney History - and this time he brings an interview with screenwriter John Roach! We're discussing the only G-Rated entry in the filmography of David Lynch, bringing his brilliance to a completely different kind of story. And - we have an interview with one of the key storytellers! Get some insight into this remarkable film courtesy a screenwriter who was there from start to finish! It's a very different (and special!) episode of The Signal Watch.





Music:  
Laurens Walking - Angelo Badalamenti, The Straight Story OST
Country Theme - Angelo Badalamenti, The Straight Story OST


Playlist - Disney History w/ NathanC: