Showing posts with label movies 2022. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies 2022. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Dracula Watch: The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)




Watched:  10/03/2022
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First 
Director:  Alan Gibson

Well, this is the final Dracula movie starring Christopher Lee as the good count, it's 1973 happening out there, and the soundtrack has a wah peddle.  I won't say I didn't enjoy this movie.  I did!  It's got Cushing still leaning into it, Lee is much more engaged than in Dracula AD 1972, and how can you go wrong when you include Joanna Lumley?  

This movie follows what happens when Dracula gets himself a cult going, and managed to plan ahead.  His plan may make no sense, but it is very, very dramatic.  Some key scenes seem to take place off-camera, and you will not like the guy who they cast as "our hero".  He has a terrible haircut and is rude to Joanna Lumley while also clearly supposed to have a romantic spark with her that no one is buying.  She's clearly way, way out of his league.  

Anyway, a mysterious cult seems to have recruited some deeply important people with the promise of power.  They kill a chicken and everything.  But it's secretly Dracula planning to use a super-bubonic plague that will wipe out humanity.  As the authorities bring in Van Helsing to sort things out, he sorts out that Dracula survived their last encounter and is now working to create a plague so all of humanity will die, and he will then be able to die, himself.  This idea gets no further consideration as some kinda wild stuff.  

There's a basement full 'o brides, a gang wearing matching sweater vests of evil, a woman wildly othered and exoticized for being Asian, snipers, excellent use of a net, and Dracula getting caught in a shrubbery.  

Joanna Lumley plays Jessica Van Helsing, seen in the prior year's Dracula AD 1972 as portrayed by Stephanie Beacham.  And her wardrobe is 70's fabu.  No notes.  She looks terrific.  




The movie plays it pretty straight, and nobody is an idiot just to serve the story.  I'm not sure how unleashing a plague requiring physical contact that becomes obvious one has said plague is particularly frightening when you realize no one would touch those people and just walk away from the threat.  Literally Lee's scheme in Captain America: Death Too Soon is 10000x more effective.   

There's some kinda interesting direction here that shows we've moved well on from the TV-like set-ups on the first Dracula.  Even if the title sequence just yells "make it cheap!".  It's funny what some camera angles and not pumping a studio full of flat lighting can do.  But, man, you can also feel that this is not the world's most expensive movie when Dracula's office looks absolutely borrowed for the day.

Yes, Dracula has an office.

Anyhoo.  Go watch!  It's the last Dracula Lee/ Cushing team up.  

Monday, October 3, 2022

PodCast 213: "Jekyll And Hyde" (1990) - a Halloween PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan




Watched:  08/16/2022
Format:  Amazon
Viewing: First
Decade:  1990
Director:  David Wickes




SimonUK and Ryan make a change for the spooky and ponder a transformation to covering classic story adaptations with top tier talent. We dive into Robert Louis Stevenson's tale, told as a period piece and changed about a bit to include Michael Caine and Cheryl Ladd. Join us as we talk a 1990 adaptation!


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
Jekyll & Hyde - Jim Burgett 


Halloween 2022


Horror and Halloween

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Vampire Watch: The Velvet Vampire (1971)



Watched:  10/02/2022
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  First
Director:  Stephanie Rothman

You can't go wrong when your Dracula has a dune buggy.

I'm making light, but The Velvet Vampire (1971) was better than you'd figure with some stunning visuals and occasional actual sexiness, while being hampered by the budget and issues usually plaguing anything bearing the New World Pictures marquee from pre-1982.  

A lovely woman (Celeste Yarnall) who is absolutely and clearly our titular vampire stops for some death along the way to an art gallery show where she meets two dim-witted hip post-Summer of Love 1970's types.  The woman, Susan (Sherry E. DeBoer) rightly perceives Diane as a threat, but her husband, Lee (Michael Blodgett) sees a good looking dame who seems game and goes about telling his wife she has hang-ups and she should trust him.*  She absolutely should not.

The pair drive out to the desert where there's evil foreboding stuff and their car breaks down.  Fortunately, Diane appears driving a yellow dune buggy in full sunlight.  

At dinner (steak tar-tar, of course), Lee and Diane are basically announcing their intention to bang while Susan objects.  And then a bunch of vampirey stuff happens.  

If you showed up for partial nudity, you're in luck.  This is New World Pictures circa 1970 and they deliver on the spectacle you're hoping for.  If you showed up for Oscar-worthy performances, you may find yourself wanting.  But director Stephanie Rothman (the first woman inducted into the DGA, apparently?) does not screw around when she has an opportunity to do something cool.  And so we get some fascinating dream sequences and other bits that do a lot with some trick visuals, a fan and red negligee against the backdrop of the desert.

There's also a few other sequences that don't look like it was a crew fighting a losing battle with white walls and lighting, including a shot of Diane in a grave and two versions of voyeurism that appear in the movie.  

I can't say I loved the ending of the movie, but it's... fine.  I guess.  I would have ended it a full ten minutes earlier, but it's not my movie.  I'm just not sure how scary "vampire on a Greyhound" is.  But mostly I feel like it's a shame it appears Rothman never quite escaped doing exploitation films before hanging it up.   For example, I believe her take on the male hero of this film has to be satire in a way.  He's a being completely navigated by his dick who constantly gaslights his younger, vulnerable wife - even telling her it's no big deal when she witnesses him having sex with Diane.  The entire stance seems set up to get him murdered in the final reel.  

Susan's vulnerability and guilelessness is, frankly, unappealing and you can't blame either she or Lee for falling for the vampire's charms (there's definitely overt vampire lesbianism that never quite sticks the landing).  But it also makes Susan hard to follow as a character as the dramatic irony piles up around her.  And it all feels very intentional.  

I didn't love this movie, but as a curiosity, I'd recommend it.  It's not paced as glacially as some European films of the era, and you can feel okay about rooting against the leads.  I just wish the movie had left off much earlier and not decided a chase sequence was needed.  





*this, friends, is a red flag in your personal life as well as in vampire movies

Monster Watch: Q - The WInged Serpent (1982)


Watched:  10/01/2022
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  First
Director:  Michael Cohen

I'd tried to watch Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) a number of times, going back as far as high school, but the lack of monster to minute ratio was daunting.  But with October upon us, and Criterion offering up a bevy of 1980's and vampire-based horror films (it *may* be your best bet, value-wise, this Halloween, after Shudder) I took a look at the list decided now was the time.

What a weird @#$%ing movie.

The entire look and feel of the movie is firmly in 1970's film-making.  By 1982, we're two years past Empire Strikes Back, and two years away from 1984, which is pretty much where you can lock in Gen X's idea of modern movie-going, and this movie looks and feels like it should be 1974.  The effects are a reminder of how dodgy stop action could be if work wasn't coming out of ILM.  The characters are stock 1970's characters - a world weary cop in a grungy NYC police precinct and a ne'er-do-well living outside the confines of square life who also has an artistic side and troubles with his woman.  New York is filmed as an unglamorous city in decline.  Every conversation turns into a stylized argument straight out of 1970's acting school.

About half-way through the movie, I began to believe I'd misunderstood what the movie was, really.  For a hot minute, I thought the monster of the film was going to be inconsequential and we were really getting a character study of a cop delving into stuff beyond him on one side and, really, the way government and power work in a crisis through the lens of the Michael Moriarty story as a crook and hustler tries to exploit his knowledge during a crisis.  But, nope, it's a big, goofy monster movie with some deeply 1970's vibes and an ending that feels hopelessly tacked on for the kiddies who showed up for a monster and cop movie.  

My understanding is that Moriarty's role (which now feels like he reached into the future and channeled Bill Burr) is what people grab onto and why the film has such a high reviewer rating.  And they're not wrong.  He's great.  Candy Clark is in one of those thankless but terrific "gotta support my man" parts from the 1970's that seems far closer to gender dynamics of the 1950's than the 1990s.  David Carradine is a solid actor, but I'm sure if he knew what Moriarty was up to, he wouldn't have gone for "Crusty Hero Cop #8974".  

Most weird is that the film, about a Mayan diety, features no Latinos as near as I can tell.  In NYC.  Nor does it ever really explain how people were volunteering to be human sacrifices or why.  The chief murder-priest isn't played by anyone with a Central American heritage - he's from Bombay.  And I'm not sure if he's supposed to be from India or he's supposed to pass for Hispanic?  I know Hollywood has a fraught relationship with Latinos but this is just wild.  

There's a great movie buried in here, and so it's a good and entertaining movie, but one that feels like it has studio notes all over it to the detriment of the film.

I'm glad I finally saw it.  I might watch it again.  But - for me - the whole is not greater than the sum of the parts.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Noir Watch: Gilda (1946)



Watched:  09/24/2022
Format:  BluRay - Criterion
Viewing:  Unknown (3rd?)
Director:  Charles Vidor

I don't talk to many people about Gilda (1946), but I know it's considered one of the greats of the film noir movement.  And I knew that on previous viewings, but it's been a while and we finally cracked open my Criterion BluRay to give the film a spin.  

It's astounding how *modern* some films from almost 80 years ago can feel (see: Touch of Evil)  Specifically in the case of Gilda, I believe it's in part because Gilda has been so often imitated, borrowed and stolen from, and so infrequently matched and perhaps never surpassed.  So, we've all seen movies, television and whatnot that echoes Gilda, but because it holds its place as a very specific story and, with now practically archetypal characters, to see how well the movie works with intricacy of plot, it becomes a film that is both absolutely of 1946 and timeless.  

Credit to the behind-the-lens talent, starting with director Charles Vidor and the handful of talent listed as writers.  And cinematographer Rudolph Mate.  

There's endless ink spilled on Gilda but there's a reason it's Hayworth's most enduring film in a career of amazing pictures.  The movie is adult and sexy and noir-as-hell in all the best ways.  Hayworth and Ford are both bringing their top game, and both play stunningly nuanced characters for any era in cinema.  

Anyway - it was an absolute pleasure to watch.  I look forward to diving into the features on my Criterion disc.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Everything Watch: Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)




Watched:  09/24/2022
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Directors:  Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Look, one would really need to watch this movie 2-3 times and plan on several thousand words to really talk about Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022).  Suffice to say, this movie was very, very much in the wheelhouse for a lot of us, and if it was nominated for - and then won - awards, I might have respect for the awarding industry and begin to believe that it actually recognizes what cinema can do.

I am painfully and tragically aware that some will watch the movie and say "oh, they were trying too hard" or "that was just weird for weird's sake".  And, if that is your takeaway, I wish you well on your journey through life.  Sadly, you and I are going to view this rock we live on, and our time here, with wildly different eyes.

Everything Everywhere All at Once will be one of the films that I'm going to hold close, because we don't get them very often.  Whether you think the movie is saying something new - and, arguably, it is not - it is saying it beautifully, artfully, and humanely.  And maybe when we need it most.  

Sci-Fi and fantasy always are at their best when they are  allegories which may reflect, shift or challenge our views.  And whether we're considering response to a technological change and vast societal ripples or deeply personal stories, the closer we hew to recognizable reality, the greater the impact.  There's a reason we well up as Spock makes a sacrifice for the crew - it's a statement on the logic of serving the greater good, not on the problems of a made-up warp-core technology.  But it's a lesson forgotten again and again in comic books, television and movies, which become about the concepts and less about what it says to the audience about the world or themselves.  

SPOILERS

Monday, September 26, 2022

PodCast 212: "The Hunger" (1983) - a Halloween PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan





Watched:  08/08/2022
Format:  Bluray
Viewing: Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Tony Scott




Simon and Ryan bite into a legit 1980's cult classic that's big on mood, tone and lighting and shows rather than tells at every opportunity. If sexy vampires are your thing, we've got a cast that fits the bill, while also selling lifestyle porn and a great score. Join us for a movie that really makes it clear why you need a basement incinerator and an attic with plenty of storage space.


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
Trio in E Flat, Op. 100  - Franz Schubert
Flower Duet/ Lakme - Delibes


Halloween 2022 & all Halloween/ Horror Films

Friday, September 23, 2022

Comedy Watch: Out of Office (2022)




Watched:  09/10/2022
Format:  Comedy Central DVR
Viewing: First
Director: Paul Lieberstein

Not so long ago, I got my bivalent COVID booster shot, and it basically took my ass out all weekend.  At some point I'd decided to DVR the Comedy Central movie Out of Office (2022) as it seemed to have okay comedic actors in it, and you never know.  

Leslie Jones, Ken Jeong, Jay Pharaoh, Oscar Nunez, Jason Alexander, Cheri Oteri, many others, and - most important, Lily the AT&T girl herself, Milana Veyntraub.  I think we've all been pulling for Veyntraub for a while, but she never really shows up anywhere other than AT&T ads.  She was almost a Marvel at one point, but her turn as Squirrel Girl has disappeared into the bin of history.

This movie, written and directed by King of the Hill and The Office alum Paul Lieberstein, is truly a complete waste of a viewers time.  Everything is vaguely joke shaped in a way that you can imagine working if it was workshopped a bit or didn't feel like something pulled out of a Judd Apatow movie's reel of stuff that didn't even make the bloopers.  The lead (tragically Veyntraub) is breathtakingly unlikable as written, which translates to - this is just like sitting at work with your worst colleagues, not people you want to spend time with.  And, worst, it tries to find some schmaltzy closure about the friends we found along the way at the end, which is utterly unearned.  

Monday, September 19, 2022

PodCast 211: "Vampira/ Old Dracula" (1974) - a Halloween PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan




Watched:  07/26/2022
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing: First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Clive Donner




SimonUK and Ryan take a bite out of a 1974 vampire movie neither of them had previously seen, starring David Niven as a Dracula whose seen better days. It's 1970's hipsterism mixed with Blaxploitation meets horror meets comedy meets a sad trombone moment in the last 45 seconds. Join us as we kick off Halloween 2022!


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
Vampira - David Whitaker 



Halloween and Horror

Sunday, September 18, 2022

80's Watch: American Gigolo (1980)




Watched:  09/17/2022
Format:  Streaming Paramount+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Paul Schrader

After watching Cat People for our Halloween podcasts, and making my way through Karina Longworth's You Must Remember This podcast series Erotic 80's, I figured I should get around to watching American Gigolo (1980) a movie I'd successfully not seen for 42 years but never actively avoided.  

I was doubly enticed by a Georgio Moroder soundtrack and finding out the movie had Bill Duke and Lauren Hutton, and was excited to see both for very different reasons.  

I should have watched the movie years ago after catching a cab in Las Vegas with some pals and - as I am wont to do - I began chatting with the cab driver who revealed to us his dream of becoming a gigolo.  And he used that word (with what seemed like a Russian accent, but I didn't ask).  We stayed in the car way after arriving at the hotel and listened to him discuss his strategy and goals.  He really, really wanted to sleep with older women for money.  I hope he's out there now with someone named "Gertrude" just raking it in.  

Anyway, I was completely ignorant of the plot of American Gigolo (1980), but what I assumed it to be was not what it is.   Honestly, I assumed it was a melodrama entirely about the life and loves of a gigolo in LA in 1980.  Seemed like there was plenty there as hunky Richard Gere impeccably banged his way across the Los Angeles landscape until finding real love or something.  And it is that, but with 45% of the runtime caught up in a murder plot that, frankly, is intensely telegraphed from the minute it kicks into gear (no pun intended).

I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but American Gigolo is also a movie that seems to live in a curious twilight zone of being frank about sex in many ways, but in comparison to, say, Body Heat which would show up a year later, it feels almost chaste.   Look, Lauren Hutton is...  a whole scene.  But I kinda wish the movie was just whatever was going on with Gere and Hutton.  

That said - this is a watershed film.  It isn't looking backward the way Body Heat would, it's leaning forward into adult-oriented fare but it also needs to serve an audience in 1980 who probably could have been interested in just the loves and issues of a gigolo, but would really get hooked by a crime story.  But I was kinda curious where the movie was going with Gere's alternately broken and abstracted sexuality which feels like it needs a lot more investigation than what it gets.

Everything you've heard about the hyper-stylization of the movie is true.  It's gorgeously shot and really does do its utmost to bring the various worlds of the Cali nouveau-rich and establishment rich as well as the occasional dive into other locales from gay clubs to political fundraisers.  It's a Playboy spread of the best in the lifestyle of the swinging gentleman, from cars to stereos to tasteful book collections and artfully placed desks.  

But now it almost looks quaint.  Miami Vice did this weekly on TV within a few years.  It's become a pastiche in other movies.  Still, it works.  And in no small part because the score on this thing (Moroder) - riffing occasionally on Blondie's Call Me is so f'ing great.*

All in all, the movie wasn't what I expected, and that took some adjustment.  What it did do, though, I think earns the reputation in some ways, less so in other ways (sexy ways).  But as a perfect artifact of "what set the tone for the 1980's?" you'd be hard pressed to find the thing better than this movie, which seems unaware the 1970's ever existed.  


*no one told six year old me blasting Call Me from the Chipmunk Punk album how the song became so mainstreamed  

Ida Watch: Ladies in Retirement (1941)





Watched:  09/16/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  Charles Vidor

Everything about this movie screams pre-WWII play.  More or less a single location/ set, daffy characters, moments of strong internal reckoning, a maid to be the dumb one, a ne'er-do-well relative, and a dowager-type causing trouble.

And I loved it.  

We picked this as a watch party before we dive into the monster season entirely on the cast.  Starring Ida Lupino, Louis Hayward, Elsa Lanchester, Evelyn Keyes, Isobel Elsom and Edith Barrett, I was entirely curious as I'd only seen mention of the film on Jenifer's blog before - and that was a faded memory.  It's now streaming on Prime, and I suggest you go check it out.  

And, man, is Elsa Lanchester ever good (and so underutilized by Hollywood).




Friday, September 16, 2022

Noir Watch: Hit and Run (1957)


Watched:  09/15/2022
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Director:  Hugo Haas

Eddie Muller may or may not have programmed this flick for Noir Alley, but he did host it.  I don't really know how Noir Alley selections work, to be honest.

But he seemed delighted to show a poverty row-adjacent film and talk about Hugo Haas, the producer, director and star of Hit and Run (1957), a self-made man in cinema who only made a handful of films, but did it on his own terms, including casting himself alongside Cleo Moore, one of the lesser known blonde bombshells of the mid-50's.  And there's probably a fascinating movie or prestige TV show about the shadow world of these films and their distribution in an era where the studios were still running the show and for everyone else, it was the collision of art and commerce and doing what you could afford to do.

Hit and Run plays mostly like a local theater production of The Postman Always Rings Twice, but like the local community theater producer had some ideas for revisions to juice it up a bit.  But, similarly, it features Cleo Moore as the blonde girl who, down on her luck, marries the most stable and financially sound guy in her world, even if he's older and they make a weird pair.  Rather than John Garfield wandering into the gas station, Vince Edwards (whom I like a lot, generally), is already employed there, so it's Moore who's the interloper breaking up a happy home.

This version leans (a) first into the idea that the blonde is not a willing participant in her romance with Edwards or his murderous scheme to take out her husband.  And (b) there's a previously unseen twin who appears to take the husband's place and stir things up.  Y'all, this is how you just keep plussing an idea.

Weirdly, both Moore and Edwards seem like they didn't get enough takes or just weren't that into it, and the energy level in this film, aside from Haas, is weirdly flat from beginning to end.  Which, in contrast to 1946's Postman, is weirdly odd.  But part of that is the ambiguity about what is really happening with Edwards and Moore - she seems to loathe him but melt in his arms when he forces himself on her - so what is she playing?  And Edwards is laconic and then suddenly is not.  It's weird.

There's some curious touches like a society for people to make fun of superstitions and the people who believe them, which seems mostly to be about drinking and shit-talking people you don't know, which may make me an honorary member.

And Chekhov's goldfish enter in the first act but don't really achieve any significance.  

It wasn't great, but I like all of the players - Cleo Moore has really grown on me - and was so weird as a parallax version of a well known film, I couldn't really look away.  But at film's end, I was probably more interested in the movie someone should make about Hugo Haas and Cleo Moore.




Wednesday, September 14, 2022

PodCast 210: "Thor: Love And Thunder" (2022) - a Marvel Madness PodCast w/ Jamie and Ryan




Watched: 09/11/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing: First
Decade: 2020's
Director:  Taika Waititi




Jamie and Ryan sit down with Marvel's return to Asgard that apparently people didn't like, and we're not exactly sure why it got the hate. Join us as we harness up the goats and take off on a journey through a movie that takes us all over and manages to really land their use of Guns n Roses.


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
Sweet Child of Mine - Guns'n'Roses, Appetite for Destruction 
Welcome to the Jungle - Guns'n'Roses, Appetite for Destruction 


Marvel Madness

Monday, September 5, 2022

Cage Watch: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)




Watched:  09/04/2022
Format:  Amazon?  Jamie put it on
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's

I am a fan of Nathan Fielder's The Rehearsal on HBOmax, a show that is absolutely about Inception levels of reality.  It's a reality show, pushing the envelope of what is real, what is fiction, what is simply dicking around with people who expect reality to conform to certain principles and people who have made up their own reality tossed into the mix and given lead roles.

I feel like that was good training for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022), a film - a bit like Being John Malkovich - that asks an actor of particular talent and quirkiness to engage with their own persona and perform as themselves as a central character in a movie in which everyone else is fictional, and the version of themselves is only loosely based on reality.  

For those of us old enough to have grown up on Vampire's Kiss, Leaving Las Vegas, Moonstruck, as well as Raising Arizona and Honeymoon in Vegas, Cage's late 90's turn to action-hero came as a bit of a surprise.  He was the hero of the indie film world who was out there walking tightropes, making films he was in memorable and better.  His Sailor in Lynch's Wild at Heart (paired with Dern's Lula) is still a favorite character of mine in anything.

The film is a fascinating fractal of a kaleidoscope of Cage - tracking his career in beats through the movie, which starts as a small, character-driven quirky indie feature and ends as a huge Hollywood-style actioner with an operatic happy ending in slow-mo, starring Cage as himself, of course.  

In the purest sense, it's absolutely a love letter to Cage, an actor whose post Leaving Las Vegas career I've not stuck with (Con-Air delivered my very first migraine, through I didn't know that's what it was at the time).  But one does not make it through a year of one's life and not see a Nic Cage movie.  

Structure aside, Cage is here to remind you - he's one of the most talented actors of his generation, and when he's not cashing a check, there's no one else like him on screen.  If you need an actor who can convey every range of human experience and emotion without a word, Cage is your guy.  

And I do wonder how he viewed the script, which couldn't have been written about anyone else and landed the same way, which includes whole scenes with Cage fighting with his younger, punk rock version of himself - something the younger kids won't get, but for those of us who recognize this version of Cage, it's a whole thing.  

Of course, the movie co-stars Pedro Pascal as an olive importer/ exporter who may actually be a criminal mastermind - but who is using his money to bring his favorite movie star, Nic Cage, to his villa in Majorca.  And, as it's turning out, Pascal's success in the US is not a fluke.  At the heart of the film is the unlikely friendship between Pascal and Cage as Pascal's Javi doesn't just understand Nic's filmography, there's a real kinship there.  

Meanwhile, Cage has to navigate his broken relationship with his teen daughter (I don't know if he even has a teen daughter) and ex-wife (he has several).  

I'm underselling how genuinely hilarious the film is, but it is genuinely the funniest movie I've seen this year.  I don't *think* you have to have been tracking Cage for decades to enjoy it - I've mostly not been.  But there's certainly layers upon layers if you know much about the guy.  And it's absolutely a treat to see Pascal and Cage making all of this look so easy.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Watch Party Watch: They Live (1987)




Watched:  09/02/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  John Carpenter

I saw They Live (1987) twice in the theater.  I still think it's a pretty keen movie, and would now make for an interesting TV series or something.  

But, yeah, when I was twelve, there was some sci-fi coming out (see: RoboCop, Running Man, arguably even Spaceballs) that was kind of tricking studios into making movies that were some curious cultural commentary dressed up in action-adventure guise.  Which, you know, is what good sci-fi should be, anyway.

They Live mostly went under the radar, and I recall straight through college being The Only Guy In The Room Who Had Seen It, but as I kidded/ not kidded - it's not like I wasn't getting what these movies were on about.  But I do think in the past 30-something years, people have eventually seen They Live, and it's not everyone's cup of tea.  I can still bathe in the nostalgia I have for the movie and remember what it was like getting served up the movie's messaging as a novelty (there's always a 12-year-old out there getting these ideas for the first time).  But, I mean, as a 47-year-old, it is, as someone at the watch party said, a bit like something written by a college freshman.

It's got some strange pacing and budgetary constraints that keep the hard sci-fi stuff crammed into just the last few minutes.  The pacing is super odd, from the kind of draggy first twenty minutes of set-up to the five and a half minute fight in the middle of the film.  We clearly needed more Meg Foster, but that's always true.  And I think it's 100% intentional that the aliens look ridiculous.  Because they're grotesque and laughable at the same time, and that's just good stuff.  Make it weird, man!

Anyway, it was a kick to watch it with people who hadn't seen it.  

Meg Foster will come with her own special FX, thank you


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Myrna Watch: I Love You Again (1940)




Watched:  08/30/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First?
Director:  W.S. Van Dyke

It's possible I've seen this movie before and simply don't recall watching it.  I believe it's in a DVD set Paul found for me years ago.  I thought I'd watched the whole set, but I don't remember this one in the slightest.

William Powell and Myrna Loy made 14 films together, and the ones I've seen are all pretty terrific.  It's impossible not to dig Powell's charm and Myrna Loy is maybe one of the funniest actors with the smallest effort in all of film, and always utterly buyable.  

Here, the pair team up in a screwball set-up as Powell plays an aggressively boring manager of a plant that makes cookware like pots who is out on a sea voyage when he bonks his head and rather than losing his memory, regains his memories from nine years prior when he was a shady con-man and crook, but loses all memory of the last nine.  During which he married Myrna Loy, who is set to divorce him for being so incredibly boring.  

That, kids, is a set-up.

honestly, pretty typical mealtime here at League HQ


Powell is in almost every shot and scene, and you will find yourself wishing there were more Loy, but when isn't that true?  The pair are firing on all cylinders in Thin Man energy, which is remarkable when you realize Powell is coming off of cancer treatment and the death of his fiance, and Loy was getting divorced.  This had to have been some terrific therapy.  

The additional cast includes familiar face Frank McHugh as a fellow con assisting Powell and giving him someone to talk to, and he's hysterical.  Edmund Lowe plays a career criminal.  Nella Walker is Loy's mother.  And a cast of familiar studio players fill other roles, including a post Our Gang Alfalfa.

The movie is light fluff and maybe a few minutes longer than it needs to be, but I can't say where they should trim.  I laughed out loud a lot.  There are some great gags, terrific word play, and I'll take a Loy side-eye any day.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Joan Watch: Mommie Dearest (1981)





Watched:  08/27/2022
Format:  Showtime trial on Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  Frank Perry

I've been avoiding Mommie Dearest (1981) for some time.  But Steven and Lauren were going to see the movie, and I figured - hey, this is a reminder or a sign it's time to catch up.

It's crucial to remember, Mommie Dearest was not intended to be a high camp classic - this was someone's idea of a warts-and-all, scathing unmasking of Joan Crawford and her hideous relationship with her children that blew the doors off the movie-star image, which... if you know how Joan's post 1950's career and life went, is almost punching down.  Not to mention her life prior to Hollywood and stardom.  And even after.

Look, Joan was very dead by the time the movie arrived and was unable to rebut the portrayal of herself in the movie, which was based on a single source, that of an extremely bitter daughter who had been cut out of her mother's will.

As I've grown older, I have become aware that smaller incidents for adults play out as grand dramas for children (just as grand dramas in the actual adult world frequently pass by unnoticed by children and people on twitter).  I know we're supposed to believe anyone who comes forward with a story, and I do - insofar as I believe Joan Crawford and her adopted children had a terrible relationship.  

Friday, August 26, 2022

Classic Watch: The Women (1939)




Watched:  08/24/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second?
Director:  George Cukor

I'd previously watched The Women (1939), but always felt I should probably have watched with Jamie, who I knew would find it at least *interesting*.  And, this time that's what we did.

Look, I am not the person to give you the definitive take on The Women, and there's plenty of literature out there on the movie.  I can only assume the original play came from a place as it would have been holding up a mirror of a story to New York society women who attended Broadway shows, and would have been called out as fraudulent as a play, and then as a movie if there weren't some basis in the facts of how society folk seem to not have anything better to do than get divorced and married (I mean, really the primary pre-occupation of most tabloids).  

But the movie also humanizes some of the characters - not everyone is going through the motions of being a society wife.  And, of course, there are those angling to up their position from perfume counter girl to the better life.  

The cast is a phenomenal who's who of the period, with Crawford on the edge of her Box Office Poison years pre Mildred Pierce.  Shearer herself would retire out of movies in 3 years (don't worry - she was fine), but you get to see them alongside Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Ruth Hussey and more.  






Sunday, August 21, 2022

Doc Watch: Paris is Burning (1990)





Watched:  08/20/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jennie Livingston

I remember seeing the trailer for Paris is Burning (1990) when we went to see Slacker at the River Oaks in Houston in summer of 1990.  A straight white 15-year-old from the suburbs of Austin, recently transplanted to the suburbs of Houston, the world of gender-bending queer Black culture was - you will be shocked to learn - not on my radar.  It was so utterly alien to my experience that I was wildly curious - but I also was not going to have a ride back down to the River Oaks and asking to be taken to such a movie would be wildly transgressive, no matter how open minded my mom was.

I remember seeking out the doc a few times in college and being unable to find it, but mostly I'd forget about it except when it was mentioned in cultural touchstone moments, like pretty much anything having to do with Madonna post Vogue.  But by and large, I just forgot about trying to watch it until I saw Alicia Malone was hosting it on TCM as part of the style-centric "Follow the Thread" programming series, and I set the DVR.

Watch Party Watch: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)




Watched:  08/19/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1930's
Director:  Alfred Werker

Well.  What's not to like, really?  

If you like Holmes books, this is... close-ish.  Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are kind of the model for on-screen Holmes and Watson.  There's a great villain in Moriarty.  And a young Ida Lupino is charming as hell at the center of it all.  

What's amazing is how undated the film feels some 80 years later.  You can imagine all of this as the plot and performances in a modern Sherlock retelling,  And maybe that's because they made 14 of these movies in the span of less than a decade - not quite a serial, but certainly a series that left enough of an impact that this was how it was done until the 21st Century decided "what if Holmes was not at all like Holmes?" in two separate series of movies and a TV show.

I won't say the movie was flawless, but it was very, very *fun*, which is what I'm looking for in my Holmes reading or adaptations.  Give me a Holmes and Watson on the case, and a mystery I can't solve on my own, and I'll come back for more.

It will *surely* annoy Jamie that now that I know there are 13 more of these, I'm gonna watch them.  But she knew what I was about when she married me, so.