Showing posts with label movies 2023. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies 2023. Show all posts

Saturday, February 24, 2024

SF Noir Watch: The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)

Watched:  02/24/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Robert Wise
Selection:  It is I

Director Robert Wise has never let me down.  It's amazing.  Every single one of his movies is good and a lot of them are great.  And, more than a couple of them are straight up classics - the best of the best.  It's super weird we aren't talking about him in the same breath with David Lean, Hitchcock and other famed directors.  He jumps from genre to genre with no problem, and without a stable of his favorite actors he brings in tow.  Anyway, Robert Wise.  Look into him.

This movie's biggest star - to me - is Richard Basehart, but it also has Valentina Cortese and Fay Baker - who I've seen in other things.  And William Lundigen (who I know from nothing).

The movie starts dark as hell and just keeps on going along that path to the end.  Valentina Cortese (who is Italian as the Roman Colosseum) plays a Polish woman in a concentration camp - although the movie never specifically asserts her Jewishness, so it's possible she's one of any of a number of categories that the Nazis murdered.  She is imprisoned with a good friend who sent her son to America and safety, a rich aunt in San Francisco.  

The plot involved Cortese claiming her friend's identity so she can get to the US, the possibility of her identity's exposure, meeting the boy's caretaker (Basehart) and marrying him, and then going to San Francisco to move into the Queen Anne-style mansion on Telegraph Hill.  And then things get domestic-noir dark as the house-keeper (Baker) seems threatened by Cortese's appearance, and curious hints something is amiss begin to pile up.  And, of course, the US administrator (Lundigen) who met her in teh camps and could blow the lid off her identity gets in the mix. 

It's *a lot* but it's a really solid set-up, and top-tier melodramatic tension, something I'd categorize as a noir-thriller.  Cortese is in way over her head for a number of reasons, and the threats are from all sides.  But even as Cortese and others play chess, everything is subtext.  The conversation is polite and has nothing to do with what's actually happening as the characters circle each other, Cortese trying to sort out how to survive what will surely be written off as an unfortunate tragedy.

It's beautifully shot, and the performances are solid.  The story feels ripe for an update or remake.  It's nothing earth-shattering as a film, and not going to change anyone's world, but I was impressed with what it was - and I attribute the success to Wise's direction and the casting.  This could be a forgettable B-movie, but instead I was all in watching the film.  

The ending is pretty wild, keeping the audience going right til the last moments - which could have been tedious, but just works in this roller-coaster of a plot.  

Anyway - I liked it!  No notes.  I'm still having a light chuckle over Cortese playing a Polish woman when the film could have easily found a way to make her Italian, but whatevs.  She's a really solid leading lady, and carries the film with no problem.

Friday, January 5, 2024

The Signal Watch Presents: Top Movies of 2023

It's always hard to structure this particular post.  

It's not like you should care about what I liked or didn't like, and certainly the people who made these movies shouldn't care.  And, in fact, some of them are probably dead, and I don't need ghosts holding a grudge if I dump on their movie.

So, let's do what we did last year and start with the disappointments and then get to the good stuff.  

Now, I don't talk about every movie I saw.  We're not going to talk about how It's a Wonderful Life is a fantastic movie, for example.  We're limiting this to stuff we saw for the first time this year.

Full caveats:  This is just my personal opinion on what I managed to watch in 2023.  It's also very true that I didn't see that many new releases this year, including many popular favorites.  I discuss what I meant to see, but didn't yet get to see, in this post.  

On with the show.

Did Not Like

Thursday, January 4, 2024

2023: Movies By the Numbers

editor's note:

2023 was not a year in which I watched a lot of movies.  Well, maybe more than some people, but definitely less than other people.  And so it goes.  

Inspired by pal NathanC, I've been not just blogging movies, but now I do a whole list thing every year, and you can see everything I watched in a single spreadsheet.  

In 2023, I watched 172 movies.  

Monday, January 1, 2024

Final Movie of 2023: Top Secret! (1984)

Watched:  12/31/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  ZAZ

For New Year's Eve, we had a small family dinner at Steanso's place and then set off those fire-free noise makers you can get at Target or the grocery store.  But his kids have elementary school kid bedtimes, so we mercifully departed around 8:00.  Minutes after walking in the door, Jamie had foregone my plan to watch whatever countdown trash was on TV and found Top Secret! (1984) on TCM.  And, dammit people, when Top Secret! is on, you watch it.  I think Gen X will largely agree with me on this.

Somehow Top Secret! doesn't have the same level of fame as Airplane or The Naked Gun, and that's a shame, because it's easily just as funny (I won't say funnier).   And it's just as quotable as the other films.  Heck, when I'm talking to colleagues from other lands, in reference to the US, I *always* drop  "You'd really like America. We've got the Liberty Bell, Disneyland on both coasts. It's happening!"  . To blank stares.  But I do it.

Anyway, maybe The Kids(tm) wouldn't like it because they didn't grow up on WWII movies, but I don't think it's necessary.  You basically get what they're doing.  And nothing beats a cow in rubber boots.

Like all good comedies, it's the absolute straight-faced delivery that saves it, and Val Kilmer's sincerity in the role is amazing.  But so is everyone.  Including Omar Sharif, Peter Cushing, Christopher Villiers, and countless familiar faces from the era.  I really like Lucy Gutteridge in this movie, but lady decided to hang it up around 1990 and that was it.  

Minute-for-minute, it's delivering amazing gags in every scene.  Visual, conceptual, sound bits...  it's absolutely nuts.  If nothing else, you have to appreciate the jokes-per-second ratio.

Anyway, everyone has their favorite bits.  I like the confession of love as they're parachuting and the wee singing horse.  But there's no right answer.  

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Post Christmas Watch: The Holdovers (2023)

Watched:  12/29/2023
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  First
Director:  Alexander Payne

A couple of folks had recommended The Holdovers (2023) to me, but I didn't have time to go when it came out back in November.   It's now streaming on Peacock (an underrated and inexpensive streaming service), so if you can sit through 4 minutes of commercials, you get a new movie to watch.

This fall, it was kind of interesting seeing the trailers for both this movie and Saltburn around the same time, as both were trying to reclaim a kind of movie I hadn't seen produced in a decade or so, and both occurring at elite (as in, rich people tend to go there) educational institutions and were period pieces.  I had less interest in Saltburn, and sort of raised an eyebrow at The Holdovers existing at all.  I didn't think these kinds of movies would never get made again, but it had been a while.

And, if I'm being honest, I was pretty sure I could guess the big strokes on both movies just by getting the trailer put in front of me.  But I'm not always looking for narrative novelty - sometimes execution is more important than seeing something twisted or different from my expectations.  One mistake I think we made coming out of the 90's was thinking putting a particularly dark twist on something could make it seem "more realistic" or "more important". *

Anyway, I really liked The Holdovers.  

Friday, December 29, 2023

Doc Watch: A Disturbance in the Force (2023)

Watched:  12/28/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jeremy Coon, Steve Kozak

I don't remember exactly when I became aware of the Star Wars Holiday Special.  I vaguely remember hearing Boba Fett had appeared in something on television back in the day, maybe back in high school (pre-1993), but while I was a fan of the 3 movies (and back then, there were only 3), I wasn't someone who read the books or obsessively read about the movies.  

Everything that wasn't the movies kind of didn't work out, in my opinion.  The Marvel Comics were not great, the live-action Endor movies were a weird combo of depressing and bad, and the Ewoks and Droids cartoons were oddly clunky.  

But by college I was well aware of the special existing, and its reputation.  And a couple years after college, right after Jamie and I got married, I was at Vulcan Video and they had the bootleg of the Star Wars Holiday Special on the shelf.  

We put it on, and for two, long, hours (it included the commercials) we groaned our way through the thing.  I've since seen it another time or three, at least once with Rifftrax.  

But if you're here, you're at least aware of the Special.  If not, here you go.  Behold.

Monday, December 25, 2023

G Watch: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Watched:  12/23/2023
Format:  4K disc
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Adam Wingard

This is the first Monsterverse movie that finally understood why people show up for a Godzilla movie.  That seems remarkable given the money spent, audience participation in prior films, etc...  This was maybe the first one not made for the edgelord 18-24 y.o. market in mind.  

Way back in April of 2021, Godzilla enthusiast Stuart and I discussed the movie for the podcast.  I invite y'all to listen to that podcast at your leisure.

On a rewatch, and knowing what I was getting into, it's still a fun watch.  I don't know if I'd say "this is a good movie" because it's definitely YMMV territory.  It's big and ridiculous, and, arguably, there's way too much continuity in these films and not enough "hey, a new monster for Godzilla to fight".  Like, Godzilla existed over at Toho for decades and decades just showing up from time to time, and no one was trying to worry about 10,000 years of Titan history.  Godzilla just was, and everyone had to deal with it.

But when I get to see Kong slug Godzilla across the jaw while both are standing on an aircraft carrier, I almost want to stand up and salute these filmmakers for giving me the thing I did not know I needed to see in a movie, but had waited my whole life to see.  

Worst Christmas Movie of 2023: Christmas in Hollywood (2014)

no, not Matt Berry.  And, no - it's not clear who gave those awards

Watched:  12/24/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First, and, God willing, last
Director:  Some asshat

Los Angeles/ Hollywood always strikes me as one of two places in America where dreams don't just go to die, they mutate.  (The other is Las Vegas, but that's a completely different thing.)  

Folks head out west to get into the motion picture business, and find out that maybe they haven't got the talent, social skills, what-have-you to make it in movies.  Sure, you can chalk it up to luck, too, I guess.  But, also, some people are just ridiculous.  And, so, Hollywood always seems to have this weird underbelly of people looking for their shot.  And sometimes they go ahead and make their own shot happen, which - if you believe the Hollywood story - is what you've got to do.  But, I watch a lot of not-great movies, and I'm here to say, you really don't have to take that shot.  

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Watch: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Watched:  12/23/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  George Seaton

We watch this movie pretty much every year, and I wasn't feeling great yesterday, so I put it on as something I could kind of half-watch.  

I hope you've seen the movie, and if you haven't, I recommend you do watch it.  It's a lovely bit of Christmas Magic in convenient movie form that doesn't rely on mid-life crises or devastating the audience in order to work, Frank Capra.  

But because the movie is so well known and I've written it up before here and here and here, that's not going to be what I write up here.  Instead, we're going to get weird.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

G Watch: Godzilla - King of the Monsters (2019)

that's a spicy meatball!

Watched:  12/22/2023
Format:  Bluray
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Michael Dougherty

I'm slowly making my way through Apple+'s Monarch series - more on that in a future post - and was curious how it was matching up to the 2014 Godzilla movie, the foundation of Legendary's Monsterverse franchise.  And then I saw the BluRay for the follow up was on sale for cheap when I was looking for Godzilla vs. Kong on disc.  And, so it was, that I watched 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  

Here's my theory about this very long and subpar movie:

They started with the title and reverse engineered everything from there.  

I have no real evidence to back this up, but it does seem that with the success of 2014's Godzilla, Legendary decided that they would move forward with a "Monsterverse" which would include Kong: Skull Island and then a slate of other films, arriving periodically and nowhere near as aggressively as Marvel.  I can imagine the braintrust at Legendary saying "so, the American title for the original Gojira was Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  Can we re-use that?  And, if so, what does that mean?"  Americans love to eliminate ambiguity and poetry in favor of being very on-the-nose.

So, you'd have to have a movie in which Godzilla subjugates the other monsters, and is shown to be their "king".  I guess.  But Godzilla movies always had this one monster that I think we can agree was the biggest asshole of all the Godzilla monsters, King Ghidorah/ Monster Zero.  So now you have two "kings" and you have your fight all set up.  

Write in some scenes that will look rad in a trailer, come up with human characters that will crack wise and add the element of human drama, and there you go.

80's Watch: Gung Ho (1985)

Watched:  12/21/2023
Format:  YouTubeTV
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Ron Howard

You're remembering this movie a particular way because you haven't seen it in three decades and we've all grown up since then.  I hope.  But, I am happy to say - for a 1980's movie about Japanese executives coming to revive a Pennsylvania auto-plant, it's far less racist than you're assuming, while also being standard 1980's racist.

All I knew was that last night, Jamie looked at the menu on our TV said "Gung Ho?!  Let's watch that."  And we did.  Like myself, Jamie is often curious about how things hold up, and where they fit as cultural artifacts of the era.  And, first and foremost - if I needed to explain mid-80's America and what it was kind of like, especially what people looked like, I'd probably point them in the direction of Gung Ho (1985).  

The 1980's are remembered by the people who weren't there as a period of fun and excess.  It was Reagan-time, and we were feeling great as a nation!  We had action movies and cool pop music.  We had an existential threat of nuclear war, so we might as well wear huge clothes and watch shows about super-vehicles.

But, hey, we also had a few recessions.  We were coming off of the 1970's recessions/ malaise.  Manufacturing in the US was on the downturn and careers people thought would last a lifetime were ended as work went overseas or to Mexico.  I sincerely don't think The Kids(tm) know this sometimes.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Holiday Watch: It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Watched:  12/21/2023
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Frank Capra

A few years ago, we covered this movie on the podcast.  I think Nathan and I did a lovely job of discussing the impact of the film on us as viewers and why it works.

Re-watching the film this year, I'm once again amazed at how well so much information - both plot and emotional - is conveyed in the movie and it never feels rushed or crammed.  It's only after you've seen the movie multiple times that you really process "wow, George had a whole lot happen to him on very specific days of his life", but that's also part of what makes it work.  Getting married during the week of October 28, 1929 was just a horrible time for someone in the building and loan business to have such a big event, for example.

And we aren't given a St. George for our George Bailey.  He's a normal guy with dreams that he can't pursue, and the only thing keeping him sane is probably Mary.  He's holding a lot in and holding a lot back every minute of every day, which all comes spilling out when Uncle Billy loses the money.  "Why do we have to have all these kids?" is maybe the craziest line in the movie.  But he's also already had it with Billy 15 years ago - he should have been at college if the guy could have taken over for his father.  And so-on-and-so-forth.  

It's the rare movie that acknowledges that people can break from giving up their dreams - or that they'd be put in an awful place for doing what seems right.  Hallmark movies have made a mint off selling the idea of giving up your dreams for small town domesticity - or at least shifting the dream that way.  And it's even less so that a movie allows a male character to snap after landing the house, wife and kids, especially in this era.*  This was post-war America, and we were winners!  

But I think George Bailey is all of us on some level.  Unless you're, like, Madonna, and only *think* giving your servants a second thought is magnanimous.**  There's a lot more George Baileys walking around out there than those who made it where they'd hoped, who gave up who they thought they were and dreams of where they'd be than any rando living at the top.  Even George's little corner of the living room, which goes unmentioned, where he's plugging away at drawings of bridges and buildings, still wanting to be an architect...  it's just kind of funny and sad.  And, God, that's too real.  It's no shock that he smashes it.

But at the end of the day, the movie works because the real message is just, if not *more* true - that all that matters, really, are the folks in your life and how you can help them.  It's not to say your dreams don't matter - but we also have to appreciate what we do have, and the people around us, and know that we matter to them, just as much as they matter to us.  And believing that we're not replaceable cogs is a very hard thing to process.  I imagine it was even more so in 1946, when you saw your friends drafted and shipped off.

Ironically, Stewart was a war hero, but wouldn't ever discuss it or use it in promotion.  He'd been drafted well before Pearl Harbor and exited the service as a Brigadier General.  During the war, he piloted 20 missions I believe flying B-24's.  But he also served as in command, and would remain in reserve until 1959.  He was as much Harry Bailey as George Bailey.

*I know - controversial!
**But Madonna gets a pass for whatever she's up to, here at The Signal Watch

Monday, December 18, 2023

80's Watch: Better Off Dead (1985)

Watched:  12/15/2023
Format:  Paramount+
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Savage Steve Holland

In so many ways, it's a minor miracle that Better Off Dead (1985) exists at all.  Let alone in the shape in which it was delivered to audiences.  You can easily see how it could have had the edges knocked off and been made into something far less memorable if the studio felt they'd sorted out the teen-movie formula by 1985.

It's probably been 20 years since I last watched the movie, but something got me thinking about the Christmas morning sequence last week, and it turns out it's living on Paramount+ right now, so you can watch it.  It's a quasi-Christmas movie, starting in December, passing through Christmas and into New Year, so the season is right.  

everybody's going to be wearing one of these

Usually I say "you couldn't make this movie now" with anything remotely morbid, but I expect we're hitting a point where the pendulum is about to swing back hard and fast regarding what we can do and put in movies again as we've all stepped away from the pearl-clutchers over on Twitter as that site tire-fires it's way to irrelevance.  We'll see.  I imagine the patience with the bipartisan puritanism is starting to wear a bit thin.

But, yeah, Better Off Dead is a teen comedy about a young gentleman wanting to kill himself because his girlfriend dumped him for a richer, handsomer, more dickish guy.*  Attempts to do so go afoul as our hero (John Cusack) can't even really work himself up to do it properly.  But, really, it paints a near-perfect picture of what it's like to be 17 and just trying to get through your day and how utterly absurd the world can feel at that age (or any age).  

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Christmas Watch: White Christmas (1954)

Watched:  12/17/2023
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Michael Curtiz

I have seen and written this movie up endlessly.  This year, I just leave you with the black dress from the Carousel Club number.

Anyway, Edith Head was a genius.

Christmas Watch: Elf (2003)

Watched:  12/14/2023
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  John Favreau

Not too long ago on the nu-social medias (BluSky, maybe?) I opined that Elf (2003) is the last generally agreed upon holiday "classic".  

While there's plenty of good Christmas movies that have arrived in the past two decades, it's hard to find one this many people have seen - which maybe isn't the best endorsement, but it is a fact.  Elf was the last holiday movie to land in regular rotation on basic cable (as in "24 hours of Elf!"), and it's hard to imagine that in our splintered way of viewing media and smaller and smaller shares of audiences that a movie will be able to get much traction as part of folks' holiday habits.  And, even now, the classics of a decade or so ago have been pushed aside for 1980's Gen-X nostalgia and the endless Die Hard debates by people young enough to have their own movies.

It's not hard to see why Elf has earned it's place, though, and why it's imitated with movies like Noelle.  It's a great concept to imagine a North Pole elf loosed in the big city, trying to connect to the rest of us and missing.  There's an innocence and joie de vivre ascribed to children that it's fun to see a 6'3" guy embracing.

The "elf culture" gags are fantastic, and - while I know Will Ferrell's energy isn't for everyone - but it seems to be coming from a place in this one.  And, really, the whole cast in this thing is great.  Casting James Caan as Buddy's father was absolutely inspired.  Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Michael Lerner, Amy Sedaris, Andy Richter and Kyle Gass, and, of course, Peter Dinklage.  

It fits neatly into a space where we've already seen innumerable movies about how Santa is de-powered because there's not enough Christmas spirit... like, that's a major plot point and they never really get into it.  We just look around and say "yeah, fair enough, I guess".  And it knows we've all seen the stop-motion Rankin-Bass specials enough, it just overlays that world over the North Pole.  

Anyway, you've seen Elf.  I don't need to belabor the point.  The only real thing that sticks out in 2023 is - why on earth does Zooey Deschanel's character fall for Buddy?  Inquiring minds want to know.  He's a grown man who acts like a hyper 7 year old, has no job, and is insane/ obsessed with Christmas.  Which is going to feel weird in July.

I mean, yes, he helped encourage her to sing, but.  Look, people encourage me to do stuff all the time, but I am sorry - I do not start making googly eyes at you as a result.  Googly eyes are reserved for Jamie.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Report on Hallmark Movies 2023

don't worry, they play brother and sister

So, here we are in 2023.  

In addition to Direct to Streaming Christmas movies, I've been throwing on the Hallmark Channel since way back in November.  

Apparently what both Jamie and I need this year is to just zone out for 90 minutes from time to time, and to be able to talk over a movie featuring characters we don't really care about a whole lot.  And that's absolutely the intention of a Hallmark Christmas movie - a minimum of drama and plot, reasonably good looking people predictably falling for each other, and a happy ending that guarantees these people will now be as boring as you are, because the events of this movie was the biggest thing to ever happen to them.

I copped to watching the film in 2015 and wrote my treatise on Hallmark movies back in 2017, and I think it shocked a lot of you to find out how very, very much I know about these movies that so many so casually get sniffy about (with good reason, tbh).  But a lot has occurred since 2017.  We're in the dark future of 2023 now, and the world is not what it was.  

A very, very big part of me would love to know how Hallmark works and how these movies come into being.  I have some theories based loosely on what I knew from a friend's mom who wrote Harlequin Romance novels, but there's zero confirmation on any of this.  I'd just be guessing.  

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Holiday Watch: Santa Claus - The Movie (1985)

Watched:  12/8/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director: Jeannot Szward  

Even as a kid, when I saw the trailer for this movie and it looked a little suspicious to me. I don't know what it says that a kid pretty game for whatever looked at this and was like "nah", but I think that gut instinct was dead on.   I would have been 10 when this hit, so I wasn't really the audience, anyway - just old enough to not want to see "a kiddie movie", but it looked like schlock to me at that age, and I just had no interest.  

Apparently neither did Planet Earth, because the movie made about $23 million against an estimated budget between $30 and 50 million.

Flash forward to 2023, and we put this one on and a whole bunch of things became clear immediately.

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) was produced by the Salkinds, the same shady guys who put together the first three Superman films and Supergirl.  They have their name up there first and foremost, so you know this is an Alexander Salkind joint.  And if you know anything about the Salkinds you know that if you're ethically a little shaky, these are your guys.  

G Watch Take 2: Godzilla Minus One (2023)

Watched:  12/7/2023
Format:  Alamo
Viewing:  Second

This is the first time in years I've seen a movie twice in the theater.  I intended to see Marvels again, but, hasn't happened.  

My reasons for returning to the cinema were two:
  1. I could tell that when I effused about the movie, Jamie was like "yeah, you'll watch anything with Godzilla in it.  Stop telling me it's a good movie." so I wanted to just get her in a seat.  Thus, I lured her there with Alamo's chicken nuggets.*
  2. I wanted to see everything again so I wasn't just dealing with the audio and visual input being shoved in my eyes on a first viewing and see how the movie sat with me when I knew what was coming.
I am happy to report that, much as I'd been told by Stuart who had already seen it twice, the movie may work even better on a second viewing.  

That's not to dismiss the impact of the first viewing, but I can say my first watch was pretty visceral in nature.  There's a lot going on.  World War II, after-World War II, subtitles, grief, a 15-story atomic monster...  So I was curious how it would hold up, and how it would feel different knowing how the movie works and ends.


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Holiday Classic Watch: Holiday Inn (1942)

Watched:  12/04/2023
Format:  Prime
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Mark Sadnrich

My understanding is that this movie, released in August of 1942, landed hard with Americans as we were facing the reality of what was going to be a long and deadly war on two fronts.  More specifically, this movie features the screen debut of "White Christmas" (he's sung it on the radio post-Pearl Harbor in 1941), which Bing Crosby would turn into the best selling single of all time with 50 million copies ringing up the tils as it became a sort of anthem for wishing for a return to normalcy.  

Holiday Inn (1942) is a story about a musical trio breaking up as the singer (Crosby) and the girl are breaking off to start a new life running a farm in Connecticut when the girl runs off with the dancer (Fred Astaire) to pursue dreams of stage glory.  Crosby eventually turns the farm into an inn where he can put on shows, just on holidays, trading the dream of stardom in exchange for just having a bit of fun every once in a while.  

Along comes a new girl, and a series of shows for every holiday starting with New Year (after introducing "White Christmas" during the meet-cute).  Meanwhile, Astaire is dumped and returns to the Inn, and begins pursuing the new girl whom Crosby has fallen hard for.

Anyway, the story is just a framework for Bing Crosby to dooby-doo his way through songs and Astaire to knock your socks off.  Unfortunately, I don't think it leaves you feeling particularly great about a single person on screen except for Crosby's chef, played by Louise Beavers.  

There is mention of the war during the WWII sequence as the movie pauses to reflect on what we're fighting for in song, and shows film of our militarization and FDR at the mic.  While the film exists as light entertainment, its hard to imagine what July 4, 1942 was actually like as the country leaned into what was clearly going to be a multi-year effort in which we'd lose countless servicemen and women.  But what is apparently true is that Pearl Harbor occurred during filming and they decided to really step up the July 4th sequence.

It is likely you've heard several songs from this movie over the years.  "Easter Parade" gets trotted out.  And it's worth mentioning Crosby would team with Danny Kaye for the 1954 classic White Christmas while Astaire would beat him to the punch with 1948's Easter Parade.

I was surprised to see the version on Amazon Prime retains the blackface number (Lincoln's Birthday).  Though I remember seeing it on my TV Christmas of 1994 when I first watched the movie, basic cable cut the number decades ago.  And, yes, it is that bad.  It's also a plot point, so the movie can be marginally confusing without the number, but to keep it in...   Look, I am not going to tell you what should or should not offend you or what criteria should be used to play or not play a film.  I am fine with cable cutting the sequence to keep the film out there, and from an historical perspective, the movie is a reflection of the time in which it was made.  As film fan and historian, yes, keep it in.  As a person who knows this is f'd up, and always was - you can skip the movie altogether if you like.  There are clips of not-offensive scenes on YouTube.  Or, jump over the scene whilst watching.  You do what works for you.

We chose to ffwd through the sequence once we realized it was there.  I've seen it, don't need to see it again.  

There's a whole discussion to be had about how it seems the younger generation wants to deal with older media, and that's to stuff it down the memory hole.  And I'll argue some film historians are currently trying to make it seem that very-mainstream-Hollywood was out of step with the general attitudes of the public at the time of a film's release, something I think there's more than ample evidence to suggest is not true.  We can discuss at some point, but that's a lot to hash out.*

What it does mean is that Holiday Inn is a fascinating bit of history in a single Christmas movie.  The film spun off multiple hit singles we still know, it sold people on the idea of secular Christmas songs, it does some crazy stuff where part of the illusion in the film's final minutes is *showing* the pulleys and levers of the illusion right out in the open to create a secondary illusion (and showing how films were made in 1942).  It shows some really depressing racism, sexism, etc... and it's a time capsule containing war propaganda. 

Plus, two of the biggest stars of the era.  Happy Holidays, film lovers.

*this is 78 years after *slavery*, and 6 after Gone With the Wind.  It's not just your elderly relatives that were just wildly racist.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Straight to Streaming Christmas: Candy Cane Lane (2023), Genie (2023) and Noelle (2019)

Watched:  CCL 12/01/2023, G 11/27/2023, N 12/02/2023
Format:  Amazon Prime/ The 'Cock/ Disney+
Viewing:  First for all
Director:  Reginald Hudlin / Sam Boyd / Marc Lawrence

We have a lot going on, and so we've been seeking out comfort-food-movies.  As this is the Holiday Season, that means Christmas-related movies.  

Yes, we've watched a shit-ton of Hallmark movies, enough so that I've forgotten all that we've watched and I'm not sure I'll post on it.  Instead, I'm taking a look at three of the "well, it's free on the service" movies we watched this week.  

I don't understand what the story is/ was on Noelle (2019).  It was listed as a 2019 release, and maybe it was.  I mostly remember it as one of the first "originals" I saw listed on Disney+, but not something I'd gotten around to watching (this makes me want to rewatch Togo, which I remember really liking).  But no one ever mentioned the movie to me, and so it just kind of fell into the background.  But maybe it had a theatrical run? 

But, this being 2023, we finally got to it.