Sunday, February 19, 2017
Lili (1953) is a mid-20th Century movie I'd never heard of before I started watching it on TCM this week. Probably best described as an all-ages musical with fantasy elements (and puppets!), I have no doubt that the sweet-spot for finding an audience for this movie is young girls, but, hey, I'm a 41 year-old dude, and I liked it just fine.
As with all-ages movies pre-1990 or so, there are plenty of elements no one thought twice about including in a story for kids (which explains why - now in command of online content, Millennials have made a cottage industry of getting the vapors writing about pre 1990 family entertainment and why its "secretly dark"). And it's hard to say that Lili is exactly a light-hearted movie. It's not. The main character is definitely going through a crisis during the entire run-time of the movie, there's the spectre of marital infidelity, suicide, acknowledgement of the costs of WWII...
But it's got puppets!
Friday, February 17, 2017
Editor's Note: This post is full of spoilers, judgment, bad judgment, semi-frank talk that admits to the existence of sex and particular sexual preferences. It's also too long and I regret everything.
While those of you who don't follow your worst instincts were out seeing Lego Batman, I spent my movie-going weekend once again teamed up with AmyC, taking in Fifty Shades Darker (2017), the Twilight fan-fiction gone rogue which has taken on a life of its own as a beast of unstoppable proportions. We attended an official "rowdy" screening at The Alamo Drafthouse, where audience members were encouraged to provide their own Springer-esque "whoooooo"s and "ooooooooh"s. Really, a sensible approach in a theater that serves some pretty decent cocktails, and one deployed during Magic Mike screenings, I am led to understand.
My interest in the Fifty Shades phenomenon is at least 1-part anthropological study. There's some schadenfreude in there and definitely some straight up morbid curiosity. But I am curious as to what-goes-on out there in the movie-going world of which I am not a part, especially when something is a huge success, and I am pretty far outside the demographic.
Unlike my go at seeing the first film in this series, I did no legwork to prepare. With no review of the prior film, I mostly forgot the subplots and minor characters from the first movie, recalling the movie as a blur of boredom, threadbare plotting, inane dialog, oddly dull sex and vexing characterization. If the mark of a good movie worthy of a sequel is that you want to spend more time with the characters (see: Guardians of the Galaxy), Fifty Shades of Grey did nothing to make me care what was happening to either character.
That said - I am not the target demo. I like talking raccoons with machine guns.
But, here we are. two years later, and I have borne witness to Fifty Shades Darker, the second in the inevitable trilogy of movies about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, and based, glaringly, on episodically written fan-fiction. While I am the first to say that this is better than the first installment (less in the way of tastefully shot, lengthy sex scenes that felt like moving stills from a Sears catalog), it's still a movie with a lot of questionable messaging, tremendously bad plotting, open-ended questions that will never be resolved, and two people that - after two movies of watching them go - one no longer just finds dull but cringe-worthy.
But, if CW-worthy characterization unevenly sprinkled with some pretty basic sex on screen (a huge novelty here in 2017) is your thing, man, have I got a movie for you.
Monday, February 13, 2017
Well, I can't say a whole lot of you participated here, so I guess I know where we're at these days.
cite The Best Romantic Scene from a Not-Particularly Romantic Movie. TV Show, Book or Comic Book™
We were looking for romance in sci-fi, adventure, action, etc...
I played a bit of dirty pool and took Superman and Lois Lane off the table as the greatest romance in genre fiction. If you follow this site, you know my opinions on the characters and the romance, and I think it's done more to influence romance in genre fiction than nearly any other story. But, I'm biased.
I didn't really read Superman back when it was the Clark/ Lois/ Superman love triangle, I showed up after they were already married, and worked my way back. I have a deep fondness for married Lois and Clark, but I love the version where she doesn't know who he is just as much. But for my dollar, the recent "married with a kid" version in the comics is a welcome new angle on the Super-mythos, however this winds itself up.
And, of course, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't cheer for Han and Leia as maybe the finest genre-fiction romance of the last fifty years. Heck, Jamie sometimes wears a necklace I got her that has "I Love You"/ "I Know" engraved into it.
So let's get past some of my favorites and hear what other folks had to say.
Good news is that we got some good posts in from Jamie and Stuart. I mean, really good stuff! Could not be happier.
And, if you didn't remember to post before or now you want to chip in - go crazy! That's why we have a comments section.
I went back and forth on this one as to whether or not to submit this scene, but ultimately decided what the hell. If I embarrass myself, who the eff cares, right?
Ok, here goes:
Sunday, February 12, 2017
It is true. AmyC and I have, this afternoon, borne witness to the second installment in the, uh... inevitable Fifty Shades Trilogy.
More to come. So to speak.
As mentioned, I'm listening a bit to the You Must Remember This podcast during my commute, and moved on to a 6 episode run on Joan Crawford. One of the topics covered toward the end of the series is how much of an impact Mommie Dearest (starring Faye Dunaway as a cartoonish Crawford) had on the popular conception of Joan Crawford, surpassing the image the actress had worked tirelessly for decades to make herself a star and retain her star status for decades past those of her contemporaries.
Humoresque (1946) should probably be thought of as a John Garfield picture, first and foremost. He's certainly got the most screentime and the longest character arc. The actions of the other characters in the film are focused upon what focused on their relationship to Garfield.
He plays Paul Boray, a violinist who rose from working-class roots in the streets of New York to become a national sensation within the high-class world of classical performance. The film is a melodrama, no doubt, and an examination of a man of extraordinary talent and passion and the women in his life, including the girl-next-door, his mother and the wealthy society woman who elevates him from nothing to star status, but who carries an incredible amount of baggage.
Everyone has the idea of the 1930's big, splashy movie musical in their head thanks to clips used in other movies and television, and I'd argue that Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) is the platonic ideal of this sort of film. I really don't know much about what was going on at the real Ziegfield Follies or on Broadway in the 1930's, but it seems that what Hollywood was doing at this point was bringing over the basic template of fluffy stories about two young lovers trying to make it work as the excuse for a lot of song and dance. But with the ability to put the camera wherever they wanted, visionaries like Busby Berkeley would redefine what audiences could expect in regards to cinematic spectacle.
Produced at Warner Bros. (I know, I had to triple check it wasn't from MGM), the movie stars a lot of those names you hear about from Hollywood's Golden Age, but who I haven't seen in that many movies. Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler... and certainly other players who were the "that guy" actors of their day.
All in all, the movie is a bit of fun and nothing too challenging to the audience, storywise. Light comedy interspersed with those unbelievable visuals of dozens of dancers creating geometric patterns or almost surreal visuals (20 cops on rollerskates chasing a baby).
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Sunday, February 5, 2017
For about two decades I'd intended to see this movie, and somehow just never got around to it. I'd guess this is partly because I had no idea why I was supposed to see this movie. People would just say "you've never seen The Wicker Man?" and I'd say I hadn't, and they'd laugh knowingly and tell me to add it to my queue.
I should pause here and point out - apparently I never ask what a movie is about when being given a recommendation. You'd think I'd care more.
Friday evening, I swung by Vulcan Video on my way home and, after some deliberation, selected this movie out of the sea of titles. Saturday night Jamie and I stayed in, and while I'd planned to watch The Wicker Man (1973) after she went to bed, we wound up dropping it in the player and watching it together.
Suffice it to say, I now know what The Wicker Man is about, and I get why it has a reputation as a bit of must-see cult cinema in The States, and - I guess - a bit more of a reputation in the UK. It also was not what I'd call Jamie's cup of tea, and I suppose she'll be picking the next three or four movies we watch together.
The timing is a bit odd. I'm currently wrapping up a multi-hour/ multi-part series from the You Must Remember This Podcast, something called "Charles Manson's Hollywood". I'll talk more about that series and the podcast in a future post, but I've spent the past week or so thinking a lot about the hippie and counter-culture scene of the 60's that bled into the 1970's of late, and the bending of free-love into very traditional gender roles, exploration of the psyche via psychedelics and non-Judeo-Christian religion, communal utopianism - and how most of that collapsed in on itself, sometimes ending in violence... Well, you can see how I might have drawn some parallels here.
Before all of you get excited, I did not watch the Patrick Swayze movie of the same name. So settle the hell down.
Instead, I spent part of my Saturday watching the Ida Lupino starring noir, Road House (1948). And, coincidentally, I finished the movie, looked at facebook and the Film Noir Foundation informed me that it was Lupino's birthday. So, happy birthday, Ida.
I'd heard some good things about Road House, and I'm becoming a bit of a fan of Lupino. Add in that the cast included Richard Widmark in crazy-villain mode, and it was one of my two rentals from Vulcan Video on Friday night.
If you've seen the trailer for this movie, and you think that maybe you have a rough idea of what this movie will be like - bingo. You are correct.
Hell or High Water (2016) is currently nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, which is maybe the surest sign that the Academy is comprised of white people over the age of 65. A post No Country for Old Men meditation on justice in the sun-baked desert plains of West Texas, it's an enjoyable enough way to spend the run-time of a movie. But with no non-standard plot turns or character moments, a movie where the sub-text of the film is text, it's the sort of thing that's been done better elsewhere (see the movie named at the beginning of this sentence) and has characters walking a path of moral uncertainty enough that you can say it has some edge to it.
That said, I didn't actually dislike Hell or High Water. It's a fine movie with characters you'll enjoy (I've seen these same characters done a few dozen times, and if you're going to do those characters, this is pretty good), a decent plot, and if you like Chris Pine (I do!) and Jeff Bridges (what sort of psychopath doesn't like Jeff Bridges?), I've got a movie I'd say you can watch comfortably with your dad. Or, better yet, your sibling.