Saturday, January 18, 2020
Format: Criterion BluRay
It was a miracle I even got out of this five hour movie alive.
Way, way back in the 1990's, I saw this movie the first time - I believe - between my junior and senior year of high school. My vague memory of the film was that it was known for two things - it was a movie directed by the same guy who did Wings of Desire (which I'd never seen), and for the soundtrack full of musicians both huge and indie (back when that meant something in particular). Ads appeared in Spin and/ or Rolling Stone for the OST, which read as a mixtape from a pal with particular but good taste (Now That's What I Call College Rock vol. 1!).
Friday, January 17, 2020
Ahoy! We sail into the NSFW new year with a tale of unlikely adventure and horror as a very 1980-era Michael Caine heads to the Bermuda Triangle to look into some missing boats only to find: a secret civilization of PIRATES. And not fun, yo-ho-ho pirates, but, like, crazy inbred weirdo pirates. It's a whole scene, man.
Island Magic - Ennio Morricone, The Island OST
A few months ago, I had purchased a BluRay collection of films, all shot by noir-famous cinematographer John Alton.* I'd had great intentions, but never made it into the disc. For whatever reason, I finally did crack open the case and put in the BluRay and I get what the hubbub is about.
This was my first viewing of Raw Deal (1948), a fairly staple noir film, but one that I'd just not made time for before - which is a shame, because I liked a lot of the movie, and would probably use it to illustrate some classic noir tropes and definitely as a teaching tool for the epitome of noir cinematography from the height of the movement.
Saturday, January 11, 2020
Format: Noir Alley on TCM
I'd heard Hammer produced some thrillers and whatnot, but I'd not really seen any - my exposure to the studio's output had been mostly limited to their horror films.
Shown as a Christmas treat by Noir Alley's Eddie Muller - who fessed up that it's more noir adjacent than noir - this small-scale production is a terrific sort-of real-time story of a robbery at a bank branch in a small town well outside of London.
Friday, January 10, 2020
Format: Amazon Streaming
This movie never states that it's based on real events - but once it's underway, it's very specific to the point where I finally had to check to see if the character portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in the film existed. Spoiler - He did!
But. Half of this movie is real and half is made up, and I am just, honestly, confused why they made this choice - except that I basically get the decision from an optics, casting and audience standpoint. The film swaps out one of the two people who made the real-life trip with a fictional female balloon pilot (Felicity Jones) who is overcoming serious and dramatic baggage tied to ballooning. All of which is made up. Even as she performs feats to save their lives that the real pilot was forced to do. But here, it's someone else.
But, again, the scientist in the film was real and really did go up in a balloon, but with a less-surprising male balloonist.
I honestly have no idea what I just watched, is what I guess I'm saying. I've read articles that are more reflective of my "yes, I understand why they did it, but..." perspective, and others that are really surprisingly blase about "facts" and "what occurred" and seem to think that's some old fashioned thinking and casually suggest if you are questioning the choice, you are both racist and sexist.
Look - I get that "based on a true story" movies change facts all the time, combine people into single characters, etc... - and, honestly, it's part of why I often avoid Hollywood's interpretation of history. But they generally don't swap out one of two main characters with a completely fictional person.
So - I have no idea what I just watched. It was okay. But I tend to think history is hard enough to get a grip on without making up fictional characters in their lives as seemingly major players. So, next time you ask me if I've seen a movie based on a true story and I kinda shrug and say "nope". You now know why.
I watched this just before Togo, which was also based on true events and changed quite a bit, but the basic facts were generally adhered to.
Format: Amazon Streaming
The holidays never end here at The Signal Watch! We've got one more PodCast for you as we discuss "Trading Places" (1983), a movie about class, race, and power of hoping your audience knows a whole lot about the commodities market (we do not). Join us as we discuss a movie that's both dated and ageless. Oh, and it takes place at Christmas, sort of.
Overture - Mozart, The Marriage Of Figaro
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
This isn't a comprehensive list of what I watched in 2019. Like the movies list, it doesn't include all the partially watched Hallmark movies. It also doesn't include local and global news (some of us still watch the news). It doesn't include Seinfeld and The Nanny reruns. Nor shows I watched part of and gave up on. I may have even missed entire series in here. I don't really track TV watching or I'd probably have to have a moment of self-reflection. It doesn't include the hours and hours and hours of baseball, soccer, volleyball, and football I'll watch in a given year (with hundreds of hours of baseball to account for as I probably watched 60-70 games last year. Go Cubs!).
But when I sat down to think about what I'd watched, this was what came to mind:
Monday, January 6, 2020
"The old lion is dead."
- cable from Archie Roosevelt to his brothers serving in Europe, 01/06/1919
Theodore Roosevelt passed on January 6, 1919. He was only 60 years old.
The passing of the famously active and robust Roosevelt could be attributed to a few things. That bullet he famously took before he gave a speech actually did harm him and left him with ailments that worsened over time. His tour of the Amazon had left him with malaria and took much of the wind from his sails. The man of action who had made his reputation in the Spanish-American War, and who believed the manliest thing one could do was go fight in a war, took a post-presidential tour of Europe which forewarned him of the coming conflict and the scale at which is would occur. When the US finally entered the fray, he encouraged his sons to enlist. When he and Edith lost Quentin Roosevelt in air-to-air combat in July of 1918, it's said TR began to slide.
TR died before he could once again run for president, which he was, of course, considering. And which I think would have altered his legacy, win or lose. We never really saw a feeble TR, and the memory of the uncompromising figure TR was becoming as he aged is mostly forgotten, mixed with the blustery figure of his younger days. Still, he'd surprised the world at every turn since his youth, so who is to say what an octogenarian Roosevelt might have looked like?
The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and he'd defied death since his childhood as an asthmatic prone to long spells of sickness, been shot at, survived disease and exotic and dangerous adventuring. Blinded in one eye while boxing (during middle age) and regularly found ways to engage with life in ways I can scarcely imagine. At only 60, his life and legacy produced more door-stop-heavy books than most anyone in US History.
If all of us are contradictions, this is one more area where TR lived larger than life. And I won't dwell on it here - but he did leave a fascinating legacy and history in the multitudes he contained.
Sunday, January 5, 2020
SimonUK and Ryan were already standing around the kitchen talking about "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker", so they turned on a microphone and recorded themselves. What follows is a semi-incoherent conversation by two 40-something guys pondering the final installment of a decades-spanning storyline.
Fanfare and Prologue - John Williams, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker OST
Ewok Celebration - Meco, some 45 I had a as a kid