Sunday, January 31, 2021

Dorothy Dandridge: Singing at Her Best, 2003

 First viewing

This is a collection of terrible quality Soundies, movie and tv clips of Dorothy Dandridge singing at various stages in her career. It has a narrator who pretty much says, “Here’s Dorothy singing. Pretty great, eh?” 

There is nothing to add. This movie is exactly how I feel: barely trying. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

So Your Wife Wants to Work, 1956

First viewing. A tiny film.

From Warner Bros, this short film stars George O’Hanlon as an office manager whose wife, Phyllis Coates, wants to work outside the home. She blames her husband for keeping her trapped in the drudgery of fifties housewife existence. He agrees to get her a job in his office, with behind-the-scenes conspiracy with his boss to give her terrible tasks that they know will have her begging to go home. Unfortunately for them, she is good at these things. So good she gets three promotions. (A weird twist is that her salary is coming from her husband’s salary). After he is fired and she gets his job, a bartender tells him he never has that trouble because he keeps his wife barefoot and *whisper whisper*.

In the final scene she is president of the company and he is in the kitchen in an apron cooking and rocking a crib with no shoes on.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Return of the Swamp Thing, 1989

 First viewing, Signal-watch watch party

I haven’t seen any Swamp Thing movies before and was vaguely aware of the comic book. I liked this movie at first but then they put gratuitous children in it. I felt bad for Louis Jordan who was once a real movie star. I suppose this isn’t the worst movie a faded film star could be in, I’ve seen much more embarrassing and sad examples.

In Swamp Apartment news, my ceiling leak is so bad it may not dry out until Wednesday, even with the giant dryer and fans. The machinery noise is giving me anxiety and my ears are sore from earplugs. Sure wish I could go to the dentist. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Dracula, 1931

 First viewing from beginning to end while sober and alone and in January.

Sometimes you just want to watch Dracula.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

I’m No Angel, 1933

 First viewing all the way through to the end.

The third of her films, this is the Mae West movie you should see if you don’t see any other one. She is stunning. She made her first film at age forty and often wrote the story, dialogue and screenplay herself. This is the movie with her most famous lines but it has a lot of other lines that have been my favorites for years. When she asks a man she invited to her room “What do you do for a living?” And he says “Sort of a politician” she replies “I don’t like to work either”. It’s this guy. His diamond ring blinds her to his disturbing area.

She starts out as a carnival performer, “The woman who discovered you don’t have to have feet to be a dancer”

and works her way up to the good life through charming rich men and oh, becoming a lion tamer. In pants. She even delivers great lines to the big cats.

Along the way she meets and falls in love for the first time, with Cary Grant, who gets tricked into cancelling their wedding. It ends with a trial for breach of promise that has some of Mae’s best scenes. 

Highly recommended. Definitely soothed my brain after having heavy rain leaking into my apartment overnight, then having a dentist appointment involving needles, then having workmen coming in to see the water damage and leaving very noisy fans and other equipment to run until tomorrow. Just looking at her wardrobe filled me with delight and took some anxiety away. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Lego Movie, 2014

 First viewing. On the plane ride home from mom and dad’s.

What I knew about Legos before watching this movie: When I was a child in 1972 I built a bedroom out of legos for my Barbie in a shoe box. I had bricks. Just bricks. No one I knew had anything more than just bricks. By 1979 when the short film Drugs Are Like That came out, there were many more different shapes and kits, but I was a teenager then and didn’t have any younger siblings and never baby sat. I never had kids or friends with kids so my first-hand knowledge stops.

What I knew about the Lego movie: I was vaguely aware there was a lego movie which seemed clear to me was just a two hour long commercial for legos.

What I now know: this is the funniest movie I’ve seen in years and I laughed my head off watching it on the plane heading home. I don’t know if I was just happy to be going home or happy the aircraft had 25 passengers but I started it not knowing at all what it was going to be and I loved it. It’s got layers and jokes almost of Futurama quality. By the time the live-action sequences came on I started remembering reading about people having spent tens of thousands of dollars on lego kits and construction and the movie lost all its charm. But up until then I was completely in love and also the plane was landing any minute and I wanted to look out the window.

Back home now so movies will most likely be on my own unless it’s a watch party, for at least a month until I go back to Arizona. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Daybreak Express, 1953

First viewing, last night at mom and dad’s for a while. Another tiny film, alone.

The first by the documentarian D.A. Pennebaker, who made the Bob Dylan film Don’t Look Back, this film is an artistic rendering of New York subways of 1953. With train-evoking music by Duke Ellington it weaves visions of riders in jiggling cars, tracks, trellises and scenery with colors, patterns and music notes.

Last tiny film for a while as I will be heading home tomorrow and will have more time to fill, starting with a watch party.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins, 1969

First viewing. Alone while at mom and dad’s.

A film by Les Blank, it’s a fabulous history of not only blues musicians but the way of life for poor black people in Texas in the late 1960s. There are rodeos and fishing and funny stories amidst the sadness. There’s family and friendships. It’s a fantastic piece of work.

My mom and dad have been going through so much sadness and struggle during the pandemic, and there isn’t really anything that can be done right now. Music and love will have to keep us going for now.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Fresh Guacamole, 2013

First viewing. Alone in bed.

Today was a rough day, my mom was very sick with panic attacks and tremors and her Parkinson’s meds weren’t working well at all.

So I searched for a short film and found the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar. 

Loved it. Smart and whimsical and clever. You too can watch it if you’ve got a spare minute and forty seconds. Here’s the link.

Fresh Guacamole

Friday, January 22, 2021

Return of the Pink Panther, 1975

 ? Viewing, first viewing was in the theater at the age of ten. Quarantine watch with mom and dad. This is the one we remembered the most.

Third Pink Panther movie and the best one I’ve seen this week. It still didn’t have some scenes my dad remembers but I think we’ve reached our limit. Christopher Plummer and Catherine Schell are great, later when I saw her on tv as Maya from Space:1999 I had no idea who she was but always loved her. 

We were hoping mom could watch with us but her Parkinson’s was bad this evening and she went to bed. Today I went with her to her movement neurologist doctor. Trying to see a doctor now if you’re elderly and mostly deaf is tragic. Hoping she’ll feel well enough to watch a movie with us tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Revenge of the Pink Panther, 1978

 Second viewing, first viewing was in the theatre in 1978. Quarantine watch with mom and dad, follow-up.

The history of the Pink Panther films has been covered thoroughly in an AV Club article from two years ago, so what I have to add is purely personal. This film is not as funny as I remember it, but it still made me laugh out loud a few times. The late 1970s discofied version of the theme song was weak and there was barely a soundtrack at all. The casually racist jokes were icky. Dyan Cannon was great. Peter Sellers was an amazing actor and comedian who would die two years after this movie of a heart attack at the age of 54. He had had a heart attack the year before this movie.

None of this movie had the slightest relevancy to today’s events, which consisted of having CNN on for hours while the new White House Press Secretary gave the daily briefing with Dr. Fauci. I was so happy watching and listening to intelligent, competent grown-ups while I put up white contact paper inside my parents’ dark kitchen cabinets so my sight-impaired father could find things easier. Sometimes you need more light to see clearer, sometimes you need more reflection of light, and sometimes you need people to say I don’t have the answer to that question right now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Pink Panther, 1963

First viewing. Quarantine watch with mom and dad. Dad pick.

I’ve been sticking with my daily movie even while away from home, and while last night’s movie was just something for me to do while mom and dad did their thing, tonight dad wanted to watch with me, and requested The Pink Panther. Unfortunately he got confused which one was the insanely funny one that we saw in the theater when I was a teen and we watched the 1963 one that featured the mere budding of Inspector Clouseau’s hilarity instead. 

It’s not terribly funny. It’s gorgeous with its beautiful actors, scenery, Yves St. Laurent costumes and magnificent Mancini soundtrack. It has a lot of classic slapstick bits, but when you know just how insane the sequels get, it comes off quaint and a bit dull.

Not one thing in it reminded me of the inauguration, which we watched earlier in the day and was the first time I ever sat through a whole one. I didn’t even watch Aretha at Obama’s, it just never was something I felt like watching. For some reason I wanted to see this. And now it occurs to me that it, too, was full of gorgeous scenery, people, clothes and music. And its dullness was refreshing. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Smilin’ Through, 1932

First viewing, and on a big TV

My first movie of the year away from home, not counting the plane ride movie yesterday. This movie happened to be coming on TCM at a time of day that was good for watching in my parents’ living room. Mom had gone to bed and Dad was sitting in the next chair playing games on his iPad and letting out disapproving noises regarding the corniness of the film and how quickly he would have walked out of it. And yes, it was corny and melodramatic and cliched.

Made by MGM in 1932 it has the quality of a big-budget production of a romance based on a stage play from 1919. It’s got double-exposure ghosts and dual roles by Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard and Frederic March. 

It’s got a 70-year timeline. It’s got thoughtful camerawork and lots of crying. It’s got snappy dissolves and long emotional speeches. I didn’t hate it but it speaks of a time where natural acting wasn’t quite a thing yet. It’s got a lot of acting. SOOOO much acting. It’s the kind of stale acting style that made James Cagney so fresh and shocking when he came on the scene. He said, never let them catch you acting.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Kitchen, 2019

 First viewing

I never watch movies on plane rides that have less than two hours in the air, but this time I went for it because Southwest had a bunch of free movies right in my face. I tried to watch The Goonies because I’d never seen it but it was really awful. Swiped past a picture of Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish and vaguely remembered seeing a commercial for this movie and thought I might like to see it.

It’s the one where they play wives of jailed mobsters who take over their husbands rackets to earn their own money. It’s set in Hell’s Kitchen New York in 1978 and the sets, hair and costumes do a decent job of portraying the atmosphere at the time. The leads are great but the story is a little muddled.

It may be the most recent film I’ve seen, definitely this year. I haven’t watched films right when they come out since I was a teenager.

I’m away from my computer so I’ll add in some pics when I can.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Falcon's Brother, 1942

First viewing, of any Falcon film

Made in 1942, this is the fourth Falcon film of sixteen made from 1941-46. This is the last starring George Sanders as the famous detective Gay Laurence (don't laugh, he's not gay, he's British). It also features his brother, Tom Conway, as the Falcon's brother, Tom Laurence.  (Tom Conway lost the coin flip to change his name as he and his brother didn't want their careers to get confused). He went on to play Tom Laurence Falcon in the rest of the Falcon franchise. George decided he wanted to move on in Hollywood and he had a long and varied career. 

The man on the left is The Falcon's sidekick, Lefty. I'm not sure why, I guess Shorty was too obvious.

George and Tom starred in only two movies together and they played brothers in both of them.

The Falcon's Brother is a delightful pastiche of murder (by gun and by poison cigar), mistaken identity, wartime fashion and German and South American espionage featuring George and Tom as two horn dogs who can't be anywhere near a woman without harassing her. This was once seen as manly and desirable. It is convenient for them that a lot of the action takes place around fashion models so they can establish once and for all that they are definitely NOT GAY.

A dead body on a boat mistaken for Tom Laurence leads to the fashion house, more murder, some gowns, a photographer, a lady reporter, a South American dance couple and codes on magazine covers communicating wartime attacks. During the investigation Gay is hit by a car and bedridden, unconscious for days with a private nurse, and not taken to a hospital, because it would ruin the murder investigation, somehow, leading to his brother Tom running things for most of the movie. When Gay awakens from his coma he immediately sexually harasses his nurse.

An interesting note of awkward dialogue has the photographer boyfriend of the fashion designer saying he didnt want to miss the new show featuring the "new government approved styles". 

The gown on the left, according to the designer, shows an example of the new L85 regulation (requiring a minimum of materials and other rules) and assures us that "we can have lovely dresses and comply with recent government regulations". 

I enjoyed this movie, it has a light tone without being excessively slapstick, and I will look for more Falcon. The Falcon Takes Over, also from 1942, is based on Raymond Chandler's Farewell My Lovely.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

In The Heat Of The Night, 1967

First viewing

This is the best film I’ve seen so far this year. Complex and satisfying. I won’t say much more because others have so much better than I ever could, but I absolutely loved this movie. It's not often that I like a Best Picture, in fact, I've despised many. This is truly a gem for many reasons.

The fact that prejudice and racism are stronger now than in years makes me sick. I almost didn’t want to watch this but it was just starting when I turned on TCM and it pulled me in. Just a really well done film all around. I hope some day we look back and say, look at what people used to think and do.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Against All Flags, 1952

 First Viewing, Signal-watch party

This movie was made in 1952, five years before Flynn's death at the age of 50. He was already well on his way to killing himself with alcohol, and though it was banned on set, Maureen O'Hara said he would inject oranges with vodka and eat them in the mornings. By 4pm he would be unable to work.

Maureen O'Hara plays a pirate captain and she is HOT. And by that I mean sexually aggressive.

This movie has some sword fights in it but not so many that I got bored. I feel the same about sword fights as I do about martial arts battles. Yawn. Until Maureen picks up the sword.

A lot of the costuming and sets are oddly terrible. The colors clash. The exceptions are the pirate's fancy gold-trimmed velvet coats and Maureen's groin-high decorated leather boots. This is where Halloween costumes got their ideas, much like flapper costumes are based on 1950's movies about The Roaring 20s. 

It's a fast story with two beautiful people in gorgeous Technicolor and it took my mind off the state of America for a full hour and a half. Sure there was a spy but he got flogged. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Hard, Fast and Beautiful, 1951

First Viewing

Directed by Ida Lupino, this movie is essentially about a stage mother who gets left behind after her manipulations and emotional tricks lead to her daughter's success. Only it's in tennis and not on the stage.

Starring the always magnificent Claire Trevor as her mother, and also a lot of actors who aren't who you think they are. This man is not Howard Sprague from the Andy Griffith Show. 

Notice the back-to-back twin beds. I have never seen this before. I suspect this is a wonderful directorial invention by Ida Lupino and it is marvelous for the economical way it indicates an increasing distance in a marriage.

This is not Steve Allen.

This is not Robert Alda, however it IS the guy from The Hideous Sun Demon. That is also not a 20-year-old Ida Lupino.

This is a good movie. This is also the first movie that I have watched in the morning. I was finding myself getting to the end of the day without having watched anything and didn't want this blog to be about watching the first half of a movie every day. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Viva Las Vegas, 1964

First viewing

This movie is weird. A bit of fluff with the sexiest man ever, Elvis Presley, and the sexiest woman ever, Ann-Margaret. They dance and sing and flirt, after he stalks her until she gives in. Only in the movies does this happen. 

The depictions of historic Vegas casinos and quaint showgirl acts are just adorable. 

Most of the musical numbers are pretty forgettable except for What’d I Say. The girl in the white top is Teri Garr.

 and Toni Basil is the "girl with the red dress on".

William Demarest, a well-known noir actor in the forties and tv actor later, plays Ann-Margaret’s dad. 

Soon it turns into a weird love story about a race car driver and the woman who worries he’ll get in a crash. Then there’s a talent contest. Then some more dumb songs. Then a car race. There are two helicopter scenes. They sure packed a lot in a hour and 25 minutes, the shortest movie Elvis made. 

This is the first movie that I have watched this year while doing something else, if you don't count watch parties. During a lot of the musical numbers I switched over to the news to see if any more white supremacists got arrested. Can’t wait for the first congressperson. I just hope it's not for shooting another congressperson.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Killer Leopard, 1954

Tenth in the Bomba the Jungle Boy series, I watched this boring nonsense because it had Beverly Garland in it. She plays a movie star looking for her husband who has embezzled money from her studio and gone into the jungle looking for diamonds. There’s also a killer leopard. And basic stock footage that implies zebras are found in jungles.

I didn’t really need to watch this movie to distract myself from reading the news. I now have dentist insurance for the first time ever so I made an appointment for a full check-up at the soonest place available, the new dental school, and I was glad to go to the dentist to take my mind off current events. It took three hours, so a big chunk of my day was accounted for. But I am watching a movie and blogging about it every day this year so I picked this one because it was the shortest. It felt longer than my dentist appointment.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Judy, 2019


First and last viewing

Renee Zellweger plays Judy Garland in the last year of her life during her tour in England. She sings and cries and takes a lot of pills. She has the charisma of throw pillow. Flashbacks to her early days in Hollywood padding the length of the film.

Anyway, hoping we impeach the president tomorrow. Again. This time he needs to be removed from office. Jail would be good, too. 

I’ve never been a big patriot. I got in trouble as a kid for not standing for the National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance, which I knew was a goddamn lie. I’ve always known this country was founded on unfairness and brutality and labor theft and exploitation and cruelty and empty promises and other lies. I’ve also known that this is a beautiful country with many loving and beautiful and caring people who go on day to day only wanting to live in peace. And now I’m more aware than ever that there are people who don’t want that, who don’t want their neighbors to be healthy and happy. Sometimes they don’t even want them to be alive. And they’re not hiding it like they used to. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1935

First viewing

Huh. Part of popular culture since the play of 1905, I couldn’t tell you what it was about before I saw this movie. Turns out it’s about an Englishman saving French aristocrats from the French Revolution of the 1790s. Back then, rich people were the enemy in countries where everyone was white. 

Merle Oberon is beautiful and completely believable as a Frenchwoman popular in English society married to Leslie Howard, who is much better here than in Gone With the Wind as he switches from well-known ass and fop Percy to the hero who risks his life to save innocent people rich through the accident of birth.

Raymond Massey is excellent as the villain out to find the Pimpernel (p.s. a scarlet pimpernel is a small flower). His ability to wear a ginormous collar is unmatched. Even Dracula never went this big. You know what they say about the size of a man's collar.

The delight however is a Nigel Bruce as the Prince of Wales, someone I will always associate with Hugh Laurie from Blackadder the Third. Check out Sherlock Holmes' Watson here. Imagining the guy behind him is Holmes. Waiting for the 1790s Sherlock reboot.

Current events have me examining revolutions, albeit accidentally. I have noticed that the enemy of American democracy is not as clear as rich against poor, educated versus uneducated, South versus North. The enemies of democracy and the system of voting we’ve had for hundreds of years are those who can’t except human beings as human beings regardless of their skin color or national origin.

Anyway, the pace of this movie is very much of the thirties costume drama variety, and kind of boring, except for the amazing guillotine scenes near the beginning. Barely passed review due to cleavage that’s almost invisible.

I forgot to mention that Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are in it.

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Running Man, 1987

First Viewing, Signal Watch Party

A dystopian game show set in 2017 featuring people getting chased and killed by cartoon-like theme wrestlers is the highest rated show in 2017. Instead we had President Gameshow Host treating the presidency like his own tv show only with no prizes.

This film came out the same year as Predator and is not as good. Arnold Schwarzenegger says "I'll be back". Maria Conchita Alonzo exercises in a black lace teddy. Features two future governors, Arnie and Jesse Ventura. Predicted some deepfake face changes and misleading video editing. Maybe had two or three cute lines in it. 

Written by Stephen King without him taking responsibility for it.

Could have been better.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Bowery to Bagdad, 1955

First viewing

This Bowery Boys movie gave me much delight after a day of sedition by government officials and storming of the White House by right wing racists.

The very old Boys (Leo Gorcey as Slip Mahoney and Huntz Hall as Sach Jones are the primary Boys) find a genie lamp and get mixed up with gangsters. The genie is played by Eric Blore and this is his last film. He was known for playing droll English butler types in the 20s and 30s in such films as Top Hat and other Fred and Ginger movies.

Also featuring long-time actress Jean Willes, who was in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

This was also the last film of Bernard Gorcey, father of Leo and David, two of the Bowery Boys. He played Louie the sweet shop owner in the 4-5 Bowery Boys films made every year from 1946-1958. He was a very busy actor in film and stage and died months after this film was made when his car collided with a bus in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Little Lord Fauntleroy, 1936

First viewing

The story of a boy born in America in the 1880s whose dead father was English nobility being sent to England to live with the lord of the manor. Parentage and inheritance issues happen. Mickey Rooney plays a shoe shine boy. Dolores Costello plays the boy’s mother, she gets treated badly by the aristocracy. Themes of kindness and generosity toward people in need by people who are well-off and in a position to help echo today’s events. It’s a quiet and charming movie. A nice way to kill time while RWNJs are burning down Washington DC.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Unknown World, 1951

First viewing

A James Lippert film featuring atomic bomb fear, scientists creating a machine to burrow into the earth in search of a place for mankind to escape destruction, and absolutely no charm, drama or believability at all.

Take one token lady scientist, mix with a rich guy financing the project to ride along, pill meals, toxic gas alarms, lots of talk of loneliness and the nature of being, well-lit caves, boring deaths, and this film makes Mole People look like an action flick.

Highly not recommended.

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Killer is Loose, 1956

First viewing, Swift Watch party

Very much a B film, short and low budget, but with a great cast. Rhonda Fleming, Joseph Cotten, Wendell Corey and a shit ton of tv actors from the fifties and sixties including The Skipper, O'Hara from Batman and Dr. Hardy from General Hospital make for an often talky police-centered drama that often doesnt make much sense but isnt particularly weird. Kind of tv show quality.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Crowded Day, aka Shop Spoiled, 1954

First Viewing

The stories of several women in post-war England working at a department store around Christmas. The store has its own hostel where the workers live, which is very strange. Bounces around from slapstick to comedic manipulation to tragedy. Bit like Stage Door only not very good.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Vertigo, 1958

First viewing all the way through

Not sure how I managed to go this long in my life without knowing any of the major plot points of this utterly famous film, I guess being clueless and self-absorbed has its benefits. The scenery of San Francisco made me fall in love with my chosen home town even more, even though much of it is long gone. It was nice to see the old green Union Square. The tree ring with the dates on it in the woods was destroyed in one of the 2020 wildfires. I kept thinking of the horrible James Nguyen film Replica.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Johnny Mnemonic, 1995

First viewing, Signal-Watch party

This movie tried very hard and failed to be something “cyberpunk”.  Set in January 2021, it completely failed to predict any tech advances and it’s portrayal of a virus was weak. But I didn’t hate it.

Burnt Offerings, 1976

Many viewings, Watch Party hosting this time. Excited to introduce people to this movie!  Read viewer words here! I want this poster SO MUCH...