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Found 15 results

  1. If anyone likes Rom-Coms, but gets annoyed by how *bad* they are, try "The Fuller Brush Man," starring the inimitable Red Skelton. This is a genuinely funny movie, and will surprise people by how not-stupid it is - you just have to prepare yourselves for ninety minutes of clean comedy. It's free on Amazon Prime (*), and would be a *perfect* first-date movie for a nervous young couple. I need to rewatch "Duck Soup" (it's been over twenty years) but I don't remember that film as being all that much better than this. That said, I should warn potential viewers about what is the longest, non-stop slapstick ending I can ever remember seeing - parts of it are laugh-out-loud funny, but for me, it's too much, so, the final fifteen minutes of "The Fuller Brush Man" are caveat emptor - some people will love it; others won't. I had the privilege of seeing Red Skelton - much to the amazement of my parents - at Clemson. Somewhere, there may even be an autographed program by him (which further amazed my parents). Anyone unfamiliar with the genius of Skelton (*not* to be confused by the corny, sometimes cringe-worthy, Red Buttons) need only watch this little film, which shows Skelton doing a stand-up show in Canada when he was probably in his 70s. (*) Trivia - A bit of blown dialogue at the 59-minute mark: The Lieutenant says, "Low on closets, eh?" Skelton replies, "No, just long on coats." (It's pretty safe to assume the question should have been spoken, "Short on closets, eh?") Trivia - At 1:04.10 in the movie, Skelton recites the same gag, almost word-for-word, as he does at 2:10 in the YouTube stand-up routine - the "I got a joke for you" line.
  2. Having just finished Kazuo Ishiguro's incredible 1988 novel, "The Remains of the Day," and having just re-watched the 1993 film by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, "The Remains of the Day," ... AND, having watched the fantastic interview with Ishiguro, discussing his novel (and the film) on TIFF Bell Lightbox here (watch the interview after reading this post) ... ... my question for Mr. Ishiguro is this (and I must stress that this question is implicitly raised in the first five-minutes of the above interview): "Have you succumbed to being a butler, given that you did your absolute best, finest work, and ultimately handed it over to Lord Darlington, when your novel was made into a film?" Mr. Ishiguro is going to read the above question, and quite possibly feel like a knife was shoved into his stomach; if he doesn't, then I haven't done my job, because this issue is nearly identical with the overall theme of his novel, according to his very own interpretation. I don't think many people will understand what I'm trying to say here, but I'm almost certain that Mr. Ishiguro will. A round of applause to DIShGo for coming up with this question - as soon as she said it, I knew she had come up with a brilliant issue.
  3. "The Bitter Tea of General Yen" is a pre-code film directed by Frank Capra ("Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"), and starring Barbara ('If someone from my disadvantaged background has risen to success, others should be able to prosper without government intervention or assistance') Stanwyck. I'm watching this film out of a corner of one eye I while I do other things - the stereotypes are howlingly bad. Here's General Yen: <--- Nils Asther, a Swedish actor. On the other hand, last night, I actually watched "Dr. No" (1962) for the first time in decades - in nearly 30 years, not much progress was made in the stereotype department. <--- Joseph Wiseman, a Canadian actor. And here's yet another Chinaman: Kwai Chang Caine in "Kung Fu" (1972-1975): <--- David Carradine, an American actor (he died in Thailand, FWIW).
  4. I rewatched "Groundhog Day" a few months ago, and enjoyed it again - I can easily see how this would go on someone's "personal favorite movies" list. There have been some attempts made to address your question: Jan 31, 2018 - "How Many Times Does Bill Murray Reilve Groundhogs Day?" by Dave Wheeler on bigfrog104.com There's another article on whatculture.com It seems to be 10 years at a minimum, with some people guessing more like 30 years - I think it's probably somewhere in between those durations (Murray wasn't a great pianist, but he was good enough to fake it in a nightclub, and that alone would take 5-10 years of multi-hour-per-day practice).
  5. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** (I'm assuming you've already watched the film if you're going to read this.) --- Continuing my recent trend of seeing movies I haven't seen in years, or decades, for the second time, I rented "Easy Rider" on Amazon - my general rule of thumb lately has been to rent movies that I've seen, and enjoyed, but don't really remember. I knew that Easy Rider is a beloved road movie starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper; I didn't know their characters' names were Wyatt and Billy, respectively - for Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. With Amazon, you have the option of using "X-Ray" to glean little tidbits about films - for me, it's often helpful since I'm on my second viewing, but I can also easily see it being an annoyance - the good news is that it's easily deactivated. Since I'm more of an aesthete than a hedonist, I tend to use it for second viewings. My chicken's ready. I'm back. Do you get a little Robert Redford here? And, to Mr. Redford: *Happy 80th birthday this Thursday*! I doubt he'll see this, but hey, Jack Sock liked my tweet today! I didn't remember that Easy Rider popularized "The Pusher," which came out the year before: The brief scene when Wyatt looked at his watch and threw it on the ground is *so* late-60s, the rapid-fire changes in photos often seen in B-horror films, often with psychedelic music and sometimes with a girl screaming while realizing something. Wow, and all this during a cold open - I didn't even realize that. Well, as of right now, I'm 40 minutes into a 95-minute movie, and to be honest, I think it's pretty boring. Other than the obviously appealing imagery of the two men on the bikes (an iconic American image which will be around for a long time), we've visited a ranch - which was tolerable enough - and spent *way* too much time at a commune, and to what end? Perhaps this will tie in later in the movie, but as of right now, I wish they'd get the heck off that commune and get on their merry way. So far, this is poorly acted, without any clear meaning, and just plain dull. Also, the drug deal in the beginning has absolutely nothing to do with this except for financing their trip. It's the next day now. And now that I think about it, I'm not sure I've ever seen this film before, at least not in its entirety - I don't remember a single thing about it. I'm pretty sure I'd remember George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) riding on the back of that chopper in a football helmet. My biggest problem with the extended commune scene is that, one day later, I hardly remember a single person in the commune (or maybe, that's the whole point?); however, the campfire scene with George Hanson smoking his first-ever joint is priceless, and vintage early Jack Nicholson. *That* is some character development, and it only took a couple of minutes - it's the highlight of the movie, so far, in my mind. Dennis Hopper (Billy) - who got a little psycho-weird when he called BS on Hanson's UFO theory - always has a little bit of "creepy" to him, even here ... it's hard to get "Blue Velvet" out of my mind, even when I see him in such a vastly different role like this. Okay, the scene in the diner - with the local rednecks - is suspenseful. This movie is almost like a series of "short stories," linked together by motorcycles: Chapter 1 - Drugs, Chapter 2 - Ranch, Chapter 3 - Commune - Chapter 4 - Campfire, Chapter 5 - Diner. it's starting to chain together now, and I'm liking the movie more - it's almost like a theme and variations. Have you seen that internet meme that's been going around - the one about conservatives always longing for "the good old days" (itself a strawman - how many people have you actually heard say this?) and the liberals rebutting it by saying, "Name one single year that you'd like this country to return to" (of course, nobody can - the retort is nothing more than argumentum ad antiquitatem: an attempt to force the person to choose an easily debunked, logical fallacy). It's supremely ironic that Hanson said - after the diner scene - "You know, this used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." Tables turned - most amusing, and whenever I come across things like that on Facebook, I realize I'm spending too much time on Facebook. I hope it goes without saying that I'm talking about "conservative" and "liberal" in the original, *non-political* definitions of the terms (the fact that I felt the need to say that makes me long for the good old days, when you weren't walking on eggshells every time you say something - we all need you, John Cleese): Hanson (Nicholson) is coming up with some compelling lines in this campfire speech, and I wish every food writer, celebrity chef, and hanger-on would watch this movie and pay close attention to what he's saying: things like, "It's real hard to be free when you're being bought and sold in the marketplace." Of course, even if they paid close attention they wouldn't dream of thinking that these words apply to them, so what good would it do? I'm sorry - did I just offend anyone? God, I hope so. Oh, man! And then he continues: "Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they gonna get *real* busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are." Man, this movie's slugging percentage just went up - way, way up. As the Wikipedia plot summary says, so correctly: "He [Hanson] observes that Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom, but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibits it." I wonder how many people *aren't* going to look in the mirror right now - probably something close to 100%. Nevertheless, this bit of dialog is the best scene in the movie so far. And then what comes right afterwards? Wow. The cowards strike in the darkness of night - just as they always do. Interestingly, the two girls in The House of Blue Lights are played by Karen Black and Toni Basil. Amazing cinematography in the final scene - powerful stuff. I was *so certain* I'd seen Easy Rider before, but I'd never seen it in my life, and I'm glad I did.
  6. "The Stepford Wives" (1975) - Directed by Bryan Forbes (Director of "The Whisperers") Produced by Edgar Scherick (Producer of "Sleuth") Written by: Screenplay - William Goldman (Academy Award Winner for Best Original Screenplay for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and for Best Adapted Screenplay for "All the President's Men"), Story - "The Stepford Wives" by Ira Levin (Author of "Rosemary's Baby") Featuring Katharine Ross as Joanna Eberhart (Etta Place in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," Elaine Robinson in "The Graduate"), Paula Prentiss as Bobbie Markowe (Liz Bien in "What's New, Pussycat?" Lee Carter in "The Parallax View"), Peter Masterson as Walter Eberhart (Fryer in "In the Heat of the Night"), Nanette Newman as Carol van Sant (Girl Upstairs in "The Whisperers"), Tina Louise as Charmaine Wimperis (Ginger Grant on "Gilligan's Island"), Patrick O'Neal (George Maxwell in "Bed of Roses" on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," Harmon Gordon in "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain" on "The Twilight Zone," Jonathan Meridith in "Wolf 359" on "The Outer Limits," Justus Walters in "A Fear of Spiders" on "Night Gallery"), Josef Sommer as Ted van Sant (District Attorney William T. Rothko in "Dirty Harry"), Franklin Cover as Ed Wimperis (Tom Willis on "The Jeffersons") --- I had managed to avoid "The Stepford Wives" (the original version) for my entire life, but given that the term has entered our lexicon, and more importantly, that the 1975 version was at least an attempt at horror (the latter version mixed in comedy), I thought I'd give it a go. While I can't say "it was a great movie," I also don't regret watching it. My biggest gripe about this film is one that other critics have repeated: It feels like a made-for-TV film, and is also about thirty minutes too long. I can't imagine walking into a movie theater, even when I was fourteen years old, and seeing this on the big screen. Katherine Ross is eight years older than when she played Elaine in "The Graduate," but she weathered those eight years beautifully - she has a very unique loveliness to her, and did a pretty good acting job in this role (I can't honestly say it was "great," but that's because she didn't have much to work with - this script would fit nicely in a thirty-minute episode, or perhaps a sixty-minute episode, of "The Twilight Zone"). *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** One thing that isn't entirely clear to me is whether or not her husband, Walter, knew about the goings-on in Stepford before leaving New York City - his conversion to one of the Stepford Husbands was seamless and total; yet, how could the town of Stepford trust a complete stranger, whom they'd never before met (or had they?), with this information? Two-thirds of the way through the movie (I'm loathe to call it a "film"), I wasn't quite sure how the transition would be done - was it drugs? Surgery? Or something else entirely? Make sure to see the outstanding 2017 film, "Get Out," which was clearly influenced by this movie, as well as by several other films (I won't insult you by naming them). "The Stepford Wives" is optional viewing; "Get Out" is an absolute requirement.
  7. There is a long-forgotten type of Hollywood movie: The Film Serial, popular in the first half of the twentieth century - it was almost like a TV series, except that it took place in movie theaters. One subject was explored, in a series of short films (often 20-30 minutes long), presented as "chapters in a book," so to speak. "Black Arrow" was a film serial released in 1944, and consists of fifteen chapters. The star was Robert Scott, whose real name was Mark Roberts, and "Black Arrow" would be the only starring role of his entire acting career. I watched episode number one: "The City of Gold," which takes place in 1865. It deals with carpetbaggers who arrived in the South too late to join the money party, so they packed up and headed for "The Five Cities of Cibola" (which, in reality, were seven cities, allegedly in Navajo country in New Mexico, and (supposedly) filled with gold for the taking). <--- This is the current territory of the Navajo nation. If you've visited the Four Corners marker - the only point in the United States where four states touch - you've probably seen Native Americans selling Fry Bread on the side of the road: These Native Americans are Navajos, or should be. The last time I went - I've been twice - I bought some at a roadside stand for just a dollar or two, and the kindly lady fried it to order - it was absolutely delicious (albeit not the healthiest thing in the world, as it's made with lard), and didn't need any toppings at all (you can sometimes get them with powdered sugar or honey on top). If you're there, and see it, make sure to buy it and try it: This is the authentic product, and a genuine Navajo staple - you can read about it in the link just above. Also, if you're ever visiting the Grand Canyon, and stumble across a dive roadside Tex-Mex restaurant, you can sometimes find quasi-sandwiches consisting of things like beef, frijoles, cheese, lettuce, tomato (well, essentially a taco salad), but these are placed atop a piece of fry bread which is folded in half and eaten something like a falafel on pita, or an open burrito - if you see this, get it, as your culinary choices in this region are very limited, and this makes for a really tasty and satisfying meal. (See? We really *are* a food site at heart!) Trivia: Fry Bread was named the "Official State Bread" of South Dakota in 2005, the same year this community was founded - I kid you not. This thread, up until this point, must sound *really* weird, because it deals with multiple subjects that people simply aren't familiar with. That's one of the reasons it fascinates me. If you watch this, keep two things in mind: 1) The film quality is fairly poor, as it has not been preserved or restored. 2) It is *very* difficult to distinguish the three men, one from the other, so concentrate on the color of their hats, and pay attention to their names when you hear them; otherwise, they're nearly interchangeable. You'll also quickly detect that the white man and the Indians use the word "savvy?" to mean "do you understand?" *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** Three carpetbaggers (Jake Jackson (their leader), Shaman, and Becker) left the South, and headed out to the city of Big Mesa, to grab their share of gold, but to do so, they'll need to "make friends" with the Indians to finesse information from them. Black Arrow is a Navajo (played by Robert Scott), and his father is the tribal chief who is killed by a white man in a quarrel. The rest of the tribe ordered Black Arrow, out of revenge, to kill Mr. Whitney, the designated U.S. "Indian Agent," and a genuinely good person. Black Arrow refuses, correctly recognizing that Mr. Whitney is the Navajo's friend, and things get a little dicey from that point forward. One thing I appreciate about this first installment is that they treated the Navajos - if not with accuracy - with a degree of respect. Yes, there was "the broken English," the fire dance, the white actors playing the roles of Native Americans, but the Navajo were at least portrayed with some honor, and that's a bit more than I was expecting. I guess that, sometimes, you have to take small victories where you can find them. At the end of the chapter, there was an announcement for "Signal of Fear," Chapter Two in the serial, "in this theater next week!" These film serials were clearly designed to attract weekly customers into movie theaters - a very clever and probably effective tool. It would not surprise me if many were released in the summertime, so people would come into the air-conditioned theaters and escape the heat. *** END SPOILERS *** I found Chapter One, "Black Arrow," on Youtube, and at the very end, Chapter Two, "Signal of Fear," was just about to begin - it's possible that all fifteen chapters are on YouTube, but obviously there are no guarantees, since this is merely one user's account. I cannot in good faith recommend "Black Arrow," but if you have even the slightest interest in film history, it's an important and legitimate genre that would be worth less than thirty minutes of your time (I noticed that Chapter Two is less than twenty-minutes long). If you go to this link, then scroll down a bit, you will find: "Adventures of Black Arrow: Interview with Robert Scott" by Boyd Magers on westernclippings.com And just in case the link ever breaks:
  8. You have two choices when watching "The Wild One": 1) Watch it through the eyes of older people who lived through The Great Depression and World War II, and were genuinely afraid of seeing society unravel and go to hell in a handbasket, or 2) roll your eyes, and scream aloud, about fifty times, "My *God* this is dated!" "The Wild One" is so dated that it comes across as a parody of itself. The acting is so overwrought, and the dialogue is so corny that it comes across as being about as rebellious as "Rock Around the Clock." One of the leaders of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club is Jerry Paris, who played the dentist in "The Dick Van Dyke Show" - I'm sorry, but seeing Rob Petrie's next-door neighbor Jerry Helper in a black leather jacket is just not that frightening. Clocking in at just under an hour and twenty minutes, "The Wild One" seems interminable. You have to acknowledge its influence as the first-ever biker flick, and for Marlon Brando influencing both Elvis Presley and James Dean (and hence, the rebellious 1960s). This film is, at once: terrible, important, influential, dated, forward-looking, inane, and ridiculous. Marlon Brando's stunt-double was *so obvious* that it was, at times, laughable, as he didn't look anything like Brando, and the transitions between Brando and his stunt-double were very poorly done, and not edited well at all. If you want to watch a movie for a good time, take a pass on "The Wild One"; if you want to be a good film scholar and watch a historically important movie, then go for it. That's about the best I can do for you - I felt like I was watching an episode of "Route 66," and not a particularly good one, either. --- But there is this legendary quote: Kathie Bleeker: "What're you rebelling against, Johnny?" Johnny Strabler: "Whaddya got?" --- The Hollister Riot, the staged picture of which - in Life Magazine - influenced the whole biker genre.
  9. I'd never before seen "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012), and only knew - or thought I only knew - that it was about what the U.S. did with captives suspected of Al Qaeda involvement, so I went in with a very clean slate. Note this thread about torture (and feel free to comment there), which does *not* reflect my personal views on anything, much less torture - I only mention it because it's probably related to this film. In my opinion, this is very much related to our thread about Lt. William Calley as well. "The Saudi Group" is mentioned prominently at the beginning of the film, and I'd never even heard of the term before (and I've always considered myself pretty well-informed about current events, especially things such as this). Some important (real-life) names you may want to familiarize yourself with - or at least have the Wikipedia links handy while watching the film), aside from the obvious, are: Ammar al-Balauchi (brilliantly played by Reda Kateb), Hazem al-Kashmiri, Ramzi Yousef, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Hamza Rabia, Khabab al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulai al-Balawi, and Abu Ahmed (I'm writing as I watch, trying not to pause the film, so I'm bound to make some typos, and will also probably miss some key people). You should also know about the general concept of "Black Sites," and what "ISI" is. Note: It's not at all essential to the plot of the movie to know who these people are - in terms of the film itself, most of them are "mix-and-match" high-level Al Qaeda operatives, and that's more than sufficient to watch Zero Dark Thirty - if you hear a name mentioned multiple times (for example, Abu Ahmed (pronounced "Ahkmed")), then you can make a stronger mental note. When Mark Strong (George, the senior CIA supervisor) was chewing out his group for not eliminating more Al Qaeda personnel, I was thinking to myself, "Well, who's in charge of the group, you brain-dead dork?" Mark Strong also played Maj. Gen. Stewart Manzies in "The Imitation Game," who was the man that made Alan Turing's life (more) helllish, so he's good at playing power-hungry authority figures, and these are two pretty huge roles in a short period of time. Jessica Chastain is a terrible choice to play Maya, the quiet, passive girl who becomes psycho-edgy the longer she stays in the group - her acting is terrible, and she's about as believable as watching Geena Davis playing Ronda Rousey (of course, Ronda Rousey isn't very believable playing Ronda Rousey, either, so ....). Ninety more minutes have passed since I wrote the previous paragraph, and the film is almost over. While lauded by both critics and the public, I'm taking a dissenting view and saying that "Zero Dark Thirty" is a stupid, Hollywood rendition of something that could have been made into a great film. Jessica Chastain was laughably bad in her role - she was miscast, plain and simple, and carries about as much gravitas when she uses big, aggressive words around high-up CIA operatives as an Englishman prancing his French poodle around in a dog show. Furthermore, she was a completely fictional character, and the producers had a chance to make her into anything they wanted - and they chose *this*?! In a way, the film is like the absolutely abysmal "Airport '77" in that the ending is terrific - the final hunt for UBL is brilliantly filmed, believable, and dripping with tension even though we all know what's going to happen. It was the same way in Airport '77 with the rescue, which was filmed using actual military techniques, and was the only good part of the movie. This film is like a wrapped piece of toffee - it's really strong at the beginning, and at the end, and there are nearly two hours of Hollywood tedium, over-acted dreck, and God-awful Jessica Chastain who, inexplicably, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress - I can certainly see "Zero Dark Thirty" winning awards for lighting, editing, sound and the like, but acting? Not unless it's either Reda Kateb or perhaps even Jason Clarke, but nominating Jessica Chastain shows just how much the Academy Awards are dumbed down for the masses, and should never be taken as anything more than "notoriety." Go to Rotten Tomatoes, and you'll think this is a great movie - a can't-miss movie - but to this viewer, it was "okay" at best, and very typical Hollywood: big, bold special effects, and story-driven rather than concerning itself with character development, nuance, or subtlety. If anyone thinks Jessica Chastain was successful in her role as Maya, please offer up your opinion - I'd like to know what you think.
  10. If you and your S.O. are ever sitting around one night, too tired to watch anything challenging, not wanting to go to sleep just yet, and talking about what to watch that's fun but not too mentally taxing (and this situation seems to happen fairly often), then "Fright Night" is the *perfect* answer to all your movie needs. I have no idea why, but I've watched "Fright Night" about three times now, and I always enjoy it as a fun, sometimes funny, sometimes mildly thrilling, piece of mindless entertainment with surprisingly good acting, plot, and special effects - a movie that you can pay 75%-attention to, and still not miss a thing, and yet, won't be a waste of your time at all. The film that immediately comes to mind when I try and think of a "comparable" is "Arachnaphobia" (1990), another fun, semi-mindless, but not-at-all-worthless piece of entertainment. Chris Sarandon (who met his wife Susan Sarandon at Catholic University) is *perfect* as Jerry Dandridge, the "vampire" - he's extremely handsome, charming, funny, and this part seems like it was literally made with him in mind. The other three major roles: the teen couple Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) and Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse), and "vampire killer" Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) are very well-acted, and then there's the sleeper of the film, the supporting role of "Evil Ed" (Stephen Geoffreys, who would surprisingly go on to dabble in porn), is brilliantly acted. All five of these actors are strong, and the special effects are worth a special mention. This movie is just plain mindless fun, and of high-enough quality so that you won't feel you're wasting your time by watching it. Do not hesitate to rent it. Think of "Total Recall" (1990) as another comparable, although that's more of a mind-fuck, and requires perhaps 10% more brainpower in order to figure out what on earth just happened.
  11. There are some movies that are so bad, they are good. "Five, isn't one of them. "Five" is simply bad. It is a low-budget film that looks like one. Writer, producer and director Arch Obolor used recent graduates from the University of Southern California film school as his crew, and it shows. Oboler's own home, an unusual Frank Lloyd Wright design, is the setting for most of the film. This interesting house is the highlight of the movie, for me. Five is the number of people remaining on earth following an atomic bomb disaster. It has been written that this film is the first to deal with a post-apocalyptic world, which makes watching it seem less like a complete waste of time. There are huge holes in the implausible plot. The actors seem to have been given very little direction. There is one woman remaining at the end of the world, and four men. Two handsome guys fight for the hand of this mother-to-be, who is committed to learning if her husband survived. She has the personality of a rock, yet the men all want her. I suppose that is what happens when you are the last woman on earth. The other characters are stereotypes. There is one funny scene--the only time "Five" crosses over into the so-bad-it-is-good category--where the evil Russian runs away, bumping into and nearly toppling a large, supposedly solid outdoor mailbox. There is another scene, involving the mother and her child, that was almost good. But one scene a movie does not make. Unless you are interested in the evolution of post apocalyptic films, I would suggest skipping this one.
  12. Okay, I'm watching the end of Brian's Song for the first time since I was a kid. No, those things in my eyes aren't tears; my contact lenses are bothering me. A pretty endearingly funny line though: Piccolo is on the phone with Sayers after his second operation. "They told me you gave me a pint of blood yesterday - is it true?" Piccolo said. "Yeah," Sayers replied. "That explains it then." "Explains what?" "I've had this craving for chitlins' all day."
  13. The opening of "Divorce American Style" is *very* witty - I had no idea what that man was doing conducting on the hilltop; then, it dawned on me: This is one of the most amusing first-four minutes of a movie I've seen in quite awhile (not surprisingly, it was produced by Norman Lear), and even if you don't watch the entire movie, it's worth just watching the first four minutes (assuming you can find a free copy - I paid $3.99 on Amazon Prime (has anyone else noticed that these movie services all performed a simultaneous bait-and-switch, offering "free" movies with a membership fee, then deciding to charge the membership fee *and* $2.99-3.99 per movie?)) Anyway, if someone knows of a better option, I'd be interested in knowing - I've been watching quite a few movies on my Walking Dead Diet, and they're becoming sneaky-expensive. In resuming my quest to watch all the Academy Award nominees from 1967, this is - I believe - the thirteenth nominee I've seen from that year. It stars Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds as Richard and Barbara Harmon (just remember "There's no harm in saying that barb was rich!"), a stereotypical couple who - after seventeen years of marriage - seems to have it all, but of course they don't. (I'm assuming this is the case - as with all my other recent write-ups, I'm writing this one as I go, and only reading the plot synopses up until the point that I've watched.) Speaking of Debbie Reynolds, I woke up last Friday morning only to find this on my cell phone - a top-o'-the-morning birthday present. It's kind of hard not to have a good birthday when it starts out like this: And as of this writing, I'm happy to say that Dick Van Dyke (brother of Jerry Van Dyke), Debbie Reynolds (mother of Carrie Fisher, wife of Eddie Fisher (who left Debbie to marry her "best friend," Elizabeth Taylor (something tells me Debbie did that very same dance on Eddie's grave (although Debbie later took an incredibly gracious first step in reconciling her friendship with Taylor)))), and Norman Lear (producer of "All in the Family") are all very much still with us, 49 years after Divorce American Style was released. The title is a riff on and homage to the 1961 Italian film, "Divorce Italian Style" starring Marcello Mastroianni which I thought might have been a parody of mafia killings, but isn't (wouldn't it be funny if it was?) I remember on one episode of "All in the Family," Archie Bunker is doing a crossword puzzle out loud, and says to himself, "A four-letter Italian word meaning 'Goodbye.'" After thinking about it for a second, he says, "Bang. B-A-N-G." A second, very funny scene happened when Richard and Barbara were having a shouting match just before a dinner party - the doorbell rang, and they opened the door, full of smiles - the acting was executed to a tee, and who was one of the dinner guests? "Old Leadbottom" himself: Captain Binghamton! One second: The next second: When I was a child (and I was a latchkey child, so I watched a *lot* of TV), my two favorite shows were, in order, 1) "The Dick Van Dyke Show" 2) "I Love Lucy" (I know that I Love Lucy has become more popular, but I always liked The Dick Van Dyke Show more, for whatever reason). Anyway, it's almost disturbing seeing Dick Van Dyke fighting with his wife, because he was *such* a nice man in his series - no, I take that back: It *is* disturbing to see Dick Van Dyke fighting with his wife. I also just found out, for the first time in my life, that there was no overlap between when these two shows ran: I Love Lucy (1951-1960), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966). Wow, I Love Lucy was *really* ahead of its time: To think that television - and I mean the entire concept of TV sets - just went into mass production only *three years* before that series started ... I Love Lucy is historically important, no doubt about it. Quick! Think of another show from the 1950s that's more popular - I suspect you can't, and I can't either. People make fun of "Leave It To Beaver" as being Artificial America, but the ones who do forget that I Love Lucy came long before that. How did I get so far off-topic? Ha! Ha! Ha! When the argument was going through the vents, and the camera cut to the children, I was prepared for some little kid to be sobbing listening to mommy and daddy screaming at each other; instead, we get the highly amused teenager with a scorecard! Yes, it really *is* Champagne, Mumm (from Reims): If Fern looks familiar (you'll meet her about 35 minutes into the picture), it's because you used to watch "I Dream of Jeannie" (and what guy between the ages of 50 and 70 didn't?) - she's none other than Amanda Bellows (Emmaline Henry). It's pretty funny: The primary antagonist in I Dream of Jeannie was Dr. "Bellows," and the divorce attorney in Divorce American Style is Mr. "Grieff." The scene at the bank was a wonderful comedic moment - a miniature story in itself: Both the music and the freeze-frame, accusatory pointing were perfect. And *oh my goodness*! That teenager who was so entertained by writing down that argument scorecard? It's Otter from "Animal House!" Tim Matheson! He was twenty years old, and looks like he's about fifteen. This was his first-ever film ... and who knew that he was also the voice of Jonny Quest?! Remember that cartoon with Hadji and Bandit the dog? This is a seriously star-studded film: Lee Grant (Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress in "Shampoo") plays Dede, a prostitute; and although they haven't made appearances yet, Jason Robards (eight Tony Award nominations - more than any other male actor) plays Nelson Downs, and Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham on "Happy Days") plays Farley. There are other, more esoteric performers that I recognize, but most people probably wouldn't; still - there's a surprising amount of famous people in this movie: Does anyone remember "When Things Were Rotten?" You'll laugh at the "uranium mine" line. A new divorce litigation partnership: Scrotusky, Cockburn, Uberdung, and Muffton (SCUM). Their motto: "Why do we charge twenty grand for a divorce? Because you'll pay it." Double cheeseburger, french fries, and a Coke: 67 cents! And product placements for both Coca-Cola and McDonald's: And then the people driving up after him also mention Coke, and the guy says to the girl, "... and you want your hamburger rare, right?" Really? Did McDonald's cook to-order in the 1967? Boy, I'm now about twenty minutes from the end, and this movie has lost a *lot* of its luster - ever since the part (at the bowling alley) where Jason Robards entered the picture, it has turned from being genuinely funny, to mostly just plain dumb - it started out with such enormous promise, but it's like the writer ran out of gags halfway through the movie, and in order to make it 1:40 in length, had to think of *something* to fill in the time - the plot has gotten really stupid, slow, and drawn out, and I haven't even cracked a smile in the last thirty minutes. Essentially, as soon as Richard and Barbara split up and started dating other people, the film has no longer been funny. And unfortunately, that lack of comedic value extended all the way until the end of the movie. The first half: funny! The second half: not funny.
  14. I've never been a fan of Quentin Tarantino because I'm very much against the use of gratuitous violence in film. That said, I've only seen "Pulp Fiction" and (probably all of) "Reservoir Dogs," which are 12 and 14 years old, respectively: There's something about "Django Unchained" which called out to me, despite me suspecting it would probably be Tarantino-esque; violence was terribly real in the days of slavery, and so here was a film in which I could perhaps justify it - perhaps even enjoy it, in a vengeful sort of way - depending on how it was used, and for what purposes. I also had a rough week at the office, and needed some mindless escapism - Tarantino is about as mindless as it gets: A bloodhound gift-wrapped as an intellect. Maybe Django (played by Jamie Foxx) will get some sort of revenge at the end of all this, and shoot the bastards who deserve it. That's the kind of week it has been for me. *** SPOILER ALERT *** It's a safe bet that I'll be discussing things from this point forward that will ruin the movie for you - as usual, I'm writing while watching, so my comments will arrive in mostly chronological order. As usual, I'm writing this as I go, and so far, Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), worries me. He has been almost superhuman in killing the Speck brothers, and now he has taken on an entire town, killing the sheriff in cold blood, and getting everything he wanted in the process. He's a little too good to be true, I'm afraid, though I admit it was satisfying to see the poor, chained-up slaves have the final say against the remaining Speck brother - I only hope they followed the North Star as recommended by Schultz. The scene where they were arguing about the eye-holes in the KKK masks was the first time I've ever seen comedy surrounding a KKK meeting, and it was brilliantly done, too - acting both as comic relief, a suspense-builder (for what we dread is about to happen), and most importantly, foreshadowing - for what actually happened. This guy Schultz is no dummy. With almost two hours remaining in the film, Schultz and Django have just partnered, and I'm afraid that things are going a little *too* good - there's plenty of time left for lots of terrible things to happen. I sure hope Schultz isn't guilty of a last-minute betrayal; he sure seems like a decent fellow so far. Okay, this Mandingo fighting is making me physically sick to my stomach (some movie fans will remember the 1975 Blaxploitation Film, "Mandingo"). This is the side of Tarantino I don't like - there's nothing left to the imagination, and if he could do it in 3D, he would, if he could do it so that you could smell the blood, he would, if he could do it so that you were there in the room with fighters, he would, if he could do it so that you felt the pain, he would. There's no subtlety with Tarantino - even in this film, over a decade later, he's still doing body horror under the very thin veil of "high art" - he is the most contemptible of directors: the kind that substitutes gross-out shock value for true artistry. When Leonardo DiCaprio perks up upon hearing the outlandish amount that Schultz and Django are willing to pay for a top-level Mandingo fighter, he just goes to show that even the most heinous, sadistic people will gladly sell their principles if the price is right. This is a universal theme. Tarantino could have made the dog-killing scene much worse, but then the film would have carried an NR-17 rating - I honestly wonder if that's the reason he chose to make most of it impressionistic. Assuming there *were* slave owners as sadistic as Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) - and I assume there were - this is just 165 years ago, and we, as a species, haven't evolved all that far from this. In fact, genetically, we've scarcely evolved at all - there are still people, Americans, who would be doing this if given the right. Maybe Tarantino is a better director than I give him credit for, because he's being quite successful at making me hate people. --- Comic Relief: The Candyland plantation is located in Greenville, MS (trivia: there are more towns and cities named "Greenville" in the 50 United States than with any other name - at least, that's what I remember reading about ten years ago). Greenville is near the Mississippi Delta, and not far from both Arkansas and Louisiana. Some real-life people born in Greenville that you may have heard of are Jim Henson, Shelby Foote (these two men alone have provided PBS with a disproportionate share of talent), George Scott, Frank White, and Mary Wilson. These are the ones I know, but there are others whom you may know that I'm not familiar with. Well, I guess this wasn't really "comedy," but at least it wasn't someone getting ripped to shreds by three angry dogs - back to the film. --- The best scene in the movie so far is when they ride into the Candyland estate, and the elderly butler gives Django the biggest eat-shit look I've ever seen. [Edit: Hoo boy was I wrong, and I had *no idea* this was Samuel L. Jackson at first, either.] Vintage Quentin Tarantino: A director with finesse wouldn't have felt any need to see Broomhilda graphically pulled from the hotbox; (s)he would have simply shown Django's facial expressions the entire time, and let viewers use their imagination. Any excuse for gore, violence, and shock value: That's Quentin Tarantino. I know, I know, it'll make Revenge Time all the more sweet to watch, right? That said, the scene at the dinner table with the wise old butler is suspense at its finest, and I mean it is *masterful*. The entire course of events, from the hotbox up until the handshake was masterful - a flash of brilliance from a sadistic provocateur. Oh, look! A bloodbath juxtaposed with rap - how intellectual. And ... I just stopped watching the film before the potential castration scene - I have no need for this in my life, and shame on Hollywood for a Best Picture nomination for this piece of sadistic garbage. Since I try to always finish what I start, I may or may not finish the film later, but I will most certainly read the synopsis of the plot before I do, because at this point, I no longer care what happens: they can castrate Django ... or not. They can kill Django ... or not. They can kill Broomhilda ... or not. The two can magically escape and ride off into the sunset ... or not. I couldn't care less. Franco Nero in a cameo:
  15. There are currently two versions of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" available on Amazon - the original 1939 version, and the 2014 release from the Library of Congress Motion Picture Conservation Center, with damaged parts repaired. The former is $3.99 to rent; the latter is $2.99 - I decided to save a buck and leave the original version for film historians (which I would love to be, but there are only so many things you can do in a single life). The big names in this film are Jimmy Stewart (newly appointed Mississippi Senator, Jefferson Smith), Jean Arthur (Clarissa Saunders), and Claude Rains (the other Mississippi Senator, Joe Paine). I have never seen this movie before, and am about to start watching it now. If you look at the bottom of the second page of opening credits, there's someone named Baby Dumpling (it turns out he's one of Governor "Happy" Hopper's *eight* children). When Governor Hopper flipped the coin after consulting with his children, I pretty much knew what was going to happen, but it was still a fun moment to watch. There's a goof when Hopper tries to convince the Good Old Boys Club about the virtues of Jeff Smith (a boy scout leader) - he says, "He can recite Washington and Lincoln by heart" (something his children told him), but then a moment later, Senator Payne says "recites Lincoln and Jefferson ...." - it's unimportant, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in the script, because no mention was previously made of Jefferson. When Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) first appears at the "star-spangled banquet" in front of the Mississippi citizens, while listening to his speech, I thought of two people: Brooks Robinson (see Roy Firestone's video - *now* I understand what he meant when he said "a young Jimmy Stewart"), and to a lesser degree, a certain unnamed politician from today's era who seems to be extremely anti-corruption, although the cynicism of today's politician is understandably already in place. It was very interesting to see Union Station circa 1939, equally interesting to see Smith's initial tour of Washington, DC's monuments. It was also touching to see an elderly gentleman of color remove his hat at the Lincoln Memorial; I wish they had chosen someone with darker skin, however - I guess sometimes, you have to take what you can get. At least the porters at Union Station were dark-skinned, sigh. I wonder if the first restaurant/bar scene is in the Old Ebbitt Grill (or, could it have been Mr. Smith's?) Is there a painting of a horse race in Old Ebbitt Grill? Mr. Smith's "revenge scene" against the press was hilarious* - it was perfect! As was the line, "The dopes are going to inherit the Earth." Hoo, boy, the restaurant scene with Clarissa Saunders and Diz Moore got to be drawn out, tedious, and boring - this scene was the very first part of the movie I really didn't like. However, I suppose it was necessary as a build-up for the following scene in Smith's office. It's cute in some of the scenes with Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur, the score begins playing "I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" - the Lincoln Memorial scene after The Betrayal is one example. The ending of this movie is incredible, and it's more timely now than it was in 1939. Is it corny? Parts of it are, but so what - every single person in this country of voting age (and even a couple of years younger than voting age) should see this film. I loved it. And I *love* that there are several, perhaps a couple dozen, movies of this caliber that I've never before seen - I have a lot to look forward to. The actors and actresses were just about perfectly selected, and Jimmy Stewart fully deserved his Best Actor Academy Award nomination - he was wonderful.
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