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The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

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Post by Seamus on 8/2/2019, 2:26 pm

I did enjoy this movie. You are right if it has the right feel and rolls along nicely I suspend my disbelief for a while. If not it grinds on me. The ending was nice. Like the Gift with my best friend Cate Blanchett had that slow roll southern vibe voodoo and hoodoo and seeing things. Reminds me I gotta dig out my copy of said movie and put it on and sip some mint juleps but oh no not like a yankee, like a southern gentleman with upbringing.
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Post by ghemrats on 8/2/2019, 6:53 pm

Oh, *The Gift* is a doozy. Glad you enjoyed today's offering. Something different tomorrow.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/3/2019, 2:03 pm

Like daughter, like mother. Yes, here is Kate Hudson's mom, Goldie Hawn, who takes the spotlight in today's feature, *Deceived* (1991), marking Goldie's first real forte into suspense.


Now, we've seen this sub-genre of movies a lot in the 1990s: Attractive upper class wife suddenly having her idyllic spousal relationship upended when the husband turns out to be [wait for it] Not Who He Says He Is. Think *Sleeping With The Enemy* made the same year with Julia Roberts or *Double Jeopardy* (1999) with Ashley Judd or farther down the food chain *Enough* (2002) with the ubiquitous Jennifer Lopez.

While Goldie is not the naive waif who idly sits by as the suspicions grow, and this film nicely avoids any physical abuse as other films glom onto it like a fruit fly to a pest strip, husband John Heard employs the old "How can you say that?" approach to questions. For me, a sure sign that something's murky interpersonally is that old bait-and-switch avoid-at-all-costs straight answer deployment: "Is that what you think of me?" "I thought we meant more to each other than that." "I'm shocked you doubt me." "Why would I want to lie to you?" "Is your real opinion of me so low that you'd resort to [splayed hand on chest punctuated with a breathless conclusion] finding me capable of LYING to you?" "After all. this. time. you. accuse. ME. of trying. to. TRICK you?" And all the other evasions that are far more creative than just answering the damn question.

Ding Ding Ding! I sense someone hiding something--because I'm a genius--but let's just let a firm stroke on the arm and puppy dog eyes wipe away every untoward possibility and fall into bed again with an "Awww, I'm sorry, honey, I just must be tired. . . ."

Yes, there is some of that in *Deceived*, but Goldie Hawn does her level best to wreak some strong, understated paranoia out of her character, and for the most part we're right there with her. After all, she's not the ditz we watched on *Laugh-In* in a bikini anymore--she's a self-assured, growing woman of independent spirit, and we believe that.

It's just that John Heard is, I don't know, so smarmy, and in more than a couple shots he reminded me so much of the pasty faced Michael Myers in the *Halloween* films even without the mask, that I wondered why cinematic lovelies keep falling for these jerks. (Oh, of course, to make money)

But really, *Deceived* is a good, if standard, '90s thriller. Director Damian Harris likes jump scares, including--aw c'mon--the family cat screeching and jumping. But look past that and you'll find some good taut moments.

Now, yesterday I mentioned the ability of a good film to make me forsake plot holes for the feeling of being swept up emotionally. Uhm, okay, maybe this one didn't distract me enough to make me swerve around the Michigan-sized sinkholes in this one; I kept thinking, [Spoiler free] But as the bodies pile up, why aren't the police looking for the killer/s or investigating anything? Surely the plastic garment bags tied around the victims' heads suggested it wasn't inattentive idiots not reading the "This is not a toy" warning on the plastic or merely REALLY awkward suicide attempts. Maybe I'm just being too critical, but I never entertained the notion that suffocation was a goal to some thrillseekers. (But then, I'm from Middle Michigan, living in the Town of Beautiful Churches, where all the men are strong, the women are models and all the kids are above average)

*Deceived* is a comfortable PG-13, so don't worry about graphic cutlery on display--it's not that kind of suspense. It's the slow, creeping menace of worry, and in that it's successful. According to reviewers on Amazon it's got a 69% approval rating with folks proclaiming "It scared me silly!" Wow. Okay. I might suggest you have a low tolerance level . . . or maybe you should check with your spouse to see if s/he is really WHO YOU THINK S/HE IS!

Gosh, it would be nice for a lot of people if Life came with trailers to let them know what they're getting into. . . for anyone who needs a diversion for less than two hours. . . . or who has suspicions that the spouse is a splinter cell agent.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/4/2019, 1:31 pm

Good evening, Mr and Mrs America and all the ships at sea--FLASH! Today's feature is a genuine departure from our usual viewing as it stands, in the words of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as "the first story of its kind the world has ever known!" And with that hyperbolic intonation we offer. . . *ThunderBirds* (1942) directed by the legendary William Wellman, himself a WWI fighter pilot.


Starring the ever radiant Gene Tierney, the square jawed prototypical pencil-mustachioed Preston Foster, and the quietly brooding stiff upper lipped Brit John Sutton, this little slice of wartime propaganda was written by Fox studio honcho Daryl F. Zanuck himself, deferring to a psuedonym in the credits.

It's a Technicolor snapshot of the times, to be sure, reportedly leaving audiences of the time breathless with the aerial photography of real Stearman PT-17 primary trainers and formation flights of Vultee BT-13 Valiant and North American AT-6 trainers, filmed in the actual Arizona training fields with the cooperation of the US Army Air Corps.  

Meanwhile, back on the ground, we are given a glimpse into yet another love triangle involving Ms. Tierney (why not? She's worth it) as well as cadet Sutton suffering from vertigo, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and presumably diarrhea when in flight.  But he's a goer, haunted by the legacy of his father who flew alongside Foster and died a hero, and of his brother also lost to war. Now he's the last of the breed, subtly goaded by his grandmother Dame May Whitty in a flashback.  

You know the drill: he's in love with Gene Tierney, who's also the object of affection for Foster who is Sutton's superior and trainer, and in the middle is Ms Tierney whose affections are torn like Natalie Imbruglia until the end of the picture. It's 78 minutes of American, Chinese and British aviators helping out the Red Cross and generally mugging their patriotism at the camera, and the final twenty minutes actually soars with some finely etched drama, but for me it was more historically interesting than dramatically earnest, even though it's considered today a classic aviation film. So it's a film which will appeal to the folks who are closer to WWII than to Iran today, which is to say many of today's audiences will find this all perhaps a little dated, since today the comingling of romance and the urgency of war is seen through a tiny handheld screen wherein swipes to the left or right constitute a relationship.  

And, as is customary in Gene Tierney films, Oleg Cassini outfits our lady in colorful splendor; wet or dry she shines.  This is also her first movie set in contemporary times, as prior to this film Ms Tierney specialized in period pieces, a couple of which I've already posted with a couple lying in wait.  Her opening shot here offers her bathing/swimming--who cares?--in a water tower which Foster buzzes with his plane, leading me to conclude that big screen Technicolor was created with her in mind.  

All right [slapping my own face repeatedly], snap out of it, fanboy--concentrate on the flying and the cloud banks instead of the script, which tends toward Sunday afternoon melodrama-lite.  Sure, you know how it's going to end for the most part, and it's in no way the inspiration for the 1960s puppet show by Gerry Anderson *Thunderbirds Are GO!* (following the success of *Supercar* with Mike Mercury and spawning *Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons* and *Stingray* under da sea--great memories of my childhood).  

But *ThunderBirds* is a nice diversion and tribute to that time when America really stood for something more than threats, tweets and tariffs, when manly men wore leather jackets and chin-strapped helmets with style and women were glamorous without seeming to know it.  And that made them all the more alluring. Tomorrow we'll try something closer to the earth but no less entertaining.  Keep 'em flying.

Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Space Cadet on 8/4/2019, 5:05 pm

Ya had me at Gene Tierney.
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Post by Seamus on 8/5/2019, 11:39 am

Cannot wait to watch Thunderbirds I do hope Jeff Tracy is in it and Brains. Fav ship is Thunderbird 2. Did not know Tierney was in it. Does she play a Super Marionette ? maybe Lady Penelope?
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Post by ghemrats on 8/5/2019, 2:18 pm

"I'm wearin' a fur pyjamas, I ride a Hot Potata' It's tickling my fancy/Speak up, I can't hear you/Here on this mountaintop oh oh oh I got some wild, wild life" . . . and that's what we have to offer today: One of the strangest, quirkiest and to me most entertaining "musicals" in my library.


*True Stories* (1986) is Talking Heads frontman and founder as well as main songwriter David Byrne's American Dream on full display.

If you are not familiar with David Byrne, he's a modern Renaissance man: Author, composer, guitarist, philosopher, filmmaker, generally proficient in photography, opera, fiction, and non-fiction. He has received Academy, Grammy, and Golden Globe Awards, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has worked intimately with Twyla Tharp, Laurie Anderson and Robert Wilson in theater, and his recent tour "American Utopia", which I saw with my sons in the Fox Theater, is on its way to Broadway. So he's pretty good.

As you can tell from this trailer, *True Stories* is an odd concoction, starring John Goodman (in his first feature film), Spalding Gray, Annie McEnroe, Swoosie Kurtz and Tito Larriva with Byrne himself as the tour guide through Texas's sesquicentennial. Specifically, Bryne takes us through Virgil, Texas, for their "Celebration of Specialness," a fictional re-imagining of newspaper clips, tabloid snippets and photos Byrne collected over a span of years. Together with screenwriters Stephen Tobolosky and Beth Henley, he's stitched together an American quilt of zany vignettes that satirically capture the American landscape of the 1980s--all set to his music performed by Talking Heads.

Now personally of all cinematic genres, the musical is one of my least favorite. I am still needled by my wife for walking home after a screening of *Hello Dolly* (1969)--actually a really nice film--complaining sarcastically that it was "a realistic depiction of life," a statement that has haunted me for nearly fifty years. At that time in my intellectual development I was feasting on a steady diet of Clint Eastwood movies, which certainly were more realistic (?). And I pointedly performed a surgical excising with my intellectual scalpel of Clint singing "They Call The Wind Maria" in *Paint Your Wagon* (also 1969) to protect my frail ego.

Today I have evolved, counting *The Greatest Showman* (2017) as one of my favorite soundtracks and films. So, if you're up for *True Stories* and hold the old-fashioned musicals in mind, you won't get it here. It is a cult classic, a rock and roll anthropology class that, as Byrne has said, "could happen in this town." Further, his aim with the film is complex: "Empires in retreat get into some pretty weird stuff — Egypt, Rome, England, Japan, Spain, and now the United States. They get this intense pride and nostalgia for what they imagine they are, and what they imagine they were, because they can see it slipping away.” Yup, that's David Byrne.

But he's so innocently funny, to me and others, that I couldn't help feeling this was a hyper-reality of foibles and follies seen through non-ironic eyes with an admiration for its mundane beauty. The actors sing their own parts, but some set pieces just shine.

It's surreal, deadpan, and in its own Bizarro World way, filled with joy. . . Kinda like life itself.

"Peace of mind? Piece of cake! Thought control! You get on board anytime you like. . . ."
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Space Cadet on 8/5/2019, 4:47 pm

Seamus wrote:Cannot wait to watch Thunderbirds I do hope Jeff Tracy is in it and Brains. Fav ship is Thunderbird 2. Did not know Tierney was in it. Does she play a Super Marionette ? maybe Lady Penelope?

Wrong Thunderbirds Boss. It's these guys.
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Post by Seamus on 8/5/2019, 7:07 pm

Ah okay now I get it
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Post by ghemrats on 8/5/2019, 8:34 pm

Yeah, I didn't see Gene Tierney in this formation. Razz
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Post by ghemrats on 8/6/2019, 1:23 pm

First of all, an update: Many loving thanks to all who have left well wishes for my wife's recuperation. Joyce had her lungs drained yesterday and with a little time (and with hope not needing rehab) she'll be out of the hospital very soon. It was wonderful having the family together for the anniversaries, cementing the knowledge that we are indeed blessed. Now. . . on to today's offering.


*The Legend of 1900* (1998) is another of those underrated wonders with staying power for those who have seen it. Known in its initial release in Italy as *La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano* or "The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean," this charming, beautifully photographed film stars Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Mélanie Thierry, Bill Nunn, and Clarence Williams III as Jelly Roll Morton

(Interestingly, Williams is actually the grandson of Clarence Williams, who was a contemporary of Louis Armstrong, who published, composed, recorded, and played (piano) jazz. His musical expertise extended to his work with a veritable Who's Who of Jazz including Satchmo, Bessie Smith, Sidney Bechet, Bunk Johnson, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, WC Handy Don Redman, King Oliver and Coleman Hawkins. How cool that his grandson would play Jelly Roll Morton. Life is a cycle of influences)

And the reason I have made a point of including that tidbit is due to the film's focus--music. Award winning in its scope, the luscious soundtrack is supplied by Ennio Morricone, who won a Golden Globe, an Italian David di Donatello Award, a Nastro d'Argento award from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, as well as a Golden Satellite award all for his score and research of musical styles of the time. The film itself won director Giuseppe Tornatore (whose *Cinema Paradiso* is another audience favorite) five additional international awards while the film itself took home sixteen awards.

And I'll bet you haven't seen it; maybe you've never heard of it. But a short caveat here: While 92% of Amazon viewers rate it four or five stars, some people feel the film is slow, the character of 1900 unchanging in personality through his life onboard the ship, never having left the ocean to step on dry land.

But let's also keep in mind some of those folks in the remaining 8% may not like the film because it wasn't an American production--it was Tornatore's first US release--and it's not subtitled, so people can't use the excuse, "I doan wanna read a movie, if I wanna ta read I'd pick up a cereal box." Romanticism to some people includes a seven course meal of a bag of Onyums and a six pack. Of course, I don't mean to disparage anyone who doesn't think this is a lushly set fantasy brimming with innocence, sumptuous music, and visual splendor with a heartbreaking metaphor of life's tenuous sweetness, of the captivity of our choices, and the rare transformative power of passion and conviction. If you watch this for nothing more than the dazzling sequence of 1900 playing an unmoored piano sliding across the ship's ballroom in a mid-Atlantic storm, you will be rewarded. It's a stunner.

Watch it with someone with an artistic soul or a warm heart and it may tug at your emotions as it did mine. This one's for folks who like a scenic fable testifying to the power of imagination and wonder. If I'm not being clear, I kinda liked it.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Seamus on 8/6/2019, 4:53 pm

I loved this movie. I saw it in the thee-8-tar (said like a posh toff, it was an old art deco art house movie theatre run by volunteers every Saturday afternoon they played such fair as this). It was so good. Highly recommend this. You will not be disappointed at Roths performance and the Jelly Roll Morton character.
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Post by ghemrats on 8/7/2019, 3:37 pm

Set the Wayback Machine for 1983, Sherman, and for another real change of tenor--an early science fiction treatise on virtual reality and literal shared experience. I give you. . . *Brainstorm* (1983) produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick's right hand special effects man for *2001: A Space Odyssey* Douglas Trumbull.


An FX master before digital manipulation became the norm, Trumbull turns out to be a pretty pretty pretty pretty good stager of action as well. Starring Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher and Cliff Robertson, the film stands as a good yarn with a mini-*2001* sequence to top it all off.

The score by James Horner won a Saturn Award for best music of 1983, available on Varese Saraband by the London Symphony Orchestra. As an added attraction, look for Christopher Walken's unique ability to stretch a three-syllable line of dialogue ("You look nice") into a full six syllables: "You" is still one syllable, "look" becomes two, and "nice" becomes an amazing three. Now that takes talent.

Keep in mind also that a film I posted a couple times ago was rated PG largely for cigarette smoking. Well, Louise Fletcher (perhaps best known as Nurse Ratched in *One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest* (1975), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, becoming only the third actress to ever win an Academy Award, BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award for a single performance, after Audrey Hepburn and Liza Minnelli) smokes non-stop in this film. If we were rating movies for only smoking, she would put this into the "R" rating.

All in all, *Brainstorm* actually great fun if you can scale back expectations grown dull from watching Industrial Light And Magic FX--this was state of the art technology thirty-six years ago, and overall it's aged quite well.

Now if you'll allow me to bore you a little with background information, this enhances my appreciation of the film. A lot of "trouble" surrounded this film on many fronts: First and foremost, (1) it is Natalie Wood's final film; in fact MGM shut down production of the film due to Natalie's "accidental" death by drowning on November 28, 1981. While most of her scenes had already been shot, Trumbull did use her sister Lana in a few remaining scenes.

(2.) Secondly, MGM suffered from cold feet in continuing with the film due to budgetary constraints. Trumbull said, "When she died, all the sets were locked and frozen on all the stages. No one could get in or out without special permission while all the negotiations took place. . . . MGM's problem was that insurance institution Lloyd's of London, when it took depositions from me and other people, realized that the film could be finished. Why should they pay an insurance claim for something that really wasn't damaged goods?" When MGM refused to pay for the film to be completed, Lloyd's of London provided $2.75 million for Trumbull to complete principal photography and an additional $3.5 million towards post-production.

(3.) Its budget of $18 million recouped only $10 million, which, along with Natalie Wood's death, moved Trumbull never to direct again, sad to say, for I see so much promise in this production. "I have no interest...in doing another Hollywood feature film...Absolutely none," he said in 1983. "The movie business is so totally screwed up that I just don't have the energy to invest three or four years in a feature film. Moviemaking is like waging war. It destroys your personal life, too. The people who can survive the process of making films have largely given up their personal lives in order to do that, just because it's such a battle to make a movie. And in doing that, they've isolated themselves from the very audience that they're trying to reach."

(4.) To me the most interesting backstory for the film lies in Trumbull's visionary role in mounting the visuals. "In movies people often do flashbacks and point-of-view shots as a gauzy, mysterious, distant kind of image," Trumbull recalled, "And I wanted to do just the opposite, which was to make the material of the mind even more real and high-impact than 'reality,'" he said, employing the virtual reality sequences in 24 frames-per-second Super Panavision 70 with an aspect ratio of 2.2:1. The rest of the film was shot in conventional 35mm with an aspect ratio of approximately 1.7 to 1. The result is sweeping as we move from cropped shots of regular plotlines (black framing on either side) to panoramic widescreen in the virtual reality sequences. This provides a seamless movement from objective to subjective reality without clumsy narrative voice-overs and the like.

(5.) Christopher Walken was a good friend of Natalie Wood and husband Robert Wagner, and was on the same ill-fated yacht *Splendor* (after her role in *Splendor In The Grass* on a trip to the Catalina Islands when she died.

(6.) It was finally released two years after Natalie Wood's death, and bears the dedication "To Natalie."

Today, to a new audience, *Brainstorm* will undoubtedly remind viewers of an atypically positive episode of *Black Mirror*; *Brainstorm*'s experiential-sharing headset even offers the obligatory sexual application, though tame by *Black Mirror*'s progressive standards. . . But it's worth a view, especially if you're part of that audience who's let this one slip by the sci-fi radar.

A full eighty percent of Amazon viewers rate this film four or five stars, while remaining reviewers complain about Christopher Walken's acting, to which I say in my best Walken voice: "He-ey, what is it [four second pause] you WANT? Imean--O. Kay-eee. It's. Christopher [pause for emphasis] WAW. Kin. . . ."

And to those who made it through to the end of this posting, I give you two big thumbs up for endurance. I promise tomorrow I'll curtail my verbosity. (Should have just written, "See it.")
Enjoy.
Jeff


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Post by Seamus on 8/7/2019, 5:15 pm

I liked this movie. Way back when I first saw this movie I was like wow the effects are amazing. Enjoyed the premise and I for one love Christopher Walken. Anyone who has ever seen him explain where he kept a watch safe knows what I mean.

Also Bob Wagner had Hart but did he do it... we will never know.

Bravo two thumbs up and save me a aisle seat in the balcony.
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Post by ghemrats on 8/8/2019, 2:20 pm

I spot you out of the corner of my eye, struggling to pull back behind the ice house, scraping your cheek against the rough brick. There's a hot fog curling like a mangy cat around the streets, and only an idiot would move into it tonight. But I've got a hard coil of the late edition in my mitt, so if you sidle in any closer, the headlines are going to take you down, pally, and tomorrow you'll be above the fold. . .



Detective lieutenant Leonard Diamond was a righteous man making $96.50 a week. He was also 18 G's in the hole chasing the ghost of a woman whose name was written between the droplets of sweat on a gangster's glass of hooch. It's 1955 and *The Big Combo* is primed to smack the smile off the face of even the most seasoned clown.

Recently restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, this sumptuously edgy noir is directed by Joseph H. Lewis (who did one of my favorite noirs *Gun Crazy* posted earlier), hammered out on the page by Philip Yordan (*Panic In The Streets*) and etched in celluloid with the deepest shadows, most diabolical lighting and textured fogs by John Alton (man, this is beautiful to watch). As you can hear below in the opening credits, David Raksin (*Suddenly*) jams up the rhetoric with a score to make the hardest moll bawl like a baby; it drips with atmosphere and horns.

Starring Cornel Wilde at his steel jawed best, Richard Conte breaking every rule of decency and humanity ('cuz that's just what he does and who he is), Jean Wallace (Mrs. Cornel Wilde at the time) who can barely hold her passions in check and a supporting cast that oozes menace without exercising a drop of sweat--Brian Donlevy, Robert Middleton, Lee Van Cleef, Earl Holliman, Helen Walker (her last film), Helene Stanton (a stripper whose own obsessions take her down a dead end road) and John Hoyt--*The Big Combo* (1955) is quintessential toughness.

Filmed in 26 days, this is a raw 87 minutes of cracked knuckles and hard violence, surprisingly gritty for 1955 standards. Oh, make no bones about it (unless they're broken bones), this movie pulls absolutely no punches, but puts force behind every slug. It's a story of dark obsession, crosses and double crosses, love and hate served up in the same shotglass with a chaser of betrayal, ambivalence toward sex slinking under every silky dress and shoulder holster, and torture that leaves no mark.

Here Conte is beyond emotion, his simpering grin egging on Wilde's roiling frustration at his own inability to bring the sadist to justice. “You’re slow, steady and intelligent, with a gun under your arm and a big yen for a girl you can’t have… first is first and second is nobody,” sneers Conte in one tense confrontation with Wilde, who yearns for Conte's frail, the suicidal Jean Wallace.


But Conte keeps her in check with a heady cocktail of terror and rapture, most notably demonstrated in a rather controversial encounter as Conte savagely questions then kisses Wallace before (WHAT?) sliding out of frame, the camera lingering over the confused excitement of Wallace fighting her baser desires.

Sheesh, didn't expect that. . .

Nor the clear Freudian homosexual tendencies of Conte's hitmen, most notably Earl Holliman. Nor the looming sense of dread that clings to Brian Donlevy as Conte's "soft" right hand man who lost out on the mob control years ago, now reduced to wearing a hear aid that will figure prominently in the film's closing moments. And in those closing moments be sure to drink in the gorgeous closing shot as an homage to *Casablance*, then marvel at John Alton's cinematography which won him the accolade "Master Cinematographer of Noir."

So if you have never understood the allure of noir or never really investigated what make noir so palpably sharp, try this one. It may be a "B" picture, but it's aces with me.

I'm not a drinking man, but between the smoking sex and violence in this puppy, it almost makes a sweaty glass look inviting. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go knock back three fingers of week old Mountain Dew and sneer at the dishes in the sink. . . .
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/9/2019, 2:54 pm

"Ya'll don't know what it's like/To be male, middle class and white/I'm rockin' the suburbs just like Jon BonJovi did/I'm rockin' the suburbs/ except that he was talented. . . " Ah, suburbia, especially in the 1950s when Ward, June, Wally and Beaver lived next door to Ozzie and Harriet and the biggest conflict was getting a kite stuck on the roof.


And then there's another view, exemplified by today's film *Bigger Than Life* (1956) starring the film's producer James Mason, Barbara Rush and Walter Matthau in a film legendary director Jean-Luc Godard called one of the ten best American sound films ever made. Top praise indeed, for director Nicholas Ray whose body of work includes such masterpieces as Bogart's *In A Lonely Place* (1950), Joan Crawford's *Johnny Guitar* (1954) and of course James Dean's *Rebel Without A Cause* (1955).

Ray's films excelled at a hard, percolating chaos resting just beneath the surface as protagonists struggled to maintain balance. Robert Mitchum called him "The Mystic" since he was driven to delve into people's core natures, seeking their deepest possible truths often buried even from themselves.

So *Bigger Than Life* gives us a great deal to digest, exposing modest middle class vulnerability and suburban subversion in the cookie cutter nuclear family headed by a kind schoolteacher. But of course this is Drama Time in my postings, so in Ray's idyllic pastel palette of heather blue-greys, earthy tans and mint greens (which are lovely to witness in Technicolor's Cinemascope), occasional startling splashes of red (shirts, jackets, even rimmed pages of the Bible) warn us of impending danger, survival and uncontrollable passions. I could write an entire treatise on color symbolism alone--but don't worry, that's not going to happen here. So where to start? Phew, so much to say, Dave Matthews suggests, so much to say. . . .

This is a story of the insulated American Dream, with dreams of affluence on a tight budget, and medical terrorism breaking the tenuous harmony our protagonist prefers to disregard, grasping onto a mental mantra of "Everything's all right, everything's fine" even as capital "A" Anxiety folds him in half like the nightly newspaper at every turn.

This is really prescient material, calling out the opioid epidemic we're experiencing today--our hero Ed Avery is hiding his incapacitating polyarteritis nodosa, a rare inflammation of the arteries, while taking on an extra job "beneath his station" as a taxi cab dispatcher after school, just to make ends meet, or at least wave to each other in passing. His is secret shame brilliantly symbolized in the sterile environment of his home by the presence of a hideous, decaying water heater in plain view of the kitchen, rusting and ready to explode at any moment.

After a couple serious blackouts Ed is hospitalized and doled out a death sentence unless he tries a new experimental drug (Cortisone) which costs a staggering $60 per month (!). Ray's direction excoriates the medical community on several fronts as we watch Good Ole Ed upping the intake of the drug, slowly shifting his behavior from a cash strapped provider to a "Damn the costs, full speed ahead" philanthropist for his family's happiness: Ray's social conscience is on full alert as Ed takes his steadfast, loving wife Lou and son Richie on a whirlwind shopping spree in a high-couture shop for Gucci ensembles all while Lou worries "we don't belong here."

Class structure, staying in your own lane, and rampant consumerism clash as Ed spirals into bubbling rage under his drug obsession and abuse. Oblique angles and towering imposing shadows take over Ray's vision as chaos faces down faith. . . .

At this point I must apologize, for 42 years in university teaching are hard to shake: I'm about to outline the powerful theme of duality in this film. If I were still in class I'd just pass out a study guide no one would read and be done with it, but class rooms are in the past. Skip this if it's too much for you. . . .

Duality, or as I loved to isolate in my lit classes Dichotomies, rules this film (No explicit spoilers here), so here's your checklist, feel free to add and discuss amongst y'selves: Let's start with everybody's favorite, Illusion/Reality, followed by Life/Death (ignore one, and you diminish the other), Love/Hate (There's a thin line between love and hate (1971 The Persuaders), Faith/Nihilism, Comfort/Pain, Normalcy/Addiction, Potency/Impotence, Order/Chaos, Fight/Flight, Truth/Delusion, Hope/Terror, Yin/Yang. . . Abbott/Costello, uh, Reason/Passion. . . . and the biggest ambivalence for me Parent/Child.

Oh, this is a power struggle with bravura performances, a truly disturbing film due to its resonance with today's morality and medical urgency. At the time of its release, *Bigger Than Life* was a financial failure and source of great controversy since such abhorrent deterioration of behavior was deemed melodramatic and "pitiful." Conversely, Francois Truffaut called it an "intelligent, subtle" script, "extraordinary precision" of Mason's performance and beautiful in its Cinemascope framing. Perhaps the French appreciated it as it was a fierce critique of American mores, and we all know the French have limited tolerance for us Yankees [sarcasm there].

In any event, I found this a wild subway ride to hell worth the price, because remember, madness takes its toll, so please have exact change ready And watch for an ending that dropped my jaw. And, hey, let's be careful out there.

Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/10/2019, 2:11 pm

For those who like a little fantasy amid the turmoil of life's challenges, and who don't mind speed reading Italian subtitles, here is today's offering.


*The Tiger And The Snow* (2005) is another comedy romance written, directed, and starring Roberto Benigni (*Life Is Beautiful* 1997's Best Foreign Film, Best Actor, Best Music) and produced by his wife Nicoletta Braschi who also stars.

In addition Jean Reno plays a pivotal role, as does--hooray--Tom Tom Waits​ who contributes a beautiful, heart tugging ballad "You Can Never Hold Back Spring." Benigni purposefully asked his friend Waits to compose a song for this film, and the artist (one of my top favorites since the late '70s) answered, "Bob, you got it," and appears in cameos as a sort of Greek Chorus at pivotal points.

This time around it's not the Holocaust serving as the backdrop for Benigni's wooing and comic talents--it's the war in Iraq. I must admit, while I used *Life Is Beautiful* in my Honors sections of English 4010 routinely, in juxtaposition with Frankl's *Man's Search For Meaning*, this one seemed to tread over the same ground, though temporally and geographically miles away from his Oscar-winning film. And I guess to that I'd add emotionally as well.

His Atillio the poet, the dreamer [but leaving me out of it,borrowing from *The Rainbow Connection*] here is the spiritual brother to Guido the itinerant tenet farmer,a life embracing, eccentric weaver of life as poetry, again pursuing his ideal woman, Vittoria, who travels to Baghdad to finish her biography of another poet (Jean Reno). There she is injured by a bombing and flutters between life and death for the remainder of the film, prompting Atillio to "fight a war much more important" [Benigni's words] than the Iraqi devastation he encounters along the way. Yes, there is urgency at every venture, avoiding bullets, land mines, American forces wary of his suicide bomber appearance, and looters, but I hate to admit the urgency for me was held at a distance. Perhaps Benigni's handling of the Iraq War as lacking real horror or danger, just impediments to finding curative medicine for his love, left me wanting.

It's a lovely thought--that love and faith in its restorative powers is a noble endeavor in the face of man's primal nature--but only fleetingly did I feel the threats were real. Oh, there are some absolutely beautiful moments--Tom Waits' song can bring a lump to my throat anytime, Jean Reno's quiet personal battle is painful, and the film's "surprise" ending calls back to Chaplin's *City Lights* (a film that had me crying unself-consciously in the university classroom when I first saw it).

But in between a few nice laughs *The Tiger And The Snow* (its image very touchingly played out toward the end of the film) just seems to strain at releasing those emotions, leaving us with a $35 million "Sleeping Beauty" fable filmed in Tunisia that made me wish it had a sharper edge and greater audience buy-in. But what do I know--85% of Amazon buyers rated it a 4 or 5, though the gross international box office came in at $24 million ($11 million below its production budget) and Rotten Tomatoes ranks it at 21% among critics but 84% among audiences.

So the final tally, I think, in the end is determined by your ability to see the film on its own merits and not in the shadow of *Life Is Beautiful*. If you're in the mood for a nice movie without too much reality seeping in, an enjoyable modern fairy tale, then this is for you.

But watch it or not, seek out "You Can't Hold Back Spring" by Tom Waits. . . now THAT'S magical. Something strange will be offered tomorrow. . . from the mind of Michael Crichton.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/11/2019, 3:17 pm

Color today's movie red for embarrassment because it's Guilty Pleasure Time on my postings. You all know (and probably have) guilty pleasures, films that are so dated, so goofy, sometimes so BAD, you hate to admit they strike a certain weird joy in you. Maybe they remind you of a time in your life, a giddy *Mystery Science Theater 3000* madness that begs the question "Why am I enjoying this?", or a certain mindlessness when turning off your brain and just going with it relieves tension. Whatever your choice, sit back, tune out, flash back and get ready for *Looker* (1981) one of those delightfully cheesy Michael Crichton-directed and written '80s time capsules.

Someone is killing "perfect" commercial models, making them look like suicides. Conveniently all the victims have been operated on by the scrupulous plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney), following exacting physical matrices the women have provided. But hey, it's Albert Finney, for pete's sake, so you know he's being set up. But [dum dum DUM] by whom?

Okay, it's the early '80s, so you surely don't have to strain that hard to see the conspiracy, not when James Coburn is grinning maniacally as (hold on) head of a multi-million dollar behemoth of a tech company, and his protegee Leigh Taylor-Young heads a subdivision called Digital Matrix. Susan Dey (fresh from *The Partridge Family*) is the next in line to die, and the supporting cast does its best to suck perspiration out of their foreheads to convey urgency. You may not know their names, but if you've seen ANY 1980s film you've seen their faces--Terry Kiser (whose dead body starred in *Weekend At Bernie's* another guilty pleasure), NFL linebacker Rick Rossovich takes second billing to his mustache, Vanna White (yes, the real Vanna) appears very briefly in a manufactured commercial, and *Playboy* models (including Terri Welles, Playmate of the Year 1981--surprise! the same year as this film) sleepwalk wide-eyed through their lines, ironically validating the idea that outside of the Playboy mansion they have a lot in their heads--empty lots).

In the words of Dr. Johnny Fever from *WKRP In Cincinnati*, oh wow, fellow babies, this film has it all: big business as evil empires existing only to increase profits through scientific manipulation, hypnotic light pulses embedded into advertisements subliminally causing consumers to consume massive quantities, boxy guns inducing hypnotic trances to freeze time of the viewers and allow them to be beaten senseless by "invisible" assassins, copious environs of glass and chrome, vacuous TV-addled parents disconnected from their frantic in-the-line-of-fire daughter who begs them to HEAR HER!, and looney tuned expository labels ("Looker Lab") inviting attention while remaining in restricted access.

But best of all, because this is the '80s, there's the Moog synthesizer score accented by jazz flute, the most gloriously egregious songs ("She's a Looker/That's what they say/She's got it all/She's got it made/She's a looker/With a beautiful face/Always on display" pumping to a Perry De Vorzon sick disco beat), selections from Vivaldi to legitimize and "class up" the gratuitous nude scenes as women are topographically computer scanned later to be manipulated into CGI automatons for truly awful product placement--and some of the best technobabble dialogue ever; George Orwell (or his CGI clone) would shriek in agony if it were not so fun: Here's the sort of thing that is spoken throughout the film, with only a couple liberties taken--

"They're embarking on visual research with pupillary scans to determine the relative REM activity of visual impact tracking, allowing them to replicate areas of concentrated interest arousal. Why, the implications are frightening, not only from an advertising realm but also hosting the veritable hijacking of our entire political and socio-economic system." [Girl responds:] "Your eyes are so blue when you're engaged in psycho-perceptual pursuits, Dr." . . . . Okay, not really that bad, but it's close.

Now anyone who's languished in Michael Crichton-directed films before (*Westworld* (1973) with Yul Brenner, *Runaway* (1974) with Tom Selleck, *Coma* (1978) with Genevieve Bujold) will watch for the ideas, not necessarily the follow-through, though his *The Great Train Robbery* (1978) with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland is wonderful; ideas permeate his other films, often with more success when directed by such auteurs as Barry Levinson (*Sphere* (1978) with Dustin Hoffman and *Disclosure* (1984) with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore) Frank Hodges (*The Terminal Man* (1974) with George Segal), Robert Wise (*The Andromeda Strain* (1971) an absolute classic), Philip Kaufman (*Rising Sun* (1994) with Sean Connery), Frank Marshall (*Congo* (1995) with Laura Linney) and that little upstart Steven Spielberg (*Jurassic Park* (1993) and the whole Jurassic World franchise).

And don't forget his TV creation *ER* (1994-2009), the second longest running medical drama (behind *Grey's Anatomy*), winning 23 Primetime Emmy Awards, including the 1996 Outstanding Drama Series award, and received 124 Emmy nominations. ER won 116 awards in total, including the Peabody Award, while the cast earned four Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Drama Series. I'm not even going to tally his best sellers in fiction. . . .

Crichton was a master of ideas, foreseeing trends and technologies long before they became commonplace. In *Looker* he predicted computer generated characters, glowing neon floor matrices, and 3D shading with computers long before Disney put together *Tron* and the Wachowskis inserted matrices into our cerebral cortexes.

Now Disney is digitizing everything from elephants to lions, and countless filmgoers are already lining up in droves prior to its December 2019 premiere to get tickets for *Cats*, for me a completely unsettling mix of live action and computer overlaying which gives the cast (Taylor Swift, Dame Judi Dench, James Corden, Idris Elba--no, tell me no) a grotesquely unnatural dead-eyed sheen which ruined *The Polar Express* for me years ago.

While *Looker* gives me a great chance to laugh and applaud innovation in a popcorn tub, movies like *Cats* look to me as if they're fulfilling the promise that technological insanity will live for decades to come. . . as long as there is a buck to be made, damn the "Eeeyeewww" Factor, warp speed ahead.

Why don't you tell me some of your favorite Guilty Pleasures in film? Love to know.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/12/2019, 3:43 pm

How often has this happened to you--You interview for a job, you're hired, and you wake up in a Gothic mansion in Cornwall two days later, being told you're not who you know yourself to be? Of course, it's happened to all of us at one time or another, but someone in Hollywood decided to bank on that shared experience.


*My Name Is Julia Ross* (1945) is a brisk little 63-minute feature starring Nina Foch, Dame May Whitty and George McCready in all his bug-eyed splendor. It's a taut little film earning a whopping 98% Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and a 75% four- or five-star rating from Amazon.

In fact, since director Joseph H. Lewis (director of my favorite *Gun Crazy*) was graduated from Poverty Row thrillers to this, his first feature for Columbia, Harry Cohn (co-founder, president and production director for Columbia) himself was so enchanted by the film he upped the production schedule from ten shooting days to 18 days. *My Name Is Julia Ross* was originally thought to be a B-picture, but finally has been elevated to "A" status due to Lewis's moody direction with the mansion's creepy shadows, prowling black cat, overwrought decor dripping with opulent menace, and huge ornamental doors dwarfing the captive Nina Foch.

It's pure Gothic Noir, as McCready slithers around the manse sharpening his deadly fascination with cutlery and his hairpin temper. Remain sharp eyed when Julia finally slaps him (about damn time, Julia)--his eyes grow seven times their normal size with outrage as he backs her toward--bet you can guess--a floor-to-ceiling open window standing over the tumultuous fury of waves pummeling the rocky shoreline.

Nina Foch looks stylish in her long, twisting gowns and fierce paranoia, and Dame May Whitty hovers more fashionably than any other maniacal old cinematic biddy in service to her batsh*t crazy son who needs a convenient wife. . . .

But why? Couldn't George just right swipe on his Tinder account or hop down to the town and trawl around the backstreets, waving his heavy family inheritance around like catnip? Noooo, there's a necessary complication I won't disclose here, but suffice to say it's not because George has intolerable halitosis or off-putting dandruff or his purely Freudian acquiescence to his mother (Wow, it IS sounding more like Norman Bates all the time. . . . but George doesn't stuff the family pets; his ventures are more along the lines of tragic mumbly peg.)

On another level, *My Name Is Julia Ross* offers some nice subtextual grace notes--Consider this was made just after WWII when women, imbued in the workforce to help the war effort, were now asked to come back home. Statistics of the time suggest 75% of the women whose jobs were taken away post-war actually LOVED their jobs and time away from home. Their identities forged in industry were now usurped by domesticity.

And cinematic trends catered to that--a whole genre of targeted women and exposes of domestic abuse was initiated, actually labeled by Hollywood as the "Women In Peril" genre. Indeed, this hangs over *My Name Is Julia Ross* like a stifling knapsack--there's kidnapping, refusal of identity, assumption of subservient role playing, impending physical as well as emotional death, and in a truly eerie scene so well orchestrated it demonstrates expressionism at its best, a veiled nocturnal rape with a stalking hand shadow moving over a sleeping Julia. Hoowah. . . .

Joseph H. Lewis knows how to show dread with stark breathlessness while allowing social commentary to sleep under the bed. Now, I won't give away the ending, because the film is a fun exercise in female tenacity, but you should know that the Production Code at the time dictated domesticity. But I can't help but wonder if Lewis was not firmly entrenched in the PC's requirement, just by the way the final shot is filmed with a goofy glibness that to me implies a frying pan/fire trade-off. Maybe it's just me.

But *My Name Is Julia Ross* is worth an hour of your time, just to see how Lewis subtly coaxes our sympathy and investment in Julia's dilemma. One shot alone--as Julia's eyes are the only facial features we're permitted to see over George's imposing shoulders--is worth your while.

And besides, how often do we get to see a scenario we've all lived through (being kidnapped after a job interview) pushed up on the Silver Screen with major talent in our roles? More fun tomorrow.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Seamus on 8/12/2019, 5:27 pm

Great selections Jeff. Looker was a movie I saw on TV long ago. And all the movies you mentioned from the 70's and 80's I think back and all I want to know "Is it Safe"
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Post by ghemrats on 8/12/2019, 8:17 pm

Ooooh, Seamus, I can't hear those words "Is it safe?" without my teeth curling. affraid
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/13/2019, 2:27 pm

Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat! Nothin' up my sleeve--Presto! Zip zam zowie and swoosh, but today I'm pleased to offer Sebastian Gutierrez's first feature film, *Judas Kiss* (1998) with another full roster of top-rated talent:


As always, Carla Gugino, but this time partnered with (hold onto that hat, he's pulled out quite a hutch here) Simon Baker (from CBS's "The Mentalist"), Gil Bellows (from "Ally McBeal"), Roscoe Lee Brown (for gravitas), Joey Slotnick (for comic relief), Hal Holbrook, Philip Baker Hall (doing his best impression of George C. Scott)--and then these two upstarts from over the Pond you may have heard of, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman! (And they deserve exclamation points)

And since, once again, Gutierrez wrote and directed this film, there are the obligatory and totally gratuitous nude scenes involving a faux sci-fi softcore "adult" film running in the background of a couple scenes serving no purpose other than comic diversions. But please don't be put off by these stupid additions (which are quick and inconsequential to the film), as this is actually a pretty taut noir with some intriguing twists and turns.

Something in the tone suggests Gutierrez and all members of the cast have their tongues cemented inside their cheeks as the action rolls on. It all unfolds in New Orleans as two grifters on the con step up their game and kidnap a computer genius and mogul for a tidy $4 million ransom. Almost immediately, in Coen Brothers style, things go awry, and the FBI agent Sadie Hawkins (no, I'm not kidding) and unmade bed Nawlins detective David Friedman (he looks and acts like a fried man) join forces; of course, these two are Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, whose sexual chemistry and crackling dialogue make them the runaway hits of the film for me. Just to hear them roll their articulation of New Orleans accents over one another is a treat, if you don't take the film too seriously. Pay particular attention to the outstanding introductory speech Thompson delivers to Rickman; you will seriously want to hit back-scan on your device to experience the joy of it again.

As is typical in noir, there is an occasional voice-over, this time Carla Gugino addressing Jesus personally as she deals with guilt tied to her actions when she isn't struggling to keep her June-Is-Busting-Out-All-Over figure tucked in.

The plot is mounted to a zip line, so paying attention to the various convolutions is key, but it ends up rewarding you for your efforts. If you look closely you can find pretzel twists of cliches around every dark corner, but I honestly don't think you'll mind because the pretzel is salty and has some tasty cheese on it.

Audiences found it a nice treat too, winning the Cognac Festival du Film Policier Critics Award and being nominated for the Grand Prix at the Paris Film Festival. As its name implies, this is a story of betrayal upon betrayal, a towering babble of cross talking and deception where the stakes are rare but well done. Yes, it has a car chase, but it's handled freshly, mocking the cliches and hitting stride on the nose.

In the end we attain the moral closure that seemed so tenuous in the previous ninety-two minutes, but for an independent film with art-house aims, a long stroll on a white beach is the final rabbit pulled out of Gutierrez's magical hat.

And besides, any movie that touts Emma Thompson whizzing down the Nawlins streets on roller blades has more than one interesting "nothin'" up its sleeve. Roll with the punches and you might be surprised at how this magician operates. ​ For anyone who believes the noir, the merrier.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/14/2019, 2:50 pm

It may be faint praise to suggest, beyond the luminous beauty of a young Ava Gardner, the most exciting part of today's offering *Whistle Stop* (1946) is the realization that George Raft drinks Schlitz Beer.


It is probably me, but George Raft has always struck me as possessing the acting range of a dirty Popsicle stick; he has two emotions--stoic indignation and bored tedium. And when he walks or stands with his legs akimbo in his solid Superman pose, he seems to hold seven pounds of timber in his crotch. Usually this works for him as the quintessential tough guy who can intone "Be missing" with menace and meaning.

But in *Whistle Stop*, co-produced and penned by Philip Yardin (*The Big Combo*), he is a moody loser who's in love (and who wouldn't be?) with Ava Gardner, in her first role to catapult her to success. Also along for the train ride are Victor McLaglan, a lumbering ex-con searching for redemption, and Tom Conway as a sleazy weasel of a nightclub owner who also has eyes for Ava Gardner (his one saving grace beyond his thin pencil mustache).

Watch for Jorja Curtright as a wiry little hanger-on who tries in vain to hitch her star to the black hole that is Raft. Thus we have the first conundrum in this B-side noir: What in God's name do these women see in this card gambling mook who still lives with his mother?

In all that is holy, WHY does the big-haired, mink-wrapped beauty Ava return to this desolate little town from The Big City to woo a man twenty-one years her elder after two years of yearning that he's changed? It's like believing if you stare at a plate of Bondo long enough it'll transform into high-priced kobe steak.

Whirling around Ava's silk gowns and sheer black lace lingerie--not that there's anything WRONG with that--is Dmitri Tiomkin's lush score, artfully maneuvering around cavernous plot holes larded with twisted allegiances. At least the dialogue offers some fun--here's an actual exchange between Mary (Ava) and Kenny (Raft):

Kenny: Wait. We'll go together.
Mary: Go where?
Kenny: Anywhere.
Mary: It's a long walk, Anywhere.
[Train whistle lows in the fading distances between these two conflicted lovers]
Kenny: This time we ride.

Yeah, Baby (affecting Austin Powers' parlance of the times). *Whistle Stop* is a minor noir, but it is distinguished by the promise of Ava Gardner's budding career, and she interacts well with the men here. It's 85 minutes of low key fun, and you will get a chuckle out of the withering gaze Raft gives a creepy automatronic laughing clown at the carnival. It's the kind of look you can well give director Leonide Moguy when you realize Raft and McLaglan are running from the police for absolutely no good reason whatsoever at the end.

Even though it was successful at the time of its release, the key word used in conjunction with the film is "seamy," which it is, but critics are unanimous--Ava Gardner outshines Raft, Conway, McLaglan and the entire plot in her first "big" film role. Evidently MGM had been casting her solely in small parts up to this film and funded no major investment in her due to her marriage of big band legend Artie Shaw.

Here, however conflicted her Mary is by the money of shady Tom Conway's nightclub racket and the "genuineness" of George Raft's Kenny (evidenced by WHAT exactly I'm still uncertain, and I'm searching with an expensive geiger counter)--she "burns others off the screen." So all said, this is a huge bucket of popcorn with more than a few unpopped kernals, but with Ava next to you, you can happily break a couple crowns laughing at the unintentionally funny toughness.

Tomorrow an Oscar classic that's perhaps not as well known as it might be.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 8/15/2019, 2:24 pm

To celebrate consecutive movie Posting #102, we dip into another Shared Experience Pool:


Say, Mother, after a hard day of facing down all the tensions and demands of balancing soul-sucking corporate life and strident family responsibilities, how often have you just wanted to slip into a warm bath, sip at your favorite grog and feel all your worries slip away as you lose yourself in an uninterrupted, soothing reading of Shakespeare's *Othello*? Of course, we all have.

Well, knowing you need to unwind, today's offering comes in the form of *A Double Life* (1947) starring Ronald Colman, winner of the Best Actor Academy Award, along with Signe Hasso, Edmond O'Brien, a young Shelley Winters, and Ray Collins. An Oscar also went to composer Miklos Rosza for his score, while the film was also nominated for Best Direction (George Cukor) and Best Screenplay (Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon).

It's a lovely study in how one can lose oneself so easily when we immerse ourselves in a passionate pursuit of perfection. And what better day to have released this film than December 25, 1947, when the familial pull to make everything "just right" consumes so many. In this role of Broadway star Anthony John, Colman takes center stage with that rich, sonorous voice giving splendid gravity to Othello's impassioned state of mind. And for us, it's The Moor The Merrier as John wrestles with unfinished devotion and longing for his co-star, his former wife, nearly moaning U2's "I can't live. . . with or without you." And thus we are set up with the powerful theme of duality, indicated by the film's title.

*A Double Life* is a textbook examination of noir's dichotomies, spiking this drama of illusion and reality against the backdrop of theatre, acting and genuine emotion, jealousy, madness and all things base and divine. The doubles motif drives this film from the opening minutes, as John is seen by stage staff variously as "a great guy, best ever" and "what a heel, lousy guy" in back-to-back moments as he strolls through the theater and out into the street. He's a consummate professional, totally at home on the stage drawing the adoration of the masses, but frightfully alone and smothered at cocktail parties. On stage it's Iago who drives his character toward destruction; off stage he needs only his own mind to drag him into a whirlpool of swirling insanity.

Watch for the copious dualities and you'll be rewarded in addition to the pulpy story and superb noir lighting by cinematographer Milton R. Krasner: Mirrors abound reflecting stark terror. Shelley Winters' Pat Kroll is the seedy flipside of glamorous Broadway in her stark little apartment. Her open eagerness to serve the dashing nameless man more than the cheap meal she waitresses--ironically she does not recognize the famous Anthony John just as he struggles with his identity--cleaves a sharp counterpart to Signe Hasso's Brita's hesitancy to re-establish her bond with Colman's affections. While Hasso Brita allows John safe hugs of affection but pulls away when emotions grow too strong, Winters' Pat all but pre-digests his meal for him even before he seeks her out for a hot night when he's unmoored. Notice too that she wears two small hearts for earrings. And later, Pat Kroll's doppleganger sahsays into John's confused sight line.
So. . . it's one for the money, two for the show. . . .

Colman's dedication to this role is striking, if occasionally a little overpowering--the deep up-from-under shadows highlight his growing paranoia and fast slide into the happy home base. Those frantic eyes straining to remain in his head are enough to scare anyone on the receiving end. But it's lovely hearing Shakespeare intoned with such flair. Reportedly Sir Lawrence Olivier was originally slated to play this role, but conflicts with his schedule allowed the part to be taken by Colman, whom audiences have accepted wholeheartedly. This is quite a tidy, well mounted noir whose performances will draw you in, proving that men should be what they seem. “To be poor but content is actually to be quite rich. But you can have endless riches and still be as poor as anyone if you are always afraid of losing your riches.”
The rest is silence. . . .

Tomorrow, one of the best noirs around, signaling a much lighter fare on Saturday to celebrate my 67 years on the planet.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Space Cadet on 8/15/2019, 7:04 pm

Ah Whistle Stop. Considered by some to be a lesser classic. My personal metaphor for this movie is,

"The sweet spring breeze which is young Ava Gardner, is contaminated by the cow flop it wafts across."

But maybe I'm bein' too judgemental.
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