Movie A Day!: Decline of Baby Strange

The heatwave has locked in and I’m coming down with a summer cold. Cursed! Here’s what I watched last week. Nearly done with the documentary/bio-pics and I had a rare outing to a first run movie!!


201 07/03 Sea Dog’s Tale (1926) 3/5 Billy Bevan takes the lead in this one as a Englishman who gets hoodwinked to a island to marry a native girl. It’s got some fun bits if you can get past the racial stereotypes and black face.

202 07/03 Hoboken To Hollywood (1926) 3.5/5 Billy Bevan’s gets has to pack up the family and move cross country to LA on a job transfer and gets into all types of shenanigans. Lots of good bits, this one works really well and sees Billy play a bit of a prick that separates him from most of the other comedians of the time.


203 07/03 The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) 4/5   Thanks to Shout Factory I was finally able to get my mits on this one. Since it was impossible to find in my neck of the woods. It was worth the wait. A fascinating look at the LA punk scene and featuring a pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag and The Germs which features future Foo Fighter Pat Smear. Some bands come off more sincere than others but almost all of them are kids so it’s hard to tell really. At any rate, it’s a crucial document.


204 07/03 The Decline Of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years (1988) 4/5   This one is the polar opposite of the first one. All the punk attitude is gone and everything is sex, drugs and Rock ‘N’ Roll. The old guard like Aerosmith, Lemmy, and Alice Cooper seem to shoot pretty straight while the new bands like Faster Pussycat come off as complete imbeciles. When this one came it, it was pretty hot stuff as I was into the scene. Watching it now, it’s hilariously bone-headed and the sincere explanations for the glam make up is cringe-worthy. Another must see documentary.


205 07/04 Baby Driver (2017) 4/5   The best of the (I think) two action musicals I have seen.  It completely delivers on the premise of a wheel-man fueled by tunes. Everyone in it is pitch perfect and despite a rather contrived ending the film is such a joy I can forgive it. Edgar Wright just simply knows how to make great movies and this one is no different.


206 07/05 The Great McGinty (1940) 3.5/5   A hobo gets swept up into politics thanks to a gangster’s scheme to throw city and state bucks into real estate. SOUND FAMILIAR?!?!? This one from Preston Sturges has some biting commentary on politics and great performances but didn’t reach the heights of his other work for me.


207 07/06 The Lost Weekend (1945) 3.5/5   Billy Wilder takes a hard look at alcoholism in this one with Ray Milland starring as a writer whose life is ruined by the booze. It plays like a film noir except drink is the dame that brings ruin to the main character. It’s good, but even at the worst depths Milland seems to mostly have a handle on things due to his natural charm, despite going all out.


208 07/07 Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’ (2013) 4/5   A fantastic documentary on Hendrix that covers all the bases as well as showing tons of clips of him performing. Not much else to say, if you’re interested in Hendrix, this is the one for you.


209 07/07 The Decline of Western Civilization Part III (1998) 4/5   Spheeris is back, 10 years after Part II to reexamine the LA music scene but instead delves into the lives of the Gutterpunks, homeless punk rock kids that basically escaped their abusive homes. It might be the best film of the series. It never judges or tries to manipulate you, it simply depicts their lives and lets them speak for themselves. This series of films is essential stuff.


210 07/08 Doctor Strange (2016) 3/5   Finally got around to watching this one and it’s simply okay. These Marvel films have all settled into their groove so there’s not much to say. Doctor Strange is a prick, gets humbled, finds his true power and quips the whole time like every other Marvel superhero. Some great visuals that were frankly used better in Inception, and some okay fight scenes. Nothing else to say.


211 07/09 Hit So Hard (2011) 4/5   A really great documentary about Hole drummer Patty Schemel who struggled with addiction. They get everyone from the band, including Courtney Love, back to tell her story, and Patty taped everything so there’s tons of great footage of Hole on the road and performing back in the 90’s. Add in a mini-history/commentary on other women drummers through history and it all adds up to being great.

 

When the worst film you have seen is Doctor Strange, it’s not a bad week.

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Movie A Day!: Valley of the Sabrina

It’s that time of year! Spring has sprung, the air is warm, the sun is out, and I want to burn my life down and walk the earth! Is it just me getting this way every damned year? It makes no sense. The struggle never ends.

It did lead to one of the strongest weeks of films I’ve had in a while.


121 04/30 Valley of the Dolls (1967) 3/5   This one is considered a camp classic but it’s not all that campy and plays it pretty straight as a melodrama. I think it’s rep comes from the Russ Meyer follow up that has nothing to do with this picture. A trio of women, a singer, an actress and a secretary that ends up a model get a taste of fame and fortune, and all the pitfalls that come with it. The book was considered pretty scandalous, the movie is pretty chaste. My main interest was this was the other big picture aside from The Fearless Vampire Killers that Sharon Tate was in, and she is pretty great as the actress that never does break it big. The real star though is Patty Duke as the merciless pill’d up singer. She steals every scene that she’s in, balancing being adorable and miserable at the same time. All in all, it’s not a terrible affair if you can sit through a soapy melodrama.


122 04/30 Beneath the Valley of the Dolls (1970) 4/5   Nudie cutie maverick Russ Meyer signs on for this one, his first major studio picture. Meyer’s ditches everything to do with the original film, it starts with a warning that it is not a sequel, and turns it into the story of an all girl rock band trio seeking fame and fortune. The sex and drugs are cranked up to turn this one into an exploitation classic. Everyone in the picture is overacting, the plot (written with Roger Ebert!) is bonkers, the music is great, the editing is hyper, the pace is lightning, it’s all a glorious assault on the senses and makes you wish Meyer’s always had a big budget for his big titty films. Recommended.


123 05/01 Primary (1960) 3/5   An interesting documentary on the primary race between Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy, shot in the cinema verite style. It’s weird to watch now, Humphrey doing the old school stumping, walking the streets, handing out cards, giving speeches to small rooms while JFK only appears in large halls, packed tight with crowds, being swarmed as he leaves to his car. You can see the old world dying and being left to a media fuelled future..


124 05/01 Six Men Getting Sick (1966) 3.5/5
125 05/01 The Alphabet (1968) 4/5
126 05/01 The Grandmother (1970) 3/5
127 05/02 The Amputee (1974) 3.5/5
128 05/02 The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1988) 3.5/5
A series of short films from David Lynch. I wont get into specifics, they are all pretty good with The Alphabet hinting at nightmares to come and The Cowboy and the Frenchman (featuring both Harry Dean Stanton and Jack Nance!)being one of the funnier things Lynch has done. They’re all worth checking out, ranging in length from 1 to 30 minutes.


129 05/03 Adventures On The New Frontier (1960) 3.5/5   A follow up to the documentary Primary spends a day with JFK in the oval office. It’s another fly on the wall affair with little comment on the action and it’s actually fascinating to watch. Part of that is due to modern times and trying to imagine current President Trump in oval office, doing what JFK is. Another interesting fact about these is both D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers worked on these films and it really shows the form that Pennebaker would use on his definitive documentary on Bob Dylan Don’t Look Back.


130 05/03 Eraserhead (1977) 5/5   David Lynch’s debut feature still holds all of it’s power. A true masterpiece, I find it impossible to watch without feeling like a hand is on my heart, slowly squeezing it. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a must own with the film looking gorgeous, all the extras from the DVD ported over, and featuring most of the short films I watched earlier this week.


131 05/04 Crisis (1963) 4/5
132 05/04 Faces of November (1964) 3/5
The first of the final two documentaries in the Drew Associates set on JFK finds Jack and Robert Kennedy dealing with a crisis. The crisis is that Alabama Governor George Wallace is going to physically black the doors on campus so that the first two black students will be unable to register. It’s pretty incredible to witness this today. That this was ever a thing is simply gross, but too see just how badly wrong on the side of history Wallace was, and how convinced he was that it was his moral obligation to both blacks and whites to keep them separate is fascinating and infuriating since it’s still a thing 60 fucking years later.

Faces of November is a silent montage of the mourners visiting JFK at rest after the assassination. It’s sombre to say the least.

It’s impossible to watch this set and not realize just how completely fallen into the shit we are as far as politics goes. I’m not just talking about the United States. I give the set a 4.5/5, it’s pretty near a must see.


133 05/04 Eraserhead Stories (2001) 4/5   This is a feature length doc on the making of the film that is little more than David Lynch telling stories into a microphone with some clips and pictures being shown as appropriate. It has no right being as entertaining as it is, and it’s all due to Lynch himself. The man is just so excited and in love with movies, he’s irresistible to watch. I wish I was as full of wonder about mundane things like inky lights and pie as this man.


134 05/05 Blood Simple (1984) 4/5   The Coen brothers debut with a classic neo noir about Texas infidelity. It’s remarkably accomplished and manages to balance tension and be hilarious at the same time since everyone in the picture comes off as incredibly stupid as opposed to criminal masterminds playing each other. Francis McDormand and M. Emmet Walsh are both fantastic in this and the final shots always make me laugh out loud. Recommended.


135 05/06 Sabrina (1954) 4/5   Audrey Hepburn stars in this one as a chauffeur’s daughter who’s torn between wealthy brothers William Holden and Humphrey Bogart. Hepburn is fantastic and adorable in the lead but the real winner here is Billy Wilder’s clever script and direction that holds a lot of truths that remain relevant today.

See? Not a bad week at all, eh?

This is a gentle reminder that I continue to update the Letterboxd site with my horrid past. Just finished my 2008 Scary Movie Challenge list which can be found here.  If anyone reads this has also set up a letterboxd, feel free to leave a link in the comments and I will be sure to follow. Not to be self serving and I know it’s hard to tell, but I actually spend a bit of time on this. Any sharing and whatnot is appreciated, but not expected.

That’s it, remember to love yourselves.