So the weather has been insanely good for this time of year this past week, averaging around 5C most days, even having light rain. It shouldn’t be nicer than about -8C. Now I hate the cold, don’t get me wrong, I plan on moving to gentler climates. This unnatural, nice, spring like weather of the past week and a bit is more spooky than enjoyable to me. Yeah, global warming keeping us out of the -40C torture is nice to yuk about, but seeing as this is the second year in a row where this chinook like wave has happened in January, it’s leaves me feeling weary of the future. Meanwhile, scientists have ticked the “Doomsday Clock” two minutes closer to midnight. The bastards.
Let’s watch some movies!
026 01-18 It Happened One Night (1934) 4/5
Easily one of the most derided genre in films is the “Romantic Comedy.” The plots and actors are often interchangeable, you pretty much know how it’s going to end before it starts. Well, they all pretty much started here. Frank Capra makes one of the first screwball comedies, and it’s a smart, funny, and yes, romantic film. Claudette Colbert escapes from her rich father’s yacht and is trying to get to New York to reunite with her dopey husband that she eloped with. Along the way she runs into floundering newsman Clark Gable and the fun begins. It totally works, both the comedy of “manners” (Sex. This film is all about the politics of sex) and the slow, burning love story. It’s the first film to sweep the major awards at the Oscars, and Capra will go on to even greater pictures with a social conscience like “Mr. Deeds Goes To Town” and “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
027 01-19 Orson Welles: The One Man Band (1995) 4/5
This is the final, full length documentary on Orson Welles that was featured on the Criterion Collection disc for F FOR FAKE and it’s a good one. It looks on all the post F projects Welles worked on, and never completed. Featuring fragments and clips shot for all types of films, it’s a bit heartbreaking to watch. Some of it, like Welles reciting lines from MOBY DICK don’t even really make sense since they don’t look like any kind of film, but are still completely captivating to watch. I’d take a book on tape version read by Welles. There’s also a lot of cool clips of Welles performing magic tricks and of course, interviews with Welles. It’s all good, and worth checking out, especially now as it seems like they’ve figured out the logistics to release his last mostly completed film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. Fingers crossed anyway.
028 01-19 The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) 3/5
Not much to talk about with this one. It’s the fourth film in the Mummy series of Universal Monster movies, and the third to feature Kharis wandering around looking for Princess Anaka. Lon Chaney Jr. is back as the mummy, but in terrible “Burned Mummy” make-up that looks like they smeared mud all over his head. It drags along, but has a genuinely surprising and corny final act that actually makes it really worthwhile to watch.
029 01-22 Frank Capra’s American Dream (1997) 4/5
The meatiest of the special features on the IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT disc from Criterion, a feature length documentary on the the director. Like all good documentaries on the movies, this one features just the right amount of films clips to balance the talking heads. It leaves no film unturned while exploring the darker side of Capra’s personality since he dealt with bad depression all his life while making the idealistic films in the the history of the medium. My problem with films like this is it makes me want to rewatch all the films, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON should be mandatory viewing for anyone even thinking of entering politics.
030 Noon Wine (1966) 3.5/5
Sam Peckinpah hit the skids after MAJOR DUNDEE, managing to get blacklisted in Hollywood. This is a standalone story he shot for television, adapting the screenplay himself and directing. It tells a compact story of a dairy farmer (Jason Robards, who is typically great in this) who hires a Swede who’s a bit of an oddball to do all the heavy lifting on the farm since his wife (Academy award winning legend Olivia de Havilland, also typically great) is having health problems. It’s surprisingly warm for a Peckinpah film, but does take a relentless, dark turn that is surprising now, I can’t imagine what it must of been like when it aired in 1966. It ended up being a hit, Sam won awards for the script and direction, and moved on to make THE WILD BUNCH and solidifying himself as one of the great mavericks in Hollywood history. Ends up being a good film tossed on as a bonus feature on the Twilight Time release of THE KILLER ELITE.
I wonder why we no longer have anthology shows on television? At a time where HBO and the like are making better movies with series like GAME OF THRONES and THE WIRE then the actual movies, you’d think some network would block out an hour long spot to give filmmakers and playwrights a shot to have creative control to tell a story. I think the last ones we got were TWILIGHT ZONE type reboots, which is fine, but I can’t help but think a more wide open format would be at the very least interesting, if not great. Someone write Hollywood and TV a letter.
Until next time.