Movie A Day!: Imitation of Jacks

Another mixed bag of a week. Sort of. I decided to watch some un-watched Criterion Collection discs this month, which lead me to watching all my David Lynch titles that are not in boxes in prep for re-watching Twin Peeks before the new series. Despite only two of those Lynch titles where from Criterion. Mix that up with some oldies and a cheeky Vinegar Syndrome title and it’s not a bad week at all.

136 05/07 The Incredibly Strange Film Show: Russ Meyer (1988) 3/5   A very well done biography on Meyer hosted by Jonathan Ross that manages to hit all points of his career included his start as a combat photographer in WWII. It also shows a clip of a possibly 8 hour documentary that Meyer was working on his own life that would of been amazing but was apparently never finished. A real shame. I would love to see a proper feature length doc on this man.

137 05/07 Imitation of Life (1959) 4/5   Lana Turner stars in this soapy melodrama from Douglas Sirk about a struggling, mature actress in New York who befriends a black housekeeper, Alice (played by Juanita Moore, and she is fantastic) and together they find success. Well, sort of, they stay in their roles based on race and that’s really what this movie is about. Alice has a real struggle with her rebellious, white passing daughter that is far more interesting than the trials that Turner has that leave her in a near constant state of helpless hysteria. You can clearly see a through-line from these style of Sirk pictures to John Waters since his characters are always in the same state hysteria. Anyway, this was pretty great since you don’t think of these sort of topics in 50’s films. Also, Sirk really is great at this stuff. He has a workmanlike sense of direction, but it’s pretty perfect.

138 05/07 Blue Velvet (1986) 4/5   After Dune floundered, David Lynch somehow got the chance to make a film closer to his sensibilities first explored in Eraserhead. It was interesting watching this one on the back of Imitation of Life since they have a pretty similar world of 1950’s like innocence, only Lynch’s small midwest town is a perverted nightmare. Jeffrey, played by Kyle MacLachlan, finds and ear in a field and becomes obsessed with solving it’s mysteries that leads him to a world of pain. Dennis Hopper is absolutely brilliant as the force of nature Frank, Isabella Rossellini is fantastic as the damage nightclub singer Dorothy and Laura Dern manages to hold her own as the symbol of everything good, the girl next door. It’s aged very well, and still holds all it’s power to remain one of Lynch’s best films.

139 05/09 Wild At Heart (1990) 4/5   David Lynch does the Wizard of Oz as a bonkers Elvis inspired road movie with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern starring as Sailor and Lula who spend most of the film either ruminating or fucking. It has no business being as good as it is. Lynch went genuinely weird with this one and it completely works. Willem Dafoe is unforgettable in his small role and it’s fun to see legends Harry Dean Stanton and Diane Ladd go a bit bonkers. Crispen Glover, man, priceless. I’m too much of a Lynch fanboy to call this one my favourite, but it just might be.

140 05/11 Champion (1949) 4/5   Kirk Douglas takes the lead in this boxing noir about a guy and his handicap brother who is on the skids so Kirk gets into the fight game for the money. It starts off pretty standard, but soon Douglas’s mercilous ambition creeps through and the emotional bloodletting eclipses what’s in the ring. I don’t think I have seen Douglas more unlikable in a movie. This one was a real treat, and recommended.

141 05/11 Mulholland Dr. (2001) 3.5/5   David Lynch’s Neo-Noir about an actress caught up in a mystery is considered a classic, but I just can’t get into it. It’s gorgeous, everyone is on point, it’s delightfully “Lynch-ian” and I can’t knock a thing about it. I have just never warmed to it. Maybe I’ll “get it” the next time I watch it.

142 05/12 Funny Face (1957) 4/5   I really enjoyed this one. Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire star in this musical about a frumpy beatnik girl that gets whipped up into the world of high fashion. Hepburn is far too adorable to be frumpy, but she’s surprisingly good in this musical and manages to steal the film with her avant-garde beatnik ballet sequence in a cafe that’s supposed to be played for laughs. Astaire more than holds his own and it’s all looking spectacular under the direction of the legendary Stanley Donen, who also directed one of my all time favourite films, Singing in the Rain. It’s crazy that it’s taken me this long to watch this one.

143 05/12 Her Wicked Ways (1983) 3/5 Jesie St. James stars as a gold digging heiress who has just inherited a billion dollars and Joanna Storm is the daughter trying to get the money back in this adult romp directed by The Lewis Brothers. It’s not the greatest adult film you’ll ever see but it’s just so well done compared to the regular fare in the period that it it ends up being pretty fun. Storm is a real scene-stealer and definitely helps to keep the film moving. The Peekarama DVD from Vinegar Syndrome is a real winner.

144 05/13 One-Eyed Jacks (1961) 4/5   The only film that Marlon Brando directed is this western. I think it’s just me but I think it’s weird that his only directed film is a western. Seems weird, right? Anyway, this is a typical vengeance tale with Brando’s Rio seeking out old partner Karl Malden’s “Dad” Longworth who ditched him during a bank robbery. It’s a gorgeous film and done with the naturalistic acting style Brando was known for and just completely works. There’s a feeling of distance and brooding that is tricky for films to nail, and the support cast featuring Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens and Katy Jurado are all perfect as well. Recommended.

One-Eyed Jacks also ended up being the last film shot in VistaVision so I managed to watch two VistaVision films over the weekend. You just never know what’s going to happen when you blindly watch stuff.  Isn’t the world marvellous?

Hold your loved ones tight.

Movie a day! 035-044 First Half of February

And the blog keeps rolling along! So Far I’ve kept up with my three posts a week that was my usual norm way back in the Benrik days. That said, I’ll be caught up soon, and then not so sure on what to blog about. Feel free to post suggestions in the comments!

Right, this is the first half of February. Before you get scared that it will be too long to read at your work, please remember that February is the short month and that it’s only ten or so titles long. We can get through this together guys, it’s will be fun!

035 02-01 Justice League: WAR (2014) 2/5
This one’s the latest in the line of what are typically decent direct to video cartoons based on DC Comics. This one though was a bust. Maybe I’m suffering from DC overload and carrying too much baggage from their mostly shit “New 52” comic book launch. The plot of this one is basically the first 6 issue arc of their relaunched “Justice League” comic, which wasn’t the greatest thing ever published, but better than this adaptation. I think the main problem I have with this is that despite the animation quality being really good, the voice acting and character designs are overall so terrible that I can’t get into it. They have to bring back the voice team behind the original Batman/Superman cartoons. They’re’ still the best superhero adaptations to date. DC’s constant attempts to improve things that don’t need to be improved continue to hobble their properties.,%20The/blingRingDVD_poster.jpg

036 02-02 The Bling Ring (2013) 2.5/5
I’ve always considered myself a fan of Sofia Coppola’s work, but this film has me thinking I’m more wanting to be a fan, instead of an actual fan. Aside from “The Virgin Suicides” and “Lost in Translation”, I find that I want to like her work more than I do. This one is no exception. It’s inspired by the true events of some rich shithead teenagers who get the idea to bust into celebrities homes and rob them. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this movie just kind of flops out without ever really accomplishing anything. If it’s supposed to be as empty and vapid as the people who did the crimes, then I guess it’s a success. Just not a very engaging one.

037 02-05 Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) 2.5/5
This was one of Rita Hayworth’s come back films after taking time off to be a Princess or something. Anyway, it’s a weird one. She plays a dance hall girl (1950’s speak for “whore”) who’s looking for redemption and finds it from a miserable missionary in American Samoa. Throw in a couple of numbers for Rita to sing and a rape, and you get a trashy little film that should be more fun than it is.

038 02-08 Three on a Limb (1936) 2.5/5
039 02-08 Grand Slam Opera (1936) 4/5
040 02-08 Blue Blazes (1936) 2.5/5
041 02-08 The Chemist (1936) 2.5/5
042 02-08 Mixed Magic (1936) 3/5
Another mixed bag of Buster Keaton shorts from Kino’s “Lost Keaton” set. Some good gags, but none of the films really do much for you. The exception being “Grand Slam Opera” that features Keaton’s “Elmer” character desperate to win an amateur radio competition. Packed to the gills with nearly non-stop gags and stunts, this one is right up there with the best of his silent work.

043 02-14 The Conjuring (2013) 4/5
Revisited this one by showing it to mum. It holds up just fine on a second viewing, and it’s fun to scare the shit out of your mother when they believes in ghosts.

044 02-14 Jail Bait (1937) 3.5/5
Another of Buster Keaton’s Educational Pictures shorts, and it was another really good one that’s right up there with his better work.

See? That was a pretty quick one right? Kind of a blah first half of the month. Those Keaton shorts were getting to be a bit of a slog at this point, so I have not much to say about them. I still think I’m behind this year from last year by this point, so in my next blog I’ll compare end of February totals and keep that as a trend. Won’t that be fun? Maybe?

The End.