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.

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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.