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!: 390-396 -“Work? I saw a baby blown apart at my ‘Work.'”

How is everyone doing? Everyone holding up? Christmas and the holidays are descending like a fog and it’s hard not to get caught up in it. I continue to not feel the spirit. Maybe it’s from being old, single and childless, but in the “take it or leave” it side of Christmas, I could leave. Except for the turkey dinner, I like that part. I’m going to try to get out a bit over my Christmas week off work and hopefully not get totally despondent like I usually do. Hopefully all of you do the same.

Here’s my last week of films, some really good ones!

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390 12-15 Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943) 4/5
I’m rating this one higher than a non-fan of the series would. This was the first big monster meetup picture for the Universal Monster series, and as such acts as a sequel to THE WOLFMAN and THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. That said, it’s more of a sequel to Wolfie since it largely follows the story of Talbot and his werewolf curse. Anyway, it totally delivers and manages to be a really dark picture as far as tone goes. It’s also notable for being the only time Bela Lugosi would play Frankenstein, and he does a pretty good job other than they fucked him over. Carrying on from GHOST, the monster was supposed to talk in this one, but the studio thought it looked corny and cut all the dialog. So you have poor Bela stumbling about with arms flailing looking a bit wonky when he’s actually playing the monster blind, which you will never know since they cut the dialog explaining the blindness. Still, in the end, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, I just wish Universal would get off their asses and restore these since the print used on the DVD is the worst one in the set, so far.

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391 12-16 Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York (2014) 2.5/5
12-16 A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 5/5
12-16 Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (2002) 1.5/5
Yup, I’m still getting rooked into Christmas specials. This year, 2014, is the year in which some new singer named Ariana Grande is on every TV special. Some how dopey Canadian crooner Buble roped her into singing on his special. Grande is technically a good singer in that she hits the notes, but she’s one of those soulless, mechanical singers that appear to be reading a phone book, with no care or effort happening, that always spooks me and makes me not like them. This special is also the second special to feature the legendary Rockettes kicking their legs all over the place. I don’t get them either. Give me some tap dancers and I’m in. This corny revue stuff leading into leg kicking is a bunch of bullshit. The highlight, and the reason I’m giving it 2.5 stars. is Buble sings “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Miss Piggy, with Miss Piggy taking the rapist part that the guys usually sing. Awesome!

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is a classic that you should have seen by now. The other one was terrible, featuring gaggy vignettes that I’m guessing were taken from the actual daily strips. It didn’t work as a cartoon special, and actually put me off getting some of the beautiful strip reprints that Fantagraphics have been putting out.

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392 12-17 Captive Wild Woman (1943) 3/5
Ever wanted to see a movie where a mad scientist turns a gorilla into a beautiful woman that can control lions and tigers to help a circus act? Here’s your chance! This is as wonky a Universal Horror title as you will find, and a heck of a lot of fun. To a point, and that point is to be found in how much animal mayhem you can enjoy before thinking thay should leave the poor wild beasts alone. Seriously, nearly half of the 61 minute running time is tiger and lion taming, and it’s just inherently cruel right? At least they got to be in the movies so we could enjoy their torture forever and ever. Right? Hello? Still with me?

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393 12-18 Zatoichi in Desperation (1972) 4/5
Zatoichi star Katsu directs this one, the second last film in the original series, and holy shit is it a dark one. At this point, Zatoichi is pretty much running on instinct and barely able to live with himself after all the constant failures of redemption and killings that go with them. It’s got the typical, trying to help people and gets mixed up with the Yakuza plot, but everything is gritty, poor and brutal. Katsu does some unnecessarily flashy flourishes in the directors chair, but it doesn’t take away from the naturalistic feel of this one. One more film and I’m done. I DON’T WANT IT TO END!

394 12-19 Noah (2014) 3.5/5

Maybe it was low expectations due to this one getting a critical thrashing but I really liked it. It’s a gonzo version of the Noah’s Ark story, but I’m fine with the filmmaker taking liberty with the source material, especially if it’s Darren Aronofsky. Visually impressive like all his work, and the film moves at a pretty quick pace. Russell Crowe and the rest of the cast are just as good, and it’s nice to see a Bible film deal with the real world ramifications of “miracles” in a more realistic way (despite this being a fantasy picture) than in wonder and awe of how amazing things are. If that makes sense.

395 12-20 Prisoner of Paradise (1980) 3/5

Adult auteur Bob Chinn takes on WW2 with John Holmes with this one. Holmes washes up on a deserted pacific island, only it’s not deserted after all. Nazis have set up a secret listening post, run by a porky dude, and two wicked female guards, one of them porn legend Seka. Everything is set-up to be some prime, gonzo Nazisploitation, but Chinn plays it more like a straight WW2 actioner with porn in it, so it never really takes off despite the cast all doing a pretty decent job acting. Seka as the nasty bitch head guard and Holmes as the burned out navy survivor steal the show, but there isn’t much to steal in this one.

396 12-20 Out Of The Furnace (2013) 3.5/5

This one seemed to sneak out last year with no one really talking about it. Christian Bale stars as a steelworker who is trying to keep his family together after a brief prison stint for a DUI accident. It plays like the character study type noirs that came out in the seventies, in a good way. Pitch perfect performances abound with Casey Affleck as his troubled little brother, Willem Dafoe as a small town gangster and Woody Harrelson as a violent, hillbilly sociopath. This is such a different film than what typically comes out these days with a cast like that, it’s well worth a sit down to watch.

There it is, not a huge week compared to some I’ve had, but all the films were good so I’ll take it. OUT OF THE FURNACE is really sticking with me, two days later. Definitely one I’ll spin again at some point and will recommend.

This is probably my last until Christmas, so have a happy one doing whatever you do or don’t do around the holiday you may or may not recognize. To quote Paul F. Tompkins;

“Don’t get drunk and fight each other.”