Thursday, December 18, 2014

Number One Fan

Film: Misery
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

Watch enough movies, and eventually you’ll see some stuff that you just don’t want to see again. Usually, that means a film that I don’t want to watch again regardless of what I thought of it. I don’t plan on watching Salo a second time, for instance, because there are things I don’t want to sit through again and because I think it’s an affront. A film like Idi i Smotri, though, I think is one of the great films of its year but I don’t think I have the emotional capacity to see it a second time. Misery is unique in this respect. I love this film, but there is a single scene I have never been able to watch a second time. If you’ve seen Misery, you know the precise scene I am talking about.

Aside from that one scene, Misery is most notable for being the film that made the nation aware that Kathy Bates existed, and we have to give the movie its props for that. Before this, who knew who she was? After this, who didn’t? Bates’s performance as Annie Wilkes is one of the all-time great out-of-nowhere performances in film history. Bates may have been around before this film, but once she was seen here, she was everywhere.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Film: Of Mice and Men
Format: DVD from NetFlix on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

When I wrote up The Grapes of Wrath some time ago, I mentioned the arguments between my brother Tom and my dad about Tom’s reading habits. Dad never failed to push classics on Tom while Tom was much more attuned to reading pulp novels. The book dad pushed the most was, in fact, The Grapes of Wrath. Of Mice and Men is arguably the Steinbeck story that is more famous than the one Dad constantly wanted one of us to read. I’ve still never read The Grapes of Wrath, but I’ve read Of Mice and Men.

Of course, it’s been years since I’ve read it, but I remember the basics of the story. I also remember the Bugs Bunny cartoon with the Abominable Snowman who was based completely on one of the characters from this. This isn’t a story I enjoy much because of where it goes, but I can’t disagree with it being a true classic of American literature.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Eleanor Powell

Film: Broadway Melody of 1936
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

Line up the Best Picture winners end to end, and one the bottom in my opinion is The Broadway Melody, the second winner ever. That being the case, I can’t say I was excited to sit down and watch Broadway Melody of 1936. However, the DVR is getting full, which means I need to get through some of the older stuff to make room for what I want to record in the next couple of months. And so, Broadway Melody of 1936 it is.

What I didn’t know going in is that this would be my first exposure to Eleanor Powell, who had a terribly short film career. There’s a pretty strong case to be made for the idea that Powell stopped getting work because she was something like a threat to many of the other dancers of the time. Oh, I don’t mean she came at them with switchblades or anything, but Eleanor Powell was a real talent. Gene Kelly once said that when Fred Astaire danced with Ginger Rogers, it was the only time you watched the man. Well, I’ve seen clips of Powell dancing with Fred Astaire…and when they’re on stage together, you watch her. She’s as good as he is. Maybe better, because she’s doing exactly what he does and doing it as fast, as on the beat, and in heels.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Nick's Pick: Love Actually

Film: Love Actually
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

This is the twelfth in a monthly series of reviews suggested by Nick Jobe of YourFace.

Love Actually bills itself as the ultimate romantic comedy. Everytime ad copy or promotional materials use the word “ultimate,” a part of me hopes its used in the sense of “last one ever.” Rom-coms aren’t my favorite genre of film, mostly because they end up being formulaic. They aren’t generally so much about what ending we’re going to get, but how we’re going to get to the ending we want. Good rom-coms are worth seeking out, and I’ve heard enough good about Love Actually that I was hopeful.

I’m not going to do my typical summary for this one, though, because there’s just too damn much. There are nine or ten intertwined plots here, with connections that go from story to story. It’s complicated enough that the Wikipedia write-up contains a flow chart that manages to get a couple of the connections wrong. There are a couple of main stories and a larger number of secondary, or at least smaller ones that aren’t as central to the various major narratives.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

You May Already Be a Winner

Film: Nebraska
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on laptop.

Fulfilling the new movies placed on the 1001 Movies list has meant frequently taking breaks from my regular Oscar posting, which is kind of frustrating to me. I set particular goals for myself monthly, and deviating from that makes it harder to hit those goals. So, a film like Nebraska that appears on the new 1001 Movies list and also knocks out some Oscars for me is a good thing, which is why I saved this one as the last of the new 1001 additions. So, once again, I’m done with the 1001 Movies list, all 1167 of them.

I imagine that Nebraska tells a story that many people with aging parents can relate to. I am fortunate in that this is not something that reflects my life at all. My father will be 80 in January and my mother is a couple of years younger than he is. Both of my parents are in good physical and mental health. Neither seems to have lost a step mentally, and from what I remember of my dad’s parents and what I absolutely know of my mom’s, the same was true of them up to the moment they died.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Please Fasten Seat Belts

Film: Airport
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

Genres and sub-genres start somewhere. In the 1970s (and yes, I know this from having lived through them), it seemed like every year came with a disaster picture, many of which were produced by Irwin Allen. As it happens, though, the original disaster pic, Airport, was not an Irwin Allen movie. This is the film that started the sub-genre that gave us films like Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, and The Poseidon Adventure. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view.

Basically, this is a film that has the central conceit of giving us a typical day in the life of a major Midwestern airport. In this case, that means a blizzard, closed runways, and angry board of directors, protestors, an elderly stowaway, and a guy with a bomb in a briefcase. We also get a couple of failing marriages, a couple of affairs, and a grizzled maintenance man. In addition to serving as more than the daily suggested allowance of melodrama, Airport also serves as enough of a love letter to the 707 airplane that I suspect Boeing may have had a hand in the financing.