Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More Sprinkle than Deluge

Film: The Rainmaker (1956)
Format: Movies! Channel on rockin’ flatscreen.

I know it’s not true that it’s been awhile since I watched a film I really liked, but it feels like it sometimes. I genuinely go into each film expecting to like it or at least hoping that I will. That’s certainly the case with The Rainmaker from 1956. Considering that it stars Katharine Hepburn, Burt Lancaster, and Lloyd Bridges, I thought that hope was not unfounded. What I got instead was a movie with a pretty dumb plot, loaded with multiple instances of wild overacting, and that was badly miscast to boot.

We’re first introduced to Bill Starbuck (Burt Lancaster), a con man in the Western states and the Midwest, who travels around on a horse-driven carriage selling a variety of items and services that don’t really work. He initially sells small devices that are designed to prevent tornadoes from striking houses. He gets run out of town and ends up in a small town in Kansas that is hard-hit by drought. While this doesn’t pop out immediately, it’s not a stretch (based on the title) that Starbuck is going to pass himself off as a rainmaker for the drought-stricken town. They’re ripe for picking because the cattle are starting to die off.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Off Script: The Hitcher (1986)

Film: The Hitcher (1986)
Format: Streaming video from HBO Go on rockin’ flatscreen.

There’s a reason that I rewatch movies I’ve seen before for this blog. That reason is that my opinion sometimes changes regarding a particular film. If you’d asked me a year ago what I thought of The Hitcher from 1986, I’d have told you it was a disturbing horror film that goes to some really dark places and does it really well. Seeing it again now, this is a film that retains none of the power that I would have attributed to it and is instead just a thinly connected series of sadistic events. I looked forward to revisiting The Hitcher and now I wonder exactly what I saw in it. Even the scene, the one that everyone remembers, comes across as just being mean-spirited and ugly.

Here’s how this works: Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) is driving a car from Chicago to San Diego to deliver it to the man who bought it. One night, he almost falls asleep at the wheel. Worried that he might actually fall asleep, he picks up a hitchhiker named John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), hoping that conversation might keep him on his toes. Unfortunately for Jim, John Ryder is a psychopath who needed a ride because he brutally murdered the driver of the last car he was in, promising to do the same to Jim. When he sees an opportunity, Jim kicks Ryder out of his car and drives away.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

N.W.A.

Film: Straight Outta Compton
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

Every now and then, I watch a movie that makes me realize just how white I really am. Shaft made me feel white, Superfly and Boyz n the Hood made me feel even whiter, and Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song made me feel translucent. I don’t know if any movie has ever made me feel whiter than Straight Outta Compton. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about rap because I don’t. I’m not even going to pretend that I like rap that much; in truth I’m not that interested in music anymore at all. The challenge for a film like Straight Outta Compton for a late-40s white guy like me is to make me care about the story beyond the music. So, it’s a good thing that this is a hell of a story with a collection of great performances from newer actors and a seasoned professional or two.

We’re introduced to the members of N.W.A. and given a taste of their life in the first part of the film. Eric “Eazy-E” Wright (Jason Mitchell) deals drugs. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young (Corey Hawkins) struggles with wanting to spin records and with what his mother expects him to do. O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson (O’Shea Jackson Jr.—Ice Cube’s son) is a high school senior just trying to survive in Compton. Dre and Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby (Neil Brown Jr.) spin at a local club. One night, Dre gets busted while trying to break up a fight. The next day, Eazy-E bails him out. Dre convinces E to start a record label. When their first act falls through, refusing to read Cube’s lyrics, the four along with E’s friend Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson (Aldis Hodge) and Dre’s friend The D.O.C. (Marlon Yates Jr.) perform the song themselves and create their own label and the group N.W.A. And it’s a hit.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Love and Pancakes

Film: Imitation of Life (1934)
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

Movies like Imitation of Life are simultaneously fascinating and frustrating. It’s fascinating because it was made in 1934 and deals at least in part with ideas of race that seem far ahead of its time. On the other hand, it’s extremely frustrating because it deals with race in a way that to modern sensibilities seem so backward and racist that it’s at times painful to watch. It’s doubly frustrating because it brings up some really interesting ideas of race and then focuses instead on a romance that has nothing to do with the questions that are the most interesting.

Imitation of Life starts by introducing us to Beatrice Pullman (Claudette Colbert), a widow raising a young daughter named Jessie (played in succession by Juanita “Baby Jane” Quigley, Marilyn Knowlden, and eventually as an adult by Rochelle Hudson. It’s worth noting that in the 1935 Les Miserables, Marilyn Knowlden and Rochelle Hudson played the same role, too). Her husband was killed in a train accident and, needing an income, Bea has attempted to take over his business selling maple syrup with not very good results. On the particular morning of the film’s beginning, Bea’s morning is interrupted by the arrival of Delilah Johnson (Louise Beavers), who is looking for work as a housekeeper. Bea can’t afford a housekeeper, but since Delilah and her daughter Peola (Sebie Hendricks, Dorothy Black, and then Fredi Washington) will essentially work for room and board, Delilah gets her job.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Oy, Gevalt!

Film: Lies My Father Told Me
Format: Internet video on laptop.

There are times when I take one for the team with this blog. With Lies My Father Told Me, I regretted my choice of movie immediately. In fact, the only thing that kept me going was the realization that if I didn’t watch it today, I’d have to watch it some time in the future. Worse, it’s exactly the sort of film that, frankly, kills my hit count. I don’t get miles of traffic on this blog, but when I review something that has fewer than 15 ratings and no reviews on Letterboxd, I know it’s a review that most people are going to look at, perhaps read this first paragraph, and then move on. Really, I can’t say that I blame anybody for not reading further. Really, you won’t offend me.

Lies My Father Told Me takes place in a Jewish ghetto in Montreal in the 1920s. Young David (Jeff Lynas) lives with his father Harry (Len Birman), his mother Annie (Marilyn Lightstone), and Annie’s father Zaida (Yossi Yadin). Zaida is a rag and bone man, wandering the streets of the ghetto, buying junk from the people who live there and selling it for a small profit. Harry doesn’t do much of anything. He attempts to invent new things for men’s fashion—pants that don’t need pressing and adjustable cufflinks, for instance, but his plans consistently fail and end up losing what little money he has borrowed from Zaida.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Off Script: Tombs of the Blind Dead

Film: Tombs of the Blind Dead (Tomb of the Blind Dead; The Blind Dead; La Noche del Terror Ciego)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Two of my favorite movies are Spanish horror movies. The Devil’s Backbone is one of my top-5 movies of all time and The Orphanage is probably in my top-10, although I’ve never made a formal top-10 list. I entered Tombs of the Blind Dead (sometimes called just Tomb of the Blind Dead, just The Blind Dead, or its Spanish title La Noche del Terror Ciego) with some expectations. This is apparently one of the movies that starts a renaissance in Spanish horror films and spawned a trio of follow-up films. Evidently people just can’t get enough of vampire/mummy Templars.

While we start with what appears to be a medieval ceremony involving the torture and death of a young woman, we spend the bulk of the beginning of the film in the present. Gina (Maria Elena Arpon, listed as Helen Harp) and her boyfriend Roger (Cesar Burner) are planning a camping trip when Gina bumps into Betty Turner (Lone Fleming), a friend from school. Betty is quickly invited along on the trip, and while it’s not stated, I think it’s pretty clear that Roger is hoping for a little doubling-up on him under the stars. That is made more manifest when he and Betty flirt on the train. Gina gets so upset that she asks for the train to stop to let her off. When the train doesn’t stop, she jumps off right around an old abandoned monastery.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mothers and Daughters

Film: Autumn Sonata (Hostsonaten)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatcreen.

When I first started this blog, I had never seen a film by Ingmar Bergman, which was certainly a massive hole in my viewing history. Now, while I’m not close to being a completist, I’ve at least seen a lot of them so I know what more to expect when it comes to putting a Bergman film in the spinner. Autumn Sonata covers territory that I’ve seen from Ingmar before. We’re dealing with family drama and family trauma here, and the pain that people inflict on each other both intentionally and accidentally.

Primarily, we are going to be dealing with the relationship between Charlotte Andergast (Ingrid Bergman, in what would be her last theatrical film) and her daughter Eva (long-time Bergman muse Liv Ullmann). The relationships are perhaps a bit more involved; Eva is married to Viktor (Halvar Bjork) and takes care of her severely disabled sister Helena (Lena Nyman). Eva’s relationship with her mother has always been strained, but when the film begins, she has reached out to Charlotte because of the death of Leonardo, Charlotte’s latest partner.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Upstairs-ish, Downstairs-ish

Film: The Remains of the Day
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatcreen.

I like a good period drama now and then, and I have even liked my share of Jane Austen adaptations. That said, one of the issues of I have with British dramas from this era is that a part of me is surprised that anyone actually procreates. Everyone is so scared of his or her emotions and so terrified of physical contact that it’s a wonder the race perpetuated. Okay, I know that’s not actually true, but it is the way that romances especially are depicted from the Regency era through the Edwardian. Lemme tell ya, they ain’t got nothing on The Remains of the Day.

The film’s present is set in the 1950s, and as the film begins, a great English estate is auctioned off to an American buyer. This buyer is Jack Lewis (Christopher Reeve), a former congressman, who visited the home several decades earlier. The estate is slowly reopened after having been mainly shut down due to the death of Lord Darlington (James Fox) who had lived there. With a new family to live in the estate, a staff is again needed; the task of finding and hiring them falls to Mr. James Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), the head butler who has been with the house for multiple decades. Stevens recalls the housekeeper who worked at the Darlington estate in the 1930s and believes that due to her current situation, the former Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) might be persuaded to return.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Little Sheepish

Film: Shaun the Sheep Movie
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatcreen.

Typically with a movie designed for kids, you can expect a number of things. First, there will be a story that kids can relate to, which means that while we might get good characters and even a great deal of complexity, the actual story won’t be that challenging. Second, there will generally be jokes that are there specifically for the parents that the kids probably won’t get. Third and finally, there will almost certainly be a message along the lines of “be yourself” or “you can do anything you set your mind to do.” How interesting, then, that with Shaun the Sheep Movie almost none of this is true and yet we still get a film for children that is wildly entertaining an works on every level.

As the title of the film suggests, Shaun is a sheep. He lives in a small flock at Mossy Bottom Farm where he is the marginal leader, or at least the sheep who comes up with most of the ideas. He and the other sheep are bored by their daily routine, which causes them to concoct a plan to give themselves a day off. The bribe a duck to distract the farm dog Bitzer with a bone and then repeatedly jump over a fence in front of the farmer to make him fall asleep. Once he’s out, they lock him in his little camper trailer and prepare for a day watching movies and eating the farmer’s food. Bitzer figures things out eventually, but when he tries to wake the farmer up, the trailer breaks loose.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

China White

Films: Inn of the Sixth Happiness
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on The Nook.

When a film is based on a real story or on real people, there is always a chance that the truth has been embellished in some way to make the filmed version more exciting or more cinematic. With some stories, this really isn’t necessary. With The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, only a few surface embellishments are made because the real story is pretty astonishing. The film tells the story of several years in the life of Gladys Aylward (Ingrid Bergman), who went from being an English domestic servant to a national hero of China.

As the film begins, Aylward has applied to become a missionary to China, but is rejected because of her lack of education. Taking pity on her since she left a job during a time when jobs are scarce, the senior missionary (Moultrie Kelsall) instead arranges for her to get a job as a maid at the home of a well-known explorer with contacts in China (Ronald Squire). Using virtually all of her earnings, Aylward purchases a ticket for herself on the Trans-Siberian railway in installments, eventually making enough to pay off the ticket and head to China. Her employer sets her up with a contact in China and off she goes.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Nick's Picks: The Battery

Films: The Battery
Format: DVD from NetFlix on various players.

This is the fifth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Nick Jobe.

Some words or phrases, when spoken in the context of being about movies can call up a variety of images. One of these is “low-budget.” Others are “indie,” “indie horror,” and “zombies.” With The Battery, we’re getting all of that. Some people react well to indies and indie horror movie, while I take a wait-and-see approach. I’ve seen some gems, but I’ve been burned. The same is true of low-budget films. Plenty of films are great without much in the way of money while others rather significantly display their lack of a budget like a badge of honor. For many, the zombie genre is played out. Fortunately, films like The Battery show there’s still a little juice left in the…uh…battery.

While this isn’t clearly a zombie movie from the opening scene, it becomes obvious in the title sequence as we see our two characters Ben (writer/director Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (producer Adam Cronheim) dealing with the undead. Ben and Mickey are truly a battery in the baseball sense of the word. Spare, slightly ranging Mickey (pitches right, bats right) was a relief pitcher while bulkier, lumberjack-bearded Ben (throws right, bats left) was a catcher. The two are the only survivors of having been trapped in a house in New England for months and now simply roam the countryside, never spending more than a night in one place and never indoors, per Ben’s paranoia of being trapped again.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Obscure Pregnancy Reference

Films: Juno
Format: Streaming video from HBO Go on rockin’ flatscreen.

Juno is one of those movies for me. I’ve been a little scared of it for some time because I figured it probably couldn’t live up to its hype. People seem to like it a little too much for what it is. It’s a teen pregnancy comedy, at least on the surface, and it was nominated for four major Oscars, winning one (original screenplay). Sure, it’s got a solid cast and a lot to recommend it, but I struggled with the idea that it could be the sort of end-all, be-all that everyone seems to think it is.

Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), a 16-year-old high school student, gets pregnant one night thanks to her best friend/love interest Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Initially intent on getting an abortion, Juno instead decides to have the baby and put it up for adoption. With the aid of her friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), Juno finds Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), a local couple who would love to adopt her child. At least that’s what they think initially. After all, there wouldn’t be a movie if there weren’t some problems along the way.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Off Script: Demons

Films: Demoni (Demons)
Format: Streaming video from Hoopla Digital on The Nook.

I always go into Italian horror movies expecting to like them. I genuinely do, and almost always I end up disappointed. The biggest issue with Italian horror is that it never really makes sense to me. Things just happen all over the place and there are monsters that appear out of nowhere and nobody makes any decisions that make any sense. Sure, there are a few that I respect, but in most cases I’m just left scratching my head. I went into Demoni (typically known as Demons) with that same hope that it would transcend the typical problems of Italian horror. Discovering that it was produced by Dario Argento and directed by Mario Bava’s sone Lamberto didn’t fill me with hope, though.

The sell of Demoni is that it takes place in a movie theater, which means that when the film was released, the audience would be in a theater watching a movie where the people in the movie are in the theater watching a movie. Even better, what happens on the screen in the movie within the movie starts to happen in the theater. It’s like a nesting doll of scary stuff.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Home Front USA

Films: The Human Comedy
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

Usually, I can figure out what a movie wants to be and can state that in a sentence or two. With The Human Comedy, it’s not that easy. The Human Comedy is a film that can only be described as a character study, but not one of a specific person. This is more a character study of the American way of life. It’s a study of life in the mythical small town of Ithaca, California, where everyone is friendly, fights are quickly broken up, boys marry their high school sweethearts, and even acting out is treated with a lecture instead of anything like punishment. It’s absolutely idealized in every respect. It’s America as it’s supposed to be, not as it actually is or was.

The film takes place in the present of when it was made, right in the heart of World War II. Initially, the story comes from the point of view of Mr. Macauley (Ray Collins), a man who died for unexplained reasons a few years before. He is sort of watching over his family as best he can, and while he does show up now and then in narration, most of the time we just get the various doings of the Macauley clan. While we spend a little time with Ma Macauley (Fay Bainter), daughter Bess (Donna Reed), and youngest son Ulysses (Jackie Jenkins), we are mainly focused on Marcus (Van Johnson) and Homer (Mickey Rooney, who was Oscar nominated for this role). Marcus is heading off to war and with the father dead, it falls to Homer to be the man of the house. Homer is still in high school, but as the film starts he has landed a job as a messenger and telegram delivery boy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

12 Years a Nun

Films: The Nun’s Story
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

There are only so many movies with heavily religious themes that I can handle at a time. I recorded The Nun’s Story not that long ago and decided that today was a good day to watch a 2 ½ hour movie filled to bursting with religious themes. I guess what that means is that I probably won’t watch another film like this for a month or so. There’s only so much holy-holy-holy I can handle before my head just splits open.

Fortunately, The Nun’s Story is less sanctimonious than are many films of this stripe (Song of Bernadette comes rushing to mind). Instead, this is far less about the spiritual journey being taken and much more about the struggle of living the life depicted. We get very little of our main character’s life before the convent—this focuses almost entirely on her life as a nun and what is expected of her and what happens to her.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Picks from Chip: Scotland, Pa

Films: Scotland, Pa
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

This is the fifth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Chip Lary.

I’ve decided to keep doing Chip’s list of suggested films. I think he’d want me to and I think it’s just one way to honor the man. I’ll continue to review one of his suggestions on the second Monday of each month until the end of the year. This month, I had some interesting issues with NetFlix and decided that I’d better do something that I could get via another route. Scotland, Pa was available at a local library, so that made the choice an easy one. Chip knew I like Macbeth and since this is basically Macbeth focused around a fast-food restaurant, it seems like a natural fit.

I’m not kidding when I say that this is more or less Macbeth but modernized. Joe McBeth (James Le Gros) is in his 30s and married to Pat (Maura Tierney). The two are classic slackers in that early-70s post-hippie style. They both work at a slowly-failing fast-food place called Duncan’s owned by Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn). Joe gets skipped for a promotion in favor of Douglas McKenna (Josh Pais), who has been stealing money from the restaurant. When Joe points this out to Norm, Douglas is fired and Joe is promoted to assistant manager. Pat, who is suddenly ambitious, wants more for the two of them. This coincides with a meeting joe has with a trio of hippies who tell him that he’ll be working in a restaurant that serves food similar to a drive-up bank.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bastards of Bastogne

Films: Battleground
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

War movies are an interesting genre of film. When they are made during the course of a war, they are almost always propaganda affairs. After the war, they tend to focus more on stories from the war, whether these show things in a positive or negative light. Post-war films are often more character-driven or history-driven, which I find a lot more interesting than films that are morale-based. Battleground, I think, tries to be something based at least in part on character but is really much more about a historical event. We’re concerned with a group of soldiers certainly and while these soldiers are to be presented to us as individuals, they really aren’t. Each has a quirk that identifies him from the others, but we’re far more concerned with the fate of the battle.

It’s December, 1944 and Private Jim Layton (Marshall Thompson) has been assigned as a replacement into the 101st Airborne near Bastogne in Belgium. The men of the Screaming Eagles, all battle-tested, are less than welcoming to someone who hasn’t braved the same sort of combat they have. As Layton arrives, PFC Holley (Van Johnson) returns after recovering from a minor wound. The 101st is thrown immediately into battle despite being promised leave in Paris. Instead, this is the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, and the German forces are advancing through the Ardennes right into Bastogne, putting the men of our chosen division directly into the firing line.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Queen of MGM

Films: The Divorcee; A Free Soul
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I’m always a little nervous when I dip really far back into Oscar history. Silent dramas and early talkies are especially difficult; they tend to pile on the melodrama and present us with characters that couldn’t exist outside of a farce even in a serious drama. There are exceptions, movies that manage to avoid the feeling of actors on a stage playing to the back row. There are other issues as well. No matter what the film or the genre, there apparently has to be a love story wrapped up in the proceedings. There also seems to always need to be a comic character, as if the film wouldn’t be complete without someone playing the fool. With The Divorcee we get kind of a mixed bag on all of these fronts; the film is clearly a product of its time, but it transcends that at times as well.

The Divorcee is a surprise because despite being pretty straightforward in where it’s going and melodramatic in its set-up, it’s actually entertaining. A gang of the idle rich are gathered together and Jerry (Norma Shearer) and Ted (Chester Morris) are off canoodling. They come back to the group and announce their engagement. Everyone seems to be pleased except for Paul (Conrad Nagel), who has carried a torch for Jerry for years. Upset and drunk and the party over, Paul goes speeding away with a few passengers and rolls the car over on a winding road. Everyone is unscathed except for Dorothy (Helen Johnson), who is badly scarred. Jerry and Ted get married. Paul marries Dot out of feelings of responsibility.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Starstruck

Film: My Week with Marilyn
Format: Streaming video from Hoopla Digital on The Nook.

I can imagine that for Michelle Williams, stepping literally into the shoes of Marilyn Monroe was a daunting idea. Monroe still has an iconic cachet, the sort that is enjoyed by anyone who was that staggeringly famous and who died that tragically young. It’s the same worship afforded people like Jimi Hendrix and James Dean, but for Marilyn, it always seems like a much bigger stage, more like Elvis. Being Marilyn had to be a bit scary, especially as the title character of My Week with Marilyn. Maybe it was a little easier since, while the film is very much about her, it’s just as much about Colin Clark.

So who the hell is Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne)? Eventually, he was a director and writer, and My Week with Marilyn is based on his memoir of the creation of the film The Prince and the Showgirl. As the film starts, Colin has graduated from college and has decided to attempt a career in the movie business, much to the consternation of his family. He once met Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), so he shows up at Olivier’s studios and asks for a job. When one isn’t forthcoming, he waits until he is hired as a third assistant director, which is an uncredited position and little more than a not-even-glorified gofer.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Got the Death Row Blues

Film: Monster’s Ball
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

One of the truths of pursuing these Oscar lists is that I tend to watch a lot of dramas. If I’d been thinking when I started this, I’d have put special effects in as one of the categories of choice. At least then I’d get to watch some science fiction and action now and then. Instead, it’s a pretty steady diet of dramas, many of which are good but also lean toward the depressing. Monster’s Ball is one I’ve avoided until now because of that reason. There are a few others I haven’t gotten to specifically because I’m not always in the mood to watch something that makes me want to sit in a rainstorm until I die.

The high concept/elevator pitch for Monster’s Ball is that a man who works in the state penitentiary and assists in executions falls in love with the widow of one of the men he helps execute. Sounds fun, right? Oh, the reality of it has so much more misery and pain in it. Honestly, that as a plot should be enough, but we’ll get a couple more deaths along the way and we’ll be spending a good amount of the film wallowing in the misery of people who are the cinematic equivalent of red-headed stepchildren.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cherce

Film: Pat and Mike
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’m evidently on a short sports kick. Yesterday’s movie involved sports and so did today’s. It’s also a Tracy/Hepburn collaboration, and that bodes pretty well. Even better, Pat and Mike is said to be Katharine Hepburn’s favorite of her nine movies with Spencer Tracy. Pat and Mike is a light comedy with a few fun surprise appearances in minor roles. It’s the sort of movie to watch when you’re not in the mood to be challenged by anything, and that’s more or less the mood I was in this evening.

Pat Pemberton (Katharine Hepburn) works in physical education and is an accomplished athlete. In fact, she has only one significant problem: whenever she’s being observed by her fiancĂ© Collier Weld (William Ching, who looks sort of like a budget Peter Graves) she falls to pieces and can’t do anything right. We’re shown this in a golf match as the film opens. Pat loses a match embarrassingly to another woman who keeps up a constant litany of advice on how to play golf better. The match over and Pat at the end of her rope, she sees a set of golf balls teed up and drives them all perfectly down the fairway. A bartender at the country club notices and decides that Pat has some real talent and should play for an upcoming title. Pat quickly quits her job and decides to go for it.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Wrestle with this

Film: Foxcatcher
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

I find sport movies hit or miss. There was a time when I was into sports. I could talk football and basketball with a decent amount of knowledge and knew something about baseball, too. That time has passed and it’s no longer something that I give any time to on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. A film like Foxcatcher, then, needs to be interesting beyond the sport for me to care much about it. I’ve never had an interest in wrestling, either the showy, entertainment-based professional sort or the Olympic style. The only hope this film has is to be compelling beyond what happens on the mat.

I vaguely remember the news story when it happened. I don’t remember every part of it—it was one of those oddball tragedies that crop up now and again in the news. Terrible events happen all of the time, of course, but sometimes one aspect of the story is so strange that it becomes a thing for a couple of days, like the astronaut who attempted to kill the woman who was having an affair with the man with whom she had been having an affair. The female astronaut driving around in a space diaper was a brief media sensation and then something that disappeared. The events concerning the characters in Foxcatcher was like that. I remember something happening, but not the details.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Princes of Maine

Film: The Cider House Rules
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on the Nook.

I am still dealing with the loss of Chip Lary; I’m sure I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Every time I’ve posted something over the past few days, I’ve wondered what Chip would have to say about it. In the last week, no film has made me wonder this more than The Cider House Rules. The entire film takes place in Maine, after all. I can’t be sure, of course, but I imagine that Chip probably liked the film and that it taking place in Maine was just another reason for him to appreciate it.

I remember when the film was new, but didn’t hear much about it other than that people liked it and that it was controversial because it dealt at least in part with abortion. I went into it pretty cold, knowing only that Tobey Maguire and Michael Caine were in it. Finding that Charlize Theron, Paul Rudd, Delroy Lindo, J.K. Simmons, and Erykah Badu were in it as well was just a bonus.