Saturday, February 6, 2021

What I've Caught Up With, January 2021

It was a slim month in terms of catching up with movies on the big list (and it is a big list—still well over 1000 movies on it). I almost completed my rewatch of the whole James Bond filmography, though, getting through all four of the Pierce Brosnan Bonds and the first three of the Daniel Craigs (I’ve finished Spectre by now, just not in January). Naturally, that took up a lot of my movie watching time. Happy Death Day was on the unwatched list as well, but I did a full review of that one—it deserved it. I also finally watched the final movie on the latest 1001 Movies list. For movies that weren’t on the recommended list that I watched anyway, I heartily recommend Behind the Curve, especially if you are feeling good about humanity in general. This one will wake you up to the fact that we are a failed species.

What I’ve Caught Up With, January 2021:
Film: North Dallas Forty

I hadn’t seen this in probably 15 years, and it’s a worthy rewatch. Nick Nolte plays a battered professional football player in the era where the fame and glamour was there, but the money wasn’t. Nolte’s wide receiver Phillip Elliott drinks too much and takes too many drugs, and then takes more to keep playing. This is not a film about the rigors of football, though, at least once you get below the surface. It’s kind of a buddy film between Nolte and Mac Davis, who plays the team’s quarterback. But how good can buddies be when they are mercenaries? While a comedy in many ways, North Dallas Forty is pitch black in the lessons we take away from it. This is among Nolte’s best work on camera.

Film: Dolores Claiborne

Stephen King doesn’t always translate to film well, but sometimes, he really, really does. Dolores Claiborne is an interesting King story in the sense that there is no supernatural element here. No, the horrors are more prosaic, and because of that, a lot more real. Kathy Bates plays the titular role about as well as possible, and she is ably assisted by Jennifer Jason Leigh as her estranged substance abuse-riddled daughter. A good supporting cast helps here as well. The story is a good one, and the reveals are surprising and dark. It’s too long, though. Cut 20 minutes from this, and this is a much tighter and better movie.

Film: Batman: The Movie

When it’s done accidentally, camp can be a lot of fun. Most of the time, intentional camp feels forced and doesn’t work. Batman from 1966 is the exception that proves the rule. This is a completely ridiculous movie in almost every aspect, but it contains so much of what made the original television show fun. Seriously, Cesar Romero gave so little of a shit that he just put the Joker’s white greasepaint directly over his mustache. I’d have loved to have seen Eartha Kitt here instead of Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, but Frank Gorshin was absolutely the best of the Batman villains as The Riddler. This is dumb, but it’s the right kind of dumb. Shark repellent bat spray? Genius!

Film: Easter Parade

Like many a classic musical, Easter Parade is essentially plotless and in this case serves as a vehicle almost a dozen and a half songs from Irving Berlin. Oh, there’s a romance or three involved and some love triangles that all eventually get sorted out in the end, but we expect that going in. Easter Parade is an excuse to watch Fred Astaire dance and listen to Judy Garland sing, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more or less than that. And, honestly, it doesn’t really need to be anything more or less than that. Plot would just get in the way of Fred doing a tap routine with a drum kit. It’s nice when studios realized where their money came from and gave us films like this one in vivid color, too.


  1. Batman is silly yet fun as how can anyone not love Adam West? He's just a joy to watch. It's way better than the debacle that was.... ugh... Batman & Robin. I can forgive Joel Schumacher and the cast for that piece of shit. They at least owned up to how bad it is. Then there's the film's screenwriter Akiva Goldsman as he deserves a lot of the blame for the atrocious dialogue as I never thought he was a good writer and how he got an Oscar is baffling as he can't write for shit.

    1. Batman movies, thankfully, tend toward the good. Batman & Robin is a notable exception.

  2. You might not have been able to catch up with much but that’s an interesting assortment.

    I’m not much of a sports fan but oddly enough I usually like movies with sport themes, it’s the competition and underdog aspects that appeal. North Dallas Forty has some of the first but it is darker than most. There isn’t anyone much in the film whose side you really want to be on completely and the cynicism is thick, but it is compelling. I agree about it containing some of Nolte’s best work and unquestionably this is Mac Davis’s finest acting job. He was a good fit to start with but the director managed to get him to expose some of the treachery that lingered under that good ol’ boy persona.

    Kathy Bates and especially Judy Parfitt made Dolores Claiborne engrossing, Jennifer Jason Leigh not so much but I’ve never been a big fan. Other than the setting it isn’t your typical Stephen King story, but it shows that he can go outside his normal genre with some skill.

    Batman is pure silliness, but you know that going in. The supporting cast certainly throws themselves into the spirit of the film which makes it more fun. I’ve always liked Lee Meriwether but she’ll never be Catwoman to me…. that’s Julie Newmar! It’s the biggest miss of the film.

    Easter Parade seems so carefully put together and feels so right it’s surprising that none of the cast nor the director were the original choices when it was conceived. It was to be Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson and Red Skelton but after some shakeup it was set with Judy, Kelly, Peter Lawford and Cyd Charisse under Vincente Minnelli’s direction. But Cyd hurt her knee on another picture requiring the recast of Ann Miller (who is a lot of fun and her dancing exquisite). While that was happening Grayson started another film. Judy fresh from a stint in a sanatorium was assigned, but Minnelli and Judy were having major marriage problems so he was taken off and Charles Walters stepped in. Sinatra had a couple of pictures that tanked so he was eliminated. Then Gene Kelly broke his ankle playing football during a party and Astaire was coaxed out of retirement to take the part which led to a rethink of the dances but all to the good. Somehow Lawford managed to hang in there through all the tumult! It is a lovely film and Judy’s role gives her a chance to show off her comedy chops as well as her vulnerability and how skillful a dancer she could be.

    My birthday project is going well, so far no missed days!, with three films to recommend. That’s fairly good since I know based on last year there will be months were nothing is worth talking about.

    The first and the one I enjoyed the most is a fun heist flick-The Caper of the Golden Bulls with Stephen Boyd and Yvette Mimieux (she’s the reason I watched) set in Pamplona during the running of the bulls, which they manage to incorporate into the story. It’s lightweight but bright, breezy and nicely produced.

    Next is “Sandra” (‘Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa...’) which is lesser Visconti but still worth the time with good work by Claudia Cardinale and Jean Sorel. I watched for Michael Craig, who did the best he could with the lesser of the three lead roles.

    The last was “Ann” a one woman show (a filmed stage performance) about the outspoken Texas governor Ann Richards. It provided a real showcase for Holland Taylor (she’s certainly worthy of such a thing), who also wrote the piece. Aside from the draw of Holland Taylor it helped that I had only vague knowledge of who Ann Richards was. Turns out she was quite a firecracker.

    1. I'm honestly a little surprised that Easter Parade isn't ensconced in the 1001 Movies guide. It seems like a natural choice, even though it is essentially plotless. A lot of the songs are pretty great and it's hard to go wrong with Fred dancing and Judy singing. That Fred can sing a bit and Judy can dance a bit doesn't hurt. It's pretty indestructable as a film.