Saturday, May 7, 2022

What I've Caught Up With, April 2022

While there are only five movies listed below, I watched a bunch from last year that I put up as full reviews. These include Mass, The Last Duel, and Halloween Kills. So, that’s a total of eight removed from that giant list that, the more I look at, appears will never go away. I’m always hopeful I’ll get more done, but life intervenes sometimes. A new work project and an intensification of something in my private life (nothing bad, just time consuming) has left me less time for movies, though, so that seems less likely. O, fortuna!

What I’ve Caught Up With, April 2022:
Film: Empire of the Sun (1987)

One of my favorite authors is J.G. Ballard. Empire of the Sun is based on his semi-autobiographical book of the same name. This is a film about the loss of innocence, one of Spielberg’s favorite topics, personified in the character of Jim, played by a young Christian Bale. Jim is a child of enormous privilege living in mainland China in the years before World War II. He is separated from his parents when Japan invades and he spends the rest of the war in an internment camp, where survival often comes at a terrible price. It’s a damn fine film, and a good reminder that no one really wins in war—one side just loses less.

Film: Cruising (1980)

Cruising is, on the one hand, a very good and intense crime thriller about someone stalking gay men in New York City just before the beginning of the AIDS crisis. On the other hand, it’s a film that would be wildly entertaining to watch with a homophobe because there is a lot of male nudity, male-on-male sex and simulated sex, and a whole herd of cows' worth of leather. Al Pacino plays the young cop going undercover in the gay S&M scene. It’s evidently a film he didn’t like to talk about, and its filming caused a lot of protests. Is it homophobic? It might be, but it’s also a film that is worth seeing. Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, James Remar, and Ed O’Neill’s screen debut round out a solid cast.

Film: Deception (1946)

I’ve never been shy about saying that Now, Voyager is my favorite performance in the long and storied career of Bette Davis. Deception reunites Davis with Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and director Irving Rapper. This is mostly noteworthy for having the gayest-ever performance from Claude Rains. Christine (Davis) is a pianist who has been separated from the love of her life (thanks to WWII), renowned cellist Karel Novak (Henreid). They reunite and are immediately married, which throws a wrench into the life of composer Alexander Hollenius (Rains). It’s clear that despite Hollenius being flamingly gay, he’s also had an affair with Christine, and will use what influence he can muster to destroy Karel’s career and her life. It’s solid, but mid-tier, especially with this cast.

Film: Porky’s (1981)

I remember Porky’s from when I was much younger for a couple of reasons. For my generation, this was a formative teen sex comedy. It has not aged well. Given the topic and the fact that it’s 40 years old, this isn’t too surprising, but there’s a lot here that comes across as abusive, shaming, and inappropriate. Any fond memories I might have had of it haven’t made it through this viewing. The other reason this is memorable for me in particular is that there is a character in the film who becomes particularly aroused in a specific situation. Since everyone in this film is named suggestively, this character (played by a young Kim Cattrall) is naturally named Miss Honeywell. Dammit.

Film: New Jack City (1991)

The ’90s were a time of Hollywood rediscovering the idea of Blaxploitation films, morphed into something more urban and hip-hop, but firmly in the vein of older films like Super Fly. New Jack City was one of the first of these films looking at the coming storm of crack, gang warfare, and drive-bys. It doesn’t rise to the level of Boyz N the Hood, but it’s better than its reputation. Good cast—Wesley Snipes as our main drug dealer, Bill Nunn as his stuttering bodyguard, and Ice T as an undercover cop. Also features Chris Rock as an ex-junkie. Judd Nelson doesn’t really fit; it’s still too soon after The Breakfast Club to take him seriously in this. New Jack is mostly memorable for a couple of truly epic quotable lines.


  1. The thing that sticks out to me the most about Porkys is just how much every single character laughs in that movie. It's such a weird thing to zone in on but if you took a shot every time someone laughed, you'd die.

    I need to see Empire of the Sun. I've always been curious about baby Bale in action.

    1. I never really noticed the laughing, but I think you're probably right about that.

      Empire of the Sun is good--a surprising cast. Great roles for John Malkovich and Joe Pantoliano, and Bale is really good. I don't know why it's not better known.

  2. Empire of the Sun I often feel gets more underrated when it comes to Spielberg as it's a film that grew on me and Christian Bale was incredible. Who knew this kid would become one of the best actors ever?

    Crusing was pretty good though I think it's kind of minor film by William Friedkin. New Jack City is a film that I love. It's one of those films I know by quote. "This isn't business bitch! This is personal!!!! I wanna shoot you so bad, my dick's hard". I like Judd Nelson in the film as I really dug his role.

    Porky's... silly as fuck but I love it. It's one of those films that is so brainless that you could care less about the plot. Seeing a young Kim Cattrall bottom-less... mmm...

    I'm glad she didn't do that fucking revival for Sex & the City. I read about that show and... no wonder she turned it down. She's got 'tegrity. I respect that. Plus, Samantha was always my favorite character.

    1. My favorite New Jack City quote is, "Sit your five dollar ass down before I make change."

      I really wanted Porky's to hold up better than it did.

  3. I put off watching Empire of the Sun for years because it looked stodgy. I was wrong about that. Once I got caught up in the story the film moved along very well, although it was overlong.

    Years ago when I saw it I thought Porky's was crap, I'm sure time hasn't improved it!

    New Jack City is still on my too see list. I'll get to it eventually but it never seemed like an essential.

    Bette Davis didn't think much of Deception either outside of Claude Rains' performance, she discovered she was pregnant during the filming and referred to it as Conception ever after. I don't think its horrible but agree that with the people involved it should have been better. Bette looks great in it and Claude is having a Jim Dandy time chewing the scenery and stealing the picture but Henreid's character is such an insufferably priggish ass I was at a loss why she was willing to go to such lengths to hold on to him!

    1. I agree Empire of the Sun is longer than it needs to be, but it is genuinely well made. I give it some leeway also because I am a fan of Ballard.

      New Jack City is good, but it doesn't rank in the pantheon of the subgenre. It's no Boyz N the Hood, for instance, but it definitely has its moments.

      Claude Rains is absolutely the best part of Deception.