Monday, October 12, 2015

Can't Do My Homework

Finally got a break from work-work and did my homework. Although Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule has buried the quiz under two long Dressed to Kill posts, you can find it if you know where to look. And maybe it will cut down on the competition.

1 ) Favorite moment from a Coen Brothers movie
So many to choose from. To please the crowd, I'd say "There's a beverage here!" (note subtle self-plug). But I'd honestly have to say, "You know, for the kids!"

Ms. Spenser says least favorite is the puking scene in every one of their movies.

2) Scratching The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty and The Hudsucker Proxy from consideration, what would now rate as your least-favorite Coen Brothers movie?
Raising Arizona, because I haven't seen it yet. And it has Nic Cage in it.

3) Name the most underrated blockbuster of all time
 I really want to say Around the World in 80 Days, but its rating of "indigestible lump of spectacle" is pretty accurate. How about MASH? I'd say that really changed cinema comedy in fundamental way. But people now think of it more as a lead-up to the somewhat more conventional TV series.

4) Ida Lupino or Sylvia Sidney?
Ida Lupino for everything from They Drive by Night, to Jennifer, to Have Gun Will Travel. We especially liked the way she handled fights in that last.

5) Edwards Scissorhands—yes or no?
Never seen it, but Yes, I've heard it's great.

6) The movie you think most bastardizes, misinterprets or does a disservice to the history or historical event it tries to represent
I suppose it misses the point, but Knight's Tale. I get that they were trying get you to relate to the days of jousts, but I felt it was just wrong headed.

I'm not sure about Quest of the Delta Knights, either, but the fact that it was filmed at a Ren Faire to save money adds points for extra credit.

7) Favorite Aardman animation
The Wrong Trousers.

8) Second-favorite Olivier Assayas movie
I've only seen Irma Vep, and I loved it. Thought of it more of a Jean-Pierre Leaud movie, I guess because he was embodying the director.

9) Neville Brand or Mike Mazurki?
 Mazurki, for Moose Malloy and any number of flatfeet and palookas.

10) Name the movie you would cite to a nonbeliever as the best evidence toward convincing them of the potential greatness of a favorite genre
That's tough - Duck Soup for slapstick, Bringing Up Baby for screwball. But the people we're trying to convince would be like, "That's just silly" or "They talk so fast, it's making my head hurt" (these both really happened). So maybe you just can't convince people. They'll either come around or they won't.

11) Name any director and one aspect of his/her style or career, for good or bad, that sets her/him apart from any other director
Seijun Suzuki is the first that comes to mind - his deeply Japanese, utterly insane stories, full of stylized gestures and compositions may not be unique, but they sure stand out. Maybe you could compare him to Tim Burton, but more Japanese and with a lower budget (and an early career in gangster films).

12) Best car chase
Still Bullit.

13) Favorite moment directed by Robert Aldrich
 The opening of Kiss Me Deadly. No, wait, the end of KMD.

14) The last movie you saw in a theater? On home video?
 In the theater, nothing for years. At home, Witness for the Prosecution. Ms. Spenser hadn't seen it and I managed not to hint at the twist.
OK, I'll admit it, we watched Witness over two nights, with Age of Ultron between.

15) Jane Greer or Joan Bennett?
Jane Greer, mainly for The Big Steal. I think Joan Bennett never got serious until Dark Shadows.

16) Second-favorite Paul Verhoeven movie
 Starship Troopers, following Total Recall as number 1. Both did horrible damage to the original story, and in both (in all his movies?) he seems to make terrible artistic decisions and cover by calling it satire. So, I don't like his movies much, but I love Dick and Heinlein, and even if he mistreated them at least he got them onscreen.

17) Your nominee for best/most important political or social documentary you’ve seen
That's easy: Inconvenient Truth. It's pretty much the only one I've seen.

18) Favorite movie twins
Patty Duke doesn't count, right? Spock and Evil Spock? That's TV too. Let me ask Ms. Spenser. She says John and Boomer in Jackie Chan's Twin Dragons. Done!

19) Best movie or movie moment about or involving radio
I'm a big fan of "exposition radio", where the characters turn on the radio just in time to hear that the police are on the lookout for ... them! And of course Woody Allen wrote a whole movie around the days of radio.

But I'm going with the scene in Neighbors when the creepy music sets you up for a scare, until Belushi turns off the radio - diegetic sound jokes get me every time, and I think that was the first one I noticed.

20) Eugene Pallette or William Demarest?
I'm not playing if you are going to be mean.

21) Favorite moment directed by Ken Russell
For now, I'll have to say the Nuns and Nazis hallucination in Lair of the White Worm - only because I've seen it most recently.

22) All-time best movie cat
Rhubarb, for sentimental reasons. I saw Rhubarb when I was a child sick at home on the Million-Dollar Matinee. The actor, a marmalade tabby named Orangey, was also in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Comedy of Terrors, and played Minerva in Our Miss Brooks.

23) Your nominee for best movie about teaching and learning, followed by the worst
I saw Real Genius a while ago, and was surprised at how much I liked it. But even though it is a movie about college, did anyone learn anything? I mean, other than lessons about life? Sorry, I got nothing.

24) Name an actor/actress currently associated primarily with TV who you'd like to see on the big screen
Off the top of my head - Saul Rubinek. He has a way of turning up in shows we like (or being the best part of shows we don't). Also, he's a mensch. He's been in plenty of movies, but I associate him with TV.

25) Stanley Baker or David Farrar
Can't place either, but I see that David Farrar was Sexton Blake, so him.

26) Critic Manny Farber once said of Frank Capra that he was "blah-blah-blah"
What is the Capra movie that best proves or disproves Farber's assertion?
And who else in Hollywood history might just as easily fit his description?
Master of effects who can come off as contrived? I think that description fits almost everyone, except for the likes of Ed Wood and Coleman Francis, who are incompetent and contrived.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Reader who have been reading may have noticed that I haven't been updating as often as I should. I've been under deadline pressure, actually forced to work, and it is crushing my soul.

So, movie blogging to resume after we ship, maybe next week. But in the meantime, here is some homework:


Yes, it's time for another one of Dennis Cozzalio's fascinating film quizzes. I don't know when I'll get my answers in, but I promise not to read any of the answers until I do. Even though it means I can't visit The Mythical Monkey's page - he's already posted his answers!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Chav Who Loved Me

If you like the occasional over-the-top action film, and who doesn't?, may we present Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014).

This is the story of Taron Egerton, known as Eggsy, a London kid being raised by his widowed mother in a London housing estate. But his father died in the service of the Queen as a member of the mysterious secret agency, the Kingsman. Now that he's grown up, Colin Firth shows up to offer him training to become a member.

Kingsmen are generally upper-class James Bond type spies. Their headquarters are in a posh tailor shop, everyone dresses in bespoke suits with expensive accessories (some weaponized). But Eggsy doesn't fit in. He is a "chav".

If you are familiar with the term, I apologize. It is considered offensive, with justification. It's a term for a type of lower-class Londoner, based on the flashy fashions they like: designer knock-offs, hip-hop bling, big baseball caps, etc. Counterfeit Burberry plaid is a favorite, but Eggsy doesn't go in for that. Word is that Burberry paid to be kept out of the movie.

Now "chav" probably comes from a Romany word for "kid", so there's some racism in the term, but mostly it represents the classist snarling of the respectable about the lower class dressing above their station. So I'm kind of ashamed to use it; the movie never does. But come on - the kid is a chav.

The Kingsmen (not the Louie, Louie guys) are represented by Colin Firth in full-on Harry Palmer drag, and Michael Caine himself as the top man. The trainees are all disposable upperclass twits and one cute girl, Sophia Cookson. The whole muddle in the middle dealing with class issues and character are a bit of a struggle, but it gets better.

The big villain in the piece is Samuel Jackson, wearing an odd hip-hop nerd couture and speaking with a lisp. He's a computer genius who plans to use his huge fortune to cure global warming - by killing off most of humanity by driving them into a killing frenzy. A test drive in a church with Firth leads to one of the best, most gruesome and funniest action scenes ever, with everyone killing each other in long takes and in slow mo.

Now, if you love the idea of a church full of bigots and a lone spy driven into a killing frenzy is your idea of fun, this movie may be for you. If you don't like the idea, or if confused politics and message bug you, you might want to stay away. After all: a black entrepreneur who kills in name of global warming and a lower-class hero who wins when he accepts his inner snob - it's pretty messed up.

And I didn't even mention Sophia Boutelle, the evil Bond girl - she plays a double amputee who kills with her sharpened blade leg prostheses. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bucket of Paisley

Horror-comedy season continues with Bloody Mama/A Bucket of Blood (1959), although we only watched Bucket of Blood. After The Howling, we wanted to see the original Walter Paisley.

In this Corman cheapie, Dick Miller plays Walter Paisley, a dim-witted busboy in a beatnik coffeeshop. It starts with Julian Burton on stage reciting a beat poem about Art with a freeform sax accompaniment. Listening to the poem gives Walter the idea that no one matters except the artist, so he decides to become a sculptor. I don't think I'm giving away anything when I say that his first sculpture is a cat he accidentally kills, covered in clay.

Of course, "Dead Cat" becomes a hit among the habitues and patrons of the coffeeshop. Art collector Bruno VeSota is willing to pay big bucks for it, but what will he do for an encore? Something with a human subject, perhaps?

Although this is totally low-budget, it has a lot going for it. The beatnik demimonde seems very realistic - Julian Burton wrote his own poetry, and actually habitually wore sandals. There were poets, hangers-on, kibitzers, plain-jane groupies (and junkies), slumming straights, and narcs. The folksinger, who sang murder ballads while Walter displayed his grisly statues, was Alex Hassilev, soon to form the Limelighters.

The writing is nice as well, with Walter repeating lines of dialog from earlier in the movies, giving them a new spin. All better than it needed to be. Not good, of course - this is Corman we're talking about. But lots of fun.

According to IMDB, it is not true that Dick Miller's character is always named Walter Paisley in whatever movie he is in. He is in a lot of movies, and only a few times as WP. But this was the first and iconic appearance.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Drink that Got Away

I haven't been doing much cocktail blogging lately. I've been mostly just drinking margaritas - the craziest I get is to through in a slice of pineapple. Since the mint is finally coming in, I've had a few mojitos, but that's about it.

I had some egg whites left over, so I thought I'd make a White Lady, and maybe add some Maraschino to make a ... I don't know, Cherry Lady? As I was mixing, my stomache gave a lurch and I remembered a long ago episode from the dawn of my days as a mixologist. I had recently graduated from college and decided to invent the tequila-sake martini.

It was at a small party with college friends. They were mixing frozen watermelon margaritas. These were wholesome and delicious and I should have stuck to them. But I felt that I could replace the gin in a martini with tequila and the vermouth with sake. I tried several variations, for 1:6 dry to 1:1 equal, and even added a squeeze of honey to counteract the bitter note in the tequila. Needless to say, none were any good, although I drank them all.

The next day, we got up early, hit a diner for pancakes and went mountain climbing. I started out game, but the exertion started pushing the toxins out of my liver, and by the time we reached the hut at the ridge trail, I lay down on the ground. I heard that someone had been killed by lightning on that spot recently, and I noticed the sky getting overcast. Seeing a way out, I asked my friends to leave me there to the lightning, but to bury my boots so the wolves wouldn't eat them.

Well, we made it down without being killed by lightning or hangover, and had a big dinner in a  Chinese restaurant. But what a  cautionary lesson. Sometimes, I think I should leave bartending to the experts. I almost tossed out my Cherry Lady without tasting it.

But I didn't, and it was very nice - not quite perfect, though. Maybe needs some Creme de Violette, like an Aviation with an eggwhite fizz...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Das ist Alles

This Is the End (2013) was kind of what we expected it to me: a Seth Rogen comedy. It was a pretty good one. I don't think we like Seth Rogen comedies, though.

The conceit is pretty cute. Seth Rogen plays Seth Rogen. His friend Jay Baruchel is visiting Los Angeles and they plan to have fun hanging out, eating Carl's Jr., watching 3D video and getting high. But Seth Rogen wants them to go over to James Franco's house warming party and Jay thinks Franco and all his friends are dicks.

This is the first theme: Jay thinks all the famous people in this movie are jerks and they kind of are. Even Jonah Hill, who Jay hates the most, who is the sweetest, most friendly guy in the world to Jay, is a bit off-putting. But that Michael Cera, all coked up and slapping Rihanna's butt! We won't be sad to see him go.

Which is the second theme: the Apocalypse. All good people ascend to heaven in shafts of light and the earth opens up and flames shoot forth, yada yada. The kind of thing that always happens to LA - very Day of the Locust. Around here, the film goes from cameo-filled to small ensemble: Everybody else goes to Hell.

There's a lot of funny stuff here, and I'd estimate about 1/2 improvised. Lots of famous folk from the Rogen milieu poking fun at their selves. So I enjoyed it all. But, really, these guys (the only women are in brief cameos) are just not that likable. Rogen is not really bad, just kind of a doofus. You start out sympathetic to Jay's lack of love for Hollywood phonies, but he gets pretty tedious. And so on.

So, what can I say? A well-made, creative, funny movie that just wasn't to my taste. I'd just stop watching this crowd's movies. Well, maybe Paul...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

White Night

Once again, a podcast made me watch a movie. I had to watch Night Moves (1975) if I wanted to hear the Projection Booth episode. And it turned out that Ms. Spenser had watched it when it came out - and had hated it.

It stars Gene Hackman as an old-fashioned detective in new-fashioned LA. His wife, who works in a high-class interior design office or something, wants him to go to work for one of the big detective companies, but what does she know? She's the type who goes to the movies to see My Night at Maude's - with a man she isn't married to.

One of those big companies throws Hackman a job: A drunk and promiscuous ex-movie star wants someone to find her daughter, a 16-year-old who has been trying sleep with everyone her mother bedded. So Hackman starts working through a trail of men, mostly in the movie biz, starting with James Wood as a punk mechanic and working up from there. Hackman plays an ex-football player and can either rough a guy up or bond with him, man-to-man. For a while, I thought that everyone involved in the case was an old friend of his, but they actually just kind of took to him.

The trail leads to the ex-husband's retreat in the Florida Keys, and the tone changes. It's more laid back, more natural, maybe more real. For one thing, there's 16-year-old Melanie Griffith running around without a shirt on. I was going to say how brave that is, but maybe it's something more like innocence. Anyone can go naked at that age.

But there's another woman, only glimpsed at first through her long hair: Jennifer Warren. She's a little older, and a lot more mature. She's got a wry sense of humor (if doing Groucho voices counts as wry) and she's both upfront and mysterious. Kind of a hippie femme fatale. Griffith is too young to tempt Hackman, but Warren is different.

It goes without saying that Hackman is over his head. There's a lot in this movie, and I don't know if it's all cleared up by the end.

In conclusion, Ms. Spenser liked it a lot more this time.