This time on 10 for 10...it's old things...things from my childhood or older.
1. The Maltese Falcon (TCN) - 1941, d. John Huston
2. Spartacus (most of it, anyway...grr PVR/TCM) - 1960, d. Stanley Kubrik
3. Ladyhawke (Rip) - 1985, d. Richard Donner
4. Atlantis: The Lost Continent (TCM) - 1961, d. George Pal
5. House (TCM) - 1977, d. Nobuhiko Obayashi
6. Panic in Year Zero (TCM) - 1962, d. Ray Milland
7. The Ice Pirates (TCM) - 1984, d. Stewart Raffill
8. Grey Gardens (TCM) - 1976, d. Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer
9. Romancing the Stone (netflix) - 1984, d. Robert Zemeckis
10. Breaking Away (netflix) - 1979, d. Peter Yates
Okay, back... yeah, Dashiell Hammett adapted, that great scene with Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre...man, Lorre was just so great in everything, wasn't he. Such a unique presence. Man, still not remembering the particulars.
What may make The Maltese Falcon so great is it's forgettableness. I remember being fully engrossed in the film while also not recalling a single thing about it even though I'd seen it a few times before. So what could be better than a fully engrossing noir that is just as engaging the fourth time you watch it as the first, just as surprising?
Really, I'm just filling white space here. I have nothing to say about this of value. Moving on.
Oh, Spartacus. Epic Spartacus.
You know, I bought a rather pricey Stanley Kubrick blu-ray collection a few years back (it was on a cheap one-day sale from Amazon) and it didn't include Spartacus. Now of the films in that collection, I'd only seen maybe 2/3rds, so there's still some fresh watching (as well as some intense re-watching) to do, but the one film I wanted to see most of Kubrick's was Spartacus. I wound up PVR-ing it off Turner Classic Movies, the channel that keeps on giving, and waited for the right time to set aside two and a half hours to watch it.
That Kubrick fellow sure knows how to make a film don't he? There's such a masterful lens happening in every one of Kubrick's films, such precise shots, such immaculate execution. Everything has its right place. It's like staging action figures for a photo shoot, each detail pristine, only these action figures move, and emote like mad.
I didn't realize there was such depth to the Spartacus story, how tied to civil rights and religious persecution it was. For some reason I was just thinking "gladiator epic", like Ben Hur or Gladiator, but no, it's just an epic in the truest sense, the kind of bloated 1960s film that requires patience, attention, and an intermission for sustenance and relieving one's self. It's a long-ass film is what I mean.
It's at once engaging and tedious, really taking its time to sit in its scenery and establish its setting. It draws an audience in, and is perfect for the theatres where people go to escape, and be held captive by an experience. It's a shame then that its score is so damn overbearing. It's amazing how a control-freak director like Kubrick could allow a soundtrack to so dominate the aural atmosphere. It's a great, difficult film, but the score at times makes it unpleasant to watch.
My viewing of the film was cut short by a mis-classification of run-time by TCM, so the PVR cut it off after the 150 minute mark and there was still 1/2 hour to go. Without a copy in my Kubrick set, I'll just have to wait until TCM runs it again to catch the finale.
|This poster is somehow both iconic|
and really, really awful
I have a distinct memory of going to a birthday party around age 8 or so and part of that party was sitting down and watching Ladyhawke. I also distinctly remember getting very bored, very quickly and going into another room and playing with the birthday boy's G.I. Joe figures while they watched the movie. Even at 8, I found fantasy direly boring. I was a Star Wars and superheroes kid.
About two years ago the wife and I got talking about childhood movies and this came up as one that she'd like to see again. Having had the aforementioned distinct memory, I thought maybe I would find a used DVD copy somewhere for 5 buck or less and we could watch it. Well, dammit if Ladyhawke isn't one of the hardest-to-find movies on DVD...not just used, but new too. So, long story short, we got a downloaded copy from a friend (see what happens when you don't make your catalog available Movie Studios?) and, well, thank god I didn't pay for this.
I'm not sure who thought this soundtrack was a good idea, but this sub-par Jethro Tull synth bullshit kills the film, to the point that I can't see it for what it is other than a janky fantasy movie with an atrociously unlistenable score (seriously, it's worse than Spartacus' times infinity. Just listen to this and tell me you want to have anything to do with the movie that accompanies it...
Man, what to say about this pile of utter mediocrity. Atlantis: The Lost Continent was made in the early '60's but has that 1950's flavour all over it. It's old fashioned and goofy, with an utterly simplistic take on romance that is so persistently laughable. These kinds of lower-tier genre movies from that era were all about funky sets, big ideas and special effects (no matter how bad). Most wind up being just as bad as this one.
A fisherman finds a woman washed up on shore. Turns out she's the princess of Atlantis. The fisherman returns her home, only to be enslaved. He then leads the slave rebellion. Atlantis is destroyed, and he returns home with the princess. I mean, stuff sort of happens in between but that's about the gist of it. It's as uncomplicated as that.
The film starts with a narration which establishes a grand scope for this film that it doesn't even try to live up to:
It's a series of mysteries about how disparate populations across the glob have such weird similarities, intoning that Atlantis is the missing link between these...and yet this concept is never approached again. Oy.
The sets and minatures are the money shots for films such as these, but they're unimpressive. George Pal has a history as an effects wizard, but in the director's chair, this is a much lazier affair.
Oh my god, House. What the hell do I say about House.
As unintelligible as movies get, House is.
It's effectively a live-action anime, but done with all the craft low-budget 1970's Japanese Cinema could provide.
Somehow House has taken on cult status. I get most cult films, generally like most of them too, but sometimes they're just too outre for me. Like this one. After about 40 minutes I couldn't take it anymore and watched the rest of it in fast forward. I mean yeah, it's bizarre AF, but it's also nonsensical AF. I think if I watched Anime, like, at all, it might have been more entertaining as I think House is both an homage and a lampoon of the cliches of 70's Japanese cartoons.
So much soft-focus melodrama and flashbacks and melodramatic flashbacks, horror that's not really horrific so much as it's just weird and goofy (utterly laughable at times) with a soundtrack that is part Looney Toons, part novelty album. The girls all have odd names (Gorgeous, Prof, Melody, Kung-Fu etc) but they don't seem like nicknames, such an anime trope.
There's nothing scary or horrifying about this movie, except the amount of time you'll lose watching it. Good lord, man, why. Why does this exist? This is a film that is a test of patience (says the guy who could sit through 18 hours of Twin Peaks: The Return] and offers very little in reward.
Panic in the Year Zero (which totally seems like something different if you write it as Picnic in the Year Zero as I keep doing for some reason) finds a family heading out of Los Angeles with a trailer in tow on vacation only to have some strange events occur around them. Soon they catch wind of the fact that LA has been nuked, and the family desperately tries to find solace and sanctuary in the midst of the chaos. They find themselves in desperate scenarios, doing things they can't believe they're doing (mostly it's just writer-director Ray Milland in the lead role doing these things, but compared to the young punks, he's still acting saintly.
As far as end-times movies go, this one is rather light on the grim realities of societal collapse, because it was the 1960's and the true horrors of human nature were best suggested then, not visually realized so literally on screen, like they are today for all the dum dums who wouldn't get it otherwise. Enough happens that it's like a lite version of, well, every one of these types of movies since, from Night of the Living Dead through to It Comes At Night. Panic is actually quite watchable, if thin, and of course, too patly resolved as was expected at the time.
There are some gems in 1980s sci-fi that never hit it big, but have their own distinct flavour and style that makes them more and more intriguing as they age. Films like Lifeforce or 2010 or Dune are well-executed effects extravaganzas that have failings elsewhere but are still wonders to behold. Ice Pirates so wanted to be that, but man, is it awful.
Water is scarce and tightly controlled so our heroes shanghai and rob transports, stealing their ice, when on one mission they manage to kidnap a princess. From our first look of the utterly horrendous models of the poorly designed, poorly constructed, poorly shot spaceships to the hinky special effects, to the absolutely atrocious costume design, it's mere minutes before one realizes how stupendously crappy this movie in (let's not forget seeing an alien on the toilet...never forget).
The film tries for high-spirited pirate adventure attitude, but never commits fully to the premise. All the actors are game in their roles. Bob Urich, Mary Crosby, Angelical Huston, Ron Perlman, and Michael Roberts all try to sell the hell out of this just atrocious, poorly visualized, shoddily constructed movie. I have to give it to the film though that it does come up with a pretty spectacular (at least conceptually) final battle sequence where everyone's life accelerates at an astonishing rate (not just aging, but moving through moments in their life) as they fight for whatever it is they're fighting for. It's a fun sequence, though still utterly campy and badly done.
There's a good movie here somewhere...concepts are sound, but man this is not the way to do it. If there were a big budget modern remake, it's very possible a good space-comedy-pirate-adventure movie could come of it.
I've heard of this movie a number of times, quite often referenced in comedy as a "Grey Gardens" situation. This is a documentary film about two relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, a mother-daughter duo who Edie and Edith, who live together in utter squalor in an otherwise highbrow Long Island estate, dubbed Grey Gardens.
Modern television has covered troubled personalities like these ad nauseum. Turn on any episode of Hoarders, and you will see Edith Bouvier Beale. Only Hoarders and its kin tend to exploit the lower class in their exposition of mental health disorders, while Grey Gardens is a look at the troubled upper class (not that Edie and Edith are upper class any longer).
It's a captivating film, piecing together the status of Edie and Edith's relationship. Who is dependent on whom? At first it looks like Edie was dragged down into Edith's squalor, but it quickly comes around that that they're both enabling each other in their dire situation. Edie is constantly talking about her former suitor, all the boys who asked her to marry them, all the men who her mother scared off. Edie still has a sense of glamour about her, having been a part of the upper crust, but it's trashbag glamour now, as she tries to conceal all that she dislikes about herself, and deflects any of her known issues on her mother.
Edith, meanwhile, revels in the past, of her life as a singer, and is constantly singing in the 1920's-style warble that is like knives in the ears but was popular at the time. Edie often joins her, when she's not telling her to shut up. They live in one room of the manor, cooking on a hot plate, eating out of cans. Cats are everywhere, having the run of the house which is one sneeze away from being condemned.
As I said, fascinating. But as much as this film could have been exploitative, one becomes very concerned about this duo, and Grey Gardens and the Edies history is extensively documented online.
Oh my god, I watched another Robert Zemeckis film. I had sworn off of his movies after...what was it called? What Lies Beneath perhaps? I dunno. There's not another director whose films grate on me so cloyingly and consistently. I just can't with him, I just can't.
But then there's Back to the Future. That's a (mostly) great trilogy. It has its problems, and its Zemeckis-isms, but it's (mostly) great. Same with Romancing The Stone. It's such a Spielberg-lite film, and yet how can you not just get behind Kathleen Turner's romance novelist-turned-action hero Joan Wilder? I mean she writes novels about women who long for a roguishly handsome, dashingly complex man-of-action to rescue them from their boredome (or whatever perilous situation she devises) but even after meeting Michael Douglas' Jack Coulton (fitting the rogue bill to a tee) as she tries to navigate the Columbian jungle in order to pay her kidnapped sister's ransom, she's the one who leads, fights, and figures out the solution to her problems. Jack's more support than savior.
It's unexpected, such women's liberation even from a film in the 1980's. Today there's still a need for heroic female leads, but certainly far more movies with tough heroic women come out these days than ever before. But its refreshing to look back and see from time to time a Ripley or Joan Wilder, a woman doing it for themself.
Man doing these 10 for 10 things are a slog. I'm exhausted, and so unenthusiastic about Breaking Away, a perfectly decent and enjoyable coming-of-age film, that I kind of just want to leave it at that.
This is a film about a kid obsessed with Euorpean bicycle racing, and about his friends, and his family in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana. It's a well-stocked cast, with young Dennis Quaid, young Daniel Stern, young Jackie Earle Haley, and Paul Dooley as the dad, all working to deliver a very fine light drama about growing up in a town where the educated class and the working class are often in conflict.
There's not a tremendous amount of serious drama, and the comedy is sparse, but it all works together for a gentler teen movie than your Fast Times or Dazed and Confused or Superbad. It's kind of a template for the John Hughes era of teenager movies in many ways, though less quotable for sure, but essential viewing for fans of this genre. For a film from the late 70's though, it holds up tremendously well. The themes of belonging and worrying about the future are kind of timeless.
The big bicycle race that the film leads up to is a hot mess, though, logically and practically.