Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Oh those censors

I'll post this link and text from the article without comment, other than to say I didn't see the movie in question (I don't think it's currently running at the local sixtyplex and don't know when/if it did):

Steven Spielberg's 'The Post' Gets Banned in Lebanon

Lebanon has banned Steven Spielberg's newspaper drama The Post just days before the film is set to premiere in Beirut.

A source involved with The Post's international rollout says the movie, which stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, was presented to the Lebanese censorship board, which nixed it, citing a "boycott Israel" list that includes Spielberg due to his Oscar-winning Holocaust film Schindler's List (the 1993 film shot some scenes in Jerusalem).

[...]

Italia Film was poised to release The Post in Lebanon on Jan. 18. A spokesperson for Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment says he cannot comment because the company has not been told officially by the Lebanese distributor that the pic will not be released there because of censorship.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Originality

I don't follow Broadway much, other than the fact that my DirecTV box gets the local broadcast channels out of New York City. On the regular TV antenna I get the channels out of Albany, so the only things I see are which shows are traveling and doing a performance in the area. Late last year there was a production of She Loves Me which apparently premiered in 1963, this even though it's a story that Hollywood had done multiple times (itself based on a play from 1937), first as The Shop Around the Corner and then as a musical In the Good Old Summertime.

Anyhow, last night there was a commercial for a traveling production of... The Bodyguard, the musical. OK, I know the original movie had Whitney Houston which gave her the chance to do her version of the Dolly Parton song. However, the commercial also included the lead singing "I Wanna Dance With Somebody", which is from five years before the movie, and isn't on the movie soundtrack. Apparently this musical is already five years old. Shows how much attention I pay.

Of course, it's not the first non-musical movie by a long shot to get a musical reworking on the stage. Applause was based on All About Eve, although apparently the movie was based on a short story. Sunset Boulevard the musical turns 25 this year, and I think that one was based on a story original to the movie. Ditto 42nd Street. As with a whole bunch of Hollywood stuff, there's been a large amount of borrowing back and forth. Hell, much of the early talking picture lineup was of stage plays, with actors from the plays brought out to Hollywood and becoming movie stars that way. As I've said before, Ricardo Cortez was the ultimate Sam Spade.

There are also the trends of reviving 1990s stuff, as well as the extended Broadway trend of taking some famous musical act and turning all of their stuff into a musical: the Four Seasons, Billy Joel, ABBA, Carole King, Whitney Houston, and probably others I'm missing.

Monday, January 15, 2018

It's Martin Luther King Day again

Ah, the annual day where we get a bunch of black-themed movies on TCM, with a lot of them being repeats because Hollywood just didn't make too many and anybody who wants to show old movies appropriate for the day would be picking from the same set.

I probably should have posted this last night since it would have been nice to make mention of the fact that the day kicks off at 6:00 AM with Hallelujah, something that I blogged about not for Martin Luther King Day, but in March six years ago. In that post I also linked to my post on Cabin in the Sky, which is also unsurprisingly on today's TCM schedule at 10:45 AM.

Immediately proceeding Cabin in the Sky, at 9:30 AM, is The Duke Is Tops. I've briefly mentioned this one twice; you can probably guess that once of them was in conjunction with Martin Luther King Day a couple of years ago. The other time was when Lena Horne, the female lead, died. This was at the very beginning of her career when she wasn't in Hollywood, but making a race movie. This one has a standard Hollywood plot with Horne playing a young singer discovered by the producer of a traveling revue with the two falling in love, only to be discovered in turn by a New York guy who could get her to perform in the big time of Harlem.

Finally, going back to the them of late last week of TCM getting more movies from Fox, I see that at midnight tonight there's what I think is the TCM premiere of Trouble Man. This one from the days of blaxploitation but not nearly as over the top as the ones with female leads, is pretty good although as with a lot of movies that have one good guy against a bunch of bad guys, the ending is a bit improbable.

Today's TCM schedule has all of the movies I've mentioned above listed as having links to buy them at the TCM Shop; I haven't checked to see if the links are accurate and not to things on backorder. One movie that doesn't have a link -- and to be honest I was surprised to see it not have a link -- is Sounder at 4:00 PM.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Lieutenant Wore Skirts

I saw that The Lieutenant Wore Skirts was on FXM Retro today, and it will be on again tomorrow morning at 7:40 AM. It'll be on again on Friday, as well as being available courtesy of Fox's MOD scheme.

Tom Ewell plays Air Force Maj. (Ret.) Gregory Whitcomb, who served with distinction in World War II and, having been retired from the service (OK, technically it wouldn't have been the Air Force in WWII but by Korea it would have been), is now working as a TV writer in Hollywood. He's married to Katy (Sheree North), who is a retired Air Force Lieutenant from having served in whatever female auxiliary force the Air Force had back in Korea. Or maybe by then women served in the regular forces; it doesn't much matter for the story. Anyhow, on the day of their third wedding anniversary, Gregory gets a letter calling him up to serve again in the reserves. What's poor Katy to do?

She thinks about going to live with him wherever he's called to serve, but eventually decides against that and comes up with a better idea: she's going to re-enlist! Now, with both of them back in the service, she's able to rent out the house as well. It solves a whole bunch of problems, as she prepares to do her two years of service in Hawaii.

Ah, but there's one thing Katy forgot to think of: the possibility that her husband might not pass his physical. After all, he's much older than her. Gregory now has a bad knee, which means that he can't serve, and he's got a wife in the Air Force whom he can't get out.

So Gregory does the next best thing, which is to move to Hawaii and live with his wife, doing his part as a military "wife" who does all the housework and all the things the women married to military guys do. Of course, all of this causes problems of its own, and the relationship between the Whitcombs starts to get tense. Ultimately, Gregory's agent Hank (Les Tremayne) comes up with the oh-so-brilliant idea of having Gregory try to get Katy declared mentally unfit (which of course she isn't) so she can be medically discharged. You'd think she'd be aghast at the idea, and of course she isn't told of it.

The Lieutenant Wore Skirts is one of those comedies that has a good idea, but goes off in a wrong direction somewhere. Gregory comes off as a jerk once he follows his wife to Hawaii, and the way he tries to drive her "insane" is not only unfunny, but something you'd think she could never forgive him for. And the resolution is abrupt and unlikely.

The Lieutenant Wore Skirts isn't something I'd stop to watch again, but I'm sure there are other people who will find it interesting.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mean Streets

I should probably have taken part in the "Blind Spot" movie series that one of the other bloggers out there runs, in which people are asked to list a bunch of classic movies they haven't seen before, and then review them over the course of a year. For me, one of those movies I hadn't seen before is Martin Scorsese's early Mean Streets.

Harvey Keitel plays Charlie, a small-time mobster low on the Mafia pole working for his uncle Giovanni (Cesare Danova). Charlie is actually a relatively devout Catholic when you wonder who Christian a lot of things the Mafia does are. At the local bar where he spends a fair amount of time, he runs into Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), an utter jerk who spends his time running up debts and steadfastly refusing to pay them off. One of the people he's in debt to is Charlie's friend Michael (Richard Romanus), and Charlie winds up feeling part of his Christian burden is to try to protect Johnny Boy as best he can. Well, this and the fact that he's in a relationship with Johnny's cousin Teresa (Amy Robinson) that Johnny would be pissed to find out just how far it's gone.

Much of the movie is focused on the continuing adventures of Charlie and Johnny as they try to scrounge money, Johnny so he can spend it, and Charlie so he can get the money to Michael to help Johnny pay off his debts. A subplot involves a restaurateur who is deeply in debt to uncle Giovanni, to the point that the guy is going to have to give up the restaurant to pay the debt. Charlie has a vague dream of owning the place himself, but what would he really know about running a restaurant?

However, Mean Streets is a movie without a fully-fleshed plot, preferring instead to be something that looks at a certain place and time, that being New York's Little Italy in the early 1970s. In that regard, I have a feeling Scorsese really succeeds. I know next to nothing about what Little Italy in particular was like back then, but as I watched the movie I couldn't help think about some of the other movies that were set in New York around the same time: The French Connection and Panic in Needle Park would both come to mind. Both of those excellently capture the seedier, lower-class side of the city, and I found that Mean Streets captured much the same atmosphere.

That's the good. Where the movie falls flat for me, however, is with the Johnny Boy character. He's a jerk. A complete, unmitigated asshole. He's somebody I found thoroughly unlikeable, and not in the sense of, say, Albert Finney's alcoholic in Under the Volcano. Instead, he's more like Julie Harris' character in Member of the Wedding in that I wanted Charlie to drop Johnny like a hot rock and just let Michael do whatever he wanted. There's one scene in which Johnny is on a rooftop firing off a gun; I would have been OK with Charlie pushing him off that roof. Of course, that would have gone against the whole Christian duty and actual penance above and beyond a few Hail Marys thing that Charlie opens up the movie talking about.

So, while I had some serious problems with Mean Streets (not with the violence, which causes other people problems), I can easily see why other people would give this movie much higher marks. It's something that people should definitely watch for themselves and draw their own opinions about.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The TCM schedule for January 12-13, 2018

TCM had a short on the schedule earlier this afternoon called Dancing on the Ceiling that I had never heard of before, and the TCM schedule had no synopsis for it. It turns out it's a one-reel MGM musical set in a... musical dentist office. How one dentist could afford such a staff is beyond me, and I could only imagine the prices. It's currently >available on Youtube. Theoretically it could get taken down for copyright violations, but it's been up for eight years with a minimal number of views. Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding is better, and even the Lionel Richie version is better.

TCM seems to be having even more success in getting movies from Fox. Somebody over on the TCM boards looked at the 31 Days of Oscarschedule and commented that the number of Fox movies has gone up quite a bit over the schedules from the beginning of the decade. I also notice a couple of Fox premieres on TCM. (At least, I think they're premieres; a lot of the premieres tend to be listed with "TCM Presents" for the genre and don't have a synopsis.) Tonight's lineup of survival movies includes Inferno at 10:00 PM, which you can now get on DVD as part of the Fox MOD scheme. I've blogged about this one before, and it's excellent if you haven't seen it.

Tomorrow night (if you're in a more westerly time zone) as part of the lineup of witness protection movies, there's Murder, Inc., which will be just after the midnight between Saturday and Sunday for those of us in the Eastern Time Zone.

And going back to the survival movies, there's also the TCM premiere of Into the Wild overnight tonight at 1:30 AM, which I suppose is an interesting selection since in the book the main character dies. Frankly I didn't care for the book. (This one isn't a Fox premiere, however; it was made at Paramount.)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks #183: Once Was Enough -- Movies I have no desire to see a second time



This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is "Once Was Enough", meaning movies that we saw once and don't really want to see a second time due to the difficult nature of them. It's too bad I used Under the Volcano six months ago, because that's one I'd love to use in this challenge. But it turns out I was able to come up with three movies from the 1970s to use in this challenge:

Cries and Whispers (1973). Harriet Andersson plays a woman dying of cancer in Sweden around 1900, and looking after her now that her final days are here are her two sisters (Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullmann). The family dynamic is screwed up, and all three sisters have flashbacks as to why that might be. One of the sisters cuts her vagina with a piece of glass. Seriously. It goes on like this. Ingmar Bergman directed with an extremely red palette.

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972). Paul Newman plays the famous hanging judge who was the "only law west of the Pecos" as a complete jerk who makes the TV judges of today look like nice people. It doesn't help that John Huston got self-indulgent later in his career, and this is one of the more self-indulgent of Huston's movies that I've seen.

An Unmarried Woman (1978). Jill Clayburgh plays a modern urban woman who one day is divorced by her husband (Michael Murphy) because he's having a mid-life crisis and wants another woman. She tries to put her life back together, seeing a shrink and meeting another man (Alan Bates). I was about six when this came out and remember thinking back then that it sounded like such a sophisticated movie. Then I grew up and watched it and found out I was most definitely not in the target demographic. I had no desire to hear Clayburgh's character talk about getting her first period.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Willard

A couple of months back TCM ran Willard and Ben as part of TCM Underground. I finally got around to watching Willard (I haven't watched Ben yet), and since both are available Blu-ray, I'm more than comfortable doing a post on Willard.

Bruce Davison plays Willard, a young man who works in the accounts department at a factory and who is a bit of a loner. It's easy to see why he's become a loner. His boss Martin (Ernest Borgnine) treats him like dirt for even the smallest mistakes, and his home life isn't the greatest either, what with his having to live with his mother Henrietta (Elsa Lanchester) in the old family house that's too big for the two of them, but which she's not about to give up. Mom henpecks her son, which he resents no end. Furthermore, she thinks he should have an executive position in the business, considering that her husband helped found it and she believes Martin cheated him out of it.

The closest Willard comes to caring about anybody are the rats who live in the basement and the backyard that's getting overgrown. Indeed, he's beginning to think about training them to respond to simple cues. But that training goes father than Willard can imagine. He names two of the smartest rats Ben and Socrates, and then sics all of the rats on one of Martin's swanky parties. He also starts taking Ben and Willard into work.

Be careful when you train animals that haven't been domesticated. Siegfried and Roy could tell you about that, although they were dealing with animals that are dangerous because of their size. In Willard's case, the problem is with the sheer number of rats. One rat might not be a problem, but of course once you get a male rat and a female rat, they're going to multiply beyond anything one person can control.

Willard is never going to make anybody's ten best list, but boy is it a lot of fun. It's easy to empathize with Willard and see why he would take solace in those poor rats, and then with his plight when events spiral out of control. I can also only imagine how difficult it was for the rat handlers working on the movie; this after all was the days before CGI could produce more rats than you can shake a stick at. It's also not particularly scary; I found it more of a drama than a horror movie.

If you ever want a good popcorn movie to watch with friends, you could do far worse than to watch Willard.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Briefs for January 9-10, 2018

So I was looking at the online TCM schedule this morning to see if there was anything interesting worth blogging about. What I noticed first was the popover in the bottom right corner, with a picture of Ben Mankiewicz and an ad for the TCM Backlot. I don't know how long it's been there, but I don't think it can have been too long. The one thing that's not completely obnoxious about it is that with my browser, there's enough blank space on the side of the schedule that the ad doesn't cover up the schedule, the way pop-out things do on other sites. That and it's there right away; some sites have things that only show up after you scroll down the page and then you have to get rid of them.

As for tonight's schedule, it's a night of June Havoc movies. The night starts off at 8:00 PM with the 1945 version of Brewster's Millions, which I last mentioned back in 2013. I don't know if they'll ever run the Richard Pryor version, but I might be interested in seeing some of the other versions that were made. I don't know how many of them are easily available for TCM to get. As for the other movies, there are a couple of musicals with titles that look familiar, while there are a couple of other movies (Once a Thief at 9:30 PM and Powder Town at 2:15 AM) that I think are new to me.

Tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM is Triple Cross, one of those movies that I can't remember the last time I watched, otherwise I would have thought about doing a full-length post on it. It's based on a true story. Christopher Plummer plays Eddie Chapman, a British criminal who wound up in prison in Jersey in the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands were the only British territory invaded by the Nazis, and Chapman took the opportunity to make nice with the Germans when they invaded. Well, only nice enough to become an agent for them; when he was sent to England he decided to become a double agent.

Monday, January 8, 2018

These Amazing Shadows

Last month, Ben Mankiewicz sat down with the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on the day that the new entries to the National Film Registry were announced. Together they presented a night of movies that were among the 2017 honorees, but started off with a documentary about the National Film Registry, These Amazing Shadows. It's available on DVD and for those who do the streaming thing, Amazon streaming.

Apparently, we have Ted Turner to thank for the National Film Registry. Not, however, for the same reason we can thank him for TCM. Our story begins in the mid-1980s when Turner amassed the back library of movies that would become the "Turner library" and formed the backbone of the TCM schedule, even more so in the early years than now. To try to monetize that library meant not a cable channel yet, since cable space was still at a premium. Instead, he tried to colorize the movies, which pissed off a lot of old-time Hollywood people, who testified before Congress. (Since Ted Turner was now the copyright holder on these movies, he was probably legally in the clear to colorize them if he wanted, but the early colorization looked terrible.) The stars' pleas for film preservation in the original state ultimately led to the creation of the Registry, which has as its task the annual selection of 25 movies that are aesthetically, culturally, and historically important.

This means that it's not just going to be the Hollywood classics that are selected. Obviously, a lot of those classes are culturally important, and tentpole titles like Citizen Kane or Casablanca were among the selections in the first year (1989). But it's not just going through all the big classics that would lead to selecting independent films or even stuff that is basically home movies. There's a reason the Zapruder film is on the registry, or the "let's all go to the lobby" jingle.

Part of the job of the registry is to preserve the movies, so the documentary goes into a bit of discussion on preservation, telling us about the horrors of nitrate degradation and how nitrate was used up until the early 1950s as film stock before we got safety film that was just as good. There's also a look at the film vaults and the job that the preservationists actually do.

Overall, These Amazing Shadows is a good primer for somebody who knows next to nothing about the registry or the topic of film preservation. For the sort of people who watch too much TCM, however, it's probably too cursory. The part about how the committee actually makes its selections is probably the most interesting, but the film has too much in the way of clips of the classics. It would have been interesting to see more from the home movie-type stuff. I think all that got mentioned was the footage from the Topaz internment camp for Japanese Americans, and a few brief clips of a movie about the town of Cologne, MN.

These Amazing Shadows is something I'd certainly recommend if it shows up on TV again, but not particularly anything I'm looking to add to my DVD collection.