[Don’t know about you, but I can’t watch weekly TV anymore—I don’t like having to be on someone else’s schedule; I do that enough at work, y’know? Besides, I prefer to take it all in at once, treating a show’s season like a mini-series or novel— which isn’t too difficult since The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy are shows with a definite story arc (they’re essentially mini-series), and while it’s a more “traditional” show, and doesn’t stray too far from the sitcom rule that each episode must be a self-contained unit, Parks & Recreation does build on progression—the slate is not wiped clean every week.]
So for October, it was Thirty-three movies (if you allow the counting of a whole season of a TV show as one movie—and you better!)—the same number of years in age Our Lord was when nailed to the cross….
Not too many Halloween-centric flicks, I’m afraid to admit… But the numbers admit that I could partake in one of those 31 Days of Shocktober blogathons if I wanted to (next year. Maybe). (On the other hand, what do I care? Who do I have to prove my horror movie bona-fides to? I guess I just want to belong, to hang out with all the cool kids….)
It’s an Odd group of films for October, I must say—no real patterns of themes that jump out—except maybe stuff the NYPL’s finally gotten around to shipping to me; or “desk-clearing” the uber-volume of boots passed on to me by good buddies from the gray market. Otherwise, just a typically cinephiliacal month…
What We Watch in October When We Watch Movies in October:
Parks & Recreation: Season Three (2011; 16 episodes)
The Walking Dead: Season One (2010; 6 episodes)
Sons of Anarchy: Season Three (2010; 13 episodes)
Super Troopers (2001) Funny, funny movie that’s often all over the place—but the pre-credits sequence (“Littering, and… Littering, and… Littering, and… Littering, and…”) could be a perfect short film on its own, and Brian Cox as the befuddled, angry but basically sweet commander is a joy. My only gripe? They never used the Abba song on the soundtrack!
Jack, the Giant Killer (1962) I like this more than the flick it rips off, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad—Jack is faster-paced, it’s crazier, it has more monsters, and while the stop-motion animation isn’t as smooth and balletic as Harryhausen’s, neither is it as pretentious—I always feel like Harryhausen is trying too hard, and misses the forest for the trees: While the effects of Seventh Voyage of Sinbad are “better” (and I do LOVE the dragon and its horizontal spout of flame), Jack’s effects are punchier, weirder—and there are more of them!
Rubber (2010) AWFUL! The post-modern, self-referential bits RUIN what could have been an interesting movie. I mean, what if an old rubber tire came to life with terrible psychic powers and went around killing everyone by making their head explode? Sure, about five rounds out of a cop-issue pump-action shotgun would turn that tire into chucks of carbon black scattered all over the asphalt, but before that? That damn tire could do a lot of damage. This flick is a completely missed opportunity, and far too “clever” for its own good.
Kings of Pastry (2009) Intense foodie documentary—earning/winning the tri-colored collar of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France is frickin’ tough! Some moments are heartbreaking (an elaborate sugar scultpture collapses and shatters moments before the judges look at it), but a good view for food-fans.
Detour (1945) Another flick I’d heard too much about before seeing, and as such couldn’t be surprised or properly entertained. But yeah, it’s way fucked up—absolutely fascinating, and a must-see for film historians or noir buffs.
Three and Out (2008) Great premise given the lamest sit-com treatment. I couldn’t even finish watching it. “Eye wuz dizguztedz!”
A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966) Fans of gambling/con game movies need to check out this sharp western-comedy that keeps the tension high—it helps that the cast is all master thesps, but especially foxy Joanne Woodward and eternal sly fox Kevin McCarthy. This is a flick I was so glad I watched knowing extremely little about going into it.
The Magician (1958) Beautiful mind games courtesy of Grandmaster Ingmar Bergman
Exodus (1960) Directed by Otto Preminger, and watched as R&D for my Skidoo post. Exodus is… very dated, especially socio-politically, and has a… very quaint feeling about it. The movie is “Shot On Location!” and beautifully so, but it’s also kind of a… snooze: a hotel is blown up, and we’re shown a long-distance shot of a big fireball, but no scenes of destruction. No combat scenes (this IS about the creation of the nation of Israel), although there is a pretty damn neatly choreographed prison break-out scene…
If you like Stanley Kramer’s movies, you might like Exodus.
Brewster McCloud (1971) Altman’s bird-shit crazy follow-up to M*A*S*H, loosely adapted from a script by Skidoo’s screenwriter, Doran William Cannon— Megapost about this wild film and Ivanlandia Favorite in the works—promise!
The Battle of Britain (1969) About 20 minutes too long—especially since the air battles all look the same after a while—although the last one is the best: no dialog, no sound effects, just a stirring score against a brilliantly cut montage of aerial combat, with close-ups of its participants and observers intercut throughout—
The Battle of Britain is often incredibly moving (don’t get attached to anybody), and with the type of massive production scale that “epics” of the time did well on a regular basis. Director Guy Hamilton (of many James Bond flicks) does a great job for the most part guiding the viewer through a complicated tale. And if you’re like me and cannot understand what the fuck those goddamn limeys are yakkin’ about, thank God for subtitles.
Shakedown (1950) Unavailable since forever, but probably not because of some dark secret but because while there are some brilliant moments, occasional flashes of genius, much of the flickis tepid confusion. However, the bootleg I watched was of middling quality, with plenty of glitches—and the flick often has some gnarly scenes, like the lead (a news photographer) “directing” a chick as she attempts to jump out of a building, or telling a guy to wave his hands more—as his car sinks into the river—so the photo’s better. After snapping the pic, the cameraman splits—leaving the guy in the river.
I’ve known about Shakedown since the mid-1980s, when I read about it in the (once very awesome, but now perhaps dated) Catalog of Cool, a book that was, back in the day, many a kids’ bible/playbook for what was needed to be seen, read, heard, worn or left around the house as decoration. Was the Catalog of Cool the Big Bang of our current hipster infestation? Perhaps, but I was glad to have it when I did.
The Satan Bug (1965) Wow, John Sturges really drops the ball here—great Jerry Goldsmith scoreand cool animated titles, though. There’s a good reason this flick has been unavailable since forever….
Whirlpool (1949) More Preminger R&D, and a snoozer
Throne of Blood (1957) Kurosawa’s classic—but why the original Japanese title, “Spider Web Castle,” isn’t used is beyond me; it’s a much better title. I guess it wasn’t “arty” enough; it was too “exploitative,” or something…
Modern Times (1936) Dude, I don’t know why, but seeing Charlie Champlin’s simpering face makes me want to smash it in with a tire-iron. I’ve never liked his brand of silent movie comedy—it seems to be begging “Love Me!” more than making me laugh. Fuck him, the rotten baby-fucker. Give me Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd or Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle any day of the week. Paulette Goddard is a stone fox, though, and really is quite fetching as a feral child.
Ned Kelly (1970) After the mind-blowing incredible that was Mademoiselle (a flick that was SAVAGED on its release), Tony Richardson started slipping—first, with the meandering The Charge of the Light Brigade, then with Ned Kelly. While he’s a terrible actor, it’s not really Mick Jagger’s fault the flick’s a snoozer—the script is… dreadful.
My Dinner With Andre (1981) It could be really easy to slam this flick as pretentious, wool-gathering, navel-gazing twaddle—but then the flick acknowledges that its participants are of the moneyed class, and that pretentious, wool-gathering, navel-gazing is kind of what they’re doing—and by subverting that, the film then treats us to some incredible philosophical conversations. I’m surprised it took me so long to see it, though….
Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions (1991; short) Before Henry Selickwas given the go-ahead to direct The Nightmare Before Christmas, he was prepping this as a pilot for MTV. I’m not sure how it would’ve worked as a weekly series, but it’s a kooky, krazy visual delight, with some creepy undertones. Worth hunting down, especially for stop-motion animation fans.
The People Vs. George Lucas (2011) There but for the grace of God go I…. But y’know what? Back in 1977, I saw a movie named Star Wars, not Star Wars Episode Whatever: A New Pooper-Scoooper. That movie, the one that was released into theaters in May 1977, I loved--and still do--and I actually prefer to not think about any of the sequels, including the one that everyone loves but that has no ending, Empire Strikes Out.
Star Wars was a fun spoof of action comics/Flash Gordon serials, and was also really the best stoner movie ever: medium level intellectual stimulation (no “what does it all mean” headaches like with 2001) with plenty of eyeball kicks.
The Black Marble (1980) A bit too “shaggy dog” and Romantic Nowheresville for my tastes, but this mature, bittersweet romance-drama-thriller is a fascinating flick where the parts (especially every scene with Harry Dean Stanton) are better than the whole. The unclassifiable nature of this flick makes it very much part of that 1970s New American Wave/Whatever movement that included Scarecrow, Night Moves and The Late Show. But man! Is Paula Prentiss hot! (And brainy! Mrow!)
Kill Baby… Kill! (1966) Dude, Fellini TOTALLY ripped off this flick when he made Toby Dammit. Mario Bava should've sued.
High School Confidential! (1958) Sex, drugs, beatniks, 1950s rock 'n' roll, hot rods, hep talk, beat poetry, people too old to be teenagers playing teenagers, dope, reefer, smack, The Big “H,” and best of all: Check out Mamie Van Doren! Va-va-VA-VOOM!
Dinosaur (2000) I got smashed and watched some well-designed Disney computer-cartoon dinosaurs. And liked it. So sue me.
Jabberwocky (1977) Terry Gilliam’s first solo directorial effort—and it shows: he hasn’t figured out how to balance comedy and misery properly yet, and Michael Palin’s character is a bit too much of a saccharine dim-bulb—I prefer it when Palin plays someone sharper or more menacing (see “Ken Shabby,” or one of the Italian gangsters he’d regularly perform on Monty Python or “Jack Lint” from Brazil).
Promised Land (1975) GOREHOUND ALERT! About an hour into Andrzej Wajda’s quasi-epic about the construction of a factory in late-1800s Poland and the corrupting influence of capitalism, there’s a scene where a factory engineer and the company owner get into a fight because the boss has been shtupping the engineer’s teenage daughter for kicks. The two men argue violently, struggling near some big machines (with those BIG iron wheels spinning round and round, so hypnotically…), then they topple, falling into the gears—the two disappear inside the enormous metal contraption, and then… SPLOOSH! Fuckin’ blood and body parts and gory chunks everywhere. It looks like a sheet of stripped flesh is being splashed against the wall! Arrrrrrrrgh… As the scene ends, the gnarled head of the boss (I think it’s him) pops out of the wheel housing, wobbling about.
The whole scene is so damn fucked up, it’s brilliant. I love heavy-handed metaphors when they are drenched in blood.
Willam Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet (2009) Uhhhhh… This is only for Shatner completists, only—really. No, really. Unless you show up at BBQs wearing a Mr. Spock shirt.
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011) Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop Whining, you mean—turned off in disgust after 20 minutes. What a creep.
That was my original idea for the title of this blog, a sort of summation of nearly everything I'd ever wanted cinematically: regularly playing on the ABC Channel 7 4:30 movie--or on WOR-TV Channel 9's 4 O'Clock Movie--the greatest monster movie in the universe, and incredible combo of miniatures, men in suits and stop motion, with entire continents destroyed!
But then there was a coup d'etat, and Tzar Ivan I of Ivanlandia took charge.