Week 9 / July 17-23, 2017

No, I didn’t get (more) terrible @ time management and calculations. For over a week I didn’t watching a single movie because: I moved! And moving, in Los Angeles, requires you to forfeit whatever life you previously held dear. Alas, I hopped back on the wagon shortly after setting up my nü idiot box.

Rankings (Top-Down, Classic Style)

Cooley High (1975)

Nice to finally see this on the big screen–I never tire of watching this film–at the New Beverly. I’m not into hyperbole, so I won’t say it’s better, though I might like it more than American Graffiti (1973); a film whose success, no doubt, made it possible.

Youngblood (1978)

The other Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs film from that solid night at the New Beverly. I’d also seen this one before, but the ending was even more devastating–I felt more invested–on the big screen.

Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)

I have a major soft spot for this one, yet I didn’t like it as much as the first time I saw it. (It’s too long, for sure.) Still, I love imagining Lucille Ball as a warm-hearted mother and tender lover because it flies in the face of the notorious things I’ve read of her treatment of Patty Duke.

Saw (2004)

I’m pretty sure I like other films in the series better than this–having purchased the set, I’ll be able to test that silly thesis–but it still remains a remarkably auspicious first shot across the bough for a horror franchise.

How to Make a Doll (1968)

A remarkably unfunny, uninspired, uninteresting, and characteristically unsexy Herschell Gordon Lewis film* that I half-watched building an IKEA bathroom storage unit that I fully returned because, like this film, it sucked.

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(Scenes like this^ go on way, way too long.)

 

*And, yes, I’m identifying most of those things as outliers to how I commonly view his work.

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Week 8 / July 3-9, 2017

Rankings (Let’s B Ril + Confess They All Have Issues. Therefore, Chronological)

Rich and Strange (1931)

An early Hitchcock film that felt, to me, a bit like a dress rehearsal for Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941), but–not particularly loving that film–darker and quirkier. There were, however, problems: Glib Orientalism and the tinniest dialogue ever recorded on an actress (making it impossible to make out 99% of her lines). [Squished face emoji]

The Music Man (1962)

I was never a show-tunes, theater kid. But I loved The Simpsons. And “Marge vs. the Monorail” is one of TV’s finest (half)hours.

Hide in Plain Sight (1980)

James Caan directs, and it’s a domestic drama about child abduction. Whether you enjoy this film might depend on how you feel about the people, words, and implications of my previous sentence. Admittedly, I struggled.

Firefox (1982)

Maybe the best film on the list. I wasn’t sure I’d live in a world (er, city) where I could see Clint Eastwood’s invigorating Cold War thriller twice on the big screen. But, thanks to the New Beverly’s proprietor’s fondness for this beaut, I have.

Red Dawn (1984)

As a cult film guy from way back when, I was surprised it took me so long to see this thing. I wasn’t blown away–you know, because I’m not an adolescent–but it was fun seeing it with a crowd on the 4th of July at the New Beverly. Though the responses were markedly split between sincere and ironic enjoyment, capped with a “What the fuck is so funny?” bellow near the film’s climax that (unsurprisingly) brought down the house.

Grumpy Old Men (1993)

You know what you may not remember from when you saw this as a child and liked it because it was old men cussing? That those same old men are trying to pork Ann-Margret the whole time.

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

“Spiritual” sequels are bullshit. But, unlike the double exclamation points, this grew on me by the end. I still can’t envision a world where I reach for it instead of Dazed and Confused (1993).

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(Screengrab from The Music Man)

 

 

Week 7 / June 26-July 2, 2017

Rankings (Pretty Fair to Fascinating Disaster)

Baby Driver (2017)

I enjoyed Edgar Wright’s The World’s End (2013). Many did not. Those many loved Baby Driver. I liked the soundtrack and look a lot. I wished it were funnier. EW is still great. Nothing resolved. The end.

Rabbit, Run (1970)

I love John Updike, and I’m obsessed with his Rabbit novels–which encapsulate an American cultural life throughout the last half of the 20th century better than anything else I’ve encountered–so I was bound to like this even in its failures. And, to be clear, it’s a failure; though, surprisingly, Caan isn’t the reason.

Message From Space (1978)

A low-budget Star Wars rip-off (presented as a set at the New Beverly), but who cares because:

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Kiss of the Tarantula (1976)

An insane movie about a woman who kills with slow moving tarantulas. Yet, sadly given that fact, I found it pretty dull.

Starcrash (1978)

The lesser sibling in the Star Wars knock-off game. A total failure, and yet a laff riot.

 

Week 6 / June 19-25, 2017

Rankings (The It’s-All-Good-Until-The-Final-Two Division)

Smile (1975)

About a million reasons why this film is firmly in the top spot for the week, but, right now, let’s go with guacamole dip.

Sweet Revenge (1976)

As not the biggest Grease fan you’re likely to come across, I was blown away by Stockard Channing here. It’s a bravura performance, and she’s solely responsible for twisting one of my least favorite subgenres (car/car chase films) into something quirky and endearing.

Diggstown (1992)

Another early ’90s film doing its part to win me over, and, sans its paint-by-numbers score, almost a perfect popcorn film. If you don’t get gut-pangs for good, glossy ’90s cinema with this, you’ll want to check your pulse. Seeing it alongside Smile made me–for about the seventh time–reconsider my assessment of Michael Ritchie. I guess I really like him, though The Candidate still makes my eye twitch when I think of skipping it on election night at the New Beverly because the doomsday stats had already oozed in during the first feature, Shampoo, and I instead decided to drive home in miserable rage.

Rancho Notorious (1952)

Fritz Lang goes West. (And gets kinky…er…kinkier.)

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He Ran All the Way (1951)

The film that killed John Garfield!*

*That’s sensationalistic, I realize, but not entirely untrue.

One Crowded Night (1940)

What he said. 

Live Like Line (2017?)

Maudlin, maudlin, maudlin, saccharine, and maudlin. And, yet, I enjoyed myself–seeing it in sneak preview form with some of the good-natured and wholly innocuous cast at the Grove.

Punk Vacation (1990)

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What you see, definitely not what you get.

 

Week 5 / June 12-18, 2017

Rankings (From Best to Fine)

The Beguiled (1971)

Since there are an awful lot of internet think pieces floating around about this exact sentiment, I no longer feel compelled to promote the excellence of this film. I will just tease my pending take–it has a lot to do with the screenwriters and archival material–for when my dissertation is finally published as a book in the summer of 2030.

Speed (1994)

I’m having “profound” thoughts about ’90s, especially early ’90s, cinema lately, but my main take away is that I love (and severely miss) the practical locations and fx.

47 Meters Down (2017)

Always bemused by people who take a film like this to task because of the protagonist’s motivations. Personally, the only motivation I need a protagonist in a film like this to possess is the desire to get close to but not totally eaten–at least not right away–massive sharks.

Seeing this with a rabid crowd at the premiere in Westwood, from a balcony with the cast hundreds of feet below, was an added treat.

Killer Party (1986)

“It’s The Exorcist meets Friday the 13th meets Animal House!”

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“Say again?”

Gimme Danger (2016)

The films of JJ are something I enjoy–I mean, I’m hip, people–though he could’ve brought more pizzazz to this. It helped that I love The Stooges and Iggy, in whatever iteration, and could listen to Jim Osterberg talk for days. His fractured take on his American life is delicious.

Rankings (Lesser Coppola, Sofia)

Lick the Star (1998)

Seeing Sofia’s debut short projected at the New Beverly Cinema before her latest feature, with the filmmaker and Tarantino sitting feet away, is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime thing.* Loved the spiky verve of this short; it makes you excited anew for Sofia. How could it not? 

*”Sort of” because living in LA and frequenting repertory theaters means this happens about once every six months.

The Beguiled (2017)

I’ll need to see this again, in far less (ahem) beguiling settings–forgive me!–to be able to objectively assess. Liked it, though I definitely didn’t love it and I’m not entirely sure why.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Actually had to stop the DVD viewing of this for quality–and not of the technical variety–issues. Ended up enjoying it more than those inauspicious beginnings would suggest, but would still categorize it as “Genuinely disappointing.”

Week 4 / June 5-11, 2017

Rankings (From Quite Strong to Strong to Pretty Ok to Meh)

Lillies of the Field (1963)

I love Poitier because I’m a goddamn American film fan, but I’m not quite sure how I built that foundation for love without witnessing the pure joy that is him buddying up with German nuns near my beloved Tucson, AZ. (Even recollecting about this movie made me want to quit writing this post to re-watch it–should you wonder how much I enjoyed it.)

Honeysuckle Rose (1980)

Willie Nelson performs himself.

The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)

Alan Alda’s sexuality is never something you think you’re interested in, and this movie won’t convince you otherwise, yet, despite that, it remains a minor treat.

The Black Cat (1934)

All hail Karloff. 

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)

Minorly obsessed with this film/book–I read it one summer in Canton, OH, and that is definitely as weird as all that sounds. The film doesn’t fully achieve its lofty aims, but that doesn’t mean it won’t wreck you by the end.

For Pete’s Sake (1974)

If this movie was just its opening credits, it’d crack my top 200 films of the 1970s. (I realize that doesn’t sound impressive, but, as an aficionado of ’70s film, cracking my top 150 is pretty difficult.)

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Beyond the Gates (2016)

So pleased to see Eddie Brandt’s in a film! And honestly, given the budget and the limitations of an amateur production, they strung together a decent film. Naturally, like anyone who haunts Eddie Brandt’s, I assume I could’ve done a much, much better job.

If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017)

I love old people. I especially love old comedians. I, in particular, love the old comedians featured here (Reiner, Brooks, Lear). And the other old non-comedians, who teach us stuff about the human spirit and whatnot. I would’ve gladly watched the 60 Minutes piece on the above. Sadly, they instead released it in the form of a 90 minute documentary.

 

Week 3 / May 29-June 4, 2017

Rankings (From Grand Poo-bah to Lesser Poo-bah)

The Godfather (1972)

There’s nothing new or interesting to say about this masterpiece, especially anytime you’re fortunate enough to see it in a theater (this being my second theatrical viewing because L.A. is Valhalla of repertory screenings). This screening, however, was a TCM-sponsored Fathom event, which meant my theater seat doubled as an Applebee’s Eazy-Boy. Looking something like this:

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Also, this is why the digital revolution is only interesting when it fails*:

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*Thankfully, it was fixed before The Godfather/food-service jamboree began.

The Steel Helmet (1951)

Unsentimental and hyper-masculine, this Sam Fuller war picture will put hair on your chest–regardless of your consent!

Henry Goes Arizona (1939)

It was fun seeing the Wizard (of Oz fame)–aka, Henry Morgan–bumbling out West. Plus, I’m always partial to a 66 minute film.

More Rankings (Continued Adventures in the Three-Way Tie Division)

The Tingler (1959)

I can’t be objective with William Castle (<3), so I’m taking these films out of general contention and just listing them chronologically–which, it so happens, isn’t far off from their relative merit. If Vincent Price tripping on LSD doesn’t sound like essential viewing to you, I’m not sure we can be friends.

Homicidal (1961)

Sure, it’s a Psycho rip-off, but it’s way, way kinkier. Manages to institute genuine unease in me each time I watch it.

Strait-Jacket (1964)

Joan Crawford glammed up with jangly baubles adorning her wrists, in a grotesque parody of an aging rube, makes for some of my favorite cinema. I mean:

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Week 2 / May 22-28, 2017

Rankings (This Time, Only First and Worst)

The Night Walker (1964)

I have a lot to say about this criminally overlooked William Castle film, but most of that can wait until a certain academic book on the filmmaker comes out next summer. For now, consider that the Germans dubbed him “Shock-Meister,” and that this film contains this image:

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Beverly Hills Vamp (1989)

If you think Fred Olen Ray is a sort of VHS William Castle, you’ve never watched this film. I’m sorry, but one needs to set boundaries when it comes to Eddie Deezen.

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More Rankings (The Three-Way Tie Division)

Crime of Passion (1957)

What a week for my ongoing, one-sided love affair with Barbara Stanwyck!* For this particular domestic noir, I loved that Raymond Burr was the beguiling Other Man.

*She also starred in The Night Walker, to be clear.

House on Haunted Hill (1958)

I could watch Vincent Price prepare bonne femme soup and be happy.

Echo Park (1986)

Despite my usual assortment of random films, this was the strangest thing I watched all week. Really.

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Week 1 / May 15-21, 2017

Rankings (From First to Worst)

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

My third(!!!) theatrical viewing of this gem–all at the same theater. Placing my fandom of this Vincent Price/AIP gem on pace with that of the New Beverly Cinema, apparently.

Model Shop (1969)

I could watch local commercials of Los Angeles from this era and fawn, so Demy didn’t have to do much for me. Luckily, he didn’t; it’s a purposefully blank film.

Joysticks (1983)

This (is why).

Laughing Sinners (1931)

Gable and Crawford smolder! The Salvation Army Band…bands…together…etc., etc.

It’s also pre-code, which means you get a grubby salesman prattling on about “white mule” for the price of admission.

Dance, Fools, Dance (1931)

Takes no prisoners.

The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)

Tim Carey had a film career. (Let that sink in.)

Pinball Summer (1980)

I admit that after my Musso + Frank’s martini plus Joysticks–part of a double at the Egyptian Theater–fatigue set in. So I probably didn’t fully absorb this one, but it was also awfully Canadian (i.e., lacking discernible purpose or sex appeal).

The Whistler (1944)

William Castle’s memo to Columbia head Harry Cohn about the opportunity to helm this film adaptation of a radio program: “It’s horrific, Mr. Cohn…Exactly what I’ve been waiting for…I’ll scare the shit out of the audience.” (Author’s multiple ellipses).

Voice of the Whistler (1945)

Just surveying the extant film evidence, you’d be hard-pressed to guess Castle was actually a happily married man.

The Monster That Challenged The World (1957)

Unlike 1957, it’s far more likely the Salton Sea is now swarming with these:

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Dancing Lady (1933)

The question feels like how? As in, how does a film starring Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire (making his film debut!) and The Three Stooges fail? But, jotting that down, it seems obvious the question is: Why wouldn’t it?

Alien: Covenant (2017)

I suspect that I don’t respect the auteur Ridley Scott. (No, ‘fraid I don’t love Blade Runner, though the original Alien is pretty neat until the last 15 minutes.)

Wildcard

Annihilation (2018?)

Embargo. Embargoed! EMBARGO’D!