Thursday, December 24, 2020

Fool's Views (12/1 – 12/20)

’Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all down the hall
Stacks of movies loomed
The Plan: To watch them all

Hey kids!

We’re still kicking, the clock is still ticking, and the flicks are still flicking. While the FYC screeners took some precedence, there were still plenty of side roads to be explored, and looking back over early December’s roster, it occurs to me that pretty much every title that crossed my eyes during this period came as a result of someone else’s direct recommendation. Am I becoming easily swayed in my latter years? More open to suggestion? Possibly. Then again, it also speaks to the respect of the individual making said recommendation – if they think it’s worth seeing, then it’s probably worth seeing. Curious to hear what you all think.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.



Lured (1947) d. Sirk, Douglas (USA) (1st viewing)

A serial killer uses the classified ads to connect with his victims, so Scotland Yard decides to use Lucille Ball’s dance hall gal as bait to catch the cad. Sirk would become famous for his full-hearted and sumptuously lensed melodramas of the 1950s, and he displays a great deal of that penchant for relationships and character here, even within the thriller milieu and noirish black-and-white cinematography. Terrific supporting cast includes George Sanders, Charles Coburn, Cedric Hardwicke, George Zucco, and Boris Karloff in what amounts to a glorified (and glorious) cameo as a red, nay, scarlet herring. (Recommended by Jon Kitley)

Warlock Moon (1973) d. Herbert, William (USA) (1st viewing)

Bizarre little indie horror flick shot and produced in northern California featuring future TV stars Joe Spano (Hill Street Blues) and Laurie Walters (Eight is Enough) about a pair of fledgling lovebirds who decide to picnic near an abandoned spa and are subsequently drawn into its bizarre history and residents, with cannibalism and incest on the menu. Though wildly uneven in pacing, thesping, and narrative, writer/director/producer/editor Herbert and his tiny crew of collaborators still manage to weave a fair amount of creepy atmosphere. (Recommended by David White)


Anna and the Apocalypse (2018) d. McPhail, John (UK) (1st viewing)

In this enthusiastic mash-up of Glee and Shaun of the Dead, high school students preparing for the holiday pageant find themselves caught up in a zombie apocalypse, with people bursting into song even as the intestines fly. It shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, with much credit going to the fantastic young cast (Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher LeVeax, Marli Siu, Ben Wiggins) who make their band of misfits just as likable as can be. (Recommended by Kevin Matthews)

Rare Exports (2010) d. Helander, Jelamari (Finland) (6th viewing)

An annual fave around the Doc’s office that never gets any less charming. (Recommended by Mrs. AC)



1941 (1979) d. Spielberg, Steven (USA) (1st viewing)

Yup, finally got around to seeing the notorious train wreck that showed The Unstoppable Steve was not immune to the occasional dud. Excess is the name of the game, with an overstuffed and overenthusiastic cast screeching throughout the nominal plot surrounding a sneak attack from Toshiro Mifune’s submarine (with Christopher Lee in tow) off the Los Angeles shore. The expression “too much of a good thing” would apply… except for the things in question are more big and loud than good. No denying the production values and special effects, however. (Suggested by Darren Callahan)

The Making of 1941 (1996) d. Bouzereau, Laurent (USA) (1st viewing)

Fascinating documentary that details the true-life events (!) upon which young optimistic screenwriters Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale based their story, the soaring budgets and technical challenges, and the critical lambasting upon release. More engaging than its subject, truth be told.

Inglourious Basterds (2009) d. Tarantino, Quentin (USA) (3rd viewing)

Truth be told, I like this more on each viewing. If only QT could have just stayed out of his own way a bit more often (the “Hugo Stiglitz” visual and aural sting, the theme from Cat People, cartoon stunt casting i.e. Mike Myers), it might stand as one of his best. That said, it still takes a looooong time to get where it’s going. Brad Pitt and his goon squad still feel like they are in a different movie from anyone else, but Christoph Waltz absolutely nails the middle ground in his tetralingual Oscar-winning turn as SS officer Hans Landa. (2020 Tarantino Fest)

Intolerable Cruelty (2003) d. Coen, Joel (USA) (2nd viewing)

Breezy Coen brothers comedy with George Clooney mugging it up as an unbeatable divorce lawyer squaring off against gold-digging maneater Catherine Zeta-Jones. Unduly dismissed upon its initial release, and still mighty enjoyable within its lightweight division. (2020 Coen Fest)

Smooth Talk (1985) d. Chopra, Joyce (USA) (1st viewing)

Laura Dern arrives in a big way as a teenage girl exploring her sexuality within her dual small town arenas of shopping mall and drive-in burger joint, while Treat Williams steams up the joint as a mysterious stranger haunting her periphery. Disconcerting and haunting in its handling of potentially explosive subject matter. (Recommended by Music Box Theatre)


The T.A.M.I. Show (1964) d. Binder, Steve (USA) (1st viewing)

Historic concert movie that dared to bring together an eclectic, multicultural roster of musical talents, many of whom would go on to achieve legendary status. With a lineup that includes Chuck Berry, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Lesley Gore, The Barbarians, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and The Rolling Stones, the energy never flags and the screaming audience members seem genuinely motivated. But it’s James Brown and The Flames’ stunning, show-stopping set that stays in the memory, especially “Please Please Please” and “Night Train.” The Hardest Working Man in Show Business earns his title right here. (Recommended by Neil Peart)

Rush in Rio (2003) d. Catullo, Daniel E. (Canada/US) (1st viewing)

Alex, Geddy, and Neil head down to South America to wrap up their 30th anniversary tour with a glorious three-hour set that blows the doors off for the first act, flags a little in the middle (featuring selections from their most current album Vapor Trails, but NOT “Ceiling Unlimited,” my personal fave), and then explodes into the stratosphere for a sing-a-long bounce-a-long finale that includes my favorite recorded version of “Spirit of Radio.” (2020 Rush Fest)

The Boys in Brazil (2003) d. McNaughton, Andrew (Canada/US) (1st viewing)

McNaughton catches up with Rush to talk about their three-decade career, as well as the expectations, frustrations, and exultations performing before their largest audiences ever. (2020 Rush Fest)


Black Bear (2020) d. Levine, Lawrence Michael (USA) (1st viewing)

Aubrey Plaza, Sarah Gadon, and Christopher Abbott bounce off each other in this scrappy indie that says as much about the filmmaking process as it does about the tempestuous nature of romantic relationships, with more meta moments than you can shake a jar of honey at.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) d. Woliner, Jason (UK/USA) (1st viewing)

As a comedy, I’m not sure it always works. As a funhouse mirror of society, it’s a breathtaking high-wire experiment that renders audiences speechless at the ignorance and small-mindedness on display. Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova matches onscreen pater Sacha Baron Cohen beat for beat in a vanity-free performance that is guaranteed to earn her a few studio meetings.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) d. Kaufman, Charlie (USA) (1st viewing)

Kaufman’s nightmare imagery is given full rein in this examination of familial trauma and childhood memories, but the whole thing becomes too impenetrable and exhausting to sustain interest and emotional investment. 90 minutes of puzzle-boxing is fine, 145 is bordering on obscenity.

Nomadland (2020) d. Zhao, Chloe (USA) (1st viewing)

Ian Simmons from Kicking the Seat and I sat down (in our respective residences) to chat about this thought-provoking adaptation of Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book about the legions of folks leading a vehicular existence. I expect you’ll be hearing more about this one, as Frances McDormand’s performance is sure to add a few new trophies to her crowded mantel. Click the link before to viddy our ditty.


One Night in Miami (2020) d. King, Regina (USA) (1st viewing)

Despite King’s best efforts, this screen version of Kemp Powers’ play never shakes its stagebound origins, but it’s still thrilling to see revolutionary Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), heavyweight champ Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), recording star Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and football great Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) all gathered together in one hotel room and brought to life by an amazing quartet of young performers.

The Way Back (2020) d. O’Connor, Gavin (USA) (1st viewing)

Ben Affleck’s recent real-life struggles with alcoholism can’t help but color one’s viewing experience, which is not to take anything away from the star’s nuanced and deeply felt interpretation of a grieving father battling the bottle while attempting to coach his alma mater’s basketball team out of the doldrums. While it avoids feeling wholly artificial, Brad Ingelsby’s script seems to be missing a few key beats (both up and down) in terms of its main character’s arc.


Die Hard (1988) d. McTiernan, John (USA) (6th viewing)

Okay, it’s a bona-fide classic of roller-coaster action cinema. Which probably accounts for the fact that it took me six viewings to realize that John McClane’s white tank top suddenly becomes uniformly gray after crawling through the air vents… which is fine except for the fact that the rest of his body should be equally filthy, right? And when he loses his shirt, shouldn’t there be a big dirt outline on his bare skin? Also, how the ever-loving fudge does Karl get down from his makeshift noose (that presumably broke his neck, by the way) and make his way outside in order to get shot by Twinkie-loving Officer Powell? And let’s not even get into when McClane catches himself by his fingertips on a slick metal elevator shaft ledge. Anyway….

The Ref (1994) d. Demme, Ted (USA) (7th viewing)

Based on the fact that Mary Weiss has screenplay credits on exactly two films, this and 1997’s The Christmas List starring Mimi Rogers and Stella Stevens, one has to wonder how many stellar zingers producer and co-screenwriter Richard Lagravenese (The Fisher King, Bridges of Madison County, Beloved) is responsible for. Honestly, I just want to know which one came up with, “Lloyd, why don’t you eat… me?”

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) d. Bass, Jules / Rankin, Arthur (USA) (3rd viewing)

Did you know why kids hang up their stockings with care? Or how Santa’s last name switched from Kringle to Claus? Or how those amazing reindeer are able to fly? These and many more questions are answered in the animated family classic, with Mickey Rooney as Kris, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock, Fred Astaire friendly narrator/postman S.D. Kluger, Joan Gardner as Tanta Claus, and Paul Frees as pretty much everyone else.

2020 Totals to Date: 401 films, 246 first time views, 145 horror, 2 cinema.

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