2013's awful crop of films has been turning my eyes toward the past. I’m not someone who looks at film history through rose colored glasses. I think there are great movies being made every day, and I think that terrible movies have been made since the first motion pictures. But when you have a year like this… Anyway, I’m sort of hungry for some quality older movies.
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang: Paul Muni, who could be a stand in for Ronnie Reagan, returns home from the war with a desire to do something big. He pursues his dreams only to have them dashed time and again, until he gets wrapped up in a robbery gone wrong and sentenced to the hell of chain-gang life. It doesn’t take him long to high-tail it outta there, and that’s when things get complicated. The movie is pretty good, and a nice time capsule of concerns of the day. But it’s not all that great, honestly. Muni is just barely able to hold the film together with his occasional forays into attempted emoting. And to say its heavy handed in its moralizing would do heavy handed moralizers a disservice. The whole thing is one big middle finger to the chain-gang system.
|I am not Ronald Reagan.|
Hammer of the Gods: Lacking the interesting cast or visual penache of Centurion, this film is none the less mildly enjoyable for a roving across barbaric England film. As each scene plays into the next, everything feels familiar, as though its running down a checklist of ‘and then they do X…and then they see Y…and then they fight B…and then C betrays them…’ Each scene might play out in a somewhat surprising way (well, a few do actually), but the list of scenes itself is fairly pat genre stuff. And why is the hero an agent of reason? A man in the 800s who is devoted to reason and sets himself against all forms of superstition needs a bit of character context that is not provided. It took me longer than it should have to figure out which plot archetype they were using. Which I guess is why our hero is who he is, but only because it serves the plot. Once our hero is handing upside down in a cave being yammered at by a spastic old man, you’ll know what you’re watching, if you haven’t already figured it out. The music is pretty awful. The girl is very cute. The film is meh.
Leave Her to Heaven: In this classic potboiler, Gene Tierney plays a stunningly beautiful woman who seems to have everything she could possibly want. But she’s absolutely ape-nuts crazy. At first, our leading male seems to have it made when this gorgeous woman falls madly in love with him. But, ‘mad’ is a key word, and things go very, very dark. Very dark. Tierney is good, switching from sweet to sexy to f’ing crazy and back again with such ease it’s scary. It does serve as a warning. If a woman says she’s attracted to you, and then says you remind her of her father, you need to get the hell out while the getting’s good.
I grabbed the new CD from Oh Land. I really enjoyed her first album, and this second effort is fine, though it didn’t wow me. I think that’s a problem we have in our current music environment, where artists put out new works every couple of years instead of a couple times a year. Each album needs to be awesome, because each album is so rare, and if it’s not great, you’ve got years to wait until the next. A second listen has me warming up to some of the songs, so I’ll give it some time. I really do wish my favorite bands and musicians put out more, so moderate or disappointing works can be easily forgiven and forgotten.
Fire Maidens of Outer Space: Really, they’re Fire Maidens of Earth Originally, but More Recently of One of the Moons of Jupiter, but I guess that didn’t fit on the poster. From the bad sound work to the …well…not especially attractive Fire Maidens, this movie has low budget gold stamped all over it. Not one of the better entries in the “let’s take a rocket to the planet of love-hungry ladies” subgenre, but it’s not the worst. Probably best watched with friends, as it could get dull if you’re by yourself.
Q: The Winged Serpent: Wow. It’s something. It’s like an experimental film inspired by an episode of Kolchak the Night Stalker. Michael Moriarty goes full Method, channeling some powerful Brando vibes (and I mean, On the Waterfront, what movie does he think he’s in, because it’s not the same one as the rest of the cast type Brando). The dialog seems like it was made up on the spot. And the final King Kong shoot-out is amazing. Is Q a good movie? No. Is it even as consistent as The Stuff? No. But it is something, and it needs to be seen.
On Saturday, I helped a friend on a shoot for a short film. It was my first experience with this sort of thing (with the exception of my disastrous attempt at doing voice work for a political ad many years ago). I had a lot of fun, and definitely want to give it another go one of these days. Looking at the job from behind the scenes did give me a taste of the different positions and relationships, and how each brings his/her own set of concerns and goals.
Seeing Leave Her to Heaven earlier this week, I’ve found a new classic movie actress to obsess over. Gene Tierney took my breath away in that film, and I have to see more. Queued up a bunch of her stuff on NetFlix. Gonna finally catch some movies I’ve wanted to see for a while, and some that weren’t on my radar.