Every so often, the cable company here moves the channels around and it becomes a bit of a chore hunting for formerly favorite stations. What’s worse, is a few times, I’m waiting for the cable box to load the channel guide after a router reboot and I have to fly blind for a few minutes, which in this particular case, turned out to be a pleasant surprise indeed. I was looking to find where TCM went to and found it after some work, but the channel guide wasn’t loading and there was a film I’d never seen before playing. It turns out that it was a Robert Wise-directed film from 1959 called Odds Against Tomorrow and it had me on the edge of my seat until the somewhat explosive finale.
The film is a rather bleak noir with a heist plot, the crooked, disgraced crooked cop who devises the plan (Ed Begley) and the two desperate men he’s picked to assist him.There’s Robert Ryan as Slater, a rather hateful ex-soldier and convict and Harry Belafonte as Ingram, a handsome musician with bad luck with the horses. Both men meet with Burke separately and it’s quite an interesting study in contrasts. Slater insults a little girl, ignores a jovial elevator operator trying to make small talk and is in general, just has a pretty big chip on his shoulder about everything. Ingram rolls up in a flashy sports car a few minutes later, offers a few kids money for watching his car, makes that elevator operator laugh as he rides up, and is generally a pretty nice guy- minus his crushing gambling debt.
Both men have don’t meet until later in the film, but let’s just say, Slater is none too pleased that he’s going to be partnered with a black man and quits the job. Ingram also leaves the job, but his negative dealings with his bookie throw his life into danger and he’s back in on the job after a bit of a breakdown at the jazz club he plays at. Slater’s hiatus lasts until he decides he’s had it with his girlfriend (Shelly Winters!) and wants to get out from under her clutches. The heist goes, in true noir fashion, very awry, to say the least. No more will be said here, save for this is a film well worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet. There’s a great score, every actor here is superb, and the bleak ending is about as downbeat as it gets. In a way, this one’s like Raoul Walsh’s classic White Heat, and Kubrick’s The Killing, but this feels like more of a hidden gem. Go check it out on tcm.com or go find it for sale here.
Hi there. So, where were we again? Oh, right. Some big things are cooking on the legal/financial front, so that’s been taking up a chunk of time (boo!). Nevertheless, I can’t say much after that other than I dislike having to do so much stuff nearly every day to get a relative what’s legally due because the process intentionally convoluted and some things needn’t be so damn irritating, but here we are.
I saw JOKER a few times and the Birds of Prey flick twice last year. Both are quite interesting takes on characters with different complex mental challenges as unreliable narrators and yes, one comes off as far darker than the other with the latter film having a much higher body count while the former is pretty bleak on every front with initially a lower body count, but a longer damage reach. The main differences between the two being the direction and how the victims are treated. Birds of Prey has plenty of bad folks who get what’s coming to them and it’s presented as comically as possible though some energetically portrayed violence. But you also see a few innocents dispatched by villains who are somewhat worse than the main character. As the kids say, props to the main villains here for being so phenomenally twisted.
On the other hand, JOKER is in a way, much like Harley’s loopy tale, but a lot less “fun” to watch. It also goes rather intentionally all over the map, but Arthur Fleck’s story along with its more realistic violent content reflects the reactions its main character has to his internal demons and not all of the victims here deserve what they get. The violence is more shocking and in a few cases, unexpected, especially a brutal scene later on where you get a sudden victim and a surprise survivor. In both films, the actors playing the leads do some fine work overall, although I have to give the edge to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance (I’m not into awards shows, but that Oscar win was well-deserved).
Apple device-owning Arrow TV users are also in for a treat this month, as some of the films here are in this months lineup wit many others they can check out. If that’s you, feel free to check out the channel over at the link provided.
So, it was my birthday last month, but I don’t celebrate it these days like “normal” people do. I tend to just wake up and be thrilled to be breathing, move on and let a new year pass hopefully without any bad stuff occurring. Cake is optional these days (Hey, diet? You doing OK?). I also don’t do presents unless I get surprised with one, but this year, I decided to pick up a few things for myself with a bit of extra money I had left over. A little retail therapy, if you like. It’s been quite a year or few years, is all I’ll say about that. Anyway, here’s a small list of what I got myself:
“I can stop anytime I want to…”
I wanted to cut back on the caffeine and someone suggested trying mixing chicory with coffee, so I went with Community’s 100% chicory, as I have a few large canisters of coffee here and I like experimenting when I get the chance to do so. Finding the correct mixture for my tastes was an interesting thing as well, but I did try a pot of pure chicory first but found it a bit too strong. Well, that was my fault, but it did remind me of some of my first attempts to make coffee some decades back where one person liked it and another had her eyeballs practically leave her skull. Let’s just say I got a lot better at the making coffee thing since then.
Oops. With too much going on here and more on the way on a few fronts, I missed a few too many emails and have been getting to them when I can. Anyway, this month’s Arrow Video and Arrow Academy releases are below, all of them dropped today and I barely ducked out of the way as they landed all around me:
So, I lost a coin toss with myself a few days ago and ended up watching a pretty dark film from the lower end of the bucket list. Reasons, I guess. I also guess I should put a trigger warning here, as this one’s something else.
Grim meets garish (plus tax where applicable) in Cornel Wilde’s 1970 apocalyptic survival shockerNo Blade of Grass, which is very likely not a film you want to see if you’re holed up in quarantine for a spell. Then again, it’s a film that’s brutal to watch under any circumstances, with its kind of timely by today’s calendar plot and Wilde’s decision to linger on some scenes that are a bit too exploitative and counteract whatever strong ecological message he was trying to send.
Then again, the source material wasn’t exactly a pleasant story either. Still, Wilde (who co-wrote, directed, and produced the film) gets his powerful message across from the opening moments, using a sledgehammer of assorted mostly stock imagery of polluted water, air and land, plus what seems to be clips of a dying emaciated child to let you know business is meant in all that intensity of the opening moments. I think there was a nuclear explosion in there somewhere as well, but I might have been busy trying to find my jaw, which was under the sofa when it fell off and rolled under it. I need to vacuum more, it seems, as my chin was a bit dusty when I located it. Uh, so mind-blowing and downbeat opening, plus a reach for a finger pistol depressing tune (sung by Roger Whittaker!) as a main title? Check.
In terms of retrospective career highlights, I’ll let the music historians do their thing far better than I. I just wanted to do a very quick post to note two films that featured Little Richard’s music in key sequences. 1987’s Predator has that key introduction to Arnold and company and the scene is funny as heck because of its burly mcbeefcake manly men riding that choppa listening to” Long Tall Sally“, which is not at all what you expect them to be listening to, but there it is, and it works perfectly.
Two years earlier, Joe Dante’s surreal sci-fi flick Explorers featured Richard’s performance of “All Around The World” sung by a comical looking space alien. That may be Robert Picardo in that suit, as he’s credited for the film as that alien. A cover version of the song was done by Robert Palmer and appeared on the film’s soundtrack, accompanied by a music video:
Ah, the days of actors in well-crafted slimy-looking rubber suits and good ol’ practical effects, right? The film also had a great Jerry Goldsmith score and is worth a look if you like a bit of mid-80’s nostalgia and one of those flicks that’s a bit of fluffy popcorn fun.
Okay, things are back to normal… well, the internet works much better today, I mean. I need to catch up on a few too many reviews, but first, some brain draining to take care of. It helps me in these crazy times. This will be another TO BE CONTINUED entry, thanks to a bit of stream of consciousness working itself into this post, but I think we’ll be done by the third one.
I don’t swim at all not because I’m lazy or never had the opportunity to learn. When I was about 7 or 8, the parents sent us to summer camp and maybe ten minutes into the very first day there, one of the counselors decided to grab some frightened kid from the back of a group of kids who’d never seen a lake up close before and toss him into it. There’s nothing like taking in the sights while airborne and screaming, then the shock of cold water hitting your body (or your body hitting the water at speed) and seeing fish swim away along with a few water snakes. And man, those assorted pebbles and rocks on the bottom of the lake? I was getting a geology lesson and learning about a small selection of sea life while sinking like a proverbial stone. Ah, memories!
To be fair, I didn’t even know snakes could live in water until that point and I would have been surprised at that if I wasn’t busy drowning. At some point, I was fished out by a bunch of councilors after they saw I didn’t surface (my bad! I didn’t read the instructions on swimming before I got on the non-air conditioned hot as hell yellow school bus, and by the way, there were NO instructions). But it also seemed that no one was stepping up to get me to a hospital or medically treated for swallowing all that lake water. I know I was out for a bit, as I woke up with a crowd of worried camp counselors staring down at me and all that water I guess was coughed up and I can recall a bunch of kids with big wide eyes gathered nearby. We hadn’t even been assigned cabins when this happened, so they all had nowhere to go.
I was a pre-Jason Vorehees victim of kid-neglecting teens, I guess. I think I need revenge, or an appropriate trailer:
I rather liked science class as lot as a kid despite running into a few bumps in the road, literal warts and all. I recall almost no one wanting to dissect those pickled frogs that the teacher placed on each lab table one fine day, save for two guys in the back (why are the shady ones always in the back and equipped with sharp knives now?) who I guess either turned out later to be really good doctors or even better serial killers later on in life. That and there were a couple of too gleeful girls who obviously didn’t believe that kissing a very dead frog would generate a very dead prince or a live one, for that matter. They just wanted to gross out those that spied them doing it, Ewww.
The more amusing thing here was those girls otherwise hated the class except for this one time and a few other incidents where mayhem was a potential outcome. There was the one time they (about a year later), along with one of the two boys from the back ‘accidentally’ created ammonia gas in the lab that cleared the whole floor, eventually leading to school being dismissed for the day, whee. Uh, don’t try that trick at home, by the way. It’ll the be the perfect cure for everything that ails you with the very obnoxious little side effect of a bit of invisible but acrid smelling poisonous death (and neither a fine nor noble death at that).
Eventually, during the two days, I caved into the learning process and with a fellow equally skittish student (we were all paired up in the class – less dead frogs means a sharing moment for all), we took the plunge. Yes, I thought of all those company-farmed frogs taking a plunge one fine day for a final swim they didn’t know would have them a few hundred miles away dead, well-preserved and soon to be splayed out like ghastly centerfolds courtesy of class-provided scissors and scalpels. My partner in (non) crime was a girl who mentioned before we cut into the preserved formerly ribbiting animal that she had frog once for dinner and yes, it tasted like chicken.
I first saw this film on network TV some decades ago and don’t remember much except that I later realized it was edited within an inch of its life, as when I saw it the next time in my teens on cable, the film had a load of stuff I missed plus stuff I understood better, but still missed because of the TV version’s heavy censoring. That said, I’m gathering that over that first network airing, the nudity was chopped out as much as possible and anything overtly sexual didn’t make the cut except for brief flashes. As for violence, I remember the infamous scene with the cat (more on that below) was also chopped down, but you still got the idea of how horrifying it was.
Anyway, flash forward to seeing the film again recently, and while The Sailor Who Fell With Grace From The Sea is both beautiful to look and quite haunting, it’s also going to be for some viewers (as I found out when I recommended it to some friends), a “pretty repellent film” when all is said and done. Two tastes that don’t taste great together for some, but at least the tagline on the poster is quite applicable. It’s got memorable performances, lovely cinematography, direction, and so forth and so on, so I can’t and won’t complain about any of that. I think the issue with some viewers is with the original Yukio Mishima story it was based on and the film not changing its tone into a more kinder one, although it shifts what some say are morally questionable characters and plot to a breezy, stunning English seaside setting instead of its original Yokohama location. But this wasn’t meant to be a film that bent itself to a particular set of generic movie rules.