First of all, how about them Buffalo Bills, as of today AFC East champions for the second straight season! Let’s see who’s up Saturday… hmmmmm…Patriots? Chargers?
Second, I was shocked to read about the passing of the world champion of telling the “the Aristocrats” joke, Bob Saget. I really hate it when the funny ones die.
Third, To Sir, With Love.
Propelled by the recent death of Sidney Poitier, after the Big Sunday Dinner, we landed on this for a movie. And, I mean, it’s all right. Dated. Kind of weird. Kind of after-school special. Lulu as that generation’s Adele. Contrived situations that kind of make no sense. An extended dance scene betwixt teacher and student without even the benefit of John Travolta’s choreography. It’s kind of a squeaker. Better than Birdman, I reckon.
But without it, is there a Dead Poet’s Society?
Yeah, probably. Maybe we should have gone with Lilies in the Field.
Turner Classic Movies sucked me in early this morning, causing me to watch nearly all of a 1975 film starring Goldie Hawn, Goldie Hawn’ mini-skirts, Warren Beatty, juror #7 in 12 Angry Men, and a 17-year-old Carrie Fisher.
Beatty plays George Roundy, a hairdresser in Beverly Hills who bangs every one of his customers, and follows his attempts to juggle these relationships on the night before the 1968 presidential election. I’ll say this, I am certain that Ben Stiller spent some time with this film when he was formulating his Zoolander character.
Such an experience is one reason I keep the silver channels. Through my Saturday, I had on this nutty film, but earlier they played Bad Day at Black Rock, which I’d seen before but is always worth a view. This stars Spencer Tracy as a one-armed guy who stops into a weird backwards town looking for someone. The dude has a bum arm, but he can still kick Ernest Borgnine’s ass. Then they showed Gilda, which is the reason men sit up a bit in their chairs when you say the words “Rita Hayworth.”
Since I’m thinking about movies, one should probably give a moment to reflect on Sidney Poitier, who, strangely, has been on my mind the past month or so. Lilies in the Field,In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, how do movies get any better than these? Poitier died this week but leaves behind a trove of amazing work.
When Paddy Chayefsky was thinking about writing a movie about a news television network, he asked his friend, news anchor John Chancellor, if it was possible for an anchorman to go crazy on the air.
“Every day,” Chancellor replied.
The resulting film, Network, is one of those films that seems with hindsight to be less farce than prognostication. You know, like Idiocracy. Well, my DOD was reminded by the news of actor Diana Rigg’s death of Chayefsky’s previous effort, The Hospital. This we watched today in our ongoing Pandemic Theater series. It’s a bit more awkward a film and did receive mixed reviews in 1971, but it did win the Oscar for best original screenplay.
As Roger Ebert pointed out the film’s most confounding aspect is that it turns on a dime from farce to whodunnit. But watching this does make it difficult to argue with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin that Chayefsky was “the twentieth century’s most important screenwriter.” The studio was not altogether happy with the film’s yen for algebraic dialogue, but it’s the lines that compelled me as a viewer.
Well. That and the oddball premise that someone is lurking around a hospital murdering doctors and nurses.
So, good pick. Once again, it was better than Birdman.
One should note: It’s also fun to watch for seeing who is in this little film, starting with Nancy Marchand, who played mother of both Tony Soprano and Frasier Crane. This is not the first time Marchand had appeared in a Chayefsky project, she also played Clara in Marty. Other faces that struck me: Katherine Helmond, Stockard Channing (an uncredited brief appearance), and Frances Sternhagen (another Cheers connection, she played Cliff Claven’s mother). Apparently Christopher Guest is also somewhere in this movie as well.
I have been doing pretty well lately at picking the movies, so I thought I’d list a few here that I’ve seen lately that are highly recommended. All of them are better than Birdman.
Top Five: This 2014 Chris Rock film might have fallen below the average movie fan’s radar, but it is a must-see. Rock plays comic and movie star Andre Allen as he is interviewed in a day-in-the-life piece by Times reporter Chelsea Brown, played by Rosario Dawson. This film is smart, hilarious, and it will have you tossing around your own “top five” list. I believe I’ve mentioned this film in a previous post. It is worth mention again.
Joker: Origin stories for the most enigmatic super-villains of all have been fast and loose since the character never really had such a backstory in the comics. Hangover director Todd Phillips and actor Joaquin Phoenix may have created the best such story yet. A satisfying yet subtle story arc for the guy whose brand of evil everyone hates to love.
The Nice Guys: Russell Crow and Ryan Gosling schlemiel and schlimazel it up as would-be PIs who get entangled in a fiendish, twisted plot that has them way in over their heads. This 2016 “neo-noir” effort is just about worth seeing to watch Margaret Qualley, daughter of Andie MacDowell, who would next go to play a pivotal character in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Knives Out: I most recently witnessed Knives Out, a true, effective whodunnit led by Daniel Craig but with countless surprising notables including Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Christopher Plummer FTW. No matter how many steps ahead you think you are of this 2019 mystery, you’ll only see this plot zooming out to pass you hard. Apparently writer/director Rian Johnson should stick to more earthly works.
I wonder if Chris Rock has a t-shirt that says “I Made One Of The Best Movies of 2014* and All I Got Was Three Critics’ Choice Nominations.”
I’ve been talking up Rock’s Top Five to my Dad for a while now after having re-watched it recently. We finally sat down to watch it today, and I could probably put it back on again now and enjoy it just as much.
Top Five features Rock playing fictional comedian and actor Andre Allen, who is tasked to give a-day-in-the-life press availability to “Times” reporter Chelsea Brown, played by Rosario Dawson. Allen, best known for a cop-buddy franchise called Hammy the Bear, is trying to swim out of that current with a serious film about the Hatian slave revolt of 1791. But all anyone wants him to be is Hammy.
Chelsea Brown proves to be an intrepid reporter, chipping away at Allen’s shell until she finds the cracks. This setup launches a movie that is 80 percent dialog and story over action, a difficult presentation to make riveting. But we’re talking about Chris Rock here. Top Five never stops being funny, entertaining, surprising, and utterly smart, even when it’s being a little gross.
Top Five may well be in my top five. It is a good, solid comedy.
And, oh, here’s mine: M.C. Serch, De La Soul, Public Enemy, Chubb Rock, Missy Elliott. If I get a sixth, it’s Earl Sweatshirt.
*Yes, 2014. The same year that Birdman won the Best Picture Oscar. Disgrazia.
I think Turner Classic Movies is essential during a pandemic. You can put on the TV and get a little escape while at the same time working on your cultural literacy.
I mean this even for a movie like Elvis’ Blue Hawaii. This is Elvis’ eighth feature film and was made after his return from military service. Thus, the plot of the movie, Chadwick Gates returns home from a stint in the military. His dad wants him to go into the family pineapple business (of course), and he doesn’t want to.
There are of course a buncha musical numbers. And some dramatic stuff. And of course, by the end of his movie, Chadwick Gates works out his dilemma and gets the girl. Happy happy happy.
Fun fact: The producers of Blue Hawaii took the bank they made on it and used it bankroll another film called Becket.