Posts Tagged ‘movies’

“The Pink Angels”

February 8th, 2013 at 8:01 pm ET

PINK ANGELSI saw The Pink Angels (1971) last night, and all I can say is, BRAVO! If you are into motorcycles or gay people or the 1970s or hippie soundtracks or campy shit or any number of other things, you should see this movie. Buy it here on DVD with about a dozen other films of the era of like quality; you won’t regret it.

I love films of the early 1970s shot in Southern California anyway, in part for my own reasons — I was a child in the early 1970s in Southern California and I respond to the landscape and the peoples cape and the cityscape. But this movie, Jesus Christ. It’s just as trippy and absurdist and “what the f*ck just happened?” as that synopsis would suggest. And the dialogue — if you’ve never heard a prissy queen in motorcycle denim in a gravel campground say “Two forks, we’re having salad,” well, you haven’t lived. Also, sidecars! Put it in your DVD player and enjoy the next two hours.

The Naked City (1948)

November 20th, 2011 at 11:03 pm ET

Also saw The Naked City tonight — I’d seen bits and pieces, but never the whole thing. This is the granddaddy of every police procedural ever made, and was filmed on location all over New York City, mostly in spots instantly recognizable. The 10th Precinct house on West 20th Street, which I bike past every day on the way to work, was used extensively, and not only the exterior; many interior shots were filmed in a room in the front of the building, probably on the third floor, because out the window you can identify buildings across the street (which I confirmed via Google Street View).

The House of Yes (1997)

November 20th, 2011 at 8:27 pm ET

Creepy Parker Posey isn’t the only attraction of The House of Yes, a movie made from a play by Wendy MacLeod; there’s also creepy Genevieve Bujold and always-creepy Tori Spelling. Much more Grey Gardens-y than I expected, this story of a pair of crazy twins (one crazier than the other; or is she?) was substantial and engaging. Bonus: Way back in 1997, Freddie Prinze, Jr. was a hottie.

The Best of Everything (1959)

November 19th, 2011 at 12:00 am ET

You know all those Netflix DVDs you have sitting around in your living room, collecting dust and costing you $9.95 a month? Maybe you should, you know, watch them. I dug through my little DVD stack and found The Best of Everything (1959), made from Rona Jaffe’s book, which I read earlier this year.

The book is one of those “young women come to NYC from the sticks with the dream of making it big” affairs, like The Women and so forth. I really enjoyed it, although having four or five parallel subplots intertwined throughout the whole thing was kind of hard to follow. I kept having to flip back to figure out whether the girl from Colorado was the same one who was dating the country club guy with the roadster, and who was it again was divorced with a small child?, and exactly which married guy was sleeping with who, and so forth, but on the whole it was a satisfying experience, and right after I finished the book I rented the movie.

Of course I didn’t watch it until now, several months later. And I was struck by the extent to which all the men in this 1950s office-romance movie were utter cads (with the occasional exception), and all the women were either baldly husband-hunting with no ambition, or so ambitious they’d lost their souls. Joan Crawford plays a slightly older woman in the office who has more or less literally lost her soul, and much is made of this as a plot point. It’s pretty bleak. But the movie is largely faithful to the book; that’s simply how Jaffe wrote it.

On the upside, the movie is gorgeous. It’s a lush evocation of its era in New York, with gorgeously and matter-of-factly dressed women throughout, office furniture that you mostly see now in expensive Brooklyn junk shops, interiors in pastels and primary colors, a spectacular coffee-shop scene near the beginning, and lots of identifiable 50s New York exteriors. And every woman wore a hat and gloves every single day!


Trail of the Screaming Forehead

June 4th, 2011 at 11:54 am ET

Has everyone seen Trail of the Screaming Forehead? No? See it immediately.  It’s running occasionally on IFC, and DVD is promised really soon now.

In this horror (?) movie, super-smart autonomous foreheads attach themselves to the human foreheads of the people of Longhead Bay (home of the Institute for Brain Studying) and zombify them.  The cable blurb says “”A researcher injects a man with a serum, causing his head to swell to gigantic proportions,” but that doesn’t begin to do it justice. It’s extremely well written (as a genre piece, well scored, and pitch-perfectly acted. I can only imagine how many takes they had to do of some of these scenes to keep the actors from busting out laughing and spoiling the whole thing.

Written and directed by Larry Blamire, starring a bunch of people I’ve heard of (though they’ve been around). Trailer here:

The Tintin movie!!

May 19th, 2011 at 10:04 am ET

The Peter Jackson/Steven Spielberg Tintin movie is on its way, and here’s the trailer.  To be honest, there isn’t much here, but watch it anyway.  My favorite shot:


Free Amazon Instant Video? Not on the iPad…

March 11th, 2011 at 11:54 pm ET

Just checked out the streaming Amazon Instant Video offerings that are now available to me free as a benefit of my Amazon Prime membership. There’s some watchable content there, and I was all ready to watch some vintage Doctor Who — but alas, the damn thing runs on Flash, so it’s not iPad-compatible. Advantage: Netflix. (Not to mention that the Netflix content reserve is quite a bit deeper than Amazon’s Prime-eligible content.)

I will say that Amazon’s search-and-browse interface is more lightweight than Netflix’s, which I’ve never particularly liked. But I won’t be canceling my Netflix membership quite yet.

Joan Rivers

June 24th, 2010 at 4:39 pm ET

Warning: This post will likely contain adult themes, the names of body parts below the Mason-Dixon Line, and probably a word or two you wouldn’t say in church. Hello! — it’s about Joan Rivers, what did you expect?

Saw Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work last night with my friend Charlemagne. We saw it in Cobble Hill, or maybe it was Carroll Gardens (where is the line?) in a cozy little neighborhood theater on — what was that street called? Sesame? Seriously, the Court Street-Smith Street corridor is about as close to “idealized neighborhood NYC” as it’s possible to find anymore — pretty and walkable, but with a soupçon of filth. You know — a neighborhood you probably won’t be knifed in, but still, if you drop a candy bar on the sidewalk, don’t pick it up and eat it. It’s still New York.

As we had our dessert afterwards in the Chocolate Room next door, if a Muppet (presumably a raggedy one, possibly with a drug habit), just escaped from 123 Sesame Street, had wandered in and ambled over to our table asking for spare change, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But I digress.

So, Joan Rivers. To people in their 20s and maybe even 30s, “plastic surgery gone horribly wrong” is probably the first thing you think of, but to people a generation or so older — wow, what a groundbreaking woman, absolutely a performer, who would say or do anything to get a laugh, back when women didn’t do that sort of thing. Joan Rivers made abortion jokes 20 years before anyone — ANYONE female was willing to do it.

The movie is a loose, episodic chronicle of roughly a year in her life (the year apparently 2008), when her career was in a slump but she wasn’t yet ready to remove the crown she received from Phyllis Diller and hand it over to Kathy Griffin. (She still isn’t.) Along the way we see her massively overdecorated (but still endearing) apartment, a lot of her household staff, flashbacks to the 60s, 70s, and 80s, more of Melissa than I really needed, and plenty of performance clips, including an extended routine taped in a casino in Wisconsin in which she surgically disposed of a heckler. This woman may be 75, but DON’T GET IN HER WAY.

We see an extremely human portrait of a frightened, flawed person, aware of her mistakes, insecure despite her talents, devoted to her daughter. At one point she is sitting with the makeup artist and, almost as an aside, she says something like “nobody has ever said to me that I am beautiful” and I heard an audible intake of breath from the woman sitting behind me. Imagine what it must be like to never have heard another person call you beautiful!

I won’t spoil the movie by giving away all the details, but there are a couple of moments I particularly enjoyed. One is the scene where she barks a filthy Twitter posting to an assistant, who scribbles it on a notepad and scurries away. Another is having the camera come on her when she is on her hands and knees in (I think) her bathroom, writing herself cue cards on oaktag with a magic marker. The camera zooms in as she writes the words… well, one of them is a body part that starts with V, and the other is a gaseous product that starts with F, ask a fifth-grader — alluding to a joke she is kind enough to share with the class. And I loved the metal card file in her office, in which thousands of jokes are separately typed on index cards and filed away in little drawers with guide words on the front like “COOKING-DANZA, TONY.” Even now, when Joan is in New York or L.A. overnight, she schedules a club date, so she can try out new material. At 75! Would that we all had such drive.

I should say something about “Celebrity Apprentice,” which has figured in Joan’s latest comeback (it was her first appearance on NBC since Johnny Carson blackballed her 30 years ago), but I am so uninterested in talking about Donald Trump that all I’ll say is this: Joan Rivers is so fascinating that I was actually willing to sit through the 90 seconds of Trump footage they worked into this film.

The Room: the worst movie ever made?

May 31st, 2010 at 10:48 pm ET

I know that’s a strong claim. But after watching The Room last night (in a group of film nerds who called my attention to every plot hole, continuity lapse, and character problem in the film’s 90 minutes, I’m not sure it isn’t justified. This movie is the biggest hodgepodge of bad acting, appalling directing, unbelievable dialogue, and implausible plot points I’ve ever experienced, despite the fact that it apparently cost $7 million to produce and promote — and yet it’s watchable and even endearing. After seeing it I understand the cult following, I understand why it has a professional following in Hollywood (and why Paul Rudd, when asked for comment by Entertainment Weekly, declined to “mock someone else’s stuff”).

Somehow I missed this film when it came out in L.A. (disclosure: I was really busy in 2003, running a money-losing small business), and missed it when it hit New York (disclosure: I was a partner in a startup at the time, and living in the office), and missed it last year when it started to go cult (disclosure: I work a lot, and don’t go to of movies). But I’ll be ever grateful to our friends for bringing it to my attention, and I’ll be at the next “participatory screening” (think Rocky Horror) in Brooklyn.

The EW story and the Wikipedia article are worth reading in full. The movie’s available from Netflix; if you’d like a YouTube clip or two to give you a sense of what you’re in for, start here and here.

“Good Bye, Lenin” (2003)

January 16th, 2010 at 11:58 am ET

I’m rewatching Good Bye, Lenin (2003) for the first time since I saw it in the theater during its US first run. What a richly realized film!

The conceit is simple: a patriotic East German woman goes into a coma just before the Communist system falls, and wakes up only after capitalism has taken over the only world she knew. Out of concern for her fragile health, her children create for her the illusion that everything is still as it was, complete with tattered old furniture rescued from the dump, obsolete canned goods, and the like.

It could have been made silly, it could have been made sad, but instead writer-director Wolfgang Becker and co-writer Bernd Lichtenberg struck a very human balance. The film is at times hysterically funny, very often light, even though the wistfulness inherent in the passing of a former time that was reassuring and beautiful in its way comes through clearly. I particularly like the visual experience of the film; throughout, you see Eastern Bloc coffeepots and linens, contemporary commercial art, and 30-year-old interiors and street scenes that are richly realized.

And it doesn’t hurt that in the lead (as the woman’s son) is the expressive Daniel Brühl, who appeared most recently in Inglourious Basterds (2009) — which I haven’t seen yet… but it’s on the list.