Saturday, July 12, 2014


Year 6, Day 193 - 7/12/14 - Movie #1,789

BEFORE:  My second day of trying to see Manhattanhenge ended up going much better than the first.  Of course, it was also more crowded since the word got out, and I joined a small army of amateur photographers on 42nd St., just west of 7th Ave.  There was sort of a dead lane of traffic, so this was much easier than trying to take pictures while the "Walk" sign was on, plus I had learned the night before, when I stood on 5th Ave., that I needed to be further west to clear the trees at Bryant Park.  The sky cooperated by not being very cloudy, and the sight of the red setting sun framed between the buildings turned out to be enough to stun even jaded New Yorkers.  I got the pictures I wanted, and 5 minutes later, everyone went back to their business, like nothing had happened at all.

Linking from "Identity Thief", Amanda Peet was also in "Melinda and Melinda" with Matt Servitto.

THE PLOT:  When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed.

AFTER: They make a note of pointing out that this is based on true events - apparently there was some sort of national trend (or one VERY busy guy) where people would call fast-food joints and pretend to be policemen, and then try to see how much trouble they could get random employees into, by accusing them of theft or other misdeeds.

In a sense, it's a variation on psychological tests like the Milgram experiment, in which people were instructed to give shocks to lab volunteers, to see what lengths people would go to in order to follow instructions of authority figures, or similar studies in which some subjects were turned into mock jailers and others into mock prisoners.  The manager of a fast food restaurant is already something of a mid-level authority figure, so when given instructions from the corporate office, or an unseen policeman, about how to handle her staff, as you might imagine that person would feel caught in the middle, yet still might blindly obey.

In the film, the policeman's questions get more and more personal, as the requests get stranger, which results in unauthorized strip-searching, and other things which are tantamount to rape.  For that reason, this film may be hard to watch - but on another level is important, because the public should be made away of any phone scam that's going around.  Like most phone scams, the caller asks the most basic questions, and the recipient is likely to fill in the gaps, without even realizing it.  In this case, he only has to say that a female employee with blonde hair has been accused of stealing from a customer, and the manager is likely to say, "Oh, you mean Becky?"  And, the fish is on the hook.

It's a sick world when someone out there is getting off on rape-by-proxy, or at least forced strip searches via phone.  But it also falls on the parties who receive the call to draw the line somewhere, to wonder why the police officer on the phone isn't conducting the search himself, or for that matter, why his police investigative work is being done by phone and not in person.

Also starring Ann Dowd (last seen in "The Notorious Bettie Page"), Dreama Walker (last seen in "Gran Torino"), Philip Ettinger, Pat Healy, Bill Camp (last seen in "Lawless"), Ashlie Atkinson.

RATING:  4 out of 10 slices of bacon

Friday, July 11, 2014

Identity Thief

Year 6, Day 192 - 7/11/14 - Movie #1,788

BEFORE:  Have you spotted this week's unintended secondary theme?  From actors + directors to fugitive stuntmen and undercover cops - someone's always pretending to be somebody else.  So, logically that leads me to "Identity Thief", and Melissa McCarthy carries over from "The Heat".  I'm betting you saw that one coming...

THE PLOT:  Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Florida to confront the deceptively harmless looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy's identity.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Due Date" (Movie #1,199)

AFTER:  Ah, once again it's time for a summer road trip.  I did this chain back in 2012 with road movies, like "Get Him to the Greek", "Due Date", and "Paul", which all seemed somewhat similar.  This sort of feels right in line with those, especially the pairing of the two opposite personalities that need to work together, which has been another running theme this week.

Tonight it's a straight-laced accountant type paired up with a brash criminal - so there's shades of "Midnight Run" thrown in there as well - and the road genre has really taken off during the last few years, especially if you consider "The Hangover" to be on topic.

So this is the third film I've seen with Melissa McCarthy, and I think I've figured out my problem with her.  And it's not what you think, her size - good on you, girl, you're large and in charge and there's no need to apologize for that.  Funny comes in all shapes and sizes, and I myself maintain a consistent panda-bear shape.  In fact, if you're trying to do comedy, since fat people are stereotypically jolly, I think it gives you a definite advantage - Ralphie May, Gabriel Iglesias, John Pinette (RIP), Louie Anderson, and going back to the classics, Lou Costello, Oliver Hardy, W.C. Fields, and of course Fatty Arbuckle.  It's a new twist for female comedians, so McCarthy and Rebel Wilson seem to have a lock on things for now -

No, this is my problem with Melissa McCarthy - I think she's trying too hard.  I don't know what obstacles she's had to overcome to get where she is, and I haven't walked a mile in her shoes (I'm betting she hasn't either...) but judging her acting/emoting level, I get the feeling that she's over-compensating for her appearance issues.  In both "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat", her intensity level was really high, and I don't think it needed to be.  Again, if you're a large person, I think you're already halfway to being funny, so being loud and obnoxious on top of that is not really necessary for comedy.  I'd like to see her more acting subdued - more like John Candy than Chris Farley.

In "Identity Thief", I think she showed signs of moving in that direction.  And her character ended up being a lot more consistent, even though it's something of a more "unlikeable" character, being a liar and cheat and a thief.  Plus it was still possible to be large and unapologetic for it, while at the same time addressing the limitations of being a larger person, like having trouble running.  As opposed to, say, playing a cop who had zero chance of running down perps or chasing them over walls and fences.

As one might expect from an odd-couple pairing/buddy road trip, the two polar characters end up learning from each other - the honest one learns that maybe things aren't so black and white, and maybe there's a time to break the law (when faced with injustice) and the criminal learns (eventually) that her actions have consequences, and her crimes are not victimless.  I can't tell you exactly what the cop and the FBI agent seen in "The Heat" learned from each other, because the characterizations were so nebulous and inconsistent.

Unfortunately, the conflict here seems quite forced - not the conflict between the identity thief and her victim, but the one between the two of them and the more unsavory characters like the bounty hunter and the...umm, the other two.  I wasn't really sure who the other two criminals were, or what their exact connection was to identity theft.  They apparently were upset over getting some bad phony credit cards (as opposed to, what, good phony ones?) and it seems like a pretty big leap from getting some faulty cards to going after someone with a shotgun, but then again, I can't be sure, that's not my world.

Also starring Jason Bateman (last seen in "Horrible Bosses"), Amanda Peet (last seen in "Melinda and Melinda"), Jon Favreau (last seen in "Iron Man 3"), John Cho (last seen in "Star Trek: Into Darkness"), Eric Stonestreet (last seen in "Bad Teacher"), Robert Patrick (last seen in "Gangster Squad"), T.I., Genesis Rodriguez, Jonathan Banks (last seen in "Frances"), Morris Chestnut, with cameos from Ellie Kemper (last seen in "21 Jump Street"), Clark Duke, Ben Falcone (also carrying over from "The Heat").

RATING: 5 out of 10 credit cards

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Heat

Year 6, Day 191 - 7/10/14 - Movie #1,787

BEFORE:  I know the title refers to the nickname for cops, but this also feels like good timing since it's been Africa-hot this week in NYC.  The annual Italian feast has started, so we'll be outside more often - I can't wait to get back to San Diego and those cool ocean breezes.  Also today was the 2nd 2014 occurence of "Manhattan-henge", when the sun sets exactly in line with the city's crosstown streets.  I've been trying to see it for two or three years, and either it clouds over, or I forget about it and smack my forehead after watching the news.  Technically the best viewing day is tomorrow, but I headed out a day early, figuring one day won't make much difference, and sure enough, it was cloudy.  But the cloud cover parted at the very last minute, and I (along with some shocked pedestrians on 42nd St.) got rewarded with a killer view of the sunset and some choice photos.  I'm going to go back tomorrow, but I have a feeling there will be more of a crowd - who cares, I've finally seen this semi-rare event.

Linking from "The Hard Way", Kathy Najimy was also in "Hope Floats" with Sandra Bullock.

THE PLOT:  An uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord.

AFTER:  I'm on to you now, Hollywood, I get this "opposites forced to work together" thing you keep re-playing for us every couple of years.  I mean, months.  "The Other Guys", "Cop Out", "Red Heat", "K-9" and so on.  "Lethal Weapon", "Rush Hour", "48 Hrs.", "Dragnet", "Tango and Cash", "Starsky and Hutch".  Should I even bother thinking this one's going to be any different, just because the cops are women?

Actually, there is one difference - all of those other films had scripts, with lines that were planned, and a structure that was, umm, thought out.  This one feels like it was mostly improv, and that's a bad idea for a crime film.  Where's the structure here?  Why does it seem like the story started in the middle - how did they know to go after specific drug dealers in the first place?

There's a telling moment where Bullock's character tries to connect the dots, represented by photos of criminals being pinned to a bulletin board - but how does she know in advance where the chain is supposed to end?  Isn't that the point of making a chain, following the leads where they, umm, lead?  Knowing the end in advance is not only impossible, it's kind of like cheating, from a story point of view.

The characters are similarly all over the place - the whole point of a character is that they have certain character traits.  This one's messy, this one's organized, this one swears - but they have to be somewhat consistent.  This film can't keep its own story straight - she's successful, right up until the time that she isn't.  She can't get along with people, except for the times that she does.  I can't help but think this was half-written, or someone changed their mind about what the characters should be like, and didn't bother to re-shoot what was already in the can.

Also starring Melissa McCarthy (last seen in "Bridesmaids"), Michael Rapaport (last seen in "Comic Book Villains"), Marlon Wayans (last seen in "Don't Be a Menace to South Central..."), Demian Bichir, Michael McDonald, Dan Bakkedahl, Taran Killam, Jane Curtin (last seen in "I Love You, Man"), Thomas F. Wilson, with cameos from Tony Hale, Bill Burr,

RATING: 4 out of 10 yearbook photos

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Hard Way

Year 6, Day 190 - 7/9/14 - Movie #1,786

BEFORE:  Linking from "Doc Hollywood", Michael J. Fox carries over, and I'm setting myself on another cop/crime-related chain, which should dovetail nicely into action films and then superhero action films.  I'm 2 weeks out from Comic-Con, which means I should be counting out our merchandise and checking to see if I have all the office and art supplies we'll need.

16 of the last 19 films have been about performers in some way - actors, singers, stunt men and painters.  This will be the last word on that subject for a while - but after superheroes I've got musicians queued up again.

THE PLOT:  An action film star researching a role is allowed to tag along with a hardboiled New York cop, who finds him superficial and irritating.

AFTER: Like last night's film, this is another study in contrasts.  Pair the spoiled, pampered actor up with a tough, gritty New York cop, then just sit back and watch the hilarity.  This baby practically writes itself, right?  Well, not exactly.

For this to work, you have to believe in a deranged killer called the "Party Crasher", who enters NYC clubs and shoots people - but other than the fact that he's a psycho, we never learn much about him.  Why those clubs, why those people?  Is it completely random, or does he have some kind of an agenda.  He claims to be doing the "same job" as the police - is he killing criminals, or just people who he believes are evil?  We'll never know, because the police never seem to investigate his motives, they're only interested in shutting him down.  So he COULD have been a great character (remember, villains never perceive themselves to be villains...) if someone had just taken the time to give him a backstory or motive.  Nope, let's shoot first and ask questions later.

The actor, Nick Lang, star of the film-within-a-film "Smoking Gunn II", wants to shadow Det. John Moss, who's as real a police officer as he can find.  But this in itself was kind of confusing, this is supposed to be research for a role, but "Smoking Gunn II" seems to be already in theaters - is he trying out for a role in a different franchise?  Seems to me that a successful actor, with a film already in theaters, wouldn't need to do research, because the thing's already shot - and he's probably locked in to "Smoking Gunn III", so why would he even need to audition for that?  I guess they made a half-hearted attempt to explain this when the film-within-a-film that they watch at the end is called "The Good, The Badge and the Ugly", but this seems like a late fix.

I feel like I've dug so far into my list that I'm mired in mediocre films - surely if these movies were more important, I would have watched them before now, right?  So where are the hidden gems, the films that are really great but that I just never knew about for some reason?  My guess is that they don't exist.  I've got some new films (2013-2014) coming up that I'm really excited about, but it's very possible that the films from the 1980's and 1990's that are left on the list, I'm just watching them to be a completist, and I'm not going to find any buried treasure there.

Also starring James Woods (last seen in "Nixon"), Stephen Lang (last seen in "Tombstone"), Annabella Sciorra (last seen in "Reversal of Fortune"), Luis Guzman (last seen in "Snake Eyes"), LL Cool J, Delroy Lindo (last seen in "Congo"), with cameos from Penny Marshall, Christina Ricci (last seen in "Anything Else"), Kathy Najimy (last seen in "Sister Act 2"), Lewis Black, Bill Cobbs, Mos Def and Fabio.

RATING:  5 out of 10 frog dogs

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Doc Hollywood

Year 6, Day 189 - 7/8/14 - Movie #1,785

BEFORE:  I didn't talk much yet about what we did over the July 4 weekend, we went and had burgers and dogs with my brother- and sister-in-law at a friend's house, and other than that, I caught up on TV.  We watched the Macy's fireworks display on the DVR Sunday night, and what a disappointment that was.  Not the fireworks themselves, but the music was completely terrible.  I think last year they let Usher choose the music, and they must have received complaints from Middle America, because the pendulum swung back too far in the other direction.  Instead there were very dated vocal arrangements of songs from the 1800's, and versions from a "Diva Jazz Band" that reminded me of disco versions from the 1970's.  I'm not a big fan of most modern music, but I understand that you're not going to get kids today to look up from their iPads by playing "You're a Grand Old Flag", in the style of a high-school choral arrangement.

Linking from "The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave", Dan Hedaya was also in "For Love or Money" with Michael J. Fox (last heard in "Stuart Little 3").

THE PLOT: A young doctor causes a traffic accident in a small town and is sentenced to work for some days at the town hospital.

AFTER: I'm going to try my best to tie in last night's film with this one - I could point out that the Super Dave film was all about someone getting injured, and this film is about a doctor healing people.  Lame, I know.  I'm also riding the tail end of an unintended "American" theme - what's more American than country music, coal mining, and filmmaking, and stunts?  If you take this film as a look at small-town America, in some ways this does continue my theme.  There is a squash festival seen here, and there were fireworks, (and they danced to Patsy Cline's "Crazy"), so that was sort of reminiscent of July 4. 

Look, I have to accept that as my list of films gets smaller and smaller, occasionally there will be thematic jumps, where one film has nothing to do with the next.  Hmm, let's try another tactic - Super Dave was an overly optimistic, humble character who gets let down by everyone around him, and tonight's character is the opposite - a pessimistic, egotistical type who learns that a rural community can be a source of tremendous support.

I'm probably grasping at straws - but this is a fairly simple story about a big-city doctor stuck in a small town.  When you're stuck for an idea, the easiest fallback is usually to highlight a contrast.  And there's no bigger contrast than the one between small-town folk and city folk.  The pace is slower, the salary is lower, but the people are more genuine.  Our hero, Dr. Ben Stone has to work off his community service hours while the town's doctor is on vacation, and even though he's got great medical knowledge, what he lacks are people skills.

Of course there's a love interest, a relationship with his ambulance driver that starts with a wager, but eventually becomes genuine.  And the relationship is something of a love triangle, since there's another man involved, or really it's a bit of a quadrangle, since the mayor's daughter seems pretty interested in Dr. Stone, but these are plotlines that are never really as developed as they could have been.  But then, this isn't really a romance story between people, it's really more of an examination of small-town life.   

I'll call this "serviceably entertaining", though I feel like a larger point could have been made somewhere, it almost feels like it was all around a point without being completely clear.  I've lived in the suburbs and I've lived in a city, and I get that when you've lived one way for a while, that becomes what you get used to - but what about the place where you lived before? 

Also starring Julie Warner, Woody Harrelson (last seen in "The Thin Red Line"), David Ogden Stiers (last seen in "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion"), Bridget Fonda (last seen in "City Hall"), Frances Sternhagen (last seen in "Julie & Julia"), Barnard Hughes, Roberts Blossom, Eyde Byrde, with a cameo from George Hamilton (last seen in "Hollywood Ending").

RATING: 5 out of 10 stuffed possums

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave

Year 6, Day 188 - 7/7/14 - Movie #1,784

BEFORE:  Forgive me for putting the two films about stuntmen on my list back-to-back.  Some films are bricks, some are intended as mortar.  I've got two weeks laid out that constitutes a path back to superhero films, and the path goes right through this one.  Linking from "The Stunt Man", Barbara Hershey was in a film called "Tune In Tomorrow" with Dan Hedaya (last seen in "Dick").

THE PLOT:  Super Dave Osborne, accident-prone stuntman hero, comes out of a self-imposed retirement to raise money for his new girlfriend's son's heart operation.

AFTER: Yeah, this was a pretty crappy movie, and I knew going in it was going to be a crappy movie, but it's a movie that's in the collection already, and the goal has always been to see everything in the collection, adding films as I go.  I can't in good conscience call the project over until everything has been watched, as painful as that may be sometimes.

For those too young to remember, Super Dave was a recurring character on TV in the 1970's and 80's, appearing in similar segments on shows like "The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour" and John Byner's Canadian import "Bizarre", before getting his own Showtime show in the late 80's.  These would usually involve the announcement of some bizarre daredevil stunt, followed by an interview segment about said stunt, during which the stunt would occur prematurely, or otherwise fail horribly, leaving the stuntman crushed in an impossibly small heap, or otherwise horribly disfigured, in the name of low comedy.

Each segment was designed to be no more than a few minutes long, so you can probably guess what happens if you string 30 or 40 of these gags together to make a 90-minute movie - it's really just the same joke over and over, repeat as necessary until you reach the end credits.  Super Dave gets injured, recovers somehow, and for some silly reason does not fire the people who planned the last stunt, and trusts them again and again to get things right, which they don't.

What's even worse than repetition, though, is the fact that this film can't seem to settle on a main plot, and changes its focus 2 or 3 times along the way.  Super Dave retires, only he doesn't - he falls in love, only that also goes horribly wrong - he trains a protege, who steals his act, setting up a pointless confrontation.  When you sit down to write a screenplay for a character, it's good to give the character goals, but it's also good to try to not do everything at once. 

I think there's a place for movies made about TV sketch characters - "Strange Brew", "Wayne's World", "Beavis and Butthead Do America" and so on - only those films gave their characters more to do, and this one's just the same old stuff.  Some of the stuff that pokes fun at Evel Knievel <> works, if you think that sort of thing is ripe for parody, but other stuff, like the subplot about collecting mimes, just goes absolutely nowhere. 

Also starring Bob Einstein, Don Lake (last seen in "Wagons East"), Gia Carides, Art Irizawa, with cameos from Ray Charles, Michael Buffer (last seen in "The Fighter"), Evander Holyfield, John Elway, Mike Connors and Billy Barty.

RATING: 2 out of 10 dirt bikes

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Stunt Man

Year 6, Day 187 - 7/6/14 - Movie #1,783

BEFORE:  So it turns out that while I was celebrating the lives of some famous Americans, like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Frances Farmer and Jackson Pollock, I was inadvertently setting up a mini-reunion of the cast of another very American film, "The Right Stuff".  That film starred Dennis Quaid ("Postcards From the Edge"), Sam Shepard ("Frances"), Ed Harris ("Sweet Dreams", "Pollock") and the voice of Levon Helm ("Sweet Dreams").  Maybe it's just coincidence, and maybe this sort of thing happens all the time around here and I just fail to notice it.  Whatever, let's roll with it.  Ed Harris from "Pollock" was also in "The Right Stuff" with Barbara Hershey (last seen in "Black Swan"), who appears tonight.

THE PLOT:  A fugitive stumbles on a movie set just when they need a new stunt man, takes the job as a way to hide out, and falls for the leading lady

AFTER: My BFF Andy suggested this one a couple of years ago, said it simply had to be on the list, so when TCM ran it during an Oscar marathon, I picked it up.  Took a while to figure out a way to work it into a theme - but after films like "Frances", "My Week with Marilyn" and "Postcards From the Edge", all films about filmmaking, I'm hoping this is the most logical place for it.

When we first see Cameron (is that his first name or last name?) he's being arrested in a diner, then chased out of the woods by the police, and with his denim ensemble and bearded face, I was picking up a real Charles Manson vibe from him.  Turns out the actor played the notorious Manson a few years earlier in "Helter Skelter", so that's probably why.  (We don't learn at first WHY he's a wanted man, so it certainly COULD have been for running a cult of Satanic killer followers.)  After ducking the cops, he faces off against a man driving a 1920's classic car, who tries to run him over on a bridge.  The car goes off the bridge, however, and the presence of a camera crew in a nearby helicopter informs us that our hero (?) has just interrupted a movie stunt.

Cameron encounters the movie crew again, during the filming of a war-scene on a beach, one which confuses the crowd of onlookers because the carnage looks all too real.  This is an indication that in the land that he's about to enter, nothing is as it appears.  The director hires him as a replacement stuntman (actually as a replacement "Bert", since Bert is missing after driving that car off the bridge) and this sets up an unusual dynamic between Cameron/Bert and the film's director, Eli Cross.

Cross needs Cameron to be the new Bert, because he can't let on that Bert is dead, or the police will want to investigate and shut down the production.  Cameron needs Cross because he needs a job and a place to hide - so they're sort of stuck with each other in a symbiotic relationship (one that feels a little too familiar to me, but I digress...).  Things are made more complicated with the addition of the lead actress, Nina Franklin, in an obvious but still quite unconventional love triangle.

Cross is also drawn to Cameron's history as a Vietnam vet - since he's making a movie set in World War I, he feels that he could learn something from Cameron's story, what it means to survive a war.  Cameron/Bert is wild, unpredictable, and scarred - everything that a pampered actor is not.  Even though he's only doing stuntwork, since Cameron's survived a real war with actual bullets being shot at him, then logically doing stunts with fake bullets should be easy by comparison.

It's around about this time that things start to get a little blurry, with the actors taking on some of the characteristics of the characters they're playing, and vice versa.  The director suggests changes to the script based on Cameron's back-story and abilities, and at the same time the crew sets up certain stunts without telling the stunt man about them, in order to get his reactions to be more genuine.  It becomes something of a mind-game, with the director acting like God in control of a small universe, treating his actors like pawns in a life-sized chess game.

From a filmmaking point of view, there are a few dozen "in-jokes", just using the language of film, which also serve to blur the lines between the movie we're watching, and the film-within-a-film that those characters are making.  Sudden cuts are used to change scenes or situations, while at first deceiving the viewer - like showing the actor dangling from a flying plane, then pulling back to reveal that he's now dangling from a prop plane, just 10 feet above the ground.  I lost track of the times I was led to believe one thing, and then told another.

This leads to the occasional NITPICK POINT, as in the aforementioned battle-scene.  There's just no way that they could shot that scene all in one go - with the actors playing uninjured soldiers in the beach scene, then with the explosions going off, followed by the realistically injured soldiers, with all that stage blood and so on.  The injured soldiers were half-buried in the sand (to disguise lost limbs and such), so that takes a lot of setting up.  Any director with half a brain would realize that the scene would need to be shot in segments, due to the complexity of setting up those injuries.  It's all to showcase how great the effects are, but it's just not practical.

This all leads up to the big final stunt, and by this time the viewer may not know what's going to happen, or which way is up, or what the truth is any more.  What is reality, anyway?  I mean, none of it's real, because filmmaking is a business built on illusion, and all actors (even stuntmen) are liars, so either it's all real, or none of it is real, or perhaps both. 

The big building that served as the scenery for most of the set-work is, of course, the Hotel Coronado, made famous in the film "Some Like It Hot" - I recognized it right away because I know my San Diego landmarks.  To me it doesn't look a thing like a German mansion, but maybe that's the best that the crew of this film (or the film-within-the-film) could get on short notice.

Also starring Steve Railsback, Peter O'Toole (last seen in "What's New Pussycat?"), Allen Garfield, Alex Rocco, Sharon Farrell, Adam Roarke.

RATING: 6 out of 10 breakaway walls


Year 6, Day 186 - 7/5/14 - Movie #1,782

BEFORE:  I sort of hit a dead-end with "Coal Miner's Daughter" - I mean, I could continue with the musician theme, but I'm saving those films for when I get back from San Diego.  So I'll keep the biopic theme going, and I'll backtrack to Ed Harris, who was in "Sweet Dreams".  Linking from "Coal Miner's Daughter", Tommy Lee Jones was also in "Space Cowboys" with Marcia Gay Harden.  I've got another space-related linking thing going on, but I'll pose it as a question instead - what film (which I watched back in 2010) featured at least one actor from this film, and the four previous films in my chain?  Answer will appear tomorrow. 

THE PLOT:  A film about the life and career of the American painter, Jackson Pollock.

AFTER: Thankfully this will be the last biopic I'm watching for a while, as they've all developed a form of sameness to them - it's been a week full of alcoholism, arguments, domestic violence, and rampant affairs.  Look, I don't know if famous people have more affairs than regular people, or if the ones that they do have are just more prominent.  It's like asking why so many music stars have died in plane crashes - which probably has a lot to do with the fact that they travel so much when they're on tour.  That's just probability.

Anyway, tonight it's the complicated relationship between Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner.  Krasner put her art career more or less on hold to be Pollock's lover, publicist, wife and all-around caretaker.  And this did pay off when his art became a thing - but eventually he started drinking again, and sleeping around again, and then came the jealousy, the yelling, and the separation.  Are all artists this moody, or just the successful ones?  Can a marriage survive one person being famous and successful, or does that automatically tip the balance somehow?

For that matter, do the highs of success automatically bring on the lows of depression?  Should artists be allowed to self-medicate if they feel that helps them to be creative?  Who are we to judge another person's creative process, if it results in a piece of art or a film that others deem noteworthy or successful?  Is there a point where someone becomes famous enough that the rules no longer apply to them, and if so, should others intervene to change them, or just get out of the way?

Some good questions tonight, but not a whole lot of answers. 

I suppose it comes as no surprise that Pollock's famous "splatter" technique came about by accident - he'd put his canvases on the floor to access them better, so at some point spilling paint on them was more or less inevitable.  That's OK, most of the greatest innovations of the modern age came to be after accidents, from the telephone right on down to the breakfast taco.

Also starring Jennifer Connelly (last seen in "The Rocketeer"), Jeffrey Tambor (last seen in "Mr. Popper's Penguins"), Amy Madigan, John Heard (last seen in "Snake Eyes"), Bud Cort, Tom Bower, Sada Thompson, Robert Knott, with cameos from Val Kilmer (last seen in "Tombstone"), Stephanie Seymour, John Rothman, Annabelle Gurwitch.

RATING: 5 out of 10 bottles of Schlitz