Saturday, February 6, 2016

One From the Heart

Year 8, Day 37 - 2/6/16 - Movie #2,238

BEFORE: I have to link indirectly from James Spader, who was also in "Pretty in Pink" with Harry Dean Stanton, as seen earlier in the week.  I'm not proud of it, but then again, it's not my fault that I don't have other prominent films with Spader or Maggie Gyllenhaal on my list.  Blame the casting directors, they're also the ones responsible for the recent Oscars "So White" controversy, if you ask me.  Academy voters can't vote for performances that don't exist, if good roles weren't cast with black actors in them.  Actually, blame the screenwriters, too, before you go accusing the Academy voters of being racist.  They can't vote for good performances by black actors if the writers don't create those stories in the first place, right?  

Here's tomorrow's TCM line-up for Day 7 of "31 Days of Oscar":
Sterling Hayden carries over from "The Star" to:
"The Asphalt Jungle" with Louis Calhern carrying over to:
"The Magnificent Yankee" with Philip Ober carrying over to:
"North by Northwest" with Les Tremayne carrying over to:
"The Fortune Cookie" with Jack Lemmon carrying over to:
"Days of Wine and Roses" with Charles Bickford carrying over to:
"A Star Is Born" (1954) with Judy Garland carrying over to:
"The Harvey Girls" with Cyd Charisse carrying over to:
"It's Always Fair Weather" with Dolores Gray carrying over to:
"Designing Woman" with Lauren Bacall carrying over to:
"Key Largo" with Edward G. Robinson carrying over to:
"Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet" with Sig Ruman carrying over to:
"It Happened Tomorrow"

Once again, I've seen 4 of those already (#3-6) and 4 out of 11 brings me up to 26 seen and 54 unseen. But it's weird to see the really popular films scheduled so early in the day, it's almost like there's some big event happening in the evening that they don't want to program against.  Oh, wait...

THE PLOT:  After a five-year relationship, lustful and dreamy Fanny leaves down-to-earth Hank on the anniversary of their relationship.

AFTER: For a long while, this film was scheduled for February 14 of this year, probably because it has "heart" in the title.  But things shifted around, and other films joined the list, so ultimately there was no great place for it.  Direct linking would really place this film next to "The Black Stallion Returns", because it shares two actors with that film, which is now left out of the loop.  I'll have to track down the film "The Conversation" if I want to link it back in.  

The key to understanding this film is compatibility - a couple that once had it, but after five years, not so much. She wants to travel, to Paris and Bora Bora, while he just wants to keep things the way they are. But there are other forms of compatibility - like was Francis Ford Coppola a compatible director with the genre of romantic musical comedy?  I have to say no.  There's no soul, no feeling, no emotion other than frustration, among the characters and I daresay also the viewers.  We barely get to know this couple before they break up, so we don't even get the benefit of feeling the good parts of the relationship that are now gone.  

The two then wander the Vegas strip separately (Hmm, we had Atlantic City in "The Pick-Up Artist", now it's Las Vegas) and bump into new partners, a musician for her and a circus performer/model for him.  Just as Frannie's about to fly off to someplace exotic with her new lover, Hank makes a desperate attempt to find her and convince her to come back home.  

But what's the point of setting a film in Las Vegas if we never even see the inside of a casino?  OK, so there's one buffet shown, but no gambling, no shows, no slot machines...well, the truth is that this was all shot on set at Coppola's Zoetrope Studios, so no casinos were harmed in the making of this film.  There are some very wildly innovative scenes, like a woman doing a tightrope act over that neon graveyard where all the old casino signs get sent when they're taken down.  But think about that, they re-created Las Vegas in a Hollywood studio, when the real Las Vegas was just a few hours' drive away.  They built a second version of McCarran Airport, when they probably could have filmed at the real one for free.  So you start to get an idea how the film's budget grew from $2 million to $25 million, and why this became the film that bankrupted Coppola's studio.  He had to direct 6 films, including "The Godfather Part III", to repay the losses from "One From the Heart".  

What's worse is, we never really get inside the characters' heads.  What is it about being with the circus girl that makes Jack want Frannie back?  Does she remind him of Frannie somehow, or is it just that she says really stupid things like "Circus girls disappear, like spit on a griddle"?  And I suppose clowns stick around, like gum on your shoe? 

Also starring Frederic Forrest (last seen in "The Missouri Breaks"), Teri Garr (last seen in "Dick"), Raul Julia (last seen in "Tequila Sunrise"), Nastassja Kinski (last seen in "Your Friends & Neighbors"), Lainie Kazan (last heard in "Eight Crazy Nights"), Allen Garfield (last seen in "The Stunt Man"), with cameos from Rebecca De Mornay, Tom Waits (last seen in "Seven Psychopaths").

RATING: 3 out of 10 suitcases

Friday, February 5, 2016


Year 8, Day 36 - 2/5/16 - Movie #2,237

BEFORE: I have to draw the line somewhere, to decide what constitutes a "romance" film.  Some films are more than one thing, of course, the way that "Pretty in Pink" is both a romance film and a high-school film.  I put this one on a DVD with a similar film that recently aired, "Fifty Shades of Grey".  But that film links to nothing else on the list, as far as I can tell, and for this one, James Spader carries over from "Pretty in Pink" - so this one is in the February line-up, and that one is out.  I'll circle back for it later on, OK?

Tomorrow is Saturday, so there are no more excuses - no reason to NOT tune it to the TCM "31 Days of Oscar" programming, featuring 360 Degrees of Oscar Separation.  The Feb. 6 line-up:

From "Merrily We Live", Billie Burke carries over to
"The Young Philadelphians", with Brian Keith carrying over to:
"The Wind and the Lion", with Sean Connery carrying over to:

"The Man Who Would Be King" with Christopher Plummer carrying over to:
"A Beautiful Mind" with Judd Hirsch carrying over to:
"Running on Empty" with Christine Lahti carrying over to:
"Swing Shift" with Holly Hunter carrying over to:
"Broadcast News" with Jack Nicholson carrying over to:
"Easy Rider" with Dennis Hopper carrying over to:
"Rebel Without a Cause" with Natalie Wood carrying over to:
"The Star"

All right, I've seen 5 out of those 10 (#3, 4, 7-9), that's half!  So I'm up to 22 seen and 46 unseen, with 1 more now added to the list.  I'm right at 50% for the month so far, so I'm feeling good.  And I just now noticed that the same actor or actress has never carried over twice - geez, I wonder if they found a way to keep that going for the whole month!  If they do, I'll be very, very impressed.     

THE PLOT:  A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.

AFTER: Honestly, I was a little uncertain if this would fit the theme - and I figured this would be the first of the February films that others might question.  And since this only links to one other February film, causing indirect linking to tomorrow's film, the temptation certainly was there to drop it from the line-up.  But I feel justified in including it, because it does claim to portray love, perhaps not a type of love that you or I are comfortable with or could fully understand, but still...

I'm quite a bit out of my depth here, way off the reservation, watching a film that deals with S&M or bondage issues, which I think know the sexually liberated among us prefer to call "dominant/submissive".  If I read between the lines, I get that the lawyer wants to be the dominant, but there's an implication that he was once on the other side of things, I think.  A woman comes to his office for a meeting, and I couldn't tell if she was supposed to be his ex-wife or his dominatrix (maybe both) and that woman seemed very surprised to learn that he had a submissive secretary working for him.  She picked up right away on the vibe in the room, so clearly she was some kind of expert on that lifestyle.  

But if he was the submissive in a previous relationship, can he make the move to being the dominant one?  Is that even a thing, can you cross the lines of the established roles like that?  From what I've heard about the dominant/submissive relationships, some people say that the submissive one has all of the power, but isn't that a contradiction in terms?  Again, there's so much about this that I don't know.  Sometimes I think the whole thing just wouldn't work - one of my favorite jokes is: The masochist says, "Hurt me!" and the sadist responds, "No."  (think about it...)   

The title character is seen before taking the secretarial job, engaging in activities like cutting herself, burning herself with a hot kettle, and then there's the reason she was in the institution in the first place.  There's a strong indication that all of this stems from an uncomfortable family life, with her father being an alcoholic and her mother being a doormat, plus her sister has the nerve to get married and be all happy and stuff.  OK, I get that women are complicated creatures and some suffer from depression and hurt themselves, but this all still seems like an oversimplification of a larger issue.

And who's to say that whatever void that Lee is trying to fill by injuring herself is exactly the same one that can be satisfied with bondage and discipline?  What if those are entirely different issues?  It's rather coincidental that the discipline of a job for a tough boss turns out to give her exactly the motivation she needs to curb the desire to do harm to herself.  And that seems a bit dangerous, when someone's take-away from the film could be:
"I have low self-esteem, I have suicidal thoughts, I can't be around sharp objects - I know, I'll find a demeaning job and get the boss to spank me."  

And what about a safe word?  There was never any mention of one in this film - so I take it that an amateur found her way into the lifestyle, but to depict this on film with no checks in the system, well it seems very irresponsible to me. 

NITPICK POINT: This is a variation on my typical gripe with films about writers, who ALWAYS seem to favor old-timey typewriters and tend to stare for long periods at blank pages, then manage to keep the only copy of their long typed-up manuscript balanced on a rickety chair next to a lake or a pool, or too close to an open window or electric fan.  The office here is run by a lawyer who demands that his secretary use an old-fashioned typewriter, rather than a word processor or PC.  This was filmed in 2002, but even so, I think that 99% of offices then were computerized.  But the plot here requires that the secretary make mistakes that can't be easily corrected, because that triggers the punishment and discipline, and for that you need the old Select-o-matic Rotating TypeBall 2000.  Necessary for the plot, but far-fetched in the grand scheme of things.  

I just wonder why the typewriter hasn't gone the way of the payphone in current movies.  I can see a typewriter in a film about a writer or screenwriter set in the past, but there's just no place for one in a modern-day film. 

Also starring Maggie Gyllenhall (last seen in "White House Down"), Jeremy Davies (last seen in "Solaris"), Lesley Ann Warren (last seen in "Jobs"), Stephen McHattie (last seen in "Immortals"), Jessica Tuck (last seen in "Super 8"), Amy Locane, Osgood Perkins,

RATING: 5 out of 10 mousetraps

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pretty in Pink

Year 8, Day 35 - 2/4/16 - Movie #2,236

BEFORE: Molly Ringwald carries over again, and she'll be here one more time in a couple days - it turned out that putting the 4 films with Molly together didn't help my linking, in fact it was making things more difficult.  So I'm splitting them - appropriately for Valentine's month, I'm putting films together, but also breaking them up.   Of course, this is also a high-school film, so by placing it here in February, I could be leaving myself with nothing to show in September, but those are the breaks.  Linking is telling me it belongs here, so here it is. 

First, a rundown of the Oscar-themed TCM programming for tomorrow, Feb. 5:

Rosalind Russell carries over from "A Majority of One" to:
"Auntie Mame", with Fred Clark carrying over to:
"White Heat" with Harry Strang carrying over to:
"Sergeant York" with David Bruce carrying over to:
"The Sea Wolf" with Gene Lockhart carrying over to:
"Leave Her to Heaven" with Gene Tierney carrying over to:
"Heaven Can Wait" (1943) with Eugene Pallette carrying over to:
"The Love Parade" with Maurice Chevalier carrying over to:
"The Smiling Lieutenant" with Claudette Colbert carrying over to:
"It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable carrying over to:
"A Free Soul" with Leslie Howard carrying over to: 
"Berkeley Square" with Alan Mowbray carrying over to:
"Merrily We Live"

I'm embarrassed to say that I've only seen two of those before, "White Heat" and "It Happened One Night" - but I'm finally going to DVR something, namely "Sergeant York".  I've heard of that film, I believe it's important, and I can probably pair it with another Gary Cooper film on the schedule, like "Meet John Doe".  So that means my score is 17 seen and 41 unseen, with 1 added to the watchlist. 

THE PLOT:  A poor girl must choose between the affections of her doting childhood sweetheart and a rich but sensitive playboy.

AFTER: I missed this one back when I watched "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club", it's really the third part of the Ringwald Trilogy, even though it was only written by, not directed by, John Hughes.  Everything I know about it, though, comes from watching VH-1's "I Love the 80's" series.  

It's also the third film in a row for me where Molly plays the child of a single parent.  That's a pretty odd coincidence - but it supports my gut feeling regarding watching them together and not dropping "Betsy's Wedding" into the mix.  (Though between "The Pick-Up Artist" and "For Keeps?" it could have symbolically represented "Molly in love, Molly in marriage, and then comes Molly with a baby carriage.")

It's another classic love triangle tonight, but here they do so much more with that premise than "Two Girls and a Guy" seemed capable of.  Molly plays Andie, who's best friends with Duckie, but falls in love with Blane.  Meanwhile Duckie is secretly in love with Andie, and can't seem to tell her - and Blane?  Well, Blane's like a blank, Blane is blah, but he's rich and he's handsome.  The love triangle works, and seems more true to life, because everyone's trying to date up just a bit, they're each reaching just a bit out of their league, which makes some sense.  Nobody wants to settle for what they can get when they could improve their social standing with just a little more effort.  

Meanwhile, Duckie is stuck in the "Friend Zone", and can't get himself out of it - and this also rings true.  I've been in the Friend Zone, and it's very difficult to pull yourself out, because once a girl thinks of you in that way, she's not inclined to think of you in THAT way.  Especially during the late teen years, or early twenties, women of that age have a tendency to compartmentalize, going to one type of man for friendship and another type for romance.  Some kind of genetic coding, I'll wager.  Duckie (and the film) are correct, it's better in that case to cut your losses, maintain the friendship, and try again with the next girl, maybe she'll be the one to laugh at your goofball jokes.

But hang on if you're Team Duckie, because down the line some women do figure out that they can get romance and companionship from the same person, that it's possible to be both friends and lovers with the same guy.  Often this comes about when a girl has her heart broken by someone - well, someone like Blane.  I don't give a crap whether a teen girl has a positive prom experience or not, but I do want her to eventually put the pieces together and question the personality of a "richie".  Like, not whether it's good or bad, but does he even have one?  

So there are two schools of thought about what happens to these characters in the future - one says that Andie and Blane find a way to make it work, after he somehow gets a soul transplant and she never, ever has to interact with any of his snobby friends.  But another possibility is that Blane breaks her heart, and after a few months she decides to see Duckie in a whole new light.  Take your pick.  Or if you prefer a game of "F**k, Marry, Kill", there's no question - f**k Blane, marry Duckie, and kill Steff.  I'll accept no other answers on this. 

NITPICK POINT: Isn't it a fashion no-no for a redheaded girl to wear pink in the first place?  Like you almost never see a blonde woman in a yellow dress, because that would be too much yellow.  But what do I know, I'm not a fashion expert.

NITPICK POINT: The song "Pretty in Pink" is prominently featured, but the song mentions a girl named Caroline.  Why not change the name of Molly Ringwald's character to match the song?  It's a small change that would have cost nothing to implement, and would have created a nice synergy.

Also starring Jon Cryer (last seen in "Due Date"), Harry Dean Stanton (last seen in "Seven Psychopaths"), Andrew McCarthy (last seen in Mulholland Falls"), James Spader (last heard in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), Annie Potts, Kate Vernon, with cameos from Gina Gershon, Margaret Colin (last seen in "The Devil's Own"), Andrew Dice Clay (last seen in "Blue Jasmine"), Dweezil Zappa, Kristy Swanson.

RATING: 5 out of 10 answering machine messages

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

For Keeps?

Year 8, Day 34 - 2/3/16 - Movie #2,235

BEFORE: Yup, it's Molly Ringwald week (OK, half-week) as I catch up on 80's films.  I'm guessing this one is referred to as "The One Where Molly Ringwald Gets Pregnant", as opposed to "The One Where Molly Ringwald Turns 16", "The One Where Molly Ringwald Gets Married" or "The One Where Molly Ringwald Finally Does a Topless Scene".  Hey, some people have trouble remembering titles, I get it. 

Here's a look at tomorrow's TCM "31 Days of Oscar" programming, with the 360 degree connections:

Carole Landis carries over from "One Million B.C." to:
"Topper Returns" with H.B. Warner carrying over to:
"The Green Goddess" with Ralph Forbes carrying over to:
"Stage Door" with Gail Patrick carrying over to:
"My Favorite Wife" with Randolph Scott carrying over to:

"Captain Kidd" with John Qualen carrying over to:
"A Patch of Blue" with Elizabeth Hartman carrying over to:
"You're a Big Boy Now" with Julie Harris carrying over to:
"East of Eden" with Jo Van Fleet carrying over to:
"Cool Hand Luke" with George Kennedy carrying over to:
"The Dirty Dozen" with Ernest Borgnine carrying over to:
"The Wild Bunch" with Warren Oates carrying over to:
"The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond" with Ray Danton carrying over to:
"A Majority of One"

Of these 13 films, I've seen 6 - I watched "My Favorite Wife" last year in my Cary Grant chain, and I've also watched "Stage Door", "East of Eden", "Cool Hand Luke", "The Dirty Dozen" and "The Wild Bunch" as part of this project.  So I still haven't found anything to record this year, which is a good thing, because that would only increase my watchlist at a time when I'm really trying to shrink it down.  

THE PLOT: After she gets pregnant, a teenage girl must decide whether she should keep the baby.

AFTER: You can sort of take this film however you want, either as a relationship film featuring a young couple and a baby, or as a treatise on the socio-economic conditions in Kenosha, Wisconsin in the mid-1980's.  If you're pro-choice, it's an honest depiction of the difficulties that couples who choose to have children may face, and if you're pro-life, it supports the notion that abortion is "icky" and it's better to just have the kid and tough things out.  Or, you may choose to view this as an updated version of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi", only with college scholarships on the line instead of Christmas gifts.

Because unlike the last two films I watched, where Robert Downey played very selfish central characters, both characters here are unselfish, even to a fault.  Either would give up their own happiness to make sure that the other one is able to live out their dreams.  Which raises an interesting dilemma, should a person give up the relationship that they're in, if they're happy with it but their partner is not?  Neither one seems to take into account that things are going to change over time, people are likely to go through periods where they're down on relationships or parenthood, but that there are also ways to pull out of that funk.  

The other problem here seems to be the parents, her mother and his parents don't seem to be on the same page, each projecting their own experiences on to their daughter and son.  Since Darcy's mother was abandoned by her father after she was born, she naturally expects her daughter's husband to do the same.  Plus she's one of those mothers that tries to be her daughter's best friend, when what she really needs is some form of discipline and concrete advice instead of "Hey, let's go on vacation together."  Stan's parents have a more stable relationship, so to them getting pregnant before marriage is putting the cart before the horse, plus they're still holding out hope that their son will go to Cal Tech. (Am I missing something, are there no architecture schools in Wisconsin?)  

The school's guidance counselor is similarly not very supportive, her suggestion to a pregnant student is to transfer to night classes, for fear of setting off an epidemic of pregnancy among the other students.  This seems like terrible advice, but there have been cases in the U.S. of teen girls conspiring to get pregnant at the same time, I guess if one popular girl does it, then it can become a trend.  

(For the record, I am neither pro-choice or pro-life - because I'm blessed/cursed with the ability to see both sides of an issue.  While I am concerned that there are so many abortions in the world, I also understand that the planet is over-populated, so new people shouldn't be brought into the world if they're unwanted and unable to be taken care of.  What I am against, however, is the mindset that only the pro-choice or the pro-life argument can be correct, and that each argument needs to be yelled very loudly at the opposing side.  Can't there be some middle ground, like supporting a woman's right to choose by helping her to not get pregnant in the first place, if she doesn't want to? But no, it's as divisive an issue as they come, here in the U.S. where every hot-button topic needs to be championed to the extreme.) 

Their classmates aren't represented well here either, particularly the blonde "Mean Girl", Michaela, who exists only to tease the pregnant girl, make a pass at the married Stan, and to pass along a piece of information that needed to be known, but in all cases, her acting ability is just horrible, nearly non-existent.  At no point is she capable of making herself sound like a character, and not an actress delivering a line. 

It's high time someone made a sequel to this film, because the baby character born in 1988 would now be 28 years old (good God...) and even if things went well in her childhood, if Darcy and Stan found a way to make it all work, maybe now Thea's all grown up, a working professional in the Detroit area, who gets sidelined in a similar way by her own pregnancy, with her (let's say) no-good hipster boyfriend.  Make it happen, Hollywood.  Wait, it sounds too much like "Knocked Up".  Never mind.  

Also starring Randall Batinkoff (last seen in "The Peacemaker"), Kenneth Mars (last heard in "The Little Mermaid"), Miriam Flynn, Conchata Ferrell (last seen in "Mr. Deeds"), Sharon Brown (last seen in "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit"), John Zarchen, Pauly Shore (last seen in "Jury Duty"), Michelle Downey, Renee Estevez, with a cameo from Larry Drake (last seen in "Darkman").

RATING: 4 out of 10 golumpkis