Saturday, March 5, 2016

Mulholland Dr.

Year 8, Day 65 - 3/5/16 - Movie #2,266

BEFORE: Chad Everett carries over from "Made in Paris", and since Mr. Everett's only likely to be in two out of however-many films I watch for this project, it's really great that I'm able to watch them back-to-back.  

I still have a few movie "sins" that I need to atone for.  Like I think I tried to watch this one before, and I failed.  There was some kind of twist that people had a problem with?  Actually I think I might have rented it and fast-forwarded to the nude scenes, that also counts as a movie sin.  But today I'm determined, I'm going to watch the FILM itself, pay attention to the plot, and stay awake, no matter what happens.

I couldn't find this one in my collection for a while, that usually means it's the 2nd film of two on a DVD, and it's alphabetized under the first film.  So I have to stop and think about what film I might have paired it with, which also might have something to do with WHEN I added it to my collection, and then I remembered - I put it on the DVD with "Birdman" because they were both films about mixed-up actors, and then after putting it on that DVD, I realized both films had Naomi Watts in them, so it was sort of meant to be.  So then I found "Mulholland Dr." filed under "B" with "Birdman" - see, I just need to stop and remember how my brain pairs things sometimes. 

THE PLOT:  After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

AFTER: OK, first off, what the actual fuck?  I mean, just what the hell is going on here?  Now I'm sure I never really watched this before, because I would have remembered being this confused.  I thought that the twist was that the two female leads turned into each other, or somehow changed places, but that's not what's happening.  I could handle that, I once worked as a P.A. on a short hi-def shoot back in the early 90's that was about two cops interrogating a suspect, and during the piece the actors kept trading roles.  But this just seems that David Lynch took the story as far as he could go in one direction, and then took this really weird turn into - what, a dream?  Another reality?  Time-travel, reincarnation, past lives, minds-going-sideways, what?

I think the first problem here is that this was filmed as a mini-series and then got re-edited (or re-filmed, it's a bit unclear) to be a movie.  So I'm not sure to what extent the story got re-worked or revised, or if someone just took the scenes and cut them into little bits, then re-assembled the bits into random order.  There seem to be three stories, and they're sort of connected, but not really - in that knowing the connections doesn't help you understand the story one bit.  

There's the main story, where a woman, Rita (only that's not her name) survives a car accident and hides out in an apartment, where another woman (Betty, a young actress) finds her and helps her try to overcome her amnesia and unravel the mystery of who she is and where she came from.  They fall in love in the process -

(ASIDE: Remember when lesbians were hot?  I mean, remember when they were a popular plot device, back when nobody understood them?  Wait, that's not what I mean.  Remember when pop culture latched on to lesbians, after a few high-profile actresses came out, and Hollywood started putting them in everything, but most filmmakers just didn't know what to do with them?  Sort of like the way they're putting transgender people into all kinds of movies and TV shows now - and I can't decide if that's good for their cause or not.  Because today's hot topic is tomorrow's non-trending topic, like lesbians.)

The second story is about a Hollywood director, and someone is trying to get him to cast a particular actress, and that someone is so powerful they can take control of his picture away from him if he doesn't cast this actress, named Camilla, in his film.  To make things worse, he finds his wife in bed with another man, freaks out and ends up getting punched out and thrown out.  Eventually he's confronted by a cowboy who makes some veiled threats, but he then hires the actress he's supposed to.  

And the third story is about some kind of hit man who visits a friend, gets some kind of information from his friend (this is also unclear) and then kills him, but the killing sort of goes bad and out of control, leading him to do more and more bad things to cover up the first thing.  I can't really tell how the third story is connected to the other two, but I still held out hope that there was a way to tie all three stories together - that's the suggestion made by parallel storytelling, in the language of film that we all understand. 

But just as the first story is heading to some kind of answer, when Betty and Rita find the mysterious box that matches the mysterious key, the box turns out to be empty, and that's when the weird left turn takes place.  Rita becomes Camilla and Betty becomes Diane, and we go back in time to re-tell part of the story, only it's different, and the film director is successful and Diane is no longer dead, and the hitman is still a hitman.  

It's enough to make me wonder if this film is just an elaborate practical joke.  Maybe David Lynch just watched "Pulp Fiction" or Robert Altman's "Short Cuts" and thought, "Hey, I can do that, but I want to remove any sort of meaning or point, and let people wonder what the connections between the characters really are."  But there are so many threads that get started and never resolved - why did that man have a dream about the frightening man behind the diner, what does that mean?  Did the hitman ever get those numbers that he said were important, and what did he do with them?  

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of David Lynch because of "Twin Peaks", and the best and weirdest things always happened when he found the time to direct an episode.  Every other episode, the plot would sort of inch along without much happening.  When Lynch directed, stuff HAPPENED, and it was weird stuff, like Dale would go to the magic lodge and get information from the dwarf who talked backwards.  Or the lady who talked to a log would tell the sheriff where to find the dead body - 

But still, there were unexplained flashes of weirdness - why was that kid holding creamed corn?  How did that woman get turned into a cabinet?  A cabinet, for chrissakes!  Those are the kinds of things I saw in the ending of "Mulholland Dr.", and I don't like them.  They're reflections of the things I didn't like from "Eraserhead" - like tiny people running around.  WTF?  Are these the people who used to live inside the radiator in "Eraserhead"?  

Honestly, unless I learn otherwise, I'm inclined to believe that the director had two half-stories that he wanted to graft together, rather than fully finishing either - or else in adapting this from a mini-series to a movie, something just went very, very wrong.  If there's something right about this film, then I'm just not seeing it. Is this all a big metaphor for something I'm not grasping, or is this just a director being weird for the sake of being weird?

Also starring Naomi Watts (last seen in "Birdman"), Laura Harring, Justin Theroux (last seen in "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion"), Ann Miller (last seen in "Room Service"), Dan Hedaya (last seen in "Maverick"), Mark Pellegrino (last seen in "Twisted"), Missy Crider (last seen in "Powder"), Lee Grant (last seen in "Plaza Suite"), Patrick Fischler, Michael Cooke, Melissa George (last seen in "Down With Love"), Lori Heuring, Billy Ray Cyrus, Monty Montgomery, Rebekah Del Rio, Johanna Stein, with cameos from Robert Forster (last seen in "The Descendants"), Brent Briscoe, Michael Des Barres (last seen in "A Simple Twist of Fate"), Michael J. Anderson.

RATING: 3 out of 10 headshots

Friday, March 4, 2016

Made in Paris

Year 8, Day 64 - 3/4/16 - Movie #2,265

BEFORE: Ann-Margret carries over from "The Pleasure Seekers", and I decided not to work "52 Pick-Up" into the Ann-Margret chain.  The Roy Scheider films are something of a dead end where actor linking is concerned, but if I wait, there's a chance that a link will form from new films added to the list.  Maybe.  Anyway, the link to tomorrow's film is just too good, so obscure, I can't wait to tell you about it.  All in good time.

But if that's not the direction I'm going, then what IS on the schedule for March?  Well, after tomorrow I'm back on the action-movie track, which is going to get me through most of March.  I'll deal with some Morgan Freeman and/or Gene Hackman films, then some Tom Cruise and Samuel Jackson films.  In-between there's a Melissa McCarthy and/or Bill Murray comedy chain to break things up.  Two Brady Bunch films and two with Kevin Bacon (only not together) and all of that gets me to "Batman v. Superman", in fact it looks like a whole week of Batman and/or Superman themed programming.  My only problem is that I'm going to hit Movie #2300 in a place I'm not crazy about, so I'll either have to add 7 or delete 3 films if I want to hit that number on a big, important film.  Maybe I can take some time this weekend to see if I want to do either of those things. 

THE PLOT:  A fashion buyer in Paris is on her first buying spree, where she meets a famous fashion designer and he immediately gives her the big rush.  Her boss, the son of her company's owner, comes to Paris to straighten things out, making an even bigger mess of things.

AFTER: See what I mean about Ann-Margret?  The plots of her films kept having to invent new and interesting ways for her to get undressed.  After the omniscient camera got its jollies by watching her change clothes in films like "Bye Bye Birdie" and "The Pleasure Seekers" (and before she bared it all in "Carnal Knowledge") there were films like this one where, I kid you not, she tries to sneak into a fashion show, which she's been barred from, by posing as a model.  She's pushed into a dressing room, where immediately a group of women start removing her clothes against her will.  Oh, they definitely stop in "PG" territory, but it's enough to get a man's mind to pay attention.  

This is mostly classic love triangle stuff - a woman takes a job in Paris to get over one boyfriend, only to find another potential love interest, and then steps back while the two men fight it out.  However, she then decides to step out with a third man in order to make the first two jealous, and that's not something you see in a movie very often.  It's an interesting solution to (presumably) an age-old problem.  

The divine Miss A.M. gets to sing another couple numbers here, and at least they're a bit more memorable than the ones from "The Pleasure Seekers".  She also got to keep her wardrobe from the film, which is a nice perk.  But for a film about the fashion industry, I didn't really find the clothing all that exciting, even the dresses seen DURING the fashion show.  They were very boring, maybe they were innovative back in 1966, but by today's standards?  No way.  

The whole plot seems driven by the attitude that saying "No" to a man where sex is concerned is only going to make them more interested in a woman.  Which seems a bit like contrary logic, if you ask me - but it was probably the prevaling attitude of the time, just prior to the sexual revolution of the late 1960's.  We think of the 1960's as a swinging time, but remember, it was only very late in the decade that those attitudes started to get relaxed, the first part of the decade seems more like the 1950's, or at least Hollywood was still holding on to the idea that nothing was really changing.  The message this film has for the young women in the audience seems to be, "Don't be so quick to have sex with a man, or he'll lose respect for you.  If you want to be taken seriously in the business world, you now have to string them along for a lot longer."  

In reality, once women entered the workplace most companies probably had to develop some kind of rules for co-workers dating each other, which the characters here seem to be violating over and over (and sometimes, twice in one night!).  I kid, because mostly these relationships don't seem to be sexual - this might be one of the last films from the Hollywood era where non-married characters couldn't openly be seen having sexual relations, instead they go out on the town, go dancing, go to parties, have picnics down by the river, and they all wait until after marriage to get intimate.  Yeah, right.

There are no real winners here - the boss's son really shouldn't be dating one of the employees, and the fashion designer really shouldn't have tried to get her fired, just because she wouldn't sleep with him.  At least the third guy was honest, in that he was just looking for a good time with no commitments - by comparison you really have to admire his frankness.  Our heroine may be the worst of all, since she juggles three suitors, but that's neither here nor there. 

Also starring Chad Everett, Louis Jourdan (last seen in "Irma la Douce"), Richard Crenna (last seen in "Wait Until Dark"), Edie Adams (last seen in "Under the Yum Yum Tree"), John McGiver (last seen in "Love in the Afternoon"), Marcel Dalio, with cameos from Vito Scotti (also carrying over from "The Pleasure Seekers"), Reta Shaw, and Count Basie & His Orchestra.

RATING: 4 out of 10 nightclubs

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Pleasure Seekers

Year 8, Day 63 - 3/3/16 - Movie #2,264

BEFORE: Ann-Margret carries over from "Grumpier Old Men", and I must confess I had a crush on her when I was a teen.  Maybe it's because in every movie she was in from the 1960's or 70's, they found a way to put her in either a very tight dress or a bikini of some sort, and that's about all it took for me at that age.  Then I just had to rent "Carnal Knowledge" at some point, and hoo boy!  Then in the 80's she did a teen comedy or two, plus a TV movie where I think she spent the majority of it lounging around in interesting lingerie.  What can I say, I was a horny teen.  I sure wasn't watching "Wonder Woman" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" for the interesting plotlines, I was hoping for glimpses of female 70's stars in skimpy outfits.  Loni Anderson, Lynda Carter, Ann-Margret, I definitely had a "type".  

I never took the time to figure out why her name had a hyphen in it, though.  Turns out it's because she was using her two first names (born Ann-Margret Olsson) and no last name.  People probably misspelled it all the time as "Ann Margret" or even "Margaret", I bet.

THE PLOT:  Three American lovelies room together in Madrid and all manage to get themselves into seemingly unhappy relationships with fellows.

AFTER: I think I saw bits of this film when I was a teen - like I said, I would have watched just about anything with bombshell Ann-Margret in it - but I don't know if I took time to appreciate what was going on.  I probably thought, jeez, these women are older and sophisticated about love and romance.  But now that I'm an adult, I think that these same characters are quite young and stupid.  Maybe it's because I spent most of today formatting and spell-checking a screenplay for my boss, a very personal story about her relationships with her two ex-husbands, but one that really gets inside the main characters head and explains love and attraction on a biological level. 

By comparison, this story did almost nothing to get inside the girl's heads - it's sort of the opposite of "Inside Out", I guess (and remind me to get that film on the watchlist, real soon).  If we did get inside their heads, we'd probably hear echoes, because there's not a lot going on - one of the three women openly admits to being stupid and inexperienced about love.  She dates an Italian man after hearing from her roommates about how he's going to try and get her into bed, by pretending to propose to her.  So she ups her game by accepting his proposal, and then playing "hard to get" - but after that, she has no idea what she's doing.  It's like she started playing this chess game, got four moves in and realizes she doesn't know what the different pieces do.  

The other two girls aren't much better - one is pining over her married boss, while ignoring the very single man working for the same company (Umm, doing what, exactly?  Writing?  Do they work for a newspaper, ad agency, publishing company?  That's all a bit unclear.).  So she's stuck between these two guys, unable to take any action - OK, maybe stop having feelings for the married guy?  "Oh, but I can't!"  OK, well, try and get over him by dating the single guy.  "Oh, but I can't!"  That's it, those seem to be your only two options, other than being alone and shutting the hell up about it.

And the third girl, Ann-Margret's character, sets her sights on the handsome doctor who nearly ran her over with his scooter.  Because that supposedly means something - geez, that's as bad as pairing up McConnaughey and J. Lo just because he saved her from being run over by a dumpster when her shoe got stuck in a manhole cover.  Traffic accidents are a very lazy way to have two characters meet - whatever happened to being introduced by friends, finding out if they have things in common or share the same goals and outlook on life?  I guess that's just not as cinematic.  

But as a result, these three girls come across as some young Stepford Wives, without any original thoughts or emotions - they're just programmed to date men, because that's what young ladies do, to try and find a husband or at least "Mr. Right Now".  Personally, I blame the screenwriter, who never looked for a "Why" for anything, just kept barging ahead as if everything's fine, just playing a big game of connect-the-dots.  But just because you sometimes find women hard to understand, it doesn't mean that all of them are like that all the time.  

I'm reminded of back in Marvel Comics, when Peter Parker was married to Mary Jane Watson, and if a writer knew a thing or two about relationships, their marriage would be occasionally troubled, but more or less solid.  But then a writer who clearly knew nothing about men living with women would take over, and then M.J. would either be sent on a long modeling trip somewhere, or she'd be killed off (temporarily, of course, cuz it's a comic book) or worse, the entire marriage would be negated by a deal with the devil.  (Yes, that happened - I'm still upset about it.) This film seems like it was written by someone who didn't understand women's thoughts and feelings at all. 

But hey, Ann-Margret gets to dance around in a bikini AND a tight dress in different scenes, and who can forget those great hits she sang, like, umm "The Pleasure Seekers"!  And "Everything Makes Music When You're In Love" - or at least when you're dating someone and pretending to be in love, or whatever the heck it is we're doing, because we're girls and we don't think about things.

Mostly it seems like there's a set-up, and then they're stalling for time, which is why we end up watching a bullfight, a very long flamenco dance, and countless views of the Spanish countryside. 

Also starring Carol Lynley (last seen in "Under the Yum Yum Tree"), Anthony Franciosa (last seen in "The Long, Hot Summer"), Brian Keith, Pamela Tiffin (last seen in "Harper"), Gardner McKay, André Lawrence, Gene Tierney, Vito Scotti (last seen in "Cactus Flower").

RATING: 4 out of 10 toreadors