Friday, January 6, 2017

Night Moves

Year 9, Day 6- 1/6/17 - Movie #2,506

BEFORE: It's the time of the year when I anxiously await the February "31 Days of Oscar" schedule from Turner Classic Movies - what's going to be the theme this year?  Will they be organizing the films by year, location, or (please please please...) will they be linking actors from film to film, like I always try to do?  Well, I checked their web-site and downloaded the schedule, only to find that this year, the Oscar-nominated films will be shown alphabetically, starting with "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" on Feb. 1, and ending with "Z" on March 3.  How boring is that?  There's no elegance, no art to it, they're just screening movies A to Z.  Whatever clever person over there used to put the schedule together must have gotten sacked.  I mean, I'll still go through the list, cross out what I've seen, and maybe I'll pick up a film or two, but my heart's just not in it, if this is how they're going to organize their films.  

I mean, I'm similarly going through all my cassette tapes, and replacing them all with either digital music files or (if it's cheaper) CDs from Amazon that I can rip onto iTunes.  And I'm going alphabetically, I just took care of The Byrds, The Carpenters and The Cars - so I'll be at this for a while.  I've re-discovered a lot of old Badfinger and Cars songs that I forgot about, and I'm using the alphabet to keep myself motivated (Cheap Trick is next...) but I just don't see the point of watching movies alphabetically, that's not even OCD, it's just madness.  

Maybe it's just as well, because I've got a list of about 22 films that I'm itching to add to the list - these are either films I want to watch in January, like "The Hateful Eight" or "The Big Short", or they're films that will help my linking work out in February.  But I'm resisting the urge to add one more often than every other day, because I've got to work to make the list smaller, not bigger.  We're 6 days in to 2017, and my watchlist is down from 145 to 142.  This is the compromise I've made with myself, the list grows 2 films smaller, then 1 film bigger.  So I'm still adding films, but progress is also being made toward completion. 

However, TCM is also running some Cary Grant films on January 18, and a tribute to Debbie Reynolds on January 27.  Getting invested in either of those could set me back substantially. 

Today, Kenneth Mars carries over from "The Parallax View(I could have dropped in another film with Kenneth Mars, which is the animated film "Thumbelina", but I felt it was really off-topic) and I've circled back to Gene Hackman, as promised.  Dropping in 2 more Warren Beatty films in between Hackman films is the kind of thing that's going to extend my January chain right up to the start of February, if my plans go well.  

THE PLOT: Los Angeles private detective Harry Moseby is hired by a client to find her runaway teenage daughter and he stumbles upon a case of murder and artifact smuggling.

AFTER: First off, don't go into this one expecting to hear the Bob Seger song of the same name - it's just not here.  It turns out that song was released in 1976, and this film was released in 1975.  It's a damn shame, it might have worked well here.

Secondly, be sure to stick with this one, even during the down time.  It's a really slow build, and I fell asleep after about an hour - if I had given up and not rewinded back, I would have missed EVERYTHING.  So drink some caffeine if you have to (though I'm building up quite a tolerance to Diet Mountain Dew, it turns out - I'm going to have to get off of caffeine for at least a week if I want it to be effective again)

What starts out as a simple missing-persons case turns out to be anything (and everything but), but damn if it doesn't take its own sweet time doing so.  Maybe if our schlubby protagonist wasn't so distracted by his wife stepping out with another man (and not the gay one who works in the antique shop with her, either...) then he might get some investigating done.  But since he isn't the type of detective that asks a lot of direct questions, who's to blame when he doesn't get a lot of straight answers?  So it took a long time for me to realize what, exactly, was happening.  And it's more than an actress's daughter who sets out to have sex with all of her mother's ex-boyfriends (aka the Carrie Fisher biopic...) 

There's a point at which Hackman's character is reviewing the endgame of a famous chess tournament, and it's a checkmate that one opponent allegedly never saw coming - but it involves the chess piece with the weirdest move - "Knight Moves", get it?  Don't worry if you missed it, the film plays it twice just to drive the point home.  I guess that's supposed to be symbolic, like that chess player, Harry Moseby never sees the final play, until it's too late.

What's the connection between the world of Hollywood stuntmen, deep-sea diving in the Florida keys, and a smuggling operation out of Mexico?  And can Harry Moseby afford to take the time away from patching his marriage back together to find out?  My mind's going to file this one away with those other 1960's-1970's semi-loser detective films, like "Marlowe" and "Harper".  But a good mystery shouldn't also leave its audience wondering about exactly what had been going on.

Also starring Gene Hackman (last seen in "The Conversation"), Susan Clark (last seen in "Airport 1975"), Jennifer Warren (last seen in "Slap Shot"), Melanie Griffith (last seen in "Nobody's Fool"), Harris Yulin (last seen in "Narrow Margin"), James Woods (last seen in "Play It to the Bone"), Edward Binns, John Crawford, Janet Ward, Anthony Costello, with cameos from Dennis Dugan (last seen in "She's Having a Baby"), Max Gail (last seen in "42"). 

RATING: 4 out of 10 answering machine messages 

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