Monday, August 19, 2013

"Madame X" is Hilariously Bad, Smaltzy Melodrama

I am screaming at the TV to Keir Dullea, “she’s your mother,” where Lana Turner is dying in the final scene of Universal-International’s 1966 schmaltzy melodrama “Madame X.”  Ms. Turner’s acting must have been inspired by Veda Ann Borg’s scenes in “Revenge of the Zombies,” but then Ms. Borg didn’t have any dialogue in that Monogram epic.  We are asked to believe that a 40-something Turner is the mother of a toddler.  Pleaz.  Somehow I think this would have been a better effort with Douglas Sirk directing and Dorothy Malone or Piper Laurie in the title role.  This was a Ross Hunter production and he scored successes with “Imitation of Life” and the Doris Day Rock Hudson comedies.  After MGM unraveled Ms. Turner found herself at U-I, which was definitely a different kettle of fish for her.  Poor thing.  She would have been great in “This Island Earth.”

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hedlund is Amazing in "On the Road" Movie

The iconic subversive ‘50s heroes Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy have finally made it to the big screen in the art house film, “On The Road.”  It took 61 years of breathless anticipation to reach this happy day.

For what it’s worth, Garret Hedlund is a knockout as the manic Neal Cassidy and Sam Riley isn’t bad as Kerouac.  Our erstwhile adventurers get wasted on drugs, booze and sex, but learn something about life if they could only remember what it was.  I felt like I was on the road to San Franciosco and Mexico with those amazing lads that were like a fantasy as I read the classic novel in the early 1980s. 

I am always late to the game and in my case I was watching “Father Knows Best” while Jack and Neal were boozing and debauching internationally.  Although Kerouac has been dismissed as a great or talented writer, “On the Road” and references to Jack and Neal are part of the lexicon we know. Women are relegated to submissive roles in both the movie and book and that is addressed in the documentary “New York in the ‘50s.”  You will also enjoy the “Ken Kessey’s Magic Tour” movie where Cassidy is the driver so get ready for adventure (in the ditch).  I watched both after seeing “On the Road.”

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Late '60s Were Prime for British Comedies

The romantic comedy has been much maligned in recent years, but it wasn’t always a formalistic tired mess.  My all time favorite romcoms are from the late ‘60s and feature nebbish heroes, their flawed mentors and direction that reflects the free spirited sexual liberation underway then.
I saw all of theses at the Vista Theater in Boise and all are available on DVD or VHS.  They would be considered ‘art house by today’s standards.
British director Richard Lester led the way in 1965 with “The Knack” featuring Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham, both kind of virgins lost in London, who navigate their way through a maze of crazy people to find each other.  Lester is best known for directing the Beattles in “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Was Frances F. Coppola influenced by the “Knack” when he made “You’re A Big Boy Now” in New York in 1967?  There are a lot of whimsical moments reminiscent of “The Knack” involving Peter Kastner and the bitchy go go dancer Barbara Darling played by Elizabeth Hartman, who is the object of his desire.  This is another poor soul lost in the big city who finds happiness with the girl next door type played by Karen Black.  Geraldine Page is memorable as the neurotic mom and Julie Harris is brilliant as the sexually repressed landlady.  The city is celebrated including the Bryant Park library and Central Park in Big Boy.
Another British gem is “Bedazzled” with nebbish Dudley Moore selling his soul to the devil played by Peter Cooke.  Moore, Cooke and British actress Elizabeth Braun lead us on a merry romp through unrequited love in contemporary London with a bit of social commentary on advertising and religion. Stanley Donen was the director who also directed two other British gems at that time, “Two for the Road” and “Charade,” and the later two had memorable Henry Mancini music

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Wall Street Crime, Marriage Featured in Woody Film

News of a big New Jersey real estate stink involving Vikings owner Ziggi Wulf broke a day before the new Woody Allen movie, ‘Blue Jasmine,” also dealing with corporate shenanigans, opened here.
Good for Woody working today’s headlines into a drama about marriage infidelity and insanity in New York and San Francisco, a bi-coastal affair as it were.
Poor Woody must be in a dark mood theses days because although Blue Jasmine got four stars in the Tribune our small group found it disturbing and wished we had spent the $10 elsewhere.
The story is an eerie likeness to actual events in the 50s involving an aunt by marriage and the breakup of their marriage.
Cate Blanchett no doubt will be nominated for awards as well as Woody Allen, the director.  Alec Baldwin plays the corrupt capitalist/cheating husband.  Myself, I would have preferred Tina Fey as the wife with Tina and Alec exchanges GE and Comcast jibes.  I console myself with Netflix which has “Manhattan” at my fingertips.  Call me old fashioned.

Bacharach Has Written His Autobiography

Rod McKuen wrote a song, “For Bert,”which honored band leader Bert Kaempfert who had some hits in the 50s so why hasn’t anyone done the same for the Burt who wrote the music of my life?  Based on his autobiography, “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” Burt Bacharach commands a biopic or a song.  Anyone up to the task?
Bacharach certainly had the Hollywood leading man looks to star in his own biopic.  There is a rich history of Hollywood music industry musicals with Republic Pictures leading the way in the late 30s -- “Rhythm in the Clouds,” “Sitting on the Moon,” “Manhattan Merry-go-round” and “The Hit Parade.”
Burt B. is definitely a “babe magnet” and much of the book chronicles his romantic life including Angie Dickinson (wife) and Slim Brandy (girl friend with a funny name.)
My eyes glazed over with much of the fine detail on recording studio personnel but his hit song for Jack Jones, “Wives and Lovers,” is my sentimental favorite from 1963 played on RKO’s KHJ-AM in 1963.  We love you Burt.
Incidentally, his father Bert B., was a syndicated columnists for Hearst and I would read him in the Seattle P-I.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Way Way Back, Can't Stop the Music, both amusing

Eighteen year old newcomer Liam James is what the movie “Way Way Back,” is about-- a 14 year old in a dysfunctional family with mom played by Toni Collette and her boyfriend, the jerk,  played by Steve Carrel.  James keeps your interest but it’s Allison Janey as a middle aged floozie who steals scenes. Yet Collette could have played that part as well.
If you enjoyed “Away We Go,” this is the movie for you where the teenager is the catalyst for change and an affable water park manager played by Sam Rockwell is his off center mentor.  WWB is an unexpected surprise during a spring and summer where I have had difficulty staying awake in the multiplexes.
I haven’t checked, but James has got to be on the cover of every preteen fanzine at Walgreens and CVS.
If you enjoyed Janey as the uptight mom in “Hairspray,” than WWB will given you a different slant on motherhood.

“Can’t Stop the Music,” a campy 1980 musical with the Village People, Bruce Jenner and Valerie Perrine, was a special request that I showed at a movie party today four of my friends.  It’s over the top fun with lots of glitter and bad acting.  The movie’s plot was lifted right out of  the 1935-37 Republic musicals about enterprising song writers and agents trying to make it big in the music business.   I found it quite diverting and thank you Instant Netflix.