Saturday, December 31, 2022

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Hope everyone is getting to watch many movies over the holidays. Instead of watching Christmas movies, I ended up watching several excellent war movies, and a few other exciting things. I also watched Spice World, but the less said about that, the better.

    Where Eagles Dare (1968, dir. Brian G. Hutton) - Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood lead a team to break into a Bavarian mountain base to rescue a General that has been captured. Part heist movie, part spy movie, part adventurous escape movie, it has a surprising number of twists and turns. I read it described as “Rip-roaring fun” which is the perfect description.

    The Eagle Has Landed (1976, dir. John Sturges) - Robert Duvall (wearing an eye patch!) and Michael Caine star as Germans with a plot to invade England and capture Churchill himself! The whole premise is a little silly, but it’s meant to be an adventure movie, more than a serious war movie. Lots of fun, although some might find the light-hearted depiction of the Nazis distasteful.

    Khartoum (1966, dir. by a couple of guys) - Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier star in this movie which appears to be cashing in on Lawrence of Arabia’s success a few years earlier. Heston has to go deep into Sudan to help defend a city besieged by Olivier (wearing full blackface). Great performances and some beautiful cinematography of the African landscapes make up for an overwrought plot. There was a sequence with a steamboat escaping that was particularly good, and the battle scenes benefited from having hundreds of extras participating.

    Fort Apache (1948, dir. John Ford) - I think someone mentioned watching this in the past few months. John Wayne (familiar with the fort and the natives) clashes with Henry Fonda who was freshly brought in as a leader and has no respect for the natives. It’s a lot better depiction of the natives than most movies of this era (era). Shirley Temple is wonderful as the daughter of Fonda. I was left a little bewildered by the ending because Fonda basically screws everything up, but there’s a final scene where he’s described as a hero by Wayne (even though he thinks the opposite).

    I also watched a couple of Geena Davis movies.

    Thelma & Louise (1991, dir. Ridley Scott) - Wow, what a great movie. I’m surprised I had never seen this before. I knew about the ending, but not much else. Great performances all around, and some of the bits where they were driving through the oil-digging things were breathtakingly beautiful.

    Cutthroat Island (1995, dir. Renny Harlin) - I’m surprised this has such a low IMDb rating. It’s not going to be found on a “Sight and Sound” list, but it’s a perfectly fun swashbuckling adventure movie, and I enjoyed it more than the Pirates of the Caribbean. Geena Davis was a great action star!

    Some others:

    Lightyear was a fun animated space adventure movie. It would have been received better if Toy Story didn’t exist. People seemed really hung up on how it connected to Toy Story, rather than any criticism of the movie itself.

    Pinnochio will be in my top ten for the year. Loved it. I want to watch it again right now.

    1. Which Pinocchio are you referring to, Paul?

      I believe the ending of Fort Apache is supposed to be ironic. The lionizing of Fonda's character, whom I suppose is based on George Custer of Battle of Little Big Horn fame, happens in spite of the reality of the battle.

      Where Eagles Dare is very entertaining. The World War II epics, especially the British and American films, of the 1960s and '70s are unique in the way they mythologize events that were still relatively recent. They tend to be upbeat adventure films. The experience of the war on European cinema seems much different. European war films tend to be darker in tone than American ones. The memory of occupation and widespread atrocities could have something to with that.

    2. The del Toro Pinocchio was the one I loved. Really really loved, and I was brought to tears a couple times. I also watched the Zemeckis one, and it had some great scenes, but was a little lackluster overall.

      Thanks for the insight on Fort Apache. I rewatched the ending and Wayne saying "You're correct in every detail" seems purposely spoken in a formulaic way, as in "this is what is proper to say", but then he goes on to praise the ordinary soldiers for their contribution. I think it's saying that while an imaginary idea of a "heroic" commander is needed (even if not true), it's the blood and sweat of the regular people that makes it all possible. This was a great movie, and I will rewatch again.

    3. You're right about how the British war movies from that period tend to be like adventure movies. I have a friend that was recounting how he visited England during Christmas in his youth and there was a constant stream of war movies on the telly, and they would spend the whole day demolishing scotch eggs, Victoria sponge cakes and mincemeat tarts while watching WW2 movies.

      But of course, it's a travesty that humankind somehow put themselves through such a horrific thing as WW2 certainly was. It's good that there's such a range of movies on the subject. From heroic adventure movies celebrating the craziness of it all, to more introspective movies examining the reasons and consequences of how we arrived at that point in history.

  2. The past two weeks have been among the busiest of the year for me. I barely watched anything, and I did not get to any holiday movies. I plan to watch New Year's Evil for the first time this evening.

    SAN QUENTIN (1946) – Tough guy Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs) is a reformed convict out to save a prison rehabilitation program by going after an escaped convict. Thoroughly a B-movie, San Quentin moves very quickly. Raymond Burr has a small role in the film.

    THE LITTLE HOURS (2017) – The behavior of these nuns is scandalous! Though not a stranger to nunsploitation in cinema, the broad comedic approach to the medieval story (from Boccaccio’s Decameron) is one that I surprised me. I actually found it jarring. The modern sensibilities of the film clash with the settings, but that might have been the intention. I did like the way the film looked.

    WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVIC STORY (2022) – I guess I should have known what I was getting into with WEIRD. Though Daniel Radcliffe is excellent as Al Yankovic, the film around him is one that I did not appreciate. There was too much emphasis on pop culture references and parodying rock biopic tropes for my liking. I at least managed to finish WEIRD. The cameo appearances by the real Weird Al were one of the few things to make me laugh. I much prefer listening to his songs. I have not seen UHF in decades, but I suspect that would work better for me than WEIRD.

    Another thing I did see was a two-part documentary on Amazon Prime about the comedy troupe The Kids In The Hall. I watched their show a lot in the 1990s. It was fascinating to see some of the skits I most remember taking shape in the night clubs of Toronto in the mid-1980s. Recommended to any Kids In The Hall fan.

    1. I watched the first part of the Kids in the Hall doc. Thanks for the recommendation! That brings back a lot of memories. I was just starting high school (in Canada) when their show started, and it was a big hit and something that everyone watched and talked about at school. When they finally played the shows theme song about 5 minutes before the end of the episode, I felt a rush of emotions.

    2. Glad you enjoyed it, Paul. If I had not watched TKITH episodes on Prime recently, I would not have known the doc was even available. Finding specific things on Prime Video is still more difficult than it should be.

  3. Jurassic Punk (2022)

    Illuminating movie about Special Effect and CGI in hollywood, centered around one of the guy who pretty much showed them how to do it, just to be pushed aside. Highly recommended

  4. I just saw that director Ruggiero Deodato, infamous for Cannibal Holocaust, died a few days ago. R.I.P. His filmography is uneven but noteworthy. I remember Jungle Holocaust (a.k.a, Last Cannibal World) being one of the more interesting Italian cannibal movies. His brutal poliziotteschi Live LIke A Cop, Die Like A Man and the weird post-apocalyptic Raiders of Atlantis are highlights in his career.