IN LIKE A LION, OUT LIKE A LAMB BLOGATHON – Day 1 Recap

We’ve uncovered quite a few bloggers who had misgivings about certain films that they ended up loving! Thankfully, we got them to share their stories with us in

Day1

If you’ve missed any of these enjoyable film memories, click on the appropriate blog name below to link to the blog and read the blogathon entry.

th

BNoirDetour came to realize that Bogie and Bacall really did have it all in The Big Sleep.

th (1)

Moon in Gemini was transformed from film snob to movie populist, courtesy of James Cameron’s The Terminator.

p

Love Letters to Old Hollywood decided she wanted to have what Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal were having in When Harry Met Sally.

th (2)

Serendipitous Anachronisms anticipated a snark-fest and got an engrossing thriller when she watched Richard Boone in the otherworldly I Bury the Living.

p (1)

And yours truly got a pleasant surprise in black comedy when I partook of future big-name stars Denis Leary’s and Kevin Spacey’s early career work in The Ref.

We still have two more days to go in our blogathon, so keep us bookmarked for more terrific turnaround stories in cinema!

Advertisements

#SatMat Live Tweet movie for Sat., Mar. 5: STOP MAKING SENSE (1984)

StopMakingSenseAd

I have no rational explanation why the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense has had such a magical effect on me.

When I first saw it, I’d only ever heard the Heads through the occasional song on the radio, such as “Burning Down the House.” I went to see the movie only because it received rapturous reviews from all quarters.

But for some reason, as soon as the credits rolled and I heard the concert audience murmur in anticipation, I just knew I was going to see something different. And when David Byrne nonchalantly walked on-stage and launched into “Psycho Killer,” I felt like I was right there with the rest of the audience, cheering him on.

Refreshingly, the movie takes what one of its group called a “no-bullshit” approach to its concert. The group’s other members — Tina Weymouth, her husband Chris Franz, and Jerry Harrison, and backup musicians Lynn Mabry, Ednah Holt, Bernie Worrell, Steve Scales, and Alex Weir — join the group on-stage one-by-one with each successive song. Stagehands set up props and lighting as needed, right on camera. No frills — they’re not driving themselves into a frenzy to win you over.

As a result, the whole thing comes off less as an elaborate rock concert than an intimate stage show, which is just how Byrne conceived it. Instead of distancing themselves, the musicians draw you in. And with the beautiful, clear music they offer, it’s an invitation to happiness.

Join us at Twitter.com at 4:30 p.m. EST, and let yourself Stop Making Sense.

 

The IN LIKE A LION, OUT LIKE A LAMB BLOGATHON is here!

FINAL

The month of March is upon us, and with that our lion-to-lamb film blogathon. For the next three days, we take a look at bloggers’ memories of movies that originally got them wound up with apprehension, only to fill them with relief from moviemakers who actually knew what they were doing.

If you are one of the blogging participants, please leave the name and URL of your blog entry in the “Comments” section below, and I will appropriately link to it. Readers, simply click on the links below to read the blogathon entries — and bookmark this site, as we will provide blogathon updates at the end of each day. Enjoy!

Here’s the line-up:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The Ref (1994)

BNoirDetour – The Big Sleep (1946)

Cinematic Scribblings – The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

Old Hollywood Films – Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948)

I Found It at the Movies – The Wild Bunch (1969)

Moon in Gemini – The Terminator (1984)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Serendipitous Anachronisms – I Bury the Living (1958)

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Move Over Darling (1963)

Dell on Movies – Flipped (2010)

THE REF (1994) – Not your ordinary Christmas movie

 

FINAL2

The following is my entry in my In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from Feb. 28-Mar. 1, 2016. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ accounts of how they attended certain movies with great trepidation, only to be pleasantly surprised by them!

p

R.I.P., Blockbuster Video.

I never thought I’d write those words. But I have to admit, if you hit that place on the right night, with someone on the floor who really knew his or her movies, it was like getting directed to a rare album selection at Tower Records that you never even knew existed.

One Saturday night, my wife and I were in Blockbuster, wanting to find a fresh comedy but at a complete loss for what to watch. We got all the way to the checkout lane with a half-baked selection, and the cashier could actually see the despair in our eyes. She asked what the problem was. When we told her, she asked, “Have you ever heard of The Ref?”

When we heard the title, my wife and I declared that we weren’t interested in any feel-good football movie. The cashier laughed and told us that the title was simply deceiving. She gave us the movie’s box to look at. Denis Leary? Kevin Spacey? Whoever heard of these guys?

The cashier smiled and assured us that, if we were in the mood for a dark comedy, we should take her word for it and rent the movie. Blessed be that cashier — we can only hope that cashier has gone on to bigger and better things in the movie world.

Ref_ver1

The movie introduces us to an on-the-rocks couple, Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur (Spacey and Judy Davis), whose bickering is so tumultuous that even their marriage counselor (B.D. Wong) can barely keep it contained. On their way home, it is the Chasseurs’ bad luck to run into Gus (Leary). Gus has tried to pull off what he thought was a simple burglary, but he barely escaped the toothsome clutches of a guard dog, and his alcoholic partner has driven off without him.

Gus holds the Chasseurs at gunpoint, tells them to drive to their home, and holds them hostage there while he tries to figure out how to bail himself out. Meanwhile, the homefront gets even more complicated when the Chasseurs’ spoiled son Jesse arrives home from boarding school.

Oh, and this all occurs on Christmas Eve, which ushers in an enjoyable subplot involving the Chasseurs’ self-absorbed family (led by the sublime Christine Baranski) and some smile-inducing nods to It’s a Wonderful Life and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (wait for it).

So many modern dark comedies are tiresome, not because they have a nasty edge to them, but because they pretend to be hostile while taking a “just kidding” approach because they fear alienating their audience. The Ref serves up its bile straight and black and is at its most delightful when it shatters audience expectations.

Gus thinks all it will take to get out of this mess is a gun and an attitude, but he ends up being the titular referee to this volcanic couple that he can’t shake. And Gus has even more to deal with when Jesse finds more of a father figure in Gus than he does in his own father.

The Ref is simply a delightful surprise all around, right down to the credits. The script is by Richard LaGravenese, who pulled off a similar black-humored miracle with his screenplay for The Fisher King. But the movie’s biggest surprise is that it was produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer! How did the masterminds behind Top Gun and Flashdance catch their breath long enough to do a dark, thoughtful character study?

Of course, if you’ve seen the sterling work of cast members Leary, Spacey, Davis, and Baranski in the past two decades, I don’t have to sell you on their work here. The Ref is like a warm-up for their greatest work to come — a very heated warm-up.

Saying Goodbye to My Dad and CASABLANCA

This is an entry in the “31 Days of Oscar Blogathon.” Trust me, you’ve never seen CASABLANCA the way this woman has seen CASABLANCA.

Sister Celluloid

“Where I’m going, you can’t follow.”

Not the most famous line in Rick’s closing speech to Ilsa, but the one that stays with me. Casablanca was the last movie I ever saw with my Dad, who I followed everywhere.

We were true kindred spirits, and there was no one I saw more movies with. Saturday mornings were for comedies on Channel 5, especially if W.C. Fields was on. We saw It’s a Gift so often we did the routines at the breakfast table. (“You tell me where to go!” “I’d like to tell you both where to go!”) On nights I couldn’t sleep, he let me bundle in my blanket on the couch and watch the late movie with him, which is how I fell in love with Buster Keaton. And every year, to my delight and my mother’s horror, he woke me at roughly three in the morning to trundle downstairs and…

View original post 1,025 more words

SO YOU THINK YOU’RE NOT GUILTY (1950) – In praise of Joe McDoakes

 

OscarsSnub8

The following is my contribution to the Oscars Snubs Blogathon, being co-hosted Feb. 26-28, 2016 by The Midnite Drive-In and Silver Scenes. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ defenses of Academy Award nominees that didn’t win the golden statuette!

220px-Joe_McDoakes_title_card

I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about Joe McDoakes, and this blogathon gives me a perfect excuse to do so.

“What the heck is a ‘Joe McDoakes’?”, I hear you cry.

Joe McDoakes was a series of 63 one-reel comedy short subjects produced by Warner Bros. between 1942 and 1956. George O’Hanlon — later to gain his greatest fame as the voice of George in the TV cartoon “The Jetsons” — played the title character.

GEORGE O'HANLON AS JOE McDOAKES

George O’Hanlon as Joe.

The shorts began as a project of Richard Bare, a film professor at USC who wanted to show his students how to make a movie. (After the McDoakes series was retired, Bare made further use of his offbeat sense of humor, as the director of a wonderfully wacko TV series titled “Green Acres.”) The shorts were directed by Bare and also written solely by him up through 1948, at which point O’Hanlon took a hand in the storylines as well.

The series’ raison d’etre was to place Joe in an everyday situation and, usually, watch him bollix it up through stubbornness or misplaced overconfidence. The first few shorts showed Joe going through the motions of an activity (as in the debut short, So You Want to Quit Smoking) while an offscreen narrator commented on Joe’s actions. Eventually, Joe and his supporting cast were allowed to speak, although the narrator (usually the delightful Art Gilmore) wasn’t abandoned until 1948.

I could spend an entire blog cataloging the virtues of this achingly hilarious series of shorts. (As it happens, I devoted an entire website to it instead. Click here if you’re interested in the minutia of the Joe McDoakes series.)

Suffice to say, three of these short subjects were deservedly nominated for Best One-Reel Short Subject Academy Awards; undeservingly, none of them won the statuette. For the purposes of this blogathon, I will center my attentions on the 1950 Oscar nominee, So You Think You’re Not Guilty.

(Oh, yeah, I forgot. At this point, I’m dutifully supposed to mention 1950’s One-Reel Short Subject Oscar winner, Paramount’s Aquatic House-PartyAnyone who has devoted a blog or website to this immortal movie gem, please leave your URL in the “Comments” section below.)

(Also, the remainder of this blog entry contains complete spoilers of So You Think You’re Not Guilty. So skip to the last two paragraphs if you truly intend to obtain the movie in one of its rare forms, which I’ll discuss later.)

At the start of the movie, Joe is driving his convertible through town with his wife Alice (Phyllis Coates, best known as TV’s first Lois Lane on “Adventures of Superman”). Joe dutifully stops at one of those old-style traffic lights where the “Stop” and “Go” signs pop up and down appropriately. Here, though, the signs go haywire, causing Joe to drive skittishly and cause a traffic jam.

notguilty

A policeman pulls Joe over and politely tries to deal with him. But Joe brashly proclaims his innocence, despite the fact that he has neither his driver’s license nor his vehicle registration to hand over to the cop. The cop writes Joe a traffic ticket and tells Joe he can pay the $2 fine in court and be done with it. But in court, “innocent” Joe makes such a nuisance of himself that the judge fines him first $50 for contempt, then $75, and finally $100.

JoeInJail

So Joe has just multiplied his losses by 50. Not good enough for him, though — now he wants a trial. Sadly, Mr. Battin (Ted Stanhope, above left), Joe’s lawyer, isn’t nearly as concerned about Joe’s innocence as Joe is. While the prosecutor (Willard Waterman) pulls out every shameless tactic possible, including a “witness” to the incident (a blind man with a seeing-eye dog), Battin says nothing.

At the end of the prosecutor’s song-and-dance, Battin whispers to Joe, “I got an ace in the hole. Watch this!” Battin slowly stands up and announces, “The defense rests.”

For some reason, this doesn’t pacify Joe, who creates such a scene in the courtroom that he gets another $1,000 tacked onto his fine and is sentenced to 30 days in jail. While in his jail cell, a fellow prisoner coerces Joe into breaking out with him. Joe tries to escape through the window, but his suspenders get stuck on what’s left of the sawed-off bars. Joe is quickly captured and sentenced to 10 years for an attempted jail break.

Next we see Joe out in the jail courtyard, having served a year of his sentence. A fellow prisoner (a nifty cameo by Douglas Fowley, a gangster in late-era Laurel & Hardy movies) says that when they both get out of jail, Joe needs to look him up. The con is getting into a new racket that’s perfect for Joe: “Signal-fixin’ radar — ya always got the green light!”

p

Joe is called to a meeting with the warden (Ralph Sanford), who asks Joe if he really did commit the crime of which he’s been accused. Hard-boiled Joe gladly admits to the crime and says he’ll do it again when he gets out. Ironically, now that Joe has finally admitted his guilt, the warden says that Joe is qualified to get out of jail. “‘Stop-Lite’ McDoakes Paroled,” reads a banner newspaper headline.

p (1)

Joe, once again free and driving, makes the very same driving mistake at the very same traffic light. But no heroics this time — as soon as a cop approaches Joe, he throws $2 at the cop and begs him to pay off the ticket.

I wish this movie was available for posting here. Sadly, this wonderful short subject and its 62 brethren are as rare as an Oscar was for the series itself. If you want to see So You Think You’re Not Guilty by itself, it’s available as an extra on Warner Bros.’ 2005 DVD release of the James Cagney classic White Heat.

DVD

Also, the entire McDoakes series is available for purchase on demand. Depending on if you buy a new or used set, it costs anywhere from $32 to $50 at Amazon.com — but IMHO, it’s worth every penny. (If you don’t want to take my word for it, click here to read critic Leonard Maltin’s rave review, which inspired me to buy the set sight-unseen.) I think you’ll agree that Not Guilty and a good number of these other shorts were simply robbed at Oscar time.

TheEndJoe