"Now Listen to Me..."
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
Happy New Year Everyone!
There are 6 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month. Most of these are previous recommendations, the reviews for which will be linked.
My first recommended feature is Straight Time, part of a series of films TCM is showing about ex-cons.
This is Hidden Gem #51. The others carrying the same theme also on Friday (Jan 8) night are Cape Fear (1962), Kiss of Death (1947), Invisible Stripes, Shockproof, and The Long Memory. All are worth seeing but Straight Time benefits most from a strong authenticity due to having been made from ex-con Edward Bunker's novel, the author's participation in writing the screenplay and consultation during the production. Plus, director Ulu Grosbard provides his customarily derived natural performances from an incredible ensemble cast (chosen by the film's star Dustin Hoffman). The prisoner is being released on TCM Friday, January 8 at 10:30pm PST. (Click on the image for scheduling details on any of the films mentioned).
The following week TCM is presenting 4 films pairing Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, including perhaps film noir's greatest triumph Double Indemnity, previously praised as one of Cinema's great treasures here. In addition, there's last month's recommended feature Remember the Night reviewed here.
Double Indemnity will begin the acting duo's TCM alliance Wednesday, January 13 at 5pm PST. Douglas Sirk's moving melodrama There's Always Tomorrow will follow at 7pm (again PST) with Remember the Night scheduled at 8:45pm. Finally, there's Roy Rowland's serviceable but undistinguished western The Moonlighter with the stand-out performances from our famous pair making it possibly worth watching at 10:30pm.
Next is Gordon Parks' autobiographical first feature film The Learning Tree. I have written about this multi-talented filmmaker and his extraordinary debut film in an article entitled Exploring the Artefacts #5: The Alchemist. Included are some clips of Parks' music compositions for The Learning Tree and Shaft's Big Score. The Learning Tree will avail itself on Monday, January 18 at 5pm PST.
Next up is a more realistic and far less glamorous alternative to the James Bond world of espionage, The Ipcress File, previously reviewed here. One will know why I chose the heading "Now Listen to Me..." for my monthly article after seeing this film. The spying will begin Monday, January 25 at 7pm PST.
Last but not least is Howard Hawks' magnificent western Red River. This is Top Ten Western #6 about the opening of the Chisholm Trail used after the Civil War to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas. It stars John Wayne portraying one of his least heroic characters most energetically. The drive will begin Saturday, January 30 at 11:30am PST.
TCM's current schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right hand corner of TCM's programme.
I watched the Golden Globe Awards Show the other night and wanted to share some thoughts:
The broadcast here in Australia was aired on cable (not U.S. network television which had a delay in place for censorship purposes), so all of the astonishing amount of profanity (surprisingly little from the host) came through loud and clear. Its cumulative effect really degraded the awards and ceremony.
Host Ricky Gervais was amazing. He must have known that in order to please his core group of supporters (up on all of the celebrity news and gossip), he had to “up the ante” on his past Golden Globe appearances. His put-down humour contained a whole new level of irreverence, brilliantly creative (except for a few crass remarks about Jeffrey Tambor), perfectly timed and executed. His opening monologue was a stand-up work of creative excellence and it only got better from there:
“One Hollywood publication said that me hosting would mean that some film stars would stay away for fear of being made fun of. As if film stars would stay away from the chance of winning a Golden Globe… particularly if their film company has already paid for it.”
“Some people still seem to think this award means something.”
"The Golden Globes doesn't have an In Memoriam section to depress the hell out of everyone, they just have the HFPA president give a speech instead.”
“The Hollywood Foreign Press deemed The Martian a comedy and even nominated it. Hence, Matt Damon here tonight. So, that worked a treat. To be fair, The Martian was a lot funnier than Pixels, but then again, so was Schindler's List."
"Jennifer Lawrence made the news when she demanded equal pay for women in Hollywood and she received… yeah, overwhelming support from people everywhere. There were marches on the street with nurses and factory workers saying: ‘How the hell can a 25-year-old live on 52 million?’ There were plumbers around the world going: ‘Poor girl, wrecking hell.’”
“Here’s the only person Ben Affleck hasn't been unfaithful to: Matt Damon.”
"The next presenter is the most respected actor in the room… That isn’t saying much. Please welcome Morgan Freeman."
At the show’s close over the music: "From me and Mel Gibson: Shalom!"
Jonah Hill’s “routine” dressed as a bear immediately following Gervais was like going from Tiffany’s straight to a land-fill.
Matt Damon showed class after being introduced by Gervais. Mel Gibson didn’t, although it was gracious for the former Mad Max actor to present a clip from its newest installment and nominated best dramatic film.
Ennio Morricone's win for The Hateful 8 (best score) was a welcome surprise. Accepting for him was Quentin Tarantino whose drunken demeanour and oh so wrong information about Ennio not winning any past awards for one of his motion picture scores was cringe-worthy for those of us who knew better… (Quentin must have thought he was at the Academy Awards). On the other hand, almost everyone but Gervais acted stoned so perhaps we should cut Quentin some slack.
Anyone in or around the San Francisco (California, USA) area or those who can afford to travel there (that leaves me out unfortunately), may wish to consider attending this:
This year's schedule plus a promotional video compiled from the 2014 Noir City Film Festival can be seen by clicking on the image.
A Happy Birthday shout-out to the amazingly dedicated and exemplary actor John Hurt who turns 76 on January 22. He’s given us such vivid characters to treasure such as Rich in A Man for All Seasons, Timothy Evans in 10 Rillington Place, Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, and Max in Midnight Express. Dare we forget his Kane who hosted an Alien, only to re-live the experience in Spaceballs, his John Merrick in The Elephant Man, Braddock in The Hit, Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Douglas Benoit in From the Hip… and those are just some of his earlier roles!
The sweltering heat of a summer’s Nevada desert is no match for the emotional hotbed of intensity on display in the aptly titled Desert Fury.
Noir queen Lizabeth Scott plays the headstrong daughter of an equally wilful Nevada casino owner, portrayed by Mary Astor. Scott gets romantically entangled with a racketeer (John Hodiak) who may have more to do with his wife’s “accidental” death than he’s letting on. Everyone besides the couple, including Scott’s mother, the town sheriff (Burt Lancaster in an early supporting role), even Hodiak’s overtly jealous partner (Wendell Corey) do everything they can to separate them.
This turbulent Melodrama/Noir sweeps you up in its jumbled juxtaposition of conflicting, ego-maniacal defiance with a twist of mystery and blatant homo-erotic subtext. The hot and sultry narrative, gorgeously photographed in vivid technicolor, gets pretty soapy but manages to steer clear of a bubble bath due to director Lewis Allen who stabilises the drama by securing natural performances from his ensemble cast.
Desert Fury is vastly entertaining, strong and heady stuff. The screenplay was written by Robert Rossen with some uncredited assistance by A.I. Bezzerides adapting Ramona Stewart’s novel “Desert Town.” This film is heavy on dialogue: The characters express what they feel and often, but it comes across as refreshingly honest. There is already a compelling mystery at its core, so why detract from that by making the characters’ thoughts and behaviour ambiguous? Placing the participants' intentions up front is a smart decision that puts Desert Fury clearly in noir territory with the focus on motive and just how strong it can be. This particular high-temperature desert setting is also perfect, fertile ground for composer Miklos Rozsa to plant his customary themes of emotional longing and alternate them with the feverish sounds of suspense, which compliment these proceedings perfectly.
Finally we’re able to hear Rozsa’s obscure score to Desert Fury, an almost equally obscure film, thanks to some very special people at Paramount Studios and Intrada Records.
It is my recommended Soundtrack CD of the month. For information including ordering, click on the image.
Desert Fury is also my recommended DVD this month, but for those in North America there’s a caveat: There has been no legitimate DVD of this film issued in the U.S. as of this writing. There are, however, DVDs in Australia and Germany (Regions 4 and 2 respectively and both PAL). Neither are high-definition but both are excellent transfers. The Australian DVD is out of print but there are some from Koch Media currently available from Germany. Click on the image for more information. amazon.de can assist English speaking customers (at the extreme top left-hand corner of their page look for an english friendly tab) who may wish to order through them.