Wednesday, October 5, 2022

cinema history class: the naked kiss (1964)

As always, there may be spoilers here. And the trailer may be NSFW and/or NSFL.

Session: Bring Your Own Movie Month (Week 5, Christina)
Movie: The Naked Kiss (1964)
Directed by Samuel Fuller

A prostitute ditches the business and tries to go straight. But is a nice simple life out of the life in the cards? Horror ensues.

Reaction and Other Folderol:
The Naked Kiss has kind of a dual personality. It's got one of the most powerful opening scenes I can recall seeing. It was exciting and dramatic, and had me wondering what was going on. And, for what it's worth, its musical accompaniment was superb. After that opening, it slows down a bit -- which I suppose, is necessary. As thrilling as it is to be at the redline, you can't maintain that intensity indefinitely.

After that opening scene there's a stretch where the movie maintains a level of interest, but it does slowly weaken. The thing is, there's one moment -- maybe two thirds of the way through -- that just turns everything upside down. And from then on, it's a wild ride to the end.

It's important to remember that tNK is from 1964—a time when the code still limited movie content. Dealing with topics such as prostitution, pedophilia and abortion, it was envelope-pushing for its time. And I give it credit for that. I also give it credit for the tight dialogue that one would expect from a film noir.

Another favorite thing about this movie is the ambiguous portrayal of Griff, the cop (Anthony Eisley). I spent a lot of the film trying to figure him out. And every time I thought I understood him, something happened to change my perception. It was quite interesting. 

Me: 8.7
Bob-O: 8.8
Dave: 9.8
Ethan: 10
Joe: 10
Keith: 9.8

Saturday, October 1, 2022

what really happened on june 14, 1987?

 I've been watching Seinfeld, the TV series, on Netflix. I never made a point of watching it in its original run. Over the years, I've seen a bunch of the episodes and lots of clips. I'm familiar with a lot of the catchphrases and the major characters. But now I decided to watch it from episode 1...start to finish. Except, I suppose, for that one episode in the last season that's unavailable because it offended people. I'll let Joe address that issue.

I'm in the third season; last night I watched the two-part episode, "The Boyfriend," in which Jerry strikes up a friendship with Keith Hernandez, the former baseball player. Part of the episode centers on Kramer and Newman hating Hernandez because they believe he spat at them after a game. The whole thing is played as a parody of the Kennedy assassination, and it's done pretty well. I won't go into detail, since that would take too long and I won't do it justice.

But the one thing that annoys me.

The episode would have you believe that, on June 14, 1987, the Mets lost to the Phillies because of a crucial error by Hernandez. In truth, on that date the Mets beat the Pirates 7-3 (in Pittsburgh). That totally ruins the plot for me (/sarc). Keith Hernandez played for the Mets for six and a fraction seasons. I can't help but assume that, during that time, there was at least one loss that could plausibly be blamed (at least in part) on him, and used for the plot. 

In fairness to the writers, I do acknowledge that the episode  was made in the early 1990s. Back then it wasn't so easy to look up what happened on any given date, or search to find a game that suits the needs of the episode. It's not as if I actually remembered what happened on that day. I looked it up on baseball reference. Were it not so easy to uplook such things, I never would have checked.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

cinema history class: king of the zombies (1941)

Subsequent to posting this, I edited it to add the whole section about Bela Lugosi

As always, there may be spoilers here. And the trailer may be NSFW and/or NSFL.

Session: Cheap Thrills! (Week 4)
Movie: King of the Zombies (1941)
Directed by Jean Yarbrough

Blown off course and low on fuel, pilot James McCarthy (Dick Purcell) is fortunate to crash land on a remote Caribbean island. Then he uncovers plots involving voodoo, zombies and espionage. Horror ensues.

Reaction and Other Folderol:
This was really the Mantan Moreland show, which is both a blessing and a curse.

I've enjoyed Moreland's performances in other movies that I've seen -- including the sequel, Revenge of the Zombies. But this may have been too much of a good thing. A lot of times Moreland delivered a line and I kind of realized it was a laughline and snorted out a laugh, but then thought "wow, that wasn't really funny." At some point I just started rolling my eyes.

And that's where it would have been good to have a bigger audience. Ethan and I were the only ones who showed up for class this session. I might have enjoyed the jokes better if the other regulars were there -- laughter has a way of being infectious. And that might actually have been the key to this movie. It was made to be seen in a theater amidst a large crowd of people. No one involved was imagining a day when people would be streaming movies at home alone or watching DVDs in small groups in a basements. Maybe, in a theater, surrounded by people who are there to have a good time, I would have enjoyed the schtick more.

Beyond the fact of Moreland's schtick being the focus, the plot itself was kind of simple and unremarkable. The soundtrack was pretty good.

Keith noted before the movie started that the part of Dr. Sangre, which went to Henry Victor, had been written with Bela Lugosi in mind. And it's easy to see that in the movie. Victor goes through the entire movie in full on imitation of Lugosi. And I don't think that does the part justice. Lugosi would have been great in the part, and I probably would have given the movie a higher grade if Lugosi had been in it. But since it was Henry Victor, I would have preferred seeing Victor be himself.

Me: 6.5
Ethan: 7

Sunday, September 25, 2022

cinema history class: return of the ape man (1944)


As always, there may be spoilers here. And the trailer may be NSFW and/or NSFL.

Session: Cheap Thrills! (Week 3)
Movie: Return of the Ape Man (1944)
Directed by Philip Rosen

Two scientists bring a frozen cavemen back to life, but they have very different ideas about what to do with him. Horror ensues.

Reaction and Other Folderol:
The whole thing is kind of a good idea. In some ways it bears a strong resemblance to the Frankenstein story, with the ape man and his manufactured intelligence standing in for the monster. Bela Lugosi and John Carradine make an interesting team; Lugosi is always good. But the movie, enjoyable as it is to watch, is just not memorable.

Me: 7
Christina: 8
Dave: 9.5
Ethan: 8
Joe: 9.8

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

happy tunesday! un-grand canyon

"Un-Grand Canyon" is another in the series of recordings of songs that I wrote or co-wrote, which will appear on the album by "The Marc Whinston Project" (or whatever "group name" I choose to brand it with).

But this is unique. Most of the songs for the project were written only by me. There are also a few songs that are primarily mine, but that have coauthors. For the most part, these involved a little wordsmithing (by others) on a song that was almost completely written by me. I still think of those as "my" songs.

But "Un-Grand Canyon" is different. This is Christina's baby. It started with a poem she wrote, and I tried to turn it into a song. There was some restructuring, and I changed a few words. But the lyrics are hers. I set it to music -- the first time I had ever done that for someone else's words. That was a new challenge, as I really wanted to capture the drear that Christina wrote about.

I think I succeeded, but Toby's arrangement and Eytan Mirsky's vocals did a lot of the heavy lifting.

I am really looking forward to putting this on the upcoming album. I never could have written her lyrics; they are in a style that's alien to me. And the finished product is very different from anything else in the album project. The closest to it is "Five Missing One," but this sounds much better. It also mines a topic that I really haven't approached at all on my own, so in that sense it contributes to variety. Plus, it was my first attempt at setting someone else's words to music. And I am really pleased with the results.