Movie Gold = Blue Gold

DATELINE: Blue Denim without Brandon De Wilde

 blue gold

Though we expected this documentary to be frivolous, it turned out to be entertaining and smart.

Blue Gold: American Jeans tells the story of how the fashion-plate pants of the Old West have become a big business and an art form. Yes, you will regret having tossed out those moth-eaten old pair of blue jeans. They are worth thousands of dollars today.

Oh, the film traces the historical process of how jeans are made with indigo dye and rivets by Levi Strauss, or Lee, or Wrangler. You will surely learn how the business of fashionable jeans in America has gone to the Far East.

This little film compiles everything you want to know about blue jeans—from Calvins to Brooke Shields with nothing next to her. Every morsel of trivia about blue jeans is here. And, you can’t be much closer to a subject than how it fits and shapes your scrotum and ass.

Authentic blue jeans are indeed valuable, especially in Japan nowadays. Collectors travel the Midwest and Nevada to find old trunks with old trunks. You will not find many documentaries that will combine Bob Dylan, Bruce Lee, with Iggy Pop and James Dean.

It struck us that those looking for authentic jeans, worn by real workers years ago, are actually big phonies. They never worked for their jeans, but they paid thousands of dollars for the privilege of looking like blue collar types in their pantaloons.

With a main host who looks a great deal like John Goodman on a lark, the film will not make your butt look fat.

Directed with holes in the right places by Christian D. Bruun, the film is sheer delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Twin Peaks (s3 Half-Way Point)

 DATELINE:  NO Spoilers Possibletwin peaks

There is no such thing as a spoiler in Twin Peaks. We are not even sure we are still in Twin Peaks after the face of Laura Palmer emerges from the mist in the opening credits.

We have now come to the half-way point of no-return for Season 3 on the bizarre David Lynch TV series, and we can explain everything that happened and you will have no idea what we are talking about.

The episode started with Kyle McLachlan’s Doppleganger Agent D.B. Cooper in a jail break with an accomplice who promptly shoots and kills him. Then, he is beset upon by demonic spirits that apparently bring him back to life.

At this point there is a flashback to a flashpoint in the plot. We find ourselves in Desert Sands, New Mexico, as the first atomic bomb is detonated. If you think of this as a hole in the plot, you may have fallen into the trap.

We are then thrust into a five-minute Stanley Kubrick-style hallucinogenic trip inside a radioactive cloud. When we emerged, we found ourselves in a 1950s black and white horror movie with zombies murdering people.

Oh, yes, somewhere in there we found ourselves in the waiting room of an imperious theater where Lurch the Butler of the Addams Family sends a golden plasma bubble with the face of Laura Palmer back to Earth.

Back on Earth, an alien lizard with wings hatches from an egg near the site of the nuclear explosion in 1956 and enters the mouth of sleeping adolescent girl. Now we feel the Illuminati are lurking somewhere in the storyline.

Is that clear? Are you spoiled yet? Have you any idea if David Lynch has lost his lunch?

Yes, we will watch again next week, not that it matters.

Rita, Kim, & Frank: Pals of Joey

DATELINE:  Another Lost Classic

star power

From 1957 comes an overlooked musical from Rogers and Hart, based on a John O’Hara book. Pal Joey has top-drawer firepower with Kim Novak, Rita Hayworth, and Frank Sinatra.

Set in San Francisco with much location shooting, you will have a sense of what it was like in the Red Light district. Not a year later, Hitchcock would bring Kim Novak back to the setting for Vertigo.

Sinatra is in typecast form as the brash lounge singer who foists himself on whoever is handy. He downplayed what he didn’t like and made the character a version of himself. His dream is to have his own nightclub where he can sing and star. In the meantime, his two-bit hoodlum act wears thin on almost everyone, but he is a ladies’ man, as they used to say.

Sinatra could not have two better, bigger co-stars. Sinatra even gave Hayworth top billing as the “older woman.”  Mae West was originally considered for the role with Billy Wilder directing.

Rita Hayworth is on the cusp of middle-age and seems to be playing her patented Gilda a dozen years later. She is now a rich widow with a tainted show busy past. When Sinatra forces her to perform at a charity auction, she seems about ready to sing “Put the Blame on Mame,” and actually does a satiric number in which she strips off her gloves (both of them, this time).

Sinatra woos her for the start-up money for his lounge on Nob Hill—and voluptuous Kim Novak rises from the chorus to a featured singer and dancer.

Once the tunes start humming, you have a bunch of standards coming one after another: Sinatra sings “The Lady is a Tramp,” to Hayworth—and Hayworth sings “Betwitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” while Novak gives a sensitive rendition of “Funny Valentine.”

Sinatra even re-did the final fantasy dance scene with all three stars, which is sad because Rita Hayworth was a real dancer.

The film shines, despite changes orchestrated by producer Harry Cohn and Sinatra. It’s still classic crooner Sinatra.

Hurricane Clint Eastwood Downgraded to Breezy

DATELINE: Better to Stay Lost

breezy

In his third directorial effort, back in 1973, Clint Eastwood took up the challenge of a romantic comedy.  It probably sounded easier than he expected because he had William Holden, even aging and falling apart, as his charming, cynical leading man.

This atrocity is called Breezy, rhymes with easy, named after the hippie free spirit who haunts William Holden. It might have been more hilarious if Breezy was a teenage boy. But Clint doesn’t eat sweets.

However, the moribund script features one fantasy hippie girl who believed in free love of the era. Perhaps it was realistic back in the early 1970s in L.A., but Kay Lenz presents one of the most annoying, anachronistic versions of a promiscuous teenager we have seen in decades.

We cannot figure out why Holden’s well-to-do businessman didn’t toss this annoying and cloying girl out on her keester when she first appears to panhandle and try to con him. Are all men victims of their sex drive?

That Holden falls in love with her seems to stretch credulity for a character who never has fallen in love with any woman.

On top of all this, we are then faced with the embarrassments of May-December romance being denigrated by every other character Holden knows in the movie script. Really, Clint?

We almost hoped Holden would turn into Dirty Sex Harry and shoot the whole lot of slut hustlers. Of course, it’s not that kind of film, alas.

If the saccharine hippie girl isn’t enough to rot the script, you have an overlay of Michel Legrand music. Apparently, Clint gave himself plenty of challenges to overcome. You may drown in movie sweetness, not typical Eastwood.

Clint fans knew better than the novice director—and ran away from this clinkeroo. This was not even a good character-driven story, though you can see how Eastwood wants to develop it. The film wastes William Holden– and Eastwood too.

Many critics in hindsight think this was Clint’s most “personal” film. We doubt it. He was still learning his craft by directing in an unusual setting and genre.

Destroying the film negative might be a better challenge to undertake. Clint likely chose to ignore the movie as time passed as an experiment in directing. This movie is a freak of his oeuvre.

Dramatic Musical: The Bolero

DATELINE:  Best Short Film 1974 Oscar

Mehta

Winning the Best Short Subject Oscar for 1974, The Bolero may be one of the most breathtaking documentaries about music put on film.

From its opening scenes, setting up chairs for musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, to its climax, you will have a deep appreciation for the challenge and creativity of symphony orchestras.

Most people know Ravel’s “Bolero” from the Walt Disney animated classic, as the music that portends the end of the dinosaurs. Or, worse, you may recall Bo Derek.

At first you have violinists, bassoonists, and flutists, all making mention of the difficulty of small solos in the overall performance. Behind them you hear the occasional melody from the piece.

Zubin Mehta was young and dynamic as the conductor, expressive and humorous. He notes after this performance of the Los Angeles Philharmonic he never wants to do The Bolero ever again. His tongue is firmly in cheek.

Drama always builds slowly, and if Mehta has any real challenge here, it is in keeping the pace of the music in check.

When the orchestra begins to play the entire score, you see them lit against a satin black background—and you are faced with fierce concentration from individual players as they read their music, look up to the conductor, and listen to their colleagues in the symphony. It mirrors any struggle Jack London ever described in Nature.

Mehta plays a conductor as you always expected one to be. When he is in full charge, his face shows how much he loves music, art, and helps director Alan Miller create something so special that 45 years later, you will be thrilled and delighted by the 25-minute experience.

 

 

El Escape de Hitler in Any Language

DATELINE:  Old Friend Dullest

dullest

This 2011 film from Argentina is only available for streaming video and has subtitles. That’s enough to send most viewers scurrying for the remote. An Argentine film uses the Spanish title: El Escape de Hitler.

However, don’t be hasty. This little film may be a lost gem in the ‘Where’s Adolph?’ sweepstakes.

The recent Bob Baer series on History channel took many ideas from this 87-minute documentary—and left out some of the most intriguing theories.

Some rather suspenseful direction from Matias Gueilburt helps to hold your interest with effective historical movie clips, and host Carlos de Napoli is hilariously mysterious in his demeanor as he follows the trail from Nuremberg and Austrian locations to the Argentine border of Bariloche where Hitler and his bride seemingly ended up.

If the area in Argentina didn’t already have a Bavarian appeal, the local German residents went all out to make it homey. They even planted trees imported from Germany to make the local lake look even more like the Fatherland.

Our old friend from the CIA, Allen Dulles, shows up here as the man who orchestrated a deal with Hitler to have him disappear in exchange for all those rocket scientists who later put an American on the Moon. This sort of discounts all those Ancient Alien types who think Hitler jumped instead into a time machine called The Bell and took off for parts in the distant future.

So, with American cover, the Nazi murdering monster went missing while everyone looked the other way. Flown out of his bunker well before the Soviets came by, he jumped onto a U-boat and disembarked in Argentina, traveling across the country to the Andes.

If true, Hitler and his wife lived out their golden years in a remote luxury mansion with all the accoutrements of Alpine living, including their round-the-clock security and nearby airplane for a fast getaway.

It’s fascinating, if nothing else.

Life Begins Again for Alien Blob

DATELINE Nice Guys Finish Last

Meeting the Enemy--It's US! Pods Unite!

LIFE should never be confused with L I F E. The two movies are like night and day. Each film had some bright leading men. The first had Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson, a couple of actors you always play dubious characters.

The other film stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, a couple of actors who are completely nice guys, all the time. The second L I F E is a science-fiction movie and the bad guy is a pipsqueak space alien who feeds on humans.  This allows the leading men to play like vanilla ice cream, melting slowly. Fear not: the second L I F E film is far better than the first, blank space not withstanding.

Daniel Espinosa who gave us the chlllingly depressing tale of a Russian child molester, Child 44, directs this intense combo of the Blob Meets Alien. And, it’s a doozy all right.

Because the science nerds in this film are so serious and the science is so accurate, this tale becomes more horrifying and realistic as a group of bland astronauts finds a one-cell lifeform from Mars that rapidly grows into a threat to the human race—while still on the space station.

It’s all familiar, yet fresh in a more disturbing way in the hands of Espinosa. You have your vanilla ice-cream ethnically-diverse heroes looking to follow protocol. It didn’t work in the Thing from Outer Space in 1950, and it won’t work for these guys.

If you enjoy a good squirm in your seat movie, you have one here. However, there is a considerable amount of weeping among the crew—and gnashing of teeth, rather than decisive action.

If you want to bemoan the state of today’s film plots, you need only wonder how much different this picture would have been if John Wayne had been among the crew.

No Joke: The Seven Dwarves of Auschwitz

DATELINE:  Fascinating True Story

7 dwarves

Though it sounds like a sick joke, the fate of the vaudeville Orvitz family came down to the misfortune and good fortune of being dwarves and Jews. A documentary called The Seven Dwarves of Auschwitz is harrowing and inspiring.

Brothers and sisters, the seven Orvitzes entertained Europe in the 1930s with song, dance, patter, and capitalizing on their own physical situation. They were tiny people who joined many others of the era by entering show biz as the best way to make a living.

They exploited themselves, and ran from the terror of the Nazis in Europe.  They ignored the horror stories, but finally the Nazis came to capture them in Transylvania and transport them in 1944 to the death camp at Auschwitz.

Through pluck and luck, they came to the attention of an ironic savior, the unstable Dr. Joseph Mengele. One of the guards told the doctor that he had found more specimens for the infamous ‘Mengele Zoo’, as it was called.

Yet, it meant that they would live as experiment specimens for the deranged medical practices of Mengele. However, he was also intrigued by their ability to entertain. It was that which kept them alive while others with deformity were slaughtered.

The tale is told by actor Warwick Davis, a small person himself, with an interest in the history of show business dwarves. He made a name for himself in movies, playing Ewoks and whatnot.

The horror of the tale is etched on his face as he travels the route suffered by the seven Orvitz dwarves. They were tortured by odd experiments, but managed to survive. Mengele allowed them to live to perform for him.

The film is unique in its perspective and deserves to be seen and will never be forgotten.

A Good Mechanic is Hard to Find

DATELINE:  Off-duty Killers

 Mechanics off duty

Charles Bronson teamed with Jan-Michael Vincent in 1972 for their fascinating mob hitman movie called The Mechanic, which was changed to Killer of Killers when a bad remake of the original was made recently.

In contrast to the recently viewed The Assignment, this has more stops pulled out, but the gender-issues came across in full force. Bronson, in fact, demanded that a scene with his wife Jill Ireland be gratuitously added to the movie so the main character, Mr. Bishop, could be seen having sex with a woman. It was pointless. He only has eyes for the son of the mob boss.

When Bronson meets the beautiful blond Jan-Michael, all is lost.

Their courtship as partners in the assassination business tells all. When they go to a strip joint, they have eyes only for each other—and ignore the cavorting girls who are nude on stage. Vincent seems to have moved into a luxurious art-laced house with Bishop, “Nice to see what inside your mind looks like,” opines the seductive Jan-Michael.

However, their murderous relationship runs afoul of the mob that disapproves—of something that dares not speak its name. It is 1972, after all, when Boys in the Band was nascent.

Bronson’s need for a companion is his undoing when he starts to suspect his young friend has a hidden agenda. Mr. Bishop needs a companion, and his young protégé notes, “That’s your weakness.”

“See Naples and die,” becomes more than a throwaway slogan amid the explosions and gunfights as the film moves swiftly to a surprise ending.

Beautiful settings and beautiful sets make the sordid story fly by. If you want a lost gem, The Mechanic still shines 45 years later.

 

 

 

 

Original New York Terror Movie

DATELINE:  Classic Thriller

 

Matthau

Taking of Pelham One Two Three, from 1974, is a masterpiece

Directed by Joseph Sargent, it holds up after 40 years of action thrillers have passed into oblivion. Twenty-five years before 9-11, it showed New York City in full terrorist mode. Of course, back then, it was not called “terrorism,” but when a gang of dangerous criminals hijacks a subway train, the word fits.

Acutely written and underplayed by a bunch of New York actors, the leading transit policeman is Walter Matthau, a man give over to snippy one-liners and packaging disheveled frumpiness. He is at the top of the game here. And, his sidekick is Jerry Stiller, not Jack Lemmon.

Indeed, the passel of familiar faces from TV and movies of the era is a who’s who cast: James Broderick, Tony Roberts, Dick O’Neill, Kenneth McMillan, Dolph Sweet, Tom Pedi, and Doris Roberts. For the most part they throw out some zinger lines to break up the tension.

The bad guys are gems: Hector Elizondo and Martin Balsam, of course, effective as always, but Robert Shaw added another villain portrait to his growing gallery as the mercenary ringleader. His end rivals his work in Jaws the following year.

New York City is magnificent as itself, harsh, bustling, dirty, cynical, and unique.

To watch a well-put together suspense thriller, you may be surprised to learn it won next to nothing in awards, a few nominations, but nothing from Oscar land. They didn’t take terror films lightly back then, and this one dishes out some great entertainment along with the speeding subway trains and crashing police cars.

Neruda’s Politics Over Poetry

DATELINE:  Chile Politics

neruda

Pablo Larrain’s other important movie this past year, besides Jackie, is another off-beat biographical drama, this time centering on Chilean poet and political activist Pablo Neruda.

The film Neruda puts its focus on a year-long period in 1948 when the poet was targeted by the Chilean government for arrest and explains his attempts to flee the country while being chased by some kind of Victor Hugo-styled police detective. Bernal is utterly breath-taking in his 1940s wardrobe.

Told from the viewpoint of Gael Gabriel Bernal as the police pursuer, you have a man of no consequence taking his identity from chasing the biggest figure in his country’s history. As the cop finally begs the audience, “I am not a supporting character,” and we feel that Larrain is in total agreement.

The film hints that the pursuer was a creation of Neruda’s paranoia or of his self-important art. We tend to support the group that prefers to remember that Nobel Prize winner Neruda was a Stalinist communist, unrepentant and disdainful of much else.

In 1948 Chile perhaps it was chichi to be an unrelenting communist chased by a relentless secret police officer. Peanut-sized actor Bernal is strikingly brilliant in his dogged role. Luis Gnecco is equal in his performance as the frumpy, profligate poet Neruda.

Americans may wonder how this uninspired-looking man could motivate his nation as a martyr, or give voice to the downtrodden, that sent many who helped him to prison. It is all part of Larrain’s poetic vision of cat-and-mouse politics.

We must admit that the notion that an unimportant pawn of political corruption drawing his identity from hounding a greater man for his beliefs is a fascinating topic.

The film is fully realized, one of two powerful political dramas this year by the South American filmmaker Pablo Larrain, now taking part in Hollywood mainstream.

Neruda will be intriguing for those of a certain socialist political bent. The rest of us will conclude Neruda and the Nobel Prize are overrated, but the movie is not.

Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl: The Assignment

 DATELINE:  Singular Revenge Tale

michelle rodriguez  Ultimate Tomboy?

You won’t find many gender-bending mob hitman movies out there, but Walter Hill has directed and written the best one: The Assignment.

Literate, clever, and intelligent, as well as violent, this film manages to answer the question raised by the old Barbarians song.

This is a revenge tale with a twist of lemon. Frank Kitchen is one of those androgynous, bearded killers who looks like Ralph Macchio in most scenes and a bit like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront in a few others. Even as an attractive woman, Rodriguez still looks like Ralph Macchio.

The actor playing Frank is Michelle Rodriguez who in a clever bit of computer effects has a full-frontal nudity scene as a young man. She has the posturing and macho attitude to play the killer who meets the wrong doctor.

Also gender-bending is Sigourney Weaver, as a tough masculine female plastic surgeon who decides, beyond experimentation, to have revenge on the mob killer who murdered her brother. She drugs him and turns him into a woman. Yes, castration and breast implants do not make the girl quite.

Since Weaver’s doctor loves Edgar Allan Poe, she leaves the calling card “Nevermore” next to the gender-bent Frank, left with nasty instructions in a cheap hotel room.

Tony Shaloub is around as a psychiatrist investigator who has to hear the story from Weaver in a strait-jacket while in a mental hospital. She cannot convince anyone that she did the sex operation on Frank and he really exists now as a woman.

Weaver and Rodriguez have a few good scenes together, especially when she admires her plastic surgery by commenting that Rodriguez is attractive in a “shop girl/waitress” way. Tony Shaloub compliments Weaver for her “cheap theatrics” in her confession.

Good performances and a good script make this action revenge flick way above the pack of gender-bending tomboy movies.

John Wick Chapter 2 Comedy of Year

DATELINE:  Androgynous Villains Ruby Rose & Riccardo Scamarcio

Ruby Rose & Riccardo Scamarcio

Keanu Reeves is hilarious as the hitman in John Wick 2.  If you don’t believe this movie is a comedy, you have no sense of the ridiculous.

We lost track of how many people Wick kills at the Caracalla Baths, among other notable settings. It becomes utterly preposterous amid the stunning scenery. We also enjoyed a shootout in the subway with silencers so that the bustling crowds have no idea the hitmen are trying to do each other in.

Of course, one of the great set pieces is the homage, or parody, of Orson Welles’s mirror shootout in Lady from Shanghai, done here in super-exaggeration.

We are also bemused by the various androgynous killers after Keanu, especially the so-called woman (Ruby Rose) posing as a boyish killer. We laughed at Reeves buying guns at a secret shoppe like he was ordering bottles of wine for a big party.

The film is a flamboyant hoot, populated by a bunch of cameo star roles, from John Leguizamo to Laurence Fishburne and Ian McShane.

When Keanu walks down those streets of New York City, he discovers nearly every other person on the street is a professional hitman. It defies anything but laughter.

Wick is a sentimental guy who goes bananas when his dog is killed, or his car is stolen with a birthday card in the glovebox from his deceased girlfriend.

This is a big, glossy picture, filled with set pieces set around the globe with Keanu as some kind of mobster version of Jason Bourne.

We generally don’t like killings, car chases, and explosions. Yes, the film does seem to go too far with a nightclub massacre, reminiscent of the Pulse club down in Florida last year.

Other than that, the violence becomes so mindless that you figure it is like watching the latest news reports about mass shootings in (you name the location). No one blames these kind of movies nowadays for glorifying violence, or inspiring a view that life is cheap and easy to throw away.

John Wick Chapter 2 is merely a symptom of the world we live in today. Laugh it off.

Dangerous Warsaw, or Suicide Squad (American Title)

 

warsaw

DATELINE: Dangerous Moonlight!

Exasperating comments like “out-dated,” or “old-fashioned,” start to grate on our nerves more often nowadays. So, we did not take kindly to the Amazon comments about the 1941 movie Dangerous Moonlight.

The film stars the debonair Teutonic star Anton Walbrook, who always looks grand in a tux when he sits down at the piano to play “classical” music.

In this curio, he is a Polish composer—and the story revolves around Walbrook trying to finish his great creation while World War II and the Nazis decimate his homeland of Poland. He must go to the United States and do a concert tour to raise money to help Polish refugees.

Rachmaninoff reportedly declined the offer to write a composition for the movie character to compose. So, the British film classic went to studio composer Richard Addinsell who wrote the “Warsaw Concerto.”  The film may be stunning for the music alone.

Daring in a way that today’s movies would never attempt, the first 14 minutes of the movie are basically the “Warsaw Concerto” being played to help Walbrook regain his memory lost in war—and explain how he met his wife. Movies about amnesia were big in 1941 with Random Harvest about another war hero with memory problems.

That the British film chose to make a film about an American girl who happens to be a millionaire who marries a Polish composer is a surprise too.

The music is so stirring and became so famous that it outrivals Rachmaninoff, though purists think of it as fast food classical music. When Walbrook sits down to play, the movie is a catalogue of audience reactions. Nearly 25 minutes of the 75-minute movie is given over to the music being played by a symphony or by Walbrook’s composer character.

In between moments of the “Warsaw Concerto,” he prefers to fly a fighter plane against Nazis in dogfights on suicide missions. It’s certainly true they don’t make movies like this any more. No one would dare to produce it.

Is It Real??? or Just Another Movie!*

realkindlecover cover pictures include real and fake!

DATELINE:  New Book of Movie Reviews

Ossurworld wants to announce that a collection of reviews and commentaries on documentaries, docudramas, and biopics, is now available on Amazon.com for discerning movie fans and smart readers.

If Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” he’d be accused today of being a fake news critic…We have mixed up the real documentaries with those based on a true story in this compendium. You likely can guess when you have a real documentary on your hands, but not always. Sometimes it’s a biopic, or a docudrama, or just speculative facts and opinion. Sometimes the film is a masterpiece, and sometimes it’s just another movie.

We are sure that Ossurworld will start giving these away with a set of dishes sometime in the future. We think these reviews are swell, sometimes even funny. We hope you will too.

*Includes a few TV reviews.