Showing posts with label Cinema Shame. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cinema Shame. Show all posts

Friday, August 16, 2019

Cinema Shame: Tom Horn (1980)

This post is sponsored by DVD Netflix. 

The completist in me has spoken and I must finish Steve McQueen's filmography. Even if that means watching a terrible movie like Tom Horn (1980). And yes it is indeed terrible. 

This film is part of my Cinema Shame Challenge for 2019 in which I watch 10 movies from my birth year 1980. If you want to participate in your own Cinema Shame challenge whether it by theme, month, year, whatever, visit the official website for more details.

Tom Horn (1980) was directed by Don Siegel. Then Elliot Silverstein. Then James William Geurcio. Then eventually Steve McQueen took over but because the Directors Guild of America (DGA) didn't allow actors to take director's credit after the film had already started, William Wiard was brought on to finish things up and give the film a final director's credit. The end result of that complicated production was a total mishmash of scenes. This aimless Western didn't capture my attention or my interest.

This was Steve McQueen's second to last film and he was already ill from the cancer that would eventually kill him in 1980. In fact McQueen died the same month I was born so I feel this weird connection with him. In Tom Horn, McQueen stars as the title character, a frontier scout with a legendary reputation. He worked for the Teddy Roosevelt administration, for the Pinkerton agency, was known for catching Geronimo, etc. He waltzes into town and gets off on a bad foot when boxer Jim Corbett beats him up. He's eventually hired by cattle farmer John C. Coble (Richard Farnsworth) to help catch (well, kill really) the cattle thieves that are a plague on other farmers. While he's cleaning up the joint, he meets Glendolene (Linda Evans), a local schoolteacher who is instantly smitten with him and the two have a sweet romance. Unfortunately Tom Horn is causing too much destruction and in an effort to get rid of him someone frames Tom for the murder of a young boy. The film follows Tom as he goes to trial for a crime he most likely did not commit. The real life Tom Horn was convicted yet later exonerated for the murder in 1993, 90 years after his death.

The film has a great cast: Steve McQueen, Richard Farnsworth, Linda Evans, Elisha Cook Jr. plays a stable hand at a horse ranch and Slim Pickens plays the town Sheriff who has a soft spot for Tom . The story suffers from woefully underdeveloped characters. The Evans-McQueen romance feels forced and false. There were some moments in the film where it tries to establish some personality traits for Tom Horn including a scene where he eats lobster for the first time or the different charms he carries with him that he ends up using to escape jail. In the end, Tom Horn is a flat and uninteresting character and McQueen was not in the position with both his career and his health to really invest himself in the role. If you're a Steve McQueen fan like I am, give this one a watch to check it off your list and move on.

Have you seen Tom Horn (1980)? What did you think? 

Disclaimer: As a DVD Nation director, I earn rewards from DVD Netflix. Tom Horn (1980) is available to rent on

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Cinema Shame: Xanadu (1980)

This post is sponsored by DVD Netflix.

When I was crafting my Cinema Shame list for 2019 Xanadu (1980) was the first film that came to mind. A roller skating disco fantasy? Yes, please! If you're unfamiliar with Cinema Shame make sure you visit the official website for details. Cinema Shame is a way to challenge yourself to watch those movies you've been meaning to but haven't gotten around to yet. My challenge for this year is to watch 10 films from my birth year 1980.

Directed by Robert Greenwald, Xanadu follows the story of Sonny Malone (Michael Beck), a painter/designer who has a chance encounter with the beautiful and elusive Kira (Olivia Newton-John). What he doesn't know is that she's not a real girl. She's one of the nine muses and has appeared in his life to inspire him. Sonny works an unfulfilling job at an artist's studio. One day when his overbearing boss becomes too much for him Sonny heads out to the beach where he meets clarinet player Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly). Danny was a member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and has a passion for big band music. Danny and Sonny become fast friends and we learn that Danny had his own Kira/muse back in his day. As Sonny begins to fall for Kira, she holds back but stays with him long enough to inspire him to collaborate with Danny. Together they combine their love for big band music and rock n roll and transform an abandoned auditorium into a roller skating disco palace.

Xanadu is loose adaptation of Down to Earth (1947). The story takes place in Hollywood and was filmed there as well as in Beverly Hills, Malibu and Venice Beach. The run down auditorium in the movie was the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Fairfax. The intention was to drum up interest in the building to fund its restoration and give it a new life. Much like what happens in the film. Unfortunately Xanadu tanked at the box office and the Pan-Pacific eventually fell into more disrepair. After a series of small fires, a large one destroyed it for good in 1989. Xanadu is essentially the last hurrah for this gorgeous Art Deco building.

Xanadu is total confection. The film explores themes of old versus new and the timelessness of imagination and creativity. It's 100% ridiculous. Very little of it makes sense and the only reasons you should be watching it are for Gene Kelly, Olivia Newton-John, music by the Electric Light Orchestra, a couple of the musical numbers and to take a time travel trip back to 1980's SoCal.

I hate to single out a particular person for the downfall of a movie but Xanadu would have been 10 times better without Michael Beck. Singer Andy Gibb was slated to play Sonny Malone but had to drop out. Gibb's known drug abuse problems might have been a factor. So they found an Andy Gibb look-a-like instead. Gibb could sing, dance and had charisma, all of which Beck lacked. Olivia Newton-John is left to her own devices in several song and dance numbers. Gene Kelly comes to the rescue for a couple of them but Beck is pretty much useless. It's not his fault really. He wasn't the right fit for this role. They really should have nixed the idea of finding a Gibb look-a-like and went with a song-and-dance man instead.

"Just pretend it's 1945." - Kira
"I don't have to pretend. It is 1945 all over again." - Danny

As someone who loves 1940s culture, I was surprised to see how much that decade played in this otherwise very 1980s movie. Kelly and Newton-John have a love tap dance/big band number with Newton-John dressed in a WWII service uniform. Danny lives in a silent film star's old mansion and his passion for big band is juxtaposed with modern day rock n roll. Also I'm one of those weirdos who lives for the 1980s interpretation of the 1940s. That decade's style made a comeback in the '80s and in the big band/rock n roll song and dance number the '40s costumes are vintage with a modern twist. So fun!

Have you seen Xanadu? What did you think about it?

Disclaimer: As a DVD Nation director, I earn rewards from DVD Netflix. Xanadu (1980) is available to rent on DVD Netflix.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Cinema Shame: Urban Cowboy (1980)

I'm chipping away at my 2019 Cinema Shame challenge. This year I gave myself the goal to watch 10 movies from my birth year 1980 for the very first time. I'm hoping I can tackle a few reviews this summer so I can keep up!

Oh boy. I'm not even sure how Urban Cowboy (1980) made it onto my Cinema Shame list. I'm just going to chalk it up to the fact that it met all of my criteria (film released in 1980 - check. film I haven't seen yet - check). But perhaps I should have skipped this one. It has NOT aged well and while I'm glad I watched it I'm not going to visit it again any time soon.

Urban Cowboy stars John Travolta as Bud, a small town cowboy who leaves for Houston to find a job in the oil business. He stays with his Uncle Bob (Barry Corbin) and Aunt Corene (Brooke Alderson) who take him out to the hottest club in town, Gilley's a hopping honky tonk bar where all the action happens. There he meets Sissy (Debra Winger), a bar regular with a spirited personality. They quickly fall in love and get married. Bud has his eye on mastering the mechanical bull at Gilley's and when former convict Wes (Scott Glenn) shows up at Gilley's Bud finds some competition for both the bull and Sissy. Bud and Sissy have a falling out driving Bud into the arms of the cowboy obsessed Pam (Madolyn Smith Osborne) and Sissy into the arms of Wes who teaches her how to ride a mechanical bull. As Bud trains for a mechanical bull riding competition, behind the scenes Wes is up to no good.

When Urban Cowboy hit theaters in the summer of 1980, critics called it the country western answer to Saturday Night Fever and they were not wrong. It definitely had that vibe even if the dancing wasn't as prominent. The film was directed by James Bridges and based on the real life story of Dew Westbrook and Betty Helmer, two Gilley regulars whose romance was profiled in an Esquire article. This movie just doesn't sit well in the 21st century and I found it off-putting. The domestic violence in particular is hard to swallow. Sissy, played by Debra Winger, has to endure a lot of emotional and physical abuse. Both Bud and Wes treat her like shit. Bud starts off as a total jerk and then comes around by the end. Wes seems okay but his criminal past and his flirtatious nature makes it apparent early on that he's not one to settle down with. Even so, both Bud and Wes' characters do a sudden about face that I didn't quite see coming and felt like a plot fix. In the end, I was only really invested in Sissy and everyone else (except for Bob and Corene!) could go to hell in a handbasket. I can see some of what people enjoy about this movie. It has a great cast, a great sense of place and time and plenty of dramatic tension throughout. The mechanical bull riding scenes were so much fun to watch. But for me the events in the story were either too predictable or came out of the blue. Overall the film left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Have you seen Urban Cowboy? What did you think? Did you like it more than I did?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Cinema Shame: American Gigolo (1980)

My 2019 Cinema Shame challenge got off to an auspicious start. Seven days into the year not only had I posted my challenge but I had also already seen two of the movies on my list. Then months passed, I never reviewed those films and now I find myself mid-April having to start all over again. But no sweat. Let's begin from the beginning.

My challenge for this year is to watch 10 films from my birth year 1980. These are films I've never seen before (hence "Cinema Shame").  I kick off the challenge anew with American Gigolo (1980). 

Written and directed by Paul Schrader, American Gigolo stars Richard Gere as Julian Kaye, a handsome gigolo whose clientele mostly consists of the wealthy elite of Beverly Hills. With the help of his madame/boss Anne (Nina van Pallandt), he plays both escort and sex therapist to older rich ladies. Julian, or "Julie" as some call him, is very devoted to his job. He wears Armani suits, drives a Mercedes Benz (a 450 SL R107), speaks multiple languages and knows how to navigate the social scene. One day he meets Michelle (Lauren Hutton), the wife of Senator Stratton (Brian Davies). The two have a wild love affair. In the midst of it all, Julian gets a secret side gig from his shady pimp friend Leon (Bill Duke) who sets Julian up with a couple. Weeks later the wife from that gig has been found brutally murdered and detective Sunday (Hector Elizondo) is on the case. All fingers point to Julian who is clearly innocent. He's been set-up. But by who? And why?

"Legal is not always right. Men make laws. Sometimes they're wrong." - Julian Kaye

American Gigolo was filmed in early 1979 and released February 1980. Something I love about the 1970s and the early 1980s is Hollywood's newfound comfort with on-screen sexuality. We lose that later on and to this day people are more put off by sex in film than they are violence which, in my opinion, is an utter shame. I love how Julian Kaye enjoys his work and takes pride in offering quality service to the women who hire him. In one scene he discusses working for three hours with a client to achieve a particular goal that had previously seemed impossible. The portrayal of gender dynamics in the film was perhaps what drew me in the most. Julian's boss is a woman, his most trusted allies are women and any toxic relationships in his life all come from men. 

It's not a perfect film but I enjoyed American Gigolo  not only for the portrayal of sexuality (which at times was still a bit corny but hey its 1979/1980) and the exploration of gender roles but also for the crime drama aspect. Julian Kaye is solving a murder mystery while simultaneously trying to clear his name without revealing his own illegal activities. Richard Gere is charming as the debonair yet reserved gigolo and he's worth the price of admission alone. I had never seen Lauren Hutton in a film. I remember growing up in the 1990s, the age of the supermodel, and Hutton was still highly revered as one of the greats. 

Have you seen American Gigolo? If so, what did you think?

Monday, January 7, 2019

My Cinema Shame Statement for 2019

For my 2019 Cinema Shame challenge I'm shaking things up a bit by watching films from the year I was born. And there is no shame in telling you that 1980 happens to be my birth year. Although there is a bit of shame in admitting how few films released in 1980 I've actually seen. Not very many. So I plan to correct that in 2019 with this new challenge.

If you're not familiar with Cinema Shame, make  sure to visit the official website for details.

Which of these films from 1980 have you seen and which do you recommend? Here is what I'm planning on watching this year:

American Gigolo (1980)
dir. Paul Schrader
starring Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton and Hector Elizondo

The Blues Brothers (1980)
directed by John Landis
starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd

Caddyshack (1980)
directed by Harold Ramis
starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Henry Wilcoxon

Dressed to Kill (1980)
directed by Brian De Palma
starring Angie Dickinson, Michael Caine, Nancy Allen

Fatso (1980)
directed by Anne Bancroft
starring Dom DeLuise, Anne Bancroft, Ron Carey

Flash Gordon (1980)
directed by Mike Hodges
starring Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow

Hopscotch (1980)
directed by Ronald Neame
starring Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Sam Waterston

Tom Horn (1980)
directed by William Wiard
starring Steve McQueen, Linda Evans, Richard Farnsworth, Elisha Cook Jr.

Urban Cowboy (1980)
directed by James Bridges
starring John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn, Madolyn Smith Osborne

Xanadu (1980)
directed by Robert Greenwald
starring Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, James Sloyan

What's on your Cinema Shame list for 2019? Tell me in the comment section below!

Also make sure you listen to the most recent Cinema Shame podcast episode. I'm the special guest!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Cinema Shame: Get Carter (1971)

I'm ending my 2018 Cinema Shame challenge with a bang! I continue my exploration of Michael Caine's filmography with a first time viewing of Get Carter (1971). While I was expecting a great thriller, what I wasn't expecting was one of the most brutal revenge stories of all time.

Directed by Mike Hodges, Get Carter stars Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a ruthless gangster working in London. When his brother dies in a car accident, he travels home to Newcastle to attend his funeral. But something is fishy about how his brother died. As Carter starts to uncover clues he finds out that not only was his brother's death a murder it was also a personal attack on Carter himself. Carter will stop at nothing to find out what happened and to destroy every one involved. 

Michael Caine's Jack Carter is one of the most cold-blooded and merciless characters I've ever encountered in a film. Several scenes sent chills up my spine. While Carter is sadistic in his actions he's not completely unsympathetic. He's clearly affected by the death of his brother and it's the motivation for everything he does in the film. And one element in his complicated revenge plot is the discovery that his niece, Doreen (Petra Markham), was involved in a pornographic film with the same people who sought out her father's death. If Carter wasn't already mad, this discovery set him on a course of no return. 

Caine's performance as Carter is brilliant. He's cool, calm and collected but there is a fury behind his eyes that lets you know every single move is a calculated one. And Carter is one sexy gangster. He's got a way with women it's no wonder why they all fall victim to his charm. He seduces several women including Britt Ekland as Anna, Geraldine Moffat as Glenda and Rosemary Dunham as Edna. The biggest victim of Carter's wrath is Dorothy White's Margaret, his brother's girlfriend and a key accomplice to the gangsters who were out to get Carter.


 It's too bad about the ending. It makes sense for the story arc because its clear that Carter was on a path of destruction and there was no turning back. But had he survived this tale, Jack Carter films would have made a nice 1970s franchise. 


Get Carter was remade in 2000 with Sylvester Stallone. Some of the actors from the original, including Michael Caine, appear in the remake. It would be interesting to see the 2000 version but I'm in no particular rush to do so.

While I didn't finish all of my 2018 Cinema Shame movies I tackled quite a few and will finish the rest on my own time. I'm excited to work on my challenge for 2019. Big thanks to Jay of Cinema Shame for hosting and encouraging us cinephiles to finally see those films that have been on our to-be-watchlist for way too long.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Cinema Shame: Le samouraï (1967)

When I was curating my Cinema Shame list for 2018, I looked to FilmStruck for some inspiration. Le samouraï (1967) is a staple on FilmStruck's Criterion Channel and one of the first films I noticed on the service when I signed up as a beta user. I wasn’t familiar with director Jean-Pierre Melville’s work and hadn’t seen many Alain Delon films. For me that’s good enough a reason to dive in because I love exploring unfamiliar territory. In addition to that, my love of French cinema and the influence of my friend Kate Gabrielle, who is a big Alain Delon fan, helped put Le samouraï on my FilmStruck watchlist.

Le samouraï stars Alain Delon as Jef Costello, a professional hitman hired to kill the owner of a jazz club. He goes through an elaborate ritual in preparation for the kill: he dresses up in his signature trench coat, with popped collar, hat and white gloves, he establishes an alibi with his girlfriend Jane (Nathalie Delon) and he steals a car. The hit goes according to plan until it doesn’t. The club’s pianiste (Cathy Rosier) becomes a witness to the murder. Jef is put in a police line up and is suspected of being the killer by Le Commissaire (Francois Perier). This puts his bosses, which include some of the club’s staff, in a precarious situation. They decide that they must get rid of Jef to protect themselves. Jef goes from killer for hire to target.

Jean-Pierre Melville was heavily influenced by American Film Noir and it shows in Le samouraï. This French neo-noir thriller is atmospheric and strikingly visual. I love how the film plays with light and shadow. Alain Delon is a perfect fit for Jef, the cold, detached and methodical protagonist. Delon brings a mystique to the character that makes Jef one cool mofo. Delon is a work of art in motion. I love how beautifully he’s positioned in the different scenes. With his amazing blue eyes are piercing through the screen, Delon is someone you just want to keep looking at. Yes there are other actors in this movie but they all seem to serve as pawns to tell Jef’s story.

Alain Delon in Le samouraï

Alain Delon in Le samouraï

Alain Delon in Le samouraï

Alain Delon in Le samouraï

Alain Delon in Le samouraï

Alain Delon in Le samouraï

And his story is brilliantly told. The first 10 minutes are without any dialogue. We watch Jef go through the motions of his pre-kill ritual. Just watching him we learn about what kind of man he is but also we’re held at a distance. In one of the early, it’s a rainy day, Jef has just stolen a car and a beautiful young woman looks over at him while they sit in traffic. He acknowledges her presence but makes it clearn he has no interest in pursuing any form of interaction with her. As the audience we have the same dynamic with him. In Jef’s apartment is a bullfinch in a cage. I like to think the bird represents Jef’s fear of being trapped. He’ll do anything to be free and stay free. At any cost.

I fell for Le samouraï hook, line and sinker. I’m here for more Melville, more Delon and more French neo-noir. It was by happenstance that I watched Robert Wise's film noir thriller Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) immediately after watching Le samouraï . I found out later that Melville adored that film, kept his own 35mm copy, and watched it over 80 times. A review of that film is coming soon!

Le samouraï is available to watch on FilmStruck's Criterion Channel. There is no expiration date so this one is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Le samouraï (1967) is the fourth of eight films that I am watching for the 2018 Cinema Shame challenge. Check out my original list and stay tuned for more reviews!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cinema Shame: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971) was always one of those classic musicals that I've meant to see but I never got around to. When the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival schedule was announced, I saw the film was part of their Sunday morning line-up. And the director Norman Jewison, who has directed some of my absolute favorite films, was going to be in attendance at the screening. TCMFF is the best venue to experience a film for the first time. Unfortunately it didn't happen. When Sunday morning rolled around, I was very sick from the physical effects of social anxiety. I've since gotten over that and can attend the festivals with no problems.

Fast forward to the 2016 TCM festival when I got to meet film researcher Lillian Michelson on the red carpet. She was there with director Daniel Raim and producer Jennifer Raim to screen their documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. This is a documentary I've been championing ever since I watched it in November of 2015. In the film, Lillian discusses how she did research for Fiddler on the Roof and she met with Jewish ladies "of a certain age" at a deli and asked what young girls wore for undergarments. One of the ladies fetched her a pattern and the end result was period-specific undergarments, with scalloping on the bottom, in the Matchmaker musical number.

In my brief red carpet interview with Lillian Michelson (which you can watch here), I asked her which of the films she worked on was her favorite. And her answer was Fiddler on the Roof. Her research went beyond just the clothing so when you see the film you know the specifics are as true to turn-of-the-century Russia as possible. Also for Lillian this helped connect her to her familial roots.

Fast forward to 2018 and I was heading back to California for my sixth TCM festival. I was scheduled to have a lunch with Lillian, Daniel and Jennifer and I knew I had to watch Fiddler before I got there. The film on briefly came up in conversation but I was glad that I finally got to see that film that meant so much to Lillian, and to the Raims too!

I really connected with Fiddler. Even though I was raised Protestant and I don't know what it feels like to deal with Anti-Semitism, I connected with the story about family, about marrying for love, going against ingrained cultural norms and the disconnect between generations. The movie is over 3 hours long but it didn't feel it. The plot and the pacing are perfect and I was swept into this family saga and stayed engaged the whole time. I can see how it became a beloved musical. I would watch Fiddler again in a heartbeat.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971) is the third of eight films that I am watching for the 2018 Cinema Shame challenge. Check out my original list and stay tuned for more reviews!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cinema Shame: The Grass is Greener (1960)

Anyone who knows me knows I love Robert Mitchum. He's my favorite actor. Bar none. So why did it take me so long to watch him in The Grass is Greener (1960)? Well I was getting around to it. It's been on my to-be-watched list for years. There aren't many Mitchum comedies so maybe I was saving this for a rainy day. When I was working on my Cinema Shame list for 2018 I decided I was finally going to sit down and watch it. Perhaps I should have kept waiting.

The Grass is Always Greener is a genteel British comedy starring four Hollywood heavyweights: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons. Earl Victor Rhyall (Cary Grant), his wife Lady Hilary (Deborah Kerr) and their two children live in a sprawling British estate that the Rhyalls can't afford to keep. Even their butler Trevor (Moray Watson) has little to do and offers to take a pay cut, which they refuse. To make ends meet the couple harvest mushrooms and opened their estate, with all it's antique furniture and art, as a museum open the general public. One day, an oil rich Texas millionaire, Charles Delacro (Robert Mitchum), wanders into the private part of the estate and meets Hilary. He is enchanted by her and her by him. The two begin an affair. What Hilary doesn't know is that her husband Victor is on to her but let's her travel to London to see Delacro, under other pretenses of course, hoping she'll wise up and come back to him. Hattie Durant (Jean Simmons), Victor's old flame and Hilary's London friend, gleefully gets caught up in the love triangle. She's a glamour queen, with too much time on her hands, who hopes to steal Victor away from Hilary. Will Hilary go back to her old life of growing mushrooms in a museum with her first love or will living a life of plenty with the handsome new stranger win her over?

The Grass is Greener was directed and produced by Stanley Donen. This is one of many films in the 1960s Donen worked on in Europe including Once More, with Feeling (1960), Surprise Package (1960), Charade (1963), Arabesque (1966), Two for the Road (1967), Bedazzled (1967) and Staircase (1968). Donen and Cary Grant own the company Grandon Productions which produced Indiscreet (1958) and The Grass is Greener.  After their film Indiscreet, Donen and Grant bought the rights to
the British stage play by Hugh Williams and Margaret (Vyner) Williams which premiered in 1956 and had a successful run in the West End. Stage actor Moray Watson played the part of Trevor the butler in the production and was the only actor from the original cast to appear in the film adaptation.

Grant initially turned down the role of Victor. Actor Rex Harrison came on board. When Harrison's wife Kay Kendall became ill, she died soon after, he had to drop out and Grant stepped in. According to Grant biographer Marc Eliot, Grant insisted the movie be shot in London so he could spend time in his home country. Deborah Kerr had been avoiding the cool English lady roles but wanted to appear again with Grant, Mitchum and Simmons. Mitchum had been in London filming The Sundowners, along with Kerr, and stuck around to make this movie.

The cast members were quite familiar with each other. In addition to The Sundowners, Mitchum and Kerr appeared together in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957). Simmons and Mitchum appeared in She Couldn't Say No (1952) and Angel Face (1953). Simmons and Kerr were in Black Narcissus (1947) and Young Bess (1953). Kerr and Grant were in Dream Wife (1953) and An Affair to Remember (1957). For Grant and Mitchum, however, this was their only film together. Off screen they were polar opposites which worked for their on screen personalities. But inevitably they clashed on set. Grant worried that Mitchum's coolness made him look uptight and Mitchum worried that Grant's dialogue heavy role made him look like a man of too few words. Which it did on both counts. Mitchum biographer Lee Server points out that Grant and Mitchum were served poorly by the material. The same could be said for Kerr and Simmons. In his interview with Stanley Donen, author Marc Eliot remarked "Donen remembers the film as a milestone of sorts, marking the end of a certain type of sophisticated British comedy, before the antic humor of Peter Sellers arrived and dominated the English cinematic 1960s.

The cast and crew were made up of some of the most talented names of the era. There was original music by Noel Coward. Simmons wardrobe was designed by Christian Dior (and Kerr's by Hardy Amies). Moray Watson struck me as familiar but I couldn't quite pinpoint him. When I looked him up I was pleased to see that he also played one of my favorite characters, the Brigadier, in the British mini-series The Darling Buds of May.

Unfortunately, The Grass is Greener was a bore. Not even the amazing cast, beautiful sets, a mid-century aesthetic I so adore and Simmons' gorgeous Dior wardrobe could have saved this for me. The allure of having not seen the movie all these years outweighed any pleasure I experienced actually watching it.  Perhaps for me the grass seemed greener on the other side when it really wasn't. The movie wasn't a complete loss though. Staring at Robert Mitchum didn't hurt (and yes I'd pick him over Cary Grant any day). Any scene with Simmons was a delight because she added much needed levity to the story. Also the duel scene was quite fun, even if it was because Grant, Mitchum and Watson wore thick-rimmed glasses, a style of the era I'm obsessed with.

The Grass is Greener (1960) is the second of eight films that I am watching for the 2018 Cinema Shame challenge. Check out my original list and stay tuned for more reviews! Special thanks to my good friend Frank who loaned me his Olive Films Blu-Ray copy of The Grass is Greener.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Cinema Shame: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Four years ago I created a watch list for 2014. These were the films that I hadn't seen yet that I wanted to make a point to watch that year. The Wild Bunch (1969) was one of those films. Unfortunately I never got to it that year or since. So when Jay of Cinema Shame prompted bloggers to submit their Cinema Shame statements for 2018 I added this one to mine!

Directed by Sam Peckinpah, The Wild Bunch (1969) follows a band of outlaws as they seek out one big heist. The year is 1913. Pike Bishop (William Holden) leads his "wild bunch", consisted Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine), Lyle Gorch (Warren Oates), Angel (Jaime Sanchez), Tector Gorch (Ben Johnson) and others to a dessert town to rob the railroad office's bank. What Pike and his men don't know is that this was a lure created by the railroad, Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) and his own band of bounty hunters to trap the wild bunch. The robbery goes south and ends in a deadly shoot-out with the wild bunch getting away. When they discover their loot was nothing but bags of steel washers, they seek out another opportunity for a big pay day to make up for this failure. They head for the border and pick up old Freddie Sykes (Edmond O'Brien) along the way. Pike's past begins to haunt him. He's tired of this life and wants one last big heist so he can settle down. But his former partner Deke has made it his mission to capture Pike no matter what it takes. As the two bands cross the border into Mexico, a long chase filled with more heists, lots of booze, women, guns and violence.

"Being sure is my business." - William Holden as Pike Bishop

The Wild Bunch is a movie that revels in violence. Right from the very beginning when we see children feeding scorpions to fire ants, we realize that this movie is going to be tough as nails. In a post Hays Code world, this movie tested the waters and set the standards for increased violence and blood shed on film. Ernest Borgnine once said, "I made The Wild Bunch, which was the beginning of the splattering of blood and everything else. But there was a moral behind it. The moral was that, by golly, bad guys got it. That was it." The film was highly controversial at it's time. It won praise and disdain from those who were in awe of the filmmaking techniques and the performances and others who were appalled by its graphic and relentless representation of violence.

Maybe that's why The Wild Bunch is a mixed bag for me. I can appreciate the artistry of this film but am also repulsed by its violence. The cast is superb and includes some of my favorites like Borgnine, Ryan and O'Brien. I marveled at the excellent filmmaking and on location shooting. The film felt real to me. Like I was in Mexico right alongside the wild bunch on this outrageous adventure. It's not a film I feel the need to watch again but one I'm glad I saw. The Wild Bunch does make me want to watch more of Peckinpah's work. He received his one and only Academy Award nomination, in the Original Screenplay category, for this film.

Have you seen The Wild Bunch (1969)? What did you think of it? Tell me your thoughts below.
Stay tuned for more reviews or quick takes on my Cinema Shame movies for 2018!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Cinema Shame Statement for 2018

In 2018 I will embrace my Cinema Shame! What exactly is Cinema Shame you ask? It's the regret you feel for not having watched that big movie everyone has seen, or the one that's won all the awards or that film you meant to get to but haven't... for years. There are numerous shades of cinema shame. I used to hide behind it but now I relish it for the new experiences it opens up.

The official Cinema Shame website and podcast called out for cinephiles to list their shame statements for 2018. These are the films we plan to take on this year. Having watched all the Rocky movies last year for the very first time, I’m ready to tackle some more. (I discussed the Rocky films on the Cinema Shame podcast. Listen to part one and part two and let me know what you think!)

A few years ago I made a list of big movies I hadn’t seen and planned to see that year. I failed miserably and watched none of them. That’s even more shameful that not having seen those films in the first place. I plan to correct that this year. This is a Cinema Shame list I shall conquer!
Instead of picking a random smattering of titles I haven’t gotten to yet, I decided to be a bit more methodical with creating my list. I picked 8 movies from 8 different sources of Cinema Shame.

A movie featuring my favorite actor – The Grass is Greener (1960)

I’ve seen a lot of Robert Mitchum movies but he had such long and varied career that I feel like I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. The Grass is Greener is one of the few comedies he made and I still can’t believe I haven’t seen it. In addition to Mitchum it stars Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr and Jean Simmons, all actors I enjoy watching on screen. I need to get my hands on this movie STAT.

(Watched and reviewed)

A movie featuring my favorite actress – Assignment in Brittany (1943)

I’m almost done with the full list of Susan Peters’ feature films except for one glaring exception: Assignment in Brittany (1943)! What’s holding me back? I spoke to former child actor Darryl Hickman about this very film a couple of years ago and still haven’t seen it. Shame! It’s time to find a bootleg copy and get watching.

A movie on the AFI Top 100 list (and one my husband keeps bugging me to watch with him) – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I’m not quite ready to tackle Star Wars yet (probably my biggest Cinema Shame) but I thought I’d add another major science fiction movie to the mix. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece has escaped me for years possibly because I don’t tend to gravitate to Sci Fi. But this year I plan to keep an open mind and watch this one for the first time.

A rarity I own but have never watched – The Wild Party (1929)

I have a nice little collection of rareities and among them is a bootleg copy of The Wild Party. It’s Clara Bow’s talkie debut and one that I’ve had my eye on. I own it, why not watch it? I need to dust off my burned disc and pop it into the player like yesterday.

A movie on FilmStruck – Le Samourai (1967)

I’m not too familiar with Jean-Pierre Melville’s work and I haven’t seen many Alain Delon movies. I love French films and this one sounds right up my alley. So why haven’t I seen this yet? I need to get on it before I have to return my film buff card for a cone of shame

(Watched and reviewed)


A movie I missed at the TCM Film Festival – Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

I was saving my very first viewing of this movie for the 2014 TCM Film Festival. Director Norman Jewison was in attendance for a Q&A. Unfortunately I got sick and couldn’t make it to that screening. This is an uber classic that I’ve been reluctant to admit I haven’t seen yet. There is no time like the present to fix this.

(Watched and reviewed)

A movie from the Warner Archive – Get Carter (1971)

The very first movie I added to my watchlist when I subscribed to Warner Archive Instant was Get Carter (1971) and then I proceeded to not watch it even though I really wanted to. Film watching is funny that way. Sometimes we’re overwhelmed with choices that even a good one staring us right in the face gets looked over.

A movie that’s been languishing on my DVD Netflix queue – The Wild Bunch (1969)

In fact this was on that original shame list from a few years back that I never got to. It’s been sitting in the middle of the 300+ (almost 400) DVD Netflix Queue for years. Time to bump it up to the top!

(Watched and reviewed)

What's on your Cinema Shame list for 2018? Tell me in the comment section below!

How I'll feel after tackling this list.

Many thanks to Jay Patrick of the Cinema Shame website and podcast for the prompt!

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