Movie Diary 5/10/2021

The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934). As breezy as it is, there is still the sense that the mystery plot intrudes too often on the general fun. But the fun is general. One wonders whether it would feel so bouncy if someone other than the fast-shooting Van Dyke had made it.

Tarzan the Ape Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1932). Non-stop larger-than-life nuttiness. Strange to think that childhoods are probably no longer being affected by Tarzan movies and their madness. Amid all the inaccurate nonsense, there is one puzzling correction, when Maureen O’Sullivan asks Neil Hamilton whether the tribe of little people are pygmies, and he says, “No, they’re dwarves” – like they wanted to make sure they got this right?

The Paper Tigers (Quoc Bao Tran, 2021). Engaging and funny, shot in Seattle from an insider’s perspective. The concept is hard to resist: Three old martial-arts friends, long over the hill and past their early promise, must reunite to solve the death of their teacher. My review here.

The Friday 5/7/2021

Alain Uy: The Paper Tigers (Well Go USA)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

The Paper Tigers/The Last Shift. “Throw in a non-postcard approach to visualizing Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, and the director’s canny sense of comic timing, and you’ve got a sleeper on your hands.”

I have a new episode of my radio show, “The Music and the Movies,” produced by Voice of Vashon and available through its website. This one is called “In a Beatnik Mood,” and it’s all about how the movies responded to the Beat movement, in ways both sublime and ridiculous. I like this one, so give it a go.

The previous episode, “Not Even Nominated,” listens to the films that weren’t nominated for the Best Score Oscar this year. That one’s here until Sunday.

For my 1980s website What a Feeling!, I collect five more vintage reviews, namely: Ernest (On Golden Pond) Thompson’s 1969, which strands Robert Downey, Jr., Kiefer Sutherland, and Winona Ryder; Orlow Seunke’s Tracks in the Snow, a Dutch film; Yahoo Serious’s Young Einstein, that Australian comedy that briefly ruled the world; Neil Jordan’s High Spirits, a ghost comedy with Peter O’Toole and Steve Guttenberg and Daryl Hannah, allegedly ruined by studio interference; and Joe Johnston’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, with Rick Moranis and teeny-tinies.

Movie Diary 5/4/2021

All of Me (Carl Reiner, 1984). A tale of streaming vagaries. It was decided in the Horton household’s Movies for Fun (TM) project that a re-visit to this film would be pleasant. Two free online options, both reputable and widely used, were on offer. The first presented the movie in a stretched-horizontally aspect ratio – not grotesque, mind you, but just enough to make people’s heads look fat. The other went the opposite direction: It showed the film in a full-frame version, which is to say, not properly masked, with huge amounts of headroom at the top and wasted space at the bottom of the frame (space meant to be masked by the projectionist at the movie theater). I used the zoom feature to approximate the right masking, and we watched and enjoyed the movie, but sheesh. This kind of junkiness is not uncommon, of course. And it almost goes without saying that the film itself, in both cases, looked dim and tired, not much better than the average VHS experience circa 1988. What’s sad is that people watching this movie will assume this is the way it’s supposed to look. My 1984 review is here.

Movie Diary 5/3/2021

Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015). “Is it all going to be so interactive?” Some good moments in this Pixar outing, and an ingenious approach to visualizing its ideas.

Burnt Offerings (Dan Curtis, 1976). Family moves into a haunted house, wacky manifestations ensue. That period in horror, with strong pre-Shining echoes. The customary Curtis slowness dominates the movie, although casting Oliver Reed insured that some kind of roiling energy would be happening whenever the great man was onscreen (at one point he starts kicking the shit out of a large downed tree, and you figure the tree is probably a goner). Reed and wife Karen Black are like strangers, chemistry-wise. I was speculating that Reed and Bette Davis either got along great or couldn’t stand each other; apparently Davis was not having it. The kid is the boy who played “Steve Spelberg” in a Columbo episode.

Movie Diary 5/2/2021

The Man Who Wasn’t There (Joel Coen, 2001). I remember thinking that I didn’t quite get the Coen brothers’ neo-noir when it came out, and hadn’t seen it since. It’s very, very good. With so many big talkers in their cinematic universe, it was inspired to build a movie around a man who barely speaks. Frances McDormand has a distinctly supporting role here, but she’s extremely important to what the film is doing, especially in her final moments on screen. And Billy Bob Thornton’s hair is superb.