Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

I felt that I had a long day, having to do work that I didn’t want to do.  On the way home, I stopped to have a hamburger.  Back at home, I watched the DVD of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”  I had forgotten that I had already seen it.  When I saw that scene with the bratty girl throwing ice cream at Elizabeth Taylor, most of the movie came back to me.  Reportedly, Tennessee Williams disliked the film because the references to homosexuality that were originally in the play had been removed.  One of the real weaknesses of the movie is that the relationship between Brick and Skipper is unclear and seems to lack meaning.  Of course, we never even see Skipper, which is another weakness.  Paul Newman received an Oscar nomination for his performance as Brick, although I wouldn’t say that this was an example of his best work.  His Southern accent wasn’t entirely convincing.  His opening scene was something like his first scene in “Cool Hand Luke.”  In a drunken state, he experiences misfortune.  The film was shot in color, and one reason was to show off the stars, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor with their attractive eyes.  Elizabeth Taylor does look exceptionally beautiful, and it’s rather funny how she shows off her legs early on in the picture.  Burl Ives has a strong presence on the screen.  Madeleine Sherwood was Mae, and she was a memorable character in the story, as she eavesdropped on conversations and had eyes on Big Daddy’s fortune.  During my childhood, I remembered her as the Mother Superior in “The Flying Nun.”  Reading about her on the Internet, she died just last year, on April 23, 2016, at age 93.  I thought Mae was too abrasive and distracting a character, at least as she was in the movie version.  Also, I don’t know how it worked on the stage, but in this picture the word “mendacity” is repeated too many times.  There must be a screenwriter’s rule about how many times you can repeat certain elements in a script before the audience becomes annoyed with it.  Brick had a way of destroying things, like his marriage and his crutches.  He was trying to drive away in the rain in a convertible.  I’ll never understand why, even in his drunken state, he would smash those items in the cellar that looked like it was out of “Citizen Kane.”  How much sympathy does the audience have for someone who drinks all the time and can’t seem to pull himself together?  He seems fortunate to be married to someone like Elizabeth Taylor, but he wallows in his unhappiness.  There is a kind of rooting interest in that you’d like to see anyone deny Mae and her family from getting rich.  Tennessee Williams said, “It is planned speeches that contain lies or dissimulations, not what you blurt out so spontaneously in one instant.”  Brick has one of those moments where he blurts out something that turns the course of effects.  In real life, such people are terrible, and you feel like killing them.  This movie was a big hit, and Elizabeth Taylor was a big attraction.  Her work on the film was remarkable, considering that her husband died at the start of the filming.  The movie does feel like a play, as the characters are inside that house during the storm.  I am not so enthusiastic about this movie.  I liked Elizabeth Taylor and Burl Ives, but not much else.  It was sad to see Big Mama holding that birthday cake.  The original Broadway cast had Barbara Bel Geddes as Maggie, Ben Gazzara as Brick, and Burl Ives as Big Daddy.  Madeleine Sherwood was also in that cast.  Looking over that list, I prefer watching Newman rather than Gazzara.  The DVD had an audio commentary from Donald Spoto that was informative.  The movie was released in 1958, which doesn’t seem like it was long ago to me, but the content was certainly different than what it would be if the film were made today.  I can’t imagine who would play Maggie.  I never saw the television versions with Natalie Wood and Jessica Lange.  Some of the people who died on March 24 include Jules Verne (1905), Ray Goulding (1990), John Hersey (1993), Richard Widmark (2008), and Robert Culp (2010).  Today is a birthday for Jessica Chastain (40) and Jim Parsons (44).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for March 24, The O’Jays reached Number One on the singles chart in 1973 with “Love Train.”  In 1975, Chuck Wepner fought Muhammad Ali in Richfield, Ohio, going fifteen rounds in the title fight.  In 1986, “Out of Africa” won the Academy Award for Best Picture, while William Hurt, Geraldine Page, Don Ameche, and Anjelica Huston won the acting Oscars.  In 1997, Harold Melvin died in Philadelphia at age 57.

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The Guns of Navarone

I was surprised that the sky cleared up in the afternoon.  I sat in front of the office computer and wondered if I could make a 3D printing figurine of myself.  I also thought about turning myself into a cartoon character for a short film.  In it, I innocently go out to see a movie and end up destroying the world.  I gave my lecture and headed home.  I saw a Big Bang Theory episode that involved a Planet of the Apes marathon.  I watched “The Guns of Navarone,” which was one of those impossible mission stories set in World War II.  Gregory Peck and others thought of it as an antiwar movie, although I don’t know what the audience thought.  One of the early scenes showed a German boat stopping the crew.  The encounter was something like what happened in “Apocalypse Now.”  The cliff looked impossible to climb, and I didn’t see how all the men could go up with the rope and deal with the wet surface.  Everyone except for James Darren looked too old for this task.  Well, Anthony Quayle didn’t get through that part unscathed.  It also seemed that with all the Germans in the world pursuing them, they would have been stopped rather quickly.  You’d think that the bombs and machine guns would have been deadly.  Having stars like Anthony Quinn and David Niven, along with Gregory Peck, made a difference in lifting this film above the ordinary.  The main characters make a strong impression, whereas the women and the Nazis are anonymous.  I don’t know if they should have killed that first guard, which it alerted the Germans to their presence.  They should have suspected a traitor in their midst perhaps around the time that they were spotted at the wedding.  Darren has a scene in which he sings.  As with The Magnificent Seven, some of these heroes are not going to survive.  Peck was supposed to be coldblooded in his tactics, but by today’s standards he was practically a pussycat.  There was some philosophy about the meaningless of war with everyone being used like pawns, although I would say that it wasn’t like seeing “The Thin Red Line” again.  The explosion at the end looked like it was enough to destroy the entire village, with Quayle and the married couple included.  It looked an old time special effects sequence.  I still like this movie, although I don’t know if it really deserved a Best Picture Oscar nomination.  I never saw “Force 10 From Navarone,” although I heard that it was horrible.  I think I would have liked “The Guns of Navarone” on the late show during the seventies.  The DVD edition had a second disc which had special features, none of which I saw.  The movie itself was enough for me.  Some of the people who died on March 23 include Peter Lorre (1964), Edwin O’Connor (1968), Giulietta Masina (1994), Elizabeth Taylor (2011), Joe Garagiola (2016), and Ken Howard (2016).  Today is a birthday for Keri Russell (41) and Chaka Khan (64).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for March 23, “Truth or Consequences” made its debut on NBC radio in 1940.  In 1973, New York judge Ira Fieldsteel ruled that John Lennon had to leave the United States within 60 days.  In 1985, John Fogerty reached Number One on the album chart with “Centerfield.”  In 1999, Ricky Martin’s single “Livin’ la Vida Loca” was released.  In 2011, Elizabeth Taylor died of congestive heart failure at age 79 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Love & Taxes

I went to work and felt that I had a bad day.  I went home to eat a salad.  I used the Internet to order a new pair of eyeglasses, and then I went over to the Elmwood Theatre, where “Love & Taxes” was showing.  Members of the cast were in the audience.  Some people might have stayed at home because of the rain.  The film mixed live performances of Josh Kornbluth talking about his life almost in a Seinfeld style with what you might call normal feature film scenes.  Josh works for a tax attorney and does his shows, and one day he reveals to his boss that he hasn’t filed a tax return in seven years.  He goes to see a holistic tax lawyer, who ends up causing his problems and adds to his debts.  Meanwhile, he strikes up a relationship with a woman who never makes left turns when driving her car.  The tax becomes a huge burden and affects his life, sort of like a Willie Nelson or a Redd Foxx.  The movie is pretty amusing, although Josh seems to try too hard at some moments.  The movie took eight years to make, so there was a little bit of the “Boyhood” aspect to it.  A notable member of the cast is Harry Shearer.  Josh Kornbluth is someone I have seen walking around town, and he has seemed like an interesting character.  I wondered how he earned a living.  This movie did have that independent spirit.  It wasn’t one of those slick productions.  The director was Josh’s younger brother, Jacob Kornbluth.  I did wonder why Josh would think that a mailbox at the intersection of University Avenue and Shattuck Avenue would be the most secure mailbox in the area he was walking when there is a post office nearby.  After the movie was over, the two answered questions from the audience.  They were curious about the character named David.  The two brothers talked about the difficulties in making the film, with money to financial being a big problem.  They also mentioned the problems with continuity, given that the filming too place over a long time.  They discussed the cat and Harry Shearer.  Josh said that when he starting making the film, he had no idea of that the world would turn out to be the crazy place it is today, and he had sharp words about Donald Trump.  Finally, someone asked Josh about the shirts that he wore.  His wife makes them.  Josh and Jacob talked from about 8:42 to 9:11, so they gave us a good amount of time.  I was rather curious about Josh’s difficulties with mathematics as a freshman in college, but I didn’t think this was the right time to bring it up.  The screening was supposed to be something of a celebration.  I thought the movie was pretty good in its Woody Allen way, although it was short of a masterpiece.  It was impressive that Harry Shearer, the voice of Simpsons characters, and Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, were in the film.  The release came at the right time, as we have less than a month to file our latest tax returns.  I know that my 1040 this year is a real headache.  I discovered one of my tax documents in the mail, which sure seemed late in getting to me.  When we left the theatre, it was raining harder.  I was glad to get home.  On the news was Dwight Clark’s announcement that he had been diagnosed with ALS.  He felt weakness in his left hand two years ago, and it progressed to other parts of his body.  He played professional football for nine years, and he is 60 years old now.  I thought about seeing a Police Story episode, but I couldn’t find the DVD.  Two of the people who died on March 22 include Goethe (1832) and Michael Todd (1958).  Today is a birthday for Matthew Modine (58), Bob Costas (65), and William Shatner (86).

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Airport ’77

I watched CBS Sunday Morning, which began with a segment about Chuck Berry.  My parents phoned me to talk about income tax and computers.  My father said that he had back pains.  I bought a pizza at Trader Joe’s and listened to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on the radio.  After the record store opened, I looked around and bought a copy of the Get Back album on CD.  I walked over to the theatre to catch an early showing of “Kedi.”  Some of the shots of the cats were beautiful, but I wished that someone would wipe the area around their eyes.  When I returned home, I finished watching “Airport ’77,” which was really terrible.  Somehow, Jack Lemmon and James Stewart were persuaded to appear in this film, along with Olivia de Havilland and Joseph Cotten.  Lee Grant was the woman with the negative attitude who came close to killing everybody.  Christopher Lee tried to help out Lemmon, and Robert Foxworth was a bad guy.  The idiotic plot involved valuable paintings and the Bermuda Triangle.  A hijacking to steal the paintings goes awry, and a crash landing result in the plane sinking to the bottom of the ocean.  I couldn’t see how the Navy ship could get to the site so quickly, or how they could get the plane to float.  It would take a massive effort, and those passengers had a short time before they would either run out of air, or the plane would be flooded.  Would much does a 747 weigh?  The damn plane had a piano and all sorts of cargo.  I wondered what happened to the paintings.  Darren McGavin was one of the helpful passengers, while Brenda Vacarro was about to panic.  I kept thinking that James Stewart was in World War II, but by this time he couldn’t do anything physical, and so his part was reduced to a lot of reaction shots.  He had to be thinking that the whole story was unbelievable and ridiculous.  It was terrible that the actors got soaked with a lot of cold water in those late scenes.  I wondered how the older ones reacted to it.  Olivia de Havilland looked like she was in good shape at about sixty years of age.  On the other hand, Joseph Cotten wasn’t the lively figure he was in “Citizen Kane” and “The Third Man.”  It’s obvious that the Airport series should have ended with “Airport 1975.”  Some people like Roger Ebert actually thought that the second movie was better than the first.  At least that second film did have some kind of spark to it.  This one just didn’t have very much.  The first Star Wars movie and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” were also released in 1977, and they really made this disaster movie look like garbage.  How many of the disaster movies from the 1970s were actually worth seeing.  I would say maybe three or four.  I fell asleep with “Boeing Boeing” on television.  I listened to Robert Hilburn’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Times radio program on KCSN.  The songs were from Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris.  The first Columbo episode of the night had Dobermans and Kim Cattrall.  The other two had Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp.  I wasn’t looking forward to the rain that we were supposed to have this week.  Some of the people who died on March 21 include Pocahontas (1617), Cole Younger (1916), Robert Preston (1987), Chinua Achebe (2013).  Today is a birthday for Matthew Broderick (55), Rosie O’Donnell (55), Gary Oldman (59), and Timothy Dalton (73).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for March 21, the first episode of the serial “Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars” was released in 1938.  In 1964, The Beatles had the Number One single, “She Loves You.”  In 1973, the film adaptation of “Godspell,” starring Victor Garber as Jesus, was released.  In 1975, “Escape to Witch Mountain,” starring Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasence, and Kim Richards, was released.  In 1976, David Bowie was arrested after a concert in Rochester, New York for possession of marijuana.  In 1980, CBS aired the famous cliffhanger episode of “Dallas” in which J.R. was shot.  In 1981, the Number One single was REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You.”  In 1994, “Schindler’s List” won the Best Picture Oscar.

 

 

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The Alamo

I worked into the early afternoon grading geometry homework.  I returned home and fell asleep during an episode of The Quest.  I heard about the death of Chuck Berry.  I went over to the record store and bought an ABBA CD for fifty cents, although the cover art was missing.  I tried to buy a ticket for “Love and Taxes,” but the seven o’clock showing was sold out, so I took the bus downtown and caught “La La Land” again.  I didn’t like some of the camera movements during the traffic jam number and at the swimming pool, but I still enjoyed watching the movie for the third time.  Back at home, I watched the John Wayne movie “The Alamo.”  It was supposed to be a statement about the Soviet Union and China.  He would become more direct and obnoxious several years later with “The Green Berets.”  John Wayne wanted to get Clark Gable and Charlton Heston for the cast.  A person that he did get was Richard Widmark, someone who couldn’t get along with him.  Frankie Avalon is around, too.  This was John Wayne’s first attempt at directing a movie, and his inexperience does show.  He’s not what you would call a great storyteller.  He isn’t too strong with showing the female characters.  Linda Cristal makes her appearance but then fades away.  A lot of the shots with the hordes of extras feel practically like still photographs.  It’s not like David Lean with his work on “Lawrence of Arabia.”  We’re at a distance from the action, and we can’t see a lot of what’s supposed to be going on.  Even John Wayne himself knew that the film ran too long.  This cut was 162 minutes, and it felt like almost twice that length.  I could have taken a nap and not missed anything.  Even though this movie was one of the Top 10 in ticket sales in 1960, it was perceived as a bomb.  It did cause financial problems for John Wayne because he put his own money into it, and he didn’t get it back until he sold the movie to television in 1971.  If the movie had won the Best Picture Oscar, he would have received the award because he was the producer.  “The Apartment” was the winner, however.  I couldn’t help thinking that John Wayne still looked full of life in 1960, but by the time of “True Grit,” his appearance wasn’t so good.  I’m not too sure that The Alamo was such a great subject for a movie, with its inevitable downbeat ending.  The heroes get wiped out.  The responsibility of directing the movie was probably overwhelming, and so the results are flat.  I don’t see this movie as being even on the level of something like “Donovan’s Reef,” which I seem to see on television all the time, much less “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers.”  Watching it after midnight reminded me of those old days when I used to watch the late show with Cal Worthington commercials.  Some of the people who died on March 20 include Chet Huntley (1974), Gil Evans (1988), and Georges Delerue (1992).  Today is a birthday for Holly Hunter (59), Spike Lee (60), and Carl Reiner (95).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for March 20, the pilot episode for “Police Story” had its premiere on NBC in 1973.  In 1987, “Street Smart,” starring Christopher Reeve and Morgan Freeman, was released.  In 1991, a jury awarded Peggy Lee $3.8 million in a lawsuit against Disney over the video rights to “Lady and the Tramp.”

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Airport 1975

I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory that ended with Physicists Gone Wild on YouTube.  I also watched the Partridge Family episode “Beethoven, Brahms, and Partridge.”  I saw that the family was having sliced carrots at one meal, although I didn’t see Laurie eating them.  There was a reference to the Partridge Family trading cards.  Danny could not have been as happy about Ricky’s song as he looked.  I went out to the record store, which was being reconstructed.  I returned home and watched the DVD of “Airport 1975.”  Karen Black was in films like “Five Easy Pieces,” “Nashville,” and “Family Plot” during this decade, but here she is asked to play a stewardess who has to pilot a plane for a while.  The movie has a slow introduction that was not as interesting as the first Airport movie.  Thirty-five minutes into the movie, it felt like absolutely nothing had happened.  The cast is not as awe-inspiring as it is ridiculous.  You’ve got comedians like Sid Caesar and Jerry Stiller, old time stars like Myrna Loy and Gloria Swanson, and Helen Reddy as a nun who plays the guitar and sings to Linda Blair, who isn’t possessed by the devil but does have kidney problems.  I hadn’t realized before that Erik Estrada was in the cockpit, or that Jim Plunkett was one of the passengers.  Christiane Schmidtmer from “Ship of Fools” is around, too, and I wondered if that was supposed to be meaningful.  I had to think about the improbability of the collision.  It made me think of the baseball players who throw their gloves at the batted balls during batting practice.  I’ve never seen anyone’s glove ever hit a baseball.  How could the plane not crash?  It was an amazing coincidence that George Kennedy’s wife and son were on the plane.  Kennedy was more likable when he was the Average Joe in the first movie.  I didn’t get the explain of why the first pilot who tried to enter the jet wasn’t wearing a parachute.  It seemed that his failure was really to set up the scenario where Charlton Heston could get the chance to be the hero.  It’s rather comical how the audience is supposed to brush aside their memory of this guy and concentrate on Heston and Black, and hope that Linda Blair can survive.  The medical emergency there was phony, anyway.  The suspense was pretty much over before the end of the movie.  The question is supposed to be whether the plane can land properly on the runway.  The one reason why it is going to happen is that the filmmakers are not going to trash a real 747 that they rented for the making of this movie.  This film in the Airport series is still just good enough to be an Enjoyably Bad Movie, but there were indications that no more of these movies should have been made, just as with the Rocky movies or the Police Academy movies.  This was Gloria Swanson’s last movie.  At least her last movie was better than Joan Crawford’s last movie.

 

 

 

 

 

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Beauty and the Beast

I went through a quiet morning of work, and after I was done, I hurried to take the buses out to the Grand Lake Theatre.  It turned out that the next showing of “Beauty and the Beast” would start one hour later than I thought it would, so I walked over to JJ Burger and had the fish sandwich combo.  I spent a half hour watching the television there.  I went back to the theatre and took a seat.  Quite a few people showed up for this screening, although some of them were annoying.  They were either the type who could not keep quiet during the two hours of the movie, or very young children who would get restless.  This was not a 3-D screening.  Everyone knows that Emma Watson, Hermione from the Harry Potter movies, plays Belle.  She was pretty good in her performance, although she had a few facial expressions that she kept repeating throughout the movie.  Her singing seemed very strong.  It wasn’t quite shocking that Kevin Kline has become old enough to play the father of someone like Hermione, but it did point out how the years have passed since the time of “A Fish Called Wanda.”  I thought that the idea of these objects talking and singing got to be ridiculous even in the context of a fairy tale.  It was too much of a weird thing.  I could take Emma Thompson being around, but the guy from Star Wars went out of favor in my mind after “Attack of the Clones.”  There was a very funny moment that involved Belle and a snowball.  The greatest musical sequence was “Be Our Guest,” which was like a Busby Berkeley production with a touch of “Singin’ in the Rain.”  The number inspired a bit of applause among the audience.  I thought the movie became less amusing once Belle started to like the Beast, who actually reminded me in some shots of Andrew McCarthy.  When her sentiment changes, it makes the rest of the story feel inevitable, and that we are merely waiting for the ending to happen.  I felt that the movie was slightly too long because I prefer movies that get right to the point and don’t waste any time at all.  All in all, though, I thought the movie was successful in its live action transformation and increased length.  It pleased the crowd, too, as most people stuck around for the initial part of the end credits to cheer the names, almost like applauding the cast at the end of a Broadway musical or an opera.  There has been some publicity about the gay moment involving LeFou, which I found distracting, rather like the Sulu moment in the last Star Trek movie.  I don’t see why some statement about the sexual orientation of a supporting character has to be made.  I thought about what the audience reaction might be if the roles were reversed, if the beauty was the man and the beast was the woman.  It might make for dangerous or even disgusting subject matter.  I saw the animated “Beauty and the Beast” only once, and that was on the day of the Super Bowl back in 1992.  It’s hard to see how quickly the past twenty-five years have passed.  One of these days I’ll have to go back and watch that older movie once again.  It looks like this movie is a gigantic hit.  The disturbing thing, though, is that we’re getting something we’ve experienced before, only redone and repackaged.  It’s like a young singer having a hit with an Elvis or Beatles song.  Some of the people who died on March 19 include Edgar Rice Burroughs (1950), Edward Platt (1974), Willem de Kooning (1997), Arthur C. Clarke (2008), and Paul Scofield (2008).  Today is a birthday for Bruce Willis (62), Glenn Close (70), and Ursula Andress (81).

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