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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America America

I graded a pile of homework papers and took a break by going out for a pepperoni slice.  I handed out exams to my class and got home late.  I watched Elia Kazan’s “America America” on DVD.  I think it could have used a better title, but I thought it was a good movie overall.  Kazan wrote, produced, and directed this long movie that had a lot of personal meaning.  Stavros is a young Greek in Turkey who sets out for Constantinople, or Istanbul, with his family’s money and possessions in an attempt to get everyone out of their war-torn region.  The year is 1896.  This young man isn’t prepared for the outside world, however.  The man giving him a ride on a raft threatens to topple him and his mule into the water if he doesn’t hand over more money.  Stavros has the misfortune of running into a thief who aggressively takes his food and money.  He shouldn’t have opened the door even a little bit.  When dealing with such a scummy character, he should have immediately taken out his blade and threatened him with death.  When Stavros reaches the city, he tries to work hard for money, but there is the temptation of the prostitutes.  His friend tells him that the only two ways to get real money is through stealing or marriage.  He has to decide whether to work in selling carpets or pursuing his dream of going to America.  The movie has scenes that bring to mind “The Godfather Part II” and “Brooklyn.”  I thought this was a strong movie, although with a section that moves rather slowly when Stavros tries the path of marriage.  I liked the black and white photography and learned from the credits that the cinematographer was Haskell Wexler.  Kazan said in his voiceover, “I am a Greek by blood, a Turk by birth, and an American because my uncle made a journey.”  I don’t know if young people of today would want to watch a movie like this, but it would be educational for them to take a look at the struggles of immigrants.  Well, maybe Donald Trump should see this movie, too.  You have to feel for these people who endured so much.  I read a little bit about the career of Stathis Giallelis.  He was in seven films between 1964 and 1980, but only three American movies.  His fame didn’t last very long.  He retired in 2008, and he is now 76 years old.  Some of the people who died on March 18 include Mark Goodson (1992), Kirsty MacColl (2000), Joseph Barbera (2006), and Majel Barrett (2008).  Today is a birthday for Brad Pitt (53), Angie Stone (55), Ray Liotta (62), Steven Spielberg (70), Keith Richards (73), and Cicely Tyson (92).

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Airport

There was some kind of incident with the police pursuing a suspect as I was finishing my shift, and so I took a detour to my bus stop on the way to having my hamburger.  When I got home, I watched “Airport,” the rather foolish disaster movie from 1970.  The movie would serve as the template for later, more ridiculous disaster movies in the decade.  The most notable aspect of the film is the cast.  They assembled people like Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Dana Wynter, Barbara Hale, Gary Collins, and Jessie Royce Landis for the cast.  I kept thinking that I might be uneasy with Dean Martin as my pilot, given his reputation for drinking.  The dumbest character in the story is the passenger who gave the attache case back to Van Heflin and who made things mean worse by yelling out that he had a bomb.  He reminded me of that Cubs fan who tried to catch the foul ball.  Jacqueline Bisset was the person who really got hurt, getting the broken arm and probably becoming blind in the right eye.  It seemed almost like it was punishment for getting pregnant and being the most beautiful woman on the plane.  She did make the mistake of getting too rough with Helen Hayes.  Part of her fate is to lie down with her face covered for the rest of the movie.  It might not have been the actual Jacqueline Bisset there for the last part of the movie.  Maureen Stapleton went too far in expressing the tragedy at the end, which was typical of the overly serious cast.  The exception was Helen Hayes, who was more or less the comic relief.  Her antics were a reminder of how long ago this movie took place, in a time long before 9/11 and stricter airport security.  This is all heading to a predictable ending, although the attempts to create suspense with the shots of the damaged structure of the plane were amusing.  We still don’t want to see Jacqueline Bisset and Helen Hayes to perish in an intense ball of fire.  I didn’t have as much sympathy for the kid who commented on the constellations or the passenger who was the idiot.  The critics and Lancaster himself thought the movie was terrible, but it was a masterpiece compared to some of the disaster movies that were inflicted upon us later during the 1970s.  There is still a certain amount of fun in watching this movie, as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

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Sayonara

I took a break from grading papers to watch “Sayonara” with Marlon Brando.  It was a film that looked beautiful in its Technicolor photography with its setting in Japan, but it certainly had huge flaws, too.  One of the positive aspects was that it showed interracial marriage, reflecting a bit of James Michener’s real life.  One of the bad elements was throwing Ricardo Montalban into the cast to play the role of a Japanese man.  Talk about one of your unconvincing portrayals.  This one made you cringe.  Audrey Hepburn wisely decided not to play the role of Hana-Ogi, Brando’s love interest.  Another thing that was uncomfortable to watch was the Japanese women being defined by men.  Katsumi happily scrubs Kelly’s back in one scene, and in another Kelly gets angry with her for her attempt to undergo a procedure to alter her eyes.  Gruver expects Hana-Ogi to drop everything she’s doing to become his wife.  American culture may not be superior to Japanese culture, but it sure is louder and more obnoxious, and it pushes aside everything else.  On the plus side for this movie is Brando, whose character goes from opposition to Kelly’s marriage to some kind of appreciation.  This isn’t Brando’s greatest performance, but he does raise the quality of the movie.  James Garner also plays an American officer.  Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki both won supporting acting Oscars for this movie.  There is a Romeo and Juliet aspect to their characters’ relationship, but I think that the ending gives a misleading impression of Asian philosophy.  They certainly acted too soon.  Today the thought of a movie like “Sayonara” being nominated for the Best Picture Oscar is rather laughable, but the main reason to see it is to have a look at what Marlon Brando does in it.  In the same year that “Sayonara” was released, Akira Kurosawa directed “Throne of Blood” and “The Lower Depths,” and in the following year there was “The Hidden Fortress.”  At one time, “Sayonara” was going to be a musical, with the Irving Berlin song a part of it.  Joshua Logan followed “Sayonara” with “South Pacific,” and his last four films were “Fanny,” “Ensign Pulver,” “Camelot,” and “Paint Your Wagon.”  He died in 1988 at age 79.  Some of the people who died on March 17 include Luchino Visconti (1976), Helen Hayes (1993), Terry Stafford (1996), Freddie Francis (2007), and Alex Chilton (2010).  Today is a birthday for Billy Corgan (50), Gary Sinise (62), and Kurt Russell (66).

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Sons and Lovers

I awoke slowly and went out to the office, where I worked on grading some papers.  I had some time before my class, so I watched “Sons and Lovers.”  It was in black and white, and it was made in 1960.  Two of the main characters were played by Dean Stockwell and Trevor Howard.  Howard was the father who worked in the mines, and Stockwell was the artist son who had the chance to leave and develop his talent but for his mother.  Stockwell seemed like he was in the wrong country.  He had the sex drive of another D.H. Lawrence character.  He made the foolish decision of staying in his hometown and being with his mother instead of going off to London.  He had a close girlfriend who was brought up with religious morality and was uptight.  His attraction to the wrong woman derails him.  The mistake is in the form of a suffragette played by Mary Ure.  She talks about free love, but somehow you have to question all of her convictions.  If she’s separated but not divorced it seems that she’s not committed to anything.  Ten years makes a big difference as far as D.H. Lawrence adaptations go.  “Sons and Lovers” feels like everything is suppressed, where “Women in Love” with Glenda Jackson is freer and something of a classic.  Paul was a fool also for getting involved with a married woman.  This was dangerous because the husband was capable of jealous violence.  Paul wasn’t much of a fighter, probably like Lawrence himself.  Paul needed an escape from his family troubles, an oaf of a father, a possessive mother and a possessive girlfriend.  I thought he was reasonable in his assessment that his relationship with his girlfriend was going nowhere.  How can you feel excited about such a cold young girl?  I thought that Dean Stockwell imitated some of the things that James Dean had done on the screen.  Trevor Howard added something memorable to the film with his performance.  He was believable with his anger and resentment.  I’m not old enough to remember the Trevor Howard of 1960.  I only remember what he looked like at the end of his life.  Donald Pleasence was in this movie, several years before he was a James Bond villain.  “Sons and Lovers” wasn’t a great movie, but all in all I liked it.  It captured some of the feeling of youth and attempting to make your life meaningful.  I couldn’t see Paul turning into any kind of fantastic artist.  You’ve got to get away from your mother and see the world.  He painted his father and some daffodils and I don’t know what else.  “Sons and Lovers” was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  I can’t recall very many other movies that were released in 1960, but I will say that “The Apartment” was a great movie.  The ending of “Sons and Lovers” was different from the end of the novel.  Some things still weren’t acceptable yet of the movie audiences of that time.  I gave a lecture to my class that lasted not quite two hours.  I was relieved when I got that done, and I headed back home.  I stopped for two tacos and a Coke at Gordo Taqueria.  I watched “Riot” with Jim Brown and Gene Hackman.  I thought the idea of trying to escape from a prison was fruitless.  You’re going to get caught eventually.  That’s especially true today in the information age.  I spent a few hours checking items on Amazon.  I tried to see how much money I would have to spend to get an item with all four of the Beatles’ autographs.  I was also interested in Marilyn Monroe’s autograph.  I could get Raquel Welch’s autograph for not quite too much money.  I read something Dan Hill had written about how “Sometimes When We Touch” overwhelmed his life.  He originally wrote the song when he was 19 years ago, of course in an attempt to impress a girl.  A lot of the lyrics are really rotten.  I think he lost the girl to a football player.  The movie channel was showing “The Assassination Bureau” again.  I thought about how much it would cost me to complete my Avengers video collection.  They were also showing “Fathom” again.  Raquel looked like she knew how to fold a parachute.  Roger Ebert disliked this movie.  Some of the people who died on March 16 include Tammi Terrell (1970), T-Bone Walker (1975), Arthur Godfrey (1983), and Ivan Dixon (2008).  Today is a birthday for Lauren Graham (50), Erik Estrada (68), Victor Garber (68), and Jerry Lewis (91).

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