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Mommie Dearest (1981)
Bad mother? Try uptight daughter.
Finally caught this movie all the way through on TV recently. Of course, you don't have to watch to know that Joan Crawford was a frightening mother with eyebrows to match. The expression "Mommie dearest" and the "No wire hangers" bit are set in stone in pop culture.
Legend aside, the movie's depiction of Joan Crawford doesn't jive with a truly bad (adoptive) parent. If we assume the story is accurate, then the only thing Joan Crawford is guilty of is being eccentric in the course of dispensing discipline. That's it. Unlike countless other parents who refuse to be passively submissive to their children, Joan Crawford was famous.
In my opinion, Mommie Dearest helped usher in the age of "Assume no responsibility for your problems, just blame others," sending society on the downward spiral of political correctness and revisionist history. Mommie Dearest is the blueprint for the modern talk show, with daughter Christina as the first guest.
Not your average cop...not your average car
At some point during BULLITT you kind of give up on the plot, or more reasonably forget it, and realize you're just there for the ride. But when your ride is a '68 Mustang fastback in fast pursuit of a '68 Dodge Charger, who's complaining? Sure, Steve McQueen isn't exactly the finest of actors in his role as anti-cop, but abrupt lines like "You work your side of the street, I'll work mine," and the legendary "Bulls***" aren't pulled off with Oscar statues, they're pulled off with attitude. McQueen attitude. It's a staple of his film career that reaches apex in this movie: Speak to a minimum by only saying what is essential, and maintain a placid expression while doing it. Why talk anyway when you have a bad-ass car you can be driving instead?
So wrong it's right
Really Waters' last indie movie before hitting it mainstream with fluff like Hairspray. While Waters would eventually redeem himself with Pecker and, to a lesser extent, Serial Mom (only to slip up with Cecil B.) Polyester remains a classic and my favorite of his films. The character names alone are funny: Francine Fishpaw, Todd Tomorrow, Lu-Lu, Bo-Bo, and of course, Cuddles. Let's see, porno-film presenter, cheating husband jets on Francine and the kids. Francine, now drinking HEAVILY, gets barged in on by her cocaine-snorting mom while on the toilet. Son's a foot-stomper, daughter's a slut. Boyfriend's Tab Hunter who runs a drive-in art theater. You can not ask for anything more. But if you did it would probably be Bill Murray singing Francine's love song, "We met, we spoke, our love became infinity..." Well, guess what - it's there. What's even better about Polyester is it's outrageous enough to be funny but toned-down enough (by Waters' standards) to enjoy with your mom.
The Omega Man (1971)
Watch this movie once. Give it some time, and then you'll want to watch it again.
This is personally my favorite film. However, I can understand why this one-time sci-fi/horror flick views more like a comedy today. The film has dated more than other films from '71/72, and with the special effects bar haven risen astronomically since that time there is little hope for the film to grow even older gracefully. And a shirtless, oily, middle-aged, often over-acting Charlton Heston doesn't exactly shout hero or Academy Award. But THE OMEGA MAN has its moments, in particular its unexpected, and unexpectedly touching, finale. Add to that worthwhile ending a legendary Ron Grainer (Dr. Who, The Prisoner) soundtrack and some very quotable dialogue ("Thanks alot, you cheating bastard") and THE OMEGA MAN rounds itself out into a very memorable movie.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. has continually delayed the release of OMEGA MAN on DVD - 4 years now counting. Maybe during the wait someone there will realize the potential this movie has a video game. Our heroic player must track The Family down by day and fend them off by night in a bunkered-up penthouse. Like the DVD, it's wishful thinking.
The Crow (1994)
Dark? As Goth as it gets. Great? Hell No!
The Crow picked up a life of its own because Brandon Lee lost his life making it. That's it. The Crow is crap. The plot is utterly simplistic, unbelievably predictable, and unashamedly sappy. When cool chain-smoking cop dude decides to quit smoking at the end I felt played. The only enjoyment in watching this movie is its dark, depressing setting. But hell, I already live close enough to Detroit if that's what I want.
The Misfits (1961)
An excellent ensemble with really nowhere to go
It's a damn shame Arthur Miller had to take himself so seriously and write THE MISFITS as Death of a Salesman in a beat-up pick-up truck rather than the plot-oriented action/drama it should have been. John Huston obviously managed to get every member of this ensemble to give outstanding performances, and that alone keeps this movie afloat. Clark Gable (in his last role), especially, defines a realistic acting style that in his case creates a modern day cowboy who could make Hud look like a City Slickers reject. (HUD, though a Paul Newman power-house role, suffers from the same character before plot approach.) Marilyn Monroe, written to be be overly-sensitive, fills her character as she did her dresses. Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach play their parts perfectly as they were meant to be - understated. Sadly, all these great performances and interesting characters seem to just be hanging out, and figuring out, Miller-style, rather than following a progressive sequence of events that keeps the viewer interested.
Grand Hotel (1932)
What begins as a light comedy becomes a serious drama
Being a product of 1932, Grand Hotel wasn't ahead of its times in terms of style, but it's hard to imagine other films of the era having a more complex storyline. The plot seems simple enough, even light-hearted, when several of the Grand Hotel's more unique guests unknowingly share some business together. It's obvious that their lives will intersect during their stay, but the movie's initial leisurely pace turns into a clever disguise for the real drama that will eventually take place. In all, the surprise twist in plot may not be what the viewer wants, but does not disappoint.
Strangers with Candy (1999)
The funniest anti-sitcom of all time
The only criticism of this show is how few episodes exist. And that is a complete shame. Strangers With Candy is funny beyond belief. It relies on outrageous humor, John Waters-esque humor, without being obvious enough to make everything look too intentional. What's funny is that the show's "pushing-the-envelope" line of humor is subtle and non-chalant. In the the hands of lesser actors this would probably fail miserably. But the teaming of Colbert, Sedaris, Dinello and Hollimon should be considered historic in the realm of comedy acting. If Strangers With Candy never sees syndication heaven, then we can only hope for a DVD compilation in the near future.
John Denver and Friend (1976)
Please leave on that jet plane.
I have the rehearsal of this show on video, and it's almost sad to see Sinatra's could-care-less arrogance towards John Denver. Though I'm not a Denver fan, he did give Frank a great song to cover in 'Leavin' On a Jet Plane.' Frank is not in the greatest of voices, but then again he rarely was after he came out of retirement. The only real highlight is the selection of songs that Frank had rarely performed live, albeit all in quick medley form. There is no buddy chemistry between Sinatra and Denver, hence no reason for "friend" in the title. These two together are awkward at best and corny every else. Oddly enough, this show didn't stop them from teaming up again in concert and on TV with Sinatra's special, Sinatra and Friends (1977).
Even Frank's best toupee can't save this one
Francis Albert Does His Thing has its moments, but literally just moments in a 50-plus minute show. Sinatra's material is an uncomfortable mixture of pre-Reprise classics and his attempt at late 60's adult-pop. He opens the show with Hello Young Lovers and Baubles, Bangles and Beads (both wrongly arranged with a chorus) but soon tumbles into a strange, laugh-track-laced monologue and Cycles. After this Frank yields his show to Diahann Carrol and The 5th Dimension. He does duets with both, but nothing could be more tragic than Sinatra in 5th Dimension garb singing and "dancing" to Sweet Blindness. Frank could easily be forgiven if it were Aquarius, but not this. Fortunately that embarassment is followed by a great solo-Sinatra medley of Nice'n'Easy/How Little It Matters. Frank's other material throughout the show (Lost in the Stars, torch-song medley) is decent but the sound is poorly mixed. And attention taken away from Sinatra's singing becomes directed to his toupee, which, as a fan, is probably the best he ever wore.