Trying To Pull The Woolrich Over Your Eyes?

She extinguished her cigarette in the remains of the chop suey.  “So much for that. To go back: Is there love at this table?”

Probably at every one of these tables, I told her, except perhaps  the one at which the Cantonese cashier was sitting by himself. I already knew that I could use a term like “Cantonese” when speaking to Bernice.

Here. I’ll put  it this way. I don’t feel love: now is there love at this table?”

 Half-love,” I remarked. Said she: “I’d rather have a baked apple.”

No, the above quote is not from the attempted novelization of some long-lost Tarentino screenplay. It’s actually from a 1932 novel called “Manhattan Love Song” by Cornell Woolrich, regarded by many as the godfather of what came to be known as noir.

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Cornell Woolrich

Copyright 1932 by Cornell Woolrich  First Pegasus Books edition 2006



Gloria Grahame and “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”

I can accept that the great Annette Bening did her best to bring Gloria Grahame to life and I understand that Ms. Bening believes she is portraying the legendary film star to the best of her ability – but, sorry, there is only one Gloria Grahame as anyone who has seen the genuine article on screen can attest. (Watching her go toe-to-toe with Bogie in the noir classsic In a Lonely Place, an achievement in itself, should have gained her lasting fame, let alone memorable performances in The Big HeatThe Bad and the Beautiful and many others.)

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Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart in 1950’s “In a Lonely Place

However, Ms. Bening does succeed in conjuring up the spirit and vivacity of the late star and perhaps that is enough. I can’t think off the top of my pointed head who   could do a better job. (I prefer to think of this film as a homage rather than a straight-ahead biopic.)

The only time I could accept Ms. Bening as an aging Gloria Grahame is in the poignant scene in which the dying actress and her young beau read Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” together (easily one of the highlights of the film.)

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Annette Bening (as Gloria Grahame) and Jamie Bell (as Peter Turner) in FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL”

The screenplay, by Matthew Greenhalgh (who has done serviceable jobs bringing other real-life protagonists to life – doomed Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis in Control and a young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy, for example) is based on a memoir by Mr. Turner, who , as a young man, had a romantic relationship with Ms. Grahame in the last years of her life.

It is ironic, perhaps, that the film based on the final years of Ms.Grahame’s life didn’t fare much better at the box office than what happened to her career in the end.

The term “star-crossed” could have been invented just for her.

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What the Other Half Watches: THE EXCEPTION

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Lily James in a blink-and-you-miss it and totally unnecessary nude scene is about the only exceptional thing about a wannabe thriller? love story? somewhere in between? movie about an available young woman (James) and a reluctantly good Nazi , played by a big slab of beef named Jai Courtney. (Clicking on imdb, after I had already written this, I see that Mr. Courtney ‘s resume includes , besides the ill-fated Suicide Squad and Terminator Genisys – you guessed it – Beef. )

And, sorry , but despite his best efforts, I did not believe the great Eddie Marsan as the malevolent and much-feared Heinrich Himmler.

However, female (and some male) viewers may agree to differ. My niece recommended this movie and her father dutifully spooled it for us. Yes, if you’re paying attention, this is one of the movies I saw at my sister’s house.




Being Weird For Its Own Sake?

While watching Episode 8 of David Lynch’s recently rebooted “Twin Peaks” I was as awestruck as most viewers but at the same time I had to wonder: How was the atomic bomb and its resulting horrors connected with the main narrative? (Short answer: it wasn’t)

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Showtime (which hosts the series) and other streaming services have proved to be more receptive to directors with an alternative sensibility. Long-standing fans of Mr. Lynch (Lynchians?) (Peakers?) claim to see inside references to previous Lynch works but I wonder whether it is necessary to have seen the original series (I did not) and previous films (I did see Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and Lost Highway – that last film lost me completely) to enjoy it . Ambiguity, or straight-out surrealism, seem to be a speciality where Mr. Lynch is concerned. The film-maker goes out of his way to thumb his nose at traditional methods of story-telling and his  followers love him for it. 

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David Lynch At Work

With “Twin Peaks: The Return” he may have made his most polarising film to date.Twin Peaks defies ultimate analysis, and ultimate judgement. That’s its secret and mystique, and why it’s back after 25 years, as a reminder that TV — like art — doesn’t have to be reduced to nuts and bolts, or to specific meaning either.” writes Verne Gay in Newsday. On the other hand, Dann M., one of the “audience reviewers” on the Rotten Tomatoes website simply calls it “Artistic douchebaggery at its worst …”  (Mr. M is in the minority – the series got a 82 per cent audience approval rating on RT.)

I shudder to think what a film-maker like Terence Malick would produce if he was given the same funds and artistic freedom as David Lynch. (Even some critics have given up on Mr. Malick’s latest release Song to Song ).

There is an old saying, something about the thin line separating genius from insanity. Paraphrasing that for  television, is there a thin line between genius and a movie or TV series that is weird for its own sake?  When will the average viewer know it? (Don’t get me wrong – I like “The OA” as much as anyone). Certainly not from the critics who claim to see profound truths in just about everything.


A Man’s Gotta Do etc.: 12 STRONG

I didn’t know they still made movies like this anymore. (I almost expected the ghost of John Wayne to pop up with a steely grin of approval.)

This time it is Thor leading the charge (actually, star Chris Hemsworth is Australian) and the battleground is Afghanistan.

Sure, I know it’s a true story but its depiction is a tad too “rah rah- a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” for me.

“Hi. My name’s Chris Hemsworth. But most people just call me Thor. (Hey, that rhymes with war. and speaking of war ……”

And in true pre-#Me Too fashion, the little women in this movie wait for their man to come home with the actresses portraying them getting scant screen time to make room for the guys’ heroic deeds.

Which is probably just as well.

The true stories of what happened to some of the women who joined  the U.S. military may not be as entertaining but it is factual – there is plenty of source material in the documentary The Invisible War – although they were obviously deemed unfilmable by the hawks of Hollywood.

Kwik Kwotes: “PROPERTY VALUES” (No Realtors Need Apply)

“There would be some newspaper readers who wouldn’t be able to help being oddly moved that a boy christened Brody Terrence and a boy christened Wayson Ji Yu could be members of the same gang, gunned down by the same people. It marked a certain kind of progress.”

CHARLES DEMERS Property Values (Arsenal Pulp Press) Copyright 2018 by Charles Demers

What The Other Half Watches

I have been a witness to how the other half (or the silent majority) watches while visiting my sister and her husband recently. There are reams of copy issued when a film is first released in theatres (or on streaming services) and I seem to read most of it. I have never done any deep thinking on the subject but I guess that is how I choose what I want to watch. So, for example, after reading about Black Panther, I decided that was a film I had to see (even though I am not a huge fan of MARVEL superhero movies.) On the other hand, I had no burning desire to view Manchester by the Sea, despite all the Oscars and positive press. (For one thing, I am sad enough as it is. And I make it a point not to see any films featuring Casey Affleck).

My sister and brother in law, by contrast, select their movies (mostly on Netflix) by reading the movie synopsis and, if its a movie that sounds interesting, they will check the language and violence warnings (they are both rather conservative in their taste). Gasp! It seems that all they ask of a movie is that it helps to pass the time before falling asleep(If I am being objective, so do I. Although I usually manage to stay awake until the end of the feature.)

When I am visiting them I often see movies that I wouldn’t see normally or at all. Sometimes this yields the occasional surprise, like the little-seen Prodigy (although obviously shot on the cheap, the film is an impressive calling card for the writing/directing team of Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal and features an assured performance by amazing young Savannah Liles. If there is any justice in the world, you should be hearing more – much more – about all three.)

More likely,though, it is a dud like Downsizing or what my brother-in-law refers to derisively as a “two-star movie” (ironic, since he selects enough of them.

Savannah Liles – Don’t Touch Those Freckles1

I’d like to write more but I am going to watch Annihilation on Netflix (I read something about the film a few months ago (Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin TV fame in a sci-film film? Alex Garland, writer and director of Ex Machina, behind the camera? This, I gotta see.)