Lisa’s Week In Review: 7/22/19 — 7/28/19


Rutger Hauer, R.I.P.

Films I Watched:

  1. All About Eve (1950)
  2. Bad Influence (1990)
  3. The Blob (1958)
  4. Dressed to Kill (1980)
  5. Elmer Gantry (1960)
  6. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
  7. Hard Promises (1992)
  8. The Hot Spot (1990)
  9. In A Lonely Place (1950)
  10. The In Crowd (1988)
  11. L.A. 2017 (1971)
  12. Meteor (1979)
  13. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
  14. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
  15. One Night With The King (2006)
  16. The Sins of Dorian Gray (1983)
  17. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
  18. The Time Machine (1960)
  19. Toy Story 4 (2019)
  20. The Wrong Tutor (2019)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. 60 Days In
  2. The Bachelorette
  3. Big Brother 21
  4. Big Little Lies
  5. Breaking Bad
  6. Cheaters
  7. Dance Moms
  8. Euphoria
  9. Fear the Walking Dead
  10. Ghost Whisperer
  11. Grand Hotel
  12. Legion
  13. Love Island
  14. Orange is the New Black
  15. So You Think You Can Dance
  16. Sweetbitter
  17. Vida

Books I Read:

  1. After Dark, My Sweet (1955) by Jim Thompson
  2. In A Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Afrojack
  2. Alice Gray
  3. Armin van Buuren
  4. Bauhaus
  5. Cedric Gervais
  6. Crud
  7. deadmau5
  8. Ghastly
  9. Go Betty Go
  10. Goblin
  11. Goblin Reborn
  12. JOY.
  13. Kedr Livanskiy
  14. Lara Snow
  15. Moonchild
  16. Neon Indian
  17. Phantogram
  18. Sabrina Gunston
  19. Saint Motel
  20. Schlomo
  21. The Simonetti Horror Project
  22. twenty-one pilots

Links from Last Week:

  1. Are you a comic book fan?  Are you a movie fan?  Are you into politics?  Are you a Socialist?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, please consider subscribing to Ryan The Trash Film Guru’s Patreon Site!
  2. On her photography site, Erin offered up: Final Mushroom, Reaching Out, Walking on A Summer Day, The Creek On A Summer Day, Neighborhood, Bird, and Possum!
  3. On Pop Politics, Jeff shared: Al Franken.  Again, Boris Johnson is the New PM, The Mueller Hearings Were Strange, Happy Birthday Mick Jagger, It’s Been Six Years Since My Last Cigarette, and Alas Baltimore!
  4. On my music site, I shared music from Ghastly, Leyya, Moonchild, JOY, Alice Gray, Sabrina Gunston, and Crud!
  5. I reviewed Big Brother for the Big Brother Blog!
  6. Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…Mark Bousquet
  7. The Defeding of Cats
  8. Watch ‘The Shining’ at The Overlook Hotel’s Filming Location
  9. Don’t let The New Yorker get away with its brazen Al Franken hypocrisy
  10. The New Yorker Seriously Mischaracterized the Story of One of Al Franken’s Accusers

Links From The Site:

  1. Case reviewed Episode 5 and Episode 6 of Titans!
  2. Erin shared with us the Spectacular Adventures of G-8 and His Battle Aces, along with The Love Clinic, Next Stop Sinland, The Hucksters, Automatic Detective, The Oz Wonderland Chronicles, Doing What Comes Naturally, and Hootenanny Nurse!
  3. Gary paid tribute to David Hedison and reviewed The Man From Laramie and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood!
  4. Jeff reviewed a biography of Steve McQueen and shared music videos from Cliff Richard, George Harrison, The Whispers, Mick Jagger, and Sagat!
  5. I shared music videos from Go Betty Go and Saint Motel, along with paying tribute to Rutger Hauer and reviewing Dumbo, L.A. 2017, One Night With The King, and The Hot Spot!
  6. Ryan reviewed Rust Belt, Monks Mound, Pierott Alterations, and Baseline Blvd, along with sharing his weekly reading round-up!
  7. Arleigh shared a song from The Roots and BT!

Want to see what I did last week?  Click here!

Film Review: The Hot Spot (dir by Dennis Hopper)


As befits the title, the 1990 film, The Hot Spot, is all about heat.

There’s the figurative heat that comes from a cast of characters who are obsessed with sex, lies, and murder.  There’s the literal heat that comes from a fire that the film’s “hero” sets in order to distract everyone long enough so that he can get away with robbing a bank.  And, of course, there’s the fact that the film is set in a small Texas town that appears to be the hottest place on Earth.  Every scene in the film appears to be drenched by the sun and, if the characters often seem to take their time from getting from one point to another, that’s because everyone knows better than to rush around when it’s over a hundred degrees in the shade.  As someone who has spent most of her life in Texas, I can tell you that, if nothing else, The Hot Spot captures the feel of what summer is usually like down here.   I’ve often felt that stepping outside during a Texas summer is like stepping into a wall of pure heat.  The Hot Spot takes place on the other side of that wall.

The Hot Spot is a heavily stylized film noir, one in which the the traditional fog and shadows have been replaced by clouds of dust and blinding sunlight.  Harry (Don Johnson) is a drifter who has just rolled into a small Texas town.  Harry’s not too bright but he’s handsome and cocky and who needs to be smart when you’ve got charm?  Harry gets a job selling used cars, though he actually aspires to be a bank robber.  Harry finds himself falling in love with Gloria (Jennifer Connelly), a seemingly innocent accountant who is being blackmailed by the brutish Frank Sutton (William Sadler).  Meanwhile, Harry is also being pursued by his boss’s wife, Dolly (Virginia Madsen), an over-the-top femme fatale who is just as amoral as Harry but who might be a little bit smarter.  Complicating matters is that, while Harry’s trying to rob a bank, he also ends up saving a man’s life.  Only Dolly knows that Harry isn’t the hero that the rest of the town thinks he is.  She tells him that she’ll keep his secret if he does her just one little favor….

The Hot Spot was directed by Dennis Hopper (yes, that Dennis Hopper) and, from the start, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s not really that interested in the film’s story.  Instead, he’s more interested in exploring the increasingly surreal world in which Harry has found himself.  The Hot Spot plays out at a languid pace, which allows Hopper to focus on his cast of small-town eccentrics.  (My particular favorite was Jack Nance as the alcoholic bank president who also doubles as the town’s volunteer fire marshal.)  The film is so hyper stylized that it’s hard not to suspect that every character — with the possible exception of Harry — understands that they’re only characters in a film noir.  For instance, is Dolly really the over-the-top femme fatale that she presents herself as being or is she just a frustrated housewife playing a role?  Is Gloria really an innocent caught up in a blackmail scheme or is she just smart enough to realize that the rules of noir requires her to appear to be Dolly’s opposite?  And is Harry being manipulated or is he allowing himself to be manipulated because, deep down, he understands that’s his destiny as a handsome but dumb drifter in a small town?  Do any of the characters really have any control over their choices and their actions or has everyone’s fate been predetermined by virtue of them being characters in a film noir?  In the end, The Hot Spot is more than just a traditional noir.  It’s also a study of why the genre has endured.

It’s a long and, at times, slow movie, one that plays out at its own peculiar pace.  As a result, some people will be bored out of their mind.  But if you can tap into the film surreal worldview and adjust to the languid style, The Hot Spot is a frequently entertaining and, at times, rather sardonic slice of Texas noir.

Film Review: One Night With The King (dir by Michael O. Sajbel)


The 2006 Biblical film, One Night With The King, opens with God ordering King Saul to conquer and execute all of the Amalekites and their livestock.  However, as so often happened whenever God ordered him to do something, Saul manages to screw everything up.  He does conquer the Amalekites but he decides to keep their best livestock for himself and he also declines to execute the Amalekite king or his pregnant wife.  The prophet Samuel (played by an uncomfortably frail-looking Peter O’Toole) shows up and tells Saul that he’s screwed up for the last time.  Samuel goes off to execute the Amalekite king.  However, the queen escapes into the desert.

And that’s the last we see of her.  It’s also the last we see of O’Toole who, despite being top billed, has about a minute of screen time.

Jump forward several hundred years.  We are now in the city of Susa, Persia.  It’s the center of the known world.  We know this because characters tend to say stuff like, “We are living in the center of the known world.”  Xerxes (Luke Goss) is the king of Persia, a somewhat uncouth man who is obviously used to getting everything that he wants.  Xerxes is plotting on marching off to war.  However, his current wife is opposed to the war and refuses to attend Xerxes’s pre-war banquet.  Scandal!  Xerxes’s advisor, Prince Memucan (Omar Sharif, who co-starred with Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia), suggests that perhaps Xerxes should get a new wife.

Every female virgin in the city is brought to Xerxes’s palace so that, under the watchful eye of the king’s eunuch, Hegai (Tommy Lister, Jr.), they can compete for the chance to become queen.  Among the women is the beautiful Hadassah (Tiffany Dupont), who is the niece of one of the king’s scribes, Mordecai (John Rhys-Davies).  Hadassah does not tell the king that she’s related to Mordecai and instead says that her name is Esther.  With the help of Hegai, Hadassah soon emerges as the favorite to become the new queen.

Meanwhile, an evil man named Haman (Boo!  Haman!  Boo!) has shown up on the scene.  Haman (played by James Callas) is a descendant of the Amalekites that Saul failed to destroy.  (Dammit, Saul!)  A greedy astrologer, Haman (Boo!) has been appointed to the position of vizier by Xerxes.  Haman (hiss!) demands that all of the king’s servants bow before him.  However, because he has a pagan symbol sewn onto his clothes, Mordecai refuses to do so.  Driven by hate (Boo!), Haman makes plans to execute not only Mordecai but every other Jew in Persia.  With the king unaware of Haman’s intentions, only Hadassah can stop his plans but to do so, she’ll have to risk seeing the king unsummoned….

 

The story of Esther, Mordecai, the king, and the moment that Haman (Boo!) discovers that karma is a bitch has always been one of my favorites so I’ve always enjoyed One Night With The King whenever I’ve watched it.  Don’t get me wrong.  It has its flaws.  Though the film does a pretty good job of recreating the past on a low budget, it’s still one of those films that’s full of awkward exposition, cringe-worthy dialogue, and more than a few inconsistent performances.  (Sharif and O’Toole, for instance, both go through the motions, doing just enough to pick up a paycheck.)  At the same time, Luke Goss is properly rough-around-the-edges as the king and Tiffany DuPont is well-cast as Hadassah.  Tommy Lister, Jr. appears to be having a lot of fun in the role of the world’s most unlikely eunuch and, as a result, he’s entertaining to watch.  Visually, it’s a pretty film and the costumes are to die for, as they should be in any film about a royal romance.  And, even if the story is at times awkwardly told, it still reaches a deeply satisfying conclusion.

James Callas is convincingly evil and properly detestable as Haman (Boo!  Haman!  Boo!).  Haman is an archetype of evil, the ant-Semite whose evil legacy has continued to haunt the world in the centuries since he met his own fate.  Though the film at times spends too much time playing up the romance between the king and Hadassah (which, while nice to watch, is not the point of the source material), One Night With The King does include enough scenes of Haman (hiss!) ranting to make clear the link between Haman and the anti-Semitism of the Nazis and those modern day hate mongers who try to hide their bigotry behind claims that they are “only criticizing Israel.”  Haman’s evil makes his final fate all the more satisfying but the film leaves no doubt that, unless the world remains vigilant, there will always be new Hamans threatening to come to power.  That’s an important enough message to make up for many of the film’s missteps.

One Night With The King is a flawed, low-budget film.  But I like it.

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 07/21/2019 – 07/27/2019, Karl Christian Krumpholz


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Flying way further below the radar than he deserves to, Denver-based Karl Christian Krumpholz is staking his claim to the territory marked “pre-eminent cartoonist depicting the realities of American urban life.” Which, admittedly, would be too long a title to fit on most plaques or awards. Nevertheless, it’s true, and now it’s my job to tell you why —

30 Miles Of Crazy!  #7, the latest issue of Krumpholz’ self-published ongoing comic series, is quite possibly the strongest one to date, relating short-form stories of strippers, white-collar office functionaries, bartenders, transplants, and other real-as-that-stain-on-your-shirt folks with an elegantly simple dose of entirely unforced sympathy and a keen eye for authenticity in dialogue mostly missing from other monologue-driven narratives in any medium. The art is gritty but fluid, with strong emphasis on facial expressions, body language, and richly-detailed backgrounds. Krumpholz writes and draws the holy hell out of every panel, and…

View original post 509 more words

Oh, How The Ghost Of You Clings : Emi Gennis’ “Baseline Blvd”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

A silent, rural, two-lane road. A woman in a car on mission. A lifetime of things unspoken hanging thick in the air. And a palpable sense of loss.

Combustible ingredients, to be sure, but in the hands of Emi Gennis, they become Baseline Blvd, a short, clean-lined, visually and emotionally austere book about a journey to a place, sure, but also to a place within where few would dare to go. Where, perhaps, even fewer would come back from.

Okay, yeah, I said the ingredients here were combustible, but this is no Molotov of a comic — rather, Gennis sets things on a slow-burn simmer from the outset, and as flashbacks creep in and the scope and nature of what’s compelling our protagonist forward make themselves known, we realize we are following one raw, frayed, threadbare nerve all the way from point A to point B, and that those…

View original post 526 more words

Film Review: L.A. 2017 (dir by Steven Spielberg)


L.A. 2017 is the Steven Spielberg film about which you’ve probably never heard.

To a certain extent, that’s understandable.  Spielberg was only 24 when, in 1971, he directed L.A. 2017.  It was a film that he directed for television.  In fact, it was only his third directorial assignment.  As opposed to the huge budgets that we tend to associate with a typical Spielberg production, L.A. 2017 was made for about $300,000.  The entire film was shot in about 12 days.  In fact, with a running time of only a scant 69 minutes, L.A. 2017 hardly qualifies as a feature-length film.  L.A. 2017 has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray, making it a true oddity in Spielberg’s filmography.  Despite the fact that Spielberg has credited L.A. 2017 with opening a lot of doors for him, it’s an almost totally forgotten film.

Of course, some of that is because L.A. 2017 really isn’t a film at all.  Instead, it was an episode of a television show called The Name of the Game.  The show was about Glenn Howard (Gene Barry), a magazine publisher, and the reporters who worked for him.  L.A. 2017 was unique in that it was the show’s only excursion into science fiction.  In fact, from everything that I’ve read about the show, it appears that L.A. 2017 was nothing like any of the other episodes of The Name of the Game.  This episode was also unique because Spielberg directed it as if he was making a feature, as opposed to just another installment in a weekly series.  If not for the opening credits (which announce, among other things, that we’re watching a Robert Stack Production), one could easily imagine watching L.A. 2017 in a movie theater, perhaps as a double feature with Beneath The Planet Of The Apes.

L.A. 2017 opens with Glenn driving down a mountain road in California.  He’s heading to a pollution summit and, as he drives along, he awkwardly dictates an editorial into a tape recorder.  Glenn worries that society may have already ruined the environment to such an extent that the Earth cannot be saved.  As if to prove his point, Glenn starts to cough as he’s overcome by all of the smog in the air.  His car swerves into a ditch and Glenn is knocked unconscious.

Welcome to the future

When he wakes up, he finds himself being rescued by men wearing wearing protective suits and masks.  The sky is a sickly orange and an ominous wind howls in the background.  Glenn’s rescuers take him to an underground city where he discovers that, somehow, he has traveled through time.  The year is now 2017, which in this film looks a lot like the 70s except that everyone’s now underground and the landline phones are extra bulky.  (Needless to say, watching 1971’s version of 2017 in 2019 is an interesting experience.)  It turns out that the pollution got so bad that the surface of the planet became uninhabitable.  The U.S. is now run by a corporation that is headquartered in Detroit.  (Presumably, the Corporation is a former car company.)  The U.S. is also at war with England, for some reason.  No mention is made about what’s happened to Canada but, if Detroit’s still around, I assume at least some of Canada managed to survive as well.

The …. uh, Future.

Everyone in the future drinks a lot of milk and, when they’re not listening to cheerful announcements, they’re listening to the soothing music that the Corporation provides for them.  Everyone in the future is also very friendly.  We know this because everyone keeps assuring Glenn that he’s surrounded by friends.  In fact, everyone in the future refers to one another by their first name because “it’s friendlier.”  It’s also the law.  It turns out that there’s a lot of laws in the future.  In fact, the underground cities are pretty fascist in the way that they handle things.  There are constant announcements encouraging people to pursue a career in law enforcement and anyone who disagrees with the Corporation ends up in a straight jacket.  Glenn feels that maybe he’s been brought to the future so he can start a new magazine and challenge the status quo.  The Corporation disagrees….

This is what happens when you don’t go underground in the future.

Okay, so there’s nothing subtle about L.A. 2017.  From the villainous corporation to the heavy-handed environmental message, there’s nothing here that you haven’t seen in dozens of other sci-fi films.  But the lack of subtlety doesn’t matter, largely because Spielberg directs with so much energy and with such an eye to detail that it’s impossible not to get sucked into the story.  As opposed to the somewhat complacent Spielberg who has recently given us rather bland and safe blockbusters like Lincoln, The BFG, and The Post, the Spielberg who directed L.A. 2017 was young and obviously eager to show off what he could do with even a low budget and that enthusiasm is present in every frame, from the wide-angle shots of Glenn driving his car to the scenes of Glenn looking up at the shadowy executives and scientists who are staring down at him when he’s first brought to the underground city.  As opposed to the sterile vision of so many other future-set films, Spielberg’s future feels as if it’s actually been lived in.  When Glenn finds himself in a new world, it comes across as being a real world as opposed to just a narrative contrivance.

Of course, because L.A. 2017 was just one episode in a weekly series, Glenn couldn’t remain in the future and L.A. 2017 returns Glenn to the present in the most contrived and predictable way possible.  Still, L.A. 2017 remains an entertaining example of what a young and talented director can do when he’s determined to be recognized.  Watching the film, it’s easy to draw a straight line from Spielberg doing L.A. 2017 to doing Duel and then subsequently being hired for Jaws.

Incidentally, Joan Crawford is somewhere in this film.  Crawford worked with Spielberg when he directed her in the pilot for Night Gallery and she was one of his first major supporters in Hollywood.  Apparently, in L.A. 2017, she plays one of the people staring down at Glenn when he’s first brought into the underground city.  I haven’t found her yet but she’s apparently there somewhere.

Unfortunately, L.A. 2017 has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray but it is currently available on YouTube.