Thursday, October 27, 2016

Carmen Miranda marathon

In another sign that somebody at FXM Retro seems to be thinking at least a little bit, I see that the programmers there have decided to put all of the Carmen Miranda movies they currently have in the rotation together. So, if you like Carmen Miranda -- and sometimes she's the most interesting thing in an otherwise subpar movie -- you're in luck.

The mini-marathon starts tomorrow morning at 8:50 AM with If I'm Lucky, a movie I've more or less panned here before mostly because Perry Como is such a bland actor, even more bland than he was as a singer. Even Miranda can't save this stuff.

Next up is That Night in Rio at 10:10 AM. This one has Alice Faye in Brazil, getting involve in a plot to have an American impersonator (Don Ameche) impersonate her husband (Ameche, in a double role) to help a business deal go through. Miranda is the girlfriend of the impersonator.

Then we get might be Miranda's best musical number (although I admit to not having seen every Miranda movie) in The Gang's All Here at 11:45 AM. This is the "Lady With the Tutti Frutti Hat" number, which has to be seen to be believed. The plot is a silly one about a nightclub singer falling in love with a rich guy about to go off and fight World War II. Complications ensue when he returns home a hero, since his parents have other ideas for him than marrying a showgirl.

Finally, at 1:30 PM, there's Something for the Boys, which has Fox's ladies playing army wives who take over an old home near an army base and turning it into a place for the wives to stay, putting on a show to raise the money for the necessary renovations and to keep the place going. Where are Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland when we need them? Oh, that's right, they're still over at MGM.

If you miss the marathon tomorrow, don't worry -- all four movies are on the Saturday schedule too, although not all of them are back to back. That Night in Rio kicks off the FXM Retro schedule at 3:00 and the other three start from 7:10 AM Saturday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

We are protected by the enormity of my stupidity, for a time

I just had an insight last night. When I watch a movie off my DVR, I probably ought to write a full-length post about it right after watching. Or more likely, the next morning, since I like to watch a lot of them on Friday and Saturday evenings before going to bed. Then, using Blogger's platform, I can save them as drafts, posting them at some point in the future when I see the movie is coming up on TV or when I have nothing else to write about.

I could have done that months ago with something like The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, which is/was on TCM this morning at 6:00 AM. (Probably, by the time most of you read this, you'll have missed the airing.) I only realized last night that I hadn't posted anything about the movie. Or, at least, Blogger's search software isn't yielding any hits, and with my change of computers a few months back, I don't know if I have a post on the movie on my computer now.

How could I not have thought of doing this before?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

About that AT&T/Time Warner merger

A few days ago, it hit the news that AT&T was looking to acquire Time Warner. Since Time Warner is the parent company of TCM, any number of TCM fans started worrying. I'm not a media analyst or anything like that, but I think any worry is overblown.

If the merger is about acquiring channels, I think other channels than TCM are the focus. CNN would be a likely one. And since AT&T owns DirecTV, one would have to guess that TCM's space on DirecTV wouldn't be in any jeopardy. I suppose other cable providers could try to harm AT&T's channels, but that would open up a legal can of worms. (There was some controversy some years back with Comcast trying to shaft some non-Comcast niche sports channels.) Any threat to a channel like TCM would come from the general shift to streaming media, and the complicated rights situations that brings up.

And of course, there's the possibility the deal won't go through. A lot of grandstanding legislators and regulators think they should have a say in the matter. Both halves of the Clump v. Trinton presidential campaign have implied the merger may not be a certainty. That having been said, I pointed out back in October 2011 that getting government involved isn't a panacea.

In short, whatever happens to TCM is going to happen regardless of any merger, I think. Why waste time worrying about it?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Briefs for October 24-25, 2016

So I got an email from Amazon yesterday. One of those robo-messages, of course, telling me that I might be interested in certain products, based on what I've bought recently. Surprisingly, one of the products was a movie I just watched off the DVR recently but I thought was out of print. It turns out that I was right, and the movie is out of print, but somebody's selling a copy for a not ridiculously bad $19.99. I decided to look for some of the other movies not available at the TCM Shop, and there was an Amazon seller selling one of them for about $130. Needless to say, I'm not doing a full-length post on that movie any time soon.

TCM is running Hollywood: The Dream Factory again this afternoon at 3:15 PM. I still haven't seen it, and so can't comment any further on it, even though I mentioned it close to two years ago now.

TCM is showing a bunch of Christopher Lee's Dracula movies tonight. They're not saving those movies for Halloween, which is next Monday, instead deciding to show more of a cross-section of Lee's horror work next Monday. I have to admit to never having been the biggest fan of Hammer horror, although that's more a matter of personal preference than of the movies actually not being good.

And for those of you who like yourselves some hero worship, you can see Hollywood's portrayal of the FBI all morning and afternoon Tuesday. Some of the movies, such as Confessions of a Nazi Spy at 9:00 AM are excellent; others like I Was a Communist for the FBI are only OK but interesting.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hips, Hips, Hooray!

I've been looking through the list of films I've watched off my DVR recently, and surprisingly, I've picked a bunch of films that are out-of-print on DVD, which is a shame, since I'd really like to recommend some of the movies. One that does happen to be available is Hips, Hips, Hooray!, which is on a nine-film set of the works of Wheeler and Woolsey.

In this one, Wheeler and Woolsey (the latter is the one with the glasses and cigar) play Andy and Dr. Dudley respectively, but more on them in a bit. The movie starts off with the Maiden America beauty products company doing a radio show, complete with opening song by Ruth Etting (she of the Love Me or Leave Me biopic; the opening song is all she appears in the movie, however). It turns out that the company is floundering, and if sales don't increase, people will have to be let go. What they don't know is that their adman Beauchamp (George Meeker) is in cahoots with competitor Irene (Phyllis Barry).

Meanwhile, Andy and Dr. Dudley are just across the street from the Maiden America flagship, hawking products out of the back of their car and attracting a crowd the way a carnival barker does. In this movie, they're selling flavored lipsticks. The cops are on to them, however, and they have to beat a hasty escape. But Andy's girlfriend Daisy (Dorothy Lee) works for Maiden America, and when she hears about the flavored lipsticks and Dr. Dudleys lies about how wealthy the two are (why would anybody believe those two guys?), she tells her boss Miss Frisby (Thelma Todd) that Maiden America should partner with these guys.

So Andy and Dudley commandeer an office to pitch their product to Frisby. It turns out to be the office of an investment banker, who is just about to take a satchel full of securities to be deposited. Eventually, that banker returns to the commandeered office, and Andy and Dudley have to beat a hasty escape. They take what is supposed to be their satchel full of the flavored lipsticks, but of course they take the wrong satchel and wind up with the bonds. Oops.

Eventually, they have to leave town entirely, and it just so turns out that Frisby has sponsored a car in a cross-country car race, just as Irene has. Andy and Dudley eventually come across the car while they're hitch-hiking, and get in it, taking part in the race themselves.

Wheeler and Woolsey can be an acquired taste, and Hips, Hips, Hooray probably requires a bit more acquisition than some of their other movies. That's not to say that the movie is bad; it's just that it requires a certain mindset. There are some trick photography shots at a pool hall that I don't think will be everybody's type of humor, as well as a lot of comedy that can be grating. I've mentioned on several occasions that I'm not a fan of what I call the "comedy of lies", where the main character lies and then has to expand upon that lie to keep the ruse going. That happens quite a bit in this one. But there's enough in the movie that's wacky enough to be entertaining, and the movie is short enough that even if you don't like it, it's not as if you'll feel you've wasted a lot of time. (And if it's that bad you can fast forward through the musical numbers.)

If you like Wheeler and Woolsey, you can get the nine-movie set at a relatively reasonable price. But then again, I wouldn't be surprised if Wheeler and Woolsey fans have already done that. On the whole, though, I think I'd recommend waiting for one or two of the duo's movies to show up on TCM and watch there before deciding whether to buy the set if you haven't already seen any of their films.

I was wrong about City of God

I mentioned yesterday that I didn't think City of God wasn't coming up. However, it turns out that I wasn't searching all of the premium channels. (I'm currently not subscribing to any of the premium services what with the price and the backlog of movies I've got on my DVR right now.) It turns out that City of God is coming up once, tomorrow at 7:00 AM on Starz in Black.

If I understand, this is part of the Starz package, which is generally sold separately from the Starz Encore package, which used to be just Encore but changed its name about six months ago. The Starz Encore package has its own Starz Encore Black channel which runs a completely different lineup. (I'm surprised there doesn't seem to have been any move to consolidate all these channels, although I suppose they're considering it bad for business.)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cidade de Deus

A few weekends back, I finally got around to watching City of God off my DVR. It seems to be available on both DVD and Blu-ray at the TCM Shop, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it even though I don't think it's coming on TV any time soon.

The movie starts off with a bunch of young men and boys in what looks like the edge of one of Rio de Janerio's favelas and a slightly wealthier part of the city about to have a barbecue chicken feast, with them about to wring the live chicken's neck on the spot. However, the chicken escapes and the group chases after that, which is when they run into photographer "Rocket" (Alexandre Rodrigues). Rocket recognizes the head of the gang chasing after the chicken....

Flash back to when Rocket was a boy, in the 1960s. He lived in the "City of God", which was a then-new development created by the government on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro to house people who had been displaced by flooding. It's a tough life, as those who try to make an honest living scrape by doing odd jobs. Other people, especially adolescent boys, decide that they won't be able to survive doing such odd jobs, and take the dishonest route of getting what they want through violent crime.

First, the gang violence affects the people who are the age of Rocket's elder brother, but then as time goes on it ensnares people who are Rocket's age and even younger, and the crime escalates from highway robbery to large-scale drug dealing. Unsurprisingly, the City of God winds up with two rival drug gangs, and various people caught in the middle.

Rocket, meanwhile, tries to take a more honest way out of the City of God, although of course it's not always easy. And on the edge of all this is the outside world when the crime affects people on the outside and brings the police in; it seems as if the only time the police really gives a damn is when it looks like the violence is going to spill over and cause problems for "polite" society.

City of God has a relatively simple synopsis on the face of it, but it's really a lot more complicated than that. That's down to the story structure, which starts in the "present", by which I mean that the the setting is close to the end of the story at the start, and most of the movie is the backstory of how we got to where we are. The start of the movie is actually set in the late 1970s, about a quarter century before the movie was released (2002).

I suppose you could call it a flashback, but I don't think that quite does it justice. The flashback actually goes to various points in time, suddenly stopping when Rocket points out that we need to learn the back story of a different character who's going to show up later in a key way. And some events, such as a hotel robbery, are revisited multiple times from the perspective of different characters. That having been said, the story structure works spectacularly, even though it's one that definitely requires a good deal of attention.

City of God is an engrossing movie with an interesting story to tell, and one which is ultimately told very well. One caveat, however, is that the story contains a lot of violence. And that's an understatement. The violence is unrelenting, shocking, and frankly disturbing in some cases (such as a gang initiation; I won't go further). Although the main characters are almost all children up to young adults (maybe in their early 20s maximum), this isn't a movie for children thanks to the violence. And the sex. One of the running subplots involves Rocket trying to find love and sex, another incident involves rape, and that hotel robbery that I mentioned earlier is at a hotel where people go to cavort with prostitutes and mistresses. It's not the pretty side of life, but it's a side of life that needs to be shown.

City of God comes with one of the higher recommendations I can give. If you haven't seen it before, it's highly worth a watch.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Horror movies I've seen, and some I haven't

TCM's been running a bunch of horror on Friday nights. I haven't been watching much, mostly because my DVR is full up and I've been trying to get through the backlog of movies on it. Fat chance of that; every time I watch one thing there are three others I want to record.

Tonight kicks off at 8:00 PM with the 1941 Spencer Tracy version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which I think I've seen in its entirety, although I'd probably be conflating it with the earlier Fredric March version if I tried to do a full-length post on either movie.

At 10:00 PM, there's one I've definitely seen since I've done a full-length post on it: Eyes Without a Face. If you haven't seen this one before, I can highly recommend it, as a good movie.

A movie I can recommend because it's so bad it a heck of a lot of fun is The Brain that Wouldn't Die, early tomorrow morning at 5:15 AM. Doctor studying limb transplants gets in a car crash that kills his fiancée, and spends the rest of the movie trying to find a body to go with his fiancée's disembodied head. She, needless to say, is none too pleased.

That's followed at 6:45 AM by The Killer Shrews, which surprisingly I haven't done a full-length post on, although I've mentioned it a couple of times. Scientific experiments gone awry have led to an island where giant shrews have lethal bites; people try to get off the island. Awful but another hoot.

Amazingly, I don't think I've seen any of the movies in between. There's Boris Karloff in The Body Snatcher at 11:45 PM, which I know shows up on the schedule all the time, especially every October, yet I still haven't gotten around to seeing it.

William Castle's Macabre comes up at 2:45 AM. I've seen several of Castle's movies, but I don't think this one is among them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

I haven't embedded a Robert Benchley short before

Of course, there are a couple of reasons I haven't done it. First is that those Robert Benchley shorts are an acquired taste. As with the Pete Smith shorts, the humor can be grating, although in a different way. When I watch a Robert Benchley short, I find he can come across as an obnoxious blowhard at times, the sort of person you want to see get his comeuppance. And that's not always funny.

Then, there's the fact that the shorts aren't in the public domain yet. I think it's only stuff from before 1923 that's guaranteed to be in the public domain, at least here in the States. That means the shorts could get taken down at any time. The last copyright change about 15 years ago was responsible for that. Cynics would say that it got changed so Disney could keep Steamboat Willie from entering the public domain. (I'd tend to side with the cynics.)

Having said that, Benchley's How to Vote is on TCM tomorrow at about 1:30 PM, following Torchy Runs For Mayor (12:30 PM, 60 min); several of the Torchy movies are on as part of a salute to Glenda Farrell. (This even though her birthday is in June.) How to Vote doesn't seem to be on Youtube, but others, such as How to Eat, are:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

It's still around, and somebody's actually thinking

I remember at the beginning of 2012 writing about the change from the Fox Movie Channel to the format where half the day was "FXM" and the other half still had the old movies without commercials. I wrote something about giving that six months before it disappeared. Well, here it is closing in on five years, and amazingly, the corporate folks haven't done much of anything, other than change the format name from the Fox Movie Channel to FXM Retro. Sure they have a ridiculous number of repeats, but that was always the case even when it was the Fox Movie Channel 24 hours a day.

And sometimes I wonder whether there's actually somebody thinking when the movies are programmed. Take today's schedule. Starting at 6:00 AM we get A Letter to Three Wives, which is certainly a classic and a good movie for them to be running.

That's followed at 7:45 AM by 23 Paces to Baker Street, with Van Johnson playing a blind playwright overhearing a kidnapping plot and trying to prove it's actually going to happen. I've got that one on my DVR and should have watched it over the weekend so I could do a full-length post here. (I've read, however, by somebody else who watched a recent FXM Retro showing that the print is panned-and-scanned. Not a surprise.)

Then at 9:30 AM there's These Thousand Hills; The Story on Page One comes up at 11:15, and finally we have Five Weeks in a Balloon at 1:15 PM.

I assume you see the commonality. Somebody must have taken a look at the movies available to FXM Retro currently and decided, "Hey! All of these have numbers in the title! Let's run them together!" They did the same thing not so long ago with movies with colors in the title.

So perhaps FXM Retro will still be around a while longer. And perhaps I'll get around to watching 23 Paces to Baker Street before the next showing.