Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Next Ten Days

For the last few years, I've reviewed a bunch of horror movies in October. I like horror movies; war movies, science fiction, and horror movies are very much my comfort zone, although I've moved away from the war movies I grew up on over the last couple of decades. A lot of the reason for this blog initially was to move me out of my comfort zone with what I watch and know. But horror movies are a love of mine. Since this blog initially was based on the 1001 Movies list, there wasn't a lot of room specifically for horror in the first few years.

The same was true when I switched to Oscar movies. It's not a genre that generates a lot of Oscar buzz in general. Since the focus of this blog was never on horror movies, they've been something that I've been touching on in the margins. But I still do love them and still watch a lot of them.

Anyway, in 2014, I ended October with a bunch of horror movies. In 2015 and 2016, I doubled the amount, posting twice a day to put up more and more horror movies while still keeping the main focus of the blog on Oscar films. But I still watch horror movies, and more and more, I've been reviewing (but not posting) those that I watch. This means I have a large backstock of reviews that I've never posted.

So, starting tomorrow, I will be posting a great deal of that back catalog of mine. Over the next ten days, I will be posting four times per day. There will still be an Oscar post on the two Mondays and the Friday in the next week and a half, but the other posts will all be horror movies, showing up at regular intervals through Halloween. While some of these will be movies I've watched this month, most will be movies I watched last year or early this year.

Anyway, expect new posts from me starting tomorrow at 1:00 and 7:00, both AM and PM CST until the month ends. Oscar posts will go up at 1:00 PM on the appropriate days.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Growing Old Ungracefully

Films: Kotch
Format: DVD from Somonauk Public Library through interlibrary loan on laptop.

There are plenty of screen pairings that become legendary. Fred and Ginger, or Doris Day and Rock Hudson. One of the great screen pairings is Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who made at least 10 movies together in one of the best comedy pairings in film history. It’s rather fitting, then, that when Jack Lemmon directed his first and only film, Kotch, that he got Walter Matthau to star in it. In that respect, Kotch is something of a collaboration between the two. It plays much like one of their comedies, with Lemmon’s typical role being taken by Deborah Winters.

Kotch is a clear example of a character study. There’s not a great deal of plot here, and there doesn’t have to be. Matthau carries the bulk of the film, and what he doesn’t carry, Winters handles surprisingly well. The entire point of the film is to get the audience to have warm, fuzzy feelings for our title character, get us to know and like him, and then get us through to an uplifting ending through joy and sadness. It’s a simple formula, and Kotch follows it carefully.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday Horror: Salem's Lot

Film: Salem’s Lot
Format: IFC on rockin’ flatscreen.

One of the reasons I enjoy horror movies is that I find them to be similar to roller coasters. They’re a huge adrenaline rushes. I am occasionally scared in the moment, but rarely for long, partly because I don’t have a belief in the supernatural. It’s rare that I find something truly scary, but the (surprise surprise) made-for-TV version of Salem’s Lot from 1979 qualifies. The truth is that I probably saw this when I was too young, so it’s one of those things that hits me on a more visceral level. It’s honestly probably not as frightening as I’m saying it is, but it’s something that always strikes me as being genuinely scary.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know why it works as well as it does. Certainly there are parts of it that I can say work really well for specific reasons. There are a couple of great jump scares and a few moments of building tension that work nearly perfectly, but as far as why the whole three-hour experience works as well as it does, I’m not sure. In a lot of ways, it shouldn’t. It almost seems like a joke to have this staring David Soul, most famous for playing Hutch on “Starsky and Hutch.” And yet it works. When I went through the They Shoot Zombies list, I was incredibly pleased to not just see this on the list, but to see it in the top-200 where it belongs.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kiss My Grits

Films: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

When you think of Martin Scorsese, chances are good that you think of his more mob-related movies (Casino, Goodfellas) or his more violent films (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). I would have never pegged him as the director of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a film that was eventually turned into a long-running television sit-com. I remember the show; my mom loved it. Naturally, I went into the movie thinking that it was going to be a clear inspiration for a good-natured show that took place in a diner. Well, I was wrong, and in this case, that’s not a bad thing.

What I didn’t know was that Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore was a project that was controlled almost from the start by Ellen Burstyn, who was still riding high from success in The Exorcist. Burstyn hand-picked Scorsese to direct, and Scorsese then surrounding himself with women to act in many important crew roles. The entire point behind the film was to make a film about a realistic woman with realistic problems.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Films: Toni Erdmann
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

When I finished the 1001 Movies list, I thought that I was done with really long foreign language movies. In the four years since finishing, there have been a few pretty long movies added, but only Leviathan approached the 150-minute mark and wasn’t in English. That’s until Toni Erdmann showed up. At 162 minutes, Toni Erdmann was a daunting undertaking. I won’t say I didn’t want to watch it, but I did have to check it out of the library twice. When I’m particularly busy with work, non-English movies are harder for me. I generally have to wait for a day off (I don’t get many as a teacher) or the end of a term. Since I want to complete the current 1001 additions before the end of the year, I bit the bullet.