Weekly DVD Alert Two: November 30-December 7, 2009

Monday, November 30:

Midnight-1:30 AM, TCM: THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES, 88m.
One of D.W. Griffith's final films, apparently hammered by critics and audiences for not being the wild comedy that its advertising promised -- making this the THE BREAK UP of the Jazz Age -- I remember being surprised and pleased that Griffith could do Lubitsch-esque sly comedy as well as DeMille-scale spectacle.

It's a shame Nunnally Johnson didn't write an autobiography -- what little he left behind shows that he had the sharpest eye and most unsentimental sensibility of any Hollywood writer/producer/sometime director this side of John Houseman. Anyway, I haven't seen SUIT in a million years -- my memory disagrees that the movie is really two and a half hours long -- but I do remember that the strong work that leads Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones turn in is eclipsed virtually every time Fredric March in onscreen. If I was a more consistent writer, I'd continue the "X was the X2 of Y" hack formula I used above and call March the Jason Robards of his generation.

Tuesday, December 1:

How do you adapt a book that's such a book it could never not be anything except a book? You make a movie that's such a movie it could never not be anything except a movie. My second-favorite first-reel narrative bait & switch since the moment in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA when you realize the film is set in 1974, not the Old West.

Still the funniest movie about how scummy the boxing business is -- granted, that's an incredibly small field to dominate -- and it's nice to go back and visit a time when we weren't kind of tired of seeing Samuel L. Jackson in every third Hollywood movie released. Rewatching it, I can't help but wonder if the choppiness of the story is due to the screenplay being written by Ron [TIN CUP, WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP, BULL DURHAM] Shelton and Tony [NATIONAL LAMPOON'S LEMMINGS, THIS IS SPINAL TAP] Hendra -- I assume they didn't write it as a team but who rewrote whom, I don't know -- or if director Reginald Hudlin and/or the producers cut a lot of scenes to keep things moving. Or both.

6:45AM-8:25AM, IFC: SHATTERED GLASS, 94m,.
Has Hayden Christensen officially been typecast as the go-to guy for whiney protagonists now, or was his taking the role of whiney liarpants journalist Stephen Glass just an ill-considered attempt to broaden his range with a non-STAR WARS movie that didn't actually broaden his range much? I'm a soft touch for journalist movies, and that cast list guarantees much of the action is Anakin struggling to not be outacted by the likes of Peter Sarsgaard and Steve Zahn.

Orson Welles. Rita Hayworth. Glenn Anders! Duh?

I mentioned that this is my favorite Grace Kelly movie a week or two back -- she's barely in it, but a squad of all-star character actors are: Paul Douglas , Richard Basehart, Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Bel Geddes, Martin Gabel, Frank Faylen, Howard Da Silva, Robert Keith, et al. Frederico Fellini courted Baseheart hard to cast him as The Fool in LA STRADA, making his case to Baseheart as "Because if you did what you did in FOURTEEN HOURS, you can do anything."

Heavyweight title fight from 2003. I've never seen it and have heard enough horror stories about Ruiz's mauling style to have avoided his fights, but with him being David Haye's first mandatory defense of his HW title, I'm curious to see him in action [inaction].

Wednesday, December 2:

The original movie, not the remake -- although I am interested to see the 2005 version, mostly to see Giovanni Ribisi and Hugh Laurie as well as see how big a shit the writer/director/producers take on Robert Aldrich & Lukas Heller's original song to group effort and rationality in the face of all-consuming hostility. I'm guessing the remakers missed that point and focussed more on shit blowing up but good.

Nyah, listen up you mugs! Will Hayes and his new office sez we can't make any more movies that make a gangster the good guy, see? But I got the Legion of Decency's goose cooked but good on our next picture -- we're gonna make Edward G. Robinson's character a cop who goes undercover as a gangster, see? They won't be able to touch us, nyah!

Heavyweight title fight from 1988, the one that cemented Tyson as the undisputed best in his division. The 91 seconds of the actual fight aren't nearly as interesting as the two rich vignettes of psychological turmoil that bookend it, expressed entirely in the participants' faces; Spinks' roiling fear and self-doubt before the fight, and Tyson's enraged, empty frustration after it.

Someday, I hope the inside story on how Versus' boxing programming all but collapsed over the last year or two will be known. A number of boxing writers are saying this is the channel's last boxing broadcast: a pair of tune-up fights [light-heavyweight for the former, cruiserweight for the latter], aired on a Wednesday night, to set up a long-demanded rematch …. that will air on another channel. The fights themselves should be good watching, for tune-ups -- I enjoy watching B-Hop frustrate and outfight inferior technicians [read: everyone else] and it's far from a sure thing that Junior can beat a live underdog in Green -- setting up the sequel to the Hopkins-Jones 1993 middleweight-title fight, which Jones won.

9:45PM-11:30PM, IFC: I Shot Andy Warhol
Is this Lili Taylor's best vehicle? I don't know. I know it's compulsively rewatchable, although not necessarily because of its quality.

Thursday, December 3:

This sounds like an interesting proto-Noir spy thriller: John Garfield plays a Spanish Civil War vet who gets out of a Franco prison, comes home and investigates the murder of a friend. He left Spain with something a few Nazi secret agents want, intrigue ensues even more, etc.

Another Garfield vehicle, this one sounds a little on the sentimental side -- an ex-G.I., already ambivalent about being a con artist who woos and rips off rich widows, falls in love with his mark [Geraldine Fitzgerald] and risks both their lives when his murderous accomplices want their payoff. Director Jean Negulesco must have lived an amazing life -- his resume is staggeringly large and he brushed with greatness so regularly, it's almost baffling how he never produced anything truly great. He was a warhorse, not a Thoroughbred -- anyone know if one of the CAHIERS DU CINEMA gang championed him?

Released the same year as NOBODY LIVES FOREVER, Jean Negulesco directed this John Huston & Howard [THE MERCURY THEATRE "War of the Worlds" episode] Koch-written story of a woman rounding up [Geraldine Fitzgerald, again; is it her birthday today?] two strangers [Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, then something of a team] on the eve of the Chinese New Year 1938 in order for the goddess Kwan Yin to grant them a wish for, um, prosperity or something. The trio agrees on wishing for a winning lottery ticket and then go their separate ways. From most accounts, this movie is like the moment in THE MALTESE FALCON where everything goes through the irony looking glass when Bogart brings up who they should frame.

I recommended this Frank Tashlin movie last week; having seen it again, I was surprised how much more sophisticated and subtle it was at points -- undoubtedly it's me who improved, not it! -- especially Jayne Mansfield's performance, which is more three-dimensional [no big-breast jokes, please] than any show-biz spoof has any right to expect. Tashlin was a poet disguised in baggy pants.

A potpourri of deadpan awesomeness. It's a shame that the World Crime League sequel was never made. Is there a story there?

10PM-12:30AM, Sun: OPENING NIGHT, 144m. Another fine John Cassavetes-made vehicle for Gena Rowlands. It's not A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, but nothing else is.

Well, it could be a treacly, manipulative programmer movie, or it could be a SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA 1946 starring Margaret O'Brien and Angela Lansbury. At 74 minutes, it's hard to imagine it overstaying its welcome, regardless.

11:35PM-1:15AM, IFC: Kingdom of the Spiders, 97m.
William Shatner vs. many regular-sized tarantulas! Co-starring Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode and Shat's scariest toupee! [4:45-6:25am replay]

Friday, December 4:

12:30AM-3:15AM, Sun: RAN, 162m.
Akira Kurosawa plays KING LEAR in color, no less.

Tyrone Power! Maureen O'Hara! Pirates! Technicolor!

7:30AM-9:15AM, TCM: THE 400 BLOWS, 99m.
The first chapter of François Truffaut's "Antoine Doinel" stories. You know it's a classic.

7:30AM-10AM, FMC: BLOOD AND SAND, 125m.
More Tyrone Power! Linda Darnell! Rita Hayworth! Vicente Blasco Ibáñez's novel! Bull fights! Passion! More Technicolor!

Jason Robards serves well the long literary/cinematic tradition of stories about smartassed, nonconformist uncles/uncle-like figures and their impressionable nephews [see also: Micaber, Hulot, more recently ROGER DODGER, technically Auntie Mame]. Murray Burns' technique for getting a woman's attention after her mind starts to wander never fails.

1PM-3PM, TCM: KES, 110m.
Ken Loach really "closed the show" on Britain's decade-long movement of brutally stark realism in its '60s filmmaking with this story of a Yorkshire boy and his pet falcon.

3:30PM-5PM, Sun: THE DEAD, 83m.
John Huston's final film adapts the final story in James Joyce's short-story collection THE DUBLINERS. I've never thought much of Huston as a filmmaker -- he seemed more charmed than great; giving him the benefit of the doubt, his overall style and perspective is so well camouflaged I can't find it -- and DUBLINERS is still my favorite Joyce, so I guess I should dislike this one on principle. Somehow, Huston's steady, workman-like approach allows the story to not breathe, which is perfect for a meta-narrative about people being trapped -- by society, by manners, by the past, by themselves. It's a shame Sundance doesn't package the film with the documentary JOHN HUSTON AND THE DEAD, as much a great record of how a movie is made in filming as it is an amazing accounting of what a life-or-death personal struggle the movie was for Huston to make.

John Frankenheimer's first theatrical film. Stars James MacArthur and Kim Hunter.

Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier and Jack Warden star and Martin Ritt directs Robert Alan Aurthur's adaptation of his television play A MAN IS TEN FEET TALL. A pretty ballsy anti-racism movie for 1957.

8PM-Midnight, FMC: THE SAND PEBBLES, 182m.
I think this is the only Steve McQueen movie I've not seen; oh, how I used to despise Robert Wise for screwing over Orson Welles to jump from the editing room to the director's chair. Also, any performance from Candice Bergen prior to menopause is sure to cause much cringing and annoyance. [Exhibit A: GETTING STRAIGHT.] The Richards Crenna and Attenborough co-star, however.

Saturday, December 5:

2AM-3:45AM, TCM: THE WICKER MAN, 100m.
The creepy, thoughtful original, not the hilariously awful Nic Cage/IN THE COMPANY OF MEN guy's remake.

3:45AM-5:30AM, TCM: CURSE OF THE DEMON, 95m.
Another cult cult movie, this one is a Jacques Tourneur spooker starring Dana Andrews and some neat special effects.

8AM-9:55AM, IFC: THE 47 RONIN, PART ONE, 115m.
IFC's first Samurai Saturday for December. Sure, it was made as WWII rah-rah propaganda, but Kenji Mizoguchi's treatment of the Ako Vendetta was a commercial flop when first released for being too slow and static for a nation too amped up over the recent Pearl Harbor attack to sit still for two hours. If that's how you roll you might want to wait until next Saturday's conclusion to tune in, when the sword fights and general asskicking will commence.

1:45PM-3:15PM, TCM: HOLIDAY AFFAIR, 87m.
I know nothing about this one -- considering how eager television programmers are to throw on anything Christmasy at this time of year, there's probably more than one good reason why it gets no play -- except that it stars Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. I'm sold.

3:15PM-5PM, TCM: THE CLOCK, 90m.
It's difficult to say without a Christopher Street accent, but: Judy Garland was never lovelier than in this movie; Vincente Minnelli and his camera were clearly in love. By the way, does Keenan Wynn steal every cameo/bit-part scene he's in, or is that just a coincidence?

5PM-6:45PM, Sun: THE HOME SONG STORIES, 103m. Tony Ayres wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical, appropriately meandering movie about his childhood, his desperately materialistic Chinese mother [Joan Chen] and his ever-shifting home life.

I still haven't actually Googled it yet to confirm, but the idea that Joan Chen's not only a protege of Chairman Mao's wife, but may also still be pro-Cultural Revolution even now has made her much less bonerific in my eyes. Eye. Whether that's true or not, my penis and its two closest advisers in the Gang of Three have already denounced me for being Counter-Revolutionary. Still, she's compelling in this film, letting the viewer in on everything she's feeling except, in key points, whatever the thoughts are every mother clearly hides from her children.

7:15PM-9pm, Sun: CARAMEL, 95m.
Director-star Nadine Labaki makes her debut with this film about five lovely ladies living life, goin' to their beauty parlor …. in Beirut. I'm hoping this one can be filed closer to EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN in my mental library than the 10 minutes I endured of BEAUTY SHOP before I decided I didn't need to be polite to people who would show their friends such dreck.

The fight was to be Williams fighting middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, but the champ dropped out after nearly dying from a staph infection and because he still couldn't make a fist and train even after the press conference announcing the new date for the fight and because etc. etc. Miraculously, after Williams moved on and his people lined up a fight with Martinez [sure to be a better fight, regardless] Pavlik recovered and is now set to fight a tomato can on a Pay Per View card ... two weeks after this one. Still hoping Arreola has laid off the beer and junk food and comes into his comeback fight in better shape than he was in when Vitali Klitschko beat him. I like that the teasers for this fight on the Bute-Andrade broadcast used his post-fight interview quote, "Fuck that, I'm coming back." I appreciate four-letter honesty in my promotional bumpers.

Sunday, December 6:

Midnight-1:40am, Sun: THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD, 100m.
Guy Maddin's best. Mark McKinney is a great leading man.

Norman Jewison! Ring Lardner Jr.! Steve McQueen! Edward G. Robinson! Tuesday Weld! Karl Malden! Ann-Margaret! It's like THE HUSTLER, but with cards instead of pool and is much better if you don't like Paul Newman!

8PM-10PM, TCM: ALL OF ME, 93m.
As thoughtful and intelligent as he is, Steve Martin is the best physical comedian of our lifetimes. Somehow, his movies with Carl Reiner aren't the invincible, gestalt super-collaborations you would expect -- Reiner's done better directing on other projects, so I almost wonder if he was coasting or serving as a junior partner to Martin, who was undoubtedly dead center in his supernova as a writer and performer. Regardless, Martin's turn as a man whose body is half-controlled by the spirit of a dead woman [Lily Tomlin] alone makes this movie a classic.

I wrote about this one last week. I'm starting to wonder if Sundance periodically blocks DVDRs from recording certain programs or if my equipment is starting to fail.

11PM-Midnight, ESPNC: 30 for 30: "Muhammad and Larry"
Also mentioned last week, but worth seeing if you missed it and care. It's not out on DVD. Yet, I hope.

Monday, December 7:

Disney's failed attempt to cash in on STAR WARS still makes for a fine haunted house story. In spaaaaaaccccceee! Another movie where you can feast on the character actors feasting on the scenery.

5:55AM-8AM, Sun: NIGHTS OF CABRIA, 117m.
Fellini! Hookers! Drama!

8AM-9:40AM, Sun: CROSSING THE LINE, 94m.
Documentary about two American servicemen who defected to North Korea in 1962, and their lives since then.

12:15PM-1:15PM, Sun: GUMBY DHARMA, 72m.
Short profile of stop-motion animator Art Clokey, who's not the kind of man you would guess he is based on his Gumby and Davey & Goliath cartoons. It was a terrible idea to have Gumby narrate, especially in the more sordid middle half of Clokey's life. Imagine Charlie Brown narrating the chapters of that Charles Schulz bio that openly discuss how Schulz started to bird dog as his first marriage fell apart. Ew?

The original, not the remake that disappointed thousands of cineastes who bet that Keanu Reeves could out-wooden-act the original's Michael Rennie. [I lost five bucks.] I think this is the movie that finally melted my cold, cold heart about Robert Wise, or maybe it was just Patricia Neal's performance that did it.

I make no apologies for loving this plywood piece of indy film.

Or, if you want to be all Day of Infamy for the day, TCM is showing the seven films in Frank Capra's WHY WE FIGHT series and then a related WWII Capra doc:
10:30AM-11:30AM, "Prelude to War"
11:30AM-12:30PM, "Nazis Strike"
12:30PM-1:30PM "Divide and Conquer"
1:30PM-2:30PM "The Battle of Britain"
2:30PM-4PM "The Battle of Russia"
4PM-5:15PM "The Battle of China"
5:15PM-6:30PM "War Comes to America"

Holy crap, these guides take forever to assemble and write on these month-spanning weeks. Next Sunday's should go faster, and actually post before the first movie I mention is airing. [The score for BATTLE OF THE SEXES is awfully peppy, even for a last-model silent movie.]

The 1987th step on the last road home.

Words Fail Me. Other than "Sold."

A nearly four-hour long Japanese film about a young man looking for a girlfriend like the Virgin Mary and sneaking upskirt photos of girls to have a sin to confess to his father, garnished with asskickings, lesbians and religious sacrilege?

The 1986th step on the last road home.

Earth's Mightiest Elitist!

How did Domingos Isabelinho's blog somehow stay off my radar for so long? I mean, aside from me not reading any comics link-blogs in the last five years. Domingos is the Man; even when I've strongly disagreed with him -- and if I was an alcoholic, I would make a drinking game out of every time he used the word "Manichean" -- but I've always admired how focused and consistent he is about hating crappy work as well as how slyly funny he can be while rhetorically cutting meatheads into tiny pieces. All this written in a second language, no less.

When I had to moderate a message board populated by 20 or so thoughtful, engaging thinkers overrun by a legion of manchildren and spammers, I easily got the most requests to ban Domingos from the board, usually after he posted his thoughts about something like how childish and stupid Jack Kirby's concepts are. [They are, by the way, but that doesn't change the fact that Kirby's art was generally fucking awesome.] Him having his own blog, and being able to scan in illustrations from work unknown here in the States, should rank in the Top 50 reasons why the Internet rules.

The 1985th step on the last road home.

Give the gift of life this Xmas: Many Santa's Little Helpers need homes.

Reposting this from a friend's post:

Dairyland Greyhound Racetrack, Kenosha, WI closing on Dec. 31, 2009. 900 Greyhounds need adopting, or will be euthanized. Great dogs for an active family because they have been crated most of their lives and sleep about 18 hours a day. Dogs are tested for cat, small dog friendly and multiple dog home Please CROSS POST, we only have 6 weeks. P: 312.559.0887 Or Dairyland Race Track Adoption Center at (262) 612-8256

I can't stop twitting about THE PRISONER either.

There seems to be a rule that all Prisoner Web sites must be as cluttered as possible but I forgive Unmutual everything for this wonderful compendium of bloopers in each episode. Sometimes I just want to revisit the show without doing any heavy mental lifting, and seeing the mistakes is fun.

Dunno for how much longer they'll have them up, but one can stream entire episodes of McGoohan's masterwork on the AMC Web site right now.

If you want to go deeper into the series, Pmg6portmeirion and theprisonertv in particular has a massive number of bracingly engaging interviews with Patrick McGoohan and tons of behind-the-scenes material on their YouTube channels. I made a little playlist of a number of PM interviews and then music from the show.

If you prefer words with no pictures, here's BrokenSea's old-time-radio-style adaptation of the more-tolerated-than-authorized PRISONER comic-book sequel, SHATTERED IMAGE. I haven't fully experienced the results but it's an undeniably interesting experiment.

Last night

Visiting Abuela and admiring the chestburster Aliens/mutant cocks at Wegmans.

The 1984th step on the last road home.

Little Man and Smokey

They were sparring for better position before I finished typing this.

Two months of food pics

It's been slow for food shots here, and everything else photographic for that matter. Photoblog's now all caught up, and a Nation can breathe easy once more.

The 16th.

No Eggos at the store and then I return to find the dead shell of what used to be a frog laid in front of my parking space? How could these events not be connected? I'd rather eat the dead frog than the waffle, but still.

Purdy Sunset Two

I swear I'm not trying to test your patience with these.

The 11th

Sunset purdy.

Election Day

Also, I voted. The polls were pretty close to closing but I was voter #77 for the precinct. It's an off-election year, but school-budget votes rack up more warm bodies than that before 9am.

Also, it's the county's first year with computer-ballot readers: gee whiz, I've never felt my vote was stolen/discarded faster! Technology is amazing.

Erection Day

Dear gay dudes in the white Lexus,

Dunno why you choose this particular parking lot for your once-a-week lunchtime fuckfests, but I suppose that's cool as you don't throw any garbage into the lot when you're done.

I wouldn't mention this at all except for an FYI: It being so far back, I never swept that corner out after the flood, so your tires may wind up flat from the many many many sharp little pieces of metal scattered about. I would post a sign warning you guys about this, but I don't want to build a reputation as a cockblocker. Yours in Christ, etc. etc.

Nov. 3

Apparently, the sun turns duct tape into gauze. Huh.

Oct. 22

Little Man just can't believe anyone could find the sight of him wearing a napkin cape to be so funny.

The 1983rd step on the last road home.

Weekly DVD Alert One: November 23-30, 2009

[Edited Monday afternoon: I forgot to check ESPN Classic and the History Channel for stuff. New alerts for today, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sorry. I've made a note to check them before writing the next Alert.]

Check your local listings, etc.

Monday 23

2am-4:15am, Sun: THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, 134m. If John Cassavettes made it at any other time in his life, this movie would stand tall in his oeuvre, but it's sandwiched between his peak as a writer/director [A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE] and his more unfortunate project choices [OPENING NIGHT, GLORIA]. It's probably unfair that, because of sheer chronology BOOKIE is technically the start of Cassavetes' downward spiral as an artist simply because it doesn't top INFLUENCE, but then again this isn't a competition and who gives a shit, it's a great movie. Besides, it shits all over Martin Scorcese's similar gangster stories -- Scorcese reportedly collaborated on the story years before Cassavettes made the film -- mostly by undermining every childishly Hollywood convention a mob movie is supposed to have.

2PM-3PM, H: WHAT WENT DOWN: HIROSHIMA, 44m. This program's title sounds like a weak attempt to be hip 1970 -- saying it aloud, it would fit perfectly in the background chatter of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" -- but I'm a soft-touch for anything related to the atomic-bombings of Japan.

6:15PM-8PM, TCM: VALLEY OF THE KINGS, 86m. Sounds like a goofy, probably clunky programmer movie, but it's a safe bet that sizable, undigested chunks of this mid-1950s movie about a tough-guy archaeologist fighting evil grave robbers in Egypt showed up in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. [See also: SECRET OF THE INCAS]

9PM-10:20PM, Sun: WAITING FOR HOCKNEY, 78m. Documentary about a guy who's been working for years on one drawing, trying to make it absolutely perfect. He would like to have a meeting with David Hockney.

Tuesday 24

3AM-4:25AM, TCM: BLACKMAIL, 82m. Alfred Hitchcock's [and England's] first talkie. Woman kills a dude in self-defense, then gets blackmailed over it.

6:30AM-8:30AM, TCM: LADY IN THE LAKE, 103m. You play Raymond Chandler's detective Philip Marlowe on this case; it's filmed in the first-person perspective.

2PM-4PM, TCM: THE BIG SLEEP, 114m. Humphrey Bogart plays Marlowe in this amazing little Matryoshka doll of snappy dialogue and mayhem. "Yes, but who killed Owen Taylor?" used to be my get-out-of-conversations-free card whenever I was trapped talking to more than one person at industry cocktail parties.

Wednesday 25

10PM-11PM, H: THE BEATLES ON RECORD, 44m. Documentary about the evolution of the group's recording techniques. I'm hoping this one doesn't just spew trivia and um-duh? revelations like it became much easier to record when they could go back and overdub over mistakes.

11PM-12:30AM, Sho2: THE SUPER-SIX SUPER-MIDDLEWEIGHT BOXING CLASSIC: ANDRE WARD VS. MIKKEL KESSLER. I wasn't sure I was going to catch yesterday's live broadcast and threw this on my schedule to be safe. Don't look at my Twitter feed if you don't know or don't want to know who wins.

Thursday 26

It's Thanksgiving. There's nothing good on and that turkey's not going to cook itself. Get your ass in the kitchen and stay there until

Friday 27

7:30AM-9AM, FMC: THE BIG NOISE, 74m.
A mini-marathon of WWII-era Laurel & Hardy movies that could just as easily been titled LAUREL & HARDY's CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION Volumes One, Two and Three; these were the last movies they made before retiring, and reportedly it shows. Regardless, these movies should be reasonably entertaining -- I've not seen enough of the classic Hal Roach movies to be disappointed by nor irritated with rehashes of their past hits -- and the latter two sound excitingly bizarre; NOISE features L&H as a pair of janitors forced to carry a live bomb across town, and BULLFIGHTERS feature them as a pair of detectives who are confronted in Mexico by a man they wrongly helped send to prison.

[The team came back in the mid-'50s for a movie that's sadder than that unsold TV pilot the Marx Brothers attempted where Chico sounds like he's practicing his actual death rattle every time he tries to speak. Somehow, films starring post-retirement comedians always give GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES a run for its money in the depression-inducing cinematic derby.]

Midnight-9AM, Saturday ESPNC: A longass classic boxing marathon: It literally runs all day Friday and into Saturday. Lots of Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Ali fights; ESPN has the unfortunate practice of skipping rounds, often to make room for historical packages about the fighters' lives but usually to cram a 50-minute fight into a 44-minute hour. You would think that, boxing being one of the shorter-duration contests in sports, that they would go long and give its audience the experience boxing fans got when the fight was happening. The few kinescopes I've seen of fights in raw, live broadcast were compelling as an experience, even when the fights themselves were not. [I bet this trimmed/hacking for time is even more infuriating for baseball fans: Not too long after this boxing marathon, they're showing Don Larsen's perfect-pitch Game Five of the 1956 Dodgers-Yankees World Series ... in less than 90 minutes of air time.]

Saturday 28

6AM-8AM, FMC: THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT, 99m. Frank Tashlin brings his animated-cartoon chops to live-action film. Lurid full-color in Cinemascope, and performances from Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps and The Platters. Also, Jayne Mansfield's tits. There's an entire universe of a life lived in Tashlin's comment, "There's nothing in the world to me that's funnier than big breasts."

1PM-3PM, H: THE HISTORY OF THE JOKE, 88m. Lewis Black hosts, many jokes are analysed, E.B. White [or was it Mark Twain's?] frog is dissected. Still should be good.

10PM-MIDNIGHT, TCM: BEDAZZLED, 104m. The Dudley Moore/Peter Cook version. I sometimes wonder what planet people live on to find Raquel Welch hotter than Eleanor Bron, until I remember that FANTASTIC VOYAGE gets much more airtime than ALFIE. Also, did any Hollywood director have a shit-hotter sequential run in the '60s than Stanley Donen? CHARADE with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant; ARABESQUE, essentially a wilder take on the same movie, with Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren; TWO FOR THE ROAD, Hepburn and Albert Finney star in the best movie ever made about marriage; and then this movie. [That streak may be even longer than that; I don't remember seeing 1960's ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, SURPRISE PACKAGE nor THE GRASS IS GREENER -- three films released in one year! -- nor 1969's STAIRCASE, which he closed out the decade with.] His 1950s weren't too shabby either, of course -- SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, FUNNY FACE, etc. -- but that he walked away from musicals and went on to make so many great movies back-to-back is pretty stunning.

Donen is still alive and dancing, by the way. If this was the Onion A.V. Club's comment section, we'd have to simply say "STANLEY DONEN PWNS YOUR MONKEY ASSES RESPECT HIM FOOLS."

10PM-MIDNIGHT, HBO: BOXING AFTER DARK: LUCIAN BUTE VS. LIBRADO ANDRADE 2. A rematch between two great super-middleweight boxers who have zero recognition in the U.S. I'm guess the ratings will be very very low on this broadcast -- I'm a big boxing fan, and even I'm blowing off the live feed to watch a Stan Donen movie I've already seen -- but in case you prefer punching to laughing, enjoy.

Sunday 30


8PM-10PM, ESPNC: 30 FOR 30: MUHAMMAD AND LARRY: One of the Maysles Brothers' semi-lost documentaries. They [or maybe just Albert?] followed Muhammad Ali in training camp for his ill-advised third un-retirement to face champion Larry Holmes for the heavyweight title. I'm a little unclear on the story of why the project was shelved but thanks to a little boost from ESPN, we now have an amazing fly-on-the-wall glimpse of the story behind the savage beating. Also, it's always nice to see Larry Homes get some much-deserved spotlight, even in the context of a fight that's about as fun to watch as those post-retirement comedians' films. Not available on DVD, by the way.

Which brings us to another week. Yay! Where does the time go? By the way, while banging this post out, I've mistyped titles as THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKING, VALET OF KINGS and DANCING MONSTERS and spelled it "Mindnight" twice. My right hand is apparently a smartass. [Again, while typing "smart," the hand started spelling "super" instead. {This means WAR!}]

Check your local listings, etc.

Rather than write an email to the handful of folks who've asked me to share my weekly picks for stuff that doesn't suck on television to watch -- well, maybe stuff that looks interesting enough to risk spending a blank DVD and the time it takes to timer-program one's DVDR, to be more accurate -- I thought I'd throw my weekly lists up here instead.

HTML Schedules:
Turner Classic Movies [TCM]
Fox Movie Channel [FMC]
Independent Film Channel [IFC]
Sundance Channel [Sun]
Boxrec's TV schedule

Yahoo TV Listings, mostly because ESPN Classic and the History channel apparently don't finalize their programming schedules until a week to 10 days before broadcast. Near the end of the month, I take a look at the above channels' schedules for the first few days of the next month -- because they're stinkers, station programmers love to stick some movie you've been dying to record on the 1st at an hour when you're sure to see it, already in progress. TCM got me with the Peter Sellers vehicle I'M ALL RIGHT, JACK this month; never again, Turner!

PDF Schedules:
Home Box Office
Showtime [Sho] where I click and save the "Printable" link's monthly PDF file]
Starz/Encore [for the Indie and Retro schedules; those channels seem pretty good about showing their movies uncut and in their correct frame size]

The 1980th step on the last road home.

box box box

Skimming the boxing news sites looking for information on tonight's Andre Ward-Mikkel Kessler fight, I happened across a report from the Philippines that says Manny Pacquaio's history-making victory over Miguel Cotto has been eclipsed in his home country by a bunch of sordid soap-opera bullshit; Pacman is said to have had an affair with his co-star in the WAPAKMAN movie he shot last summer and his wife [and her parents and their hometown, and the entire Congressional district Pacquiao hopes to run for office in shortly] is totally pissed at him.

It's soothing to know that people want lots of junk in their TV diets all over the world. I followed a link to a video of his wife Jinkee weeping at a Thanksgiving Mass held to celebrate Manny's win to try to understand whatever exactly the big deal is, besides the idea that they had a Mass, on Thanksgiving, to celebrate a Manny victory in the ring, but I never did figure it out. Instead, I skimmed some other Manny-Jinkee videos and found this. I love pan-Asian television, so long as I avoid its ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT clones until they find new ephemera to speculate to death.

I also found a video that perfectly presents the sadly hilarious Pacquiao-Hatton 24/7 moment I described a week or so ago:

As for the Kessler/Ward fight, fucked if I know. I think I'm rooting for Ward to surprise whatever percentage of the world cares about the fight, but I won't be shocked if Kessler wins. Ward has only one A-list name on his resume in Edison Miranda, but he looked pretty good beating him. We'll see!


Rather than use the first rebroadcast of the Pacquiao/Cotto megafight to boost the bejeezus out of the ratings for next Saturday's Lucian Bute vs. Librado Andrade super-middleweight rematch [great fighters, zero profile in the US], HBO is once again counter-programming Showtime to no apparent gain. To compound the foolishness: While the channel has house-bumper ads for Bute/Andrade and even next month's Diaz/Malignaggi II in regular rotation, there's nothing on the Pac/Cotto replay! It doesn't make any sense. I wouldn't even know about if not for Steve Kim's Twitter feed. The little things make a difference, peoples.

The 1979th step on the last road home.

An hour of your time, please: MICROCOSMOS!



ps. so, life on this planet is fundamentally the same; it's just that every creature has its own scale and speed.

pps. Thank you Jason for reminding me that this amazing movie exists.


Come to think of it

I think that's almost the first time I've been to a Best Buy and didn't buy something. I touched all four corners without being stopped and sold something reasonably cool. I went there today to get a gift certificate, and that's all I got. My finances are about the same as they were when I wouldn't step foot in a BB without having $20 to blow becuase there was no way I was leaving without something amusing, and I seriously doubt I've matured much since those days. Best Buy Vestal, you kind of suck.

Visiting the new local Best Buy.

Yep, it's a Best Buy, alright. Same layout, same prices, the booming music was hickier than most of the others I've been in, but I was really surprised how listless the clerks were; I usually will myself invisible but even so I still get approached once or twice by floorwalkers to see if I'm finding what I'm looking for -- this store has been open long enough for the glue under the foyer's mats to completely dry and already their salespeople are avoiding customer eye contact (I wasn't the only one). "Forget it Jake, it's Binghamton."

This building looks great, however, and I'm sure it still will be three years from now ... when it's vacant.

Waiting for the tomato guy to move

I'm at Wegmans -- good fucking grief, is today Middle-Aged & Older Women Get 20% Off Day? I haven't been around this many long-dehydrated, petrified vaginas since the last time I danced for a bachlorette party at a nursing home.

The 1978th step on the last road home.

Save Santa's Little Helper!

Dairyland Greyhound Racetrack, Kenosha, WI closing on Dec. 31, 2009. 900 Greyhounds need adopting, or will be euthanized. Great dogs for an active family because they have been crated most oftheir lives and sleep about 18 hours a day. Dogs are tested for cat, small dog friendly and multiple dog home Please CROSS POST, we only have 6 weeks. P: 312.559.0887 Or Dairyland Race Track Adoption Center at (262) 612-8256

The 1977th step on the last road home.

A cheerful personal walking tour of terrorism-scarred buildings

[I killed a culture blog with this post back in March; I think that was the only bullet in the cylinder.]

According to my bookmarks history, I've been meaning to post this to my personal blog for, um, three years now. I got the unproductive buh buhbuh blues, so bad. Anyway, I have seen, with these one and a half eyes, the following still-damaged-from-public-violence buildings:

The first is the J.P. Morgan bank, 23 Wall Street NYC, which was bombed at high noon on September 16, 1920. I forget why I was there -- I think it might have just been on my way from City Hall and/or the Port Authority to the ferry terminal -- but I remember being amazed that none of the capitalist stooges who were eating lunch or smoking in front of the building knew that its pock marks were from a no-bullshit act of WTF terror. Or seemed to care; apparently, the "9/11 changed everything" marketing campaign wasn't a complete success.

The other one was the Pennsylvania State Treasurers office, which still has the bullet hole from former Treasurer Robert "Budd" Dwyer's .357-assisted public suicide. I lived right on the PA border as a kid, and got to see Mr. Dwyer exercise his Second Amendment rights* in real time thanks to some really good TV rabbit ears and either my substandard immune system or a massive school-closing snowstorm. From this and watching the Space Shuttle Challenger explode in Mr. Llewelyn's fifth-grade class almost a year before to the day, my black, black humor began. [I was home sick and watching TV when Reagan was shot, but that broadcast act of violence wasn't nearly as disagreeable, even for a 5 year old.] Was there ever an outbreak of "September 11th truly tasteless jokes"? [Welcome, future bored Google search-engineers]

The site that I had bookmarked that featured photos of the hole is gone, but I had a chance to photograph it myself during the 2006 election season. I took a daytrip job for the money and a chance to visit Harrisburg on someone else's dime. While the aide who hired me knew about Dwyer's act -- he said that almost no one wants to see the Treasury office on his unofficial ten-cent tour -- I did get a blank look when I told him "Please leave the room if this will offend you" before I took pictures of the room's scar. The photos didn't come out, so the joke was on me, I suppose.

* Thousands of Republicans "talk the talk" about activist judges and the criminalization of politics; Dwyer is the only one who "walked the walk." [Straight to Hell.]

The 1976th step on the last road home.

Your pulp/painting/photo links for the evening. With pictures for a change.

Utrecht's Web store, of all places, has the simplest breakdown of Verdaccio underpainting I've ever seen. I would like to declare a Mulligan and get a do-over on Oil Painting 102 now, please.

Here's the main page to a huge, handy directory/checklist of old magazines. I've been looking at a lot of Norman Saunders for work, but I really like some of these BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE pieces. Seeing so many covers at once makes it obvious what tricks they used to catch a browser's eye; I seriously doubt 1940s women wore red as often as those covers would suggest. Other magazines had yellow as the house style, some green. No blues, it seems; probably wouldn't pop as well off the men's' clothes and the chiaroscuro backgrounds. Not a lot of flood/florescent lighting in pulp illustration.

Another find probably from the WFMU Blog a million years ago: Brian Ulrich takes remarkable photos of shoppers shopping. He had only just started the series with retail images, but he's now branched out to do thrift stores, fairs and dark stores. They're immediately striking but linger in memory, which is more than I can say for any photographic artwork I've seen in years.