Monday, June 30, 2014

June 30: PM Offends King With Impromptu Speech

Before I watched this movie, all I knew about Patrice Lumumba was the lyric to a Neil Diamond song;
Ramar Krishna, Mama Whistler,
Patrice Lumumba and Russ Colombo,
Karl and Chico Marx,
Albert Camus.

Now I know more. Seems like this speech doomed him. Twelve weeks later he was deposed. December 14 he was arrested, January 17 he was killed.

It's not a great movie, but this is a good scene. And he was definitely a great man.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Montage | June 29

for curtis

June 29: Shark Trauma Impairs Memory

One of the greatest movie dates of them all.

Partly because it's simply a great clip. Great performance. Great writing. Great scene. Great movie.

And partly because it's wrong.

The USS Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk on July 30, 1945. My guess? That the screenplay had it right, but Robert Shaw flubbed the line. You're the director, or the editor, you go, "Well, that's pretty much a perfect take. I doubt anybody's going to notice the date." Heh heh heh.

Hiroshima was bombed August 6, 1945.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 28: Due Date Confirmed

What makes this film so troubling is the ordinariness of it all. Horror these days is all pumped up: you don't expect human beings living lives you recognize, you're paying your money for a house of horrors at a midway. Today's movie is drastically different. The horror lies in the woman's isolation, her husband's narcissism and falseness. This isn't fear by way of thrills, it's dread saturated with sadness. A tough watch, if you've got any empathy at all for the waif in the middle of it all.

Until the end. Why does it go so badly wrong in that final scene? I've not heard the same response from others, but I was thrown right out of it in the last minutes - suddenly the performances are as false and stagey and unconvincing as could be. Especially jarring after a story anchored in such day-to-dayness. All that understatement and veracity, then at exactly the wrong moment all the folks who didn't pass the audition at the local amateur drama group starts chewing scenery. (Still, I was kind of relieved: not sure I could have handled anything realer.)

I've mentioned Darrel and John, my partners the last ten years in tracking down movie dates. But we've been joined this past year or so by Evan Cogswell, who made this great June 28 find. (Crazy. You spend a YEAR on this craziness, and you're the newcomer. It's that kind of project.) Thanks, Evan!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Montage | June 27

for drew

June 27: Playwright Seeks Actress

What was that date again?

Oh my. What a discovery this one is. One word review? "Lugubrious." The 54 second scene you just watched, that goes on three times as long as it needs to? That's only half the scene. Half the mentions of June twenty-seventh, 1912. Which will be repeated nearly as many times when Superman wakes up and it's ACTUALLY June twenty-seventh, 1912. Overall, about thirty minutes of events, crammed into 103 action-packed minutes.

It's adorable.

Remarkable fact: source material by the same guy who launched all the zombie movies with his short story "I Am Legend." Remarkable fact: this peculiar kitsch-fest has spawned a cult, of sorts, that convenes every summer at the historic hotel where the film was shot (on June twenty-seventh, I would hope?). "We’ve published over 1,700 pages on this cinematic treasure since 1990, and hold annual SIT Weekends at Grand Hotel!" (website)  Remarkable cameo: a very young William H. Macy appears right off the top as a theatre critic assigned to a college production of Superman's play. (Okay, he's not Superman in this movie. But that's hard to get out of one's mind while watching...)

MST3K, where are you when we need you?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 26: Johansson New Heavyweight Champ

Norway yesterday, Sweden today.

The foreign film that EVERYBODY saw in 1985, and everybody loved. Except me. In both cases.

I saw it a few years later, and remember not really liking it very much. Guess you had to see it in 1985.

But decades later I pillage the flick for clips, and think I might like it just fine now.

"Johansson enjoyed a successful career as a heavyweight. When he retired in 1963 he had a record of 26 wins, 17 by KO, and only 2 losses. He called his right fist "toonder and lightning" for its concussive power (it was also called "Ingo's Bingo" and the "Hammer of Thor"), and in 2003 he was ranked at #99 on The Ring's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 25: Power Lines Needed

Fun premise, tedious pacing, deliciously droll punchline.

Takk skal du ha, Darrel.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24: Ticket To Ride

The director called it "docufiction" - and I can't decide if that's kind of the same or kind of opposite to yesterday's theatrical tall tale.

Something great about silent film is watching the art form get invented in front of your eyes. They made it up as they went along. This crossfade translation trick is pretty nifty, though as far as I know it never caught on. If I ever make a movie, I'll be sure to use it.

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23: Scot Invents Caber Toss

As far as historical accuracy, it's all pretty much bunkum and hokum. But as far as blood-boiling action, it's skookum.

It's not like helmer Mel didn't know that. He dubbed the film "historical fantasy," which pretty much says it. Lots of wrongs being perpetrated then righted, whole packs of underdogs biting back, and all to the tune of stirring bagpipes (and swirling strings and panpipes and all).

Let's have some haggis!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 22: Mates Undertake Epic Pub Crawl

I mentioned that this not-quite-magnificent obsession - the Date Movie project - began a decade ago. Well, a decade and sixteen days, at this point, to be precise.

What I haven't yet mentioned is that I've had two partners in crime for lo these many years. John Drew and Darrel Manson see a lot of movies, and between the two of them have spotted a plenitude of dates - many of which will show up in this project. Today's flick happens to be one they both posted about, last August. A fitting tribute, I think, to a band of mates set out on a not-entirely-heroic - but nonetheless epic - quest.


June 21: Civil Rights Workers Slain

Not exactly good cop / bad cop. What, exactly? City cop / country cop? Liberal cop / get-the-job-done cop? Hackman and Dafoe are reminiscent of Steiger and Poitier in the pretty-much-perfect IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. Come to think of it, not a bad double feature with today's movie.

Directed by Alan Parker. I used to watch for his movies: movies with gusto, on the edge of melodrama. Whatever happened to him? Midnight Express, Fame, Birdy (!), Angel Heart, The Commitments, Evita... Maybe Evita did him in.

With a little baseball in the background there, to link with yesterday's flick.

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 20: DiMaggio Tops Hitler

Maybe the best big screen Chandler, but hard as hell to get hold of. Particularly great is the look of the thing, very much like cover illustrations for hardboiled pulp magazines of the day. I think Mitchum makes a not-bad Marlowe (great voice, at least), and Charlotte Rampling is an inspired choice for la femme fatale. But Robert's hardboiledness only goes so far: that's some pretty pathetic rough-housing, one has to admit.

Still don't know what I think about mixing in the hardball with the hardboiled. Both are enthusiasms of mine, so I kind of dig it. The novel was published the year before DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, so it's not too much of a stretch to meld the two. But sometimes it does feel like it's trying too hard.

Actually, there's something screwy with these dates. Clearly the screenwriter was paying close attention to the details of Joe DiMaggio's 1941 hitting streak. The scene refers to June 20, 1941, the day DiMaggio hit in his 33rd straight game - against Detroit, with Bobo Newsom & Archie McKain pitching. So why reference Germany's invasion of Russia, which did not begin until June 22, 1941? If it was important to the screenwriter to reference the invasion, why not place the scene on the 22nd or 23rd, and reference the 34th or 35th game in DiMaggio's hitting streak?

Question: why pay that kind of attention to dates, and then make it so they don't add up?
Answer: it's the movies.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 19: United Northfield Memo Incriminates

Big Tobacco: The Insider.
Big Pharma: The Constant Gardener.
Big Agri: ...

George Clooney, right on the money, as always. Tilda Swinton tightly wound and spinning a bit out of kilter. Smart, literate screenplay. But Tom Wilkinson? One of his lifetime best. "I am Shiva, the God of Death." That's writing. That's acting.

And how about that deer in the forest? Right around the same time, I saw THE QUEEN. Also smart, gorgeously acted. Also had a strange deer in the forest.

on vimeo

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 18: Kefauver Obscenity Hearings Conclude

Intriguing film, too little known. Crisp look, exquisite jazz score, superb central performance, baffling psychology, great bangs.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17: Hotel Upgrade For U.S. Pingpongers

An all time favourite of mine - to the horror of my cinephile pals. They see sentiment, I catch an ironic undercurrent - which I hear is all the more pronounced in the novel. They cry "Baby Boomer Nostalgia," and I say... Okay, yeah, Baby Boomer Nostalgia.

But hey - there are at least 31 different dates in this Zeligesque picaresque with a good heart. That's enough for me to love it.

(Come on. You don't catch the sentiment squelch in "So I went. Again. And I met the President of the United States. Again."? There's something here about noses being thumbed at the mighty and the fool being exalted - but even that is done with a giddy, delicious flaunting of likelihood or even good sense. If there's a genre of "Holy Fool" pictures, this one belongs high on the list.)

Monday, June 16, 2014

June 16: Bone Bandits Burgle Boston Bank

They're even scarier when they're nuns.

Such a good genre pic - marred only by over the top action climax. Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, even Pete Postlethwaite - who would be great even if he couldn't act a lick, just because of that name.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15: Solo In Paris

Ah, the laissez-fairness of the gendarmerie! Ameriques: les Francais ne likez vouz pas.

Un flic that holds up surprisingly well. Forgot Polanski directed. Echoes of Hitchcock.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

June 14: Leprosy Volunteer Celebrates 24th Birthday

Every time I watch this movie - or at least, the parts with dates - which is pretty much all of the movie, come to think of it - I love it more. Sure, the two stars are immensely appealing. But the people they meet along the way, so obviously just plain people in the places they travel - Argentina, Chile, Peru. The fish market in Temuco, the couple who share their mate in the mountains of Peru, or this marvellous sequence of real people dancing.

That's a montage I want to make: Just Plain People Dancing. The end of Hitch. Bastille Day in Claire's Knee. Margot's Wedding dance, the Prime Minister getting jiggy with the Pointer Sisters, or especially Napoleon bustin' the moves to Jamiroquai. But nothing better than the nuns and their friends celebrating Ernesto's cumpleanos!

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13: Out-Of-Towner Seeks Directions

Kind of nice that the thirteenth falls on a Friday this June. Just like back in 1980…

Anybody heading for summer camp this weekend?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June 12: Bray Accepts Blofeld Commission

Ah, the MI5. Always at the cutting edge of technology.

007 - license to photocopy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June 11: Klawitzky Children Missing

Now THAT's cinema.

Kind of an eerie follow-up to June 10, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

June 10: Area Man Orders "Mothering Mag"

I have a screenwriter pal who objects to this film, not so much because of the pedophilia, but - far more offensive - because of the voiceover.

McKee dogma be damned, that's what I say. What would Adaptation be without Charlie's chatter? Days Of Heaven be without Linda Manz? Moonrise Kingdom without Scout Master Ward and his journal entries? The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford with even less talk? I mean, what screenwriting did Bob ever do? A TV movie called "Abraham"? Well, I think it's safe to say, it probably wasn't marred by heavy-handed narration...

Today's film also has a great August 16. But we need to save that day for some good old rock and roll. Or a blimp crash. Or maybe Chinese Valentine's Day...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Montage | June 9

for chris

...and for josh

June 9: Watch Declared Missing

One of the great delights of this project is turning up films I'd never see for any other reason - simply because they happen to mention, oh, say, June 9th for example. If the films of the past few days haven't been all that tough to identify, I bet it takes some serious sleuthing to turn up the title of this bilingual beauty. Bloody brilliant!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 8: Robert Ford Slain

One of the best movies of the past decade. Like Terrence Malick, but with PLOT!

Fall 2007 was big for the young Affleck boy, this one back to back with Gone Baby Gone. Kid can act.

There are lots of other clips with that great voice-over (Hugh Ross: who knew?) intoning specific dates, often with gorgeous photography: "He had seen another summer under in Kansas City, Missouri, and on September fifth in the year 1881 he was thirty-four years old" is a personal favourite. But I figured we'd go with this one for now. One good assassination deserves another.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

June 7: Sabres Win Stanley Cup

So you didn't know Buffalo won the Cup in 2002? Apparently it required a little quasi-divine tinkering,  in the eleven days following the 156th anniversary of the launch of the Maid Of The Mist on May 27. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

June 6: Allies Invade Normandy

Seventy years ago today, the Allied forces landed at the beaches of Normandy.

Ten years ago today, I started keeping track of dates that show up in movies.

On June 6, 2004, I heard a piece on CBC radio. Three film critics were talking about war films in general, and D-Day films in particular. Which gave me the idea of watching one that evening.

The film was good - I'd never seen it before - and so was the experience of seeing that day's calendar date echoed in the events onscreen.

Which got me thinking. It would be interesting to try and come up with a calendar of films containing events on specific dates. Not just historical films, but also - even especially - fiction.

In those days I was an active member of an online movie conversation board called Arts & Faith, so I started a thread asking people to add a post whenever they saw a specific date in a film. The date might be spoken, or shown onscreen. Or no explicit date is given in the film, but events can be dated by reference to historical events, or in relation to other known dates in the film.

Four years later (July 15, 2008) we had a film title for every date of the year - even February 29 and February 30! The list continued to be refined, with fiction films (or fictionalized treatments of historical events) replacing documentaries. In November 2009, John Drew set himself the task of creating a calendar where each date was represented by a different film.

I knew I wanted to do something with all those dates - maybe use screen captures to create a coffee table book, a day-timer, a blog, a wall calendar. But it wasn't until late in 2012 that the obvious idea occurred to me - why not capture the clips themselves and do something with them?

So I began the task of collating all the posts on the A&F "Movie Calendar" thread, adding other dates I had noted on random slips of paper, or found in books or articles. And searching the web for more. Then sourcing the videos. Then finding the specific clips that mention or show the date. Then ripping the clips. And now...

Ten years after the whole thing began, here we go! A clip a day, for the next year. Starting with something from the movie I watched a decade ago, on the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day.