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Seven more movies

Chameleon Street (1989)
BIG YES

DVD from Netflixstreaming free

Chameleon Street is a handmade movie based on an allegedly true story, some of which I don’t believe, but they tell me it’s true and why would they lie? It’s a comedic drama about a “notorious negro” con-man, who passes as a sportswriter and a doctor and a lawyer, always projecting just the image people want to see.

Like many movies with similar plotlines, the con-man is brilliant, and keeps finding exactly the right things to say and do to pull off the improbable with easy aplomb. Unlike lesser movies, though, he also makes dumb mistakes now and then, which keeps the audience on edge, and feels more realistic. My favorite sequence is when our antihero pretends to be a brilliant young surgeon from Harvard, which is all great fun until he’s asked to perform a hysterectomy.

This movie won the Sundance Film Festival in 1993, yet it was barely released, and quickly faded from view. It was too black for Hollywood, is my guess, or maybe too smart and too black. So far as I can tell, Chameleon Street is not legally available for streaming, even now.

It was written and directed by its star, Wendell B. Harris Jr., who’s so damned lovable as the con-man I wanted to write him a check. He’s never been allowed to make another movie, and you weren’t allowed to see this one, but it’s excellent.

♦ ♦ ♦

Dishonored Lady (1947)
NO — 

Amazonstreaming free

From the abdication of Edward VIII to Kim Kardashian, we're always supposed to be fascinated by the romances and difficulties of rich and powerful people. I’m rarely among the fascinated, and find the lives of celebrities and millionaires mostly uninteresting.

That’s what this movie is about — Hedy Lamarr plays Madeleine Damien, the temperamental, perhaps suicidal art editor at a popular magazine. She’s apparently the best darn art director in publishing, so she's rich and famous, and she's relentlessly pursued by two men, each of whom is more annoying than the other.

It's boring, until she notices that it's boring, and decides to walk away from it all. When her psychiatrist refuses to answer nosy questions from someone trying to find his patient-in-hiding, he says, “Miss Damien is living under a different name in a different world. She told me to tell you, if you inquired, that she was busy growing a new soul, and would you please keep off the grass?”

Miss Damien moves into Hollywood’s idea of poor people’s housing, which still looks like Park Avenue to me, but she’s dropped out of her ordinary life and anyone should be rooting for that. Soon, though, one of her annoying suitor tracks her down, and the movie returns to its previous tedium with rich and annoying people being rich and annoying.

One of Lamarr’s fake friends is the young Natalie Schaffer (Gilligan’s Island), and Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz) is in the mix, too, but the idea of dropping out is soon scuttled in favor of some ordinary and uninteresting courtroom drama.

♦ ♦ ♦

Lake of Fire (2006)
BIG NO

Tubistreaming free

It is unwise and stupid to judge people by their appearances, but when Leslee Unruh appeared on screen at the beginning of this horror documentary, I was pretty sure she was out of her mind before she spoke — before the chyron appeared, saying she’s President of something called the National Abstinence Clearinghouse. She’s an absolute wingnut, but she gets her say here. Lots of wingnuts get their say in Lake of Fire.

The gist from several professional reviews I've read is that Lake of Fire tries to be evenhanded, airing both sides of the ‘abortion debate’. I couldn’t make it through even the first half hour, so this is only my review of the film’s first 26 minutes.

It’s as evenhanded as its title, which is a Biblical reference from the Book of Revelation 21:8 — "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." If that seems evenhanded to you, maybe you'll get something from this movie. I abhorred it.

Anti-abortion arguments, often almost comically overwrought, take most of the screen time, and they’re loony arguments, of course. I'd been promised something evenhanded, so I waited for director Tony Kaye (American History X) to let the sane side have its say, but it was a long wait. First, a few more ‘anti’ arguments, and then another argument against abortion, and then another, all while the soundtrack plays sad, sympathetic music. And nobody should be subjected to someone singing that entire hymn all the way to the end, but Kaye is a director who doesn’t seem to know the word ‘cut’ — this movie is two and a half hours long. 

In the last few minutes of the fraction of this mess of a movie I was able to endure, we finally see the beginnings of a rebuttal to the anti-abortion loons, but look who's talking — it’s noted fuckwad Alan Dershowitz. Dersh leads with the following piffle, which I’m cut-and-pasting from Roger Ebert’s review — Ebert thought it was so brilliant, he used it as his review’s bottom line:

A rabbi is asked to settle a marital dispute. He hears the husband's view. "You're right," he tells him. He hears the wife's view. "You're right," he tells her. One of his students protests: "Rabbi, they both can't be right." The rabbi nods. "You're right," he says.

After 20-some minutes of inane anti-abortion idiocy, this 'evenhanded' documentary brings on Dershowitz to tell us that both sides have a point? So far, nobody who believes women matter more than a clump of cells has been given much screen time to speak, so Dersh's milquetoast middle-of-the-road Rabbi is the counterpoint to all the right-wing nonsense?

And then Dersh hands the microphone to Nat Hentoff, who says abortion is murder. 2½-hours of this? I’d rather give myself a self-swirly, so that’s when I clicked it off.

There’s a reason I’m done with arguments to outlaw abortion: They’re not reasonable arguments. They’re either bullshit-based or religion-based, but neither bullshit nor religion should be the basis of law in a free society.

Ebert loved this movie, so maybe it becomes more evenhanded after its first half-hour; it could hardly become less. When one side is so obviously demented, though, evenhandedness is itself unfair, like 'evenhanded' coverage of whether climate change exists or whether the 2020 election was stolen.

No. If words have meaning, then abortion is not murder. In reality and among reasonable people, there is no ‘debate’ about the right to abortion — there are only women who sometimes need an abortion, and people who think they know better than a woman what a woman needs.

♦ ♦ ♦

Meteor (1979)
BIG NO

Amazonstreaming free

There’s a meteor coming. Earth is in danger. Henry Fonda is “The President.” Sean Connery is “The Scientist.” Brian Keith and Natalie Wood pretend to speak Russian. Nobody speaks Earthling. When people die, Sean Connery looks sad.

It’s all as dry as unbuttered toast.

♦ ♦ ♦

Miracle Mile (1988)
YES

Tubistreaming free

Anthony Edwards meets Mare Winningham and falls in love (and really, who wouldn’t?) but then the world has to end. Edwards stumbles upon inside information that WW3 is about to launch, so he’s in a rush to get to a plane that might fly a lucky few out of town before the blast and the mushroom cloud.

This is all seriously horrific and haunting, and there’s no cute bonus scene after the credits. Most of the plot elements seem plausible, and the movie is utterly serious, but as everything accumulates into Romeo and Juliet Meet Armageddon, on another level it becomes a charmingly bizarre romantic comedy, and you’re hoping these plucky kids can survive what’s basically the worst first date ever. 

There’s not much more to be said about Miracle Mile without saying too much, but it’s certainly worth seeing. The budget was small, and that’s sometimes obvious, but any shortage of money is more than made up for by the movie’s abundance of heart. Also, great music by Tangerine Dream. 

♦ ♦ ♦

Overlord (1975)
YES

Amazonstreaming free

This is a war movie, and I hate war movies almost as much as I hate war. It’s a moral crime, I believe, to make the kind of war movies I sometimes saw on TV as a kid, movies that appeal to little boys and make them yearn to wear a uniform and tote a gun. After seeing a few of those shitty war movies as a kid — Waterloo and Battle of the Bulge come to mind — I’ve seen very few war movies as an adult, but this is among the best.

Today's war is World War 2, and the movie follows an ordinary schmo from his arrival at training camp to the battle of Normandy, which, I learned today, was code-named Operation Overlord (hence, the movie’s title). There’s ample footage from the front, which adds to the sickening realism, and there’s a visual poetry to it all, creating an ominous mood.

In addition to that huge story, the movie tells a much smaller story about our schmo, but in the story everything happens to him. He makes no choices along the way, because there’s nothing for an ordinary schmo to decide in a war. The causes, the strategy, and the mission have already been laid out, and a soldier is only there to do or die. He’s a leaf blown into a river, carried away by the raging water, and there’s no way out once you’re in.

♦ ♦ ♦

Wonderwall (1968)
NO

Shoutstreaming free

Saying something is such and such “on acid” is the cliché, but that might be what happened here, literally. A stereotypically befuddled scientist peeps through the wall, spying on his pretty neighbor. That's the movie. It’s a creepy concept, treated as comedy, but without laughs, with nothing even slightly clever, and no discernible point. There's not even any nudity.

It’s simpleminded slapstick, with plot and character development reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons — but the stupid cartoons, not the good ones. I watched it in growing disbelief that it somehow exists. There’s aggressively annoying music by George Harrison, too.

12/19/2021 

8 comments:

  1. How is abortion NOT murder?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because abortion means one thing and murder means something else.

      For a better answer, ask a better question, but maybe ask someone else. I’ve discussed abortion a thousand times, it’s usually futile, and it seems especially futile discussing it with someone who’s literally bat shit.

      Delete
    2. So you don't want to talk about it, fine but abortion is wrong.

      Delete
    3. You are going to just ignore my comments?

      Delete
    4. On abortion? Yeah.

      Say something interesting, though, and I'll cheerfully reply.

      Delete
    5. >You are going to just ignore my comments?

      Little known fact : Nobody owes you squat.

      Delete
  2. Dershowitz is a real dipshit. I don’t know whether he’s pro or anti abortion rights, but he’s not someone I want on my side of any argument.

    You got me to watch Chameloen Street and I really liked it, so thank you. I never even heard of it before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dersh was a hero of mine long, long ago. Now he's a primary reason I don't believe in heroes. He used to stand for the principles on the Constitution, but I dunno what the fuck he's about any more.

      Glad you dug the movie. I love it when I can nudge someone toward something worthwhile, or away from the worst rubbish.

      Delete

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