Cleopatra without Elizabeth Taylor, and six more movies

Still no internet access at home. A guy downstairs is selling his access for $20 a month, but he's never home when I knock on his door, and I stopped knocking weeks ago. Maybe we'll meet in the laundry room some day, but until then I'll keep going to the library for internet access. It's a pleasant bus ride most days, and I've always felt at home in the library.

It's a hassle, though, when I'm sick and really ought to be at home. Been feeling lousy since late last week. Not much to write about anyway, so I've mostly been watching movies, and I might take a day or a couple of days off from writing and posting, and just lie flat in my recliner at home. If you don't hear from me, don't worry, don't call, and definitely don't knock.

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The Neverending
Film Festival

100 Vaginas (2019)

A hundred women talk to artist Laura Dodsworth about their vaginas. I've always found vaginas interesting, so it's quite an accomplishment that this movie makes vaginas dull.

100 Vaginas is a hyper-edited montage of pussies and pussy-talk, with each woman speaking a sentence, perhaps a quick paragraph, and on to the next woman's vagina and quickly-snipped words.

I'd sure be annoyed if I'd been filmed answering very personal questions for (presumably) half an hour, an hour, maybe an afternoon, and the film reduced me to twenty words and a shot of me shaving my hootch, and then moved along to someone else.

While any woman speaks there'll be 2-5 camera jumps — we'll see her up close, then from across the room, perhaps down the hall. If she mentions orgasms, expect imagery of fireworks. If she says she's a squirter, expect to see fruit being squeezed. Then on to the next woman and woman bits.

Through it all, there's annoying and clicking background music, the camera wobbles and wanders, and everything seems intended to be artsy, rarely intimate or informative. Of course, I'm not the target audience, just a fan of vaginas, but I would've liked to have seen and heard about vaginas, without all the distractions.

Verdict: NO. 

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A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

David Niven plays a WWII bomber pilot whose plane is going down, and he doesn't have a parachute. He spends his last few moments holding a microphone, pondering death, and flirting with an American female officer on the radio. Then we're in a very bureaucratic British black-and-white afterlife, where the dead sign Heaven's registry, while Captain Niven walks on the beach in color.

From this springs a great deal of philosophical and psychiatric wankery, and a court case deciding whether Captain Niven merits a second chance at life because he fell in love with that dame during his final radio communications.

There's never much doubt what Heaven's multi-cultural (but all-male) jury will decide, and it's all sort of a higher-IQ and less-funny It's A Wonderful Life, but it definitely adds up to a smile.

Verdict: YES.

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Cleopatra (1934)

Elizabeth Taylor was Cleopatra in a 1960s movie I saw on TV when I was a kid, and even at ten years old I knew it was too much — three hours long, the bloated all-star cast. It was garbage.

Claudette Colbert, though? She's gorgeous and smart and sympathetic in every movie I've seen her in, so I wanted to see her 1930s version, and it's not a disappointment. She's better than Taylor, that's for sure, and this movie is better than that mess.

It's loaded with palace intrigue, "ides of March," and names vaguely familiar from ancient history or Shakespeare plays. I never paid attention to either, so most of the plot twists were fresh to me, and maybe it's even educational, if we unwisely assume that it's somewhat factual. The first thing I learned here is that "Cleopatra, Queen of the Desert" wasn't her official title, it was an insult when her enemies left her to die in the desert.

The flick is a cinematic achievement, literally directed by Cecil B. DeMille, but it's also easy to enjoy just as entertainment. As a bonus, there's a startling amount of cleavage, sideboob, and underboob, from Colbert, and from the barely-dressed bevy of beauties often surrounding her.

Verdict: YES.

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Flight to Nowhere (1946)

This is spy stuff, about bad guys intercepting info about plutonium. It's dry, with a leading man who's handsome, charming, and conveys intelligence. All the other characters are suspicious, or suspicious of each other, or we're suspicious that they're lying about who they are or what they're up to.

The script and acting aren't very good, which let my mind wander and notice that they made the minor-league mistake of filming in actual rooms and buildings, not on sets. You can tell, because the lighting is all wrong, leaving the actors' shadows on the walls. And scene by scene, the sound varies depending on which room it was filmed in, because you kitchens and ballrooms sound very different, and I guess they hadn't invented re-recording yet, or couldn't afford it.

Verdict: NO.

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Interzone (1989)

I'm confused, right from the first scene. A handsome white man walks into what seems to be a gay mute bar, where two men inexplicably but wordlessly block his way, one after the other. Then there's a mumbled conversation at a bar, mostly drowned out by the background music.

Then there's a drug deal, and everyone in the bar applauds. Handsome White Man pulls a toothbrush from his sock, demonstrates how it works by miming brushing his teeth, passes it around, and there's another round of applause. I don't know what's happening or why they're applauding, or why everyone in the bar is watching all this. I don't know why I'm watching all this.

Two other men take a sip of an exotic bubbling drink, and both of them instantly die, so everyone in the bar claps again. A fist fight breaks out, with very fake sound effects for every punch, and Handsome White Man slips out of the bar un-punched.

That's the first scene. It's lasted 15 minutes. I'm considering clicking the movie off, but it must be seen to be believed, so I continue watching.

Now a bunch of men in commando gear are loading their guns and standing in front of a dozen men who are wearing vaguely clerical gear. Finally we get the movie's first understandable dialogue: "Unite your [indecipherable] together, brothers. That will protect the treasure, which will in turn protect the Interzone." Then everyone opens fire on the priests, but there's an invisible wall between the gunmen and the priests, so nobody's hurt.

Now an Asian man is walking through a stream, into the woods, across the plains, up a hill, back into more woods, and then he's bitten by a snake, and dies saying, "Please forgive me." Relax, dude, all is forgiven, and surprise — you're not dead, because Handsome White Man shows up, builds a fire, and they begin communicating telepathically.

Next they go shopping at a crowded outdoor market, where folks are selling fruits and vegetables and, apparently, women. Judging by the brief flashback, one of the women is Handsome White Man's girlfriend or ex or something, so he implausibly rescues her, and the three of them — Handsome White Man, Asian Telepathy, and Girlfriend Or Ex — make their escape, chased at 20 mph by several dudes on motorcycles.

There's synthesizer music and gunfire, and Handsome White Man shoots back with an impressive but unexplained array of weaponry, while Girlfriend or Ex screams, and Asian Telepathy folds his hands and closes his eyes, probably says ohhhm but it can't be heard over the synthesizers and gunshots.

We're almost 40 minutes into this, there's been perhaps one minute of dialogue, and several people are dead but why they're dead hasn't been explained or alluded to. It's just like war, I guess.

Then Handsome White Man and Girlfriend or Ex introduce themselves to each other — wait, they're strangers? She's not his girlfriend or ex? Then what was with the flashback scene ten minutes ago, where they were running toward each other across a field, about to embrace? Maybe it was a flash-forward scene? Or, much more likely, maybe it makes no sense, like everything else here.

Now Handsome White Man, Asian Telepathy, and Girlfriend Or Ex Or Complete Stranger (hereafter GOXOCS) are huddled around a campfire, and GOXOCS says, "What exactly is the Interzone?" Ah, the movie is about to get some much-needed exposition.

"It's this," says Handsome White Man. "It's this 300-square mile area of radioactive-free land. Supposedly a freak of nature." Well, that explains everything, or it'll have to, because that's all the explanation we're going to get. Radioactive-free land.

It's quite awful, but it's not The Room — not enjoyably awful. I stayed with this mostly because GOXOCS reminded me of a girl I had a crush on in junior high, and I didn't mind being reminded. Unless you also knew Renee, I can't imagine why you'd want to watch Interzone. There's no plot, no laughs, and at no point did anything in this movie seem pertinent to anything else in this movie, or anything else in life.

Verdict: BIG NO. Huge no.

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Laboratory (1983)

Space aliens have kidnapped several Americans — three pretty white women, a mustachioed black man, a young white guy who looks vaguely like Patrick Swayze, and a creepy old priest who walks with a limp and speaks King James English. The Professor and Mary Ann weren't invited.

The aliens want to "examine" their captives, by inserting probes down the humans' belly buttons, and later by bloodlessly removing their heads, but mostly they seem interested in observing the humans' interactions.

Those interactions aren't quite believable, but the humans aren't idiots, and most of them work together the way you'd hope most humans would, to try figuring out how they got wherever they are, and how to get out.

It's hard to take Laboratory seriously, because the aliens wear aluminum foil and speak in a cheesy robotic monotone. That's a pity. If the aliens had been presented with a smidgen of imagination, instead of as off-the-shelf bargain-basement movie monsters, this could've been a passable piece of cheap science fiction.

Verdict: NO.

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When the Clock Strikes (1961)

Bad guy Frankie Pierce has been condemned to hang when the clock strikes midnight tonight, and it's a dark and stormy night, of course. A woman driving down the road has car trouble, and accepts a ride from a man driving back up the hill. The prison is nearby, and the man driving the car is looking for the warden's house, but he won't say why.

They drive to a resort, where tourists come every Friday night to be entertained by the executions. It's revealed that the driver of the car was also the key witness whose testimony got Pierce convicted. It's further revealed that the woman's last name is Pierce, same as the condemned man, but she says that's just a coincidence. That's a lot of revelations, but there's more to come:

At a minute to midnight, hanging time, another man enters the story, and confesses that he did the crime, not the man who's about to hang. The clock strikes, and it's too late for justice, but maybe it's not too late to find the $160,000 Mr Pierce stole from a bank, funds never yet recovered.

It's all a series of wild plot twists piled atop each other like pick-up-sticks, and just like the table-top game it could all fall apart at any moment. I enjoyed all of it, including one last twist I hadn't expected at the end.

"Just because they hanged a man who didn't deserve hanging and it hits you in the face like a dish of cold spaghetti, don't expect me to fall apart because of it."

Verdict: Oh, what the hell. YES.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.  


  1. >If you don't hear from me, don't worry, don't call, and definitely don't knock.

    KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! DOOOOOOUG? Are you okaaaaaaay?

  2. damn! If i ever start watching movies I'll know where to come for tips

    1. You don't watch movies, like, ever?

      I have very few and almost always dissatisfying interactions with the other humans, so I've always been drawn to the movies. It scratches that social interaction itch, I guess, but when it's over I never see those people again unless there's a sequel.

  3. I assume Interzone is based on a William S. Burroughs novel. If that's the case that might explain why the movie was incoherent.

    1. Interesting. Burroughs' name wasn't in the movie's credits, and Wikipedia says it's a collection of short stories, none of which sound like the flick. Just a coincidence, is my guess. I haven't read much Burroughs, but jeez if that movie had anything to do with anything he wrote he should rise from the grave and strangle somebody.

  4. A comment from johnthebasket, swallowed by Google several times. Let's see if I can post it as me:

    Take a few days or a week off and rest yourself and drink fluids while you contemplate the answer to the question, "How the fuck long does it take to get Internet service in Seattle?". Jesus, I know Seattle is bereft of infotech and biotech companies and people who like porn, but you'd think eventually, just as a matter of chance, some connection installer would be driving by and think to herself, "Hmmm, that looks like a good spot for a connectivity point."

    The county to the south of you has two competitive connection companies and last time I heard they get those lift trucks out to your block and get your neighbor connected prontodente, then come back in a few days and do it more or less right. I don't have recent experience in these matters, but in a county that Microsoft and Amazon pretty much call home, an internet hookup should happen with, minimally, the speed of an outcall blowjob. Sure, they're both going to steal your wallet but high-speed internet will entertain you while the hooker - uh, Inet installer - racks up your credit card in the part of town that even Larry Ellison avoids when he's in the Great Pacific Northwest "doin' his bidness". And you're a better man than Larry Ellison: at least the odds favor it prohibitively.


    1. I talk to myself a lot, but this is me talking to John.

      It's not that I'm waiting for installation I haven't called for installation. Cheapskate to the core, I don't want to pay $50 a month for internet access, and I'm actually liking hanging out at the library. I'm getting to know some of the homeless folks by their noises, like the young guy who sorta hiccups all the time when he's awake, but goes silent when he falls asleep. And then the librarian comes round to nudge him awake again.

      I'll pay $20 a month to the guy downstairs if/when we ever meet, but until then you'll find me at the library -- for free.

      For several days I drank plenty of fluids like you're supposed to, but at the library that means a pee break every 90 minutes or so, which means I gotta unplug my laptop and bring it with me to the john or it might be gone when I get back. That's so much trouble, that I stopped drinking the fluids, and weirdly, that's when I started feeling a little better.

      Still not 100% or close to it, and I blame Huckleberry Square, but now I think the mantra about drinking plenty of fluids is all a lie from Big Fluids.

    2. The bastards. Next Big Fluids will be selling us Sugar Free Fluids, Sugar Cane Fluids, Fluids with Lemon, and Fluids With A Hint Of Solids. There are good companies and big companies, but there are no good big companies. I think Abraham Lincoln said that.


    3. I'm commenting as Anonymous rather than as mononymous because the Googlites don't seem to like me. I try to come clean when I lift a phrase from somebody else, so I'm enclosing the Bob Dylan song "Talkin' World War III Blues" which will expose my Abe Lincoln reference as hot. It was on the first Dylan album I bought and, not to lean too far out over the edge, it changed my life like "A Coney Island of the Mind" and "The Continental Op" did a couple of years later. And they all, for better or worse, taught me how to write. It's not their fault that I write like this.



    4. "Fluids with a Hint of Solids" Oh yeah, I've been there and done that over the past few days.


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