The Atomic Cafe, and a few more movies

#193  [archive]

The Atomic Cafe
Streaming free

This is a documentary about how Americans learned to love the atomic bomb, via newsreels with happy music, propaganda films, movie clips, even in pop tunes.

My lousy, limited morality says that what America did to Hiroshima was the single largest war crime in history, and the second largest was dropped on Nagasaki three days later.

So you gotta love the 1940s announcer's chipper tone as he says, "The Navy Department said that it's too early yet to tell what effect the atomic bomb will have on Japanese morale, and that we may have to destroy four or five cities before they actually believe we have such a bomb." 

Such stupidity and bullshit is everywhere in this film, and Americans of that time seemed so darn proud of it. No doubt many millions of Americans still are. The film becomes grimly comic, long as you can forget the vaporized.

You know, if we don't go slowly via the ongoing climate catastrophe, going out more quickly in a series of mushroom clouds is still very much a possibility.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Motel (1989)
Streaming free

This is a documentary made for television (PBS — you can tell by the lack of glitz) about people working and staying at several different motels. There's no narration, and we usually don't hear the questions, only people's answers. It was shot on video, so it looks a bit blurry, but wow it's worth watching.

All these motels are in dusty America, where humans with big hearts live quiet lives in small towns, telling tales that sometimes turn gruesome. A few long-timers remember the guy who chopped up his mother at the motel a few years earlier, and the killer might've gotten away with It, too, if he hadn't tried to sell the meat as dog food. 

In the deserted town of Death Valley Junction, California (population 4), an aging ballerina bought the Amargosa Opera House & Hotel. She and her husband are restoring the motel, while the ballerina rehearses in the empty opera house where she'll be putting on a show with her husband. Actually, the theater isn't quite empty, since she's painted a crowd of murals onto the walls.

There's also a visit to Monte Vista, Colorado, and the Movie Manor Motel, situated directly behind a drive-in theater. Built and run by an eccentric old couple, most of the rooms have a view of the screen, with hookups for sound, so guests can watch a double feature from their beds.

This movie is more than 30 years old, but Google says both the drive-in and the motel are still there, and open for business. The motel, however, is now a Best Western. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Thriller (1983)
Streaming free

I rarely listen to Michael Jackson's music any more. Used to love it like most folks do, but it's become child molestation with a nice beat and you can dance to it. I'd rather not.

As part of my October movie with the family, though, Clay suggested Thriller as a pre-movie short, so I watched and listened to that video for the first time in thirty years, and you know what? It's damn good.

It's an old-style horror movie, and an old-style musical, with a strong song co-starring Vincent Price, and great dancing from Jackson (of course) and all the synchronized dancers behind him. I do wish he'd stayed away from all the kiddies he diddled, though.

After the short, our real movie was Shaun of the Dead, which I'd already seen several times. Clay and Karen hadn't, and they're 'PG' people, maybe 'PG-13', but the movie is very 'R'. Hey, it was Clay's idea, not mine, and I did tell them that it's kinda raunchy.

Watching it, yikes, it's raunchier than I'd remembered. There are numerous scenes that involve heavy drinking, and dialogue where every line is punctuated by 2-5 uses of the word 'fuck'. Could my very Christian brother and his very Christian wife handle it?

They grimaced, and whispered once, presumably, about clicking it off. They didn't, though. They stuck with it to the end, and even laughed a few times.

So I suggested that next we should watch Shaun of the Dead's two non-sequel sequels, Hot Fuzz and The End of the World. Felt downright demonic as I said it. 

"God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear" (1st Corinthians 10:13), and verily it's true. Clay and Karen declined, so next month we'll be watching Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Fog Over Frisco (1934)

God Bless America (2011) 

Hobo (1992)

Invader (1991) 

Jesus of Montreal (1989)

John Wick (2014)

Lady in the Van (2015)

The Last Case of August T Harrison (2015) 

The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1941)

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

The Naked City (1948)

The Night Strangler (1973)

Nightmare Alley (1947)

9 to 5 (1980)

Risky Business (1983)

The Rockford Files (debut episode; 1974)

Smothered (2002)

Space Monster Wangmagwi (1967)

Special Bulletin (1983) 

Squirm (1976) 

Stephen Fry in America (2008)

Tank Girl (1995)

Taoism Drunkard (1981) 

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) 

The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time (1981)

You Can't Take It With You (1938)

... plus occasional schlock and surprises 

    • • • And then • • •

A Better Tomorrow (1996)

A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990)

A Night in Casablanca (1946) 

Alexander Nevsky (1938)

The Bat People (1974) 

The Beatles: Get Back (2021) 

Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)

Brainwaves (1983) 

The Card Counter (2021) 

Cellular (2004)  

The Celluloid Closet (1996)

The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)

Dark Star (1974)

The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009) 

The Decline of Western Civilization (1980) 

Downsizing (2017)

Frankenhooker (1990) 

The General (1926) 

Get Shorty (1995)

The Gorilla (1939)

The Green Girl (2014)

Hiroshima (1953)

Hugo (2011) 

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

The Internet's Own Boy (2014)

Kids in the Hall (debut episode; 1988)  

Kids in the Hall (reunion debut episode; 2022) 

The Killing of America (1981) 

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)  

Line of Duty (debut episode; 2012)

Love Happy (1950)

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

The Man Who Thought Life (1969)

The Man with Nine Lives (1940)

The Manhattan Project (1996) 

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)

Not Wanted (1949)

Nothing But a Man (1964) 

Phone Booth (2002)

PickAxe (1999)

Poison (1990)

Popeye (1980)

Reflections of Evil (2002)

Revelations (1993)

Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

Romper Stomper (1992)

Room Service (1938) 

Same Kind of Different as Me (2017) 

Saved! (2004)

Scared to Death (1947) 

Secret Weapons (1985) 

The Shooting (1966)

The Soloist (2009) 

Sons of the Desert (1933)

Street of Crocodiles (1986)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Taken for a Ride (1996)

The Train (1964)

Truck Turner (1974)

Welcome to New Orleans (2006)

Who Farted? (2019) 

Who's That Girl? (1987) 

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

 Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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