Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore,
and a few more films

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) 

#225  [archive]
NOV. 27, 2023

Alice was an enjoyable sit-com of the 1970s and '80s, about a dame working in a diner. My rabbit ears only pulled in four channels, so I probably saw a hundred episodes.

It was based on a movie I'd never seen it until tonight, and it's a holy crap movie — like, holy crap, how could I have missed this movie all my life? It's ten times better than the sit-com, fer sure.

Alice (Ellen Burstyn) is a 30-something woman with a shitty husband and an annoying son (one of the most realistic kids I've ever seen in the movies). Luckily for Alice, her husband gets flattened by a Coca-Cola truck (did they pay for the product placement?), so she drags the kid all across the American southwest while she's searching for a new and improved life.

She wants to be a singer, but music is a cruel business, and if you're not a successful singer by your 30s, you're not going to be a singer, at least not for a living. Instead she ends up waiting tables at the diner from the TV show, but in the movie it's a louder, more profane, and crazier place. 

"The first thing you got to do is figure out what it is you want. And once you figure it out, you just jump in there with both feet and let the devil take the hindmost!"

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore captures a woman's perspective not often seen in movies, so believably that I'm surprised it was written by a man, Robert Getchell (The Client, Mommie Dearest), and directed by Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha). 

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Army of Shadows (1969)

This is set in wartime, where we're with the Resistance in German-occupied France. Philippe is involved with the Resistance, caught, tried, and acquitted, but the Nazis send him to an internment camp anyway because, well, they're Nazis.

Many further twists and turns happen — this is a spy movie more than a war movie — and there are always traitors to be ferreted out and allies you hadn't expected.

You and I know how the war turns out (pssst — the Nazis lost), but the general feeling among the French, even in the Resistance, is enjoyably pessimistic. They're going through the motions of resistance because that's what good guys should do, but everyone sorta assumes that they'll lose in the end. You gotta empathize with that. 

I liked but didn't love the film, but that might be attributable to the less-than-ideal viewing circumstance. Unable to pirate an English-subtitled version of the film, I read a transcript of the dialogue on one screen, while watching the movie on my other laptop. What made it through this two-screen screening, though, was quite tense and quite good.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Fishbowl California (2002)

"Everyone has problems. Take them somewhere else."

There's a loafer/loser named Rodney (Steve Olson) who's supposed to be lovable, but I found him tiresome. Unable to find the job he's not looking very hard for, he drives around to think things through, but his car conks out and he coasts it to the curb in front of a stranger's house.

He happens to have a very long extension cord in the car, and the house has an external outlet, so he steals electricity to charge his phone. The owner of the house is a tough old dame named June (Katherine Cortez), who chews cigars, takes no guff, and for grand theft electric she demands that he mow her lawn.

They're both stereotypes more than characters, but Cortez is great. So these two hate each other, but soon become buddies, and she invites him to move in. It's not lovey-love, since she's twice his age, but they're friends and that's more than he's had for a while.

This is an indie effort, and it's a painless way to pass some time. It works its way to a non-surprising fairy-tale ending that reinforces yet again that the only thing anyone needs for success in America is white skin and a little good luck.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦

10 Rillington Place (1970)

This is based on a true story, of multiple murders in 1944 that led to a wrongful conviction and — oops —  an innocent man's hanging.

Que sera sera, we'd say in America, but these events took place in England, and shamed Parliament into ending capital punishment.

It's an interesting film, but it's English, meaning a bit stiff upper-lip, matter-of-fact. It's often less thrilling than you'd expect, and occasionally, kind of a bore.

Richard Attenborough (Seance on a Wet Afternoon), Judy Geeson (To Sir with Love), and John Hurt (Doctor Who) star. Directed by Richard Fleischer (Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Auto Focus (2002)
Barton Fink (1991)
Between the Lines (1977)
Cellular (2004)
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
Gods of Times Square (1999)
Frankenhooker (1990)
Greystoke (1984)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
The Lawyer (1970)
Not of This Earth (1957)
The Saint in New York (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
The Shooting (1966)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Winter Soldier (1972)

... plus occasional 
schlock and surprises 

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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