The Crying Game,
and a few more films

Crime Without Passion (1934)

Streaming free at YouTube

This starts with an amazing opening for 1934, as three "sisters of Evil" rise up from Hades, flying like bats, intercut with imagery of murders. I briefly wondered if I'd been deceived, and this was actually some black-and-white schlock from the 1990s.

Written, directed, and produced by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (The Front Page, Twentieth Century, Wuthering Heights, etc), this is one of their lesser collaborations. The story is sorta silly and merits no mention, but the movie is worth watching just for Claude Rains' performance as a fabulously snarky and uncaring defense lawyer who'll get anyone off, on any charges.

When he himself needs legal advice, another Claude Rains pops up in a visual effect, spouting yet more snark.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Criminally Insane (1975)

Streaming free at Internet Archive

#252  [archive]
MAR. 4, 2024

This is a schlock slasher film about a fat woman who kills anyone who comes between her and her food. When her grandmother tries to enforce a diet, she gets stabbed. When the grocery delivery man wants past-due payment, he gets brained with a bottle. 

It's ineptly made, with occasional racist dialogue and a wasted subplot about domestic violence, but Criminally Insane has an important message: Shut the hell up about other people's weight.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Crippled Avengers (1978)
a/k/a Mortal Combat
a/k/a The Return of the Five Deadly Venoms

From the legendary kung fu studios of Run Run Shaw and his brother Runme, this is quality widescreen kickass action with serious talent on both sides of the camera. Classic chop socky!

Chu Twin comes home from a hard day's work to find his wife murdered, and their son Chu Cho Chang horrendously injured, his arms chopped off at the elbows. At first, it's about righteous revenge as iron prosthetic arms and fists are crafted for the crippled Chu Cho, but the quest takes twenty years, and by then the violence has made Chu Twin and Chu Cho into angry assassins.

Same as Chu Cho was attacked, they brutalize and maim anyone who gets in their way. Then their victims, all disabled, band together to seek their own vengeance on the vengeance-seekers.

Obviously, this is epic martial arts melodrama. The molten metal poured down a man's throat, pokers into eyeballs, a metal wrap to squish skull and brain, etc, are gruesome, but an action movie needs motivation, and it's just good-natured torture that sets up the battles to come.

The whole movie would be profoundly disturbing if you thought about it, so don't.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Cronos (1992)

Streaming free at Effed Up Movies

An antiques dealer discovers a device from 400 years ago that looks like a spider and prolongs human life. He winds it up and it injects some liquid into his hand, which becomes quite painfully inflamed, and soon he has an insatiable thirst for blood.

A standard horror plot, in other words, but writer-director Guillermo del Toro adds the new twist of telling the story very slowly. Much of what happens is filler, scenes that don't really add to the story or tell us anything about the characters, but look sorta cool. Which, sorry, isn't enough.

Ron Perlman adds fleeting moments of fun, as an almost comedic, bumbling henchman who has no hesitation to kill anybody, but mostly it's a yawn with great visuals.

Unexplained: How does any liquid not evaporate in 400 years?

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Crying Game (1992)

Streaming free at Effed Up Movies

Maybe you know the famous plot twist, but you might not know or remember that there's more to The Crying Game than that. Forget the twist and the hype; it's a very good movie. 

Several Irish Republican Army revolutionaries kidnap a British soldier named Jody (Forrest Whitaker). He's kept in an abandoned and remote house, guarded by the IRA's Fergus (Stephen Rea), and a gentle but tense friendship develops between Jody and Fergus. Jody's a hostage, though, so the friendship might not last long.

The rules of The Crying Game change when you least expect it, but what matters is that it works. Everyone on screen seems damaged, like everyone in real life, and what happens feels like it could.

Neil Jordan's script and direction rock, and all the major players deserve the kudos they got — this might be Jordan's best movie and Whitaker's best performance, and it's definitely Rea's and Jaye Davidson's.

But can I just say, Jim Broadbent? His quipping bartender is the warm, slyly comic center the film needs and just when it needs it. He adds a lot of heart to a movie that already had a lot of heart.

Verdict: BIG YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
The Day After
A Day in the Country
Days of Heaven

 ... plus sometimes,

schlock, shorts, 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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  1. Days of Heaven (1978)

    Fourth favorite film of all time!

    Seeing an original print (supposedly the best in existence at the time) at Seattle's Egyptian about 20 years ago was a highlight.

    BTW, if you've not seen Murnau's City Girl, it was a huge influence on this flick.

  2. Obtaining a copy as we speak, thanks.

    There is nothing like a great movie at a great theater. Many times I've been to the Egyptian, mostly for the film festival, but I think theaters are over for me. A sadness.

  3. Not that you asked:

    1. 2001
    2. Stalker
    3. Playtime
    4. Days of Heaven
    5. Late Spring
    6. L'Atalante
    7. Au Hasard Balthazar
    8. Stroszek
    9. Ordet
    10. L'Eclisse

  4. Might replace 10 with Life of Oharu, or some other Mizoguchi, depending on the day

  5. Top ten movies I actually watch the most

    1. Die Hard
    2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
    3. RoboCop
    4. 300
    5. Training Day
    6. Office Space
    7. Caddyshack
    8. Boogie Nights
    9. Jurassic Park
    10. Shawshank Redemption

    Note: I think several of these are objectively dumb movies, but hey, I'm human, unfortunately

    1. Interesting lists, leading of course to several illegal downloads.

      I've never been able to put together such lists. Ask me who's the greatest second-baseman these days, I can reference some stats and probably it's Marcus Semien, but a favorite movie? Too subjective.

      My brother asked me that during our most recent movie day, so I've been thinking about it. I might be able to make a short list of favorites, but they wouldn't be the best, they'd be the movies I want to see again even when I've seen them only a month ago. Still cooking on such a list, but I know it would include Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. It's not even a very good movie, but I friggin' love it.

  6. Comments: I'll probably get sucked in to the list making, but I start with a couple of principles: I have antipathy to the French language that colors my movie list and, with regard to 300, I'm a sucker for bowling movies, although I have only one on my list.


    1. My favorite bowling movie is There Will Be Blood

    2. With legible subtitles, preferably yellow, you're reading so hard that the spoken language can't hardly be heard.

      I assume your bowling movie is the classic Alley Cats Strike (2000)? Exquisite!

    3. I'll let you smart guys have your way with the visual arts. My bowling movie is also one of my top ten movies, The Big Lebowski. It's kind of like Kurosawa's The Seven Keglers with five or six of them on family leave.


    4. The Big Lebowski is a major motion picture, on a lot of cool people's top ten list. I was pretty sure that was your bowling movie. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

  7. There Will Be Blood just has too many washouts.


    1. On my watchlist, but I haven't seen it yet.

    2. I think Paul Thomas Anderson really tied the room together, although the lanes were overoiled, making it hard to pick up the seven-ten spare.


    3. I get my Andersons mixed up. PTA made There Will Be Blood?

      That piques my interest more, but I'm staying alphabetical so it'll be a while.

  8. I think I mentioned this before, so pardon the rerun, but I bowled league at the same lanes where Earl Anthony practiced. He worked at West Coast Grocery on swing shift, and showed up at the lanes at just before midnight as our league was ending. My friend Brad custom drilled Earl's finger holes and said that Earl had the right work ethic and natural rhythm to go all the way. Owner Chuck would toss Earl the keys on his way out and ask him to lock up when he left. After five years of all-night bowling, Earl started entering local tournaments for a couple hundred in prize money. Then he went all the way. Seemed like a nice guy. Quiet, but friendly.


    1. I should note here that Earl was a lefty. I don't mean he was hotsky to Trotsky -- I mean that he had a dominant left side, which, in a large tournament, gives a bowler a slight advantage, since the oil pattern on the left side of the lanes breaks down more slowly and gives the lefty bowler a more gradual adjustment framework. Big time tournaments generally use relatively new lanes, making the oil pattern a more important variable than the lane conditions. I was the sixth best bowler on a five man team, but I more or less understand the principles. Our captain was the tech (and therefore the oiler) at the lanes we bowled at. I asked a lot of questions.


    2. The oil pattern gives left-handers an advantage. That is wacky science. Ain't doubting it's true, makes perfect sense, but the advantage has to be *so* slight I wonder how much it's really a factor.

      Yeah, we def talked about Earl Anthony before. I don't know how to search comments, but I almost certainly replied with my John Guenther story. Never met the guy, but his daughter was a classmate, and when she said her daddy was a professional bowler I thought she was BSing.

      I know nothing, though, of whether he was a good guy, or right- or left-handed, though presumably he was one or the other. I do know that after retiring, he bought a couple of local bowling alleys, which I think makes him a good guy.

    3. Yeah, it's a factor. A bowling lane is 39 boards wide and, when there are hot TV lights on the lane, drying conditions can cause a bowler to move up to three boards outside. That's unusual, but even in a funky weeknight league, it's not unusual to need to move a board and a half over three games. I've had to move as much as three, but I might have been drinking.


    4. Man, all I ever knew was roll the ball...

    5. Well, I don't think my 147 average is going to get me into the Hall of Fame, but when you're on a team with the assistant manager of the lanes you at least learn how to talk bowling. By the way, I think rolling the ball is an essential part of the game. My friend checked out early -- in his early thirties. He was a good and decent man who was a friend for life: his ended much too soon. I try very hard to honor his memory by treating everybody decently, even assholes. It helped Brad be a better person -- maybe someday it will help me. Shit, now I'm crying.


    6. People dying young is one of the better arguments against a god, or for an indictment of the bastard if he exists. Sorry about your friend.

      You have me stroking the hairs on my chinny chin chin, thinking maybe I should write about some of the good people I knew who died young. Maybe. Depends if I can find anything to say.

      Until then, I will personally nominate you for the Bowling Hall of Fame. Your 147 beats whatever best I ever rolled.


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