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Six movies in two days
[Pathetic Life]


SATURDAY — BARTed to the Mission, had Chinese food for lunch, and then walked to the Roxie for a pre-Code triple feature.

I Am A Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a movie with a good reputation, and well-deserved. A man is victimized by the criminal justice system, and it's a dark, dramatic story. Downright bleak, but excellent.

It's exactly the kind of movie that wouldn't be made today, or would be made all wrong, though the issues at its heart are if anything more vital now than they were then. It's a riveting movie, despite the always nauseating presence of Paul Muni — he's still the worst actor ever to succeed as a movie star (see The Life of Emile Zola, if you dare).

Then came Wild Boys of the Road, in which poverty forces good kids to turn bad. Panhandling is treated as a crime in this one, but otherwise it resonates in the 1990s.

Last and least in tonight's triple feature, Mayor of Hell is set in a home for juvenile delinquents, with James Cagney again, as the kind, caring warden by day, who's a killer come nightfall. It's telling two stories at once, and the dual story lines make it a strange experience. It's not bad, but not good, and not memorable.

Here's what really struck me as I walked back to BART from the theater. Here we have three films targeted at grown-ups, three films with something to say, taking a realistic look at serious societal problems, intended to make the audience aware there's a problem out there. Off hand, I can't think of even one current Hollywood movie that aims so high.

♦ ♦ ♦

SUNDAY — I haven't bought a comic book since before I had whiskers, but on an after-work bus ride to nowhere and back, I saw a comic shop, so I got off the bus and went inside.

I always liked Batman, and there he was, but he sure looks different. The art style has gotten uglier, in my opinion, and the price has gone way up, but I bought it. The main story was complicated and "to be continued," so I'll never know whether Batman survives.

What do you think? I'm guessing Batman survives.

♦ ♦ ♦

My residential roach hotel apartment is reasonably ready for Maggie's visit, but the bed is a problem. A twin bed is wide enough for one but not nearly wide enough for two, especially two as wide as we are.

So I asked, and the management has kindly consented to rent me a second twin bed. I'll roll the second bed right up next to mine, making one bed out of two, for two consenting adults. Hope the extra bed comes with sheets.

♦ ♦ ♦

Movie time: I went to The Bridge on the River Kwai at the Castro Theater today, and it was less impressive than when I saw it at the Castro a few years ago. It's a good movie, very good, but twice is enough, and the next time it plays I'll skip it. The problem seems to be William Holden, stuck in a serious prisoner-of-war movie when he'd rather be playing some Americanized James Bond.

From the Castro, I bused downtown and caught The Hudsucker Proxy and Scorsese's delightful After Hours at the Strand. Two excellent movies, but I'm too tuckered to write about them.

I do want to ask, though — what ever happened to Rosanna Arquette? She was great in After Hours, and she was a big movie star for a few years, and then she was gone.

The answer, of course, is that she stopped being young and hot. Hollywood has no idea what to do with an actress, even a terrific actress, once she's stopped being young and hot.

  From Pathetic Life #1
Saturday - Sunday,
June 4 & 5, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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The Good Girl, The Good Lord Bird, Good Night and Good Luck, and a few more films

The Good Girl (2002)

Justine is a 30-ish worker at a grocery store, stuck in a boring marriage with a stoner husband who paints houses for a living. She doesn't know it yet, but she's itching for something new in her life, which turns out to be Holden, a new hire at the store.

"I want to knock your head open and see what's inside."

Holden's real name is Tom, but he's renamed himself for Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield. He feels "put upon by society and the hypocrisy of the world," and Justine feels sorta the same, so a friendship blossoms and quickly goes awry.

It's another interesting story from Mike White, who's become one of the best writers working in TV and movies — Chuck & Buck, Freaks and Geeks, School of Rock, The White Lotus. In The Good Girl, he makes the characters and the grocery store seem genuine, and pops in as an actor too, playing the store's comically Christian security guard. 

Justine and Holden are both living ordinary American lives that demand conformity, and they're trapped, but the movie isn't. It offers no easy resolution, and feels like an indie despite an all-star cast — Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C Reilly, Zooey Deschanel. 

This movie is seriously good, and the star is the writing.

Verdict: YES.

NEVERENDING
FILM FESTIVAL
#299  [archive]
JUNE 4, 2024

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Good Little Bunny with the Big Bad Teeth (2010)
Streaming free at Vimeo

This is a wordless animated short, about a rabbit with bad teeth and bad breath, trying to make friends with other animals in the forest. The animation is digital but fine, the colors pop, and the soundtrack sounds like a pinball machine (in a good way). It's more cuteness than comedy, and it's enjoyable.

At about six minutes, it's the same length as old-school Looney Tunes, and would fit nicely between the coming attractions and feature film at any cinema. That's where it belongs! Moviegoers would feel they'd gotten a little more value from their tickets, and theaters would have a few more minutes to sell popcorn — everybody wins. Bring back the shorts, I say, and start with this one. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Good Lord Bird (2020)

Before the US Civil War, John Brown was a wingnut religious radical who tried to end slavery. He believed God was on his side, so he bravely but stupidly seized a US armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Now his story is a miniseries on Showtime, starring Ethan Hawke. 

"We'll bring flowers to your funeral."

Hawke's Brown is a tower of honorable insanity, who leaves a trail of hellfire and brimstone everywhere he walks. "It's a beautiful country," Brown says a few times, at some of America's ugliest moments.

Brown's story would seem to yield no humor whatsoever, but based on a novel by James McBride, with a script co-written by Hawke, some laughs are infused between Brown's religious nuttiness and murderous acts. They're honest laughs, though, at the situations, and never at Brown's historical expense. 

Being an admirer of Brown, I am not disappointed by the show, but Brown is not really the lead character. More of it's about Onion, a cross-dressing boy slave freed and welcomed into Brown's entourage. Played by Joshua Caleb Johnson, the kid becomes a man along the way, and he's fallen under Brown's spell, and eventually becomes a key player in the raid.

Frederick Douglas (do not call him 'Fred') is presented nearly as hugely as Brown, and when the two of them gather for a meal with family and Onion, there's more words than food in their mouths.

"The question is, did John Brown fail? He certainly did fail to get out of Harper's Ferry before being beaten down by United States soldiers, and to lead a liberating army into the mountains of Virginia. So, did John Brown draw his sword against slavery, and thereby lose his life in vain? And to this I answer ten thousand times, no. No man fails or can ever fail who so grandly gives himself and all he has to a righteous cause."

The soundtrack occasionally features modern music, and that's a mistake, but there aren't many mistakes here.  

The Good Lord Bird starts good and gets better as it goes, with seven easy-to-binge hour-long episodes, building up to the raid on Harper's Ferry, which — spoiler — does not turn out as Brown had planned.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Good Neighbor Sam (1964)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Jack Lemmon plays Sam, an advertising executive, with Edward G Robinson as Nurdlinger, an egg dealer with a fetish for family values. Nurdlinger will only deal with Sam's ad agency if he's convinced Sam is an upstanding family man, which Sam certainly is.

Ah, but here's the comedy — Lemmon is happily married, but thanks to the kind of coincidences that only happen in movies, he also needs to pretend he's the husband of his wife's best friend. This makes it appears that Sam is in a three-way marriage. How wacky is that!?

Based on one of Jack Finney's many non-sci-fi novels, this is like a two-hour episode of Bewitched, without the witchcraft. There are some laughs, though. Hey, Bewitched had a few chuckles, too.

Unfortunately, the last act devolves to Jerry Lewis level.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Good News (1947)
Streaming free at Tubi

This was Animal House for a time when comedies didn't need to be funny.

There's a pretty new student at Tait College, all the boys are chasing her, but she only has eyes for the dullest one of them. In lieu of jokes, there are plenty of songs, of which none are either awful or memorable. The dancing is quite good, however.

June Allyson, Peter Lawford, and Mel Torme star.

Verdict: MAYBE, charitably.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Streaming free at Hoopla, with your library card

Edward R Murrow was World War II's most renowned reporter for CBS Radio, and then became a TV interviewer and commentator for CBS TV. He took his journalism straight, no chaser, and went into battle against Senator, scaremonger, and life-ruiner Joseph McCarthy. 

This is the story of that confrontation, with David Strathairn as Murrow, George Clooney as Fred Friendly (Murrow's producer), and frightful clips of Joseph McCarthy as Joseph McCarthy. The title comes from Murrow's long-time tag line at the end of every broadcast: "Good night, and good luck."

The real events unfolded before my time, but word via Google is that this movie's more accurate than most movies "based on a true story." All of the movie-Murrow's rather long and impassioned speeches are verbatim from the original telecasts.

"We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late."

Strathairn is terrific in the leading role, but his Murrow is so very serious about everything, he seems like a walking ulcer. It's a righteous ulcer, though, and the conflicts between the reporter and the Senator, and also between the network's news operation and its business side, make for a fine story. 

There's of course no hope that anyone at CBS today, or at any other TV network, would show the courage seen here. 

Verdict: YES.  

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The final days of the theatrical cartoon short 

Randy Finley, and Seattle's Seven Gables theaters 

Ah, Seven Gables — once upon a time, it was a local chain of movie theaters here in Seattle, always showing the best movies, with real butter on the popcorn, and never ads on the screen.

Before I moved away in the 1990s, and before Seven Gables sold out to some giant corporation, I attended all of their theaters — the Broadway and Broadway Market, the Crest, the Egyptian, Greenwood, Guild 45th, Harvard Exit, the Metro, the Neptune, the Seven Gables, the Varsity... It's been 30+ years since I've been inside any of them, but I remember each of them, and which films I saw there.

Movie theaters used to exist. Now there are thousands of effectively identical 'theaters' with a dozen or more auditoriums down twisting hallways. They're all the same, and I'll never go again and never miss it.

6/4/2024   

• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)
Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939)
Gorgo (1961)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
especially
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. 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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My deepest, darkest secret
[Pathetic Life]

Do I have to write something every damned day? Is that the way a diary works?

OK, well, have I mentioned that I'm mad about movies? Especially old movies, not because the old movies were necessarily better (I'm sure they made as many stinkers as today), but because if they're showing an old movie in a theater, that means it's got to be something special. That's why I prefer old movies at the Roxie, over the latest Baldwin Brothers schlock at the multiplex.

Tonight at the Roxie, they began a series of pre-Code movies, a concept that needs to be explained, so come with me now for a walk through cinema history. I'll walk fast, I promise.

Until about 1934, the studios made movies to sell tickets. Movies sometimes referenced 'adult' things like sex and crime. Certainly nothing sexually explicit was shown, but a you might see a man and a woman not his wife stepping into a bedroom together. Bad guys might commit crimes, and get away with it. A character might even say something like, "I'm not really religious."

Such shocking and libertine elements in film annoyed many old biddies and Catholic priests, and there was great political pressure demanding that movies be more 'moral' (not unlike today's Janet Reno too-much-violence crusade) The Motion Picture Production Code (a/k/a Hays Code) was Hollywood's response. The first draft of it was actually written by a Catholic priest and one of his parishioners.

Adopted voluntarily by the studios (but under threat of regulation otherwise, also like today), the Code required that the bad guys must be punished by the end of the film, and female characters must show 'virtue' or pay the price in the plot, etc. Essentially it mandated what's now called "traditional family values," and studio pictures were made under these rules for the next several decades.

That's the end of our walk through history, and I'm exhausted. Let's sit down.

I was intrigued by a week of pre-Code talkies from the early '30s at the Roxie, but I shouldn't have gone tonight. Weary from a week of drudge work and not sleeping well the past few nights, even James Cagney had a hard time holding my attention in Lady Killer (1933). Then drowsiness defeated me, and I came home instead of seeing the second feature, Fog Over Frisco. That's a disappointment, because Fog is supposed to be a classic.

I'll try again tomorrow, but it'll be different pre-Code movies. The Roxie rarely shows the same movies two nights in a row.

♦ ♦ ♦

A note to you, dear reader of this zine: Are you disappointed that I'm writing about movies instead of "Dear diary, here's my deepest, darkest secret"? Well, be disappointed all you like — I already have your three dollars, bwa ha ha!

Seriously, though, my deepest, darkest secret is that aren't many deep, dark secrets in my life. In this diary, you'll find no heists, no trysts, no heavy drama, no meaning, and no trips to Paris or Vienna. Tonight I'm having some Vienna sausages, though.

It's my life, in the process of wasting it. Nothing interesting happens. It's pathetic — get it?

  From Pathetic Life #1
Friday, June 3, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

 

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Maggie
[Pathetic Life]

It was a day like any other day. I work, eat, sleep, shower, and brush my teeth, except on weekends. And such is my life. What more could a man want?

Well, it would be nice to have sex as more than just a memory, perhaps a meaningful relationship with something softer than a tube of Vaseline.

And there is a woman in my life, though she's far away. Her name is Margaret, and she is unique. Oh, Maggie, your mood swings are twice as wide as Market Street, and yet I love ye. Or at least like ye a lot.

She says exactly what she's thinking, farts loudly, has PMS twenty-three days a month, has huge hooters and plenty of attitude. Same as me in a lot of ways. We're a match made in Hell.

I haven't seen her in three years, since I abandoned life as I knew it to move to San Francisco. Most of those left behind, I haven't taken the time to miss them, because the family never knew me all that well, and the friends were just acquaintances, and the acquaintances were really strangers. One day I simply slipped away, looking for a new life.

But Maggie is one of the few people I've regretted leaving behind. I invited her to tag along as I was packing, but she found my request rather vague, since I didn't know where I was going, how long it might take to get there, and when or whether I'd ever be coming back.

I was happy as heck to hear from Maggie a few months back, and by mail we've rekindled what was once a fairly frisky flame. She arrives June 13, for a brief visit I'm hoping turns into a long stay. I've repeated the invitation to share my world, and I'm hoping she'll look at the fabulous life I'm living here, and join it.

But if it turns out that our romance isn't meant to be, we'll at least have had a few nights of rowdy sex again.

 From Pathetic Life #1
Thursday, June 2, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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The Golden Gate Murders, and a few more films

My most enthusiastic recommendation today is The Golden Gate Murders, a cornball made-for-TV mystery from the 1970s. The real mystery is why I liked it so much, and the answer is in the stars.

NEVERENDING
FILM FESTIVAL
#298  [archive]
JUNE 2, 2024

♦ ♦ ♦

Gold Raiders (1982)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is a low-budget and low-IQ ripoff of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but even mentioning that 'Raiders' might make you think this 'Raiders' is in some way comparable, or at least deserving of mention in the same sentence.

It's not. It's garbage.

Verdict: BIG NO. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Gold Rush Daze (1939)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Here's an early Merrie Melodies cartoon, with none of the familiar characters. The animation style seems more reminiscent of early Disney, albeit in color, than Warner Bros.

The story is something about the California gold rush, 1848, but the gags are minimal, and it's more about the novelty of animation than about making an audience laugh.  

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Golden Coach (1952)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

I groaned when this started. Wasn't expecting a costume drama, and usually such shows bore me. It's by Jean Renoir, though, so it comes close to overcoming the costumes, the rather formal dialogue, and the classical score.

The titular golden coach is an Italian-made carriage, imported by an overdressed, conceited, and fussy-haired "your highness" in a 19th century Peruvian town under Spanish rule. Then comes a visiting troupe of actors, and a clich├ęd but amusing romantic triangle or quadrangle (sorry, I lost track).

"How do you like the 'new world'?"

"It will be nice when it's finished."

The movie is OK, perhaps even good, with some laughs and lavish Technicolor, but even when it's at its best with quips and satirical moments, it remains a costume drama, full of corsets and wigs and overacting, and I never got past that.

Verdict: YES, but as close to MAYBE as possible.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Golden Gate Murders (1979)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

An old priest arrives in San Francisco, and someone starts regaling him with the basic facts of the Golden Gate Bridge, but the priest cuts him short to recite a few bridge facts he already knows.

"Many immigrants worked on the structure," he says, "and 15 of those men lost their lives before it was completed. My brother was one of those 15 workmen."

Hmmm. I was expecting a schlocky made-for-TV murder mystery, but it opens with honestly effective pathos? Is this movie going to be good?

Yeah, it's good, though it's also bad, and there's no further pathos.

The Golden Gate Murders is a formulaic cop drama, but it offers two excellent actors playing interesting characters: David Janssen as a flamboyantly crotchety detective who says about ten non-crochety words in the whole movie, and Susannah York as a nun who's smarter than the detective, not quite as caustic, equally stubborn, and may have psychic powers. Along the way, Detective Janssen teaches Sister Susannah how to eat bagels and cream cheese.

This is TV stuff, cream cheesy and frequently preposterous. Most of the mystery's 'clues' are piffle, and the only copy of the film I could find was made from somebody's VHS recording, so it doesn't look very sharp.

But none of that matters — Janssen & York are more fun than Kojak meets Miss Marple.

However, 'only' eleven workers died during construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, according to the bridge's memorial plaque, or twelve, according to the bridge's website. It wouldn't surprise me if the actual body count was triple that, but kept quiet for so long that now there's really no accurate count.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Golden Glove (2019)
Streaming free at Tubi

About 1/4 of this is a likable, low-key comedy set in a German dive bar, the kind of place where the bartender has an insulting nickname for all the regulars, and they keep they curtains drawn because nobody wants the intrusion of sunlight. I'd love to see a whole movie about that bar.

The rest of it's about one of the bar's customers, Fritz Honka, a rather odd-looking chap who hates women and kills then as a hobby.

The movie is too bloody, violent, mean, and gory for me — my preference in murder movies is for the victims to fight back, or at least somebody gets vengeance, etc. If the victims instead end up in pieces in an attic crawlspace, waiting to be buried under the meat of the next victim, well, I already know that story. It's in the newspapers seven days a week.

That said, despite disliking The Golden Glove, the movie has a wildly wonderful look and vibe, when the killer's not killing anyone. I've added a few of director Fatih Akin's other films — the ones that aren't about serial killers — to my watchlist.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦

Goldimouse and the Three Cats (1960)
Streaming free at YouTube, slightly sped up and with some idiot's logo in the corner

From Fritz Freleng and Warner's Looney Tunes, what's happening here is obvious from the title. Sylvester the Cat has a wife and a baby cat, and Sylvester's porridge is too hot, Mom's is too cold, and the bratty baby cat hates porridge and would rather eat a mouse. The mouse is a blonde.

Goldimouse and the Three Cats is innocuous and not unpleasant, but I'm beginning to question my decision to watch these old cartoons. They're simply not very funny, and even at six minutes length I grow impatient.

Maybe instead of watching random Warner cartoons, I should focus my attention on somebody's list of the best ones?

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Good Day for a Hanging (1959)

This is not a bad little western, which sorta flips the usual vigilante plot. Instead of the townsfolk wanting to lynch a suspected murderer, the killer is a local boy, well-liked, so everyone wants his sentence commuted — and marshal Fred MacMurray fired, because his testimony got the killer convicted.

MacMurray was fabulous in Double Indemnity, but here he's playing the marshal exactly the same as he played the father figure on My Three Sons in the 1960s and '70s. The only things missing are his pipe and the accordion opening number.

The plotline favors the death penalty, but not viciously so. Robert Vaughn plays the killer set to be hanged, and delivers most of the movie's enjoyment.

Verdict: YES, but it's nothing special.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The most ridiculous Indiana Jones ripoffs that actually happened
from Looper 

Warner Bros cartoons 1937-1949 – Golden age of animation
from Yesterday's Joe

6/2/2024   

• • • Coming attractions • • •     

The Good Girl (2002)
The Good Lord Bird (2020)
Good Neighbor Sam (1964)
Good News (1947)
Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
especially
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. 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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