Radio Days (1987)

Radio Days
Written and directed by Woody Allen
(number 313)

I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a Woody Allen before. I’m very into this one, it’s hilarious, full of great music and very funny jokes. I know Allen is pretty problematic, but I think that’s hidden in a period piece. Instead you can just soak in the lush period costumes, settings and music and ignore the other stuff.

I watched this with Ellen, which was a nice nostalgia fest in itself from when we used to flat together and watch movies off this list. It’s a funny little film, more of a collection of stories rather than one over arcing plot. It stars baby Seth Green and a huge bundle of actors which had us constantly checking the imdb page to work out where we knew them from. The voice of Marge Simpson plays the mother! I mean. So many familiar faces.

The way the stories are set up I found myself thinking of memories associated to each song. Such as thinking of how lovely Amy Adams and Lee Pace sing ‘If I didn’t love you’ in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, or Mairzy Doats reminds me of Twin Peaks and of course John Barrowman performing Night and Day in De-Lovely. The overwhelming sense of nostalgia encompassed me, I really hadn’t expected that.

Does it make me love the people? Yes! It starts with little baby Seth Green and then every one in the family is adorable and then Sally the cigarette girl and yeah. It’s a movie all about how loveable perfectly ordinary people are, with all their silliness and flaws and squabbles. One of my favourite moments was the sister dancing and lip synching to a Carmen Miranda song and the uncle and father wandering in, grins on their faces. You can kind of imagine they’re about to make fun of her, instead they join in on the ‘ai yi yi’ back up singers and join in with her. It was so sweet, a family moment that felt so true.

Bechdel test: Yes, Bea talks to Ruthie who talks to Tess. Lots of lovely named women characters and they talk to each other all the time, sometimes about men and sometimes about each other and sometimes about the war or the radio.

Best line:

Sally: who is Pearl Harbour?

Tess: Boy, what a world… it could be so wonderful, if it wasn’t for certain people.

State of Mind: The end felt a little anticlimactic but overall I very much enjoyed it, sharp, witty script, brilliantly acted by tonnes of named actors. As I said the sets, costumes and music are all gorgeous, sumptuous and not a stitch out of place. Ellen was put out that they named the baby Ellen and then we never got to see the baby… But I was pleased overall. I liked this film and will happily watch it again. In fact I feel like I need to because the dialogue comes so quick, the stories move so quickly I’m sure I’ve missed stuff.

Watched movie count

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Midnight Cowboy
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Waldo Salt based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy
(number 316)

A super classic song opens this film, one that I had no idea was from a movie. Everybody’s talkin’. Have a listen…

Here’s another film I sat down to watch knowing nothing about. Not even who’s in it, but here it turns out to be a movie starring Dustin Hoffman. Got a lot of those in this list as it happens. I’m not sure I’m a Hoffman fan.

The lovemaking sequence has a gorgeous montage of various images off tv culminating with a jackpot of cowgirls, yeah. Perfect.

It’s a funny kind of story, on the surface it’s a story about two grifters sticking together to make it in NYC. But I think it’s a gay love story about two men so messed up and broken they can’t admit they’re gay. Certainly there’s lots of hints of that being what’s going on. Generally the story is about two men who aren’t as smart as they think they are trying to be Hustlers in big bad New York city. They fall on each other for support. Joe is a bumpkin with a nasty past (nasty things were done to him and the mentally disabled girl he loved), Rico is sharper, but his weakness is his body – chronic illness and no immune system to speak of.

Reading a little more into the background of the movie I see that the filmmaker of this was gay, so there’s not any doubt in my mind now that this is a low key gay love story. We do get some gay love scenes but they’re generally Joe not particularly wanting to pursue them and there’s often violence after each one. It’s very much of its time: to tell a gay love story would have been problematic, so he had to show all the various possible (negative) reactions. To show that generally it is/was looked down on, done in dark places or by people who were very afraid of being found out.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, Joe more then Rico. Although once I realised that this is the origin of the naming of Rizzo the Rat from muppets I liked him a bit better. I just don’t love Dustin Hoffman’s voice, I find it annoying. His slow decline in health felt inevitable but didn’t move me perhaps as much as it was meant to.

Bechdel test: No. There are a number of named women in the movie, but they talk to the men. There’s women interacting with each other at the Warhol-esque party but none of them are named.

Best line:

Rico: Here I am, goin’ to Florida, my leg hurts, my butt hurts, my chest hurts, my face hurts, and like that ain’t enough, I gotta pee all over myself.
[Joe laughs]
Rico: That’s funny? I’m fallin’ apart here!
Joe: It’s just – Know what happened? You just took a little rest stop that wasn’t on the schedule!

State of Mind: It’s pretty bleak, I really want to watch something nice and cheerful now. It’s nice to have what is more or less a gay story in the list, but it’s a pity that it’s a tropey one where one of them dies, faggot is tossed about as an insult multiple times and most of the gay people are shown to be unsavoury or brutalised. I have very mixed emotions is what I’m saying, and I’m unsure about watching it again, even if it had a great soundtrack.

Watched movie count

Suspiria (1977)

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Daria Nicolodi and Dario Argento
(number 321)

I know Suspiria is a horror and that it’s a bit on the splattery side and that it’s talked about in Juno. Is it the one they watch? and someone’s writhing while being impaled? I can’t remember. But it is about a ballet school, so I expect some pretty dancing before the horror sets in.

The music immediately sets the scene. It’s that kind of unsettling tinkly stuff that I have come to associate with horror movies. This movie is older than I am, I guess horror movies in the 70s all used this kind of tinkly spooky stuff? The human whispery screaming/singing over it is called back to in American Horror Story: Coven to excellent effect. It’s impossible not to talk about the soundscape as it’s one of the main characters in the film. It heightens the tension incredibly.

What a fantastic set front the ballet school frontage is, just… stunningly red and candy house and gorgeous. All the interiors are batshit crazy patterns and bright colours as well. I can see why this movie is a classic just from a sound and visual design standpoint. It’s really well done. It’s deeply uncomfortable to watch because of these, but as the same tricks are used again and again it becomes a little dull. Like, there is something to be said for building up to the deafening discordant music and flashing red lights, rather than using them all every time something weird happens.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, I love Suzy and Sarah, but I don’t know. They seem very typical horror movie heroines. There’s not really a whole lot of depth in the writing or character development or evolution.

Bechdel test: Pat has lots of conversation with her friend but her friend doesn’t seem to be named, so it doesn’t pass in the first 15 minutes but after the death of Pat it passes over and over. Suzy talks to Sarah, Olga, Miss Tanner, Madame Blanc. There’s lots of named women characters talking throughout the rest of the film.

Best line:
Suzy: but what does it mean? to be a witch.
Dr Mandel: well, as a believer in the material world and psychiatrist to boot I believe that the current spread of belief in witchcraft and the occult is part of… mental illness. Bad luck isn’t brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds.

State of Mind: It must have been a tonne of fun to film this. The set, costume, sound designers all went bats. And then getting to destroy it all in the end with exploding props and wind machines and fire. I can see the appeal. As a watch it’s not very pleasant. And I don’t just mean because it’s a horror, the soundtrack started to give me a headache, and the sound monitoring was so low different, low for the dialogue and super high for the frights, it just felt kind of annoying and stressful. Storywise there’s very little surprises for those familiar with horror stories, plenty of gore, gross out stuff and some animals in peril. I don’t think I’ll be watching it again, but I’d be happy to have a couple of stills from it framed on a white wall.

Watched movie count

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Battleship Potemkin
Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Written by Nina Agadzhanova
(number 322)

Well. Isn’t this a cheery subject for a film? A Soviet film retelling the mutiny on a battleship and the ensuing rioting and police massacre that followed? Yeah, just the kind of thing I want to sit back and relax in front of. Good lord. You can hardly blame the men for not wanting to eat maggoty meat…

Ah yes, just read a little bit more about this and of course it’s a pro-revolution propaganda film. That makes sense, and speaks to it’s cultural and historical significance. Perhaps it’s watching this almost one hundred years later but it’s all kind of on the nose message wise. For example, the drawn out sequence of the baby in peril – like, we get it. The bad guys shoot at the woman protecting a baby, we don’t need to see it’s pram rolling down the stairs over five minutes.

What is impressive about this movie is the co-ordination of the extras. The huge amount of people moving through the streets of Odessa, the complete synchronisation of the cossacks and the way they move together. The scenes on the ship were also very complex, so I’m sure hard to manage and direct as well. All on location and basically no special effects, although the ghosty shapes hanging from the yardarm. It’s well made, it’s beautiful, but overall I didn’t enjoy how violent it is.

Does it make me love the people? I mean, I cared about Grigory, but then he died. So, I’d say no.

Bechdel test: no

Best line:
Woman Protestor: Mothers and brothers! Let there not be differences or hostility among us!

State of Mind: Yeah, I’m not gonna watch this again. It’s impressive and rough and awful. Hey, at least it was short!

Watched movie count

Rebecca (1940)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Robert E. Sherwood Joan Harrison and based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier
(number 326)

I had wondered if I’d watched this movie previously. In my mid-twenties I tried to get through as many Hitchcock films as possible, hiring them for free from the library I worked out. But I mustn’t have got to this one as it’s all totally new. A delightful Gothic horror of a romance starring one of Hitchcock’s blondes which if this movie was remade now I think Taylor Swift would be the best match for.

I feel like I could count the number of Laurence Olivier films I’ve seen on one hand and wouldn’t even need to use my thumb. And I think the others are off this list! He is very dashing in the 30s – 40s way.

This is a gripping story, it makes me want to read the book. It’s a lush Gothic mystery and very much put me in the mind of Beauty and the Beast with Belle in the enchanted castle, and also Bluebeard’s Bride for the ghost of the women who came before. I haven’t played the game of Bluebeard’s Bride but from what Anna told me the servants were out to get the bride in a similar way to this movie.

It really is compelling – spooky, mysterious and at times very funny.

Does it make me love the people? You do feel for Mrs de Winter, isolated as a fish out of water in a strange land. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t go for the breakfast buffet though. I’d never pass up a breakfast buffet. But seriously, you really feel for her while all the madness happens around her. Mrs Danvers in particular…

Bechdel test: I thought it did straight away but it’s tricksy. Joan Fontaine’s character is not named until she marries Maxim de Winter, and then she becomes Mrs de Winter. She talks to Edith and Mrs Danvers. I’d say it’s a pass as the naming is deliberate to serve the story and the obsession everyone has with Rebecca. (It’s also in the novel, she’s got no christian name.) She also talks to Beatrice on several occasions.

Best line:
Maxim: I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.

Beatrice: Oh, but you can’t go by me. I can tell by your clothes you don’t give a hoot how you look.

Maxim (king of emo): Happiness is something I know nothing about.

State of Mind: Blown away. It was a long movie but it didn’t feel it, so many twists and turns and characters who were compelling and played to perfection by classic actors. Loved it and will definitely watch it again, and am now planning to read the book even. In fact I keep thinking about it, and I’ve also been having a nightmare or two about wandering through a fancy and empty house all alone. I really want to watch it again with Anna.

Watched movie count

The Last Seduction (1994)

The Last Seduction
Directed by John Dahl
Written by Steve Barancik
(number 331)

Another movie about slick criminals being all sexy and stylish and cool. (Do they all have the same soundtrack BTW?)

Perhaps unsurprisingly for the name, there is a lot of sex in this movie. There are lots of naked bodies, breasts, butts (male and female) and bodies moving together in the sexy sexy sex scene way. it’s very much in the vein of Fatal Attraction, shoulder pads and power suits and all.

Linda Florentino is fantastic as Bridget but I do wonder how a story like this would go if a woman wrote it, how they’d change how Bridget acts or talks. I mean, using sex as a weapon is absolutely legit, but I wonder if that’s all a character would do if written by a woman. I don’t think I would write a woman who only used sex to make men do what she wanted. This kind of character becomes something of a wet dream – this ball buster woman who sleeps with men at the drop of a hat, and then betrays them while looking cool and hot and it’s not their fault because every other guy around also wants her so bad. It’s like the opposite of the manic pixie dream girl except she’s the one who falls for the boy and possibly it changes her life? The cool hard dream vamp? The femme fatale that can be won over by a sweet country boy.

I do love the ingeniousness of the grifts she comes up with though. And when she tells Mike that the way to show commitment to their relationship is to knock someone off.

Oh hey, a mention of a trans person. The trans person is used as a worst case scenario for the good old boy who accidentally married her and then hated himself, refused to let her touch him. So that’s fun. At least Trish has some lines and isn’t killed, just showed as this horrible thing that happened to him. :/

Does it make me love the people? I mean, sure. Bridget’s great. She’s much more compelling to watch than George Clooney’s thief in Out of Sight. I liked it when she took cookies to the guy surveilling her. But ultimately my liking her felt like another of her scams. She’s pretty clearly a cold hearted sociopath who will calmly kill people in her way. I fell for her cool attractiveness as a character just as the men in the film do. Having seen the whole movie I don’t feel like this is the kind of movie which makes you love people.

Bechdel test: Hard. Bridget speaks to Mrs Renford about having cheating husbands killed, but we only get Bridget’s side of the conversation and never see Mrs Renford. I think probably this is a fail. Bridget pretty much only appears in scenes with men. OH, in Buffalo she exchanges words with Trish. That counts.

Best line:

Mike: I’m trying to figure out whether you’re a total fucking bitch or not.
Bridget: I am a total fucking bitch.

Bridget: I’ll show you my ass.
Harlan: What makes you think I wanna see your bony ass?

State of Mind: Slick and cool, just as it wanted to be. A little more interesting than the other slick cool crime films I’ve watched on this list. Hard to say if it’s one I’d particularly recommend or watch again. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s pretty rough, it felt a lot like Fatal Attraction if it was passed off as a cool crime movie.

Watched movie count

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Sweet Smell of Success
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman based on the novel by Ernest Lehman
(number 323)

This movie is exactly like reading an old pulp Noir novel, which makes sense since it’s based on an old pulp Noir novel. All the pretty metaphors and similes that people just drop in every conversation. So clever, so cool. Everyone wearing hats and cool, long coats.

It’s also beautifully shot, the lines ad the costumes and the sets, it’s all gorgeous in black and white. Very clear and pretty.

We’re all JJ when he says “President? My big toe would make a better President!”

I watched this on a Monday night when Anna was out, and weirdly, our cat Mochi seemed very into it. Of all the tv and movies I’ve watched with the cat she’s paid very little attention. This one she sat up in front of and watched for a bit. When she was on the couch with me washing, she’d look over when there was a sudden noise (which she doesn’t usually do). So I guess this movie is cat approved?

Does it make me love the people? Like, kind of. I kind of loved Sidney although he’s completely unscrupulous and unfaithful but he’s still the protagonist and very smooth. I enjoy watching and listening to him. I don’t like JJ but I feel for Susie, she seems like mostly an innocent victim in the machinations of the others. I did like it when she slammed Sidney’s fingers in the door of a cab as she ran from him. Good work, Suse!

Susie and Steve’s romance is quite convincing as well, Steve himself is a little on the wooden side but I believe that they care about each other and are upset when they break up.

Bechdel test: No, there’s a tonne of women and named ones, but they all exist as the only woman in any given scene.

Best lines:

“Turn the record over, Sidney. I’m bored. like most of the human race I’m bored. I’d go a mile for a chuckle.”

Sidney: He thinks J.J.’s some kind of a monster…
Susan: Don’t you?
Sidney: Susie, J.J. happens to be one of my very best friends!
Susan: I know. But someday I’d like to look into your clever little mind and see what you really think of him.
Sidney: Where do you come off, making a remark like that?
Susan: Who could love a man who makes you jump through burning hoops like a trained poodle?

JJ: People tell me I’m a very talented man, but I still can’t see around corners.

Sidney: a bed is the best friend a girl ever had.

State of Mind: Yeah, I enjoyed this for what it is. It sort of made me want to read the pulp novel I bought in L.A. again. But I don’t know if it was enough fun, or engaging enough to watch again. Nice twisty plot at the end there, for something which was relatively straightforward.

Watched movie count