The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon
Directed by John Huston
Written by John Huston based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
(number 281)

A good classic, fast talking Noir starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. I know I’ve seen a couple of Bogarts but I hadn’t already seen this one. It was unfamiliar to me.

The story is a pretty good twisty mystery and generally, yeah I think this is a great example of the genre. It did get a little boring halfway through, but that might just be because I was watching it in the weekend while it was sunny and I sort of wanted to be getting chores and things done. Bogart is great in this, I feel silly even typing that. Of course he was! Mary Astor is the classic femme fatale, sort of into him and sort of not, but ultimately more trouble that she’s worth.

My favourite sequence is probably Cairo vs Spade in Spade’s office, with the gun and Spade disarming Cairo and being generally a cool guy in the manner of Spike from Cowboy Bebop.

It’s a pity about all the casual queer insults Sam’s happy to use. At least Cairo is allowed to still be shown as a homosexual character through obvious coding, although he is pretty much a villain so that’s not exactly great news.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, I love Sam and Effie, I’m not as sure about Brigid because yeah, was never sure when she was lying or what. The cops were great, and I totally got where they were coming from.

This is the kind of classic which sets a lot of tropes. Watching it I was reminded of so many other, later media. Notably Brick, which follows a similar sort of macguffin based plot, but also shows like Veronica Mars, or event the Beyond Belief episodes of Thrilling Adventure Hour which mention Pterodactyl Jones.

Bechdel test: Effie and Brigid talk off screen several times, but that obviously doesn’t count. There was also Miles’ widow but she only talked to Sam. I’m sure there were even scenes with Effie and Brigid together but only talking through the males present, so no. If they’d just brought one of the scenes with Effie and Brigid onto the screen instead of having Effie relate it to Sam… sigh. Effie’s an outstanding ‘Girl Friday’ type, loved her to bits.

Best line:

Sam: when you’re slapped you’ll take it and like it!

State of Mind: A good mystery and plenty entertaining. I’m not sure if I’m energised to watch it again, particularly. I can see why it’s a classic, and I recommend people watching it, but I guess it wasn’t a huge amount of surprise.

Watched movie count

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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

The Best Years of Our Lives
Directed by William Wyler
Written by Robert E. Sherwood based on the novel by MacKinlay Kantor
(number 311)

This movie comes straight off the bat with the feels, showing the pain of coming home after seeing terrible things through Homer and his two lost hands and his fears about how his girl will handle seeing his hooks. The other two men accompanying Homer don’t have the same disfigurement but plenty of worries and reservations all the same.

I blubbered my way through all the reuniting scenes with the servicemen and their families and wives. Anna pointed out it’s like the end of a movie, not the start. And I guess that’s the point. The reunions quickly turn hard though, with Homer’s family uncertain how to deal with his hooks. Fred afraid to even find his wife, Al trying to fit back into a family that’s well adjusted to being without him.

It’s a slow burn of a movie, which is nicely framed because it’s about people being very polite to the returned vets and eventually saying no, or no you can’t or we can’t help. And because those conversations are slow and convoluted the pace of the movie makes a lot of sense. It’s carefully crafted to punch you in the gut, hurt your heart and make you cry.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, absolutely. I think I loved Fred first, and then Homer a lot. Al was a little tougher to feel sympathy for but I was there too once he woke up and went around the room checking it was real and not just a dream *sob*. I also felt for all the women in their lives and the various reactions that they had. I’m not so sure about the May to December romance Fred had with Al’s daughter Peggy, but hey… better than his existing wife who just wanted to drink and socialise, am I right?

Bechdel test: Alice and Milly talk on the phone near the start but we only see Milly’s side of things. Milly and Peggy talk, lots of mother daughter stuff but I think it’s always framed around the men in their lives? I could be wrong, I could be forgetting them talking about clothes or housework though. No stand out passes, anyway.

Peggy: I’ve made up my mind.
Al: Good girl.
Milly: To do what?
Peggy: I’m going to break that marriage up! I can’t stand it seeing Fred tied to a woman he doesn’t love and who doesn’t love him. Oh, it’s horrible for him. It’s humiliating and it’s killing his spirit. Somebody’s got to help him.

Best line:

Al: You know, I had a dream. I dreamt I was home. I’ve had that same dream hundreds of times before. This time, I wanted to find out if it’s really true. Am I really home?

Milly: You’ll probably have to make a speech.
Al: It’s my plan to meet that situation by getting plastered.

State of Mind: I’m pleased that this movie didn’t end as bleakly as I feared it would. Anna felt like she could see where it was going and didn’t want to endure it, so I watched the last bit alone but actually it’s pretty positive. There’s a lot of social commentary, and a lot of it is damning, but there’s also generally satisfying and happy conclusions for our main characters. I was relieved. Knowing this, I may watch it again because a happy ending makes the earlier pain easier to endure I feel. All in all, a great technical movie, characters with depth who are portrayed well.

Watched movie count

Baby quilt for old friends

Flashback craft… Sadly the only photo I seem to have of this one is it incomplete… but you get the idea 🙂

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I’ve known the mama of this baby since third form, so… 1993. I met the papa in university (around the 1999 – 2000 area) and I introduced them. When I heard they were expecting a baby I thought back to the sorts of colours I remember her liking and went from there.

The pattern is made up of pinwheel, double square and double pinwheel blocks, because apparently I was feeling the doubles. Particularly fond of the Where the Wild Things Are and expressive cat fabrics I used in the border. The back is made up of Very Hungry Caterpillar fabrics.

Gallipoli (1981)

Gallipoli
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Peter Weir and David Williamson
(number 317)

Familiar director’s name… Peter Weir. Oh right. Dead Poet’s Society, Truman Show, Witness. One of these directors who I like without realising that I like them. It’s with trepidation I started this movie up, because dear god, I learned about Gallipoli as a child. I know how badly this goes for the ANZACS. I had a great-grandfather at El Alamein. There’s just no way this is going to be an uplifting movie.

Damn this film. Having a half hour opening sequence with the boys just being so damn cute and Australian and full of hope, etc etc. Being excited about running races. Perfect for making me love them as people before the inevitable putting through Hell that will happen at the war. Then they’re in the army and just being cute, excited lads in Egypt and I can feel the doom getting closer and closer.

The format of the film reminds me of Full Metal Jacket, actually. The start with the innocence and the training, etc and then the travel to the place at war with a little fun, a little frivolity and then the harsh, stark reality of war and death.

Once they were at Gallipoli it still held off on the horror. In fact there were baby Mel Gibson butt shots and jokes and the contrast between the men who’d been there too long and the new arrivals. But once the fighting began in earnest you feel the dispair. The film doesn’t shy away from showing glimpses of what it means to know you’re about to die – men taking off their medals, wedding rings, writing letters to loved ones to leave behind. Hoping that somehow it’ll be transported back home.

Does it make me love the people? Hell yes. Archy first, so young and fresh faced and pretty. Then baby Mel Gibson, Frank. He’s brilliant in this movie, just brilliant. Playing a line between genuine and smarmy and rocking it. You do feel for the men as things get worse.

Bill Hunter (mandatory role in any Australian film) is likewise amazing as Major Barton, stuck in between a stupid decision from higher up and whether the young men in his care live or die.

Bechdel test: No, there’s a couple of women here and there but this is a movie about Australian lads and the trials they face.

Best line:

Jack: What are your legs?
Archy Hamilton: Springs. Steel springs.
Jack: What are they going to do?
Archy Hamilton: Hurl me down the track.
Jack: How fast can you run?
Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard.
Jack: How fast are you going to run?
Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard!
Jack: Then let’s see you do it!

Major Barton: I won’t ask my men to do what I won’t do myself.

State of Mind: Fuck war. Much as expected, from what I knew going in for Gallipoli, this wasn’t ever going to go well. I didn’t expect to enjoy this movie as much as I did though, it’s total genius. Beautifully made character stuff with no punches pulled about the idiocy of the maneuvers. Damn, though the early part of the film, the sequence of the race Archy does barefoot against a man on horseback. It’s really a lovely film. I may even watch it again, I’ll just maybe… stop it at a certain point.

Watched movie count

Happy, geeky quilts for two boys

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I had a lot of fun making these quilts. Two lovely friends of mine adopted two little boys this year. I thought it was such a gracious, loving thing to do for the community at large that I wanted to help somehow. I chose to help by making the two boys their own patchwork quilts. I was advised of their likes: superheroes, minions, fruit.. and made two almost matching but not quite quilts. It was a lot of fun using so many of my geeky fabrics.

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Star Wars (Rey and BB-8 highlighted because of personal preference), Iron Man, Thor, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman (fave of their new mama) and a fantastic Justice League group fabric with lots of characters. Then Minions, kawaii fruit and vege, owls, school supplies, sky sharks… this quilt has a lot going on. I kept the colours bright and cheerful and used some Island fabric from Rarotonga for nice wide borders. Both came out about single bed sized and by all accounts were well received.

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Also I didn’t shy away from pinks, purples or ‘girly’ prints, because to be frank, gendered colours shouldn’t be a thing. And I’m really happy with the colour combinations in these. The binding is coloured calico I bought off Trade Me, which I love having to hand and is lovely and soft to work with.

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I’ve been using this same Ikea children’s fabric for years, sourcing it where-ever I could – through friends in Australia, off Trade Me. Sadly This is the last big chunk used for these two quilts, but I don’t mind too much. It’s just such fantastically weird animal designs.

Army of Darkness (1992)

Army of Darkness
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Sam ad Ivan Raimi
(number 380)

Okay this is going to be another of these movies which is only on here for the nostalgia of men of a certain age, isn’t it? Oh, it’s a third place sequel…and the second film in the series is in the top 100? Eh, I’m watching this now anyway.

I don’t have nostalgia for this film, in fact I have never seen it before. In the 90s I was too much of a fraidy cat to watch stuff like this. I would skirt the horror aisle of the video shop, sort of fascinated by the art on the covers but not nearly brave enough to rent or watch any of them. Once I was past 18 I was too interested in arty films like Clerks or Before Sunrise so I didn’t watch them then either. Possibly my lack of ever doing the stoner thing also feeds into this. Video Nasties just generally ain’t my thing, unless I’m watching something like Troll 2 with friends and we’re all making fun of it.

Its an early 90s cheesy horror, totally corny special effects and shoddy over the top acting. Weird moments that make no sense, such as Ash being able to catch his chainsaw on his arm stump in mid air while being attacked by zombie. The mini-Ash sequence was unsettling but mostly because it gave me flashbacks to a play called The Pillow Man, and was weirdly Freudian when he consumed himself. Then it went to creepy body horror and I noped out. This story made very little sense.

Sam Raimi is responsible for a lot of cult entertainment, including other horror movies and Xena and Hercules: the legendary journeys as an executive producer or producer. Actually there’s a lot of similar cheesiness between this and Hercules now that I know that.

Does it make me love the people? neh. I dunno, I liked that Ash was happy to scream with fear and generally get thrashed, but he’s such a cartoon character with sex jokes, being poked up the nose by a skeleton and shaking his distorted face until it goes back to it’s regular shape. It’s not about a human character or understanding, it’s a comedic horror romp and there’s no need for proper humans in that.

Bechdel test: don’t be silly. Girls are just there to gasp at the awesomeness which is Bruce Campbell and be kissed by him/serve him or turn sort of ugly when evil.

Best line: Klaatu Barada …necktie

State of Mind: Look, I’m glad that movies like this exist, because they’re the grandparents of cool stuff like Cabin in the Woods and Dead Snow and Tucker and Dale vs Evil but… urgh. I don’t want to have to watch them. This was poorly written and poorly acted. There were stop motion skeletons and not in a good way. Eh, well at least now I’ve seen it. A piece of crap, says I.

Watched movie count

Paris, Texas (1984)

Paris, Texas
Directed by Wim Wenders
Written by L.M. Kit Carson and Sam Shepard
(number 400)

A yes, one of these films which I start to watch with no idea what it’s about or what to expect. First up, we see a Mathew Mcconaughey in True Detective looking guy wandering through the desert with no water. Mostly I was struck by the beauty of the landscape. From there the film reminded me of Electra Glide in Blue and Rain Man.

Those big wide open white deserts with the intense blue sky is starting to be familiar to me now. I’m impressed with how quickly this film drew me in, how much I was interested right away in the characters and the stories. It’s not a fast paced film, and the answers aren’t immediately forthcoming, you need to wait and be patient.

I enjoy watching movies which spend so much time with the architecture and layout of the city. You don’t often see these angles of the highways of Los Angeles, the gently inclinging suburban hill, the view over the airport. It’s charming.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. I loved Walt almost immediately on account of it being Harry Dean Stanton, whom I’ve loved since Quantum Leap back in the 80s.

I took a bit longer to warm to Travis, but I got there. Walt’s wife and the kid, Hunter are generally very likeable. They don’t do anything particularly outstanding or unexpected, but the sequences about Travis wanting to walk Hunter home are a great mini-arc within the bigger story. First rejection, then tentative acceptance. It was very sweet.

I loved Jane right away when we met her, and the monologue scene is heart rending to watch. Throughout the movie you’re wondering what happened to Travis for those four years, and finally when you do find out… you don’t want to know. That stuff is dark. I also don’t love the association between abused woman and the sex industry. It’s a common line drawn and I don’t think it’s necessary. But that said, I found her very compelling to watch and was pleased to see her reunited with her son.

Bechdel test: Three named women; Anne (the perfect suburban housewife), Jane (the lost love, fallen woman) and Carmelita (the Latina maid)… but they only talk to the men.

Best line:

Walt: We live in the suburbs, but I’ve got my business in town
Travis: Oh yeah? What’s your business?
Walt: I make billboard signs for advertising.
Travis: Oh yeah? So *you*’re the one who makes those signs, I love those. Some of them are beautiful.
Walt: I’m not the only one who makes them, Trav.

State of Mind: I enjoyed that quite a lot but I don’t love the ending. I guess there’s too many unanswered questions, specifically ‘what happens next?’ but some people have found a bit of peace or closure so that’s satisfying. I suspect I may watch this film again, at least the first half or so…

Watched movie count