Still mad about that storm we didn’t get. We were supposed to wake up to a foot of snow and snow all day, and I woke to a bare dry ground. We got nothing. It all went south, where people realized that this is still winter. Here we have undead coma winter. Harsh mean wind, and not even black sharp snirt floes on the street.
Well, I said I was going to stay indoors and consume media and By God that is what I did.
I watched (yes, I know, sorry, who cares) a documentary on Don Rickles, who at the time of the filming was old and bent but still able to give it as good as ever. Such schtick. Such glorious constant rat-a-tat schtick. When I was a kid he was the guy who was calling everyone a hockey puck, and that was funny for some reason. Always mad. Always spun up and frothing with fury, the least likely person who had the right to call anyone anything, since he looked like a bleached frog.
It’s always a bit jarring to realize he’s in Toy Story; it makes him seem eternal.
Picked up daughter at 10:30 and drove to the gas station for a movie. Redbox. Knew what I wanted, found it fast, swiped the card, done: 30 seconds. Faster than the old video stores, of course, but probably faster than getting a streaming version. The video stores made movies seem like special things; Redbox kiosks make them seem like commodities, no different than a soda or bag of chips.
Popped it in. Used my Xbox remote app on my phone to navigate, since the controller is hopeless. Pop-up warning:
The website for this Blu-Ray disk has no valid certificate. Do you want to continue?
Never had that choice before. No! I demand valid certificates! If that certificate isn’t certified there’s no way I am watching this movie, because it could have invalid dialogue where people say things different than the script says. It’s a movie about crooks - could the characters in the film be using my internet connection to steal my identity? I’d better keep a close watch on those guys. Pause the movie, walk away, and then peek around the corner to see if they’re doing anything while the movie’s supposedly stopped.
It’s running the trailers now while I have the sound off. Let’s see if I can figure out the stories just by looking at the visuals.
Trailer number one: Mel Gibson is back and incredibly hairy! There is a young girl on a phone; gunshots. They’re on the run! Oh boy Mel Is Gone Kill Lotsa People Now and he’s going to go all crazy eyes while he shoots his way through most of the underlings, and then he’s going to put on the serious eyes when he shoots the top guy.
Trailer #2: A latter-day Brolin, I think, is a Western dude with a black hat; Woody Harrelson is shaved and wears a white hat. Women are looking all serious and country. Looks like it’s set in the Old West and there are snake handlers and Winchesters blasting away. Dominant color: light dust. It’s called “The Duel.” So it’s probably about a duel of some kind
Trailer #3: I think it’s Jason Stratham as a super secret agent who is hanging on the side of a building, and then he’s in Rio and his girlfriend has been taken and I’ll bet he has to do something to get her back. I’ll bet it’s a mission with double-crosses in the third act! It appears to feature Tommy Lee Jones as Ben Kingsley. Looks loud and unbelievable.
Trailer #4 Looks like the cast of Sicario, together again . . . hey hold on, it’s a trailer for Sicario. This is a new release movie. The director of Sicario made the new-release movie I watched last week. Puts “Arrival” in perspective, a bit; both had Wary Female Heroines who had to navigate between Confident Men and Slightly Less Confident Men, and somehow grasped the truth of the situation better than the men who had been involved in the matter for months, if not years. Mind you, I liked both those movies. It would just be interesting to see a movie about a guy who goes into a traditionally female occupation and makes great, startling successful reevaluations because he’s not bound by their assumptions.
And now the movie, “Hell or High Water.” It was sold as a crime movie, with bank jobs, but from what I understand it’s anything but. Which is why it was sold as a crime movie with bank jobs.
It’s pretty good. It has a big long Texas ache. A bit didactic in spots with Important, Concise Summations made by characters who occupy the requisite archetypal slots, and I think that’s what made some people praise it as Important. Also, it’s a crime movie, with bank jobs. Also, it features that ageless staple: the old cop who says just enough and knows more than he lets on.
Bottom line: since “Blood Simple,” c. 1986, NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN TEXAS.
More of the work of C. H. Wellington, cartoonist mislaid by history. He specialized in finding the humor in the moment between the recognition of one imminent disaster and the realization that it will soon be followed by a worse problem.
It's funny because it happens to other people!
The board doesn't seem to be ready to break; it's just making a board sound. But it's taken his mind off the task at hand.
Instead of one movie, here’s some scenes from something else. Guess the genre:
Yes. Sci-fi. It’s an alien from another galaxy making contact with Cliff Robertson:
It’s a good effect for movies, but it’s spectacular for TV. This is the first episode of Outer Limits, a show I never saw in its original run. Or on reruns. Or in syndication. Now and then I think I should study this show, because it’s so . . . important, right? It was an answer to Twilight Zone, an hour long, serious sci-fi.
Very much a product of its era. From what I'm seen, its reputation seems excessively respectful - at least by modern standards, and I know that's not fair. But it lacks the strangeness of Tthe Twilight Zone, the bitter wit; it's slow and earnest.
The creature above, for example, has to tell us Earthlings to be better, although we do have our own advantages; in the end there’s gunfire, he heals someone because he’s basically Jesus Andromeda, and so on.
I’m not here to lament or praise the plots, but study the oh-so-Sixties visual cliches. Such as: the boardroom of scientists, who are not only very serious, but apparently nocturnal:
The leader speaks, with useless light fixtures making everything extra stark and modern:
The plot for this episode: in order to make the planet join as one and learn how to avoid nuclear catastrophe, the League of Nervous Scientists will create an alien who will scare us all and make us put aside our petty divisions. To play the alien, they choose . . . .
Robert Culp, of course. After his death has been faked, the hearse drives past the store seen above on the right:
"From Here to Maternity." Coast to Cocast Records. Can't find anything in the old LA phone books; possibly a backlot. Anyway, the show is full of High-Tech SuperLabs, which are also dark, because Drama:
The sets, though - they didn't scrimp.
Now, about that fearsome alien form who's supposed to make everyone unite. Wikipedia:
. . . the monstrously-altered Allen Leighton was judged by some of ABC's local affiliate stations to be so frightening that they broadcast a black screen during the Thetan's appearances, effectively censoring most of the show's last act. In other parts of the United States, the Thetan footage was tape delayed until after the 11 o'clock evening news. In others, it was not shown at all.
It was pretty ugly, but c'mon:
I'll give the show this: what it does with light and shadow is frequently impressive:
But if everything's somewhat inert, or long, or predictable - well, it just drags. I'll keep watching, if only to see who shows up. That's the fun part. For example: another episode has a Mild-Mannered Man who can do horrible things with his mind.
Again, an ur-early 60s shot. Perfect. And he always gave me the jeebies, ever since I was a little kid and saw him crushed to death, screaming, by detergent suds. That movie scared the crap out of me.
But then there's this lady.
Oh, you know who she was married to on TV, don't you?
That'll do for today! Don't miss my SUNDAY newspaper column! Just click on the Star. You know: The big green Startribune Star.
(Oh, and sorry for the busted picture links on Friday. Usually I check. Obviously I didn't. I hate when I do that. Or rather when I don't.)