erik lundegaard

Movies posts

Saturday November 11, 2023

Dixon Redux, or Afterbirth of a Nation

Victory! Yours, mine and ours. On IMDb, our preeminent movie website, Thomas Dixon, the man who wrote the book and play upon which “The Birth of a Nation” is based, is once again known for writing the book and play upon which “The Birth of a Nation” is based:

Here's how it looked last year and most of this: “Birth” was nonsensically, idiotically, fourth.

This was always the most egregious of IMDb's algorithmic “known for” idiocies, so I'm glad they fixed it. Sadly, it looks like a one-off. Everything else is the same. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks are still best known as producers, Bernardo Bertolucci is best known as a writer, and Peter Bogdanovich is best known for playing “DJ (voice, uncredited)” in “The Last Picture Show.” Boris Karloff isn't known for “Frankenstein,” Bo Derek isn't known for “10,” and Henry “The Fonz” Winkler isn't known for playing the Fonz of “Happy Days.” 

Plus “Gods of the Machine” is still up there for Dixon—a movie that's been “in development” for several years now, by a man who's never made a feature film, but who apparently uses some of Dixon's characters in this probably never-to-be-made movie. And yet it's the third-most popular thing Dixon is known for. Because algorithm.

Posted at 04:31 PM on Saturday November 11, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Sunday October 22, 2023

Burt Young (1940-2023)

Stallone and Young in the sleeper hit of 1976.

When did I first see Burt Young? He always seemed part of my film/TV landscape in the 1970s but he'd actually just started getting roles. His first credit (of 166) was in an episode of “The Doctors” that aired in Oct. 1969, and then he was into the 1970s; and then he came to embody a kind of gritty, slobby 1970s aesthetic. But when did I first see him? “Rocky” was in March 1977, just after I'd turned 14. Was anything before then?

Here are the best options, per his IMDb page:

  • “Across 110th Street” (1972): Great movie, but I didn't see it until my 30s in the 1990s
  • “M*A*S*H,” S2, Ep7, “L.I.P.: Local Indigenous Personnel”: So memorable in this (more later) but I didn't start watching “M*A*S*H” reguarly until Season 4—though there's a chance I saw this in rereuns before March 1977
  • “Chinatown” (1974), one of the greatest movies ever made, and he's there at the beginning and end in a pivotal role, but again, I didn't see “Chinatown” until my 30s
  •  “Cinderella Liberty,” “The Gambler,” “Hustling,” “The Killer Elite:”: Nah, I was a kid

I'll cut to the chase: I think it was in a first season episode of “Baretta,” which I watched all the time: S1, Ep10, “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow.” In it, he played Willie, a mentally challenged adult, and a childhood friend of Baretta's, who may be behind a string of robberies. It aired April 9, 1975. When I first saw “Rocky,” I might've even thought, “Hey, it's Baretta's friend!” There's some part of me that thinks I thought that, but I could just be fooling myself.

The point is, I don't remember any episode of “Baretta” anymore. But Paulie? He's imbedded forever. 

Here's the thing people forget about “Rocky”: It was at the exact fulcrum of gritty, realistic '70s movies and the crowd-pleasing, sequel-laden blockbusters Hollywood movies became. The first half was gritty slice of life; second half, he goes the distance, gets the crowd and the girl, etc., and, because it was a huge hit, the No. 1 movie of 1976, it led to “Rocky II,” “III,” “IV,” “V,” “Balboa,” and the first three “Creed” movies. It helped lead us away from gritty realism and the kinds of movies Burt Young was great in.

And was anyone grittier and more realistic in the first “Rocky” than Paulie? Stallone was strong and handsome, with Paul McCartney eyes, and his Rocky was too much of a sweetheart to become a thumbbreaker for the mob. Even the mob was nice: “Here's some money, Rock, don't worry about it.” But Paulie? Ooof. Always wanting something, always insinuating himself in. Hey, Rock, take out my sister. What? You're busted! You ain't a virgin no more! That whole scene. Yikes. Throwing the turkey out the door? There's no one in that movie you wanted to hang around with less than Paulie. Who woulda thought he would last the longest among the supporting cast? Mickey died in “III,” Apollo in “IV,” Adrian after “V.” We don't see Paulie's grave until “Creed.”

During the pandemic I wound up watching a lot of old “M*A*S*H” episodes on HULU, and came across the aforemented Season 2 episode, in which Hawkeye and Trapper help a soldier marry and take home a Korean woman and their child. It's the one where Hawkeye is going after that hot new nurse, but she turns out to be racist, and so he buys back his introduction to her? Anyway, the lieutenant who's charged with looking into the matter is played by Burt Young, and he's just this sad, slobby, brutal, slice of life. Hawkeye and Trap get him drunk, and then surround him women's clothes, to blackmail him. At first it doesn't work, but then he's like “What do I care?” and signs the release but doesn't hold a grudge. He's still kind of affable. More, I was reminded that a few of my forever lines came from him. Particularly:

  • “Whu — braissiere?”
  • “Fuggetit!”

So memorable. 

Young was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for “Rocky,” both him and Burgess Meredith, but they lost to Jason Robards' Ben Bradlee in “All the President's Men.” (Ned Beatty and Laurence Olivier were also in the mix. Helluva slate.) The movies then went the way they went, but almost anytime they returned to something gritty, serious and New York-centric, filmmakers reached out to Burt Young: “Once Upon a Time in America,” “The Pope of Greenwich Village,” “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” “The Sopranos.”

So long, Paulie.

Posted at 01:26 PM on Sunday October 22, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Thursday September 14, 2023

Astaire, Rogers Not Known for Astaire-Rogers Movies, Says IMDb

Our sister-in-law Jayne stayed with us last week and we all watched “Shall We Dance,” the 1937 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie where he plays ballet dancer Peter P. Peters, aka “Petrov,” and she plays tap dancer Linda Keene, and the songs include such Gershwin numbers as “They All Laughed” and “Let's Call the Whole Thing Off,” and we get that insane roller skate dance in Central Park. And for some reason, in the middle of it, I looked up Fred Astaire on IMDb. I forget what I was checking. Because I got distracted by this:

Right. Not an Astaire-Rogers movie in the mix.

And hers?

One Astaire-Rogers, their final RKO picture together, which was a bit of an anomaly. Per Wikipedia:

... there is none of the usual “screwball comedy” relief provided by such actors as Edward Everett Horton, Victor Moore, or Helen Broderick, it is the only Astaire-Rogers musical biography, the only one on which Oscar Hammerstein II worked, the only one of their musicals with a tragic ending, and the only one in which Astaire's character dies. 

And not exactly the first Astaire-Rogers movie I think of. That would be “Top Hat,” or “Swing Time,” or “Shall We Dance.” Apparently I'm not alone. If you sort Astaire's feature films by user rating, it goes exactly that way, with “The Band Wagon” fourth. I love “The Band Wagon,” by the way, it's his other “Known For”s that are the head scratchers—particularly when you consider that billing supposedly matters in the Known For algorithm. Astaire-Rogers movies, he's usually top-billed. For “Towering Inferno”? He was fifth-billed (Newman, McQueen, Holden, Dunaway, and everyone else alphabetically), and third-billed for “On the Beach.” He did get Oscar nom'ed for “Inferno,” so that probably pushed it up. But to No. 1? (Good trivia question: Who won the Oscar the one time Fred Astaire was nominated for an Oscar? Answer: Robert De Niro for “The Godfather Part II.” Worlds colliding.)

Her No. 1, “Kitty Foyle,” was also an Oscar turn, for which she won. Her only nom.

So our biggest movie website says the most famous dance team in movie history isn't known for dancing with each other. I expected nothing less from IMDb. 

Posted at 11:53 AM on Thursday September 14, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Friday September 01, 2023

The Good, The Bad, and the Known For

Another conversation with IMDb:

  • Them: Who's Sergio Leone?
  • Me: You mean “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” guy? 
  • The ... what? No no no, I'm talking the “Once Upon a Time in America” guy.
  • Oh sure, he directed that, too.
  • DIRECTED? Leone's not known for DIRECTING. He's a WRITER!
  • Really? I thought people thought of him as this great Spaghetti western director or something.
  • Shows what you know. He only directed like nine things. And he wrote 16. Ergo, he's known for writing.
  • Well...
  • And that other thing? “The Good, The Bad and the Whatever” you talked about? I don't know where you get your movie knowledge. “Duck, You Sucker!” Now that's the ticket.
  • I guess?
  • Believe you me.

As the great man said in better circumstances: And it just continues...

Posted at 08:42 AM on Friday September 01, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Saturday August 05, 2023

Bernardo Bertolucci, Writer

Which he was. Won awards for it, too. But he might be better known as a director. You could say, IMDb, that that's what Bertolucci is known for. But you do you.

Posted at 10:21 AM on Saturday August 05, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Friday July 07, 2023

Scorsese: 'Where the Hell We've Been'

“Films allow us to see ourselves—to see who we've been, how we've evolved. There may be things we don't like to see about ourselves in the past. [But] we don't really have a chance of knowing where we're going unless we know where the hell we've been.”

-- Martin Scorsese, “100 Years of Warner Bros.,” episode 3

Amen. It's why retrofitting past artifacts to current cultural values is a sin to me. (Recent example: scrubbing the n-word from “The French Connection.”) It's not only white-washing history, it's an insult to all the people who fought and sacrificed to get us where we are now. It's pretending their great work wasn't even necessary.

Posted at 12:48 PM on Friday July 07, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Monday July 03, 2023

Alan Arkin (1934-2023)

Alan Arkin, who passed away last week of heart ailments at the age of 89, said one of my favorite lines in recent movie memory. 

In 2012, I put together a list of my favorite movie lines of the year—I was a go-getter back then—and a line from Ben Affleck's “Argo” was No. 2. In the movie, Alan Arkin plays Lester Siegel, a B-movie producer who agrees to help the CIA's Tony Mendez (Affleck) create a fake movie in order to hopefully spirit six Americans out of Iran in the midst of the hostage crisis. Anthony Lane described him as someone “so scornfully amused by Mendez’s request that he has no option but to obey it,” and at one point, he and Mendez are sharing fast food on some steps in magic-hour light and talking about life. Siegel says this:

“I was a terrible father. [Pause] It's a bullshit business. It's like coal mining: You come home to your wife and kids, you can't wash it off.”

It's a good line but the line reading is what makes it great. There's no apology in his voice, or concern about appearances, or asking for forgivness. He's past caring but still caring. Back then I wrote, “It's a mea culpa without too much culpa. ... He's describing Hollywood but he could be describing any business. They're all like that. That's why it resonates. We all carry that bullshit home.” 

But that's not the line I'm talking about.

Six years earlier, in “Little Miss Sunshine,” Arkin played Edwin Hoover, or Grandpa, a man who travels 800 miles with his absolutely dysfuctional family in a yellow van so his granddaughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin), can participate in the titular contest in Redondo Beach, Calif. Are the parents fighting? I forget. But the trip includes Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell), a gay, depressive, unemployed Proust scholar, and Dwayne (Paul Dano), the wife's son from a previous marriage, who, stymied in his wish to become a fighter pilot, has taken a vow of silence and communicates only with notepad and pen. Meanwhile, Edwin, the father's father, is living with them because he got kicked out of his senior facility for snorting heroin. Yeah, it's a bit much. But it's still fun.

On the trip, stultified and fed up, Grandpa looks over at Dwayne, this doofus kid with his doofus vow, and says the following:

Can I give you some advice? Well, I'm going to give it to you anyway. I don't want you making the same mistakes I made when I was young. Dwayne? That's your name, right? Dwayne? This is the voice of experience talking. Are you listening? 

You wonder what it could be. There's so much wrong with Dwayne it could be anything.

Fuck a lot of women, Dwayne. Not just one woman. A lot of women. 

I exploded with laughter. It was so unexpected. It was also the line reading. He didn't care what other people thought but he cared enough to dispense this advice. He was past caring but still caring. In his later career, Arkin mastered that tone. 

Better: It echoes something Arkin, as Dr. Sheldon Kornpett, said nearly 30 years earlier in “The In-Laws.” You know that movie, right? If you don't, I recommend it. He's being led astray by his future in-law and possible rogue CIA agent Vince Ricardo (Peter Falk), and now they're facing a firing squad in Latin America. And with death staring at him in the face, bereft, he says something like: “I only fucked four women. And two of them were my wife.” The regret Sheldon has is the advice Edwin dispenses.

Arkin's big break came on Broadway in 1963 with “Enter Laughing,” basically playing Carl Reiner, and shortly thereafter he was nominated for a best actor Oscar for playing Lt. Rozanov in “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming” (which I have to see). Then he was terrorizing a blind Audrey Hepburn in “Wait Until Dark” before being cast as the titular “Inspector Clouseau” (following Peter Sellers), and then that great symbol of 20th century defianct impotence, Lt. Yossarian in “Catch 22.” Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere writes of Arkin, “For me he was the king of fickle neuroticism and glum irreverence for decades and decades, and for decades and decades I loved him like few others.” Amen. 

Posted at 08:15 AM on Monday July 03, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Friday June 16, 2023

Chinatown V

Its inalienable essence

One of the great takeaways from Sam Wasson's “The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood” is just how much Roman Polanski meant to the script. Writing credits are really kind of nuts in Hollywood. People who work on a thing aren't credited, people who don't work on the thing wind up with screenwriting Oscars. According to Wasson, the screenwriter for “Chinatown, Robert Towne, ”secretly employed an old college friend named Edward Taylor as his uncredited writing partner for more than 40 years,“ including on ”Chinatown.“ But their draft went on and on and on. What Towne and Taylor couldn't do is kill their little darlings. That was up to Polanski. 

The new ”Polanski“ draft was focused on its inalienable essence: Jake Gittes. He was in every scene. True to convention, the audience would never know any more or any less than their screen detective but would uncover the mystery as he did, clue by clue.

Additionally Polanski had tossed out Evelyn and Escobar's affair along with their tangential subplot; he cut many of Gittes's lowlife vulgarisms and class consciousness, reviving in their place certain hard-boiled characteristics common to the genre; he removed scenes with Cross's goons and long expositional dialogues between Evelyn and Gittes—strewn confusingly with red herrings and dense conspiratorial fogs right out of The Big Sleep. Where once the character of Byron Samples—also cut completely from the new draft—accompanied Gittes on his investigation of the retirement home, now Evelyn goes with Gittes; the change enhances their complicity, their love story, and leads nicely to bed. In Towne's first drafts, Gittes's motivation is blurred in the smokescreen of twisty misdirects. After Evelyn drops the lawsuit against him, what does the water scandal matter to him personally? In the Polanski rewrite, an answer is offered as an outraged Gittes, in the barbershop, defends the integrity of his profession, an indication that for all his sleazy divorce work, a nobler detective is waiting to emerge. The water mystery is his opportunity to do good—which, in a flourish of chilling irony, he will blunder by hindering rather than helping, near the climax of the Polanski revision. In the original, Evelyn masterminded the showdown with her father; in the Polanski revision, Gittes instigates it, creating a new scene that further demonizes Cross. Rather than tremble and repent when confronted or wither under a narcotic haze, as he did in Towne's early drafts, Cross stands firm and fully justifies his crimes: ”You see, Mr. Gittes,“ he growls in the new scene, ”most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything.“

It makes sense that Polanski more than Towne would come up with that line. Polanski grew up Jewish in Nazi-occupied Europe. He knew it firsthand.

”Chinatown" wound up being nominated for 11 Academy Awards. It won one: Towne.

Posted at 08:56 AM on Friday June 16, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Saturday April 29, 2023

Chinatown I

Bad for glass. We're forever behind the detective who's forever behind.

I've seen “Chinatown” about half a dozen times, maybe more. It's the movie I keep returning to these days, as I once kept returning to “The Insider” or “All the President's Men.” Maybe it just resonated more during the Trump era. Forget it, Erik, it's the GOP.

I thought I got it, too. The movie is an updated film noir, except the femme fatale is the victim and the cynical private detective has no idea how awful the world is. Brilliant. I got it.

Then I read this quote from production designer Richard Sylbert in “Hollywood: An Oral History” and realized I wasn't seeing half of “Chinatown”: 

You say to yourself, “Okay, Chinatown is about a drought, so all the colors in this picture are going to be related to the idea of a drought. And the only time you're going to see green is when somebody has water for the grass.” ... All the buildings in this picture will be Spanish except one. And they'll all be white. The reason they're white is that the heat bounces off them. And not only will they all be white, they'll be above the eye level of the private eye. Above eye level means, for the private eye, that he has to walk uphill. It is always harder emotionally to walk uphill. You then decide what the colors are going to be and why they're going to be that way and what the range should be, let's say, from burnt grass, which is a terrific color, to white, which you know you're already going to deal with, to umber. Umber is interesting, because it's the color of a shadow. And in a movie like this, the more shadowy the better. You use the layers, the planes, use everything you can. All these things are available to you to structure a movie. Even opaque glass. You know what's interesting about opaque glass in a mystery? You can't quite see who's behind it, and it looks like frozen water. And in a picture where they're talking about water, it's an interesting object to get involved with. And you just keep doing that wherever you can.

How fucking brilliant is all that? Sylbert also worked on “Splendor in the Grass,” “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “The Graduate,” “Rosemary's Baby,” “Carnal Knowledge,” “Shampoo,” “Reds,” “Frances,” “Breathless,” “Dick Tracy,” and “Carlito's Way.” Not a bad CV.

Posted at 11:29 AM on Saturday April 29, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Friday April 14, 2023

All the Diminutives

Fun fact: Jimmy Cagney didn't like being called Jimmy. Professionally he was James, his friends called him Jim, but early on Warner Bros. tagged him with the diminutive “Jimmy,” which, in their defense, made him seem like family. He was the kid down the street, your tough little brother, your ne'er-do-well son. Ruffle his hair why don’t you.

This is well-known is you know Cagney. Less talked about: Warners did the exact same thing with his character names. For about 10 years they were, if not diminutives, at least -y or -ie names.

For his big breakthrough he played Tom Powers, but the women in the film often called him Tommy. Then Warners gave him monosyllabic names like Jack, Bert, Matt and Joe. But starting in ’32, they put all their chips on the diminutive, calling him, for his next films, Jimmy, Lefty, Danny, and Patsy. He was Chester Kent for “Footlight Parade” and Dan Quigley for “Lady Killer” but then then they were back with Jimmy, Jerry, Chesty, Eddie and Tommy. As a G-Man, he was Brick, but in “The Irish in Us” he’s Danny again. Even when he broke from Warners for two pictures, he played a Johnny (Cave) and a Terry (Rooney). Once he returned, he played, among others, Rocky (Sullivan), Eddie (Bartlett), Jerry (Plunkett) and Danny (Kenny).

That last one was “City for Conquest,” a big production that went awry, and that was it for Cagney's diminutives. Did he put his foot down? “I'm 40, c'mon, guys.” 

For the last decade of his career, he didn't have much of a choice of character names since he increasingly played real people: James Cagney (a cameo in “Starlift”), Martin “Moe the Gimp” Snyder in “Love Me or Leave Me,” a George M. Cohan reprise in “The Seven Little Foys,” Lon Chaney in “Man of a Thousand Faces,” and Admiral Bill Halsey in “The Gallant Hours.” Even his ballyooed return to movies after 20 years was a non-fiction role: Rhinelander Waldo in “Ragtime.”

I am curious if Warners gave him all the diminutives because it made business sense or because it annoyed him. He was afraid to fly and they kept making him a pilot, too.

Posted at 12:34 PM on Friday April 14, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Monday April 10, 2023

Michael Lerner (1941-2023)

In “An Empire of Their Own,” Neal Gabler wrote about the six Jews—most of them immigrants from Eastern Europe—who founded Hollywood. Fun fact: Michael Lerner played half of them. In 1980, he was cast as Jack Warner in “This Year's Blonde,” a TV movie about Marilyn Monroe, and in 1983 he played Harry Cohn in another TV movie, “Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess,” but all of that was mere prep for his great, Oscar-nominated turn as Jack Lipnick, a fictionalized version of Louis B. Mayer, in the Coen Bros.' “Barton Fink” in 1991. Someone—his agent?—should've realized this and helped him get roles as William Fox, Adolph Zucker and Carl Laemle to complete the cycle. Or maybe that's just the completist in me talking. But has any actor done all six? Lerner totally could've done it. To be honest, the biggest reach was the moustachioed Warner, and Lerner nailed that one first.

Oh, and if anyone thinks Lipnick shouldn't count as Louis B. Mayer, Lerner also played Mayer in a 2022 Russian film “Pervyy Oskar,” about the first film to win the Academy Award for best documentary. Per the Times, he was working on a biopic of the man as well. 

Lerner was in my life for a while. I was looking over his 183 credits and seeing familiar shows I probably watched in the 1970s: “The Odd Couple,” “Lucas Tanner,” “Rhoda,” “Wonder Woman.” Then I caught a few that I knew I'd watched. Lerner played Pierre Salinger in that mindfuck of a TV movie (when you're 10) about the near-death of the world, “The Missiles of October”; and maybe more importantly, he played the Japan-loving Capt. Futterman in that classic season 2 episode of “M*A*S*H,” “For Want of a Boot.” Futterman is one of the many links in a chain that Hawkeye builds so carefully, with each quid pro quo, so he can get a pair of non-leaking boots, only to see it all fall apart in the end. 

Related to the original Hollywood moguls mentioned above, Lerner also played his share of Jewish gangsters: notably Arnold Rothstein in John Sayles' “Eight Men Out,” the man who played with the faith of 50 million. 

Rest in peace. 

Posted at 08:50 PM on Monday April 10, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Friday February 17, 2023

Raquel Welch (1940-2023)

Sweet Raquel.

Isn't that what Red called her in “Shawshank Redemption”? In that great Morgan Freeman voice? She was the one on the wall when Andy Dufresne made his break. It might've been her most famous movie role. 

None of Andy's three pinups, by the way, were known by their birth names: 

  • Rita Hayworth, née Margarita Carmen Cansino
  • Marilyn Monroe, née Norma Jeane Mortenson
  • Raquel Welch, née Jo-Raquel Tejada

Marilyn went alliterative, while the ethnicity of the two Latinas was covered up. Which was the style at the time. 

Raquel was the big sex symbol when I was growing up in the 1970s—a one-named wonder—but I probably saw her more on variety or talk shows, or in jokes from hosts of variety or talk shows. She was the butt of a lot of jokes. One name, two assets. She was never a crush for me, though. My crushes were TV, initially: Ginger and Mary Ann; Farrah and Cheryl; Lindsay. The hips are what stun me now. She was curvy all the way around.

The first movie I saw her in was “Fantastic Voyage.” I'd read the book by Isaac Asimov in my teenage sci-fi phase and saw the movie ... in school? On television? I was disappointed. Special effects could not yet replicate what our imaginations could. Some wag said she was the best special effect in the movie. Was that her first substantial role? Before then, on IMDb, it's “Stewardess” and “Woman in Lobby” and “Miss France.” One of the many starlets in the room. For “Voyage,” she was a scientist, Cora, second-billed, and suited up for the journey like everyone else. The bikinis, fur or otherwise, came later. The poster for “One Million Years B.C.,” more than the movie, broke her. Both ways?

What was the second movie I saw her in? Probably “Bedazzled” in my 20s. She played Lilian Lust, the Devil's ultimate temptress. A lot of her roles were like that—jokes about the feelings she evoked: Lust, Jugs, Priestess With a Whip. Even being cast as “Myra Breckenridge,” Gore Vidal's transgender hero, was a 70s-era joke. That was once a man? Get outta town. So many of her starring roles were in middling '60s heist movies, or cop movies, or westerns. They were backward-looking rather than nouvelle vague. She trusted the old hands. 

I vaguely remember the ads for “Kansas City Bomber,” but not sure why. Because she looked great? Because it was a movie I maybe wanted to see but never saw? Then she did the “Musketeers” movies, to acclaim, and Stephen Sondheim's “Last of Sheila,” and my friend Stephen Manes' “Mother, Jugs and Speed” with Bill Cosby and Harvey Keitel. By then she was mid-30s and her bedmate in “Myra”—Farrah—was the sex symbol. Raquel played off her rep in “Mork & Mindy” and appeared in Playboy, then did the strong-woman TV movie thing, “The Legend of Far Walks Woman,” and that was it. She was gone. She barely made anything in the 1980s. Her daughter, Tahnee, was the Welch of the decade. In the '90s, she again played off her rep on sitcoms, “Seinfeld” most memorably, getting into a catfight with Elaine. In the '00s, post-J-Lo, she was finally allowed to play Latina in supporting roles in “Tortilla Soup” and “American Family.”

What might've happened if she'd been allowed to keep her name and ethnicity throughout her career? Or if musicals were a thing at the time? (She wanted to be a song-and-dance woman.) Or if she wasn't the big sex symbol when terms like objectification were entering the cultural vernacular? Maybe the same. Look at J-Lo. It's tough to make the right choices once you have choices.

Much muchness has left the earth. Rest in peace.

Posted at 11:00 AM on Friday February 17, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Tuesday January 17, 2023

Gina Lollobrigida (1927-2023)

I’ve only seen a handful of her movies and not the better-known ones. Looking over her IMDb page, I guess it’s just “The Law” (1959) and “Beat the Devil” (1953) rather than, say, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1956) with Anthony Quinn and “Solomon and Sheba” (1959) with Yul Brynner. But she does leave an impression. Oof. Both sexy and lovely. Her figure almost gets in the way of how beautiful she is. Co-star and onscreen husband in “Beat the Devil,” Humphrey Bogart, put it well. He said she was “the most woman I’ve seen for a long time—makes Marilyn Monroe look like Shirley Temple.” In 1955, she starred in “La donna più bella del mondo,” which 20th Century Fox redubbed “Beautiful But Dangerous,” but the exact translation is more apt: The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.

Then there’s that name. You couldn’t come up with a name that sounded more like a sex symbol. In fact, that may be where I first came across her: spoofed as Lollobrickida on “The Flintstones” and Gina Lollo Jupiter on “The Jetsons.”

She won three Donatellos for best actress—“La donna più bella del mondo” (1955), “Venere imperiale” (1963), and “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” (1969)—and was nominated for a BAFTA for “Pane, amore e fantasia” (1955), but no Oscar noms. I guess the Academy couldn’t get past the name or the figure. She left the movies in the early 1970s, became a photo-journalist, interviewed Fidel Castro, returned to acting for “Falcon Crest” in the mid-1980s, ran for political office in the mid-1990s, lost. Apparently she lost a lot of her money along the way, too. Helluva life.

The most beautiful woman in the world. She was 95.

Posted at 10:00 AM on Tuesday January 17, 2023 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Thursday December 29, 2022

What is Cecil B. DeMille 'Known For'?

No directing credits is the idiocy. Adding that he's known for playing Cecil B. DeMille in “Sunset Blvd.” is the chef's kiss.

Posted at 08:51 PM on Thursday December 29, 2022 in category Movies   |   Permalink  

Monday December 26, 2022

What is Gene Wilder 'Known For'?

For once, IMDb's “Known For” algorithm gets it right. Mostly...

Yes, yes, yes ... huh? 

Of all the movies Wilder made with Richard Pryor, that one? I actually saw “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” in a theater, possibly the Skyway in downtown Minneapolis, on a sad day in 1989. It was a sad day because I saw “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” and experienced the fall of a great comic duo. Other critics felt the same. It's got a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert dismissed it sadly: “The possibilities for visual comedy with this idea are seemingly endless, but the movie chooses instead to plug the characters into a dumb plot about industrial espionage.”

So why is it fourth on the IMDb Wilder list rather than better Wilder-Pryor teamups like “Stir Crazy” or “Silver Streak”? Maybe because IMDb's users rate it about the same:

Now that's depressing. They've also voted on it twice as much. Because it streamed somewhere and the others didn't? And masses of doofuses descended on IMDb to show their approval? But that wouldn't explain why the others are rated so low. I'd think both “Silver Streak” and “Stir Crazy” would be low to mid 7s. Are they really not that good? Were we wrong back then?

Oddly, on Richard Pryor's IMDb page, he's “known for” “Silver Streak” more than “See No Evil,” which are Nos. 3 and 4 on his list. Nos. 1 and 2? “Superman III” and “Bustin' Loose.” Another sigh.

And, as my brother reminded me, where the hell is “Blazing Saddles” for Wilder?

Posted at 06:41 AM on Monday December 26, 2022 in category Movies   |   Permalink  
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