Jan. & Feb. 2015 at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

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Links to my writing at TCM’s official Movie Morlocks blog in January & February.

15 FAVORITE FILMS FROM 2014
Excerpt: “I know what you’re thinking. Another list?! Forgive me my trespass but as a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists I’m asked to compile a list of my favorite films each year and I wanted to share some of my viewing highlights with you. These are the films that have been occupying my thoughts in recent weeks and many of them haven’t gotten the critical attention that I think they deserve.”

NIPPON NOIR: I AM WAITING (1957)
Excerpt: “Viewers will easily spot the influence of early American as well as French Film Noir on I AM WAITING. From its jazz infused score by the brilliant Japanese composer Masaru Sato to the dark and shadow lined cinematography of Kurataro Takamura and the surprisingly gritty script by Shintaro Ishihara, almost all traces of old Japan are missing from the film.”

ROBERT REDFORD & SYDNEY POLLACK: A CREATIVE PARTNERSHIP
Excerpt: “In the years that followed Redford would continue to develop this persona as a sort of amorous outsider who finds himself in difficult relationships that usually end badly or abruptly. As handsome as he was, Redford rarely got to keep the girl who was often hard won. This kind of romantic cynicism became typical in the decade that followed as the country’s growing mistrust in everything, from government bureaucracy to the family structure, begin to take its toll on the American dream. And few actors seemed to represent that sea change better than Robert Redford. As the 60s gave way to the 70s, the beloved blond, blue-eyed movie star was surreptitiously becoming the face of American dissatisfaction”

END OF AN ERA: THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD (1974)
Excerpt: “Unfortunately for classic film fans THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD (1974) isn’t 100% invention. In fact, many aspects of the telefilm’s plot are taken right from news headlines at the time. The fictional Worldwide Films studios are actually a stand-in for the world renowned Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, which began systematically selling off its backlots in the early 1970s while auctioning off costumes and props from the beloved films they once produced. Director Gene Levitt and writer George Schenck managed to capture the appalling demolition of MGM and turn it into a melancholy made-for-TV movie that borrows generously from Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera.”

LAUGH RIOT: I’LL GIVE A MILLION (1938)
Excerpt: “This lighthearted comedy of errors should appeal to fans of similar depression-era comedies such as HAPPINESS AHEAD (1934), THE GAY DECEPTION (1935) MY MAN GODFREY (1936), IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), MERRILY WE LIVE (1938) WISE GIRL (1937) and SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941) that thoughtfully used humor to illustrate the disparity between the wealthy and the less fortune at the time. It’s also just a real treat for fans of Lorre and Carradine who should enjoy watching these two young and charismatic performers playing a couple of hapless hobos who get into trouble with the law. They make a very funny and endlessly entertaining duo as they bumble their way through a series of silly situations.”

OLIVER REED AT 77: A CONVERSATION
Excerpt: “Feb. 13th marks what would have been Oliver Reed’s 77th birthday if he was still with us. Reed died in 1999 but he has long been one of my favorite actors so to honor his memory I decided to contact filmmaker Kent Adamson who worked with Oliver Reed in the 1980s and is friendly with the actor’s son (Mark). What follows is a lengthy Q&A where Kent generously shares his own recollections and thoughts about the actor’s life and career.”

BEWARE! LOUIS JOURDAN IS HERE
Excerpt: “The characters he played were often hard to read and I found myself constantly questioning their motives. This is undoubtedly due to his exceptional performances in films such as LETTER FROM AN UKNOWN WOMAN (1948) where he plays a self-absorbed pianist who breaks Joan Fontaine’s heart and THE BEST OF EVERYTHING (1959) where he drives the gorgeous Suzy Parker mad with jealousy or JULIE (1956) where he stalks and terrorizes poor Doris Day. In retrospect Jourdan was incredibly apt at portraying men with questionable motives and he had a viper-like way of honing in on naive young women who became easy prey. It doesn’t surprise me that he eventually ended up playing a comic-book villain in SWAMPTHING (1982) and a James Bond baddie in OCTOPUSSY (1983). But if I had to select his most fearsome role I’d single out Jourdan’s outstanding turn as the infamous bloodsucking Count in COUNT DRACULA (1977).”

REGRETTABLE VIEWING EXPERIENCES? I’VE HAD A FEW!
Excerpt: “I sat through most of the film with my mouth agape being astonished by its badness but after the first unbelievable hour passed my shock turned to disappointment and disgust. I couldn’t stomach anymore so with only 20 or so minutes remaining until the credits rolled I abandoned my seat and my viewing companions and headed to the lobby where I blew off some steam playing video games. I’ve never regretted my decision. It rates as my worst movie theater experience, bar none.”