Nothing says summer like “road trip,” and nothing beats a road-trip-gone-wrong movie for summertime viewing.
For a comedy, you can’t beat a hilarious classic like THE LONG, LONG TRAILER,following Lucy and Desi on a cross-country misadventure in their oversized motorhome.
On the other side of the spectrum are the summer thrillers. One of my favorites is JEOPARDY(1953). It’s suspenseful, it’s sexy, and it stars the stellar Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck plays a perfectly lovely wife and mother … who exposes quite a sultry edge when she happens upon an escaped convict.
Stanwyck and with her husband (Barry Sullivan) and their young son set off in the family convertible, exit the highway, and end up on a deserted dusty road on their way down the Baja Peninsula in search of a beautiful beach that her husband fondly recollects from his childhood. Unfortunately, when they arrive at the beach, the area is abandoned and foreboding, no longer the paradise that Sullivan recalls from his youth. The twists and turns begin.
Sullivan spends most of his time in the film trapped by timber under a fallen piece of pier. The tide is rising and Stanwyck heads for help, leaving her son behind to comfort his father. As the tide rises, so does the tension, including the sexual tension that happens when Stanwyck meets up with the very dangerous (and very hot) Ralph Meeker. And there’s slapping involved!!!
This film is custom-made for a Home Projectionist event. It’s not only seriously riveting but it also provides lots of opportunities for your viewing companions to participate with “Don’t go in the shed!” kinds of comments. The Mexican beach setting makes for an easy theme approach to food and drink. And, this film is seriously short. Clocking in at only 69 minutes, you can start it after the summer sunset and watch outside.
Other people’s disastrous road trips can be great fun. Pour the margaritas and let the armchair adventures begin.
Gloria Bowman is a writer, storyteller, blogger, movie lover, freelance editor,
and author of the novel, Human Slices.
Access her blog at www.gloriabowman.com; on Twitter @GloriaBow
In honor of 007’s remarkable milestone of 50 years in the movies, London’s Barbican Centre has opened a new exhibit, “Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style.” The show runs through through September 5. I may have to plan a last-minute trip to London this summer.
When I was 10 years old, as part of the family’s weekly trek to see the latest movie, I saw my first Bond film — GOLDFINGER. I had never seen such an adult movie, and I was fascinated…and worried by it. I worried about a few simple things: like would I ever get to hear that theme song again, and why did so many people laugh when Honor Blackman introduced herself as Pussy Galore?
But there were so many other worries that the film produced. For days and days afterward, I fretted about what it would feel like to be sliced in half by a laser or to be sucked out an airplane or to die from “skin suffocation” from being painted gold. I never knew so many exotic things could happen to people.
In addition to worrying about the various gruesome disasters that could happen in life, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sean Connery. He was — and ever will be — my James Bond. So devastatingly handsome, so clever, so composed — and just so plain dreamy. He was certainly different from George, Paul, John, and Ringo, and the guys in the Dave Clark Five and Paul Revere and the Raiders. They were cute. Bond was dangerous.
And oh how I worried that I would meet someone like James Bond one day. I would fall for him hard.
Even at 10 years old, I knew that having a man like that in my life would be nothing but trouble.
Fifty years later, Bond’s iconic look still captivates me and the rest of the world. How could it not?
The Barbican show explores the whole Bond brand she-bang — from clothes to cars, to the girls and the gadgets. And I’ll be watching GOLDFINGERand several other Bond movies this year in honor of his 50-year presence on the silver screen, complete with a martini or two. Shaken, and not stirred.
Gloria Bowman is a writer, storyteller, blogger, movie lover, freelance editor,
and author of the novel, Human Slices.
Access her blog at www.gloriabowman.com; on Twitter @GloriaBow
It’s the Fourth of July, and that means only one thing (besides the fact that it’s our nation’s birthday, that is). No, not just loud bangs that make your dogs and cats howl and their fur stand on end. We’re talking about picnics!! So, to help you pack your basket, here is a cinematic shopping list. Don’t worry about overindulging–these movie meals are all fat free (and, in one or two cases, entertainment-free). All are widely available via DVD, Netflix, iTunes, etc., or ask your grocer.
__Pic-a-nic Basket:YOGI BEAR (2010) You may be a Yogi purist in which case you’ll want to plan your picnic around the original Hanna-Barbara cartoons. They’re great, but if you haven’t already checked out the latest bear incarnation, do so. Admittedly, it received so-so reviews, at best. But YOGI runs against the grain of today’s animated films, in that the humor in its tightly-woven story remains pretty true to the original’s spirit: more gentle and subtle. Not a great movie, but it bears watching.
__Utensils:FORKS OVER KNIVES (2011) I didn’t find this documentary as engaging as some reviewers did, but there’s no denying that it discusses an important topic: our nation’s addiction to meat. True, when you’re headed to a fourth of July picnic, who wants to think about giving up meat? Well, maybe this movie will persuade you to do just that. Starting July 5th, of course.
__Chicken: CHICKEN RUN (2000) No bones about it, there’s never a dull moment in this film from the creators of WALLACE AND GROMMIT. It very much resembles a fowl version of THE GREAT ESCAPE (Steve McQueen), only it tastes like… well, you know. Very plucky.
__Hamburgers:HAMBURGER (1986; Dick Butkus) If FORKS OVER KNIVES doesn’t turn you into a vegan, maybe this one, from the producers of the Police Academy series, will do it. A flunky student can’t cut the mustard at a real college, but he catches up at a place called Hamburger U. You wouldn’t go to Burger King and expect fine dining, and so this film shouldn’t be compared to GRAND ILLUSION. It might have appeal as a time capsule of the mid-80s, in case anyone’s interested. But this HAMBURGER is not well done, and it’s way past its sell-by date.
__Tomatoes:RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES! (1988) The tomatoes are back “and they’re stewed!” It’s a dicey choice; personally, I’m not a connoisseur of films that are purposely bad. This one’s somewhere between a spoof and a film that intends to become a cult classic. It’s silly fun, but it sort of fails at both. George Clooney, believe it or not, landed a plum role in this movie.
__Egg Salad:THE EGG AND I (1947; Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray) Charming, sunny, and very funny, this picture introduced the world to the Kettles. The two likable stars go over easy.
__Chips:CHiPS (1977-83 TV series) I was a regular viewer of this show during its first couple of seasons. Don’t ask me why. It’s not bad, it’s that it’s so predictable. After you’ve seen one episode, you’ve seen them all. As they say, however, you can’t eat–I mean, watch–just one.
__ Salt & Pepper:SALT AND PEPPER(1968; Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford) Nowadays, we’re more careful about our sodium intake. But once in a while, you just want to throw caution to the wind, and pour on the salt and seasonings. Indulge yourself in this bit of overcooked but very tasty cinematic feast.
__Wine:SIDEWAYS (2004; Paul Giamatti) Your challenge: Try to devour this delicious film without craving a glass or two of Pinot Noir.
Most of the 2011 Oscar nominees are now available for home theater viewing in some form or another. Are you a self-respecting home projectionist? Do you plan on screening one or more of the nominated films for your friends or family in the near future? As a would-be theater owner, you won’t want to just roll the movie all by itself, naked, alone and afraid. You definitely will want to value-add the experience for your guests. That means giving them the right “appetizer” with their movie meal.
No visit to an actual theater is complete without an opening salvo of policy trailers, a plug for the concession stands, or pleas to pitch your trash. These are aimed at general audiences. But you can tailor yours to be compatible with your audience and the Academy Award nominee:
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN Vanessa Michelle Williams was nominated as Best Actress for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe during the filming of THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL. Your audience for this picture might tend to skew a little older. In that case, they’ll probably remember being musically thanked for coming to the theater, and also for sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the show (and being shushed):
HUGOIt’s possible you’ll have an excited child or two for this really terrific Martin Scorsese Best Picture nominee. “We must insist on absolute quiet!” sounds a little harsh. So why not let this gentleman do it for you:
THE HELP It’s a movie about domestic service–cleaning and (especially) cooking. So, let’s all go to the lobby to have ourselves some treats. Chocolate pie, anyone?
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE If your noisy guests are taking the “extremely loud” part of the title too literally, this short trailer may be just the thing:
MIDNIGHT IN PARISDo you have punctual friends? Friends who expect the movie to end exactly at midnight? Then you need a countdown clock:
WAR HORSEDoes your audience have an appetite like–as well as for–a horse? This elf-like creature consumes mass quantities of refreshments as he counts down the time:
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON This nominee’s extravagant array of visual effects calls for “the most extravagant array of refreshment goodies ever assembled under one roof!”
THE DESCENDANTS Is your audience all approximately the same age (if not as good looking) as George Clooney, the star of this excellent Best Picture nominee? Then they’ll most likely remember this catchy jingle very clearly:
All of these short, short trailers are available on YouTube. Thank you, and please deposit your trash on the way out.
For nearly ten years from the 2nd week in July to the end of August, the Chicago Park District used to put up a huge screen in Grant Park and show classic films for free. It was a very urban experience sitting outside on that classic park lawn with thousands of people watching great films. That meant that every summer, instead of watching movies at home, I would finally be getting outside, relaxing in the cool green grass…and watching movies. Redundant, isn’t it?
Several years ago when the city began to make cutbacks in events, such as no more Venetian Nights and Fourth of July fireworks, the Movies in the Park were the first to go. They were wonderful evenings. For my next few posts I’ll be remembering some of my favorite movies in the park.
There were many memorable nights in the park but nothing compares to the showing of Citizen Kane.
Now supposedly the founders of the Movies in the Park were Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. As many of you may know, Roger had been really sick with throat cancer. For a couple years it looked like he wasn’t going to make it so for a couple seasons they let him pick the Movies in the Park. The movies shown those years came from a book he wrote about the movies you ‘need’ to see. The problem was that they were all film study class films, The Hustler, High Noon, On the Waterfront, all good movies, but not really movies that inspire festive, high spirits. Well, the opening night of the festival Roger was there to introduce his favorite movie, Citizen Kane.
Citizen Kane is of course a great movie, but not a movie that you want to see while sitting in the dirt in a sling chair; it’s not very campy. People can’t yell “you go girl” or “woo-hoo”.) Com Ed, one of the sponsors that year, gave out these big foam hands with the thumbs up. We were instructed that at some point everyone in the audience was supposed to hold the hands and yell “Thumbs up, Roger!”
Well, Roger came out and did his speech about the movie and how wonderful the opening shot is “blah, blah, blah.” Then we did the ‘Thumbs up, Roger,” applauded his years as a reviewer, and waited for the movie to start. I was completely unprepared for what I was about to experience.
For some unknown reason, the sound was turned up full blast. And it was DEAFENING. I grew up next to an airport and the Southwest Flight to Miami had nothing on the opening credits. I’M TELLING YOU LOUD. To top it off, Citizen Kane is a loud movie anyway. When it got to part where it jumps into the March of Time newsreel about Kane’s life and the announcer yells, “Legendary was the Xanadu where Kubla Kahn decreed his stately pleasure dome” I thought the windows on all the buildings on Michigan Avenue were going to shatter. It just seemed to get louder and louder. I remember at one point yelling in my friend Jonathan’s ear that I couldn’t stand it for very much longer: “What?” he yelled back unable to hear me. There was a very large crowd to see the film and Roger, several thousand people, but by the time Kane and his wife, the opera singer, start fighting, the sound of her screeching voice made people gathering up their blankets and run out of the park as if there was a sniper in the bushes, their hands covering their ears.
Our group couldn’t really get up and run because Hugh always brought a most elaborate spread with mini tables, candles, and silverware. The sound didn’t seem to be bothering him at all and he wasn’t about to give up one of his Movies in the Park nights for something as little as hearing loss. A couple in front of us had a great idea and they turned around to us to share it. They were ripping up the foam Ebert “Thumbs Up” hands and were frantically tearing them up and stuffing them in their ears. We all did the same and we were able to get through the film.
It was the most insane movie going experience I’d ever been through. And come to think of it, I’ve never been able to watch that film again.
The Summer Solstice is many things to many people. The true start of summer, a pagan’s day to rejoice in the sun, to dream a Midsummer’s Night Dream filled with gods and fairies. However for a Home Projectionist with windows in their viewing room it is the day when the shortest viewing opportunities can be had. Every year as the days grow longer and longer I find my movie watching ability is shorter and shorter. In the Fall and Winter I can come home from a long day’s work, make a little dinner and settle down by no later than 7 in the evening for a nice relaxing film. At these times of the year I can watch something extremely long like Doctor Zhivago or maybe 3 episodes in a row of Mad Men. By the time I’m finished them movie it’s 9:30 or 10. If I have people over on the weekends for a group watch we can even have a double feature since we can start by 7:30 or even earlier as I used to do on Sunday afternoons.
Then comes the dreaded summer: Not only does the projector become yet another source of heat blowing into the room, but movies really can’t begin until 8:45 at the earliest. And even then there is the faint glow of the setting sun shining through the windows. Even closing the blinds doesn’t help because I have a west exposure. Having had a projection system for eight years now I’ve naturally begun to make seasonal viewing changes. Summer has been a time to rest the projector. I cut my Netflix movies to two out at a time instead of four. I hardly ever have people over during the summer for a group movie night. My apartment is too warm and by the time the sun sets there is barely enough time for one movie, let alone a cartoon or a short. If I do watch something it’s a short film never more than 90 minutes, especially during the week.
By late July I usually drag the projector outside for outdoor yard movies at a friend’s house. We’ve had many a lovely night under the stars watching Cat People, The General or My Man Godfrey. There is nothing like watching a movie outside. It brings a different dimension to whatever you are watching. Whether it’s the view of the sky behind the screen blending with the sky on the projection or just the feeling of lying down on the grass; It is one of my favorite things of the summer. I guess that’s why it is so exciting to go to a drive-in. Have you noticed that even the worst movie seems better at a drive-in?
So I wish you a happy Summer Solstice. May you have a lovely summer and many star filled, big screen nights.
If I set my Way Way Back Machine to 1976, I can recall being addicted to the Masterpiece Theatre I, CLAUDIUSmini series the same way I am addicted today to Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and the Housewives of New Jersey.
Earlier this year, the 35th anniversary edition of the BBC I, CLAUDIUSseries was released. What memories that announcement brought back.
Although I clearly remember being enthralled with every episode of I, CLAUDIUSthat I watched on television in the ‘70s, I don’t clearly remember the home projection screening of the series we did sometime in the ‘90s.
Blame the summer heat and copious amounts of red wine for the fuzzy recollections, but our screening of I, CLAUDIUS was memorable nonetheless. (It still comes up once in awhile when friends reminisce – a true sign of a Home Projectionist success.)
A small group of us who are old enough to have seen the original airing of I, CLAUDIUSwere raving about it to our friends who hadn’t seen it. We wanted to show off our new big screen and agreed to make a true marathon event out of it — hunkering down for a screening of 13 episodes on two consecutive Sundays during one of the hottest spells of summer.
Everyone came in on the first Sunday at noon looking limp from the 90-degree heat and 100 percent humidity. They immediately perked up when the blast of over-conditioned air hit them at the door.
The food theme was “Bring Something Mediterrean,” and the kitchen was overflowing with olives, grapes, dried meats, roasted peppers, bruschetta, fabulous cheeses, and an obscene number of bottles of Italian wines. After eating a drinking a bit, people moved into the living room and scrunched up on the couch, grabbed dibs on chairs. We didn’t have enough seating, so in true Roman style, there was also a lot of lying around on the floor.
The opening credits were riveting, the theme, and that snake sliding over the tile floor. So far, so good. But I remember feeling a bit panicked when the first scene appeared with its playhouse production style. I could sense a collective groan.
But within only minutes, really, everyone was drawn in and my worries were over. How could they not be mesmerized?
The cast and performances are over-the-top stellar. Derek Jacobi stammers his way through the leading role as hapless Claudius. Sian Phillips brilliantly plays the evil matriarch Livia while Brian Blessed blusters around as Emperor Augustus. Star Trek fans will be excited to see a young Patrick Stewart in a leather skirt playing the handsome and crafty military officer Sejanus. And John Hurt absolutely kills it as Caligula. Absolutely kills it.
The whole series is a kind of Survivor game show with insider politics and power plays, murder and mayhem, insanity and sexual intrigue…and more sexual intrigue, a few battles, and more sexual intrigue.
During the first day of our mini series marathon, we took long breaks between episodes, and even though we started watching at noon, we didn’t stop until the late, late evening. And copious bottles of wine were empty. Everyone had a bleary-eyed Monday morning.
The next Sunday, the same group of friends reappeared for Round Two, bringing along a repeat of the last Sunday’s Mediterranean spread, as well as a few new participants. We held a plot recap to catch up everyone on the story so far and settled in for the last six episodes.
As the day went on, the breaks between episodes got longer and longer. Sam, who knew the in’s and out’s of Roman history, helped clarify some of the genealogy and missing links. (Note that the 35th anniversary edition has featured extras that will help in that arena.)
I had anticipated that the group would go home early on the second Sunday and that there was no way that we would have a late-night repeat of the week before. But when the last episode was done and I, CLAUDIUSreached its wonderful conclusion, no one went home.
Everyone migrated back to the kitchen to refill glasses and happily pick at leftover dried up cheese and other unappetizing bits and pieces. There was a weird kind of spirit in the air and a sense of ensuing late-night drama. I knew that our own little reenactment of a Roman soiree was going to continue when I walked in on an improbable make-out scene (that still makes me shake my head), and then later when, courtesy of Miss P. Caster, some rock band’s tour bus and entourage pulled up in front of the house.
Sometimes, life can imitate art.
I woke up in the morning to find one friend asleep on the bathroom floor, and he was holding a bowl of grapes.
If you’ve never seen I, CLAUDIUS put it on your Home Projectionist must-see list. And let the intrigue begin.
Sometimes movie nights can be unplanned and spontaneous. I’ve stressed out many times over what movie to show feeling that if it wasn’t right and a success that it somehow was a reflection on me. I’ll do some posts later on this, but I wanted to relate an alternative to the planned movie night. I’ve been calling them Random Noir Nights. This Saturday was sixth of these nights that have sort of sprung up organically. A few friends know I have a 100 inch screen and that usually on the weekends I’ll be watching something.
The past couple weeks I’ve had a small group of friends stop by and instead of planning a movie I’ve been just going to my Netflix Streaming queue in which I have over 400 movies lined up and we just pick a movie at random. The only bit of planning we might do is to read the short description of film to see if its something that we all agree on. But I don’t like this process to go on more than a couple minutes. The other thing I’ve been insisting on is that the film be no more than an hour and a half; and less than that is even preferable. This way if its bad, its not that big of an investment of time and usually you fit in two movies in an evening.
Surprisingly this process has come up with some interesting and delightful surprises. This week we picked a movie pretty much on its name alone. The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945, Universal).
Now I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable film buff and especially of films that are a little out of the ordinary. So I was shocked I’d never head of this bizarre little thriller, film noir that plays like the lost, illegitimate child of Alfred Hitchcock and Carson McCullers . The story is about a three siblings living in the family home in a small town where they were once leading citizens. Their fortune was lost in the depression and the youngest son (George Sanders) is forced to work drawing flowers for fabric for the local textile mill. I found this fascinating because I always wondered who designed those sad flowers that are always found on sheets and pillowcases. George is living with his two older sisters who depend on him to keep the family home running. The eldest is a widow played by Moyna MacGill (Angela Lansbury’s mother) The other sister is played by the brilliant Geraldine Fitzgerald. Early on you learn that Lettie (Fitzgerald) is a drama queen who uses a fake heart aliment to keep Sanders under her thumb. Complications ensue when a beautiful lady designer comes from New York and sweeps timid George off of his feet.
This is where the plot gets strange as Lettie begins to sabotage her brother’s wedding plans. I’ve never seen incest played so delicately, yet so blatantly in a film. There is no doubt in the audience’s mind that Fitzgerald is in love with her brother and she will do anything so that no other woman will have him. For once George Sanders as Uncle Harry is a sympathic character, even though he is driven to extremes, you are rooting for him to get free of his clinging family.
One of the best scenes in the film (posted below) is where Uncle Harry is getting to know Miss Brown played by the beautiful and largely forgotten, Ella Raines. The scene is a masterful dance of double entendres. It’s all seemingly innocent. but you can read between the lines as they the talk of hung stars that need polishing and Uncle Harry’s nine inch telescope which they will watch Saturn’s rings, but they’ll have to wait until it rises high enough. It got a few gasps out of the group.
The whole production has a feel of Hitchcock’s 1940’s films. That is probably because Joan Harrison, screenwriter of Suspision, Foreign Correspondent, Rebecca, and Sabatouris credited as the producer. It is rare that you see a female producer on any films, let alone one made in 1945. Robert Siomak (Cobra Woman, Spiral Staircase) does a fine job of directing. And even though he’s no Hitchcock he does elevate this B-film to a quality production. The film reminded me in some ways of Shadow of a Doubt because of the colorful town characters that are peppered throughout the film. Most notably. Ethel Griffies who is best known to Hitchcock fans as the Mrs. Bundy, the know it all ornithologist from The Birds.
Director Robert Siodmak does a fine job in pulling all of the elements together and makes this a tight, little thriller. Not to give away any spoilers for this film, but it has to be noted. As I’ve said this film was a wonderful surprise and everyone who watched it on Saturday loved it. However, the ending of this film nearly ruins the previous 78 minutes that came before it. You’ll go away shaking your head and saying ‘What, the hell just happened?’ It’s like the movie swirves off the road and goes into a corn field. You’ll know when it happens!
But it was a lucky and happy random movie pick. At a quick 80 minutes its the perfect length, lots of fun campy lines, a good story that never seems to go where you think its going. And on top of that a softball team comprised of 1940’s beauties. That alone is worth the price of admission!