Monday, March 27, 2023

The Strange Mrs Crane (1948)

It wasn't very good. Mrs Crane is married to a wealthy lawyer turned politician. She seems a bit distressed when a reporter asks her about her background. She's hiding her criminal past and she runs into her former boyfriend/accomplice when she and her husband go shopping for a mink coat. He's working as a salesman and is dating the woman modelling the coats. He tried to blackmail Mrs Crane so she kills him, but the poor model is charged with the crime and Mrs Crane is called up for jury duty. She's met the defendant and the victim and she knows the defense attorney, but all that is fine. She's made foreman of the jury.

I expected her to try to get the poor girl off, maybe breaking down and admitting in the end that she killed the guy. So it was refreshing that she was still a horrible person.

Interesting ending, I guess.

Low budget B movie. Directed by Sam Newfield under the name Sherman Scott. 60 minutes. Don't let the colorized lobby card fool you. It was black & white.

Adapted from a 1947 episode of The Whistler radio show.

Available on Pub-D-Hub if nowhere else.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Medvedev's call for bootlegging

We're in the same boat as the Russians to some degree. It took a long time for Woody Allen's last two movies to become available in the United States, and Roman Polanski's An Officer and a Spy still isn't available here. Even if you think Woody Allen was guilty of something, all his other films are freely available. Roman Polanski pled guilty but you can see everything else he's ever made.

The USSR had never part of the International Copyright Convention and after the break-up of the Soviet Union, people were freely translating American stuff. My brother was over there in the early '90's and has an unauthorized Russian translation of Bob Dylan's Tarantula

I mentioned before that I briefly talked to a Russian kid online who wanted to learn English well enough that he could make unauthorized translations of American movies. Which was fine with me. I knew of Russians who were doing their own translations of American comic books----I don't mean Marvel or DC. They were translating things like Scrooge McDuck. One of them was a Brony, an adult male admirer of My Little Pony.

And someone suggested that China could retaliate against U.S. aggression by bootlegging Hollywood movies and making them freely available worldwide on their own version of Netflix.

There's a tendency in Eastern Europe to dub movies with only one voice. One person translates all the dialogue. I assume they have more conventional dubbing available. People prefer it to subtitles in any case, and it makes it easier to do your own translations. 

In Mogadishu, some guys downloaded Blackhawk Down and charged people a few cents each to watch it on TV in a makeshift theater.

Dmitry Medvedev has allegedly called on Russians download movies that are unavailable there due to sanctions. I'm all for it. It may not even be a copyright violation. There was a company in the U.S. that distributed copies of movies that were otherwise unavailable here. I'm not sure I bought it, but they claimed there was a loophole in copyright law that allowed them to do it.

I remember long ago. Some Hollywood guy talked about the horrors of movie piracy. Why, before long, American movies would be no better soap operas! 

I tried to imagine a world where movies looked like soap operas. It wasn't so bad.

Several years ago my sister thought we should all see The Interview, the anti-North Korean pro-assassination "comedy", as a patriotic act. 

At least Medvedev was calling for people to download things they actually wanted to see. He wasn't suggesting they spend money and force themselves to sit through crap they'd never go to otherwise.

Hearts of the West (1975)

Jeff Bridges, Andy Griffith, Alan Arkin, Donald Pleasence. Dub Taylor. It was nice to see Frank Cady (Sam Drucker from Green Acres) as Jeff Bridges' Pa.

I liked this movie when it came out. I don't remember if I saw it in a theater or on HBO or both, but I hadn't seen it in years. I came across it on DVD at the public library. It was interesting but not as good as I remember.

Jeff Bridges as a youth who wants to write western novels for a living. A correspondence school accepts him as a student. He travels there expecting to find a college campus, but it's just a post office box. The men running the scam try to rob him and he flees into the desert where he comes across a cheap western film being shot. He soon finds himself in the movie industry.

Part of a wave of movies at the time about Hollywood of the '20's and '30's which wasn't that many years earlier. Back then, I saw an old guy on TV---he would only have been in his 70's---talk about appearing in silent westerns as a teenager. He said the cowboys were nice guys. They were very protective of him, which may have just been their job if he was an actor and they were stuntmen.

Friday, March 24, 2023

I am Another You (documentary, 2017, Nanfu Wang director)

Homelessness isn't really a thing in China. A young woman, a Chinese foreign student studying film in the U.S., starts filming a young fellow named Dylan who left his home and family and "chose" live on the streets. She saw this as a sign of vast freedom in America. 

I don't know if she changed her mind after meeting Dylan's family. His parents were divorced, his father a perfectly nice man, a cop in Utah. It turned out that the young fellow had serious drug and psychiatric problems. He was paranoid schizophrenic. He also couldn't stand Utah or the Mormon church. When she met with Dylan again, he had written out the unkind things the voices in his head kept saying.

I hear this happens to everyone in a foreign country. You don't know what the norms are. I have ideas about life in China, but I assume I'm at least a bit off base.

Available 'til the end of the month on The Criterion Channel and free on a number of streaming channels.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Salvation (Denmark, 2014)

Danish western set in the U.S. and filmed in South Africa. Mostly in English, but it had immigrants speaking Danish. It seems like a Danish movie made in Africa would have at least a few Black people in it. It had a slightly different look. They had what looked like a perfectly plausible 19th century passenger train, but it didn't look quite right.

Even Danish westerns have gotten incredibly violent. Starts with the murder of a Danish child and his mother. Naturally, the Danish father/husband wants revenge.

I guess that crazy advice they keep giving not to pull a gun on someone unless you're ready to shoot them is proven right in this case. Just shoot people. Holding them at bay is a recipe for disaster.

The deaths of the mother and child were unnecessary to the plot. The father kills the murderers a few minutes later, then he has to fight for his life when members of their gang come after him. 

I just watched the violent but perfectly pleasant Amateur where we rejoice in the deaths of the criminals without having to watch anything really awful happen. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Hal Hartley's Amateur (1994)

Isabelle Huppert plays an ex-nun trying to write pornographic fiction. She takes in a seemingly pleasant, well-dressed amnesiac (Michael Donovan) who has only Dutch coins in his pocket when he walks into a diner.

I'd never seen a Hal Hartley movie before. It wasn't what I expected. I guess I made cruel assumptions about him based on his bland, wholesome-sounding name. 

An antidote to all the movies where accountants working for organized crime are hapless victims who don't know what's going on until it's too late and they're in over their heads. And it was refreshing to see the Dutch as the bad guys.

Featured on The Criterion Channel with other movies starring Huppert.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Homestead (2023)

The cheap westerns they make now are incredibly violent. If you see a family on an isolated farm, you just know they'll be slaughtered. 

Homestead started out looking about like all the others. There's a family in their little farmhouse. At least it wasn't in the desert. A stranger comes to their door.

But it was pretty good. A bit less violent. The best low budget western I've seen that had no horses. 

Why do I keep watching these things?

Betsy Sligh, Brian Krause, Jamie Bernadette. A cast of ten. I guess I could name all of them. Dallas Page, Mike Furguson, Mike Markoff, Greg Kriek, Scot Scurlock, Cavan Tonascia, Mark Madeo. 

Available on Tubi.