Friday, January 13, 2017

Luck be a Lady To-nite

By Steve Evans

Text this afternoon from a fellow film-obsessive: "Dude! I just got The Lady from Shanghai on DVD for a fiver. Not a bad deal." Steve (who is never too busy for a smart-ass response): "Dude. You can get a night with the lady herself for a deuce and fifty cent. She's from Shanghai, for crissakes." (((Anyway, it's a great Orson Welles' picture from 1947. Woody Allen paid hommage in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). This rambling, esoteric FBF brought to you by Cinematic Cteve.)))

Monday, January 9, 2017

Those Goofy Golden Globes

By Steve Evans

Let's not Monday morning quarterback last night's Golden Globes, beyond the observation that the awards remain the biggest con job in Hollywood. Most everyone knows the Hollywood Foreign Press Association controls the outcome of this lesser event (Oscar is still the gold standard, naturally). Fewer may realize that the Globes are chosen on the votes of less-than-100 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. They are hardly arbiters of taste or quality in the cinematic and television arts. Yes, but the Globes deliver something the Oscars do not: a looser atmosphere fueled by an open bar. Through the years I've seen celebs stoned as monkeys during this show. Liz Taylor was trashed at the 2001 awards. Jack Nicholson stuck his ass out at the audience three years later during his acceptance speech for About Schmidt.

This is all a jolly lark, of course, and makes for good television (you can still check out Liz and Jack on YouTube), but the idiosyncratic nature of  the HFPA makes the Globes a lousy bellweather for the Academy Awards.

Although La La Land took a record 7 Globes last night, Moonlight will win the Oscar for Best Picture on Feb. 26. This is a political reality as certain as Meryl Streep dissing some asshole who was elected president by a bunch of -- yep -- gullible assholes.

Trump is an easy, though deserving, target. Whether Moonlight deserves to win Best Picture next month is a separate issue from the fact that it's going to win -- because Hollywood will have to deal with the banshee screaming that will result if it doesn't.

Let me be clear: I absolutely agree that Hollywood can do a better job of inclusion by employing people of all creeds, races and persuasions both in front of and behind the camera. I reject the notion that entertainment awards should have a quota system so that X number of minorities or other underrepresented groups are sure to get an Oscar. If films and talent cannot win on merit, then let's abolish awards.

And yet a boorish buffoon has won the presidency in the absence of merit, talent, appeal or even basic human decency. Is it obscene to compare silly awards to the Democratic process? Perhaps not if we drill down to a common motivation between the HFPA and the president-elect. It is this:

The Hollywood Foreign Press, ever-slick as weasel shit, manages to avoid hot-button issues of racism, sexism and quota-based awards by maintaining a ludicrous number of award categories, though especially the top two. They gave Best Drama to Moonlight and Best Comedy or Musical to La La Land. Equal, safe and predictable. Everybody goes home happy after the Globes. By eschewing controversy while allowing celebrities an open mic to blabber drunkenly about whatever comes to mind, the people behind the Globes last night not only solidified their reputation for irrelevance but managed to underline it at least three times, all for the sake of ratings and their own unquenchable thirst for self-aggrandizement. What irks me today is how they reveal themselves to be similar to the scary clown soon to take the oath of office. Whether you're the purveyor of a hokey awards show or a billionaire con artist, it's all about money and attention. Always has been. Dare I say, always will be.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cold War Boredom: Ice Station Zzzebra

By Steve Evans

Curiosity finally got the better of me so I just watched what turned out to be one of the worst, more boring films I've seen -- Ice Station Zebra (1968). A Cold War espionage thriller, characters fight each other at the climax on a laughably obvious soundstage dressed to resemble the Arctic. The special effects are bad. Paratroopers look like green plastic GI Joe men dropped from string-and-vinyl parachutes onto a tabletop diorama. The submarine might be a bathtub toy. Rock Hudson's acting range can be measured in centimeters. Ernest Borgnine does a ludicrous Russian accent. And Patrick McGoohan is just as strange in this film as he was on the cult TV show, The Prisoner, which is perhaps the ne plus ultra of 1960s weirdness on television, although Green Acres gives it some competition. Ice Station Zebra isn't so much weird, as inept. It appears expensive, but in the way shiny things look when created by people with lots of money but no talent or taste. Worth a look to see spies running around the North Pole without proper coats, gloves or even steam coming off their breath from the frigid air. Filmed in the wide-screen process known as Cinerama, which will be lost on television or a laptop.

The film was based on a novel by Alistair MacLean, whose Guns of the Navarone had been made into a thrilling WWII adventure with Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthomy Quinn in 1961. Whereas that film followed the road to greatness, Ice Station Zebra takes the opposite path. Disappointing as hell, as this was directed by John Sturges, who helmed The Great Escape and the original Magnificent Seven.

I finally. finally watched this old bore only because it was sitting there on the library's DVD shelves this week, and I felt a sense of obligation. Decades ago the picture got a publicity boost when it was reported to be Howard Hughes' favorite film. He apparently watched it more than 150 times in the final years of his life, haunting his penthouse in the Las Vegas Desert Inn. So I was curious, Now, while the verdict's still out on me, Hughes was clearly out of his damned mind. Watching Ice Station Zebra over and over may have been the poor billionaire's tipping point.

On a related note, another famous lunatic, Charlie Manson, has been chillin' in the hospital this week with critical intestinal problems according to news reports and may not come out alive, which is long overdue. Then again, Manson isn't boring. I don't know his favorite film, but if I did, I suppose I'd watch that one, too. Couldn't be duller than this.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Spielberg at 70

By Steve Evans 
Spielberg turns 70 today. What's his best film? I still say it's Jaws. That movie holds up, mechanical shark notwithstanding. Raiders of the Lost Ark must be in second place because it exemplifies what the man does best -- slick, wham-bang action entertainment. Then we must deal with Schindler's, which would rank higher if it didn't succumb in the final reel to Spielberg's career-spanning maudlin tendencies and ripe sentimentality. Hmmm...give fourth place to Saving Private Ryan (also weakened by those mawkish bookends at the Normandy-American cemetery) and round out the top 5 with Jurassic Park, for its technical innovations in the service of high-concept suspense. Ya'll can sort out the rest of his oeuvre any way ya like, but these I've mentioned are the essentials.