In this week’s episode of “Walk the Dark Street” we return to the Age of Classic Noir with the 1946 Bogey and Bacall vehicle, directed by Howard Hawks and with a screenplay written by none other than William Faulkner, adapted from a Raymond Chandler novel. Faulkner, later legendary for his simple, clear-cut storytelling and basic, almost child-like use of language is the perfect person to adapt this painfully easy to follow story about a simple family, a simple mystery and I’m simply lying to you. This film is not easy to follow and is less of a whodunit than it is a “why is my forehead throbbing now that the movie’s over?” sort of film. Sure, the cast is amazing, Howard Hawks’ direction is slick, tight, and speedy but is that enough to overcome a, um, SLIGHTLY convoluted plot that ends up with more holes in it than a . . . thing with a lot of holes? I believe I’ve mentioned that I’m not good at these noir similes, haven’t I? Well, give a listen, and see if this is muddled mess or the sort of movie where you don’t really know what’s happening but you just don’t care? I’ll be over here with my Big Book of Film Noir Similes so maybe I’ll have a handle on it by the end of this series.
Poll question: when you watch a mystery or thriller, do you prefer to try to figure out whodunit in advance or do you like to just let the story carry you along?
“Hey, man, you know what they call Max, Mike; Movies in France?”
“No. What do they call it?”
“They call it Le Max, Mike; Cinéma.”
“That’s cool. What do they call ‘Walk the Dark Street’ in France’?”
“That’d be “Marcher Dans La Rue Sombre. “
“Cool. Cool. Is that because they use the metric system?”
“What? No! How does that make any sense? Well, you’ve ruined it now.”
As you may have surmised, this week’s potential example of film noir comes from the land of 400 cheeses, Peugeots, and dressing: France, what with it being French and all. So, it’s French, it’s in color, and did we mention it’s not in English? Is this film actually film noir or, is it, as the French would say . . . um, film noir? Huh . . . Give le listen and findez-vous out!
Poll question: what is your favorite foreign film?
And we’re back, walking the dark street with our series “Walk the Dark Street.” Works out rather nicely, doesn’t it? This week our subject is a 70’s take on that classic Raymond Chandler character Phillip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s film version of “The Long Goodbye.” This one’s a little different folks; for one thing, it’s in color, which is an issue in and of itself (see the poll question below). For another, the hard-bitten, hard-drinking, razor sharp detective, so ably portrayed before by Humphrey Bogart, is now played by . . . Elliott Gould? Sure, that tracks. Natural progression, going from Bogey to Gould to Robert Mitchum (1975, “Farewell My Lovely”). I mean . . . at least they’re in correct alphabetical order? So this one is a poser, most dear and impeccably dressed listeners: can a noir film work with such an odd choice for Marlowe, and in color no less? Do please consider: this movie does have a cat in it, and it’s kind of surprising who plays the feline part. And a future governor of California makes an uncredited, non-speaking appearance, so we’re in for some interesting weather. Give a listen and see what we thought!
Poll question: do you think film noir works better with black-and-white movies or does color not make a difference?
This dame was trouble. I could tell. Those big, brown eyes, so innocent, eyes that said “trust me, I won’t stab you in the back.” Right. I’d heard that before and I had the scars on my trapezius to prove it. She tossed her long mane of hair aside and crossed her long, gorgeous legs, all four of them. I sat back and . . . four? Mane? BUMPY?! How did you even fit in the dress?! And lipstick? Ponies don’t have lips! Get out of my office!
Welcome to a brand new, shiny series! Well, it’s not shiny or new. It’s dark and bleak and gritty and the sun never shines. It’s “Walk the Dark Street,” our series on film noir, that noir-y-est of all film styles. We’re leading off with “Sunset Boulevard.” Sure, it’s not a detective story but it’s dark, cynical, world-weary, and it’s got a dead monkey in it: all the ingredients for a noir film. Join us, won’t you? You’re ready for your close-up, aren’t you?
As we close out our “…But An Incredible Simulation” series, we’re taking a deep look, thinking deep thoughts, and having a deep discussion about . . . well, it’s right there in the episode title, so you don’t really need me to say it. “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” have an odd history; most people see “Deep Impact” as a rip-off of the Michael Bay film, despite the fact that “Deep Impact” came out months before “Armageddon” and had been in production for quite some time. “Deep Impact” certainly has the edge over “Boom Boom ‘Splodey-Splodey Space Rock Movie” (see previous entry) in terms of scientific plausibility (in other words: “Deep Impact” actually has some) but is it as good a movie? Is it, in fact, a better movie? It certainly has an all-star cast and big budget effects, just like “Boom Boom etc.” Which of these two is more entertaining to watch? Give a listen as we try to answer this decades-old burning question that I’m sure someone besides us must still be asking.
Poll question: who is your favorite fictional on-screen president NOT including Morgan Freeman or Martin Sheen?
[scene: studio execs at Touchstone Pictures talking to director Michael Bay]
Execs: So, Mr. Bay, we’re looking for a major summer tentpole movie for 1998. Any ideas?
Michael Bay: BOOM! KABLAM! KABLOOIE! SKADAM!!
Execs: An asteroid, you say? Love it! So, we get some big stars in a disaster movie . . . what else?
Michael Bay: POW! SKABOOM! BLAMBLAMBLAMBOOM!
Execs: Sure, Bruce Willis, that Ben Affleck kid, Liv Tyler, an Aerosmith tie-in . . . what do you think, Jerry Bruckheimer?
Jerry Bruckheimer: BLAMMO! KAPOW! BOOOOOOOOM!
Execs: Genius! These guys are geniuses! Give them all the money!
Yes, friends, I have perfectly recreated the pitch meeting for 1998’s blockbuster “Armageddon.” Sway in awe of my powers of recreation! We’re up to our final pairing in our “… But An Incredible Simulation” series and the first half of the pair is very successful, if scientifically slightly-questionable, movie “Boom Boom ‘Splodey-‘Splodey Space Rock Movie” (I’m pretty sure that was the working title; don’t look it up). Join us and our special guest Bruce Willis (hey, he’s in the movie, that means it counts as a guest appearance. I made it up, I mean, looked it up!) and see if this master class in astrophysics also doubles as a fun movie! Boom!
Poll question: what is your favorite Bruce Willis performance?
Last week’s movie raised the question “Was everybody Kung Fu Fighting?” Well, this week, a 2011 . . . tribute/homage/why-god-why film mumbles the question “Yeah, and was everybody Tae Kwan Do fighting, too? I mean, they might have been! I guess . . .” Like the DreamWorks film, this movie(?) features a Panda and martial arts. But where “Kung Fu Panda” leans on the crutch of beautiful animation, great voice acting, and a surprisingly effective message, “Chop Kick Panda” dispenses with all that flummery and in its stead offers us pop-culture references, fart jokes and brevity. Yes, whatever else there is to say about this cinematic bolus, it does us the favor of not being too long. Or very long. Or long at all. In fact, quite literally, the runtime of this week’s podcast is longer than the runtime of the movie. Is this a good thing? Did “Chop Kick Panda” leave us crying for more . . . or just crying? Give a listen and find out.
Poll question: who is your favorite martial arts star and do you have a favorite of their films?
This week in our “… But An Incredible Simulation” series we tackle the very serious lyrical question: Was EVERYONE Kung Fu Fighting? I mean, it just doesn’t’ seem to make practical sense for everyone, everywhere to be Kung Fu Fighting, especially at the same time. All urban infrastructure would come to a complete halt. Food production would falter. The kicks in question may have indeed been “fast as lightning”, which would suggest a fairly short refractory period but it’s more than likely that there were multiple kicks from multiple sources, so that’s going to take some time. It’s clearly stated that it was a little bit frightening, so a number of people are going to need counseling and emotional support, and that is going to eat into productivity. Also, people are bowing and making a stand all over the place; that’s going to play havoc with traffic patterns. Clearly, this is a serious question so you can understand why DreamWorks SKG decided to make a movie addressing this pressing issue. And it needed to star a Panda, voiced by Jack Black, but that’s just intuitively obvious. Sure, the plot of the movie doesn’t EXPLICITLY address if everyone was in fact Kung Fu Fighting, but I feel the subtext is pretty clear. If Mike ever stops pointing at me and laughing, I’m sure he’ll agree as well. Give a listen and see if that in fact happens.
Poll question: who is your favorite animated character?
Mac and Cheese. Mac and PC. Mac and Me. It’s an almost inevitable progression, isn’t it? A beloved taste treat, a primal struggle between titans, and . . . this movie we’re using for this week’s entry in “…But An Incredible Simulation.” I’m sure you don’t need me to point out the obvious connection between these three cultural phenomena . . . which is good, because I’m not gonna do it! Instead, I’m going to point out that this 1988 iconic cinematic gem bears only the very slightest resemblance to any movie we may have discussed last week. But, the cynical masses cry out, surely “Mac and Me” is just an obvious rip-off of the beloved classic “E.T.”! Is it, I bravely reply? Is it really? Then answer me this, o cynical masses: does “E.T” have even ONE SCENE shot in a McDonald’s training facility? Why no, it does not! Rather telling, no? And, remind me, how much break-dancing does “E.T.” contain? What’s that? None at all? And how many appearances does Ronald McDonald himself make in “E.T.”, would you mind telling me? Precisely zero, that’s right! Well, I think effectively countered any accusations of similarities between this movie and anything that hack Spellbug, or whatever his name is, may or may not have come out with previously. Case closed and I’m climbing out the window before anyone can even think about disputing me, but before I plummet to my doom, give a listen and see how if Mike agrees with my brilliantly cogent argument!
Poll question: what movie has the most egregious product placement, the kind that just took you right out of the movie?
Welcome to another in our “…But An Incredible Simulation,” where we pair blockbusters with mockbusters, in an attempt to tease your cinematic palette (ooo, sounds naughty!). This week, we’ve got a classic Steven Spielberg blockbuster about a young boy and his carefully-maintained backup glass container holding earth and plants, creating a closed biosphere: “E.T., The Extra Terrarium.” Hmm. It’s possible everything in that previous sentence is wrong. Well, that’s nothing new. Yes, as you’ve probably sussed out, it’s the story of a young boy who introduces a gentle alien visitor to the pinnacles of human achievement: high-fructose corn syrup and artificial peanut butter flavoring. Oh, and probably love and compassion or some other junk. The boy is aided by his annoying but lovable older brother and his slightly shrill but lovable little sister, who actually teaches the alien to speak and later goes on to host her own daytime talk show. Way to go, Gertie! So how does this one-time tear-jerker from the 80’s hold up? Does it still make us want to phone home or does it make us want to phone a cab to get us to the nearest bar? Give a listen and find out!
Poll question: who is your favorite alien character?