Last week, I had a lot of fun with my new Amazon Fire TV, streaming shows I’d previously not been able to access with my old Apple TV. I did the same this week which was great, except when it comes to write a column about the new things I discovered this week and then I realize I probably shouldn’t talk about the same shows I talked about last time. Dear old Gordon is here to help with a great movie and a film festival he attends every year (which makes me insanely jealous each time).
Here’s some cool things I consumed this week:
I spent a little birthday money on this 1977 giallo classic from Dario Argento. I’d not seen it in close to a decade and had feared it might not hold up as well as my memory. I’m happy to say it holds up quite well, and then some. The plot makes little sense, which is pretty par for the course for Argento (and Italian horror in general), but it boasts some pretty wonderful visuals. It's probably Argento’s most striking film. Using anamorphic lenses, a bright primary-color palette, and an unforgettable score from Italian prog rock band Goblin, Argento has created a hallucinatory nightmare world in which to present his film. It is a feast for the senses and one of the best horror films ever made.
David E. Kelly was the superstar of network television in the late '90s. With shows like The Practice, Allly McBeal, and Boston Public, he won a slew of Emmy Awards and lots and lots of viewers. As the television landscape changed, he kind of disappeared. He’s now back on Amazon’s streaming service with a new show vying for a place at the prestige-TV table. It mostly works. At least the few episodes I’ve watched did for me.
It's got a throwback feel to it with a once brilliant but now down-and-out lawyer (Billy Bob Thornton) trying to make good with one last case against his former firm (the giant as referenced in the title). Kelly makes little use of the new format except to throw in lots of curse words and some sexual situations he couldn’t have gotten away with in the '90s, but it's still a lot of fun. The cast, which includes a deformed-looking William Hurt, Molly Parko, and a incredibly underused Maria Bello, are great and its story has hooked me enough to keep watching though so many other shows clamor for my attention.
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills
More than just about anyone other than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, writer Chris Claremont helped shape the X-Men into the franchise that is beloved all over the world. As head writer for the comic from the mid '70s through the early '90s, he scribed some of their greatest stories (including The Dark Phoenix Saga which is considered one of the greatest comic book stories of any kind ever told) and created some of their most memorable characters including Rogue, Psylocke, Sabertooth, Gambit, and many others.
He wrote God Loves, Man Kills in 1982 in the midst of the Reagan revolution and its embrace of the Moral Majority. It was one of the first books to come out of the new Marvel Graphic Novel series which allowed them to create a story that didn’t necessarily fit into the normal series continuity.
The X-Men stories have always been about outsiders. They work as stand-ins for people of color, the LGBT community, and anybody who feels rejected in some way by society. Here, Claremont takes that subtext and brings it right to the forefront as text. A big time tele-evangelist of the Oral Roberts/Billy Graham stripe is crusading against all of mutant kind saying that they are not human and need to be dealt with. Secretly, he’s formed a para-military type group that kidnaps Professor X and plans to use him to exterminate the X-Men and all the mutants on the planet.
It's a great story with some really cool art that seems just as relevant today as it did 30 years ago.
Gordon S. Miller's two cool things:
The final pairing of director Akira Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune is a period drama set at a rural hospital compound run by Dr. Kyojō Niide (Toshiro Mifune), whose nickname is the title of the film. Dr. Noboru Yasumoto (Yūzō Kayama), who wants to become the Shogunate's personal doctor and live the life of luxury that position offers, is frustrated to be interning at such a lowly locale under a tough boss.
The plot, a series of short stories by Shūgorō Yamamoto and one storyline from Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Humiliated and Insulted, shows the work Niide and his team do. Experiencing this first hand and seeing the lives affected leads Yasumoto to have a change of heart.
Though epic in length at over three hours, Red Beard is small in scope, but that doesn't make the initimate stories any less gratifying or captivating. There's little of the action and violence that usually accompanies a Kurosawa/Mifune joint, but Niide does get to cut loose when some local thugs try and prevent him from doing his job.
The TCM Classic Film Festival
Eight years running and the first since the death of the channel's longtime host Robert Osborne, the TCM Classic Film Festival returns to Hollywood Blvd. for four days of movies, interviews, and other movie-related events. This year's theme is Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy In The Movies, so many of the films will naturally be comedies, but there are a number of genres like film noir that will be represented as well. You can make yourself jealous by following myself and Lorna Miller for updates throughout the fest. (As I write this Thursday afternoon, I am excited by the news that Martin Scorsese will be introducing a nitrate print of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) at 9:30 pm PT. Hope I got a good seat.)
The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions
NPR is streaming The New Pornographers latest album before it hits the shelves. It's pretty good.