My in-laws came in for a visit this week. They are lovely people and I always enjoy their time here, but it definitely changes the way I consume my pop culture. Normally, that means that I wind up watching a lot less movies as we tend to do activities or visit instead of turning on the TV. This week we kept ourselves pretty busy in the afternoons/early evenings but were wore out by the time I put the daughter to bed. Which meant we watched a movie pretty much every late evening.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
The Breaking Point
I am very much a fan of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Howard Hawks so I should absolutely adore To Have and Have Not, but my memory says I was not quite won over by it (I gave it 8 stars on IMDB which is more than I expected, but certainly not head over heels). Truth be told, I don’t really remember much about it, nor the book it is based upon.
That film was made in 1944. Six years later, Michael Curtiz adapted it in a film called The Breaking Point. It is supposed to be more faithful to the book (Hawk’s version was wildly different, or so I’m told). It doesn’t have the drunk sidekick like Hawks’ version does (and who I think is also in the book, but really the memory fades). Instead, Harry’s partner is a black man which presents some interesting racial aspects to the film.
The Breaking Point is a darker, more suspenseful film. It stars John Garfield as Harry Morgan a down on his luck charter boat captain who takes increasingly dangerous jobs the more desperate he gets. Its a tense story, but Garfield is not quite up to the task so I never really felt his anguish like I needed to.The supporting cast is good as is Curtiz’s direction. There’s a lot to like about it and Criterion does their usual magnificent job of bringing it to Blu-ray.
The Suspicious Death of a Minor
Arrow Video has just released a nicely cleaned up version of Sergio Martino’s oddball mix of crime drama and horror. Its a fun film even if its never quite sure of what it wants to be. You can read my full review.
Further plays Abbey Road
During their 2011 tour, Furthur (a jam band featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir) played every song from the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. They never played it in its entirety (just various songs at various times – with the exception of the long suite that takes up most of side B, which they played all the way through on March 15). One fun little detail is that they incorporated the songs into their setlist in the order the songs come on the album. Meaning, for instance, that “Come Together” is track one on Abbey Road and they played the song as the set opener, “Something” is track two so they played it as the second song of the night, etc.
Some nice person has collected all the songs and put them together on a single bootleg. It’s pretty fun. Sadly, they never really jam on any of the songs so they are pretty much straight up like they appear on the album (and since it’s mostly the Grateful Dead singing, the vocals aren’t great) but it’s still a cool concept.
In 1989, some ten years after he started Bloom County, author Berke Breathed, citing exhaustion from the constant pressure of writing a daily strip, did the unthinkable – he ended the comic while it was still incredibly popular. He tells tales of regularly having to rush the week’s strips to the airport in the wee hours of the morning to meet deadlines – sometimes even crawling aboard to finish his work as the plane zipped to the New York City publishers. Not long after retiring Bloom County, he started Outland a Sunday-only strip. Originally, it was to be a more experimental strip starring Opus the lovable penguin from Bloom County and a cast of new characters. But slowly, more and more characters from the old began to appear and over time, the strip lost its experimental nature and essentially became Bloom County, Part II.
Like all of the Bloom County strips, the Library of American Comics has bound Outland into a very nice book. Reading the whole thing at once is a real treat. It’s fascinating to watch its transition from what Breathed was hoping to do to basically the same thing he’d been doing for a decade or more. The Sunday format allows him to do some interesting things visually, but it really limits his storytelling ability. He makes a few attempts to continue a story from week to week but it never really works in the same way it did when he was writing a story every day. It takes him a while to get into the groove, but once he hit his stride it’s a real job to read.
Interestingly, Breathed cancelled the series in 1995 and “retired” from comic writing only to “un-retire” in 2003 when he started yet another strip entitled Opus. He killed it in 2008 only to start up Bloom County again in 2015 as a Facebook strip.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
I watched this one many years ago. Then I watched the original movie with Peter Lorre (that was years ago, too, but less years than this one). My memory was that I liked it but my IMDB rating was at six out of ten.
I seem to have liked it more this time. There are some really nice sequences in it, including the remarkable Royal Albert Hall one (it lasts some 12 minutes without a single word of dialogue spoken). But there are also some real problems with the plot, and Doris Day’s character is absolutely useless in it. There is more to like than dislike and comparing the older film with this one shows how much Hitchock had grown as a filmmaker becoming more confident and masterful.
Gord Downie (February 6, 1964 – October 17, 2017)
Gord Downie, front man for the Tragically Hip, died of brain cancer this week. He was 53. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the band; I know only a couple of their songs, but they were beloved by many. Some of whom will no doubt enjoy this show from 1990.