12.02.2021

Reviews and Overviews (Film)


I had this post ready to go this morning when suddenly, inexplicably, Blogger glitched. I did nothing wrong or out of the ordinary but suddenly the formatting got screwed up. While just trying to figure out what happened, what button might mistakenly have been hit, etc., the entire post went blank and then auto-saved. Five or six hours of work - more, really - gone in a flash. No explanation, no reason, no appeal, no recovery. 

So, back to the drawing board.


An accumulation of spirit-crushing glitches like this can really do a number of a fella's equilibrium. I wish it was just Blogger. Someone fix the goddamn Matrix. 

Here is a Table of Contents post for all film-related content here at the Omnibus. 


MY FAVORITE FILMS


Pretty straightforward. I’m not capable of answering things like a normal person so one of those “Name your favorite film for every year of your lifetime” viral quiz things crossed my social media path and these were the results. 

1970s

1980s

1990s

21st Century (through 2016)




FRIDAY NIGHT FILM NOIR


This was kind of a watch-along-with-me-while-I-screencap-the-movie-and-tell-you-the-plot sort of project, which in retrospect isn't the most satisfying thing to read. But there a gazillion screencaps in there, for cover photos or slideshows or just to admire while you practice your saxophone solos under the blinking argon lights. 




FROM NOVEL TO FILM


Full list here. There were so many I wanted to get to and didn’t. I left those inactive links in there, just to get an idea of what the full range of films would have looked like. 



RANDOM REVIEWS 
AND OVERVIEWS


- The Films of Oliver Stone. I probably wouldn't even make that list now. I did it in 2014, and even by then I wasn't much of a Stone fan anymore. But in the past seven years, I've read this book, which kind of makes it hard to look at some of the things in Stone's movie the same way. It's still great theater, has plenty of fun performances, etc., but now it seems like it's gathering together the kind of Flying Spaghetti Monster strands under one banner. Which at one point wouldn't have mattered to me. Sidenote: the release of the JFK files was postponed once again, which will likely make Kevin Costner's remarkable speech at the end that much more persuasive to some. Maybe they're right. 

- The Films of Martin Scorsese. What, did you miss one? Nope, I never did this one. I bring it up because, remarkably, I find myself in the same boat with Scorsese as I just described with Stone. I never would have thought most of his and Stone's work would hit me like a big bag of "meh" here in the far future of 2021, but that's where I'm at. Still think Casino is a masterpiece, and that Personal Journey Through American Movies should be seen by any aspiring filmmakers. 


- One Crazy Summer. Seems kind of conspicuous all by itself like this, eh? There’s a very bloated three-parter on Heathers back there somewhere that I’ll leave unlinked. Not to be coy, just not my favorite work. Great movie though. Still holds up.  

- The Things I Watched Recentlys. These are fun, and they’re rather habit-forming. Probably good I’m giving up the blog when I am as I could see myself just doing nothing but, year after year to the grave. I mean, hell I’ll be doing that anyway, just as I was doing it beforehand. Anyway I’ve done a few of these: 

(a) some Halloween viewing from a few years ago. (Blacula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Exorcist II, The Exorcist III, Halloween: H20, In the Mouth of Madness, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Little Shop of Horrors, Mandy, The Omen III: The Final Conflict, Scream Blacula Scream, Summer of '84, The Watcher in the Woods)

(b) One from earlier this year (Alien, Unhinged, The Hot Rock, The Hot Spot, Lady Cocoa, Lifeforce, Lifeguard, The Lost World: Jurassic Park II, No Escape, The Omega Man, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, TNT Jackson, The Towering Inferno)


(c)
One from a few months ago (Bird Box, Chopping Mall, The Edge, The Fog, Freedomland, Invitation to Hell, A Quiet Place, Queen of Outer Space, Tai-Pan, We Can Be Heroes, Wind River)

(d) Another from a few months ago. (Boss Baby 2, Breaker Morant, Carbon Copy, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Crazies, Emma Mae, The In Laws, Pillow Talk, Police Story III: Supercop, Saint Jack, Slap Shot, Slumber Party Massacre, Sparkle, That Touch of Mink)

(e) Still another from a few months ago. (Class of 1984, Cleopatra, Death of Me, The Guilty, Freeway, Halloween II, Land of the Pharaohs, The Mummy, Retreat, The Ten Commandments, WNUF A Halloween Special, Yes Day)

(f)  And my other brother Darrell. (This will turn to “And the last one” when I get it together sometime in the next few weeks. Watch this space for exciting developments!)




THE SCENIC ROUTE


Full list here. I really pumped a lot of screencaps out into the inter-ether. May you use them in peace, Planet Earth. May a thousand cover photos bloom. 




STAR TREK MOVIES


The definitive McBreakdown! Pts. 1 and 2




STEPHEN KING MOVIES


Likewise. Pts. 1 and 2. Someday someone will make a film of Duma Key and it will hopefully top that list, as it does my list of favorite King books. 




TEN WESTERNS

Well this list feels incomplete or askew to me now, even if it was really only meant to be a list of hey-here's-some-good-westerns not an attempt to nail down the definitive grouping or anything. Still, I'd add or subtract a few now. That's horse races. 


~

Chicago, IL, USA 
December 2021

11.30.2021

Coupling: Some Favorite Moments

"If you can't make your mind up,
we'll never get started.
And I don't wanna wind up
being parted, broken-hearted.
So if you really love me,
say yes.
but if you don't, dear, confess.
And please don't tell me 
Perhaps 
Perhaps 
Perhaps"




Twenty-ish years ago, this show used to air on Sunday nights at 11 or 11:30 on WGBH. I didn’t have cable, and my apartment had bad reception for most every station except that one. Portrait of a different age. My girlfriend at the time didn’t like it, and when I moved to Chicago I never saw it again until a couple of years ago. 

Here’s what the wiki has to say:


"Coupling aired on BBC2 from 12 May 2000 to 14 June 2004, (chronicling) the dating, sexual adventures, and mishaps of six friends in their early 30s, often depicting the three women and the three men each talking among themselves about the same events, but in entirely different terms. (It) used the "group genre", a type of program using ensemble casts that was proving popular, with then-recent successes as Friends, This Life (also starring Davenport), and Cold Feet. Moffat feels the group genre reflects young people's modern mores more so than traditional sitcoms, saying, "Young people watch because it is the lifestyle which is just ahead of them and older people reminisce. Coupling is about two people who get together and bring with them baggage from their past, friends, and ex-partners - people who would never meet under normal circumstances. It deals in the kind of trivia people talk about, important questions like when should a man take off his socks during foreplay?"


It also trucks in “Jeffisms” (a full list of which is here). This sort of thing where a character comes up with his or her own quirky term for something was done to death in subsequent shows and - like quirky, monochromatic twentysomethings in pubs discussing sex and relationships in a very 90s-heteronormative-but-not-homophobic way in general - might date the show too much, I don’t know, for a modern audience. I do know whenever I post anything about it on Facebook, I usually get an interesting cross-section of responses. 


Starring Jack Davenport, Ben Miles, and Richard Coyle.
Sarah Alexander, Kate Isitt, and Gina Bellman.


There was a short-lived American version. You can watch the first episode on YouTube. Good cast, but it didn't really work. 

The below is just some thoughts and bits. For those who haven’t seen it, the first three seasons had the same cast, and then Richard Coyle (Jeff) left in the fourth. Jeff's craziness is probably the best part of the show, so that was a drag. The cast/ show is still fun, but something is lost when it veers into real relationship stuff vs. the glossy and outrageous exaggerations. It's loosely based on his and Sue Vertue's relationship. 

The theme song is great. Mari Wilson sings it. You remember her. No? Based on an old standard, which I used to hear every now and again in my grandmother's car. (Good ol' WLKW.) Here we go.


"Sex Death and Nudity"
s1, e3 (May, 2000)



Whilst giving Jeff advice on preparing for a job interview, Patrick recommends imagining the panel naked, which Jeff begins to practice. Jeff introduces Patrick and Steve to the 'giggle loop', his name for difficulty of containing laughter at inappropriate times, beginning a chain of invitations that sees all six at Jane's Aunt's funeral, where the giggle loop strikes with a vengeance.


The giggle loop is a bit much, but it all resolves itself amusingly. Sally's genuine horror at the old lady's skin and her audacity at likening hers to her own is great. ("I looked just like you.” “Don’t be horrible.”)

Patrick's method of imagining people naked has been seen in lots of places, as well, as has Jeff's horror at discovering a full-length mirror displaying his "own" nudity. But Richard Coyle makes it all seem as if he - or no one - has ever heard of it before. It's recalled throughout the series, as well - this is a life-changing moment for Jeff.


"Inferno"
s2, e4 (June, 2000)



Patrick gets a new haircut ("a hard man") that sows confusion. Susan finds a porn film in Steve's VCR prior to a dinner party they're hosting to celebrate their cohabitation. Jane brings her psychologist, who despises her.


Lots of great bits here. As is often said the best comedy arises from confusion, and Patrick's confusion over the reaction his haircut causes is great, as is the resolution with Jane's ex-therapist. Speaking of - she and Jane provide a lot of the comedy here. Jane's insistence that she is an "emotional vegetarian" despite eating meat is ahead of her time. ("We like a lot of the same movies.") Such relativism is no longer the exclusive province of the Janes of the world in our exciting new modern age. When Jill (the therapist) tells her A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat, you insane bitch!” in 2021 she is guilty of overt hate speech and a host of microaggressions, whereas in 2000 it just got a big laugh. Oh how I envy you, people of the past, mostly. 




“All men love The Piano because Holly Hunt is naked for most of it.” 
“She was naked in just one scene.” 
“Depends how you watch it.” 

I might have screwed that up. It’s hard to google quotes on this show; try it. I love that Jeff is both haunted and illuminated by this envision-nudity mantra, though.



"The Girl with Two Breasts"
s1, e4



Jeff makes eyes with a beautiful woman, but she only speaks Hebrew and cannot communicate without the help of her interpreter, without whom they create a huge confusion, which we see from both sides.




I won’t spoil the fun on this one. The various escalations that make Jeff sound crazy and the palpable relief when he realizes she can't speak English - all so good. That “I was expecting Shandiyeem…” at the end is so well-earned. Just a great script and performances all around.
 
And the ending strikes a genuine tone of sadness and missed connection. That sense of not wanting to miss the boat – and then missing it – is played for laughs for all but these handful of moments, but kudos to Anat Dychtwald et al. for conveying it all so memorably. I've thought about it since the night I saw it. 


“Sometimes I just want to go around ripping people’s ears off and scream in their faces 'READ A BOOK FOR GOD’S SAKE!”



"The Man with Two Legs"
s2, e1 (September, 2001)



Jeff is infatuated with a woman on the morning train, although he's only ever seen one of her legs. When commuting happenstance puts them face to face, he stumbles his way into a waking nightmare where he keeps failing upward.


My favorite of them all, probably. You know that joke where your brain says "Okay, don't say anything stupid here..." and then you proceed to say something incredibly stupid? Of course you do. It may achieve its ultimate sitcom form in this episode, pound for pound. The journey from trying to walk back the initial stumblings ("You look just like the back of your head!" "It's just nice to see your legs together for once" "I'm not one of those amputators") to being helplessly carried over the cliff as the situation just deepens and widens is about as good as you can get it. 


"You've no idea the rubbish men talk to try to get me into bed."
"Oh I probably have some idea."



“I was given the key to paradise, but I’ve got too many legs…”



"Jane and the Truth Snake"
s2, e5 (October, 2001)



After causing a traffic accident with her eccentric traffic reporting, Jane is sacked and decides to become a children's TV presenter. She shows Sally, Steve, and Susan her new creation: Jake the Snake, a truth-telling sock puppet. However, she loses control of the creation, who expresses her honest opinions of everyone, including her boss when he arrives to offer her her job back. Insulted, he insists she'll never work for the news again, but the public demands they reinstate her and he is fired instead.


The b-story where Patrick discovers his ex-girlfriend is up for a threesome has the funnier resolution, which I shall decline to spoil. All great, though. I love how horrified Sally is when she thinks Jane has made a penis puppet. She walks it back quickly.




"Naked"
s2, e8 (October, 2001)



Jeff flirts with Julia, a new senior partner at the firm where he and Susan work. When she and his friends organize a surprise birthday for him, to which Julia takes him - blindfolded with a tie - her ambiguous promises of "birthday fun" give him the wrong idea, he gives a rousing speech to his sperm, then does a spirited striptease, unaware the staff, his friends, and family are present. The episode ends on a happy note when Julia sends everyone home so they can continue the celebration in private.




"I am a prison for sperms. Those poor little tadpoles have been sentenced for life in Jeff Murdock’s groin. And let me tell you, that can be a pretty lonely place." There's more to this quote, but its callback at the end is perfect. Another masterpiece of escalation. You think it’s bad enough when, blindfolded for his surprise party, he mistakes what’s going on and begins to disrobe, then he gives a Braveheart speech to his sperms, whom he's previously lamented as like excited lads on the launch pad who keep getting their mission cancelled. Just perfect. 

Lou Gish (Julia) was brilliant. Died sadly young from cancer (38) only five years after filming this episode. R.I.P.


“You’ve got the eyes of ten women. Not in a jar – I’m not accusing you.”



"End of the Line"
s2, e9 (October, 2001)


Susan and Steve's relationship has become complacent, and she is having issues with her new French client, Giselle. Both she and Steve allow flirtations with others to play out rather than set them straight. Mistaken identities and time jumps ensue, ending with Susan leaving, presumably both their flat and the relationship. 

“I’m Giselle! I am a French beech.”


Not much to say about this one. I've been ripping off Jeff's line 
Whenever I have sex with Julie, it’s just so realistic” for years. This blog has been great for confessing such things; if you went through it from the beginning, you'd source all my recurring sayings. 

~

Season Three is mostly retreading ground best explored in the first two seasons. The best episodes (“Unconditional Sex,” “The Freckle, The Key, and the Couple Who Weren’t”) are still pretty fun. Some great lines (“You’re a one-woman breast attack”) and Jane’s awkward attempts to hook up with the vicar are good. 




The cast has mostly gone on to other shows or films. I haven't kept up, but I remember Richard Coyle from A Good Year and Jack Davenport from at least the first Pirates of the Caribbean. Gina Bellman did (and does) Leverage, that one's pretty big over here (the US) but not sure elsewhere. Ben Miles and Sarah Alexander have both done plenty. I spent the whole of watching The Babadook thinking it was Sally (Kate Isitt) and was super impressed. And super-wrong, of course. But I know what I prefer to believe. My emotional imdb is always accurate. 


“Rule #1 of playing it cool:
only smile at her face.”


Perhaps

Perhaps

Perhaps.