Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine

A reporter turned author is having trouble finishing his book. Discussing the ills of capital punishment with his future father-in-law, they concoct a scheme to frame him for an unsolved murder. Once he is convicted, they will prove his innocence and reveal the flaws in the system. The father-in-law carefully documents all their activities as they plant evidence.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this, but as a fan of Fritz Lang, I gave it a go. Enjoyed it though I will admit it is nothing compared to “Metropolis”, “Secret Beyond the Door” “Scarlet Street” or “M”.

Bleak subject? No chemistry between Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine?  Not enough tension? It did not do well at the box office and is not listed in Lang’s top films. But it IS still a Fritz Lang picture. Noirish  lighting. Funky camera angles.

Interesting concept though, and there’s a surprise at the end. Well worth a watch if you enjoy classic films and mystery.

There was a remake in 2009 with Jesse Metcalfe. Haven’t seen it. Usually, I’m not a big fan of remakes, but might have to give this a go for comparison.

 

 

 

Le Samourai (1967) (French) Alain Delon, François Périer , Nathalie Delon, Caty Rosier

I first saw Alain Delon in Zorro when I was around 11 and was swept away. Recently perusing a list of Top 100 best foreign films, Le Samourai popped up. Great!

I’ll say off the bat that this is a film buff’s movie. If you need fast action and lots of special effects you will be bored silly and hate it. In fact, the most animated character in the film is an agitated, caged bullfinch. A man of action heart throb in Zorro; he’s stony cold with dead eyes here.

And yet, here are some review snippets:

“I was completely blown away. This movie can be summed up with one word: minimalism.”

“stark originality”

“a blend of stylistic and thematic excellence”

All while being darned close to a silent film the dialogue is so sparse.

Still reading? Here’s the tricky part– the movie won’t really much sense until the end. You have to keep watching.
The plot is simple: a hit man’s job is not clean, there are witnesses including a piano player who looked him right in the eye. So his employer isn’t pleased, the cops are darned sure they’ve got their man but they don’t absolute proof. The employer wants him dead, cops are following him and harassing his girlfriend (Delon’s wife at the time, Nathalie, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world at the time)  to admit her alibi for him is a lie. 

The film begins with a quotation from the Bushido, the samurai code “There is no solitude greater than a samurai’s, unless perhaps it is that of a tiger in the jungle.”  Delon’s character, Jef Costello, moves with purpose, seemingly devoid of emotion. I’d hazard that the Terminator was modeled after this performance. Unrelenting and calculating.

The film itself– considered perfection by film-makers for it’s use of color, timing, atmosphere, camerawork and locations. At a time when films were shot on sets, this was a notable departure, being shot on locations in Paris, but not a Paris that you’d recognize from iconic photos– it’s mostly subways, stairwells, narrow streets.

My favorite scene is the first one. A dim room so still you wonder if it is a photograph. A hint of movement, there is a haze of smoke. Where is it coming from? Oh! There is a man on the bed blowing smoke rings. This moment capture the feel of the whole film– action and non-action, a gorgeous minimalist canvas (honestly, the colors of the walls and texture are mesmerizing) that speaks without words.

For more info at Internet Movie Database: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062229/?ref_=ttmi_tt
Perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/le_samourai

 

MIDNIGHT LACE (1960) Doris Day, Rex Harrison, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowell

I’m going to kill you, Mrs. Preston,”   promises an unnatural high-pitched voice that ought to set the goosebumps scampering over your skin.

   An American woman (Doris Day), wed three scant months to an Englishman (Rex Harrison), lives in London and is terrorized by a stalker threatening to kill her. The threats always seem to come when she is alone and has no one to corroborate her experiences which occur with increasing frequency.

   This film may seem tepid amidst today’s offerings of graphic violence and terror, but for Doris Day fans, old movie fans and folks who just don’t want graphic frights, this movie holds up. The story takes off in the first moments; suspects abound, the tension never slacks.

   Doris Day refused to act in any other such film and opted for comedies for the rest of her career. No small wonder as her character, Mrs. Preston is under stress from the first moments of the film. In one climatic scene, her method acting turned to real hysteria and she collapsed.

   Costume designer Irene Lentz was nominated for an Oscar for her outfits in Midnight Lace. She and Doris Day were friends, and Day trusted her for her costumes as well as her own wardrobe. If you enjoy Hollywood fashion, this film is a goodie just for that.

   As a huge Myrna Loy fan, it is a treat that she is Mrs. Preston’s kind aunt. Roddy McDowell has only a few scenes but they are noteworthy and memorable. I’m not much of a Rex Harrison fan and this role did not make appear to push his acting abilities, but no grumbles about his work here.

LINKS:

Related article about Irene Lentz:

 https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/irene-lentz-costume-designers-chic-430898

 Midnight Lace Trailer:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozEIitjahuU

 

 

 

 

Sweet Bean (2015) (Japanese)

The plot :   The manager and cook at a doriyaki shop (doriyaki = two pancakes with a filling between them) seems stuck in a rut, trapped by debt. A kindly old woman shows up with a homemade bean recipe that will surely boost sales. A young student whose closest friend is a canary finds refuge at the shop with the strange woman as a surrogate mother.  The woman will offer them both a new way to look at life. 

This film is like a cherry blossom, small, simple, delicate, gorgeous, uplifting. 

Link to preview on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4298958/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0 

 

 

The Detour

So, there’s this little culvert just down the road. Doesn’t seem like much of anything. Most of the time it’s dry, unless we get a gully washer, then it becomes a true creek. I never dreamed it would be such an undertaking to repair it. Trucks and loads of dirt, rocks and concrete chunks just keep coming. For weeks. We haven’t seen any actual work yet though sometimes we see dudes sitting in the shade with sandwiches. 

The guy just laughs when I ask how long it’ll be before the road opens again. 

Figures. There’s always something, isn’t there? A detour in the road, a kink in the hose? 

Don’t let it stop you from visiting Blue’s Lotus Lodge. We’re open!

Find your way to Catfish Springs via Amazon–Monkey Mind is available in paperback and as an ebook:   https://tinyurl.com/yagcfmd5

 

Taco Night –A Variation with Sweet Potato and Fish

TACO NIGHT WITH A LITTLE TWIST

Was in the mood for fish tacos but had some sweet potato leftovers.  Breaded tilapia, lime-cilantro rice, black beans and sweet potato was a pretty nifty combo.  Also had tomato with green chilies and lime juice.  Cooked the tilapia with olive oil and lots of lemon juice. Perhaps the Guinness was a bit strong, but it’s what I had on hand. Mighty tasty dinner.  

HOLIDAY (1938) Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn

Like the classic oldies? Have you seen Holiday (1938) with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn?  You might have missed it… it didn’t get as much notoriety as Philadelphia Story or Bringing Up Baby and that’s a shame.  Hard to imagine now, but Katherine Hepburn had built herself a bad reputation earlier in the 30s and was not a box office draw.  This is the perfect vehicle for her– a strong, quirky, well-to-do Main Line woman who doesn’t want to bend to societal demands. 
   The story is straightforward — a self-made man with a middle class background (Grant) falls in love with a woman (Doris Nolan) born into the Seton dynasty –one of the six richest families in the U.S.  He meets the family and soon discovers that getting married will be as complicated as getting marrying into a royal family.  There are rules and expectations.  And respectable society folk do not chuck their positions to find themselves as Grant’s character Johnny Case yearns to do, “…to try to find out who I am and what goes on and what about it.”( Unfortunately, this is perhaps why the film was not as well received as it should have been… post-Depression era folks did not embrace this philosophy.) As plans move forward he realizes he has more in common with his betrothed’s sister Linda (Katherine Hepburn).
Hepburn and Grant did four pictures together, three (including this one) with director George Cukor.  I for one, will be hunting up more Cukor films as this is a gem for many reasons:
  • acting is sublime–it is obvious that not only Hepburn and Grant had chemistry but they must have enjoyed their supporting cast members as well –Lew Ayres who plays her trapped and alcoholic brother; Edward Everett Horton (love him!!!) and Jean Dixon who play a sweet couple who are like surrogate parents to Grant. Scenes where they all escape the formal socialite scene to be themselves in the playroom are delightful.
  • Most of the film takes place in the Seton home –a home so large it has an elevator and a kitchen just a bit smaller than  a private airplane hangar. Opulent and stunning, it is a silent but shimmering character in the picture. 
  •  Costume designs by Robert Kalloch! Unfortunately, many animals died to make this film as there are quite a few fur wraps and hats to be seen but this was an age when clothing was ELEGANT.
Justin Chang recently wrote a review in the Los Angeles Times commenting that Holiday is the best of the Hepburn/Grant collaborations:

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2020-01-09/critics-choice-cary-grant-katharine-hepburn-holiday

For more detail, please check out Margaret Perry’s blog (with a fun little meme of Grant and Hepburn doing a dance over a couch:

https://thegreatkh.blogspot.com/2013/07/dynamic-duos-in-classic-film-katharine.html

 

 

Black Rainbow (1989) Jason Robards, Rosanna Arquette, Tom Hulce

Don’t get me wrong, I really really liked this movie, but oooh! The ending! I’m a big Rosanna Arquette fan and was tickled that Tom Hulce is in this. Remember him from Amadeus? This film wouldn’t have launched him to stardom but it’s not bad.  I wish I was in a movie club like a book club so we could discuss this film.  The plot: a psychic with an exploiting bastard for a father is kept virtual prisoner by him. They travel doing psychic shows and enjoy moderate success but the father squanders the money away.  The psychic begins to get messages from the dead… before they are dead. This unsettles everyone involved, most of all her.  For 3/4 of this film I wondered where the supernatural element was going to come into play as it seemed mostly a psychological drama. And it’s a good one.  But the ending…  Most films with a twist like Sixth Sense do a nice recap at the end where you can see where you were fooled. Not so this one. Now I’ve heard that a more recent version has been released with a commentary track. I need to hunt this down because, dang… the movie ended and I thought… wait. Did I go to the bathroom and miss something? Nope. So either there is a gaping plot hole that I fell into or there was a super subtle moment that I missed… or it ended up on the editing room floor. I don’t know. If you’ve seen this movie, please tell me your explanation of the ending!

See Internet Movie Database:  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099143/

***Spoiler alert…. stop here if you haven’t seen it but intend to***  So the big question: When did she die? She doesn’t get shot in the final scene in the hotel yet she’s in two places at once. So I’m thinking she must have been already dead.  So is she dead the whole time?  If so, why on earth would she remain stuck doing essentially parlor tricks to keep her Dad afloat. And why have the fling with the reporter? Just cause? I’m so confused… 

TSUNDOKU – My New Favorite Word

The Japanese word for accumulating books even though it’s unlikely that you’ll actually read them.

While there has been a steady decline of readership and the few remaining book stores have to stock trendy gadgets, socks, stuffed animals, candles and who knows what all else to draw attention, there are still folks who love books. 
In her blog entitled Tsundoku: The Practice of Buying More Books Than You Can Read, Melissa Breyer quotes author – A. Edward Newton, author, publisher, and collector of 10,000 books:
“Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity.” 

One could suffer worse things than tsundoku. 

For Melissa’s blog : https://tinyurl.com/ydb7lwmy

Here’s another cool (and short) article on the subject: http://www.openculture.com/2018/07/tsundoku.html