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What I'm Watching - Sept. 3-9, 2023

With several projects going on, I thought it would be a nice break to give a quick overview of what I watched during the past week. (And please share what you watched.)


 



Room 237 (doc. 2021) Rodney Ascher - Library DVD


Full confession: I know it's horror film blasphemy, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Yet perhaps I will change my mind after viewing Room 237, a documentary not so much on the making of the film, but rather the hidden meanings and (conspiracy) theories behind the work. I’m not on board with all of the documentary’s implications, but I think it will help me better appreciate my next viewing of Kubrick’s take on the Stephen King novel. From what I’ve read, the real value in watching Room 237 comes from listening to the Kevin McLeod audio commentary.



Fear is the Key (1972) Michael Tuchner (2x) - Criterion Channel (‘70s Car Movies)


Although the Criterion Channel has this revenge story categorized as a ‘70s car movie (which it is), I best remember Fear is the Key as an underwater movie. Although the submerged element only lasts about 10 or 15 minutes, that was what caught my attention as a 10-year-old moviegoer back in the day. My youthful self would not have considered the car chases and unfolding of the plot as ridiculous, but that’s pretty much how I see the film now, although I did enjoy it somewhat for what it is.



The film also stars Ben Kingsley in his film debut and Dean Wormer (John Vernon) himself! No double secret probation here…



Zander the Great (1925) George W. Hill - Undercrank Productions Blu-ray


Before viewing Zander the Great, I had only seen one other Marion Davies movie, The Patsy (1928), which I enjoyed very much. I now want to read Lara Gabrielle’s book Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies and see more of Davies’s films. I was captivated by Davies in her role as Mamie, a girl who escapes abuse at an orphanage finding solace and happiness in living with Mrs. Caldwell (Hedda Hopper), a kind woman with a young son named Zander. Yet Mamie and Zander are forced to flee due to circumstances beyond their control, winding up trapped in Arizona with a band of outlaws. Both the film and Davies are charming.


Ran (1985) Akira Kurosawa - Studio Canal Blu-ray (Region B)


Kurosawa’s take on Shakespeare’s King Lear is absolutely brilliant. Why did I wait so long to watch this?



True Confession (1937) Wesley Ruggles - Universal Hollywood Icons: Carole Lombard DVD (also includes Hands Across the Table, Love Before Breakfast, and My Man Godfrey)


When Kenneth Bartlett (Fred MacMurray) isn’t making enough money as a lawyer, his wife Helen (Carole Lombard) decides to take a job as a secretary, despite the fact that she can’t type or take dictation. When her brand new employer is murdered, things go off the rails for Helen and Kenneth, and maybe the audience, too. Although the cast is wonderful and Lombard is giving it her all, the script is inconsistent as is the pacing. Still enjoyable.



Ann Vickers (1933) - John Cromwell - Warner Archive DVD


I often complain about movies that are too long, but here's one that would've benefited from an extended running time. Irene Dunne plays Ann, a young woman dedicated to social work but finds herself falling for the wrong men leading to controversy. Startling for its time, Ann Vickers is a film Pre-Code fans should not miss. Director John Cromwell makes some interesting directorial decisions here and would return to a prison setting in 1950 for Caged, although that film has far more prison sequences than this one. Ann Vickers is definitely worth a look.



The Outsider (TV 2020) Library DVD


I read the Stephen King novel last month and am so far only two episodes into the miniseries, but right now my reactions are mixed. Check back with me next week.


So let me know what you watched last week - good, bad, or take-it-or-leave-it. Everyone have a great week!

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