Compulsion

Compulsion. 20th Century Fox 1959.

Before watching the movie:

I have no idea what to expect. This was an algorithmically generated recommendation I’ve never heard of, and all I have to go on is that it’s a courtroom drama about some amoral law students who believe they’re above the law. And Orson Welles is in it.

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Laura

Laura. 20th Century Fox 1944.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure if I’ve been aware of this movie before it came up in recommendations or not. I seem to be vaguely aware of “Laura” as a title, but I may just be thinking of the song (which I know because Spike Jones exploded it), that turns out to be the theme from the movie with lyrics added.

Vincent Price appears to have a small role, judging by his billing, but he’s the biggest name I can see. The only other name I even recognize on the shortlist is Clifton Webb.

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All the President’s Men

All the President’s Men. Wildwood Enterprises 1976.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve always felt that the Watergate wiretapping investigation was the single moment that America lost popular faith in its government. Perhaps that’s a naive view of history before it. Certainly the Vietnam War was a black eye for the nation. And I know there were other scandals gaining headlines between the Civil War and the Great Depression. Not long ago I covered a movie about political corruption from the 30s.

I will certainly grant that corruption has been around as long as there has been power to abuse. But if I had to point to one reason why pretty much anyone will tell you they’re all crooks in Washington, I’d say it was the CREEP coverup revelation. That was, in my mind, when the spin broke down and we saw the President’s New Clothes. The day a sitting president resigned in disgrace to avoid impeachment was the day we stopped believing that as a whole, our leaders had our best interests at heart. At least, that’s the narrative I’ve developed as someone who was born almost two decades later, having lived in a world where no substantiated political scandal has yet compared.

After watching the movie:

When the Washington Post’s newsroom signs young reporter Bob Woodward to cover a burglary at the Watergate hotel, it’s a simple police story. But as he covers the legal proceedings, he finds that they were assigned counsel but turned out to have private counsel they couldn’t have had a chance to hire themselves. Following that mystery leads to uncovering a meeting with a someone who works for the Special Advisor to the President. As the story grows, younger Carl Bernstein joins with Woodward to help pursue and report the case. Everything about it indicates deep corruption, but no source will go on record, and hardly anyone will give any information at all. There are plenty of hints that this is something big, but hints and hearsay don’t make concrete journalism, and the harder they push, the higher the pushback comes from.

This doesn’t play much like a movie. It’s more a methodical presentation of events. It seems almost as clinical as the case studies Sherlock Holmes would prefer Watson write. Despite dealing with the very heart of what makes our free society work, there’s next to no emotional investment asked for by the narrative. The duo fight through cold trails to get their facts, but we don’t get any kind of personal level of narrative conflict, just the professional challenge. This is almost excusable by the fact that we as the audience know how things turned out.

The end seems very abrupt. I’d consider the story beat it concludes on to be the beginning of the third act. After a major reversal, they get back on their feet and roll up their sleeves… and then it’s over, and all their vindication comes from an epilogue told in headlines. Perhaps this decision came from realizing the movie was already reaching two and a half hours in length.

Perhaps due to the limitation of scope of the story told, there doesn’t seem to be time in those two and a half hours to really explore the gravity of just how big the conspiracy was. It’s a gut punch to learn how much of the government was in on the election interference, but then everything wraps up with all the mess of that handled off camera.  This further leaves the impression that nothing really matters in this movie about uncovering very important things.

Ultimately, this story isn’t as concerned with the erosion of democracy as it is with journalistic integrity. Journalists will say that journalistic integrity is key to democracy, but in this case, the report could only be made after the damage had been done. The scheme worked, all the papers could do was refuse to let it stick. And by the narrative shown here, even that was a long shot.

 

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The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The Manchurian Candidate. United Artists 1962.

Before watching the movie:

I think I’ve heard once or twice that Frank Sinatra stars in this, but I forgot it. It’s still strange to think about him as a legendary actor as well as a legendary singer.

There was a remake in 2004, which was probably the wrong time for a remake. I wonder if anyone with say-so is considering making it again. Some would argue it’s being remade right in front of us.

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Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?

Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? Lorimar Productions 1978.
Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? Lorimar Productions 1978.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t remember how I originally came across this movie. Maybe I was looking up Robert Morley, maybe something else referenced the title, I don’t remember. But I do know that when I heard the title, I had to look it up to see if it was a real movie. And then I read the description and had to see it. And then it was not available online, so it ended up being a Christmas present. Which I am now watching.

I look forward to a globetrotting romp through culinary masterpieces, and also murder.

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Monkeybone

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Monkeybone. 1492 Pictures 2001.

Before watching the movie:

I always conflated this movie with Cool World because of the idea of an artist interacting with a cartoon reality. Until I reread my review of Cool World, I still thought it was also about creator and creation, but the artist only based his work on the already-existing alternate reality.

Also, this is definitely actually aimed at a PG-13 rating. And the animation is claymation, or CG pretending to be claymation, rather than Ralph Bakshi rotoscoped xeroxes. Continue reading

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

The Poseidon Adventure. Kent Productions 1972.
The Poseidon Adventure. Kent Productions 1972.

Before watching the movie:

I definitely selected this movie because it takes place on New Year’s and not because escaping an upside-down sinking ship with a high fatality rate seemed like an appropriate metaphor for anything.

So, this should be a pretty grounded disaster/survival movie. Trying to navigate rooms on their ceilings, filling with water, should be an interesting challenge to see passengers try to overcome. Continue reading