SUDDENLY (1954)

Posted in THE LUNCH MOVIE CHRONICLES: The original e-mail announcements that were sent through our office the evening before we rolled a Lunch Movie on April 23rd, 2010 by Jim Delaney


From Friday April 15, 2008

Directed by Lewis Allen, starring Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, Nancy Gates and James Gleason.

Sinatra is John Baron, a World War 2 veteran and hit man hired to assassinate the President during a train stop in the sleepy desert town of Suddenly, CA. In choosing a vantage point to shoot from, Baron and his goon-squad take Ellen Benson (Gates) and her son hostage in their home. Can Sheriff Tod Shaw (Hayden) contain the violence that Baron threatens to bring to his town?

The elusiveness of the American Dream, even to veterans who fought for it, is a theme that elevates SUDDENLY above many Film Noirs of the era. That said, there’s still plenty of tough guys in hats threatening people, as in Sinatra sneering “The thing about killing you or her or him is that I wouldn’t be getting paid for it and I don’t like giving anything away for free.” Rumor has it Lee Harvey Oswald watched SUDDENLY a few weeks before assassinating President Kennedy. Maybe that’s true, maybe not, but Sinatra had SUDDENLY pulled from distribution along with THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE for many many years after November 1963.

It’ll finish Tuesday,
Love, Jim

AFTER THOUGHT from 4.23.10
Frank Sinatra’s involvement in SUDDENLY is an example of what is missing from current star-driven movies. Fresh from his Supporting Actor Oscar for FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, he might have sought out a vanity project allowing him to play a cool hero, enhancing his already cool public image. Instead, like Kirk Douglas in DETECTIVE STORY or Lancaster and Curtis in SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, Sinatra plays a man who is at best an anti-hero, and at worst an outright villain. In the days before actors were “brands,” these guys looked for roles that were as different from their public persona as they were from their previous roles. Frank sought out what should have been merely a B-movie because it offered him a chance to show range. Well done, Chairman.

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FIREFOX (1982)

Posted in THE LUNCH MOVIE CHRONICLES: The original e-mail announcements that were sent through our office the evening before we rolled a Lunch Movie on April 20th, 2010 by Jim Delaney


From Tuesday, April 17, 2008
Produced & Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Clint, Freddie Jones, Ronald Lacey and Nigel Hawthorne, featuring a score by Maurice Jarre.

The Soviet Union redesigns their MIG-25 fighter jet into the MIG-31 Firefox. Among the advances: it flies 6 times the speed of sound, it’s invisible to radar, and it has a thought-controlled weapon system. The West grows nervous. What to do? Steal the prototype while it’s still in the testing phase! Now all we need is a pilot who can think in Russian! Someone get Clint on the horn!

FIREFOX not only came out during the Thatcher-n-Reagan vs. Brezhnev pinnacle of the Cold War, it was also released in the summer of 1982. 1982, as any proper nerd will tell you, is The Greatest Year In The History Of Nerd Cinema. FIREFOX holds is own among Clint movies, Cold War thrillers, and all the other fun that came out that year: E.T., Rocky 3, Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan, Blade Runner, John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Dark Crystal, Creepshow, First Blood, Conan The Barbarian and Poltergeist — to name a few.

It’ll finish Friday.
Love, Jim

AFTER THOUGHT from 4.20.10
To miss FIREFOX is to miss the simplicity of The Cold War. Regardless of which side of the Iron Curtain you were on, you knew who “your” good guys were and who “their” bad guys were. We had this snappy little pass-time called “espionage” that was widely accepted as a nasty business in which sometimes a few spies would kill or be killed. To their governments, they were preserving a way of life, but to regular people they prevented far greater destruction via full-scale war.

I have read some comments on IMDB message boards-n-such where viewers were surprised by how quickly Mitchell Gant (Eastwood) signs onto his mission. Note to those folks: FIREFOX pre-dates Syd Field and every other false-hopes-to-starving-artists screenwriting tricks of the trade book you may have read. Once upon a time it was not necessary for a character to spend the entire first act twiddling their thumbs and filling us in on their happy home life until (inciting incident!) SOMETHING happens to wreck it (I’m lookin’ at you, Governator in COMMANDO).

FIREFOX is a cold-war espionage thriller. This type of film has not yet been granted the scholarly benefits that film noir has enjoyed for two generations, nor that grindhouse exploitation fun currently wallows in, but wait — their day will come. When it does, prepare to re-watch FIREFOX alongside THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, GORKY PARK, TELEFON and a lot of other movies you’re either too young to have heard of or too old to realize were worth remembering back when you saw them. Either way, they will be as cool a gift as rediscovering noir with Richard Widmark or blaxploitation with Pam Grier. Trust me.

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Boston Underground Film Festival: IT CAME FROM KUCHAR (2009) and AMER (2009)

Posted in FESTIVAL NOTES: Dispatches from the front lines. on April 4th, 2010 by Jim Delaney

Thursday, April 1, 2010 at the Landmark Kendall Sq. Cinema, Cambridge, MA.

IT CAME FROM KUCHAR Directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, featuring George & Mike Kuchar, Atom Egoyan, Buck Henry and John Waters.

Before I saw this film, my only awareness of George and Mike Kuchar came from John Waters’ performance film THIS FILTHY WORLD, wherein he recalls his admiration for their films and their fast-n-loose shooting style. Jennifer M. Kroot’s documentary works both as a study of several different schools of film-making in the past 50 years and as a biography of two relentlessly creative twin brothers. If you are interested in intimate films about family relationships and/or unusual and engaging (read: kooky) personalities, you will be fascinated by these two Bronx-born lads. If you are interested in:
– Madison Ave advertising/industrial filmmaking and illustration
– Beatnik-era experimental short films
– Sirkian melodrama
– countercultural/psychedelic films and comicbooks
– drive-in horror and sci-fi movies
– gay films that made the rest of the U.S. aware of The Castro
– student films from “the film-school generation” to the present —
the Kuchars have tried their hand at all of them and more!

The requisite interviews are informative and enlightening, though the highlight is Buck Henry, whom we see hanging out with George rather than talking about him. The most fun and involving sequences follow George as he teaches film students at the San Francisco Art Institute. Kroot enables you to be a fly on the wall in the sort of chaotic go-for-broke class setting that will either make you yearn to go to film school, or be very glad that you chose to be an accountant.

AMER Written & Directed by Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani, starring Marie Bos, Charlotte Eugene-Guibbaud, Delphine Brual, Bianca Maria D’Amato and Cassandra Foret.

Allow me to offer you a variation on the *Spoiler Alert* regarding AMER. I will not ruin the end, or any other surprises, but it is best that I warn you what state of mind you will need to enjoy this film. Had I seen it in the wrong mood, I expect I could have been bored or annoyed with it, or even found it pretentious. However, as this was a film festival, I came to it with as open a mind as I could manage. I made a conscious effort to connect with what these two directors were trying to share with me. In return I asked for something unexpected and unique. I was happily rewarded.

The paper-thin story focuses on three stages in the sexual awakening of a woman named Ana. We meet Ana first as a child of about 12 in a gothic mansion, then an adolescent on the Mediterranean coast, and finally as an adult returning to a dilapidated husk that had been her childhood home. Rather than expository dialogue, AMER focuses on Ana’s sensual memories, like the sound of a pocket watch chain and the stifling heat in a car with the windows up. The saturated sound design often threatens to become tedious; it is thankfully interrupted by a score of Ennio Morricone and other Italian exploitation maestros (lifted mostly from 1970’s films), in case you missed from the color and shadow drenched imagery that AMER is a valentine to Giallo.

AMER plays out as sort of an anthology film directed by a team whose previous films have all been shorts. The story might be more compelling if it were 15-20 minutes shorter, but as an overall experience, AMER is a sumptuously haunting 90 minutes.

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