Annie [1982)

Woof!

Yesterday was a rough day for me.

Yeah, nicotine withdrawal.

Ugh…

Maybe the roughest 24 hours of my life.

They say nicotine is more addictive than heroin.

I can neither confirm nor deny that.

But after a day like yesterday, I was ready for tomorrow.

And, to quote Stereolab, “tomorrow is already here”.

So when I saw this little gem on Netflix, I thought, “This is the perfect kinda movie I need tonight.  Something light.  Not too spicy.”

But as the classics of naïveté always do, this one reduced me to a sobbing snot factory.

[sorry for the vividness]

Back in the day (you know, the day), it didn’t matter to me who directed a movie.

[Auteur?

Is that like a really smart person?

Oh, no…that’s savant.]

But then I got into all this movie business.

And it started to matter.

Because certain directors consistently turned out magic…even when they were all-but-thwarted by external sources.

[and sometimes internal sources]

So it bears repeating that Annie was directed by THE John Huston.

[kinda like THE Ohio State University]

Apparently, Sony Pictures’ subsidiary Colombia Pictures thought in 2014 that Annie would be a good film to remake.

You know?

Because it’s just a musical, right?

And there had only been one other adaption of it (the one under review)…and that had been directed by some guy…Houston, or something…

So, yeah…let’s get Will Gluck (WHO?!?) and it’ll all be groovy, baby…yeah.

Well, I’m not here to pass judgment on a film I’ve never seen (Annie from 2014).

I’m just here to say, when you start fooling with perfection (like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory [1971]), then you’re probably in trouble.

Tim Burton got a pass (just barely) with his Charlie…

But I pity the Will Gluck,

ok…let’s discuss–

Why Remaking Annie Would Be A Wholly Unenviable Task.

Because John Huston started his directing career in 1941 with The Maltese Falcon (!)…

Key Largo…The African Queen…

Yeah, those were his.

You know, Huston is not high in my list of favorite directors.

[maybe because I’m a moron]

But this film, Annie, which he made five years before he died, is really remarkable.

But who the hell am I, right?

I’m just a no-name in San Antonio, Texas.

AH!

San Antone…

Never felt so good!

Yes, the villain of our film, Carol Burnett, hails from my hometown.

It’s not often we can say that.

Lucille LeSueur (sorry, erm…Joan Crawford).

Pola Negri later in life (Apolonia Chalupec).

Yeah, that’s about it.

And Wings.

That’s San Antonio.

[as far as cinema goes]

But I’m here to tell you, John Huston’s Annie is really special!

Even Jay-Z digs these tunes (apparently).

[couldn’t care less]

Which is to say, sampling?  Cool.

Covering?  An entire film???

Again, I pity the fool…

Because Annie is an ass-kicker.

Yeah.

You’re gonna abuse animals?

Watch out.

Annie’s got some punches–some moves!

[and that’s before her karate lesson with Roger Minami]

{not to be confused with Mini Me}

Yeah…The Asp!

And Punjab!

[who was also in Live and Let Die (1973)]

Yeah, nothing Punjabi about Geoffrey Holder.

But that’s alright 🙂

These were the Reagan years.

And Annie is a not-so-gentle nudge for Republicans to embrace their warmer sides.

[Albert Finney rolling his eyes at the George Washington painting is priceless!]

So yeah…Annie is basically a good kid.

The best!

An animal lover.

A big heart.

Courage.

An encourager.

[As Punjab says, “Buddha (?!?) says, ‘A child without courage is like a night without stars.'”]

Yeah, and Ann Reinking sees that joy in Annie.

I mean, this film has it all!

Bolsheviks!  Rockettes!  Greta Garbo!

Yes, there’s a film within a film.

And I think Edgar Poe would approve…with his glass half-full of brandy (and the other half absinthe).

Judging by Garbo, the year is 1936.

Tough year to be out of work.

And a good year to have some juniper berry syrup.

And a bathtub.

Yeah, Albert Finney knew the art of the deal.

Hardball.

[not the tripe on MSNBC]

The concept.

Aileen Quinn is really fantastic in this film.

Following Daddy Warbucks around.

Like on a Monopoly board.

Hands behind the back.

And Daddy’s gotta sell some fighter-bombers…and BUY, BUY copper!

Albert Finney is driving the economy.

Pushing the leading indicators.

And Annie is honest.

And a little honesty goes a long way.

And in sets fakery.

Looking for some dupes.

Yeah, you can only fool a Warbucks so long.

Nose upturned.

From Liverpool, mind you!

Bootstraps!  Horatio Alger crap!!!

And it ain’t crap.

Positive thinking.

Tomorrow.

I guess you gotta be willing to give it up.

The ultimate test of faith.

Where is your heart?

In steps FDR.

Infamy.

Who can know?

Why we fight?

So it’s up to us orphans to run down 5th Avenue.

If we have something to say.

Jailbreak!

These little G-Men (G-Women, in this case) are citizen journalists.

Town criers!

Extra!  Extra!  Read about the fakery!!!

Because time is of the essence.

And you gotta keep climbing even though you can see the steps run out.

God bless the parents of this world.

Those who want to give their kids a warm bed.

And sweet dreams.

Penny on the dollar for your fireworks!

You can even ride the elephant 🙂

-PD

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me [1999)

This one is painful.  No getting around it.

Mike Myers is a very talented guy, but this film is seriously lacking in creativity.

I get it…  The James Bond series is very formulaic, but a spoof franchise can’t afford to be so predictable.

And thus it is little wonder that Austin Powers only lasted three installments.

But to be fair, let’s give this film a chance.

Austin starts out learning that his luck was too good to be true.

Elizabeth Hurley.  Not a professional model until age 29.

Speaks of a certain beauty.  Timeless.

Perhaps.

Daughter of Angela Mary Titt (!)…you can’t make this stuff up.

Bruce Beresford cast Hurley in Aria (1987) [a compilation film which happened to feature a vignette by my idol Jean-Luc Godard].

Aria was her debut.

Ok, enough about Hurley. She’s not in much of this film, but I really did her a disservice by completely failing to mention her performance in the first Austin Powers movie.  Really, she is a fine actress and her contribution to that movie was significant and impressive.

By now you may be noticing that the current film under consideration (installment two) must be quite a clunker for me to be going on about an actress who appears in about ten minutes of this feature.

If you have surmised thusly, you have surmised correctly.

Moving on…

There are moments in this movie when things briefly coalesce.  Dr. Evil’s headquarters atop The Space Needle hosts one such moment.  The schadenfreude I felt as a patron of a particularly lackluster Starbucks (watch the movie) was, in this scene, among the highlights of a rather limp film.

There is, of course, the addition of the 2′ 8″ Verne Troyer in this installment.  Troyer does a fine job as Mini-Me.

Even the Fat Bastard character is entertaining (up to a point).

I suppose that is the M.O. of the Austin Powers franchise: to go beyond the limits of ridiculousness and good taste.

When it works, it’s quite special.  When it doesn’t (as in most of this film), it’s a rather tragic affair.

Unfortunately, Rob Lowe is not really allowed to shine in this film.  His comedic gifts deserved better.

One player who makes the most of her small role is Kristen Johnston.  Kudos to her for making the sport of chess as exciting and bizarre as Marcel Duchamp and Henry Miller would have done had they wound up in this shambles of a film.

And now on to the bright spot of the film:  Heather Graham.

Yes, I know…I know.

Though it’s not as powerful as her breathtaking performance in Boogie Nights, it’s not a bad performance.

No…far from it.

Graham takes the charm of Elizabeth Hurley and ratchets it up a few notches.

But the story…oy vey, the story.  Really, there is no story.  The same story.

It’s pretty sad when a spy spoof is less entertaining than a Bond clunker such as Moonraker.

Back to Graham…anyone who’s dated Adam Ant is alright in my book.

Pushing onwards…

Dr. Evil at least happens upon the perfect name for his doomsday laser:  The Alan Parsons Project.

Like the evil Starbucks Space Needle, it is one of few highlights.

One of the few storyline threads to come through intact is the one involving Powers’ mojo.

Unfortunately, the naïvete of enlightenment which somehow alighted upon the first Austin Powers film is not present here to sustain the promising premise of mojo lost and found.

Strangely, the series itself seemingly lost its mojo in this its sophomore slump.

There’s one final twist at the end involving Fat Bastard.  For a moment the film threatens to redeem itself.

But alas, as they say…

-PD

The Man with the Golden Gun [1974)

Third nipple.  It had to be said.  Nay, not even the great Roger Moore could get away with a strictly biological description.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…  Indeed, Scaramanga was the most interesting and well-rounded villain yet in this series (by far).  This is Guy Hamilton’s directorial masterpiece.  Any who look down upon action/adventure movies are missing the fun of life.  C’est la vie.  It is an honor to write about a living legend–a true auteur.  I salute you Monsieur Hamilton!

Sure…there are some funny bits.  Coal and oil would soon run out?  Well, 40 years have gone by and we are still burning away.  But let us not dwell upon a minor hitch.  This film is so enjoyable to watch!

The location shoots are immaculate.  Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand…  I must admit I got a bit wistful hearing traditional Thai music (something I was lucky enough to study at university).  Hamilton pushes all the right buttons (rather the opposite of Miss Goodnight’s errant derriere).

I would dare say this is the best Bond film up to this point in the “canon”…without question!

It is not a matter of Connery vs. Moore, but rather of Hamilton vs. cinema.  There were great moments earlier in the series, but this really is the whole package.  It’s a shame Connery and Hamilton didn’t get the opportunity to hit on all cylinders as Moore and Hamilton did with this vehicle.

Bond takes one for the team early on by swallowing a piece of forensic evidence:  a golden bullet which had become the erstwhile navel ornament of a belly-dancer in Beirut.  Not long after we are introduced to an indispensable character:  Nick Nack.  Yes, that’s right…Tatoo from Fantasy Island, but officially the late Hervé Villechaize.  The MI6 base aboard the wreckage of the RMS Queen Elizabeth was a brilliant touch.  Special notice should go to Joie Vejjajiva and Qiu Yuen who are masterfully cute and pugnacious as Hip’s nieces.

There is certainly a hesitant feminism which asserts itself from time to time.  It is rather awkward in such a chauvinistic series, but welcome nonetheless.

Maud Adams is wonderful (if I may say so) particularly when she is playing dead (or, as the film would have it, actually dead).  I am speaking of course about the Thai boxing match scene.  It must have been no small feat to look so icy-cold in such a heated environment.  The whole mise-en-scène is so delicately artful that there is no doubt what we are seeing is thoroughly cinematic (meant in the most superlative sense).

Britt Ekland is wonderful as the bumbling white-hot Bond girl Mary Goodnight.  No wonder she and Peter Sellers had been married.  She’s a right bird!

Guy Hamilton must have really taken to Clifton James as the latter unbelievably reprises his role as Louisiana Sherriff J.W. Pepper.  This really does make the film essential viewing for Cajuns the world-round.  The AMC chase with Moore and “deputy” Pepper is exhilarating and hilarious.  This really shows the European influence of Hamilton, though one might think him Italian rather than French.  Nonetheless, the mélange of emotions warrants mention as particularly “other” from the Anglo-American milieu in which we seem to be racing around.

But there is no missing the recurring reference to The Lady from Shanghai in the funhouse mirrors which bookend this wonderful movie.  Nick Nack, likewise, presages Mini-Me of the Austin Powers franchise.

One final thought…  There is a troublesome moment when Bond pushes a Thai boy into a canal.  For a moment, reality erupts within the spectacle (to more-or-less quote another famous Guy:  Debord).  It reminds us that espionage is not all fun and games.  People get hurt.  People are used.  There are many means to an end.  But I credit the series and even this film with upholding a certain stereotype of the British which I think has some truth to it…in a couple of words:  tact and manners.  Bond doesn’t really hurt the boy, though it is rather cruel seeing as how the boy had just helped him out of a “jam” only to have Bond, moreover, immediately renege on a 20,000 baht reward.  But even Scaramanga seems to appreciate the “sporting” nature of British fairness…offering Bond a chance.  True…Bond kicks a martial arts opponent in the face during the preordained moment for bowing to the sensei of the dojo, but Bond was outnumbered 20 to 1 (or thereabouts).  The final test comes when Nick Nack ends up in a suitcase courtesy of 007.  We assume from Ekland’s response that Bond has thrown the little person overboard, but we see at the end that the devilish manservant ended up in a wicker cage hoisted up the junk’s rigging.  I admire this delicacy.  Keep Bond and carry on!

 

-PD