Five Films for New Years Eve

THE POSEIDEN ADVENTURE (1972) The New Year’s Eve party starts off great but then you get that sinking feeling…

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Cats on Film: My Favorite Cat Movies

cat10Stereotypically  cats have been called aloof, sneaky, and manipulative. In reality, felines are independent, mischievous and self-aware. They are also smart, loving, affectionate and without trying very hard do some of the oddest, funniest things at the most unexpected times.  Nothing against dogs, they are loyal, obedient, loving and always happy to see you,  jumping around excitedly whenever you  arrive back home. On the other hand, cats may lift their head up as if to say, “oh it’s you.” That is unless it is time to eat and you are late coming home. Dogs are anxious to please while cats, well cats play it cool.  Want to find the most comfortable chair in the house? Just check where the cat is sitting.

I never had a pet as a kid except for a parakeet that one summer my parents left with my grandmother while we went on vacation. One day my dear grandmother let the bird out of the cage to give it a little flying time. Unfortunately, she forgot one of her windows was open and well, it was bye, bye birdie! I never had a dog or cat, never wanted one. That said, many years later when I met the woman who would become my wife, I soon learned she had four cats, and like a woman with kids, it was a package deal. I quickly found myself living with four little furry felines that to not only my surprise, but to just about everyone who knew me, I fell in love with. I became an animal lover. I could tell you a lot more but I will only add that we still have cats today. This last statement will come as no surprise to anyone who has visited my John Greco Photography facebook page. Continue reading

Scandal Sheet (1952) Phil Karlson

scandal sheet 1Directed as if he were holding a sharp knife to the gut, “Scandal Sheet” was the first in a series of noirish crime films made by Phil Karlson in the 1950’s. Based on a novel (The Dark Page) by filmmaker Sam Fuller with a screenplay by Ted Shedeman, Eugene Ling and James Poe, “Scandal Sheet” moves along at a speedy pace throughout its 88 minute running time. Karlson’s dark world is aided nicely by cinematographer Burnett Guffey who manages to make the studio bound sets feel like the dirty grit of the big city.

Once a respectable New York City newspaper, but with a falling circulation, relentless editor Mark Chapman (Broderick Crawford) was brought in to turn the paper into a tabloid seeking sensationalistic rag exploiting the helpless victims of crimes. In return, he has more than doubled the papers’ circulation satisfying the majority of the newspaper’s board members. Crawford is intensely uncompromising as Chapman, a cynical man who has escaped from a previously secret life some twenty years earlier. Like many noir anti-heroes though, his past comes back to haunt him. In this case, it’s his wife. Continue reading

The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970) William Wyler

liberation-lb-jones_420Many directors have gone out with a whimper instead of a bang. Last films by filmmakers have been notoriously bad or mediocre. Now this is not a hard and set fast rule but it seems a filmmaker’s best work is not toward the end of their careers. Don Siegel ended his directing career with “Jinxed,” Sam Peckinpah with “The Osterman Weekend,” Robert Aldrich with “All the Marbles,” and Billy Wilder with “Buddy, Buddy.” Even the great Chaplin laid an egg with “A Countess from Hong Kong.” Other directors have fared somewhat better yet few will claim Hitchcock’s “Family Plot,” Howard Hawks “Rio Lobo” and John Ford’s “7 Women” are among their best. Overall, last films by directors are generally a mixed and disappointing bag. Are they just too tired? Too old? Did they lose their creative spark or maybe just a bad choice?

Now, don’t get me wrong, being old or older does not automatically mean you are over the hill. Far from it. Returning to Hitchcock for a moment, let’s remember he was 72 or 73 when he made “Frenzy,” his next to last film. More recently, Martin Scorsese turned 71 in November and has “The Wolf of Wall Street” due later this year…and he shows no signs of slowing down. And then there is Woody Allen who recently turned 78 and is still turning out fine works like his most recent, “Blue Jasmine.” It may not be at the level of “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Annie Hall” or “Crimes and  Misdeameanors” but the film is a remarkable, complex tale of one woman’s fall from grace and now trying  her place in a new world. Continue reading

A Budding Cinephile

BrownI first became aware of movies as a young kid watching “B” westerns on TV with my father on Saturday afternoons; Johnny Mack Brown westerns always comes to mind when I think of this. There were plenty of other cowboy films in the 1950s; showing westerns was popular back then with TV stations looking to fill up airtime. I can remember my father reminiscing about his own cowboy hero, silent film star William S. Hart, who apparently at the end of the film would ride off with his horse into the sunset, leaving the girl behind. Whether he actually did this or not, I don’t know, but that’s the story my father handed down. Continue reading