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We interrupt this football and Batman month to review the following movies brought to you by the letter "S":

105. (1964.) The Salzburg Connection (1972)
The big question for most if this slightly-better-than-pedestrian spy thriller is whether or not the protagonist is actually a spy. It's not a complete waste of time if you like the genre (and I guess I do), but it's not exactly destination viewing, either. Honestly, almost everything about it feels like a missed opportunity to do something better.

106. (1965.) I Found Stella Parish (1935)
A melodrama about a woman running away from her past and the reporter who feigns a romantic interest to get her story. I watched it in the wee hours of the morning on TCM, and I really can't explain why I enjoyed it (sleep deprivation?), but I did.

109. (1968.) The Suicide Squad (2021)
I do not like the DC Comics character Harley Quinn, and after finally seeing her on screen in this movie, I can say that I like her even less now. (Based on the advice of my friends, I have deliberately not watched any of the movies Harley has been in before this one. Based on her role here, let me say that I have good friends.) If Harley wasn't in this film, it would be an instant classic, but her incredibly violent, absolutely unnecessary subplot left such a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn't enjoy the movie's final act. Ugh.

Drink Coke! (The Suicide Squad)
Some things cannot be washed down with a Coke.

111. (1970.) Seven Keys to Baldpate (1947)
It's a murder mystery comedy of errors! I didn't know it while I was watching, but the play this movie is based on has apparently been filmed 6 other times! This is the only comedic interpretation, and I enjoyed it. (Did I enjoy it enough that I want to watch it 6 more times? Only time will tell.)

More to come.

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None of my teams are playing football just yet, so still some time for movies!

98. (1957.) Fat Albert (2004)
Hey, hey, hey! I enjoyed this in large part because I went in expecting it to be really terrible, and it was only slightly terrible. Keenan Thompson's affability and commitment to the bit shines even through the fat suit.

Drink Coke! (Fat Albert)
Maybe a nostalgic movie about a fat guy isn't the ideal place for sugar water product placement.

99. (1958.) Orchestra Wives (1942)
In this dour musical romance, Ann Rutherford loves that boogie woogie bugle boy so much that she runs away from home and marries him on a whim. Little did she know that all the titular Orchestra Wives are bitches. Drama ensues.

Drink Coke! (Orchestra Wives)
Hard to tell in this pic, but that's Officer Bill Gannon there playing soda jerk.

103. (1962.) The Devil's Disciple (1959)
Kirk Douglas goes waaaaay over the top as the titular Devil's Disciple, a Revolutionary War anti-hero who just seems to hate everyone... except the one person the script requires him to like. I guess he's just a contrarian. Burt Lancaster's best scene is a fist fight in a church in the middle of a war, but Laurence Olivier steals the show as murderous gentleman British General Burgoyne. It's a real mixed bag.

104. (1963.) The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
This movie is so badly cast that the film is sunk before the first frame, which is a real shame as the story comes straight out of the best of 1930s Capra and director Brian De Palma sure seems like he knows what he wanted to be doing with it. Bonfire, indeed.

More to come.

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A pipe burst under the kitchen sink last night. Waiting for the kitchen cabinet to dry out, I'll pass the time typing some movie reviews.

93. (1952.) The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
Every list of 70s great crime films includes Eddie Coyle, and I now understand why. It's ugly, but that ugliness feels realistic, almost like a documentary. Definitely among the best performances of Robert Mitchum's career.

94. (1953.) Remember My Name (1978)
The protagonist is so mysterious, I had to watch the first half of this movie twice to see if I wasn't missing something. I wasn't. It's intentional. The protagonist might be a very bad person, and the film protects her (and the audience) by sharing details very, very slowly. I'm still not sure I liked it, but it is something different.

95. (1954.) Grand Prix (1966)
Is "race procedural" a genre? If so, this qualifies. We follow several racers and their lovers through a season of a sport so thrilling and yet so dangerous, participating is practically suicide. On second thought, maybe this is a drug movie; that is definitely a genre.

Drink Coke! (Grand Prix)
Quick, before you die, Drink Coke!

By the way, Coca-Cola appears to have been a sponsor of the real life car racing that is the background in this stylish film, so Grand Prix is filled to the brim with Coca-Cola advertising. I actually had a hard time deciding which screenshot to show. So if you do decide to watch this 3 hour epic, I recommend having a couple of Cokes within easy reach. Watching death on wheels really builds up a thirst!

Here are a few more screencaps featuring some non-traditional Coke logos and the movie's human stars (none of whom actually drink a Coke at any point):

Drink Coke! (Grand Prix)

Drink Coke! (Grand Prix)

Drink Coke! (Grand Prix)

96. (1955.) Bandido! (1956)
More Mitchum, this time as an American arms dealer during the Mexican Revolution who falls for a rival's wife. It's not nearly as good as it could have been, in part because the sudden romance angle felt so unnatural to Mitchum's amoral rogue. Oh, well. They can't all be hits.

97. (1956.) San Francisco (1936)
I can't tell you how many times this has come on TCM and I've said to myself, "I should watch that." You see, I knew it was supposed to have impressive earthquake special effects, and I can now attest that it does. The rest of the plot, however, is worthless. But at least I have finally watched it and from now on can ignore it with a clear conscience.

More to come.

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I skipped ahead a bit last time and presented movies watched out of order to get to the Olympics documentaries. So let's step back and start catching up with movies watched in July before the sports came to town.

88. (1947.) The Heiress (1949)
Yeah... no. I didn't care for this. It's got an 8.2/10 rating on imdb, but that's really because it has a truly great ending. The rest is a very slow-moving train wreck of a painfully one-sided love story. So you have my permission: watch a few minutes to figure out where it's going (that won't take long, I promise), then start fast forwarding to the final scene.

89. (1948.) Catlow (1971)
Ok, so while I don't like The Heiress, at least I respect it. This, not so much. I mean, they put Yul Brynner, Richard Crenna, and Leonard Nimoy in a Louis L'Amour Western, and none of the parts come together at all. Brynner hams it up in every scene, which isn't even his fault, as they've given him no character to play. I don't know if it's Brynner's worst picture, but it's certainly the worst I've seen.

90. (1949.) The Front Runner (2018)
Did Gary Hart sleep with Donna Rice? This film says yes without ever actually saying "yes," which really muddies the water of its central conceit. It's hard to lambast the invasive mainstream media for ruining politicians by reporting they cheat on their wives... when those politicians really are cheating on their wives. Otherwise, it's a well acted, good looking movie. I enjoyed it.

Drink Coke! (The Front Runner)
Yes, there were more conspicuous Coke products in this movie, but the important thing is that clock!

91. (1950.) Murder on a Honeymoon (1935)
I also enjoyed this third entry in the Hildegarde Withers mystery series contains a few silly clues and a genuine twist I really didn't see coming, but that didn't change who I suspected of being the murderer or why. And I was right, though I think that has a bit more to do with my ability to recognize the patterns in the format than any skill as a detective.

92. (1951.) The Post (2017)
As a rule, I don't watch Steven Spielberg movies, but I'm a sucker for pop history, I caught this at the beginning, and, frankly, I forgot he directed it. Ol' Steven is up to all his usual emotion-jerking tricks in this one, but it's got a cracking story chock full'o righteous newspaper reporters undermining evil politicians. It's a story that would have been right at home in a '30s RKO B-movie.

Drink Coke! (The Post)
Is all the political intrigue making you thirsty? Reach for the Pause that Refreshes!

More to come.

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I'm still all-in on the Olympics, so I've little time right now for movies. However, the week before the games began, TCM ran a whole day of Olympics documentary. In training for the games, I caught three:

100. (1959.) The Games of the V Olympiad Stockholm, 1912 (2017)
This "documentary" is essentially three hours of remastered newsreel footage of preparation for the 1912 games, the games in progress, and the immediate aftermath of the games, all without any sort of commentary. While incredibly clear, the shots of the games themselves show disappointingly little of the actual competitions. All you're left with is hours of people swimming, running, boating, riding, and shooting through the frames on their way to standing on podiums. It's an interesting historical document but barely entertainment.

101. (1960.) First: The Official Film of the London 2012 Olympic Games (2012)
A century later, the potential of cinema is realized as the games are filmed as pure propaganda... for the games. Come see the Greatest Show on Earth, the ultimate triumph of the human spirit over physical and mental limitations! I very much enjoyed the London games themselves, but I found their official film to be as generally empty and unsatisfying as the average corporate sponsor's commercial tie-in product.

102. (1961.) Tokyo Olympiad (1964)
Somewhere in between the two extremes of documenting history and re-writing it is this, a true work of art. The games are messy and confusing, just like the very human athletes who participate in them. And despite — maybe even *because* of — all their shortcomings, they're also amazingly beautiful. If you watch just one documentary about an Olympic games, make it this one.

Drink Coke! (Tokyo Olympics)

(Forget what I said earlier about unsatisfying corporate sponsors. Coca-Cola has been sponsoring the games since 1928. As they'll be quick to tell you, winners always have and always will drink Coke!)

A fourth documentary is still on my DVR, so there may very well be more to come.

Update 08/14: finally got to that fourth movie, so I might as well put it here:

107. (1966.) XIVth Olympiad: The Glory of Sport (1948)
This "documentary" is essentially two hours of color newsreel footage of the 1948 games, the first after the 8-year hiatus imposed by World War II. It's far more watchable than the 1912 documentary I mentioned above, but its value is still almost entirely as a visual almanac of what the games were like before they transitioned from a purely amateur endeavor to the slick, corporate-produced games we have today.

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Olympics are here, so that will put a short-term stop on movie watching. Sports might not be greater than movies, but they are definitely more immediate.

83. (1942.) The Detective (1968)
I prefer Sinatra the actor to Sinatra the singer, and the more Sinatra films I see, the more that preference grows. His character here, in this neo-noir police procedural dealing with topics of homophobia and systemic corruption, seems like a real human being: flawed, perhaps, but relatable. That's no small feat for a man whose public persona was one of ultra-machoism. (By the way, this movie was based on a book series that also spawned Die Hard. So it's weird to think of Sinatra and Willis playing the same character at different points in his career.)

84. (1943.) The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
A documentary about the later life and assassination of the first openly gay San Francisco city commissioner. I didn't know enough about him before, and his death is a true American tragedy story.

85. (1944.) The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
This is the only Alfred Hitchcock film that he remade later in his career, and its astonishing how alike and different the two movies are. I can understand why many of the changes were made (the second is a better constricted plot), but the first one is leaner. I don't know which one I like better.

86. (1945.) The Celluloid Closet (1995)
As a movie buff, I really enjoyed this documentary about how gay characters and themes have been expressed in movies through eras when American society was less accepting and often downright hostile to them. Personally, I never really gave any thought to homosexuality on screen until I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show in high school. Just because I didn't see it doesn't mean it wasn't there.

87. (1946.) The Perfect Score (2004)
The first pairing of Captain America and Scarlet Witch! Chris Evans and Scarlett Johannsen are not at their best in this very forgettable MTV-produced by-the-numbers teenage comedy, but the dumb script doesn't ask much of them beyond being pretty faces. (I might even have liked it if I had seen it at 14.) Take the paycheck, actors.

More to come.

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I'm watching a movie right now that is kind of boring. So let me kill some time by typing up brief reports of some other films I've seen.

78. (1937.) The Stepfather (1987)
Is this a thriller? A slasher? The Stepfather tries to be both, which I suppose is a fitting metaphor for its titular antagonist. I don't think I'll watch it again.

79. (1938.) Sparkle (1976)
This musical drama is made of all the same stuff as Dreamgirls, just not quite as well. I suspect that has more to do with the era when it was made than anything else. As a nostalgic blaxploitation musical, it is more interesting as a historical artifact of its contemporary industry than actual entertainment.

80. (1939.) The Blue Gardenia (1953)
Did the protagonist kill her would-be rapist? Even she doesn't know for sure (and neither does the reporter who is starting to fall for her). I liked the suspense (if not always the acting), although the best part of this is seeing George Reeve in a supporting role as a dashing police detective. Bonus: the would-be rapist is Raymond Burr.

Drink Coke! (The Blue Gardinia)
"I could just murder for a Coca-Cola right now."

81. (1940.) The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Somehow, I'd never seen this — Walt Disney Animation Studios' attempt to recreate the style of their 1950s heyday. I have no memory of its development or release. I must not have been aware it existed. Anyway, I have now seen it, and I quite liked it.

82. (1941.) Lunatics: A Love Story (1991)
This, I did not like. The story is embarrassingly simple, so I suppose the audience is supposed to be wowed by the characters or the visuals or something else that isn't there. I won't say it's unwatchable, but I will recommend that you not waste your time on it.

More to come.

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Films can be escapist fun from the shittiness of real life. So let's escape.

71. (1930.) Mona Lisa (1986)
Bob Hoskins was a great actor. Here he plays a slow-witted but well-intentioned man, which is a necessity to get the story where it wants to take us. To his credit, I kept overestimating his character exactly as I was supposed to. (The title is not an accident; the Mona Lisa is a famous painting because you see in it what you want to see.) I didn't love the film, but I respect it.

Drink Coke (Mona Lisa)
I want to see a Coke

72. (1931.) Lisztomania (1975)
I don't respect Lisztomania, but I admit it has its moments. It's a totally bonkers musical film falling somewhere between biopic of Franz Liszt and allegory about music's power to brainwash the masses. I don't know if Liszt did drugs, but the filmmakers sure did, and they informed the script: It starts all fun and euphoric excitement, but it takes more and more effort to top the previous experience and by the end you just want it all to stop. (The Jack Kirby's Thor-influenced Frankenstein's monster Superman is about three musical bridges too far.) The turning point, as is so often the case, is the mid-film song-and-dance number in which Roger Daltry rides a giant erection straight (in)to the devil. The film wants to say a lot about too much, but the ultimate moral of the story is that what may look like a great metaphor on paper is often unwatchable garbage on screen.

73. (1932.) Mahler (1974)
An earlier film made by the same writer/director as Lisztomainia. This watches more like a conventional biopic of dour, difficult composer Gustav Malher. I found to my surprise that I missed some of the latter film's enthusasiam.

74. (1933.) Walk a Crooked Mile (1948)
This buddy cop early Cold War procedural goes out of its way to have the g-men make mistakes that result in lost lives. I cannot believe that the FBI was ever this incompentent whatever the social mores of the day were. They ignore a man dressed as a priest, discount the possiblity that a woman could be the guilty party, and accuse the naturalized citizen because he has a suspicious accent. Well, okay, maybe that last one still holds.

75. (1934.) One Sunday Afternoon (1948)
On the opposite side of the entertainment spectrum from "geo-political crime drama" is this traditional Broadway-style musical adapted into a film in which it takes all three acts to teach the irritatingly dim protagonist that his best buddy is not a good person. I enjoyed the songs, settings, actors, and the reminder that life at the turn-of-the-20th-century was just all-around rotten. (I don't think that last bit was intentional on the part of the filmmakers. I might have been reading my own biases into a world where women were either trophies or slaves, "painful" dentisty was the only option, and lynch mobs were still considered justice.) I judge the film to be a good way to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon when football is not an option.

77. (1936.) Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)
Did I say "escapist fun"? The takeaway here could have been "if you take agency, you can make a good life for yourself," but it's not. If fictional 1980s protagonist "Precious" was a real person, she would in all likelihood have died in obscurity decades ago from a disease forced upon her by her abusers, and the film doesn't let you forget that uncomfortable fact. It's more a "life sucks so let's do what we can to make it less painful for one another" scenario. It's a useful reminder and a good film.

More to come.

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Last month Ned "Otis" Beatty died. This month it's director Richard Donner. Twenty Twenty-One is proving to be a bad year for people associated with Superman: The Movie.

Should we start a pool on who's going to be August's victim? As you might expect from a 43-year-old movie, there really aren't too many principal cast and crew left. Long retired Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor) is 91. Valerie Perrine (Ms. Teschmacher), 77, has been fighting Parkinson's for years. The longest odds go to Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), a comparatively sprightly 64.

Somewhere behind the camera, executive producer Ilya Salkind is 73 and editor Stuart Baird is 74. Only one of the five credited screenwriters, Robert Benton survives at 88. And who wants to live in a world without John Williams in it? He's 89.

Fortunately, all three of the Kyrptonian villains from the opening scenes of Superman: The Movie are still stalking the Earth. Terrance Stamp (General Zod) is 82, Jack O'Halloran (Non) is 78, and Sara Douglas (Ursa) is barely older than Jimmy Olsen at 68. One would hope they get to keep terrorizing Planet Houston for years to come.

I don't mean to be callous. It would be nice if someone could fly around the world fast enough to reverse the flow of time and stave off death. But that sort of thing can only happen in the movies.

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I don't just watch made-for-tv mysteries, you know. I watch other stuff. Some of it is even pretty good.

63. (1922.) Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)
Look, I'm a big fan of Windsor McKay's original turn-of-the-20th-century Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strip. I have a complete volume of reprints of the entire run. So I'm probably not the target audience for this, shall we say, "reimagining" of the concept for the 1980s (with fewer racist stereotypes and more talking squirrel sidekicks). It's just not Little Nemo, knowwhatimean? While the animation is quite good, it's just not good enough to overcome a dull story and glacial pacing that would have put even 1910 audiences to sleep.

65. (1924.) Z (1969)
This political thriller/cautionary tale plays almost like a documentary in all the best ways. I spent most of the run time wondering where it was going, and I can say it was worth the trip.

66. (1925.) ...And Justice for All. (1979)
I have a vague memory that back in college, one of my drama-major roommates, Kenny, rented this and had a small watch party. I didn't watch it at the time because A) I'm anti-social, and B) I don't care for Al Pachino. My mistake. It's really, really good. Sorry, Kenny!

Drink Coke (And Justice For All)
Drink Responsibly

68. (1927.) The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)
I would have liked this mystery/revenge story more if not for that fact that the motivation of Peter Lorre's protagonist novelist's motivation is completely opaque, as though he is hunting Dimitrios just so they can make a movie about it.

70. (1929.) Run Lola Run (1998)
Another great movie! I remember everyone talking about it at the time, and they were right to. I wish I'd seen it then.

More to come.

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To be continued...