You better run. You better take cover.

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We're nearly in 2021, and I'm a whole month behind on my movies list. Here's the first half of movies watched in November.

189. (1843.) I Died a Thousand Times (1955)
A gangster strives to pull off one last big job before retiring. The problem with this sort of film is that if you know anything about Hollywood of the era, you know how it is going to end before it even starts, so the journey has to be worthwhile. In hindsight, I don't think it was.

190. (1844.) Dead Reckoning (1947)
Here's Bogart once again trying to recreate the The Maltese Falcon with varying shades of success. A series of unlikely coincidences propel the plot in act two, but it sticks the landing with a very satisfying ending.

191. (1845.) Fools in the Mountains (1957)
Have you ever seen any of Jacques Tati's French comedies? (Pratfalls, sight gags, mistaken identities, etc.) This Norwegian film is much like those, but with sound, genderbending, and a romantic comedy vibe. Very enjoyable.

Drink Coke! (Fools in the Mountains)
Of course I want.

192. (1846.) The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
According to Hollywood legend, seeing this film is what motivated a young Steven Spielberg to go into directing. It won Best Picture in '52 opposite some films that have earned better reputations over the years (High Noon, The Quiet Man). Yes, the train wreck is impressive, but for my money, the highlight by far is watching Jimmy Stewart commit to his role as a killer in clown makeup. Stewart is just the best.

Drink Coke! (Greatest Show on Earth)
Forget great; it wouldn't even be a very good show without a Coke.

193. (1847.) The Circus (1928)
Disclaimer: I don't know why, but I do not find Charlie Chaplin very funny. I think Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton are hysterical, and Chaplin is undoubtedly technically proficient bot in front of and behind the camera. But I quite literally fell asleep watching him fail to understand how clowns work. *shrug* Your enjoyment is probably proportional to how much you enjoy tramps.

More to come.

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The year 2020 has been horrible in so many ways, but Christmas was not one of them.

Because the family was minimizing the amount of time we were spending with one another outside our households, I woke up at 1:30PM and opened presents — provided by friends and relatives who were much too generous — at 3 with just my Mother. When we were done we delivered pound cake and key lime pie to family elsewhere in town, and then came home to a ravioli dinner and a rerun of Jeopardy!. I finished the day watching a silent Hitchcock film and a spaghetti Western staring Toshiro Mifune.

I recognize that most people would disagree, but as someone who generally finds the holiday chafing, I think it was the best Christmas of my life.

Thank you, COVID-19.

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Orange you glad to see me?

Batman, Life of the Party

Are you hitting on me, officer?

He has a voice like a bat

Listening to your singing is a violation of my civil rights!

You're a mean one, Mister Grinch

The Silent Night of the Batman
Batman #219, February 1970

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Four days before Christmas, while the nation was busy with other, bigger problems, the Virginia-sponsored statue of Robert E. Lee was quietly removed from the U.S. Capitol.

Each state has two statues in the Capitol, most in the National Statuary Hall. But the hall isn't large enough for 100 statues, so some had been moved to other locations, including the Crypt below the Rotunda. It's called the Crypt because it was originally intended to be the final resting place of the mortal remains of America's patron saint: George Washington. That made it a fitting place for a statue of Washington's great-grandson-in-law.

The statue is being moved to a history museum, which is frankly a far more suitable location for the man famous as leader of the slave-owning armies in the War Between the States. It'd be nice to say that Lee's statue was the last Civil War remnant in the Capitol. However, Statuary Hall still includes monuments to Confederate Colonel Zebulon Vance (sponsored by North Carolina), Lieutenant General Wade Hampton (South Carolina), General Joseph Wheeler (Alabama), Vice President Alexander Stephens (Georgia), and Jefferson Davis (Mississippi). Maybe you can see a theme there.

Prior to this year, I believed we should preserve all works of art, even those that could serve as political propaganda for causes of hatred. While I never thought such pieces belonged in the same building as the working seat of government, the current political climate has me thinking that maybe museums are also too public. There are very clearly too many in this country willing to use the imagery of the past for their own political purposes without regard to the damage they inflict on others. That's just plain wrong.

The ancient Olmecs, like us, used to make giant statues of their leaders. Then, when the leaders fell from power, the statues were disfigured and buried so that the people could move on without being encumbered by old grudges and failed ideologies. I'm increasingly of the opinion that might not be such a bad idea.

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He always is

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I've really slacked off on new-to-me movies here at the end of the year. This batch is from back in October!

182. (1836.) The Werewolf (1956)
A mad scientist turns a man into a savage werewolf. But it's not a horror movie. Not really. It's really a police procedural in which we follow the manhunt. Er, the wolf-hunt. It's not good, just different.

183. (1837.) Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly (2020)
These are definitely getting easier. I had it solved before there was even a murder. And that's why I watch 'em.

184. (1838.) Party Girl (1995)
The independent movie that made Parker Posey "Queen of the Indies" is indeed pretty darn cute. To its credit, despite following all the standard rom-com conventions, it still manages to feel original and smart. Well worth its reputation.

185. (1839.) Venom (2018)
About halfway through, Venom gives up being a horror sci-fi movie and embraces the anti-hero action genre. I find in the end I like the character more than I liked his comic origins, but I also find that's true about most onscreen Marvel comic book adaptations. I don't like Marvel comics, I guess.

186. (1840.) The Wicker Man (1973)
Another classic of its genre, but I can honestly say I hated this one. It's more suspense than horror, but the ending... holy, crap. No, just no. I don't care what its fans say, this is nothing more than an exploitation snuff film.

187. (1841.) Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1972)
Speaking of exploitations films: have you ever asked yourself what must the romantic life of a working hooker be like? This independent film answers it, and the answer is "sad." (Apparently this was released to New York theaters in a triple X-rated version. Glad I didn't see it. Depressed with a boner is not a crowd pleaser.)

188. (1842.) Guru, the Mad Monk (1970)
Ok, so maybe the reason I've been watching fewer movies here at the end of the year is because I watched movies like this in October. Made independently on the cheap, like Party Girl and Fleshpot on 42nd Street, but without any real understanding of cinematography or editing. Or acting. Or screenwriting. Imagine goth middle school kids filming a Shakespearean play they wrote themselves as extra credit for a history class they didn't attend, and you get the picture.

More to come.

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Copyright 1968? Hmm. Determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That's kind of a downer.
© Victor Baldwin, 1971

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From the Dearly Departed Department:

I bet you'd thought I'd forgotten about the Red Bee, hadn't you? That happens with dead people. Life goes on without them.

Sometimes, that really bugs them.

Thirteen years after the story of his death was finally told, Richard "The Red Bee" Raleigh had dinner with Starman and several other long deceased heroes in the great superhero home in the sky.

You should have tried a little harder on your costume
His newest super power is self pity
Starman #37, December 1997

In the afterlife, where time has no meaning, you don't get closure.

It is worth noting that we don't ever see the Red Bee's bee, Michael. I assume he lived a long, happy life, died well adjusted, and went to bee heaven.

Fortunately, this wasn't the last we'd see of the the Red Bee. I'll be back with that story soon.

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I think all commercials should be like perfume/cologne commercials.

I want to see a movie star digging holes in the desert to sell me the invigorating fragrance of Charmin Flushable Wipesâ„¢.

I want to see a model riding a unicorn across the Seine to hold up a magical box of Hefty® Ultra Strong Drawstring Kitchen Trash Bags.

I want to see a rock star BASE diving off the Empire State Building to showcase the ethereal sensation of eating Campbell's® 25% Less Sodium Cream of Mushroom Soup.

Sell me a feeling this Christmas, Madison Avenue. I've already got plenty of stuff.

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To be continued...


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