Come and Get Me Coppers!

by Mark

Heist movies are my comfort food. The first third is the gathering of the crew. The next chunk is the planning stage. Lastly is the heist itself and the coda. This is how these films are written. But can you imagine what it would be like to see the very first one of those that was ever made. How fresh and thrilling that would be? The Asphalt Jungle is that film. But it does something a bit different. The first third is indeed the gathering of the crew. Their reasons for pulling the caper - the clash of personalities, etc. But the second third is simply the heist. John Huston films this as an eleven minute, real-time experience. It’s quite riveting - even almost seventy years later. Then the final third is the aftermath. What happens to each of the characters after the crime is committed. And that’s what makes it really special. What these men do or don’t do that cause their downfall. Crime doesn’t pay here - and it’s fascinating to see how that all comes to fruition. The Asphalt Jungle deserves to be the granddaddy of all heist films.

The Killing, one of Stanley Kubrick’s early films, is another heist film. It stars Sterling Hayden, who, if you don’t know already, is also in The Asphalt Jungle. He’s great in both - playing two flawed, but completely different characters. The Killing is brilliant because it plays with the chronology of events. Now, we’ve seen this many times since then - Memento being my personal favorite. But again, imagine if you haven’t seen that before in a heist film. That’s what Kubrick does. The film is smaller, tighter than Asphalt, and that gives it a nerve-wracking tension. There are weird moments in it also, the pro-wrestler fight bit near the end is just off - but I’ll forgive that moment. Maybe Kubrick wanted to throw a laugh or two into the proceedings. Timothy Carey, who is just one of the oddest actors ever, plays a creep who barely moves his lips when he talks. I’m convinced Benicio del Toro channelled him when he acted in The Usual Suspects. And, lastly, the very end is just so damned good. I’ve mentioned it before as one of my favorite movie endings ever. Boom, it’s over.

Two great heist films that still seem fresh today. But imagine if you had seen them when they first came out. I’m sure it was an amazing experience. The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing - two classic B & W film noirs that you should see. Happy Heisting!

No Cheese, Extra Mushrooms

by Mark Az

The early 60s Japanese horror film, Matango, is atypical for Inoshiro Honda, the prolific director of Japan’s most famous Kaiju films. Unfortunately, American International renamed it Attack of the Mushroom People and was dumped to TV - no theatrical release. Of course, with a title like that, I’m thinking it’s going to be one of those super cheesy sci-fi flicks that are great to watch, but they’re silly and forgettable. That is not the case with Matango.

The setting, the mood is darker than you would expect - and just plain odd. When the group of our seven castaways land on this creepy island - and yes, I stand firm on my thesis that Sherwood Schwartz saw this film in 1965 and quickly adopted those characters into the Minnow’s guests and crew — the setting is undeniably eerie. Also, the actors play this completely straight. And it’s not cheesy straight, if you know what I mean. They play it as a serious drama, even when we get to the end and see what has become of the other souls that have landed on this island. The effects are just weird. You’ll maybe laugh at them at first, but then you’ll buy into it and it gets genuinely ooky.

Fans of Japanese horror know this film well. It has been analyzed and commented on for years. But for the uninitiated, like myself, it’s a great find. Burk is such a treasure trove of these kinds of films - I’m thrilled that I can see them from a high quality print. The colors are vibrant, the music spot on, and the acting and direction sharp and crisp.

As for the lame title for this post, who orders pizza with no cheese and extra mushrooms? I think that’s what is called a “flatbread”. Flatbread is a not-as-good pizza for 50% more. That is all.

There Should Be a "Best of" List for "Best of" Lists

We did our top five films of 2018. You can listen to it now. It’s really fun. A lot of our movies overlap - we have the same kind of taste in films. Not exact (but close!). We’re all watching stuff from the same genre categories on all the streaming services. But if you’re like me, you read a lot of “best of” lists. And they are all over the place. Some movies will be on best of and worst of list at the same time! So, it’s kind of a fruitless task to read through all of them. Yet, that’s what we all do.

Find us on Letterboxd:

Find us on Letterboxd:

There was a time when I would steadfastly find the top ten movies of the year and watch them. It felt like a duty. If I’m such a big film fan, how can I miss watching these great additions to the canon? But what I realized is my taste is not the same as the film critic of Esquire. Although this year, that’s a bad example because Esquire named Mandy as their number one film of 2018. Completely stunned by that, in a good way. But most of the time, the films are ones I have no inherent desire to watch.

Find us on Letterboxd:

Find us on Letterboxd:

But the last couple of years, I look at those lists and shrug them off. A lot of great films aren’t even honorable mentions. Maybe my tastes have gotten so far off the mainstream that I’m just out there in genre-film limbo land and only desire to see a certain type of film. I know I should watch Roma and The Favourite, but not sure I will watch that over the latest Into the Dark episode on Hulu. Just weird how we change our viewing habits. Hell, Roma, which is on everyone’s best of lists is available right now on Netflix. I still haven’t seen it.

Find us on Letterboxd:

Find us on Letterboxd:

I think if I still had to go to a movie theater, pay $16 for a seat, sit next to someone crinkling a hard candy wrapper while chatting through all the trailers and the first minute of a movie, than I might adhere to the “best of” lists. But I watch most of my stuff at home now and the choices are endless. The latest contained horror thriller or a three hour treatise on some important, but far off human tragedy? I should watch the latter - probably will go with the former.

2019 is here. Let’s watch stuff; whatever we want. Pass the hard candy. - Mark