Mamo #343: I Think She’s Had Work Done

Oscar fallout! Mamo welcomes special guest star Dan Gorman from See You Next Wednesday to discuss the Kim Novak / plastic surgery issue, as raised in the previous episode. Are women, Hollywood, beauty, youth, and our expectations a circular clustercuss?

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo343.mp3

Mamo #341: That’s A Spicy Meatball

Mamo tries to get back on belated track as the Oscar ceremony roars toward us… we give you our Oscar picks, in case you still haven’t entered your office Oscar pool; talk Guardians of the Galaxy and general awesomeness; and hold a brief memorial for the brave, beautiful Mamo 340. And then Price nearly dies. It’s great! It’s Mamo.

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo341.mp3

Mamo 2014 #337: Porn Me King Call Vogel

Remember the days when a movie like Jack Ryan would come out, do whatever business it would do (or not do), and we would get together and analyze the project in depth in terms of why the audiences were (or weren’t) responding to it? These aren’t those days. A potpourri episode of Mamo ensues! Ryan! Bats/Supes! Marvel! Ebert! Armond! Time Bandits! And more.

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo337.mp3

Blindspotting: Lost Weekend and Deliverance

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When I chose Lost Weekend and Deliverance as a Blindspot pair, I did it with a vague idea of a common theme of men overcoming major obstacles. As it turns out, the biggest obstacle each central character faces and needs to overcome is staring right back at him in the mirror. That’s not to say there aren’t a few other hindrances in their way throughout each story (addiction and hallucinations in the first, raging water and crazy backwoods hunters in the other), but each man has to come to the realization that he has worth, courage and the ability to “dig deep”. For some, it takes desperate and dire circumstances to finally get the message across.

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In Billy Wilder’s Lost Weekend, Ray Milland plays Don Birnam – a miserable alcoholic who (even though he has managed 10 days sobriety) continues to be his own worst enemy. We actually meet one of his bottles of rye (hanging out the window in one of the few hiding spots his family haven’t found yet) before we meet him. As the camera moves into the apartment, we learn that Don is preparing to go to the country with his brother for a weekend away from all temptation. However, Don has every intention of bringing along some of his favourite refreshment if he can just divert his brother’s attention for a few minutes. If he plans to get some writing done, he needs to be creative and he believes that alcohol allows his mind to “toss the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar”. But that’s the thing about someone in Don’s condition – they can rationalize just about anything and lie as easy as most of us breathe. And not just to his brother or girlfriend (Jane Wyman with the loveliest set of cheekbones you ever did see), but mostly to himself. He may become far more loquacious when liquored up (or “tight” as they used to say in the old days), but he hasn’t made a lick of progress on his novel. “Suddenly I’m above the ordinary. I’m confident, supremely confident” he says as he riffs on other supremely artistic people and he may very well feel that way, but Don is far too scared of failure to truly commit to his writing. Hence the booze and the roadblock that is himself.

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Blindspotting: A Star Is Born and Cabaret

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I‘ve likely said a lot of obvious things in my time, but I expect ranking high on that list would be saying something like “Geez, that Judy Garland can sing, eh?”. But I wonder how obvious that is these days? Sure, everyone knows that Judy’s version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard Of Oz is a classic piece of American music and that she’s been in countless musicals, but I wonder – particularly with a great deal of words being spilled over the darker aspects of her life – how many people really know that she can SING. And I mean soul-bearing, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-raising, pure unadulterated song emanating from her voice. I can think of no better evidence of this than her version of “The Man Who Got Away” from A Star Is Born – it raised every goosebump on my skin as I listened to a woman attempting to purge all variety of demons from inside her.

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It wasn’t just the emotion pouring out that was impressive, it was also a deep command of her voice that she used to shift on a dime, retain her pitch and control power. Oddly enough, traits that she seemed to share with her own offspring Liza. In Cabaret, Liza Minelli’s songs are all worked into the film as part of her night job working in the local cabaret club (both films manage to make all the songs – at least the vocal parts anyway – diegetic) and essentially comment on the progress of the story at each point. Though it’s a fantastic idea to provide some context for each song, they easily stand alone as single performances because of director Bob Fosse’s creative choreography and Liza’s natural ability (and I would guess instinct) to grab the spotlight. There is more artifice in Cabaret‘s musical numbers due to them being confined to the stage, but there is no question about Minelli’s vocal chops. Like her famous mother, Minelli has slowly become known primarily as a persona, but let’s be clear – she could sing with the best of them.

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Blindspotting: In The Heat Of The Night and Absence Of Malice

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As “issues” movies go, In The Heat Of The Night ranks as one of the big ones. It may not have been the first of its kind, but it solidifies its place in film history by crafting moments of subtlety and nuance while also wearing its central issue proudly on its sleeve and never resorting to being maudlin. Every movie since its release that waves a flag for a cause or makes a political point has a direct line to it as an influence – even if many of them fall victim to excessive beating of their drums. So why had I not yet seen this classic? Aside from the fact that I can’t see everything (dammit), it fell into that category of “well, I pretty much know the story…”. Of course, that’s rarely the case isn’t it? Even if the plot points match up to what you expected, there’s always all the bits in between to savour. A fine reason to keep doing these blind spots…

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To narrow the field of potential pairings with In The Heat Of The Night, I looked for another issue film that could be considered as revolving around a central powerhouse performance. It’s hard to compete with Heat’s tandem headliners – Sidney Poitier as the Philadelphia detective stuck in a racist Southern town and Rod Steiger giving an Oscar-winning turn as the town’s sheriff – but you could do far worse than calling on Mr. Paul Newman…His Oscar-nominated role in Absence Of Malice was one I had wanted to see for awhile, so it seemed a good double bill once you combine that with the film’s focus on the power and responsibility of the press and legal system. Another trait both movies share is the way they jump quickly out of the gate. We’re not even 15 minutes into Absence Of Malice and we know: that a union boss has gone missing and is presumed dead (the film was made only 5-6 years after Jimmy Hoffa disappeared – he wasn’t even legally declared dead yet); the justice department has some suspects but is getting nowhere; they decide to focus their investigation on Michael Gallagher (Newman) since he is the son of a former criminal with ties to the suspects (and they hope to lean on him for information); a snoopy reporter named Megan (Sally Field) has discovered the investigation; the justice department lead on the case purposely leaked the investigation so that Gallagher would see it in the press; Michael is likely totally innocent and the story run in the newspaper will have assumptions and accusations leading to unjust consequences; etc. It’s a pretty packed opening and the film expects you to keep up as it drops names right and left. It does essentially follow through with where you assume the plot will go – Gallagher does indeed suffer due to the leaked story as his union shuts him down, he loses customers and his closest friend Teresa (the also nominated Melinda Dillon) is pulled into the story – but manages to keep you guessing a bit regarding Gallagher’s actual connections and Teresa’s guilt over a secret they share. Field also keeps you guessing by oddly playing the reporter at different times as confident, flighty, defiant, meek, mouthy and sexy. It’s not completely the actress’ fault (though her performance just doesn’t seem to fit at times) as the character’s behaviour is a grab bag of possibilities. It certainly keeps you a bit off balance (particularly during the scenes between the two leads), but there’s little likelihood that it was intentional. Newman for his part is remarkably consistent throughout as he plays Gallagher as stoic and very focused. Though he is initially upset at the paper and Megan for the fact-free reporting about him, he tries to settle into a moral compass for her. “You say someone is guilty, everyone believes you. You say they’re innocent and no one cares.” Her response shows he has some work ahead of him: “That’s not the paper’s fault, that’s people.”

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Blindspotting: Moonstruck and Fatal Attraction

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The year was 1987. It was a tumultuous time…A breathless population tried to come to terms with the loss of Shelly Long from Cheers while simultaneously trying to choose sides in the great “Debbie Gibson or Tiffany?” debate. Fortunately Spuds Mackenzie and the announcement of Euro Disney were there to quell the public’s fears (not to mention the arrival of Prozac).

Side note: there was also the premiere of a little upstart cartoon series called The Simpsons which created an industry of people quoting and borrowing humourous ideas from it – something which continues today unabated.

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In the movie houses, adultery was on the minds of the American film-goer as two of the year’s biggest releases used it as a central theme. Both Fatal Attraction and Moonstruck had characters cheating on their spouses (and almost-spouses) with varying degrees of consequences – none of which appeared to be lasting. Through different approaches and styles (one a sharply written comedy/drama, the other a consistently paced thriller), they each seem to end up at the same conclusion: infidelities certainly can’t be swept away, but don’t worry since you’ll be forgiven. Since Moonstruck’s main arc really deals with two suffocating people who stumble into each other (and subsequently allow each other to blossom), that’s likely not the fairest assessment of the film. But I’ll get to that later.

The story opens on Loretta (played by Cher), a tax accountant who seems to have the market cornered on frumpy. She’s unsure about the marriage proposal she’s just received from Johnny (Danny Aiello) because she’s had bad luck before – in fact, very bad luck since her previous husband was killed by a bus. Now she insists that everything be done just right including the actual proposal (she even makes Johnny do it all over again by getting down formally on one knee in the restaurant). When he tells her he has to fly to Italy for his dying mother, her biggest concern seems to be that they set an official date for the wedding. She doesn’t actually want or need him to help, but just agree to the date since all he’ll have to do is show up. It’s quickly established that Loretta isn’t exactly passionately in love with Johnny and even tells her mother (played in Oscar-winning form by Olympia Dukakis) that she doesn’t love him. Her Mom’s response of “Good, when you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can” sets up the issues she has with her own husband (Vincent Gardenia in a possibly too spot-on casting choice). But back to Loretta for the moment…

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