"MOVIE MAD" by Michael van den Bos

(c) 2014 by Michael van den Bos

3 Posts from August 2010


Here's a pair of marvelous movie screenings in Vancouver hosted by your "Movie Mad" man, Michael van den Bos, in August and September 2010 - DOUBLE INDEMNITY and CHUCK BERRY HAIL! HAIL! ROCK 'n' ROLL:

Take a break from the Vancouver summer heat at 1:00 P.M. on  Tuesday 17 August 2010 to bask in the sordid heat of Double Indemnity, one the greatest film noirs from the 1940s,  playing in the air-conditioned theatre of the Pacific Cinematheque.  I will be introducing this classic 1944 Billy Wider directed film noir and talking about its fascinating production stories and explaining what makes this wicked, nihilistic crime drama the quintessential noir of the silver screen.   

Double Indemnity, starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck (as the Queen Bee-bitch of all femme fatales) and Edward G. Robinson,  is presented by the Pacific Cinematheque's "Silver Screen" series where once a month a classic Hollywood movie from the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s is projected from a 35mm print onto a big screen, as these movies were meant to be seen! 

Prizes donated by Dead Write Crime & Mystery Books  (http://www.deadwrite.com/dw.html) and Videomatica Sales & Rentals (the greatest video store in Canada: http://www.videomatica.bc.ca) will be given away before the start of the movie.  A post-screening cinema chat will follow with complimentary coffee and cookies served in the Cinematheque lobby.

  The Pacific Cinematheque is located at 1131 Howe Street in downtown Vancouver.  Visit their website for more details: http://www.cinematheque.bc.ca.

Double Indemnity trailer - "It's Murder!"

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 Hey kids! Are ya crazy for that rock 'n' roll music playing on all the jukeboxes these days! Then don't miss a onetime screening of the 1987 documentary/concert film, Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, that I will be introducing at the sumptuous Serai Social Club on Saturday 11 September 2010 starting at 8:00 P.M. 

Directed by Taylor Hackford, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll is at once an entertaining overview of rock legend Chuck Berry's life and career and an electric concert film to commemorate Berry's 60th birthday at the time of the movie's release.  Included in  the documentary are interviews with- and performances by some of rock 'n' roll's royalty and blues barons, such as Eric Clapton, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Roy Orbison, The  Everly Brothers, Willie Dixon, Robert Cray, Etta James, Linda Ronstadt and Bruce Springsteen.  Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards was the producer of the concert celebration and you won't believe your eyes when you see Richards skirmish with his idol Berry, trying to exert some measure of control over the man who made the duck-walk cool! 

Serai Social Club is located at 1660 Cypress Street (between West 1st Avenue and York Street) in beautiful Kitsilano, Vancouver.  They have a fully licensed bar and a kitchen that serves delectable dishes as prepared by Chef Alonso.  Visit the Serai Social Club website: www.seraisocial.com.

Clip from Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll (1987)

I hope to go "Movie Mad" with you at these two special screenings.  See you there!

~ Michael


RADIO DAYS (1987), written & directed by Woody Allen

Radio Days is Woody Allen’s droll paean to the 1940s radio of his youth. It’s a warm, strongly evocative journey back to a time when listening to the radio at home was the most popular form of free mass entertainment. Radio Days follows no linear plot; like its Italian cousin, Fellini’s Amarcord (1973), Allen’s film is a series of reminiscences. He doesn’t appear in Radio Days, but he does narrate the nostalgic episodes as experienced and imagined onscreen by his 10-year-old doppelganger, Joe Needleman (Seth Green), who lives with his very large family under one roof in Rockaway Point, New York.

(from l. to r.) sitting: Renee Lippin, Seth Green , Michael Tucker, Julie Kavner, Dianne Wist / standing: Josh Mostel, William Magerman

The passages of Joe’s life and the colourful radio stories are triggered by songs from the 1930s and 1940s: in all, 41 marvelous tunes—hot swing, novelty numbers, romantic ballads and jazz standards—fill the soundtrack. In a book-length interview with Stig Björkman, Woody Allen described the origin of Radio Days: “…I wanted to pick out a group of songs that were meaningful to me, and each one of those songs suggested a memory.  Then this idea started to evolve: how important radio was to me when I was growing up and how important and glamourous it seemed to everyone.” 

Diane Keaton makes a cameo appearance in Radio Days as a chanteuse performing in New York City's King Cole Room

This lavish collection of fictionalized stories about the radio biz was inspired by actual programs and events of the time period. Many of the actors portraying the radio celebrities are a who’s who of Woody’s stock company: Jeff Daniels (The Purple Rose of Cairo) is all-American hero Biff Baxter, who battles the “Axis rats” of World War II; diminutive Wallace Shawn (Manhattan) is the crime fighting “Masked Avenger” who lisps his admonishing catch-line, “Beware evildoers, wherever you are!”; and Mia Farrow (Hannah and Her Sisters) gives the funniest performance as Sally, a sexy yet dim cigarette girl (with a squeaky Judy Holliday-like voice) yearning to be a radio star. One night, Sally witnesses the gangster Rocco (Danny Aiello from The Purple Rose of Cairo) kill a man. Rocco abducts Sally and takes her to his Italian mother (the wickedly funny Gina DeAngelis) who feeds her peppers and shrimps while counseling Rocco on where to dump her body. Rocco has second thoughts, sympathizing with Sally’s struggling career, and this leads to a brilliant and hysterically ironic turn in her life.

(from l. to r.) Danny Aiello, Mia Farrow, Gina DeAngelis

The episodes of family life are keenly and comically observed. Julie Kavner and Michael Tucker are the bickering parents whom Joe imagines on a radio program receiving marriage advice. The show’s host declares that they deserve each other; the mother responds, “I love him, but what did I do to deserve him?” The heart of Radio Days is the magnificent Dianne Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway) who radiates a quiet charm and endearing pathos as the husband-hunting Aunt Bea. 

Woody Allen regulars, Tony Roberts with Dianne Wiest

Though Radio Days brims with spirited imagination, joy and belly-laughs, it is composed with some dark tones too, as when a nationwide radio audience is galvanized by a live news report about a little girl who has fallen into a well and the minute-by-minute byplay of the frantic attempts to rescue her.  This brief but haunting segment is based on an actual incident from the movie's time period and it is a reminder of how the power of radio could bind millions of listeners together by entering the collective conscious.

Along with its feast of songs, Radio Days is a treat for the eyes. Santo Loquasto’s production design is sumptuous and Carlo Di Palma’s lush cinematography glows like a radio vacuum tube, enhancing Woody Allen's romantic and moving tribute to a bygone era.

(from l. to r.) Wallace Shawn, Mia Farrow, Tony Roberts on the roof of the King Cole Room

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Radio Days trailer


Michael van den Bos will be introducing a screening of Woody Allen's Radio Days at the Serai Social Club on Wednesday 11 August 2010 at 8:00 P.M.  Prizes donated by Videomatica and the Pacific Cinematheque will be given away if you correctly answer the movie trivia questions.  Serai Social Club is located at 1660 Cypress Street (one block west of Burrard Street, between West 1st Avenue and York Street) in beautiful Kitsilano, Vancouver.  Serai Social Club has a fully licensed bar and a menu of delicious dishes; free popcorn will be served during the movie.

1987 Siskel & Ebert review of Woody Allen's Radio Days


If you live in the Greater Vancouver area, you can rent the DVD of RADIO DAYS from the greatest video store in Canada, Videomatica - located at 1855 West 4th Avenue (phone: 604-734- 0411) in fabulous Kitsilano.  Website: www.videomatica.ca



DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS, directed by Jay Roach; starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.

The title Dinner for Schmucks promises a fabulous feast of funny, but what is served on screen is stale leftovers.  My Dinner with Andre, the Louis Malle directed 1981 cerebral talk-fest, has more laughs than this half-baked meal for morons from director Jay Roach, the man who made the Austin Powers and the Fockers franchises. 

Paul Rudd is Tim, a middle management executive craving to climb the corporate ladder.  Tim manages to convince his corporate boss, Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood), that he can attract a new investor to the firm in the likes of a Swiss millionaire named Müeller (David Walliams).  Fender is impressed and invites Tim to an exclusive monthly dinner he throws at his mansion for his elite executives who must bring a buffoon to the dinner in the guise that their “unique” – read, delusional – talents will be celebrated.   The executive with the most entertaining idiot is the winner of the night.  Tim finds his dope for dinner when he literally runs into sweet ‘n’ stupid Barry (Steve Carell), an IRS auditor and an amateur taxidermist (get it . . . IRS; taxidermist! Oh, the comedy!) who creates whimsical dioramas featuring dead mice (which is the best part of this movie – I want to see a stop-motion animated film based on these amazing dioramas that were created by the Chiodo Brothers).  What Tim doesn’t count on is that Barry, through his naiveté and his imbecilic good intentions, will be a destructive force in Tim’s relationship with his art gallery agent girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), potentially pushing her into the arms of an eccentric artist, Kieran (Jemaine Clement), and wrecking the deal with the Swiss millionaire that will jeopardize Tim’s career in high finance.

Plot is secondary for the kind of comedy Dinner for Schmucks aspires to be, which is to throw two characters together who are at extreme odds to one another – usually one person of pretense and superficiality and the other who lives with wild abandon or displays dangerous counterculture behaivour – in order to pierce the bubble of vanity and arrogance and bring about humble humanity.  The Marx Brothers did this at their anarchic best in their absurdist comedies of the 1930s.  In the 1980s, directors Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme made some terrific black comedies touching on similar themes of chaotic or unbridled human forces that upset the conventional, banal order of its protagonists: Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, starring Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis, and After Hours, starring Griffin Dunne; along with Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, starring Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith, are all examples of edgy, inventive, Kafkaesque films doused in a dark, wicked humour.  The odd coupling of Paul Rudd and Steve Carell in Dinner for Schmucks is mostly obnoxious, lacking the bite of the aforementioned comedians and directors. 

Comedian Steve Carell in Dinner for Schmucks is following in a long line of actors who have portrayed simpletons in the movies: Harry Langdon from the silent era, Stan Laurel teamed with Oliver Hardy, Jerry Lewis with Dean Martin or solo, Steve Martin, Jim Carrey and even Elmer Fudd.  But what those actors had that Carell is sorely missing is either a child-like sensibility or an edge of craziness that leavens the buffoonery.  Carell – generally a fine comic actor – is either too childish or too sentimental (this is also the fault of the screenplay by David Guion and Michael Handelman) as Barry, who could possibly be diagnosed as autistic.  Dinner for Schmucks is missing that certain edge of insanity to make it comically memorable.  Comedy thrives on danger, but Carell is mostly safely silly and awash with too much cute pathos.  And Paul Rudd’s character never feels like he is going to lose his mind.  His character is a man whose life is all about order and building his career, and he should be running off the mental rails as Barry turns Tim’s life inside out, but Rudd plays his reactions to all the chaos as if annoyed by receiving an unsolicited phone call from a telemarketer.

The only real sense of danger in Dinner for Schmucks comes in a scary psycho-sexual blonde Tasmanian She-Devil named Darla, who has been stalking Tim over the internet since one drunken sexual escapade they shared several years ago before he met Julie.  Like Pandora’s Box, Barry pretends to be Tim when replying to Darla in a little bit of dirty web chat and releases this hellion in high heels into Tim’s world.  Lucy Punch plays Darla with such a sociopathic sexual intensity that she ignites Dinner for Schmucks into a momentary blazing, out-of-control barbeque while she is on screen.  Punch is fearless and hysterically funny, driving the movie into much welcome and unexpected dark territory leaving Carell and Rudd wiped out in the ditch.

A few of the other character actors bring some much needed big laughs to the movie, such as Zach Galifianakis as Therman, Barry’s IRS dickie-wearing co-worker who truly believes he can bend minds to his will and who possesses a strange hold on Barry, forcing him to utter the seemingly innocuous line, “Eat my pudding”, which we learn has a painfully private and perverse meaning for Barry.  And Jemaine Clement as the goat loving, egocentric superstar artist, Kieran (arguably a goofy variant on real-life artist and film director Julian Schnabel), nicely underplays the eccentricities of his character while revealing an underlying and endearing “schmuckness” about him.

Dinner for Schmucks does culminate in its titular dinner party where the financial executives each bring an “idiot” to the table.  This lengthy sequence does deliver on some well played slapstick and surprisingly dark gags, and the film reveals who the real schmucks are and who the real people truly are, but you know how this dinner will turn out ten minutes into the movie and, by the fade out, you are left with only the memory of a couple of tasty morsels overwhelmed by a burning indigestion.