I is for I Was a Communist for the F.B.I.

The movie I Was A Communist for the F.B.I., it seems, was on television a LOT when I was a kid. And I’d usually watched it.

We only had two TV stations. One was the CBS affiliate, Channel 12, WNBF-TV at the time, which also carried some ABC shows. The other was the NBC affiliate, Channel 40, WINR-TV. And one or both of them would play this 1951 melodrama regularly, to fill their weekend afternoon programming.

From the Wikipedia:

“The story follows [Pittsburgh steelworker Matt] Cvetic, who infiltrated a local Communist Party cell for nine years and reported back to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on their activities.

“The film and [1952-1953] radio show are, in part, artifacts of the McCarthy era, as well as a time capsule of American society during the Second Red Scare. The purpose of both is partly to warn people about the threat of Communist subversion of American society. The tone of the show is ultra-patriotic…”

From Rotten Tomatoes:

“The real Matt Cvetic was a borderline alcoholic with a nasty disposition (he once allegedly beat his sister-in-law so badly she required hospitalization). But Cvetic was also a fervent anti-communist, and so, for a brief period in the early 1950s, he was a folk hero. I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. is the semi-true story of how Cvetic (played by Frank Lovejoy) renounced his friends and family and embraced the Red cause–on behalf of the F.B.I., for whom he was a volunteer undercover agent.”

It was a film so important to the Hollywood film collective that “it was nominated for the 1952 Academy Awards in the Best Documentary Feature category, though it’s about as much a documentary as On the Waterfront.” It rightly lost to Kon-Tiki.

Oddly, I think the movie had the opposite effect on me than it was supposed to. I haven’t watched it again. But YOU can here.

For ABC Wednesday.

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Rotten Tomatoes’ BEST SCI-FI MOVIES, part 2

Continuing my Lazy Summer Blogging series: here’s the second half of Rotten Tomatoes’ Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

A * indicates one of the paltry number of films I’ve actually seen.
The links at the titles are of my reviews from this blog.

50. ALPHAVILLE (1965) – I’ve heard of it, but have never seen it

*49. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) – saw it at the cinema. Brutal; I’ve never heard Gene Kelly crooning Singing in the Rain quite the same way Oddly, it was the sex scene to the sped-up Lone Ranger theme that got this movie an X rating, not the violence.

48. STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (1996) – another Trek movie I want to see
47. INCEPTION (2010) – I REALLY wanted to watch this at the time – it was the most intriguing film that year – and it just never happened
46. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013) – probably will see eventually

*45. THE FLY (1986) – one Cronenberg film I did see, based on my affection for the actors Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. I found it quite sad, actually.

44. MINORITY REPORT (2002) – yet another “planned to see it”
43. THE WORLD’S END (2013) – another one from the Shaun of the dead folks I didn’t gravitate to

*42. MEN IN BLACK (1997) – I tend to eschew summer blockbusters, but somehow caught this one, which was a lot of fun, actually

41. GHOST IN THE SHELL (1996) – don’t know this animated piece
40. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016) – yeah, I should see this
39. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991) – ANOTHER Arnold movie unseen
38. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013) – nope
37. SOURCE CODE (2011) – missed this entirely

*36. DISTRICT 9 (2009) – “technically brilliant and emotionally wrenching.” I’ll buy that.

*35. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) – may I say that I think this better than the original?

34. BLADE RUNNER (1982) – I think the original bad press steered me away from this; hope to see someday
33. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) – this was Oscar-nominated, and still the violent content steered me away

*32. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) – I loved the movie when it first cqame out. Saw the extended version and didn’t think the extras were necessary

31. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014) – I balked at seeing its predecessor, so I was unlikely to see this
30. BRAZIL (1985) – I was torn between fascinated and nervous about seeing it

*29. JURASSIC PARK (1993) – it was good for what it wanted to do. I had no need to see the sequels, though

28. SOLARIS (1976) – only a vague recollection of the ads
27. MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1982) – this too I saw bits and pieces on TV
26. EX MACHINA (2015) – usually seeing a movie is a negotiation; I was inclined, but my spouse was not, if I recall correctly
25. GOJIRA (1956) – sounds intriguing

*24. THE IRON GIANT (1999) – I LOVE THIS MOVIE

23. LOOPER (2012) – another “should I see this?” film

*22. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) – “inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed” –

*21. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) – I’m not sure I “got” all of it, but an important, inventive and influential

20. LIVE DIE REPEAT: EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) – saw the trailer, and I considered it

*19. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) – pretty sure I saw this at college; enjoyable cautionary tale

18. FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) – I should see this

*17. STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) – the middle of a trilogy is tough -this is “Dark, sinister, but ultimately… satisfying”

16. SNOWPIERCER (2014) – don’t know this

*15. THE MARTIAN (2015) -“Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny”

14. ALIENS (1986) – the first film was quite enough for me, than you

*13. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) -“thinly-veiled examination of McCarthy-era hysteria”

*12. HER (2013) – not only did I like it, I vaguely related to it…

*11 STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977) – for the record, I’ll always hate the retronym renaming of this film- still it brought me to this new place (fictional geographically and emotionally)

10. THE TERMINATOR (1984) – saw bits of this on TV

*9. WALL-E (2008) – it took me a LONG time to warm up to this film, but I saw it on DVD rather than the theater

*8. ARRIVAL (2016) – it’s very heady, yet emotional. I talked to total strangers afterwards groping with its meaning.

*7. STAR TREK (2009) – nice reboot, but this is higher than Wrath of Khan? Oh, please.

*6. STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015) – I liked this well enough, but it’s not better than the original trilogy, certainly not the first two, for reasons well explained by Jaquandor.

*5. ALIEN (1979) – not only did I see this film, I used to have some memorabilia from it. Still, I didn’t need to see any more of this world

*4. GRAVITY (2013) -“eerie, tense.. visually stunning”

*3. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) – somehow, the family dysfunction was more interesting to me than the alien

2. METROPOLIS (1927) – I’ve seen parts of this, and it was incredibly modern
1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) – my buddy Chuck Miller was SO enthusiastic about this movie that I ALMOST went over to a second-run theater in a nearby city to see it. But I didn’t.

So there it is. I’ve seen a pathetic 33 out of 100, though 24 of the top 50.

Also, The 10 Most Overrated Science Fiction Films. I tend to agree about 10, 7 and 3, but not 6, 4 or 1.

10 movies that have influenced me

beingthereThere’s some online game in which you name ten films that heavily influenced your way of thinking, or world view, or whatever. They need not be GOOD films or your FAVORITE films. If I picked Annie Hall, which may be my favorite, it would be selected, as I noted before, because of my hatred of going into a movie after it starts, just like Alvy Singer (Woody Allen). But let me look elsewhere.

Being There (1979) – Can a guy uttering stuff he’s heard on TV be embraced as a wise and profound leader? Seemed ridiculous at the time, save for televangelists, but now reality-show “celebrities” often drive the national dialogue (see: Jersey Shore, Duck Dynasty, The Real Housewives of Topeka, et al.)
Continue reading

M is for Michael Douglas is 70 (tomorrow)

Michael_DouglasIn the 1960s and 1970s, I used to watch The Fugitive and Cannon and Barnaby Jones, virtually all the Quinn Martin productions, including the cop show The Streets of San Francisco. It starred Karl Malden as the wise senior partner, and Michael Douglas as the impetuous junior partner.

I didn’t really know who Michael Douglas was, except that he was the son of Kirk Douglas, the guy whose jaw was so square that the mimics on the Ed Sullivan Show, just had to grit their teeth to “do” him. Continue reading

Movie Review: Boyhood

boyhood.ellarmasterSteven Rea, the Philadelphia Inquirer film critic wrote of the film Boyhood, “Is it dumb to say, ‘Wow?'” I don’t care. Wow.” I’ll buy that.

From IMDB: “Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (a breakthrough performance by Ellar Coltrane), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha…” This project was somehow completed, more or less, secretly.

So it is a visionary CONCEPT of a movie, a brilliant stunt, filming a few days every year for a dozen years, in the life of a boy and his family. So many things could have gone wrong. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: Magic in the Moonlight

magic+in+the+moonlight+posterWednesday night at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, the Wife and I went to see Magic in the Moonlight. There are still several films we want to see, but at 97 minutes, this was the shortest; when you hire a child watcher, time is definitely money.

I am a huge Woody Allen fan. Afterwards, I thought it was a better than OK movie, though my wife thought it lagged in the first half. Maybe it was that we’d see too much in the preview?
Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: Begin Again

Begin-Again-2I had heard that Begin Again was an Americanized version of the movie Once, which was not a particularly inviting prospect. I mean, I liked the 2006 movie about an Irish busker quite a bit, but didn’t need to see a variation. But Begin Again is largely a different thing, though it does share the fact that music is being performed outdoors, and has the same writer/director, John Carney.

Dan, a music-business executive (Mark Ruffalo) who drinks too much, sees the performance of Gretta, a shy young singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley) and visualizes what her music could sound like in the right hands. Unfortunately Continue reading

Circular question answering New York Erratic

happinessrunsAnd in an act that defies logic, I am now answering questions that New York Erratic answered for me, even though I gave them to her, based on questions Lisa posted, and which Dustbury also answered… Oh never mind.

1. What is your dream vacation spot and why?

It would be a place by water, preferably running water, like a river or a waterfalls, because I love water; maybe it’s the Pisces in me. It would be neither too hot or too cold. Maybe Continue reading

Movie reviews: Chef; and The Hundred-Foot Journey

chef-uoWARNING: do NOT got to the movie Chef if you’re hungry. The Wife and I saw this film Sunday at The Spectrum Theatre in Albany, and we were practically salivating by the end. We’ve seen a lot of foodie movies, notably the classic Big Night, and this was among the best. I mean, a grilled cheese sandwich looked “to die for.”

Moreover, the music was great. The Wife is chair dancing, in the theater, and she is not traditionally a chair dancer. (I am in my office, but I was too.)

Chef Carl Casper (the movie’s writer/director/co-producer Jon Favreau) is a high-powered chef at a chic Los Angeles restaurant, has a good crew (John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale), and an ambiguous thing with Molly (Scarlett Johansson), who runs the front. If he could only ignore the controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman), life would be great.

OK, not so great. Continue reading

Robin Williams has died. SHAZBOT!

public domain

public domain

I had heard that Robin Williams had passed away while I was hanging out with some Times Union bloggers Monday night, Chuck Miller and Don Rittner and David Kalish. My first thought that maybe it was a hoax, which says a lot about the news these days. But it wasn’t until I got home that I discovered that he had apparently committed suicide.

The FIRST person I thought of Continue reading