Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Fin


Ten and a half years ago, I started this blog. That’s a fair-sized chunk of my life. What began as an exercise in journalistic writing grew into something much more. I’ve made friends as a result of WSW, gone a few different places and done a few things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

This blog was always meant to be a way for me to put my writing skills to good use—but now my writing goals have changed. 

If you’ve followed WSW long enough, you know I’ve struggled with becoming a fiction writer. I’ve had a novel manuscript for seven of those ten-plus years and you’re probably as sick of hearing me talk about it as I am with rewriting it, but I’m closer to done now than I ever have been. I want to pitch it to a publisher. I want to build a career off of it. I wanna try at the least.

Which is why I’m starting a new blog. By Rich Watson will be where I take everything I’ve learned about blogging to the next level. It won’t look like WSW, but I like to think the feel will remain. I hope you’ll join me.

The movie industry has changed dramatically as a result of The Virus. Streaming services have multiplied and frankly, there are way too many of them out there to keep up with. I’m missing out on new movies I could’ve and would’ve seen had the theaters not closed. 

The theaters here in New York are back now, which is good, but even so, a part of me feels like I may have lost my mojo for film blogging. Too much has changed too quickly, but even if that weren’t true, I don’t want to maintain two blogs, nor do I want to stick to the oldies format for this one.

So I’m afraid this is a wrap.

To everyone I thanked at my tenth anniversary party, consider yourself thanked again, in addition to a few more shout-outs: Don & Katha Cato at the Queens World Film Festival, the LAMB movie blogger collective, my guest bloggers Andrea McEnaney and Maria Ramos, and most of all—you. 

Because you helped make WSW possible.

And that means a lot.

Thanks for reading.

Rich Watson
Queens, New York
2021

Monday, March 8, 2021

Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever

The Joan Collins Blogathon is an event dedicated to the life and career of the film and television actress, hosted by RealWeegieMidget Reviews. For a list of participating bloggers, visit the link at the host site.

Netflix viewing 

1930

Took the last bit of money I had to make it to New York and everything went to hell not long after. Stock market. The hell did I know about the stock market and whether or not it was gonna crash? If what the papers said was true, white folks’ greed got the best of them—and this time they done took the rest of the country down with them.

I lost my room on 123rd and spent the past few weeks living rough. For damn sure Harlem didn’t have no work to be found, so I headed downtown. Man, so many whites on the streets, with no place to go, lost, tired... It wasn’t just niggas feeling the hurt from this... “depression.” It was everybody. The whole damn world done turned wrong-way up and changed how we live.

And wasn’t no end in sight as far as I could see.

By the time I reached 21st Street Old Man Winter came and I had to get my black ass inside some kinda shelter before I froze. Don’t know what I would’ve done if that English lady at the mission hadn’t taken me in.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Netflix new release roundup for February ‘21


I’ll have a major announcement on March 9 that you’re gonna want to be here for. I probably should spill the beans now, but I’ll wait. In the meantime, not a lot of new stuff on Netflix that I watched...

Malcolm & Marie. Up-and-coming filmmaker and his girlfriend come home from the premiere of his film only to hash out lingering issues pertaining to his worth as a director and her value to him as a muse. You probably know by now that writer-director Sam Levinson made this during the quarantine period last year, which is a story unto itself, and lately it became a lightning rod for other issues of the moment, but honestly, I didn’t think of or care about any of that when I saw it. It’s been called a Millennial Virginia Woolf: bickering couple, one long night, black and white. Some of it was excruciating to sit through, I admit: the language, the wandering narrative, but the acting from John David Washington and Zendaya was fine, especially given the difficult circumstances they must have gone through to make this film. Good not great.

BONUS! I had the opportunity to watch One Night in Miami on Amazon Prime last month. The feature film directing debut of Oscar-winning actress Regina King, it’s a fictionalized account of the night in 1964 when four legendary black men—Cassius Clay (before he became Muhammad Ali), Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown—hung out together, after Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight boxing champion. It’s based on a play. 

I remember King from her days as a child actress on television and it’s wonderful to see how much she’s progressed as a filmmaker. This film is basically just four guys in a room but, as you can imagine, they have some important things to say to each other, things that speak as loudly to us today as they did then. The only name among the stars I’m familiar with is Leslie Odom Jr. (the guy from Hamilton) as Cooke, but all the stars—Eli Goree (Clay), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcolm) and Aldis Hodge (Brown) are exquisite. A solid film debut from director King.

———————

The reopening here in NYC: on the local level, Cinemart in Forest Hills posted on their Facebook page that they thought they wouldn’t be ready to go until April 1. The Kew Gardens Cinema also said they’d need a little time to get ready.

Also, Jersey City mayor Stephen Fulop announced last month that more money is going into the Loews Jersey theater’s upgrade and a commercial operator for the redevelopment plan was conditionally named. They’ll have to close for eighteen months beginning next year, but when they reopen, look out. Booking national acts to play there is on the long-term agenda, but Friends of the Loews will still be the non-profit partner and movies will still have a place there.

Unrelated but worth checking out: the 50 most beautiful cinemas in the world.

More on the other side.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Fantastic Four (1994)

The 2021 So Bad It’s Good Blogathon is an event devoted to films commonly perceived as bad, yet enjoyable, hosted by Taking Up Room. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the link at the host site.

Fantastic Four (1994)

YouTube viewing

I don’t recall where I first learned there would be a movie based on Fantastic Four, my favorite childhood comic book—in one of Stan Lee’s editorial “Bullpen Bulletins,” perhaps. I specifically remember seeing a flyer at my local comic shop announcing the guy who played Reed Richards would appear for a signing. 

As time passed, and it became clearer the movie would not come soon to a theater near me, I was disappointed. This was before the renaissance of comic book movies that began with Blade and X-Men and Spider-Man and continued with Iron Man and the cinematic universes of Marvel and DC. Films like Batman and Robin and Superman IV taught me to lower my expectations.

Then the FF film went straight to video, and bootleg copies popped up at conventions. At one, a dealer played it on a small TV screen and I finally caught a snippet.

I believe it was the scene with the Human Torch flying. (I say “the scene” because it’s the only one in the movie!) I recognized it as the Torch; that was encouraging, no? Maybe it would’ve looked better on a big screen. Maybe it needed to be seen from the beginning for me to truly appreciate. It wasn’t fair to judge based on an out-of-context clip from a bootlegged copy shown at a noisy and crowded comic convention.

Besides, I had seen a few photos of the cast: they got the costumes right (except the “4” logo was so low it was practically on their stomachs), the Thing was massive and rocky like he was supposed to be (even if he kinda looked made out of papier-mâché), and they really overdid it with the grey in Reed’s hair, but the most important things were the acting and the story. As long as I could believe in the whole thing, the rest wouldn’t matter. One day I would see it and judge for myself.

It couldn’t be that bad, right?

Monday, February 22, 2021

New York movie theaters set to reopen in March!


With New York City reopening, the studios will hopefully have more confidence to keep their release dates as planned, which is a huge step in the process of recovery for the entire exhibition industry...”

FINALLY.


I’m of two minds about this. 

I knew this day would come sooner or later, and of course I’m thrilled, but at the same time I’m trepidatious. How can I not be? Spending two hours inside an enclosed room, immobile, without outside exposure, with a large amount of strangers who may or may not keep their masks on, is less enticing now than it was last summer when I was so sure I’d go back right away and follow all the social distancing protocols and blah blah blah. 

Spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with small groups of friends prepared me for this moment, I suppose (Virginia and I also went to a museum last fall), but I honestly didn’t think it would come quite so soon. 

I’ll return, but I won’t run right out on the first weekend. 

The bigger takeaway from this, of course, is what this means to the movie industry in general. Local theaters—the chains, indies and revival houses—will stay in business after all. How they’ll compete with the streaming services is another question, but at least they’ll have gotten past the worst of it.

Thoughts?



Monday, February 1, 2021

Netflix new release roundup for January ‘21

...and that was just January.

What a month, huh? Our long national nightmare is finally over, though the mess DT left behind will take years, if not decades, to clean up, and a whole lot of people out there will try to impede the process... but now that adults are in charge of America again, we stand a good chance at making some progress. To ease us back to movie-related discussion, if you haven’t seen this video from Arnold Schwarzenegger—the former California governor, remember?—take a look at it.

The Midnight Sky. George Clooney and a little kid are stuck on an Arctic base but they’ve gotta send a message to a spaceship returning from a scouting trip to another planet, telling them not to come home because the earth is effed up. This was done well and all, but man, I’m tired of all these depressing space exploration movies: Interstellar, Gravity, First Man, Ad Astra. I realize SF can’t all be action-adventure shoot-em-ups, but space travel used to represent hope. What happened? Clooney also directs and produces; as an actor, he’s in full-on Grizzly Adams mode, and everyone’s grim and silent and sad. Just the kinda thing we all need right now, isn’t it?

Pretend It’s a City. Vija told me about this one (she read about it; she didn’t see it): a documentary mini-series, in half-hour installments, on writer Fran Leibowitz, her love-hate relationship with New York, and thoughts on life in general, directed by Martin Scorsese. This is actually their second collaboration; the first movie he made about her was in 2010. I had no prior experience with her; never read her work, never seen her speak, barely even knew who she was, but I can see why Marty put her on film. One part Woody Allen, one part Dorothy Parker, her observations on New York life are quite funny and very often on the nose, to those of us who have lived here long enough. This is someone I could easily see chatting with on a subway car, complaining over a variety of things that are wrong about the city, but mostly I’d be listening. I think there’s a lot to appreciate about this even if you’re not a New Yorker.

Outside the Wire. US-military-made cyborg teams up with disgraced drone pilot to hunt down European terrorist looking to acquire nukes—but said cyborg has agenda of his own. Anthony Mackie gets to channel his inner Van Damme in what some critics have called an SF Training Day. It was okay, but not emotionally involving. Doesn’t have the heart of Terminator 2 or the brain of Ex Machina. It’s basically an excuse for Mackie to kick ass—which, granted, he does really well! Newcomer Damson Idris is appealing as the human reluctantly paired with this cyborg, but otherwise, well, I probably would’ve passed on this if it were a theatrical release.

More on the other side.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Winchester

The Home Sweet Home Blogathon is an event devoted to themes of houses, homes and/or family, hosted by Taking Up Room and RealWeegieMidget Reviews. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the link at the host sites.

Netflix viewing 

In 1886, Sarah Winchester moved from her home in New Haven, CT into a two-story farmhouse in San Jose. The widow of William Wirt Winchester of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company—the manufacturer of firearms—she had inherited a fifty-percent ownership of the company and over $20.5 million, so she was wealthy, but she had also lost her infant daughter and only child to a children’s disease called marasmus.

According to published accounts, a medium, who had allegedly been channeling Sarah’s husband at the time, told her to make the move west for a specific reason: to build a residence not just for herself, but for the ghosts of those who died from Winchester rifles. Thus began the creation of one of the strangest houses ever built.



Today the mansion is known as the Winchester Mystery House. It takes up 24,000 square feet of space (puny in comparison with the William Hearst Castle further south along the California coast), with 160 rooms, at a price of $5 million. Here’s a live walkthrough of the house from last April.

Was the house haunted? Rooms were added to it, day and night, until Sarah’s death in 1922 because, the story goes, she believed in the presence of ghosts, and the rooms held them at bay. The truth is much more mundane, but that hasn’t stopped speculation over the house’s supernatural connection, and a few years ago, Hollywood took a stab at telling the story.

Winchester doesn’t tread new ground in horror cinema, but it’s classier than most, thanks largely to the presence of Helen Mirren as the titular widow. In an original screenplay written (with Tom Vaughan) and directed by the Spierig Brothers, Sarah’s competence is challenged by the WRAC, who send Jason Clarke,  playing a doctor, in to determine whether she’s sane enough to still be co-owner.


The film relies too much on jump-scares and only scratches the surface of the wider issues of profiting from weapons manufacture. It also has elements of other horror flicks: The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, The Omen, etc. 

I remember wanting to see this when it initially came out. The mediocre reviews kept me away, but it’s not terrible. Clarke, the guy from Zero Dark Thirty, holds his own opposite Mirren nicely, and Sarah Snook is good as Mirren’s niece.

If nothing else, Winchester got me interested in the real-life elements behind the story, which are fascinating in and of themselves.

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Related:

Other movies about houses: