A Few Thoughts About Esther Williams

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Until recently, I had never seen an Esther Williams movie. I knew that she was famously called the “bathing beauty”, and was known for her swimming, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I decided to rectify this and went to Netflix to see which films of hers that they had. There were 14 of them. They went right into my queue. Last night I finished number 14 and I want to jot down a few things about Williams.

Esther was just okay as a dancer, singer, and actor. She was magic in the water. Despite this obvious fact, MGM kept putting her into roles that kept her on dry land. It’s no surprise that Million Dollar Mermaid is the best film I watched because they kept her in the water. A friend of mine said that maybe she was afraid of being typecast, but I doubt she had the kind of clout in Hollywood to do that. I think Hollywood just didn’t know what to do with her so they came up with a few swimming scenes, then wrapped a generic film around them. While Million Dollar Mermaid was the best Esther Williams film I have seen, she was best not only in the water, but when it was a fantasy sequence. This would mean full hair and makeup combined with an orgasm inducing swimsuit. After watching as many of her films as I have, you feel frustrated that Hollywood consistently avoided playing to her strength. I don’t need to see her next to a comedic Red Skelton, or a romantic Ricardo Montalban, or listen to yet another song from Xavier Cugat. I just want to watch her swim.

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Movie Roundup #3

Still on a pre-code binge!

  1. Cimarron (1931) – Approach With Caution
  2. La Cucaracha (1934) – Worth A Look
  3. Three On A Match (1932) – Approach With Caution: Like the game I am doing for a Let’s Play right now, racy material doesn’t make up for a boring story.
  4. Manhattan Parade (1931) – Not Recommended: This is a terrible movie! The gay stereotype is funnier than anything else in this film and I hated it. That’s how unfunny the comedy is in this dung heap.Bad, bad, bad film!
  5. The Trail Beyond (1934) – Approach With Caution
  6. The Desert Trail (1935) – Approach With Caution: At least you get to watch John Wayne act like a sleaze.
  7. The Dawn Rider (1935) – Approach With Caution
  8. Riders of Destiny (1933) – Approach With Caution:Noteworthy for two reasons:1. John Wayne plays a singing cowboy named Singin’ Sandy. It’s as dumb as it sounds.
    2. The ending doesn’t have marriage since it’s from 1933 and thus, not under the production code.
  9. The Lawless Frontier (1934) – Approach With Caution
  10. Paradise Canyon (1935) – Approach With Caution: An average John Wayne B-Western, except that I have never seen such competent and professional Mexicans in any other Westerns. It was a bit of a shock!
  11. ‘Neath the Arizona Skies (1934) – Approach With Caution
  12. West of the Divide (1934) – Approach With Caution
  13. The Dawn Patrol (1930) – Recommended
  14. The Broadway Melody (1929) – Recommended
  15. The Emergency Case (1930) – Approach With Caution
  16. Way Out West (1930) – Worth A Look: William Haines makes this work. It’s very formulaic, but Haines makes you care.
  17. Stage Mother (1933) – Worth A Look
  18. Roast-Beef and Movies (1934) – Approach With Caution
  19. The Doorway to Hell (1930) – Worth A Look: Not the best movie about a gangster, but it’s another one of those pre-codes with surprising moments of excellence. In this case, it was usually in the cinematography.
  20. The Beast of the City (1932) – Worth A Look: Sometimes it seems like every pre-code has those moments you remember vividly. The moment in this film came at the end when the police stand in a line at the entrance to a party hall filled with gangsters and a shoot out begins. The cops march in step like an old fashioned army. The gangsters take some cover, but it’s basically everyone firing as they all fall to their deaths. It’s moving and brutal.
  21. The Secret Six (1931) – Approach With Caution
  22. Tarzan The Ape Man (1932) – Approach With Caution
  23. The Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943) – Worth A Look
  24. Westward Passage (1932) – Not Recommended
  25. The Finger Points (1931) – Not Recommended: Fucking pile of cow dung! Richard Barthelmess plays the most incompetent reporter I have seen in awhile. And the man can’t act. It’s just awful! Awful! Awful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Run for your lives!!!! Yeah, the finger points. My middle finger is pointing right now at the DVD.
  26. Our Betters (1933) – Not Recommended: Only worth seeing because of the horrendous gay stereotype at the end, but it’s barely a reason to watch it.
  27. Wonder Bar (1934) – Not Recommended: One of those pure escapism movies. Nothing happens, no characters to invest in, just a glamorous place with glamorous people to take your mind off the Great Depression. It’s awful and the blackface number makes it 100 times worse. It just goes on and on as the nausea grows and grows. The whip dance with Dolores Del Rio is the only saving grace.
  28. The Sport Parade (1932) – Approach With Caution
  29. The Sign of the Cross (1933) – Worth A Look: DeMille delivers on the debauchery, but the rest is just average.
  30. The Painted Veil (1934) – Recommended
  31. The Unholy Three (1930) – Approach With Caution: This role was not the right one for Lon Chaney to make the transition to sound. One of his more sympathetic roles would have been better.
  32. The Rounder (1930) – Worth A Look
  33. Men of the North (1930) – Worth A Look: A simple story about a French-Canadian thief who falls for a woman visiting the area. Very straightforward, with no frills. What gives it that extra .5 stars is the ending where the thief’s friend shows up at the last minute and tries to stick up the cop when he doesn’t need to. It’s hilarious and had me laughing.
  34. River’s End (1930) – Recommended: It’s about a man who takes the place of a Canadian mountie after that mountie dies in the mountains trying to bring him in. The two men happened to look very similar to each other. The film follows the man’s attempt to impersonate the other man and struggle between choosing to use the situation as a stepping stone to freedom, or to stay a mountie. Certain things can feel rushed, but that actually avoids some cliches for the sake of the short running time. It moved me, so it’s ok with me.
  35. Anne of Green Gables (1934) – Recommended
  36. Flying Down to Rio (1933) – Approach With Caution: A bare tit and a bunch of hot girls don’t make up for a bad movie.
  37. Taxi! (1932) – Approach With Caution:Lame!Sometimes one word is all you need to describe a film.
  38. Rafter Romance (1933) – Worth A Look
  39. Beauty for Sale (1933) – Worth A Look
  40. Rasputin and the Empress (1932) – Recommended
  41. Fog Over Frisco (1934) – Worth A Look
  42. 23 – Skidoo (1930) – Approach With Caution
  43. Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie (2009) – Worth A Look

Movie Roundup #2

Sorry about the lack of screenshots, but I recently got a hospital bed and have become addicted to watching on the TV as a result. As you’ll notice, I’ve been watching a lot of pre-codes. I love them so much! Oh, and coming soon, I am going to do a sequel to the Deanna Durbin punishment posts with a series Esther Williams punishment articles. I think I can get my hands on about 16 of her films.

1. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Not Recommended: More like the Dark Knight takes an elephant-size dump on its viewers. This movie is garbage. It’s no better than Lincoln or Iron Man 3. In fact, it’s worse because we actually have high expectations going in to it. What were they thinking following up a well-made film noir with this cartoonish comic book shit? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is completely unbelievable as a cop. Catwoman doesn’t even belong in this iteration of Batman. She simply cannot be taken seriously and just reminds us of how bad the film is with every frame she appears in. Batman spends the majority of the film ruminating and being fed spiritual claptrap from wisemen stereotypes instead of doing anything. Bane struts around like an ass, then disappears while we are supposed to be overwhelmed by the “revolution”, except we’re already lost to the film and are laughing our assess off at its incompetence.

The only redeeming thing about Christopher Nolan’s unholy piece of crap is Bane’s voice. That’s it. This movie is a joke.

2. Distant (2002) – Approach With Caution: You just end up talking to the screen, saying things like, “He’s watching TV next to a pillar rather than talking to the other guy…DISTANCE!” It’s very brick to the head obvious and pretty boring with a few nice landscape shots thrown in for beauty.

3. Vampyros Lesbos (1971) – Not Recommended

4. The Last of the Mohicans (1936) – Worth A Look

5. Trial by Trigger (1944) – Worth A Look

6. Funny Games (1997) – Not Recommended: Was that supposed to be startlingly or horrifying? To me, it was just boring. Predictable as clockwork.

7. Bridesmaids (2011) – Approach With Caution: Enough poorly done low brow humor that it drags down the whole film.

8. Bad Boys (1983) – Recommended: A good, realistic, no highbrow BS look at juvenile prison. I enjoyed it. Sean Penn did a good job in the lead and I loved Clancy Brown in a supporting role.

9. Bad Teacher (2011) – Worth A Look

10. The Castle (1999) – Recommended

11. Dirigible (1931) – Worth A Look: The scenes at the South Pole are something to behold. Great cinematography and unusually good performances for the 1930s. Worth slogging through the stupid parts for the extraordinary ones.

12. Roaming the Emerald Isle with Will Rogers (1927) – Approach With Caution

13. Chaplin Shorts: Kid Auto Races at Venice Beach (1914); Cruel, Cruel Love (1914); Tango Tangles (1914); The Star Boader (1914); His Prehistoric Past (1914); A Film Johnnie (1914); His Favorite Pastime (1914); Between Showers (1914); His Trysting Place (1914): They are all pretty much an approach with caution.

14. The Last Flight (1931) – Highly Recommended: This is shockingly good. It follows several post-WWI pilots as they drink their way from Paris to Lisbon along with a beautiful woman. The film does a good job showing how the men have had their eyes open to horrors they won’t forget and how their bodies and minds have been changed so they can’t forget. An example of how the pre-code era was a mini Hollywood Renaissance. A must see of the period.

15. Central Airport (1933) – Worth A Look

16. The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011) – Not Recommended: It gets a little better in the last 5 parts, but this really is one of the worst documentaries I have ever seen. It’s incredibly biased, heavy-handed, and ill-informed. And that’s coming from someone who has watched the documentary I Love Dollars where the director spends an inordinate amount of time showing us a financial institution’s front door because it has a street address of 666.

There is no reason to see this awful documentary. You can find the films to see elsewhere. And any teacher who shows it should be ashamed of themselves.

The story of film is not one of innovation. It’s a history. That means what happened, happened, and sometimes that means steps backwards, to the sides, and even in crazy zig zag patterns. Also, there is nothing super special about a particular time or place. Good, bad, and innovative film is made everywhere and at anytime. Don’t let your mind and film education be constrained by one man’s narrow and biased view. Mine included.

I disliked this movie enough that I made a little parody:

17. Private Lives (1931) – Highly Recommended: Fucking amazing! One of the finest pre-codes I have seen in a long time. It’s loaded to the hilt with things that couldn’t be done a few years before, and certainly couldn’t be done under the code. Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery are hilarious as a former couple who were once married. They meet while they are on their honeymoons with their new spouses, and run away together.

Great movie, and an essential for anyone studying film. This film is the pre-code era in a bottle.

18. Complicated Women (2003) – Worth A Look: A decent TCM documentary about pre-code Hollywood.

19. Washington Merry-Go-Round (1932) – Recommended: This isn’t a great film, but wow! It’s relentless in the way it indicts the US government for being corrupt. This is another classic example of a film that couldn’t be made after the production code. It ends with the main character telling someone there’s a gun in a drawer and you should probably use it, he does, and then an arm is extended around a girl for this happy suicide ending.

I love pre-codes!

20. The Merry Wives of Reno (1934) – Highly Recommended

21. The Merry Widow (1934) – Recommended

22. The Tenderfoot (1932) – Approach With Caution: This is a shitty pre-code. Enough said.

23. The Lost Squadron (1932) – Worth A Look

24. Topaze (1933) – Worth A Look

25. The Big Trail (1930) – Approach With Caution: Gorgeous cinematography that makes everything huge in scope. The fact that it is in widescreen helps too. Unfortunately, it’s pretty boring. Really boring, and the acting isn’t too good either.

26. Moby Dick (1930) – Approach With Caution: I thought the whale ate him at the end? It doesn’t in this one.

27. The Star Packer (1934) – Approach With Caution

28. The Lost Patrol (1934) – Recommended: An early implementation of the formula that says, “stick a bunch of people in an isolated location and have them picked off one by one by an unseen enemy.” It works, pretty much. Karloff is annoying and helps to ruin the film. John Ford could have also done much more to build tension and suspense. Still, quite good.

29. Jimmy The Gent (1934) – Approach With Caution

Movie Roundup #1

1. Emmanuelle Exposed (1981) – Not Recommended: Pointless and boring! The only thing of redeeming value in this movie is the upper crust Spaniard gentleman who is so convinced of his superiority that he just knows he’s the best. He doesn’t look down on others, but he also can’t be convinced his beliefs are false. That includes when he gives a less than satisfactory performance in the sack. He is the narrator and is usually quite humorous. The rest, just stinks.

2. Iron Man 3 (2013) – Not Recommended: Granted, there was a mentally challenged guy who was disrupting the audience throughout the film. And granted, the theater failed to remove him despite being informed on three different occasions, by three separate people that he was making a lot of noise. However, this movie still sucks! A few laughs. There wasn’t much of the derided action that people are always complaining about in such films. Just boring Robert Downey Jr. out of the suit, doing impressions of himself in his old mug shots and calling it PTSD from the events of The Avengers. No thank you, get in the suit and kick some ass next time.

Oh, and hire better writers. It was nice to see Guy Pearce, but his villain was worthless. I’m not even sure I got a reason for what he was doing.

Yuck, and that’s all I have to say about that!

3.

Lincoln (2012) - Not Recommended

Lincoln (2012) – Not Recommended

This is a not a good movie. The film is about the passage of the 13th Amendment. Major problems creep in because the film tries to also be about Lincoln and the Civil War, but ends up covering them in a half-assed manner. Lincoln is a two-dimensional joke that has a couple good speeches and a load of stupid little stories. It’s kind of sickening to see such a great man reduced to a caricature. And every other character is the same. Just oversimplified pawns in an uneven and unnecessarily comical presentation of one of the most important moments in the history of the United States. I was gonna give this film two stars, but the more write, the more I realize how much I disliked it. I wouldn’t recommend this film under any circumstances.

4.

Gummo (1997) - Worth A Look

Gummo (1997) – Worth A Look

I can’t believe I am giving this film three stars, but in the last four minutes or so they played Roy Orbison and suddenly it worked for me.

5.

Women Behind Bars (1975) - Not Recommended

Women Behind Bars (1975) – Not Recommended

Always nice to see the beautiful Lina Romay, but she alone can’t save this film.

6.

Yol (1982) - Recommended

Yol (1982) – Recommended

Sad and beautiful. A people in chains because of backwards culturally and government instituted rules. In many ways, horrifying.

7.

Turist Ömer Uzay Yolu’nda (1973) AKA The Turkish Star Trek - Recommended

Turist Ömer Uzay Yolu’nda (1973) AKA The Turkish Star Trek – Recommended

It’s basically a shot for shot Turkish remake of the episode from The Original Series with the shapeshifting monster who needs salt. The only difference is that a Turkish bum is brought from the past and thrown into the mix. This is priceless. It actually means that the Turks adapted Star Trek into a film before the US did. Hilarious!

8.

Eugenie Sex Happening (1974) - Approach With Caution

Eugenie Sex Happening (1974) – Approach With Caution

A lousy and very loose adaptation of Marquis de Sade’s Justine.

9. The King Of Kings (1927) – Recommended: I’m not what Elton John called a Jesus freak, but it’s always interesting to see how different directors handle the story of Christ. Particularly, how they handle Pontius Pilate and Judas. Pontius is portrayed as the guy who bends over backwards to try and not execute Jesus, but ultimately has his hands tied. Judas is not portrayed as evil, but someone who is only weak. I can understand why Scorsese tweaked his role in The Last Temptation of Christ. In that film, Jesus asks Judas to betray him because he knows that it must happen and none of the others have the stomach for it. It makes more sense then Jesus knowing Judas will betray him and will kill himself out of guilt. This film does an excellent job of telling the story without becoming big studio epic The Ten Commandments or the awful force it down your throat Song of Bernadette.

10. Schoolgirl Report Vol. 5: What All Parents Should Know (1973) – Approach With Caution: This is my third Schoolgirl Report film and they don’t get any better. They are the weakest and lamest form of soft core porn. They have their humorous moments, but it’s largely a waste of time.

I’m Returning From The Hills, Part IV

And since I always prefer to show, rather than tell. Here is a sampling of some of the delicious junk I watched.

Double Dragon (1994)

Double Dragon (1994)

A Force Of One (1979)

A Force Of One (1979)

Valet Girls (1987)

Valet Girls (1987)

The Bloodsucker Leads The Dance (1975) -- She's headless!

The Bloodsucker Leads The Dance (1975) — She’s headless!

Requiem For A Vampire (1971)

Requiem For A Vampire (1971)

Nude Nuns With Big Guns (2010)

Nude Nuns With Big Guns (2010)

Hot Bubblegum (1981)

Hot Bubblegum (1981)

The Cheerleaders (1973)

The Cheerleaders (1973)

Revenge Of The Cheerleaders (1976)

Revenge Of The Cheerleaders (1976)

She-Devils On Wheels (1968)

She-Devils On Wheels (1968)

Dolemite (1975)

Dolemite (1975)

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966)

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)

Justine De Sade (1972)

Justine De Sade (1972)

Sins Of Sister Lucia (1978) -- This was a actually a great Roman Porno, but it belongs here anyways.

Sins Of Sister Lucia (1978) — This was a actually a great Roman Porno, but it belongs here anyways.

Female Prisoner: Caged! (1983)

Female Prisoner: Caged! (1983)

The Hand Of Death (1976)

The Hand Of Death (1976)

Princess Iron Fan (1966) -- There's a tiny Monkey King crawling on her butt under her dress.  Devious Monkey King!

Princess Iron Fan (1966) — There’s a tiny Monkey King crawling on her butt under her dress. Devious Monkey King!

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Female Teacher: In Front Of The Students (1982) -- An incredible Roman Ponro, but very, very, very non-PC. Be warned if you try and track down a copy.

Female Teacher: In Front Of The Students (1982) — An incredible Roman Ponro, but very, very, very non-PC. Be warned if you try and track down a copy.

Air Doll (2009)

Air Doll (2009)

Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981)

Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981)

The Bunglers in the Planet Wars (1978) -- Also known as The Brazilian Star Wars. This movie is so bad, and yet so good. Everyone should see it.

The Bunglers in the Planet Wars (1978) — Also known as The Brazilian Star Wars. This movie is so bad, and yet so good. Everyone should see it.

That pretty much brings you up to date. From now on this blog will not only be for movies, but for anything Valerie Troutman. Right now, that means film, hiking, photography, and hopefully Let’s Plays. I hope that’s ok with everyone. See you soon.

I’m Returning From The Hills, Part III

Looking across Sindicich Lagoon to Mt. Diablo

Looking across Sindicich Lagoon to Mt. Diablo

I wasn’t going to walk as far as I did. Honest, I wasn’t planning to choose the “peak” trail rather than the valley. Yet, I did both, and it was amazing. Briones Regional Park is one of the most beautiful places in the East Bay, and it’s big too. I have been back many times and I still have trails to explore.

When the sign says valley or peak, you choose valley! The peak nearly killed me.

When the sign says valley or peak, you choose valley! The peak nearly killed me.

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After my trip to Briones, I did a little more park hopping, but mainly I stuck to hiking. It’s amazing how many places to hike there are in my area. I swear that Contra Costa county is really a giant park with squatters on it.

But hiking isn’t the only story here. Comcast lifted their data cap for me during this period and I wanted to see how much data I would actually use if I wasn’t worried about the cap. Also, there were good weeks where it was way too hot to hike and I didn’t have a choice but turn on Netflix instant streaming. It began with the Roger Corman/Traci Lords film called Not Of This Earth (1988). But it would get worse.

Starcrash (1978)

Starcrash (1978)

Much, much worse.

He's My Girl (1987)

He’s My Girl (1987)

I’m Returning From The Hills, Part II

Park hopping is what I called it. I wasn’t visiting parks that you could hike in yet, but I was visiting any place that my GPS classified as a park. The places I visited varied greatly.

Brookwood Park — A small neighborhood park

Paso Nogal Park -- A good size dog park for both large and small dogs

Paso Nogal Park — A good size dog park for both large and small dogs

Heather Farms -- A big park/community center/dog park/etc. It actually dates back to when there was a track here that was used in the Clark Gable film Sporting Blood.

Heather Farms — A big park/community center/dog park/etc. It actually dates back to when there was a track here that was used in the Clark Gable film Sporting Blood.

El Divisadero Park -- The park with an identity crisis. The sign does say it's a neighborhood park, but it's also a field attached to a school.

El Divisadero Park — The park with an identity crisis. The sign does say it’s a neighborhood park, but it’s also a field attached to a school.

It was a blast, and I enjoyed exploring my area in ways I had never done before. While I was going to your normal types of parks, I would occasionally come across places that hinted at something more.

Where the Lafayette-Moraga Trail meets the Moraga Commons (Park)

Where the Lafayette-Moraga Trail meets the Moraga Commons (Park)

Walnut Creek Open Space? I thought I was at Howe Homestead Park.

Walnut Creek Open Space? I thought I was at Howe Homestead Park.

After hitting a lot of parks, I decided to make a run at the state park in my backyard. That evil mountain that looks down on me everyday. I went to Mt. Diablo State Park…on wheels.

One view from the observation deck at Mt. Diablo State Park.

One view from the observation deck at Mt. Diablo State Park.

But that same day, I also saw this.

Protected Watershed? EBMUD, my water company? I thought this was just Rancho Laguna Park.

Protected Watershed? EBMUD, my water company? I thought this was just Rancho Laguna Park.

10 days later my GPS said Briones Regional Park, but not the Lafayette Ridge Staging Area. I was going to the Bear Creek Staging Area. I was totally prepared with my regular shoes, no sunblock, no extra water, and no food. It was just me, my water bottle I always brought with me, and a cellphone. Before I knew it, I was going on my first real hike.