Treadmill Television: Running in Place

don-draper

A film essayist I very much admire, Rod Heath, tweeted this recently after he had finished watching DEADWOOD. While satisfied and entertained, he felt the need to communicate a deeper frustration with the state of television:

“These shows mistake being busy for complex, and mannerism for style.”

None of this was meant to cast a shadow over the critical and viewer success of DEADWOOD, merely that the laudits surrounding it and many other shows often mistake complicated for complex. It’s been a personal gripe of mine for years.

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GRAND HOTEL: It Actually Is Kind of Grand

grandhotel

It’s been years since I watched GRAND HOTEL, the movie based on the play based on the book that was so successful its narrative structure came to bear its name. That structure, multiple stories and characters, some intertwining, others not, became known as the “Grand Hotel Theme.” It is also notable as the only movie to win Best Picture without receiving a single nomination in any other category, which is somewhat insane considering the talent involved. Granted, there weren’t a lot of competitive categories at the 5th Academy Awards but they had acting, directing, writing, cinematography, and art direction categories, all of which GRAND HOTEL had a shot at winning. Particular the art direction by Cedric Gibbons and the cinematography by William Daniels.

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FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (’58)

This piece originally posted at Filmstruck

Captain Al Chester (Terence Kilburn) grabs a glass of water and asks Major Jeff Cummings (Marshall Thompson), “You ever think of trying sleep instead of Benzedrine?” Popping pills freely to keep alert, Major Cummings is investigating the mysterious death of a local man, Jack Griselle, found dead in the woods near his farm. The two military men work at an air force base in Winthrop, Manitoba, Canada. The base uses atomic energy to boost its radar so they can spy on the Russians. But the mysterious death bothers them and the local authorities refuse to allow the U.S. military to conduct an autopsy. The year is 1958 and if you haven’t already guessed that the base’s atomic energy is going to play a big part in all of this, you’re not very familiar with 1950s sci-fi. And if you’re not, welcome to FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (’58), not only one of the best B movies ever made, but a great primer for anyone looking to enter the world of low-budget 1950s sci-fi horror.

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