BODY HEAT (1981) – They’re hot-blooded, check them and see

The following is my entry in The Hotter’nell Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from June 21-23, 2019. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ takes on a wide range of summer- and heat-wave-related movies!

Having seen a lot of movies and having read a bit of Raymond Chandler, I found Body Heat downright laughable when it was first released. Seeing it again after nearly 40 years, I liked it a little better. There’s nothing wrong with the movie that a lesser case of pretension wouldn’t cure.

The movie takes place in the heat of Florida where one night, Ned Racine (William Hurt), a well-meaning but careless lawyer, happens upon luscious Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) after the two exit from a sweltering outdoor concert. Ned tries to flirt and make snappy patter with Matty, who twice warns Ned that she’s married. Frankly, Ned is so horny, he doesn’t care — which tips us off that he’s as sloppy at love as he is at legal counsel.

Eventually, Matty allows Ned to visit her home (her husband is currently out of town), but to Ned’s chagrin, she gives him only a chaste kiss before locking him out of the house. Now, here comes the scene that provides the movie’s acid test as to whether or not you’ll buy into its noirish stylization. (Spoiler paragraph alert follows.)

Ned is about to drive away from the house, but curiosity gets the better of him. He returns to Matty’s front door, looks through its window, and see Maddie standing frozen, staring back at Ned. Ned tries to find another entranceway but cannot, always seeing Matty teasingly staring at him. Finally at his boiling point, Ned picks up a nearby chair, smashes in the front door, and rushes into Matty’s waiting arms.

This is meant to be a noir-like point, showing us that Ned is so overcome with lust that he’ll do anything to get what he wants. All I could think while watching this was, either somebody would want me or she wouldn’t — I sure wouldn’t waste a good front door to find out the answer.

Anyway, we are meant to see that Ned and Matty have sex in every possible position before we get to the main plot point. Matty tells Ned how unhappy she is with her husband Edmund (Richard Crenna), and how she cannot divorce him because everything is tipped in her husband’s favor (he made Matty sign a prenuptial agreement). After a few minutes of this brazen exposition, Ned nonchalantly informs Matty that they’re going to have to kill Edmund. Again, this is film noir, where we’re supposed to believe that Ned is so frenzied with lust that he’ll do things a rational man would not do. I wasn’t convinced that Ned’s outrageous idea was anything but a machination of the screenwriter (Lawrence Kasdan, whose directorial debut this was after co-writing The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Upon its first release, film critic Pauline Kael wrote a scathing review of the movie, stating, “Kasdan has modern characters talking jive talk as if they’d been boning up on Chandler novels, and he doesn’t seem to know if he wants laughs or not.” A more generous reading of the movie is that it’s okay as an average murder mystery, but its attempts at stylized noir stick out like sore thumbs. As Kael pointed out, film noir was partially a reaction to Hollywood’s strict censorship code of the 1940’s and ’50s, meaning that filmmakers had to find unique ways of depicting sex and murder. Smashing doors in and talking jive doesn’t make much sense in a movie where four-letter words are uttered regularly and nearly all of Kathleen Turner’s physique can be put upon display.

Hurt and Turner do well enough under the circumstances, but it’s really the performing players that stand out. Matty’s husband Edmund is supposed to come off as a self-absorbed fatcat, but Richard Crenna makes him fairly likable, probably more so than Kasdan intended. (Having appeared in an awful TV remake of Double Indemnity in 1973, Crenna should have known to steer clear of ersatz noir to start with.) As, respectively, a fellow lawyer and a local investigator, Ted Danson (in a pre-“Cheers” role) and J.A. Preston are as smooth as silk; the movie might have been more fun if the story had been told strictly from their points of view. And last but hardly least, Mickey Rourke steals the movie as an arsonist who reluctantly helps Ned with his murder plan.

The movie is watchable but hardly in the league with the film noir classics that it’s trying to emulate. By the time the movie is about halfway done, you wish someone would take Ned aside and give him back-to-back screenings of Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice in order to show Ned how poorly this kind of scheme could work out for him.

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Happy 85th birthday, Donald Duck!

Donald Fauntleroy Duck (yes, that’s really his full name) made his film debut on this day in 1934 in The Wise Little Hen. But to fully honor his legacy, I’d like to present to you what is, IMHO, his finest hour (or at least, his finest seven-and-a-half minutes). Here is Donald’s glorious appearance in Fantasia 2000. (Since annual graduation ceremonies recently took place around the country, I’m sure you’ll recognize the musical score.)

A conversation between my dogs

SCENE: My two dogs, male Opie (shown above, at left) and female Lexi (at right), are taking their hourly stroll through our back yard.

OPIE: C’mon, hurry up and do your stuff!

LEXI: Nobody rushes me, not even a human. Besides, why are you always in such a hurry?

OPIE: Because the master is waiting for us!

LEXI: First off, he is not the master — we are. See him at the door, looking at us through the shades?

OPIE: Yeah. He doesn’t look very happy.

LEXI: It matters not. We can keep him waiting as long as we have to do, and he will still do our bidding.

OPIE: You mean, you really don’t need to take this long to drop a load?

LEXI: Of course not. I am merely asserting my dominance over the human — marking my territory, as it were.

OPIE: Wow, I had no idea. I’m going to start taking even longer to pee than I usually do!

LEXI: I don’t see that as a problem for you. You already have a bladder the size of a pebble. Now, it’s time to make number two.

OPIE: Yeah, I guess I could use a good dump at that.

LEXI: Not like that! Turn around so he can see your behind!

OPIE: Hee, hee. This is fun!

LEXI: I told you, no human is going to get the best of us! Well, the heat is getting a little stifling. Let’s get back inside.

OPIE: Uh-oh!

LEXI: What?

OPIE: Look at the shade. He’s not there anymore.

LEXI: That traitor! All right, let’s start barking assertively until he comes back to the door!

4DX leaves moviegoers all wet

Have you ever tried to watch a wide-screen movie while riding a rollercoaster? 4DX movie theaters provide roughly the same effect.

4DX theaters are touted as making moviegoers as much a part of the film they’re watching as possible. Once the 3D portion is in place (thanks to the same kind of special-effects glasses that have been used for decades), your movie experience simulates rain (mists of water), lighting (split-second lights) — and best of all, earthquakes, via rattling seats that make it a challenge not to end up on the floor.
Disney World has used the 4D effect with such crowd-pleasers as The Muppets and Shrek. But it’s a lot easier to enjoy 10 minutes of this silliness than it is to provide a life-like experience for a feature film.

My first 4DX experience was last weekend, when my son and I saw Godzilla: King of the Monsters. (My mini-review of the movie: It’s enjoyable enough matinee fare, but don’t take any kids who are easily traumatized, and good luck trying to follow the plot.)
Happily, 4DX didn’t throw me out of my seat, but it did pull me out of the actual movie experience. I’m sure many people regard 4DX as a fun carnival ride. But for me, the “realistic” special effects just distracted me from the actual movie.

A really engrossing movie will draw you in without cheesy theatricals. Would Say Anything‘s iconic rain scene been more effective if the theater had been dripping water on us?

The 1977 sketch film Kentucky Fried Movie showed a theater-goer experiencing a movie in “Feel-Around.” An usher stood behind the movie-watcher to augment the movie’s action. When someone on-screen spilled a drink, the usher would douse the guy in wine. When the movie hero kisses his girl, guess what the usher does to the guy.

This was all played for laughs, of course. But I think I’d find Feel-Around more engrossing (if a bit gross) than 4XD.

You knew the job was dangerous when you took it

As the man said, you can’t fix stupid.

I am not a very adventurous person. The most death-defying thing I’ve ever done was ride on a very large, very high, 360-degree roller coaster, and that was more than 40 years ago.

So I usually do not feel I’m in any position to criticize anyone who indulges in outrageous physical hobbies. If you want to bicycle for three weeks in the Tour de France, or drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, more power to you.

However, at least I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m in no shape to do such things. Apparently, that small bit of insight has not occurred to recent climbers of Mount Everest, which is only more than a mile-and-a-half above sea level.

As of the latest news report, 11 climbers have died on the mountain this season. A recent climber has stated that “There was a subgroup of climbers that was very rude and unruly and was basically pushing so that they could get better pictures of themselves.” So nice to know that the yahoo mentality we often encounter in grocery stores and movie theaters has now transferred itself to a life-threatening international monument.

But the biggest problem is that too many inexperienced climbers are trying to reach the top of Mt. Everest at one time. As a result of the high altitude, climbers’ oxygen and vital supplies get used up while they simply stand there and wait for their chance to reach the tippy-top. The aforementioned climber expressed his shock at seeing dead bodies attached to a safety line.

This is what our selfie society has come to. People are shoving others out of the way and using up precious air just to take a souvenir photo of themselves. You couldn’t settle for a ride at Disney World?

As I said, I usually don’t chide people who are far more audacious than I am. But if your self-esteem hangs on literally killing yourself to get a good selfie, skip the 8,800-foot straight-up trip, and head for the nearest analyst instead.

Announcing THE HOTTER’NELL BLOGATHON!

Already it’s that time of year — that time when, from the moment you step outside your home in the morning, all you can think about is the immense amount of perspiration that is being drained from your soul. In that spirit, we proudly present…

THE HOTTER’NELL BLOGATHON!

Rules for the Blogathon

  1. Your entry can be about any movie that has a summer- or heat-wave-related theme. Do’s? As long as your choice has such a theme, you can write about a movie in any genre — short subject, cartoon, feature film, documentary. The blue sky’s the limit! Don’t’s? Please make sure you write about a complete movie, not just one summer-based scene from a movie. And please, no duplicate entries. Check out the list of blogathon entries below (which will be updated regularly) to make sure your choice isn’t already taken.
  2. In the “Comments” section at the bottom of this blog, please leave your name, the URL of your blog, and the movie you are choosing to blog about. At the end of this blog entry are banners for our blogathon. Grab a banner, display it on your blogger, and link it back to this blog.
  3. The blogathon will take place from Fri., June 21, through Sun., June 23, 2019. When the opening date of the blogathon arrives, leave a comment here with a link to your post, and I will display it in the list of entries (which I will continually update to the beginning of the ‘thon, so keep checking back!).
  4. I will not be assigning particular dates to any blog posts. As long as you get your entry in by the end of the day on June 23, I will be satisfied. (That said, the sooner the better!)

Again, be sure to leave a comment below and grab a banner, and have fun with your blog entry! Here’s the line-up so far:

Movie Movie Blog Blog II – Body Heat (1981)

Movies Silently – His First Flame (1927)

Realweegiemidget Reviews – Vacation (2015)

Caftan Woman – Heat Lightning (1934)

The Stop Button – Heatwave (1982)

A Shroud of Thoughts – Rear Window (1954)

Outspoken and Freckled – Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun (1982)

Silver Screen Classics – The Seven Year Itch (1955)

The Midnite Drive-In – Jaws (1975)

Moon in Gemini – The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Julie (1956)

Taking Up Room – My Father the Hero (1994)