Century 1988: Pee Wee’s Christmas Special

Pee Wee’s Christmas Special. Wayne Orr. 1988.

OK, I’m on today’s nth cocktail, but I think this might be the best TV thing ever shown anywhere ever. Pee Wee has gotten an amazing number of amazing stars to appear on his special (Grace Jones, k. d. lang, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg), but it’s still the same insanity as every Pee Wee episode is.

It’s simply perfection.

I haven’t watched this far in the TV series yet, but it seems like they’ve deemphasised Gary Panter’s designs here… It looks slightly less punk than it did at the start.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1987: September

September. Woody Allen. 1987.

Hm… what was the film that made me stop watching the yearly Woody Allen film? I don’t think it was this one… Perhaps it was one a couple of years later? Crimes and Misdemeanors? I don’t recall.

But I do remember why I stopped watching his films: I was sitting in the cinema and thinking “I don’t fucking care about these people. It’s the same upper class New Yorkers and their incredibly uninteresting problems every fucking time!”

It’s basically the same criticism that was levied against Ingmar Bergman, but in his case it was unjustified.

I didn’t watch another Allen film for two decades.

And I do see the elements that ticked me off here, but I think I probably enjoyed this one. Allen has problems directing people talking to each other earnestly: It never seems real. (The lines aren’t particularly convincing, either.) But Dianne Wiest is the focal point whenever she’s on the screen, so it’s got that going for it.


Allen shot the film twice. It originally starred Sam Shepard as Peter (after Christopher Walken shot a few scenes, but was replaced), Maureen O’Sullivan (Mia Farrow’s real life mother) as Diane, and Charles Durning as Howard. However, while editing the film, Allen decided to rewrite it, recast it, and reshoot it, but he himself was dissatisfied with the results.

It seems unimaginable that Sam Shepard would be worse than Sam Waterston in the Woody stand-in role, because he’s the worst.

I do like the mood in the film. The lights are out and they spend an evening lit by extremely light-emitting candles and storm lanterns. I love that bit.

But the film doesn’t really work until the last bit where Mia Farrow learns (and tells) the truth and can do her thing. From that point on, it’s great.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1986: Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home

Worst. Punk. Ever.

Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home. Leonard Nimoy. 1986.

OK, we’re firmly in the 80s now. Instead of the crew of the Enterprise having extremely shiny faces now (a typical 70s thing), everybody has thoroughly powdered skin now. All matte.

I did watch this film in the 80s, and the only thing I remember about it is that a whale saves the universe (spoilers!) and that it’s possibly the worst Star Trek film ever. As difficult as the competition in that field is.

It’s directed by Leonard Nimoy, though, which I didn’t remember. I’ve read both of his autobiographies in the meantime (“I Am Not Spock” and “I Am Spock”), and he seems like a smart and interesting guy, so I was wondering whether I had misjudged this film.

This is a quite slow film, which is a thing I like… Nimoy allows all the main characters (Uhura, Bones, Sulu, Kirk, Scotty, Chekov) to establish rapport with the camera. I don’t think they’ve ever looked better or more real.

And it’s a pretty amusing film, but I can totally see why I was disappointed with it as a teenager. It’s a time travel thing back to the then-present, and that’s not Max Sci Fi, which is what I was looking for.

But this is totally not the worst Star Trek film ever. It’s very different, yes, but it’s a pretty good movie.

This blog post is part of the Century series.


For the first time ever, I’ve bought annuals, because I thought the balcony thing with the rose bushes looked a bit on the sparse side. I.e., 90% soil.

I may have gone slightly overboard.

The other one is a bit more reasonable. The ivy things will hopefully cover the soil and extend downwards while the rose bush fills out the top bits.

I’m getting so horticultural this year!

Century 1985: Spies Like Us

Spies Like Us. John Landis. 1985.

It was this one or The Purple Rose of Cairo, which I don’t have any positive memories of.

This is such a confusing movie. It has all the hallmarks of a zany crazy comedy, but there are like no jokes here, and the few jokes that are identifiable as such don’t really land.

And what’s even weirder is that this has an imdb score of 6.4, which is the highest score that any film can receive. (If it’s higher than that, it means that some Nazi nerd has brigaded the voting, and if it’s much lower, it might be bad.)

Still, it sucks.

Oh, right. It’s 32% on Rotten Tomatoes.

It’s so badly shot that even the scenes that had to have been done on location looks like they’re on a movie back lot. So this confirms my hatred of John Landis films that I didn’t quite know that I had until I saw his directorial list in imdb. It’s not just that this isn’t very funny; it’s ineptly directed.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1984: Broadway Danny Rose

Broadway Danny Rose. Woody Allen. 1984.

Yeah, OK, for 1983 it was this is The Search For Spock and I threw the dice and I went for this one.

Allen had like an Imperial period where he could do no wrong, and this is towards the end of that period. And when he’s on screen here being embarrasing and embarrassed, it really works. He’s funny. But the other scenes where he’s being a Robert Altmanesque (with a pinch of Cassavetes) director and trying to have the other actors be in that imagined film… It just doesn’t work. Altman has (well, can have) such a wonderful hand at directing people behaving naturalistic, but those scenes here scream ACTING.

You can just look at their faces rehearsing their lines in their minds while the person they’re talking to is mouthing off their own lines.

The exception is Mia Farrow, who is amazing.

The plot (and the framing of the plot) is impressive. It’s like clockwork. You can’t help getting involved.

Is this peak Woody Allen?

This blog post is part of the Century series.