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Question in re: THE LATE SHOW (1977)


LornaHansonForbes
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In a nutshell, here's how I felt about this film after just finishing watching it tonight and after only watching once before when it was first theatrically released, Lorna...

 

When it comes to the genre of Neo-Noir, this movie was definitely not in the same league as, say, CHINATOWN or L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, but I don't think it was nearly as bad as you evidently feel it is, and it certainly wasn't nearly as good as those glowing reviews of it you'll read at the IMDb website.

 

(...and I thought Carney did make it at least watchable...Tomlin a little less so)

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I haven't seen THE LATE SHOW and recorded it tonight for later viewing. So I don't know if I'll like it.

 

But, before seeing your thread here, I looked at comments about the movie on Amazon. With the exception of one person who disliked it, just about everyone else loved it. And according to Wikipedia, it got great reviews from critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, and has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I read Kael's review in one of her books that I have, and she does indeed like it a lot.

 

So, like you, I have high expectations. It's a shame that it didn't work out for you, but I guess that's the way it goes sometimes.

 

I'm kind of expecting it to be something like THE LONG GOODBYE, which is Robert Altman's 70s update of a Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novel. I liked it, although I have to admit that the 70s setting reminded me a lot of 70s detective shows like "The Rockford Files." (Altman produced but didn't direct THE LATE SHOW.)

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This was my first-ever viewing of it, and I don't know that I'm exactly here to defend it, but I didn't feel profound hatred for it, as you apparently did. I found it sort of an interesting timepiece, knowing it was produced, if not directed by Robert Altman, who certainly never felt any need to maintain a compelling narrative drive in his movies, not caring at all if they meandered all over the place, and that it was an early directorial effort of Robert Benton, who would make damn near a perfect film his very next time, in my opinion, with Kramer vs. Kramer.

 

So, the way I see it, this is some sort of hodgepodge trying to say, well, what if Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe were still around in the late '70s, dealing with old age, a perforated ulcer and a bum leg full of shrapnel? And then bring in Lily Tomlin's character, full of incense and psychoanalysis and pot and TM and theories on astrology and karma and whatever else baggage any '70s LA chick was probably loaded down with? I confess I found her presence odd and incongruous to everything else in the movie, but I have to assume since her presence was so prevailing, that it was Altman/Benton's intention and their point.

 

I found all the plotlines needlessly complicated on Big Sleep-type level, but I suppose it's a proud tradition of noirs to be so ridiculously complex as to defy easy comprehension. I enjoyed an unusually tough Art Carney. This film, coupled with Harry & Tonto, shows he was a lot more than The Honeymooners, I think.

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Ok, but Lorna, what do you really think about the movie?   (Rimshot).

 

I learned a long time ago, movies can get worse as they go along, but they almost never get better.  If a movie isn't good in the first few minutes, I don't waste my time watching the rest of it.  Sometimes, if there is an actor I like, I wait for them to show up to see if they make a difference.  

 

I found Art Carney surprisingly flat, so I waited for Lily Tomlin to show up.  She only managed to be annoying.  I didn't make it past the funeral scene.

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The funeral scene? That's literally like 10 minutes into the movie. Lily Tomlin had maybe five lines of dialogue before you bailed on the entire movie. I'm sure you're supremely confident in your own awesomeness in judging these things (I don't know that I've met any human in my entire life who wasn't sure they were the absolute greatest at, well, everything there is to be great at), but I have to tell you that you gave up really, really early.

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I learned a long time ago, movies can get worse as they go along, but they almost never get better.  If a movie isn't good in the first few minutes, I don't waste my time watching the rest of it.  Sometimes, if there is an actor I like, I wait for them to show up to see if they make a difference.  

 

For me the opposite is more often the case. There have been many, many movies where I hated the first 20 minutes but by the end I loved it. And I rarely, if ever, quit watching a movie before it ends.

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The funeral scene? That's literally like 10 minutes into the movie. Lily Tomlin had maybe five lines of dialogue before you bailed on the entire movie. I'm sure you're supremely confident in your own awesomeness in judging these things (I don't know that I've met any human in my entire life who wasn't sure they were the absolute greatest at, well, everything there is to be great at), but I have to tell you that you gave up really, really early.

 

Golly, that's certainly some high dudgeon.  I'm simply reporting my experience.  I've watched a few movies, you know.  And after slogging through a lot of crap, I recognized a pattern.  So instead of subjecting myself to a lot of boredom, and irritation watching stuff that was the visual equivalent of chewing cardboard, I decided to waste my time with stuff I actually enjoyed.  To be sure, even the most dreadful movie can have a moment, or even a scene that's decent enough, but why suffer so much to get it?  

 

For me the opposite is more often the case. There have been many, many movies where I hated the first 20 minutes but by the end I loved it. And I rarely, if ever, quit watching a movie before it ends.

 

 

I used to persist in grimly watching my way through a movie, hoping for the best.  I found myself with an ache in my brain.  And one day I thought, why am I forcing myself to watch something that is not only not interesting to me, but is actually irritating?  What if it does start to glimmer later on?  In this instance, here we have this poor LornaHansenForbes wasting a good hour and a half of her precious life on something which did not please her (Lorna being the operative word here).  What a loss.  She could have watched something else, or read a favorite author, or chatted with a chum instead.  If I don't like lima beans, I don't eat 'em.  If I don't like a movie, I don't watch it.

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I watched it out of curiosity and mostly because bot Carney and Tomlin were in it.  Wound up not being that impressed with it also. 

 

Someone found Tomlin's character annoying?  Well, I figured her character was SUPPOSED to be, so she succeeded pulling THAT off very well it seems.

 

The most enjoyable thing for me in it was seeing a lot of actors playing "off type".  Like BILL MACY,  JOHN CONSIDINE  and EUGENE ROCHE in roles you didn't ordinarily see them do any other time.

 

As for Carney being something other than his HONEYMOONERS character?  Well, I once, when very young, saw some him do ELWOOD P. DOWD in one of those old "Playhouse 90" type shows in the '50's.  And BEFORE I saw Jimmy Stewart's excellent movie!  Did a DAMN fine jod of it too.

 

 

Sepiatone

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I watched it out of curiosity and mostly because bot Carney and Tomlin were in it.  Wound up not being that impressed with it also. 

 

Someone found Tomlin's character annoying?  Well, I figured her character was SUPPOSED to be, so she succeeded pulling THAT off very well it seems.

 

The most enjoyable thing for me in it was seeing a lot of actors playing "off type".  Like BILL MACY,  JOHN CONSIDINE  and EUGENE ROCHE in roles you didn't ordinarily see them do any other time.

 

As for Carney being something other than his HONEYMOONERS character?  Well, I once, when very young, saw some him do ELWOOD P. DOWD in one of those old "Playhouse 90" type shows in the '50's.  And BEFORE I saw Jimmy Stewart's excellent movie!  Did a DAMN fine jod of it too.

 

 

Sepiatone

Maltin's guide says that chemistry between Carney and Tomlin was great. It was OK, but they certainly weren't a memorable screen couple.

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thanks to everyone for replying thus far, had to wait to get to my computer to reply as i gots lots to say.

 

i'm not entirely sure why my reaction to THE LATE SHOW was so VISCERAL, I think it's a combination of factors in the end:

 

1. The AMERICAN BEAUTY effect: wherein a film gets seemingly unanimous praise and adulation; and then you go see it well after the release and the let-down you feel is amplified over the more marginal let down you would've felt had you not read 99 out of 100 reviews from people who claimed it was a masterwork. (seriously, I'm glad some of you mentioned the imdb reviews, I was reading them last night ( nearly all 8/10) and swearing aloud with consternation.)

 

2. I'm really mostly not a fan of 70's cinema, and what films I do like from that era tend to be the throwback or outright period movies that were saluting the Golden Age of the 1940's. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, FAREWELL MY LOVELY, CHINATOWN, THE LONG GOODBYE, DAY OF THE LOCUST, THE CHEAP DETECTIVE, even to some degree DOG DAY AFTERNOON (which aside from the forward thinking in re: sexuality, is very much in the vein of a WB Crime Picture.) Each one of those is a FOUR STAR PICTURE, and so I came into THE LATE SHOW with a high bar, hoping it would be very much akin to THE LONG GOODBYE, an excellent neo-noir that even those who don't like Altman or Elliot Gould have to admit is pretty damned clever. but what I found was that:

 

3. THE LATE SHOW just isn't very good. It's drab and uninspired, the pacing is ponderous, the dialogue hardly winning, the characters and the story are in a neck and neck race to see which is the less compelling, I thought Art Carney was flat*** and I was quite unimpressed with Lily Tomlin. But the most galling problem with it was that it was shot, lit, and dressed with all the visual flair of a Jerry Warren movie. I mean, you are doing a NEO NOIR and you are filming in LOS ANGELES and you shoot NEARLY EVERY SCENE in a poorly lit, claustrophobic apartment building set???!!!!. Did the idea of LOCATION SCOUTING occur to anyone?

 

4. Maybe I just wasn't in the right "mood." Gotta call my weed guy.

 

 

 

***FULL DISCLOSURE: The only other thing I have EVER seen

Art Carney in is THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL, in which

he is bad, but so is everything else.

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For me the opposite is more often the case. There have been many, many movies where I hated the first 20 minutes but by the end I loved it. And I rarely, if ever, quit watching a movie before it ends.

 

i KNOW, and believe me: i really did pause before posting this thread last night, because i feel as if i am maybe breaking "CRITIC'S LAW" by speaking ill of a film I did not see in its entirety, but seriously, I could. Not. Sit. Through ONE MORE MINUTE OF IT.

 

(As I get older and my concept of time becomes more finite, i find myself sometimes doing this with movies and even books (!) which I NEVER used to to, even if I hated a book, I'd read the whole thing. )

 

My viewing THE LATE SHOW actually brought to mind a recent(ish) attempt I made to read SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER by David Goodis. I've read (and in some cases re-read) EVERYTHING by Hammett and Chandler and James M. Cain, and almost everything by Jim Thompson, and i'm kind of sad that all the presents under the tree have been unwrapped (metaphorically speaking), so i picked this book up and hated it so bad, i tossed it across the room ten pages away from the ending.

 

and when you get down to it, is there any more BRUTAL REVIEW you can give a mystery novel or movie than by admitting you made it almost to the end and gave up because you just did not care how it ended?

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i KNOW, and believe me: i really did pause before posting this thread last night, because i feel as if i am maybe breaking "CRITIC'S LAW" by speaking ill of a film I did not see in its entirety, but seriously, I could. Not. Sit. Through ONE MORE MINUTE OF IT.

You're not alone, LornaHansonForbes. I couldn't sit through it, either. I kept changing the channel (even watched the Weather Channel On The 8's!) then tried several times to go back to it, but still no interest.

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3. THE LATE SHOW just isn't very good. It's drab and uninspired, the pacing is ponderous, the dialogue hardly winning, the characters and the story are in a neck and neck race to see which is the less compelling, I thought Art Carney was flat*** and I was quite unimpressed with Lily Tomlin. But the most galling problem with it was that it was shot, lit, and dressed with all the visual flair of a Jerry Warren movie. I mean, you are doing a NEO NOIR and you are filming in LOS ANGELES and you shoot NEARLY EVERY SCENE in a poorly lit, claustrophobic apartment building set???!!!!. Did the idea of LOCATION SCOUTING occur to anyone?

 

 

Which I saw in the first ten minutes.  This allowed me to watch a rather good pre code-enforcement movie called Night World (1932), with Mae Clark, Boris Karloff, Clarence Muse, and Lew Ayers.

 

I like Art Carney in Harry and Tonto (1974), and he has a small role in The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964).

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I didn't see it this time around, but I did when it was on TCM

a year or two ago. I'd call it moderately entertaining, and at

only 94 minutes, it was not very hard to watch the whole thing. I

suppose it matters how much one likes to see some of the

1940s noir flick conventions lightly parodied and how funny

one finds old timers trying to do things they did when younger

and failing big time. I enjoy that kind of stuff, so, for the most

part, I liked the movie. Certainly not an undiscovered classic,

but interesting enough. I give it a B-.

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OK Lorna----

 

I have some empathy in your POV of "The Late Show" due to my own disappointment with BRINGING UP BABY, which like "The Late Show"  got TONS of "rave" reviews by critics and movie hosts over so many years.  And also got "four stars" whenever listed in a guide or on the guide "grid" of my cable service.   And I TOO, never saw how  IT ended.  And couldn't care less.

 

And despite many ordinary people's and critic's opinions, on MY "bucket list" is to have the fortitude to be able to sit through GODFATHER III  without  dropping anvil like into dreamland.

 

And I too, have tried to plow usuccessfully through many a book that failed to hold my interest.  One however, struck me TWO different ways.....

 

PHILIP ROTH'S book "Letting Go" when I first read it was to me, the most depressing book I ever picked up.  But, willing to give it another chance, I read it a second time.  THAT time, I found it HILARIOUS!   I mulled over this for a spell and came to the realization that the first time I read it, my life at the time was in a pretty dark place.  The SECOND time I picked it up, my earlier problems were resolved and the "darker" parts of the book didn't have such a profound affect on me.

 

Weird how that happens.

 

 

Sepiatone

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