Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Life of Pi

Life of Pi might fairly be described as a fantastic tale told over tea, so I'm linking this post to Bleubeard and Elizabeth's Tea Tuesday link gathering. The story begins with a writer visiting the adult Pi to hear his story. The story is told gradually during tea and long walks and a meal. Here they are visiting together:

and here's Pi pouring the tea:

Life of Pi is a film based on Yann Martel's book by the same name. I loved the book, and this film brings it to the screen exactly as I'd pictured it in my mind as I read.


The Guardian says, "The versatile Ang Lee brings Yann Martel's tale of shipwreck and spirituality to the big screen in magnificent fashion". Empire Online closes with this: "Verdict: To produce a coherent film from Martel’s tricky novel would be achievement enough, but Ang Lee has extracted something beautiful, wise and, at times, miraculous." Rolling Stone says, "You don't just watch this movie, you live it."

Entertainment Weekly closes by saying,
Martel’s bigger theme is about the narratives we all tell to keep ourselves afloat — whoppers and prayers, diversions and dreams. Lee’s bigger theme isn’t God or survival, but the awesome adventure of making the imaginary visible, the adventure of making movies.
Roger Ebert concludes, "I have decided it is one of the best films of the year." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 87%.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Strictly Memphis

Strictly Memphis:

by The Rolling Stones

lyrics excerpt (but I had trouble finding these words in the singing on this video...):
Yes I'm goin' to Memphis
Yes I'm goin' to Memphis
And down in New Orleans
(Down in New Orleans)
Yes I'm goin' to Memphis, (goin')
Yes I'm goin' to Memphis, (goin')
I'm gonna be there
Step on it!
Yeah .... yeah

Back down on in the south
Sweet tastin' in my mouth
And honeysuckle vine, suckle vine
Into the big bayou
In with the Zydeco
My lovin' come alive, come alive
Too big to come upstairs, and Muddy Waters stayed,
From an old man's mouth

Yes I'm goin' to Memphis
Yes I'm goin' to Memphis
And down in New Orleans, (down in New Orleans)
Yes I'm goin' to Memphis
Yes I'm goin' to Memphis
I'm gonna be there
Step on it!
You got it!
Bit on it!

Yes I'm goin' to Memphis
Yes I'm goin' to Memphis
And down in New Orleans
You come alive.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Letter Never Sent

Letter Never Sent is a 1960 Soviet drama film about a group of explorers seaching the Siberian forest for the diamonds that soil testing suggests are there. After much hardship they find diamonds, but they are cut off from their supplies by a forest fire. Will any of them survive? I enjoyed the journey.

via Daily Motion, part 1:

part 2:

DVD Talk highly recommends it, saying it's "not to be missed," and says, "It's a man vs. nature tale worthy of Werner Herzog, one with hubris, misplaced ambition, and even a touch of romance. Letter Never Sent is both human and elemental" and calls it "a wondrous thing to witness unfold."

Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has no critics score, but the audience rating there is 83%.

TCM says,
In this film [director] Kalatozov represents something like the original source waters for one the cinema's greatest tangential histories - that of the plan sequence art film, beginning here and progressing to Tarkovsky, Jancso, Angelopoulos, Sokurov and Tarr. It's a style of cinematic experience that galvanizes your attention, as the world we see through the camera changes with movement and time, and we are free to wander around within the shots as if they're three-dimensional events. It's a shared realism in a myriad of ways a "normal" film, with all of its cutting and eye-direction, cannot touch, but the extreme sequences in this style also rope in historic, cultural, even existential thematic ideas, just by virtue of their length, complexity and scope. You can have a film tell you about man's relationship to the wilderness, or to God, or to totalitarian history. But then you can have a film hold you by the hand and take you on the tour instead. And then the experience is yours.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Young and Innocent

Young and Innocent (known as The Girl Was Young in The US) is a 1937 Alfred Hitchcock crime thriller. It's based on a novel by Josephine Tey. It stars Nova Pilbeam, who at 95 is the oldest surviving Hitchcock leading lady. She was in films from 1934 to 1948 but left acting before she turned 30. This is good -Hitchcock with a lighter touch, but still Hitchcock.

via Youtube:

BFI Screen Online says, "It is much lighter in tone than most of Hitchcock's previous thrillers, thanks in part to the easy charm of lead Derrick de Marney, and anticipates the successful blend of comedy and suspense in The Lady Vanishes the following year." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 100%.

Friday, February 27, 2015

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 John Landis horror film of the comedy-leaning variety. This is a fun movie. It's also a sad film, which surprised me since it succeeds at both the comedy and the horror.


Moria says, "An American Werewolf in London was innovative at what it did during its day, although I fall short of calling it the all-time great genre classic that many were certain it was at the time." 1000 Misspent Hours says, "It’s extremely witty, surprisingly well acted ..., and tautly directed" and closes with this: "The long and short of it is: watch this movie. Director John Landis really knew what he was doing here". Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Carnivorous lunar activities rarely come any more entertaining than this."

Roger Ebert says, "it's as if John Landis thought the technology would be enough. We never get a real feeling for the characters, we never really believe the places ...), and we are particularly disappointed by the ending." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 89%.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Garden Party and Other Stories

The Garden Party and Other Stories is a 1922 short story collection by Katherine Mansfield. She was born in 1888 and died of Tuberculosis at age 34 less than a year after this book was published. The stories can be read online.

The stories include:
"At the Bay"
"The Garden Party"
"The Daughters of the Late Colonel"
"Mr and Mrs Dove"
"The Young Girl"
"Life of Ma Parker"
"Marriage à la Mode"
"The Voyage"
"Miss Brill"
"Her First Ball"
"The Singing Lesson"
"The Stranger"
"Bank Holiday"
"An Ideal Family"
"The Lady's Maid"
The first story At the Bay begins with this:
Very early morning. The sun was not yet risen, and the whole of Crescent Bay was hidden under a white sea-mist. The big bush-covered hills at the back were smothered. You could not see where they ended and the paddocks and bungalows began. The sandy road was gone and the paddocks and bungalows the other side of it; there were no white dunes covered with reddish grass beyond them; there was nothing to mark which was beach and where was the sea. A heavy dew had fallen. The grass was blue. Big drops hung on the bushes and just did not fall; the silvery, fluffy toi-toi was limp on its long stalks, and all the marigolds and the pinks in the bungalow gardens were bowed to the earth with wetness. Drenched were the cold fuchsias, round pearls of dew lay on the flat nasturtium leaves. It looked as though the sea had beaten up softly in the darkness, as though one immense wave had come rippling, rippling — how far? Perhaps if you had waked up in the middle of the night you might have seen a big fish flicking in at the window and gone again. . . .

Ah–Aah! sounded the sleepy sea. And from the bush there came the sound of little streams flowing, quickly, lightly, slipping between the smooth stones, gushing into ferny basins and out again; and there was the splashing of big drops on large leaves, and something else — what was it? — a faint stirring and shaking, the snapping of a twig and then such silence that it seemed some one was listening.

Round the corner of Crescent Bay, between the piled-up masses of broken rock, a flock of sheep came pattering. They were huddled together, a small, tossing, woolly mass, and their thin, stick-like legs trotted along quickly as if the cold and the quiet had frightened them. Behind them an old sheep-dog, his soaking paws covered with sand, ran along with his nose to the ground, but carelessly, as if thinking of something else. And then in the rocky gateway the shepherd himself appeared. He was a lean, upright old man, in a frieze coat that was covered with a web of tiny drops, velvet trousers tied under the knee, and a wide-awake with a folded blue handkerchief round the brim. One hand was crammed into his belt, the other grasped a beautifully smooth yellow stick. And as he walked, taking his time, he kept up a very soft light whistling, an airy, far-away fluting that sounded mournful and tender. The old dog cut an ancient caper or two and then drew up sharp, ashamed of his levity, and walked a few dignified paces by his master’s side. The sheep ran forward in little pattering rushes; they began to bleat, and ghostly flocks and herds answered them from under the sea.
I love the descriptive language, the sense of the settings, the mood. The stories are vignettes, pictures of life and the joys and sorrows that make life what it is.

The story The Garden Party begins:
And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it. Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud. Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer. The gardener had been up since dawn, mowing the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass and the dark flat rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine. As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that impress people at garden-parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing. Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels.
Don't get the idea, though, that it's all descriptive. There is plenty of action, and there are plenty of conversational passages.

A review from the time of the collection's publication says,
It is necessary to read no more than two or three of Miss Mansfield's stories before discovering that she has great talent. And after reading all of them, ... there is no doubt at all that this talent amounts to the rare thing which a lack of a juster word to express our enthusiasms we call genius, and that her name must be added to that small company of the living —so small that they could all get into one Lexington Avenue car without straphanging— who really have something to say, and can say it uncommonly well.
Here's another review from the period:

I read this as part of the 2015 Read Harder Challenge as "A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people)".

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Custom of the Country

Custom of the Country is a 1913 novel by Edith Wharton. I thought I had read this before, and it didn't take me long to remember it. Wharton's books do tend to be memorable for me. She's a master at building an entire world and peopling it so perfectly that it's almost as if you are there. I'd recommend anything by her as can't-miss enjoyment. You can read it online.

from the back of the book:
First published in 1913, Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country is a scathing novel of ambition featuring one of the most ruthless heroines in literature. Undine Spragg is as unscrupulous as she is magnetically beautiful. Her rise to the top of New York’s high society from the nouveau riche provides a provocative commentary on the upwardly mobile and the aspirations that eventually cause their ruin. One of Wharton’s most acclaimed works, The Custom of the Country is a stunning indictment of materialism and misplaced values that is as powerful today for its astute observations about greed and power as when it was written nearly a century ago.
The New Yorker looks at Wharton's career and says, "Undine’s story is one you absolutely have to read. “The Custom of the Country” is the earliest novel to portray an America I recognize as fully modern, the first fictional rendering of a culture to which the Kardashians, Twitter, and Fox News would come as no surprise." The Guardian calls it "one of the most enjoyable great novels ever written" and says, "Not all enjoyable novels are great, and not all great novels are enjoyable. This is, supremely, both."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The First Cup

Jean-√Čtienne Liotard was a Swiss painter from the 1700s. This painting is called "The First Cup" and is from 1754. The Encyclopedia Britannica says, "A versatile artist, in addition to his graceful and delicate pastel drawings he achieved distinction for his enamels, copperplate engravings, and glass painting. He wrote a Treatise on the Art of Painting and was himself an art collector." You can see more of his work at The Athenaeum.

I think the woman in the chair has been happily anticipating this first cup and looks very pleased with her modest servant. I get my own tea, thank you, and wouldn't quite know how to act with a server in my own home. A lot of paintings show servants, but it's certainly not a common thing in any homes I'm familiar with.

Please join the T(ea) Tuesday gathering at Bluebeard and Elizabeth's blog, where talented people post their own art. What can I say? There have to be people out here who aren't artists themselves but who appreciate the artistic talent of others. That's me!

note: We have cancelled out AT&T internet service because we keep losing internet access and then it takes days for us to get service back. We are using a hotspot device, but it's slow as Christmas and "spotty" at best. We'll have service through another provider by the end of the week, but I'm not sure how much visiting I'll be able to do in the meanwhile.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Every Day I Have the Blues

Every Day I Have the Blues:

by Memphis Slim, who was born here in Memphis and who died in Paris, France, on 2/24/1988 at the age of 72.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Device

The Device is a science fiction short film by Claude Lee Sadik:

It's so short, and yet it packs a great story in there. What an interesting concept.