Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Portrait of Jennie

Portrait of Jennie is a 1948 fantasy drama film based on a short novel by Robert Nathan. It stars Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton, Ethyl Barrymore, Lilian Gish, and Cecil Kellaway. William Dieterle directs. This is a beautiful film! Haunting and romantic. Joseph Cotton plays a struggling artist, and Jennifer Jones is the mysterious girl who inspires him.

via Youtube:

Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says, "Portrait of Jennie is a haunting evocation of one man's pained artistic process, and the genius of the film is how Dieterle delicately equates the creative impulse to an ever-evolving spiritual crisis." DVD Talk calls it "one of David O. Selznick's better films" and says, "The movie is a visual marvel, and Jones and Cotten are a sublimely attractive couple". Moria calls it a classic. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 91%.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving (early)

I'm having Suisse Mocha this morning in a cup that I only use during the Autumn. I like the changing of the season from Summer to Autumn, the growing crispness in the air, the colors of the leaves. The end of November brings all that to a close and brings in the bareness of Winter. While the Fall season lasts, though, I'll enjoy it. This coming Thursday is our Thanksgiving celebration. Mother always did the cooking, and I don't have the heart to do it now; so we're buying dishes ready-made. It'll be fine. We'll have turkey breast (I'll cook that), a small boneless sliced ham, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, fruit salad, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls, and desserts.

We have a children's book that illustrates the poem "Over the River and Through the Woods", and I remember singing the words as we were on our way to Mother's when the kids were little:

As to the cup and saucer, there's no marking on the bottoms, but I've discovered it's a transferware ironstone pattern called Memory Lane (Pink) by Royal (USA). I bought this in a local antique mall. The pattern isn't rare or expensive, even though it's '60s-era and long discontinued. You can buy your own online for $7.99 at

Join the party at Bluebeard and Elizabeth's blog. I'm headed over there to see what the others are up to this week.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Give Me Memphis, Tennessee


written and originally performed by Chuck Berry, I know the Johnny Rivers version embedded above better. Rivers had his 72nd birthday earlier this month.

Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall

Help me, information, get in touch with my Marie
She's the only one who'd phone me here from Memphis Tennessee
Her home is on the south side, high up on a ridge
Just a half a mile from the Mississippi Bridge

Help me, information, more than that I cannot add
Only that I miss her and all the fun we had
But we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree
And tore apart our happy home in Memphis Tennessee

Last time I saw Marie she's waving me good-bye
With hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye
Marie is only six years old, information please
Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ronia the Robber's Daughter

Ronia the Robber's Daughter is a 1984 Swedish film based on the book by Astrid Lindgrin. This is a fun story and a lovely movie.

via Youtube:

Reviews online are oddly scarce, but DVD Talk calls it "innocent fun".

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is a thriller/crime/action film directed by John Carpenter. By turns too slow and too violent, I didn't care for this at all. In the end I didn't finish it. It has a cult following, though, and is well-respected in some circles. The Imdb has this plot synopsis: "The lone inhabitants of an abandoned police station are under attack by the overwhelming numbers of a seemingly unstoppable street gang."

via youtube:

Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "A strong and disturbing film." Slant Magazine calls it "among one of the most remarkably composed films of all time". DVD Talk says, "A violent retelling of Rio Bravo, but with street gangs that behave like zombies from Night of the Living Dead, this is A+ exploitation material circa 1976." The BBC gives it 5 out of 5 stars and concludes, "in essence the core reason this film works so well is that it is so unpredictable, ruthless and without reason." Time Out calls it "sheer delight from beginning to end." DVD Verdict says it's "a simple, but effective, siege film only John Carpenter could nail on $100k. Check it out." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 97%.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Annihilation is book 1 in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. Here's an example of a page-turner where I got so involved in the book I forgot everything else. Fascinating world-building and involving characters... I already have the other 2 and almost hate to start them, because I will hate to finish them.

from the back of the book:
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers -but it's the surprises that come across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
favorite quote:
some questions will ruin you if you are denied the answer long enough.
Strange Horizons says,
I have sought to avoid plot summaries or spoilers, because the manner in which VanderMeer builds his tale is of real importance to its effect and achievement; but I hope that in my quotations I've emphasized something of the supple, allusive elegance of his prose here. Annihilation is a large work which looks slight and reads swift. That, too, is the sign of a writer in complete command of his material.
io9 closes by saying,
Action-packed and mind-bending, this is a novel that will leave you pondering, but not because the mystery remains unsolved. Instead, it's because the mysteries of Area X raise all kinds of questions about what passes for "normal" in our own lives, from the bizarre ways we try to draw boundaries across ecosystems, to the kinds of broken organizations we task with making new discoveries about the world.
Kirkus Reviews calls it "Speculative fiction at its most transfixing." The Guardian and NPR and The Telegraph have positive reviews. EW calls it one of the "great weird books". calls it "striking".

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs (2003) is the first in the 5-book Yalta Boulevard sequence by Olen Steinhauer. I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. I have the 2nd in the series and will seek out the rest. Devotion is a theme. It has an authentic feel to it to me.

from the back of the book:
In this auspicious literary crime debut by Olen Steinhauer, an inexperienced homicide detective struggles amidst the lawlessness of a post-WWII Eastern European city. It's 1948, three years after the Russians "liberated" the nation from German occupation. But the ideals of the Revolution are but memories. Twenty-two-year-old Detective Emil Brod is finally getting his chance to serve his country, investigating murder for the People's Militia.

The first victim is a state songwriter, but the facts point to a political motive. Emil wants to investigate further, but his new colleagues in Homicide are suspicious and remain silent. He is on his own in this new, dangerous world. The Bridge of Sighs launches a unique series of crime novels featuring an ever-evolving landscape, the politically volatile terrain of Eastern Europe in the second half of the twentieth century.

favorite quote:
"One man has only so much loyalty. Figure out where yours lies."
The book is on a list of most-awarded mysteries and received 5 award nominations. Kirkus Reviews says, "Time, place, and cast are all richly evoked in a well-written, often gripping debut." Publishers Weekly concludes, "Fans of J. Robert Janes (who provides a blurb) in particular and of mysteries with totalitarian regime backgrounds in general should appreciate the authenticity the author brings from his experience as a Fulbright Fellow in Romania."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Hills Run Red (1966)

The Hills Run Red is a 1966 spaghetti western starring Henry Silva and Dan Duryea. Ennio Morricone does the music. Carlo Lizzani, who died this past October committing suicide at the age of 91, directs. This is a revenge story, worth seeing.

via youtube:

Fistful of Pasta recommends it. praises the acting, the music, the plot, the dialog... and calls it "a must buy for any fan of the genre".

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Fraud is a 1992 novel by Anita Brookner. I love this author and am quite pleased that she is not only prolific but is still alive. She was born in 1928. This book deals a lot with identity, sacrifice, aging, and mourning, and so there were sad moments for me; but it is an uplifting book -even inspiring.

from the back of the book:
At the heart of Anita Brookner's new novel lies a double mystery: What happened to Anna Durrant, a solitary woman of a certain age who has disappeared from her London flat? And why has it taken four months for anyone to notice?

As Brookner reconstructs Ana's life and character through the eyes of her acquaintances, she gives us a witty yet ultimately devastating study of self-annihilating virtue while exposing the social, fiscal, and moral frauds that are the underpinnings of terrifying rectitude.

There is tea throughout this book. And coffee. It's a thread than wanders from beginning to the very end, so I've decided to enter the book into the T(ea) Tuesday festivities at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog. Here's my favorite tea quote:
I am homesick, she thought with surprise. Homesick for that dark flat, which I have never much liked, homesick for my own chair and my footstool, for that brown kitchen teapot which I bought from Pelham Street (Beatrice swore that it made the best tea, and she was right: I often enjoyed a cup in the basement with her), homesick above all for my bedroom, so gloomy in daytime, so comfortingly womblike at night.

There are a couple of artworks mentioned. Degas's Jeunes Spartiates s'exerçant à la guerre is mentioned, as is Titian's Sacred and Profane Love:

There's a reference to a remark by Baudelaire "that he found it difficult to breathe when faced with a portrait by Ingres." There's a piece of a poem in French, which I had to google to translate; but it seems to be Paul Valéry's The Graveyard By The Sea:
After such arrogance, after so much strange
Idleness -strange, yet full of potency-
favorite non-tea-related quotes:
But there was too little to do when one was old, and feeling one's age, reluctant to venture further than the shops and the library, and then faced with a long afternoon at home. If she was at all nostalgic it was for her earlier vigour, when she had thought nothing of being out all day. She did not mind the silence, for she had come to cherish it, but there was a certain lack of human nourishment about her days that distressed her. Not excessively, for she was not an excessive woman, and not at all given to unnecessary regrets. She simply wished for the occasional conversation, the occasional stimulus of another personality. She was careful not to brood on this deficiency, but rather to face it squarely. She was, she knew, fortunate: she was not in need, did not depend on her children, had suffered no serious illnesses. Nevertheless she felt she was preparing mentally for her own death....
Those who love us are the most difficult to withstand.
The Independent has a spoiler-filled review and says, "Fraud, her 12th novel in 12 years, apparently conforms to everything that one has learnt to expect". The LA Times closes its review with this:
Fraud and denial, often yoked together, are indeed everywhere in life, and it takes a novel like this to show just how pervasive they are. "Fraud" sneaks up on you, delivering less than it promises in terms of mystery but more in terms of insight.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Feelin' Good

Feelin' Good:

by Junior Parker, who died 43 years ago tomorrow at the age of 39 during surgery for a brain tumor. This was recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis in 1953. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.