Sunday, April 26, 2015

Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in Paradise is a 1932 romantic comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch. It stars Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall, Charles Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, C. Aubrey Smith, Robert Greig, and Leonid Kinskey. This is delightful and laugh-out-loud funny. An amoral comedy with a light touch.

via Daily Motion:



Senses of Cinema calls it "a little gem of a movie" and says, "one of the great delights of Trouble in Paradise is the plethora of droll banter is has to offer". FilmSite.org says it's "generally considered producer/director Ernst Lubitsch's greatest film -and his own personal favorite of all his works." FilmReference.com has a positive article and says, "The film scored a triumphant success with public and critics alike." DVD Talk says, "Trouble in Paradise is liberated from notions of sin and moral retribution, but has a sweet and thoughtful disposition for human feelings. It's also uproariously funny from the first frame forward." Roger Ebert considers it a "Great Movie". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 91%.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Devi (The Goddess)

Devi (The Goddess) is a 1960 Indian film directed by Satyajit Ray. I have enjoyed every film I've seen by this director. I watch them online when I find them and pick up DVDs when the local store has them. They are without exception beautiful films.

Embedding is disabled at youtube, but you can watch it there. Here's a clip from the beginning to whet your appetite:


TimeOut says, "it manages to mount a lucid, finally very moving argument against the destructive nature of fanaticism and superstition... Without a doubt, it is impressive film making". The Guardian gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says it "boasts all the strengths of a consistent career" and "is a fine example of Ray's work and well worth seeing". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

I have seen these others by Satyajit Ray:

Charulata, or The Lonely Wife (1964)
Mahanagar (The Big City) (1963)
Kanchenjungha (1962)
The Apu Trilogy:
Pather Panchali (1955)
Aparajito (1956)
Apur Sansar (1959)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Memphis Botanic Garden Azaleas


The azaleas aren't yet at their height, but they looked good to me when I saw them at the Memphis Botanic Garden a couple of days ago.


There are white azaleas flanking the entrance to the Japanese Garden:


There are azaleas throughout the entire garden.


This sculpture is Artifact, a 1989 bronze located in the sculpture garden. The artist is Carroll Todd:


I also saw a bottle tree, close to the butterfly garden:


The day I was there the weather was cloudy and breezy and about 70F. A beautiful afternoon and perfect for time outside.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Secret History


The Secret History is the 1992 first novel by Donna Tartt, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

from the back of the book:
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last -inexorably- into evil.
It begins with this:
The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He'd been dead for ten days before they found him, you know. It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history – state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston.

It is difficult to believe that Henry's modest plan could have worked so well despite these unforeseen events. We hadn't intended to hide the body where it couldn't be found. In fact, we hadn't hidden it at all but had simply left it where it fell in hopes that some luckless passer-by would stumble over it before anyone even noticed he was missing. This was a tale that told itself simply and well: the loose rocks, the body at the bottom of the ravine with a clean break in the neck, and the muddy skidmarks of dug-in heels pointing the way down; a hiking accident, no more, no less, and it might have been left at that, at quiet tears and a small funeral, had it not been for the snow that fell that night; it covered him without a trace, and ten days later, when the thaw finally came, the state troopers and the FBI and the searchers from the town all saw that they had been walking back and forth over his body until the snow above it was packed down like ice.
___

It is difficult to believe that such an uproar took place over an act for which I was partially responsible, even more difficult to believe I could have walked through it – the cameras, the uniforms, the black crowds sprinkled over Mount Cataract like ants in a sugar bowl – without incurring a blink of suspicion. But walking through it all was one thing; walking away, unfortunately, has proved to be quite another, and though once I thought I had left that ravine forever on an April afternoon long ago, now I am not so sure.

This books gets positive reviews from people who know what they are talking about. I like the book for the most part. The plot is intriguing, and all the characters are equally unlikeable but interesting. The writing drives me nuts for two main reasons:
1) There seem to be more commas and semicolons and dashes in this book than I'm used to noticing, and I'd rather not find myself being conscious of the punctuation while I'm reading. This is fairly representative:
I met her my first year of college, and was initially attracted to her because she seemed an intelligent, brooding malcontent like myself; but after about a month, during which time she'd firmly glued herself to me, I began to realize, with some little horror, that she was nothing more than a lowbrow, pop-psychology version of Sylvia Plath. It lasted forever, like some weepy and endless made-for-tv movie -all the clinging, all the complaints, all the parking-lot confessions of "inadequacy" and "poor self-image," all those banal sorrows. She was one of the main reasons I was in such an agony to leave home; she was also one of the reasons I was so wary of the bright, apparently innocuous flock of new girls I had met my first weeks of school.
2) There are also more similes than I really like to see. My experience with Clive Cussler's Sahara overdosed me on the simile, and I now notice them when they show up too often. Here are a few from The Secret History:
"like a farm boy flustered by a bevy of prostitutes" (p. 25)
"tiny paintings like jewels" (p. 26)
"...like some gabby old codger who would sit next to you on a bus and try to show you bits of paper he kept folded in his wallet" (p. 42)
"...like a robot" (p. 57
"like a detective cruising a hotel lobby" (p. 59)
"like the white crescent of a thumbnail" (p. 64)
"...sit up in bed like a thunderbolt..." (p. 88)
"the sky was like lead." (p. 93)
"like skeleton fingers." (p. 93)
"like a thread of crimson smoke" (p. 97)
"like a painting too vivid to be real" (p. 98)
"like a professional golfer" (p. 100)
I just don't like noticing these things, but when there's so much of it....

It took a lot of effort to force myself past my pet peeves, but I'm glad I did, As I started the book I couldn't imagine how the book could take up so many pages, but it never felt padded or labored. I'm glad I was able to make myself focus so that I could finish it, but I won't read it again. I guess I'm conflicted about this book. I would hesitate to buy anything else by her.

favorite quotes:
It's funny, but thinking back on it now, I realize that this particular point in time, as I stood there blinking in the deserted hall, was the one point at which I might have chosen to do something very different from what I actually did. But of course I didn't see this crucial moment then for what it was; I suppose we never do.
....
Any action, in the fullness of time, sinks to nothingness.
The Guardian lists 10 reasons to love it. Publishers Weekly praises it but adds, "the plot's many inconsistencies, the self-indulgent, high-flown references to classic literature and the reliance on melodrama make one wish this had been a tauter, more focused novel." This Independent reviewer says, "it was everything that I had hoped." Another reviewer from The Independent is less enthusiastic, saying, "Throughout, one is uncomfortably aware that Tartt's talents are not quite up to her intended effects."

The Awl opens with this: "Oh. Oh. WHAT could be more delightful? You’ve read it, of course. It’s… oh, I can’t even describe it. It’s a delight. A melodramatic, delightful delight." Kirkus Reviews opens by saying, "The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale." The New Canon concludes, "...new millennium readers will do well to acquaint themselves with this large talent with the small oeuvre, who would deserve a place in the contemporary canon if only on the basis of this gripping novel."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Run


Run is a 2007 novel by Ann Patchett. I loved Bel Canto, and now I pick up her novels when I come across them. State of Wonder is on my tbr shelf.

I found the plot annoying in its unlikelihood. I don't require realism in fiction, but the plot in this one seemed all but impossible. Every time I saw a new revelation, I saw it as taking me further away from any possible realistic future for these characters. In the end, I didn't believe any of them.

from the dust jacket:
Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard Doyle cares about is his ability to keep his children —all his children— safe.

Set over a period of twenty-four hours, Run takes us from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to a home for retired Catholic priests in downtown Boston. It shows us how worlds of privilege and poverty can coexist only blocks apart from each other, and how family can include people you've never even met. As in her bestselling novel Bel Canto, Ann Patchett illustrates the humanity that connects disparate lives, weaving several stories into one surprising and endlessly moving narrative. Suspenseful and stunningly executed, Run is ultimately a novel about secrets, duty, responsibility, and the lengths we will go to protect our children.
The New Yorker describes it as a "stylized fable of families, of parenting and vocations and race" and says, "...perhaps Ann Patchett in her own niceness gives us the world as it should be, rather than as the dirty, abrasive place it is. As realism, her novel is pale; but as a metaphoric representation of growth it transcends its sentimentality." NPR compares in unfavorably to her earlier work, saying, "Run isn't exactly a stumble, but Patchett's fifth novel hasn't provoked quite the same level of breathless critical or popular adoration." The Guardian praises the writing and says, "This is above all a book about good people who try to do their best by each other. Patchett's great strength is to accomplish this without sentiment or stupidity."

January Magazine says, "It is testimony to her talent that Patchett can take what often feels like an unwieldy or unworkable plot and render it seamless" and, "If Run is not one of Patchett’s best works, it must be said she is following a tough act -- herself. Though the book lacks the depth and detail of Magician or Bel Canto, it has all the smooth sentences and singing narrative skill that made Patchett’s earlier works so enjoyable." Kirkus Reviews concludes, "Compelling story but thematically heavy-handed."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Summer Interlude

Two of the several coffee scenes from the film Summer Interlude:



Summer Interlude is a 1951 Ingmar Bergman film about the emotional struggle experienced by a ballerina as she is forced to confront events from her past. The plot and characters are engaging, and the film itself is beautiful. I love Bergman's films, so your mileage may vary; but oh! this is lovely!

trailer:



quotes:

"I love you in spite of everything."
...
"Days like pearls: round and lustrous, threaded on a golden string. Days filled with fun and caresses. Nights of waking dreams. When did we sleep? We had no time for sleep."
...

Slant Magazine calls it Bergman's "first great film". Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Complex and beguiling this is the first foothold on Bergman's climb to brilliance." DVD Talk highly recommends it. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

I always drink coffee or hot tea while I'm watching movies, so when the characters in the films drink coffee or hot tea I somehow feel a connection. Please get your drink of choice, pull up a comfortable seat, and join the folks and make a connection over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's T(ea) Tuesday linkup.

Monday, April 20, 2015

When I Cross the Mississippi

When I Cross the Mississippi:



by Tommy Castro and the Painkillers

"When I cross the Mississippi I feel like I'm goin' home."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men is a 2014 film produced and directed by and starring George Clooney. It also stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and John Goodman. It's based on a non-fiction book that tells about the WW2 soldiers who rescued works of art stolen by the Nazis. This was a nice enough film, enjoyable and well worth watching. Once. I can't imagine I'll ever watch it again, but I'm glad to have seen it.

As many of the reviews point out, this movie is based on a true story. I don't understand people who mistake films that have a basis in fact for true representations of historical fact, but apparently such people exist. Just know that there were soldiers whose job it was to preserve cultural artifacts during WW2 and enjoy the movie as the entertainment it is. Want to know the real story? Talk to some of the people who were actually there while you still can, or read some history books.

trailer:


Slate critiques the movie's accuracy. Rolling Stone has a positive review. EW gives it a C-. NPR concludes, "There's lots of information, some nice images, plenty of earnest sermonizing about culture and almost no suspense, or tension, or character development, or structure. Or, well, art."

Roger Ebert's site says, ""The Monuments Men" tests the proposition that an appealing cast can put almost any script across. ... heart alone does not a good film make." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 31%, though the audience score is higher.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Beale Street 42


The Daughter and I saw this 42 on a post on Beale Street one day.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Monster That Challenged the World

The Monster That Challenged the World is a 1957 monster movie directed by Arnold Laven, and starring Tim Holt (who was in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and Audrey Dalton (who is 80 now and has been retired since 1978. She was in Mr. Sardonicus, the 1953 Titanic, and did a lot of TV through the years).

This also has Hans Conried (who did work in both film and TV, including a lot of voice acting, such as Snidely Whiplash from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and King Azaz the Mathemagician from The Phantom Tollbooth film); Max Showalter (uncredited in Elmer Gantry and The Music Man and who was in TV from 1948-1983); Mimi Gibson (a child actor, long since retired and happily raising llamas according to Wikipedia); and Charles Herbert (another long-retired child actor, perhaps best known as the son in the The Fly, who seems to be active in science fiction conventions).

The voiceover at the beginning (I do hate those) sets it up:
This is the Salton Sea in Southern California, a strange phenomena in which Nature has placed 400 square miles of salt water in the middle of an arid desert. In the desert close to the shore of the sea the government has established one of its most important naval research bases. In the laboratory on the secluded south tip of the base top secret atomic experiments are carried out under rigid security controls. While at the airfield, planes working under the direction of the parachute test unit, leave on daily missions for the jump area over the Salton Sea, where Navy personnel hit the silk in the government's continuous researching of parachutes to meet the ever-increasing demand of modern flight. On May 17, in the early afternoon, an earthquake occurred in the desert area. Its force was strong enough to be felt at the research base, even though its epicenter was 10 miles away in the wild rock formations 350 feet deep below the surface of the Salton Sea. However, less than 2 hours after the earthquake, the base was back to normal operating procedure. Lt. Hollister of the parachute test unit was preparing to make the last scheduled jump of the day. Hollister was a veteran of over 300 test flights, and -for him- this was to be one more routine jump.

Meanwhile, on the Salton Sea, crewmen Johnson and Sanders were headed out to meet Lt. Hollister. And for them this was to be one more routine pick-up.
favorite quote: "No, I haven't seen any creature. Just plain foolishness."

I actually like this one. There's a nice mix of character development and personal relationship sub-plots in with the mystery and terror of the monster. It also avoids most of the sexist pitfalls that bother me.

via Daily Motion:



Moria gives it 2 out of 5 stars and says, "It competently, if unremarkably, shuffles the basic tropes". 1000 Misspent Hours calls it original, but says, "The Monster that Challenged the World, huh? The Monster that Challenged My Patience is more like it! The atomic snails are some incredibly cool critters, but this movie’s biggest weakness is that they’re hardly ever onscreen."

HT: Need Coffee