Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Lottery

The Lottery is a short story by Shirley Jackson, who also wrote The Haunting of Hill House. It can be read online. It's considered a classic among American short stories; although it received negative attention when it first appeared, including hate mail and cancelled subscriptions to The New Yorker magazine which had published it.

The lottery process starts the night before with pieces of paper and a list of all the families. Once the slips are finished, they are put into a black box, which is stored overnight in a secure location. The next morning the town residents gather and the heads of the households draw papers until every head of household has one. Each member of the "winning" family then gets to draw a paper in order to select one individual person.

It has been much analyzed and studied, but I haven't researched or read any of that. I'm just reading the story for the shock value and because it's the month of Hallowe'en. It seems to fit the mood.

The story has been dramatized for radio (you can listen to it here), for television and for film. The 1969 short film is a faithful adaptation and features Ed Begley, Jr. in his 2nd role. That one can be watched on youtube, divided into 2 sections. part 1:



part 2:


The 1996 full-length television adaptation, which can be seen online at youtube here, is much more loosely based on the original story than the 1969 version. I suppose when they expanded it, they needed to fill in all that time. The story is better suited to the short film time frame.

A 2007 version is a short film and remains fairly faithful to the original (tho not as faithful as the 1969 version), but the music is heavy-handed.

via youtube:



I wonder what Shirley Jackson would've written as an older woman. She died in her sleep when she was just 48.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bedfellows

As I get in the spirit of Halloween, I'm watching more horror. I've been surprised to see how many horror short films there are there. This one will discourage you from taking too much for granted:



Bedfellows is a 2008 film directed by Drew Daywalt. It's a Fewdio film, and you can learn more about them here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Holding Onto Summer


Earlier in the summertime, when we could begin to count on high temps in the 80sF, The Daughter and I had some English Breakfast tea on the patio. She had brought some fun cookies: Marinela Polvorones Shortbread Orange Cookies and Marinela Canelitas Cinnamon Cookies. I like them both, but I like the orange ones better.

It's sweet to have such good memories, a summertime made up of warm days and warm companionship -time spent with family and friends- to tide me over the frigid wasteland that is winter. Well, that may be a bit dramatic, ya think? but I'll so miss the summer once it's gone. I'll be making happy memories through all the seasons, but ah! the time spent on the patio is special!

Please join the T(ea) Party over at Bluebeard and Elizabeth's blog, where I'm sharing this tea-related post.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Little Mermaid

Not the Hans Christian Andersen story (online here), and certainly not the happy/sappy Disney version, this is a horror story:

via youtube:



and very, very sad.

The Little Mermaid is a short film directed by Nicholas Humphries.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hart's War


Hart's War is a 1999 novel by John Katzenbach. This author was recommended to me by The Younger Son in response to my opinion that the Baldacci book I read was dreck. He loaned me 2 Katzenbach books, and this is the second one. Both have been entertaining and readable, and I'll pick up more by this author as I come across them. A nice change from Baldacci's The Forgotten, which I didn't like at all.

from the back of the book:
The world is at war. Two men -one white, one black- find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, confined with the enemy, struggling to preserve a shred of dignity against impossible odds. They thought survival was their only purpose -until they realized that living means nothing without the truth. And when murder explodes the precarious order of their lives, they become unlikely allies in a monstrous fight for honor and justice. With these complex, vivid characters, John Katzenbach has written a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat novel, the most acclaimed of his career....

The Bruce Willis film by the same name was based on this book (though somewhat loosely, as I recall).

Kirkus Reviews claims this may be the author's best.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Elysium

Elysium is a 2013 dystopian science fiction thriller film starring Matt Damon and Jodi Foster. The wealthy live in a utopian environment in orbit around Earth, where illegal immigrants are shot down as they approach. The poor live in desperation on the Earth's surface, where resources, including jobs and medical care, are rare and limited. Sound familiar? That's the only complaint I have about this movie: it's vision is a bit heavy-handed. Visually it's brilliant, the casting is perfect, plotting was good, and I cared about the characters. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, who also directed District 9. I'd love to see him direct a movie that someone else wrote. Maybe we'd get the perfect film without the heavy-handed social commentary. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy this film. I found District 9 unwatchable.

trailer:



Moria says it had high hopes of a deeper story, but "all that we end up with is a bigger-budgeted version of Lockout (2012)". Rolling Stone gives it 3 out of 4 stars and says, "Elysium delivers sci-fi without dumbing it down. It's a hell-raiser with a social conscience." Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Not perfect, but a much more satisfying Earth-in-ruins film than Oblivion or After Earth. It is a little more conventional than District 9 (what isn’t?), but confirms Blomkamp as one of the potential science-fiction greats of this decade." EW gives it a B+ and says, "Elysium confirms the talent — for razory mayhem and shocking satire, for the crazed spectacle of future decay — that Blomkamp showcased in his amazing first feature, District 9 (2009)." Roger Ebert's site says, "...it's weirdly refreshing to watch a film that seeks new ways to repackage "Mad Max," "Blade Runner," "Robocop," and elements from Kathryn Bigelow and David Cronenberg." Rotten Tomatoes has a 68% critics score.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Expendables 2

The Expendables 2 is the 2012 sequel, this one starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fun cast with lots of explosions and well-placed bits of humor. Honestly, sometimes that's enough for me, and I like this one.

trailer:



Slant Magazine gives it 3 out of 4 stars and concludes, "As ludicrous as it is to see this troupe of largely past-prime action-movie icons manically reassert their own box-office primacy, there's enough empty calorie fun to be had in humoring their shared fantasy that they're not getting too old for this shit." Rolling Stone gives it 2 out of 4 stars, saying, "This sequel doesn't wear down your resistance; it just wears you out." DVD Talk says it's "bloody fun and greatly improves on the mediocre first film." Entertainment Weekly gives it a B and closes with this:
Assigning artistic values like ''good'' or ''bad'' to The Expendables 2 is a fool's assignment. The movie is excellent crap, fine junk, an exercise in campy movie nostalgia, and a demonstration of American supremacy in the field of nutty cosmetic enhancements for aging movie stars. I had an inexcusably fine time studying movie-star hairlines and admiring their willingness to let us gawk.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 65%.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

13 Steps Down


13 Steps Down is a 2004 psychological thriller novel by Ruth Rendell. I've read another book by her (A Dark-Adapted Eye, written under the name Barbara Vine). That one was adapted for TV. I haven't particularly cared for either of these. I read this one quickly, just trying to move on to the next book in my stack. I don't care for the writing style at all. Some of it sounds downright awkward to me. I know there are a lot of fans, especially of her Inspector Wexford series, and I will read one of those to see if they are more to my taste.

a couple of sample paragraphs from early in the book:
The Cockatootle Club in Soho was overheated, smelled of various kinds of smoke and Thai green curry and was none too clean. So, at any rate, said the girl who Ed's girlfriend Steph had brought along for Mix. Ed was another rep-engineer at Fiterama and Mix's friend, Steph his live-in partner. The other girl kept running her finger along the chair legs and under the tables and holding it up to show everyone.
Could he persuade Colette Gilbert-Bamber to give a party? More to the point, could he persuade her to invite him to it if she did? The husband, whom he'd never met, was an unknown quantity. Mix had never even seen a picture of him. Maybe he hated parties or only liked the formal kind, full of business people drinking dry wine and fizzy water and talking about gilts and a bear market. Even if the party happened, would he have the nerve to ask Nerissa out? He'd have to take her somewhere fabulous, but he'd started saving up for that, and once he'd been seen out with her-or, say, three times-he'd be made, the TV offers would start rolling in, the requests for interviews, the invitations to premieres.
from the back of the book:
Mix Cellini has just moved into a flat in a decaying house in Nottinghill, where he plans to pursue his two abiding passions -supermodel Nerissa Nash, whom he worships from afar, and the life of serial killer Reggie Christie, hanged fifty years earlier for murdering at least eight women. Gwendolen Chawcer, Mix's eighty-year-old landlady has few interests beside her old books and her new tenant. But she does have an intriguing connection to Christie. And when reality intrudes into Mix's life, he turns to Christie for inspiration and a long pent-up violence explodes. Intricately plotted and brilliantly written, 13 Steps Down enters the minds of these disparate people as they move inexorably toward its breathtaking conclusion.
EW likes it, giving it an A and calls it "almost-perfect". NPR has an excerpt.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Snow Child


The Snow Child is a 2012 novel by Eowyn Ivey. Inspired by the Snow Child folk and fairy tales, this story is a touching exploration of loss. Arthur Ransome (author of the Swallows and Amazons series) makes an appearance in the book.

from the back of the book:
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart -he struggling to maintain the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone -but they glimpse a young girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child, who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent territory things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform them all.
favorite quotes:
All her life she had believed in something more, in the mystery that shape-shifted at the edge of her senses. It was the flutter of moth wings on glass and the promise of river nymphs in the dappled creek beds. It was the smell of oak leaves on the summer evening she fell in love, and the way dawn threw itself across the cow pond and turned the water to light.
....
What a tragic tale! Why these stories for children always have to turn out so dreadfully is beyond me. I think if I ever tell it to my grandchildren, I will change the ending and have everyone live happily ever after. We are allowed to do that are we not Mabel? To invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow?
....
To believe, perhaps you have to cease looking for explanations and instead hold the little thing in your hands as long as you were able before it slipped like water between your fingers.
....
In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.
....
We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That's where the adventure is. Not knowing where you'll end up or how you'll fare. It's all a mystery, and when we say any different, we're just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?
NPR concludes, "A chilly setting? Yes. A sad tale? This terrific novelistic debut will convince you that in some cases, a fantastic story — with tinges of sadness and a mysterious onward-pulsing life force — may be best for this, or any, season." The Washington Post says, "The real magic of this story is that it’s never as simple as it seems, never moves exactly in the direction you think it must." Kirkus Reviews calls it, "A fine first novel that enlivens familiar themes of parenthood and battles against nature." Slate calls it "a totally unobjectionable novel with good pacing and a pretty set, but it is not a revelation of content or style or form" and says, "This novel is an easy meditation on yearning, harsh climates, good marriages, and friendly neighbors. It’s got the bittersweet, womb-stirring quality that is catnip to many readers."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Memphis Milano at the Dixon

I've been interested in the Memphis Group (1981-1988) ever since I first learned of it. There was an exhibition here at the Brooks Museum in 1984, but that's been a while. This exhibit at the Dixon Gallery included a variety of pieces. My favorite piece was Ivory, a side table by Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007):

photo from Pinterest

There were some teapots on display (so I'm linking to Bleubeard and Elizabeth's Tea Tuesday gathering). The teapots included this one from 1982, part of the Anchorage collection by Peter Shire:

image from MFA
It is described as "anything but an ordinary teapot, challenging its core function as a receptacle for hot beverages". Another work by Peter Shire that particularly struck me was the Bel Air armchair:

image from ixlar

There was a teapot, sugar bowl, and cup and saucer by Matteo Thun (b. 1952). Here's the cup and saucer:

photo from Pinterest

There were two teapots by Marco Zanini, the Colorado and the Sepik:
from Memphis-Milano.com
from Memphis-Milano.com

I also got a kick out of Zanini's Dublin sofa (1981):

photo from Pinterest

The Dixon describes the exhibit on its website this way:
A retrospective look at the flamboyant and colorful furniture and household objects produced by the Memphis collective between 1981 and 1988. Based in Milan, these iconoclastic architects and designers helped define the look of a generation. Memphis-Milano includes over 150 iconic works that date from its founding in 1981 through 1988, when the group disbanded. By then, Memphis was already part of design history. Sponsored by Karen and Dr. Preston Dorsett; Liz and Tommy Farnsworth; and Nancy and Steve Morrow.

You can see photos from the exhibit here and here. Here's a 40 second video showing some of the exhibit:


from the Memphis Magazine review:
Kevin Sharp, the Dixon’s director, characterizes the objects that the “Memphis” movement produced as “radical reinterpretations of familiar forms, forms that were as smart as they were surprising.” Visitors to this eye-popping show will be both amazed — and amused — by the sheer volume of pieces on display: 150 vibrant, iconic works, including sofas, chairs, bookshelves, lamps, ceramics and glass objects.
GoMemphis says, "The 150 objects in the show were selected by guest curator Dana Holland-Beickert from the collection of local photographer Dennis Zanone." Zanone has a website here. There is information on his collection here, he has a Flickr stream here, and he administers a Facebook page devoted to the Memphis Group.