Sunday, May 31, 2009

Children of the Damned

Children of the Damned is a 1963 science fiction film about kids with uncanny powers. I had originally scheduled this one for earlier in the month until I realized that a film with this title might be more suitable on another day than Mothers' Day. Hmmm... It does just so happen that youtube has removed the videos I had embedded since I first scheduled this post, but here's a trailer:


The New York Times calls it "a dull, pretentious successor to that marvelous little chiller of several seasons ago, "Village of the Damned." What a comedown." Moria doesn't like it. DVDTalk says it's "an okay pacifist parable with too much sermonizing and a dull edge." 1000 Misspent Hours closes with this:
Along with its more insightful treatment of official reaction to the emergence of a new breed of superhumans, it is the filmmakers’ success in convincing their audience early on that nothing good can come of any of this that enables Children of the Damned to overcome my usual distaste for strongly discontinuous sequels.

I Married a Dead Man

I Married a Dead Man is a mystery novel by Cornell Woolrich. The entirety of the story is told in the prologue and first 7 chapters, so by the time I finished 51 chapters and a post script I felt like I had been completely filled in on all the details. But, still, how many details did I need if I'd known the story since the 7th chapter. Time.com has an article describing Woolrich's unusual life and style. The book seems to be out of print.

from the back of the book:
Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and desperate, Helen boards a train heading west. She meets Patrice, a happy young expectant mother who's traveling with her husband, Hugh, to meet his family for the first time. Patrice lets Helen try on her wedding band - just before the train crashes, killing Patrice and Hugh. Thinking Helen is their widowed daughter-in-law, Hugh's family welcomes her into their rich and loving home. For the first time, Helen's life is good - until her ex-lover comes to town with blackmail on his mind.

This book has been adapted for film several times, and Senses of Cinema has this to say about the book:
The opening section of I Married a Dead Man is pure Woolrich, focusing on a “typical”, vulnerable, person trapped within a hostile universe with little hope of salvation. Although the specific nature of the “trap” varies from novel to novel, its function is always the same – to dramatise Woolrich's paranoid view of existence whereupon the individual is shown to be impotent and unable to understand, let alone control, his or her world.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Casablanca

Casablanca is a 1942 Michael Curtiz film starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall, Conrad Veidt and Norma Varden. Max Steiner did the music. We've seen this movie many times but watched it again in memory of Claude Rains on this anniversary of his death. Our DVD has a short documentary narrated by Lauren Bacall as one of its few special features. We watched and enjoyed that after the film ended.

trailer:


Variety calls it "an A-1 entry at the b.o." It's on Roger Ebert's list of great movies. Senses of Cinema explores context. Bright Lights Film Journal deals with the film as propaganda. FilmReference.com has an article. The New York Times ends its review by saying,
In short, we will say that "Casablanca" is one of the year's most exciting and trenchant films. It certainly won't make Vichy happy—but that's just another point for it.

11/28/2009: Out of the Past has a round-up of favorite bloggers' posts on the film.

Where Danger Lives

Where Danger Lives is a 1950 film noir starring Robert Mitchum, Claude Rains, Faith Domergue, Maureen O'Sullivan and Jack Kelly. You can't go wrong with Robert Mitchum and Claude Rains. John Farrow is the director. Roy Webb did the music.

Youtube has this online is pieces. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8

Only the Cinema has a review. DVDTalk reviews it as part of a 4-film collection and calls it "vastly underrated". AMCTV has an overview.

Claude Rains


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1967 of Claude Rains, one of my favorite actors. FilmReference.com has an extensive list of resources and an overview of his career. There is a Facebook fan page. Though nominated 4 times, he never won an Academy Award.

Films I've seen and blogged (many of which are available online):

The Invisible Man (1933)
The Prince and the Pauper (1937)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
The Wolf Man (1941)
Casablanca (1942)
Mr. Skeffington (1944)
Passage to Marseille (1944)
Notorious (1946)
Where Danger Lives (1950)
Battle of the Worlds (1961)

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Man with a Load of Mischief

The Man with a Load of Mischief by Martha Grimes is the first in the Richard Jury mystery series. This was a pleasant enough read, but the characters seemed a bit stereotypical to me, and what happened to that lunch on page 308?

from inside the book:
Long Piddleton had always been wary of newcomers, but the quiet town was stunned when the first stranger was found dead, upended in a butt of ale in the cellar of The Man With A Load Of Mischief. Then the second body appeared, swinging in place of the mechanical man above the door of the Jack and Hammer.

Suddenly Long Piddleton had good reason to be wary of everyone! Its cozy pubs and inns with their polished pewter and blazing hearths had become scenes of the most bizarre crimes. Who were the victims? And who was the murder? A maniac? A stranger? Or the disarmingly friendly man next door?

Captain Kirk's Backrub

How'd I miss the, um, sub-text here when I first saw this? Maybe because I was in elementary school when Star Trek first aired?



This clip is from Shore Leave.

HT: SFSignal

Curse of the Golden Flower

Curse of the Golden Flower is a 2006 Chinese film that takes place, according to extra material provided on the DVD in which there is discussion of the research done to prepare for the movie, during the Tang dynasty. It's directed by Zhang Yimou and stars Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou and Liu Ye. We watched it last night after supper. It's a beautiful film -the color makes us wish for one of those new flat screen TVs. We did find it difficult to figure out how much time had passed since the Emperor married his second wife and how much time was passing as we watched. I think the acting seems to consist of sobbing and showing the characters struggling to maintain stoic facial expressions. Emote, emote. Very melodramatic. We like House of Flying Daggers much better.

trailer:


The New York Times says, "In “Curse of the Golden Flower” Mr. Zhang achieves a kind of operatic delirium". Rolling Stone calls it a "visual masterpiece". Variety says
"Curse of the Golden Flower," Zhang Yimou's strangest and most troubled film, abounds in hysterical, mannered Tang Dynasty-era palace intrigue and dehumanized CGI battle sequences.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Global Poverty and Social Enterprise

This video:



is the first in a series of 12 lectures that are part of a political science course called Current Issues in International and Area Studies. The course description:
This course provides an opportunity to study and discuss issues and events having recent international impact and/or interest. The course will present a multidisciplinary perspective on specific subjects with the intent of linking students with the scholars and scholarship involved in understanding and explaining current international issues, events, and crisis.

Here's a lecture on Philanthropy, Non-Profits, and Global Poverty:


and here's one on Conflict and Human Rights, part 1:


and part 2:


There is a related Introduction to Political Philosophy course.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Black Tower

The Black Tower is the fifth book in P.D. James' Adam Dalgliesh mystery series. I've read several of these (including #1 Cover Her Face, #7 A Taste for Death, #10 A Certain Justice, #11 Death in Holy Orders). I like this series and like the Dalgliesh character. I saw the Roy Marsden adaptations before I read any of the books, so Marsden is who I picture in my mind as I'm reading. I did get tired of the word "garish" in this book.

from the back of the book:
The first victim was a priest without an enemy. The second victim, a monster of a man who spread hate wherever he went. The third corpse was that of a sweet spinster who was the soul of living kindness; the next a seductive temptress who was the embodiment of sensual lust.

And Adam Dahlgliesh knew that unless he could find the hidden pattern in this seemingly senseless series of slayings, the nightmare of death would go on and on...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Android's Dream

The Android's Dream is a science fiction book by John Scalzi, the first I've read by that author. I love this, wish I'd discovered his work sooner and have already bought another book by him to put in my TBR stack. I enjoyed the literary references, made hard to miss in the reading. There's a sequel coming. Maybe there will be more than one woman in that one.

from the back of the book:
A human diplomat kills his alien counterpart. Earth is on the verge of war with a vastly superior alien race. A lone man races against time and a host of enemies to find the one object that can save our planet and our people from alien enslavement...a sheep.

Yes, you read that right. Welcome to The Android's Dream.

For Harry Creek, it's a nightmare. All he wants is to do his uncomplicated mid-level diplomatic job with Earth's State Department. But his skills and past training get him tapped to save the planet - and to protect pet store owner Robin Baker, whose own past holds the key to the whereabouts of that lost sheep. Doing both will take him from lava-strewn battlefields to alien halls of power.

All in a day's work. Maybe it's time for a raise.


SF Signal says it's "a lot of fun to read". SciFi.com likes it. SF Site says, "This is a pretty near perfect light planetary romance" and "Really a wonderfully entertaining book -- definitely a keeper." SFRevu has a review. Entertainment Weekly calls it "hilarious political thriller". SFReviews.net says it "is just the right gene-splicing of fast action and furious comedy SF has been needing for ages."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is fun enough, but we don't like it as much as we like the series. The film is a 2001 animated feature based on the series. Wikipedia reports there's some difference of opinion about where the movie falls chronologically, but it seems obvious to us that the events in the film come at some point late in the series.

GoogleVideo has the film in Japanese with English subtitles here:

I prefer the English dub as I like those voices better.

The New York Times is unimpressed. Variety likes it, preferring the Japanese to the English dub. Salon.com describes it as "a kind of sci-fi noir" and says it "could be considered anime for people who don't like anime (as well as, of course, for those who do)." Moria doesn't much like it:
The film’s crucial failing is that the heroes familiar from the series are never particularly well integrated into the story concerning the black-garbed man planning to release the virus. And even on its own the story about the revenge-obsessed villain is rather torpidly paced and not terribly exciting.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a 2005 science fiction film based on the Douglas Adams book by the same name. We had seen this before but watched it again as part of our Towel Day observance.

trailer:


The New York Times calls it "hugely likable". Slant Magazine doesn't like it at all. BBC has a mixed review, saying it "is not as bad as I had feared." Locus Magazine says it's "mostly charmless". Moria gives it bad marks with 1 star. Roger Ebert is confused, coming to the movie without having read the book. Salon.com says,
It's a shame Adams didn't live to see this carefully cast and gently handled adaptation -- it captures the quizzical, quasi-spiritual nature of his book and manages to nail a surprising number of his dry little jokes, even some that you think could work only on the page.

The House is Black

The House is Black is Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad's only film. She has a Facebook page here. Some of her poems are online here.

This film contains graphic images of people who have leprosy. From the wikipedia article:
The film is a look at life and suffering in a leper colony and focuses on the human condition and the beauty of creation. It is spliced with Farrokhzad's narration of quotes from the Old Testament, the Koran and her own poetry.

part 1 of 2:


part 2 of 2:


Only the Cinema describes it as "a harrowing, horrifying, artfully made documentary". Slant Magazine has a review.

Towel Day


Don't panic! Today is Towel Day, a day set aside in memory of Douglas Adams. I'll be carrying my towel with me. Yes, I know it's the observance for Memorial Day, and I'll be eating BBQ to celebrate; but Towel Day must needs receive its due. There's a Facebook event.

from Adams' work The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as quoted at the Wikipedia Towel Day site:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Harumafuji Wins Sumo Tournament


Harumafuji has won his first tournament.

from AFP:
TOKYO (AFP) — Rising Mongolian star wrestler Harumafuji clinched his first tournament victory Sunday after defeating both sitting grandchampions.

Daily Yomiuri Online:
Sunday was a day of farewells and new beginnings at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament. After groundbreaking stablemaster Azumazeki said sayonara to the sumo world after 45 years, Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji topped yokozuna Hakuho in a playoff to become the eighth foreign-born wrestler to lift the Emperor's Cup.

The Japan Times:
Ozeki Harumafuji pulled off the improbable Sunday by beating yokozuna Hakuho in a playoff to capture his first career title at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

eTaiwanNews:
Harumafuji defeated grand champion Hakuho in an all-Mongolian playoff on Sunday to win his first Emperor's Cup on the final day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

The picture at the top of the post is from his Wikipedia entry.

Born Again American

It's heavy on the civil religion, but...



from their web site:
Born Again American is committed to the rebirth and re-expression of citizenship through informed and thoughtful activism.


HT: 55-40 Memphis

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is a 1963 science fiction/horror film directed by Roger Corman and starring Ray Milland, John Hoyt (When Worlds Collide, Lost Continent, Julius Caesar, Spartacus, a Star Trek connection from the original pilot) and Don Rickles. io9 reports a re-make is in development.

via Youtube:



1000 Misspent Hours says
it demonstrates not only that Corman had some real talent as a director, but that he was able to take the things he was learning on the sets of the relatively big-budget, Poe-inspired gothics he was then making and apply them to projects of a very different sort.
BBC says it "bears comparison with the best films of the era". Stomp Tokyo has a lengthy plot description with screen shots and says it "has long stood as a gem in Corman's crown, and with good reason". Ferdy on Films has a review saying, "It is a surprisingly compelling, even moving picture. It might even be the best Corman ever made."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Brat Farrar

Brat Farrar, a mystery novel by Josephine Tey, was fascinating even though I knew who the title character was and what had happened very early on. That took none of the enjoyment out of it for me. I also enjoyed The Franchise Affair and will be picking up more of Tey's books as I come across them.

from the back of the book:
In this surprising tale of mystery and suspense, a stranger enters the inner sanctum of the Ashby family posing as Patrick Ashby, the heir to the family's sizable fortune. The stranger, Brat Farrar, has been carefully coached on Patrick's mannerisms, appearance, and every significant detail of Patrick's early life, up to his thirteenth year when he disappeared and was thought to have drowned himself. It seems as if Brat is going to pull off this most incredible deception until old secrets emerge that jeopardize the imposter's plan and his life. Culminating in a final terrible moment when all is revealed, Brat Farrar is a precarious adventure that grips the reader early and firmly and then holds on until the explosive conclusion.

NPR has an excerpt.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking is a 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. It is based on a book by Sister Helen Prejean that tells the story of her involvement with the cases of 2 death row inmates. Their stories are combined into one prisoner for the film. Dead Man Walking is #21 on the artsandfaith.com list of 100 most spiritually significant films.

trailer:


The New York Times likes it. Roger Ebert says
It demonstrates how a movie can confront a grave and controversial issue in our society and see it fairly, from all sides, not take any shortcuts, and move the audience to a great emotional experience without unfair manipulation. What is remarkable is that the film is also all the other things a movie should be: absorbing, surprising, technically superb and worth talking about for a long time afterward.

Salon.com compares it with another film saying,
While John Schlesinger's "An Eye for an Eye" presents Hollywood's same old good vs. evil universe, Tim Robbins' "Dead Man Walking" triumphs by rejecting easy moral conclusions

The Most Dangerous Game

The Most Dangerous Game is a 1932 film directed by Irving Pichel (Destination Moon, The Great Rupert, Quicksand) and Ernest Schoedsak and starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Robert Armstrong and Noble Johnson. We have the Criterion edition, but the sole special feature is a commentary track. I don't really like those. I don't want to watch the film with the commentary if I've never seen the film before, and by the time I'm ready to see the film again I just want to see the film itself. I much prefer special features that are separate.

Watch it here compliments of the Internet Archive:

or at GoogleVideo.

Moria calls it "a genuine classic". 1000 Misspent Hours says it's "an enormously influential film" and closes by saying, "If any first-generation horror talkie demands to be seen uncut, it’s this one." Variety doesn't like it. The New York Times says it "makes a highly satisfactory melodrama," and adds
It has the much-desired virtue of originality, which, in no small measure, compensates for some of its gruesome ideas and its weird plot.

10/6/2009: Classic-Horror.com has a review.

Edward Bellamy


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1898 of author Edward Bellamy. There's a short bio here.

His book Looking Backward was one of the first utopian novels I read. The book was first published in 1888 and is readily available online. Bellamy was a political socialist and his views are apparent in the book.

Some of his stories are available at Gaslight. There are links to resources here. The Simple Dollar takes an economic look, focusing on Bellamy as inventor of the credit card. There are critical notes at enotes.

Bellamy's father was a Baptist minister, and Bellamy was baptized into a Baptist church, but he did not affirm a Christian faith in later life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Icarus Descending

Icarus Descending, by Elizabeth Hand, turns out to be the 3rd book in a trilogy. If I'd realized that, I'd have read the other books first. Knowing it now, there's no way I'm going back to read the other 2. I think I'll try another of her works next. Waking the Moon, maybe, or Glimmering. This was an interesting read and one I found difficult to put down, even though the point of view changes frequently -sometimes "I" is a different person from one paragraph to the next. That's not a style I find endearing, but the book held me anyway.

from the back of the book:
Of all the grotesque creatures populating the earth in the aftermath of the viral wars, the most monstrous are the energumens. Because their mutations are the result of centuries of genetic engineering. Because they are the most beautiful of the geneslaves. Because they are also the most human. They spend their thousand-day life spans tending to the needs of the Ascendants, who rule a war-blasted planet from the distant HORUS space stations. But the energumens have destroyed the Ascendants and will now come to earth to lead the other bioengineered slave races in a war against humanity, ushering in a deadly new age. And only they hold the key to surviving the cataclysm that is hurtling toward them from deep space.

Talk Like Yoda Day


Talk like Yoda you will. Feel silly you will, yes, but worry about what others might think do not. If assistance you need, check out the yodaspeak converter you may. Directions here there are. A Facebook event there is.

Skipping this fun observance, are you? Beware the boring side. Once you start down the boring path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

From OrangeBeard the photo above is.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Time Tunnel

Oh, what fond elementary-school-age memories I have of The Time Tunnel! It's the first show I remember being canceled while I was actively involved in following it religiously. And it got canceled fast. Sigh. But this Classic Science Fiction blog (home of links to all kinds of wonders available online) points me to Hulu, where all 30 Time Tunnel episodes can be viewed online. Rendezvous With Yesterday is here:


It stars James Darren (who has a Star Trek connection), Robert Colbert, Whit Bissell (who also has a Star Trek connection), John Zaremba and Lee Meriwether (who is in the original series Star Trek). Irwin Allen is the creator of the series.

There's a Facebook group here. Fancast also has these episodes available online, but they seem to be hosting the Hulu videos.

15 Influential Early Works of Apocalyptic Fiction

ListVerse has this list of early apocalyptic fiction (annotated at their site):
1) Le Dernier Homme (The Last Man),Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville, 1805

2) The Last Man, Mary Shelley, 1826

3) After London, Richard Jeffries, 1885

4) Caesar’s Column, Ignatius Donnelly, 1890

5) The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, 1895

6) War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, 1898

7) The Machine Stops, E.M. Forster, 1909 (and a tv version)

8) The Night Land, William Hope Hodgeson, 1912

9) The Scarlet Plague, Jack London, 1912

10) R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), Karel ńĆapek, 1921

11) Last and First Men, Olaf Stapledon, 1930

12) The Shape of Things to Come, H.G. Wells, 1933 (but I've seen the film)

13) When Worlds Collide, Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie, 1933

14) Anthem, Ayn Rand, 1938

15) Nightfall, Isaac Asimov, 1941

Ones I've read are in bold print. I've read one book by Rand. Isn't that enough???

HT: SFSignal

Monday, May 18, 2009

Watch Star Trek Online

another update: The Reverend Mommy says in a comment below that these episodes are available at fancast, so I looked it up. Here's the link. Thanks!

update: Sometimes these show up and sometimes it says they aren't available in my region and sometimes it shows no videos at all for Star Trek. But if you can see them it's great.

The Original Series of Star Trek is available online for your viewing pleasure compliments of CBS. The Man Trap is here:


How wonderful!

HT: The Classic Science Fiction Channel

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Countdown to Looking Glass

Countdown to Looking Glass is a 1984 made-for-tv movie about events that lead up to a nuclear war. Parts of it are told as if by a newscast with various notables playing themselves at some points.

Voice-over narration begins before the credits:
The program you are about to see is based on a war game developed with the help of military experts and advisers. Its purpose is to inform, not to alarm. You will witness a series of events reported by the evening news on television, a series of events that could lead us to the brink of World War 3. At this moment, flying over the United States is a military airborne command plane. It is a communications outpost for the president and strategic air command. It is capable of transmitting orders to U.S. forces across the world during a nuclear confrontation. It's code name is "Looking Glass". [sound of ticking...]


Googlevideo has it online:


I'm having some trouble finding reviews of this. MSN has an overview.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Reach



from youtube:
The National Film Board of Canada, in association with the Cannes Short Film Corner and partner YouTube, welcomes you to this NFB competition, now in its fifth year.

Its your turn to choose. Internet votes will decide the best film, and the winner will be announced at Cannes on May 21.


The National Film Board of Canada has a website here.


HT: SF Signal

Star Trek and Religion: a quiz


SFGospel has pointed me to a quiz linking Star Trek and elements from Christianity and Judaism.

The first 3 questions:
1. Who's the only actor to portray both Jesus on the big screen and captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the small screen?

2. In the introduction to most episodes of Star Trek (TOS, 1966-1969), Captain Kirk (William Shatner) is heard saying the five-year mission of the starship Enterprise is "to boldly go where no man has gone before." What Bible book states: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace..."--Galatians, Hebrews, or Romans?

3. In Star Trek, crew members beam down to a planet and back up by means of the starship's transporter. Where was Jesus standing just before he was "beamed up" to heaven?

There are 30 questions in all, with answers provided on the same page.

The picture at the top of the post is from SteveGarfield's photostream.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wallace and Gromit

The Elder Son's girlfriend introduced him to the Wallace and Gromit world, and tonight they shared it with us by suggesting a DVD of their short films for our pizza-eating entertainment. It made a big hit. We'll be looking for more of this.

What we saw tonight was a DVD with 3 short films:

1) A Grand Day Out (1989), in which Wallace and Gromit run out of cheese so decide to remedy their lack by taking their vacation on the Moon. Nominated for an Academy Award, it lost to another Nick Park film.

2) The Wrong Trousers (1993), in which there are both "pale green pants with nobody inside them" and a penguin. Yikes! Nightmare time! (Well, not really, but I have to keep up appearances.) This won an Academy Award for best animated short.

3) A Close Shave (1995), a romance, which also won an Academy Award for best animated short.

These are directed by Nick Park. Peter Sallis, perhaps better known as Norman Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine, provides Wallace's voice. There is a trailer here, but I don't see a way to embed it in this post.

Roger Ebert calls them "amazingly successful". EW has a review. DVDTalk closes by saying,
As any comedy writer will tell you, real humor is the result of character, not mere joke writing, and the Wallace and Gromit features have character in spades.

What's He Building In There?

This is the Tom Waits song What's He Building In There? (from the Mule Variations album) from the list in the previous post:

An Interesting Science Fiction Book/Film List

io9 talks about the stir created by the list of
books that "turned [Harrison] on when he read them."

Here's the list of "some interesting science fiction" from Harrison's blog:
Frankenstein, 1818, Mary Shelley
The Time Machine, 1895, HG Wells
The War of the Worlds, 1898, HG Wells
The Purple Cloud , 1901, MP Shiel
The House on the Borderland, 1908, W Hope Hodgson
Metropolis, 1927, Fritz Lang
Last & First Men, 1930, Olaf Stapledon
At the Mountains of Madness, 1936, HP Lovecraft
Out of the Silent Planet, 1938, CS Lewis
The Golden Amazon, 1944, John Russel Fearn
1984, 1949, George Orwell
The Paradox Men, 1953, Charles L Harness
Shambleau & Others, 1953, CL Moore
Dan Dare: Operation Saturn, 1953/4, Frank Hampson
Them!, 1954, dir Douglas
The Man with Absolute Motion, 1955, Silas Water
Tiger Tiger, 1955, Alfred Bester
The Incredible Shrinking Man, 1957, dir Arnold
Quatermass 2, 1957, Nigel Kneale
Journey Into Space, 1953/8, Charles Chilton
The Sirens of Titan, 1959, Kurt Vonnegut
Rogue Moon, 1960, Algis Budrys
The Voices of Time, 1962, JG Ballard
The Alley God, 1962, Philip Jose Farmer
A for Andromeda, 1962, Fred Hoyle & John Elliot
V, 1963, Thomas Pynchon
The Secret of Sinharat, 1964, Leigh Brackett
The Terminal Beach, 1964, JG Ballard
The Anything Box, 1965, Zenna Henderson
Alphaville, 1965, dir Goddard
Babel 17, 1966, Samuel R Delany
Mr Da V & Other Stories, 1967, Kit Reed
Report on Probability A, 1968, Brian W Aldiss
The Final Programme, 1968, Michael Moorcock
The Atrocity Exhibition, 1969, JG Ballard
Roadside Picnic, 1971, A&B Strugatsky
Vermillion Sands, 1971, JG Ballard
334, 1972, Thomas M Disch
Ten Thousand Light Years from Home, 1973, James Tiptree Jr
The Clangers, 1969/74, Oliver Postgate
The Grain Kings, 1976, Keith Roberts
Altered States, 1978, Paddy Chayevsky
Timescape, 1980, Gregory Benford
Repo Man, 1984, dir Cox
Neuromancer, 1984, William Gibson
Schismatrix, 1985, Bruce Sterling
The Unconquered Country, 1986, Geoff Ryman
Escape Plans, 1986, Gwyneth Jones
A Spaceship Built of Stone, 1987, Lisa Tuttle
Tank Girl, 1988, Martin & Hewlett
Flatliners, 1990, dir Schumacher
War Fever, 1990, JG Ballard
Sarah Canary, 1991, Karen Joy Fowler
Feersum Endjinn, 1994, Iain M Banks
Fairyland, 1996, Paul J McCauley
Event Horizon, 1997, dir Anderson
What’s He Building in There?, 1999, Tom Waits
Under the Skin, 2000, Michel Faber
Synners, 2001, by Pat Cadigan
Natural History, 2003, Justina Robson
Samorost, 2003, Jakub Dvorsky
Dare, 2005, Gorillaz
The Weight of Numbers, 2006, Simon Ings

Ones I remember having read/seen are in bold print.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Everything You Ever Really Needed to Know About Personal Finance on Just One Page


QueerCents is highlighting a simple resource on personal finance. A free 49-page pdf booklet that provides a quick & easy overview of the basics, The Simple Dollar has made this available for free. It can be viewed online and downloaded here. He summarizes it all this way:
Spend less than you earn. Earn more. Live frugal. Do something sensible with the difference. Control your own destiny. All of the other writing out there on personal finance is just details.
At the end of the document he provides links to other useful web sites (a few of which are part of my regular reading) and a list of 12 recommended books on the subject (including Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover).

The Simple Dollar has other resources available including a plan for fixing your finances in 31 days. There's also a Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fighting Caravans

Fighting Caravans is a 1931 Gary Cooper western. It's named after a Zane Gray novel. Tully Marshall and Eugene Pallette are also in this film.

from GoogleVideo:


The New York Times doesn't like it.

High Noon

High Noon is a 1952 western classic directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, Thomas Mitchell, Lon Chaney, Jr., Harry Morgan, Morgan Farley (who has a Star Trek connection, with 2 different roles during the original series), Lee van Cleef and Jack Elam. It's #27 on the AFI list of top 100 films.

When the kids first saw this one they thought it was too slow to be watchable. They've made fun of it ever since.

GoogleVideo has this one:


The New York Times calls it "a Western drama that is the best of its kind in several years". Roger Ebert says it's "not a very good film". Images Journal says, "This conflict between personal responsibility and the needs of the community is where High Noon excels. It's what makes it a great movie". FilmReference.com opens with this:
High Noon was responsible for setting the career of Gary Cooper moving again and is considered by many the single most important film in his career. However, no one knew or thought the film was destined for big things when it was first conceived.

Meet John Doe

Meet John Doe is a 1941 film directed by Frank Capra and starring Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Walter Brennan, Spring Byington, James Gleason, Gene Lockhart.

from Googlevideo:


TCM has an overview. The New York Times calls it "an Inspiring Lesson in Americanism".

Gary Cooper


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1961 of Gary Cooper. TCM has an overview of his life. ClassicMovies.org has a centennial tribute from 2001. FilmReference.com explores 6 periods in Cooper's career and closes by saying,
As one critic said, Gary Cooper's face was the map of America. In it, we read our past. We liked it or did not like it, but we could not turn away from the compelling man who represented it.

He has a Facebook fan page here. He testified as a friendly witness before the House Un-American Committee and is on record as favoring outlawing the Communist Party in the U.S.

I have blog posts on:
Fighting Caravans (1931)
Farewell to Arms (1932)
Alice in Wonderland (1933)
Design for Living (1933)
Meet John Doe (1941)
High Noon (1952)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blind Husbands

Blind Husbands is a 1919 film directed, written and produced by Erich von Stroheim. He also stars.

Googlevideo has it online:


The New York Times in a review from the film's release says, "if the promise that is borne of his first performance as a director is fulfilled, the screen will be greatly enriched." Variety's 1919 review calls the film "exceptional".

Erich von Stroheim


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1957 of Erich von Stroheim. He wrote, directed and appeared in films from 1915-1956. Bright Lights Film Journal has an article. FilmReference.com has a filmography, a lengthy list of resources and an overview of his career. He has a Facebook page here.

From the list of his films, I have blog posts on these:

Blind Husbands (1919)

Foolish Wives (1922)
Greed (1924)
The Great Gabbo (1929)
La Grande Illusion (1937)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cut to the Quick

Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross is the first in the 4-book Julian Kestrel mystery series. I read the 4th in the series a couple of years ago. The author died of cancer in 1998 at the age of 41 before she could finish more books. That's a great loss. The 2 I've read so far have been enjoyable.

from the back of the book:
THERE'S A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WOMAN IN JULIAN KESTREL'S BED. UNFORTUNATELY, SHE'S DEAD.

Add the unflappable Julian Kestrel to the ranks of great sleuths of ages past. He's the very model of a proper Beau Brummell — except for his unusual willingness to plunge headlong into murder investigations. And an investigation's hard to avoid when, during an elegant weekend at a friend's country estate, a murder victim turns up in his bed. With the help of his Cockney manservant, Dipper, Kestrel sets out to find the killer among the glittering denizens of 1820s London's social stratosphere.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Forbidden Kingdom

The Younger Son gave me The Forbidden Kingdom for Mother's Day, and we watched it tonight. We meant to see this one on the big screen when it came out last year but somehow missed it. It's a bit of mindless fun in which kung fu fighters can fly and live forever. I think the film is beautiful, and the difference between the look of the different settings is striking. I like the costumes. It stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

Googlevideo has it online:


The New York Times says it "is a faithful and disarmingly earnest attempt to honor some venerable and popular Chinese cinematic traditions." Slant Magazine calls it a "family-friendly fusion of The Lord of the Rings, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and The Karate Kid". The Guardian calls it "a close thematic relative" of The Karate Kid. Salon.com calls it a "love letter to the conventions of martial-arts movies" and says it "is so good-natured, it's easy enough to disregard many of its flaws." Moria doesn't like it. Locus Magazine has a review. Variety has a mixed review, closing with this:
On the upside, "The Forbidden Kingdom" is brisk and colorfully realized, with excellent contribs not only from Pau's handsome widescreen lensing and the impressive Mainland sites deployed but also from Bill Brzeski's splendid production design and Shirley Chan's costumes.

2001: A Space Odyssey

I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1968 science fiction film directed by Stanley Kubrick, in the theater and being blown away by it. I was a big science fiction fan and had read the book. Later, before we married, The Husband and I saw it together, and he was totally non-plussed. We've always wondered if the difference in our responses was because he had not read the book.

Veoh has this film available for viewing online, but you have to download their player. The Cinemated Man has it online at BlipTV:


trailer:


The New York Times is not enthusiastic. Roger Ebert says, "Nearly 30 years after it was made, it has not dated in any important detail". Moria says its "scope is the widest of any science-fiction film". Slant Magazine describes it as
a four-part, totally immersive, altogether operatic experience that defies traditional expectations in its abandonment of the common narrative form, in essence returning cinema to its roots of pure audio/visual augmentation.

Variety concludes:
But "2001" is not a cinematic landmark. It compares with, but does not best, previous efforts at science fiction; lacking the humanity of "Forbidden Planet," the imagination of "Things to Come" and the simplicity of "Of Stars and Men," it actually belongs to the technically-slick group previously dominated by George Pal and the Japanese.

Mother's Day Proclamation



Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Cowboy Bebop

We watched the first Cowboy Bebop disc a year ago. Gradually, as we've found them at good prices, we have picked up and watched all the others. We are huge fans. We thoroughly enjoyed this series! I love the visual style and the music. I like the way the characters are introduced and developed. We look forward to seeing the movie that followed the series' success. I have heard there may be a live-action film in the offing, and I'm also looking forward to that.

trailer:


It's #40 on the Anime News Network top 100 list. T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews says,
This is a must-have for any serious collector of Japanese animation. Simply put, this anime is one of the best.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Unforgiven

Unforgiven is a 1992 Clint Eastwood western. Also starring are Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris, Saul Rubinek (who has a Star Trek connection) and Anthony James (who also has a Star Trek:TNG connection). The film won 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Hackman).

trailer:


It's on the list of 30 Great Westerns at Images Journal. Rolling Stone calls it "the most provocative western of Eastwood's career". Roger Ebert has it on his "great movies" list. The New York Times says it's "a most entertaining western". Variety begins with this:
"Unforgiven" is a classic Western for the ages. In his 10th excursion into the genre that made him a star more than 25 years ago, Clint Eastwood has crafted a tense, hard-edged, superbly dramatic yarn that is also an exceedingly intelligent meditation on the West, its myths and its heroes.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Rollerball

Rollerball is a 1975 science fiction film that takes place in a post-"Corporate Wars" dystopia. Norman Jewison is the director and James Caan stars. Also starring are John Houseman, Ralph Richardson and John Beck (who has a Star Trek connection). Our DVD has few special features but does have a commentary by Jewison. The sexism in this movie is mind-bending. Women serve only as ornaments and tools. Well, I take that back as there is one corporate executive shown who is a woman.

trailer:


Moria notes that this film "was one of the few A-budget and few successful science-fiction films made prior to the big 1977 sf boom." The New York Times calls it "elaborate and very silly". Salon.com has a review. Variety praises the acting: "The performances of the principals are uniformly tops."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Elvis, Jesus and Coca-Cola

Elvis, Jesus and Coca-Cola is a mystery novel by Kinky Friedman featuring Kinky Friedman as the main character. I bought the book because of the colorful author, and it was a light, crudely funny mystery -an easy read.

from the back of the book:
Kinky Friedman is a Jewish Texan country-and-western singer turned Greenwich Village amateur detective, with a collection of smelly cigars, a cat, and two former -but simultaneous- girlfriends named Judy. Shortly after the possibly suspicious death of one of his closest friends, Kinky finds himself short one Judy, as Uptown Judy vanishes under mysterious circumstances. Before long, the death and the disappearance seem to be connected, along with Elvis impersonators, a missing documentary film, and a five-year-old mob murder. It'll take the Kinkster, with an assist from the Village Irregulars and Downtown Judy, to wrap this case like a New York Tex-Mex, decidedly nonkosher burrito.


EW says, "If you like your books narrated in off-color ramblings from the hokiest B movie of your dreams, this one's a solid A."

How Awful About Allan

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2007 of director Curtis Harrington. I've seen his film Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. He also directed How Awful About Allan, starring Anthony Perkins, Julie Harris and Bill Erwin (who has a Star Trek connection), in 1970 for TV.

It is available at the Internet Archive:


1000 Misspent Hours closes saying,
How Awful About Allan is technically quite well-made— especially for a TV movie— and both Anthony Perkins and Julie Harris give highly effective performances, but none of that can prevent the film from feeling like it’s misplaced its point somewhere.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue is a 1997 anime film, a psychological thriller originally planned as a live-action movie.

trailer:


Moria deals with the plot confusion. The New York Times closes with this:
''Perfect Blue'' eventually turns into a very interesting play on levels and perceptions of reality. Before that, it includes profanity, stabbing, strangling, hitting, lots of animated blood and some animated nudity. With smarter dialogue, it might have made a fascinating film.

Remember the Kent State Massacre

Today is the anniversary of the massacre at Kent State in 1970. I was in junior high school and clearly remember the shock. I date a lot of my political sensibilities from this event.

Vietnam Protest Video~Kent State Shooting


Here are the lyrics to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young anthem:

Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'.
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drummin'.
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it.
Soldiers are cutting us down.
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

...

Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'.
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drummin'.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.


There are web sites devoted to this subject, among which are this one and this one. Here is the story of one of the survivors, left paralyzed after the attack.

The wikipedia article says,
The Kent State shootings, also known as the May 4 massacre or Kent State massacre, occurred at Kent State University in the city of Kent, Ohio, and involved the shooting of students by members of the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. Four students were killed and nine others wounded. The students were protesting the American invasion of Cambodia which President Richard Nixon launched on April 25, and announced in a television address five days later.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The King of the Swords

The King of the Swords is the 3rd book in the Michael Moorcock trilogy featuring Corum, the Prince in the Scarlet Robe. It won the Derleth Award in 1973. This little series has been a fun read.

from the back of the book:
Chaos prevailed over the fifteen planes of reality. The old races had decayed. Only Prince Corum had been able to strike a blow for the forces of Light. And time had come for Corum to confront his fate - for the King of Swords, Mabelrode the Faceless, was prepared to wreak his vengeance on the wielder of the sword that slew his queen...

Moorcock has a Facebook page.