Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Elvis Lives!

I knew it all along:
The stark, black-and-white snapshot taken by a stunned fan on June 26 clearly shows the aging superstar resting in a wheelchair on the grounds of his Graceland mansion in Memphis.


HT: Memphis Flyer

Rummikub


Going down to get another cup of hot tea, my timing was once again perfect to get in on the start of a game with The Daughter and The Younger Son. It was Rummikub this time, always a favorite of mine since we discovered it years ago. It's quick and easy and fun. When the kids were little it was great for practicing math and logic skills. Our game has yellow tiles instead of the orange ones I think come with it now.

The photo at the top of the post is from Sidewalk Flying's Flickr photostream.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Fish Called Wanda

This DVD is another of The Husband's Father's Day presents, and he picked it for tonight. A Fish Called Wanda stars Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. It's #21 on the AFI 100 Years 100 Laughs list. There are some things about British humor we don't "get" -the stutter, for instance, is something we just don't find funny. I did laugh out loud at several points, though not at the stuttering or during the torture scene. And the film actually has a leper colony in it. That redeems the film for me.

trailer:


Roger Ebert gives it 4 stars and calls it "the funniest movie I have seen in a long time". The New York Times doesn't like it. Variety says it's "is wacky and occasionally outrageous in its own, distinctly British way." FilmReference.com says that Charles Crichton's "triumphant comeback at the age of seventy-eight, with the huge international success of A Fish Called Wanda, was as heartening as it was wholly unexpected."

Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home

Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home is the 3rd book in Harry Kemelman's 12 book Rabbi Small mystery series. Besides this one, I've read the first book -Friday the Rabbi Slept Late- and the 10th -One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross. All three of these appear to be out of print. I found them at my local used book store, and I'll continue to read the series as I find more of the books. I find the look at Conservative Judaism fascinating. I also find his view of Christianity interesting in how he defines it in contrast to Judaism.

from the back of the book:
On Sunday, Rabbi David Small uncovers a Passover plot than undeniably raises more than Four Questions - threatening to ruin not only his holiday seder but his role as leader of Bernard's Crossing's Jewish community. But there's no time to appeal to higher sources when one of his temple board members, a businessman, is rumored to be pushing drugs and all the facts point to a group of teenagers as accessories - to murder.

Settlers of Catan

When I went downstairs to refresh my cup of tea I found The Daughter and The Younger Son setting up Settlers of Catan, so I stayed to play. We don't abide strictly by the rules, but we really like this game as we've adapted it. I bought it at MidSouthCon several years ago.

Here's a video review from TheDiceTower.com that shows the game as it is set up and provides a general overview:


RPG.net has a review, calling it "a landmark game" and saying "it belongs on every board gamer's shelf. It really shines as a gateway game or a game for more casual players because of its core simplicity and its high replayability." Wired.com calls it a "Monopoly killer". Games Magazine has added it to their Hall of Fame.

Philip K. Dick Award Winners

Winners of the Philip K. Dick Award for best original paperback:

2011 The Samuil Petrovitch Trilogy, Simon Morden
2010 The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, Mark Hodder
2009 Bitter Angels, C. L. Anderson
2008 Terminal Mind, David Walton
(tie) Emissaries for the Dead, Adam-Troy Castro
2007 Nova Swing, M. John Harrison
2006 Spin Control, Chris Moriarty
2005 War Surf, M. M. Buckner
2004 Life, Gwyneth Jones
2003 Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan
2002 The Mount, Carol Emshwiller
2001 Ship of Fools, Richard Paul Russo
2000 Only Forward, Michael Marshall Smith
1999 Vacuum Diagrams, Stephen Baxter
1998 253: The Print Remix, Geoff Ryman
1997 The Troika, Stepan Chapman
1996 The Time Ships, Stephen Baxter
1995 Headcrash, Bruce Bethke
1994 Mysterium, Robert Charles Wilson
1993 Elvissey, Jack Womack
(tie) Growing Up Weightless, John M. Ford
1992 Through the Heart, Richard Grant
1991 King of Morning, Queen of Day Ian McDonald
1990 Points of Departure, Pat Murphy
1989 Subterranean Gallery, Richard Paul Russo
1988 Wetware, Rudy Rucker
(tie) Four Hundred Billion Stars, Paul J. McAuley
1987 Strange Toys, Patricia Geary
1986 Homunculus, James P. Blaylock
1985 Dinner at Deviant's, Palace Tim Powers
1984 Neuromancer, William Gibson
1983 The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
1982 Software, Rudy Rucker

Ones I've read are in bold print.

relevant web sites:
Wikipedia
Official site

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Threads

Threads is a 1984 post-apocalyptic BBC TV movie. I watched this when it aired on PBS and found it deeply affecting. My first-born was a baby at the time, and watching this bleak film by myself was quite an experience.

via youtube:



AMC has an overview. BBC has a guide and says, "The message - if there is one - that seems to run through the story is that mankind would probably survive in some form or another, but it wouldn't be pretty."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dark Shadows


On this date in 1966 Dark Shadows premiered. Although it was a while before Jonathan Frid made his first appearance as vampire Barnabas Collins, it was Barnabas I watched it for. Every afternoon I made sure I was parked right in front of the TV, even in the summer when our little back yard pool was a major attraction. Dark Shadows lasted about 5 years. There were some plots I liked better than others, but Barnabas was there for me through it all.

Video clip:


There has been talk of a remake with Johnny Depp in the role Frid created.

The picture at the top of the post is from the Barnabas Collins page at CollinWiki.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Being There

Being There is another of The Husband's Father's Day presents, and he chose it tonight. This 1979 comedy is directed by Hal Ashby and stars Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Richard Dysart and Richard Basehart. I picked this film as a present along with the others I gave him because it is on the AFI list of 100 Years, 100 Laughs. This one is #26. I like this film a lot, but I wouldn't include it on a lists of "laughs" movies.

trailer:


Roger Ebert considers it a "great" movie and "a rare and subtle bird that finds its tone and stays with it." The New York Times opens with this: ""BEING THERE" is a stately, beautifully acted satire with a premise that's funny but fragile."

Sourcery

Sourcery is the 5th book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. We've given up finding these in local used book stores. I've started buying them new, reading them and passing them along to The Younger Son. I get a kick out of them and am looking forward to the next one. This book features Rincewind and Death.

from the back of the book:
When last seen, the singularly inept wizard Rincewind had fallen off the edge of the world. Now magically, he's turned up again, and this time he's brought the Luggage.

But that's not all...

Once upon a time, there was an eighth son of an eighth son who was, of course, a wizard. As if that wasn't complicated enough, said wizard then had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son - a wizard squared (that's all the math, really). Who of course, was a source of magic - a sourcerer.

SFReviews.net likes it. SFSignal has some criticisms but ends by saying, "Sourcery is a fine Discworld novel, and shows that Pratchett was getting his story telling legs in gear."

The Professional

The Professional is a 1994 French film (English language) directed by Luc Besson and starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman. The Younger Son has a shorter cut and the international cut of this film and showed me the shorter version.

I tend to talk to movie characters as I watch them, and the last thing I said to Matilda was, "No! Don't put the plant there. It'll die there." Movie characters never listen to me.

trailer:



Roger Ebert doesn't like it. The New York Times says that "Even in a finale of extravagant violence, it manages to be maudlin." Variety says,
Besson delivers a naive fairy tale splattered with blood. Mix of cynicism and sentiment will ring hollow to cine-literate sophisticates but may play well to the gallery.

John W. Campbell Award Winning Novels

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel:

2012 The Islanders, Christopher Priest
(tie) The Highest Frontier, Joan Slonczewski
2011 The Dervish House, Ian McDonald
2010 The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
2009 Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
(tie) Song of Time, Ian R. MacLeod
2008 In War Times, Kathleen Ann Goonan
2007 Titan, Ben Bova
2006 Mindscan, Robert J. Sawyer
2005 Market Forces, Richard Morgan
2004 Omega, Jack McDevitt
2003 Probability Space, Nancy Kress
2002 Terraforming Earth, Jack Williamson
(tie) The Chronoliths, Robert Charles Wilson
2001 Genesis, Poul Anderson
2000 A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge
1999 Brute Orbits, George Zebrowski
1998 Forever Peace, Joe Haldeman
1997 Fairyland, Paul J. McAuley
1996 The Time Ships, Stephen Baxter
1995 Permutation City, Greg Egan
1994 no award
1993 Brother to Dragons, Charles Sheffield
1992 Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede, Bradley Denton
1991 Pacific Edge, Kim Stanley Robinson
1990 The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman
1989 Islands in the Net, Bruce Sterling
1988 Lincoln's Dreams, Connie Willis
1987 A Door Into Ocean, Joan Slonczewski
1986 The Postman, David Brin
1985 The Years of the City, Frederik Pohl
1984 The Citadel of the Autarch, Gene Wolfe
1983 Helliconia Spring, Brian W. Aldiss
1982 Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban
1981 Timescape, Gregory Benford
1980 On Wings of Song, Thomas M. Disch
1979 Gloriana, Michael Moorcock
1978 Gateway, Frederik Pohl
1977 The Alteration, Kingsley Amis
1976 no award
1975 Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick
1974 Malevil, Robert Merle
1974 Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
1973 Beyond Apollo, Barry N. Malzberg

Ones I've read are in bold print with links to blog posts if I've written one.

Relevant sites:

Wikipedia entry

Official site

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The River (1951)

The River is a 1951 Jean Renoir film based on a novel by Rumer Godden.

This film is online at youtube in 10 parts. part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10

Senses of Cinema has an article. It's on Roger Ebert's list of great movies. The New York Times calls it
a blissfully sentimental and emotionally adolescent little tale, more reflective of western conventions than of the ageless culture of an eastern land.
Parallax View says,
A film of astonishing physical beauty, The River is one of the richest explorations of man’s place in the natural world ever filmed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Madame Bovary (1991)

Madame Bovary is a 1991 Claude Chabrol film based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert.

Youtube has this online divided into little pieces, which should autoplay from here:


It's really impossible to watch a movie this way, I know, but it gives me a taste of it, kinda like an extended trailer, until I can get the DVD.

The New York Times has a mixed review. Images Journal suggests "it is the overwhelming attention to detail and a suffocating air of preconception that undermines the film".

Nada

Nada (or The Nada Gang) is a 1974 Claude Chabrol film based on a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

Youtube's many-segmented offering will autoplay from here. Part 1 of 10:


Flickhead has a post for the blogathon they're hosting. The New York Times calls it "muddled yet sometimes rewarding". Images Journal discusses several Chabrol films, describing Nada this way: "Nada is finally about self-hatred working out of a political scenario." Time says, "The Nada Gang, in short, had the potential for being Chabrol's great summing up. It is instead a botch."

6/28/2009: Only the Cinema has a post for the blogathon. They open with this: "Claude Chabrol's Nada is a wry, blackly comic epilogue to the May 1968 period of leftist student uprisings in France."

Les Biches

Les Biches is a 1968 French film directed by Claude Chabrol.

Youtube has it in short segments that will autoplay from here. Part 1: [These videos have been removed.]

trailer (no English subtitles):



Senses of Cinema says, "Chabrol has made the depiction of bourgeois decadence a recurring motif in his films, and Les Biches is no exception." The New York Times has a review. Roger Ebert says it "depends almost entirely on style, and as style it succeeds." Only the Cinema has a post on this film as part of the blogathon and calls it "a taut, unforgettable psychodrama from one of the masters of the form."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Claude Chabrol Blogathon

An embarrassment of riches! After a while with no blogathons to play with, I have 2 in a row. The Claude Chabrol blogathon is in honor of the director's 6/24 birthday and is hosted by Flickhead, where it looks like there'll be a lot for me to read. I know nothing about this director and have never seen any of his movies.

When I watch his movies, I'll link to the blog posts here:

Les Biches (1968)
Nada (1974)
Madame Bovary (1991)

Film Studies for Free offers links to resources for the blogathon. Senses of Cinema says his "name is famously associated with the path-breaking criticism of Cahiers du Cinéma and the rise of the French New Wave," calls him "a craftsman productively immersed in the conventions and compromises of mainstream filmmaking" and describes him as "Highly regarded as one of French cinema's elders". Images Journal closes their consideration of his work with this:
He is undeniably a filmmaker of some significance, as much an antidote, then, as a slavish follower of Hollywood models of film narration.

FilmReference.com begins by pointing out the balance in Chabrol's work:
Chabrol's work can perhaps best be seen as a cross between the unassuming and popular genre film and the pretentious and elitist art film: Chabrol's films tend to be thrillers with an incredibly self-conscious, self-assured style—that is, pretentious melodrama, aware of its importance. For some, however, the hybrid character of Chabrol's work is itself a problem: indeed, just as elitist critics sometimes find Chabrol's subject matter beneath them, so too do popular audiences sometimes find Chabrol's style and incredibly slow pace alienating.

The Guardian calls him "forever young and impish, dependably macabre" and closes with this:
If you crave crisp, elegant, precise and disturbing film-making, and you've never seen a Chabrol film, start with The Girl Cut in Two, then settle back for 50 years' worth of movies just like it. There's a mother lode of sick pleasure to be had here.

The New York Times describes him as
a filmmaker who can thrill without thrilling, who can solve a murder mystery without implying that he’s solved the mystery of life and who can, at his best, use the predictable to illuminate the unpredictable.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Robots

The Daughter had seen this film and guaranteed The Husband would love it, so I bought it for Father's Day. The Husband picked Robots for our evening entertainment and was definitely entertained. This 2005 animated movie is filled with star voices. We all thought it was fun.

trailer:


Moria says,
Robots is really quite an appealing film. It is made with an enormous degree of visual inventivity, good-natured and intelligent humour and succeeds in winning on just about every single count.

Roger Ebert likes it. Entertainment Weekly likes some of it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Solstice


I don't recall the Summer Solstice ever being on Father's Day before, and it made this a rather full day. We celebrated in our usual fashion, eating donuts while we watched the sun set over the Mississippi River. We've watched the sun set in other places, but we've gone downtown and sat in Tom Lee Park for several years now, and it's a good spot. The Daughter took the picture at the top of the post. The Elder Son had made other plans and didn't join us.

Other years:
2008
2007

The Prince and the Pauper (1937)

The Prince and the Pauper is a 1937 film based on the book by Mark Twain. This version stars Errol Flynn, Claude Rains and Alan Hale, Sr.. The Husband has been wanting this for many years and received the DVD today as a Father's Day present. We didn't give him a tie. This DVD is a bare-bones disc without much of anything in the way of special features.

Youtube has this film online in 12 sections. The parts should autoplay from here:

but links to the other segments can be found here.

TCM has an overview.

Happy Father's Day!



Here are the words to the song that begins at about 3:00:

Today, father, is father's day,
And we're giving you a tie.
It's not much we know,
It's just our way of showing you
We think you are a regular guy.

You say that it was nice of us to bother.
But it really was a pleasure to fuss,
For according to our mother,
You're our father,
And that's good enough for us.
Yes, that's good enough for us.
-Groucho Marx

Battlefield Earth

Battlefield Earth is a 2000 science fiction film based on the book by L. Ron Hubbard. It stars John Travolta. The wikipedia article says,
Battlefield Earth was a major commercial failure and critical flop and has been widely dismissed as one of the worst films ever made. Reviewers universally panned the film, criticizing virtually every aspect of the production. Audiences were reported to have ridiculed early screenings and stayed away from the film after its opening weekend. This resulted in Battlefield Earth failing to recoup its costs.


Available online at youtube, here's part 1:


part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12

Moria calls it "a terrible film". Roger Ebert gives it 1/2 star and says it
is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way.
The New York Times says
And after about 20 minutes of this amateurish picture, extinction doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Sitting through it is like watching the most expensively mounted high school play of all time.

The Burmese Harp

The Burmese Harp is a 1956 Japanese film directed by Kon Ichikawa.

via Youtube:



It is on the Vatican's list of best films. Slant Magazine says, "It may be one of the most warmly enveloping films ever made to include scenes of decayed bodies being burned." Senses of Cinema notes
Ichikawa's war films make only a token acknowledgement of wartime atrocities committed by the Japanese, and largely buy into assumptions of Japanese victimhood in World War II – assumptions which to this day remain too widespread in the country.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Steamboy

The Younger Son picked this one up at Borders using a good coupon. He's been wanting it for a long time, and he was not disappointed. I didn't much care for it. The pacing seemed not to change much through the movie. Steamboy is a 2004 Japanese anime directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. This director also did Akira, and I can see some similarities.

You can watch it online at Crackle (via veoh) or from Daily Motion:

trailer:


Roger Ebert says,
There may be possibilities here, but they're lost in the extraordinary boredom of a long third act devoted almost entirely to loud, pointless and repetitive action.

Variety says, "dry storytelling and boy's-toys mechanics will stop this from being the next "Spirited Away"-style crossover hit." The New York Times calls it "a preposterous but engrossing spectacle". AnimeNewsNetwork calls it "an instant classic, something to be loved and remembered by audiences of every shape and size." There's a fan page at Facebook.

Drunken Angel

Drunken Angel is 1948 Akira Kurosawa film starring Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune and Michiyo Kogure.

LikeTelevision has this online (with commercials):

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows
(subtitles are unreadable on my screen)

The New York Times has a review. PBS considers it an "essential film". FilmReference.com says, "The mature Kurosawa appeared in the 1948 Drunken Angel." Bright Lights Film Journal and Images Journal have an article by Gary Morris that says that "Kurosawa considered Drunken Angel his first "real" film". Senses of Cinema calls it his "first recognizable masterwork". Roger Ebert notes it as "the first time Kurosawa and Mifune worked together, and the first film Kurosawa claimed as all his own."

7/14/2009: The Younger Son and I watched Drunken Angel tonight. We have the Criterion edition DVD, and we also watched the extra feature on post-war censorship in Japan, "a new, 25-minute video piece that looks at the challenges Kurosawa faced in making Drunken Angel". That was interesting.

We have become Kurosawa fans over the years and liked this film. Slant Magazine notes the similarity between this film and Ikiru that was also noticed by The Younger Son:
Like Shimura's dying-man-on-a-mission in Ikiru, Dr. Sanada is determined to leave his mark by reforming a piece of the world around him, namely the festering neighborhood pond that seems to bubble with disease.

5/10/2010: Noir of the Week has a review.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nora Inu

Nora Inu (Stray Dog in English) is a 1949 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura.

The Internet Archive has this online:
[not any more, they don't. the film has been removed]

Bright Lights Film Journal says it's "generally considered his first masterpiece". Images Journal says, "it showcases his ability to orchestrate a complex story without losing the viewer." DVDTalk suggests it
is one of those straightforward, unpretentious entertainments that serves as an excellent and accessible introduction to one of the world's greatest filmmakers.

2/20/2010: Noir of the Week calls it "cinematic art".

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Castle in the Sky

The Younger Son and I had seen this one, and we watched it again tonight with The Husband and The Daughter. Castle in the Sky is a 1986 Japanese anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. This is one of our least favorites.

trailer:


Clip.vn has it online in 3 parts: part 1, part 2, part 3. Veoh offers it online, but I'm not downloading their player again and you can't watch their videos without it.

The New York Times likes it. Stomp Tokyo also likes it. Moria says it "can be surely regarded as Miyazaki’s first fully realized film."

Sisters of the Gion

Sisters of the Gion is a 1936 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and starring Isuzu Yamada.

Youtube has it online in 7 parts. part 1:

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

This is also available divided into 5 parts. The first section is here, and the others are linked from that page.

AMCTV and The New York Times each has an overview.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spirited Away

The Daughter had never seen this one, so The Younger Son, The Husband and I watched it with her this afternoon. Spirited Away won an Oscar for best animated feature film. It is a 2001 Japanese anime movie directed by Hayao Mitazaki. We watched the English dub, which includes the voice of David Ogden Stiers (who has a Star Trek connection), Jason Marsden (also with a ST connection) and Suzanne Pleshette. We have a 2-disc edition, and some of the special features are actually worth watching. We are often disappointed in the "special" feature offerings on DVDs but not this time.

trailer:


Roger Ebert says, "I come bearing news: This is a wonderful film," and he ends by saying, "Apart from the stories and dialogue, "Spirited Away" is a pleasure to regard just for itself. This is one of the year's best films." "Rolling Stone says it "damn near bursts off the screen". The New York Times considers it "Mr. Miyazaki's ''Through the Looking Glass.''" Variety calls it "an out-and-out charmer." Moria calls it "a film filled with a genuine magic" and "an exquisite and extraordinary film from an animator who has no equal" and says it's "like an epic quest that draws upon traditional Japanese mythological elements."

Osaka Elegy

Osaka Elegy is a 1936 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and starring Isuzu Yamada.

Youtube has it in 7 parts. Part 1:

They will autoplay from here, or the other parts are linked below:
part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7

Senses of Cinema calls it "bitter and bleak". Bright Lights Film Journal says,
It was not until 1936, with Osaka Elegy, that he came into his own as a director. With this film, he said, "I was able finally to learn to show life as I see it."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

We finally got around to seeing the new Star Trek movie today. I liked it, I really did. I thought all the characters except Chekov were perfectly cast. My favorite may be Urban as Bones, but I loved them all except Yelchin as Chekov. He just didn't even remotely remind me of Koenig's character.

I do have a few questions:
  1. How did the Romulans get hold of those Shadow vessels. Have they been dealing with Mr. Morden?

  2. Why were there so many light flashes on the screen? The frequency of the bright flashes hurt my eyes.

  3. Why were the only women anywhere around defined by their relationship with a main male character? Even Uhura in this one was less important as a crew member and more important as a love interest. As long as we were re-dealing, couldn't we have done better? Besides Uhura we got Kirk's mom in one scene where she gave birth to him, Spock's mom (a cameo role played by a 37 year old. she must have been a child bride) in a couple of scenes with him, and a green-skinned Orion cadet we first saw in bed with Kirk and then in passing one other time. There may have been another woman on the bridge at some point, and there were mini-skirt-clad female cadets at the Academy. Was it too much that I expected a stronger female presence in this film?

I got a bit tired of seeing Kirk struggling to breathe because yet another angry person was choking him. And I got tired of scenes where Kirk was dangling over a precipice holding onto a ledge by his fingers. On the other hand, when you get cast as the red shirt in this film you get to go out in style.

trailer:


Roger Ebert calls it "fun" but says, "the franchise has become much of a muchness." The New York Times likes it. So does Variety. Moria says, "try and imagine the story as an episode of the original series where you cannot help but feel it would have been unmemorable" and points out
far too much of the story is dependent on convenient plotting devices like ‘trans-warp teleportation’. Not to mention some decidedly credibility-defying pieces – like Kirk seeming to go from an untested recruit with no ship time to being suspended from duty and then second-in-command and a full captain within a matter of about one day.

Late Spring

Late Spring is a 1949 Japanese film directed by Yasujiro Ozu. Setsuko Hara, Chishu Ryu and Haruko Sugimura, all of whom were also in Ozu's Tokyo Story, star.

Youtube has it online. This video should autoplay all the parts:


Links to individual segments are here.

Roger Ebert considers it a great movie. The New York Times calls it one of Ozu's finest.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Ice House

I read The Sculptress by Minette Walters some time ago and liked it. The Ice House by the same author, well, I've got mixed feelings about this one. Every time I would begin to get involved in the story I'd see another grammatical error. It was such a pain.

from the back of the book:
With this stunning debut-a marvelous marriage of classic convention and contemporary sophistication-Minette Walters sets a new standard of excellence for the mystery novel.

The three women living in seclusion at an elegant Hampshire country house have long been fodder for village gossip...even whispers of a witches' coven. So when a faceless corpse of uncertain vintage is found in the Streech Grange ice house, Chief Inspector Walsh can't wait to make a case of it.

Lady of the manor Phoebe Maybury, still haunted by Walsh's relentless investigation of her husband's strange disappearance ten years ago, is calm. She and her two housemates-sensitive, charming artist Diana Goode and pretty, earthy Anne Cattrell-seem as puzzled as the police. But do they have something to hide?

While Walsh strives to nail Phoebe for murder, sexy young Detective Sergeant McLoughlin turns his attention to the exasperating and magnetic Anne. Soon his inquiry and his impulses will draw him into a tangled thicket of love, loyalty, and deadly intrigue.

Throne of Blood

The Scottish Play transported to medieval Japan, we have been looking for a used copy of this in our local stores for years without success and decided to splurge on a new copy in honor of the Japanese Cinema Blogathon. Throne of Blood is not Kurosawa's best, but as The Younger Son said, "When your best film is Ikuru..." I agree. It's hard to expect better than that. This 1957 film stars favorites Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura and Isuzu Yamada. Having spent $40 on a Criterion edition, I could have wished for more special features.

This is online at googlevideo: [this has been removed]

The New York Times calls it "amusing". Images Journal describes it as "bravura filmmaking". The BBC has a review. The Guardian says it typifies Kurosawa's art. DVDTalk reviews the Criterion edition.

Metropolis (2001)

The Younger Son and I have seen Metropolis before but it's been ages, so we decided to watch it again. This is the first time for The Husband to see it. The film, originally released in 2001, is directed by Rintaro. We watched it in Japanese with English subtitles. The Younger Son and I like it better now than when we first saw it. The Husband is not a fan.

Youtube has it online (using the English dub) in 11 sections. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10 (no audio), part 11 (no audio in this last part)

Moria makes special note of the backgrounds and the score. The New York Times describes it as
a hallucinatory tour de force of color, perspective and scale, virtually encapsulates the history of Japanese animation.

Japanese Cinema Blogathon


What fun! It's been a while since I've seen a blogathon, and this one looks enjoyable. Wildgrounds is hosting, and the list of participants and the comments promise lots of interesting reading.

Here are a couple of online resources:
Bright Lights Film Journal has links to their articles on Japanese film.
Wikipedia has a chronological list.

I'll link here to Japanese movies (many of which are available online) I've watched and have blog posts on, and I'll add new ones here in future as I watch more:

1930s:

An Inn in Tokyo (1936)
Osaka Elegy (1936)
Sisters of the Gion (1936)

1940s:

Sanshiro Sugato (1943)
Drunken Angel (1948)
Late Spring (1949)
Nora Inu (1949)

1950s:

Rashomon (1950)
Ikiru (1952)
Life of Oharu (1952)
Tokyo Story (1953)
Ugetsu (1953)
Gojira (1954)
Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)
Seven Samurai (1954)
The Burmese Harp (1956)
Warning from Space (1956)
Throne of Blood (1957)
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

1960s:

Jigoku (1960)
The Naked Island (1960)
Yojimbo (1961)
Harakiri (1962)
Matango (1963)
Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964) (and Attack from Space)
Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Kwaidan (1964)
Onibaba (1964)
Three Outlaw Samurai (1964)
The Sword of Doom (1966)

1970s:

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
Hausu (1977)
The Little Match Girl (1977 animated short)
The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

1980s:

Kagemashu (1980)
Virus (1980)
Angel's Egg (1985)
Ran (1985)
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Princess from the Moon (1987)
Akira (1988)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

1990s:

Dreams (1990)
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Perfect Blue (1997)
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Ringu (1998)
Audition (1999)

2000+

Cowboy Bebop: the Movie (2001)
Metropolis (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)
Appleseed (2004)
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Steamboy (2004)
Paprika (2006)
Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)

The Life of Oharu

The Life of Oharu is a 1952 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.

via youtube:



Slant Magazine has a review. The New York Times doesn't like it. Senses of Cinema calls it
a chronicle of the endemic commodification and objectification of women in a society where identity, privilege and the retention of power are achieved through the conventionally masculine attributes of aggression and virility.

Bright Lights Film Journal says,
Oharu (1952) is a tragedy with few peers in or out of the cinema; it's 137 minutes of almost unrelieved grimness, made unsettlingly real by the director's ravishing pictorialism and above all by the performance of Kinuyo Tanaka as a woman who falls from a respected member of the Imperial Japanese Court to a broken-down whore and beggar ravaged by disease.

Time Out says,
Feminists should unequivocally applaud the narrative simplicity and the clarity with which the second-class status of women is implicitly questioned almost everywhere in the film.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Orbital Decay

Orbital Decay is the first book I've read by Allen Steele. I have a lot of catching up to do, but maybe getting a late start will mean his books will be easy to find at the local used book store.

from the back of the book:
Help wanted: Long hours, dangerous conditions. Must be willing to relocate...

They are the men and women who are building the future. The beamjacks. The zero-gee construction workers hired to assemble gigantic satellites in the vacuum of space.

On the job, a moment's carelessness can lead to catastrophe. But the hardest part comes when the working day is over: boredom, homesickness, and the painful memories of the Earth they've left behind.

Management and the military think they have the beamjacks under control.

They're wrong.

It won the Locus Award for best first novel. SFReviews.net calls it " hard SF at its gritty best". The profile at the MIT site says it "was written in the mid-1980s as an angry response to the Reagan Era's overt militarization of the space program."

Greatest Movie Moon Scenes

io9 has an annotated list of the "Greatest Lunar Scenes". Here's their list sans annotations:
Le voyage dans la lune (1902)

Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)

2001: A Spacy [sic] Odyssey (1968)

Space: 1999 (1975-77)

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

A Grand Day Out (1989)

Space Cowboys (2000)

The Time Machine (2002)

Bruce Almighty (2003)

Watchmen (2009)
I've linked to my post if I have written one, and films I've seen are in bold print.

Arthur C. Clarke Award Winners

The ones I've read are in bold print:

2012 The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
2011 Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
2010 The City and The City, China Miéville
2009 Song of Time, Ian R. MacLeod
2008 Black Man, Richard Morgan
2007 Nova Swing, M. John Harrison
2006 Air, Geoff Ryman
2005 Iron Council, China Mieville
2004 Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson
2003 The Separation, Christopher Priest
2002 Bold as Love, Gwyneth Jones
2001 Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
2000 Distraction, Bruce Sterling
1999 Dreaming in Smoke, Tricia Sullivan
1998 The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
1997 The Calcutta Chromosome, Amitav Ghosh
1996 Fairyland, Paul J. McAuley
1995 Fools, Pat Cadigan
1994 Vurt, Jeff Noon
1993 Body of Glass, Marge Piercy
1992 Synners, Pat Cadigan
1991 Take Back Plenty, Colin Greenland
1990 The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman
1989 Unquenchable Fire, Rachel Pollack
1988 The Sea and Summer, George Turner
1987 The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

relevant web sites:

Wikipedia entry for the award
The Clarke Award web site
SFSite review archive

Friday, June 12, 2009

Appleseed

The Younger Son narrowed our selection for tonight's movie to 3 DVDs, and I picked Appleseed. Appleseed is a 2004 Japanese anime film. We could see that the end was at hand, and we understood that the death of humankind was inevitable. We were afraid it was going to come by being talked to death. What is it with some of these anime films that think it's ok to have interminable scenes where nothing happens except info-dump through character chatter as long as they intersperse those scenes with ones where there are lots of explosions or gunfire?

via youtube:



The New York Times says it "has a plot that frolics in the no-man's land between fiendish complexity and utter incomprehensibility." Variety says,
Hard-to-follow storyline (which is about 15 minutes longer than the 1988 version) shares a bit too much information about the politics of Olympus to maintain interest for all but die-hard fans. Newbie viewers will be left twiddling their thumbs while waiting for Deunen's next bout of butt-kicking action sequences.
Moria calls it
a dazzling and truly remarkable giant mecha film. Indeed the success of Appleseed 2004 appears to have set a new benchmark for modern anime action and spectacle.

Tiptree Winning Novels

Ones I've read are in bold print. Links are to my blog posts if I've written one on that book. Novels which have won the Tiptree Award:

Tiptree Award

2011
Redwood and Wildfire, Andrea Hairston[

2010
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, Dubravka Ugresic

2009
Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales, Greer Gilman
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Fumi Yoshinaga

2008
The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
Filter House, Nisi Shawl

2007
The Carhullan Army, Sarah Hall

2006
Half Life, Shelley Jackson
The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden, Catherynne M. Valente

2005 Air, Geoff Ryman

2004
Not Before Sundown (Troll: A Love Story), Johanna Sinisalo
Camouflage, Joe Haldeman

2003 Set This House In Order: A Romance Of Souls, Matt Ruff

2002 Light, M. John Harrison

2001 The Kappa Child, Hiromi Goto

2000 Wild Life, Molly Gloss

1999 The Conqueror's Child, Suzy McKee Charnas

1998

1997 Black Wine, Candas Jane Dorsey

1996 The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell

1995
The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Theodore Roszak
Waking the Moon, Elizabeth Hand

1994 Larque on the Wing, Nancy Springer

1993 Ammonite, Nicola Griffith

1992 China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F. McHugh

1991
White Queen, Gwyneth Jones
A Woman of the Iron People, Eleanor Arnason

RETROSPECTIVE TIPTREE Awards:
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas
The Female Man, Joanna Russ
Motherlines, Suzy McKee Charnas

Relevant links:

Wikipedia entry on the awards
The James Tiptree ,Jr. Award web site

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hugo Winning Novels

Ones I've read are in bold print, and I've linked to posts if I've written one. Winners of the Hugo Award for best novel:

2011 Connie Willis, Blackout/All Clear
2010 China Mieville, The City & the City
(tie) Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl
2009 Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
2008 Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen's Union
2007 Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End
2006 Robert Charles Wilson, Spin
2005 Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
2004 Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls
2003 Robert J. Sawyer, Hominids
2002 Neil Gaiman, American Gods
2001 J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2000 Vernor Vinge, A Deepness in the Sky
1999 Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog
1998 Joe Haldeman, Forever Peace
1997 Kim Stanley Robinson, Blue Mars
1996 Neal Stephenson, Diamond Age
1995 Lois McMaster Bujold, Mirror Dance
1994 Kim Stanley Robinson, Green Mars
1993 Vernon Vinge, Fire Upon the Deep
1993 Connie Willis, Doomsday Book
1992 Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar
1991 Lois McMaster Bujold, Vor Game
1990 Dan Simmons, Hyperion
1989 C. J. Cherryh, Cyteen
1988 David Brin, Uplift War
1987 Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead
1986 Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
1985 William Gibson, Neuromancer
1984 David Brin, Startide Rising
1983 Isaac Asimov, Foundation's Edge
1982 C. J. Cherryh, Downbelow Station
1981 Joan D. Vinge, Snow Queen
1980 Arthur C. Clarke, Fountains of Paradise
1979 Vonda McIntyre, Dreamsnake
1978 Frederik Pohl, Gateway
1977 Kate Wilhelm, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
1976 Joe Haldeman, Forever War
1975 Ursula K. LeGuin, Dispossessed
1974 Arthur C. Clarke, Rendezvous with Rama
1973 Isaac Asimov, Gods Themselves
1972 Philip Jose Farmer, To Your Scattered Bodies Go
1971 Larry Niven, Ringworld
1970 Ursula K. LeGuin, Left Hand of Darkness
1969 John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar
1968 Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light
1967 Robert A. Heinlein, Moon is a Harsh Mistress
1966 Roger Zelazny, ... and Call Me Conrad
1966 Frank Herbert, Dune
1965 Fritz Leiber, Wanderer
1964 Clifford D. Simak, Way Station
1963 Philip K. Dick, Man in the High Castle
1962 Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
1961 Walter M. Miller, Jr., Canticle for Leibowitz
1960 Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers
1959 James Blish, Case of Conscience
1958 Fritz Leiber, The Big Time
1956 Robert A. Heinlein, Double Star
1955 Mark Clifton, They'd Rather Be Right
1953 Alfred Bester, Demolished Man

relevant links:

Wikipedia article on the Hugo Awards
Wikipedia article on Hugo Awards for best novel
The official Hugo Award site

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nebula Winning Novels

Ones I've read are in bold print with a link to my post if I've written one. Winners of the Nebula Award for best novel:

2012 Jo Walton, Among Others
2011 Connie Willis, Blackout/All Clear
2010 The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
2009 Powers, Ursula K. Le Guin
2008 The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon
2007 Seeker, Jack McDevitt
2006 Camouflage, Joe Haldeman
2005 Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
2004 The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon
2003 American Gods, Neil Gaiman
2002 The Quantum Rose, Catherine Asaro
2001 Darwin's Radio, Greg Bear
2000 Parable of the Talents, Octavia E. Butler
1999 Forever Peace, Joe Haldeman
1998 The Moon and the Sun, Vonda N. McIntyre
1997 Slow River, Nicola Griffith
1996 The Terminal Experiment, Robert J. Sawyer
1995 Moving Mars, Greg Bear
1994 Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
1993 Doomsday Book, Connie Willis
1992 Stations of the Tide, Michael Swanwick
1991 Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
1990 The Healer's War, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
1989 Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold
1988 The Falling Woman, Pat Murphy
1987 Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
1986 Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
1985 Neuromancer, William Gibson
1984 Startide Rising, David Brin
1983 No Enemy But Time, Michael Bishop
1982 The Claw of the Conciliator, Gene Wolfe
1981 Timescape, Gregory Benford
1980 The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke
1979 Dreamsnake, Vonda N. McIntyre
1978 Gateway, Frederik Pohl
1977 Man Plus, Frederik Pohl
1976 The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
1975 The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
1974 Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
1973 The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov
1972 A Time of Changes, Robert Silverberg
1971 Ringworld, Larry Niven
1970 The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
1969 Rite of Passage, Alexei Panshin
1968 The Einstein Intersection, Samuel R. Delany
1967 Babel-17, Samuel R. Delany
(tie) Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
1966 Dune, Frank Herbert

relevant links:

Wikipedia article on the Nebula Awards
Wikipedia chart with winners and nominees for the award for best novel
Nebula Awards web site

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is a 1958 film starring Ingrid Bergman, Curd Jurgens and Robert Donat (in his last film). It's directed by Mark Robson. The film is based on the book The Small Woman by Alan Burgess, which is based on the life of Gladys Aylward.

It's available online here: [but not as of 8/29/2009]

The New York Times likes it. TCM has an overview. DVDTalk has a review.

Perfect Strangers

Perfect Strangers is a 1945 film titled Vacation from Marriage in the U.S. It's directed by Alexander Korda and stars Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr. Also in this film are Glynis Johns and Roger Moore (in his uncredited debut).

It's online at youtube:

If this video doesn't autoplay all 11 pieces of the film, you can see them here.

TCM has an overview. MSN also has an overview.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a 1939 film directed by Sam Wood and starring Robert Donat (in an Academy Award-winning performance), Greer Garson, Terry Kilburn (who was Tiny Tim in the Reginald Owen Christmas Carol) and Paul Henreid. It is based on the James Hilton novel with the same name.

Youtube has it online:


If that doesn't autoplay all 12 pieces, the others can be found here.

The New York Times has a positive review. Roger Ebert likes it and gives it 4 stars.

The Citadel

The Citadel is a 1938 film directed by King Vidor and starring Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Richardson, Rex Harrison, Francis L. Sullivan, Mary Clare, Cecil Parker and Felix Aylmer. It is based on the A.J. Cronin novel by the same name. I read the book in high school. I prefer another of his books The Keys of the Kingdom, which I read at about the same time.

Yahoo has the film available divided into 13 parts. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13

The New York Times in their review at the time of its release calls it "one of the most satisfying screen dramas of the year." Variety has a review.