Monday, November 30, 2009

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol

We asked The Daughter to choose a DVD tonight since she was home and isn't always around when we watch something. She picked Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, one of her favorites and a favorite for all of us. The Husband says this is the first Christmas Carol adaptation he ever saw. We both remember watching it on TV when we were little, commercials and all.

via youtube:



This is one of the saddest songs ever:



It's a 1962 animated musical, and Jim Backus voices Mister Magoo. Other actors providing voices are Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy and Paul Frees. The show is a drastically condensed version of Dickens' book (for example, nephew Fred is omitted entirely), but it keeps the essence and spirit of the thing.

Hakuho Wins Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament



Hakuho wins again!

from The Japan Times:
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) With a 12th championship title already in the bag, Hakuho exacted swift revenge over Asashoryu on Sunday to wrap up the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament with a perfect 15-0 record.

and from another article at The Japan Times:
With the presentation of the Emperor's Cup to yokozuna Hakuho on Sunday evening Nov. 29, the first decade of sumo in the 21st century came to a thundering close.
...
However, what promised to be a great record-breaking basho all but fizzled out once yokozuna Asashoryu went on a four-day losing streak toward the end,

The Jakarta Globe reports:
Fukuoka, Japan. Mongolian grand champion Hakuho wrapped up his 12th Emperor’s Cup victory on Sunday by beating countryman and fellow yokozuna Asashoryu at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.


I'll post a video when I find the one I'm looking for. Ah, here we go:


The photo at the top of the page is by user Arcimboldo from Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We're No Angels

Once again this is our first Christmas movie. We watched it this afternoon. We love this movie, and it continues to be one of our favorites. We're No Angels stars Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Aldo Ray and Adolph (the deadly snake) as the titular angels. Basil Rathbone plays a wealthy businessman concerned only with profit against Leo G. Carroll who plays his bumbling, well-meaning cousin. Joan Bennett is Leo G. Carroll's wife, and Gloria Talbott is their daughter. The film is directed by Michael Curtiz.

I've been looking for a trailer for years and still can't find one -there's not even a trailer on our no-frills DVD- but here's one scene from the film:


The New York Times doesn't like it, describing it as "generally a slow, talky affair of elephantine roguishness and a few genuine chuckles." Variety, on the other hand, gives it a good review and says, "Michael Curtiz' directorial pacing and topflight performances from Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov help minimize the few flaws." There are overviews at TCM and MSN.

Primer

Primer is a 2004 science fiction film about time travel. Shane Carruth is director, producer, writer, star...

GoogleVideo has it online:


Moria gives it 4 stars and says, "It’s a highly intelligent and strikingly original sf film." The New York Times says, "Having seen it twice from start to finish and gone back over the videotape in search of clues to its meaning, I wouldn't say that it entirely makes sense." BBC calls it "One of the most wilfully obscure sci-fi movies ever made". Variety says, "Repeat viewings might reveal more insight into the narrative, though how many viewers will feel so compelled is questionable" Roger Ebert says.
"Primer" is a film for nerds, geeks, brainiacs, Academic Decathlon winners, programmers, philosophers and the kinds of people who have made it this far into the review. It will surely be hated by those who "go to the movies to be entertained," and embraced and debated by others...


HT: SFSignal

1st Sunday of Advent



Sacred Space has an Advent retreat online. They have daily readings for the season here. They have a link to an interactive Advent wreath.

The Episcopal order for Morning Prayer is here. The Catholic Liturgy of the Hours for today is here. A series of Advent wreath meditations provided by the United Methodist Church General Board of Discipleship is here. The Orthodox churches observe a 6-week Nativity Fast in preparation for Christmas, so they're already in the middle of their Advent season.

The Advent wreath graphic at the top of the post comes from The Curt Jester.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Church of Life After Shopping

In observance of this great week-end of the celebration of all kinds of over-indulgence, I'm spending a bit of time looking at Rev Billy and The Church of Life After Shopping. Part of Reverend Billy's belief statement says:
Our neighborhoods, "commons" places like stoops and parks and streets and libraries, are disappearing into the corporatized world of big boxes and chain stores. But if we "back away from the product" – even a little bit, well then we Put The Odd Back In God!

You can watch What Would Jesus Buy here:

or here.
"We used to be a nation of producers. Now we're a nation of consumers."
"We're proceeding into this shopping season under an enormous misunderstanding. We think that we are consumers at Christmastime. No! We are being consumed at Christmastime."
"What was Christmas before the shopping started?"
"Start Giving. Stop shopping."

from the film's web site:
What Would Jesus Buy? follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they go on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse: the end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt!

Rev Billy's site provides a link to MakeWealthHistory.org, which says
Let me summarise the idea of Christian responsibilty in four areas:

We have a duty to God.
Psalm 24 begins with the following words: ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.’ The earth is not ours. Contrary to some popular understanding, God did not give us the earth – he gave us the use of it.

We have a duty to the world
In Genesis we read that God made the earth good, and that the earth is ‘cursed’ because of us. Human behaviour and the state of the earth are inextricably linked. Have a look at Hosea 4, where it describes a society’s violence and dishonesty, and goes on to say: ‘Because of this the land mourns…’

We have a duty to each other
A very simple principle that John the Baptist puts best in Luke 3: ‘The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.’
and more.

Following the link trail from there, I find a site which says,
The consumer dream is, in essence, the promise that happiness will come to us through our consumer choices. I will be a more fulfilled person if I have a larger house, a faster car, and newer clothes. I will feel better about myself, and others will like me more.

On paper, it looks patently false and insulting to our intelligence. And yet somehow we’re all drawn into it, to one degree or another.
...
As Christians, we have a different reality, a higher purpose than this endless cycle of distraction and gratification. We know who we are in Christ, and we express that identity through our love for each other, not our choice of logos. We are at liberty to live simply, because our sense of value doesn’t come from what we own. It comes from the knowledge that we’re made in the image of God.

Friday, November 27, 2009

H.P. Lovecraft on Republicans

As for the Republicans — how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical 'American heritage'…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.(Letter to C.L. Moore (August 1936), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 574)


HT: The Elder Son, who sent me this link

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Films

We've always been at a loss for movies that take place at Thanksgiving, especially if we wanted something a bit cheerful. To be honest, we gave up the quest years ago when the parades were better and The Husband had cable for his Turkey Day sports fix. When I ran across this post naming a few Thanksgiving movies I thought I'd try to put together my own list. I found a lot more Thanksgiving movies out there than I realized there were. Maybe we'll even watch one, since the parades have turned into advertisements for sit-coms we've never heard of and the sports are unwatchable on our cable-free, digitally-impaired TV. Or maybe I'll wait and have a Thanksgiving Movie Month next year...

Holiday for Drumsticks (1949, Daffy Duck)
The Little Orphan (1949, Tom & Jerry)
Mouse on the Mayflower (1968)
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
The Waltons: The Thanksgiving Story (1973)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Planes Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Avalon (1990)
Dutch (1991)
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Son-in-Law (1993)
Home for the Holidays (1995)
The War at Home (1996)
The House of Yes (1997)
The Ice Storm (1997)
What's Cooking (2000)
National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Family Reunion (2003)
Tadpole (2002)
Pieces of April (2008)

Thanksgiving



Happy Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Ecological Footprint


See my pitiful resuilts at MyFootprint.org. According to FootprintNetwork.org I'm doing a bit better: "If everyone lived like you we'd need 3.7 Planet Earths to provide enough resources."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Session 9

Session 9 is 2001 horror film starring David Caruso and Paul Guilfoyle. I don't remember this film at all from when it came out.

Watch it online, compliments of VuReel:


The New York Times says, "the film, too artfully conceived to deliver many overt shocks, often feels long and aimless." Variety says it's "little more than an overworked exercise in jostling red herrings, and not particularly fresh herrings at that."
Moria says,
Session 9 is reflective of the new aesthetic that seems to have settled on the horror film after The Blair Witch Project (1999)...
The film uses naturalistic, sometimes handheld, camerawork rather than dramatically staged set-ups; is shot on high-definition video rather than film; uses everyday surroundings – an actual abandoned asylum rather than any constructed sets; and is one that focuses on actors reacting to the environment rather than performing around camera set-ups. Both Session 9 and Blair Witch strip the horror film away from conventions and clichés – they are more realistic character dramas. Session 9 is particularly well written in this regard ...
The character tensions are remarkably well drawn and some of the soliloquies granted the characters quite haunting. Amidst all of this Anderson generates an intensely haunted atmosphere....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Boris Karloff Blogathon


Frankensteinia is hosting a Boris Karloff Blogathon 11/23-11/29. Day 1 is posted here, with photos, videos, links and, best of all, a note from Sarah Karloff, Boris Karloff's daughter, calling the event "a wonderful birthday present". And this is just the first day!

I've seen lots of Karloff movies and have blog posts on these:

Frankenstein (1931)
The Mummy (1932)
The Old Dark House (1932)
The Ghoul (1933)
The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
The Body Snatcher (1945)
Bedlam (1946)
Black Sabbath (1963)
The Raven (1963)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
The Terror (1963)
The Sorcerers (1967)

Aqualung

Jethro Tull has always been a favorite of mine. This is Aqualung:



It's from the 1971 album by the same name. The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Tull has a fun Christmas album.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Kind Hearts and Coronets is a 1949 Ealing Studios black comedy starring Alec Guinness as each one of the family members who must be bumped off before our protagonist can inherit the Dukedom. I bought it for The Husband as part of this set. It's on Time's list of 100 best films. It's 6th on the BFI list of top 100 British films.

trailer:


Roger Ebert has it on his list of great movies. FilmReference.com says, "Kind Hearts is very funny, wickedly subversive, and probably the finest black comedy the British cinema has every produced." Slant Magazine calls it "an interesting dissection of the pathologies of the British class system."

Panic Attack

5-minute short film from director Fede Alvarez:



The film comes from Uruguay. Except for folks re-posting it, I can't find much on the film or the director.

HT: Quiet Earth

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Original Sin

Original Sin by P.D. James is #9 is the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series. I know I've read this one before, but it was long ago.

from the back of the book:
Innocent House, a mock Venetian palace occupied by Britain's oldest book publisher. Here, after a spate of malicious pranks, someone killed Gerard Etienne, the ruthless managing director, and jammed the office mascot, a stuffed snake, in his mouth. Who wanted Etienne dead? Everyone on staff and several authors too. Now Dagliesh and his two junior detectives begin uncovering the dark private tragedies in the lives of Etienne's mistress and colleagues. But the mystery at Innocent House might prove more primal still - and too deep, too old, too evil to stop at just one death.

Mentions of Methodism:
Delicate Meissen plates were ranged in incongruous proximity to Victorian ribbon-decorated souvenirs bearing pictures of Brighton and Southend-on-Sea; a toby jug which looked like a fairground trophy stood between a Victorian Staffordshire flatback, obviously original, of Wesley preaching from a double-decker pulpit, and a fine Parian bust of the Duke of Wellington. (from a description of a display in a club in which Dalgliesh was lunching)
Here, surely was the epitome of every mother's favourite son: fresh-faced, ambitious without being ruthless, a devout Methodist, engaged, so it was rumoured, to a girl in his church. (from an Inspector's description of one of the police officers)

Entertainment Weekly says, "Original Sin is high-caliber popular fiction with a literary veneer, but it's also oddly juiceless. Still, this is an entertaining read for cold winter nights."

I have blog posts on the following books in the series:

#2 A Mind to Murder
#5 The Black Tower
#7 A Taste for Death

and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, which features an appearance by Dalgliesh.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Royal Tenenbaums

I picked up the Criterion edition of The Royal Tenenbaums for The Husband because I had heard it was a good comedy but didn't give it to him because, as I read a bit about it, it just didn't seem to be his "type" of comedy -too much tragedy in the midst of it all, maybe. I ended up putting it in the stack with all the other to-be-watched DVDs, and the Younger Son picked it tonight. We liked it. The film is directed by Wes Anderson and stars Anjelica Huston, Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, Bill Murray and Kumar Pallana. I got a kick out of the music.

trailer:


Images Journal says, "Gene Hackman shines, sinking his teeth into the meaty part and devouring it with gusto; everyone else is trying to keep up." Senses of Cinema concludes, "The Royal Tenenbaums remains emotionally crippled to the end." Roger Ebert says it "exists on a knife edge between comedy and sadness." Slant Magazine says, "The Royal Tenenbaums is a film of rare beauty, alive with humanity and crippling sadness. It earns its joy because Anderson can make an otherwise ancient cliché crackle as if it were new" and "At its simplest, Anderson's latest masterpiece becomes a paean to second chances." The New York Times says, "the whole enterprise begins to feel more arch than artful, a gilded lily that spoils its perfection by insisting on it." Variety calls it and underachiever and describes it as "a story of a desperate attempt to repair missed connections, one inevitably doomed to failure but not without dividends."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

American Cinema Video Course Online

I enjoy looking through the resources that Learner.org has available and have used a few of them through the years. This is the first time I've noticed a course on film. It's dated from 1995 and has 13 separate segments. The site describes the American Cinema course this way:
Using clips from more than 300 of the greatest movies ever made, this series explores film history and American culture through the eyes of over 150 Hollywood insiders, including Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, and Michael Eisner. In-depth treatments present film as a powerful economic force, potent twentieth-century art form, and viable career option.

I'm going to find time to view these.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weaveworld

I've never read a Clive Barker novel before, horror just really not being my thing, but this appealed to me in the used book store. It turns out not to be horror at all. Weaveworld is dark fantasy, which I do tend to like, though I know the line between that and horror is a fine one. I enjoyed this.

I want to copy just a couple of quotes from the book:
"It's about being borm, and being afraid of dying, and how love saves us."
It was good to look up during the day and know that the stars were still above his head, even though he couldn't see them. It was doubtless the same for countless other mysteries. That they shone, but the world shone more brightly, and blinded him to them.

from the dust jacket:
Here is storytelling on a grand scale--the stuff of which a classic is made. Weaveworld begins with a rug--a wondrous, magnificent rug--into which a world has been woven. It is the world of the Seerkind, a people more ancient than man, who possesses raptures--the power to make magic. In the last century they were hunted down by an unspeakable horror known as the Scourge, and, threatened with annihilation, they worked their strongest raptures to weave themselves and their culture into a rug for safekeeping. Since then, the rug has been guarded by human caretakers. The last of the caretakers has just died.

Vying for possession of the rug is a spectrum of unforgettable characters: Suzanna, granddaughter of the last caretaker, who feels the pull of the Weaveworld long before she knows the extent of her own powers; Calhoun Mooney, a pigeon-raising clerk who finds the world he's always dreamed of in a fleeting glimpse of the rug; Immacolata, an exiled Seerkind witch intent on destroying her race even if it means calling back the Scourge; and her sidekick, Shadwell, the Salesman, who will sell the Weaveworld to the highest bidder.

In the course of the novel the rug is unwoven, and we travel deep into the glorious raptures of the Weaveworld before we witness the final, cataclysmic struggle for its possession.

Barker takes us to places where we have seldom been in fiction-places terrifying and miraculous, humorous, and profound. With keen psychological insight and prodigious invention, his trademark graphic vision balanced by a spirit of transcendent promise, Barker explores the darkness and the light, the magical and the monstrous, and celebrates the triumph of the imagination.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Inferno

Inferno is a 1980 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento. It is 2nd in the Three Mothers trilogy. There's a fountain pen about 2 and a half minutes in.

I'm not seeing the video, which should be embedded below, but it's available online at this link. [it was available but has been removed] There is a trailer here:



Moria gives it 4 stars. Images Journal calls it "a film of sparse plot and indelible imagery." Slant Magazine details the plot. MSN has an overview.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jason and the Argonauts

Jason and the Argonauts is a 1963 film directed by Don Chaffey and starring Todd Armstrong, Niall MacGinnis and Honor Blackman. Special effects are by Ray Harryhausen. Bernard Herrmann did the score.

Crackle has this online, although I don't see a way to embed the video here. Watch it at this link. Youtube has it in 11 different segments here, and this is part 1:


Moria says, "This is the sort of film that the magic of special effects is all about." 1000 Misspent Hours describes it as "probably the most fondly remembered (if also the most seriously flawed) of Harryhausen’s 1960’s monster-menagerie fantasy films," primarily finding fault with the abruptness of the ending.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cohen's Town Hall Meeting








The picture on the left is Congressman Cohen listening to questions coming from constituents shown in the photo above.


The Daughter and I went to our 2nd of Steve Cohen's Town Hall Meetings this morning. This one was held in Whitehaven, and we had heard it would be _packed_ with muggles, ummm, I mean tea-partying ringers. That turned out not to be the case, though Cohen mentioned that he had heard the same rumors and appeared to have been prepared.

We arrived at 9:50 for the 10:00 meeting, signed in and entered the mostly empty room. There was a man on the other side of the room who had printed "Thank You" signs (from The DNC Organizing for America Project), and he gave us two. I held mine up a couple of times. The Daughter took a picture of hers, which is at the bottom of this post. The venue filled up fairly quickly with a mostly sympathetic audience, and the event started promptly with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Cohen contrasted this recitation with the one at the August meeting during which the phrase "under God" was screamed. He said he thinks God didn't hear it any better then than today. He said the pledge is "everybody's pledge." Although how a pledge with "under God" in it can be an atheist's pledge escapes me.

He spent some time talking about the financial mess that this president and congress has inherited. He talked about the economy. He said he was proud of his vote on this health care bill, and at that point I heard boos for the first time. He spent some time on the monies that will be received locally from the stimulus funds. He spent time on a few other bills, mentioning his efforts to prohibit credit reports from being used in the job application process, a justice integrity act and sentencing issues involving victimless crimes. There was some discussion of transportation issues, including MATA funding and livability issues. He made his support for the death penalty clear. He made his disdain for Gov. Bredesen equally clear.

I am unsure exactly who the woman sitting next to Cohen is (bad notes), but Dottie took the microphone to discuss further the local disbursement of monies received from the Federal government.

Cohen expressed his thanks for his supporters, saying it was better than the August meeting, at which a lot of people came who weren't from around here. He specifically thanked a representative from Planned Parenthood who had come. He then opened the floor for questions, asking that folks line up in the aisle to his left and take turns at that microphone. There were a lot of questions. Some of them were long and rambling. Some were about personal issues that seemed more appropriate for a private call/email to Cohen's staff. There was a man who spoke out stridently in support of Canada's heath care system. A doctor who works with cystic fibrosis patients spoke about the need to prevent insurance companies from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. There were several people who expressed concern over accountability and doubt that the money that's supposed to be used for certain programs will actually be used as intended. One man, very angry, said he'd just found out that morning that Cohen was his representative and had expected some of his like-minded conservative friends to be in attendance at this meeting. He accused Cohen of rushing the vote by holding it at 9:30 on a Saturday night and of locking the doors to exclude the opposition. Cohen responded by explaining the scheduling rules and saying that no one had been locked out, that the gallery was full, the proceedings were covered on C-SPAN and that there were plenty of Republican votes against the bill so they must have been present. One man asked if his little girl could lead us in the pledge to the flag, so we stood for a repeat of that. He voiced one of my pet peeves: that folks aren't demonstrating, threatening and throwing fits over the deficit because we're throwing money we don't have at Iraq and Afghanistan. We don't see demonstrations from conservatives demanding there be no rush to a war we don't have the money to wage. He asked that we consider our Christian duty to help the poor. He got a good bit of applause.

The whole event ended on time at noon. We're planning on going to the next one. The Daughter took the photos included in this post. They are used with permission.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Awful Truth

The Awful Truth is a 1937 screwball comedy starring Cary Grant, Irene Dunne and Ralph Bellamy. Leo McCarey is the director/producer. The dog in this film is the same one that plays "Asta" in the Thin Man movies. It won an award and received some positive recognition. This is another of my presents to The Husband to keep him supplied with happy movies.

It's online at youtube in 11 parts. part 1:

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

Veoh has it if you're willing to download their own special player. What's with that, anyway? I can watch videos at other sites without downloading anything.

It's on Time's list of 100 best films. The New York Times says, "To be frank, The Awful Truth is awfully unimportant, but it is also one of the more laughable screen comedies of 1937, a fairly good vintage year."

Margaret Wise Brown


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1952 of Margaret Wise Brown, who was one of our favorite authors when the kids were little. Our favorites of her books were The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon and The Little Fur Family, which we had a little fur-covered edition of. We also liked Christmas in the Barn, the old edition with illustrations by Barbara Cooney; A Child's Goodnight Book; Seven Little Postmen... Although she died before I was born and her books must have been available when I was little, I don't remember them from my childhood. But oh! what wonderful memories I have of reading these to my own children. She has a web site here. There's no Facebook fan page, but there are 2 Facebook groups, the larger of which is here.

I see the photo at the top of this post all over the place, including at this site.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Letty Lynton

Unavailable, even after all this time, Letty Lynton (1932) is at youtube in 9 pieces. For now. Wikipedia says "Soon after its [Letty Lynton's] release, a plagiarism suit forced MGM to withdraw it. It has never been shown on television or made available on home video". It stars Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery.

part 1:

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

The New York Times doesn't like it. TCM has an overview.

HT: Self-Styled Siren

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stephen Fry Goes to the Body Farm

The kids are fans of Craig Ferguson, and I sometimes watch with them, but none of us caught this:



Since The Younger Son and I have plans involving the Body Farm, we perk up when it's mentioned. Not that it's mentioned all that often, mind you.

HT: Newscoma

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hart's War

The Younger Son bought this DVD on mega sale used ages ago and decided to watch it as he started lunch. I was in and out during the film but didn't see the whole thing. He has read the book and talked some about the differences between it and this movie. He's reading John Katzenbach books as he comes across them and wants to see the films that have been based on them. Hart's War is a 2002 WW2 film that takes place in a German POW camp. Bruce Willis stars.

trailer:


Roger Ebert has a mixed review. The New York Times describes it as a "morose and willfully dewy-eyed tale" and says it's "a movie that wants to be everything and adds up to nothing. ''War'' is a film that tries to excel on several levels and falls flat on all of them." Rolling Stone closes its review with this:
Director Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear) is merely arranging cliches in new patterns until the surprise ending blows enough pro-military fervor up the audience's ass to make Colin Powell call a halt.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Today is the anniversary of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. There is a site "dedicated to informing others". The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum has a section of their site devoted to this boat:
The legend of the Edmund Fitzgerald remains the most mysterious and controversial of all shipwreck tales heard around the Great Lakes. Her story is surpassed in books, film and media only by that of the Titanic.
The cause of the wreck has been a controversial subject from the beginning, and this article reports a documentary exploring the latest research.

Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald:

Lyrics

Onibaba

I'm planning on buying the Criterion edition of this film, but since it hasn't yet made it to the top of my wish list I'm watching it online at The Auteurs. A quick and painless sign-up lets me watch several films free and some others for a fee. Onibaba is a 1964 Japanese horror film based on a folk tale. It is directed by Kaneto Shindo. I plan on getting the DVD in time for the family to watch this next October.

The film cannot be embedded here, but it can be watched free at this link.

Moria has a review and gives it 4 stars. Variety praises the casting. DVDTalk reviews the Criterion release and says of the film,
The supernatural part of Onibaba is secondary to director Shindo's main theme - the human debasement of war. The two women make a ghoulish living in isolation, with survival their only remaining value. It's a harsh world where everyone must make do on their own.
The New York Times opens its review with this:
SELF-PRESERVATION and sex in a primitive society made desperate and bestial by war are the raw materials out of which Kaneto Shindo has conjured up "Onibaba" ("The Demon")

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Band Wagon

I bought this 2-disc edition of The Band Wagon for The Husband because it's his favorite movie of all time. I'd never seen it, and he suggested The Daughter and I watch it with him tonight. I think The Daughter and I are still amazed that this, of all movies, is his favorite. It does have Cyd Charisse in it, and it seems to be universally well-loved but still... We just don't get it.

The Band Wagon is a 1953 musical comedy directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.

trailer:


Senses of Cinema compares it favorably with Singin' in the Rain. Roger Ebert includes it on his list of great movies. Slant Magazine gives it 3 out of 5 stars and closes with this: "But only musical theater people will plug into this love-fest, breaking their arms patting themselves on the back. That's entertainment?" The New York Times says it "respectfully bids for recognition as one of the best musical films ever made." FilmReference.com says it
represents one of the most important of the MGM musicals of the 1950s, indeed in the history of this Hollywood genre. In particular, The Band Wagon stands as one of the masterworks to emerge from the very productive musicals unit that producer Arthur Freed controlled at MGM during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Anarchy in the U.K.

Anarchy in the U.K. is a 1976 song by the Sex Pistols:



The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dark Star

Dark Star is a 1974 science fiction/comedy film, the first feature film of John Carpenter. At about 21 minutes in there's a delightful little musical instrument. This is the 2nd science fiction film I can remember seeing that includes surfing in the plot.

Watch it online:


Moria gives it 4 stars and says, "The film has this sense of deadpan humour that just sits there and keeps building to the blackly hysterical." The New York Times says, "Even in the glow of hindsight, "Dark Star" doesn't contain many indications that Mr. Carpenter is a director about to turn the world on its ear." Roger Ebert calls it "one of the damnedest science fiction movies I've ever seen, a berserk combination of space opera, intelligent bombs, and beach balls from other worlds." Variety says it "warrants attention only for some remarkably believable special effects achieved with very little money."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Lavender Hill Mob

The Lavender Hill Mob is a 1951 film that I bought as a part of this Alec Guinness box set for The Husband in my quest to keep him supplied with comedies that make for pleasant relaxation. I picked this particular one for tonight because, at 81 minutes, it's the shortest thing in the stack, and he wanted to make an early night of it. It's an Ealing Studios film directed by Charles Crichton, who also directed A Fish Called Wanda. Alex Guinness stars with Stanley Holloway, Sid James and Alfie Bass (who later was Mr. Goldberg in the TV series Are You Being Served). Audrey Hepburn has a small part in the first scene. The film won a couple of awards. It's on the Vatican Top 45 List in the "Art" category.

trailer:


FilmReference.com says the film "remains lively, inventive, and a pleasure to watch." The New York Times says, "Jot it down as a picture that you will find it best to see at a moment when your mood is mellow and your sense of righteousness is slightly askew." RottenTomatoes.com gives it a 100% rating with 18 reviews reported.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Frost/Nixon

Frost/Nixon is a 2008 film based on a play about David Frost's 1977 series of interviews with Richard Nixon. Ron Howard directs. Frank Langella is Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen is David Frost. The Younger Son gave this to me for my birthday, and we watched it tonight. I remember well the events that led up to the story told in this film. It makes me mad all over again. And apparently we learned nothing from it, because the Bush years were 8 long years of presidential abuse of power.

trailer:


Roger Ebert says, "the film really comes down to these two compelling intense performances, these two men with such deep needs entirely outside the subjects of the interviews." CNN calls it "a compelling account, shrewdly bolstered with lively actors in both corners of the ring". The New York Times says,
Anchored by its first-rate leads, who originated the roles on the London stage — Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost — the movie is a talkathon embellished with camera movements.
Rolling Stone closes with this:
Frost/Nixon, one of the year's best films, far exceeds its roots as docudrama. It cuts to the core of a toxic culture that sees politics as show business, a culture still all too recognizable as our own.
Variety describes it as
an effective, straightforward bigscreen version of Peter Morgan’s shrewd stage drama about the historic 1977 TV interview in which Richard Nixon brought himself down once again.

Scariest Females in Film

iVillage has a list of the 13 scariest women (though some in their list are girls) in film:

1. Norman Bates' Mother in Psycho
2. Regan in The Exorcist
3. Carrie in Carrie
4. Annie in Misery
5. Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest
6. Alex in Fatal Attraction
7. Baby Jane in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane
8. Jennifer in Jennifer's Body
9. Nancy from The Craft
10. Esther from Orphan
11. the Grand High Witch from The Witches
12. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
13. the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz

I haven't seen all of these, so I don't know how scary they are, but I'm surprised the Queen from Disney's Snow White didn't make the cut. And the original Cruella de Vil. And the character Angela Lansbury plays in the original Manchurian Candidate. Now that is a scary woman!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Guy Fawkes Day

Today is Guy Fawkes Day.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;

By God's mercy he was catched
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

There's a website telling the history and explaining the practices here. Time has an article that begins:
The English, among other talents, are adept at nurturing their grudges. How else does one explain the enduring enmity toward Guy Fawkes, a conspirator in a plot to blow up Parliament in 1605? Some four centuries after Fawkes was caught, tortured and executed for his role in a scheme that never came to fruition, Britons still celebrate his demise each Nov. 5 by burning his likeness in effigy and setting fireworks ablaze.

This day features prominently in one of the Paddington Bear books.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Speculative Fiction in High School

Ah, where were these suggestions back when I was homeschooling? SFSignal (explanations for the answers below are given at that link) asks:
Q: If you were teaching a high school literature class, which science fiction or fantasy books first published within the past 10 years would you include on your syllabus?

Suggestions (from various authors) include the following, some of which are over 10 years old:

Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads;
Ted Chiang's Stories Of Your Life And Others;
Justine Larbalestier's Liar;
Cory Doctorow's Little Brother;
Christopher Barzak's One For Sorrow.

Robert Sawyer's WWW: Wake;
Michael Swanwick's Bones of the Earth;
Joe Haldeman's The Accidental Time Machine;
Fast Forward II (edited by Lou Anders);
Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles;

Scott Westerfield's Uglies;
Patricia Wrede's Thirteenth Child;
Robin McKinley's Sunshine;
Elizabeth Bear's Dust;
Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind;
Kristin Cashore's Graceling;
Neil Gaiman's Coraline;
S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire;
Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana;
Elizabeth Moon's Once a Hero;
Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring.

Red Moon. First published as written by David Michaels, 2000; re-issued as written by David Michaels & Daniel Brenton;
Edward Maret by Robert I. Katz;
The Unincorporated Man by Dani & Eytan Kollin;
Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer;
Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt;
The complete Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.

John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids;
John Cristopher's The Death of Grass;
Nevil Shute's On the Beach;
M John Harrison's Light;
Ken McLeod's Learning the World;
Matthew de Abaitua's The Red Men;
Terry Pratchett's Night Watch.

Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold;
Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Mercy;
Sherri Tepper's The Margarets;
The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas;
Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood;
Kim Stanley Robinson's Years of Rice and Salt;
The Brief Wondrous Life of Dr. Wao by Junot Díaz.

Animal Farm by George Orwell;
River Of Gods, The Gone Away World, Anathem, The Baroque Cycle are mentioned as probably too long (not an issue for homeschoolers);
The Road by Cormac McCarthy;
Air by Geoff Ryman.

Ian McDonald's Cyberabad Days;
Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age;
Hal Duncan's Vellum;
Greg Egan's Incandescence;
Jay Lake's Mainspring.

Gossamer by Lois Lowry;
I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block;
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang;
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami;
After Dachau by Daniel Quinn;
The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley;
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist;
Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk;
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke;
City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer;
Fray by Joss Whedon.

Scott Westerfeld's Uglies;
Ian McDonald's Brasyl;
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville;
The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Cat Valente.

I did assign science fiction and fantasy books, but mostly I just kept sff books generally suitable for their ages and interests in the stacks of books I had for them to choose from and noted when they'd read them so we could talk about them. There are a lot of the books in the lists above that I've never heard of, much less read.

Facebook games


I had always thought Facebook games would be just a pointless waste of time, and I had no interest in working my way up the Mafia Wars ladder, but I kept having pleas for help show up... So, I started playing Cafe World. And Farmville. And My Zoo. And I can speak from experience now. They are a pointless waste of time.

I'm still playing them, but they are a pointless waste of time.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 horror/science fiction parody film starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Charles Gray and Meat Loaf. Tim Curry is priceless.

watch it online (HT: Monkeyfister):


1000 Misspent Hours is disdainful. Roger Ebert has praise for Tim Curry. FilmReference.com says it's "Less interesting as cinema than as a social phenomenon." Moria gives it 4 stars and opens with this:
The arguments still rage whether The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a cult masterpiece or seventies trash, but no matter what one’s opinion it doesn’t stop the film from being the numero uno cult film of all time.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Medea (Pasolini)

Medea is a 1969 Pier Pasolini film based on the play by Euripedes. It stars Maria Callas. I have seen this and didn't watch it again for this post.

Youtube has it in pieces. part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10
It's available in one piece at veoh if you want to download their player, which I plan on never doing again.

The New York Times says, ""Medea" is uneven, but I admire the reckless courage of its conception, even when it goes wrong."

The Canterbury Tales (Pasolini)

The Canterbury Tales, winner of the Golden Bear, is a 1972 Pier Paolo Pasolini film based on Chaucer's story, which can be read online in language adapted for modern readers. The music is by Ennio Morricone. Tom Baker, my favorite Doctor, has a small role.

You can watch it online here, if you don't mind the lack of English subtitles:

It was a bit tedious for me, though, so I didn't make it very far. I need subtitles. I probably won't seek it out on DVD, because it gets poorer reviews than other of his films and seems to be out of print. There are probably others I'll want to see first.

Senses of Cinema examines it as the least successful middle film of the "Trilogy of Life".

Pier Pasolini

Today is the anniversary of the murder in 1975 of Pier Pasolini. FilmReference.com has an extensive list of resources and begins their short article on his films by saying, "Pier Paolo Pasolini, poet, novelist, philosopher, and filmmaker, came of age during the reign of Italian fascism, and his art is inextricably bound to his politics." Senses of Cinema examines his career. There is a documentary at youtube in 3 parts. part 1:

part 2:

part 3:


I have blog posts on the following of his films and will add more as I see them:

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Medea (1969)
The Canterbury Tales (1972)

American Pie

American Pie is a 1971 Don McLean song:



Don McLean's site has a page devoted to the song. There is a website offering an analysis of the lyrics. Actually, there are lots of sites speculating on the meaning of the song... There is a fan group for Don McLean on Facebook, in addition to a group especially for this one particular song.

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Skhizein

Skhizein is a 2008 short film about a man who becomes sadly disconnected:

Skhizein (Jérémy Clapin,2008) from Josef K. on Vimeo.


It is directed by Jérémy Clapin.

HT: Cartoon Brew

11/5/2009: Ferdy on Film has a post and says, "The muted animation, moody music, and flat affect of Henri make Skhizein a disturbing chamber piece that is open to various interpretations, and Clapin is more than happy to confuse the issue."