Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dust

The question is this: Is Dust a Western or not? The votes are in, and The Husband claims it's not even remotely a Western but an urban fantasy, while The Younger Son and I say Dust is a Western, kind of. The Husband just couldn't take the violence and moved away from the tv after an hour or so. The Younger Son had seen it before, having bought it on a sale table after reading the description of a straight revenge Western on the back of the DVD case. He was surprised by the first scene of a modern-day NYC apartment burglary gone wrong.

It's a 2001 film directed by Milcho Manchevski and starring Joseph Fiennes and David Wenham.

trailer:

Dust | David Wenham | Joseph Fiennes | Milcho Manchevski | Movie Trailer | Review

European Film Review says it "should be congratulated for at least trying something a little bit different." Time Out calls the effect "bewildering". BBC closes with this:
Given the production's famously troubled shoot, with reports of soaring temperatures, plagues of wasps, demented sheep, and an outbreak of dysentery, perhaps a 'making-of' documentary might prove more entertaining.
AMC has some information.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Track of Sand


You can't really "click to look inside" on that picture, but you can go to Amazon.com, which is where the picture came from and where you can buy this book.

The Track of Sand is 12th in the Andrea Camilleri Inspector Montalbano detective series. These are written in Italian and set in Sicily. I read them in English translation (I say, as if there might be any doubt). The Husband gave me the ones I haven't read yet for Christmas. I'm sure I'll enjoy them all as I've enjoyed the ones I have read.

from the back of the book:
Montalbano wakes from strange dreams to find a gruesomely bludgeoned horse carcass in front of his seaside home. When his men come to investigate, the carcass disappears, leaving only a trail in the sand. Before long, two people report missing horses - Rachele, a champion equestrian, and Lo Duca, one of the richest men in Sicily. Then Montalbano's home is broken into and is ransacked and he is certain that the crimes are linked. As he negotiates the glittering underworld of legitimate horseracing and the Mafia's connection to it, the scrupulous and melancholy Montalbano is aided by his unorthodox methods, melancholy self-reflection, and love of good food
The Independent says this book is "as funny and intriguing as the best of its predecessors." Eurocrime says it "provides just what the eager, regular reader will expect." The Seatle PI has a positive review.

I've read these:

1. The Shape of Water
2. The Terra-Cotta Dog
5. Excursion to Tindari
6. The Smell of Night
9. The Paper Moon
10. August Heat
11. The Wings of the Sphinx

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jolly Roofing, not so jolly

They showed up bright and early on Friday morning, December 23rd, for what was supposed to be a 1-day roofing job. At least, we were told it'd take one day. They left at lunch-time and didn't return. Feeling some concern, we contacted our homeowners association president who gave us the roofers' phone number. We were told by the roofing company that the crew wouldn't be back that day. They didn't want to work on Christmas Eve, either, so would not be back until at least Monday.

Why, oh why, did they start a 1-day job and only work half a day before a 2-day holiday???

We were told someone would come out the next morning to make sure the roof had been secured against the rain. Sure enough, at 7:00 in the morning on Saturday (Christmas Eve) we got about 20 minutes of hammering noise up on the roof. So much for sleeping late on our Christmas break.

Monday morning, the crew was back, and we heard this exchange outside our bedroom window:

from the ground, a man yelled up asking, "so you think you'll finish today?"
from the roof came an affirmative response.

Sadly, at lunch-time the roofers left. They didn't return.

And then later, the sprinkling rain started. Even later, the rain picked up. The rain continued into the night.

The Husband thought he saw water in the attic and so started trying to contact folks, but the roofer wasn't answering his phone. Our homeowners association president came by wanting to look in our attic, saying she'd talked with some management company representative (from another complex) who'd dealt with roofing issues and that it might be condensation. We didn't let her come in. There are a number of reasons for that, including these:

1) I hadn't checked the attic myself, and I could double-check to see if the issue was condensation as well as (maybe better than) she could;

2) She talks about people. I do realize that some folks are just like that and discuss what they know about other people with whomever they're with, but we were loathe to let her tour our house. No hard feelings, but there you are.

She started saying, "So you're refusing to let me go into your attic. I just want to get that straight. You're refusing. I'm going to go call all the board members to let them know that you've made that decision to refuse to let me into your attic. I've been in their attic, and theirs, and theirs (pointing as she spoke) and you can call and ask them...."

Sheesh.

She finally actually left, and I went up into the attic and saw that the problem was indeed condensation. The Husband called her to let her know and got an answering machine. She did pick up after he said what I'd found.

We never did reach the roofer.

This morning the roofers were back. This is the exchange I heard on my patio while I was sitting in plain sight inside:

Roofer 1: "I just want to leave here and never come back."
Roofer 2: "I know that's right."

What I wanted to say was this: "You've had several opportunities to finish and go. It's not my fault you're still here." But I didn't.

They are gone now, and though they didn't say anything to us (they've never told us when they were leaving for the day) they did take their supplies off of the patio this time. We're assuming they are finished, here on the 5th day after starting what we were told would be a one-day job. Now I just need to get the patio furniture off my plants (Remember my new butterfly bushes? The coleus will probably be ok).

We've never had a roof inspected after it was finished before, but we're going to have that done this time. We're waiting for a recommendation from our homeowners insurance agent. I don't like the idea of roofers who are obviously not wanting to be here working on my roof, and I just want some assurance that their attitude isn't reflected in the job quality.

And this is my report on How I spent My Christmas Vacation, starring The Jolly Roofing Roofers.

Memphis

Monday, December 26, 2011

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The last time I saw this film was in a theater after its release in 1969. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is sadly dated by the music: BJ Thomas singing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, for example. Paul Newman and Robert Redford play the title roles. Strother Martin, Katharine Ross, Cloris Leachman, Ted Cassidy (who has Star Trek connections), Jeff Corey (who has Star Trek and Babylon 5 connections), Kenneth Mars (who also has Star Trek connections), Don Keefer (yet another one with a Star Trek connection), Charles Dierkop (and yet another), Henry Jones, George Furth and Donnelly Rhodes (who played Dutch on Soap) all have parts. Burt Bacharach and Hal David did the music.

trailer:


Roger Ebert calls it "slow and disappointing." Western-Review.com says, "what we have here is an almost quaintly undaring picture motored along by the cheery bankability of stars, jokes, and glamorous production." DVD Talk says, "The classic buddy film, it has aged very well in no small part to William Goldman's smart script and George Roy Hill's creative and spot-on direction."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Quantum Rose


The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro is part of the Saga of the Skolian Empire series. I've never read others in the series, but this stands alone just fine. Wikipedia says, "The Quantum Rose is an allegory to the mathematical and physical processes of coupled-channel quantum scattering theory", which is nice and all but far beyond my poor understanding. It's enjoyable on the surface without that understanding, though it does focus on the romantic struggles of the main characters more than i'd like. It won the 2001 Nebula Award for best novel. I'd been looking for it on the shelf of local book stores for years without success but found it at my favorite local used shop recently.

from the fly leaf:
The Saga of the Skolian Empire is Catherine Asaro's trademark SF series. It chronicles the lives of the members of the ruling family of the Empire in the distant interstellar future, weaving a fine blend of action, romance, and hard science fiction.

The Quantum Rose is the story of Kamoj Argali, the young ruler of an impoverished province on a backward planet. To keep her people from starving, she has agreed to marry Jax Ironbridge, ruler of the prosperous neighboring province. But before they can be wed, Kamoj is forced into marriage with a mysterious stranger from a distant planet, throwing her world into utter chaos.

SurLaLune Fairy Tales groups it with re-interpretations of the Beauty and the Beast story, but I don't see it. The review at eyrie.org says,
I like the general pattern of the combined romance and coming of age story, and I'm a long-standing sucker for telepathic love stories. Asaro adds enough of a twist, with a willingness to explore unequal power relationships, a faint touch of the psychology of dominance and submission, and some thoughtful internal analysis of human motivation, to keep me coming back for more.
SF Site says, "The relationship is the heart of the story, yet at the same time Catherine Asaro creates a unique and intriguing world". The Romance Reader also likes all that romance. I think this is an example of that old saying: "them that likes it speaks well of it".

The photo at the top of the post is from Wikipedia and is of the edition of the book I have.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christina's World


I was in a book store the other day and overheard a man who was checking out comment on the small print tacked to the wall above the cash register. He had never seen it before and was struck by the woman and the scene. The guy working there flipped the picture up to look at the back and told him it was called Christina's World.

I can't remember the first time I saw this picture. It was painted by Andrew Wyeth in 1948. I don't remember how I came to know of this painter, his work or this painting in particular, but it's likely I saw something by him in a local museum.

I've been wondering what that customer is so familiar with that he'd be surprised to know I'd never heard of it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Blazing Saddles

It seemed only fitting to follow a Randolph Scott film with Blazing Saddles (1974), and The Younger Son had never seen it before. Blazing Saddles is a Mel Brooks film, a comedy Western, and stars Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens and Dom DeLuise. Count Basie has a cameo.

trailer:


Slant Magazine calls it "a limp, shapeless mess of a film". DVD Journal says,
as a satirical flag waving in the racial and social winds of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Blazing Saddles' casual vulgarity, racial epithets, and pants-dropping silliness are spread like the very best butter over the more serious business of iconoclastically upturning expectations and tropes, especially some shibboleths found not just in old-fashioned cowboy movies. Its humor is the palliative that lets Brooks mock prejudices and, with gloves off, prejudiced people.
Roger Ebert says,
"It's a crazed grabbag of a movie that does everything to keep us laughing except hit us over the head with a rubber chicken. Mostly, it succeeds. It's an audience picture

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Abilene Town

Abilene Town is a 1946 Randolph Scott Western directed by Edwin L. Marin. Ann Dvorak, Lloyd Bridges, Rhonda Fleming, and Edgar Buchanan also star.

You can watch it online here:


Reviews are not plentiful. If you remember Gunsmoke and liked it, then this will bring back fond memories. You can see Gunsmoke's ancestry here. It's fairly typical of its type, with the marshall, played by Randolph Scott, trying to keep the peace between the cattlemen and the influx of homesteaders while also juggling romances with a co-owner of the saloon and the daughter of one of the local businessmen. There's a bit too much romance and singing (way too much singing) to suit me, but it's Randolph Scott, and I'm not sure you can say you like Westerns if you haven't seen Randolph Scott in several.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tumbleweeds

Tumbleweeds is a 1925 silent Western, the last film directed by William S. Hart. It stars Hart, Barbara Bedford and Lucien Littlefield.

watch it online compliments of the Internet Archive:


Images Journal names it one of the 30 great westerns and says, "Hart was the king of the West and Tumbleweeds is arguably his finest film." Silent Cinema says,
Modern reviews of Tumbleweeds have placed the movie as the high point of Hart's career and as a seminal film of the silent era that was unique for its era in its depiction of Native Americans and African Americans.
Culture Cartel says, "Tumbleweeds stands up remarkably well, and most film devotees will find it among the more interesting and entertaining melodramas of the silent era."

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Battle of Elderbush Gulch

The Battle of Elderbush Gulch is a 1913 D.W. Griffith silent film with inter-titles, starring Mae Marsh, Lillian Gish and Lionel Barrymore. Elmo Lincoln, who was Tarzan in a series of films in the 19-teens through the 1940s has a part in this, too.

watch it online:


It's supposed to be 29 minutes long, and I can only find videos that are about 19 minutes. But I guess all's well that ends well. Especially with cute little puppies.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Westerns

January will be Western Film month around here. As we watch more I'll link them here with the others.

Annie Oakley (1894)
Buffalo Bill (1894)
Buffalo Dance (1894)
Sioux Ghost Dance (1894)
Cripple Creek Bar-Room (1899)

The Great Train Robbery (1903)
The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)
The Red Man's View (1909)

The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913)

Robbery Under Arms (1920)
The Covered Wagon (1923)
The Iron Horse (1924)
Tumbleweeds (1925)
In Old Arizona (1928)

Fighting Caravans (1931)
Hellfire Austin (1932)
Sagebrush Trail (1933)
Randy Rides Alone (1934)
The Dawn Rider (1935)
Tumbling Tumbleweeds (1935)
Border Caballero (1936)
Ghost Patrol (1936)
Dodge City (1939)
Stagecoach (1939)

Santa Fe Trail (1940)
The Ox-Bow Incident (1942)
Border Patrol (1943)
The Outlaw (1943)
Abilene Town (1946)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
Cheyenne (1947)
Pursued (1947)
Red River (1948)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
I Shot Jesse James (1949)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

Broken Arrow (1950)
The Gunfighter (1950)
The Nevadan (1950)
Sundowners (1950)
Wagonmaster (1950)
Winchester '73 (1950)
Only the Valiant (1951)
Vengeance Valley (1951)
High Noon (1952)
Rancho Notorious (1952)
Hondo (1953)
Shane (1953)
Johnny Guitar (1954)
The Lone Gun (1954)
Ride Clear of Diablo (1954)
Vera Cruz (1954)
The Man from Laramie (1955)
Man Without a Star (1955)
Gunslinger (1956)
Jubal (1956)
The Searchers (1956)
3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Flesh and the Spur (1957)
Forty Guns (1957)
The Tall T (1957)
Valerie (1957)
Man of the West (1958)
The Hanging Tree (1959)
Ride Lonesome (1959)
Rio Bravo (1959)
The Young Land (1959)

The Magnificent Seven (1960)
The Deadly Companions (1961)
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
Posse from Hell (1961)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962)
Ride the High Country (1962)
Gunfight at Red Sands (1963)
Mclintock! (1963)
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Advance to the Rear (1964)
Rio Conchos (1964)
For A Few Dollars More (1965)
Major Dundee (1965)
Ride in the Whirlwind (1965)
The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
Django (1966)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
El Dorado (1966)
Massacre Time (1966)
The Shooting (1966)
A Bullet for the General (1967)
Day of Anger (1967)
Death Rides a Horse (1967)
A Man, a Horse, and a Gun (1967)
Professionals for a Massacre (1967)
Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968)
The Great Silence (1968)
Hang 'Em High (1968)
The Last Killer (1968)
A Long Ride From Hell (1968)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
A Professional Gun (1968)
The Ruthless Four (1968)
Boot Hill (1969)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
No Room to Die (1969)
Sabata (1969)
True Grit (1969)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Young Billy Young (1969)

Challenge of McKenna (1970)
Five Bloody Graves (1970)
They Call Me Trinity (1970)
Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)
Adios, Sabata (1971)
Captain Apache (1971)
The Deserter (1971)
Return of Sabata (1971)
Trinity Is Still My Name (1971)
Yuma (1971)
Zachariah (1971)
The Bounty Man (1972)
The Grand Duel (1972)
Joe Kidd (1972)
The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972)
A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (1972)
Ulzana's Raid (1972)
High Plains Drifter (1973)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Apache Blood (1975)
Winterhawk (1975)
Joshua, the Black Rider (1976)
Keoma (1976)

Pale Rider (1985)
Walker (1987)

Unforgiven (1992)
Wagons East (1994)
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Wild Wild West (1999)

The American Astronaut (2001)
Dust (2001)
Don't Come Knocking (2005)
Summer Love/Dead Man's Bounty (2006)
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Seraphim Falls (2007)
Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)
Appaloosa (2008)
High Plains Invaders (2009)

Jonah Hex (2010)
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride (2010)
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Seraphim Falls

Seraphim Falls (2007) starts as a straightforward revenge narrative and ends with confrontations with Charon and the devil. This is a very interesting film, one of the weirdest westerns I've ever seen, and one worth re-watching. It's the first feature film of David Von Ancken and stars Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan as the central characters. Charon is played by Wes Studi, who was wonderful as Leaphorn in the mystery series. Anjelica Huston is Lucifer. The Husband, poor thing, just wants to watch Christmas movies and found it too gory. The Younger Son and I are quite taken by it.

trailer:


Slant Magazine says the film
proves to be something in short supply these days: a sturdy, straight-ahead, less-talk, more-action Western.
DVD Talk likes it and asks,
how often do you get to see Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson engaged in an old-school revenge-drenched mega-chase that runs from the top of a frozen mountain to a godforsaken desert that looks like hell's favorite landscape?
and concludes that it
works because of a straight-arrow narrative, a pair of fine performances, a bunch of colorful characters tucked into the background, and a whole lot of really beautiful scenery

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pale Rider

Pale Rider was The Younger Son's pick. We're planning on a January Western Film Month, are not just brimming with Christmas Spirit and decided to start westerns a bit early. Clint Eastwood directs and stars in the title role. Richard Dysart, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgrass, Richard Kiel and John Russell also have parts. Lee Van Cleef would've been a good bad guy here, but it's impossible to fault Russell. The Younger Son and I remember seeing this, but I haven't owned it 'til today, so we probably rented it years ago. We call it "brimming with subtext" -only maybe it's not subtext if it's that obvious.

trailer:


DVD Talk says, "I didn't care for it much when it was new, but since then it's grown on me little-by-little". Weird Wild Realm says, "It's not the equal of High Plains Drifter, but it's good." Roger Ebert calls it "a considerble achievement, a classic Western of style and excitement."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scrooge Ballet

I remember the first time I saw this. It was on TV, and we recorded it on VHS tape, but we never saw it aired on television again. As the tape began to show its age we started looking for it on DVD. After years of searching we finally found it, and The Husband bought it for me for Christmas one year. The Northern Ballet Theatre's A Christmas Carol tells the complete tale without words -well, almost without words, Marley's Ghost has a soliloquy and there are some songs. One of the songs is Four Pence A Day. The dancers are so expressive you don't need words to know the story.

I finally found a video clip:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brentleigh Ware Staffordshire Tankards



These 2 mugs were Christmas presents from an aunt on the paternal side of my family and one of the things The Grandmother particularly wants to keep. They've found a home on a bookshelf and have settled in nicely. The one on the left is of Canterbury, and the one on the right is of St. Paul's. They are part of a series of the cathedrals of London.

A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)

A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott is The Younger Son's favorite of the Scrooge videos. It is a good one. Scott is mean and devotedly business-like at first without being a miserly caricature and is utterly convincing post-conversion. The not-so-good parts:
  • Nephew Fred just seems whiny;
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present is scroogier than Scrooge and lacks any Christmas Spirit;
  • Oppressive background music.
David Warner (Aldous Gajic in Grail, a Babylon 5 episode, and several characters in the Star Trek universe) is Bob Cratchit, and Susannah York is his wife. The Tiny Tim in this version actually looks like he is sickly. The woman who plays Mrs. Dilber here plays the same role in the Patrick Stewart version.

the beginning of the movie:


12/25/2009: Salon.com loves this version:
Well, Cratchits and ghosts come and go, one might argue, but every "Christmas Carol" must rise or fall with its Scrooge. And on this point the 1984 version most emphatically ascends.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Roseville bowl

As we pack The Grandmother up for her move here and she decides what she wants to keep, I've been noticing some of my personal treasures. I don't have many, but this Zephyr Lily Roseville bowl is one of them. I keep potpourri in it on top of the piano:

A Christmas Carol (Patrick Stewart)

A Christmas Carol is Patrick Stewart's 1999 adaptation of Dickens' story. Stewart stars as Scrooge. There are reasons we particularly like this version, but there are a few bits we do not like:
  • We think Christmas Past is mean, not good-hearted and certainly not o'er-brimming with the hearty goodwill of the Christmas season. He is trudging through his dutiful oversight of Christmas Day without a touch of joy. I can't imagine a worse depiction of Christmas "Spirit".
  • The interchange in which Scrooge says, "I didn't know Cratchit had a crippled son," and Christmas Present replies with "You didn't ask," well, we just get this funny picture of Scrooge interrupting Bob at his work and asking, "By the way, Mr. Cratchit, do you have a crippled son?"
  • The Giant Jawa-eyed Christmas Yet to Come.
  • The sound of Stewart working up to his big laughing scene at the end. Gagging, maybe?

We especially like the scenes in which Christmas Present visits the sailors at sea and prisoners in the jail -most versions leave this part out. We've grown to appreciate the downtrodden Bob Cratchit, whose portrayal I did not like at all at first but whose demeanor seems more realistic to me now than other versions I used to prefer, and a more good-hearted Fred than the one in this production would be hard to find.

The Younger Son keeps track of Saskia Reeves' career through a Google Alert. She does make a great Mrs. Cratchitt. I like Edward Petherbridge, who played Lord Peter Wimsey in the PBS Mystery series back in the 1980's. In this movie, he plays one of the charity men who come to Scrooge for donations for the poor.

We like this one. It's well worth owning and annual viewing. We've seen a lot of adaptations, so we can't help but compare them. None of them are perfect, but this one has much to offer.

There's a scene from towards the end of the film here:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pelham Puppets

I don't know what put me in mind of my old Pelham puppet. I got it when I was a child and I always loved that sweet thing. Such a happy, pleasant expression:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Brand New Year

Brand New Year is a holiday cd by SHe DAISY, a female country music trio, and although I'm not a country music fan, I enjoyed this cd with its close harmony. I was pleased and surprised to find "Christmas Children" here. We watch a lot of Christmas Carol movies during this season, and the one this song is from -the musical "Scrooge" starring Albert Finney- is a favorite. The lyrics are online here.

Deck the Halls:

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Charlie Wilson's War

The Grandmother was quite offended by the sprinkling of F-words through this film, which surprises me a bit because we've seen things with "Jesus Christ" and "God damn" and other take-the-name-of-the-lord-in-vain abuses and she hasn't made a fuss. She was impressed that it was based on a true story. Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ned Beatty. It tells how we began funding the Afghan resistance against the Soviet invasion of their country.

trailer:


Slant Magazine ends with this:
With its chickenshit elisions, and despite the last-minute feint at reversing its celebratory Cold Warrior tone, Charlie Wilson's War is Gumped-up history.
Time Out says,
the film’s lack of real bite or requisite splashes of genuine acid keep it firmly in the limited bounds of slightly old-fashioned, liberal hearted light comedy
BBC says, "The role is a coup for Philip Seymour Hoffman." Salon.com also praises Hoffman: "Hoffman is the movie’s finest effect."

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Snow!



Chocolat

I took this one to The Grandmother's to see how she would react to a film that had so much food, and chocolate at that, but she didn't share on that subject. She said she liked the movie but had trouble following it at times. I loved this one. Chocolat is a 2000 film based on the novel by the same name. It stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina and Johnny Depp.

trailer:


Salon.com has a review that seems to want to like it but ends up saying, "What turns me off is the combination of simple-mindedness and self-satisfaction. That said, “Chocolat” could be a lot worse". Roger Ebert calls it "charming and whimsical" and says he "enjoyed the movie on its own sweet level". EW says, "the season's latest Euro synthetic confection, manufactured from a proprietary recipe based on focus group data about what consumers enjoy most in a Miramax movie". Rolling Stone likes it and calls it "yummy".

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Jethro Tull Christmas Album

I remember listening to the radio in the car one day years ago, hearing a flute playing unfamiliar Christmas music and thinking that it sounded an awful lot like Jethro Tull. I couldn't imagine that Jethro Tull would have a Christmas CD. But they do. You can read the lyrics at the band's site. You can listen to some of the music here. I like this one, but The Husband's not a fan.

A Christmas Song:

Christmas Tree



The tree is different every year. The tree is the same every year.

More Christmas decorations:

Happy Birthday, Dave Brubeck!

Today is Dave Brubeck's 91st birthday.

Take Five:

The Shop Around the Corner

The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 Ernst Lubitsch film starring Jimmy Stewart, Margaret Sullavan and Frank Morgan. It's a wonderful film that takes place during the Christmas season. It has a happy ending without being too silly or sugary sweet along the way.

trailer:


Senses of Cinema says:
As William Paul [in Ernst Lubitsch’s American Comedy] observes, “No previous Lubitsch film is so thoroughly interested in the dynamic of a group: where society in the past might have functioned as a restriction on individual desire, this is the first film to posit personality itself as a function of society”
Time has it as one of their best 100 films. EW says it "may be the wisest romance ever put on celluloid". Variety praises it but is now behind a paywall. TCM has an overview. The New York Times says,
So there it is, and a pretty kettle of bubbling brew it makes under Mr. Lubitsch's deft and tender management and with a genial company to play it gently, well this side of farce and well that side of utter seriousness.

Summer Love/Dead Man's Bounty

Dead Man's Bounty is a Western of sorts starring Val Kilmer as the titular dead man. It is a 2006 Polish film but is in English. I told The Grandmother when it was over that it was the weirdest Western I'd ever seen, and she said she wasn't sure she'd call it a Western. I said that it had a sheriff, a whorehouse, horses, cowboy hats, threats of hangings, gunfights, men dressed in Old West attire and every indication it took place in the Wild West of yore. It's hard for me not to view it as a Western. But, then again, it's anything but a typical Western. The music adds another surreal touch.

An embeddable trailer that doesn't auto-play, is that too much to ask? Apparently so. I couldn't find a single one that didn't start playing an advertisement as the page loaded.

DVD Verdict says, "I don't think I've seen such a consistently acted genre picture in a while" and "any fan of Westerns since The Wild Bunch should probably see this picture". AMC has some information.

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Medieval Christmas


A Medieval Christmas is one of the cds in a 3-volume set by the Boston Camerata.

The picture above came from nonesuch.com, where you can listen to samples and order a copy.

This is one of my favorite Christmas cds. I used to have the LP, but this is one of the ones I got on cd when I started making that switch.

Because It's Christmas

Because It's Christmas is the first Barry Manilow Christmas cd and the only one I have. It's a bit heavy on slow and sad songs.

Jingle Bells (in a live version):

Bing Crosby: The Voice of Christmas: The Complete Decca Christmas Songbook

Bing Crosby: The Voice of Christmas: The Complete Decca Christmas Songbook, a 2-disc set, is another of The Husband's Bing Crosby CDs. I remember a lot of these songs from LPs from years past.

Silent Night:

The Bishop's Wife

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts. But especially with gifts. You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled - all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we are celebrating. Don't ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most, and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth. -from The Bishop's Wife

The Bishop's Wife is a delightful lesser-known Christmas film from 1947. Cary Grant makes a perfect angel, and David Niven as the worried bishop trying to flatter wealthy parishioners into donating money enough to build a cathedral and Loretta Young as his neglected wife are also perfect. Elsa Lancaster plays the housekeeper. I always like her. We've seen this movie several times and enjoy it anew every year. The Husband gets a particular kick out of it, laughing aloud at some parts.

trailer:



TCM has an overview. The New York Times review says "it comes very close to being the most enchanting picture of the year" and calls it a "warm and winning fable".

Giant

Giant (1956) stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean in a multi-generation look at cattle barons and the rise of oil in Texas. The Grandmother had seen it; I had not. It is a very long film, too long for us to finish in one sitting in her apartment, and, to be honest, neither of us wants to finish it. I comfort myself by assuring myself it was almost over when I quit. George Stevens is the director.

trailer:

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Christmas Choir


You can listen to some of Christmas Choir, directed by Alfred Walter, and order it here. The photo above came from that site. The cd includes standards such as Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Come All Ye Faithful -10 tracks in all.

Elf

We think Elf is perfect. It could have so easily been dreadful, but everything that could have been done right was done right. Mistakes were not made. It is now an annual holiday tradition.

The movie is directed by Jon Favreau and stars Will Ferrell as the human brought up as an elf, James Caan as Buddy's biological father, Mary Steenburgen as Buddy's step-mom, Zooey Deschanel as Buddy's love interest Jovie, Bob Newhart as Buddy's adoptive elf papa and has Ed Asner as Santa.

trailer:


Slate calls it "a heartwarming homage to Christmas movies past". The New York Times calls it a "charming" success. Roger Ebert says,
This is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.

Little Caesar

The Grandmother hadn't seen Little Caesar before but says Edward G. Robinson was her daddy's favorite actor. She said Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., also in the movie, was more what she liked. This 1931 pre-code crime film was Robinson's first big, successful role, and he played many gangster-types after that.

trailer:


youtube has the film here:


Slant Magazine says Robinson is the only thing worthwhile in the film. DVD Talk says, "Edward G. Robinson has to carry the entire show as none of the other actors seem particularly comfortable in their roles, especially the miscast Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.".

Saturday, December 03, 2011

On Yoolis Night: Medieval Carols and Motets


On Yoolis Night: Medieval Carols and Motets is another of my Anonymous 4 CDs. I love this group.

Here's Peperit virgo:


You can listen to parts of it at Amazon.

Breath of Heaven: A Holiday Collection

Breath of Heaven: A Holiday Collection is a cd by Grover Washington. Not really my thing, but I thought The Husband would like it and he does. I picked it up used at Spin Street for $5, but it's readily available at Amazon where you can listen to samples.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is the 1st track:

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays is selection of 18 holiday pieces from the Eaken Piano Trio. It is traditional instrumental Christmas music, including Sleigh Ride, Ave Maria and Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite. I've been unable to locate a video of any of the selections.

We're No Angels (1955)

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.

We've had the same television for 20 years and bought a flat screen tv recently, and it's made more difference in this dvd than in anything else we've watched on it. Those colors! And there are things in this film we'd never noticed in previous viewings. VistaVision and Technicolor.

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" but Variety reviews are now behind a paywall. There are overviews at TCM and MSN.

Run Lola Run

The Grandmother liked this one! I must admit that surprised me. She was intrigued by the plot structure and seemed to think the pace was downright tiring. She was interested in the fact that The Younger Son's film class studied it, and she wanted to know how that was handled -she guessed they watched the movie and then discussed it. She also ate a chef salad (well, half of a chef salad) with enjoyment. All in all a great day.

Run Lola Run is a 1998 German film which provides three different scenarios for how an initiating crisis could have played out. It was well received at its release and won 26 awards. I loved it.

trailer:


Salon.com says, "You want to see Lola keep running the same way you want to hear a great pop song again as soon as it ends." Slant Magazine says, "Run Lola Run could very well be the punchiest piece of concept art to ever hit the silver screen, a shock-dose of German existential cinema you can ride." Slate.com closes with this: "The movie could be dismissed as all adrenaline-swamped pyrotechnics, but adrenaline can be its own justification: In Run Lola Run, it makes stuff happen big-time." Roger Ebert closes his review by saying, "what it does, it does cheerfully, with great energy, and very well."

Friday, December 02, 2011

Season's Greetings

You just can't go wrong with Dean Martin. Laid back and cheerful, Season's Greetings is one of the perfect Christmas cds. Dean Martin's music is a favorite for me, and I have such fond memories of watching his tv show with Daddy way back when. You can listen to some of Season's Greetings at Amazon, though that's not the cover my cd has.

It's a Marshmallow World is not on this cd, so I obviously need more Dean Martin holiday music:


December 25 is the anniversary of Dean Martin's death in 1995.

Christmas Carols from Tewkesbury Abbey

The Choir of Tewkesbury Abbey School was founded in 1973, but the school was closed in 2006 and the choir re-housed. The cd Christmas Carols from Tewkesbury Abbey is from 1994 and has 20 tracks of traditional Christmas carols, including The First Nowell, Good King Wenceslaus and others less familiar.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (but I'm not sure this is the same as the track on the cd):


You can listen to samples and buy the cd at Amazon.com.

Christmas Eve and Other Stories

Christmas Eve and Other Stories is one of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's holiday cds. It's a concept album and tells a story.

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 is the 8th track:


I hear they are going to be in concert in Memphis this year.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story came out in 1983, but we only discovered it a few years ago. The kids never liked it, but The Husband and I do, and we watch it every year.

trailer:


It seems to be on tv nonstop during the holidays.

The Big Sleep

I took The Big Sleep to The Grandmother's house to watch. I had seen it several times before, but she had never seen it. This 1946 film is based on a book by the same name by Raymond Chandler. It is directed by Howard Hawks and stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Also in this movie are Dorothy Malone, Elisha Cook, Jr. and Ben Weldon.

trailer:


Images Journal has a review, as do Reel Classics, Senses of Cinema, the New York Times and Salon.com. Roger Ebert considers it a "Great Movie".

Thursday, December 01, 2011

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

We enjoy Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas in both forms. The book was always a favorite with the kids, with The Elder Son having it memorized at age 2. We now have the DVD, and it's one of the staple must-see video entertainments every year at our house. Boris Karloff provides the voice of the narrator and the speaking Grinch, while Thurl Ravenscroft (perhaps better known as the voice of Tony the Tiger on those old cereal commercials) does the singing. And Max! Max is a bright spot for me.

Here's the Grinch's song, with screen shots from the show:

The Pianist

When the movie was over and I asked her what she had thought of it, The Grandmother's only comments were about the man eating the spilled food off the ground. I was stunned, as I thought the music would appeal to her and she would like the heroics. This food "thing" may drive me to drink. Or overeat. Or both!

The Pianist is a 2002 WW2 film based on the true story of Wladyslaw Szilman, a Polish Jew who was a professional pianist when WW2 started and was the only member of his family to survive. It's directed by Roman Polanski and stars Adrien Brody.

trailer:


Senses of Cinema says it "manages to be both illuminating, historically faithful, and definitive" and says Polanski's "vision of Hell is that of an atheist. There is no God in The Pianist, not a hint of Him. This Hell is completely man-made." Slant Magazine has a positive review. Salon.com calls it Polanski's "most emotionally direct film, at times even a brutally blunt film." Rolling Stone begins with this: "What strikes you first about The Pianist, aside from the fact that it is Roman Polanski's most personal and powerful film in years, is its rigorous lack of sentimentality." Spirituality and Practice has a review. Roger Ebert says it "refuses to turn Szpilman's survival into a triumph and records it primarily as the story of a witness who was there, saw, and remembers."