Monday, February 29, 2016

The File on Thelma Jordon

The File on Thelma Jordon is a 1950 film noir directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Barbara Stanwyck. The titular Jordon shows up late one night at the District Attorney's office with a complaint about burglars and prowlers and she and the married assistant D.A. become involved. Things proceed to get complicated, as they do in films noir. Stanwyck is always priceless.

via Youtube:

Rotten Tomatoes has no critics score but an audience rating of 72%.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Horrors of Spider Island

Horrors of Spider Island is a 1960 West German horror film. Bring on the dancin' girls! The girls crash land in the ocean with the film crew, and they barely make it to the island. Once there, they find the professor who was researching uranium dead in a huge spider web. Then one of the men is bitten by a spider and turns into some kind of were-spider creature who stalks the girls. The girls spend all their time taking showers, changing clothes, skinny dipping, clawing at each other, dancing, and then fighting over the 2 men who come to the island to be involved in the research. And then the men fight each other over the women. I'm not sure how I ended up sitting through the entire thing, but it's just over an hour long.

via Youtube:

1000 Misspent Hours gives it -3 1/2 (yes, that's a negative!) stars, which puts it into their "so bad it's good" category, and says, "everybody who cares about movies in which guys in tacky monster suits menace half-naked girls needs to see Horrors of Spider Island". Million Monkey Theater has a detailed plot summary and screenshots and calls it "a fairly sleezy West German exploitation movie from the days when such things were sure-fire money makers, marketed to audiences lusting for some skin and sex without any sort of pesky plot getting in the way." Weird Wild Realm admits "many a fan of cheap & cheezy vintage horror has assessed it as of the "so bad it's good" category" but doesn't agree. has plot information and planty of screenshots and this:
there is an overall sense of unbelievable awe at the hokiness of it all that transcends the crappy building blocks and elevates the film, just ever so barely, to the level of fun bad movie making. In much the same way people stare morbidly at train or traffic accidents, this movie compels the viewer to keep watching, if only to see where the wreck is going to finally stop.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Farewell, My Concubine

Farewell, My Concubine is a 1993 Chinese film. It is the only Chinese-language film to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes -it tied with The Piano.

It is the story of 2 boys who grow up together in a school for training actors in Chinese opera, and takes them into adulthood during the Japanese invasion during the 1930s. The abusive child-rearing practices are very hard to watch.

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

Roger Ebert closes with this:
"Farewell My Concubine" is a demonstration of how a great epic can function. I was generally familiar with the important moments in modern Chinese history, but this film helped me to feel and imagine what it was like to live in the country during those times. Like such dissimilar films as "Dr. Zhivago" and "A Passage to India," it took me to another place and time, and made it emotionally comprehensible. This is one of the year's best films.
Empire Online places it in the top 100 of foreign language films. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 88% but an audience rating of 93%.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Spanish Gardener

The Spanish Gardener is a 1956 film starring Michael Hordern as the British diplomat sent to a disappointing post after his wife leaves him. He takes his young son, whom he mistakenly views as in delicate health, and the son strikes up a friendship with the titular gardener (Dirk Bogarde). The father becomes jealous. It's based on a 1950 book by A. J. Cronin.

I saw this movie years ago on television and enjoyed it. I enjoyed it just as much this time. It's a delightful character study.

via Youtube:

TCM has an overview. Variety has a positive review.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Curtains for Three

Curtains for Three is a collection of 3 Nero Wlfe novellas written by Rex Stout in 1948, 1949 and 1950. I'm working my way through the series. I'm actually more familiar with the TV series, and am enjoying reading the books.

from the back of the book:
A murder weapon that wouldn't lie down and stay put... an opera star who could only whisper... a posse on horseback chasing a killer through New York's Central Park... a desperate girl with so many aliases she'd almost forgotten who she really was.

A stellar triple bill of mayhem and mystery featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

I'm not finding much in the way of online reviews, but the series is a classic and the books make for fun, light reading.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Way West

The Way West is a 1967 Western starring Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, and Richard Widmark. This was Sally Field's first major film role. It is based on A. B. Guthrie, Jr.'s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. There's more than Indians to worry about on the Oregon Trail when folks bring their drama along with them. This is an enjoyable Western. Solid plot, good acting, beautiful scenery.

via Youtube:

Roger Ebert concludes, " is at least a well-made and wholly professional Hollywood Western. Western fans, myself included, might enjoy it for that alone. Widmark and Mitchum are excellent in roles unusual for them and Douglas, as always, is a seasoned old hand." The NYT doesn't like it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Grove Grill

Our original plan was to go to Napa Cafe -a restaurant close to us where we had never been, but the young woman at the stand when we walked in just looked at us. When I said we wanted a table for 2, she said they weren't seating any more people for lunch that day. Oh. I was surprised since it was noon and they serve lunch until 2, but OK. When I asked when would be a good time to come back she said, "5," but we wanted lunch. When I explained that, she suggested we try again the next day. I was left to ask why the next day would be different or if it was just as likely we'd be turned away then, too. At any rate, we decided to cut our losses and move on. If it's that hard to get seated there for lunch on a weekday, they obviously don't need us; and we prefer a restaurant that's a bit more welcoming.

We ended up at The Grove Grill. another restaurant close-by in the Laurelwood Shopping Center.

It was our first time there, and it looked like a popular spot for business lunches and lady lunches. I imagine it'd be a nice place at night for a quiet dinner date. These photos were taken from our table, trying not to get other diners in the pictures:

The menu offered a nice variety. The Husband wanted to see what their hamburger was like, and I had the club sandwich. We each had iced tea:

The club wasn't a traditional club sandwich but was chicken breast with avocado, bacon and tomato. Delicious! The staff was pleasant, welcoming, and helpful. Our total was about $33 before tip, which is a bit steep for us for lunch, but it was a nice treat. It was our Valentine's Day Observed, as it's hard for us to manage eating out on Sundays.

Yelp has a 4 out of 5 star rating with 45 reviews. Trip Advisor has a 3.5 out of 5 star rating with 50 reviews. Eat Local Memphis has a positive review and great photos of the food. The Memphis Flyer has articles and reviews. Some reviews describe it as "relaxed fine dining" and that sounds apt.

We walked to to the end of the shopping center to have dessert at Frost, a fabulous bakery where we got The Daughter's wedding cake.

The Husband got a sugar cookie, and I had a lemon bar, and we each had coffee. Really good coffee:

I can't seem to branch out. The lemon bars are too hard to resist.

Please join the weekly T Tuesday party hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth. There's much sharing of beverages, and the participants often share some art-related posts.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Elevator to the Gallows

Elevator to the Gallows is a 1958 French film, the debut film of Louis Malle. It stars Jeanne Moreau (called "the greatest actress in the world" by Orson Welles and still acting at age 88) and Maurice Ronet (who died of cancer at age 55). The lovers plan to kill the woman's husband. Nothing goes as planned.

The score by Miles Davis is often called "groundbreaking".


I watched it at Hulu, free with commercials, but they've put it back behind the paywall now.

Slant Magazine praises the score. closes by saying, "much of the film is groundbreaking, not only in its juxtaposition of sight and sound but, in the angular editing style, serrated narrative, and of course the film’s influence on the noir genre." Bright Lights Film calls it "a fantastic period piece".

Roger Ebert gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 92%.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Martian (book)

The Martian is a 2011 science fiction novel by Andy Weir. There is a 2015 film based on it which I haven't seen. This is a quick, easy read -a real page-turner. It may sound odd to call a book with this much hard science/technology in it "a quick, easy read", but the technical information is incorporated so well into the plot that it adds to the enjoyment even for someone like me who only has very basic science knowledge.

The story is of an astronaut who gets stranded alone on Mars. I'd call it suitable even for folks who don't care for science fiction, since it can be read as a Robinson Crusoe story. I'd even recommend it as a first novel for someone new to the genre.

from the back of the book:

Six days ago astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’s surface, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old ‘human error’ are much more likely to kill him first.

Armed with nothing but his ingenuity, his engineering skills –and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength– Mark embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
SF Reviews says, "I think we might well be looking — at long last — at a viable successor to the legacy of Arthur C. Clarke." Strange Horizons faults some of the science and language but says, "The Martian is a fun debut: chock full of tension, action, and some suitably believable situations."

SF Signal says, "BOTTOM LINE: A smart, thrilling and ultimately uplifting story grounded in realistic science." The Guardian says, "In addition to being highly entertaining, “The Martian” is very well written and thought provoking."

Publishers Weekly concludes, "Deftly avoiding the problem of the Robinson Crusoe tale that bogs down in repetitious behavior, Weir uses Watney’s proactive nature and determination to survive to keep the story escalating to a riveting conclusion." Kirkus Reviews closes with this: "Sharp, funny and thrilling, with just the right amount of geekery."

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Automania 2000

Automania 2000 is a 1963 animated short film directed by John Halas and narrated by Ed Bishop. Ah, our fascination with cars!

via Youtube:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Night Train

Night Train is a 1997 detective novel by Martin Amis. This is a quick read and interesting. The characters (how they interact and view each other) are fascinating.

from the dust jacket:
A captivating mystery of betrayal and deception, Night Train is a groundbreaking departure from one of the world's most acclaimed novelist.

Detective Mike Hoolihan has seen it all. A fifteen-year veteran of the force, she's gone from walking a beat, to robbery, to homicide. But one case -this case- has gotten under her skin.

When Jennifer Rockwell, darling of the community and daughter of a respected career cop -now top brass- takes her own life, no one is prepared to believe it. Especially her father, Colonel Tom. Homicide Detective Mike Hoolihan, longtime colleague and friend of Colonel Tom, is ready to "put the case down." Suicide. Closed. Until Colonel Tom asks her to do the one thing any grieving father would ask: take a second look.

Not since his celebrated novel Money has Amis turned his focus on America to such remarkable effect. Fusing brilliant wordplay with all the elements of a classic whodunnit, Amis exposes a world where surfaces are suspect (no matter how perfect), where paranoia is justified (no matter how pervasive), and where power and pride are brought low by the hidden recesses of our humanity.
The NYT says, "This brilliant, painful short novel is, in fact, so profoundly inflected with grief that it achieves in the end a sort of melancholy grandeur." The Guardian says, "This is not a strikingly clever book, and it isn't funny. It reads like the work of a much younger man than his other novels. Unlike his other works, it asks you not to keep your distance, but to come close and suffer with the narrator."

The Atlantic has a review. Kirkus Reviews concludes its review with this: "Amis's hypnotic way with a phrase produces a collage asparkle with bits of broken glass--and perhaps the most jaundiced, knowing book ever written about ignorance. Quite an accomplishment."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dreams That Money Can Buy

Dreams That Money Can Buy is a 1947 experimental color film directed by Han Richter. Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Darius Milhaud and Fernand Léger collaborated. It won a prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Our hero takes a complicated lease on a room, then tries to figure out a way to pay the rent and discovers he can sell dreams. Senses of Cinema describes it this way:
The finished film is a compilation of seven unrelated dream sequences linked together by a shared frame story, each of which was filmed by Richter and “designed” in collaboration with one of his artist friends from Europe (in order: Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Man Ray and Hans Arp) and, finally, Richter by himself.

via Youtube:

Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have enough critic reviews to have a score, but the audience rating is 61%.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Front Street 42

on the sidewalk on Front Street, downtown in Memphis.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Son

The Son is a 2002 Belgian/French film directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. The story is of a divorced man whose discovery that his ex-wife is pregnant and is re-marrying motivates him to take the teen-aged murderer of his own son into his carpentry workshop as apprentice. Why does he do this? Even he doesn't understand it. The scene shown above is a pivotal episode between the man and the youth, as they have a bite to eat at a truck stop.


Spirituality and Practice says, "The Son is a haunting parable filled with many moments of quiet dignity." Arts & Faith has it on their list of 100 spiritually significant films and says, "Even if the Dardennes were to insist that their characters have no religious affiliation, Olivier’s choices still add up to a passion play. This is as pure a “movie parable” as you’re likely to find." Salon has a mixed review. Slant Magazine calls it "a testament to Christian forgiveness".

Roger Ebert says,
"The Son" is complete, self-contained and final. All the critic can bring to it is his admiration. It needs no insight or explanation. It sees everything and explains all. It is as assured and flawless a telling of sadness and joy as I have ever seen....Walk out of the house today, tonight, and see it, if you are open to simplicity, depth, maturity, silence, in a film that sounds in the echo-chambers of the heart. "The Son" is a great film. If you find you cannot respond to it, that is the degree to which you have room to grow. I am not being arrogant; I grew during this film.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 88%.

Please come to the weekly T Party over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog and share a beverage-related post with us.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Somewhere Towards the End

Somewhere Towards the End is a 2008 memoir written by Diana Athill when she was 89 years old. It won both the Costa Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Now 98, she still writes. Her latest book was also a memoir, published last year.

from the back of the book:
Diana Athill, esteemed for the honesty and elegantly expressed wisdom of her memoirs, reflects openly, and sometimes with great humor, on the losses and occasionally the gains that age brings.
It is so obvious that life works in terms of species rather than individuals. The individual just has to be born, to develop to the point at which it can procreate, and then to fall away into death to make way for its successors, and humans are no exception to that whatever they may fancy. We have, however, contrived to extend our falling away so much that it is often longer than our development, so what goes on in it and how to manage it is worth considering.
Appearance is important to old women, not because we suppose it will impress other people, but because of what we ourselves see when we look in a mirror.
When I worry, it is about living with the body's failures, because experience has shown me that when that ordeal is less hard than it might have been, it is usually because of the presence of a daughter. And I have no daughter.
Whatever happens, I will get through it somehow, so why fuss? Now that I have attempted to assess my own attitude, that seems to be it.
I am not sure that digging out past guilts is a useful occupation for the very old, given that one can do so little about them. I have reached a stage at which one hopes to be forgiven for concentrating on how to get through the present.

The NYT quotes her explanation of why she wrote this:
“book after book has been written about being young, and even more of them about the elaborate and testing experiences that cluster round procreation, but there is not much on record about falling away.” Being well along in that process herself, she thought, “Why not have a go at it?”
and goes on to say,
Yet Ms. Athill’s book is welcome and original because she is such a robust, free-thinking, nonmawkish presence on the page. She catalogs the indignities of old age while reminding us how much joy can be sucked out of a physically diminished life, joy that often comes from unexpected places.
The Guardian says, "The book is about old age - illness, declining capabilities, caring or being cared for; few books on the subject manage to be amusing, but this one does." Kirkus Reviews has a positive review and closes with this: "Fiercely intelligent, discomfortingly honest and never dull."

The Telegraph says, "One of the delights of this book is that the author is clear-headed about ageing and never complains. In fact she feels grateful that these days a woman of her age has more freedom in the way she dresses than her mother did. Nevertheless she is quick to spot the indignities that age can bring."

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Blindman is a 1971 spaghetti western starring Ringo Starr. There's actually not much to it, but if you like spaghetti westerns (and I do) this is a fine one. Definitely watchable.

via youtube: has 2 reviews. This one says:
Baldi's direction is to his usual solid if not exceptional standards. The score from Cipriani is good and fitting of the general feel of the film. The cast play their roles uniformly well and there is just the right level of irony and tongue placed firmly in cheek to a lot of the proceedings while never stepping over the line into outright comedy which would definitely have been a mistake. Rather the dominant tone is gritty and rather brutal (if a little indulgant) and the viewer has plenty to enjoy from start to finish.
This one calls it "beautifully shot and well-acted".

Fistful of Pasta calls it "a somewhat flawed but entertaining film".

Saturday, February 13, 2016

When Red Is Black

When Red Is Black is a mystery by Qiu Xiaolong, the 3rd book in the Inspector Chen series. I've read the first 2 and will continue to read the series. They are well-written with interesting and well-developed characters whose private lives are well-balanced within the context of the plots. The series is embedded in Chinese culture and history, and I feel like I'm getting an actual taste of a foreign land. Practicing Tai Chi in the park is one of the alibis used, and as I've begun learning Tai Chi at the senior center I think the chance to do Tai Chi with a group in the park every morning sounds absolutely delightful.

from the back of the book:
When the murder of a woman is reported to the Shanghai police while Inspector Chen is on vacation, Sergeant Yu is forced to take charge of the investigation. The victim, Yin Lige, a novelist known for her banned book, has been found dead in her tiny, humble room off the stairwell of a converted multi-family house. It seems that only a neighbor could have committed the crime, for the building is kept locked at night. But there is no apparent motive. Sergeant Yu tries to unravel the reclusive woman's past and begins to realize it may have larger political implications. The Cultural Revolution might be more than 10 years in the past, but its effects can still be felt at every level of Chinese society.
Blog Critics calls it an "engaging novel" and says, "The narrative of When Red is Black is clean and achieves an authentic Chinese voice without having to resort to dialect. Descriptions of Shanghai are luminous. One could almost smell the pork buns steaming in the communal outdoor kitchen or feel claustrophobic in the overcrowded Shikumen dwellings..."

Kirkus Reviews has a positive review. The NYT has an informative article about the author. Publishers Weekly says, "Deftly depicting a China fractured along class and party lines even in matters of love, Qiu also dramatically demonstrates how the past affects the daily lives of Chinese people today."

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Kid Brother (1927)

The Kid Brother is a 1927 Harold Lloyd film. Popular when it was released, it's still considered one of Lloyd's best and is included in the book 1,001 Movies to See Before You Die.

The NYT review from 1927
opens its review with this:
Enough laughter was generated yesterday in the Rialto Theatre by Harold Lloyd's new comedy to make thousands forget the gloomy weather. In this eventful and hilarious production, called "The Kid Brother," Mr. Lloyd displays no little ingenuity, none of his gags being inspired by any other comedian.
Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have enough critic reviews for a score, but the audience rating is 84%.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Doorbell Rang

The Doorbell Rang is a 1965 Nero Wolfe detective mystery by Rex Stout. This is a fun book from a fun series.

from the Wikipedia article:
The Doorbell Rang generated controversy when it was published, due largely to its unflattering portrayal of the FBI, its director and agents. It was published at a time when the public's attitude toward the FBI was turning critical, not long after Robert F. Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover clashed and the Bureau was coming under fire for its investigations of Martin Luther King.


Researching his book Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America's Greatest Authors (1988), journalist Herbert Mitgang discovered that Stout had been under FBI surveillance since the beginning of his writing career. Most of the heavily censored pages he was allowed to obtain from Stout's FBI dossier concerned The Doorbell Rang:
About one hundred pages in Stout's file are devoted to the novel, the FBI's panicky response to it and the attempt to retaliate against the author for writing it. The FBI's internal memorandum for its special agents told them that "the bureau desires to contribute in no manner to the sales of this book by helping to make it the topic of publicity." Orders came from headquarters in Washington that any questions concerning the book should be forwarded to the Crime Records Division, thereby putting book and author in a criminal category.
An internal memorandum by Special Agent M.A. Jones (name surprisingly not censored) summarized the novel and went on to write a critique for the FBI's top command — a rare "literary" honor accorded to few books in its files ... Following the review came a series of recommendations — first, Stout was designated as a person "not to be contacted" without prior approval by FBI headquarters in Washington...
In April 1976, the Church Committee found that The Doorbell Rang is a reason Rex Stout's name was placed on the FBI's "not to contact list," which it cited as evidence of the FBI's political abuse of intelligence information.
from the dust jacket:
This is, in the considered opinion of his publishers, the finest detective story ever written by Rex Stout and therefore one of the very best ever written by anyone. As a new peak for the old master, it provides an occasion to celebrate an outstanding career, as well as a new challenge to the wits of his fans.

A very rich woman comes to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, claiming that she is being harassed by the FBI. She reports that agents are following her and members of her family, her wires are being tapped, and her privacy is being otherwise invaded. She demands that Wolfe help her to find relief and offers him the largest retainer he has ever seen.

Wolfe, with some hesitation, takes the case and quickly encounters a murder about which members of the FBI may know more than is apparent. He also soon finds himself in a direct encounter with FBI agents under highly questionable circumstances.

Never before has Rex Stout written a book more perfectly plotted or one with a denouement so skillfully arrived at.
Wikipedia has quotes from several reviews.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil is a classic 1958 film noir thriller. Written by, directed by, and co-starring Orson Welles, it also stars Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Akim Tamiroff, Marlene Dietrich, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dennis Weaver, Ray Collins, and Joseph Cotten. It is the story of crime and corruption in a Mexican border town. A car bomb and drugs and a newlywed couple are plot elements.

This film is almost universally praised, finding a place on everybody's best-of lists, and I feel foolish criticising it; but at every point along the way if there's a stupid decision to make the character does that. It's downright painful. I kept talking to the screen. "Don't do that! Anything but that!"


The Guardian gives it 5 out of 5 stars and calls it "brilliant". Empire Online opens with this: "For over 40 years critics and filmmakers from Francois Truffaut to Paul Schrader to Curtis Hanson (citing its influence on LA Confidential) have paid homage to the technical mastery and I inspiration of Orson Welles' potent 50s noir." Time Out gives it 5 out of 5 stars and calls it a masterpiece that gets better with age.

A 1958 NYT review says, "THANKS to Orson Welles, nobody, and we mean nobody, will nap during "Touch of Evil,"". Roger Ebert gives it a spot on his Best Movies list. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 96%.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Tea Party

Tea Party:

by Kerli, who celebrated her 29th birthday on the day before yesterday. The song is said to have been inspired by the Mad Hatter's tea party in the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie.

Lyrics excerpt:
Welcome to the Tea Party
Want to be my VIP?
Didn't RSVP?
That's okay (That's okay)
Welcome to the Tea Party
oh oh oh oh
Want to be my VIP?
When I'm all steamed up (up)
Hear me shout
Tip me over and pour me out
Down to the last cup
We keep it boiling hot
We keep the party moving till we drink the last drop

Please join the T party that is a weekly event at Bluebeard and Elizabeth's blog.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Point Omega

Point Omega is a 2010 novel by Don DeLillo. I'm not a big fan of the author, but he's well-respected and it's a short book.... I don't know why his books fail to attract me. This one is no different in that respect, but I'm not giving up on the author.

from the dust jacket:
Don DeLillo has been "weirdly prophetic about twenty-first-century America" (The New York Times Book Review). In his earlier novels, he has written about conspiracy theory, the Cold War and global terrorism. Now, in Point Omega, he looks into the mind and heart of a "defense intellectual," one of the men involved in the management of the country's war machine.

Richard Elster was a scholar -an outsider- when he was called to a meeting with government war planners, asked to apply "ideas and principles to such matters as troop deployment and counterinsurgency."

We see Elster at the end of his service. He has retreated to the desert, "somewhere south of nowhere," in search of space and geologic time. There he is joined by a filmmaker, Jim Finley, intent on documenting his experience. Finley wants to persuade Elster to make a one-take film, Elster its single character -"Just a man and a wall."

Weeks later, Elster's daughter Jessica visits -an "otherworldly" woman from New York, who dramatically alters the dynamic of the story. The three of them talk, train their binoculars on the landscape and build an odd, tender intimacy, something like a family. Then a devastating event throws everything into question.

In this compact and powerful novel, it is finally a lingering human mystery that haunts the landscape of desert and mind.
The Guardian:
It requires careful reading, but as with the man in the gallery, and as with every other aspect of this finely austere novel, the harder you look, the more you see.
New York Magazine says, "Point Omega, DeLillo’s new novel, fits right into this glacial aesthetic. You could even say it’s something of a breakthrough: It brings us, in just over 100 pages, as close to pure stasis as we’re ever likely to get." Slate has a lengthy review.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing is a 1996 Bruce Willis film, a straight re-make of Yojimbo (as was Fistful of Dollars). This version takes place in prohibition-era West Texas on the Mexican border and features an Italian gang and an Irish one battling over the bootleg concession. This is priceless.

It stars Bruce Willis (one of our favorites), Bruce Dern, William Sanderson (a Memphis native who was also in Blade Runner and 2 Babylon 5 episodes -Grail and Thirdspace among other films) and Christopher Walken.


Empire Online gives it 3 out of 5 stars and concludes, "The film's real strength is the way it sounds, with Ry Cooder's jangling score competing with thunderous gunplay for the shell-like's appreciative attention." Rolling Stone says, "Nice going, guys, but it's been done." EW gives it a grade of "D" and calls it a "numskull, overwrought shoot-'em-up". DVD Talk says it's "overly grim" and feels "flat". Roger Ebert despises it, giving it 1 star, and calls it "a mannered, juiceless, excruciatingly repetitive exercise in style." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 37%, but the audience rating is much higher.

I've decided that most film critics don't know fun when it's staring them in the face.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Wedding Rehearsal

Wedding Rehearsal is a 1932 British romantic comedy, directed by Alexander Korda. It's the story of a wealthy, middle-aged bachelor whose mother threatens to cut off his money unless he marries. His plan is to marry off all the suitable young women to other suitors, and his befuddled bumbling in avoidance of matrimony is the substance of the plot.

Pleasant-enough, but it won't make it onto my re-watchable list.

I watched this free at Hulu, but it's currently unavailable there. I can't even find a trailer online. I can't find it for sale anywhere, either. Apparently, you're out of luck unless you want to pay for a video subscription service. But, I do have to say you're not missing that much.

Rotten Tomatoes has no critics score, and the audience score is 33%.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out is a 1947 film noir starring James Mason. Ah, James Mason! You cannot go wrong with one of his films. It is directed by Carol Reed. Scrolling across the screen following the opening credits is this:
This story is told against a background of political unrest in a city of Northern Ireland. It is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved.
via Youtube:

The 1947 NYT review calls it "a most intriguing film". has an exploration of the film. DVD Talk says, "Odd Man Out is rightly hailed as a masterpiece of British film". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Thursday, February 04, 2016


Buddenbrooks is a 1901 novel by German author Thomas Mann. It's the story of 4 generations of the Buddenbrooks family. Published when he was just 26 years old, this was his first novel and was specifically cited by the committee when he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929. It has had 4 screen adaptations. The book is quite long -the Everyman's Library edition is 731 pages. It can be read online only in German. Though the book itself is in the public domain I can't find a translation online. Seeking this book out is worth the time, and reading the book is an easy task. I found myself swept along, caught up in the characters' lives.

from the dust jacket:
Buddenbrooks, first published in Germany in 1901, when Mann was only twenty-six, has become a classic of modern literature.

It is the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany facing the advent of modernity; in an uncertain new world, the family’s bonds and traditions begin to disintegrate. As Mann charts the Buddenbrooks’ decline from prosperity to bankruptcy, from moral and psychic soundness to sickly piety, artistic decadence, and madness, he ushers the reader into a world of stunning vitality, pieced together from births and funerals, weddings and divorces, recipes, gossip, and earthy humor.

In its immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, buddenbrooks surpasses all other modern family chronicles. With remarkable fidelity to the original German text, this superb translation emphasizes the magnificent scale of Mann’s achievement in this riveting, tragic novel.
A Common Reader concludes, "Undoubtedly a classic (who am I even to confirm such an obvious fact?), and worth every one of five stars, I would say that this is a novel all serious readers should read, and I am only surprised that its taken me so long to get to it."

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Naked Edge

The Naked Edge is a 1961 thriller starring Gary Cooper and Deborah Kerr as George and Martha Radcliffe. Hermione Gingold is in this, too. This was Cooper's last film. He died in May of 1961, a week after his 60th birthday. He had converted to Catholicism in 1959 (his wife and daughter were Catholic). In his last public statement he said, "I know that what is happening is God's will. I am not afraid of the future."

After having heard her husband provide the deciding testimony in a murder trial, Martha Radcliffe begins to suspect that it was actually her husband who had committed the crime.

via Youtube:

The 1961 NYT review sadly says, "old Coop deserved something better to ring down the curtain on his career."

Tuesday, February 02, 2016



by Funkeskey, a Memphis band. They have a Facebook page here.

Lyrics excerpt:
Yo mama made me coffee. Mine was black. Her sugar ain't free.
Please join the weekly T Tuesday link party at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Inequality for All

Inequality for All is a 2013 award-winning documentary film by Robert Reich. The film examines income inequality in the United States. Reich is a well-respected economist and presents a reasoned explanation. There is a study guide and curriculum aids.

via Vimeo (password: bernie2016):

Reich has endorsed Bernie Sanders in the current presidential campaign and frequently posts about his reasons on his Facebook page.

I'm a confirmed liberal, I believe Reich has the right idea, and I've been Feeling the Bern since the early days of the campaign. See more about Sanders here at Wikipedia, here on Facebook, and here at his official campaign website.