Saturday, April 30, 2016

Where Is the Friend's House?

Where Is the Friend's House? is an Iranian film written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami. It follows a boy as he searches for the house of a friend so he can return a lost school book. Their school work must be done in the composition book, and this book belongs to a child in another village who has already gotten in trouble 3 times for not having his book. The child's teacher has threatened him with expulsion if it happens again. This is an engrossing movie. I feel like I now know these people better than they know each other.

I watched it online with English subtitles, but now I can't even find a subtitled trailer. Very frustrating.

DVD Beaver calls it "a film of classic depth". Cinema of the World and Time Out have positive articles. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Beyond the Law

Ah, Lee Van Cleef! We love you so! Beyond the Law is a 1968 spaghetti western. I swear I don't know why Lee Van Cleef is not more universally acknowledged as the treasure he is. In this he plays an outlaw determined to turn over a new leaf.




A Fistful of Pasta says, "Van Cleef actually breaks out of the steely-eyed persona we're accustomed to and does some pretty decent acting, but his character is so wishy-washy, he can't save it." DVD Talk says,
This is a fun film that has developed a bad reputation amongst genre fans over the years. That bad reputation was largely due to the film's shocking presentation on home video. Poor quality pan and scan presentations that were indiscriminately edited to shorten the film's running time made the show look like a real mess. Add to this some fans' reluctance to accept Lee Van Cleef in such a different role and you have a film that became unjustly neglected.
10K Bullets calls it "above average" and says, "Lee Van Cleef really steals the show as Billy Joe Cudlip as he evolves from cold hearted bad guy into an honorable man."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon


The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (2013) is the 14th book in the Alexander McCall Smith The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. If you want a traditional mystery or detective story you won't find it here, but these books are wonderful explorations of character and scenery. There's even a little mystery included. These must be read in order to understand and appreciate what's going on. I love this series and look forward to many more to come.

from the back of the book:
Precious Ramotswe has her hands full with two puzzling cases. The first concerns a young man hoping to claim his inheritance at his uncle’s farm. The farmer’s lawyer fears that this self-professed nephew may be falsely impersonating the real heir, and asks Mma Ramotswe to look into his identity. The second involves the just-opened Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, which has been shadowed by misfortune, from bad omens in the mail to swirling rumors that its products are dangerous. The salon’s proprietor fears that someone is trying to put her out of business —but who? Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has come to suspect that her intrepid associate Grace Makutsi is pregnant —though Mma Makutsi has mentioned nothing.

With genuine warmth, sympathy, and wit, Alexander McCall Smith explores marriage, parenthood, and the importance of the traditions that shape and guide our lives.
favorite quotes:
And with that, she felt that most exquisite, and regrettably rare, of pleasures -that of welcoming back one who has left your life. e cannot do that with late people, Mma Ramotswe thought, much as we would love to be able to do so, but we can do it with the living.
*******
She looked out of the window. Sometimes it was important simply to get out. It did not matter where you went, as long as you got out of the office, or the kitchen, or any other place where duty required you to be, and went to some other place that you did not have to be. So she did not have to be in Mochudi, or in her garden, or on the verandah of the President Hotel. If she were in any of these places, it would be because she had chosen to be standing at the top of the hill in Mochudi looking down over the village and hearing the sound of the cattle bells; or tending a plant that needed moving from one spot to another so as to get the beneft of a patch of shade; or simply drinking tea in the presence of others who were doing the same thing.
*******
It was an exchange they had had countless times before -one of those rituals between friends that never change very much yet never seem to grow stale.
*******

The Washington Times has a positive review. The Boston Globe concludes a positive review with this: "Precious Ramotswe’s adventures, as inconsequential as they may seem, do not so much offer an escape from life’s woes as a suggestion for how to make the whole deal more palatable -fragility, fruit cake, and all." Publishers Weekly says that "the book’s appeal lies less in deduction than irrepressible characters, intriguing local lore, and bone-deep love of Africa."

The CS Monitor calls it "a particularly endearing entry in the long-running series, which has lost none of its gentleness or its love for Botswana, of which McCall Smith clearly has fond memories." Kirkus Reviews closes by saying, "A little slower-moving and more diffuse than many of the 13 preceding volumes in this celebrated series ..., but it’s no more than you’d expect from a heroine whose fleetness has never been as big a draw as her wisdom."

I've read these others from this series:

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband from Zebra Drive
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
The Miracle at Speedy Motors
The Double Comfort Safari Club
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

L'Eclisse

L'Eclisse is a 1962 Italian film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Alain Delon. More character- than plot-driven, the movie centers on a young woman who leaves one lover and finds another. It won the Special Jury Prize at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. I'm still struck by the experience of watching it; it's astonishing.

trailer:



I watched it free with commercials at Hulu, where it's currently behind a paywall.

Senses of Cinema calls it " a remarkable work". Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars. The NYT concludes, "The virtual orchestration of graphic detail that Antonioni has managed here, the interesting blend of the human idea with pictorial chic, is affectingly complemented by an excellent musical score."

BFI calls it "one of the most disturbing films about life and relationships in the mid-20th century". Empire Online says, "Michelangelo Antonioni has managed to make a film about the humdrum and make it simultaneously tedious and wonderful." It's included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 92%.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 26th, 1992, there was a riot on streets

April 29th, 1992 (Miami):



by Sublime. from Wikipedia:
The official title of the song references the date April 29, 1992; however, the lyric is sung as, "April 26, 1992." It has been said this was a mistake, but the take was strong enough the band kept it. Theories have developed about the true integrity of the song's lyrics.
Lyrics excerpt:
April 26th, 1992
There was a riot on streets
Tell me where were you?
You were sittin' home watchin' your TV
While I was participating in some anarchy
First spot we hit it was my liquor store
I finally got all that alcohol I can't afford
With red lights flashin', time to retire
And then we turned that liquor store into a structure fire
Next stop we hit, it was the music shop,
It only took one brick to make the window drop
Finally we got our own P.A.
Where do you think I got this guitar that you're hearing today?
I've found it interesting to note that some songs reference specific dates, and I've decided to post those on the appropriate date tduring this year.

Since today is T Tuesday at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, I'll share the coffee I'm drinking while I listen to the music. Coffee is my usual hot drink of choice, and I always take it black:


My mother drank hers black because back during the Depression she wanted to use her sugar ration for other things. I didn't realize folks put sugar and milk in coffee until after I'd been drinking coffee for years. Now sugar just seems to turn it into a different drink entirely, and milk or cream? Yuck ;)

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Ghost in the Shell: the New Movie

The Ghost in the Shell: the New Movie is a 2015 anime film, part of the Ghost in the Shell franchise. This film involves the assassination of the Japanese Prime Minister. I'm a big fan of this series (film and TV), and we buy them when they are released. We are looking forward to the upcoming live-action adaptation.

trailer:



Anime News Network closes its review by calling it "an effective balance of cerebral content and intense sci fi action".

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Coachman

The Coachman is a 1961 South Korean film about the personal lives of the titular coachman and his family, acquaintances and friends. It's the first Korean film to win a major international award. This is an interesting film and a touching, uplifting story.

via Youtube:



Saturday, April 23, 2016

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a 2015 superhero movie directed by Joss Whedon and starring the usual Avengers cast with James Spader as villain Ultron. The Husband and The Younger Son saw this in the theater, but I passed on it at the time. Theater seating tends to be uncomfortable for me as short as I am, or I'd have certainly gone. It's a fun movie, with good character development and an interesting plot incorporating all the characters.

trailer:



Rolling Stone says, "You won't have more fun anywhere than losing your shit at Avengers: Age of Ultron. And you don't have to be a Marvel geek to get with the vibe". The Guardian calls it "Whedon's heroic cavalcade of fun". Screen Rant says it's "One of the most exciting and entertaining Marvel entries."

Empire Online closes by saying, "When we’d happily watch this cast of characters just cook dinner together, it’s hard to complain because they also save the world instead." Time says, "Joss Whedon's super-sharp writing elevates the newest Marvel film beyond the pack".

The Roger Ebert site says,
I hope that even as people buy tickets out of habit, they'll see that there is, in fact, art happening on the screen, maybe for the first time since Marvel's march through American cinema started. "Age of Ultron" proves that a movie with stealth fighter jets, levitating cities and Hulk-on-robot fisticuffs can be as freewheeling as a no-budget indie.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 75% and an audience rating of 84%.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Wolf Blood: A Tale of the Forest

Wolf Blood: A Tale of the Forest is a 1925 silent horror film. The earliest surviving werewolf film, it takes place against the background of rival Canadian lumber interests and a love triangle.

via Youtube:


Reviews are few, but it's worth seeing for its historical value alone; and it's a decent movie, with an unusual setting, clear and well-developed characterization, and a plot that moves along nicely and which includes several interesting sub-plots. And it's just an hour long. Honestly, you can't go wrong with this.




Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Hours


The Hours is a 1998 novel by Michael Cunningham. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was adapted for film in 2002. This is a breath-taking book. I need to read it again, and even then I don't think I'll be ready to leave it. You can read the first chapter online here. I am going to look for the DVD of this film. I want to see it.

from the back of the book:
Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New Yrk morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway. By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace, demonstrating Michael Cunningham's deep empathy for his characters as well as the extra-ordinary resonance of his prose.
favorite quotes:
What a thrill, what a shock, to be alive on a morning in June, prosperous, almost scandalously privileged, with a simple errand to run.
*******
Better to die raving mad in London than evaporate in Richmond.
*******
Men may congratulate themselves for writing truly and passionately about the movements of nations; they may consider war and the search for God to be great literature's only subjects; but if men's standing in the world could be toppled by an ill-advised choice of hat, English literature would be dramatically changed.
*******
Venture too far for love, she tells herself, and you renounce citizenship in the country you've made for yourself. You end up just sailing from port to port.
*******
Still, she is glad to know (for somehow, suddenly, she knows) that it is possible to stop livingThere is comfort in facing the full range of options; in considering all your choices, fearlessly and without guile.
*******

The NYT and The Guardian and Publishers Weekly and CNN have positive reviews. The Washington Post has a few quibbles but calls it the author's "most mature and masterful work". Kirkus Reviews concludes, "Hardly a false note in an extraordinary carrying on of a true greatness that doubted itself."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Last Witch Hunter

The Last Witch Hunter is a 2015 Vin Diesel fantasy film. He stars as an immortal tasked with finding and delivering up witches to the council for judgment. Michael Caine is his priest/handler/chronicler, and Elijah Wood is a younger priest in training for that position. There is a well fleshed-out background mythology rooted in witchcraft and plague and struggling humanity. This is a fun film, interesting throughout (I never once looked at the time), and definitely different. There are hints of a sequel, and I'd pay to see it in the theater.

trailer:


The Roger Ebert site says, "Many films try and fail to pull off the kind of densely over-plotted action-fantasy that director Breck Eisner ("The Crazies," "Sahara") nails in "The Last Witch Hunter.""

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rosebud


No, not that Rosebud!

Rosebud tea:


The Daughter brought it over back last summer and fixed some:


Sadly, I didn't care for it. It does smell lovely, and I dried out the rosebuds to use in Mother's rosejar:


Please share a beverage with us at the weekly T Tuesday gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.



Monday, April 18, 2016

The Big Combo

The Big Combo is a 1955 film noir directed by Joseph Lewis and starring Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, and Jean Wallace, and featuring Lee Van Cleef. I'll watch anything with Lee Van Cleef in it, and this is a good one.

via Internet Archive:


Slant Magazine says, "The Big Combo is scary, and disturbing, because it never entirely gives over to the kind of outright hysteria that might serve as a catharsis, and so the feelings of cloaked desperation are never expunged." Images Journal has a positive review. DVD Talk says,
The Big Combo is a rewarding thriller with a good handle on the hardboiled crime saga circa 1955. It's especially instructive as an example of a movie with a visual surface that completely hides its low budget origin. Few films so convincingly seem to be Somewhere when they're really taking place in a non-budget Nowhere. Sex, violence, and silhouettes of alienated characters in the fog ... The Big Combo puts the graphic noir back into film noir.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 92%.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Retaining Wall 42


on G. E. Patterson, downtown in Memphis.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lud-in-the-Mist



Lud-in-the-Mist is a 1926 fantasy novel by Hope Mirrlees. It can be read online here. I find this delightful, easy to read, and interesting throughout. How I never read it 'til now is a mystery.

from the back of the book:
Lud-in-the-Mist, the capital city of the small country Dorimare, is a port at the confluence of two rivers, the Dapple and the Dawl. The Dapple has its origins beyond the Debatable Hills to the west of Lud-in-the-Mist, in Fairyland. In the days of Duke Aubrey, some centuries earlier, fairy things had been looked upon with reverence, and fairy fruit was brought down the Dapple and enjoyed by the people of Dorimare. But after Duke Aubrey had been expelled from Dorimare by the burghers, the eating of fairy fruit came to be regarded as a crime, and anything related to Fairyland was unspeakable. Now, when his son Ranulph is believed to have eaten fairy fruit, Nathaniel Chanticleer, the mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist, finds himself looking into old mysteries in order to save his son and the people of his city.
favorite quotes:
You should regard each meeting with a friend as a sitting he is unwillingly giving you for a portrait -a portrait that, probably, when you or he die, will still be unfinished. And, though this is an absorbing pursuit, the painters are apt to end pessimists. For however handsome and merry may be the face, however rich may be the background, in the first rough sketch of each portrait, yet with every added stroke of the brush, with every tiny readjustment of the "values," with every modification of the chiaroscuro, the eyes looking out at you grow more disquieting. And, finally, it is your own face that you are staring at in terror, as in a mirror by candle-light, when all the house is still.

*******

as summer is ending:
Then the trees, after their long silence, began to talk again, in yellow and red. And the days began to shrink undr one's own eyes. And Master Nathaniel's pleached alley was growing yellower and yellower, and on the days when a thick white mist came rolling up from the Dapple it would be the only object in his garden that was not blurred and dimmed, and would look like a pair of giant golden compasses with which a demiurge is measuring chaos.

*******

when asked if she is "quite happy:
"Well, and even if I'm not," retorted Hempie, "where's the good of crying, and retching, and belching, all day long, like your lady downstairs? Life has its sad side, and we must take the rough with the smooth. Why, maids have died on their marriage eve, or, what's worse, bringing their first baby into the world, and the world's wagged on just the same. Life's sad enough, in all conscience, but there's nothing to be frightened about in it or to turn one's stomach. I was country-bred, and as my old granny used to say, "There's no clock like the sun and no calendar like the stars." And why? Because it gets one used to the look of Time. There's no bogey from over the hills that scares one like Time. But when one's been used all one's life to seeing him naked as it were, instead of shut up in a clock, like he is in Lud, one learns that he is as quiet and peaceful as an old ox dragging the plough. And to watch Time teaches one to sing...."
*******
... the highest spiritual destinies are not always reserved for the strongest men, nor for the most virtuous ones.
*******

SF Site calls it "exquisitely written" and closes with this:
If the recommendations of authors like Neil Gaiman, Mary Gentle, Elizabeth Hand, Johanna Russ, and Tim Powers mean nothing to you, and the description of the Chanticleer's garden on the second page of the book doesn't impress you as some of the most evocative descriptive writing in fantasy, then by all means leave Lud-in-the-Mist to a chosen few and sink yourself in the mire of the latest doorstop that passes itself off as fantasy.
Infinity Plus has a review and also an article by Michael Swanwick called, "The Lady Who Wrote Lud-in-the-Mist". That article is a history of both book and author and describes the book as "simultaneously one of the least known and most influential of modern fantasies."



Friday, April 15, 2016

Invasion of the Bee Girls

Invasion of the Bee Girls (also known as Graveyard Tramps) is a 1973 horror/soft-core porn film, in which a female mad scientist changes women so that they can kill men with sex. Like bees. Because, you know, the way insects mate... Oddly, it's written by Nicholas Meyer, who is better known for his work on Star Trek 2 and 4 and 6. What was he thinking!

"Are you talking about sexual exhaustion? He didn't have any history of heart problems."

via Youtube:


Moria says,
Invasion of the Bee Girls is cheerfully an exploitation film. Every single member of the substantial female cast list gets topless, for example. What sets it above any other exploitation film is its tongue-in-cheek cheerfulness. First, there is the outrageously silly premise – women injecting radiation-mutated bee venom to become queen bee creatures that exhaust the town’s menfolk in the heat of sexual passion.
1000 Misspent Hours thinks it belongs in the so-bad-it's-good category and says,
Once they took it upon themselves to poke fun at the escalating battle of the sexes by making a movie upon this ridiculous premise, writer Nicholas Meyer and director Denis Sanders went about their business as if there were nothing ridiculous about it at all. And in so doing, they made it possible to enjoy Invasion of the Bee Girls at whichever level you prefer.
Weird Wild Realm closes with this: "It's an effective, wacky, cute & dumbass film worth checking out if you're at all a "B" film fan, pun inescapable." Roger Ebert calls it "the best schlock soft-core science fiction movie since maybe "The Vengeance of She"" and "What salvages this somewhat unlikely plot is the movie's sense of style." Rotten Tomatoes has a 43% critics score.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

After Hannibal



After Hannibal is a 1996 novel by Barry Unsworth, loosely based on his attempts to live in the Italian countryside. He died there in 2012 at the age of 81. The book is a trip -a fun look at the interactions people have, the different perspectives and values they bring to a conversation, and the outcome of different values and cultures colliding.

from the back of the book:
Set in the beautiful landscape and rich history of Umbria, Italy, Booker Prize-winning author Barry Unsworth brings forth a witty and illuminating work of contemporary manners and morals. The region where Hannibal defeated the Romans is now prey to a different type of invasion: outsiders buying villas with innocent and not-so-innocent dreams. Among these clustered along one hillside road are the Greens, a retired American couple seeking serenity, and the Chapmans, a British couple whose dispute over a wall escalates into a feud of operatic proportions. Add to this mix a wily and corrupt British "biolding expert," Blemish, and a lawyer, Mancini, who practices subterfuge and plans his client's actions like military strategy, and you have a sharp, entertaining, and satisfying bittersweet work.
The NYT opens its review by calling it "a sad comedy of cheats and fools, a story of unbounded beauty and blighted hopes, of multiple and layered betrayals, "a regression of falsehoods and deceptions going back through all the generations to the original agreement, God's pact with Adam."" Kirkus Reviews closes by saying, "the exquisitely evoked Umbrian landscape that serves as backdrop for these petty squabbles and personal dramas is the real draw here."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Drood


Drood is a 2009 Dan Simmons novel telling the story of Dickens' life after he meets Drood during the aftermath of a train wreck. Wilkie Collins narrates.

from the back of the book:
On June 9, 1863, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, fifty-three-year-old Charles Dickens –at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world– hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.

Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits, and a hidden London-beneath-London mere research ... or something much darker?

Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens's life and narrated by Wilkie Collins -Dickens's friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival- Drood explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the author's last years and may provide the key to his final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Chilling, haunting, and utterly original, Drood is Dan Simmons at his powerful best
I got to page 425, about halfway through, and saw this:

"That moment was the end of my life as I had known it."

Well, if I'd known that I'd have skimmed the first half of the book. Honestly, all those people and houses and mistresses and now he's starting over??? But I kept reading. Another 15 pages, though, was enough to make me understand that those Readers Digest Condensed Books might be useful in some cases. I'm done for now. I may pick it back up eventually to finish it. But maybe not.

The LA Times calls it "big, bulky, outrageous, irritating, phantasmic." The Washington Post concludes, "Inside this artery-clogging almost-800-page book is a sleek and sinewy 300-page thriller waiting to be teased out. If only Simmons hadn't left the job to us." The New Yorker closes by saying, "The narrative is overlong, with discarded subplots and red herrings, but Simmons, a master of otherworldly suspense, cleverly explores envy’s corrosive effects."

Kirkus Reviews says it's "suspenseful and spooky". HorrorNovelReviews.com begins its review: "...Unfortunately for me, Drood proved to be somewhat boring during the last half. It’s nearly eight hundred pages long, and the blasted thing took me a solid month to read. I almost stopped several times during the course of those four weeks."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Square in Oxford, MS



Last month, we spent an afternoon down in Oxford, MS, which is a little less than an hour and a half from here. The first thing we did was look for a place to have lunch, and we decided on the Ajax Diner:


It was crowded, but there was a booth close to the door. These are the bar and the back interior as seen from our booth:


I had the catfish with fried eggplant and squash casserole:


The Husband had the BBQ pork chops, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. The Younger Son had a hamburger. We were quite happy with our food and the service was fine. The Husband decided to have dessert, and The Younger Son and I pushed on to explore the rest of the square. The Husband caught up with us before we got to Square Books:


This book store is one of the treasures of the modern world. An independent book store with a wide variety of books and specialty areas for Southern writers, especially William Faulkner, we fell in love with it. I took this photo of the stairs leading up to the landing:


They have two other shops on the square, one just for kids books and one for used books:


The Younger Son decided to stop in a cookie shop for chocolate chunk cookies for dessert, and I went to Holli's Sweet Tooth for ice cream and coffee:


We saw a statue of William Faulkner sitting on a bench at City Hall, and I couldn't resist a little chat:


I'm not a huge fan of his writing, but I didn't tell him that.

The photo at the top of the page and the two below:


are of the courthouse, which is in the center of the square. There are other things to do in Oxford, but we stuck to the square proper on this trip. I'll go back some other day and look into the Faulkner-related sites and try another restaurant.

I'm linking to the T Tuesday gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's Altered Book Lover blog. Join us!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Duellists

The Duellists is a 1977 historical drama based on Joseph Conrad's short story The Duel, which can be read online here. It won the best debut film award at Cannes for director Ridley Scott. It stars Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel as the rival duellists, covering a lifetime of antagonism. Also in this are Albert Finney and Hugh Fraser. Stacy Keach narrates. A fascinating film, it was hard to look away. Riveting and beautiful.

trailer:



The Guardian closes with this: "A splendid recreation of Napoleonic France and a compelling movie to boot. En garde!" The New Yorker calls it "gorgeous and thrilling" and says it's "one of the most impressive directorial d├ębuts in British movie history."

The NYT concludes with this:
What one carries away from the film, though, is a memory of almost indescribable beauty, of landscapes at dawn, of over-crowded, murky interiors, of underlit hallways and brilliantly sunlit gardens. It's not a frivolous prettiness, but an evocation of time and place through images that are virtually tactile, and which give real urgency to this curious tale. It's marvelous.

Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars and praises the direction, saying, "on the occasions when the filmmaker has found source material with narrative and themes strong enough to support his commercially honed aesthetic, he has turned out films that seamlessly, and with seeming effortlessness, conflate form and content." Empire Online gives it 4 stars and concludes, "The richness of Scott's visuals, the excellence of the performances and the depth of the themes combine to make a minor masterpiece."

Rotten Tomatoes has a 91% critics score. Roger Ebert calls it "cerebral, elegant".

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lola (1961)

Lola is a 1961 French film, Jacques Demy's debut film. It's a delight to watch the characters as their lives intersect. I'd gladly watch this again.

I watched it at Hulu with commercials. trailer:




Criterion concludes, "Humane, wistful, and witty, Lola is a testament to the resilience of the heartbroken." Senses of Cinema has an article. DVD Talk calls it "enchanting".

Saturday, April 09, 2016

The King's Speech

The King's Speech (2010) covers the period of time between the future King George VI seeking help overcoming his stammer and the abdication of his brother and his subsequent coronation. It's an interesting film. It does deviate a bit from the actual history, but it's a movie after all. Colin Firth plays the king, and Geoffrey Rush is the therapist. Helena Bonham Carter is Elizabeth. Derek Jacobi, who is wonderful in whatever he is in, plays an archbishop here. Timothy Spall is miscast (in my opinion, of course, and what do I know?) as Churchill.

My one major complaint was the Winston Churchill actor. I mean how hard could it have been to get a good Churchill? He's not seen or heard much, though, so it's a minor quibble. But still...

trailer:



Slate opens with this: "The King's Speech is an extremely well-made film with a seductive human interest plot, very prettily calculated to appeal to the smarter filmgoer and the latent Anglophile. But it perpetrates a gross falsification of history".

The NYT has a mixed review. Rolling Stone gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and calls it "a crowning achievement powered by a dream cast". The Guardian describes it as "a richly enjoyable drama".

Roger Ebert gives it a full 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a 95% critics rating.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The Spiral Staircase

The Spiral Staircase is a 1945 psychological suspense thriller about a serial killer. Sometimes included in lists of horror movies, the plot involves someone who kills disabled women in the small New England town. The new doctor in town has taken a special interest in a young mute woman who is the live-in companion of the rich bed-fast Mrs. Warren. This is a lesser-known film that deserves wider appreciation. The eerie music and thunderstorms add just the right touch in the right places.

I want a parlor palm as big as the ones everybody in this movie has!

It's directed by Robert Siodmak. He left Germany with the rise of the Nazis, using a faked birthplace of Memphis, TN, to get passage to Paris, though some believe the Mamphis claim to be true.

It stars:
Dorothy McGuire (whose career lasted from 1943-1990 and whose varied credits include A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, The Enchanted Cottage, Three Coins in the Fountain, Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson and The Greatest Story Ever Told);

George Brent (whose career lasted from 1929-1978);

Ethel Barrymore (whose storied career lasted from 1895-1957);

Elsa Lanchester (who career lasted from 1925-1980 and included roles in The Private Life of Henry VIII; Bride of Frankenstein; The Bishop's Wife; Bell, Book and Candle; Mary Poppins; and the Elvis movie Easy Come, Easy Go);

Rhys Williams;

and Rhonda Fleming.

via Daily Motion:



1000 Misspent Hours says it's "somewhat short on action, but it compensates by being reasonably suspenseful and by featuring a killer with an interesting psychological motivation." Images Journal says, "The Spiral Staircase evokes Hitchcock at his best." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 92%.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Joyce Cobb in Concert

I've been attending a series of free concerts this Spring at the main branch of the Memphis public library. The 3rd one was last week and featured Joyce Cobb.

Joyce Cobb is a treasure. She's been in Memphis since the mid 1970s. I don't see video of this concert online, but here's a recent taste of her energy:





and here is video from a few years ago:




and here's a local interview:



It's such a joy to have access to such good local music!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Hancock

Hancock is a 2008 superhero movie starring Will Smith and Charlize Theron. I liked this film just fine when we saw it a while back but now can't remember it at all. So strange that it made so little impression, but not every movie stays with you. I remember this as being pleasantly entertaining while it lasted, and sometimes that's enough.

trailer:



io9 has an article titled, "9 Ways Hancock Could Have Been A Pretty Good Movie". Empire Online concludes: "See-saws between straight superhero movie and parody, with layers of soap-opera fudge in between. A lot of solid scenes - but Hancock lacks the power of super-coherence." Time Out gives it 2 out of 5 stars and a negative review.

Roger Ebert gives it 3 stars and calls it "a lot of fun". Rotten Tomatoes has a 41% critics score and an audience rating of 59%.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Tea for Two

Tea for Two:



a 1950 cover of a 1925 song. This version is from a film by the same name and is sung by Doris Day, who celebrated her 92nd birthday this past Sunday. Or maybe her 94th? It seems no one is quite sure what year she was born.

Please join the T Tuesday link-up at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's Altered Book Lover blog.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Early morning, April four, Shot rings out in the Memphis sky

Pride (In the Name Of Love):



by U2

Lyrics excerpt (which include a Memphis reference):
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Point Blank

Point Blank is a 1967 crime film directed by John Boorman. It stars Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, and Carroll O'Connor. It's a revenge movie with extra double-cross for good measure.

trailer:



The NYT closes with this:
But, holy smokes, what a candid and calculatedly sadistic film it is! What a sheer exercise in creeping menace and crashing violence for their surface shock effects! It evolves on a shadowy social level and develops no considerate moral sense. Mr. Marvin is out to get his money by hitting, cutting with bottles, dumping men off roofs, and shooting them—and he does. He is a thorough antihero, a killer who must kill or be killed.

This is not a pretty picture for the youngsters—or, indeed, for anyone with delicate taste.
Senses of Cinema opens by saying, "Point Blank has gradually become regarded as one of the seminal films of late 1960s American cinema" and particularly notes, "It is also amongst the two or three most indelible, precise and committed performances of Marvin’s career."

Empire Online gives it 5 stars. The Guardian says, "John Boorman's classic, disorienting thriller still has all the strange menace and cool intrigue it did in 1967".

Slant Magazine says, "What makes Point Blank so extraordinary, however, is not its departures from genre conventions, but Boorman's virtuoso use of such unconventional avant-garde stylistics to saturate the proceedings with a classical noir mood of existential torpor and romanticized fatalism" and concludes, "after Boorman's Point Blank, noir would never be quite the same again."

It's included in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, which calls it "the perfect thriller". Roger Ebert says, "...as suspense thrillers go "Point Blank" is pretty good. It gets back into the groove of Hollywood thrillers". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a critics score of 97%.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Svengali (1931)

Svengali is a 1931 horror film starring John Barrymore. It was nominated for 2 Academy Awards. This one is worth watching as an example of early, pre-code horror and, of course, for John Barrymore. It's perfect for folks who don't like modern horror but who would like some touchstone for understanding what others see in the genre.

via Youtube:



1000 Misspent Hours gives it 3 out of 4 stars and says Barrymore should've played villains more often. HorrorNews.net has a plot synopsis, a lengthy review, and screenshots. DVD Talk calls it "a horror film with fantastic, classical elements" and says,
The 1931 Svengali is notable for its incredible expressionistic set design by Pole Anton Grot - which looks more Eastern European than anything in Paris - and similarly highly stylized costumes and makeup, along with some startling special effects that continue to amaze nearly 80 years after it was made.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 83%.

Friday, April 01, 2016

On the first of April, nineteen fifty-four. A Federal man sent word he'd better make his run no more.

The Ballad of Thunder Road:



by Robert Mitchum

Lyrics (which include a Memphis reference):
Let me tell the story, I can tell it all
About the mountain boy who ran illegal alcohol
His daddy made the whiskey, son he drove the load
When his engine roared, they called the highway Thunder Road

Sometimes into Asheville, sometimes Memphis town
The revenuers chased him, but they couldn't run him down
Each time they thought they had him, his engine would explode
He'd go by like they were standin' still on Thunder Road

And there was thunder, thunder over Thunder Road
Thunder was his engine and white lightnin' was his load
And there was moonshine, moonshine, to quench the devil's thirst
The law they swore they'd get him, but the devil got him first

On the first of April, nineteen fifty-four
A Federal man sent word he'd better make his run no more
He said 200 agents were coverin' the state
Which ever road he tried to take, they get him sure as fate

"Son," his daddy told him, "Make this run your last
The tank is filled with hundred proof, you’re all tuned up and gassed
Now don’t take any chances if you can't get through
I’d rather have you back again than all that mountain dew."

And there was thunder, thunder over Thunder Road
Thunder was his engine and white lightning was his load
And there was moonshine, moonshine, to quench the devil's thirst
The law they swore they'd get him, but the devil got him first

Roarin' out of Harlan, revvin' up his mill
He shot the gap at Cumberland and screamed by Maynardville
With G-men on his taillight, roadblocks up ahead
The mountain boy took roads that even angels feared to thread

Blazin' right through Knoxville out on Kingston Pike
Then right outside of Bearden, where they made the fatal strike
He left the road at ninety that's all there is to say
The devil got the moonshine and the Mountain boy that day

And there was thunder, thunder over Thunder Road
Thunder was his engine and white lightnin' was his load
And there was moonshine, moonshine, to quench the devil's thirst
The Law, they never got him, 'cause the devil got him first
Law, they never got him, 'cause the devil got him first