Friday, July 01, 2022

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a 1993 animated movie. It stars Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Abe Vigoda, Stacy Keach, Dick Miller, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Don't let it fool you. This is a serious character study. I watched it on HBO Max.


The Verge has a positive review and says it's "surprisingly complex in its characterization of its protagonist." Roger Ebert's site has a glowing review. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 85% and an even higher audience score. Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Fantasia (1940)

Fantasia is a 1940 animated Disney musical anthology film featuring various pieces of classical music. I've seen it several times, having had it on VHS when the kids were little. This time I watched it on Disney+. It was expensive to produce and was a box office failure. It's a must-see but doesn't in my opinion reward re-watching.


Film Site has an article and an extensive summary. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 95%. It's listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Producers (1967)

The Producers is a black comedy satire directed by Mel Brooks (whose 96th birthday is today) and starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. I don't see it free anywhere. I'm always surprised at the movies that are unavailable except for rental or purchase. I tend to watch what's available free or through the services I'm already paying for. This film is hilarious, though, and I recommend it if you have access to it.


Here's a screenshot for the Tea Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering:

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Waif Woman

The Waif Woman is a 1914 short story by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Repressed by Stevenson at his wife’s insistence, “The Waif Woman” –published posthumously (and only after Mrs. Stevenson’s death)- is an adaptation of a ghost story told in chapters 50-55 of the Icelandic Erybyggja Saga. The story certainly is scandalous, even by Stevenson’s standards, and presents perhaps his most brutal indictment of material greed yet. -from Old Style Tales
You can read it online here or listen to it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,

This is a tale of Iceland, the isle of stories, and of a thing that befell in the year of the coming there of Christianity.

In the spring of that year a ship sailed from the South Isles to traffic, and fell becalmed inside Snowfellness. The winds had speeded her; she was the first comer of the year; and the fishers drew alongside to hear the news of the south, and eager folk put out in boats to see the merchandise and make prices. From the doors of the hall on Frodis Water, the house folk saw the ship becalmed and the boats about her, coming and p. 6going; and the merchants from the ship could see the smoke go up and the men and women trooping to their meals in the hall.

The goodman of that house was called Finnward Keelfarer, and his wife Aud the Light-Minded; and they had a son Eyolf, a likely boy, and a daughter Asdis, a slip of a maid. Finnward was well-to-do in his affairs, he kept open house and had good friends. But Aud his wife was not so much considered: her mind was set on trifles, on bright clothing, and the admiration of men, and the envy of women; and it was thought she was not always so circumspect in her bearing as she might have been, but nothing to hurt.

On the evening of the second day men came to the house from sea. They told of the merchandise in the ship, which was well enough and to be had at easy rates, and of a waif woman that sailed in her, no one could tell why, and had chests of clothes beyond comparison, fine p. 7coloured stuffs, finely woven, the best that ever came into that island, and gewgaws for a queen. At the hearing of that Aud’s eyes began to glisten. She went early to bed; and the day was not yet red before she was on the beach, had a boat launched, and was pulling to the ship. By the way she looked closely at all boats, but there was no woman in any; and at that she was better pleased, for she had no fear of the men.

When they came to the ship, boats were there already, and the merchants and the shore folk sat and jested and chaffered in the stern. But in the fore part of the ship, the woman sat alone, and looked before her sourly at the sea. They called her Thorgunna. She was as tall as a man and high in flesh, a buxom wife to look at. Her hair was of the dark red, time had not changed it. Her face was dark, the cheeks full, and the brow smooth. Some of the merchants told that she was sixty years of age and others laughed and p. 8said she was but forty; but they spoke of her in whispers, for they seemed to think that she was ill to deal with and not more than ordinary canny.

Aud went to where she sat and made her welcome to Iceland. Thorgunna did the honours of the ship. So for a while they carried it on, praising and watching each other, in the way of women. But Aud was a little vessel to contain a great longing, and presently the cry of her heart came out of her.

“The folk say,” says she, “you have the finest women’s things that ever came to Iceland?” and as she spoke her eyes grew big.

“It would be strange if I had not,” quoth Thorgunna. “Queens have no finer.”

So Aud begged that she might see them.

Thorgunna looked on her askance. “Truly,” said she, “the things are for no use but to be shown.” So she fetched a chest and opened it. Here was a cloak of the rare scarlet laid p. 9upon with silver, beautiful beyond belief; hard by was a silver brooch of basket work that was wrought as fine as any shell and was as broad as the face of the full moon; and Aud saw the clothes lying folded in the chest, of all the colours of the day, and fire, and precious gems; and her heart burned with envy. So, because she had so huge a mind to buy, she began to make light of the merchandise.

“They are good enough things,” says she, “though I have better in my chest at home. It is a good enough cloak, and I am in need of a new cloak.” At that she fingered the scarlet, and the touch of the fine stuff went to her mind like singing. “Come,” says she, “if it were only for your civility in showing it, what will you have for your cloak?”

“Woman,” said Thorgunna, “I am no merchant.” And she closed the chest and locked it, like one angry.

Then Aud fell to protesting and caressing her. That was Aud’s practice; for she thought if she p. 10hugged and kissed a person none could say her nay. Next she went to flattery, said she knew the things were too noble for the like of her—they were made for a stately, beautiful woman like Thorgunna; and at that she kissed her again, and Thorgunna seemed a little pleased. And now Aud pled poverty and begged for the cloak in a gift; and now she vaunted the wealth of her goodman and offered ounces and ounces of fine silver, the price of three men’s lives. Thorgunna smiled, but it was a grim smile, and still she shook her head. At last Aud wrought herself into extremity and wept.

“I would give my soul for it,” she cried.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls is an award-winning 2016 dark fantasy drama film starring Liam Neeson and Sigourney Weaver. I watched it solely because of those two actors and didn't know what to expect. I wasn't expecting such a touching film, though, or one so sad. I watched it on Netflix, at that time the last movie in my Netflix watchlist. I've added to the list since then.


Rolling Stone calls it "extraordinary" and closes its review with this:
Evocative, mysterious and shot through with bruising humor and heartbreak, A Monster Calls gets you where you live and where there’s no place to hide. There’s magic in it.
The Guardian has a positive review and says, "This is not just a film about grief; it’s a film that immerses you in grief’s journey." Empire Online says, "if you let the film in, it’s unlikely to let you leave the cinema with dry eyes." Roger Ebert's site calls it "a metaphorical allegory of childhood, illness, death, and grief. And an often very powerful film." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 86%.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Singin' in the Rain

Singin' in the Rain is a 1952 musical film, often considered the best musical ever made, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and with Cyd Charisse. You can't ask for a more feel-good film than this. Just thinking about this movie brings a smile to my face. And I'll watch anything with Gene Kelly in it. It's on HBO Max, though I have the DVD around here somewhere...

Empire Online says, "The most enjoyable 102 minutes you’ll ever encounter in a cinema, Singin’ In The Rain is dazzling in its perfection". Roger Ebert put it on his list of Great Movies and says, ""Singin' in the Rain” is a transcendent experience, and no one who loves movies can afford to miss it". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 100%. It's listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Friday, June 24, 2022

It's a Dark Day

I live in a state with a trigger law if Roe v Wade is overturned banning abortion unless the mother's dying. Our new law makes providing or attempting to provide an abortion a Class C felony and states that:
As enacted, enacts the "Human Life Protection Act," which bans abortion in this state effective on the 30th day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow states to prohibit abortion; creates exception for situations where the abortion is necessary to prevent the death of pregnant woman or prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of major bodily function; prohibits prosecution of a woman upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted.
Tennessee Lookout says,
Tennessee’s law makes abortion a crime: a Class C felony for physicians – or anyone else – who performs an abortion, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

It has one exception: abortions necessary to prevent death or “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Physicians in those circumstances must be prepared to provide proof as a defense to criminal prosecution.

Women seeking an abortion face no criminal penalties. And a woman’s mental health is explicitly excluded as a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment.

A physician performing an abortion under these circumstances would also have to be ready to provide proof that he or she made a best-faith effort to deliver the fetus alive, unless the doctor could show that doing so would cause death or grave harm to a woman.
The gleeful and patronizing public statements provided by our governor and our two U.S. senators -Blackburn and Hagerty- are horrifying.

I'm venting on Facebook, as those of you who are my friends there can attest, but here I'll just share where this leaves us in Tennessee -not in a good place.

I welcome discussion, but I don't welcome drive-by smirks or gloating or suggestions that adoption is a substitute for bodily autonomy.

Umberto D.

Umberto D. is a 1952 critically acclaimed award-winning Italian film. It is the story of a man in post-WW2 Italy struggling to survive on his insufficient pension after having worked in civil service for thirty years. It's depressing to think we're re-living late 1940s-era Italy, but the evidence is before our own eyes. It's a touching film, not sad in the make-you-cry way, but your heart will go out to him. I watched it on HBO Max.

via Daily Motion:

Deep Focus Review opens a thoughtful article with this:
Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. envelops us in a seemingly futile search for dignity, within a hopeless, unsympathetic world almost incapable of recompense and riddled by indifference toward the individual. Presenting a sentimental version of Italian neorealism, the cinematic movement in which De Sica made his name, the director embraces the common man through everyday struggles, but also through the heart’s journey to find some reason to endure. Even while structuring his narrative around the emotional validation of one man by way of his best friend, a dog, the drama never feels artificial or maudlin, as common as such a story may be. Opening on a demonstration held by a crowd of aged pensioners, the film begins with citizens shouting for “justice” and higher annuities. Police break up the rabble in jeeps, honking at the men and chasing them from the square in Rome like a flock of pesky geese. De Sica sets his stage with various shots of protesters, among them the anonymous face of Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti), shown briefly here and there. Without a permit to rally, the pensioners are waved away, though most can survive on their allowance anyway. Umberto cannot, probably for the first time in his life.
Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies and says, "It may be the best of the Italian neorealist films -the one that is most simply itself, and does not reach for its effects or strain to make its message clear." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus rating of 97%. It's listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Chickamauga: a short story

Chickamauga is an 1887 short story by Ambrose Bierce. Bierce was a prolific and influential journalist as well as a story writer, poet, and American Civil War veteran. In 1913 he went to Mexico to cover their civil war. He was never seen or heard from again. His year of death is unknown but is generally considered to be 1914.

You can read this particular short story online here or here or have it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,
One sunny autumn afternoon a child strayed away from its rude home in a small field and entered a forest unobserved. It was happy in a new sense of freedom from control, happy in the opportunity of exploration and adventure; for this child's spirit, in bodies of its ancestors, had for thousands of years been trained to memorable feats of discovery and conquest--victories in battles whose critical moments were centuries, whose victors' camps were cities of hewn stone. From the cradle of its race it had conquered its way through two continents and passing a great sea had penetrated a third, there to be born to war and dominion as a heritage.

The child was a boy aged about six years, the son of a poor planter. In his younger manhood the father had been a soldier, had fought against naked savages and followed the flag of his country into the capital of a civilized race to the far South. In the peaceful life of a planter the warrior-fire survived; once kindled, it is never extinguished. The man loved military books and pictures and the boy had understood enough to make himself a wooden sword, though even the eye of his father would hardly have known it for what it was. This weapon he now bore bravely, as became the son of an heroic race, and pausing now and again in the sunny space of the forest assumed, with some exaggeration, the postures of aggression and defense that he had been taught by the engraver's art. Made reckless by the ease with which he overcame invisible foes attempting to stay his advance, he committed the common enough military error of pushing the pursuit to a dangerous extreme, until he found himself upon the margin of a wide but shallow brook, whose rapid waters barred his direct advance against the flying foe that had crossed with illogical ease. But the intrepid victor was not to be baffled; the spirit of the race which had passed the great sea burned unconquerable in that small breast and would not be denied. Finding a place where some bowlders in the bed of the stream lay but a step or a leap apart, he made his way across and fell again upon the rear-guard of his imaginary foe, putting all to the sword.

Now that the battle had been won, prudence required that he withdraw to his base of operations. Alas; like many a mightier conqueror, and like one, the mightiest, he could not curb the lust for war, nor learn that tempted Fate will leave the loftiest star.

Advancing from the bank of the creek he suddenly found himself confronted with a new and more formidable enemy: in the path that he was following, sat, bolt upright, with ears erect and paws suspended before it, a rabbit! With a startled cry the child turned and fled, he knew not in what direction, calling with inarticulate cries for his mother, weeping, stumbling, his tender skin cruelly torn by brambles, his little heart beating hard with terror--breathless, blind with tears--lost in the forest! Then, for more than an hour, he wandered with erring feet through the tangled undergrowth, till at last, overcome by fatigue, he lay down in a narrow space between two rocks, within a few yards of the stream and still grasping his toy sword, no longer a weapon but a companion, sobbed himself to sleep. The wood birds sang merrily above his head; the squirrels, whisking their bravery of tail, ran barking from tree to tree, unconscious of the pity of it, and somewhere far away was a strange, muffed thunder, as if the partridges were drumming in celebration of nature's victory over the son of her immemorial enslavers. And back at the little plantation, where white men and black were hastily searching the fields and hedges in alarm, a mother's heart was breaking for her missing child.

Hours passed, and then the little sleeper rose to his feet. The chill of the evening was in his limbs, the fear of the gloom in his heart. But he had rested, and he no longer wept. With some blind instinct which impelled to action he struggled through the undergrowth about him and came to a more open ground--on his right the brook, to the left a gentle acclivity studded with infrequent trees; over all, the gathering gloom of twilight. A thin, ghostly mist rose along the water. It frightened and repelled him; instead of recrossing, in the direction whence he had come, he turned his back upon it, and went forward toward the dark inclosing wood. ...

Wednesday, June 22, 2022


Tsotsi is an award-winning 2005 South African film. I watched it on Paramount+.


Roger Ebert opens his positive review with this: "How strange, a movie where a bad man becomes better, instead of the other way around. "Tsotsi," a film of deep emotional power, considers a young killer whose cold eyes show no emotion, who kills unthinkingly, and who is transformed by the helplessness of a baby." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience consensus score of 86%.