Sunday, September 30, 2007


A wonderful feel-good movie, Twins stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as twins separated at birth who had been conceived as a result of a scientific genetics experiment meant to produce the perfect child. We all got a kick out of this one, laughing out loud at several points.


How Nerdy Are You?

Here are my results: says I'm a Kinda Dorky Nerd Queen.  What are you?  Click here!

HT: Sci Fi Catholic

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 146

1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.

2 While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

6 Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

7 Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:

8 The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:

9 The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

10 The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

The City of Joy

This is book #1 for the Book to Movie Challenge. The movie City of Joy was released in 1992. I have not yet seen it.

The City of Joy, written by Dominique Lapierre, is the true story of the residents of a Calcutta slum.

from the back of the book:

It's the bestseller that has lifted the hearts of millions, the true stories of living saints and heroes in one of the most crowded places on earth, the sector of Calcutta they call "the City of Joy." Here, amid terrible poverty, you'll share the joy and pain of everyday men and women who abandoned affluent and middle-class lives to dedicate themselves to the poor. And you'll be moved by the people of the City of Joy themselves...not only by their tragedies, but by the faith, generosity, and most of all, boundlass love that will touch you, bless you, and possibly change your life.

It is an inspiring story about people who live hopeful lives in the face of tuberculosis, leprosy, famine and flood and about people who leave lives of comfort to share the lives of these poorest of the poor.

This NYTimes review says:

''The City of Joy'' is about suffering, sorrow, cruelty and deprivation; about practicies so hideous as almost to suspend belief, though they are shockingly true. It is about filth, rags, wounds, disease, even leprosy. Repulsive words. Yet even more, the book is about other words that wonderfully leaven the whole: loyalty, kindness, tolerance, generosity, patience, endurance, acceptance, faith, even holiness. And it is about such love that we cannot pass by on the other side. In any case, it is too fascinating to allow us to do that.

The City of Joy is a Calcutta slum where more than 70,000 people congregate on ''ground hardly three times the size of a football field,'' a place of vermin-infested hovels and shanties, ''without a single flower, a butterfly, or a bird, apart from vultures and crows - it was a place where children did not even know what a bush, a forest or a pond was, where the air is so laden with carbon dioxide and sulphur that pollution killed at least one member in every family; a place where men and beasts baked in a furnace for the eight months of summer until the monsoon transformed their alleyways and shacks into lakes of mud and excrement.''

5 Horror Movies and a Desert Island

So, there we were trying to put Horror movies on our Fantasy lists.... So we decided to make a separate list for Horror.

The Younger Son's list:
Creature From the Black Lagoon
Dracula (Louis Jourdan)
Hound of the Baskervilles (Jeremy Brett)
Hamlet (Mel Gibson)
The Birds

My list:
Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.)
Dracula (Bela Lugosi)
Cat People (the 1940's version)
Frankenstein (Karloff)
The Mummy (Karloff)

The Husband's list:
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The Invisible Man (Claude Rains)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (silent)
Dracula (Lugosi)

The Elder Son's list:
Psycho (the original)
See No Evil
Phantasm: Oblivion
Hellraiser: Deader

5 Fantasy Movies and a Desert Island

Inspired by SFSignal's idea of picking top 5 SciFi films, we kept thinking of fantasy movies we'd want on that desert island.

The Younger Son's list:
LOTR2: The Two Towers
Pirates of the Caribbean
Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark

My list:
Pan's Labyrinth
The Dark Crystal
Big Fish

The Husband's list:
Harry Potter 1: HP and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Incredibles
Superman (the 1st Christopher Reeve film)
The Sword in the Stone

The Elder Son's list:
Shrek 2
The Dark Crystal

Top 50 Dystopian Movies

1. Metropolis (1927)
2. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
3. Brazil (1985)
4. Wings of Desire (1987)
5. Blade Runner (1982)
6. Children of Men (2006)
7. The Matrix (1999)
8. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
9. Minority Report (2002)
10. Delicatessen (1991)
11. Sleeper (1973)
12. The Trial (1962)
13. Alphaville (1965)
14. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
15. Serenity (2005)
16. Pleasantville (1998)
17. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
18. Battle Royale (2000)
19. RoboCop (1987)
20. Akira (1988)
21. The City of Lost Children (1995)
22. Planet of the Apes (1968)
23. V for Vendetta (2005)
24. Metropolis (2001)
25. Gattaca (1997)
26. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
27. On The Beach (1959) (but the book was wonderful)
28. Mad Max (1979)
29. Total Recall (1990)
30. Dark City (1998)
31. War Of the Worlds (1953)
32. District 13 (2004)
33. They Live (1988)
34. THX 1138 (1971)
35. Escape from New York (1981)
36. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
37. Silent Running (1972)
38. Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
39. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
40. A Boy and His Dog (1975)
41. Soylent Green (1973)
42. I Robot (2004)
43. Logan's Run (1976)
44. Strange Days (1995)
45. Idiocracy (2006)
46. Death Race 2000 (1975)
47. Rollerball (1975)
48. Starship Troopers (1997)
49. One Point O (2004)
50. Equilibrium (2002)

HT: SFSignal

1/31/2009: I'm updating the ones I've seen.

Farewell, Bilbo Baggins

Maybe I should have waited until today to post the video of Leonard Nimoy singing The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. Today is the anniversary of Bilbo's departure over the sea.

The photo above of Ian Holm as Bilbo is from the Tolkien Gateway.


Today is the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels.

Saint Michael, Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

-- Pope Leo XIII

Appropriate lectionary readings can be found here. Michaelmas is one of the quaterdays and is associated with the Autumnal Equinox.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Identity is an action/adventure/thriller starring Matt Damon. I had heard he was a candidate to play Kirk in the Star Trek prequel, but now I've read that he's considered too old at this point to play the role. They are apparently taking Kirk way back. I think he'd have been perfect otherwise.

Jason Bourne is an amnesiac CIA assassin who has been targetted for elimination by the CIA when he fails an assignment and disappears. We all liked it. It was a fun movie -interesting and tense without being so stressful I couldn't watch it.


We have the sequel and are looking forward to seeing it.


Play with the kitty kitty.

5 SF Movies and a Desert Island

This question from SFSignal got a different list from each of us here.

The Younger Son's list:

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
Independence Day
The War of the Worlds (1953)
The 1st Star Wars movie (the original one)

My list:

2001: A Space Odyssey
Star Wars (the Star Wars, from when there was only the one)
Star Trek 1 (I know, but I was so thrilled to see it after that long dry spell)
and, what... The Chronicles of Riddick, maybe. Or The Matrix.

The Husband's list:

The Day the Earth Stood Still
The War of the Worlds (the 1953 version)
Star Wars: A New Hope
Metropolis (the 1927 silent)
Independence Day

The Elder Son's list:

The Terminator
The Day the Earth Stood Still
the original Star Wars movie
The Fifth Element

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Mission

The Mission is based on a true story of Jesuit priests trying to save South American Indians from enslavement. The director is Roland Joffe. It stars Robert De Niro (I've seen him in Brazil), Jeremy Irons, Liam Nissan (I've seen him in Excalibur, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Batman Begins). This film is #15 on the Arts and Faith list of top 100 spiritually significant films. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986.


The Younger Son found it slow-moving but liked it anyway, though he said he wouldn't want to see it again for a while. I thought it was beautiful, both visually and the music. It's been years since I saw it last, but I found it fascinating both times.

Madeleine L'Engle: Feminist

The latest Feminist SFF Carnival is up here, and the last mention is a link to a post at blogher explaining what makes Madeleine L'Engle a feminist writer.

L’Engle’s strong, realistic heroines gave girls and young women characters to admire and inspire, and introduced many to a lifelong love of science fiction. Feminist bloggers are noting how important L’Engle’s work was to them, grieving, and celebrating her contributions to science fiction, feminism, and faith.

Links to other bloggers' reflections follow.

Edgar Degas

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1917 of Edgar Degas. It's odd to think that he died about a year before my mother was born. He's considered one of the founders of Impressionism and is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers.

The National Gallery of Art has some pictures including a close study of The Dance Lesson. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has some information on his life and art. PBS has some resources. There are pictures of his paintings and some information about his life at OCAIW.

BBC MasterWorks presentation Private Life Of A Masterpiece -Little Dancer Aged Fourteen:

A slide show of his work:

Kingdom of the Spiders

Thinking about Leonard Nimoy's bit part in Them! brought to mind William Shatner's starring role in Kingdom of the Spiders, a tarantula-filled 70's-era horror film. Not real scary, really. I remember seeing this on TV and even as petrified of spiders as I was I was able to watch this without difficulty.

5/11/2010: Horror Movie A Day has a review.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Castle Dracula Still For Sale

I remember this story from back in January when I wrote

While not an independent mini-state like Sealand, which is also on the market, at least you can drive a car up to the front door of this 14th Century Transylvanian castle. It is for sale by the New York City heir who only recently came into possession after communist takeover in 1948.

and again in July when I noticed that Castle Bran was back on the market.

Now Forbidden Planet reports

Castle Bran, often referred to as the ‘real’ Castle Dracula, is the centre of a legal controversy

They provide a link to this BBC video on the problem regarding ownership. It seems the government is saying, "Oops," and wants the castle back.

HT: Futurismic


update from sfscope

Penguins Are Canaries

It looks like Penguins are showing signs of environmental stress.

from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Some of climate's best canaries are turning out to be penguins. Down the mine, an upturned songbird in a cage was the first warning of a deadly gas seep. Above ground, an age of fossil fuels later, there are different silences.

In the sub-Antarctic, king penguins fledge fewer chicks if the parents must forage in warming seas.


In mentioning Fess Parker's role in Them! I found it online and watched it. It's gone now, but here's a trailer:

James Whitmore stars. Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy also has a part in this movie.

from Wikipedia:
When casting his planned Davy Crockett episode of the Disneyland television show, Walt Disney viewed the film to see James Arness who had been recommended for the role. However, Disney was impressed by a brief scene of Fess Parker insisting that he saw the giant flying ants despite being held in an institution. Disney realized he had found his Crockett.

Daniel Boone

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1820 of Daniel Boone, frontier hero.

I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.

—Daniel Boone

There is a Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail that stretches through parts of Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky. You can take a virtual tour of the Daniel Boone Homestead. The Daniel Boone National Forest is in Kentucky. A biography written by Thwaites in 1902 is online here. A purported autobiography can be read here. There is a 1936 movie based on his life:

Another film (1956) included Lon Chaney, Jr. as an American Indian. A Daniel Boone TV show ran from 1964-1970 and starred Fess Parker as the title character and Ed Ames as his Indian friend. Here's an opening credits clip from the series:

Fess Parker had a small role in the genre film Them!

Don Juan, Canto the Eighth

George Gordon, Lord Byron

Of all men, saving Sylla, the man-slayer,
Who passes for in life and death most lucky,
Of the great names which in our faces stare,
The General Boon, back-woodsman of Kentucky,
Was happiest amongst mortals anywhere;
For killing nothing but a bear or buck, he
Enjoyed the lonely, vigorous, harmless days
Of his old age in wilds of deepest maze.

Crime came not near him--she is not the child
Of solitude; Health shrank not from him--for
Her home is in the rarely trodden wild,
Where if men seek her not, and death be more
Their choice than life, forgive them, as beguiled
By habit to what their own hearts abhor,
In cities caged. The present case in point I
Cite is, that Boon lived hunting up to ninety;

And, what's still stranger, left behind a name
For which men vainly decimate the throng
Not only famous, but of that good fame,
Without which Glory's but a tavern song--
Simple, serene, the antipodes of Shame,
Which Hate nor Envy e'er could tinge with wrong;
An active hermit, even in the age the child
Of Nature--or the Man of Ross run wild.

'T is true he shrank from men even of his nation,--
When they build up unto his darling trees,
He moved some hundred miles off, for a station
Where there were fewer houses and more ease;
The inconvenience of civilisation
Is, that you neither can be pleased nor please;
But where he met the individual man,
He showed himself as kind as mortal can.

He was not all alone: around him grew
A sylvan tribe of children of the chase,
Whose young, unawakened world was ever new,
Nor sword nor sorrow yet had left a trace
On her unwrinkled brow, nor could you view
A frown on Nature's or on human face;
The free-born forest found and kept them free,
And fresh as is a torrent or a tree.

And tall, and strong, and swift of foot were they,
Beyond the dwarfing city's pale abortions,
Because their thoughts had never been the prey
Of care or gain: the green woods were their portions;
No sinking spirits told them they grew grey,
No fashion made them apes of her distortions;
Simple they were, not savage--and their rifles,
Though very true, were not yet used for trifles.

Motion was in their days, Rest in their slumbers,
And Cheerfulness the handmaid of their toil;
Nor yet too many nor too few their numbers;
Corruption could not make their hearts her soil;
The lust which stings, the splendour which encumbers,
With the free foresters divide no spoil;
Serene, not sullen, were the solitudes
Of this unsighing people of the woods.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

R.I.P Blogging?

Christianity Today says blogging has peaked and may be a dying medium, but they seem to assume the purpose of all blogs is thoughtful commentary and amassing readership.

Thanks to widespread blog burnout, everyone will be famous to 15 people for 15 minutes.

Tech researcher Gartner Inc. reported earlier this year that 200 million people have given up blogging, more than twice as many as are active.

"A lot of people have been in and out of this thing," Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer told reporters. "Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it."

I see blogging as more of a modern commonplace book and a way of sharing with the family what my current interests are -film right now, but the name "divers and sundry" was specifically chosen with my changing obsessions in mind.

HT: Euangelion

Autumn Sumo

Ah, yes, and a Mongolian is champion:

Mongolian grand champion Hakuho captured his first title since his promotion to sumo's highest rank Sunday, ripping through ozeki Chiyotaikai to claim the coveted hardware at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hakuho won hisfourth career Emperor's Cup, finishing with a 13-2 record at the 15-day meet. The 22-year-old achieved the feat in his second basho since his promotion, although it was in the absence of suspension-hit grand champion Asashoryu — sumo's dominant force.

Common questions about Sumo are answered here.

Some of the current problems besetting the sumo world are explained at American Thinker.

La Grande Illusion

La Grande Illusion, Grand Illusion in English, is a 1937 film about World War 1 directed by Jean Renoir. (I watched his A Day in the Country this past Saturday.) The only actor I recognized was Erich von Stroheim, who played Max in Sunset Boulevard. This is a completely different look at WWI than All Quiet on the Western Front. This one has no battles and focuses on French prisoners in a German prison camp and their escape attempts. It deals with some issues of class and race.


1001 Flicks has a review. The Guardian calls it "a masterpiece". Roger Ebert includes it on his list of "great movies" and describes it as "a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization." Variety says,
An artistically masterful feature, the picture breathes the intimate life of warriors on both sides during the [First] World War. It gives a different slant on the inner mental workings of those caught in the maelstrom of warfare, yet never deviates from the central thesis.
The American Historical Society has an essay that says that "The lasting success of the film rests on the extraordinary performances Renoir got from a cast" and that
In contrast to its aesthetic clarity, the political meaning of Grand Illusion is elusive. Renoir himself said it was a film against war and so it has usually been seen.

2/12/2009: Only the Cinema has a review.

Song at Midnight

Song at Midnight
is a 1937 Chinese re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera. There's a love story and a revolutionary politics sub-plot. This is well worth watching to compare with the other versions if you don't mind foreign films with subtitles. It is a good movie on its own terms as well. The choices of background music are intriguing.

This one was visually dark and difficult, well impossible really, to see in places at the beginning of the film, but it doesn't take long to clear up.

1001 Flicks has a review.

Monday, September 24, 2007


A mindless shoot-'em-up, Desperado was The Elder Son's choice for a second feature after Pan's Labyrinth. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Antonio Banderas, Desperado is the 2nd film in the Mariachi trilogy which begins with El Mariachi and ends with Once Upon a Time in Mexico. He has shown me the other 2 already. We love Banderas in The Mask of Zorro and in the Shrek movies.


Pan's Labyrinth

I'm speechless. Pan's Labyrinth must be seen to be believed.


Oh! What I would give for this fairy tale to have qualified for a PG-13 rating!

1/25/2008: DailyFilmDose has a review.

11/4/2009: 366 Weird Movies has a review.

SF Films for Parents & Kids to Share

from SciFiScanner:

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius


Star Wars

The Iron Giant

Treasure Planet


I've never cared for E.T., but I liked Star Wars and The Iron Giant. That makes 3 of the 7 I've seen, and my kids only saw the 2 of those that I liked. Most of the ones on the above list weren't around when we were picking out movies to watch with the kids, and we made very different choices about the SF movies we thought were worth sharing.....

In addition to Star Wars and The Iron Giant (and not counting monster movies or fantasy) our suggested 7 would be

2001: A Space Odyssey

The Day the Earth Stood Still

The War of the Worlds

The Time Machine (the early one)

The Planet of the Apes (Charlton Heston's version)

Others we liked for the kids were The Last Starfighter and the 2nd Star Trek movie -The Wrath of Khan.

The Luis Buñuel Blog-a-Thon

Flickhead's Buñuel-a-Thon begins today and goes through 9/30. I am lucky in noticing that some of his works are in the list from the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and in looking them up see that some are available for online viewing. Jackpot!

You can watch Un Chien Andalou at googlevideo here. (11/11/2007: available here) (10/14/2007: It is no longer available online that I can find.) (9/26/2007: Broken Projector wrote a post on this short film for the Flickhead Bog-a-thon.)

L'Age D'Or:

(9/26/2007: CinemaStyles has a couple of L'Age D'Or posters.)

Las Hurdes:

This is a French documentary (English subtitles) on Buñuel:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Things to Come

Things to Come is a 1936 science fiction film starring Raymond Massey, whom we know best as Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel, and directed by William Cameron Menzies. The screenplay was written by H.G. Wells adapted from his novel The Shape of Things to Come. This film opens on Christmas, 1940.

It can be viewed online here:

1001 Flicks has a review. ScreenOnline discusses the film here. has a page devoted to this movie.

3/27/2009: Ferdy on Films has an article.

R.I.P. Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau has died. I saw the news first at GreenCine.


The Telegraph



Obit Magazine

Marceau was a master of the joyful and tragic expression of humanity using only the medium of the body and face. His dedication to the purity of his craft and his passion for relaying its power through tireless international tours will be the hallmark of his singularity.

UM Portal

Judge Priest

Judge Priest was directed by John Ford and starred Will Rogers.

Now, for those of you who had no earthly idea what I was talking about when I described JarJar as reminding me of Stepin Fetchit, you won't have to watch much of this movie at all before you'll see what I meant. Wikipedia has a piece on the controversy here.

1001 Flicks has a review. TCM has an article.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 113

1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise, O ye servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD.

2 Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD's name is to be praised.

4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high,

6 Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!

7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill;

8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.

9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Triumph of the Will

Triumph of the Will is a 1934 Nazi propaganda film. It is a great example of Art in the service of immorality. People will swallow anything if it looks good enough. Frightening. The scenery's pretty, though.

It does go on and on and on...

It's available online at the Internet Archive and from google:
That one's no longer available. Try this:

Videos With Bibi has a post. 1001 Flicks has a review. has some background information and some study questions.

The History Place considers the film in relation to Germany's history:
The film's most enduring and dangerous illusion is that Nazi Germany was a super-organized state, that, although evil in nature, was impressive nonetheless.

In reality, Nazi Germany was only well organized to the degree that it was a murderous police state. The actual Reich government was a tangled mess of inefficient agencies and overlapping bureaucracies led by ruthless men who had little, if any, professional administrative abilities.

Kevin Jack Hagopian writes:
Triumph of the Will, like The Birth of a Nation, presents the great conundrum of art: can art be both morally reprehensible, and yet "great"? Riefenstahl was imprisoned by the Allies after the war, and then released, partly because no one could figure out if a film could be an instrument of war. Riefenstahl was adamant; she had been concerned with matters of form, not politics. But she was never to be rehabilitated by the German film industry...

11/26/2007: A Film Canon has a review.

6/27/2008: Roger Ebert has a review:
That "Triumph of the Wall" is a great propaganda film, there is no doubt, and various surveys have named it so. But I doubt that anyone not already a Nazi could be swayed by it.

7/24/2008: Pesky Fly mentions this film in a post dealing with propaganda in this presidential election.

1/7/2010: The Sun's Not Yellow has a post.

A Day in the Country

A Day in the Country was directed by Jean Renoir. It's available at youtube divided up into several parts.

[update 4/6/2008: this film is now available online in one piece, so I'm substituting that version and taking out the separate parts:


What a sad movie!

Friday, September 21, 2007


A black comedy, I guess? The Husband says I loved Sleuth when I saw it in college, but I don't remember having seen it before and certainly didn't care for it this time. I kept thinking, "That Michael Caine character is an idiot, and no good can come of this." I was right. Lawrence Olivier also stars.


She Done Him Wrong

She Done Him Wrong is yet another suggestion from that 1001 Movies You Must See book and stars Mae West as the mob boss' girlfriend and Cary Grant as the head of the Christian mission next door to the bar run by the mob boss. You can download it or view it at the Internet Archive or see it here from googlevideo:

I had an awful lot of trouble with the googlevideo skipping.

Videos With Bibi has a post. 1001 Flicks has a review, as do goatdog and Film Reference.

Zero for Conduct

Zero for Conduct is another from the 1001 Movies book. It is a French film from 1933 directed by Jean Vigo. It is about life at a boys' school and all the indignities suffered and the victories won.

YouTube has it online with English subtitles. It's divided into 5 segments with embedding disabled: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 [These videos have been removed.]

Here's another try:

Videos With Bibi has a post on this film, as does 1001 Flicks.

I liked the magic trick, and I got a kick out of the little animation. And, of course, Vive la Révolution!

William Wyler Blogathon

Today begins the 9/21-9/23 William Wyler Blogathon. William Wyler directed a lot of films, many of which received Academy Award nominations. Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives and Ben Hur won best picture awards. I'm just beginning to pay attention to particular directors in history so had never realized that he had directed such varied pictures.

I have seen relatively few of his movies. We watched The Best Years of Our Lives recently. I've seen his 1939 Wuthering Heights, 1953 Roman Holiday, 1959 Ben-Hur and 1968 Funny Girl, but it's been a long time. My, he was eclectic!

The ones of his I would most like to see of those I've missed are The Letter with Betty Davis and How to Steal a Million with Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn, but I've spent all my discretionary entertainment funds buying DVDs for the Akira Kurosawa Blogathon coming up in November. I've only seen one of Kurosawa's films. (sigh) So many movies, so little time....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Frtiz Lang's "M" again

OK, I give up. This film keeps showing up on lists of recommended movies, most recently in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. I will watch this tonight while I'm here by myself.

I have tried to watch it several times before, but could never get past that first scene with the balloon. Fritz Lang directed this 1931 movie. I always enjoy Peter Lorre.

Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars. 1000 Misspent Hours provides some historical context:
Fritz Lang and Peter Lorre were both Jews, and Germany in 1931 was already nearly as bad a place to be Jewish as it would famously become a couple of years later. Worse yet, the owner of the studio where M was filmed was also a Nazi party activist! (That studio owner is the main reason for the film’s enigmatic title— when Lang came to him with a movie called Murders Among Us, the moneyman assumed he was being asked to produce an anti-Nazi political film, and refused to have anything to do with the project!) Though the subject never explicitly comes up, the early scenes depicting the terror-stricken townspeople scapegoating each other on the flimsiest of excuses, often threatening actual physical violence, take on a powerful subtext when you look at M as a product of its time and place.
It's on Roger Ebert's "great movies" list. 1001Flicks has a review. Images Journal reviews it here. Bright Lights Film Journal calls it "masterful". Senses of Cinema says it's "perhaps [Lang's] greatest work". Criterion offers an edition of this film.

4/22/2008:FilmsNoir posts a link to a review.

9/1/2008:MovieZeal has a review.

Foreign Films, the list

Here are the top 25 from The Satyajit Ray Memorial Anything-But-Definitive List of Non-English Language Films:
1. "The Rules of the Game" (Jean Renoir)
2. "Seven Samurai" (Akira Kurosawa)
3. "M" (Fritz Lang) (watched 9/20/2007)
4. "8 1/2" (Federico Fellini)
5. "Bicycle Thieves" (Vittorio De Sica)
6. "Persona" (Ingmar Bergman)
7. "Grand Illusion" (Jean Renoir) (watched on 9/25/2007)
8. "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (Werner Herzog)
9. "The Battle of Algiers" (Gillo Pontecorvo)
10. "The 400 Blows" (Francois Truffaut)
11. "Fanny and Alexander" (Ingmar Bergman)
12. "Tokyo Story" (Yasujiro Ozu)
13. "Rashomon" (Akira Kurosawa)
14. "Ikiru" (Akira Kurosawa)
15. "The Seventh Seal" (Ingmar Bergman)
16. "Ran" (Akira Kurosawa)
17. "Jules and Jim" (Francois Truffaut)
18. "The Conformist" (Bernardo Bertolucci)
19. "La Dolce Vita" (Federico Fellini)
20. "Contempt" (Jean-Luc Godard)
21. "Breathless" (Jean-Luc Godard)
22. "Ugetsu Monogatari" (Kenji Mizoguchi)
23. "Playtime" (Jacques Tati)
24. "Au Hasard, Balthazar" (Robert Bresson)
25. "Andrei Rublev" (Andrei Tarkovsky)

compliments of Scanners

Ones I've seen are in bold print. Pathetic, I know. Several are in my to-be-watched stack, though, so I'll be improving my numbers by and by.

9/25/2007: I'm making inroads and enjoying the films. I'll keep updating as I watch more of these.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Based on the novel with the same name, All Quiet on the Western Front won the Academy Award for best picture in 1930. It was #54 on the original AFI list of top 100 films but does not appear at all on the 2007 update.

The movie is a grim look at war from the perspective of young German recruits during World War I.

Wilfred Owen was a World War I soldier whose poem Dulce Et Decorum Est was published posthumously:

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

There is a lot of information online about "The Great War". Here are links to a few general sites:

The PBS companion site to "The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century"



1001Flicks has a review.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Gattaca stars Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law. I loved seeing Ernest Borgnine. It's #2 on's list of top 20 science fiction movies. The Younger Son and I both enjoyed this movie.

I appreciate the spirit of hope in this film. It's a dystopian world, but human effort and achievement can still be successful in the face of oppression. I contrast this with Brazil, which lacks any hint of hope.

The entire film can be watched at Crackle.


Napoleon directed by Abel Gance, is an epic (almost 4 hours in its reconstructed and shortened form) 1927 silent film. There is an intermission at the 2 hour mark. I had never heard of it before I ran across the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. [Oops, The Elder Son says he told me about this film on numerous occasions but received a cool response from me: "A 4-hour silent? Me? You gotta be kidding! I'd just go to sleep during it." My tastes must have matured over the years. Apologies, Elder Son.] The movie takes Napoleon from his days as a school boy winning battles on the playground to his appointment as a general leading the French army into Italy. It was intended to be the first installment in a series, but the other films were never made. It lost the Oscar Award to The Jazz Singer.

Its recent copyright history is an ugly thing, and you can read about it in the wikipedia entry and the links found there and in the links at this BoingBoing story. In 1981 Carmine Coppola composed a score for a reconstruction of the film and screenings of the movie were sped up to match the sound speed. This is the only version available in this country. The BFI version uses the original film speed and a different musical accompaniment. The film itself has no sound, being a "silent" film.

[The google video of the film that I had embedded here is no longer available, and I can't find it online now.]

Was that a hurdy gurdy I saw right after the intermission at about 2:02:49?

At about 3:34 I see the triptych and understand something of the effect this would have had when seen in a theater on a big screen.


1001Flicks has a review.

Foreign Films

Edward Copeland has announced The Satyajit Ray Memorial Anything-But-Definitive List of Non-English Language Films. Several of these are on the list from the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and I've been watching some of the early silents from that list lately. A few of them are on the Arts and Faith list of 100 Most Spiritually Significant Films.

I am excited to have this list as a resource. I have many wonderful hours of movie-watching ahead of me.

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ahoy there, matey. it's Talk Like a Pirate Day! Wikipedia has an informative piece that tells about the founders and the history of the observance.


We watched an Addams' Family tv episode called The Great Treasure Hunt, which had pirates, a pirate flag, a treasure map and edible doubloons. Perfect!

Pirate Comics.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Man with a Movie Camera

Man with a Movie Camera is a 1929 Soviet experimental documentary film, named 8th best film ever in the 2012 Sight and Sound poll. It's not really my "thing". I do like to keep an open mind, though, and it's just an hour long.

The Guardian calls it "visionary" and "transformative".

Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. The average critics score at Rotten Tomatoes is 97%. 1001Flicks has a review.

George MacDonald

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1905 of Scottish preacher, poet and fantasy writer George MacDonald. He was a powerful influence on G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and recently deceased Madeleine L'Engle.

Phantastes, his first work of fiction, was written in 1858. It can be read online here, among other places. VictorianWeb has a section of their site devoted to the work.

The Light Princess, published in 1864, is one of MacDonald's most popular works. It can be read online here and on a single page here. Other links, including audio versions are linked here. It was well-loved by my children.

The Golden Key (1867) was one we read some when the kids were little. You can read this fairy tale on one page here or here.

The kids didn't like At the Back of the North Wind (1871) nearly as much. It is here, here and other links and an audio version are here. An illustrated version is here.

The Princess and the Goblin (online here) and The Princess and Curdie were read-alouds for us when the kids were little, but, again, these weren't the favorite repeat reads that some other books were. The first of these two was made into a film, which we have not seen, in 1993. Here's a clip from the movie:

My favorite of his books is Lilith, maybe because I discovered the legend of Lilith as Adam's first wife about the same time I discovered this book. It is online here.


by George MacDonald

I missed him when the sun began to bend;
I found him not when I had lost his rim;
With many tears I went in search of him,
Climbing high mountains which did still ascend,
And gave me echoes when I called my friend;
Through cities vast and charnel-houses grim,
And high cathedrals where the light was dim,
Through books and arts and works without an end,
But found him not--the friend whom I had lost.
And yet I found him--as I found the lark,
A sound in fields I heard but could not mark;
I found him nearest when I missed him most;
I found him in my heart, a life in frost,
A light I knew not till my soul was dark.

More information about George MacDonald can be found here, here at VictorianWeb and here. His son Greville wrote a biography in 1924 which is in print. The Columbia Encyclopedia entry is available at A short biography, links to related sites and links to online editions of his works are here.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Strike is a 1925 Soviet silent film telling the story of a factory strike in Russia before the revolution. Eisenstein's first feature-length film, he also made The Battleship Potemkin and October. There are a few powerful scenes, including one of a young child asking his father for his dinner and a graphic comparison at the end of the film of the defeated factory workers with slaughtered cattle.

1001Flicks has a review.

The video previously embedded from googlevideo is no longer available, but here's a 12-minute excerpt:

part 1:

part 2, part 3
The film's ending does not seem to be available.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series, has died after a long illness. I saw the news at slashdot, who quotes The Chronicles of George:
"James Oliver Rigney Jr, author of the long-running fantasy series The Wheel of Time and better known to millions of fans by the pen name Robert Jordan, died on 16 Sept 2007 from cardiac amyloidosis. Jordan announced he had been diagnosed with the disease in March 2006 and vowed to beat the odds, but determination and gumption sometimes just aren't enough in the face of a disease with a median survival time of just over two years. Jordan was in the process of writing the twelfth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light, but the book was not slated for release until 2009 and is still incomplete. While there is hope that the book will still be finished from Jordan's notes, this is devastating news to all of us who have been reading the series since 1990."





Making Light

Cinema Blend excerpt:
As someone who’s read all eleven books, this hurts. Not just because now we’ll never know how 17 years worth of character development ends, but because Jordan seemed like a genuinely good person who loved what he was doing and loved his fans. Right now my thoughts are with his family and friends, but from now on whenever I look at his spot on my bookshelf it’ll always be to selfishly wonder what might have been.


UK SF Book News

ThrowingThingsBlog has opened a thread.


Claw of the Conciliator has a nice report, including the information that Jordan was an active Episcopalian:
PS: In June, Jordan wrote this at his blog: For Piercy, I am Episcopalian, though rather High Church. I haven’t been up to attending services this last year, but either the rector or one of the deacons comes by to give me communion, so I feel that I’m not missing everything.



Obviously it is a truism that we none of us know how long we have. And while some live a long life and come to its end feeling that they’ve accomplished everything they’ve wished for and are content with how things stand, many more go out with unfinished business or goals left unmet.




NYT excerpt:
Known for its epic sweep, intricate plotting and large cast of complex characters, the series centers on Rand al’Thor, a humble messianic figure who must stave off the forces of evil that threaten to overtake the faraway land in which he lives. Along the way, there are perils and portents, fair maidens, fantastical deeds and the like.

In an essay in The New York Times Book Review in 1996, Edward Rothstein wrote, “Even a reader with literary pretensions can be swept up in Mr. Jordan’s narrative of magic, prophecy and battle.”

The “Wheel of Time” books have often been compared to the work of J. R. R. Tolkien in terms of their ability to exert a magnetic hold on readers.

Dark Echo


The Independent (HT: Locus online)

Ten Days That Shook the World

October is a 1927 silent Russian film that was made to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution and gives an interesting view of the events from a Soviet perspective. It was based on the book Ten Days That Shook the World, which can be read online here. I have a Modern Library edition but have never read it. Directed by Eisenstein, who also directed Battleship Potemkin (which can be viewed online here), it is a dramatic re-telling of the historic events. Dmitri Shostakovich composed the music on the video embedded below, but his name isn't listed in the wikipedia article or at the imdb site. The film can be viewed online here or at googlevideo. This version has English inter-titles:

update 2/10/2008: That version has been removed, but Maid Marian Classic Media has this:

I was intrigued by the use of the religious imagery and the contrast with patriotic imagery. In the beginning of the movie the pictures of revolutionaries toppling the statues reminded me of certain other statue toppling that was done during the initial stages of the Iraq invasion, and I wonder how long it usually takes for the less powerful classes to realize that they've made a bad trade.

Sherlock Jr.

Sherlock Jr. is a Buster Keaton silent from 1924. It is in the public domain and can be viewed at the InternetArchive or at googlevideo.

1001Flicks has a review.

Antagony & Ecstasy has a review as part of the Movies About Movies Blogathon.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

La Souriante Madame Beudet

La Souriante Madame Beudet (or The Smiling Madame Beudet, is a short silent from 1921 and is often referred to as one of the first feminist films.

1001Flicks has a review.

The House of Mirth and Movies has a post that includes this line:
The Smiling Madame Beudet is ripe with nuance and depth, and feels far more modern that it’s 1923 date suggests.

The Phantom Chariot

Also known as The Phantom Carriage, this film is a 1921 silent and is based on the book Körkarlen. The old legend is that the last person to die in sin on New Year's Eve must drive the carriage that picks up the souls who die during the coming year.

via youtube:

Viewing this film I was reminded of Whittier's words
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
Part of this movie is a vision of what "might have been" contrasted with the wasted/wastrel life. It also pictures the influence we have on others and the responsibility we bear when we deliberately lead people astray.

I do admit to feeling irritation at the do-gooder who takes no care at all for her own health even when warned of the risk. Surely taking some basic precautions while serving the poor and sick does not reflect poorly on those who serve. Her careless sacrifice is held up as exemplary, but, while I agree sacrifice is noble, I don't think the sacrifice of her life was necessary. That needless sacrifice born of careless disregard for basic health considerations deprived countless others of care.

I'm bookmarking this film with my Halloween movies because it is a ghost story, but it is also a strong moral tale well done. It's that "well done" that sets this apart, as so many moral tales are sheer schmaltzy drivel.

1000 Misspent Hours says it "earns distinction is in its extraordinary structural sophistication." Slant Magazine concludes "Overall:"Don't get killed on New Year's Eve" and "give your special effects narrative agency" are among the crucial lessons to be learned from this essential Blu-ray." Senses of Cinema notes that
Sjöström and his legendary cameraman Julius Jaenzon (credited here under his pseudonym “J. Julius”) used double exposures in The Phantom Carriage to create the illusion of two worlds – one natural, the other supernatural – in the same space.
DVD Talk says it is
a spooky morality play. A campfire parable that is to the Swedish chill what Dickens' A Christmas Carol was to English winters or It's a Wonderful Life to the American can-do spirit in difficult times.
The 1001 Flicks blog has a review, as does

Friday, September 14, 2007

Speaking of SF remakes

Capricorn One joins the list of other SF films to be in line for a remake.

And Fantastic Voyage is up for it, too. I've read the book and seen the movie. I wonder what a remake will look like.

Star Trek Inspiration

Download a Star Trek inspirational poster of your very own. I had a hard time picking, but settled on the Kirk/Spock one above.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Logan's Run

Since they are planning a remake of Logan's Run I wanted The Younger Son to see the original. Michael York was the main star in this one, but Peter Ustinov is fun. There's a trailer here. The Younger Son liked it ok but isn't putting it on his list of SFF favorites.

You can watch it online here:

The New York Times has a review. 1000 Misspent Hours gives it some praise but ends with this: "it’s a hell of a lot better than Rollerball." Moria notes "it received an almost universal panning from mainstream critics and genre fans alike," and describes it as
a film that seems like it is made by middle-aged conservatives who can’t understand what youth is rebelling about and believes that what they really need is to forsake hedonism and make a return to traditional respect for one’s elders, for the sanctity of family and marriage and the American flag.

Roger Ebert likes it, saying
is a vast, silly extravaganza that delivers a certain amount of fun, once it stops taking itself seriously.
and that it
has wit enough to work on such a level; even while we're chuckling at such an audacious use of cliche, we're having fun. ends its review with this:
Despite its Oscar, this is not a special effects movie; it is a philosophy and character movie that adroitly uses effects (and action and sex). Though at times campy and problematic, in some ways Logan's Run exemplifies how a science fiction film should be made.

Stomp Tokyo starts with this:
Upon your admission that you've never seen Logan's Run, a friend or family member may turn to you and say: "You've never seen Logan's Run? What do you mean, you've never seen Logan's Run?" It's that sort of movie.