Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's Snowing!

I think this counts as coming "in like a lion" for March, so maybe the month will go out "like a lamb" and Summer will be here soon. It's a pretty snow but unexpected, as it was 70 degrees yesterday.

The Snow that never drifts
Emily Dickinson

The Snow that never drifts -
The transient, fragrant snow
That comes a single time a Year
Is softly driving now -

So thorough in the Tree
At night beneath the star
That it was February's Foot
Experience would swear -

Like Winter as a Face
We stern and former knew
Repaired of all but Loneliness
By Nature's Alibi -

Were every storm so spice
The Value could not be -
We buy with contrast - Pang is good
As near as memory -

Notes from Memphis has some pretty photos taken downtown.

The Daughter took the photo that's at the top of this post.

Christus (1914)

Christus is a 1914 silent film of Jesus' life. It is directed by Giuseppe de Liguoro and filmed in Egypt. It's available on DVD through Grapevine Video.

There are 3 segments from the end of the film online at youtube.
The Last Supper and Death of Judas:

The Death of Christ:

The Resurrection, the Ascension and the Sign of Christ:

I'm having trouble finding out anything about this film.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The King of Kings (1927)

Well, actually what we watched was the 1928 version of Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings with the original Hugo Riesenfeld score. I bought The Husband the Criterion edition of this film some time ago, and we watched it tonight as part of my Lenten Jesus Films fun. We watched some of the special features, including publicity video from the making of the movie. We were impressed with the technicolor resurrection. The picture quality is much improved over our old VHS.

You can watch the full film online at veoh, but you have to download their player. [It's gone as of 2/17/2010.] It does seem to be in pieces at youtube. Part 1 is here:

The other segments are linked from here.

Here's a trailer:

The New York Times says the London audience was not favorably impressed:
it is not so grossly exaggerated as many of us had feared, and is, in a general sense, not offensive. But as a work of art it is a complete failure, because it is anaemic and because it shows us a Christ who, though obviously a virtuous and mild man, is completely lacking in the fire and spiritual vigor that go to the making of the great leaders of mankind. closes its review with this:
In a genre that deserves the best that artists can offer but is too often plagued by mediocrity, DeMille’s flawed but powerful The King of Kings remains one of Hollywood’s most remarkable achievements.

ImagesJournal says it "gives us a deeply reverent portrait of Jesus Christ". Bright Lights Film Journal has an extensive examination of the film. Criterion Confessions has a blog post. Bible Films Blog has a scene guide. Christianity Today has a review.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alias Grace

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood is a novel based on an actual historical figure. There's a scattering of Methodist references throughout the book, including a Methodist minister who figures prominently in one part.

There's no plot description on this book, but here's something from
In Alias Grace, bestselling author Margaret Atwood has written her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid's Tale. She takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century.

Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?

Every time I read a book by Atwood I remember her ignorant description of science fiction as "talking squids in outer space". [sigh] This book is not science fiction by anyone's definition, but still, I remember her insulting attitude.

The New York Times says,
''Alias Grace'' has the physical heft and weighty authority of a 19th-century novel. In its scope, its moral seriousness, its paradoxically ponderous and engrossing narrative, the book evokes the high Victorian mode, spiced with the spooky plot twists and playfully devious teases of the equally high Gothic -- the literary styles of the period in which the book is set.

Entertainment Weekly calls it "a novel of enormous vitality and ambition, and a time machine of impeccable design."

10/5/2009: Margaret Atwood's talk denigrating science fiction... maybe it's a wise career choice?

Ben Hur (1907)

This Ben Hur is the first time Lew Wallace's book Ben-Hur was adapted for film. The book can be read online. This film is directed by Sidney Olcott (From the Manger to the Cross).

I'm at a loss to find Jesus in this film.

This short film is at youtube in 2 parts. Part 1:

Part 2:

Bible Films Blog has a post. They say that the film makers "didn't stage it's own chariot race, as the 2 later re-makes would do. Instead they took a camera down to an annual chariot race competition and recorded part of that."

from wikipedia:
This movie is most notable as a precedent in copyright law. The movie was made without the permission of the author's estate, which was common practice at that time. The screenwriter, Gene Gauntier, remarked in her 1928 autobiography how the film industry at that time infringed upon everything. As a result of the production of Ben Hur, Harper & Brothers and the author's estate brought suit against Kalem Studios, the Motion Picture Patents Company, and Gauntier for copyright infringement. The United States Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the film company in 1911. This ruling established the precedent that all motion picture production companies must first secure the film rights of any previously published work still under copyright before commissioning a screenplay based on that work.

There is a 1925 version of this story.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

Jesus Christ Superstar, the 1973 filmed adaptation of the rock opera, tells the story of Jesus' ministry and death. This is still my favorite Jesus movie, and I still get chills when I watch it. It is directed by Norman Jewison (The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming; The Thomas Crown Affair; Fiddler on the Roof) and stars Ted Neeley as Jesus.

Here's the Gethsemane scene:

Roger Ebert praises it, calling it "a Biblical movie with dignity" and a triumph over the stage original. The New York Times emphasizes the anti-semitism charge and ignores every other aspect of the film. remarks on the continuing legacy among folks who were impressionable youth at the time and whose lives were changed as a result of this film:
Even today, more than 30 years since it was released, a multitude of like-minded souls have put up Web sites in homage to various permutations of "Jesus Christ Superstar." They trade gossip and tidbits about the various actors who have portrayed this passion play's principals over the years and share stories of how the rock opera has changed their lives. Hey, just saying, I'm not the only one.

So that proves I'm not the only one!

As of 2007, Neeley was still playing this part and doing a fine job of it.

R.I.P. Philip Jose Farmer

Philip José Farmer has died. I saw the news at SFSignal. I've read all the Riverworld books and enjoyed them. I still have my copy of Venus on the Half Shell and remember when I found out who Kilgore Trout was.

The Peoria Journal Star:
Science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer died this morning at his home. He was 91.

LocusOnline here and here
Frederik Pohl (via SFSignal)
The Independent
SciFiWire: "Anne McCaffrey, Robert Silverberg and others remember"

Science-Fiction Films Based on Books has of list of "top 10 Science-Fiction Films Based on Short Stories, Novels and Novellas":
10. Solyaris, 1972
9. 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968
8. The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951
7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1954
6. The Time Machine, 1960
5. John Carpenter's The Thing, 1982
4. Fahrenheit 451, 1966
3. Bicentennial Man, 1999
2. Blade Runner, 1982
1. Enemy Mine, 1985

Their list is annotated, including information on each film and why it was chosen. I keep coming back in my mind to Stalker. It haunts me somehow, and I would definitely put it in a top-10 list. I might also include 1984. The Incredible Shrinking Man might be on the list if I were writing it. If I had to get rid of 3 on the list above to include these new ones I think I'd scratch off 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, John Carpenter's The Thing and Bicentennial Man.

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the period of 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter. It is a time of repentance.

Collect for today:
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (from the Book of Common Prayer 1979)

Depth of Mercy
a hymn
by Charles Wesley
1. Depth of mercy! Can there be
mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear,
me, the chief of sinners, spare?

2. I have long withstood his grace,
long provoked him to his face,
would not hearken to his calls,
grieved him by a thousand falls.

3. I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
oft profaned his hallowed name,
put him to an open shame.

4. There for me the Savior stands,
shows his wounds and spreads his hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

5. Now incline me to repent,
let me now my sins lament,
now my foul revolt deplore,
weep, believe, and sin no more.

Tonight we will observe this day in our church with a worship service including the imposition of ashes.

The United Methodist Women web site has a Lenten Reflection for Ash Wednesday. Faith Central has a list of things different groups are doing to observe Lent, including the Ship of Fools 40 Ideas for Lent. This does not have this year's dates, but works anyway. Day 1 suggests you "Take some time to find online resources you can use throughout the days of Lent" and provides some links to resources. Jesus Creed has the Book of Common Prayer order for worship for this day. Reverend Mommy has a poem for today by T.S. Eliot. has information on a Lent program called “Seven Weeks for Water”.

The photo at the top of the post is from mtsofan's flickr stream.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Morality, Bible Style

Your morality is 0% in line with that of the bible.

Damn you heathen! Your book learnin' has done warped your mind. You shall not be invited next time I sacrifice a goat.

Do You Have Biblical Morals?
Take More Quizzes

Of course I knew from the questions what the outcome would be. Funny quiz.

HT: Pharyngula

Best Conservative Movies

Cinematical points me to a National Review article that offers an annotated list of "the 25 best conservative movies of the last 25 years". I'm trying to wrap my mind around the concept of Brazil, say, or Gattaca as examples of "conservative movies". About Brazil they say,
Terrorist bombings, national-security scares, universal police surveillance, bureaucratic arrogance, a callous elite, perversion of science, and government use of torture evoke the worst aspects of the modern megastate
but doesn't that describe the past 6-8 years under a conservative majority? They try to frame Gattaca as an anti-abortion film, but I don't see it. They were looking for films that "resonate" with conservatives, and describe the results of their survey this way:
Conservatives enjoy these films because they are great movies that offer compelling messages about freedom, families, patriotism, traditions, and more.
I feel I want to state this, even though it's obvious: There's nothing exclusively conservative about "freedom, families, patriotism, [and] traditions." Sheesh.

The list:
1. The Lives of Others (2007)
2. The Incredibles (2004)
3. Metropolitan (1990)
4. Forrest Gump (1994)
5. 300 (2007)
6. Groundhog Day (1993)
7. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
8. Juno (2007)
9. Blast from the Past (1999)
10. Ghostbusters (1984)
11. The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)
12. The Dark Knight (2008)
13. Braveheart (1995)
14. A Simple Plan (1998)
15. Red Dawn (1984)
16. Master and Commander (2003)
17. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005)
18. The Edge (1997)
19. We Were Soldiers (2002)
20. Gattaca (1997)
21. Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
22. Brazil (1985)
23. United 93 (2006)
24. Team America: World Police (2004)
25. Gran Torino (2008)

Robot Holocaust

Robot Holocaust is a 1986 post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Tim Kincaid, who is better known for his many "adult" films directed under a different name. There are robots and bikini-clad warrior women in this one. I spent the 80's focused on my children and didn't keep up with popular culture. It's looking like 1980's pop culture was a good decade to skip.

Ah, another voice-over narration:
The last city still stood. The remaining home of what was left of the civilization of New Terra. The society had been all but destroyed by the Robot Rebellion of ’33. When the Robots had turned on their masters by the billions, the ensuing chaos had led to a radiation spill, far more deadly than any nuclear warfare. The world had been brought to its knees by the [dramatic pause] Robot Holocaust.
There's a scene of a couple of guys wrestling for a small gathered crowd. A robot pickpocket is taking advantage of their rapt attention to the boring fight. The voice continues:
The remaining citizens of New Terra are known as air slaves. As far as they know, the only other inhabitants of the planet that remain are the forces of the Dark Lord, the evil being that controls the very atmosphere that sustains them. But there are rumors, stories of Nomads, who roam the wastelands on the outskirts of the city -outlaws, loners, a legendary breed, who have somehow acclimated to the poisonous air.
The info-dump continues through a conversation between the robot pickpocket and a man who has some kind of power to shut him down. This takes up the first 6 minutes of the movie. It doesn't look like it gets better...

Looks like we're going to wander through New York's grassy wasteland a while. We get a "fair fight" with one of the warrior women and then there's a cut to a woman in shiny high-heeled pumps and some kind of black fishnet wrap walking slowly through the fog. More voice-over narration. Oops. Say good-by to the fishnet and hello to extended shots of upper-body nudity from all angles A women and a man, both naked from the waist up, hold up a plasma ball while the first woman rotates. Slowly. With occasional close-ups. I remember plasma balls. One of my kids got one for Christmas one year. The plasma ball is gone now, and the pair that was holding it are dancing, writhing? in front of the first woman who continues to rotate. Slowly. With more close-ups. The Dark One is calling it a "pleasure machine". As the movie continues it's obvious that scene was thrown in for reasons having nothing to do with plot or character development. I'm glad this director gave up science fiction films to go back to his first love.

I had no idea there were so many contenders for the worst movie ever made. I'm giving up on this one. I did skip to the end where there's a scene at what must be the power station. A man is fighting one of the robots. The robot has a long pipe and the man has a sword. It's a big sword, and the man is fending off the pipe by holding the hilt with one hand and grasping the naked blade with the other. No gloves. Ouch! But he has sustained not even a scratch.

I don't understand how shutting off the air causes all the air slaves to collapse so quickly and, no matter how much time has passed, turning the air back on revives them immediately. Maybe if I'd struggled through the whole thing the ending would have made more sense, but I've got a closing voice-over to help:
With the Dark One destroyed, the air slaves were free at last. Neo returned to his people to bring them to the last city. Together they would rebuild New Terra.
Man and robot walk into the sunset.

Hulu has it online with commercials. [update: no longer available, but youtube has the MST3K version here.]

Million Monkey Theater calls it a "legendary crappy post-apocalyptic movie". The DVD the reviewer had didn't have a working sound track, so the review has its limits, but does conclude:
even without sound I can tell that these are some of the worst actors ever in the history of humanity. They just look so stilted and clunky, I'm kinda glad now that I can't hear their line-reads.

3/22/2009: SFSignal has this film for their Sunday Cinema post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Is Not a Test

This Is Not a Test is a 1962 film. It's really more of a psychological suspense drama. A diverse group of people get stopped by a police road block when there's a threat of nuclear attack.

It's available at youtube in 7 sections or from the Internet Archive:

I can't find reviews.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Top 20 80's SF Movies

Yeah, well just as I've concluded that the 1980's was the source of much of the worst available in science fiction films, ListVerse (via SFSignal) offers the following list of "Top 20 Greatest Science Fiction Movies of the 1980s":
20 Predator 1987
19 The Element of Crime 1984
18 The Final Countdown 1980
17 Venus Wars 1989
16 The Quiet Earth 1985
15 2010: The Year We Make Contact 1984
14 Cocoon 1985
13 ET: The Extraterrestrial
12 The Abyss 1989
11 Aliens 1986
10 Robocop 1987
9 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 1982
8 Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind 1984
7 Iceman 1984
6 The Terminator 1984
5 Ghostbusters 1984
4 Back to the Future 1985
3 Blade Runner 1982
2 Akira 1988
1 The Empire Strikes Back 1980

The list is annotated at their site, explaining why each was chosen. I'll have to add the ones I haven't seen to my list of movies to watch. I may have to break down and buy Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind new. I've been looking locally for years and have never found it used.

Ones I've seen are in bold print.

Feast of the Transfiguration

Today is the celebration of the Feast of the Transfiguration, or at least it is in the Methodist tradition. The Catholics, the Orthodox and the Anglican traditions all celebrate this feast on August 6. says,
A recent tendency in the West is to commemorate the Transfiguration on the Sunday just before Lent, in accordance with the pattern found in the Synoptics, where Jesus is represented as beginning to speak of his forthcoming death just about the time of the Transfiguration, so that it forms a fitting transition between the Epiphany season, in which Christ makes himself known, and the Lenten season, in which he prepares the disciples for what lies ahead. Whether observing the Transfiguration then will affect the observation of it on 6 August remains to be seen.
It certainly affects it in the United Methodist Church.

Here's the story as it's found in Mark:
And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves. And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.(Mark 9:2-10 KJV)

The picture at the top of the post is by Andrei Rublev.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Lathe of Heaven

The 1980 PBS presentation of The Lathe of Heaven is based on the book by Ursula Le Guin. It stars Bruce Davison (who has a Star Trek connection), Kevin Conway (who plays Kahless in ST:TNG) and Margaret Avery. The music is by Michael Small, who did the music for the late lamented Nero Wolfe tv series. Oh, how we wish that series had lasted longer! And we loved the music.

This is well worth watching whether you've read the book or not. It's thought-provoking.

This film is online at googlevideo:

EW gives it a "B". Le Guin, who is credited as a creative consultant says it's "still a goodie".

32 Science Fiction Novels You Should Read

How to Split an Atom has a list of "32 Sci-Fi Novels You Should Read":
Foundation - Isaac Asimov
The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
Animal Farm - George Orwell
War Of The Worlds - H.G. Wells
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
The Minority Report - Philip K. Dick
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Pattern Recognition - William Gibson
Accelerando - Charles Stross
I Robot - Isaac Asimov
Stranger In A Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
The Giver - Lois Lowry
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - Jules Verne
Ringworld - Larry Niven
More Than Human - Theodore Sturgeon
Spook Country - William Gibson
Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom - Cory Doctorow
Altered Carbon - Richard Morgan
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Dune - Frank Herbert
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
1984 - George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton
A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick
Timeline - Michael Crichton

Ones I've read are in bold print.

Warriors of the Wasteland

Warriors of the Wasteland is a 1982 Italian post-apocalyptic film. It's 2019 A.D., and the nuclear holocaust is over. Marauders in white roam the countryside wreaking havoc, with folks leaping through the air in slow motion in the process of being shot at. Men pose and talk slowly. There are many explosions. Religious mumbo jumbo is thrown in for good measure. Our Hero wears low-cut tight black leather pants and clear hard upper body armor with metal trim. The woman who likes him has Very Big Hair.

One of the worst movies I've seen, though I have to confess I did a good deal of skipping through this one.

It can't be embedded here, but googlevideo has it online. The Internet Archive has what they describe as a "modified American public domain version":

Moria pulls no punches, calling it "almost certainly the worst post-holocaust film ever made and maybe even a strong contender for one of the worst films ever made."

Friday, February 20, 2009


I remember the first time I read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. It's a tragic story. The 1968 film Charly, which is based on the book, stars Cliff Robertson, Claire Bloom and Dick Van Patton. Robertson won an Academy Award for playing Charly. The music is by Ravi Shankar. I think the book is subtler, at least as I remember it.

Youtube has it online in 10 parts. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10

I didn't re-watch this, so I haven't checked out these videos.

Moria has a review. The New York Times reviewer doesn't like it. says,
Seen today, his performance as Charlie Gordon remains every bit as nuanced as it seemed at the time.
Alas, the movie itself has not aged nearly as well. Some sections are so dated that they're downright laughable.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Chinese Game of Go

Many, many years ago The Husband and I decided we wanted to learn how to play the ancient game of Go. We bought a board game set somewhere, brought it home, read the rules and... well, got stuck there. We tried to play, but we could make no sense at all of the rules booklet, we knew nobody who played... It was a totally frustrating experience. We pitched the game into the back of the closet, packed it up with the other games and took it with us at every move to a new place, but never got back to it.

Skip forward a few decades and we have The Younger Son wanting to learn to play. The Parental Units are useless, because we can't make heads or tales of it. The Younger Son studied the rule book and researched the game online and discovered a small local group that meets weekly. They welcome players of all ages and skill levels. He's been going regularly for some time now and has started teaching The Daughter and me to play. I've discovered a new saying:
If at first you don't succeed, wait until you have a child old enough to teach you!
It's working for us.

Wikipedia's rules are here. Another explanation is here.

There are sites where you can play online. There are Facebook applications here and here and here, but I don't know how good they are.

The photo of the Go game at the top of the post is from DJOtaku's Flickr stream.

A Matter of Life and Death

Jon Rob suggested this movie in a comment on a previous post, so I thought I'd see how easy it would be to find. A Matter of Life and Death (also known as Stairway to Heaven) is a 1946 Powell/Pressburger film starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, Raymond Massey, Roger Livesey, Marius Goring and Richard Attenborough.

This is wonderful! It is a peculiar love story that takes place during World War 2, half in and half out of this world. Politics figures in at some points, considering the power of some people and nations over others. There's a lot of poetry quoted in this film, but towards the end there's this:
"Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
And men below, and saints above;
For love is heaven, and heaven is love."
(from The Lay of the Last Minstrel, 1805, by Sir Walter Scott)
via Youtube:

The BBC has a review. Roger Ebert says it "is one of the most audacious films ever made - in its grandiose vision, and in the cozy English way it's expressed". The New York Times calls it "a delight".

Michael Powell

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1990 of film director Michael Powell. Perhaps best known for his collaborations with Emeric Pressburger, there was a blogathon a while back honoring that team. has some articles on them. Senses of Cinema has an article with lists and links.

I've seen The Red Shoes. I'm watching Black Narcissus (1947) to honor this anniversary. Criterion has an edition that my favorite DVD store often has in stock. The film is based on a novel with the same name by Rumer Godden and stars Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons and Sabu. Brian Easdale, who won an Academy Award in 1948 for his work on The Red Shoes, wrote the score.

Youtube has it online in 10 parts, though there are problems with the sound synchronization in a couple of the sections. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10

Interestingly, the Order of the Servants of Mary, to which these Anglican nuns purportedly belong, is a Roman Catholic order for men.

Bright Lights Film Journal points out some flaws in the movie. calls it "one of the most visually imaginative and expressive contributions to a cinema heralded more for its naturalism than such exercises in studio-bound artifice." The BBC says, ""Black Narcissus" is a masterly exploration of the dangers of ambition, British reserve, and unbridled emotion."

The photo at the top of the post comes from the Wikipedia page.

8/25/2009: The Criterion Contraption has a review which says,
We can stand around and argue all day about whether or not it's a good idea to present female desire as something akin to demonic posession, but it's still unforgettable.2 For those twenty minutes, Black Narcissus is a master class in horror filmmaking.
and that note #2 is, "2 In our enlightened age, no one would make a movie with a character like Sabu's childlike general. But we keep churning out the Sister Ruths. It's lucrative."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Man Who Was Thursday

The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton is one of those books I'd been meaning to read for years but just had never come across. I know it's online, having been written in 1908, but I don't like reading books online. Maybe if I had a laptop I could take to bed with me, but that's not in the current financial plan.

When I saw it at the Goodwill Book Store for 2 bucks I felt like I had won a prize. The Younger Son got it first. When I started it I admit to a certain disappointment. It started off slow. I should have known what style to expect, since I've read all of the Father Brown stories, but it did seem to drag. After the first couple of chapters it picked up, and I loved the rest of it. It's a comedy of errors and a mystery.

from the back of the book:
This hilarious extravaganza presumes the existence of a secret society of revolutionaries sworn to destroy the world.

There are seven members of the Central Anarchist Council, who, for reasons of security, call themselves by the names of the days of the week - Sunday, Monday and so on. But events soon cast a doubt upon their real identities, for Thursday is not the passionate young poet he appears to be but a Scotland Yard detective. Who and what are the others? Chesterton unravels the fantasy in his own inventive and exuberant way and then uses this nightmare of paradox and surprise to probe the mysteries of human behaviour and belief.

Christianity Today examines the question of who Sunday is. The greatsfandf site claims it's clearly a work in that genre. The Wall Street Journal says it is
one of the most intriguing and enduring mystery-adventure stories ever written, a phantasmagorical spy story replete with secret identities, sword fights, and more chases than a James Bond movie. (My favorites involve elephants and hot-air balloons.)

Mysterious Island (1961)

Mysterious Island is a 1961 science fiction film based on the Jules Verne novel The Mysterious Island, which can be read online. The special effects are by Ray Harryhausen (First Men in the Moon, Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, One Million Years B.C., Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth). There was an earlier version released in 1929.

Youtube has it online divided into 10 separate pieces. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10
The beginning is dark and difficult for me to see the picture on my screen, but I can get a good idea of what the film is like and it lightens up later on.

Moria gives it 3 stars but doesn't have much positive to say. 1000 Misspent Hours says, "At last— a Jules Verne movie that doesn’t totally blow!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thelonious Monk

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1982 of jazz musician Thelonious Monk. PBS has a dedicated page on Monk. NPR has a profile and an audio program. All About Jazz has a biography and links. There's a biography at the official web site.

'Round Midnight:

Blue Monk:

Straight, No Chaser:

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Smell of the Night

The Smell of the Night by Andrea Camilleri is the 6th in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series.

from the back of the book:
Half the retirees in Vigata have invested their savings with Emanuele Gargano. Now the finacial wizard has disappeared, along with their money. Has Gargano flown the coop or, this being Sicily, did he run afoul of the Mafia? The ingenious new novel in Andrea Camilleri's internationally bestselling mystery series finds the earthy and urbane Inspector Montalbano investigating a labyrinthine financial scam - but at a serious disadvantage. A hostile superior has shut him out of the case, he's on the outs with his lover, Livia, and his cherished Sicily is turning so ruthless and vulgar that Montalbano wonders if any part of it is worth saving. Drenched with atmosphere and crackling with wit, The Smell of the Night is Camilleri at his most addictive

I have read the following others from this series:

I enjoy these and pick them up when I see them, but they're not in every book store.

Mars Needs Women

Well, every planet needs women, right? Mars Needs Women is a 1967 science fiction film directed by Larry Buchanan (The Eye Creatures; Zontar, the Thing from Venus; In the Year 2889). Yvonne Craig (who has a Star Trek connection) stars.

It's mind-numbing. And slow. Very, very slow. I love the way the male Martians and the male military officers of Earth argue over whether women from Earth will be allowed to voluntarily go to Mars. Like dogs fighting over a bone.


1000 Misspent Hours gives it negative stars and says,
Looking back from the turn of the 21st century, its hard to believe a movie this dauntingly bad would have been considered acceptable for release, even in the made-for-TV market.
Much of the potential fun of Mars Needs Women is scuttled by the sheer listlessness of the proceedings; it’s an absolute riot whenever anything happens, but entirely too much of the film spools endlessly by with nothing at all going on.

Moria pans it, saying
There is no particular plot to the film – all it really seems to consist of is cutting between various scenes of the Martians following Earth women about.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Men in the Moon

First Men in the Moon is a 1964 science fiction film based on H.G. Wells' book with the same title. Nigel Kneale (Quatermass II, Quatermass and the Pit, Nineteen Eighty-Four) wrote the screenplay. Ray Harryhausen (Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, One Million Years B.C., Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth) did the special effects.

The Younger Son and I had an interesting little discussion on whether or not this movie is Steampunk.

Youtube has it online in 10 sections. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10

Moria has a review. TCM has an overview.

5/30/2010: FilmFanatic has a review.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 30

1 I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

2 O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.

3 O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

4 Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

6 And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.

7 LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.

8 I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication.

9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?

10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.

11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Man Lay Dead

A Man Lay Dead is the first in Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn mystery series. I read Death of a Peer over a year ago but have not read other books by her since. I like both of these and am planning to read the entire series as I come across them.

from the back of the book:
At Sir Hubert Handesley's country house party, five guests have gathered for the uproarious parlor game of "Murder". Yet no one is laughing when the lights come up on an actual corpse, the good-looking and mysterious Charles Rankin. Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives More... to find a complete collection of alibis, a missing butler, and an intricate puzzle of betrayal and sedition in the search for the key player in this deadly game.

The edition I have seems to be out of print, but has used copies.

Happy St. Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is named after St. Valentine. has a site that includes video clips about the holiday. One legend is
that the custom of sending Valentines on 14 February stems from the belief that birds begin to pair on that date; by 1477 the English associated lovers with the feast of Valentine because on that day “every bird chooses him a mate.”
There's a pattern at the Family Fun site to make a sweet little heart basket to put Valentine cards in.

The photo
is from wildphoton's flickr stream.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Andreas Katsulas

Today is the anniversary of the tragic, untimely death in 2006 of Andreas Katsulas. He is best known for his role as G'Kar in the tv series Babylon 5. He also had Star Trek connections. There is an official web site.

Here's the episode "Midnight on the Firing Line" from Babylon 5's first season:
<a href="">Babylon 5 - Midnight on the Firing Line - Season 1, Ep. 2</a>
More episodes are available online at Joost.

There are several tribute videos out there. Here's one:

I was a devoted fan of the series from the beginning. I still occasionally go back and re-watch the first 4 seasons.


Fairyland is an Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel by Paul McAuley. I enjoyed my recent read of his Four Hundred Billion Stars. This book is much different but just as enjoyable.

from the back of the book:
Before he met the brilliant, hypnotic child Milena, Alex Sharkey had never played with "dolls" - blue-skinned, gengineered lifeforms designed for work, amusement, or destruction. But the underground gene-hacker is seduced by a megalomaniacal little girl's dream of providing the soulless genetic constructs with free thought and a future - and he unwittingly unleashes a plague of madness on the world. Now there's a void in his life and memory that must be refilled, but it means pursuing the dangerous sentient species he helped sire from the ruins of a Magic Kingdom through a wasted Europe. It is Alex Sharkey's last chance - and the last hope remaining for a once-dominant human race.

The SFSite review says it "dazzles" and
It is a story propelled at its best moments by ideas, and yet it doesn't neglect to present characters who are, more often than not, individual and unpredictable, and so it helps break down the supposed barriers between the novel of ideas and the novel of psychology in the same way that it breaks down the more intractable barriers between hard science fiction and high fantasy. calls it "an intense, dense and enthralling read" and "an amazing book -- full of exciting ideas that are plausibly extrapolated and told in a thrilling and powerful narrative voice."

Great Backyard Bird Count

Today is the beginning of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. It continues through the 16th. There are instructions on how to participate here. It is sponsored by the Cornell Ornithology Lab, where you can find more information. There is a Facebook event you can join.

Happy bird-watching!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Science Fiction and Fantasy Films List

note: the updated list is here. The list below is no linger being updated.

I have spent a bit more than a month looking for and looking at science fiction (and some fantasy) movies, many online. It's been great fun! What has surprised me has not been how many of these movies I had not seen, but how many of them I had not heard of. My list is below. Many of these are linked to embedded videos of full films:

A Trip to the Moon (1902)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1907) wikipedia entry
The End of the World (1916) wikipedia entry
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)
A Trip to Mars (1918) wikipedia entry

Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)
The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
The Lost World (1925)
Paris Qui Dort (1925)
Metropolis (1927)
Alraune (1928)
The Mysterious Island (1929)
Woman in the Moon (1929)

The End of the World (1931, Gance)
Frankenstein (1931)
The Invisible Man (1933)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Ghost Patrol (1936)
The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936)
Things to Come (1936)
King Solomon's Mines (1937)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dr Cyclops (1940)
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)
Angel on My Shoulder (1946)
The Boy with Green Hair (1948)

Destination Moon (1950)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Flight to Mars (1951)
Lost Continent (1951)
The Man from Planet X (1951)
The Man in the White Suit (1951)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
Unknown World (1951)
When Worlds Collide (1951)
Red Planet Mars (1952)
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)
Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953 animated short)
Invaders from Mars (1953)
It Came from Outer Space (1953)
The Magnetic Monster (1953)
Mesa of Lost Women (1953)
Phantom from Space (1953)
Project Moon Base (1953)
Robot Monster (1953)
War of the Worlds (1953)
Devil Girl from Mars (1954)
Gog (1954)
Killers from Space (1954)
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954, BBC)
The Snow Creature (1954)
Stranger from Venus (1954)
Them! (1954)
The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
This Island Earth (1955)
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Indestructible Man (1956)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
It Conquered the World (1956)
The Red Balloon (1956 short)
Warning from Space (1956)
World Without End (1956)
X the Unknown (1956)
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
The Astounding She-Monster (1957)
Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
The Brain from Planet Arous (1957)
The Giant Claw (1957)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)
Kronos (1957)
The Monolith Monsters (1957)
Quatermass 2 (Enemy from Space) (1957)
Not of This Earth (1957)
The Strange World of Planet X (1957)
Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958)
The Blob (1958)
The Day the Sky Exploded (1958)
I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958)
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)
The Lost Missile (1958)
Missile to the Moon (1958)
Queen of Outer Space (1958)
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
The Trollenberg Terror (or The Crawling Eye) (1958)
The Atomic Submarine (1959)
The Cosmic Man (1959)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
On the Beach (1959)
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)
The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959)

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)
Assignment: Outer Space (1960)
Last Woman on Earth (1960)
The Time Machine (1960)
Visit to a Small Planet (1960)
Battle of the Worlds (1961)
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
The Last War (1961)
Mysterious Island (1961)
The Phantom Planet (1961)
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)
Amphibian Man (1962)
Creation of the Humanoids (1962)
The Day of the Triffids (1962)
First Spaceship on Venus (1962)
La Jetee (1962)
Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)
Panic in Year Zero! (1962)
Planet of Storms (1962)
This Is Not a Test (1962)
Children of The Damned (1963)
The Damned (1963)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)
The Atomic Brain (1964)
Attack from Space (1964)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964)
Fail-Safe (1964)
First Men in the Moon (1964)
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Alphaville (1965)
Crack in the World (1965)
The Eye Creatures (1965)
Planet of the Vampires (1965)
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
The War Game (1965)
Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Seconds (1966)
Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966)
In the Year 2889 (1967)
Mars Needs Women (1967)
Privilege (1967)
Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
They Came from Beyond Space (1967)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Charly (1968)
Countdown (1968)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
The Power (1968)
Przekadaniec (1968)
Yellow Submarine (1968)
Marooned (1969)

Crimes of the Future (1970)
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
No Blade of Grass (1970)
The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
The Omega Man (1971)
THX 1138 (1971)
Silent Running (1972)
Solaris (1972)
Fantastic Planet (1973)
Idaho Transfer (1973)
Sleeper (1973)
Soylent Green (1973)
Westworld (1973)
Dark Star (1974)
The Disappearance of Flight 412 (1974)
A Boy and His Dog (1975)
Death Race 2000 (1975)
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Rollerball (1975)
The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
At the Earth's Core (1976)
Logan's Run (1976)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Alternative 3 (1977)
Capricorn One (1977)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Coma (1977)
Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)
Damnation Alley (1977)
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
The Last Wave (1977)
The People That Time Forgot (1977)
Star Wars (1977)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1978)
Superman: The Movie (1978)
Warlords of Atlantis (1978)
Alien (1979)
Mad Max (1979)
Meteor (1979)
Quintet (1979)
Stalker (1979)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24½th Century (1980 animated short)
Hawk the Slayer (1980)
The Lathe of Heaven (1980)
Popeye (1980)
Virus (1980)
Dragonslayer (1981)
Escape from New York (1981)
Heavy Metal (1981)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Time Bandits (1981)
Ator, the Fighting Eagle (1982)
Blade Runner (1982)
Chronopolis (1982 short)
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
The Dark Crystal (1982)
The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
The Thing (1982)
Tron (1982)
Turkish Star Wars (1982)
Warriors of the Wasteland (1982)
The Day After (1983)
Deathstalker (1983)
Krull (1983)
Videodrome (1983)
Yor, the Hunter From the Future (1983)
1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four) (1984)
The Brother from Another Planet (1984)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Countdown to Looking Glass (1984)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
One Night Stand (1984)
Starman (1984)
Sword of the Valiant (1984)
The Terminator (1984)
Threads (1984)
The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)
Barbarian Queen (1985)
Brazil (and the "Love Conquers All" version) (1985)
The Dungeonmaster (1985)
The Galaxy Invader (1985)
Legend (1985)
Lifeforce (1985)
The Quiet Earth (1985)
Red Sonja (1985)
Captain EO (1986 short)
Highlander (1986)
Labyrinth (1986)
Letters from a Dead Man (1986)
Robot Holocaust (1986)
The Barbarians! (1987)
Deathstalker II Duel of the Titans (1987)
Innerspace (1987)
RoboCop (1987)
The Running Man (1987)
Steel Dawn (1987)
Akira (1988)
Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (Deathstalker 3) (1988)
Gor (1988)
Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
The Seventh Sign (1988)
They Live (1988)
Willow (1988)
A Grand Day Out (Wallace and Gromit, 1989)
Outlaw of Gor (1989)
Slipstream (1989)

Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe (1991)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Freejack (1992)
Demolition Man (1993)
Fire in the Sky (1993)
Time Runner (1993)
The Stand (1994)
Stargate (1994)
The City of Lost Children (1995)
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Jumanji (1995)
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Waterworld (1995)
Escape from LA (1996)
Independence Day (1996)
Mars Attacks! (1996)
The Fifth Element (1997)
Gattaca (1997)
Kull the Conqueror (1997)
Men in Black (1997)
The Postman (1997)
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Armageddon (1998)
Dark City (1998)
Deep Impact (1998)
Soldier (1998)
Bicentennial Man (1999)
Existenz (1999)
Matrix (1999)
Wild Wild West (1999)

Battlefield Earth (2000)
On the Beach (2000)
Pitch Black (2000)
Possible Worlds (2000)
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Shrek (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)
Equilibrium (2002)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Lilo and Stitch (2002)
Men in Black 2 (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
Reign of Fire (2002)
Solaris (2002)
Voices of a Distant Star (2002, animated short)
The Core (2003)
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Timeline (2003)
Appleseed (2004)
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Immortal (2004)
Primer (2004)
Aeon Flux (2005)
Constantine (2005)
Doom (2005)
Fantastic 4 (2005)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The Island (2005)
Mirrormask (2005)
Robots (2005)
Serenity (2005)
Zathura (2005)
Children of Men (2006)
The Fountain (2006)
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Slither (2006)
Ugly Swans (2006)
Ultraviolet (2006)
Blood and Chocolate (2007)
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Ghost Rider (2007)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Invasion from Planet C (2007)
The Man from Earth (2007)
Martian Child (2007)
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Sunshine (2007)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Eagle Eye (2008)
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Iron Man (2008)
Skhizein (2008 animated short)
WALL-E (2008)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Jathia's Wager (2009, short)
Moon (2009)
Panic Attack (2009, short animated)
Reach (2009 animated short)
Star Trek (2009)
Book of Eli (2010)