Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Realistic Military Science Fiction

io9 has a list of "The Most Realistic Military Science Fiction". Their list includes books, tv, movies and games. Here are the books with ones I've read in bold print:
Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein
Cobra Trilogy, Timothy Zahn
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Old Man's War, John Scalzi
Broken Angels, Richard K. Morgan
Armor, John Steakley
Wess'Har Wars, Karen Traviss
Vatta's War Cycle, Elizabeth Moon (I've read the 1st one)
Probability Moon, Nancy Kress
X-Wing Series, Michael A. Stackpole / Aaron Allston

Battlestar Galactica (I've seen the first season)
Stargate SG-1 (I've seen the first season)
Babylon 5 (a favorite until that dreadful 5th season)

Aliens (I saw Alien but none of the others)
Children of Men

The Naked City

The Naked City is a 1948 film noir directed by Jules Dassin and starring Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, Don Taylor and Walter Burke.

via Internet Archive:

There are 8 million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.
There is a Criterion edition of this film. The New York Times calls it "a rambling, romantic picture-story". Films de France says,
The Naked City is one of the groundbreaking films made in the late 1940s which redefined the American crime drama and laid the groundwork for the police procedurals that would come to dominate television and cinema in subsequent decades.

DVDTalk begins with this:
Film Noir historians reserve a special place in their hearts for Mark Hellinger and Jules Dassin's The Naked City, a highly influential crime thriller filmed almost entirely in the streets of New York City.

The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost is a 1944 film directed by Jules Dassin and starring Charles Laughton, Robert Young, Margaret O'Brien, Reginald Owen, Una O'Connor, Frank Faylen, Mike Mazurki and Peter Lawford.

It's out of print, and I can't find it online. That is such a shame!

The New York Times gives it a mixed review. Variety says, "Tight scripting, nimble direction and excellent casting are about equally responsible for the satisfactory results." The Spinning Image says, "MGM’s adaptation of the Oscar Wilde fantasy is wonderful stuff."

Youtube has a remake online in 12 parts. Part 1 is here.

The Tell-Tale Heart (Dassin)

The Tell-Tale Heart is a 1941 short film, the first film directed by Jules Dassin. It is adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's story.

Jules Dassin

Today is the 1-year anniversary of the death of film director Jules Dassin. The only one of his movies I have ever seen is Never on Sunday, which I saw on late-night tv when I was a teenager. I keep meaning to see Rafifi, but it never makes it to the top of my list of DVDs to buy.

FilmReference.com says,
while he has made some very impressive films, his career as a whole is lacking in artistic cohesion.
The villain in his career is the blacklist, which tragically clipped his wings just as he was starting to fly.

Films de France has an overview.

There is a 1972 interview with him on youtube. He talks about working with Joan Crawford and Conrad Veidt and what it was like to be a director in Hollywood when he first started out. He also touches on McCarthyism and the blacklist. The entire interview is not included in the videos. They are in French with English subtitles. part 1:

part 2:

My blog posts on his films:
The Tell-Tale Heart
The Canterville Ghost
The Naked City

Monday, March 30, 2009

Eva Luna

Eva Luna is a novel by Isabel Allende. I've read The House of the Spirits, but that was years ago. I enjoyed both of these books. Seems like I've read other works by her, but I can't remember now what they were.

The back of the book has only quotes from reviews. Wikipedia describes the book this way:
Eva Luna takes us into the life of the eponymous protagonist, an orphan who grows up in an unidentified country in South America. While the country's political history, traced through several decades of the mid-20th century, bears many similarities to Chile (the author's original nationality), the geography and social context of the story depict a society more similar to Venezuela.

The novel takes us through Eva Luna's journey though life so far and her ability to tell stories, interweaving Eva's personal story with the broader geopolitical turmoil of Latin America during the 1950s - 1980s.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Armageddon is a 1998 science fiction film starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Marshall Teague (who has a Star Trek connection) and Chris Ellis (who was active in Memphis community theater when he was younger).

Narration at the beginning:
This is the Earth at a time when the dinosaurs roamed a lush and fertile planet. A piece of rock just 6 miles wide changed all that. It hit with the force of 10,000 nuclear weapons. A trillion tons of dirt and rock hurtled into the atmosphere creating a suffocating blanket of dust the sun was powerless to penetrate for a thousand years. It happened before. It will happen again. It's just a question of when.

Youtube has it online divided up into 14 parts. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14

Moria says it "emerges as only a spectacular monument to its own self-promotion and self-importance over the provision of anything of substance". EW has a review. Roger Ebert pans it, saying "No matter what they're charging to get in, it's worth more to get out." The New York Times doesn't like it:
Movie isn't actually the best word to describe ''Armageddon.'' More accurately it's a product, a feat of salesmanship, a sight worth noticing only because, like the asteroid on a collision course with planet Earth, its size and inevitability aren't easy to miss.

Criterion calls it
a work of art by a cutting-edge artist who is a master of movement, light, color, and shape—and also of chaos, razzle-dazzle, and explosion.

7/24/2009: We watched this one tonight. It was selected by The Younger Son. I'm the only one in the family who had seen this one all the way through.

5th Sunday in Lent

And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.

Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.

The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. (John 12:20-36 KJV)

WE beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (1928 Book of Common Prayer)

The picture at the top of the post is from the Pitts Theology Library and is of Philip bringing some Greeks to meet Jesus.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

UofM Imagine New Music Festival

Tonight I went to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the 3rd concert in this series (see page 9 of this pdf). Tonight's presentation included 4 works by Arvo Pärt:

Which was the Son of ....

Mein Weg

Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten

Te Deum for chorus and orchestra

My favorite was Which was the Son of... I couldn't find a video of the University Singers doing it, so I'm embedding this one instead:

4/1/2009: Thanks to The Daughter who sent me a link to this short film showing Arvo Part offering his "guidance to the Voices of Europe youth choir in Iceland during the rehearsals of his composition "Which was the son..."."
part 1:

part 2, part 3

Hakuho Is Spring Sumo Champion

and the tournament isn't even over yet.

from International Herald Tribune:
OSAKA, Japan: Mongolian grand champion Hakuho won the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday before he even stepped into the ring.

Japan Today:
Undefeated grand champion Hakuho won his 10th career title without ever having to lift a pinky on the 14th day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday.

Daily Yomiuri:
Kotooshu's victory over yokozuna Asashoryu (11-3) in the day's penultimate bout gave Hakuho (14-0) a two-win cushion over his closest rival with only one day to play at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

The picture is of Hakuho from Wikipedia's entry.

update: 3/30/2009:
Taiwan News:
Mongolian Hakuho overpowered compatriot and fellow grand champion Asashoryu on Sunday to finish the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament with a perfect 15-0 record.

Daily Yomiuri:
The result was never in doubt after Hakuho secured a left-hand grip on the front of Asashoryu's belt. Asashoryu (11-4) bowed to the inevitable, and cut a subdued figure as he stepped out to his fourth loss in six days.

Quo Vadis (1951)

Quo Vadis has been filmed several times. This 1951 version stars Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr, Also starring are Peter Ustinov and Abraham Safaer (who has an original series Star Trek connection). The music is by Miklos Rozsa (King of Kings (1961), The Power). Walter Pidgeon is the narrator.

Veoh has this in 2 parts, but you have to download their viewer to watch them: part 1, part 2

The New York Times doesn't like it and closes its review with this:
we have a suspicion that this picture was not made for the overly sensitive or discriminate. It was made, we suspect, for those who like grandeur and noise—and no punctuation. It will probably be a vast success.

Variety is more positive.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Merchant of Venice (2004)

I picked the 2004 version of The Merchant of Venice for tonight. It stars Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes. Based on the Shakespeare play, this version is rated R for some occasional views of bare-breasted prostitutes.


The New York Times says,
Judiciously trimmed to manageable movie length, this "Merchant" is, for the most part, faithful in letter and spirit to its source material.

BBC says,
Michael Radford's gloomy film is a long and slightly draining haul, but the intensity of Al Pacino's central performance justifies the effort required.

Roger Ebert has a positive review. The Guardian and Rolling Stone like it. Slant Magazine doesn't.

Seven Chances

Seven Chances is a 1925 Buster Keaton silent color film. Jean Arthur is also in this movie. The subject seems strangely timely. Wikipedia describes the plot:
The story tells of Jimmy Shannon (Buster Keaton ), a financial broker who's nearly bankrupt...
Keaton gets lucky in being left a fortune by a rich relative. Our nearly bankrupt financial wizards want Uncle Sam to play the part of the rich relative.

I think this one is cute.

Youtube has it online in 6 sections. part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

The New York Times reviews it, as does DVDTalk. Neither of those 2 reviews is particularly positive. Salon.com compares it favorably to the 2000 remake. Filmsquish likes it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Like Flint

In Like Flint is the 2nd (and sadly the last) of the James Coburn Flint movies. Also starring are Lee J. Cobb, Andrew Duggan, Yvonne Craig (Mars Needs Women, Batgirl, and she has a Star Trek connection from TOS) and Steve Ihnat (who has a Star Trek connection from that same episode).

I just love James Coburn, and I always did get a kick out of the Flint movies. Talk about a Renaissance Man. I saw the Flint movies first on TV, so I must have been in high school at the time. Our DVD claims to have special features, but what it does have is a few trailers from other movies. That's it. Boring.

via Youtube:

Entertainment Weekly has a positive word. Roger Ebert does not. DVDJournal likes Jerry Goldsmith's music.

Spring in a Small Town

Spring in a Small Town is a 1948 Chinese film. This film has gained increased respect and was remade as Springtime in a Small Town in 2002. The Hong Kong Film Awards has named it the best of the top 100 Chinese films. The entire hopeless tale is narrated by the wife and is sparely told. There is a lot of silence.

DVDTalk says,
Spring in a Small Town in many ways epitomizes what we have come to expect from Eastern storytelling. There is probably more here under the surface than there is out in the open. What the characters avoid saying is usually more important than what they actually do say.

The New York State Writers Institute has an article. The House Next Door has a review, as does 1001 Flicks

7 Must-See 1950s Monster and Alien Movies

Film School Rejects lists "7 Must-See Monster and Alien Movies of the 1950s":
Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958)
The Blob (1958)
The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
The Fly (1958)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Thing From Another World (1951)
Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956)

They have lots of information explaining their choices.

I've seen Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, The Blob, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, which can be viewed online at those links.

I've also seen Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Fly, but I can't find them online.

They also suggest:
Invaders From Mars, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, It Came From Outer Space, When Worlds Collide, The Day of the Triffids, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Killers from Outer Space
Ones with links are ones I've been able to find online.

HT: SFSignal

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yahoo's List of 100 Movies To See Before You Die

/film has an article on Yahoo's new list of "100 Movies To See Before You Die". Here's the list with ones I've seen in bold print:
12 Angry Men (1957)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The 400 Blows (1959)
8 ½ (1963)
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
The African Queen (1952)
Alien (1979)
All About Eve (1950)
Annie Hall (1977)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Battle of Algiers (1967)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Blade Runner (1982)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Blow Up (1966)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Breathless (1960)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Casablanca (1942)
Chinatown (1974)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Die Hard (1988)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Duck Soup (1933)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Enter the Dragon (1973)
The Exorcist (1973)
Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
The French Connection (1971)
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather, Part II (1974)
Goldfinger (1964)
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1968)
Goodfellas (1990)
The Graduate (1967)
Grand Illusion (1938)
Groundhog Day (1993)
In the Mood For Love (2001)
It Happened One Night (1934)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jaws (1975)
King Kong (1933)
The Lady Eve (1941)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The Lord of the Rings (2001,2002,2003)
M (1931)
M*A*S*H (1970)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Matrix (1999)
Modern Times (1936)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
Network (1976)
Nosferatu (1922)
On the Waterfront (1954)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Paths of Glory (1958)
Princess Mononoke (1999)
Psycho (1960)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Raging Bull (1980)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raise the Red Lantern (1992)
Rashomon (1951)
Rear Window (1954)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Rocky (1976)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Schindler’s List (1993)
The Searchers (1956)
Seven Samurai (1954)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Star Wars (1977)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The Third Man (1949)
This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Titanic (1997)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Toy Story (1995)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Vertigo (1958)
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Wild Strawberries (1957)
Wings of Desire (1988)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
The World of Apu (1959)

/film notes:
Aside from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, only one movie on the list was released in the last 8 years.

Gun Before Butter

Gun Before Butter is the 3rd book in the Nicholas Freeling Inspector Van der Valk mystery series. This book was published in 1963. Freeling died in 2003 at the age of 76.

from the back of the book:
Called by the Observer "the best and deepest of Freeling's books," this investigation of a seeminly senseless murder in Amsterdam not only sends Inspector Van der Valk to France, but involves him emotionally as well.

This story is character-driven without a lot of action. The writing is concise. The ending surprised me. There's a mention of Maigret early on, which I found amusing. There's a mention of the movie Marie Walewska and the book Gone with the Wind. There's one passing mention of a fencer: "He stayed still a second, clearing his mind, preparing it, like a fencer before the start of a fresh bout." An undiscovered painting by Breitner is an important element of the plot. There is a picture of a painting by this artist at the top of the post.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

5 Worst SF Movies of All Time

A Strange Eye explains their list of "The 5 Worst Science Fiction Movies of All Time":
5. StarCrash (1978)

4. Turkish Star Wars (Dünyayi kurtaran adam) (1982)

3. Robot Monster (1953)

2. Battlefield Earth (2000)

1. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Ones I've seen are in bold print. Starcrash, Turkish Star Wars, Robot Monster, Battlefield Earth and Plan 9 from Outer Space can all be viewed online at those links. I love it when I can watch films online.

For one of the movies they suggest:
If you feel compelled to watch this horrible movie, then definitely watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 enhanced version of it,
but I'd much rather watch the original and provide my own snarky commentary. That's much more fun!

HT: SFSignal

Solaris (2002)

Solaris is a 2002 film based on the Stanislaw Lem book with the same name. This book was previously adapted for film in 1972. The 2002 version is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies and Ulrich Tukur. The Younger Son made this selection for us last night.


Moria provides a lengthy comparison of the 2 different versions. The 2002 version comes out on top in 1000 Misspent Hours' comparison. The New York Times concludes:
"Solaris" is a science-fiction film lacking action-adventure sequences. The absence of boyish friskiness, kineticism and pyrotechnics makes it a film that offers no vicarious physical release. Its insistence on remaining cerebral and somber to the end may be a sign of integrity, but it should cost it dearly at the box office.

Roger Ebert says, "It is a workshop for a discussion of human identity. It considers not only how we relate to others, but how we relate to our ideas of others" and in comparing the 2 versions says,
Soderbergh's version is more clean and spare, more easily readable, but it pays full attention to the ideas and doesn't compromise. Tarkovsky was a genius, but one who demanded great patience from his audience as he ponderously marched toward his goals. The Soderbergh version is like the same story freed from the weight of Tarkovsky's solemnity. And it evokes one of the rarest of movie emotions, ironic regret.

Lines from And death shall have no dominion by Dylan Thomas are used throughout the film. There's a clip from the film with George Clooney reciting lines from the beginning of the poem here. The poem ends with these lines:
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

3/26/2009: The House Next Door is talking about it.

Bless Me, Ultima

Bless Me, Ultima is a 1972 novel by Rudolfo Anaya. It is often-assigned these days, so I hear, but is also often challenged.

from the back of the book:
Exquisite prose and wondrous storytelling have helped make Rudolfo Anaya the father of Chicano literature in English. Indeed, Anaya's tales fairly shimmer with the haunting beauty and richness of his culture. The winner of the PEN Center West Award for Fiction for his unforgettable novel, Albuquerque, Anaya is perhaps best loved for his classic bestseller, Bless Me, Ultima...

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past—a mythical legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world... and will nurture the birth of his soul.

Online study guides and discussion questions:
Learner.org has some background information.
The Big Read

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Chase

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

The Chase is a 1946 film noir directed by Arthur Ripley and starring Robert Cummings and Peter Lorre.

via Youtube:

The New York Times notes "Peter Lorre is excellent" but says,
it is doubtful whether even the more mature will easily thread through the maze of "The Chase." For this strange and often engrossing melodrama, which came to the Globe on Saturday, besides being almost strangled by its complex plot limps to an irritatingly obvious denouement.

Passage to Marseille

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

Passage to Marseille is a 1944 film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.


The New York Times concludes,
"Passage to Marseille" is a well-intentioned film with a lot of vicious action in it, but it never escapes from its own mechanical toils.

DVDTalk reviews it as part of a Bogart set and says,
This one may have good intentions and probably played well to wartime audiences, but it suffers greatly from an overload of propaganda.

The Constant Nymph

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

The Constant Nymph is the 3rd of 3 film adaptations of the novel with the same name by Margaret Kennedy. This 1943 film stars Charles Boyer, Joan Fontaine, Charles Coburn and Peter Lorre.

YouTube has this online, but the first of the 11 parts is unavailable.
part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11

The New York Times says it is "a fine tribute to the virtues that have made the book endure," and does us the favor of describing the opening section:
The opening scenes depicting the life of the Sanger clan, that pack of rebels living alone in the Tyrol, away from the conventions of society, are nicely handled. The humor, inherent in such a brood, comes across with impish gaiety.

My Favorite Brunette

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

My Favorite Brunette is a 1947 Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour film. Also appearing in this movie are Lon Chaney, Jr., Peter Lorre, Alan Ladd and Bing Crosby.

Watch it online compliments of the Internet Archive or GoogleVideo:

The New York Times calls it "a commendably funny film". Variety has a review. The Spinning Image says,
My Favorite Brunette is not often hilarious, but prompts chuckles pretty consistently as a sharp send up of the private eye genre, with Hope's narration a bonus and the indignities heaped upon him adding to the fun.

Mr. Moto's Last Warning

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

Mr. Moto's Last Warning is a 1939 film, 6th in a series of Mr. Moto films starring Peter Lorre. John Carradine and George Sanders (another favorite around here) are also in this one.

The Internet Archive has it online:

You can also see it online at Joost.

TCM has a page with some basic information.

Secret Agent

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

Secret Agent is a 1936 Hitchcock film starring John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll and Robert Young.

It can be viewed online at googlevideo or from the Internet Archive:

The New York Times doesn't like it. Films de France says, "Secret Agent is an entertaining example of its genre, shot through with occasional moments of artistic brilliance," while noting "Peter Lorre’s comical over-acting". Salon.com calls it "freakish" and "fascinating" and "the weirdest movie Hitchcock made". The Spinning Image calls it "a real curiosity" and says,
But if Secret Agent doesn't entirely work as a thriller – and not at all as a love story – it does have that strange, macabre edge that Hitchcock would in subsequent decades give full reign to.

Arsenic and Old Lace

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

Arsenic and Old Lace, released in 1944, is directed by Frank Capra and stars Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Jack Carson, James Gleason and Edward Everett Horton.


The New York Times opens its review with this:
As a whole "Arsenic and Old Lace," the Warner picture which came to the Strand yesterday, is good macabre fun.
Moria calls it "a likeable amusement". Variety.com says it's a "diversion of a very agreeable character".

6/25/2009: The Husband got this DVD for Father's Day and chose it to watch tonight.

Man from the South (1960)

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Man from the South is a 1960 TV episode based on a short story by Roald Dahl. Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre star.

YouTube has this online in 3 parts with embedding disabled.
part 1, part 2, part 3

I love Peter Lorre's facial expressions.


In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

Quicksand is a 1950 film noir directed by Irving Pichel and starring Mickey Rooney -against type- and Peter Lorre.

via Youtube:

DVDTalk calls it "a pretty nifty little picture". TCM says, "Fortunately the film itself earned positive notices and became something of a cult favorite among noir devotees." Weird Wild Realm says it's "a hard-hitting working-class crime drama". The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calls it a "Small but effective thriller".

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

In honor of today being the anniversary of Peter Lorre's death I declared a 1-day Lorre Blogathon. I've linked my posts on Peter Lorre's films here.

There are 2 movies named The Man Who Knew Too Much, both directed by Hitchcock. This 1934 version is by far my favorite. I know the 1956 remake with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day is better known and seems to be the preference for most, but not for me. I don't need Doris Day singing Que Sera, Sera, and I think there may actually be such a thing as too much of Jimmy Stewart.

The 1934 version stars Leslie Banks and Edna Best (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir). Peter Lorre also stars and is a stand-out in the role.

The film can be viewed online thanks to googlevideo:

BFI's Sight&Sound prefers this version to the remake:
Aside from its East End setting, the earlier version scores two great points over its remake. One, of course, is Peter Lorre's brilliant, wheedling turn as the oleaginous Mr Abbott. The other is its climax, recreating the Sidney Street siege of 1911 in a terse and well-orchestrated shoot-out which is vastly preferable to Ms Day and her interminable crooning.

Films de France compares the two in its review, calling Lorre "stunning" and saying,
This American remake is certainly more polished than the 1934 original but lacks the frisson of danger and dark, expressionist tones of that earlier film.

Peter Lorre

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1964 of Peter Lorre. He's a favorite around our house. FilmReference.com has an article on his work. He has a Facebook fan page.

I'll put links here for my blog posts on his films, most of which will be ones viewable online:

M (1931)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Mad Love (1935)
Secret Agent (1936)
Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Casablanca (1942)
The Constant Nymph (1943)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Passage to Marseille (1944)
The Chase (1946)
My Favorite Brunette (1947)
Quicksand (1950)
Beat the Devil (1953)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Man from the South (1960)
The Raven (1963)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Shatner and Kirk

William Shatner and James Kirk share a birthday! I think Shatner should get 2 cakes today.

I saw this bit of news at /Film last year.

Bicentennial Man

Bicentennial Man is a 1999 Robin Williams film based on The Positronic Man, which in turn was based on the novella The Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov. I don't like Robin Williams. Well, I like him ok when he's scripted, but I find his ad-libbing tiresome. I looked back at this film particularly because of its inclusion in the recent list by AirLockAlpha.com of top 10 science fiction movies based on written works. I remembered this film as being pretty dreadful and wanted to refresh my memory.

Youtube has this film online divided into 13 sections. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7 (no sound), part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13

Moria calls it "appalling sentimental tripe". The New York Times says it "achieves the pop grandiloquence of a ''Star Trek'' installment," but they don't mean that in a good way. Frank Wu says, "Read the story instead" and
This year baseball's Dodgers and Orioles both proved that you could spend $75 million, collect a team of talented players with great track records, and still wind up as stinking losers. The Bicentennial Man proves the same about movies.

Roger Ebert says it seems "very long and very slow" and says,
"Bicentennial Man" could have been an intelligent, challenging science fiction movie, but it's too timid, too eager to please. It wants us to like Andrew, but it is difficult at a human deathbed to identify with the aluminum mourner. Strange, how definitely the film goes wrong.

BBC says,
Stultifyingly dull and a disgusting waste of valuable film dollars, this is the kind of studio cack that should be acknowledged for the shameful mess that it is and consigned to the rubbish bin.
Do not, repeat, do not see this film.

SciFi.com likes it. Hmmm... There's one in every crowd, but they're in good company with AirLockAlpha.

4th Sunday in Lent

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:14-21 KJV)

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. (from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer)

The picture of a sunrise at the top of the post is from Matthew Fang's Flickr page.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of Truman Capote's better-known works. It's a short novel bound with 3 short stories I didn't read. There is a web site devoted to the novella here, including a critical analysis which opens with this:
Truman Capote's short novel Breakfast at Tiffany's displays a romantic and charming, yet anguishing and heart wrenching drama. Capote paints characters that the reader can recall as if they are remembering a dream of someone they once knew.

The New York Times says,
Mr. Capote's characteristic resorting to almost vaudevillian devices weakens his originally serious conception of his character, thins it down and so, in mid-reading, forces the reader to a dimmer view of her.

Steven Wu says, "for the life of me I can't figure out why this book is so highly esteemed." Salon.com likes it. USA Today has an article on the 50th anniversary of the book and on its continuing presence in our culture.

World Poetry Day

Today is World Poetry Day. Poetry may be my least favorite of the arts. What can I say? I'm an uncultured slob. I do like some kinds of poetry, though, including some of Shel Silverstein's work, nursery rhymes and limericks and such. UNESCO obviously has a more exalted form of poetry in mind when they write:
Although we have just concluded the celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us ensure that this Day will also attest to the universal aspiration to a world reconciled around the values of freedom and diversity.
They probably didn't mean Harry Graham's "Little Willie" poems like this one:
Little Willie
Pair of Skates
Hole in the Ice
Golden Gates

which inspired my own high-school composition
Willie, who had naught to lose,
Threw away his brand new shoes.
Mother, who was not all sweet,
Nailed his next ones to his feet.

This poem is one of my personal favorites:

Who ran away from his Nurse and was eaten by a Lion
by Hilaire Belloc

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo-
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know--or at least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so-
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!

He hadn't gone a yard when-Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted "Hi!"

The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
"Ponto!" he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion's name),
"Ponto!" he cried, with angry Frown,
"Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!"
The Lion made a sudden stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:-
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, "Well-it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!"
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James's miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

7 Apocalyptic Fims

Cinematical has a list of 7 apocalyptic science fiction films -annotated at their site, of course, telling lots of goodies about each one- but just listed here:
I Am Legend (2007)

12 Monkeys (1995)

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Planet of the Apes series (1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973)

The Quiet Earth (1985)

Damnation Alley (1977)

The Terminator series (1984, 1991, 2003, 2009)

Ones I've seen are in bold print. The Day the Earth caught Fire (starring Leo McKern) can be viewed online, as can The Quiet Earth and Damnation Alley.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Man for All Seasons

The Husband picked this one for tonight's movie. A Man for All Seasons is a 1966 film adaptation of the Robert Bolt play that tells the story of the conflict between now-Saint Thomas More and King Henry VIII. The film is directed by Fred Zinnemann and stars Paul Scofield as Thomas More, Robert Shaw as Henry VIII, Susannah York (Mrs. Cratchit from the George C. Scott Christmas Carol) as More's daughter, Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey, Wendy Hiller as More's wife, Nigel Davenport (Scrooge's father from the George C. Scott Christmas Carol) as Duke of Norfolk, and John Hurt as Richard Rich. Vanessa Redgrave has a cameo as Anne Boleyn. Leo McKern makes a perfect Cromwell. I just love Leo McKern. He has his own Facebook page. You can read a script of the movie here. Watch it online here:

Our DVD has an interesting "special feature" on the life of Thomas More.

This movie is #27 on the ArtsAndFaith.com list of 100 most spiritually significant films. The New York Times says it is "a picture that inspires admiration, courage and thought." DecentFilms.com says, "This is a great film. I believe it is the most profound cinematic depiction of the life of any saint." Variety has a review. FerdieOnFilm reviews it in memory of Paul Scofield during the week of his death.

Vernal Equinox

Today is the Vernal Equinox. It is also the celebration of the Bahai New Year:
Naw-Ruz is one of the nine Bahá'í holy days on which work is to be suspended. It is generally observed with a meeting for prayer and celebration -- often combined with a dinner since the sunset on which Naw-Ruz begins ends the last day of the Bahá'í fast. As with all Bahá'í holy days, there are few fixed rules for observing Naw-Ruz...

There is an official web site for Bahai's in the United States. That site lists these as Core Beliefs:
Core Beliefs

The principle of the oneness of humankind is the pivot around which all the teachings of Baha'u'llah revolve.

Baha'u'llah taught that humanity, after a long and turbulent adolescence, is at last reaching a stage of maturity in which unity in a global and just society finally can be established.

To this end, the Baha'i Faith prescribes laws of personal morality and behavior, as well as social laws and principles, to establish the oneness of humanity.

Baha'is believe:

* the purpose of life is to know and worship God, to acquire virtues, to promote the oneness of humankind and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization
* all humanity was created by one God and is part of one human race
* work performed in the spirit of service is a form of worship
* the soul, created at the moment of conception, is destined by God to reach the afterlife, where it will continue to progress until it attains the presence of God

Baha'is practice:

* daily prayer and communion with God
* high moral principles, including trustworthiness, chastity and honesty
* independent investigation of truth
* a life dedicated to the service of humanity
* fellowship with the followers of all religions
* avoidance of excessive materialism, partisan politics, backbiting, alcohol, drugs and gambling

They have an page on "What We Believe", which includes this:
The Baha'i Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent monotheistic religions. Founded in Iran in 1844, it now has more than five million adherents in 236 countries and territories. Baha'is come from nearly every national, ethnic and religious background, making the Baha'i Faith the second-most-widespread religion in the world.

Baha'is view the world's major religions as a part of a single, progressive process through which God reveals His will to humanity. Baha'u'llah (1817-1892), the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, is recognized as the most recent in a line of Divine Messengers that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.

The central theme of Baha'u'llah's message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for humanity’s unification into one global society. While reaffirming the core ethical principles common to all religions, Baha'u'llah also revealed new laws and teachings to lay the foundations of a global civilization. “A new life,” Baha'u'llah declared, “is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth.”

There is a web site for the international community and a website for Bahá'ís of Memphis and the Midsouth. There are some introductory videos here. Bahai 101 is a comprehensive flash video introduction to the Bahai faith.

President Obama's greetings on the occasion:

The 9-pointed star at the top of the post is the symbol of the Bahai faith.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

10 Best Animated Films

This is Terry Gilliam's list of the 10 best animated films of all time. At the link he annotates each entry, explaining why it deserves a spot in his top 10.
The Mascot
(Wladyslaw Starewicz, France 1934)

(Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen, US, 1940)

Red Hot Riding Hood
(Tex Avery, US, 1943)

Out of the Inkwell
(Dave Fleischer, US, 1938)

Death Breath
(Stan van der Beek, US, 1964)

Les Jeux des Anges
(Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1964)

Dimensions of Dialogue
(Jan Svankmajer, Czechoslovakia, 1982)

Street of Crocodiles
(The Quay Brothers, UK, 1986)

(John Lasseter, US, 1989)

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
(Trey Parker, US, 1999)

Ones I've seen are in bold print.

There are some of Starewicz's films embedded here, along with links to more information.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Illusion or Reality

Things are not what they appear, and you cannot believe your own eyes. You are seeing what your brain tells you to see and not what your eyes are actually seeing. Click here for the demonstration.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Wearing of the Grin

The Wearing of the Grin is a 1951 Looney Tunes animated short starring Porky Pig.

HT: Another Old Movie Blog

The Muppets Sing Danny Boy

I'm just all choked up....

HT: The Elder Son

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today is St. Patrick's Day, the feast day of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Wear green in honor of St. Patrick. The Husband always makes green muffins for us, and those are waiting downstairs now. When the kids were little we decorated with shamrocks, played rhythm instruments in our own little St. Paddy's Day parade, read books about the holiday, listened to Irish folk tales and music and wore green jewelry.

Prayer for the Faithful by Saint Patrick

May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
- Against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Top Sci Fi Thriller Movies

Suvudu has a 2-part series on their top sci fi thriller movies. Part 1 is here and includes an annotated list (long annotations) of these films:
28 Days Later
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Dark City
Event Horizon

Part 2 is here and includes these movies (again, with great annotations):
The Thing
The Signal
Resident Evil

Ones I've seen all the way through are in bold print. Hmmm... Obviously a sub-genre I don't seek out.

HT: SFSignal

Top 10 Apocalyptic Tales

From Suvudu (via SFSignal) comes this list of their "Top 10 Apocalyptic Tales":
The Gate to Women’s Country, Sheri S. Tepper
Earth Abides, George Stewart
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Without Warning, John Birmingham
The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

And two examples from TV and film:

Miracle Mile
They annotate their list, explaining why each was chosen. Ones I've read or seen are in bold print. I may have read the Brunner book but just don't remember.