Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sons of the Desert, County Hospital and Busy Bodies

Tonight we watched the remaining 3 films on the Laurel and Hardy disc.

The first was the 1933 Sons of the Desert, as sexist and dated a piece as you could ever want to see, Sugar. I can't find this online, though there's a severely edited version here. The New York Times says,
Let it be said at once that the new Laurel and Hardy enterprise has achieved feature length without benefit of the usual distressing formulae of padding and stretching. It is funny all the way through.

DVDTalk reviews this disk, calling both County Hospital and Busy Bodies "inspired". County Hospital is from 1932. I can't find it online, but somebody has put the first half of Busy Bodies (1933) at youtube today:

My guess is that part 2 will soon follow.

I found all 3 of these to be slow and labored.

THX 1138

I know I saw this film years ago, but watching THX 1138 again I don't remember any of it. Odd. THX 1138 is a 1971 science fiction film. It is the first film directed by George Lucas and stars Robert Duvall in the title role, Donald Pleasence, Ian Wolfe (who has a Star Trek connection from TOS) and Sid Haig (also with a ST:TOS connection). We watched the director's cut. I think that's the only way the movie is available on DVD.


The Cinemated Man offers it online:

Veoh has the film available online, but you have to download their horrible player.

Moria says, "Symbolically, THX 1138 is a film about finding human individuality inside an impersonal and automated world." Roger Ebert says, "... as a work of visual imagination it's special". has a review. The New York Times says, "Mr. Lucas's film looks like a slightly old-fashioned anxiety dream—but if you can accept that (and you should), it becomes very potent material indeed." The Rolling Stone review gives it one star and calls it a "ponderous period piece". SFSignal likes it. Christianity Today has discussion questions. DVDTalk regrets that the original release is unavailable, saying,
THX 1138 was a superior product of its day, and it's too bad that we can't see it any more. In its place, George Lucas has given us his revised version, adding visuals and augmenting scenes.

The Queen of the Swords

The Queen of the Swords is the 2nd book in the Michael Moorcock trilogy featuring Corum, the Prince in the Scarlet Robe. This is the edition I have. I bought it at my favorite local used book store. It wasn't as much fun as the first one, but then I didn't expect it to be. I'll be reading the 3rd one next.

from the back of the book:
The realm of Chaos was cast into disorder, for the Vadhagh Prince Corum -last of his ancient race- had slain the Knight of Swords. Thus the dreaded Queen turned upon Corum, and Mankind began its bloody march across the Earth. All that was gracious and beautiful stood in peril. And so Corum set out upon his fateful odyssey...

Moorcock has a Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

The Lady Vanishes is a 1938 Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Dame May Whitty and Cecil Parker. There is a Criterion edition of this film, but the DVD we have is a no-frills version.

The Internet Archive has this one online:

The New York Times says, "If it were not so brilliant a melodrama, we should class it as a brilliant comedy." Slate has a lengthy treatment with video clips. Films de France declares that it is "Considered to be the best of Alfred Hitchcock’s British films (or, at the very least, a close second to his The Thirty Nine Steps)". Slant Magazine says, "The film is a comic satire on British blindness to Germany's rising threat, standing now as Hitchcock's cleverest statement on the war" and closes with this: "Hitchcock's film shines both as the bold technical achievement it was in Britain in 1938 and as a charming and relevant production today."

7/6/2009: FilmFanatic has a review.


Sabotage is a 1936 Alfred Hitchcock film.

The version of this that's available at Google Video is missing the last 20 minutes or so, so be warned. It's available elsewhere, though, including through

The New York Times calls it "a masterly exercise in suspense". describes it as "psychologically shattering" and says, "This film is as wrenching as it is eruptive."

12/5/2009: Only the Cinema has a review.

Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder is a 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings.

this should be the film (if it shows up...):

The New York Times likes it. DVDTalk says, "With its fine set of star performances, this is one of the best entertainments from the Master of Suspense." Films de France opens with this:
Alfred Hitchcock’s faithful screen adaptation of Frederick Knott’s hugely successful stage play Dial M for Murder is one of the director’s most confined works - virtually all of the story takes place in just one set – yet it is also one of his most compelling thrillers, and a practically flawless piece of direction.

Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train is a 1951 Hitchcock film based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. The movie stars Farley Granger, Robert Walker and Leo G. Carroll.


Roger Ebert includes this film on his list of "great movies" and says, "its appeal is probably the linking of an ingenious plot with insinuating creepiness." BBC calls it "one of Hitchcock's most efficient and ruthlessly delicious thrillers." Variety says it's "a gripping, palm-sweating piece of suspense." The New York Times has a negative review. DVDTalk's review is positive. Slant Magazine opens its review by describing the movie as "undoubtedly effective as a classic Hitchcock thriller" but "also nothing more complicated than one elongated gay cruise joke-cum-horror story."

6/10/2009: Film Fanatic considers the opinion expressed in Danny Peary’s Guide for the Film Fanatic.

Shadow of a Doubt

Shadow of a Doubt is a 1943 Alfred Hitchcock movie written by Thornton Wilder. It stars Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn in his first film.

googlevideo has this one online:

Slant Magazine and the New York Times have reviews. DVDTalk takes special note of Teresa Wright, saying her "radiant and textured performance is possibly the best by an actress in Hitch's entire filmography" and closes by saying that "Hitchcock's most subtle and least sensational film is also one of his very best." Images Journal says,
Shadow Of A Doubt slanders that most cherished of American landscapes, the small town. That such a thorough critique of American mores appeared during World War II, a time when other directors were enshrining rather than embalming these standards, seems nothing short of incredible.


Notorious is a 1946 Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant and Claude Rains. Claude Rains is one of my special favorites.

Youtube has this film online in 11 parts:

Notorious is on Roger Ebert's "great movies" list. and the New York Times have reviews. DVDTalk opens with this:
Probably the best of the Selznick Hitchcocks, and still the most dramatically satisfying, Notorious is a fascinating film. Besides being a superior romance, it's a model of suspense construction.

Alfred Hitchcock

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1980 of Alfred Hitchcock. Senses of Cinema has a lengthy, foot-noted article. The BBC has excerpts from audio interviews. PBS devotes part of its American Masters site to him. Images Journal has several articles. Bright Lights Film Journal has photos highlighting Hitchcock's recurring themes. has an article and extensive resource lists. BFI has a print interview from 1967. takes a contrarian view, saying he "may be the prime example of a film legend whose reputation has come to overpower any realistic view of his work." There's a big Alfred Hitchcock Facebook page. FilmStudiesForFree has embedded a 1973 6-part video interview with Tom Snyder and Hitchcock.

I have blog posts on the following Hitchcock films, many of which are viewable online:

Number Seventeen (1932)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
The 39 Steps (1935)
Secret Agent (1936)
Sabotage (1936)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Jamaica Inn (1939)
Rebecca (1940)
Shadow of a Doubt (1944)
Lifeboat (1944)
Notorious (1946)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Psycho (1960)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boudu Saved From Drowning

Boudu Saved From Drowning is a French film from 1932 and is directed by Jean Renoir.

This can be viewed online, compliments of LikeTelevision:

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

Bright Lights Film Journal reviews the Criterion release. The Oldest Established Really Important Film Club selected this, and the discussion can be read here. Slant Magazine has a review.

12/18/2009: Filmsquish ends by saying, "Explain to me again why I needed to see this before I died? Just because it's Renoir? Please!"

Monday, April 27, 2009


Anna-Liisa is a 1922 Finnish silent film directed by Tuevo Puro and Jussi Snellman. Wikipedia says this was the "First Finnish film to get "restricted" (unsuitable for children) rating". The IMDB listing has this one at 88 minutes, so I'm not sure what happened to the rest of the film. The one at the Internet Archive is only 48 minutes long.

The film below does not have English intertitles, but here's a summary from Internet Archive:
Anna-Liisa is a farmer's daughter, about to marry Johannes, who comes to visit her at the farm. The god-fearing family is happy for her, but Anna-Liisa has a dark secret, which is revealed in flashbacks. We are moved to a lake where Mikko, the former farm-hand, is working as a log-floater. He remembers when he met Anna-Liisa at a dance. They row home in the moonshine, the girl is seduced beneath a birch tree by the shore - while the rowing-boat drifts away. She gets pregnant, Mikko runs away and she kills the child. Mikko's mother helps her to clear the traces. Now the farm-hand's mother has a hold on the farmer's daughter, and when she hears about the marriage with Johannes three years later, she threatens the girl. Mikko comes home and wants to marry Anna-Liisa. She tells her relatives everything. When she tries to drown herself, Johannes saves her. She finds salvation. When the wedding is announced, Anna-Liisa declares that she has deciced to serve her penalty. End.

Internet Archive has this online:

There are certainly some sad tales from the early days of film.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another Fine Mess and The Music Box

Another Fine Mess and The Music Box are 2 Laurel and Hardy short films that are on a DVD we have. The Husband picked them because this DVD is one of a pitiful few light comedies in our stack of DVDs to be watched.

There is an overview and commentary of Another Fine Mess here. I can't find a site where it's viewable online.

The Music Box won the first Academy Award for live action short film. It can be viewed online via Veoh:

Watch 03. The Music Box (1932).avi in Comedy  |  View More Free Videos Online at

There's an overview and commentary here. describes it as "the quintessence of this duo of incompetence" and says,
The Music Box was considered by Stan Laurel to be the best short he and Oliver Hardy created.... This three-reeler ranks with some of the best short works of silent screen comedians Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton.

Beltane at Grey Niche

The Younger Son tied for 2nd place in the rapier tournament at Beltane, a week-end event hosted by the Barony of Grey Niche. The competition was fierce, and I am proud of his success. I think the winner went undefeated, and The Younger Son's only loss was to him. I was impressed that our Baron and Baroness remained for the rapier competition and didn't leave the field after the heavy fighting was completed. That attention was noticed and the honor appreciated. If only we could get decent attendance at the weekly fighter practices, but, alas, often The Younger Son is the only rapier fighter present. Work schedule plays havoc with the ability of the other most regular fencer's ability to come.

I was unable to locate the Herbal Guild class scheduled for yesterday afternoon. I stayed at the field to watch Savelli defeat a challenger for the Iron Ring, and it was after the time stated for the class to begin before I went in search of it. I didn't see any signs. The class was listed on the schedule as being in one of the classrooms in the main building, but I couldn't find classrooms. I asked several people, but most seemed unaware the class was being held at all, much less where I might find it. Herbs is an area where I could see myself taking a real interest, but the only connection I can find is a small yahoo group with little traffic, and I've moved away from yahoo groups as a method of communicating. If it looked like there was much discussion there I guess I might try it, but as it is... I see no mention of an Herbal Guild at the Grey Niche site, and no listings for programs for the Arts and Sciences meetings, so I can't tell if that guild does anything regularly around here or only for events. The information at the web site doesn't appear to have been updated in some time (for example: the times listed for Sunday afternoon fighter practice are at least 2 years out of date; the newcomers handbook still lists us as being in the Kingdom of Meridies), so the lack of information on Herbal Guild activities doesn't mean they don't have them. I'm sure someday I'll figure out how to connect with them.

This event was our first experience of a royal court. We weren't sure where we should situate ourselves, as I didn't want to presume on space meant for others, so we sat behind the area that had been roped off for the fighters. That put us way in the back. We were unable to hear much, both because the voices of the folks making the announcements didn't carry well that far back and because the people grouped behind us and to our right were talking and laughing throughout the ceremony. What we could see was impressive, but we're still not sure what we were seeing.

The feast was late, not starting until 7:30-ish. The feast hall was beautifully decorated, and lots of people had wonderful table settings with cloths and candles and tableware fit for a, well, fit for a feast! The entertainment was fun. The barony has some talented singers. The food was good and plentiful. Too plentiful, actually, and I felt bad about how much of it must have gone to waste. I heard someone say the feast had sold out, but there were several empty seats scattered through the hall. We, again, sat in the back away from the head table. 3 others joined us there, one of whom had never been to an event before. He was with a couple who have apparently not been active recently as I heard someone ask the man where he had been and say he had been missed. Our new feast gear seemed appropriate and served us well. It would have been nice to have had a candle, but I didn't think of that before-hand.

Another thing I didn't think of before-hand was a flashlight. After the feast was over we went outside into the darkness. As we got further from the lights of the building we realized we were leaving behind the only lights. It got darker as we went in the direction of the car, but we remembered that the drive where the other cars were parked led into the parking lot at Troll where our car was. We walked along, keeping the parked cars to our right and we reached our car without trouble. There was, of course, a small flashlight in my glove compartment. Brilliant. I think I'll put a flashlight in the basket with the feast gear. Seeing it will remind me to put batteries in it, and we can walk in greater comfort next time.

I'm glad we went, but, honestly the SCA reminds me a lot of church. If you already know what's going on you don't think about how foreign everything seems to newcomers. And, though people are happy to answer questions if you ask, it's hard to know what to ask. That said, though, it was a fun event and enjoyable even for an outsider like me.

The Creation of the Humanoids

The Creation of the Humanoids is a 1962 post-apocalyptic science fiction film based on a novel by Jack Williamson. The music is electronic. The movie starts with a voice-over narration telling of the atomic war that killed 92% of the human population and left the fertility rate too low. The acting is consistently stiff. I love this quote from early on: "There are always ultra-conservative pressure groups set against advancement."

Moria considers it "a highly underrated gem of considerable worth" and says, "There are some parts of the film that are just beautifully written science-fiction" and "Indeed The Creation of the Humanoids is a perfect illustration of how science-fiction should work as a literature of ideas, rather than of special effects." DVDTalk calls it "a progressive and serious sci-fi opus".

10/11/2009: Radiation Cinema has a lengthy review of the plot.

Sunday Psalm

Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer)

Psalm 4

1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?

3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.

4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.

5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

6 There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Wired Sci-Fi Top 20

Here's a copy of Wired's list as published back in 2002:

1. Blade Runner
2. Gattaca
3. The Matrix
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
5. Brazil
6. A Clockwork Orange
7. Alien
8. The Boys From Brazil
9. Jurassic Park
10. Star Wars
11. The Road Warrior
12. Tron
13. The Terminator
14. Sleeper
15. Soylent Green
16. RoboCop
17. Planet Of The Apes
18. The Day The Earth Stood Still
19. Akira
20. Barbarella

Ones I've seen are in bold print, and ones I've written blog posts about are linked.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Essential SF Films for Beginners has a list of essential sf films for beginners:
1. Star Wars
2. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
3. Back To The Future
4. Children Of Men
5. Star Trek 2 : The Wrath Of Khan
6. E.T. the Extra- Terrestrial
7. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

I've seen all of these. They describe it as a "watch list of beginner Sci-Fi movies that will get you on your Sci-Fi way and hopefully not frighten or bewilder you." But really, 2 out of 7 are Star Wars movies? I think I'll have a chat with The Family and come up with our own personal list.

Ok, we stayed with 7 movies but didn't rank them in any particular order. Here's The Younger Son's list:
Star Wars
City of Lost Children
Lilo and Stitch
Wrath of Khan
War of the Worlds
Pitch Black
The 5th Element

from The Husband:
The Day the Earth Stood Still (original version)
Metropolis (silent)
The Andromeda Strain
When Worlds Collide
Star Wars

I'm confused about the parameters so am opting out of a list right now. I can't figure out if I'm supposed to be making a list to introduce SF to people with no experience and perhaps a little reluctance or if I'm supposed to be providing a list to introduce the interested newcomer to the genre. Those would be 2 different lists.
I'm looking forward to the more advanced film list they will offer soon.

HT: SFSignal

Freedom for Us

Freedom for Us is the English title for À nous la liberté, a 1931 René Clair comedy film. Georges Auric did the music.

Youtube has it online divided into 9 sections with embedding disabled. It is in French. There are English subtitles in every section except #8. Here are links to each segment: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9 [These have been removed.]


The New York Times calls it "a Strange Mixture of Fantasy and Realism" and says it "is assuredly different from any other screen feature. It bristles with strange originality." ends by saying,
But it is not the technical excellence of the film which remains in one's mind. It is the puncturing of pomposity, the rejection of dehumanizing technical processes, the statement of essential human values and an appreciation of the incongruities of human existence.

Senses of Cinema:
À nous la liberté is a landmark in the history of film comedy because it's funny, yet it is too satirical for farce, too farcical for satire. And it is a landmark in the history of sound film.

Films de France begins with this:
À nous la liberté was one of the early triumphs of sound cinema and has retained its status as one of the all-time greats of French cinema.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The World of Apu

Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959) is the 3rd in the Apu Trilogy directed by Satyajit Ray. The other films are linked from here.

part 1:

part 2:

The New York Times says the director's work "demonstrates in "The World of Apu" that he is master of a complex craft and style."


Aparajito (1956) is the award-winning 2nd film in the Apu Trilogy and is directed by Satyajit Ray. The other films are linked from here.

part 1:

part 2:

The New York Times:
it is done with such rare feeling and skill at pictorial imagery, and with such sympathetic understanding of Indian character on the part of Mr. Ray, that it develops a sort of hypnotism for the serene and tolerant viewer who is willing to sit still for an hour and forty-eight minutes and let some stunning black-and-white pictures pass before his eyes.
And Mr. Ray's remarkable camera catches beauty in so many things, from the softness of a mother's sad expression to the silhouette of a distant train, that innuendos take up the slack of drama. Hindu music and expressive natural sounds complete the stimulation of the senses in this strange, sad, evocative film.

MSN has some information. 1001 Flicks has a review.

Pather Panchali

Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) is the award-winning first film in Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy and his first film to direct. The other films are linked from here. This is a tragic story, moving.

The Guardian says, "it still has tremendous freshness and vitality, combining a very simple style with moments of poetry" and calls it "a luminous, transcendental masterpiece".

The New York Times review says it "is one of those rare exotic items, remote in idiom from the usual Hollywood film, that should offer some subtle compensations to anyone who has the patience to sit through its almost two hours." DVDTalk says, "The movie has historical significance and is therefore something movie buffs should consider renting but to be fair, it was very dated in so many ways."

Apu Trilogy

The Apu Trilogy, not surprisingly made up of 3 films, is directed by Satyajit Ray. Today is the anniversary of his death in 1992. has lists of resources and an article on his work. Bright Lights Film Journal has an interview. There is a Facebook page. Senses of Cinema has a profile of him, which concludes,
Ray makes us re-evaluate the commonplace. He has the remarkable capacity of transforming the utterly mundane into the excitement of an adventure. There is the ability to recognise the mythic in the ordinary,
More then any of his contemporaries in world cinema, he can create an awareness of the ordinary man, and he doesn't do it in the abstract, but by using the simplest, most common and concrete details such as a gesture or a glance.

What is also distinctive in Ray's work is that the rhythm in his films seems almost meditative. There is a contemplative quality in the magnificent flow of images and sounds that evokes an attitude of acceptance and detachment, which is profoundly Indian.

The Apu films:
Pather Panchali (1955)
Aparajito (1956)
Apur Sansar (1959)

Ravi Shankar did the musical score. The Apu trilogy is #76 on the list of 100 most spiritually significant films. The trilogy also has a spot on Time's list of 100 best films. Roger Ebert has the series on his "great movies" list. The Guardian seems to regret the films are seldom seen today. says the films
had a profound effect on filmmaking within India and an important effect on the attention paid to Indian films outside India

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Children of Men

Children of Men is a 2006 science fiction film directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starring Clive Owen and Michael Caine. We love Michael Caine. The music is by John Tavener. The movie is a loose adaptation of the book by P. D. James.


Rolling Stone says, "No movie in the last year is more redolent of sorrowful beauty and exhilarating action." Roger Ebert likes it. Slant Magazine does not. has a review here. Christianity Today explores its Christian connections. The Guardian calls it "an excellent thriller" and says, "Cuarón has created the thinking person's action movie." EW says it's "Thrilling, important, and invigoratingly bleak". Moria says,
Children of Men is a strong and intelligent venture into the dystopian future theme, a mini-genre that has waned somewhat in recent years. Children of Men could easily be a throwback to 1970s dystopian films set in infertile/breeding-restricted futures...

Slate's reviewer describes it as "a modern-day nativity story" and predicts,
Children of Men (Universal), Alfonso Cuarón's dense, dark, and layered meditation on fertility, technology, immigration, war, love, and life itself may be the movie of the still-young millennium. And I don't just mean it's one of the best movies of the past six years. Children of Men, based on the 1992 novel by P.D. James, is the movie of the millennium because it's about our millennium, with its fractured, fearful politics and random bursts of violence and terror.
The New York Times calls it a "superbly directed political thriller," saying it
may be something of a bummer, but it’s the kind of glorious bummer that lifts you to the rafters, transporting you with the greatness of its filmmaking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Serpent's Egg

The Serpent's Egg is a 1977 Ingmar Bergman film starring David Carradine and Liv Ullman. The opening scene almost brought me to tears, but nothing in the film after that struck me so much.

I found this film through TOERIFC (The Oldest Established Really Important Film Club) and located a way to easily watch it online at

Roger Ebert has a negative review. Senses of Cinema calls it a disaster. The New York Times closes its review with this:
Mostly, "The Serpent's Egg" is a movie of beautifully photographed weather and handsome period sets and costumes that encase characters who remain as anonymous as the bodies in a morgue. It's dead.

DVDTalk praises Carradine but generally gives a negative review ending with this faint praise:
...the picture is a beauty to watch and yet another unique curiosity. The best praise for The Serpent's Egg is that it creates a grim little genre all its own, Politico-Film History-Paranoia.

Only the Cinema opens with this: "To the extent that Ingmar Bergman's The Serpent's Egg has a reputation at all, it is not a good one."

Monday, April 20, 2009


Kagemusha is a 1980 Akira Kurosawa film. Takashi Shimura has a small role in this, his last, film. This Criterion edition of the movie is 3 hours long. That's long. I'm glad this was not my first Kurosawa experience.


Roger Ebert likes it. Entertainment Weekly has a short review. Variety says, "Kurosawa, at 70, shows himself young indeed in the impressive handling of this historical drama". DVDTalk calls it "a truly under appreciated masterpiece," adding,
Kagemusha is hardly the best Kurosawa film to start with (go out and grab The Seven Samurai or Yojimbo if you've yet to be initiated into his world) as it unfolds at a fairly slow pace and at three hours in length it might try the patience of those unfamiliar with the way that the man made movies. But for more seasoned viewers, it doesn't get a whole lot better than this.

The New York Times says,
Kagemusha is probably the director's most physically elaborate, most awesome film, full of magnificent views of lines of mounted soldiers slowly crossing grand landscapes or galloping along seashores, against sunsets of a magnificence that seems to foreshadow the end of the world. Kagemusha is majestic, stately, cool, and, in many of its details, almost abstract. It appears very much to be the work of a director who, now seventy years old, is no longer concerned with the obligations of conventional drama or even with moral questions. He is, instead, contemplating history, not as something to be judged but, rather, acknowledged and, possibly, understood.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Aguirre, the Wrath of God is a 1972 German film directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski. The music is by Popol Vuh. The film is on Time's list of 100 best films.

This is one of those films that really needs to be seen on a larger, better-quality screen than I have, but the entire film is available on youtube:

The film is one of Roger Ebert's "great movies". He calls it "one of the great haunting visions of the cinema". Senses of Cinema has an article. Slant Magazine says the film "stands a mythic portrait of colonial conquest run amok". The New York Times says, "This is a splendid and haunting work." Images Journal says it's "a stunning film that brought him attention from film circles around the globe." has its usual extensive list of resources and describes it as "Herzog's hypnotic epic of megalomania and delusional myths". The Guardian's reviewer opens with this:
Here is a true classic, a gem from an era of high-wire cinema, a cinema of breathtaking ambition - a film about a folie de grandeur , the making of which has passed into cinema lore as hardly less daring, and hardly less mad, than its subject matter.

The movie has its own Facebook page.

HT: Film Studies for Free

7/5/2009: Parallax View has a review.
6/1/2010: Only the Cinema has an article that includes still shots and describes the movie as "a poetic, dream-like film".

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Knight of the Swords

The Knight of the Swords is the first in Michael Moorcock's "swords trilogy" featuring Corum, the Prince in the Scarlet Robe. I had picked up the 2nd and 3rd in the series some time ago, and The Younger Son found this one for me the last time we went to the used book store. You can see the cover of my edition here. It won the Derleth Award in 1972. This reminds me just a bit of Conan. I'm looking forward to the next 2.

from the back of the book:
By creating Man, the universe had betrayed the old races. Spreading like a pestilence across the Earth. Man destroyed the Vadhagh and the Nhadragh, the ancient peoples. Only Vadhagh Prince Corum remained to raise his sword, to avenge the slaughter of his family and race, to battle the unjust fate of a blind and deaf universe...

Moorcock has a Facebook page.

R.I.P. J. G. Ballard

Locus reports the death of J.G. Ballard.

BoingBoing here and here
io9 here and here
Jeff VanderMeer
Bright Lights After Dark
The Independent

Panic in Year Zero!

Panic in Year Zero! is a 1962 post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by and starring Ray Milland, an Academy Award winning actor from The Lost Weekend, Dial M for Murder and Beau Geste. Also starring are Jean Hagen and Frankie Avalon. The music (by Les Baxter) is a lot of fun.


DVDTalk says, "actor-director Ray Milland keeps the dramatic tension high". Moria calls it "a repellent film in most regards" and says,
Along with the British No Blade of Grass (1970) [which I watched here], Panic in Year Zero! represents the libertarian survivalist fantasy at its most brutal.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 133

1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Great 90's Sci-Fi Movies

Listverse has a list of the 20 best sci-fi movies from the 1990's:
20 The Arrival 1996

19 eXistenZ 1999

18 Contact 1997

17 The Fifth Element 1997

16 The Truman Show 1998

15 Star Trek: First Contact 1996

14 Men in Black 1997

13 Jurassic Park 1993

12 Edward Scissorhands 1990

11 La Cité des enfants perdus (The City of Lost Children) 1994

10 Twelve Monkeys 1995

9 Galaxy Quest 1999

8 Gattaca 1997

7 Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade 1999

6 π (or: Pi) 1998

5 The Matrix 1999

4 Dark City 1998

3 Open Your Eyes 1997

2 Ghost in the Shell 1995

1 Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991

Ones I've seen are in bold print.

HT: SFSignal

Beat Not the Bones

Beat Not the Bones by Charlotte Jay is the first book awarded an Edgar Award for Best Novel. Published in 1952 and featuring conflict between white Australians and Papuan natives, it's not as dated as one might fear. In fact, I enjoyed this book. I liked the plotting and the way the characters were gradually revealed, and I was drawn into the lives of the characters and the into the setting. I will probably look for more by this author.

from the back of the book:
A young Australian woman comes alone to Marapai on the island of New Guinea to find out why her husband, a distinguished anthropologist in charge of protecting the natives from exploitation, committed suicide. It is hard for her to believe that drink and debt, the common causes of despair among the Australians stationed in the protectorate, could have affected David Warwick. As she meets those who knew him, Stella learns more than she ever dreamed of about the lure of gold and the magical means used by the Papuans to protect themselves. But she must penetrate deep into the heart of the jungle to solve the mystery of her husband's death.


Popeye is a 1980 film version of the old Popeye animated cartoons. This is directed by Robert Altman and stars Robin Williams in his first film and Shelley Duvall in the role she was born to play. Ray Walston (who has a Star Trek connection) plays Popeye's pappy, and Paul Dooley (also with a Star Trek connection) plays Wimpy. Richard Libertini is another actor here who was in Star Trek. Swee'Pea is played by Altman's grandson. We really like this movie.

You can see Olive Oyl singing He's Large here:

Here's the scene where they find Swee'Pea:

Roger Ebert calls it "lots of fun". Slant Magazine has a positive review. DVDTalk has a mixed review, calling it "certainly too good-natured a film to actually hate". The New York Times says it
is a thoroughly charming, immensely appealing mess of a movie, often high-spirited and witty, occasionally pretentious and flat, sometimes robustly funny and frequently unintelligible. It is, in short, a very mixed bag.

Moria says,
I must join the chorus of those praising Robert Altman’s Popeye. Popeye is a film that is at times difficult, but eventually holds persistent charm.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Escape from New York

Escape from New York is a 1981 science fiction movie directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau (who has a Star Trek connection). The World Trade Center towers figure prominently in the film. This was The Younger Son's first time to see this movie. It had been years (decades?) since I last saw it. We enjoyed it.


It's online at youtube in 10 parts with embedding disabled. Part 1 is here.

Moria praises the casting and special effects and says it's "one of the first science fiction/action hybrids" and "one of the most witty and stylish of these sf/action films". The New York Times calls it "by far Mr. Carpenter's most ambitious, most riveting film to date". Slant Magazine has a review describing it as "timeless activist cinema".

4/20/2009: Cinematical has a favorite scene.

Ten Influential Films of The Last Ten Years

/film has a list of the 10 most influential films of the last 10 years:
* Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
* The Bourne Ultimatum
* Traffic
* My Big Fat Greek Wedding
* Polar Express
* Rushmore
* The Matrix
* Children of Men
* The 40 Year Old Virgin
* Coraline

It's a response to the list of 15 "movies that shaped the cinema and the audiences that viewed them" from TCM, none of which were released during the last 32 (yes, 32!) years.

Ones I've seen are in bold print.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box is a 1929 silent German film starring Louise Brooks.

Youtube has it online in 13 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

Bright Lights Film Journal has an in-depth article. DVDTalk reviews the Criterion DVD. The Guardian has a review. Films de France says,
Pandora's Box is one of the great masterpieces of early German cinema, directed by one of the country's most accomplished cineastes, G.W. Pabst, and starring Louise Brooks, one of the greatest and most instantly recognisable of film icons.

Alphabet of Obscure Science Fiction Classics

A. Alphaville [1965]
B. Brainstorm [1983]
C. Charly [1968]
D. Destination Moon [1950]
E. Enemy Mine [1985]
F. Frau im Mond [1929]
G. Gold [1934]
H. Harrison Bergeron [1995]
I. The Incredible Shrinking Man [1957]
J. Just Imagine [1930]
K. Krakatit [1947]
L. Lifeforce [1985]
M. The Man in the White Suit [1951]
N. Night of the Comet [1984]
O. On Your Mark [1995]
P. Panic in Year Zero! [1962]
Q. Quatermass and the Pit [1968]
R. Robinson Crusoe on Mars [1964]
S. Soylent Green [1973]
T. Them! [1954]
U. The Ultimate Warrior [1975]
V. Village of the Damned [1960]
W. The War Game [1965]
X. X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes [1963] (scheduled for 5/24)
Y. Yosei Gorasu [1962]
Z. Zardoz [1974]

Ones I've seen are in bold print.

HT: SFSignal

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Distraction by Bruce Sterling is the 2000 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, finding it hard to put down. There are mentions of the game of Go scattered throughout.

from the back of the book:
It's November 2044, an election year, and the state of the Union is a farce. The government is broke, the cities are privately owned, and the military is shaking down citizens in the streets. Washington has become a circus and no one knows that better than Oscar Valparaiso. A political spin doctor, Oscar has always made things look good. Now he wants to make a difference. But Oscar has a skeleton in his closet. His only ally: Dr. Greta Penninger, a gifted neurologist at the bleeding edge of the neural revolution. Together they're out to spread a very dangerous idea whose time has come. And so have their enemies: every technofanatic, government goon, and laptop assassin in America. Oscar and Greta might not survive to change the world, but they'll put a new spin on it.

Infinity Plus has a review. SFSite calls it his "best novel yet". There's a review at BoingBoing that ends with this:
It's a powerful concoction, this book, and now, ten years after its initial publication, it's possible to asses just how prescient, how visionary, Sterling is. I love all of Bruce's books, but this one may just be my favorite. It's the kind of friend you end up staying up all night chatting with, even when all you plan on doing is saying a quick hello.

Most Influential Films

15 from TCM:
"The Birth of a Nation" (1915)

"Battleship Potemkin" (1925)

"Metropolis" (1927)

"42nd Street" (1933) (I've seen the stage production)

"It Happened One Night" (1934)

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937)

"Gone with the Wind" (1939)

"Stagecoach" (1939)

"Citizen Kane" (1941)

"Bicycle Thieves" (1947)

"Rashomon" (1950)

"The Searchers" (1956)

"Breathless" (1959)

"Psycho" (1960)

"Star Wars" (1977)

and 10 from Roger Ebert:
1. The early Chaplin shorts (I've seen some of these.)

2. "Birth of a Nation"

3. "Battleship Potemkin"

4. "The Jazz Singer"

5. "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs"

6. "Citizen Kane"

7. "Shadows"

8. "Star Wars"

9. "Toy Story"

10. "The Blair Witch Project"

Ones I've seen are in bold print.

from Roger Ebert

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fantasy Films for Tax Day

SciFiScanner offers this list (annotated at their site) of 5 fantasy films to help get us through the tax season:
Labyrinth (1986)

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Jumanji (1995)

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Bruce Almighty

Ones I've seen are in bold print.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cotton Patch Gospel

We've had the VHS tape of the Cotton Patch Gospel for decades but hadn't watched it until Saturday. It provides an interesting perspective, especially for this life-long Southerner. Here's a clip:

There is a DVD available.

The New York Times has a theater review that uses the phrase "relentlessly folksy".

Sunday, April 12, 2009


He is Risen!

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. (Mark 16: 1-8)

ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through* Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen. (1928 Book of Common Prayer)

The picture at the top of the post is of The Resurrection by Fra Angelico.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Books for Nerds

Impnerd has an annotated list of "10 Books (or Book Series) that Nerds Love". Here are the book titles:
10. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

9. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

8. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

7. The Ender’s Game Series by Orson Scott Card
(I've read the first 4 in the Ender series)

6. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

5. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

4. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

3. The Sprawl Trilogy by William Gibson (I've read the 1st and 3rd)

2. Enemy Mine by Barry Longyear

1. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert (I've read the first 4 in the original series)

Ones I've read are in bold print. Looks like Enemy Mine should go on my "to buy" list.

HT: SFSignal


Amélie is an award-winning 2001 French film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children). We listened to it in French with the English subtitles.

Youtube has most of this online divided into short sections. part 1: [These videos are gone now.]


BBC describes this film as a "charming tale of a young French girl who helps strangers find love and happiness." The New York Times has a positive review. Variety calls it a "fresh, funny, exquisitely bittersweet tour de force". Roger Ebert says it's
a delicious pastry of a movie, a lighthearted fantasy in which a winsome heroine overcomes a sad childhood and grows up to bring cheer to the needful and joy to herself.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen. (1928 Book of Common Prayer)
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.

Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.

Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man's disciples? He saith, I am not. And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself. The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.

Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die. Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. (John 18:1-19:42)

The picture at the top of the post is of a late 19th century a crucifixion shrine by Joseph Koenig.