Friday, July 31, 2009

The Sting

I failed once again in my effort to get The Husband and The Daughter to agree to an Ingmar Bergman film. They refused. The Daughter has never seen a Bergman film, and The Husband has only seen one. I'm just giving it up. From now on I'll find a time when The Younger Son and I can watch the foreign films. But, for me, tonight kills Family Movie Night. I'll watch whatever they pick, of course, but it's too discouraging for me to continue to request movies that they refuse to consider. We do seem to watch whatever anybody else picks...

The Husband picked The Sting, which was a birthday present to him in response to his request for comedies and movies with happy endings. This 1973 film, which I have seen a couple of times before, stars Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, James Sloyan (who has a Star Trek connection), Sally Kirkland and Charles Dierkop (who has an original series Star Trek connection).


The New York Times has a review. Variety likes it. The BBC review closes with this: "For those watching this after a large meal, intertitles with different chapter headings break the plot into easily digestible chunks." Roger Ebert says, "It's good to get a crime movie more concerned with humor and character than with blood and gore; here's one, as we say, for the whole family."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brink of Life

Brink of Life is a 1958 Ingmar Bergman film.

LikeTV has it online:

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

The New York Times describes it as
an austerely straight story set in one ward of a modern hospital and involving several women and the psychological and physical traumas attendant on childbirth.

Smiles of a Summer Night

Smiles of a Summer Night is a 1955 Ingmar Bergman film. Time named it one of the 100 best films.

LikeTV has this one available:

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

Variety says: "Offbeat Swedish comedy of manners and passions has an unusual lusty comedy manner." says it is "the first film to bring him international recognition when it was acclaimed at the 1956 Cannes Festival". The New York Times calls it, "a delightfully droll contemplation of amorous ardors." Senses of Cinema says,
one cannot say with any degree of certainty that Smiles of a Summer Night is a funny film. Instead, it is, in a Bergman sort of way, a film that displays a rather poignant and biting dose of angst.

Ingmar Bergman

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2007 of Ingmar Bergman. Senses of Cinema has an article. Bright Lights Film Journal says,
Time and again, Bergman challenges our sense of both individual and collective identity (who are we and how do we live with others?) — ethical, political, and social considerations every bit as relevant to the current climate, modernist or otherwise, as any moment previously. has a lengthy list of resources and says,
His reputation can be traced to such diverse factors as his prolific output of largely notable work (40 features from 1946–82); the profoundly personal nature of his best films since the 1950s; the innovative nature of his technique combined with its essential simplicity, even when employing surrealistic and dream-like treatments (as, for example, in Wild Strawberries and Persona); his creative sensitivity in relation to his players; and his extraordinary capacity to evoke distinguished acting from his regular interpreters, notably Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, and Liv Ullmann.

I have blog posts on the following of Bergman's films:

Summer Interlude (1951)
Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Wild Strawberries (1957)
Brink of Life (1958)
The Virgin Spring (1960)
Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
Winter Light (1962)
The Silence (1963)
Persona (1966)
Cries and Whispers (1972)
The Serpent's Egg (1977)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tell No One

Tell No One is a mystery/thriller novel by Harlan Coben. I bought it because it's on a list of mystery novels that have won the most awards. I liked it, have another of this author's works in my tbr stack and will pick up more as I see them.

from the back of the book:
For Dr. David Beck, the loss was shattering. And every day for the past eight years, he has relived the horror of what happened. The gleaming lake. The pale moonlight. The piercing screams. The night his wife was taken. The last night he saw her alive.

Everyone tells him it’s time to move on, to forget the past once and for all. But for David Beck, there can be no closure. A message has appeared on his computer, a phrase only he and his dead wife know. Suddenly Beck is taunted with the impossible–that somewhere, somehow, his wife is alive... and he's been warned to tell no one.

Old Man's War

I bought and read Old Man's War because I enjoyed The Android's Dream so much. Old Man's War is John Scalzi's first book and the first in a series of (so far) 4 novels. The author has a preview page. I enjoyed this book and will pick up more by this author as I come across them.

from the back of the book:
John Perry did two things on his seventy-fifth birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it to the stars. The bad news is that, out there, planets fit to live on are scarce - and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So, we fight. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of our resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Forces, and everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join up. The CDF doesn’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth, never to return. You’ll serve two years in combat. And if you survive, you’ll be given a homestead of your own, on one of our hard-won planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He thinks he knows what to expect. But the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine - and what he will become is far stranger.

SFSignal gives this a hearty recommendation: "Old Man's War, the first in a series I eagerly await, is a fast-paced, fun, tip-of-the-hat to Heinlein that succeeds in every way it can." SF Reviews starts by calling it "a tremendous, confident SF debut". SFSite's reviewer calls it "not bad, but simply rather pedestrian," saying he liked the first part of the book but that it later
seemed to drift into becoming a competently written, straightforward military SF adventure with a couple of interesting ideas thrown in about how a future society might persuade people to join the army.

Hakuho Wins Sumo Tournament

I've been so involved in watching William Wyler movies I let this news slip, but Hakuho has won his 11th Emperor's Cup.

from The Japan Times:
Hakuho was made to work all the way by Asashoryu (10-5) in an enthralling encounter at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, but the Miyagino stable star prevailed with a stylish underarm throw at the ring's edge to capture the title with a 14-1 record.

The photo is from Wikipedia.

Simon of the Desert

Simon of the Desert is a 1965 film directed by Luis Bunuel.

GoogleVideo has it online:

The New York Times calls it "an incomplete but memorable dissection of the human condition." Slant Magazine says, "Simon of the Desert is proof that no other living director understood and respected Christ's role to society as deeply as he did." TCM has an overview.

Other reviews:
Only the Cinema

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Collector

The Collector is a 1965 William Wyler film based on the John Fowles novel by the same name. It stars Terrence Stamp and Samantha Eggar (who has a Star Trek connection).

You can watch it online at this link. Here's a trailer:

The New York Times concludes:
Mr. Wyler has turned in a tempting and frequently startling, bewitching film, but he has failed to make it any more than a low-key chiller that melts in a conventional puddle of warm blood towards the end.
Moria calls it "a mixed success."


Jezebel is a 1938 antebellum period drama directed by William Wyler and starring Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, Spring Byington, Fay Bainter, and Irving Pichel.

Youtube has it online divided up into pieces. Here's part 1:

The others can be viewed here.

TCM has an overview. Senses of Cinema says of Davis that this "is one of the actress’ most subtle and more complex characterisations."

Funny Girl

Funny Girl came out in 1968, directed by William Wyler and starring Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif. I was in college before I saw it. Some of those songs were everywhere back then.

Youtube has it online in short segments, with the first of these embedded below:

The other segments can be viewed here. has a snarky review. Roger Ebert gives it 4 stars but says the only good thing about it is Streisand. also praises Steisand. Variety says,
The saga of the tragi-comedienne Fanny Brice of the ungainly mien and manner, charmed by the suave card-sharp Nick Arnstein, is perhaps of familiar pattern, but it is to the credit of all concerned that it plays so convincingly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Counsellor at Law

Counsellor at Law is a 1933 film directed by William Wyler and starring John Barrymore and Melvyn Douglas.

Watch it online:
Counsellor at Law

The New York Times has a positive review.

Dead End

Dead End is a 1937 crime drama starring Humphrey Bogart, Joel McRae and Claire Trevor. It's directed by William Wyler.

Hulu has this online:

The New York Times calls it "an arresting, inductive consideration of the slum problem, a prima facie case for a revision of the social system" that "deserves a place among the important motion pictures of 1937 for its all-out and well-presented reiteration of the social protest that was the theme of the original Sidney Kingsley stage play."

Other reviews:
Classic Movies Digest

The Memphis Belle

The Memphis Belle is a 1944 tribute to the crew of the Memphis Belle on the occasion of their final mission. It's directed by William Wyler.

The Internet archive has it online:

The Fighting Lady

Fighting Lady is a 1944 propaganda film directed by William Wyler. It's narrated by Robert Taylor. Charles Boyer narrated the French version. The Internet Archive has it online:

William Wyler

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1981 of director William Wyler. There was a William Wyler Blogathon some time back. PBS considers him one of the American Masters. Senses of Cinema calls him "dramaturgically the finest director ever." has a long list of resources and an overview of his career.

Films I have blog posts on:

Counsellor at Law (1933)
Dead End (1937)
Jezebel (1938)
The Fighting Lady (1944)
The Memphis Belle (1944)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1947)
Ben Hur (1959)
The Collector (1965)
Funny Girl (1968)

Meet the Robinsons

For his birthday The Husband got a new batch of DVDs (funny movies or movies with happy endings was his request), and Meet the Robinsons (2007) is the one The Daughter gave him. We watched it last night. My brain hurts. I kept having trouble thinking about time travel paradoxes. Some of these characters look an awful lot like characters in The Incredibles. It was a sweet enough flick, I guess.


The New York Times says it "is surely one of the worst theatrically released animated features issued under the Disney label in quite some time." Variety calls it "a sharp-minded, plenty entertaining toon". The BBC calls it "wearisome".

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ghost Patrol

Ghost Patrol (no wikipedia entry) is a 1936 science fiction western film directed by Sam Newfield and starring Tim McCoy. I think that's the longest plane crash I've ever seen.

The Internet Archive has it online:

Weird Wild Realm says, "It's a silly hybrid movie to be sure, but played with such endearlingly pokerfaced sincerity that it manages to entertain." AMCTV has an overview.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

British Science Fiction Association Award-Winning Novels

These are the novels that have won the British Science Fiction Association Award:

2017 The Rift by Nina Allan
2016 Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson
2015 The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
2014 Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
2013 Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie; and Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell
2012 Jack Glass by Adam Roberts
2011 The Islanders by Christopher Priest
2010 The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
2009 The City and the City by China Miéville
2008 The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
2007 Brasyl by Ian McDonald
2006 End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
2005 Air by Geoff Ryman
2004 River of Gods by Ian McDonald
2003 Felaheen by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
2002 The Separation by Christopher Priest
2001 Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
2000 Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle
1999 The Sky Road by Ken MacLeod
1998 The Extremes, by Christopher Priest
1997 The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
1996 Excession by Iain M. Banks
1995 The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
1994 Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks
1993 Aztec Century by Christopher Evans
1992 Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1991 The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
1990 Take Back Plenty by Colin Greenland
1989 Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
1988 Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock
1987 Grainne by Keith Roberts
1986 The Ragged Astronauts by Bob Shaw
1985 Helliconia Winter by Brian W. Aldiss
1984 Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
1983 Tik-Tok by John Sladek
1982 Helliconia Spring by Brian W. Aldiss
1981 The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
1980 Timescape by Gregory Benford
1979 The Unlimited Dream Company by J. G. Ballard
1978 A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
1977 The Jonah Kit by Ian Watson
1976 Brontomek! by Michael G. Coney
1975 Orbitsville by Bob Shaw
1974 Inverted World by Christopher Priest
1973 Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
1972 No award — insufficient votes.
1971 The Moment of Eclipse by Brian W. Aldiss
1970 The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner
1969 Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Ones I remember reading are in bold print. I'll check the list more thoroughly later.

Relevant sites:

SFSite Reviews

Friday, July 24, 2009

Escape from L.A.

Escape from L.A. is a 1996 post-apocalyptic action film starring Kurt Russell, Stacy Keach, Steve Buscemi (whom we saw earlier tonight in Armageddon), Peter Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Michelle Forbes (who has a Star Trek connection), Pam Grier and Bruce Campbell. It's directed by John Carpenter. We have a bare-bones DVD of this one.


The NYTimes has a review here. Roger Ebert likes it. Moria says, "Kurt Russell gives an enjoyable return performance as Snake."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Leo McKern

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2002 of Leo McKern. He is perhaps best known as Rumpole of the Bailey, but he can be enjoyed in many an old movie. Here are the ones I have blog posts on:

X the Unknown (1956)
The Mouse That Roared (1959)
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Help! (1965)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
The Prisoner (1967-68, tv series)
(in episodes The Chimes of Big Ben (1967),
Once Upon a Time (1968) and
Fall Out (1968))
Molokai (1999)

All but the The Mouse That Roared and Molokai can be viewed online at the links provided.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Ghost Road

The Ghost Road, the 3rd book by Pat Barker in a trilogy on WWI, won the Booker Prize in 1995.

from the back of the book:
The Ghost Road is the culminating masterpiece of Pat Barker's towering World War I fiction trilogy. The time of the novel is the closing months of the most senselessly savage of modern conflicts. In France, millions of men engaged in brutal trench warfare are all "ghosts in the making." In England, psychologist William Rivers, with severe pangs of conscience, treats the mental casualties of the war to make them whole enough to fight again. One of these, Billy Prior, risen to the officer class from the working class, both courageous and sardonic, decides to return to France with his fellow officer, poet Wilfred Owen, to fight a war he no longer believes in. Meanwhile, Rivers, enfevered by influenza, returns in memory to his experience studying a South Pacific tribe whose ethos amounted to a culture of death. Across the gulf between his society and theirs, Rivers begins to form connections that cast new light on his--and our--understanding of war.

Combining poetic intensity with gritty realism, blending biting humor with tragic drama, moving toward a denouement as inevitable as it is devastating, The Ghost Road both encapsulates history and transcends it. It is a modern masterpiece.

The Guardian says, "The carnal wit of Prior's voice marks out The Ghost Road as an important book." The New York Times has a review.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three Coins in the Fountain

I remember the first time I saw Three Coins in the Fountain. It was on late-night tv when I was a child, and I loved it! I would watch it whenever I saw that it was playing again but hadn't seen it in ages until tonight when The Daughter suggested we watch it. She had never seen it before. It's a 1954 romance directed by Jean Negulesco and starring Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters, Louis Jourdan, Rossanno Brazzi and Maggie McNamara. The other starring role is Italy, with beautiful views of Rome, Venice and the Italian countryside.


The New York Times ends its review with this: ""Three Coins in the Fountain" is quite clearly a film in which the locale comes first. However, the nonsense of its fable tumbles nicely within the picture frame." AMVTV has some information, as does TCM.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Finishing up our viewing and re-viewing of all the Harry Potter films to date, we watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight. We last saw it a couple of years ago. This installment is directed by David Yates, who also directed Half-Blood Prince and is set to direct the last 2 (from that last book). Luna Lovegood's a favorite.


The New York Times
calls Luna Lovegood "spellbinding". Variety calls Luna an "intriguing newcomer". Moria, alas, doesn't mention Luna but does say this movie is "the first of the Harry Potter films that feels that it works satisfyingly as a story." Rolling Stone recommends it saying it is "the best of the series so far, has the laughs, the jitters and the juice to make even nonbelievers wild about Harry."

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

We had every intention of watching all the movies again before going to see the latest installment, but we just didn't manage it. We finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (#4, 2005) tonight. This one is directed by Mike Newell.


The New York Times reviews it here. Variety calls it "excellent". Moria doesn't seem to like it much but does say, "Mike Newell certainly gives us the most directorially satisfying of the Harry Potter films to date." Roger Ebert says,
With this fourth film, the Harry Potter saga demonstrates more than ever the resiliency of J.K. Rowling's original invention. Her novels have created a world that can expand indefinitely and produce new characters without limit.

Mythopoeic Award Winning Novels

The list below is of novels that have won the Mythopoeic Award through 1991 and the award for adult literature since they divided it in 1992:

2017 Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip
2016 Uprooted by Naomi Novik
2015 Tales from Rugosa Coven by Sarah Avery
2014 The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
2013 Digger by Ursula Vernon
2012 The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein
2011 Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
2010 Lifelode by Jo Walton
2009 Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone, Carol Berg
2008 Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden; In the Cities of Coin and Spice, Catherynne M. Valente
2007 Solstice Wood, Patricia A. McKillip
2006 Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
2005 Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
2004 Sunshine, Robin McKinley
2003 Ombria in Shadow, Patricia A. McKillip
2002 The Curse of Chalion, Lois McMaster Bujold
2001 The Innamorati, Midori Snyder
2000 Tamsin, Peter S. Beagle
1999 Stardust, Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess
1998 The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, A. S. Byatt
1997 The Wood Wife, Terri Windling
1996 Waking the Moon, Elizabeth Hand
1995 Something Rich and Strange, Patricia A. McKillip
1994 The Porcelain Dove, Delia Sherman
1993 Briar Rose, Jane Yolen
1992 A Woman of the Iron People, Eleanor Arnason
1991 Thomas the Rhymer, Ellen Kushner
1990 The Stress of Her Regard, Tim Powers
1989 Unicorn Mountain, Michael Bishop
1988 Seventh Son, Orson Scott Card
1987 The Folk of the Air, Peter S. Beagle
1986 Bridge of Birds, Barry Hughart
1985 Cards of Grief, Jane Yolen
1984 When Voiha Wakes, Joy Chant
1983 The Firelings, Carol Kendall
1982 Little, Big, John Crowley
1981 Unfinished Tales, J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
1975 A Midsummer Tempest, Poul Anderson
1974 The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart
1973 The Song of Rhiannon, Evangeline Walton
1972 Red Moon and Black Mountain, Joy Chant
1971 The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart

Ones I've read are in bold print and linked to my blog post if I've written one.

Relevant sites:

The Mythopoeic Society
Wikipedia article

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the 6th in the series. The 6th and 7th books are my least favorites, and this film does not overcome my prejudice against it. I liked it well enough overall, but I've just got problems with the plot. I don't buy Lupin's romantic interest in this one. I think the final scene with Dumbledore lacks the ambivalence I see in Snape in the book. I think the revelation of the identity of the half-blood prince is strangely done, coming out of the blue after the question has been mostly ignored. I love Luna, though. It's directed by David Yates, who also directed the 5th film.


The New York Times is impatient with the franchise. Moria has a mixed review. Variety reviews it here. Roger Ebert likes it: "I admired this Harry Potter. It opens and closes well, and has wondrous art design and cinematography as always, only more so."

The Ugly Swans

The Ugly Swans is a 2006 Russian science fiction film based on a Strugatsky novel. It's directed by Konstantin Lopushansky. I'm glad I found this film. I understand the comparisons to Stalker, which also deeply impressed me.

It can be watched online, though the subtitles are difficult to make out:

Гадкие лебеди (Ugly Swans) [2006]

Variety says some good things but concludes that "only fest auds will appreciate the baffling beauty of "Swans.""

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Next in line as preparation for the new Harry Potter movie is the 3rd in the series: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This 2004 film has a new director and a new look with Alfonso Cuaron. I like Lupin and Black and the depiction of their relationship, which was exactly as I had pictured it when reading the book. I don't like time travel as a device in books or films.


Rolling Stone says it's the best of the 1st 3 films. agrees, saying it's "the first to capture not only the books' sense of longing, but their understanding of the way magic underlies the mundane". The New York Times calls it "the first one that actually looks and feels like a movie, rather than a staged reading with special effects." Roger Ebert likes it but likes the first 2 better. Variety comments on the PG rating.

The Arcade Restaurant

It's our tradition that we celebrate baptismal anniversaries by picking a restaurant to go to on the Sunday closest to the date. The Daughter's day is tomorrow, but other events preclude our observing it then. We decided to go today, and she picked the Arcade Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Memphis. She and I had the club sandwich, The Younger Son had the cheeseburger and The Husband thought he'd died and gone to heaven with the sweet potato pancakes.

The restaurant is located on South Main Street.

The photo above is from naslrogues' photostream.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

2nd in the series, we decided to watch it 2nd in our preparation for seeing the new one in the theater. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the 2nd and last Harry Potter film to be directed by Chris Columbus.


Roger Ebert loves it, saying "The first movie was the setup, and this one is the payoff." Moria doesn't like the books and says, "The only real complaints one has with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are all J.K. Rowling’s." The New York Times has a mixed review. Rolling Stone also offers a mixed review, opening with this: "It's not that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second of J.K. Rowling's Potter novels to hit the screen, is a bad movie. It's an improvement on the first."

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Getting in the mood for the new Harry Potter movie, we decided to watch the old ones. We began at the beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, one of the 2 Harry Potter films directed by Chris Columbus.


The New York Times calls it "the film equivalent of books on tape". Roger Ebert says it "is an enchanting classic that does full justice to a story that was a daunting challenge." Moria concludes
In the end Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is better than one expected it to be, yet not all it could have been. It feels like a film that has been spun out of a multi-media franchise rather than its own entity. The question that should be asked is this – were Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone a film standing on its own and not spun out of a remarkably popular series of books, would it be having the same success?

Variety opens with this:
To the extent that what's onscreen represents an uncannily accurate reflection of what's on the printed page, the long-awaited film version of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is a near-perfect commercial and cultural commodity.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Hominids, a science fiction novel by Robert J. Sawyer, is the first book in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy. This book won the Hugo Award in 2003. Religion is a prominent theme. There's also a Star Trek connection -a mention of Kira Nerys.

from the back cover:
Hominids examines two unique species of people. We are one of those species; the other is the Neanderthals of a parallel world where they became the dominant intelligence. The Neanderthal civilization has reached heights of culture and science comparable to our own, but with radically different history, society and philosophy.

Ponter Boddit, a Neanderthal physicist, accidentally pierces the barrier between worlds and is transferred to our universe. Almost immediately recognized as a Neanderthal, but only much later as a scientist, he is quarantined and studied, alone and bewildered, a stranger in a strange land. But Ponter is also befriended—by a doctor and a physicist who share his questing intelligence, and especially by Canadian geneticist Mary Vaughan, a woman with whom he develops a special rapport.

Ponter’s partner, Adikor Huld, finds himself with a messy lab, a missing body, suspicious people all around and an explosive murder trial. How can he possibly prove his innocence when he has no idea what actually happened to Ponter?

SFSite says the book "snatches up the reader with a sharp hook of a first sentence and just keeps gaining speed." SFRevu calls it "a fun read". has lost all structural integrity since its strange name change, but its review of this book is cached here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Murder Against the Grain

Murder Against the Grain is the 6th book in Emma Lathen's John Putnam Thatcher series of mysteries. This one won the Gold Dagger Award in 1967. It's dated, but I treated it like I would a book of historical fiction. It appears to be out of print, and I bought my copy at my local used book store.

from the back of the book:
Someone has swindled Sloan Guaranty Trust out of a million dollars-and closed the deal with blood!

When Sloan agreed to finance a U.S.-Soviet wheat sale, the inimitable John Putnam Thatcher didn't bank on a master forger cashing in on the deal. Then a delivery of fake documents left Sloan holding the bag - and the short fuse of an international crisis!

One suspect was found shot dead on the steps of the Russian Consulate. Now, as the Cuban Navy enters New York Harbor, and a performing troop of Russian otters merrily assembles a three-stage rocket, Thatcher must sift the elusive truth from the flying chaff - and stop the deadly scythe of this mysterious grim reaper!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pink Palace Museum

Mother, The Younger Son and I spent the afternoon at the Pink Palace Museum. It had been a long time since we had visited this museum. Some of it had changed, but much was the same. I've always enjoyed the natural history and geology exhibits. And the shrunken head, of course. The main changing exhibit right now is Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters. We went through the entire museum except for the IMAX theater and the planetarium.

It was especially crowded, because today was free day. No admission is charged for exhibits on Tuesdays from 1-5.

The museum has a Facebook page and a Wikipedia entry. The photo above is from wikipedia.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Moon is a new science fiction film starring Sam Rockwell. This is the directorial film debut of Duncan Jones (aka Zowie Bowie, David Bowie's son). The Younger Son and I saw it at the Ridgeway 4, where the price of a matinee ticket has gone up to $7.50 since the last time we went there. We both enjoyed the film but are still wondering why they needed live video capability on the base.


The New York Times calls it
a meditation on the conflict between the streamlining tendencies of technological progress and the stubborn persistence of feelings and desires that can’t be tamed by utilitarian imperatives.

Roger Ebert says,
"Moon" is a superior example of that threatened genre, hard science-fiction, which is often about the interface between humans and alien intelligence of one kind of or other, including digital.

Variety has a review. It was screened at Sundance. The Vault of Horror thinks Rockwell deserves an Oscar.

Other reviews:
Bowen's Cinematic
366 Weird Movies
Movie Zeal
Quiet Earth

1/18/2009: The Crotchety Old Fan

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Angel on My Shoulder

Angel on My Shoulder is a 1946 comic fantasy with Claude Rains playing The Devil, or "Nick" as he is called. Also starring are Paul Muni and Anne Baxter.

GoogleVideo has this online:

The Internet Archive also has it.

The New York Times doesn't like it. Moria gives it a positive review.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Today The Younger Son and I attended Lugh. This is our second time to attend Lugh and our 3rd local event. We hadn't intended on attending Feast because we had thought it was scheduled for late in the afternoon, but it turned out to be planned for 1. The Younger Son won the rapier tournament, and so he was invited (I was included in the invitation) to sit at the head table with Their Excellencies the Baron and Baroness. They were most gracious hosts and made us feel quite welcome.

I didn't see any notice of presentations by the Herbal Guild today, so I've given in and requested to join the Yahoogroup they use. There aren't many posts at the group site, but I am interested in learning about them and may have better luck there than at events.

I saw some beautiful garb at the event. It makes me wish that I either could sew or had lots of money.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ed Wood

Ed Wood is a 1994 film inspired by the life of film director Ed Wood. It is directed by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp and Martin Landau (who won an Oscar for his role as Bela Lugosi). I found myself much more interested in Bela Lugosi than Ed Wood. Howard Shore did the music.


The first 10 minutes is here:

Moria says, "The film’s greatest strength is the sadness of the relationship between Wood and the down-and-out Bela Lugosi." Rolling Stone calls it a "sympathetic and endearing movie". Variety says it's "a fanciful, sweet-tempered biopic". The New York Times says, "the biggest surprise about "Ed Wood" is that it manages to be a sweet, sunny mainstream comedy, with its kinkiness reduced to the level of a joke." Roger Ebert says the movie is
a film which celebrates Wood more than it mocks him, and which celebrates, too, the zany spirit of 1950s exploitation films - in which a great title, a has-been star and a lurid ad campaign were enough to get bookings for some of the oddest films ever made.

Silence Day

On this date in 1925 Meher Baba began the silence that would last until his death in 1969. His followers observe this day as Silence Day and do not speak during this 24-hour period.

excerpts from a documentary:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bram Stoker Best Novel Awards

The Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel:

2017 Ararat by Christopher Golden
2016 The Fisherman by John Langan
2015 A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
2014 Blood Kin by Steve Rasnic Tem
2013 Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
2012 The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
2011 Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney
2010 A Dark Matter, by Peter Straub (begun, not finished)
2009 Audrey's Door, Sarah Langan
2008 Duma Key, Stephen King
2007 The Missing, Sarah Langan
2006 Lisey's Story, Stephen King
2005 Creepers, David Morrell
(tie) Dread in the Beast, Charlee Jacob
2004 In the Night Room, Peter Straub
2003 lost boy lost girl, Peter Straub
2002 The Night Class, Tom Piccirilli
2001 American Gods, Neil Gaiman
2000 The Traveling Vampire Show, Richard Laymon
1999 Mr. X, Peter Straub
1998 Bag of Bones, Stephen King
1997 Children of the Dusk, Janet Berliner & George Guthridge
1996 The Green Mile, Stephen King
1995 Zombie, Joyce Carol Oates
1994 Dead in the Water, Nancy Holder
1993 The Throat, Peter Straub
1992 Blood of the Lamb, Thomas F. Monteleone
1991 Boy's Life, Robert R. McCammon
1990 Mine, Robert R. McCammon
1989 Carrion Comfort, Dan Simmons
1988 The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
1987 Misery, Stephen King
(tie) Swan Song, Robert R. McCammon

Ones I've read are in bold print. If I've written a blog post, that link is provided. The official web site is here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

R.I.P. Baby Girl Elephant

At only 2 days old, she didn't even have a name yet. The city is mourning the loss of our first baby elephant. There's video of the little one with its mother at this link. The Commercial Appeal has an article.

Here's a local news report:

Wyrd Sisters

6th in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters is another fun book. This one features Granny Weatherwax. I buy most of my books used, but getting these in a timely fashion rather than waiting until they show up in my local used book store is worth the extra expense involved in picking up books in this series new.

from the back of the book:
Meet Granny Weatherwax, the most highly regarded non-leader a coven of non-social witches could ever have. Generally, these loners don't get involved in anything, mush less royal intrigue. But then there are those times they can't help it. As Granny Weatherwax is about to discover, though, it's a lot harder to stir up trouble in the castle than some theatrical types would have you think. Even when you've got a few unexpected spells up your sleeve. calls it "One of the funniest entries in the whole Discworld series". SFSignal says, "Wyrd Sisters is, perhaps, the best of the early Pratchett novels, and I think it ought to stand up with the best overall."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bruce Conner

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2008 of artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner. The LA Times covers a recent retrospective of his films. There is a transcript from a 1973 interview here. Obits: NYTimes, The Guardian

His first film A Movie (1958, 11:40) is viewable online here. Reviews: Only the Cinema
The film is associational, in which a number of narratively and spatially unrelated shots from a number of sources are edited together to evoke emotions and make thematic points (from the Wikipedia entry)

Vivian (1965, 2:41) can be watched online here, a series of images of "Vivian" against an unknown version of the song Mona Lisa.

Ten Second Film (1965):

Bruce Conner Ten Second Film - Click here for more home videos

Breakaway (1966, 4:59):

Toni Basil dancing both in various outfits and nude to her own singing of the title song

The White Rose (1967, 7:29) can be viewed online here. "Jay DeFeo started painting The White Rose in 1957. The unfinished painting was removed from her studio in 1965."

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Spirit of Ed Wood Blogathon

The Husband has been wanting the film Ed Wood for quite some time, so I'm using this Spirit of Ed Wood Blogathon as an excuse to buy it.

I'll link to my posts on Ed Wood films here:

Bride of the Monster (1956)
The Astounding She-Monster (1957)
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Revenge of Dr. X (1970)
Ed Wood (1994)

Bright Lights Film Journal has an article on Ed Wood. says he "typifies the ultimate in filmmaking independence." Images Journal says, "Surely any lousy, boring mainstream movie is worse than the constantly surprising, intensely weird, totally personal, never dull Wood films." Cinema Styles lays the blame for the bad reputation on Wood's writing, saying, "So why the reputation? It's all in the writing" and "it was his writing, his god-awful painfully awkward dialogue that did him in. Nothing can redeem the dialogue of Edward D Wood Jr."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple is the last of our Father's Day DVDs, and we watched it tonight. It stars Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Also in the film is John Fiedler (who has an original series Star Trek connection). The DVD we have is a 2-disc edition with good extra features that don't have repetition from segment to segment.


Roger Ebert criticizes it for being basically a filmed version of the play instead of being a cinematic treatment of the story. Time has the same criticism.

Alternative 3

Alternative 3 is a 1977 British TV movie broadcast as a late April Fool joke similar to Orson Welles' radio program.

GoogleVideo has it online:

Total SciFi Online has a review, one of the few I find.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


1776 is a 1972 film that has a long history at our house. When the kids got old enough to watch it they all loved it, and it became a particular favorite of The Daughter. She used to make a habit of watching it every 4th of July, but she hasn't mentioned it this year. The musical stars William Daniels, Howard Da Silva and Ken Howard.


Roger Ebert definitely does not like this film. The New York Times says,
Peter H. Hunt's screen version of "1776"... insists on being so entertaining and, at times, even moving, that you might as well stop resisting it.

Friday, July 03, 2009

And now there are 2 blogathon calendars

I've been keeping track of blogathons by using the calendar at The Listening Ear. Edward Copeland on Film reports there's a new effort to track blogathons and other special events here at The Film Blog Calendar.

The photo is from gordasm's Flickr photostream.

Most Awarded Science Fiction Books has a list of science fiction books in order of how many awards they've won. Here are the top 100 award winners:

1 The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
2 A Deepness in the Sky, by Vernor Vinge
3 The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer
4 The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson
5 Neuromancer, by William Gibson
6 The Time Ships, by Stephen Baxter
7 Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
8 Air, by Geoff Ryman
9 Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
10 Forever Peace, by Joe Haldeman
11 Gateway, by Frederik Pohl
12 Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
13 Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville
14 Towing Jehovah, by James Morrow
15 Only Begotten Daughter, by James Morrow
16 Stations of the Tide, by Michael Swanwick
17 The Claw of the Conciliator, by Gene Wolfe
18 The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
19 The Scar, by China Miéville
20 The Prestige, by Christopher Priest
21 Brittle Innings, by Michael Bishop
22 Beggars in Spain, by Nancy Kress
23 Bone Dance, by Emma Bull
24 Speaker For The Dead, by Orson Scott Card
25 Tea With the Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy
26 Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
27 Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
28 Darwin's Radio, by Greg Bear
29 Blue Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson
30 The Many-Colored Land, by Julian May
31 Man Plus, by Frederik Pohl
32 Learning the World, by Ken MacLeod
33 Iron Council, by China Miéville
34 Hominids, by Robert J. Sawyer
35 Distraction, by Bruce Sterling
36 Moving Mars, by Greg Bear
37 A Fire upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge
38 Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson
39 Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold
40 The Uplift War, by David Brin
41 The Postman, by David Brin
42 Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban
43 The Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe
44 Jem, by Frederik Pohl
45 On Wings of Song, by Thomas M. Disch
46 Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, by Kate Wilhelm
47 The Year of the Quiet Sun, by Wilson Tucker
48 Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick
49 A Midsummer Tempest, by Poul Anderson
50 A Darkling Plain, by Philip Reeve
51 Nova Swing, by M. John Harrison
52 Kiln People, by David Brin
53 The Sterkarm Handshake, by Susan Price
54 Fairyland, by Paul J. McAuley
55 The Child Garden, by Geoff Ryman
56 Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart
57 Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
58 Green Eyes, by Lucius Shepard
59 Startide Rising, by David Brin
60 Timescape, by Gregory Benford
61 The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke
62 Dreamsnake, by Vonda N. McIntyre
63 Gloriana, by Michael Moorcock
64 The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
65 The Stochastic Man, by Robert Silverberg
66 The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov
67 Ringworld, by Larry Niven
68 The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
69 Dune, by Frank Herbert
70 Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
71 The Execution Channel, by Ken MacLeod
72 Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson
73 Spin State, by Chris Moriarty
74 Veniss Underground, by Jeff Vandermeer
75 Midnight Robber, by Nalo Hopkinson
76 The Cassini Division, by Ken MacLeod
77 Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
78 Mother of Storms, by John Barnes
79 The Boat of a Million Years, by Poul Anderson
80 The Sea and Summer, by George Turner
81 Blood Music, by Greg Bear
82 Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein
83 The Sword of the Lictor, by Gene Wolfe
84 No Enemy But Time, by Michael Bishop
85 The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness
86 Glasshouse, by Charles Stross
87 Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge
88 Market Forces, by Richard K. Morgan
89 Natural History, by Justina Robson
90 The System of the World, by Neal Stephenson
91 The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
92 Omega, by Jack McDevitt
93 The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon
94 The Chronoliths, by Robert Charles Wilson
95 The Mount, by Carol Emshwiller
96 Parable of the Talents, by Octavia E. Butler
97 To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
98 The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
99 The 37th Mandala, by Marc Laidlaw
100 The Star Fraction, by Ken MacLeod

Ones I've read are in bold print. Ones I have blog posts on have links to those posts.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


M*A*S*H, the 1970 film, is another of the Father's Day presents, and this is the one The Husband picked for tonight. The Daughter and The Younger Son had not seen it before. It had been so long since I had seen it I had forgotten most of it. We all enjoyed it. The special features had some good stuff but were repetitive, using a lot of the same clips.


The New York Times doesn't like it, saying
it is impudent, bold, and often very funny, it lacks the sense of order (even in the midst of disorder) that seems the special province of successful comedy. I think that M*A*S*H, for all its local virtues, is not successful.

EW says, "watching ''M*A*S*H'' now, it seems like a series of improvised antiwar rants -- which Altman pretty much admits it was." closes with this: "the film is still highly regarded for its innovative narrative techniques and its effective humor." Roger Ebert gives it 4 stars.

Stargate Watchathon

Hmmm... Watchathon is a new term for me, but it seems to be another way of saying "film blogathon". SFSignal is hosting a long-lasting Stargate SG-1 Watchathon, posting the episodes from Hulu and inviting comments:
We'll be posting an episode a day, starting with the pilot "Children of the Gods, Pt.1" and running through the end of September. As Universe is rumored to start on October 3rd, we'll end just in time for the new series to start.

But the Spirit of Ed Wood Blogathon starts Monday, and there are only so many hours in a day... I'll have to see if The Younger Son, who is a long-time Stargate fan, wants to watch some Stargate with me sometime.