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  1. SPOILERS THROUGHOUT Do Not Read Unless You've Seen The Film Rather than analyze this great and tragic movie, I will simply summarize the plot for those who need a reliable study guide. Please feel free to discuss any and all aspects, and I will chime in with as much depth as you'd like. On Amazon (not HD) 0:00-2:52 Credits, boxing by himself in ring, B&W 2:52-4:05 1964, NY City, Jake LaMotta (Middleweight World Champion 1949-1951, Robert de Niro, Best Actor winner), smartly dressed, improvising bad poetry (comedy routine) 4:05-7:42 1941, de Niro vs. Jimmy Reeves (Light Heavyweight World Champion 1939-1940, Floyd Anderson), LaMotta undefeated but behind on points, KOs Reeves at bell in 10th, but Ohio rules say Reeves wins on points (saved by the bell). Melée ensues. 7:42-8:26 1941, The Bronx, Joey LaMotta (brother, Joe Pesci, Best Supporting Actor winner) talks with mafia connection Salvy Batts (Frank Vincent) 8:26-9:45 Jake argues with his wife Irma LaMotta (Lori Anne Flax) about an overdone steak, and overturns a table 9:45-10:17 Joey and Sal (Salvy Batts) continue their heated discussion while strolling 10:17- 15:02 Jake, Irma, and Joey argue, Irma leaves, Jake asks Joey to hit him in the face multiple times which he eventually does to no avail (to prove (to himself) he can take a hit) 15:02-17:18 Jake and Joey (his sparring partner) spar in a gym, Sal and two friends walk in, Jake gets furious at the mafia being there and starts beating up Joey badly, the mafia is impressed and leaves, telling Jake "˜not to hurt himself.' 17:18- 20:35 Jake and Joey are at a public pool, the three mafia men are there talking with Vickie Bowman, to eventually become Vickie Lamotta (Cathy Moriarty, Best Supporting Actress nominee), a 15-year-old neighborhood girl, Joey insists she's a nice girl, he went out with her twice, but nothing happened even though he tried, Jake becomes enamored with her from afar. 20:35-21:30 Jake and Joey get dressed to the nines for a night on the town, to Irma's loud and profane protests 21:30-24:05 Jake and Joey walk into a jazz club, nominally a church dance, but quite jazz-bar-like and raucous, then leave shortly after arriving 24:05-31:25 The Courtship Scene, Jake and Joey drive to the swimming pool to see Vickie, Jake asks Vickie for a ride, takes her to play miniature golf, then takes her back to his father's apartment, a romance developing in subtle, nuanced tones 31:25-33:20 1943 in Detroit, Jake fights Sugar Ray Robinson, (World Welterweight Champion 1946-1951, 5-time World Middleweight Champion 1951-1960, Johnny Barnes) Jake pummels Robinson, and is awarded the fight on a decision, Robinson was now 40-1 and would end his career 5-1 against Jake 33:20-38:07 At Jake's father's apartment, Jake and Vickie were seconds away from lovemaking, although the viewer was sure it would happen, Jake then gets up and pours ice water on his privates, saying "I gotta fight Robinson" 38:07-39:40 1943 in Detroit, a new fight between Jake and Robinson, this time Robinson wins convincingly on decision 39:40-41:15 Post-fight tension and reflection in Jake's locker room 41:15- 43:50 1944-1947 - Montage of scenes (shocking the viewer by being the first color sequences in the film), including fights against Fritzie Zivic, José Basora, George Kochan, Jimmy Edgar, Bob Satterfield, Tommy Bell, Jake's wedding to Vickie, Joey's wedding to Lenora LaMotta (Theresa Soldana), and happy family scenes with children, three years duration in less than three minutes 43:50-49:30 1947, Jake's house on Pelham Parkway, The Bronx, Jake is furious at Joey that he weighs 168 pounds, and that he can't get down to the needed 155-pound weight, Jake starts becoming jealous of Vickie, and shows signs of needing to be in control 49:30-55:20 At the Copacabana Club, Jake is introduced to great applause, Vickie gets up and sees Sal and Jake is very jealous, the mob boss Tommy Como (Nicholas Colasanto) arrives and Vickie goes over to say an innocent hello, making Jake more jealous, this was the second longer (3:30+) scene in a row (the 1st time this has happened in the film) 55:20-57:00 At Jake's apartment, he wakens Vickie and asked her why she said Janiro (his upcoming opponent) had a "pretty face," he is showing signs of extreme jealousy and rage even though they haven't become manifest 57:00-58:20 1947 in New York, Jake fights Tony Janiro (Kevin Mahon) and beats him to a pulp, obviously enraged with jealousy, "He ain't pretty no more," Tommy Como says 58:20- 59:03 Jake working out in a sauna, being hectored to lose 4 pounds by his trainer, in the shortest scene thus far in the movie 59:03-63:02 Joey is in a nightclub, chatting with the mafia, he sees Vickie walk in a group which includes Sal, Joey pulls Vickie aside and berates her, she complains that she's in a sexless marriage, Joey throws a drink on Sal, who pursues him outside, Joey starts beating him, and in the melee forming outside, beats him badly 63:02-66:30 Coffee at the Debonair Social Club at a table including Joey, Sal, and a lecturing Tommy Como who insists the two shake hands, Sal walks out and Tommy lectures Joey about Jake becoming an embarrassment, 66:30-68:10 Joey meets Jake at the swimming pool where he met Vickie, he said he wants to catch her in the act just once, Joey informs him he gets a shot at the title, but only if he first flops in an upcoming fight 68:10-68:22 Weigh-in between Billy Fox (Eddie Mustafa Muhammad) and Jake 68:22-69:13 Jake and Joey meet in an underground tunnel with a mobster who said he heard Jake was going to flop, Jake assured him it wasn't going to happen 69:13-71:28 1947 in New York, Jake fights Billy Fox, lots of mafia there, Jake clocks Billy then lets him off the hook, Jake is purposely taking a beating in round 4, lets himself get TKO'd 71:28-72:18 Jake breaks down crying in the locker room in disgrace for throwing the fight 72:18-73:36 Headline: "Board Suspends LaMotta," at Jake's apartment, Joey is trying to justify Jake throwing the fight, Jake cannot justify it in his mind, Jake and Joey eat Chinese carryout, Joey assures him he'll get his title match for throwing the fight 73:36-78:20 1949 in Detroit, Jake vs. Marcel Cerdan (World Middleweight Champion, 1948-1949, Louis Raftis), the LaMottas are discussing things in their room, it's a stadium fight and it's raining, they order food, Tommy stops by the room, Jake gets furious when Vickie kisses him goodbye on the lips, Jake is disgusted with Vickie and with Joey for sticking up for her, 78:20-82:07 Jake finishes warming up on Joey's mid-section, walks out to ring to great applause, Jake winning on points, Cerdan can't answer the bell in Round 10, Jake wins the World Middleweight Championship for the first time in his life 82:07-90:50 1950, Jake's apartment on Pelham Parkway in The Bronx, Jake gets angry at Joey for kissing Vickie on the mouth, Joey chides Jake for eating and drinking too much and gaining weight, Jake asks Joey what happened when he beat up Sal, Jake suspects there was an affair between Sal and Vickie, Jake works himself into a frenzy, he accuses Joey - completely without merit - of "fucking Vickie, Joey walks out, Jake goes upstairs to find Vickie making the bed, he accuses her of fucking his brother, she locks herself in the bathroom, Vickie finally taunts him after being smacked around, Jake storms outside, the longest scene in the film so far 90:50-91:04 Vickie pursues him outside, he shoves her on the ground 91:04-91:55 At Joey's dinner table, Jake enters (followed by Vickie), and pummels Joey for "fucking his wife," nobody can stop him, he beats him in front of his children, everyone is helpless 91:55-93:55 Jake is home alone, Vickie walks in and starts packing, Jake (in classic wife-beater fashion) asks her not to leave and woos her, incredibly, she stops packing and puts her arms around him 93:55-95:03 1950 in Detroit, Jake vs. Laurent Dauthuille (Johnny Turner), Jake plays possum and is losing in the 15th round, then unleashes a furious onslaught and KOs Dauthuille 95:03-97:06 In the locker room after the shower, Vickie talks Jake into calling Joey to apologize, he does, but can't bring himself to say anything when Joey answers 97:06-101:34 1951 in Chicago, the 6th and final fight against Sugar Ray Robinson, the famous "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" fight, Jake is pummeled in the 13th round into a TKO, but never leaves his feet, he taunts Sugar Ray, seemingly placing more importance in Ray's inability to knock him down than winning the fight, amazingly, this was Ray's first world championship 101:34-102:50 1956 in Miami, Jake (notably larger), Vickie, and their 3 children are relaxing by their pool being interviewed about his retirement, he mentions he just bought a nightclub 102:50-109:26 The neon lights of "Jake LaMotta's" nightclub are lit up, Jake grabs a microphone, and yucks it up with the patrons, clearly trying his hand at stand-up comedy, he mentions he and Vickie will soon be celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary, Jake nevertheless starts kissing young girls in his nightclub, Jake is told his wife is waiting outside for him 109:26-110:30 Jake walks outside to meet Vickie, it's broad daylight, she's in her car and tells him she's leaving him, she's taking custody of the kids, and if he shows his face she'll call the cops on him, she comes across as quite resolute 110:30-112:10 Jake, remarkably fatter, is woken up by two DA agents, the "young girls" in his club were 14 years old, they say they're taking him downtown 112:10-113:07 Jake knocks on Vickie's door, saying he has to get one thing, he goes after his championship belt, and starts hammering off the precious metal, making a lot of noise, 113:07-113:39 Jake at a pawn shop, trying to sell the jewels from the belt; the dealer wants the belt itself, he gets offered $1,500 but wants $2,000, he refuses and leaves 113:39-113:59 On a pay phone outside the jeweler, saying "I can't raise the $10,000." 113:59-117:00 1957 in the Dade County Stockade, forcibly led into a cell by two men, he contemplates things in his dark jail cell, and begins pounding his head against the wall, begins punching the wall, saying, Why? Why?! Why?!!, a very sad, total meltdown, he might have killed himself if he had a gun 117:00-118:26 1958 in New York City, Jake telling stand-up, he gets heckled, and challenges the heckler, it doesn't escalate, Jake introduces the next act, Emma 118:26-121:03 Jake leaves with Emma, and puts her in a cab after he sees Joey closing up his shop, he pursues Joey trying to make up, he tries to apologize, Italian-style with kisses, Joey tells him "later," this is not the right place, then gets in his car 121:03-123:55 Barbizon Plaza, a sandwich sign says, "An Evening of Jake LaMotta featuring the works of Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling, Shakespeare, Budd Schulberg, Tennessee Williams - Tonight," he's rehearsing in the dressing room, smoking a cigar, "Go get "˜em, champ," he says to himself, before going on stage, before shadowboxing in the mirror several times, you can tell he wants those days back badly 123:55-124:45 The text appears on the screen, one line at a time, in black and white: "So, for the second time [the Pharisees] summoned the man who had been blind and said: "Speak the truth before God. We know this fellow is a sinner." "Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know," the man replied. "All I know is this: once I was blind and now I can see." John IX. 24-26 the New English Bible Remembering Haig P. Manoogian, teacher. May 23, 1916-May 26-1980 With Love and resolution, Marty. 124:45-129:04 Closing credits A magnificent film. I won't usually take this type of notes while watching films because it's a brutal amount of work, and detracts immensely from the enjoyment of the film, but in this case, I'm glad I did because I feel like I really know it well now.
  2. If you're offended by any discussion about religion - even when it's being discussed as a tangential issue - then please click out of this post now because this may offend you, and that is not my intent. Minor **SPOILERS** will follow: --- Last week, I finished reading the biography of the amazing Louis Zamperini, "Unbroken," written by Laura Hillenbrand - one of the best and most thoroughly researched biographies I've ever read. No, it's not perfect, and if you click on the title, you'll see we have the beginnings of a meaningful discussion about the book. This thread, and this post, is about the movie. In the "Unbroken" book thread, I mention a recent discussion I had with a member about "In Cold Blood" (just click and read the first paragraph in Post #11). In essence, she was unable to enjoy the movie because she had read the book first. I'm afraid that with "Unbroken," that may be the case with me: I was recently told that there was no mention of Billy Graham in the film. To my eyes, the book is structured as follows: 1) A medium-sized beginning (childhood, upbringing, college, Olympics) 2) A huge middle (the war) 3) A short ending (PTSD, recovery) For there to be no mention of Zamperini's post-war biography is to essentially clip short his life in his mid-20s. Think about this for a moment: If Billy Graham did not exist, there would be no "Unbroken" because there would have been no Louis Zamperini to write about. Zamperini's recovery (I'm purposefully not calling it a redemption) is such a major factor in his biography that its omission is a literary and journalistic sin. What I can say here is very limited because I haven't seen the film, but based on what I heard, I would urge anyone who has seen the film, and who doesn't want to invest the substantial time involved in reading the entire 406-page book, to borrow a copy, and read only the 18-page Epilogue. At this point, the only reason I want to watch the film is so I can voice this opinion more forcefully, and with some credibility and authority; right now, I cannot. --- For those interested in the enormous power that Billy Graham was able to convey, I encourage them to go to his website, and watch one or more of his "televised classics" (the old, black-and-white ones are directly relevant to the full biography of Zamperini, but even for those completely uninterested in Graham, there is still historical importance in the beautiful alto gospel of Ethel Waters at the 8:30 point in this video). I should also disclose that Graham was a major influence on, and source of enormous comfort to, my beloved mother - his occasional televised crusades were part of my childhood, as I watched my mother watch him, completely mesmerized by the unselfish sovereignty of his oration. I am hardly an evangelist, but have no problem in voicing my opinion that Billy Graham is one of the greatest and most important people ever to live, wielding immense power on a global scale, but never once abusing it for his own personal gain - his rightful place in history is side-by-side with Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Mahatma Gandhi, and David Ben-Gurion. --- Louis Zamperini, Sports (DonRocks) "Unbroken" , Book (DonRocks)
  3. I wasn't sure what to think about "Cobb" going into it: It was a box office flop, that was mildly acclaimed by critics, which is generally right up my alley; in this case, I think I knew *too* much about baseball to enjoy it as a "regular" film critic would - it was just not a good film. The film focuses on Ty Cobb's final year of life, during which a famous sportswriter (Al Stump) is writing a biography of him. After the film, I still don't know what to believe about Cobb: Was he *that* much of a hateful man, or was this overplayed? I don't know, but if this story was true, then Cobb was simply despicable. Nothing about "Cobb" moved me - I didn't like the interplay between Cobb and Stump, and that's pretty much all there was in the entire film. I'd be very curious to hear from some other film lovers and baseball fans, as to what this film meant to them. I didn't "hate" it so much as I didn't "like" it, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, not an art-house film lover, and not a baseball fanatic. What else is left? I *do* like the fact that they took a very small slice of Cobb's life (his final slice) and spent a great deal of time exploring this, rather than doing a "cradle-to-grave" biography of him. Is that a compliment? I think it is.
  4. I saw this fine biography for the first time last night, and can recommend it wholeheartedly. Parts of it are dramatized (Pee Wee Reese's hug, Enos Slaughter's spiking, etc.), but for the most part, it's accurate and absolutely based in truth. There's something I've been meaning to write here for the past ten-or-so years, and this is as good a place as any (although I may have written it before). When the Rickey was named as DC's "official" drink in 2008, I wrote Chantal Tseng, and encouraged her to make a classic Rickey with a twig in it (perhaps a twig of Rosemary, or Thyme, or maybe just a Kukicha tea stick). I suggested that she make it "her own" drink, and call it the Branch Rickey - an idea that, to this very day, I *love*. She wrote me back and thought it was clever, but never ran with the idea. Many years ago, Derek Brown started a thread called "Creating The Don Rockwell Cocktail," and I thought it would be nice to have Champagne with a splash of Cognac, but I like the idea of the "Branch Rickey" even more - not just because it's a clever name (though I *love* the name), but because I think it would work very well as a cocktail. So, who in town is going to make "the Don Rockwell Cocktail": the Branch Rickey? NB - To those who don't know what a hero Branch Rickey is: If there had been no Branch Rickey, there would have been no Jackie Robinson. I won't say he's as important as Abraham Lincoln, but I can't name five white people who have done more to advance the cause of racial equality than Branch Rickey - I'm not even sure I can name two.
  5. "Lenny" (1974) - Directed by Bob Fosse (Academy Award Winner for Best Director of "Caberet," Academy Award Nominee for Best Director of "All That Jazz," Academy Award Nominee for Best Original Screenplay for "All That Jazz") Produced by Marvin Worth (Co-Producer of "Malcolm X") Written by Julian Berry (Co-Writer of "The River") Featuring Dustin Hoffman as Lenny Bruce (Academy Award Winner for Best Actor as Ted Kramer in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and as Raymond Babbitt in "Rain Man," Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor as Benjamin Braddock in "The Graduate," as Enrico Salvatore "Razzo" Rizzo in "Midnight Cowboy," as Michael Dorsey in "Tootsie," and as Stanley Motts in "Wag the Dog," Thomas Babington "Babe" Levy in "Marathon Man,"), Valerie Perrine (Montana Wildhack in "Slaughterhouse-Five," Eve Teschmacher in "Superman" and "Superman II"), Jan Miner as Sally Marr (Madge the Manicurist) --- As of this writing, "Lenny" is one of 43 films to be nominated for the Academy Awards "Big 5" - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress (it didn't win any, but with "The Godfather, Part II" and "Chinatown," there was some stiff competition that year. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** One interesting thing that viewers may not notice is the scene where Bruce is talking about "stag films," and how harmless they are compared to, for example, "King of Kings." However, right after that, Bruce is driving away in a rainstorm, gets T-boned by another car, and then smashes into a ... stag. I'm not sure what this means, but it can't possibly be a coincidence. The cinematographer Bruce Surtees gets credit for this, and numerous other shots, such as Lenny and Honey glancing at each-other between the legs of other people. I found the initial threesome scene utterly fascinating - there was no dialogue, and no music; just facial expressions on top of complete silence. Yet, the eye contact "spoke" more than any words could ever say. And this is another example of Bruce using real-life situations to give him inspiration for his stand-up comedy routines (obviously, many comedians do, but it's *really* apparent in this film that Bruce positively milks his antics, extracting all he can from them). Like so many stand-up comedians, I don't find Lenny Bruce to be the least bit funny - he comes across to me as more of an Andy Kaufman: a performance artist; at least Richard Pryor made me laugh, and George Carlin, even if I wasn't always laughing, entertained me endlessly. Similarly, this film had certain things in common with "Man on the Moon," which was more depressing than funny.
  6. I remember my father taking me to see "Patton" in 1970, and being awestruck by the opening scene - the one where Patton comes and gives a speech in front of that *amazing* American flag - other than that, I remember it being really long! What a difference 47 years makes when it comes to seeing a film about the quirks and eccentricities of a WWII General. I'm not going to issue any spoilers, especially because this is all based on historical facts about the WWII North African Theater, and its three principles: Patton, Montgomery, and Rommel. Some historical facts which you should know about (and will know about, if you watch the film). Note that since the location for this part of the war (and film) was North Africa, you can assume these are in Morocco, Tunisia, etc. You can consider these spoilers if you really want to, but since you should know about the events anyway, I'm not marking them as such (don't feel badly - I didn't either). The Battle of the Kasserine Pass - The first major conflict between allied and axis troops, at the two-mile-wide Kasserine Pass in the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia, during which we got the shit kicked out of us: 6,500 American casualties with over 1,000 dead. It was this battle which the Americans, caught sleeping, decided to bring in General Patton to run the North African campaign, and he became a three-star general (and placed in charge of General Omar Bradley, a two-star general). The Battle of El Guettar - Rommel had planned a massive Panzer attack in southern Tunisia, but Patton was more than ready for them. The Germans were pretty much devastated, and at this point, the two rival leaders had each other's full respect (the amount of respect shown to other competent leaders and soldiers in this film is quite touching, and has nothing to do with politics - they're like boxers in the 15th round, slugging it out. --- Aside: One of my treasures - my absolute treasures - is my father's Master's Degree diploma from Columbia Universty, which is hand-signed by none other than University President Dwight David Eisenhower - he came home from the war, and served in that capacity from 1948-1953, and anyone who got a diploma during that time, received a hand-signature of Eisenhower on their diploma (note that this is *before* he was U.S. President, so people didn't know he was going to be *as* famous as he was). This isn't all that rare, or valuable, but just imagine how much it means to me. How much does it mean? When the last of my parents passed away, this is the *only* thing of theirs that I wanted, out of all their tangible possessions - I'm hoping that, two-hundred years from now, it will be passed down to a distant relative of mine, and they will treasure it nearly as much as I do (it would be comparable to having something hand-signed by Benjamin Franklin today). I'm so proud of my father for serving his country in WWII, even though he was "only" in Occupied Japan after the war as over (he was a chauffeur who drove a limousine for a general, and received an honorable discharge). For the lucky recipient of this diploma, here is our family tree. --- The Allied Invasion of Sicily - Patton, a whack-job who believes in reincarnation, destiny, fate, etc., vies with British Commander Montgomery for getting the glory in taking over Sicily. They're both willing to sacrifice foot-soldiers so *they* can get the headlines and the glory for having taken over the important Italian outpost. The Sicilian campaign reveals both Patton an Montgomery to be egocentric, self-centered generals who put themselves before their troops, and this is the first part of the film that concretely shows just what bad people they are - they don't care about the greater good; they care about having their name in spotlights. These are *exactly* the types of people who need to be the generals in a science-fiction film, invading the aliens (who have superior weapons) and in the process, gain a significant dose of humility by virtue of laser beams, electric heat-rays, etc. God, would it be *awesome* to see Patton taken down a couple of notches by being forced to be humble. I love this line: A reporter who brought some priests to join Patton on his march towards Palermo, said (in front of the priests), "Colonel Davis showed us around your quarters, General Patton, and I was interested to see a bible by your bed. You actually find time to read it?" Patton: "I sure do. Every God-damned day." Oomph, a really bad moment in the movie: Patton's forward-moving line is stalled because of a couple stubborn jackasses (literally, jackasses), and he openly complains about it, and then shoots them. But, there was very clearly a body-double that did the shooting, and they didn't make any type of effort to hide that fact - this is one of the worst scenes in the film, as this is clearly not George C. Scott (yet, the person shooting the jackasses has a three-star general's helmet on). To me, this stands out as being the worst individual moment in the film thus far. There have been several scenes which definitively show that Patton has no tolerance for "cowards" in his army. There is to be no "combat fatigue," no "cases of nerves," etc. He will openly scream in these soldiers faces, scream and call them "God Damned Cowards!" and send them back out to the front lines. A general sympathetic to human needs he most certainly was not. I would be fascinated to hear peoples' viewpoints on this complex man - perhaps someone who we needed in extraordinary times; but these extraordinary times have come about (I mean, *truly* come about) perhaps twice in the last century; the other 95% of the time, these guys are just plain crotchety old bastards - but when you *really* need them, you *really* need them. I'm pretty sure this film tried to stay true to the gist of real-life, so it wasn't embellished except for what was needed for dramatic effect. That said, there was *plenty* of dramatic effect - for example, when Patton was being criticized for not including Russia in a statement about post-WWII world-rule, a newsreel by "Senator Clayborne Foss" was entirely fictional (there was no Senator Clayborne Foss) - the clip used is bogus, so while the main facts of the movie are true, there are plenty of liberties taken. I suppose you could take this as a *** SPOILER ALERT *** The deeper you get into this film, the more you realize that Patton isn't in this war for the good of the world; he's in it for himself. Why should what *he* wants matter, when what an enlisted man wants doesn't matter - at least when it comes to individual needs and also the greater good? I'm 2/3 of the way through the film now, and I'm liking Patton as a person less-and-less, and although he might be the person I'd want leading me in combat (and I mean "in the field of battle"), I don't think I'd want him making strategic decisions, because his first priority always seems like it's for himself. I wonder if the real General Patton was this much of an egoist? This all said, the personal rivalry between Patton and Montgomery was *highly* amusing. Patton said it best: "Hell, I know I'm a prima donna - I admit it. The thing I can't stand about Monty is that he *won't* admit it." Of course, all the humor quickly evaporates when Operation Market Garden costs Patton's troops an unspeakable amount of casualties. I have to say, the ending of this movie resonated more with me than the ending of any movie I've seen in a long, long time.
  7. This probably isn't the best time to be watching "American Sniper," but I do get a childish pleasure out of Clint Eastwood films, and I make a mild effort to watch Best Picture Nominees, even though I realize that's hardly an arbiter of anything but notoriety. Still, it's 2:30 AM, I'm having a tremendous pain flare, and I guess I'm in a "misery loves company" mood, so ... Interestingly, my personal assistant attended Chris Kyle's funeral (long story, that one). I also feel that, since I'm never there, I learn something from war movies, although I realize I'm watching Hollywood, and not reality, so must selectively filter whatever I see. Watching new films also fills a gap which I'd developed over the past fifteen years in terms of general popular culture. I really liked the analogy (at the young Chris Kyle's dinner table) of "sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs," and I guess I'm a classic case of a sheepdog - or I would be if I wasn't so badly hurt. I wish I could protect the unprotected, the weak, the sick, and the disadvantaged, but right now I'm just too badly injured, so I just have to sit back and watch. About 75 minutes into "American Sniper," I'm less convinced this is a "war movie" than it is a biographic about a man who's just doing his job - getting completely absorbed into his job - grisly though that job may be. I can easily see how partisans could either denounce this, or support this, but as pure film, I see this as more of an individual story than some sort of complicated team picture - almost like a perverse version of 'The [hypothetical] Cal Ripken, Jr. Story' (though I have absolutely no reason to think Cal would forsake his family for his job, which Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) ultimately does)' How it progresses in its final hour remains to be seen, but I can certainly understand how this movie polarized the public. Even now (or, perhaps "especially now"), I have a weird, almost sheepish feeling even writing about it, but this post should be taken as a movie commentary; not as any sort of pro- or anti-war stance. (Yes, of course I have strong, personal feelings about Iraq, but they have no place here, and if I betray them - one way or the other - then I have failed miserably). Boy, the contrast between Kyle buying his son a treat from the bubble-gum machine, immediately followed by the auto mechanic turning on his power drill, positively made me (as well as Kyle) shudder. Perhaps this is one of the first signs of Kyle's impending PTSD? Indeed, after I wrote that last sentence, I continued the film, and Kyle met the soldier he saved (the one who lost a leg), as the power drill continues to whir in the background - I'm pretty sure this is an important pivot in the film. The amount of liberty taken with this biopic is substantial - apparently, Kyle didn't have that much association with Mustafa (skillfully expressed in this film by Sammy Sheik), and only wrote one paragraph about him in his book. I don't know much about this particular issue, so if anyone has information to the contrary, please let us know. The shot (from underneath) of Mustafa jumping from one rooftop to another evoked something out of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," i.e., it looked very fake (well, they did say he was an Olympic athlete; but I assumed it wasn't for the Long Jump). Such happy scenes in this film - Ryan "Biggles" Job: "What do you mean, she can trace the diamond to Zales?" A little tidbit I picked up from Amazon X-Ray: "Chris Kyle's father personally told Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper that he would 'unleash Hell' if his son's memory was disrespected in this film. He also said that Eastwood and Cooper were 'men he could trust.'" I don't like the way they "invented" the villain of Mustafa, just to have a villain to root against. It really dumbs down the film - this is a story that should tell itself, and Eastwood (or whoever) felt the need to create a "Bird-Magic" type of rivalry between the two snipers. That might work for the masses, but it doesn't work for me: In real life, people aren't even sure "Mustafa" - or whatever his name was - even existed. That said, even though it was complete fiction, I *loved* the take-out shot in slow motion. Okay, that was one of the *worst* endings to any serious movie I've ever seen. I knew almost nothing about how Kyle died, and I *still* know almost nothing about how Kyle died. I feel cheated as all get out. Like the rest of my movie write-ups, this is obviously not a "review," so much as it is part of a (hopefully) larger discussion. When the day comes that I write a full-fledged movie review - and that day has not yet come - you'll know it; for now, I prefer these discussions to be a team effort among an intelligent, diverse group of movie lovers, hopefully flushing out some interesting and educational things about the films working together as a group. This type of approach could only work if this website was going to be around for the long haul - which it is. If the next commentary about this film comes two years from now, then so be it - we have all the time in the world, or, at least until humanity no longer exists. What I fear the most (and this relates to the film) is that, 100 years from now, inexpensive, devastatingly destructive technology will be available to anyone who wants it, so we, as a species, had better damned sight learn to start loving one-another; otherwise, there won't be anyone left to love, or to hate. Apr, 2013 - "The Legend of Chris Kyle" by Michael J. Mooney on dmagazine.com
  8. At nearly three hours in length, "Hoop Dreams" may seem like an arduous proposition, but it's going to be three of the fastest hours you've ever spent watching a film. I saw it on release in 1994, saw it a second time last night, and on both occasions, I was equally riveted. Steve James spent five years filming the lives of *** SPOILER ALERT *** William Gates and Arthur Agee, *** END SPOILER ALERT *** two promising 14-year-old basketball players from Chicago, and detailed the lives of these two amazing young men, their families, and their dreams of getting into the NBA. That's really all you need to know about the film - the most intelligent, wisest thing Steve James did in making this movie, was to let the story tell itself, barely speaking at all except when absolutely necessary. This "light-touch" approach makes the movie all about Gates and Agee, and displayed a maturity and confidence by James which, if it wasn't there, could have ruined a fantastic movie. If you've never heard of Hoop Dreams, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Roger Ebert gave it four stars, and at the conclusion of his review (which I advise not reading until after you've watched the film), writes that "It is one of the great moviegoing experiences of my lifetime." The added bonus of an extra 20+ years of time makes Hoop Dreams all the more fascinating and poignant, once you find out what happened to some of the characters.
  9. When I first heard that a film about David Foster Wallace was being made, I was thrilled. Then I began reading articles about how his widow did not support "The End of the Tour." In the articles, she speculated that Wallace, who disliked the spotlight, would not have wanted a film to be made about him. That made sense to me, so, on principle, I avoided seeing it. Several months later, when the movie came out on video, a friend who is a Wallace fan and one of the few people I know who has also read "Infinite Jest," urged me to see it. Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to look for it online. It was available to stream for free, so I decided, why not? I enjoyed "The End of the Tour" very much. At first, I was put off by Jason Segel playing Wallace. The actor, well known for such comedies as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "I Love You, Man," seemed oddly cast to me. As I watched the film, however, my impression changed. I think Segel did an excellent job capturing Wallace's quiet spirit. He became the author to me, and I found his portrayal touching and believable. The film is the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter and novelist David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, and Wallace, which takes place right after the 1996 publication of "Infinite Jest." The article was never published, but is based on Lipsky's memoir, "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace," written after Wallace's suicide in 2008. The relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee is fun to watch. Lipsky is in awe of Wallace, perhaps a bit intimidated and jealous, and Wallace is guarded at first, but also refreshingly candid when answering Lipsky's questions. I feel like I have a better understanding of one of my favorite authors after watching this film. Who knew Wallace had a secret crush on Alanis Morissette, and why? There is a scene at the very end of the film that shows Wallace doing something I never in a million years would have imagined him doing. Seeing this endeared him to me even more. If you are a fan of big films with explosions and car chases, this is not the movie for you. If you like quiet films about ideas and relationships, you probably will enjoy "The End of the Tour." If you are a Wallace fan, and particularly a lover of "Infinite Jest," this film, I believe, is a worthy investment of your time and attention.
  10. I certainly take no pride in being the only restaurant-based website in the world that has two different threads dealing with Zoophilia, but so it is. Having watched - and, surprisingly, enjoyed - "Dolphin Lover," I took a morbid fascination in dracisk's comment: not because I care about Zoophilia, but because the film "Zoo" supposedly won an award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, which is an honor I trust *much* more than an Academy Award - although I can't find out what it won. It was also represented at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival (I understand that many of my film threads are "Academy Award-heavy," but that means very little - I value both of these film festivals more than I do the Academy and its pandering to the masses, and I hope others here do also). I can't believe I'm saying this, but if you wish to watch only one of these films, make it "Dolphin Lover" - first of all, it's only 15 minutes long, but more importantly, it's a *much* better film - the lighting is better, they're not using actors (Michael Minard's "interview" in Zoo is painful to watch, knowing he's just an actor), Dolphin Lover is succinct and articulate, and it's actually enjoyable and fascinating to watch; "Zoo" is, quite frankly, pretty damned boring. And I'm not saying it's boring because it isn't graphic (although the one graphic part was very well-done, in a restrained and elegant manner); I'm saying it's boring because it's *boring* - dull, ponderous, dark, ambiguous, and just hard work to finish. Forgetting the subject matter, I simply did not like the film *as a film* - it was trying too hard to be "artsy," and fell flat on its face. It is now, however, nine years old, and a lot has changed in the past nine years in terms of what we've become numb to - think of "The Walking Dead" as an example. I'm debating whether or not I want to broach the topic of Zoophilia, because that's really a separate thread (yet, I'd prefer not to have three threads on this arcane subject). There are all kinds of profound philosophical implications with Zoophilia: Is it consensual? Is it animal abuse? (I think this is *the* key question if laws are to be enacted.) Is it natural? Is it innate? Is it developed? Is it immoral? Should it be illegal? These are all questions for someone more qualified than I am, but I do have some thoughts - not strong opinions; just thoughts. In the middle ages, i.e., about twenty years ago, most people thought that any type of sex that wasn't between a man and a woman (of the same race) was abnormal - some going so far as to think that unmarried sex was not only immoral, but also abnormal - I'm still trying to figure out how a marriage certificate might lend "normalcy" to a particular type of sex drive. It is clear to me - now - that just because something isn't in the majority, doesn't make it wrong. Most people aren't gay, but *relatively* few people remain who would disparage those who are. I suspect that, twenty years ago - much less five-hundred years ago - gay people would have given *anything* if they could "push a button and no longer be gay" - not because there was anything wrong with it, but because societal pressures were so brutal that their lives were a living hell. I feel *so sorry* for my gay friends who were forced to remain in the closet for fear of being ostracized by society - that type of mentality was cruel and unfair; yet, it's the type of mentality that most people had earlier in *this century*, and I'm talking about the 21st century. In my opinion, it is the internet that helped to open people's eyes, about this, and about many other things. After millennia of cruelty, our society has finally educated itself to the point where being gay is considered to be perfectly natural and moral, and one reason is that it involves two consenting adults, not hurting anyone. In this "age of enlightenment," and I say that with something of a grain of salt, whoever would deny gays and lesbians their basic right to be happy is <insert your own negative epithet here>. You know exactly where I'm going with this, which is exactly why I'm putting in this dividing line: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I put that dividing line there because I'm now going to go from discussing subjects which are perfectly moral, to discussing subjects which are, at best, uncomfortable; and at worst, completely immoral. Just to be perfectly clear, the *only* correlation I'm making with people living out of wedlock, or people who are gay, is the way that society has mistreated them over the centuries. Please do not read anything more into this post, because there's nothing more here. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Zoophilia. Does the animal consent? I don't know. But I suspect these people would give *anything* not to be in the situation they're in - if they could "push a button and be normal," I'd bet the farm (yes, pun intended, with apologies) that they would. If you watch "Dolphin Lover," you may well feel sorry for the subject of the movie - I certainly did, though I can also easily see how someone else might not. One thing that's clear to me is that the man in that film feels his sexuality is perfectly natural, and not something to be ashamed of. One fetish, compulsion, proclivity - whatever word you prefer - I've *never heard of* is the desire to have sex with inanimate objects (unspeakably macabre things such as necrophilia notwithstanding). Nobody wants to have sex with a coffee table or a daffodil - so is Zoophilia a variant of legitimate sexuality, forever-ingrained in the person's basic psyche? Has it been there since birth? My gut feeling is, perhaps so; or, perhaps not. Even if it is, does that make it right? Not by itself it doesn't: Many people have a natural tendency towards violence, and they are legally obligated to keep that in check; otherwise, they go to jail. So clearly, there are lines which cannot be crossed and explained away by "it's been there since birth." But what are those lines? I've had red hair since birth, some people have been left-handed since birth, and some people have been gay since birth - that makes us all minorities, but it doesn't make any of us immoral. There's nothing wrong with being abnormal, but where do you draw the line of immorality? Is it their fault that they have strong urges to have sex with animals? I just cannot imagine that anyone would wish to have this "condition" (or whatever it is). There are videos - documentaries - on the internet of people bringing elephants to orgasm for the purposes of insemination - how different is that? I must stress that I do not have any answers, and honestly, if I never think of this subject again, that would be perfectly fine with me. Pedophilia. This seems about as clear-cut to me as it can possibly be: There is absolutely no consent given, and it must be considered a "crime" or whatever you want to call it. Whatever you want to call it, it must be stopped, immediately and decisively, by any means necessary - if I had caught someone in the act of abusing my son, I probably would have killed them. That said, I do think pedophilia is an uncontrollable compulsion, urge, drive - whatever the term is - and that these people are mentally ill. They need help more than they need punishment, and I honestly believe that voluntary castration should enter into the discussion, because "once a pedophile, always a pedophile" ... that's how I see it until I'm convinced otherwise. For a long time now - maybe a decade - I've felt that pedophilia is often an illness, perhaps even existing since birth. Yes, pedophiles must be locked up - but in my eyes, they need to be locked up not "to punish them"; rather, to get them off the streets at all costs because it is too difficult to control sexual urges, and the consequences of *not* controlling them are just too severe. Castration must be discussed as a potential option to the convicted pedophile, rather than only locking them up for twenty years, and having them do the exact same thing as soon as they walk out of jail, because I don't think they can be "rehabilitated" or "taught a lesson." If that constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment," I would personally rather be surgically castrated than to spend the rest of my life in prison - others may feel differently, I don't know. I took a big chance writing this post, and I beseech people to read it for what it is: a way to get things out in the open, rather than burying our heads in the sand, and pretending they don't exist - intelligent discourse is the only way to move forward. Apr 25, 2007 - "Into the Shadowy World of Sex with Animals" by Manohla Dargis on nytimes.com "Zoo" on rottentomatoes.com --- Summary: All this philosophical crap aside, this movie, as a movie, is terrible - good luck finishing it: It's one of the worst films I've seen in a long, long time. If you're a masochist, you can find the entire thing here on YouTube. I'll also add that I've tried to be as non-judgmental as possible in writing this, as it's the only way I could suffer through it.
  11. Okay, I'm watching the end of Brian's Song for the first time since I was a kid. No, those things in my eyes aren't tears; my contact lenses are bothering me. A pretty endearingly funny line though: Piccolo is on the phone with Sayers after his second operation. "They told me you gave me a pint of blood yesterday - is it true?" Piccolo said. "Yeah," Sayers replied. "That explains it then." "Explains what?" "I've had this craving for chitlins' all day."
  12. It's amazing how little I know about Malcolm X, considering how concerned I am about civil rights, and how ticked off I am at my forefathers for the crimes against humanity they committed. I've never read "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," and don't have time to do it right now, so I figured this was a good, next-best thing, although being filtered through the lens of Spike Lee - who, as much as I like him, clearly has an agenda - you really don't know if you're getting the genuine product. It is with that large grain of salt in mind that I begin Lee's 1992 film, "Malcolm X." "Conk" is a word that was entirely unfamiliar to me, but is apparently going to play a substantial role in this movie (a "conk" is the straightening of a black man's hair using a lye-based product - think of James Brown as an example). Our first scene with Malcolm Little (the given name of Malcolm X) features Denzel Washington getting conked in a barber shop in WWII-era Boston. Oh my goodness, I just now noticed this movie is 3:15 long! *** WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW *** This is going to be a controversial statement, but it's something that has weighed on me for a long time - and when I say "a long time," I mean for years and years. When Malcolm (still Malcolm Little at this point) gets out of solitary confinement, he's conking in the shower (get your minds out of the gutter, and see above for the definition of "conk"), and Baines (Albert Hall) berates Little - as well as every other black man "on the outside" - for conking, because, he said, it meant they were trying to not be black, i.e., they were ashamed of what they really were. I absolutely believe conking was an attempt to be "as white as possible," but that's not the controversial statement. Okay, here goes, and I'm taking a big risk in saying this ... It's time for Jewish actors and actresses to *stop using non-Jewish-sounding names*. I understand that they needed to do this, fifty, seventy-five years ago, and perhaps they still do, but it saddens my heart that Jon Liebowitz and Winona Horowitz had to change their last names to Stewart and Ryder, just because they didn't want to be perceived as being Jewish. That Joan Perske needed to be Lauren Bacall. and that Larry Leach needed to be Cary Grant. Bernie Schwartz needed to be Tony Curtis. Frances Gumm needed to be Judy Garland. Walter Matuschanskayasky needed to be Walter Matthau. (Okay, I'll let that one slide.) Charles Buchinsky needed to be Charles Bronson. Joan Molinsky needed to be Joan Rivers. Jerome Silberman needed to be Gene Wilder. David Kominsky needed to be Danny Kaye. Emanuel Goldenberg needed to be Edward G. Robinson. Ethel Zimmerman needed to be Ethel Merman. Chaim Liebovitz needed to be Lorne Greene. Esther Friedman needed to be Ann Landers. Irwin Kniberg needed to be Alan King. Joseph Levitch needed to be Jerry Lewis. Isadore Demsky needed to be Kirk Douglas. Melvin Kaminsky needed to be Mel Brooks. This list goes on, and on, and on, and on - I could spend hours writing a list of hundreds of names with whom you'd all be familiar, but you can research this yourselves on the internet. You know who has balls? This guy. Someone once asked him, "Is Goldberg your real name?" He said, "No, my real name is Killer, but I wanted a much more menacing name, so I picked Goldberg." I get it - it's not Jewish people's problem; it's *non*-Jewish people's problem - and instead of minimizing their chances of being lynched, they're maximizing their chances of being famous - but it all still boils down to the same fetid pot of shit that's more commonly known as prejudice. Back to the feature. I always said that, were I black and alive during the 50s and 60s, I would make Malcolm X look like Santa Claus; now that I've seen this portrayal of him (and I'm assuming it's reasonably accurate, if perhaps a bit whitewashed), I don't think that's true because X's message was plenty powerful - X was the bad cop to King's good cop, and when confronted with a bad and a good cop, someone being interrogated is *always* going to gravitate towards the good cop, and that's why King is so universally revered: He was less of a threat to us, so we accepted him as the lesser of two evils, and made him a national hero, while X is relegated to mere footnotes in history books relative to King. Think otherwise? Do we celebrate Malcolm X's birthday? Do you even know what year X was assassinated in? (Think about that one for a minute.) We should, because we needed X for King to succeed. This is something I've always thought, and this biography has done nothing to convince me otherwise. X is right: The white man *was* the devil. They enslaved an *entire race* of people for 400 years - how can they *not* be construed as pure evil by the black man? How can you blame the black man for coming up with *their own* religions and thought processes? The white ones weren't working for them in the least, and I think X is every bit the national hero that King is. That might piss some people off, but it's what I think and I don't care. I don't agree with everything X said or preached - not by a long shot - but I agree that he was necessary, and he was one hell of a catalyst for the civil rights movement in this country because he *scared the shit out of the white man* - and I think that's just awesome. Think we have equality now? I didn't even know Angela Bassett was portraying X's wife (what was her name again?) - I recognized Bassett's name, but I didn't even know what she looked like. I guarantee I would have recognized Meryl Streep or Glenn Close, but not Angela Bassett? Why not? I'll let you decide for yourselves why not. You know, the fact that I haven't said a single thing about the movie, says quite a bit about the movie. I'm now 2:15 into a 3:15 movie - with just an hour left, I feel like I'm watching an honest-to-goodness story of this man's life (which, I suppose, it's supposed to be). I feel like I "know" Malcolm X (which also probably means it's a well-done piece of movie-making - in reality, I know virtually (get it? @reallyvirtual?) nothing about Malcolm X). But two+ hours in, I don't feel like this film is dragging at all, or boring in any way - I've watched it over a couple of days, just because I have the attention span of a gnat, but while not exactly "action-packed," it's quite an enlightening piece of entertainment, and it makes me *think* that I'm learning something about the man. Again, I have to tell myself that this is all being filtered through the lens of Spike Lee, he of The Spike Lee Store - capitalizing off the white devil. You can't have it both ways, Mr. Lee, although you come about as close as possible. The scene with the eager white girl - the college student - approaching X and asking him what she can do to help his cause, before he casually replies, "Nothing," and walks away, is a personality trait that I would find repulsive, although it was probably a necessary character flaw - he either believed in his methodology all-the-way, or he wouldn't have believed in it at all - this scene makes that painfully clear. I'm not sure how I would have reacted to that at the time, but looking back, seeing the big picture, I understand. This was something that black people had to do for themselves, without any help from anybody else. Again, this made MLK one heck of a lot easier to swallow for a lot of white people - he was the lesser of two "evils." It's true. It wasn't *actually* true, but in the white man's mind, it was true. The one-on-one scene with X and Baines - the one about wealth - was riveting dialog. The foibles of greed and lust are human foibles; not black foibles or white foibles - I hold absolutely no disregard for anyone wishing to advance their position in life, or for having a sex drive; it's the hypocrisy that grates me. Don't preach abstinence if you're going to be a philanderer; don't preach honesty if you're going to be a thief. Here, I'm talking about the avarice of Baines; not anything in particular about X. In general (and this is purely personal philosophy; not some sort of universal truth), I have problems with greed more than I do lust, as lust is a basic human drive that cannot be contained; greed requires time to calculate and think, and is therefore the greater of the two sins. And there's nothing wrong with the desire for wealth, but everything must be done in moderation, and those who would purposefully trample on the backs of the needy to acquire wealth are some of the greatest sinners of all. I really thought - up until this moment - that Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole in Sandersville, GA, and played by Al Freeman, Jr.) was part Indian, but apparently not. As little as I knew (or know) about X, I know even less about Muhammad. He certainly comes across as a Gandhi-type figure in this film, but I've heard (and I don't know from where) that he had something of "a past," just as X did. Of course, who doesn't? Wow, the "Chickens coming home to roost" comment was a bit much, even for me. I understand it's merely an extension of what he said to that white college girl, but this really strikes close to the bone. I did not know X said this, and if this transpired in the way the movie portrayed, I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. However, like the rest of us, X merely needed to travel in order to grow up - as soon as he went abroad, he realized that the white man was *not* the devil; when a red-headed person spends their entire life trapped in a cell, and all they see is another red-headed person who brings them their food and water, every day, for their entire life, they will naturally think that all people have red hair. Travel forces you to expand your horizons, both literally and figuratively - my first trip to Europe in 1989 changed my life; I'm waiting for it to change more with trips to other continents - I have only visited two, so how could I possibly say that I have wisdom? Intelligence, yes. Education, yes. Wisdom? Many would say yes because of all the suffering I've been forced to endure; I say no, for I have not seen the world. This has nothing to do with the movie, other than the fact that it was in it - it's such a beautiful, important picture: It's interesting that in his letter to his wife from Egypt, X (or Denzel Washington), says, aloud, "I am not a racist, and I do not subscribe to the tenets of racism," and pronounced "tenets" as "tenants." Was this scripted? Or is this how Washington speaks, and it slipped past the editors? I *love* the subtle smile X shows his assassin, the moment the trigger is about to be pulled - he knew it was when and not if: And how do you not love this picture? Without spoiling the ending of the movie with a photo, let me just say that it was awesome, as was the film as a whole - I always thought "Do The Right Thing" was Spike Lee's best picture, but this is at another level.
  13. Matt (my son) saw Hamilton three weeks ago and *loved* it. It has been playing at the Richard Rodgers Theater since Aug, 2015 I tried to get him to explain it to me, and he kept saying, "You kind of have to just see it." All I know about it is that the set design and costumes were in period, but the music is something closer to hip-hop - it sounds fascinating.
  14. I'm sure many of you have cooked from Paula Wolfert's cookbooks, who was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. Now there is a kickstarter campaign to fund a biography and cookbook about her life. Participants in the project include, Emily Thelin (former editor at Food & Wine), cookbook author Andrea Nguyen, photographer Eric Wolfinger and designer Toni Tajima More information via Andrea Nguyen's food blog.
  15. When I was young, I saw Roots (1977) and Holocaust (1978), and they were both very hard on me, nearly impossible to finish. But I don't think any film or series has been more difficult for me to watch than 12 Years A Slave (2013). It took me two days to get through it, and I'm surprised I did (I simply cannot watch people being tortured, even if it's "just a movie.") SPOILERS Perhaps the most amazing thing about this film is that, for a couple of hours, it made *me* a slave. From the time Solomon Northup woke up in chains, up until the time when I was mercifully allowed to see Brad Pitt (a character who I've never been so relieved to see in a movie), I was immersed in sheer Hell. It was as close to a visceral reaction as I've ever had from a film. This movie is tough, tough going, and spares nothing in terms of brutality. I have never wanted to jump through a movie screen, and choke the living shit out of people, as much as I wanted to with 12 Years A Slave. I once asked a friend of mine if he watched Shoah. "Yes, I watched the whole thing because I promised myself I would," he said. This is sort of like that - if you want movie-watching pleasure, steer well-clear of 12 Years A Slave, but if you're looking to examine things in this world, you owe it to about twelve-million people to suffer through, and suffer you will. Some quotes that resonate with me: "It's a film made for a mass audience, but it doesn't want them to feel comfortable for a second." -- Tom Huddleston, TimeOut.com "It's the unhappiest happy ending I've ever seen ...." -- Dana Stevens, Slate.com "It is a film that necessity and education demand seeing." -- David Thompson, The New Republic "I've never seen a sequence [referring to the extended hanging punishment scene] that so elegantly uses duration to lay out an ecosystem of power and powerlessness ...." -- Wesley Morris, Grantland.com "Indeed, it's embarrassing for America that a British director, Steve McQueen ("Shame"), should have had to make this film at all, and that in 2013 it should constitute a breakthrough in cinema for American slavery to be depicted as something entirely evil." -- Mick LaSalle, SFgate.com There will be more, but I need a break.
  16. I'm writing this down primarily so I remember it in the future. It's a fine documentary, worth watching if you want to see a minimally manipulated interview with a man who claims to have killed over one-hundred people - not for sexual thrills, not for kicks, not for drugs, but for money: he was a paid hit-man. an independent contractor if you will. The documentary was culled together from seventeen hours of interview tapes with Richard Kuklinski in his maximum-security prison, and is elegant in its use of light touch, and for letting Kuklinski do most of the talking. It's not creepy, it's not scary, and it's not as chilling as you may think - it's mainly informative. Note that this is from 1992, and there is a second documentary from 2001, and a third from 2003, which are also by HBO (and apparently available on one DVD), but I would think the second two are superfluous and unnecessary. My criteria for selecting this were pretty basic: I wanted to see a documentary, I wanted to learn something I had no previous knowledge of, and I wanted it to be less than one-hour long. This fit the bill. I saw my version on Amazon Prime for free, but it appears to also publicly available on YouTube for free. I don't think you will be traumatized from watching this - it's not like that. But, obviously, viewer discretion is advised, and you know in advance what the subject material is, so do use your judgment. If you're sick-and-tired of all the needless violence in this world, give it a pass - but keep in mind there's *plenty* out there that's gratuitous and much, much more violent and gory (there is no violence or gore in this). You know what you have, so choose wisely. I'm glad I watched it, but I would rate it as good, not great. I would be very interested to hear other peoples' opinions, in agreement or otherwise.
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