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Found 24 results

  1. Remembering the wonderful Burt Reynolds, I watched "Deliverance" last night for about the fifth time - I can't get enough of this movie, which is about the ultimate in "guy buddy movies." All four actors have comparably important roles, and both Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty made their major film debuts with "Deliverance" (both of those links should be of interest to you). James Dickey is an outstanding author, and made an important cameo in this film towards the end. I've always enjoyed this poem by Dickey, entitled "Falling" - you can read it in several minutes, and it will leave an impact on you. I think it's so romantic that Burt Reynolds, until his dying day, maintained that Sally Field was "the love of his life," even though it was an unrequited love - he truly loved her. If you haven't watched "Deliverance," do yourself a favor, and watch it, start-to-finish - it's a wonderful movie, and I could easily see it going on someone's "All-Time Favorite Film" list, even though it might not be "The Greatest Film Ever Made."
  2. I didn't realize that I'd only seen "The Shining" start-to-finish one time, but I saw it again yesterday. Disclosures: I'm very much of a Stanley Kubrick fan, and I think Stephen King is "good but not great," as he writes a little too much for the masses, for my taste. "The Shining" is a long film, with some very good moments, but it's also a drawn-out film, with some very bad moments. I wonder if there's anyone out there who truly loves this film, and everything about it. I could list probably a dozen things about this movie that I strongly disliked, but taken as a whole, it's a good horror film when you factor in everything. One fundamental thing I didn't like was the introduction of the two, competing, otherworldly powers which have no explanation - I don't need to be spoon-fed explanations for the supernatural, but personifying evil through the silly ex-caretaker, Delbert Grady (Philip Stone, who played Alex's father in Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange") was a bit much. There are other things that I found annoying ("Redrum," for example), but I don't want to sit here and rattle them all off. I liked, didn't love, "The Shining," but without taking inventory, my guess is that I'd put it in the bottom half of all Kubrick films I've seen up until now. I know this is supposedly an "intellectual" film, and I'm sure that repeated viewings would reveal additional layers and nuances. --- Room 237 (DonRocks)
  3. A Clockwork Orange is great but I can only see it once, I'm afraid. I read the book first in a Lit class in college. The movie is a chilling adaptation! For Kubrick I prefer Dr Strangelove, Spartacus, Paths of Glory, Barry Lyndon. You wouldn't believe it but I have never seen Full Metal Jacket or 2001: A Space Odyssey! I don't know HOW but I haven't! I am sure I will, and it won't be on a cell phone!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. "Strangers on a Train," is regarded by many critics as one of the top five or six films by Alfred Hitchcock. Roger Ebert, in this review, says only three or four Hitchcock films are superior to it. Having seen most of the other films lauded as his "best," as well as some more obscure Hitchcock movies from his earlier days, I wanted to see for myself how this film stacked up against the others. The movie, based on the 1950 novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, tells the story of two strangers who meet on a train and discuss "swapping" murders. While I found this film flawed, there were some things I really enjoyed about it. ***SPOILERS FOLLOW*** There is stunning camera work in this film. I love the shot of the shadows as Bruno follows Miriam and her beaus through the "Tunnel of Love." Miriam's scream, as they exit the tunnel, enhances the suspense even more. Miriam's demise, shown through the reflection of her discarded eyeglasses, is brilliantly done. This is Hitchcock at his finest. When Bruno arrives at Guy's gate with news of what he has done, we see his face obscured by the shadow of the gate, while Guy stands on the other side, fully lit by a street light. Once Guy hears the news, and begins to feel complicit in the crime, he joins Bruno on the other side of the gate, both of their faces masked by prison-like bars. Another wonderfully shot scene is when Guy spots Bruno in the crowd at this tennis match. All of the spectators' heads are moving in unison, watching the match, except one. The camera locks onto Bruno's face, staring creepily ahead--at Guy, and at us. Another fun thing about this film is that much of the story takes place in the D.C. area, with several beautiful shots of the city. The plot, however, is quite implausible, which made it hard for me to get emotionally involved in the story. Some of the acting is top-notch, including a fine performance by the director's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock. Laura Elliott (also known as Kasey Rogers) is great as the unlikeable Miriam, and Robert Walker does a fine job portraying the creepy Bruno. Ruth Roman, on the other hand, a gives a one-note performance as Guy's girlfriend, displaying her full range of emotions by wiggling her lower jaw and exposing her bottom teeth. The film is melodramatic and dated, but I think any fan of filmmaking and of Alfred Hitchcock will find some things to enjoy in "Strangers on a Train."
  7. I'm watching "Firefox" for the first time since it was released in 1982. I distinctly remember the opening scene, with Clint Eastwood jogging (although, for some reason, I thought I remembered him jogging without a shirt). When I was 21 years old, I thought to myself, 'My *God*, he looks old' (he was 52). Now, my impression when I just saw that same scene was, 'My *God*, he looks young.' Unfortunately, other than seeing the movie in the theater vs. on Amazon, there's only one variable in this equation. (Actually, in a later scene, Eastwood was standing around without a shirt - he really wasn't in top shape for this film, even for a 52-year-old.) I had completely forgotten how blatantly Soviet this film was - sort of like an earlier version of "The Hunt for Red October" (1990) which I thought was just awful. However, I was studying Russian in the late 1980s, and knew enough to pick out the flaws in Red October; when I saw Firefox, Russian was like Chinese to me, so I had absolutely no idea how contrived it was. I do find it interesting just how John McCain-like Clint Eastwood's Vietnam flashback was. I also didn't realize that Firefox, like all of Malpaso's (Eastwood's Production company's) pictures since, has no opening credits after the title was displayed. One thing I'm noticing about Firefox is the incredible attention that's being paid to seemingly mundane detail (which I consider to be a huge asset; others consider it to be dull) - not a lot of action is occurring, but the Soviet atmosphere is being slowly and surely cultivated, despite the film not being shot in the Soviet Union (for Cold War reasons) - I suppose some might find the entire structure ponderous; I find it fascinating, in the way that I find Bruckner's symphonies fascinating. Just don't watch Firefox looking for an "Eastwood action movie," because you're going to spend a lot of time trying to find it. That said, Eastwood's heavily Americanized Russian accent would *never* pass muster when scrutinized by even a casual speaker, much less suspicious KGB agents screening him at a security gate - also, doesn't *anybody* around the perimeter of the ultra-secure facility know what their own pilot looks like? The special effects used for the flying scenes were known as "Reverse Bluescreen" photography, and were pioneered by John Dykstra just for this film - Dykstra was the special-effects lead for the original "Star Wars," and is almost surely a household name to anyone who cares about special effects. When the second Firefox is chasing the first, it becomes *extremely* obvious that this is a riff on Star Wars - you'll know the scene when you see it. Interestingly, not long after this, there's a scene that's a riff on, believe it or not, my favorite scene from "Wings" (1927), one pilot showing respect to the other. And after *that*, there's yet another Star War's riff - recall, "Use the force, Luke." If you want a detailed plot synopsis, there's a good one on *** SPOILER ALERT *** IMDB.
  8. Well, it looks like right now, I'm in a minority of one. I did some research into the 'Best Westerns of All-Time," and "Rio Bravo" is on many, if not most, lists. I love John Wayne as an actor in Westerns, and have enjoyed several films by Howard Hawks, notably "His Girl Friday" and "Bringing Up Baby" - two screwball comedies that are archetypes for "rapid-fire dialogue" - a technique that was employed around 1940. After one viewing, this is my least favorite of the five John Wayne films I've written about here on donrockwell.com, but I just can't reconcile my views of this film with seemingly every other critic ... except for one. Before the rise of the celebrity American film critic, there was Leslie Halliwell - a British critic known for his impossibly huge book of film capsules. Member Number One and I jokingly used to call him "The Prick," because we could never remember his name, and he was incredibly hard on films - particularly ones which rehashed old material. Halliwell was my reference-standard critic in the days before the internet, and for older films, he's still an exceptionally important voice for me. Halliwell is the only major critic I can find who jibes with my first viewing of "Rio Bravo," saying it's a "cheerfully overlong and slow-moving Western," but was "very watchable for those with time to spare." That's about how I see it. Nevertheless, I've been fooled by great works of art before after only one viewing, so I went so far as to purchase "Rio Bravo" by Robin Wood, and am going to read it before watching the film a second time. On a superficial level, it seemed to me like Hawks was in over his head with the Western genre (I know he directed "Red River" in 1948). I'm hoping for more out of this film, so I'm going to give it a second pass after reading Wood's book about it. Neither "His Girl Friday" nor "Bringing Up Baby" had much going for them other than star power, Howard Hawks, and the rapid-fire dialogue fad (which I could never really get into), and to be honest, I have yet to see anything by Hawks that I've loved. Here's hoping that's going to change after my second viewing.
  9. *** SPOILER ALERT *** After watching the indescribably wonderful documentary, "Hitchcock/Truffaut," last night, I leapt into the film "The Wrong Man," which is the one film by Alfred Hitchcock about which then-critic Jean-Luc Godard wrote his longest-ever piece of criticism - Both Godard and François Truffaut, pioneers of the "French New Wave" of Directors, were then working as critics for the legendary French publication, "Cahiers du Cinéma." so this film fits right in with the Hitchcock/Truffaut documentary, and was mentioned in it as well. This is the only Hitchcock film where Hitchcock himself came out and addressed the audience at the beginning, assuring them that it was a true story, and that the facts that went into the tale were just as fantastic as most of what he's written about as fiction in the past. "The Wrong Man" stars Henry Fonda as a respectable, but struggling musician in New York City, Manny Balestrero, and his wife, Rose, played by Vera Miles. Rose has an impacted set of wisdom teeth, which can only be fixed to the tune of $300, which is money the two don't have - the next day, Manny goes into the bank and asks to borrow on Rose's insurance policy, but three female tellers are certain that he is the same man who came in recently and robbed the bank - they pacified him, and told him to come back in with his wife, while putting the authorities on full alert. In a scene which came shortly afterwards, I was certain I recognized the lady who played Manny's mother, Esther Minciotti, and sure enough, Minciotti had played the wonderfully endearing role as Marty's (Ernest Bourgnine's) mother in the 1955 Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, "Marty." If you watch the Hitchcock/Truffaut documentary first, you'll remember very well the scene in which Manny first gets thrown into his jail cell. He looks around - not at the locked door - but at all different angles, and it gives the viewer a real sense of being locked up. This is his very first experience in jail, and his fear is palpable. Halfway through this movie, I am awestruck at how realistic it is - there's no fluffing anything up; it's as if we're watching a real story unfold (which we are). I'm a little surprised that Manny is so stoic about everything, but he seems completely shell-shocked to this point - almost like he's unable to get hold of his facilities. Hitchcock *really* takes his time setting this plot up - Manny doesn't even meet his attorney, Frank O'Connor (a real attorney, played by Anthony Quayle), until about two-thirds of the film is over. Fortunately, O'Connor - seemingly a decent man - accepts the case. Some interesting notes: Shortly after meeting with O'Connor, Manny and Rose run into two giggly girls living at an apartment: One of them is a twelve-year-old Tuesday Weld (of "Looking for Mr, Goodbar"), and the other is an eleven-year-old Bonnie Franklin (of "One Day at a Time"). It's noteworthy how many known actors and actresses are in this film - when Rose has a mental breakdown, she sees a psychiatrist, Dr. Bannay, and it's none other than Werner Klemperer - Colonel Klink on "Hogan's Heroes." During Manny's trial, one of the jurors is Barney Martin (Jerry Seinfeld's father on "Seinfeld"), and finally, Harry Dean Stanton (Brett in "Alien") plays a Department of Corrections employee, though I couldn't find him when I looked. I believe none of the people mentioned in this paragraph are credited, and for some, it's the debut film of their career. This is about the closest thing to being a "non-fiction" film I've seen without actually being one - it's "based on a true story," and is so faithful to it that it doesn't seem right labeling it a "crime movie" or a "suspense movie." It's clear that Hitchcock took great pains to stay as true to the base story as he possibly could have, so I'm going to go ahead and label this movie "non-fiction" even though that may not be technically correct. A magnificent film. Apr 17, 2013 - "History of Film Criticism: Godard on 'The Wrong Man'" on torontofilmreview.blogspot.com
  10. I never knew that Al Pacino told Sidney Lumet, before the filming of "Dog Day Afternoon" began, that he was too exhausted and depressed to take the role - he had just finished filming "The Godfather Part II." Lumet accepted his decision, and offered the part to Dustin Hoffman, whom Pacino considered to be "his rival" - and that was enough for Pacino to secrete enough adrenaline to do the part after all. Funny - while I think of Pacino and Hoffman as "contemporaries," I've never once thought of them as "rivals." I wonder if Lumet knew what he was doing, psychologically, when he made this move. Who knew? When Sonny was being interviewed by the television statement, and he dropped the F-bomb, they (apparently on a several-second delay), cut to the Looney Tunes theme song - now, *that* was funny. I had no idea that I hadn't seen this film before, but I hadn't. It's a fascinating movie - I thought after fifteen minutes it would be a real stinker (completely failed bank robbery - yawn), but then it started to get interesting, and Sonny started to acquire a Rambo-type of popularity with the general population, acquiring a folk-hero-like following, and there was still almost ninety minutes remaining. You know what? This movie is appropriate for these times (just as I'm sure other people have said about other times). People are so damned miserable that they view Sonny as a hero for their own crummy lives.
  11. For all the La La Land die-hard fans: You Can Visit the Café From La La Land in Real Life It's only through March 6, but for the Friends fans, Central Perk is there all the time. I've taken the Warner Brothers studio tour and it's really interesting. Can't compare with other studio tours since I haven't done any, but we enjoyed the glimpses into both the indoor studio sets - Ellen, Big Bang - and also the incredible magic they can make with the most ordinary-seeming of outdoor spaces a la Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. Plus there is a ton of Harry Potter paraphernalia in the museum.
  12. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** The only thing I'd ever seen about "Chariots of Fire" is the opening song, the run along the beach (both of which take place at the very beginning of the film), and parodies thereof - it was hard not to be roused by the classic combination, worn out though it may be. I didn't realize the film took place in 1924; I thought it was a World War II movie - I know virtually nothing about it, so I'm looking forward to it very much. Okay, 25-minutes in, I'm a "wee bit" worried that this is going to be a "message movie" (the message of brotherhood), but I'm banking on the Best Picture win to ensure it isn't nauseating - anything that beats out "Raiders of the Lost Ark" must be great, right? Right? So far it's shaping up to be a classic human drama - Christian vs. Jew, for lack of a more elegant phrase. I'd say this is around the time of "feel-good" movies, but "Ordinary People" won the award the year before, so that theory is instantly dispelled. When Scotland was racing France in the quarter-mile, the maggot who pushed Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) off the track, never got another camera shot (I rewound the film to check (*)). Yes, Harold Abrahams' (Ben Cross) clutching of the paper when Liddell got back up to chase down his unethical foe was quite touching - go ahead, call me a softie. (*) Oh yes he did! About twenty minutes later, when he gave Abrahams (not Liddell) an "eat shit" look in the locker room. My only question at this point is that Liddell seems to be a middle-distance runner, whereas Abrahams seems to be an all-out sprinter, so how can they compete against each other? Or, is that not where the film is heading? Whoa! A middle-distance runner beat Abrahams in a sprint the first time they meet? Abrahams has every right to be upset - wow, I wasn't expecting that. That girl (the actress) telling him he was acting like a child, and that he was "marvelous" has absolutely *no clue* what it's like to be an athlete who loses. Seeing the transportation from various countries coming towards this 1924 Olympics - countries had to have *money*, serious money, to just *get to the games*. Forget hosting; I'm talking about just getting there - it's remarkable, coming over by slow boat, slightly post-WWI. The Olympics are high-dollar entertainment, especially now, and that's why poor countries just simply cannot compete (unless, of course, they're genetically superior athletes, such as Kenyan marathoners (forgive the stereotype, but it's true)). This makes me realize that the Olympics was, is, and probably always will be, games for the rich, or at least for countries who are so proud that they pour money into making a good showing. In a way it's quite sad; in a way, it's harsh reality. "The Skaters' Waltz" shows up here numerous times. Did you know that this is *not* by Johann Strauss I? No, it's by the relatively unknown French composer, Émile Waldteufel - isn't that amazing? Ask most classical music aficionados this question, and they'll have no idea what the answer is.The piece is called "The Ice Skaters" (<<Les Patineurs Valse>>) and was composed in 1882, fully fifty years after the heyday of Strauss I (I keep saying "Strauss I" because he also had a son who was "Strauss II." In case you think I'm some Classical Music know-it-all who knew this ... I, too, thought it was composed by Johann Strauss I. There's a lot - a *lot* - about this movie that drags, to the point where I'm surprised it won the Academy Award, but the moment of tension during the start of the 100-meter finals was palpable - the way they dragged out the beginning.really gave everything a "nervous' feeling. I wonder how many people realize that Director Hugh Hudson paid homage - and I mean *direct* homage* - to "Ocean's 11" at the very end of "Chariots of Fire." It was every bit as remarkable (and every bit as obvious) as Martin Scorsese paying homage to "The Great Train Robbery" at the very end of "Goodfellas." This was not quite a much of a "message" movie as I feared it would be, but there was certainly that aspect to it, and quite frankly, that's probably what won it the Best Picture award. "Chariots of Fire" was a very good movie, and I'm willing to say it was a great movie, but it was absolutely *not* the Best Picture of the year - for starters, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was better in every way except for pensive introspection. For those who disagree, I consider "Raiders" to be a classic in the same vein as "The Wizard of Oz," "Star Wars," and "Gone with the Wind" - in other words, it wasn't just "Best Picture" material, but it was one of the greatest motion pictures ever made - an absolute legendary classic which could rightfully be on anyone's Top 10 list. "Das Boot" was better, too, but that's at least debatable. Still, I'm really glad I saw "Chariots of Fire," because I was both entertained and intellectually enriched from the experience - it's worth seeing, and it's something even more than that. Here is the actual video of Eric Liddell winning the 400 meter race.
  13. Yet another film that I've always wanted to watch, but never have, "Rebel without a Cause" is such an American icon that even the title alone breeds familiarity. I'm not sure I've ever seen a film with James Dean in it before, either. Dean stars as Jim Stark, Natalie Wood co-stars as Judy, and Sal Mineo is in a supporting role as John "Plato" Crawford. Other famous names include Jim "Mr. Magoo" Backus as Frank Stark, Dennis "Blue Velvet" Hopper as Goon, and Edward "Sorry About That, Chief" Platt as Ray Fremick - what an all-star cast this was! And there was plenty more talent in this picture, too - you might even recognize Jesse "The Maytag Repairman" White in an uncredited role as a policeman, questioning Sal Mineo early on. The title instantly reminds of Marlon Brando's line in "The Wild One," in which Kathie Bleeker asks Johnny Strabler, "What're you rebelling against, Johnny?" To which Brando replies, "Whaddya got?" I had never before heard of a Sam Browne before this scene: From what I've seen so far, it's no coincidence that this "teen angst" film came out just four years after J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" (which, incidentally, may be the most overrated book I've ever read - at least, that's my interpretation of it upon first reading - if anyone can convince me otherwise, I'll have another go at it at some future point, but I found it very dated and painfully boring). "The Wild One," Rock-N-Roll music ... this is all Post-WWII expression, I suppose. I hate to say it, but we almost *need* another World War to remind ourselves of just how good we have things (and no, I'm not hoping for another World War, because the cost of that lesson would be far too expensive). Wow, this movie is more intense than I thought it would be, and from what I see in the scene where Jim's tires are slashed, he's a rebel *with* a cause - a very solid cause. Buzz Gunderson (played by Corey Allen) is a real shit-and-a-half, and why Jim agreed to go for round two after he so decisively won round one is beyond me. The editing (and cinematography) in this film is really good - it has a "slashy" feel to it, which mirrors a knife fight. Also, the juxtaposition of family problems (between families) is really effective at telling separate, but similar, stories. With 45 minutes left in the movie, I'm starting to wonder if "Rebel Without a Cause" means something entirely different than what I always assumed it meant. Jim has plenty of reason to be a "rebel" (if that's even the right word for it); but there was no good "cause" that should have made him this way. Restated, there was no justifiable "cause" that Jim should have become so troubled - and here I thought that James Dean was going to be a Marlon Brando-type character (in "The Wild One") - rebelling without any end game in mind, rebelling simply for the sake of rebelling. It's the difference between asking "What caused the rebel?" and "What's the rebel's cause?" Yes, he had a lousy family life, but that was a needless situation - it shouldn't have been like that, but, alas, it was. At 1:09 in the movie (on Amazon Prime), the song playing over the radio - dedicated to Jim from Buzz - is the exact same song in the Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Little Red Riding Rabbit": "The Five O'Clock Whistle." I'm having some trouble figuring out the meaning of the scene in the abandoned mansion with Jim, Judy, and Plato - I understand them needing some refuge, but it's an extended scene, and it doesn't seem like it quite fits in with the rest of the film - I suppose Jim and Judy needed some "alone time" to develop their relationship. Wow, now *Plato* - he was a rebel without a cause. Roger Ebert succinctly pointed out that Plato was gay in this film - something that I didn't pick up on, but I'm almost certain is correct - this shows you why Ebert is such a legendary film critic, and I should probably stick to writing about food and wine. DIShGo (who is watching the movie as I type) pointed out that Plato has a picture of "Shane" in his locker, lending further credence to Plato most likely being gay. You know, I'm observant enough, and I've watched enough films in my lifetime, that I *really* need to be picking up on things such as this - shame on me. This movie left me with some thinking to do - I'm not sure that I just watched a great film; I am certain that I just watched an important piece of Americana. It is certainly fitting that the movie ended where it was shortly after it began - in the planetarium, where the lecturer essentially gave an Existentialist talk about mankind. Foreshadowing? Oh, yeah. Rebel Without a Cause was also the final Hollywood film played by Marietta Canty, an important Black-American actress we should all know about.
  14. I watched "The Man Who Knew Infinity" yesterday, and liked it very much (without loving it). I knew of Srinivasa Ramanujan, because he kept popping up on these listicles of 'Uneducated Minds That Changed the World' - I knew him as 'some uneducated genius from India with an IQ through the ceiling, and a gift for math that was nearly savant-like,' but that's all I knew of him. For the education alone, I have to give this film personal points. Two films that came to mind - very quickly - when I first started watching this were (surprisingly *not* "Good Will Hunting," even though Ramanujan is mentioned in that film, and not "A Beautiful Mind") ... anyway, they were "The English Patient" and "Shine." Why these two films, instead of the others, popped into my head, I have no idea, but they did. "The English Patient," as David Foster Wallace once emphasized, is "a slick, commercial product," and that's how I felt about "The Man Who Knew Infinity." "Shine" was released in the same year as "The English Patient" (1996), and both of these films were - remarkably and tragically - nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (incredibly, "The English Patient" actually won). I thought this film was *much* better than "Shine," maybe because I'm a better pianist than I am a mathematician, and I thought "Shine" was just impossibly stupid; this at least taught me something (I had no idea, for example, of Ramanujan's role in Combinatorics, a field I was very interested in during graduate school). While the overall execution of "The Man Who Knew Infinity" resulted in a film clearly for the masses, I enjoyed it, and I learned from it (and at the end of the day, aren't those the two chief ends of literature: to instruct and delight?) Linking this post back to the discussion we were having above about a universal base, I can't help remembering the line in the movie that went something like, 'every single positive integer is Ramanujan's personal friend.' It's interesting that "positive integers" are only "positive integers" because we use a human-based, Base-10 numbering system; in the universe-based, Base-X system I was proposing, these wouldn't even be integers. I suppose you picked up on that when you mentioned the film? Ramanujan (and really, *every* mathematician) unearthing these "universal truths" is really doing nothing more than "unearthing universal truths based on an entirely man-made product," as Base 10 is a completely arbitrary construct. Anyway, "recommendation" (if it was a recommendation) much appreciated, and I'm glad I saw the film, even if it did cost me a whopping $5.99 on Amazon Prime. (For those who haven't seen it, Dev Patel was also the star of "Slumdog Millionaire," which I suppose makes him the most famous Indian movie star in America right now.)
  15. I'd never seen a Rat Pack movie before, and only knew of "Ocean's 11" by name (this 1960 film was remade as "Ocean's Eleven" with an ensemble cast of mega-stars in 2001. This is a "heist" film taking place in Las Vegas, where Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) reassembles his WWII 82nd Airborne Division buddies for "one more mission." The number of recognizable faces (Henry Silva, for example) in Ocean's 11 is remarkable (the same can be said for the 2001 remake, although I've never seen it - when Andy Garcia is the 5th-most famous actor/actress in a movie, you know you've spent some money on salaries). Rapid-fire dialog was extremely popular in the 40s and 50s (think: "His Girl Friday"), and there are a few wonderful examples here as well: Vince Massler (Buddy Lester) approaches Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) and Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford), worried about the caper, and this amusing exchange takes place in less than two seconds: "I can't do it boys. I got my wife to think of." "Think of her rich." "Think of me dead." The dialog in this movie is not only "rapid-fire," but it's classic "rat-pack" - cornball gangster talk like something out of a Mickey Spillane novel: Picture Mike Hammer on speed. The drinks are fast, the women are furious, and this is classic 1950s pulp that simply cannot be replicated: Even though I haven't seen the 2001 version, there's no way George Clooney could pull this off - he just doesn't have the gangster in him. It's not even a positive trait; it just is what it is, and it's a product of its time - I'm only 45 minutes into the movie, and I'm surprised nobody has used the term "doll-face." --- Okay, I finished the movie (I even rewatched the first half, because I took a couple of days off), and my assessment is that it's really a pretty awful film, and should only be watched by Rat Pack devotees and completists. This is a 2:10 movie, and the entire first half - maybe a little longer - is devoid of anything, with the possible exception of some character development. You're basically "getting to know" Danny Ocean and his ten friends who were deployed together in WWII, and it is *slow going*, and I mean *boring*. The payoff in Ocean's 11 comes in the last ten minutes, when a genuinely great twist ending will leave your jaw hanging open, but you have to "suffer and endure" up until that point. If I had to pick a "least favorite" and "most favorite" character, respectively, it would be Akim Tamiroff (in a needless, comic-relief role as Spiros Acebos, "the big boss"), and Cesar Romero (as Duke Santos, the man who *nobody* wants to mess with - this film does a good job at making him look enormous in physical stature (he was 6'3" but seemed even taller)). I'm very curious to hear from some Rat Pack fans about why I'm wrong. I have never seen a movie with more stars in it that flopped so badly - actually, it wasn't a "flop" so much as that it was just dull, dull, dull. We were literally halfway through the movie, and didn't know anything at all about what was going to happen - people were just sitting around, chatting, drinking, and shooting pool. Recommended for historical purposes only; not recommended for anyone wanting to watch a good film. The closing shot is absolutely fantastic, with The Pack walking by the viewers. The following video shows the ending, but doesn't spoil anything about the main plot of the movie - still, since it's such a cool scene, I'll mark it as a spoiler. If you watch it, do note the *very* tongue-in-cheek, hilarious billboard in the final moments, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the film: *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** To see why I'm so anal about tagging threads, click on Richard Boone above - we're building something beautiful here.
  16. This is either the perfect time, or the perfectly wrong time, for you to watch this wonderfully innovative, groundbreaking, "death-by-a-thousand-cuts" movie, lambasting the media's involvement in our political elections - I'd seen it twice, most recently about a year ago, and decided I wanted to watch it again this evening. Robert Redford does a wonderful job in this film, and so does Don Porter, masterfully portraying the hilariously named Crocker Jarmon, the opposing candidate (who sounds just like Walter Cronkite - the kind of voice that can put the public at ease while he's spewing complete B.S. - I think the name "Crocker" is also a quibble on both "Cronkite" and "crock.") - both men make this seem like a hyper-realistic Senatorial race, and Peter Boyle with his media-strategy team don't lag far behind. This film is excellently written, and Jeremy Larner deservedly won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. If you're up for it, "The Candidate" is a good, lighthearted exploratory criticism of our media-driven election system - I didn't enjoy it this evening as much as I previously remembered, but it's a solid film, and worth watching. The film is now 44-years old, and is only slightly dated (dated mostly because it features two *men* running for the Senate in California); its themes carry forward very nicely to this day-and-age, and the scene with Redford unable to contain his laughter is a classic comedic moment. There's also a medium-small cameo (not subtle) by Natalie Wood.
  17. Let me address this first: There is overt racism in "The Searchers," manifesting itself the most in the lead character, Ethan Edwards, portrayed by John Wayne. If you can't look past Wayne's hatred of the Comanche nation, you will not enjoy this film - for you to watch "The Searchers," you *must* look at the Comanches as "a bear" (you can pick your own bear, but you absolutely must be able to think of them as, simply, "the bad guy"). If you are able to do that, then you're faced with one of the greatest Westerns I've ever seen in my life. You know, maybe I've gotten lucky, because the first Western I ever saw (which was also the first "M-rated" movie I ever saw), was "Two Mules for Sister Sara," in the movie theater, when it was released in 1970. Since that time, I've seen maybe a couple dozen, most of which have been really good, and the older ones I've seen have *also* been really good because I've gone back in time and cherry-picked. I keep hearing about the tremendous number of awful Westerns there are, and there must be, because there really were a slew of them (for example, one of the actors in The Searchers, William Steele, was in *seventeen* Westerns in the year 1917 alone! These must have been what's referred to as "Western Quickies.") Co-Starring with Wayne is none other than Captain Pike himself: Jeffrey Hunter, and boy does he look young! Keep in mind, this is fully ten years before "The Cage" showed as the pilot of "Star Trek." While Hunter clearly is the second-leading character, this film also co-stars Vera Miles ("Mrs. Bates? Is that you?"), Natalie Wood ("West Side Story" (1961)), and features several other famous-but-not-as-famous actors such as Ward Bond, Natalie's younger sister Lana Wood, Harry Carey, Jr., and Henry Brandon in a well-acted but undeniably cringe-worthy portrayal as Comanche Chief Cicatriz (it's almost as difficult for me to look at Caucasians made up to look like Native Americans as it is seeing Blackface). The plot of this film is leisurely, and makes the movie seem longer than its 119 minutes - it's a genuine epic, complete with hero, voyages, subplots, and adventures along the way. Wayne's character is extremely nuanced and complex - perhaps as much as any other Western lead I've seen, right up there with Clint Eastwood's William Munny in "Unforgiven." There's enough action to satisfy the circle-the-wagon fans, but it all takes a secondary role to moral tension and character development, just as it does in various other John Ford westerns. When people say, "They don't make 'em like they used to," or pine away for "the good ol' days," I believe they're talking directly about - as an example - The Searchers' portrayal of a brutal gang-rape and murder. There's no blood, there's no screaming, there's no woman, there's no rape to be seen, there's no mention of the word "rape," and everything is left up to the viewer's imagination and ability to perform some very basic extrapolation based on Wayne's reaction to what he witnessed. It was - and I can't believe I'm saying this about a gang rape - "beautiful," in that the entire thing is implied (albeit obvious), and to watch such finesse and restraint on the screen is a thing of beauty. Yes, the incident is staying with me, but there will be no graphic images to relive, no horror to lose sleep over, no gore to visualize - just an unspeakably sad event that happened in the film. And believe me, in this age of explicit, graphic violence, this scene stands out to me more than if there were bloody close-ups of a girl being violated - if you see it, you'll understand what I'm talking about. That is but one, five-minute moment in an extensive, complex, winding, two-hour, heroes' journey. The Searchers is a great movie, and has been lauded even more than I would personally laud it. For example, in 1963, the pioneer "Nouvelle Vague" French director, Jean-Luc Godard, went so far as to say the film was the 4th-greatest American talking picture in history. More accolades: Named "The Greatest American Western" by the "American Film Institute" in 2008. Ranked #12 on AFI's "100 Greatest American Movies of All-Time" in 2007. Named "The Best Western" by "Entertainment Weekly." The British Film Institute's "Sight & Sound" magazine ranked it the #7 Film of All-Time in 2012. In 2008, the Cahiers du Cinéma ranked it #10 in their list of the "100 Greatest Films Ever Made." That is some pretty high praise. I'll stop here and leave you with a recommendation to see "The Searchers," along with these postcards: :
  18. 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.
  19. I'm going to watch "Arthur" again soon, and was just watching a highlight clip from it - one particular scene recalled a *hilarious* story that happened over thirty years ago. I used to (lovingly) call my mom "Eva," and one day I was sitting at the kitchen table having some sort of family meal - my young niece (probably 3 or 4 years old) was there, and my mom said something - I can't remember what - that was most likely a combination of amusing and annoying (she was probably trying to force food on me as she was wont to do). Putting on my absolute best "Arthur-style" English accent, I imitated this scene in the YouTube video - the one where Dudley Moore said, "Susan, you're *such* an ahss-hole" - I said to my mom, "Eva, you're *such* an ahss-hole." All of a sudden, my niece (who was too young to recognize such a term spoken in such a mock-accent) started crying frantically. We all started saying, "What's wrong? What's wrong?" She turned to my mom and said, while crying, "Donald called you a nostril!"
  20. I watched "The Departed" today, and while I loved the film, I'm a little surprised it won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Picture. It was an excellent, thrilling, double-twisting, head-scratching, mess-with-your-mind, crime thriller involving mirror-image good-and-evil juxtapositions that make you thankful you're watching it on video, since you're camped on the rewind button for half the movie. A great picture with mega, mega-stars? Yes! Best Picture of the year? Boy this must have been a very lean year, not that the Academy Awards are any arbiter of truth; still, I just don't see this as even being in the running, although the Academy has shocked me in the past with its mediocre winners. Don't get me wrong: It's an outstanding crime thriller which I really enjoyed; I'm just surprised so many critics thought so highly of it. How many films have you seen lately where Matt Damon is arguably the third-biggest draw, and where Alec Baldwin is perhaps the sixth-biggest? How much did they spend on salaries? I am very much in the minority in that I find Quentin Tarantino terribly overrated, and someone who relies far too much on excessive violence; this film clearly had a Tarantino-like influence over the far-superior Scorsese. Did he really need to make this such a bloodbath? Well, it added something, I suppose, and also like most audience members, I'm starting to become numb to gratuitous splatter films, so as long as movies aren't torture porn (and this didn't go that far) they've become socially accepted, and not even all that shocking which I think is a real shame.
  21. Thank you for posting that. I never saw that cartoon before, and it made me supernaturally happy to watch it. I don't think I've grinned so much since 2012. To return the favor, here's what is probably my favorite animated cartoon of all time, "Sinkin' in the Bathtub", released as a Looney Tune in 1930, when they were making it up as they went along.
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