Friday, April 27, 2007

Has Anbody Here Seen My Old Friend...

Movie: Bobby (2006)
Setting: Ambassador Hotel, Los Angels California; June 4th & 5th 1968.

Bobby will probably be remembered for assembling one of the most impressive casts this decade, in fact it harkens back to the tradition of the all-star drama, such as Grand Hotel which the movie actually references by name. It is a series of vignettes so varied that none will suffice as an example to represent the others, okay maybe the Freddy Rodriguez, Laurence Fishburn one, I really liked the Freddy Rodriguez, Laurence Fishburn one. While pretentious in concept, and overly idolatrous of its title character, the film still manages to be effecting despite an overly long denouncement. Emilio Estevez's mustache deserves to be pointed out for its hideousness. Good period atmosphere goes without question.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Movie: Hatari (1962)
Setting: 'East Africa', probably Kenya; contemporary

Hatari is Swahili for danger. Howard Hawks directed adventure film is mixture of lite comedy and wildlife scenes. John Wayne is the leader of a multi-ethnic group who capture animals for zoo's and circuses, Elsa Martinelli is the Italian photographer who intrudes on their men's club existence. Red Buttons somehow wins the only other girl in the picture (Michele Girandon). The movie is often slow and repetitive, but fun enough to make good video wall-paper. Henri Mancini's 'Baby Elephant Walk' was introduced in this picture.

Jack Valenti: 1921-2007

Jack Valenti died today at the age of 85. A former aid to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Valenti became president of the MPAA in 1966, a position he held for roughly 38 years. It was during Valenti's tenure in that office that the current (and now widely criticized) film rating system was developed. While if you image search Valenti on the google you'll find just about every picture there makes him look mean, angry, and crazy, but he in fact had a good sense of humor about himself. I don't think I'll ever forget the total randomness of his showing up on Freakazoid.

On Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel

This man is officially going to make the Democratic debates fun to watch. To the left of Dennis Kucinich he's like a hyped up James Stockdale. Though interestingly he's not entirely without his points, he just makes them kind of crazy-like. He's crazy like a fox, who also happens to be crazy.

The Candidates: Some Brash Reflections on Mitt Romney

The first in what I hope to be a series of articles on those contending for the presidency in the 2008 election cycle.

Well despite the fact that tonight's candidate debate is between the Democrats, I thought I'd start my 'serious' campaign coverage' with a discussion of a man whose the definite elephant in the room when your talking about Mormons and Republican presidential politices, yes I am referring to four term Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (four terms, doesn't anything ever happen in Wisconsin?). No I'm talking (writing) about Mitt Romney.

Now much of what I have to say about Mitt, in terms of my concerns regarding his candidacy, is ground I have already covered in an extended MySpace conversation with Jenn. I will attempt to repeat my main points here:

First off) Flip-Flopper: Like his fellow Massachusetts resident John Kerry, Mitt Romney has changed his position on a number of major issues concerning voters. However unlike Kerry, whose "I voted for it before I voted against it", brew-ha-ha was rooted in the nuance of legislation, Gov. Romney now advances political positions on the opposite end of the spectrum from those he gave in his 1994 race for the Senate and 2002 race for the big job in Boston. Now as a Mormon Republican running in Massachusetts I'll give him some leeway for soft pedaling the party platform, but Mitt's basically switched sides from what he said he stood for as little as two or three years ago. Here are some examples:

-Mitt said as Governor of Massachusetts he would do nothing to interfere with a women's right to chose and that he was pro-choice, now Mitt talks of appointing the type of justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade, and claims to have been always pro-life. Now there is a way that these statements can be read as semi-consistent, or as demonstration of personal ideological (though political well timed) growth. I however will leave these points to be made by others in the comments section.

-Mitt Romney was for the social equality of Gays and Lesbians, post the Massachusetts state supreme court ruling of '03 that mandated the recognition of same sex marriage, he proclaimed himself in favor of a national constitutional amendment defining of marriage as between a man and a women. In fairness though, Mitt has said that the federal government was within its rights in opposing and (most would say) putting and end to LDS Church sanctioned polygamy in the 19th century, which was of course another form of alternative marital relationship.

-Mitt Romney said that his views and those of the NRA don't often match up (i.e. he supported toughter gun control laws). Now Romney has made dubious claims about being a life time hunter, and purchased a life time NRA membership last August.
Honestly its only fair for Republican voters to hold Romney to the same standards of ideological and policy consistency that they heaped upon John Kerry in 2004. That being said, it's probably not going to happen. I also recognize that Reagan was once an FDR Democrat, so Romney's traveling less far ideologically, but much faster.

2) By even running as a conservative Republican, Romney is going against the national grain. The nation is turning left as he turns right, maybe that will help in the primaries, but for the nationals it seems kind of stupid.

3) Businessman-Romney's abilities as an effective administrator are probably his greatest real asset as a candidate. However, after what will have been eight years of corporate governance, a bottom line approach to government will be a mixed bag at best. While I obviously agree that we need to get this governments spending in check, that doesn't necaserly mean cutting taxes, it might mean raising taxes. Plus a good argument can be made that we should be extending social services not cutting them, possibly paying for this by a military draw-down overseas (which doesn't sound like a Mitt position to me), or a tax increase on (at lest) the wealthiest Americans (which I know isn't a Mitt position). Am I the only one who doesn't think the government should be run as a business, its not a profit making venture.

4) The Mormon Issue- Of course to most in the media this means will enough evangelical Christians be willing to vote for a Mormon, one of there chief theological competitors. For me the Mormon issue is a little broader, this follows because I am a Mormon as well. I've recently been reading a book (a 23 year old one, but still relevant) called America's Saints: The Rise of Mormon Power. In chapter five of this book, on the international church, is an extended discussion of Mormon support (both of individuals, and in some cases at least indirectly of people in Church leadership) for various dictators, military junta's, and unsavoury aspects of American corporate and government policy in Latin America. I'll tell you that chapter was extremely disappointing reading, and the last thing I want is my church tied any further with the excesses and crimes of this government then it already is. If tough now for some abroad to differentiate between the American government, and this most American of Church's, it will be almost impossible with a Mormon sitting in the Oval Office. I have a very real fear that the Church missionary's, members, and facilities could be targeted in efforts to get back at the American president. Now I'm not saying I'd never vote for a Mormon, in fact I'd even like to, but this Mormon is just two establishment for me, he will be read as tying church and state together to an unhealthy degree. Also while were on this subject, and to barrow a term from Joe Vogel and Free Speech 101, Mitt Romney is to thoroughly Osmondized. He represents a slimmed down, overly PR obsessed strain with in the church that I'd rather not represent me, and believe me if the President of the United States is LDS, he'll represent the church more then Thomas S. Monson (the likely church president during a Romney administration) ever could to the world at large.

Well I could actually write more but I think I'll stop now. Comments are welcome and I'm willing to expand on any point made here upon request. Next time I'll try and write about a Democrat.
Enjoy tonights debate.
Romney Links:

Cat House

Movie: Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
Setting: Texas, New Orleans; early 1930's.

A conservative Texan (Laurence Harvey) goes looking for his lost love (Capucine) only to find her working in a whore house. Melodramatic story never really brought me in, despite some good character parts for Anne Baxter (as a Latina) and Jane Fonda (as a teen aged temptress). Barbara Stanwyck plays the house madam. The best thing about this movie is its much remarked upon opening title sequence.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What Do These Two Video's Have to Do With Each Other?

When I finished this video of LDS Church leader Ezra Taft Benson talking about conspiracy's in the early 1970's, YouTube then proceeded to recommend this clip of a folk song from the 2003 mockumentary A Might Wind. My question is, what on Earth could possibly be the connection here, that these clips would be linked together? Also, there are no David O. McKay related video's on YouTube, someone should fix that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

BYU Protest

There are a number of video's relating to the BYU anti-Cheney protest on YouTube. Check them out, especially the 1st one by This Divided State.

Robert Spencer

Tonight I went to hear a lecture by Robert Spencer, a Catholic theologian and critical student of Islam who has been threatened by name by al-Queda. At first I thought Spencer was going to be something of a bomb-thrower, judging by the titles of some of his books such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion, as well as his visit being sponsored by several conservative campus organizations which have a reputation for being provocative. To my surprise I found Spencer to be extremely knowledgeable, well-spoken, and reasonable. He was however quite firm, which I fear some of the middle eastern and liberal members of the audience (these two groups are of course not mutually exclusive) may have found to be off-putting or contentus. Anyway I learned some things and now kind of wish I'd gone to the dinner with him before hand. My companion for the evening and I did however get out of the Lookout Room as quickly as possible after Spencer had completed his Q & A session, as a couple of old men and a bunch of young Muslim people had begun what was bound to be heated and most likely futile effort at communication. Spencer's blog is Jihad Watch.

September Dawn

Coming soon to theaters is this romance story set against the backdrop of the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre. Click here for the preview. Anyway this thing is just bound to cause controversy in Mormon circles, as evidenced by this KSL story. In case your wondering I don't think Brigham ordered the attack, but agree with the historians that he did try to cover it up. While many books and articles have been written about Mountain Meadows, it has had scant visual representation, though by its very nature it is one of the most dramatic stories in Mormon history. I have read that in the early 1950's the Church successfully blocked 20th Century Fox pictures from making a movie about Mountain Meadows. Fox head Daryl F. Zanuck had a friendly relationship with the LDS leadership, and had in fact been instrumental in the production of the mostly pro-Mormon film Brigham Young Frontiersman in 1940. A documentary about the massacre appeared in 2004.

Flash Back Ad # 1

Some Film Blogs

The Ongoing Cinematic Education of Steven Carlson

Black & White World- Decorated with a scene from my favorite film by the way.


James' Mad Grasp for Relevancy

cinematic threads-Nicely formatted site.

Potrzebie- Not exclusively film related, infact kind of odd.

A Blog from Kyle

This video may be worth a comment or two.

Okay One Last One

My inner European is Spanish.

What's Your Political Persuasion?

I guess I'm also a conservative Democrat. A little picture of Joe Lieberman came up when I finished my survey.

Are You a Socialist or Capitalist?

What!? I'm a Socialist!? Well I'll be. Click here.

Dutcher Vs. Merrill

I put off writing this post for awhile and now the very contours of the story have changed. Richard Dutcher, the filmmaker generally described as having ushered in the 'Mormon cinema' movement of the early 21st Century, has left the church. Dutcher has said that his personal spiritual journey has lead him away from Mormon orthodoxy, and that while he will continue to be a 'defender of the church', he will no longer be a practicing member or make films for a primarily Mormon audience. This brief summation of his current situation, along with a critique/encouragement to current Mormon film makers appear in a Daily Herald article that can be accessed here.

A short time later active Mormon Keith Merrill, a two time Academy Award winning documentarian, and for many years the go-to-guy for making official Church motion pictures, issued a blistering and heated rebuttal to Dutcher's farewell address (which contains a lot of ill-will directed at Martian Scorsese's The Departed). I was all ready to attack Merrill his blatant hypocrisy's, but then he issued this apology, and I find I really respect him for it. Man if only more arguments could end like this. Anyway, I just netflxed The Great American Cowboy in his honor.

Note: I should maybe mention that Merrill family members attended the same Cupertino area ward as my mothers family in the 60's, and that my mom worked for Keith's brother while attending BYU in the early 70's.


Have a movie your looking for on DVD but just can't find it? Click here and see if your film is on the digital video disc missing in action list.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Boris Yeltsen Died

Oh, Brother Where Art Thou, or: Chain Gangs Stink

Movie: I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)
Setting: New Jersey, Boston, New Orleans, Wisconsin, St. Louis, Kentucky, Chicago; 1919-193?

Famed story of a man wrongly sentenced to ten years on a chain gang, his escape, subsequent reinvention of himself as a successful Chicago area engineer, and later re-imprisonment by the state of Kentucky. Movie makes you angry at perverted hick justice. Paul Muni stars. Based on a true story.

Other films featuring Southern Chain Gangs: Sullivan's Travels, The Man Who Broke A Thousand Chains (same story), Oh, Brother Where Art Thou.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Poet From the North

Movie: Hamsun (1996)
Setting: Norway, Germany, Austria; 1935-1952

Powerful bio-pic of Nobel Prize winning poet Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), his rocky relationship with his wife, and the consequences of his largely ignorant embrace of the Nazi cause. Max von Sydow is amazing as Hamsun, a stubborn cranky old man, a misguided patriot whose embrace of the Germans was rooted more in a historic resentment of British arrogance, then a support for National Socialist ideology (referring to Hitler: "I don't understand his anti-sematism."). Ghita Norby is equally excellent as Hamsun's wife Marie, who simultaneously resents her husband for not supporting her own writing, and costing her a career on the stage, while struggeling even after he disowned her to clear his name. These characters, no these people, are rich and deep, and imposable to sum up in any superficial manner. You never fully understand why Knut continued to support Hitler, even after it became clear to him in a personal interview with the man, that he had no intention of ever giving Norway back its true independence. However you must admire his insistence that he pay for his mistakes there after, going so far as to hire a lawyer to sue for the right of trail. There was even an attempted to have him declared insane to save the nation the embarrassment of having a national hero stand trial for treason. In the end Hamsun had his trial, but being that he was in his late 80's was given only a hefty fine rather then prison time. Anyway this was a quite and effecting movie, and Leonard Maltin was correct in writing that it should be more widely known then it it.

Monkey Movie

Movie: Curious George (2006)
Setting: New York?, Africa; contemporary

Pleasant but unremarkable kiddie feature taken from the books by Margret & H.A. Ray. Glossy animation style and Jack Johnson soundtrack more memorable then stock plot about saving a museum. Fun casting of Dick Van Dyke as museum head. Ed O'Ross gets to voice another Russian. Current PBS series, and even the minimally animated shorts I watched as a kid, are better then this.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oh My Goodness

In Review: Grindhouse (2007)

I decided that I wanted to see Grindhouse for two reasons (after initially not knowing what to make of the poster). First off, I like to support creative efforts to expose a mass audience to forgotten or perhaps dis reputed sub-genera's of film, and Sergio Leoni and the Infield Fly Rule got me excited about exploring this type of filmmaking. Secondly, I wanted to see Rose McGowen with a machine gun strapped to her partly amputated leg blasting zombie solders lead by Bruce Willis. In addition to all this you get some fun send up trailers, Machete, Werewolf Women of the S.S., Don't, and clever plays on genera conventions such as reuse of many of the same performers, and a recurring gage of reels gone missing at convenient points in the story line (i.e., sex scenes). But Grindhouse isn't really one film, it's two and I'd like to discuss each of them briefly:

Movie: Planet Terror (2007)
Setting: Rural Texas, Mexico; contemporary

The overarching plot device of planet terror is that of a zombie movie. In this case the zombie faction is accomplished by way of a gas, a biological weapon developed by a scientist/illicit business man with a decidedly nasty hang up about taking a certain male body part as a trophy from his enemies. Anyway this gas is captured and released by a group of wronged military men, as part of roundabout effort to find a cure for the effects it had on them when exposed in Afghanistan. This however is just the gimmick of the story, the story itself is actually a number of stories, the primary one being that of former lovers Rose McGown (a Go-Go Dancer), and the wonderful Freddy Rodriguez (a wreckage hauler with a secret past). These two reunite as they attempt to save them selves and a handful of apparently immune survivors (who the solders I guess want to use to find a cure) from the bloated, boil covered cannibals. Another notable plot concerns Marley Shelton (who is not Anna Faris), a doctor trying to run away with her lesbian lover from her sadistic doctor husband, played by Josh Brolin who gives one of the movies most intriguing performances in only about a dozen minutes of screen time. While this film is suppose to look like B grade type stuff, it is a finely done homage that pays off on every little thing it introduces. The better of the two films.

Movie: Death Proof (2007)
Setting: Austin Texas, rural Tennessee; contemporary

The second feature itself is like two movies in one, the first half being slow, atmospheric and talkie, the second being less slow, but also talkie, and containing two really cool extended car battles, which is what you'll end up remembering most about it. Kurt Russell is just hands down great as the at first seemingly charming yet ultimately disaffected former Stuntman Mike ("I was Robert Urich's driving double on the third season of Vega$, then Bob did another show called Gavilan and he took me with him"). The first sequence in which Mike stalks and kills a group of young women, anchored by the strangely appealing Vanessa Ferlito, becomes almost hypnotic in its slow passed living-in-the-movie sensibilities. The group stalked in the second part of the movie, headed by Rosario Dawson, is less appealing; however they do get into some really wild games of chicken with Russell, who provides the topper to movie by showing his demented crazy man to be in fact a complete and total cry-baby (delicious scene in which he attempts to tend to a gunshot wound in his car). While this does in fact constitute my first Tarantino flick, I am aware of his propensity to certain degree of self-indulgence, which is on display here (he even casts himself in bit roles in both films, as a bar owner in Proof, and an infected solder in Terror), however when the very concept of your double feature is self indulgence, I say go for it. In the end Grindhouse is event viewing, the type of which where unlikely to see again soon given its lack-luster box office performance thus far. It's sure to be a cult hit though.

Factoid: Marley Shelton's character of Doctor Dakota Block is one of several to appear in both movies.

Old Man Nebbercracker's Place

Movie: Monster House (2006)
Setting: unspecified suburban; possibly early to middle 90's judging by circumstantial evidence.

I watch parts of a lot of kids movies with my nephew, but seldom do we make it through an entire feature. Monster House is one such exception. This was just fun, in fact I'd say it was the funnest CG animated movie I've seen since Over the Hedge. Simple story about a group of kids who come to believe that a house in there neighbourhood is possessed by an evil spirit, which turns out to be Kathleen Turner's spirit, the late wife of old man Nebbercracker Steve Buscemi (only in animation would those two get paired up). Anyway its old school animated, coming of age fun, with a surprisingly dark yet empathetic back story. Appropriate bit part for Jon Heder. Also Maggie Gyllenhaal was the babysitter, it took me a while but I knew I knew that voice.

Classic Campaign Commericals

Musical ad for Adeli Stevenson-1952

I Like Ike-1952

Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy-1960

Actor Raymond Massey for Barry Goldwater-1964

Johnson's famous "These Are The Stakes" Ad-1964

Nixon on Vietnam-1968

Almost reluctant ad for McGovern-1972

Jimmy Carter 4 President-1976

Reagan's Morning in America-1984

Infamous Bush Anti-Dukakis "Willie Horton" ad-1988

Democratic Party promotional video for Bill Clinton-1992

Bush Prescription Drug ad-2000

Anti-Kerry "Swift Boat Vets" ad-2004

Vote Different anti-Hillary, Pro-Obama ad-2008 election cycle