Thursday, June 29, 2006

For A Democratic Secular Iran

Found this blog some time ago, it's good to have voices like this out there. Click here to view blog.

Count Duckula

One of my favorite childhood shows.

Count Duckula Ending

Jack Webb 1968

This appereance of Jack Webb's on the Johnny Carson Show in 1968 proves the straight faced actors sense of humor.

Superman Returns

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Freedom River

This is vintage but also very current. Worth thinking about.

80's Name Dropping, or Michael Calling in Favors about Twenty Years to Early

Click here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Kenneth Griffith has Died

In Memory

Kenneth Griffith English character actor and documentary film maker has passed on at the age of 84. Griffith is not a big name in this country, in fact I wouldn't doubt that he was semi-obscure in his own, however he has a large body of work to recommend him. My knowledge of Griffith is quite minimal, in fact I'd probably have a hard time identifying him on film, but to look at a list of his films brings back to my memory a number of unusual British offerings I have enjoyed over the years. He was in a number of early Peter Sellers films including Heavens Above and I'm All Right Jack (for which Sellers won his BAFTA). He was also in that mid-90's film with a real long title about a small Welch town, and some other Hugh Grant work. Most importantly however was his role (both in front and behind the camera) in the 60's cult classic TV series The Prisoner. Kenneth Griffith left some work you just might want to check out.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Jottings from Tuscany, or She Drive Me Crazy

A Boxed-set Review

From the novel by John Mortimer (of Rumpole of the Bailey fame) comes the late 80's BBC mini-series Summers Lease. Part travel log, part domestic drama, and part mystery, Summers Lease is the story of an eventfully August that the Pargeter family spends on vacation in a Tuscan villa. Amid touring, marital problems between Molly (Susan Fleetwood) and her boring husband Hugh (Michael Pennington), and the efforts of Mrs. Pargeters libidinous father Haverford Downs (a very spry 85 year-old John Gielgud) at rekindling a thirty years past relationship with a wealthy widow (Rosemary Leach), the wife and mother finds herself stumbling upon a nefarious plot. The mystery involves the villas absentee owners the Ketterings, and corruption at the local water authority. There is much wit and intrigue in this somewhat quirky yet very grounded production which also boasts a memorable theme by Nigel Hess. Mostley however it just adds to my jealousy of fictional characters who can afford to spend a month abroad. Gielguds performance as the aging magazine columnist (Jottings which he writes for 'The Informer') and died-in-the-wool socialist Haverford is what makes the whole thing truly memorable. Those familiar with Gielguds personal life will find the discussion on homosexual artists toward the end of the piece rather amusing.

Executive Service, The Peoples House

A Boxed-set Review

From the golden age of the mini-series came Ed Friendly production of Backstairs at the White House, a sort of epic sitting room drama based on the memories of Lillian Rogers Parks. In 1909 Lillians mother Maggie (Olivia Cole), separated from her alcoholic husband and trying to raise her polio stricken daughter and rambunctious young son, took a position in the White House domestic staff as a maid and hair stylist, a job that would come to dominate her family's lives. In time Lillian (Leslie Uggams) would come to work at the White House too as a seamstress and maid, while brother Emmett would be gased in World War One and spend most of his life in Arizona 'recovering'. The Rogers story and those of many of the staff are quite endearing, indeed it is the personal narrative that gives this production its continuity and much of its heart. However its the 'backstairs' look at the private lives of eight first family's that provides the hook for most viewers.

Backstairs view of the presidency is mostly romantic, though some first family's come of better then others, often not the ones you might expect. I found myself really liking the Tafts and while one could rightly argue they were in over there heads, they never the less seem like quality people. Nellie Taft (Julie Harris) was a bit of perfectionist, and the true force behind her husbands political aspirations, yet some one whom you can readily understand. President Taft (Victor Buono) was a jovial, and surprisingly humble fat man who really loved his wife and wanted to do well by his country, while never really enjoying the presidency. The Wilsons, whom I've been fans of since watching a mid-40's bio-pic of the man, come off less well then the Tafts. It takes a while for the White House staff to warm up to this old school master (Robert Vaughn) and the two wives he had in office. The first was Mrs. Ellen Wilson (Kim Hunter) who truley a rock to her husband, one on which he so depended that he rather quickly remarried after her passing. The second Mrs. Wilson (Claire Bloom) was a surprising strong women, whom many accuse of essentially running the country after her husbands stroke in 1919.

When the Wilsons left in came the Hardings. Warren Harding (George Kennedy) is now considered to be one of the most notoriously corrupt presidents in our nations history, though while he was in office he was near universally beloved. Mrs. Florence Harding (Celeste Holm) was the kind of First Lady spirituallist we now associate with Nancy Reagan, as well as being some what dotty and slyly knowing of her husbands indiscretions. When president Harding died while on a cross country train trip, Mrs. Harding stayed in mourning in the White House for a couple of weeks before the Coolidges moved in. Grace Coolidge (Lee Grant) is considered in some circles to have been the perfect model of a first lady, and I've long thought that Mr. Coolidge (Ed Flanders) could have handled a major crises had one occurred during his tenure in office. The Coolidges are probably my favorite first family depicted in the series, they are out of Lynch with their eccentricitys, weird seemingly contradictory traits, and the truth of their emotions.

The Hoovers however where cold toward the staff (especially Mr. Hoover played by Larry Gates), and often acted detached from what was going on in the country, as witness their constant elaborite entertaning of guests. Mrs. Lou Hoover (Jan Sterling) even took to communicating with the staff largely through 'short-hand' hand gestures. The Roosevelts (John Anderson and Eileen Heckart) where saintly idealists out of a screwball comedy or George Kaufman play. They where followed by the down to earth Trumans, with Bess played by Estelle Parsons and Harry Morgan as the obvious casting choice for the president. Andrew Duggans president Eisenhower was kind enough if emotionally distant from the staff, while Barbara Barrie's Mamie Eisenhower was kind of nuts. Some Elders I served around on my mission briefly taught a former member of Mamie Eisenhowers White House staff, and apparently he said she was a drunk, I wouldn't doubt it.

Backstairs at the White House also stars Louis Gossett Jr., Leslie Nielsen, and Cloris Leachman as members of the White House staff. This was a truly enjoyable mini-series, and though it sounds a little corny I really was sad when it ended.

Chaplin, Hitler, Wilder, Spelling

this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, June 23, 2006

Happy 96th President Hinckley

Thursday, June 22, 2006

100 Years

Before I go to bed tonight just needed to formally mark the occasion, the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late, great Billy Wilder. His stone pretty much sums up what he thought of himself, and in a very Wilderian fashion.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lily of the Lamp Light

A Documentary Review

More then her acting and singing careers, or even her admirable service entertaining Allied troops during World War Two, the aspect of the life of Marlene Dietrich that generayl commands the most attention is her much discussed romantic exploits. While French actor Jean Gabin is perhaps her most well known lover, she is rumored to have been "intament" with a string 20th Century celebritys running the spectrum from General George S. Patton to actress Greta Garbo. It is this tablody conception of her life that receives some counterbalance from the documentary Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song, which focuses not on her romances or career, but her role in, and relationship to her native German culture. The daughter of a Prussian military officer Dietrich maintained her family discipline while simultaneously breaking with Germanic tradition in her unconvertible life style, and opposition to Nazism even in the movements early years in power. Far from a complete picture of its intriguing subjects life, Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song at least provides the service of bringing to light some of her more nobel, but increasingly forgotten qualities.

Rather Retired

Dan Rather is leaving CBS News after 44 years at the network. The long time anchor and correspondent, who gave up 'the big chair' on the evening news last year amid questions about his objectivity, gave his final broadcast as part of the 60 Minutes crew last Sunday. Read more about his distinctive career here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Thin Man, William Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice, and Just Like Heaven

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"God himself does not seem to object to our questioning even him and his ways. Abraham persuaded the Lord to save Sodom if He could find ten righteous souls. Jacob wrestled with his heavenly antagonist until he got his way. And most impressive of all, Job challenged God's justice and compassion and stood by his own integrity through an extended debate." - Lowell Bennion

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sometimes I Have Trouble Leaving My Room Also

A Movie Review

So last Night Mia Farrow was guest programming on TCM, and selected the 1962 Mexican film The Exterminating Angel by director Luis Bunuel. When Farrow said that there was no other film out there like this, it peaked my interest and I decided to watch. The movie is a surrealist drama, or as I've decided to dub it, an existential horror movie, about roughly twenty guests at a dinner party who discover that they are unable to leave the room. Nothings physically blocking them, there is no forcefield or anything, but when anyone tires to leave they find they just can't bring themselves to pass the threshold. The same thing is going on on the outside, with no able to get themselves to go up to the door. Those in the room end up being stuck there for some time, and the film focuses on their physical and psychological decay, as well as the rooms for that matter. Quite interesting and worth seeing, runs about an hour and forty minutes.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

For The Curious

I don't have HBO, so I haven't seen the show yet, but the Big Love title sequence only serves to make me more curious. Fundamentalist Mormons by way of Six Feet Under, should prove interesting.

A Little Out of Date, But I Enjoyed It.

Click here.

Operation Completion

Went to a rally yesterday evening at the statehouse, there was probably about a hundred people there, it was sponsored by an organization called Operation Completion. The 'OC' was started by five teenagers from Ohio, and organizes rallies around the country meant to show support for the troops, and a desire to 'see the job through' in Iraq. While I'm not militantly pro-war, I don't think a quick withdrawal of our troops from the troubled region is necessarily wise. I do think we need to set some concert goals, complete them, and leave as soon as they are done. The rally featured several speakers including district one congressional candidate Bill Sali, and performances by a group called the Right Brothers.

That Post on the Rally and Were-Rabbits that Wouldn't Previously Post

this is an audio post - click to play

24 Wiki

Check out the 24 Wiki, it has the first sensible show timeline I've seen posted on the net.

Wallace & Gromit Deluxe Edition

A Movie Review

After several attempts to get an audio post to work that contains a few brief comments on the movie Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, I've decided to give up and simply type a few lines myself. Anyway, Were-Rabbit has some funny moments, especially the bunnies and the bunny vacuum, but as a feature it has a hard time sustaining itself. The early Wallace and Gromit shorts worked largely because of there fast pass and roughly half-hour running times. The movie version has about a half-hours worth of gags to it that are just run to long. The rest is that slower British comedy that just doesn't translate great to animation. This is for children and hard-core fans.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Origin Story

A Movie Review

Director Christopher Nolans surprisingly grounded re-imaging of the dark knight in Batman Begins, is preciously what the franchise needed. More realistic and honest then any previous cinematic offering of the capped crusader, Batman Begins is pretty smart for a summer superhero movie. Though it spends it first hour re-hashing back story, its done in a fairly satisfying way, in fact when you think about it we've never really been given a lot of Batman back story in a movie. Most of what I know of Bruce Waynes youthful saga comes from the above par 1990's animated version, to which Begins bares more tonal resemblance then to the other Batman films. The picture boasts an impressive cast (listed on the poster), though none of them are really stretching any acting muscles. I liked this Batman, and think there's a lot of potential in a sequel.

The Gore Years In Review

Nothing But Flowers

I've been on a kind of Talking Heads kick lately, and found this music video for the 1988 song 'Nothing But Flowers'. I liked it, so here's a link. Also got to love the very 80's 'And She Was'.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Kate Remembered & The Battle of Algiers

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, June 11, 2006

David Byrne on David Byrne

Click here.

Take On Me

The Family Guy (which I actully seldom watch) recently did a pretty funny satire of the classic A-Ha music video. I couldn't find the new one, but here's the original.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Lawrence of Arabia on the Big Screen

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Imitations of Life

Movie Reviews

Universals two-sided DVD release of both film adaptations of Fannie Hursts novel Imitation of Life, provides a great opportunity to compare and contrast times and styles for the 'picturization' of a work of literature. The novel itself is the story of two single mothers, one white, one black, their friendship, and the sacrifices they made for their daughters. From what I can gather from both films the novel was probably quite progressive for its time, though some elements would now doubtless seem retrograde.

The 1934 version of the film is my favorite of the two, it was truer to the novel and lacked some of the harshness of the 59 version. In this first film adaptation (directed by John M. Stahl), the never disappointing Claudette Colbert is Beatrice 'Bea' Pullman, recently widowed from a husband who had been picked by her father, she is just barely scraping by peddling the maple syrup her late spouse sold. Louise Beavers is Delilah Johnson, a stereotypical 'Mammy' figure who shows up at Bea's backdoor, having misread the address for a job interview. Though she can't really afford it, Bea takes Delilah and her very light skinned daughter Peola, in to live with her and her daughter Jessie.

Eventually Bea is able to take Delilah's pancake recipe and use it to launch a restaurant, and later with the help of a derelict/entrepreneur named Elmer Smith (Ned Sparks, who I now believe is who David Lynch was doing an impression of in his characterization of Gordon Cole for the Twin Peaks TV series), create a successful corporation that boxes the mix. While I'm very impressed with some of the issues that the film delt with in 1934, certain elements are so out dated as to make one uncomfortable. For example in true 'mammy style', even when the success of her pancake mix entitles Delilah to a small fortune, she prefers to stay on living with 'Ms. Bea'. Of course I could go on for some time talking about the ways in which this Imitation is a racial through back, and designed to minimize the potential discomfort of a white audience, but still considering its time it was a step forward, and still and effective story.

The 1959 version was director Douglas Sirks last Hollywood film. Sirk, who had risen from semi-obscurity to name recognition with a series of lavish technicolor romances, is working with a highly altered version of the story that fits in that category. Their are many repeated elements, and some repeated scenes, but the course of action is all together different from the original. This time Lana Turner is Lora Meredith, and Juanita Moore plays Annie Johnson as a good deal less of a charactcher then Beavers Delilah. Here the set up is similar, but Lora is an aspiring New York actress who eventually makes it big, and Annie is less responsible for her success.

Of course both films largely focus on the daughters stories in their second halfs. Jessie/Susie falls in love with the one man who truly sets 'their' mothers heart on fire, in both cases his name is Steven Archer, but both films 'resolve' the situation differently. In the 34' version Steven is an Ichtiologist, played by the theatrical looking Warren William. In the 1959 adaptation Steven (John Gavin) is a fustrated photographer turned advertising executive.

The plot involving Mrs. Johnsons daughter has to do with her light skin, and a desire from earliest childhood to be 'white'. In both versions she is capable of "passing" to use the parlance of the times, and fustrated whenever her mother gives her away by showing up at an inopportune time. In Sirks version Sarah Jane, as she is called, is played for sex appeal by the 'developed' Susan Kohner, in 34' she is a morose Fredi Washington and slightly more likeable. The Johnson girl gets her big scene at the end in both pictures, its perhaps the most memorable moment of each but seems less believable and more out of nowhere in its second rendering.

Both Imitations of Life of are good, but if you have to pick just one see the original. For a good introduction to Douglas Sirks work see All That Heaven Allows.

Zarqawi Dead

Everybody knows this already, but I decided it was just an event I had to preserve on my blog.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The BoDo & X-Men 3

this is an audio post - click to play

A North America For Today

I think there are probably a lot of people on all sides who would be happy with redrawing the map like this, though traveling across Canada would be a little more difficult. Of course these changes would mean I'd finally have to get a passport, you know, so that I could buy cheap goods in Pacific coastal Canada. Also I think having Church headquarters in Mexico could only help the missionary efforts in that country. I having a feeling however that the Jesusland national anthem is going to be a bit hokey. Thanks to Couldn't we just talk about the weather instead?, for both of these maps.

God and Country

I first saw this map, probably about seven months ago in an issue of Mother Jones. Though I've seen things like it before I still think its interesting, if not particularly full of surprises.

Dead Like Me Opening Title Sequence

I just like the Dead Like Me opening title sequence. Click here. How about George's death while we're at it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Everybody Wants Somebody Some Time

The Billy Wilder Centennial

The Billy Wilder comedy Kiss Me, Stupid is a middling entry in the directors cannon, and a film that generated some degree of ill-will against its creator in the Hollywood community. Enough people found this lightly tawdry comedy objectionable, that Wilder later commented that he made sure that his next film, the 1966 Matthau/Lemmon pairing The Fortune Cookie, have a fairly straight forward moral along conventional lines. But back to Stupid.

Kiss Me, Stupid stars Ray Walston and Cliff Osmond as a piano teacher (Orville J. Spooner) and service station operator (Barney Milsap) respectively. The two men live in the small town of Climax, Nevada (yes Wilder intended the name to have a double meaning), where they collaborate on song composition in their spare time, hoping to one day make it big. An opportunity to do just that comes along when a popular singer(Dean Martin who is playing a stereotyped version of himself, though in the film he is always referred to by his nickname of 'Dino') runs into some car trouble while passing through town.

With Dino being put up in Orville's house for the night while Barny 'fixes' his 'broken' car, the two anticipate having an easy time forcing the crooner to listen to their tunes, which they are sure he will love. However the sex-manic singer is more interested in finding a little action in the form of Mrs. Spooner, whose black negligee he stumbles upon, then in discovering new compositional talent. So Barny comes up with the idea of replacing Orville's wife Zelda (Mrs. Jack Lemon, Felicia Farr) for the night with Polly the Pistol (Kim Novak), a prostitute/waitress who works at towns only night spot. Mel Blanc also appears in a small cameo as Mrs. Spooners dentist.

The film contains all the standard Wilder/Diamond characters types, the schemer (Osmond), the dreamer (Walston), the womanizer (Martin), the prostitute with the heart of gold (Novak), and the idealized women (Farr). While all the pieces are there its still pretty mechanical, I mean I enjoyed it, it didn't disappoint, but it contained nothing the director hadn't done better in an earlier film. Compared to Wilders some what similar theatrical release of the previous year, that lost gem of a comedy that is Irma La Douce, Kiss Me, Stupid is merely an after thought.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Third Day of Fighting

A Boxed Set Review

The 3rd season of Fox's 24 is generally considered its weakest. Now that doesn't mean its bad, it's just not as good as the others. I really didn't care for the first half of the season, they were trying to do something different, and I applaud them for that, but it just didn't quite work for me. Also the first eight hours of the President Palmer storyline ended to neatly. Anyways, this season does hold the distinction of having the only semi-humorous 24 sub-plot, namely the mysterious baby. That's really all I have to say about this season, looking forward to number four.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

We've Got A New Governor

Well the transition of Lt. Governor Jim Risch to the position of our states 31st Governor came to completion on Friday, when the 63 year old had his formal inauguration on the steps of the state capital. Risch is assuming the position vacated by Dirk Kempthorn upon his becoming United States Secretary of the Interior. That Risch has wanted to become Governer has been known for some time, he however will have to vacate his new position this January. Because of the timing of the Kempthorne announcement, Risch was not prepared to file to run for Governor (he will however continue to run for re-election to the office of Lt. Governor as previously planed). Risch could have made plans to run at the beginning of the year, but opted not to because he would be facing the juggernaut of Congressman C. L. "Butch" Otter (himself a former L.G.) in the Republican primary, in which the congressional representative has now won over 70% of the vote in what I think was a four man race. So anyways, enjoy it while it lasts Jim.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Her Price is Far Above Rubies

A Movie Review

It was for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, an adaptation of the novel by (the now recently deceased) Muriel Spark, that Maggie Smith won a completely deserved Academy Award. Set at a privet girls school in 1930's Scotland, the feature starts out like your standard, inspiring and unconventional teacher movie. For the first forty minutes or so the film is just that, an not overly good at it either. Brodie is quite extreme, and none of the girls are particularly likeable. But the plot takes a dark turn there after, focusing more on Jean Brodies complicated personal life and strained relationship with pupil Sandy (an impressive performance by young Pamela Franklin). Robert Stephens and Gordon Jackson play Jeans two love interests, while Celia Johnson is Miss Mackay, the headmistress who never liked Miss Brodie.

Brodie is an interesting character, who starts out the film a tad over the top, and stays that way throughout, though we do get to look deeper and deeper into her complicated soul as the movie progresses. To give you a sense of her oddness, lets look at her admiration for Fascism, she literally gushes about Mussolini throughout the film. Her support of the Fascists brings out a, shall we say, unconventinal combination of traits in her character. First off she fancies the brown shirts in a highley romanticiesd way, a by product I suppose, of the fact that she lives in her own intellectually self-indulgent world, divorced from reality. What she sees a quirk that exemplifies her unconventionality, others see as disturbing and dangerous. Though she is set up in one way, we are meant to come and see her in another. Miss Jean Brodie is dangerous, and she should probably not be influencing children. Now while she says she has devoted her life to "her girls", even that phrasing reveals that it is really all about her in the end, even if she could never admit as much to herself. Don't get me wrong, you'll probably not hate Miss Brodie, mostly you'll just pity her. I did not like this movie at first, but it really hit me out of left field in the second half and I have to give it good marks, thoughLike Miss Brodie this film is not for young children, so be advised.

Dead Celebrity of the Month, June 2006: Lee Remick

You might be surprised, just to look at her, that beautiful Lee Remick was such an accomplished actress. Born December 14th, 1935 in Quincy Massachusetts, Ms. Remick studied dance and acting at Barnard College, before landing a position at New Yorks prestigious Actors Studio, where she made her stage debut in a 1953 production of 'Be Your Age'.

After several years on stage and in live television drama, Actors Studio co-founder Elia Kazan cast Remick as a teenage Arkansas baton twirler in his Budd Schulberg scripted satire of celebrity, A Face in the Crowed. Crowed is my favorite Kazan film, and though Remicks part in the movie is relatively small, she leaves an impression both in looks and talent.

Her work with Kazan proved a successful spring board, and in 1958 22 year old Lee appeared opposite Paul Newman, Angela Lansbury, and Orson Wells in The Long Hot Summer. She followed that up the next year with the dificult role of an Army wife and rape victim in Otto Preminger racey drama, Anatomy of a Murder, opposite James Stewart.

Lee Remick worked regularly during the 1960's, with her film highlight of that decade being her Academy Award nominated turn as Jack Lemons alcoholic wife Kirsten Arnesen Clay, in Blake Edwards cautionary drama The Days of Wine and Roses. Also during the 1960's Remick played on stage the role that Audry Hepburn would make famous on film, as the blind Susy Hendrix in Wait Until Dark.

After divorcing her first husband, and father of her two children Bill Colleran (whom she had married in 1957) in 1968, Ms. Remick moved to England. She there married an assistant director named Kip Gowans (with whom she would stay married until her death), and continued to act, largely in TV movies and mini-series. She played Kay Summersby both in 1978's Ike: The War Years, and its follow up Ike in 1979. But it was the role of Katherine Thorn, mother of the Anti-Christ in 1976's The Omen, that would be her most remembered of the decade.

Still working throughout the 1980's, Lee made her final screen appearance in the 1989 TV movie, Dark Holiday. It was while filming in France that year that she was first diagnosed with tumors on her kidneys, while temporarily successful in fighting for her health, cancer returned a year later and Lee Remick passed away on July 2nd 1991, at the age of 55. Her last public appearance was in April of that year to receive her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her son is Matt Colleran of the rock group Marys Danish.