Saturday, October 28, 2006

Theodore Taylor Dies

TheodoreTaylor, author of childrens novels such as The Cay, has died at the age of 85. Click here for his website.

The Social Glue

A Movie Review

The first significant film from director George Stevens, Alice Adams is RKO's 1935 film adapation of Booth Tarkingtons novel of class resentment in the 1920's. Katharine Hepburn is Alice, a girl of middle-class upbrining who finds it hard to compet socialy among her better off peers. When a man who comes from money (Fred McMurray) starts to take an intreset in her, Alice puts up a front of coming from a similar background. The desire to see his daughter happy, combined with his wifes constant nagging, convinces the slightly befuddeld Mr. Adams (Fred Stone) to break with his employer and start a glue buisness based on a formula to which he has questionable claim.

The strength of Stevens direction is reveled in how uncomfortable this film about people being uncomfortable makes the viewer feel. If anything the directors skills at awkward moments makes the movie seem to play too long, while in fact it clocks in at only 99 minutes. Now typically someone trying to 'act above their station' is a concept played for laughs in film, and while there are some lightly funny moments in the picture, mostly the Adams aspirations and attempts at being 'high class' are played in a sad to tragic vain. Alice Adams is memorable for Miss Hepburns strong performance playing both niave and knowing at the same time. The way she shakes and pleads with her eyes in the scene after the familys awful dinner party is dang impresive. The movies one major flaw is the sell-out ending which the studio forced on director and star despite their joint opposition to it. Worth mentioning is Hattie McDaniels performance and a rather unenthusiastic maid.

King TV

As a fan of the mini-series and tele-films of Stephen King, I provide this link to an artical on there relative artistic merits.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Darko Delux

A Movie Review

In his directors cut for the cult 2001 film Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly does some things right and some things wrong in comparison to the origanl. In additon to the expected additon of once deleted scenes, Kelly extends some cuts, adds some visual effects and selections from The Philosophy of Time Travel, and really plays with the sound, adding and enhancing audio effects, changing some music selections, and generally making things louder. In all I'd say the recut slightly hurts the first half of the film,(I was pissed off right out of the gate by a change in the opening musical selection), but enhances and sharpens the second half to considerable effect, lessening the confusion that some viewers complain about in the origanl version. I personally would recommend that the unintiated view the orignal verson first, to allow them to come up with their own conclusions about things, then view the directors cut for Kelly's prefferd explinations. But make sure to see at lest one version, Donnie Darko is destened to be one of the cinamatic treasures of the first decade of the 21st century.

Sons of Iwo Jima

A Movie Review

Well enough movies I'd like to see have finally built up in the theaters, that yesterday I decided I'd go to Edwards after finishing up some work on my car, and see which ever of those movies was playing next. By the time I got to the theater I was most definately in a Marie Antoinette mood, but decided to stick to my orignally intent of seeing the next movie showing, and ended up seeing the move conventinal choice of Flags of Our Fathers. This turned out to be a good choice, as I've found viewing any Clint Eastwood directed film to be. Eastwood also scored the movie, writing a nice little piano piece that provides some great contrast in a few scenes on Iwo Jima.

Now the movie is of course about the men who appered in the famed photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Of necesity the movie concentrates on the three who ultimatly survied the battle, Marines Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) and Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), and Navy Coremen John "Doc" Bradly (Ryan Phillippe), the father of author James Bradly on whose book the movie is based. Filmed in a faded color scheme, and structerd in a non chronological manner (aka it jumps around alot), the screenplay was co-written by the great Paul Haggis.

I found this to be a quite effecting movie, with the themes of survivors guilt and a personal sense of unworthyness both particularly hard hitting. The young leads are better then solid, and there are a lot of small cameo parts filled in by some of todays better character actors. This picture is worth your time, because every once in a while it's important to see a movie that brings home just how awfull a thing war can be.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Some Pretty Ladies Vol. 2

Audrey Tatou

Nora Zehetner

Kim Novak

Claudette Colbert

Claudia Cardinale

Emmy Rossum

Parminder Nagra

Carolyn Jones

Jean Louisa Kelly

Audrey Hepburn

Nicole deBoer

Vivian Leigh

Lauren Graham

Lauren Ambrose

Kristin Bell

Mary-Louise Parker

The Fugative

Hitchcock Suplement

North by Northwest is the most glaring omission in my Hitchcock boxed set, though I'm happy to say that it does anchor the second box set, which otherwise consistes mostly of lesser-known Hitch films. So anyway I bought my own copy of North by Northwest to make up for its absence from the first set. This movie is really essental for film literacy, a lot of iconic moments in there, such as the famed crop duster attack on Cary Grant (pictured).

Anyway so far as story goes North by Northwest is largely a cold war update of Hitchs WWII era thriller Sabatour, though more heavily stylized. Both films end with confrontations atop famous monuments, the Statue of Liberty in Sabatour and Mt. Rushmore in Northwest. Roger Thornhill (Grant) is a Madison Avenue execuative mistaken for a federal agent, one who turns out to not really exist. After being framed for a muder he didn't commit, Thronhill goes cross country looking for the real agent, all the while attempting to avoid both the police, and a murderus gang of mercanary spys headed by a Mr. Phillip Vandamm (James Mason). Roger is helped along by the lovely Ms. Eve Kendall (played by the lovely Eva Marie Saint), and later by a government agent known only as 'the Professor' (Leo G. Carrol). A young Martin Landau plays Vandamms creepy assistant 'Leonard'.

David Mamet did his own take on the whole North by Northwest man on the run thing, with a well executed little film from the late 90's called The Spanish Prisoner, which features Steve Martin as its main villian.

Actress Jane Wyatt Dead at 96

In Memory

She's been Spock's mom, Robert Young's husband, and a resident of Shangri-La, actress Jane Wyatt has passed away at the age of 96.


This link is provided in celebration of my recently hearing an answering machine message that sounded as if it was recorded by Mortimer Snerd.

It's That Time of Year Again

With the mid-term elections approching in a couple of weeks, its time for the bi-annual church statement on political neutrality. This year however the scop is a little larger then usuall, with all the media talk of a Mitt Romney run for the big chair in 2008, with articals talking about his 'army of Mormon supporters', the church just wants to make clear that it does not endorse candidates. Though it is of course logical to assume Mr. Mitt will have lots of support within the Mormon community should he run for President.

On a related note about church and politices I wanted to bring up a letter from the First Presidency that was read over the pulpit a couple months back. This was when congress was preparing to vote on the anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution. The statement said that the church encouraged its members to write there senators/congressman and, I'm paraphrasing here: 'make their opinions known on the issue'. The letter does not actully say what these opinions are or should be, but it is non the less very clear what opinions are assumed by reading between the lines. This got me thinking about how things can be said without being said, primarly as regards within the church. Does anyone have any other examples or is this an isolated incident? If it is an isolated incident why not just say that the church wants its members to express to there representatives in Washington a collective distaste for homosexual marriage? Was it just considerd politer to say it the way they phrased it? Or do the churchs other statements in regards to political endorsments make this whole issue just difficult to navagaite? Anyway probably dosen't matter to much, just wanted to write something more about the church and politices and this is what came to mind.

Phyllis Kirk: 1927-2006

In Memory

Click here for obit.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Devil May Care, or: The Lawyer and the Other Lawyer

A Movie Review

originally released as All That Money Can Buy, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) is based on a Stephen Vincent Benet story about the much mythologized New Hampshire born statesman. Directed in a very stylized manner by William Dieterle, heavy use of filters, sharp camera work, a solid cast, and very deliberate pacing, all help create the mystical, other-worldly feel of what is essentially a parable by way of American folk lore. The story should be familour enough, hard scrabble New England farmer Jabez Stone (James Craig), sells his soul to the devil (Walter Huston, clearly enjoying the part) in exchange for seven years prosperity. Prosperity he gets, but in the process Jabez alienates his wife (Anne Shirlely), mother (Jane Darwell), and basically the whole town, after replaces Miser Stevens (John Qualen) as the town loan shark. French actress Simone Simon (best known for her role in the horror classic 'Cat People') is striking as Jabez's devil provided mistress, Bella Dee (play on Belzebub). Edward Arnold abely tackles the title role of Daniel Webster, a largely then life figure which he still somehow manages to underplay. In the end Jabez is lucky that Mr. Webster is a friend of his wife's family, and is available to help him out legal when the poor fool realizes his mistake on the eve of the repossesing of his soul. A straight foward, and simplistic fairy tale, 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' must have seemed quaint even to its first viewers in the early 40's. Bernard Herrmann won the Oscar for his musical score.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Jerald Tanner: 1938-2006

In Memory

Along with his wife Sandra, Jerald was co-founder of Utah Lighthouse Ministry, an orginization dedicated to prosalitizing Mormons out of their faith and into Evangelical Christianity. Accomplished amature historians, the Tanners (both former Mormons) have been awarded honorary degress, and had an uncanny ability to gain access to obscure historical documents. This ability has lead many to theorize that the Tanners had sympathizes within church administration and academia, who leaked to the couple what some might call 'sensitive material'. Included are two obits for Mr. Tanner, that come from two very different perspectives:

Obit 1

Obit 2

Friday, October 13, 2006

High Anxiety, or: I Left My Sense of Balance in San Francisco

Hitch Part 8 of 15

This is Hitchcock at his most cerebrial. While not my favorite Hitchock film (that title is reserved for Shadow of a Doubt), it can rightly be called his peak, his greatest achievment. Since my first viewing of the film on July 4th 1998, it has been the movie I think of when I think of Hitchcock.

Based on a French novel, Vertigo is the story of John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart), a San Francisco police detective who gains a paralizing fear of hights, after watching a fellow officer fall to his death while on assignment. "Scottie" quickly resigns from the police force after the accident, and spends a great deal of time with his former fiance turned platonic friend "Midge" (Barbara Bel Geddes of Dallas fame). Now with a lot of free time on his hands "Scottie" is contacted by a old colloge budy, Gavin Ellister (Tom Helmore), who hires him to keep a watch on his wife Madelein (Kim Novak), whom he suppects is either mentally ill, or periodicaly possed by the ghost of traggicaly fated ancestor.

Warning, Spoilers:

Mr. Ferguson takes on his friends case, follows the women and gradually falls in love with her. After she flings herself off the bell tower of an old spanish mission, he is devistated and ends up spending some time in a mental institution. Later, after being discharged from the facility, he comes across a young women named Judy Barton (also played by Kim Novak), who looks remarkable like the late Mrs. Ellister, and whom "Scottie" becomes obsecesd with remaking in her image.

While Novak does some increadable acting in the film, creating two fully realized and very different characterizations, it is Stewarts performance that always garners the most praise, and I think this is deservadly so. The only other Stewart performance that is compariable is his George Bailey in It's a Wonderfull Life, a character whose general sense of anger and fustration is always boiling just bellow the surifice, and towards the end of that picture gets a chance to be let out. In Vertigo Stewart delves even deeper into the darker portions of his subconcence, and by extensions Hitchcocks. His man unraveling is even more distrubing to us because it's Jimmy Stewarts, the 'ah-shucks' all American boy of 30's comedies, and honest but slightly rugged cowboy of Anthony Mann westerns from the 1950's. Stewarts 'everyman' stateus makes his comming unglued more real to the audiance, and enhances the hypnotic quality of the film, an undercurrent established in the Saul Bassian opening sequence, and throughout by Bernard Herrmanns amazing score. Vertigo is a must.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Que Sera, Sera

Hitch Part 7 of 15

In 1956, at Parmounts suggestion, Alfred Hitchcock remade his 1934 British film, The Man Who Knew Too Much. The story concerns the McKenna's (Jimmey Stewart and Doris Day) an American couple who get mixed up in an assassination plot wile on vacation in Morocco. It seems that an unspecified group has enterd into a conspiracy to kill the Prime Minister of an unspecified nation, and the McKenna's learned a little bit too much about this from a dying French agent who was trying to foil the plot.

To keep them quite about what they know, a seemingly innocuous but ultimately heinous middle-aged British couple, the Draytons (Bernard Miles and Brenda De Banzie) kidnap the McKenna's son and take him to London. It is in London that the film takes on a taught quality that lay just bellow the surfice during the pictures relatively casual frist fifty minutes. I didn't really appreciate this film when I first saw it over seven years ago, but enjoyed it more fully in this my second viewing. The Albert Hall sequence is just fantastic.

The Man Who Knew Too Much, in addition to the standard Hitchcock cameo, also features the films composer, Bernard Herrmann, appearing as himself conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. like many films of the 1950's this is one movie with which you can play a favorite game of mine, it's called 'Spot Carolyn Jones'. Ms. Jones, most known today for her role as Mortica in The Addams Family series of the 1960's, was a near ubiquitious presence in very small roles in numerious films of the Eisenhower era. Finding her is made all the more tricky when she appears on screen as a blond, which she does in this film. But sighting Carolyn on screen will hopefully not be as difficult for you, as finding the correct Ambrose Chapel was for the McKenna's.

Friday, October 06, 2006

If It Bleeds, It Leads

The Billy Wilder Centennial

In 1974 Billy Wilder made his own version of the oft remade Hecht/McArthur play The Front Page. A classic comedy about newspapermen of the 1920's, this version stars Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as a reporter and his editor at the Chicago Examiner. When reporter Hildey Johnson (Lemmon) decides to quite the paper to marry a women of Philidelphia society (a young Susan Sarandon), editor Walter Burns (Matthau) will do anything to keep him on staff long enough to cover the hanging of murder and suspected communist Earl Williams (Austin Pendleton in a performance evocative of Woody Allen). While His Girl Friday will always be the definiative film version of the story, Wilders remake is enjoyable on its own merits, which includes a stress on the buddy comedy aspect and some great period atmospher, especially evident in the scene at the movie theater. Also featuring Carol Burnett as a kind-harted prostitute.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Short Takes Vol 4


Mon 10/2

The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch: Follow up to Eric Idle's late 70's mockumentary about a Beatles-like rock group. This 2002 release (I belive it was direct to video) satrizes more recent Beatlemania retrospectives, such as the Beatles Anthology of the mid-1990's, through its use of a host of celeberty talking heads, including Tom Hanks, Bonnie Raitt, and Conan O'Brian. While it was nice to hear the old songs again, this roughly hour long offering has little or nothing to add to our knowledge of the Rutles (who have an impressive Wiki entry by the way). See the orignial.

Teus 10/3

Brick: Film Noir in a High School, and done better then you might expect. Excellent use made of Genra conventions such as naritive structer and dialogue. Mostley plays it straight, but there are a few knowing nodes for afficianados. Stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the rather fetching Nora Zehetner.

Sun 10/8

The Corporation: Film about all the bad things corporations do, from the Canadians who brought you Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. The film covers a wide birth of stories and subject matters from the Kathy Lee Gifford sweet shop scandel of the 1990's, to the WTO, to IBM working with the Nazi's in the 30's & 40's, to Fox News, and the many sins of the Monsanto Corporation. Hope is non-the-less presented in the success of water rights activists in Bolivia, human rights reform by The GAP, and the laudable efforts of Interface Carpet.

Mon 10/9

The House of Usher: Roger Corman directed film very losely based on Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher'. Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) wants to marry Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey, a poor man's Liz Taylor), despite her brother Rodericks (Vincent Price) repeated instince that their family is both cursed and evil and no good could come from the continuence of its line. Well Philip just won't belive him, so to prove his point Roderick locks his sister in a coffin in the family crypt, only to have her go mad and gain super-human strength. With only four principle cast members (including Harry Ellerbe as butler Bristol), and all the action taking place on the Usher estate. this movie was cheap to make.

Teus 10/10

The Sentinel: Michael Douglas is a Secret Service agent who is having an affair with first lady Kim Basinger, and is implicated in an assisantion plot against President David Rasche (Sledge Hammer diplomacy?). Kiefer Sutherland is the un-Jack Bauer and Eva Longoria an unusally hot secret service agent. This film is so absent of anything new, inventive, or even relatively excitting, as to constitute a complet waste of time, not to mention cast.

Theater of Blood: In this 1973 film, Vincent Price plays a persumed-dead theater actor who returns to murder his former critices in creative ways inspired by Shakespear's plays. Some scenes employ a wonderfull counterpoint of having Price's grizzley deads done to happy or inspiring sounding music. In short, this film is kinda awsome. Also staring "The Avengers" Diana Rigg.

Sat 10/14

Our Mr. Sun: One of a series of Emmy winning, Frank Capra produced childrens educational films, that mixes live action with Disney-Industrial style animation. In his autobiography Mr. Capra stated that the grade school children who would visit his house on fieldtrips in the 1950's and 60's, were generally more impressed with his involvment in this production then with any of his multipal Academy Awards. Hosted in part by Eddie Albert, Our Mr. Sun is rather heavy on the Christian relgious overtones for a film about science.

The Baxter: A 'Baxter' is the kind of guy that always comes up second place, the fella at the end of a movie that the girl leaves so that she can be with her true love. Elliot Wilbur Sherman (the movies writer/director/star Michael Showalter) is a Baxter, he has been one many times before. So when is beautiful fiance (Elizabeth Banks) comes into renewed contact with her high school sweet heart (Justin Theroux), Elliot deides to do everything in his power to keep history from repeating itself, until a former temp at his office (Michell Williams going for a young Shirly McLain) reenters his life. Peter Dinklage does a nice variation on the typical gay wedding planner character.

Sun 10/15

The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays: Another of Capra's science films for children, this one featuring puppets of historic mystery writers. Possible anti-Russian overtones.

The Bob Cummings Show (DVD sampler): One of two popular sitcomes staring the likable former leading man Robert Cummings. In this series Bob plays a succesfull fashion photogorapher and singel guy, who takes in his sister-in-law and nephew after the death of his brother. One of the things that sets this show apart form other sitcomes, is that the character of Bob is portayed as an Air Force reservist, and some episodes focuse on his time spent in that capacity. Also staring The Brady Bunch's Alice, Ann B. Davis, as Bob's secretary.

Helen Chenoweth-Hage Dies

In Memory

Outspoken former 'congressman' Helen Chenoweth-Hage has died in an auto acident on her late husbands Nevada ranch. Click here for more.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dead Celebrity of the Month, October 2006: Vincent Price

Vincent Price Jr. was born May 27th 1911 in St. Louise Missouri. His father was president of the National Candy Company, his mother a teacher at one of the era's progressive schools. As a child young Vincent was captivated by the villians of the silent screen, and expressed an interest in fine art, begining a life time of collecting with his 1923 purchase of an original Rembrandt etching, he was twelve. At 17 Vincent toured the art museums of Europe and in 1929 began attending Yale as an English major. While at Yale Vincent sang with the Glee Club (the famed Wiffenpoofs) and stared in several of his friends amature movies. After Graduation in 1933 Vincent spent one year teaching in New York, before heading to London to study fine art.

While in London Vincent saw John Gielguads acclaimed version of Hamlet, and decided to persue acting. He got his first professional acting job in a London theater company, largely because he was an American and they were preparing a productiong of 'Chicago'. Vincent impressed his fellow actors however and in his next play was given the male lead in 'Victoria Regina'. When the play went to New York he went with it and starred opposite "First Lady of the American Stage" Helen Hayes, he was only twenty four. After his run in 'Victoria Regina' Vincent joined Orson Wells Mercury Theater group, where he meet his first wife society actress Edith Barret, they were married in 1938.

Around the same time he got married, Vincent recived a contract with Universal Pictures. His first film at the studio was Service De Lux opposite established star Constance Bennett. The film was a success and lead to his casting as a lead in several other pictures. Vincent decided against renewing his contract with Universal having growen tired of the non-challanging leading roles he was being assigned. Instead the young actor signed on with 20th Century Fox as a character player, appering in the 1940 films Hudson Bay and Brigham Young, the latter in the role of Joseph Smith. Also in 1940 his first chid, son Vincent Barret Price was born.

In 1941 Vincent took some time off from the studio to return to the stage, as a psycho villian in the play 'Angel Street', he came to love playing reviled characters. Returning to Fox he had a string of successes in films such as The Song of Bernadette, Wilson, Leave Her to Heaven, Keys of the Kingdom, Dragonwick, and off course Laura. In 1948 Vincent and Edith divorced and the next year he married costume designer Mary Grant. Vincent left 20th Century around this time and became a free agent, using some of his increased spare time to lecture on art at East Los Angles Colloge, where he would endow an art collection. After roles in such comic films as Champaign for Ceaser and The Las Vegas Story, Vincent made his first true horror picture, the immortal House of Wax.

The 1950's saw Vincent in both main stream films like De Miles The Ten Commandments and horror pictures like The Fly. After about 1958 Vincent concentrated on the horror movies teaming up with 'shock master' William Castle in The House on Haunted Hill and the gimmick picture The Tingler. In 1961 Mr. Price signed on with American International Pictures and participated in director Roger Cormans famed 'Poe Cycle' in The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulem, The Raven, and Mask of the Red Death, among others. In 1962 daughter Mary Victoria was born.

Price really spread out beyound movies begining in the 1960's, puting together a fine art collection for Sears Robuck, appering in the role of Egghead on the camp childrens program Batman, and writing his autobiography, along with books on art, cooking (with wife Mary), and an encycolpedia of monsters with son Vincent. The 1970's saw the Dr. Phibs movies, as well as Theater of Blood, the production on which he meet Austrailan actress Correll Brown, for whom he would leave his wife Mary and wed. Vincent broke up his cycle of TV guest apperances, print adds and art lectures when in 1977 he gave the first of what would come to be over 800 performances as Oscar Wilde in the play 'Diversions and Delights'.

The 1980's saw Vincent doing an increased amount of voice work in projects ranging from Tim Burtons Vincent, to Micheal Jackson's Thriller, to Disneys The Great Mouse Detective. Poor health limited his later acting output, and his last two films of note were The Whales of August with Bette Davis and Lillian Gish, and Edward Scissorhands, again for Tim Burton. Correl Brown Price died of cancer in May of 1991, Vincent followerd her in passing on October 25th 1993, he was 82.