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

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kitty Carlisel Hart: 1910-2007

While she was an acclaimed singer, television personality, and wife of one of America's most successful play writes, Kitty Carlisle Hart liked to say that her grandchildren thought she was cool because she was in A Night at the Opera (1936) with the Marx Brothers. Active into last year with a traveling show about her reminiscences of some of the great figures of the 20th century, Ms. Carlisle Hart was well recognized for her personal charm and graciousness. With her passing goes a once vital link to a bygone era.


Movie: The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman (2005)

Documentary probing the life of Lew Wasserman (1913-2002), super-agent, studio head, and financel force behind presidents from Kennedy to Clinton. One of the more interesting aspects of Wasserman's life was his association with Ronald Reagan, one of his very first clients whom he helped segway into his leadership position in the SAG, and whose later political ambition he extensively underwrote. The movie makes the point that Wasserman and Reagan broke many industry rules in the early 50's when transitioning from film to television dominance (at one point Wasserman's company's produced 60% of the programs on network television), but in so doing enabled both Lew to outlast the other moguls, and (quite likely) Reagan's eventual presidency. Lew's story is especially interesting to hear given his ironic media shyness and failure to leave any substantive writings behind, however the documentary itself is unremarkable save for getting Jimmy Carter to be one of it's talking heads.

Your Grandma's Grandma's Boy

Movie: Grandma's Boy (1922)
Setting: unspecified semi-rural, possibly the South (Dabney county); contemporary

Harold Lloyd's first feature length comedy has no great standout gages, yet is generally amusing and representative of his work as a whole. Harold here is his trademark 'glasses character', a 19 year old attempting to woe Mildred Davis. However Lloyd has a competitor in his efforts, a bully played by Charles Stevenson who consistently gets the upper hand, that is until our hero's grandma (Anna Townsen) presents him with a "magic" charm that supposedly helped her late husband become a Civil War Hero (this is depicted in a sort of flashback sequence, with Lloyd playing his own grandfather). In the end LLoyd must capture a feared local vagrant 'the Rolling Stone' (Dick Sutherland) and defeat Charles Stevenson to get the girl. The result, a decent hours worth of entertainment.

Must See: Harold Lloyd's 1923 opus Safety Last, regarded by many as his greatest film, it features his famed free-climbing race up an office tower.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Two Interesting Mormon Video's for Coment

First off I should say that I'm probably one of Bill Maher's few active Mormon fans. A number of interesting points are brought up in this video that I'd be willing to discuss, so feel free to start a thread in the comments section. Secondly we have this video from Robert Millet, a man who has devoted a great deal of the last decade or so to promoting interfaith understanding. Here we catch him speaking to a Mormon group and promoting a gospel sharing principle, one I practiced on my mission, that seems averse to direct answers to questions. It is hard to get a direct answer to deeper doctrinal questions from any official or quasi-official establishment voice in the LDS Church. While I understand the PR, and doctrinal 'building blocks' approach this represents in getting across Mormon beliefs, I agree there is some dissonance here. I'm especially interested in Non-LDS responses to the last video, or attempts at LDS apologetics towards it.

Cartoonist Brant Parker Dead at 86

The other half of the Wizard of Id team passes on eight days after Johnny Hart. For some reason no pictures of Brant can be found on google images.

Monday, April 16, 2007

An Introduction to Pam Grier

Movies: Coffy (1973), Foxy Brown (1974)
Setting: Unspecified, southern California?; contemporary

She is the Queen of blackspoltation, a living legend for an ill reputed genera. Though probably best known to current audiences for her role on The L Word, the cultural presence of Pam Grier's 70's work is still very much alive, as witness Beyonce's embodiment of her in Goldmember. As I try to brace myself for a possible viewing of the 70's cult film homage Grindhouse, I thought I'd take a look (courtesy TCM late nights), at some actual examples of the periods sensationalized and exploitive fair, and one of its most well known performers.

There is a definite formula, or perhaps its just a shared world view between these two films. While they entertain with flash, and a gory over the top violence, they also capture something of the African American zeitgeist of there era. Black has become beautiful, and there's a definite racial pride and sense of superior hipness here, but recognition of a collective situation that is far from ideal is also apparent. The destructive powers of drugs and prostitution are simultaneously condemned and exploited, but hey there's a reason these are called exploitation films. I find it interesting that both films posit an exploitation of poor blacks by rackets controlled by rich and powerful whites, aided by corrupt cops (mostly raciest), and pushed retail by turn coat members of the black community. This no doubt rang true to the film intended audiences then, and in good part still rings true to white bread Mormon me 35 years later. Ethnically these rackets my now be more spread out, and I remain (perhaps in my white denial) ambiguous about the extent of a corrupt government presence therein, but the institutional racism can not be denied, the black community still pays an unproportionit share of the price for this system.

Now that I've hit on the social implications, I'll write briefly on these works as films. I know there suppose to be a kind of schlock now, and were kinky and low-brow even at the time of there release, but I must admit I kinda liked 'em (more so Coffy). I just enjoyed seeing Pam Grier get revenge on those who wronged her. In the first film its about avenging her little sister, who had been forced into an institution to recover from the effects of the drugs that ratfink thugs had pushed on her eleven year old self. In Foxy Brown, she's out to avenge her boyfriend, a sort of DEA agent who was gunned down by those he had investigated, after her brother sold him out. Actually both films feature an upstanding young black man and Grier love interest being killed or horribly maimed early on. In both movies Pam quickly decides she needs to go undercover as a call-girl, and we get to see her turn on a surprised client, as well as get involved in a brawl with a bunch of other women (at a party in Coffy, at a Lesbian bar in Foxy). Yes it sex and violence, but its also social justice (vigilantly social justice), so you get to finish the movie feeling okay about yourself. I can see what Tarentino sees in these films. Finally Kathryn Lodars madam comes across as Carolyn Jones meets Joan Collins by way of Annette Bening.

Barry Nelson Dies

Actor Barry Nelson, who those in the know recognize as the true original James Bond, has passed away at the age of 89.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"You're Tearing Me Apart!"

Movie: Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
Setting: L.A.; contemporary
Iconic movie of teen angst and 50's juvenile delinquency. The kids are troubled but wise, the parents dysfunctional. Notable performances for Jim Backus and Sal Mineo. Also Natalie Wood was hot. There is much in this film to be analysed, but I think I'll pass on the amature sociology and psychology tonight. Let's just say this is one of the essentials, and you should probably see it. Now that I've seen all three of James Deans staring films, I still like Giant (1956) the best.

The Good, The Bad, The Inbetween

Movie: The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Setting: France, New York; 1918-Dec 31, 1933

It's amazing how quickly a decade can by mythologized. The full nostalgia treatment is given this Raoul Walsh directed love letter to the entire gangster genera. This is not to say that the movie has nothing new to offer, or that it isn't an accomplishment in it's own right, because it really is. Based on a story by Mark Hellinger, himself a rather well known crime reporter of that era, we have here one of the more well developed, near Shakespearean efforts offered in this particular type of film pre-Martin Scorsese. We have the three great movie types in the good and principled young lawyer Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn), the bad and subtly sadistic George Hully (Humphrey Bogart), and the conflicted Eddie Bartlett (as essayed by James Cagney). All three characters meet up in France during their service in the first world war, only Bartlett has the toughest time getting on upon his return home. While Lloyd has his law practice, and George slips into the vague recesses that lead to organized crime, Eddie tries desperately to get work in an economy already overrun with returning G.I.'s.

Eddie's descent is tragic and identifiable because he is the everyman character here, he's on the whole a good an honest guy, but he's frustrated by a run of bad luck and a desire for the good things in life. A cabbie, he is wrongly convicted of running liquor during prohibition, only to get into actual bootlegging after his release, a release facilitated by speak easy madam "Panama" Smith (Gladys George), who has the hots for Eddie. Eddie however is taken by young Jean Sherman (Priscilla Lane, who I'm sorry but she's not a great singer), who as a high schooler wrote Eddie during the war, and who he runs into again by accident (having meet her once briefly upon his return from the war, only to be disappointed upon learning how young she was) while collecting late liquor money from the producer of a theatrical show. Jean however is an Innocent, even as she so easily seems to accept the criminal lifestyle of her one time "dream solder". But in the end she falls for straight arrow lawyer Lloyd, who had tried in vain to set poor Eddie straight. Lurking again in the background off all this is clever George, just waiting to make his move.

This movie quickly grew on me upon reflection, though I actually only finished it several hours ago. It didn't strike the emotional gut, lest not mine, but it was so well executed that I'm appreciative. Don't make this your first Cagney gangster picture, but rather save it for a sort of epilogue after you've finished both his early entry's in the genera, and his valedictory White Heat (1949). Like the sense of nostalgia it was designed to solicit, this feature brought back many a memory of the great mobster films of Jimmy Cagney.

Note: DVD contains (among other things) a decidedly unfeminist short called The Girls Takeover, in which acting mayor June Allyson sings "We've Got to Make the City Pretty", and somehow sells it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Don Ho Died


Movie: The Ghost Breakers (1940)

Setting: New York, cruise ship, Cuba; contemporary

Re teaming of Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in vehicle designed to mimic success of the previous years similarly themed The Cast and the Canary. The ridiculous plot involves Lawrence Lawrence (Hope) a New York City radio personality who specializes in underworld gossip, who thinking he killed a man (Anthony Quinn), finds refuge with young Mary Carter (Goddard), who herself has just inherited a supposedly haunted Cuban castle; told you it was ridicules. Hope is accompanied in all this by his valet Alex (Willie Best), who plays the kind of retrograde (and in this case comic) black stereotype that could cost Don Imus his job. Not much to this movie, but its likable, Hope gets to crack a lot of jokes and Goddard gets to look gorgeous. The creepiest thing in the movie are that the corpses of Mary's ancestors are kept in glass coffins on display in a room in the castle, I mean really, your just asking to gross-out your descendants when you make that kind of arrangement for your dead body.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Roscoe Lee Browne Dead at 81

He was pretty cool in Topaz, and he narrated Babe! Therefore I pronounce Roscoe Lee Browne as having been awesome.

The Music Loving Bandit

Movie: Stingaree (1934)
Settling: Australia, locations throughout Europe; 1874-187?

Re teaming of Richard Dix and Irene Dunne, stars of the 1931 best picture Oscar winner Cimarron. Dix plays Stingaree (outback for 'the Stingray'), a dashing ozzie bandit who posses as a visiting London composer. Dunne is the servant girl whose singing career Dix helps launch. I would classify this film as part of the middle 30's operetta craze. Andy Devine provides comic relief as Stingaree's sidekick.

God's Politics

I wanted to write just a few words about the last book-on-tap (or rather CD) that I finished. It's titled God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong, and the Left Doesn't Get It. It was written by a man named Jim Wallis, a Reverend deeply committed to social justice who I believe identifies as Evangelical, and who also serves as editor of Sojourners magazine. The book criticizes both extreme leftest secularism and hard right religious exploitation, and proposes a new Christian 3rd way (actually according to the book its a 4th way, Libertarianism is the 3rd way) in politics. Perceptive and thought provoking, it offered some real word solutions for harnessing the energy of the religious feeling in politics for productive purposes. As such its a good follow up for American Theocracy, the audio book on the dangours of fundamentalist religion (among other things) to American politics, that I started listening to on my previous trip to Utah in August (I listened to about half of this one on my Utah trip of a couple of weeks back). Anyway this material combined with the book on Quakers I'm currently reading, has me thinking about a form of progressive faith-based politics that I'm becoming quite enamored with. Next time you see me, this might be a good topic for conversation.

The Passing of Some Noteable Veterns of the First World War

There are now less then 80 veterans of the first World War (1914-1918) left alive in the world today. I want to take a moment to note the passing of a few who have crossed over lately.

First Lloyd Brown, who was the last living person to have joined the U.S. Navy before the German Armistice.

Charlotte Winters, the last surviving American female veteran of the war.

The British Philip Mayne, thought to be the last surviving 'officer' of the first World War.

Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lost Remaks

TCM continued with its lost film series tonight, I will briefly review the two remakes presented, and will cover the original film (Stingaree) which I have taped but not yet watched, at a later time.

Movie: Living on Love (1937)
Setting: New York City (seemingly implied); contemporary

Remake of Rafter Romance changes some details (the apartment here is in the basement, not the attic), but maintains basically the same plot (man and women who share a room in shifts fall in love). Mixed bag compared to the original, though I'm starting to think this would make a good stage play. I would have liked to have seen it made once again in the late 40's with Alan Young and Priscilla Lane.

Movie: A Man to Remember (1938)
Setting: 'Westport County'; 1919?-1938

More polished remake of One Man's Journey, departs from the original in many ways, but stays true to its sentiment. Interesting framing device having the story of Dr. Abbots life (Edward Ellis, who is great in this) told in flash backs inspired by old bills in his 'safety' box, as they are examined by his creditors after his death. This films association with blacklistie Dalton Trumbo, and its evident socialistic undertones, might explain why only existent copy was located in Holland. Budding romance between brother and adopted sister kind of creepy.

Rod, Tod, This Is God

Movie: The Next Voice You Hear (1950)
Setting: Los Angles, California; contemporary

Existential horror and redemption story has the voice of God emanating from the worlds radios. Plot concerns the reactions of the financely struggling Smith family(James Whitmore, Nancy Davis (Reagan), & Gary Gray) to this earth shattering event. I must complement the movie on what I would call a very realistic depiction of period family dynamics for a movie of the time, you see the vague resentments of the characters to their situations, yet their is a warmth there that mostly avoids sitcom saccharine.

Observation: In the 2003 TV movie The Reagan's, Ronald proposes to Nancy while she is making a movie that requires her to were a fake 'pregnancy bag'. Now she wears such a device in this movie, but its production is chronologically off from the date of the couples real-life marriage. In addition I thought I saw actor George Murphy's name on display on a 'directors chair' in the background, while Murphy was not in The Next Voice, he did play Reagan's dad in the 1943 musical This is the Army.

Cartoonest Johnny Hart Dead at 76

Creator of B.C. and co-creator of The Wizard of Id, Johnny Hart died Saturday at his isle of a stroke. Harts signature strip, B.C. began appearing in papers in the late 1950's, in the early 1970's the author/artist came into a renewed intensity of his childhood Christian faith, which carried over into the content of the strip, providing for many anachronistic instances over the ensuing three and a half decades. Read the Wiki entry linked above to learn more about his more controversial strips. I'm primarily posting this obit, because the Christian message of B.C. always struck me as a little strange, not unlike the Flintsone's Christmas special, or the following. Though considering some of the traditionally anachronistic features of Book of Mormon theology, maybe I shouldn't be talking.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Cheney to Speak at BYU Graduation

Those who know me know I just loved the documentary This Divided State, which is about Micheal Moore's 2004 visit to Utah Valley State College. Well a sequel of sorts is taking place on the campus of Brigham Young University, as the flagship Mormon educational institution has invited the extremely unpopular (though less so in LDS circles) Vice President Richard Cheney to speak at their upcoming graduation exercises. Now the University's stance on this is that they invited Cheney in his capacity as Vice President of the United States, not as partisan political figure. Now I don't have a problem with this line of reasoning, I thinks its an honor to have anyone who holds a high office like this speak at a graduation, because lets face it when your the V.P. you've been successful (though not quite as successful as the man whose the P). College is about success, academically and otherwise, so its totally appropriate for successful people to come and speak. The issue at hand though is two fold: 1) How BYU is handling another completely appropriate University practice, which is to protest when you don't like someone/something. I am heartened to see some real opposition to the Cheney visit in Americas most Republican county, I think its good for the University, though I'm not sure everyone in charge there would agree. 2) Given the cultural association between mountain-west Mormons and even the LDS Church in general with the Republican party, argumentation could be made that on at least some level, the invatation reflects explicit or implicate support of the GOP and its policy's, particularly Iraq. Or as some would argue, this mearly brings forward the moral failing of the LDS Church in not opposing the Iraq War from the start, as most major American Christian denominations did. Anyway all of this is being covered in great detail on the blog This Divided State, and I'd encourage anyone interested to check it out. I'm looking forward to the movie.


Movie: Deceived (1991)
Setting: New York City; roughly contemporary the film covers about seven years.

This is a great example of strictly b-grade material made truly entertaining by two strong lead performances. Goldie Hawn in a New York City art restorer, John Heard (in what is probably his best performance ever) is her to good to be true husband. After Heard's character dies in an auto accident following an argument with Hawn, his widow starts to uncover things she never know about his past. Because of the title of the film, and the fact that the first scene is Goldie meeting John, you pretty well know where its all going from the start. However its fun, and maybe just a little over the top, reminds me of some of the crime programmers from the 40's. Good entertainment in a pinch.

See also: Laura (1944), The Women in the Window (1944), Murder 101 (1991).

Happy Easter

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Movie: Death of a President (2006)

Controversial fake documentary on the assassination of President George W. Bush, in Chicago on October 19th 2007. An intriguing concept this moderately well executed film is strongest when depicting the day of the assassination. I found I wanted a more fully developed sense of the world after such a definitive event then this movie gave me (espically in terms of what the public response would have been), but that may have well been beyond the scope intended and budget here available. That a Syrian was convicted on circumstantial evidence, while the father of a solder who died in Iraq was the more likely candidate to have committed the murder, seemed an overly easy narrative choice to me. Like last years CSA, I loved the concept of this mock-doc, but was perhaps inevitably disappointed by the finished product. Still I liked this movie.

Man of the People

Movie: The Great McGinty (1940)
Setting: Unspecified

Screenwriter Preston Struges first time behind the directors chair isn't the type of screwball comedy that would mark his five year Renaissance. In fact McGinty is more the sort of social consciousness picture that the director vicariously longed to make in Sullivan's Travels. Brian Donlevy is elevated from the bread lines to the governors mansion by way of an eastern European born political boss (Akim Tamiroff). A dishonest man all his life McGinty is inspired by his wife (Muriel Adams in her last screen performance, though she lived until 2004) to change his ways and really try to help people with his political power. However a bridge built on graft while he was serving as mayor comes back to haunt him. Jailed McGinty determines he simply can not risk a life in prison, and escapes with his former political boss to a Latin American country. This film starts out with a suicide attempt and somehow manages to leave off on an even lower emotional note, dispite some mostly unsuccessful comedy in between. Well at least Sturges got better, much better, and don't let this review turn you off from his work.

Factoid: Donlevy would play McGinty again in a cameo in the later Sturges comedy The Miracle of Morgans Creek, though technically this doesn't jive with the chronology of the earlier film.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Christmas Story Director Bob Clark Dies in Car Crash With Son

I first caught this story this afternoon. Something of a shocker isn't it.

Lost Films

Tonight Turner Classic Movies presented a real treat as part of their periodic efforts to showcase rare or seldom seen movies. A few years ago they presented a number of Howard Hughs produced films from the 20's, including a picture called The Mating Call, which featured a surely rare instance of silent era rear nudity. Tonight, and again next Wednesday night, the channel is featuring a total of six films that have not been shown on television in roughly 50 years, all of this steaming from a dispute between RKO studios and producer Merian C. Cooper in the middle 1940's. All of tonight's films were released in 1933, and ended up in the film archive at Brigham Young University.

Rafter Romance
First up is a New York City based romantic comedy staring a pre-Fred Astire Ginger Rogers, and Norman Foster. The two share loft-like apartment in shifts, he's a struggling artist and night watchman, she's a, get this, telemarketer. Robert Benchley plays Rogers boss and would be suitor, but as in The Major and the Minor nine years later, he fails to get her. (Must see's: The Benchley shorts How to Sleep and How to Wake Up, the apparent inspirations for a number of Disney cartoons).

Double Harness
A largely downer drama about how jaded and deceptive people stand in the way of there own happiness. Ann Harding gives an intriguing performance as a women who traps a consummate bachelor into marrying her, while William Powell gets to be his trademark sophisticated self. It took me a while to figure that Harding and Powell had slept together, due to the nature of some period films in talk around such things. (Excerpt from my thoughts while watching the film: Why is Henry Stephenson so upset that his daughter was at Powell's apartment at night? ... Oh!). Subplot concerns Ann's sister's (Lucile Browne) overspending, film culminates in dinner party for Post Master General. Why was this movie at the BYU archives?

One Man's Journey
The treasure among the films shown tonight. An earnest doctor movie staring Lionel Barrymore. He's raising his son as a single parent, he takes in the baby daughter of an ungratefull farmer after the man's wife dies, he fights Small Pox and Typhoid, and cares for poor country folk who don't entirely trust him, and all in the first half hour. Man anything Barrymore did in the 30's was just meant to pull at your heart strings. Oh, and God wastes no time punishing pre-martial sex in this movie, no wonder it was in the BYU archives.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Men's Doubles

Movie: Blades of Glory (2007)
Setting: Oslo, Colorado, Montreal; roughly contemporary

You get about what you'd expect with this figure skating comedy staring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder. The latter actor is sure to have his relevance extended by virtue of the sure-fire box office that any Will Ferrell comedy generates now (thou time will tell how lasting either performers vogue is). Anyway its funny, never takes its self to seriously yet maintains a consistent internal logic, at least until the last 10 minutes or so. Lots of jokes involving issues of the varied sexuality of professional skating, including those creepy brother/sister teams (here Amy Poehler and real-life husband Will Arnet). Ferrell and Heder have some funny arguments, mostly in the first half of the film. Jenna Fischer is rather fetching as Heder's love interest. Finally Craig T. Nelson as the coach, need I say more.

The Wayne Palmer Story

I was thinking, if they where to make a TV movie in the world of 24 about President Wayne Palmer and the events of day 6, Montel Willimas is who I'd cast for the part. I was also thinking maybe Tony Todd could play David in flashbacks.

Confrence Weekend

Thought I'd just post a few words on this last weekends LDS General Conference. Well I made it down to the Salt Lake area to attend what will be my last mission reunion for the next five years (the president and his wife decided to cease the reunions as yearly practice now that were about five years on from his release). Anyway it was fun to see some of the Elders again, I can't believe Eggli named his daughter Yazzi. Also Shout out to Cam Palmer for reading my blog. Anyway I stayed with the Hortons as I usually do, and we made it down town on Saturday to visit one of my favorite places in the world, and I know I should be referencing Temple Square here but I'm actually talking about Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore. We did walk around Temple Square while we where there though, just prior to the conference meeting in which they rededicated the Tabernacle. As for the talks, I listened to the broadcasts a little sporadically as I was traveling or doing other things, but the ones that stick out to me include Elder Oaks on divorce, and Elder Wurthlin talking about High School football games he played in the 1930's. Also whats an LDS General Conference without excessive speculation on President Hinckly's health, notice how he said 'goodbye' at the end of the Sunday afternoon session and not 'see you next confrence'. Finally I must say that while I have grown cynical about a lot of things as regards to the Church, Presidents Monson's story about the little girl in the Tabernacle balcony really touched me. Despite subscriptions to The Nation ans Sunstone I remain a sentimental Mormon.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Brothers Keeper

Movie: East of Eden (1955)
Setting: The Monetary to Salinas area of northern California; 1917

This Elia Kazen helmed adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel represents 1/3 of the James Dean cannon. Dean's performance in the film is ample demonstration of his talent, had he lived he could well have dominated cinema for decades as a cross between Paul Newman and Marlon Brando. However it seems the young man may have been destined to pass early, troubled and moody he is rumored to have been both a promiscuous bisexual and a masochist prone to cutting himself. However all of that may have been why he was such an intense performer, and why he worked so well in this clever twist on the story of Cain and Abel. As for Raymond Massey, in addition to a memorably strong performance, he would not be surpassed in cinema as a man obsessed with refrigeration until Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast. I loved the look of this film.
Included among the special features is a cheaply made 1988 documentary entitled: Forever James Dean, that uses the same tribute song three times.
Factoid: Dean tormented religious conservative Massey on the set with profanity's, so as to illicit a more powerful performance from the oft staded actor.