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3/20/06 02:02 pm

I've been absent from here. But I've not been totally absent from the blogosphere:


It's all sports commentary, for those who are into those sorts of things. And it's still updated infrequently. But it's something...

7/18/05 03:12 am

I've been pushing onward in my quest to finish off the AFI top 100. I am not sure I'll be able to do the entire thing before the summer ends. For one, there are two movies that are not yet out on DVD which is the only way I can watch films right now. But while I've not lost my zeal for the project, I have been lapse in righting in here about it. I have taken the liberty of paring down the final list to just those movies remaining. Three of these, Rear Window, All About Eve and Bonnie and Clyde, I have in my possession right now and I should be watching these over the next few days.

Of the movies that I have watched in the past few weeks, I don't have the patience to sit and write a mini review/response for each. But my favorite by far is Some Like it Hot. The writing is so tight and flawless. Every line seems to have some sort of double entendre that pushes the envelope and the action along just a bit further. Cross dressing hasn't been this fun since... well, it's never been this fun.

16. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
42. REAR WINDOW (1954)
58. FANTASIA (1940)
66. NETWORK (1976)
69. SHANE (1953)
74. THE GOLD RUSH (1925)
79. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
80. THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
81. MODERN TIMES (1936)
82. GIANT (1956)
93. THE APARTMENT (1960)

7/7/05 02:30 pm

This whole London thing has fortunately happened backwards for me. I woke up to an email from Jennie saying that she was ok. She was supposed to fly out of Heathrow today but heard about the attacks before she started her trip to London from Yorkshire. I then turned on my phone to messages from my mom and Ally trying to find out if I heard from Jennie, and then I actually found out about the bombings. Now the what if's are running through my head and it's a pretty damn powerless feeling. On 9/11 I didn't know anyone in New York so it was somewhat less worrisome to me (though I later found out that I went to high school with a stewardess on one of the planes.) Here the anxiety builds from what could have happened. My heart goes out to those who lost someone, but this makes realize that no matter how safe you feel, you always can imagine yourself in that position and that scares the hell out of me.

6/19/05 01:14 am - Quick Batch Update

Three new movies down-

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 1977
Don't watch this film unless you like the idea of having the same five notes running through your head for the entire next day. These notes are of course how the aliens communicate with the human scientists and eventually the vocabulary between the two expands to other musical combinations. I even heard the theme from Jaws thrown in there at one point.

Captivating film as always with Spielberg. He always has had the ability to suspend the audience's disbelief as he tells his story, and this is a fairly early example of that craft. Of course, going back over the movie in my head, none of Richard Dreyfuss's relationships made sense to me. The wife packs up the kids and leaves him to build a six-foot geological formation in his living room out of mud. They never come back in the picture. Then there's a bit of a bonding thing between him and the mother of a boy who was kidnapped by the aliens. This bonding consists of defying the US military and escaping from a set of helicopters. And it of course leads to a "where the hell did that come from" kiss. Guess he's over his wife now. But that affair is short-lived as well. For reasons I won't reveal in case anyone wants to see the movie.

City Lights - 1931
I'll preface my comments here with a brief confession. Watching America's Funniest Home Videos is my secret guilty pleasure. I really love the physical comedy. For some reason, if I know the punchline to a joke, it's not funny the second time around, but a person getting hit in the groin is good for four or five replays. I laugh so hard at this show that I have to sometimes put my hand over my mouth for fear that roommates would discover my secret.

I mention this of course because City Lights is from the silent film era. (That's actually inaccurate because The Jazz Singer came out four years before it, but it's still told in "pantomime.") The physical comedy is fantastic. No one moves like Charlie Chaplin. He can make picking up a hat funny in twenty different ways. But there's also a tremendous pathos behind the film. It's remarkably a comedy that uses some of the "lower" forms of humor to tell a deeply compelling human story of a tramp who falls in love with a blind flower girl.

High Noon - 1952
Sort of a forerunner to 24, this movie happens in real time, or approximates it. As the movie opens, a marshal (Gary Cooper) is married his beautiful young wife (Grace Kelly - *swoon*) when a telegram arrives that a convicted murder with a score to settle has been pardoned. The killer's friends show up and announce that he'll be on the noon train. Cooper has just over an hour then to rally a posse of men to turn the men away and ask them to leave the city. The rest of the movie takes place in that hour leading up to noon. From the audience stand point, in that hour find out the necessary background to understand the stakes of the encounter and we watch as men continually refuse to stand behind Cooper, most encouraging him to run. The final shootout sequence is worthy of any Hollywood action movie.

Another interesting soundtrack note on this one - In the saloon scene, the piano player is playing "Buffalo Gal Won't You Come Out Tonight", the same song that appears prominently throughout another Republic Picture, It's A Wonderful Life. Though I couldn't find any mention of this note online, I am guessing that maybe the studio owned the rights to the song and didn't want to pay to use something else or have another song written. I don't think it's meant to be a quirk of the film for film geeks to get giddy over. Especially since It's A Wonderful Life was not a very big hit at first and certainly wouldn't have the cultural capital in 1952 as Jaws would when Close Encounters comes out. That is, if it was a joke, very few people would have gotten it.

A trip to the library today yielded four more films from the list and I've got Treasure of the Sierra Madre from Netflix. That means I have five more movies in hand to start on.

6/18/05 08:41 pm

Philosophical query of the day-

Which is a worse song with summer in it's title?

Boys of Summer - Don Henley


Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams


6/16/05 08:34 pm - Great Movie Watch Update - The Grapes of Wrath

Latest Film - The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

I've never made it all the way through this book. Steinback is too wordy for me. His prose just seems too heavy-handed and deliberate. Which flattens out the characters. Granted, this is heavy material that he's dealing with and I sympathize with the plight. I just can't spend the time to get through the book. Woody Guthrie says the same things in three minute songs. That sounds self-absorbed, but I'm spending my entire summer watching movies which is in itself a completely self-absorbed act.

As a film, I liked the story a whole lot better. Perhaps it's a lot easier to indulge in the blatant ideology behind the film if you are witnessing the actual dust bowls instead of reading about them in Steinbeck's prose. There are just somethings that need to be shown to be communicated. And fortunately John Ford was around at the time to film it.

6/15/05 11:04 pm - Second movie of the day

West Side Story (1961)

Believe it or not I had no clue that this film was based on Romeo and Juliet. As a Renaissance specialist I realized this influence immediately. Right after I read it on the internet. Actually it went more like this:
"Hmm, Jets and Sharks. It's as if they are two houses, both alike in dignity in fair Manhattan. Gosh, I hope this ancient grudge doesn't break into a new mutiny. Oh crap, Bernardo stabbed Riff and so Tony stabbed Bernardo and oh no now he's never going to make it with Natalie Wood. Wait a minute this sounds familiar. It's a lot like...hmmm. It must be. This is exactly like Boyz in the Hood"

Oh ok. It probably had nothing to do with with Cuba Gooding Jr. But wouldn't it be a great remake to see Boyz in the Hood turned into a musical. All that drive-by dance fighting. That would be a movie to end all movies.

Also of note, gotta love all of the "beat" stereotypes in this movie. Hollywood got so much mileage out of the "beat" hoodlum character mold that they ought to pay Kerouac's estate royalties.

6/15/05 01:45 pm - Summer AFI project: It Happened One Night

Most Recently Watched: It Happened One Night (1934)

It's about time that I watched this movie. It's the source for one of my favorite bits of trivia. During filming, a scene called for Clark Gable to undress from his suit coat down to his bare chest, but after a few tries, Gable found that removing his undershirt was messing up his timing. Solution: just ditch the undershirt.

Now I don't know if a butterfly flapping his wings in Taiwan can cause an hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, but the decision for Gable to not wear an undershirt had a similar impact. Suddenly, it became fashionable for men to wear dresss shirts without t-shirts underneath, and it nearly ruined the industry.

This film is also gave birth to a pop culture icon. Bugs Bunny is supposedly based on a combination of Gable and a character in the film named Oscar Shapely.

How was the movie? Worthy of inclusion on the list. Predictable, but very enjoyable, but then I've always been a sucker for these kinds of romantic comedies.

Best Line - "Don't fall out of any windows!"

6/13/05 12:17 am - Nerd alert

Has anyone else heard of this online game - Nation States?

I decided to throw my own hat in the ring and found the nation of Whitmanistan (I told you it was a nerd alert.) Here are the stats (generated by answers to some questionare and changed by decisions made on daily issues):

The Democratic Republic of Whitmanistan is a tiny, pleasant nation, renowned for its burgeoning violin-playing bear population. Its compassionate, hard-working, intelligent population of 5 million have some civil rights, but not too many, enjoy the freedom to spend their money however they like, to a point, and take part in free and open elections, although not too often.

The medium-sized government juggles the competing demands of Healthcare, Social Welfare, and Education. The average income tax rate is 14%. A large private sector is led by the Trout Farming, Beef-Based Agriculture, and Cheese Exports industries.

Crime is moderate, and the police force struggles against a lack of funding and a high mortality rate. Whitmanistan's national animal is the violin-playing bear and its currency is the lint.

You can see more or create your own nation at www.nationstates.net

6/12/05 10:08 pm

I've had way too much free time on my hands lately so I decided to put a project that I've been casually working on for five years up to the top of the blotter to occupy my attention. In 1996, the American Film Institute had this 100 years/100 movies special where they ranked the top 100 movies of all time. Around that time, I started getting interested in movies that were made before God invented color and everything was in black and white. I've roughly kept track of my progress.

By my count (below) I've got 41 movies to go. Though I actually was very strict about counting a movie as seen. For example, I have seen probably all parts of the movie MASH on television, but never actually watched the whole thing from start to finish.

I just re-signed up for NetFlix and stocked my Queue. Will I be able to do all 41 before the end of the summer? Who knows. I will keep this entry updated with my progress, including the last five movies bolded out. Since I can only verify for certain that Fargo was the last movie I watched on the list, that's currently the only one bolded.

The Complete List:

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