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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

' Date Night ' Movies - An idiosyncratic selection

I define ' Date Night Movies ' as movies that, regardless of other possibly more significant themes, nevertheless do engage us romantically. Sometimes the romance is fairly innocent. Sometimes it is perverse and fatal. 

In no particular order...  
  1. It Happened One Night
  3. Grand Hotel
  4. Lost Horizon
  5. Ninotchka
  6. Diva
  7. Shakespeare in Love
  8. Chinatown
  9. Vertigo
  10. To Catch a Thief
  11. Possession ( Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart )
  12. Beauty and the Beast ( Dir. Cocteau, 1946)
  13. Casablanca
  14. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [ Remember, I said this was an idiosyncratic selection ]
  15. Prisoner of Zenda ( Ronald Coleman)
  16. Adventures of Robin Hood ( Dir. Michael Curtiz ; Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland )
  17. Bridget Jones's Diary
  18. Gone with the Wind
  19. Marnie [ Very idiosyncratic... ]
  20. Double Indemnity
  21. Body Heat

Westerns : My Top Ten

    John Wayne, at the close of THE SEARCHERS
  1. The Searchers
  2. The Wild Bunch
  3. Outlaw Josey Wales
  4. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  5. Fort Apache
  6. For a Few Dollars More
  7. Ride the High Country
  8. Red River
  9. Rio Bravo and Big Country (tie)
  10. Magnificent Seven

Paris on High Terror Alert... the Washington Post and the NY Times.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

As Baseball winds down in Beantown, all we need is a sidecar full of Stoly and a little Zen.

To assist those who, like me, will find the universe achingly empty until Spring Training 2011, I submit the following sayings of Baseball Zen Masters.

Yogi Berra
  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • You can observe a lot by just watching.
  • So I’m ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.
  • The game isn’t over until it’s over.
  • Bonus Quiz :  Buddha, or Don Zimmer, at last year's Annual Buddha-Look-alike Contest ?
  • And, when BoSoxer Jimmy Piersall approached the plate and did the sign of the cross, " Why doncha let God sit back and watch the game ? "

Bill Lee, aka " Spaceman "
  • People are too hung up on winning. I can get off on a really good helmet throw. 
  • I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won't matter if I get this guy out.
Grand Zen Master Lou
Oil Can Boyd [ Not sure if this is sufficiently Zen, but what the hell...]
  • When a Red Sox-Indians game was postponed due to fog rolling in from Lake Erie and enveloping Muncipal Stadium, " That's what you get for building a ballpark on the ocean."

Grand Zen Master Lou Gorman

When asked what he would do if the Sox lost ace Roger Clemens,  General Manager Lou Gorman supposedly replied, " The sun will rise, the sun will set, and I’ll have lunch. "

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Killing Floor - Jimi Hendrix Experience Live In Monterey

Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe (Live At Monterey) 

The Blues Project - Wake Me Shake Me - Live 1981

The Blues Project - Caress Me Baby

The Blues Project -You'll Go, I'll Go With You

Cream - Crossroads

Sitting On Top of the World - Cream (2005 Reunion)

Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Work Song

Paul Butterfield Blues Band ~ Mary, Mary

Mike Bloomfield / Al Kooper - Blues For Nothing

Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield - Albert's Shuffle

Stop - Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield (Super Session)

The Electric Flag - Killing Floor

The Electric Flag ~ Over Lovin' You

The Electric Flag ~ She Should Have Just

The Electric Flag ~ Sunny

Ten Years After live at Woodstock 1969 - I'm Goin' Home

John Mayall - Room To Move

Eric Clapton / John Mayall Bluesbreakers - All Your Love

Stevie Ray Vaughan - All your love I miss loving

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Slide Thing

BB King - How Blue Can You Get (From "Legends of Rock 'n' Roll" DVD)

BB King / Gary Moore - The Thrill is Gone 

Led Zeppelin-Going To California

Led Zeppelin - Black Dog - Rare Acoustic

Further evidence that Life imitates really bad movies, from THE DAILY BEAST.

Even more on the Iranian Pretender's, ah, President's UN Speech

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

THE PRISONER lives ! Fans of the late Patrick McGoohan, take heart !

Episodes of his 1960's THE PRISONER series are available on the AMC Website.

For McGoohan's c.v., see his January 2009 obit in THE GUARDIAN.

I hope someday someone makes his DANGER MAN / SECRET AGENT series available online. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brazilian Music Blast ! What better way to end a perfect September day ?

Caetano Veloso - Tropicalia
Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil - Cinema Novo
Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil - Desde Que O Samba
Milton Nascimento - Travessia
Milton Nascimento - Anima
Antonio Carlos Jobim - Wave
Joao Gilberto and Jobim - Desafinado
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto - Girl From Ipanema

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cowboy Culture

To anyone fascinated by, and yearning to learn more about,  the cowboy way of life depicted in films like Red River and in TV series like Rawhide, I recommend David Dary's monograph, Cowboy Culture.

To see the type of info that Dary provides, click here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Canada's got its very own housing bubble...

...inflated by 40-year, no-money-down mortgages (no longer available), and free-spending yuppies. Conclusion: stay away from loonies ( which is good advice, generally speaking).

The Onion asks, Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit?

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS (1989) and Story-telling "Tokens"

THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS provides two good examples where the screenwriter uses tokens--objects-- to introduce backstory and/or foreshadow later events. The objects in question : an old picture, an unopened bottle of liquor,  and a delivery of long-stemmed roses.

The "old picture" shows "The Fabulous Baker Boys" at their first gig, holding a bottle of liquor they received and, as minors, left unopened.  The pic is found by Suzie Diamond - the singer the boys have brought on to freshen up their tired double-piano act - as she looks over the younger bro's apartment. The pic allows the younger brother to fill in some backstory for Suzie (and us).  It also serves as foreshadowing : near the end of the film,  we see the same picture AND the bottle at the older bro's home, after they break the act up. 

The delivery of long-stemmed roses to Suzie - the hotel desk clerk says they're from an anonymous admirer, "one of the guys at the Cat Food Convention" - economically foreshadows a later plot-point which would otherwise seem to have come out of the blue ( deus ex machina, anybody ?).  It  also provides dramatic irony : we, the audience, know that someone else is after Suzie,  but neither of the "Fabulous Baker Boys"  find out this out until it is too late.

Tokens such as this have been used since the dawn of literature.  They were used as the mechanism by which a hidden truth was revealed,  a disguise penetrated,  or an identity confirmed.  

THE ODYSSEY features two, namely Odysseus' scar - a souvenir from a near-fatal wild-boar hunt in his youth - and the unique construction of Odysseus' and Penelope's conjugal bed.

In the film FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE,  the tokens are the identical pocket-watches which Colonel Mortimer and the psychotic bandit El Indio carry, which play the same tune and eerily suggest a connection between the two.

In the film (and stage play) A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, it is a pair of rings showing a gaggle of geese, which, in true ancient Roman-Comedy fashion,  are supposed to identify twin children separated by circumstance,  one of which literally changes hands, to hilarious effect.

In THE 39 STEPS, it is the tune which the hero Hannay keeps whistling and whose origin he cannot  remember. The tune points to the solution of the espionage mystery and elegantly links the beginning and end scenes of the film.  This tune also provides dramatic irony,  since the audience may well recall where and when Hannay first heard it.

In the film MAN-HUNT (1941), it is the arrow-pin which the hero Thorndike purchases for a girl who has saved him from Nazi agents. The pin's later appearance in the possession of a Nazi agent neatly reveals to Thorndike ( and us )  her sad fate.

What does this all mean ?  A carefully-chosen token may serve as graphic, economical device for introducing backstory and/or foreshadowing, and generating emotional impact as well. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How Britain has destroyed itself, according to the creator of FLASHMAN

More on George MacDonald Fraser

Fraser also wrote screenplays, my favorites being those for Alexander Salkind's' The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers in the mid-seventies.

Lavish period pieces with lush scores by Michel Legrand. they were directed by Richard Lester (HELP !) and featured some of the finest actors of their day : Michael York as D'Artagnan, Oliver Reed as Athos, Faye Dunaway as the infamous Milady de Winter, Frank Finlay as Porthos, Richard Chamberlain as Aramis, Charlton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu, and Christopher Lee as the deadly Comte de Rochefort.

George MacDonald Fraser - Writer - Obituary - New York Times

A belated tribute to one of the great writers of historical fiction, George MacDonald Fraser, who built a formidable series about the heydey of the British Empire around Harry Flashman.

Fraser lifted the character of Flashman from Thomas Hughes' classic 1857 novel Tom Brown's Schooldays and transformed from a villain into something of a hero.

I recommend reading the series along with the classic Pax Britannica historical trilogy penned by James/Jan Morris, especially Vol. 1, HEAVEN'S COMMAND.