Monday, October 31, 2011


Viewers make a journey of discovery with fraternal twins Jeanne and Simon as they travel to their mother's homeland to find a brother and father they never knew in Incendies.

Incendies has received many awards and was nominated for an Academy Award, Best Foreign Language Film, but lost to In a Better World, which is also an excellent film.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scary movies for Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween, and The Washington Post has a slideshow of stills from nineteen "scary" movies. This photo is a still from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre of 1974. I've seen the 2003 remake, which was very good, and I have the original on my wishlist. The original is relatively expensive, so it may be excellent.

The other stills at the slideshow are from: Nosferatu, The Phantom of the Opera, Psycho, The Birds, Rosemary's Baby, Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, Jaws, The Omen, Carrie, Halloween, Alien, The Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th, The Shining, Scanners, An American Werewolf in London, Poltergeist, and The Thing.

The Washington Post's article is "From ‘Paranormal Activity’ to ‘Nosferatu,’ a look at the scariest movies of all time." Interestingly, a still from Paranormal Activity isn't included in the slideshow, but there is a link to "‘Paranormal Activity 3’: Is the found footage horror movie played out?"

The Los Angeles Times has "50 Creature Features," "Celluloid mutants, werewolves and blobs -- the stuff of nightmares. Play the videos, and vote for the greatest monster movie ever."

I like the Childs Play movies, which didn't make either list. "Chuckie" is scary.

I'll watch 1994's Ed Wood, which received an Academy Award for Martin Landau's makeup. Landau played Bela Lugosi.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wouldn’t It Be Cool if Shakespeare Wasn’t Shakespeare?

Writing in The New York Times, Stephen Marche writes:
“Was Shakespeare a fraud?” That’s the question the promotional machinery for Roland Emmerich’s new film, “Anonymous,” wants to usher out of the tiny enclosure of fringe academic conferences into the wider pastures of a Hollywood audience. Shakespeare is finally getting the Oliver Stone/“Da Vinci Code” treatment, with a lurid conspiratorial melodrama involving incest in royal bedchambers, a vapidly simplistic version of court intrigue, nifty costumes and historically inaccurate nonsense. First they came for the Kennedy scholars, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Kennedy scholar. Then they came for Opus Dei, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Catholic scholar. Now they have come for me.

Professors of Shakespeare — and I was one once upon a time — are blissfully unaware of the impending disaster that this film means for their professional lives. Thanks to “Anonymous,” undergraduates will be confidently asserting that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare for the next 10 years at least, and profs will have to waste countless hours explaining the obvious. “Anonymous” subscribes to the Oxfordian theory of authorship, the contention that Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford, wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Among Shakespeare scholars, the idea has roughly the same currency as the faked moon landing does among astronauts.

The good news is that “Anonymous” makes an extraordinarily poor case for the Oxfordian theory. ...
You can read much more of the article at the Times by clicking this post's title.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

President Obama to co-opt the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Despite missing an historic opportunity to institute real financial reform in 2009, The Washington Post is reporting that "Obama plans to turn anti-Wall Street anger on Mitt Romney, Republicans."

From the Post's article:

President Obama and his team have decided to turn public anger at Wall Street into a central tenet of their reelection strategy.

The move comes as the Occupy Wall Street protests gain momentum across the country and as polls show deep public distrust of the nation’s major financial institutions. ...

... Obama aides point to recent surveys that show anger at Wall Street spanning ideologies, including a new Washington Post-ABC News poll in which 68 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans say they have unfavorable impressions of the big financial institutions.

But the strategy of channeling anti-Wall Street anger carries risks. Many of Obama’s senior advisers have ties to the financial industry — a point that makes Occupy protesters wary of the president and his party. ...

... And many on the left have attacked Obama and his administration for its ties to Wall Street, arguing that the financial regulatory overhaul fell far short of an industry makeover that many critics believed necessary.

Much of his top economic team has roots in the financial services industry, and in recent months [Chief of Staff William] Daley and top campaign aides have devoted much of their time [to] improving the relationship with big-dollar donors on Wall Street. ...

To be fair, it should be noted that Republican candidates also have relationships with "big-dollar donors on Wall Street."

The Post's article notes that President Obama has been critical of Bank of America for its plan to collect $5/month for the use of a debit card; however, with or without its plan, that bank will remain a sick bank. The Democratic national convention will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, headquarters of Bank of America.

BBC has a story about the Occupy Wall Street movement becoming a global movement: "'Occupy' protests at financial crisis go worldwide." The article notes, 'Witnesses blamed attacks on cars and businesses on a small number of masked militants, dubbed the "black blocs" because of the colour of their clothes.' This post's photo (taken in Rome) was obtained from that story.

Update: OccupyWallStreet has a definition of a "black bloc." OccupyWallStreet's website is here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

R.I.P. dmr

During his lifetime, Dennis M. Ritchie received several awards for his contributions to computer science. Here, he is receiving the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton in 1999. He passed away on October eighth at the age of seventy.

With his colleagues at Bell Labs, Ritchie developed the C programming language and the UNIX operating system.

Many have learned a lot from him. Writing for Wired, Sean Gallagher wrote, "Every bit of software that makes it possible for you to read this page has a trace of dmr’s DNA in it."

The New York Times' story is "Dennis Ritchie, Trailblazer in Digital Era, Dies at 70."

The Washington Post's story is "Dennis Ritchie, father of C programming language and Unix, dies at 70."

Wired's story is "Dennis Ritchie, Father of C and Co-Developer of Unix, Dies."

Dennis Ritchie's Bell Labs home page is here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Here are "Cherry Darlin'" and "El Wray" shortly before "Cherry" loses a leg to a zombie cannibal in Robert Rodriguez' Planet Terror. Grindhouse is a double feature and includes Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof.

The blu-ray presents the two films as they played in theaters in 2007 as a double feature. Intermission cards, and trailers for Werewolf Women Of The S.S., Don't, and Thanksgiving are part of the experience. A second disc includes several videos: Robert Rodriguez' ten-minute cooking school, the makeup effects of Planet Terror, the hot rods of Death Proof, and how the trailers were made.'s reviewer wrote:
[D]oes this Blu-ray accurately represent the directors' visions and the way the film actually looked in theaters? Rodriguez and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Tarantino have filled this film with scratches, flecks, pops, missing reels, missing frames and other "fun stuff" to help recreate the less than pristine screenings of second (or third, or fourth) run films back in the day. There's also intentionally overdone grain, low contrast and about everything else videophiles tend to complain about, offered here in unapologetic abundance. Death Proof, despite its "missing reel" and the kind of funny "stuttering" missing/repeated frame in the early bar sequence, looks a bit better than Planet Terror, but that is inarguably by design. Both of these films sport typically lurid color, redolent of American International's mid-60s schlockfests, and it's offered here in rich and gooey saturation. Detail is impressive, given the self-imposed limits the filmmakers were working under. Grindhouse must simply be taken on its own terms, warts (festering or otherwise) and all. This Blu-ray offers a near perfect recreation of what the film is supposed to look like, and that really should be all that matters.
There are two "missing reels." The first, in Planet Terror, is the climax of a sex scene between "Cherry Darlin'" and "El Wray." The second, in Death Proof, is "Stuntman Mike"'s lap dance. But, Hey! The director's respect our imaginations, don't they?

Schlockfest? Something to know about these directors, especially, Quentin Tarantino, is that they often allude to the movies they grew up on, but in doing so they do them better. For example, the cannibal zombies of Planet Terror are reminiscent of the zombies seen in Night of the Living Dead. Death Proof can be viewed as a tribute to Vanishing Point.

The poignant love story of "Cherry Darlin'" -- not a stripper! -- and "El Wray" -- never misses! -- runs through Planet Terror.

If you watch the credits, you'll see that Quentin Tarantino's chef was not Quentin Tarantino, but Robert Rodriguez' chef was -- you guessed it: Robert Rodriguez.


I'm not the greatest fan of either Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino. I only have Grindhouse, El Mariachi, Desperado, Kill Bill (both volumes!), Reservoir Dogs and Sin City. Someday I'll have Once Upon A Time In Mexico, among others, like Jackie Brown. Those will have to wait, however; Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction was just released and that comes first. It was excellent on VHS, so it's going to be wonderful on blu-ray.'s review of Grindhouse is here, where this post's screenshot was obtained.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Best of Youth

This is "Giorgia" (Jasmine Trinca), who was briefly rescued from an abusive hospital by two brothers, while they were students, early in the film "The Best of Youth." The story of the brothers, "Nicola" (Luigi Lo Cascio) and "Matteo" (Alessio Boni), occurs over nearly fourty years, and aside from Giorgia, who inspired Nicola to specialize in psychiatry and who reappears several times during the film, we meet the brothers' parents, sisters, lovers, and their children.

Nicola is the film's main character. When his daughter asks him what she should do in response to a letter from her estranged mother, Nicola asks her whether she is happy. When she answers affirmatively, Nicola tells her, "Now is the time to be generous," and she was, and she and her mother enjoyed meeting after many years apart.

Nicola may have gotten his happiness from his mother, who, about the time his father was dying, thanked him for never being jealous of his siblings. Matteo got a love of literature from her, but when his life ended she was so full of grief that she threw some books from his apartment onto the pavement and was unable to continue to teach literature. But she overcame her grief through the love of Matteo's son and his mother's generosity, before she died.

The film may offer an answer to that age-old question: What is the purpose of life? Perhaps the film's lesson is that our purpose in life is to to help one another. But to help others can require a generous spirit, which can require happiness. Perhaps our purpose is to be happy first, then to be generous. We can enjoy being generous when we're happy.

The film (on two DVDs) is about six hours long, and it was never dull or uninteresting. It's episodic, so there are a lot of convenient breakpoints. I watched it over two days and think that it was a good experience watching it that way.


The post's picture is a picture of the film's poster, from Wikipedia's entry for the film.