Thursday, August 30, 2007

On the occasion of the anniversary of my birth:

Ever since my Father died in 1975 at the age of 50 (well, actually one day short of 50) I have had this notion that I, too, will shuffle off this mortal coil when I turn 50. Well, as of today I have 2 years left. And I kind of like this idea. I think everyone should set a date for their demise and live accordingly. I like to think I am less attached to things. I like to think I savor the moment more knowing I have less time than most. I don't know if I am truly successful. But I think it helps to have this perspective on life. Ephemera. Detachment. Distance. It suits my personality. I'm sorry to all those who it does not suit. I meant nothing personal. If I got too attached to you, life would become unbearable to me. I know this now. I wish I knew this then, but such is life.

Happy birthday!
Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight (2007)****
It all sounds like a pastiche of 70's riffs, beats and harmonies used to great effect on 11 strong tracks. Plenty of hooks, plenty of punch, less quirky than previous recordings. Jennie Lewis is in fine form. Their best so far.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

sp!ked review of books | Towards an age of abundance:
"Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic? But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is egalitarian it is because everyone is dirt poor, and there is no industrial pollution because there are no factories. Food is organic because there are no pesticides or high technology farming methods. As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little. There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past. And few of us, it seems, recognise the enormous benefits to humanity of escaping from it. On the contrary, there is a pervasive culture of complaint about the perils of affluence and a common tendency to romanticise the simple life."

Yes, there are extremes on all sides of every issue. Setting up straw men does nobody any good. There is plenty of room for reasonable middle ground. All I really want is for there to be some sort of oversight on the food markets to encourage reasonable growth, strive for sustainability and to try to reduce the use of industrial chemicals, recycled bio-mass and the like . I don't think that is an unreasonable, nor unprofitable idea. I want greed and profit to not be the be all and end all of food production.
Topaz (1969)**
Mediocre Hitchcock overall with some exceptional sequences in the early going. When the locale switched to Cuba, though, it comes off as an extended episode of "Mission Impossible". Some severe editing was called for here. It's obvious this was a studio job for Hitch and not a picture he felt strongly about. Still the acting is good, there are many noteworthy shots and scenes. It just goes on too long and there is an uncharacteristically bad use of music in this film. It's quite jarring and distracting in several sequences. Disappointing.
BBC NEWS | Entertainment | French star sued for hero comment:
"Ardant said she admired the founder of the Red Brigades group, Renato Curcio, because he had never abandoned his leftist ideals, adding she 'considered the Red Brigades phenomenon to be very moving and passionate'."

Fanny, Fanny, Fanny! Say it ain't so! Ah well, she is still a stunning beauty and a fine actress. So sometimes her ideals get the better of her and she says something foolish and stupid. Is that a crime? Um...well yes actually in Italy it IS a crime. Stay home in Paris, dear.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Solaris (2002)****
One of the more romantic sci-fi films ever and one of Soderbergh's best efforts. Clooney just seems to click with Soderbergh as he turns in another fine performance for him. It bugs me a little when I read reviews that knock a film because it is not slavishly "faithful" to the source material. A filmmaker gets his inspiration from many sources and if it happens to be a book so what? He may like just one layer of the book or one plot twist or one character and want to explore that visually. The problem is when you find your inspiration from a popular or revered work. Hitchcock's best pictures came from relatively unknown books or stories that he changed dramatically. We're making movies here, not filmed reading material.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forbidden Planet (1956)**
The obvious prototype for classic Trek. An amazingly talky film, but what's shocking is the lack of imagination on the part of the set and production design. Laughingly dated script as well.

Monday, August 13, 2007

20000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)**
The film is way too long and poorly paced. For the time, the script is intelligent and thoughtful, the acting is very good. James Mason in particular is a revelation. One of the few roles in which he is able to be a muscular, athletic, macho-type guy while at the same time being literate and intellectual. I thought Mason was perfect for the role of Captain Nemo.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

" The sharpest conflict between naturalist and humanist ethics arises in the regulation of genetic engineering. The naturalist ethic condemns genetically modified food-crops and all other genetic engineering projects that might upset the natural ecology. The humanist ethic looks forward to a time not far distant, when genetically engineered food-crops and energy-crops will bring wealth to poor people in tropical countries, and incidentally give us tools to control the growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

Mr. Dyson lost me at this point. While I agree that humans are THE most important animals on the planet Earth right now and our survival is paramount, I hardly think genetic engineering of plant life will be our savior! We all know the infamous human capacity for error ALONE will prohibit reliance on genetic engineering for a benefit to humanity. I do accept that an increase in the global temperature has been recorded and predicted. I am not certain as to what it means, what has caused it and what needs to be done about it. I agree with Mr. Dyson that a reliance on computer models is to be taken with a great deal of skepticism. But our agreement ends there.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Becket (1964)**
This might be a case of high expectations and/or seeing a film in hindsight. I thought the screenplay was a bit too simplistic. I thought Burton was sleepwalking and O'Toole over the top. We are supposed to feel that those 2 have some sort of chemistry together, that they really do love each other as friends and indeed in real life they did. But on the screen in this picture, I didn't get that at all. It is a beautiful picture, well shot, very colorful, well designed. And maybe I am just incapable of enjoying a film with ham-fisted use of music but I thought that was exceedingly bad here. I know it was the style at the time but Hitchcock was able to make films with virtually NO music (The Birds, eg.), and I like a number of films that use music very effectively such as nearly all of Kubrick's work, To Kill A Mockingbird, to name but a few.