Saturday, January 31, 2009

Family Plot (1976) **
Hitchcock's last film and not a particularly good one. It seems as if he was not really interested and aside from his silhouetted cameo, you wouldn't know he directed it. No sense of style to it, the script is dull at best, the look of the film is shoddy. It resembles TV movies of the time. Mildly pleasant, but forgettable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

U.S. peanut plant shipped salmonella-tainted products: FDA - Yahoo! News:
"More than 500 people in 43 states and Canada have been sickened in the outbreak, which also may be linked with eight deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of those made ill are children. 'The team identified approximately 12 instances in 2007 and 2008 where the firm identified some type of salmonella ... and released the products,' the FDA's Michael Rogers told reporters in a telephone briefing. Records at the plant showed that after the company tested the peanut products and found salmonella, it sent at least some to an outside lab that showed no contamination. The products were then illegally shipped for sale, Rogers said. 'There (were) no steps taken (by) the firm as far as cleaning or to minimize cross-contamination,' Rogers said."

What this country needs to do is help the businessman who has to deal with tons and tons of paperwork. It costs so much money just to file all the paperwork. Get off the backs of businesses and the economy can work again! Yep. Government regulation is the problem.
Scharffen Berger, Schmidt plants to be closed:
"Hershey released fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday that were above analyst expectations and projected growth of up to 3 percent for 2009. The company said it earned $82.2 million, or 36 cents a share, in the quarter ending in December, compared with $54.3 million, or 24 cents a share, it earned for the same period last year."

One of the more cut-throat, greedy, stock-driven corporations around. Earnings ABOVE expectations, and they still want more. Let them eat chocolates?
Foreign Correspondent (1940)***
I find it interesting that the acting in most of Hitchcock's earlier films is in such a natural style especially as compared to other films of the era. It's very refreshing and gives his films a modern feel. This one is no exception. A complex plot about spies and thrilling sequences including an extremely well done plane crash in the Atlantic add to the fun.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Yorker: How Should Obama Reform Health Care?:
"The results have been remarkable. After a year, 97.4 per cent of Massachusetts residents had coverage, and the remaining gap continues to close. Despite the requirement that individuals buy insurance and that employers either provide coverage or pay a tax, the program has remained extremely popular. Repeated surveys have found that at least two-thirds of the state’s residents support the reform. The Massachusetts plan didn’t do anything about medical costs, however, and, with layoffs accelerating, more people require subsidized care than the state predicted. Insurance premiums continue to rise here, just as they do elsewhere in the country. Many residents also complain that eight per cent of their income is too much to pay for health insurance, even though, on average, premiums amount to twice that much. The experience has shown national policymakers that they will have to be serious about reducing costs."

The writer takes a looong way to get there and uses inaccurate language to do so. We do not need to "reform health care", or "nationalize health care". We need to reform/nationalize health care INSURANCE! Once we do that, and remove the ability for private companies to gin the system for exorbitant profit, health care costs WILL come down. It has happened time and time again in country after country. Nobody pays as much as we do already and for lesser overall quality care. The only thing standing in our way is the insurance lobby. And I just don't think Obama is gutsy enough to actually take them on.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Synecdoche, New York (2008)****
Saw this too late for my 2008 review post, but clearly the best picture of the year. So dense, so layered, so emotional, it stays with you long after you leave the theater. Charlie Kaufman seemingly threw every idea he had into the film and, for me anyway, it worked beautifully. My only quibble would be the casting of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead. Yes you need a strong actor because he is on screen nearly every second and must carry the film, but I just did not find him appealing in the least and that hurt the overall impact a bit. Heck, Tom Noonan, who plays a character who is hired to play Hoffman's character in the film, would have been fine.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Torn Curtain (1966)***
Much better than Topaz, Hitchcock's other Cold War thriller. Julie Andrews seems very out of place though and yes I think Eva Marie Saint would have been a better choice. Some truly memorable sequences, beautifully structured shots, interesting camerawork...all Hitchcock hallmarks are available here. What holds the picture back though is a distractingly bad script and a few too many explanatory scenes which despite Paul Newman's best efforts are not in the least bit believable.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Scientist: Did Our Cosmos Exist Before the Big Bang?:

"ABHAY ASHTEKAR remembers his reaction the first time he saw the universe bounce. "I was taken aback," he says. He was watching a simulation of the universe rewind towards the big bang. Mostly the universe behaved as expected, becoming smaller and denser as the galaxies converged. But then, instead of reaching the big bang "singularity", the universe bounced and started expanding again. What on earth was happening? Ashtekar wanted to be sure of what he was seeing, so he asked his colleagues to sit on the result for six months before publishing it in 2006. And no wonder. The theory that the recycled universe was based on, called loop quantum cosmology (LQC), had managed to illuminate the very birth of the universe - something even Einstein's general theory of relativity fails to do. LQC has been tantalizing physicists since 2003 with the idea that our universe could conceivably have emerged from the collapse of a previous universe. Now the theory is poised to make predictions we can actually test. If they are verified, the big bang will give way to a big bounce and we will finally know the quantum structure of space-time. Instead of a universe that emerged from a point of infinite density, we will have one that recycles, possibly through an eternal series of expansions and contractions, with no beginning and no end."

This is the kind of stuff that scares the hell out of me. Pondering The End is bad enough, but trying to imagine NO end is even worse.