Monday, January 31, 2011

Straight Time (1978)****
Rough, gritty, painfully realistic look into human nature with a stellar cast and subtle, effective direction. The late 70's vibe is dead on and no punches are pulled throughout. Not everyone's idea of entertainment, but well made.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wild Strawberries (1957)***
Ingmar Bergman's film about what happens to an old physician when he faces up to his loneliness. Subtle, warm and thoughtful with a gorgeous Ingrid Thulin as the doc's daughter-in-law.
In the Blink of Bird’s Eye, a Model for Quantum Navigation | Wired Science |
"Many animals — including not only birds, but some mammals, fish, reptiles, even crustaceans and insects — navigate by sensing the direction of Earth’s magnetic field. Physicist Klaus Schulten of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign proposed in the late 1970s that bird navigation relied on some geomagnetically sensitive, as-yet-unknown biochemical reaction taking place in their eyes.

Research since then has revealed the existence of special optical cells containing a protein called cryptochrome. When a photon enters the eye, it hits cryptochrome, giving a boost of energy to electrons that exist in a state of quantum entanglement.

One of the electrons migrates a few nanometers away, where it feels a slightly different magnetic field than its partner. Depending on how the magnetic field alters the electron’s spin, different chemical reactions are produced. In theory, the products of many such reactions across a bird’s eye could create a picture of Earth’s magnetic field as a varying pattern of light and dark."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Batman (1989)**
At first viewing, the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman seemed ok. Now, it just doesn't work. Keaton is a good actor, but the look is not right. Kim Basinger, however, is stunning and turns in an exceptional performance, one I didn't really appreciate the first time around. She needs better material and more parts. Not one of Tim Burton's better films.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cutler Critics Out of Line : Bear Goggles On | A Chicago Bears Blog:
"In the days and weeks to come, the full extent of the injury will come out. If it turns out the Cutler wasn’t seriously injured, I’ll be the first one to pile on, but after the beating he took over the last two years, I think Cutler’s earned the benefit of the doubt. If one of the media darlings like Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers gets dinged in the game, the world gasps and Rachel Nichols and Pam Oliver and every other sideline bimbo is painting a picture of woes and misery. Jay Cutler gets hurt and everyone just calls him a quitter. Why? Because he likes to keep to himself and doesn’t pimp himself out to advertise TV’s and sports drinks.
Somewhere Rick Reilly is laughing."

The criticism of Cutler is just amazing. It clearly shows that sports "opinionators", I can't call them "journalists", are severely biased by personal feelings toward a player and not the facts at hand. See, they all loved Brett Favre because he was outgoing, ebullient, demonstrative, a good ol' boy. So anything he did, even trying to play when he was clearly incapable of performing at all, was deemed heroic and THE standard.

Even when continuing to play obviously was detrimental to his team! Did any of these critics see how Cutler was performing? SOMETHING was affecting his throwing A LOT. Could it have been his knee? Duh. Throwing a football is not just about your arm. So wisely, the coaches determined he needed to be pulled. The depth of the team at qb is not Cutler's fault.

My take on the game was that it was a tremendous defensive effort by Chicago. Aaron Rodgers, probably the best qb in the league, was effectively shut down. Unfortunately, he managed to get 2 good drives in before the gates were closed. And GB was fortunate Brian Urlacher cannot run like Devin Hester. Caleb Hanie turned in a near heroic performance in relief. In Chicago's last drive, however, in GB territory with time running out, Mike Martz called a strange reverse-type play which was stuffed. This forced a 3rd down throw which a rattled Hanie had intercepted to end the game. I would have hoped Martz could have called a shorted pass play or a simple run play (reverses are VERY iffy) on on second down so Hanie would not have been pressured so much on 3rd. Besides at that point, GB was letting up a bit on the run and Chicago was getting 7-10 yards per run in that drive.

I like Mike Martz as an OC and head coach. I find him fascinating, interesting and fun to watch. His trouble, from my limited perspective, seems to be that he is too much a player's coach. I think it hampers his judgment. He loves his players and that sometimes causes him to see the upside too much to the detriment of being able to see their weaknesses. So he feels they can run any play he calls at any time. And he had those kinds of players in St. Louis at one time. He came very close this year. I hope he is able to return next season.
Pit Bull Ban Proposed In Texas, "Justin's Law"; Would Make Owning The Dog Breed A Felony:
"Dog trainer Michele Crouse believes that it's not the dog's breed, but rather the dog's owner who determines the animal's aggression. 'It's all upon the responsibility of the owner and not what dog they have,' she told NBC. 'It doesn't matter if they have a 2-pound Chihuahua or a 200-pound mastiff.'"

I agree! Just LOOK at all the fatalities from Chihuahua attacks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NFL Playoffs: Chicago Bears; Jay Cutler not a likable player - ESPN:
"Is it his penchant for making things difficult?

Reporter (after a game): What happened on that first interception, Jay?

Cutler: I threw the ball.

Reporter: Right, but what did you see developing there? Take us through it.

Cutler (archly): It seemed like a good place to throw the ball.

Then there was this:

Reporter: When you were a kid, which quarterback did you look up to?

Cutler: Nobody.

Reporter: Nobody? You didn't look up to anybody?

Cutler: No.

If he's lying, it makes him a miscreant. If he's telling the truth, it makes him a miscreant.

'Deep, deep down, I think he's a really good guy,' Waddle says.

Maybe. But why do we have to look that deep?"

It seems every few months I make a vow to completely ignore sports "journalists" particularly those whose job it is to be "colorful", "opinionated" in their daily columns. Because they are almost to a man completely awful and bereft of insight. Then I notice something secondhand that is so egregious I have to say something about it. Gee thanks, Rick Reilly. So Cutler is a "miscreant", a person without moral scruples, because he did not idolize a quarterback as a youth? He's a miscreant because he wants a private life? He's a miscreant because he can't hide his utter disgust at the inane questions from reporters? I'll tell you, the true miscreants are individuals like Reilly who make a living leeching off professional athletes, demanding they adhere to some ridiculous standard so they can sit in judgment. "Why do we have to look that deep?" he asks with a straight face. Yikes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"The Social Network" Is a Pack of Lies That Conveys Nothing About Our Time | The Awl:
"The film’s misstatements have been well documented. The jilted love affair that drives Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook is invented. The resentment against the Harvard elite clubs that drives him to create an alternate society is invented. The claims of others involved in the creation of Facebook are given vastly too much credence in the film. Zuckerberg is portrayed as an angry, vengeful sociopath, which by most accounts and all appearances, he is not.

But other than that, it says a lot of fascinating things about the era."

Wholeheartedly agree, but as evidenced by the Roeper quote and nearly everyone you talk to who has seen the film, the lies have been accepted as truth and it does not look like it will be an easy thing to undo that. A shame.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Craft, Collaboration : The 99 Percent:
"This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?"

Fascinating interview with the great filmmaker.
What the science of human nature can teach us : The New Yorker:
"At first, Harold found the talk a little chilling: it seemed that the revolution the scientist was describing was bound to lead to cold, mechanistic conclusions. If everything could be reduced to genes, neural wiring, and brain chemistry, what happened to the major concepts of life—good and evil, sin and virtue, love and commitment? And what about the way Harold made sense of his life as he lived it, the everyday vocabulary of morals, moods, character, aspirations, temptations, values, ideals? The scientist described human beings as creatures driven by deep mechanisms, almost like puppets on strings, not as ensouled human beings capable of running their own lives.

During the question-and-answer period, though, a woman asked the neuroscientist how his studies had changed the way he lived. He paused for a second, and then starting talking about a group he had joined called the Russian-American Folk Dance Company. It was odd, given how hard and scientific he had sounded. “I guess I used to think of myself as a lone agent, who made certain choices and established certain alliances with colleagues and friends,” he said. “Now, though, I see things differently. I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past we call genetics. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family, and the information offered months ago we call education. But it is all information that flows through us. The brain is adapted to the river of knowledge and exists only as a creature in that river. Our thoughts are profoundly molded by this long historic flow, and none of us exists, self-made, in isolation from it.

And though history has made us self-conscious in order to enhance our survival prospects, we still have deep impulses to erase the skull lines in our head and become immersed directly in the river. I’ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself in situations in which you lose self-consciousness and become fused with other people, experiences, or tasks. It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, or when an artist or a craftsman becomes one with the brush or the tool. It happens sometimes while you’re playing sports, or listening to music or lost in a story, or to some people when they feel enveloped by God’s love. And it happens most when we connect with other people. I’ve come to think that happiness isn’t really produced by conscious accomplishments. Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year.”

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mean Streets (1973)***
Where it all began for Scorsese. The long takes, the POV tracking shots, the handheld shots, the slow motion, the violence, the f-bombs. It's still a bit raw in this picture, but effective. De Niro's breakout role.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Casino (1995)****
...or "Goodfellas Goes to Vegas". Terrific account of how the mob ran Las Vegas in the 60's through 80's with Martin Scorsese directing with style and flair. Lots of long shots, lots of violence, lots of clothes! The art direction and period detail is exceptional as are the performances across the board. Even Momma!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

True Grit (2010)***
I'm not sure the Coens are capable of making an uninteresting film. Terrific performances, scenes densely packed with details and nuances, and no pandering. They use much more music in this film than most of their others but it is not overbearing as is usually the case with Westerns.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Summary Box: Wheat surges on weather concerns:
"Wheat prices surged as flooding in Australia and dry, cold weather in the U.S. and China caused concerns about the global supply. Wheat is coming off a year in which poor weather hurt crops in several countries, particularly Russia."

This is complete and total bullshit. Wheat, and many other commodities, are and have been surging because a shitload of money needs a place to go that is relatively unregulated and the commodities markets fit that bill. But you will never hear the word "speculation" mentioned in any mainstream news reports purporting to explain price changes in commodities.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Busch IV talks about death of girlfriend, his depression:
"On the day before Martin died, Busch said, he took Adrienne Martin 'for her first and her last helicopter ride.' The ride on Dec. 18 was 'just for fun because she had never been in a helicopter before. I just bought a helicopter because I'm going to start flying helicopters again.'
The relationship with Martin was so strong, he said, that it led him to change his playboy ways. 'She was the only girl I've ever been with that I didn't want to have someone on the side,' Busch said. 'You know, I'm this notorious bachelor who always wanted someone on the side, but I didn't with Adrienne.'
He said five of his eight dogs routinely slept in the same bed with him and Martin. The five are Shih Tzus, the smallest of the gaggle of pooches. Since Martin's death, Busch has encouraged all eight of the dogs to sleep on her side of the bed.
On Dec. 30, the day of Martin's funeral, Busch said he 'couldn't get out of bed.'"

The dude is just totally creepy.
2010 In Review: Movies

**** Black Swan
**** The American
**** Toy Story 3
*** Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
*** Inception
*** Shutter Island
*** The Runaways
** Alice In Wonderland
** Tron:Legacy
* Heartbreaker