Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why People Are Confused About the Earliest Christian View of Resurrection of the Dead – TaborBlog

The evidence we have found in the Talpiot tombs is primary evidence of what the first Christians believed about resurrection faith. It is not theology, but it is firm archaeological testimony that allows us for the first time to reconstruct the full picture. The tomb evidence agrees completely with the teachings of both Jesus and Paul about the new spiritual body. The confusion has come in the gospels because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the empty tomb. There was an empty tomb—but it was the first tomb, the temporary one in which Joseph of Arimathea placed the corpse of Jesus until the Passover and Sabbath were past. The Talpiot Jesus tomb was not empty—the “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuary held his bones, and as we will see, we have been able to even do DNA tests on those remains. This is no threat to the original Christian resurrection faith, it is actually an affirmation of that faith. Paul knows nothing of that first empty tomb. He knows that Jesus died and was buried and on the third day he was raised up. He then appeared to his followers, not as a resuscitated corpse, but in Paul’s words, as a “life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) *

Tired cliches dragged out again and again to fill the gaps between stunt sequences. Any resemblance between the actions of characters in this film and actual human beings is purely coincidental.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sorting out the Jesus Family: Mother, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters – TaborBlog

Given this information rather different but historically consistent picture begins to emerge. Jesus was born of an unknown father, but was not the son of Joseph. Joseph died without children, so according to Jewish law “Clophas” or “Alphaeus” became his “replacer,” and married his widow Mary, mother of Jesus. His firstborn son, James, the brother who succeeds Jesus, legally becomes known as the “son of Joseph” after his deceased brother in order to carry on his name. This would mean that Jesus had four half-brothers and at least two half-sisters, all born of his mother Mary but from a different father.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The science myths that will not die : Nature News & Comment

Yet in the early 2000s, scientists trying to build on the theory encountered bewildering results: mice genetically engineered to overproduce free radicals lived just as long as normal mice, and those engineered to overproduce antioxidants didn't live any longer than normal. It was the first of an onslaught of negative data, which initially proved difficult to publish. The free-radical theory “was like some sort of creature we were trying to kill. We kept firing bullets into it, and it just wouldn't die,” says David Gems at University College London, who started to publish his own negative results in 2003 (ref. 6). Then, one study in humans showed that antioxidant supplements prevent the health-promoting effects of exercise, and another associated them with higher mortality.

None of those results has slowed the global antioxidant market, which ranges from food and beverages to livestock feed additives. It is projected to grow from US$2.1 billion in 2013 to $3.1 billion in 2020. “It's a massive racket,” says Gems. “The reason the notion of oxidation and ageing hangs around is because it is perpetuated by people making money out of it.”

Saturday, December 05, 2015

A Very Murray Christmas (2015) ***

Fine hommage to the Christmas TV specials of yesteryear with a threadbare plot but lots of fine songs and performances. Well shot with high production values and a wry and wistful but never maudlin script.

Mr. Turner (2014) **

Another well made biopic with some major disparaging fictional elements tossed in. Wonderful period detail and goes easy on any sort of push for a narrative arc. Suffers because the protagonist is such a lout.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Live-Action Winnie the Pooh is Inspired by 'A.I. Artificial Intelligence'

In an interview with Collider, Perry discussed his inspirations for the film, including Steven Spielberg’s 2001 science-fiction drama:

There’s a lot inspired by the relationship between David and Teddy in AI. That’s not really a children’s film at all. Crushingly depressing. But the relationship between human and toy bear in that movie is pretty spot on. And Fantastic Mr. Fox is something I’ve been talking about and thinking about because it has a lot of characters and each one is pretty distinct. It’s a fun movie and it works for a four year old and for a thirty year old. But David and Teddy in AI is the relevant model. We’re looking at Toy Story a lot because that’s a thing about toys that are alive just as Pooh Bear and his friends are all stuffed animals.

I can tell you right now, this picture will be awful. This director has no idea of his own so he is mining film history to come up with something. Bad, bad sign.

Immoral Tales (1974) **

Explicit art house anthology from a definitely male gaze perspective. Watchable but fails to make a point.

The Beast (1975) **

When a film opens on a shot of a stallion in flagrante delicto you know you're in for something a little different. On that score, this flick does not disappoint. However, this black comedy/social diatribe is shocking at times but feels overlong/stretched out at just 92 minutes and ultimately IS disappointing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The quantum source of space-time : Nature News & Comment

Einstein loathed the idea of entanglement, and famously derided it as “spooky action at a distance”. But it is central to quantum theory. And Van Raamsdonk, drawing on work by like-minded physicists going back more than a decade, argued for the ultimate irony — that, despite Einstein’s objections, entanglement might be the basis of geometry, and thus of Einstein’s geometric theory of gravity. “Space-time,” he says, “is just a geometrical picture of how stuff in the quantum system is entangled.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nuclear Waste Deep Storage Plans Approved - IEEE Spectrum

To provide safer and more permanent storage, Posiva proposes to bury electrically-welded iron-and-copper capsules 400 meters underground. The capsules would be surrounded by clay barriers and capped with rubble and cement. The facility, which would have a 6,500 metric ton capacity, could likely hold Finland and Sweden's projected future nuclear waste. But that capacity doesn’t come close to the volume required by larger nations such as the United States, which has over 70,000 metric tons of waste piled up, and produces an additional 2,200 tons a year.

Though tunneling has been going on for over a decade, Posiva had to wait for the Finnish government to approve its 2012 construction permit application before it could begin the trickier task of loading radioactive waste into its metal coffins. That task may begin as soon as 2023, continue for up to a century, and end when operators fill in the access tunnels with rubble and cap them off with cement. Posiva estimates that installation and operating costs for the first century will be around €3 billion (US $3.21 billion).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Spectre (2015) **

Gets 2 stars for a spectacular opening action sequence, the presence of Ms. Bellucci, Ms. Seydoux and Ms. Harris and some nice cinematography. The rest of the film sadly under-utilizes the aforementioned actresses and is content to be an undistinguished actioner.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Infection causes Cardinals great Lou Brock to lose part of leg : Sports

An infection relative to a diabetic condition has necessitated the amputation of Brock's left leg just below the knee. But the Brock family has sent a message that the Base Burglar is recovering well and, according to a source, Brock already is taking steps with a walker and will be fitted for a prosthetic device.

Brock was visited in the hospital last weekend by former teammate Bob Gibson, who was able to make Brock laugh with one of his remarks, and former manager Red Schoendienst, another Hall of Famer who also lifted Brock's morale.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Jeff Lynne Discusses the Rebirth of ELO and New Album, 'Alone in the Universe' | Guitar World

"But writing the words is like torture, really. Because I just love music so much, the words seem kind of unnecessary to me. I just like the tune and the chords. In fact, I never even listen to the words of a song for probably the first 10 listens. I don't even know what they are on some of the songs that are my favorites, because all I listen to is the melody and the chords and the bass line."

Friday, October 30, 2015

Crimson Peak (2015) **

It wears its many inspirations on its sleeve, has impeccable production design, costumes, technical prowess (the ghosts are especially well done) but everything is a bit too hyper-realized, obscuring the humanity. That and the violence is far too realistically rendered and detailed for the overall tone. Imagine the "cheek repair" scene in Pan's Labyrinth done 10 times.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Undernews: How the Manhattan Project all killed in St Louis as well - Linkis.com

By the mid 1940s, Mallinckrodt Chemical Works had run out of space to store the radioactive waste left behind, so in 1946 they began to ship the leftovers to a relatively underpopulated area north of St Louis, next to a creek by the name of Coldwater. It was here that approximately 250,000 barrels of radioactive material were dumped in shallow pits and exposed to the elements.
According to a 1990 article in the New York Times, the toxic waste was dumped secretly with the approval of the federal government.

<irony>Conspiracy theory! To believe this you would have to believe that this has remained a secret for 69 years, involving dozens of people across government and industry! We all know that cannot happen!</irony>

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fat: The New Health Paradigm - Credit Suisse

This report is based on more than 400 medical research papers and books written by academics and industry experts, as well as two in-house surveys of doctors, nutritionists and consumers. Eating cholesterol, for instance, has basically no impact on the level of cholesterol in the blood or on potential heart diseases, and the link between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk has not been proved. "But we found that 40 percent of nutritionists and 70 percent of general practitioners surveyed believe that eating cholesterol-rich foods has damaging cardiovascular effects. This is not true, according to the extensive research that has become available in recent years," said Giles Keating, Vice Chairman of Investment Strategy & Research and Deputy Global Chief Investment Officer for Private Banking & Wealth Management. A high intake of vegetable oils (containing omega-6 polyunsaturated fats) has not been proved to be as beneficial as earlier thought, and trans-fats have been shown to have negative effects on our health. In short, saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are not behind the high rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome in the US. The two leading culprits are the higher intakes of vegetable oils and the increase in carbohydrate consumption.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Strangers in Your Brain - The New Yorker

If transposons were tampering with the DNA of every future neuron, then they were endowing each one with a slightly different genome. Even neurons that budded from the same mother would behave differently. This phenomenon, which is known as genetic mosaicism, doesn’t happen much in other tissues. The cilia that guard our lungs are genetically identical to the blood cells that circulate in our arteries, even though one looks like a sea anemone and the other looks like a cough drop. The two appear different only because they express various genes differently, in developmentally predetermined ways. Although neurons are similarly programmed, the Salk study suggested that transposons were giving them the ability to ad-lib. Several years after the initial discovery, members of Gage’s lab sequenced hundreds of individual neurons from human cadavers and found this to be true. Cells in the same brain are, indeed, genetically distinct from one another.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The tantalizing links between gut microbes and the brain : Nature News & Comment

In humans, the data are more limited. Researchers have drawn links between gastrointestinal pathology and psychiatric neurological conditions such as anxiety, depression, autism, schizophrenia and neurodegenerative disorders — but they are just links.

“In general, the problem of causality in microbiome studies is substantial,” says Rob Knight, a microbiologist at the University of California, San Diego. “It's very difficult to tell if microbial differences you see associated with diseases are causes or consequences.” There are many outstanding questions. Clues about the mechanisms by which gut bacteria might interact with the brain are starting to emerge, but no one knows how important these processes are in human development and health.

I would tend to think that the links would almost HAVE to be causal because the gut microbiome develops independently of us. Our genetic makeup has nothing to do with those organisms as far as I understand it. Wouldn't that imply that it is the microbiome influencing the body/brain?

St. Louis Landfill Fire Near Radioactive Waste | Al Jazeera America

A fire smoldering underneath a landfill north of St. Louis since 2010 could reach radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project in as little as three months, according to a report released by Missouri’s attorney general.

Much of the uranium used to make the first nuclear weapons was processed in downtown St. Louis, and the waste was moved around the region for decades. In 1973 a private company that bought some of the waste from the U.S. government illegally dumped it at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri, a northern suburb of St. Louis.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Stellan Skarsgård: 'I've never gone to a shrink. Maybe I should' - Telegraph

He is not optimistic that Sweden will continue to punch above its weight culturally. "I'm happy to be in that little corner of the world that so much talent comes out of. And of course it’s the pay-off from having had very good education for everybody… And now, of course, this will change because for eight years we had one of David Cameron's best friends as the prime minister [Fredrik Reinfeldt], dismantling what was so successful. As with England as well, culture will be reduced to children from a wealthy background. And then you're f----- as a nation. Good luck, Sweden."

Friday, October 09, 2015

Heavenly Creatures (1994) **

Tries to show the inner workings of the adolescent mind as it conflates fantasy with reality in the course of an intense friendship and how it can spiral out of control. Admirable attempt, doesn't quite succeed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What Neuroscience’s Newest ‘Genius’ Discovered -- Science of Us

You have fewer synapses in your brain now than a 2-year-old. That may sound like an insult, but it’s a scientific fact. We’re all born with heads full of lonely, isolated neurons. But as our baby brains are inundated with sensory information over the first two years of life, those neurons rapidly form connections, or synapses. A toddlers’ brain teems with more than 100 trillion of them. By the time that toddler becomes an adult, though, the brain will have pared back roughly half of them — synapses that are used frequently become stronger, while those that aren’t wither away.

This process of overproduction followed by winnowing allows the brain to shape itself to its environment. As neuroscientist David Eagleman writes, “You become who you are not because of what grows in your brain, but because of what’s removed.”

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hedge fund manager buys drug company, raises price of pill from $13.50 to $750 / Boing Boing

In August Shkreli bought a drug called Daraprim. It's been around for 62 years and is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a life-threatening parasitic infection. "Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars," reports the New York Times...Watch Bloomberg's interview with Shkreli about his decision to raise the price. He admits it costs less than $1 a pill to manufacture Daraprim, yet insists at $750 a pill, "Daraprim is still underpriced relative to its peers."

Don't worry. The "market" will sort that all out. No need for any big government socialistic communistic death panels making our health care decisions for us. "Consumers" just need to shop around more.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) ****

Thoroughly entertaining WWII action epic from David Lean featuring standout performances, photography and script. A little heavy-handed with the score at times, otherwise nearly flawless.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015) ***

Not up to the heights of other films from Aardman Animations but quite enjoyable with superb stop-motion work. No dialogue, just one sight gag after another. A disappointingly heavier reliance on potty humor unfortunately.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book review: ‘Notes on the Death of Culture’ by Mario Vargas Llosa

Eliot too saw culture decaying around him and foresaw a time in which there would be no culture. This time, Vargas Llosa argues, is ours. Eliot has since been under attack for what his critics often describe as his elitist attitudes – as well as much else – and Vargas Llosa will probably also be tarred with the same brush for his pains.

There you go again. Every couple of years we get another round of "the death of culture" books/essays about how stupid we've all become because of the internet or comic books or movies or pop music or anything not in The Canon. It's the rantings of elites out of touch with current trends and pissed about it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Brotherhood (1968) **

If you can accept Kirk as an Italian (let alone a Sicilian) this tough Mafia tale has a lot to offer. Years before Tony Soprano this flick had the guts to show the devotion to family and brutality that goes with being in The Mob. Very similar to The Godfather and suffers by comparison since it is not nearly as well directed.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Survivor (2015) **

Pierce does a fine job as the villain in this comically absurd non-stop spy chaser.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Nightfall (1957) **

It's a well made and well cast noir, but the script is a little too self-consciously quirky. Nice Fargo-esque ending though.

Irrational Man (2015) **

Enjoyable and beautifully filmed, as nearly all Woody movies are, but not well cast and not especially well written.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Criss Cross (1949) **

Burt Lancaster's performance and a logical but unusually downbeat ending are the highlights of this slowly paced and rather lackluster noir.

Friday, August 07, 2015

kottke.org: Procrastination vs. impatience

In one ingenious experiment, Oettingen had some of the participants rendered mildly dehydrated. They were then taken through an exercise that involved visualising drinking a refreshing, icy glass of water, while others took part in a different exercise. The dehydrated water-visualisers -- contrary to the self-help doctrine of motivation through visualisation -- experienced a significant reduction in their energy levels, as measured by blood pressure. Far from becoming more motivated to hydrate themselves, their bodies relaxed, as if their thirst were already quenched. In experiment after experiment, people responded to positive visualisation by relaxing. They seemed, subconsciously, to have confused visualising success with having already achieved it.

Teacher of the Year (2014) **

A talented cast makes up for an amateurish production and a less than compelling script in this earnest and sincere look at modern educators and some of the problems they face.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Maggie (2015) *

Tries extremely hard to be a film about how we come to grips with our mortality but it is so slowly paced and so poorly lit that all you can see are the plot holes.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Trainwreck (2015) ***

Funny flip on standard rom-com gender roles and an auspicious debut for lead/writer Amy Schumer.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Third Man (1949) ***

Orson's great, the cinematography is great, the direction top-notch and the script has something to say beyond the plot, but the two lead roles and actors are so dull the film really suffers. Still, worth seeing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

blog.richardroeper.com: Blog Archive: RR talks with Woody Allen about new film, “Irrational Man”

Not that Allen looks down on those of us who “Twitter,” or become preoccupied with reading the gossip provided by the TMZ’s and Perez Hilton’s of the world.

“You know, you’re born and you mark time until you die. And people have got to fill their lives with things, and some people fill it with very noble things, but most people need stuff to fill their lives with. They go to work in the morning, they’ve got to earn a living. In their free time they play golf, they go on their boat, they go to the movies … it livens up their life.

Given Allen’s upbeat mood during our talk, I had to ask: Has he found something approaching contentment?

“You know, given the tremendous nightmare that life is, then I’m OK. Then I’ve had a lucky life. But life is a difficult, meaningless, tragic, suffering proposition, and really for many, many people, [it’s] awful. So you know by the standards of what life is, I’ve been blessed. I’m very lucky.”

Eye of the Needle (1981) ***

Terrific, 3 dimensional spy thriller. Hitch would have enjoyed this.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sandra Bland Was Murdered | Rolling Stone

That's why the issue isn't how Sandra Bland died, but why she was stopped and detained in the first place. It's profiling, sure, but it's even worse than that. It's a systematic campaign to harass people using misdemeanors and violations as battering ram that's been going on forever, and against which there's little defense. When the law can be stretched to mean almost anything, obeying it is no magic bullet.

The Mystery of ISIS by Anonymous | The New York Review of Books

The thinkers, tacticians, soldiers, and leaders of the movement we know as ISIS are not great strategists; their policies are often haphazard, reckless, even preposterous; regardless of whether their government is, as some argue, skillful, or as others imply, hapless, it is not delivering genuine economic growth or sustainable social justice. The theology, principles, and ethics of the ISIS leaders are neither robust nor defensible. Our analytical spade hits bedrock very fast.

I have often been tempted to argue that we simply need more and better information. But that is to underestimate the alien and bewildering nature of this phenomenon. To take only one example, five years ago not even the most austere Salafi theorists advocated the reintroduction of slavery; but ISIS has in fact imposed it. Nothing since the triumph of the Vandals in Roman North Africa has seemed so sudden, incomprehensible, and difficult to reverse as the rise of ISIS. None of our analysts, soldiers, diplomats, intelligence officers, politicians, or journalists has yet produced an explanation rich enough—even in hindsight—to have predicted the movement’s rise.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Newly Released Dashcam Video Shows Sandra Bland Traffic Stop - NBC News

The video shows state trooper Brian Encinia stopping Bland in her silver Hyundai Azera after he says she failed to signal a lane change.

"You OK?" Encinia asks Bland.

"I'm waiting on you, this is your job," Bland responds. "I'm waiting on you."

"You seem very irritated," Encinia adds.

Failed to signal a lane change, refused to put out a cigarette and displayed noticeable irritation. Don't mess with Texas indeed.

Go Set A Watchman - An Opinion Piece | Brilliant Books

It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as “Harper Lee’s New Novel”. This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic (which we hope has not been irrevocably tainted.) We therefore encourage you to view “Go Set A Watchman” with intellectual curiosity and careful consideration; a rough beginning for a classic, but only that.

via @KUSCGail.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Bicycling with Moliére (2013) **

Making Moliére accessible to modern audiences is the idea under the guise of a low-key comedy/character study as only the French can do. Pleasant and well acted, but so light it tends to flutter away.

Review: ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ by Harper Lee - SFGate

When Lee submitted the manuscript of “Watchman” to publisher J.B. Lippincott in 1957, her editor, Tay Hohoff, astutely saw the germ of a better book in the childhood passages and suggested Lee rewrite the novel from young Scout’s point of view, set 20 years earlier, during the Depression. Comparing “Mockingbird” — the result of two years of arduous revisions — with “Watchman” demonstrates clearly just how important a good editor can be. Put simply, where “Mockingbird” beguiles, dazzles and moves to tears as it conveys core values of empathy and human decency, “Watchman” horrifies with its ugly racism, even as it emotes and moralizes didactically, clunkily and shrilly.

It is hard not to wonder whether this manuscript made it into print after all these years because of a genuine late-life change of heart by its infirm, 89-year-old author, or because of the new gatekeeper who succeeded her sister (and longtime lawyer) Alice, who died in 2014.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Blade Runner (1982) ***

Influential and ground breaking sci-fi flick that unfortunately set the look for too many other 80's movies. It's a pretty good yarn with a few too many incongruent moments that look great but make no sense. Rutger Hauer steals the picture.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The military tested bacterial weapons in San Francisco - Business Insider

Over the next 20 years, the military would conduct 239 "germ-warfare" tests over populated areas, according to news reports from the 1970s (after the secret tests had been revealed) in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, and other publications (via Lexis-Nexis), and also detailed in congressional testimony from the 1970s.

These tests included the large-scale releases of bacteria in the New York City subway system, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and in National Airport just outside Washington, DC.

Monday, July 06, 2015

On the Beach (1959) **

Ultimately unconvincing doomsday tale thanks to heavy handed and plodding direction. It's also way too long. Still Misses Gardner and Anderson are easy on the eyes and Mr. Astaire turns in a fine performance in his straight dramatic debut although he's supposed to be British and has no accent whatsoever. Same goes for Gardner and Perkins who are supposed to be Australian.

The Mission (1986) ***

Full of lush and cinematic imagery, a handful of moving sequences and a terrific score, nevertheless the film fails to achieve the greatness to which is aspires. The symbolism is a little too overt, the earnestness a little too strong. Not enough of the characters, especially the native peoples, are fleshed out and remain caricatures. Still, entertaining and thought provoking.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Are Grocery Stores The Well Of Human Sadness? - The Awl

Is it truly possible that the general state of the species is to float through even the most banal of circumstances untroubled by minor annoyances? Let’s not go so far as to discuss whether you are able to get through a transaction at an automated teller machine without somehow secretly intuiting the sorrow and loneliness and lack of hope that hurts the hearts of everyone else around you—I realize that magic power of tragic transference is a special gift only few of us have been chosen to live with. All I want to know is if everyone else is really having a good time in our nation’s checkout lines. Because maybe that explains why none of you seem in any particular hurry to have your money or cards ready to go when your turn finally comes with the cashier. Sweet Christ, it’s like you’ve got the rest of your lives to bathe in that bad lighting next to the snack cake display and you’re pleased as punch to spend that time with the rest of us, regardless of what we’re trying desperately to rush off to. Or maybe you’re just so dispirited by the idea of going back your empty, loveless hole of heartbreak that you want to prolong the few seconds of contact you have with any other human being? God, I’m crying just thinking about it.

Alex Balk so gets me.

Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman Remember Yes' Chris Squire | Rolling Stone

Anderson and Squire co-wrote many of Yes' greatest hits: "Yours Is No Disgrace," "Starship Trooper," "I've Seen All Good People" and "Owner of a Lonely Heart." "We travelled a road less travelled and I'm so thankful that he climbed the musical mountains with me," Anderson wrote. "Throughout everything, he was still my brother, and I'm so glad we were able to reconnect recently. I saw him in my meditation last night, and he was radiant. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones."

Probably THE most unique bass player ever in popular music, and one of the more innovative song writers. Tremendous talent.

Supertramp co-founder relishes role in 'service industry' - Yahoo News

"I wasn't the kind of songwriter who just sat down and said, 'What am I going to write about?'

"These songs came from a very pure place in me. They are me -- they express my questions, my joy, my longing for love, my longing to know God."

Before I Go to Sleep (2014) *

Quite unpleasant thriller directed without style, a waste of a good cast. Another "protagonist forgets everything each day" flick but nowhere near the artistry of Memento.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Inside Out (2015) ***

Smart, intelligent, original, cleverly designed and absolutely the topper-most in the animation game (particularly the depiction of "reality") yet when it's all over it seems like something is missing. Maybe that's to be expected when your movie is about the importance of sadness to being human.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pastor of St. Louis' "New Cathedral" dies : Lifestyles

In a statement, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson praised Monsignor Pins and said, “His passing will leave a great pastoral void in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”

Monsignor Pins attended the former St. Louis Preparatory South High School, Cardinal Glennon College and Kenrick Seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1970.

His first assignment was at St. Luke Parish in Richmond Heights.

What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
-- last words of Crowfoot (Blackfoot warrior and orator, 1890)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Nightcrawler (2014) ***

Well made cross between Network and Taxi Driver doesn't quite come together as a complete film. Terrific Jake Gyllenhaal performance, nicely shot scenes of nighttime L.A.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) **

Consisting mainly of a series of setups to jump scares, but done well for the genre.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Mirrormask (2005) **

Well made and all, but it boils down to whether you find the production design, based upon the artwork of director Dave McKean appealing or not. I did not and that made the rest of the film tiresome. Admirable, but tiresome.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Christopher Lee, 1922-2015 - Boing Boing

Lord Summerisle, Dracula, Saruman—all immortal. Alas, the legendary actor behind them, who created villains of imposing intelligence and dignity for generation after generation, is dead at 93.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The American Scholar: The Examined Lie - James McWilliams

If the prospect of humans routinely communicating through inaccurate, if innocent, recollections sounds like a sociobiological dystopia, it shouldn’t. In his book Why We Lie, the philosopher David Livingstone Smith contends that lying is not only normal but even necessary for maintaining psychological equilibrium and social stability. He hypothesizes that “far from being a sign of emotional disturbance,” self-deception exists “at the core of our humanity.” The evolutionary impulse to deceive, Smith contends, taps an ancient disposition—“the Machiavellian unconscious”—that enables us to mislead ourselves so that we can strategically mislead others. “The task of getting on in life,” he told me, “requires self-deception because too much honesty is antisocial,” not to mention detrimental to survival. In this respect, flawed memory isn’t an indication of flawed character. Instead, as Harvard psychologist Schacter puts it, it’s the “byproduct of otherwise desirable and adaptive features of the human mind,” the kind of adaptations that enable humans to communicate through implicitly agreed upon, if often factually inaccurate, narratives. The vices of memory, Schacter writes, “can also be its virtues.”

Monday, June 08, 2015

Undernews: Obama considering destruction of a New Deal gem: TVA

The TVA is a corporate agency of the United States, governed by a nine-person board appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Its operations have been self-financed since 1999, requiring no taxpayer money. The TVA operates one of the nation’s largest utility systems, accounting for about 3 percent of U.S. electricity capacity. .

Even though electric power generation and transmission is the TVA’s dominant function, it remains integral to and integrated with the TVA’s nonpower responsibilities, including river and land management, environmental stewardship, and economic development.

Another solution to a non-existent problem.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Disney to Adapt Iconic 'Fantasia' Sequence Into Live-Action Movie (Exclusive) - The Hollywood Reporter

Disney has been diving head first into its animated classics to remake them as live action versions. Following Maleficent, Cinderella was released earlier in 2015, and has earned a stellar $531.8 million worldwide. A live-action version of Beauty and the Beast will star Emma Watson; Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp are set to star in sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass for 2016; and the studio's live-action The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau, will also be released in 2016. Disney is also working on live-action versions of Mulan, Dumbo (Tim Burton will direct) and a Tinker Bell story starring Reese Witherspoon.

This is what the copyright laws have wrought. What a waste.

Monday, June 01, 2015

The November Man (2014) *

Pierce and Olga try valiantly to keep it watchable but this unrelentingly violent and repetitive actioner folds in on itself 6 times too often. A waste.

Annabelle (2014) **

Some nifty scares in this quickly paced and somewhat inventive entry from James Wan's DP.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Denny Hastert is Contemptible, But His Indictment Exemplifies America's Over-Criminalization Pathology - The Intercept

When everything – even trivial transgressions – can become a serious felony, it empowers law enforcement to punish whomever they want. It’s a key reason they are able to basically use arrest and prosecution powers to control and punish minority populations in the U.S. The arrest and destruction of Eliot Spitzer for prostitution was accomplished through the same type of detection system and charges being used against Hastert.

Turning someone into a felon and putting them into prison for years, or even threatening to do so, is one of the most repressive things a government can do to its citizens. Only serious acts of wrongdoing should enable that. The “past misconduct” in which Hastert allegedly engaged may qualify, but that’s not part of his charges. The acts for which he has been charged – hiding withdrawals and lying to the FBI about why he wanted that money – do not qualify.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Blue Room (2014) ***

Expertly directed by lead Mathieu Amalric this quintessentially French noir grabs the viewer from the get go and doesn't let up until the puzzle is solved 75 minutes later. Or is it?

r.i.p. blank slate (and what does “the environment” mean anyway?) | hbd chick

the authors looked at “17,804 traits from 2,748 publications including 14,558,903 partly dependent twin pairs, virtually all published twin studies of complex traits.” 14.5+ MILLION twin pairs! as james thompson said, this study pretty much represents “the mother of ‘F*** Off’ samples.” (~_^) in future, if someone says to you that twin studies were debunked a long time ago, blah, blah, blah, just point them to this paper.

and the upshot is: we are not blank slates. we never were.

Taxi Driver (1976) ****

Superb trip to Hell in the guise of NYC in the early '70's with a deranged Vietnam vet as guide. Every aspect of the production feels fresh and original even 40 years on.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Birth of Eleanor Rigby

‘All our songs come out of our imagination. There was never an Eleanor Rigby. One of us might think of a song completely, and the other just adds a bit. Or we might write alternate lines. We never argue. If one of us says he doesn’t like a bit, the other agrees. It just doesn’t matter that much. I care about being a song writer. But I don’t care passionately about each song.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Art Garfunkel on Paul Simon: 'I created a monster' - Telegraph

“George came up to me at a party once and said “my Paul is to me what your Paul is to you.” He meant that psychologically they had the same effect on us. The Pauls sidelined us. I think George felt suppressed by Paul and I think that’s what he saw with me and my Paul. Here’s the truth: McCartney was a helluva music man who gave the band its energy, but he also ran away with a lot of the glory.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Leap Year (2010) ***

Fascinating character study of a woman struggling to deal with deeply buried pain and willing to try one approach to its inevitable conclusion. Unflinchingly and realistically portrayed by Monica del Carmen and nicely directed by Michael Rowe on just one set with no closeups (yay!). Runs rings around films with much larger budgets and more "name" talent.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) **

Has not aged well. Most of the cast seem miscast which hampers the impact of the final scenes. Some decent Woody one-liners and his usual fine pacing, but it's not up to his impressive visual standards.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Nestle boss says he wants to bottle more water in California despite drought | US news | The Guardian

Brown admitted that Nestlé currently wastes about 30% of the 700m gallons of water a year it draws from the ground in California. On Tuesday, the company announced plans to reduce water waste at its bottling plants in Bakersfield and Tulare by 12%.

More than 82,000 people have signed a petition calling on Nestlé to stop bottling from a spring in southern California, and protesters armed with plastic pitchforks have blocked the entrance to a Nestlé plant in Sacramento.

Despite the protests, Brown said: “We feel good about what we’re doing delivering healthy hydrating to people throughout the state of California.”

Woody Allen at Cannes: Life Has No Meaning, and His Amazon Series Could Be a 'Cosmic Embarrassment'

“The bottom line is that life has its own agenda, and it runs right over you. We’re all going to end up in a very bad position sooner or later. The same position, but a bad one — and the only way out of it, the only thing you can do as an artist, is to explain to people how life is worth living and has a meaning.”
He shrugged. “Now, you can’t really do that without conning them. We’re living in a random universe with no meaning. Everything that Shakespeare or Michelangelo or Beethoven did will all be gone one day. It’s very hard to sell anyone a bill of goods that there’s any good to this.”
So his tactic, he insisted, is simple: “The only possible way you can beat this is through distraction. I distract myself by making these movies. I think, ‘Oh God, can I get Emma and Parker to get this scene right?’ Like it means something, like if I make a bad movie I’ll die.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Factotum (2005) ****

Immensely perceptive and lyrical look at humanity through the misadventures of a not likable, not employable and barely tolerable would be writer. No happy endings, no growth arcs, just the bitter truth exposed with humor, cinematic imagery and excellent acting, directing, writing.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seymour M. Hersh: The Killing of Osama bin Laden : LRB 21 May 2015

The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed. At the time, the retired official said, the Seals did not think their mission would be made public by Obama within a few hours: ‘If the president had gone ahead with the cover story, there would have been no need to have a funeral within hours of the killing. Once the cover story was blown, and the death was made public, the White House had a serious “Where’s the body?” problem. The world knew US forces had killed bin Laden in Abbottabad. Panic city. What to do? We need a “functional body” because we have to be able to say we identified bin Laden via a DNA analysis. It would be navy officers who came up with the “burial at sea” idea. Perfect. No body. Honourable burial following sharia law. Burial is made public in great detail, but Freedom of Information documents confirming the burial are denied for reasons of “national security”. It’s the classic unravelling of a poorly constructed cover story – it solves an immediate problem but, given the slighest inspection, there is no back-up support. There never was a plan, initially, to take the body to sea, and no burial of bin Laden at sea took place.’ The retired official said that if the Seals’ first accounts are to be believed, there wouldn’t have been much left of bin Laden to put into the sea in any case.

I guess ZD30 really IS fiction then. Too bad it will still be treated as a doc by lots of people.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Ex Machina (2015) ***

Thought provoking, very well made sci-fi fable about man v. machine and WHAT a machine! Reminiscent of a Soderbergh flick in a good way.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) **

Terrific first couple of reels, goes s-l-o-w-l-y downhill from there primarily due to the languorous pace and the lack of further story. Nice images, refreshing take on an old genre, often Coppola-esque.

Lady in the Lake (1947) *

Answers the question "Can you make a good picture showing only the main character's point of view?" with a resounding "NO!" The script is surprisingly faithful to the source, but the gimmick is terrible.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

While We're Young (2014) ***

An intelligent and densely packed script is the highlight here. But Baumbach's insistence on casting Ben Stiller in the lead really hurts the film as well as his penchant for tight close-ups which hopefully is just an aberration. Reminiscent of parts of a certain Woody Allen film, although Baumbach would do better to imitate Allen's love of medium shots instead of his plots.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Babadook (2014) **

Well put together parenting fable is hamstrung by the fact that the kid IS truly supremely annoying so the "twist" can't come soon enough. Outstanding job by Essie Davis in the lead.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Imitation Game (2014) *

Another Hollywood-ized biopic (meaning characters/events invented, key characters/events ignored) using flashbacks seemingly willynilly to annoying effect especially when the real true story is more compelling. The only problem is real life is not an arc and people are not usually defined by one traumatic event in childhood. One more time, a simple thing to change names and/or completely invent a story and that way nobody gets hurt and we MAY end up with a decent film.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Across the Pacific (1942) *

Given the stellar pedigree this one's a big disappointment with very little style and not much to say other than WWII propaganda.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kicking and Screaming (1995) ***

Pretty rough around the edges, but the actors sell it well especially the great Chris Eigeman. Early Noah Baumbach effort is strained at times but clearly shows the talent and the smarts.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

SPIEGEL Interview with John Cleese - SPIEGEL ONLINE

SPIEGEL: Somewhere in your book you call Terry Jones a "swarthy, excitable, plump, Celtic demi-dwarf." Apart from that, is everything okay between the two of you?

Cleese: We always fought, Terry and I, and we don't understand each other. But there's a genuine affection. We were playing two old women in the reunion show last year, and I don't know why, but we started holding hands before the lights came on. We disagree a lot. And Terry Gilliam has only said two things in his life that I agree with but there's still an affection. We all went in completely different directions after Monty Python. Eric went into music, Terry Gilliam directs movies -- he is wonderful at images, but not very good at narrative. Terry Jones does all sorts of things. Michael does a lot of programs about travel and painting. I don't know what I've done.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Paul McCartney defends Kanye West over use of racial slur - Daily Dish

McCartney also revealed his wife Nancy Shevell was less charitable over the performance, adding, “It really shocked Nancy, because she’d been to school with a lot of black kids and been immersed in that experience.”

Paul, Paul, Paul. Just say "Some of her best friends are..." instead.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Still Life (2006) *

Incoherence, intentionally or not, is a tough sell in a film. You need a charismatic star, extremely breathtaking cinematography, art direction and maybe all 3. This film has none.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) **

Very well crafted film, good pacing, never felt too long, interesting art direction, fine actors. However, I was very familiar with the source material so that probably influences my opinion regarding the tempo and understand-ability of the complicated plot. Oldman is a liability in that he plays Smiley as fairly comatose and I never got the feeling he was a real person.

Bottling water without scrutiny

Even with California deep in drought, the federal agency hasn't assessed the impacts of the bottled water business on springs and streams in two watersheds that sustain sensitive habitats in the national forest. The lack of oversight is symptomatic of a Forest Service limited by tight budgets and focused on other issues, and of a regulatory system in California that allows the bottled water industry to operate with little independent tracking of the potential toll on the environment.

It seems incredible that the state IS tracking residential water use, and rightfully so, yet corporations' water usage is not?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cosmopolis (2012) **

Interesting premise that starts well but peters out quickly despite some knockout star cameos especially Juliette Binoche. The actors are fine but the approach is too laid back for such a thin thread of a story.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Parents ask S.F. Archdiocese to remove school’s leaders - SFGate

Illo, who also didn’t speak during the hour-and-a-half meeting, said afterward that it’s a difficult situation and acknowledged that there is a lot of tension and anxiety between himself and the school parents. He said there have been misunderstandings, but now he’ll leave it to the archbishop to decide what happens next.
“It was a good forum,” Illo said. “It’s important to hear their perspective.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

'Yoga Pants are Ruining Women' and Other Style Advice From Fran Lebowitz

To me, the main difference between young people now and the people I was young with isn't so much style, it's the relationships they have with their parents. Their parents like them much more than ours liked us. Our parents weren't our friends. They disapproved of us. All our parents cared about was how we behaved, not how we felt, not what we wanted. But now I see my friends on the phones with their, what, 30-year-old kids? And they're talking about feelings. You would think this kind of relationship would make this adult children more relaxed, but instead they're more concerned. Parent-child relationships have become so collegiate. And so when these grown children go into the world, they expect a certain amount of attention. And they're very disappointed.

Kenneth Branagh "Hopeful" About Martin Scorsese Macbeth

Speaking about the possible Scorsese movie, Branagh revealed, “To some extent the invitation is for the maestro to do what he will with this, to be very impressionistic with it and very abstract.” That should help set it apart from the many other Macbeth adaptations that have hit stage and screen over the centuries — including one due out this year, with Justin Kurzel directing and Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard starring.

Monday, March 23, 2015

House of Strangers (1949) *

Bizarre saga of deranged Sicilian patriarch and his equally deranged offspring. Any resemblance to actual human beings is purely coincidental and minimal. A few nicely done tracking shots and Edward G. does a nice job.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pickpocket (1959) *

A blank slate of a film, in which the actors give non-performances and the viewer supplies the emotion and motivation. This makes for an interesting movie but not an engaging or enjoyable one.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Clint Eastwood Describes His Near-Death Experience, Says 'American Sniper' Is Anti-War (Exclusive) - Hollywood Reporter

EASTWOOD: I did. Apocalypse Now, they… [Francis Ford] Coppola called me up and asked me if I wanted to do the young guy I think later played by Martin Sheen. And asked me if I wanted to play that and I said gee, I don't know I don’t understand this show too much. I did read Heart of Darkness when I was young and so I kind of knew where it was going but then I said no, I don’t think I can go off for that long a time. He was going to go 16 weeks in the Philippines. And then Steve McQueen called me and he says why don’t you come on and you come on and play this role? I said I thought you were going to play that role because I'd read somewhere that he was going to play.

EASTWOOD: He said no, no, he said I want to play the Kurtz role that [Marlon] Brando ended up playing. And I said well why do you want to play that? He says well, I get the same money but I only have to work two weeks. [LAUGHTER] I said well you've figured it out. I said I don't know about going to the Philippines and there’s a lot of unknown factors maybe over there and I'd just gotten through building a house and everything and I thought no I don’t want to go away that long.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Big Combo (1955) *

Every cliche in the noir book is tried and found wanting in this bad but earnest flick. If the cinematography or acting or SOMETHING was exceptional it might have worked but this is very poorly written.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Biutiful (2010) **

Javier Bardem carries the picture as best he can but it's ultimately not enough despite some exceptional moments. Too long and too unrelentingly bleak, even if that is the point, to be entertaining or enjoyable.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Doll's House (1973) ***

Top notch cast brings the classic Ibsen play to life. Doesn't look or feel like a filmed play, but some of the actors are disconcertingly old for their parts.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fargo (1996) ****

Perfectly crafted combination noir and character study hits just the right tones using all the keys. Tremendous pacing, pitch perfect performances, nifty combination of subtlety and overt violence.

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013) ****

Exquisitely and imaginatively animated Japanese folk tale shows Disney a thing or two about adapting "fairy tales" for the screen and intentionally or not blows away all their "Princess" movies. The impact of the final reel is profound.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Marlene (1984) **

Interesting document of how to make a film documentary about an individual who does not want to be photographed. Marlene Dietrich tries very hard not to reveal her true self but in her non-comments, denials and protestations as well as the subtle cinematic tricks of director Maximilian Schell we get a glimpse here and there.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Thérèse (2012) **

The difficulty of making a story which mainly takes place inside the characters' heads into compelling cinema is evident in this sumptuously filmed saga of between the wars Bordeaux families where individuality is irrelevant and only the family, and the pines, matter. It doesn't quite pull it off.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

In a World... (2013) ***

Excellent writer-director debut for comic actress Lake Bell who shows a visual flair, a solid casting sense and a way with a one liner. Fred Melamed is terrific as usual.

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014) *

Another violent revenge noir for Liam Neeson, this one even more sadistic and gratuitously brutal than the others. Artless and ugly.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) **

Watchable but oddly un-erotic and un-romantic depiction of what ostensibly should be an erotic romance. Uninspired casting.

Belle (2013) **

Bland period piece depicting sexist and racist English cultural rubrics of the 18th century. Film assumes its noble purpose is all that matters.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Marathon Man (1976) **

It's really well put together, Sir Larry and Dusty give "A" list performances, Marthe is lovely, NYC looks gritty and grimy in that awesome '70's way, but the implausibility of it all is too much in the end. Still, it's worth seeing if only to be reminded of a time when only the bad guys used torture.

Monday, February 23, 2015

'Arrested Development' Season 5 Air Date: What's In Store For Next Installment?

“Right now I’m cutting a version of season four that tells it chronologically,” said Hurwitz in an interview with Pretentious Film Majors. “There’s more of a story that has to be told somehow, and we’ve got the whole story broken. Season four was always meant to be like act one of a three-act structure.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Solo con tu pareja (1991) *

Disappointing first feature from otherwise talented director Alfonso Cuaron is ostensibly a rom-com/sex farce but it's lit like a dour crime drama, not funny and not the least romantic.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Miller's Crossing (1990) ***

Typically solid Coen's production doesn't soar to the heights of some of their other films, but it's still packed with smart and witty scenes and some terrific supporting performances.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) ****

How to do an action/fantasy film right. One of the greats.

The Humbling (2014) **

It's always Pacino you're watching, but he's interesting to watch plus he has excellent support from Greta Gerwig. Opens and closes a lot like another film but without the same panache.

Jupiter Ascending (2015) **

Overlong, repetitive and predictable, this grand space opera does have a handful of superb action sequences that break the over-cut, shaky-cam approach of most action films these days. Excellent art direction, makeup, costumes it's just not quite there in terms of compelling narrative or compelling leads.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Letter To The Millennials — Medium

So one of the things I want to teach you about is a time from 1965–1980 when the artists really ruled both the music and the film industries. Some said "the lunatics had taken over the asylum” (and, amusingly enough, David Geffen named his record company Asylum), but if you look at the quality of work that was produced, it was extraordinary; in fact, most of it is still watched and listened to today. Moreover, in that period the most artistic work also sold the best: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper was without doubt the best record of the year but also the best selling, and The Godfather was similarly both best movie of the year and the biggest box office hit. That’s not happening right now, and I want to try to understand why that is.

Aside from the subjective distinction about what constitutes "the most artistic work", during that period (65-80) the artists and the majority of the public were the same generation. It was because the Baby Boomers numbers were so huge they were, and still are, the primary market force. Today, Boomers don't go the movies very often (or buy as much music) but Millenials do it's just that their numbers are nowhere near as large as the Boomers so they are a market force, just not on the scale of the Boomers' heyday. Great movies and music are still being made today, arguably better than ever, but the market is much more diverse than ever so to be a "best seller" the movie/song has to be appreciated by all segments and that usually spells "artistic" disaster.

Note: Starting with this post, excerpts from the linked content will be shown in Italics at the top of the post.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Case for Hollywood History by Francine Prose | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

"Until recently, I’d assumed it was understood that Hollywood would emphasize the 'story' aspects of history, and that a distortion of real events, on screen, would hardly constitute a lie. Except for those cases in which I felt that a film was being used as propaganda—Zero Dark Thirty comes to mind—I’d never been particularly disturbed, and certainly not surprised, to learn that a feature film had altered a real event so as to ramp up the drama. At what point, I wonder, did we start expecting films to tell the truth about the past? And won’t we be in trouble if we do?

The films of the '70's represented a major shift in style for mainstream films towards a more realistic portrayal of everyday reality. The idea was to better reflect the reality of most moviegoers rather than present an escape. Thus, movies came to be seen as more "real". Compare nearly any film from 1952 with any film from 1972. The former are not even attempting to represent reality, but a 'story' reality and the viewer knows this. Films today trade on this almost hyper-reality, trying to convince the viewer that they are watching in effect a "newsreel" and not a fictional narrative. THIS is the problem when your "story" is supposed to be something that really happened and the movie wants you to believe it really happened but it DID NOT HAPPEN. That's usually called "lying". The thing is, this is NOT a big problem to correct. Just change the names of the people involved, move the locale, switch the genders, do SOMETHING CREATIVE and stop trying to sell tickets "based on true events" that never happened.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Age of Consent (1969) **

The great Michael Powell's last film and like all his others it's interesting and beautifully shot if not entirely compelling. Certain directors could learn a lot about "finding something to look at" just by viewing this film. Uneven but enjoyable.

Stairway to Heaven (1946) ***

Romantic fantasy of WWII aviator who miraculously and mistakenly survives plane crash and must defend his life in a sort of way station to Eternity in order to keep it. Spectacular images and surprisingly intelligent script are high points but there's a section of the "court room" discourse that veers off into a lengthy and irrelevant history lesson that really takes you out of the picture. Still the visuals are worth it.

Grammys 2015: Transcript of Bob Dylan's MusiCares Person of Year speech - LA Times

"Johnny Cash recorded some of my songs early on, too, up in about '63, when he was all skin and bones. He traveled long, he traveled hard, but he was a hero of mine. I heard many of his songs growing up. I knew them better than I knew my own. 'Big River,' 'I Walk the Line.'

"'How high's the water, Mama?' I wrote 'It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)' with that song reverberating inside my head. I still ask, 'How high is the water, mama?' Johnny was an intense character. And he saw that people were putting me down playing electric music, and he posted letters to magazines scolding people, telling them to shut up and let him sing.

"In Johnny Cash's world -- hardcore Southern drama -- that kind of thing didn't exist. Nobody told anybody what to sing or what not to sing. They just didn't do that kind of thing. I'm always going to thank him for that. Johnny Cash was a giant of a man, the man in black. And I'll always cherish the friendship we had until the day there is no more days."

Crazy, rambling, confessional, score-settling monologue by Bob Dylan. And sorry, Bob, your voice IS shot.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Undernews: Study: Monsanto helped kill the monarch butterfly

"The report makes it abundantly clear: two decades of Roundup Ready crops have nearly eradicated milkweed—the monarch caterpillar’s sole source of food—in cropland of the monarch’s vital Midwest breeding ground."

The Lion in Winter (1968) **

12th century English royal court shenanigans brought to rambunctious life by a fine cast with an even finer script. The scenes stretched out to "expand" the original play are unnecessary and detract from the experience however.

Bitter Victory (1957) **

Odd WWII film set in North Africa dares to ask when is it "war" and when is it "murder" instead of just being a pro-Allies propaganda flick. Admirable, but the script and leads are not quite up to the task.

On gospel, Abba and the death of the record: an audience with Brian Eno | Interview | Music | The Guardian

"'I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn't last, and now it's running out. I don't particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate – history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it.'"

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Pro Dumpster Diver Who's Making Thousands Off America's Biggest Retailers | WIRED

"While researching his book, Humes obtained what was one of the last interviews with William Rathje, the late University of Arizona garbage researcher. During that conversation, the archaeologist said that US overconsumption reminded him of the ancient civilizations he had studied, in which the moment that extravagance began to outstrip resources always seemed to signal the descent into contraction and decline. In Garbology, Humes urged a break with that historical pattern and an all-out commitment to cutting waste. But in his conversation with Rathje, the university researcher noted one big problem with this idea: 'No great civilization of the past has ever pulled this off,' Humes says Rathje told him. 'None.'”

Sirens (1993) ***

Superb casting helps this straightforward look at Australian painter Norman Lindsey who had a penchant for nudes. With models like this can you blame him? Nicely done.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Undernews: Recovered history: The biggest protest with the most arrests in American history

"Yet Mayday has no place in our collective memory, thanks in part to the pop culture habit of shoe-horning protest history into 'the Sixties.' This nonviolent radical action, moreover, doesn't fit into the classic narrative of the New Left's rise and fall, a story in which noble democratic ideals degenerate into bitterness and violence; large movement organizations are painstakingly built and then collapse; and revolutionary phantasms overtake a radicalism based on homegrown traditions of dissent."

We are creatures of narrative, yet reality doesn't have any.

via https://twitter.com/bnroj/lists/links

Monday, February 02, 2015

Bernie: A blunder for the ages : Sports

"And maybe just a tad lucky, too. Brady won his first Super Bowl, at the end of the 2001 season, when Rams coach Mike Martz had a lapse in strategy by failing to give enough carries to future Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk."

Again with this canard! If you check the stats for SB XXXVI you'll see that Faulk averaged 4.5 yards per carry whereas Warner had 8.3 yards per throw. They should have thrown MORE not less, as most NFL teams have discovered since. The Rams lost because they had 3 turnovers (and a missed field goal) and the Patriots had none. You seldom win any game with a differential like that.

And the Seahawks didn't lose because they called a pass play at the 1 yard line. They called the WRONG pass play, a very risky pass play to the inside, and Wilson failed to realize it in time and throw the ball out of the end zone.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

All the Light in the Sky (2012) ***

Thoughtful look at how we deal with the passing of time personally, as a culture, as a species in the perceptions of a contemporary actress who has reached an age when the parts are not so forthcoming. Well shot in a gorgeous location with appealing leads and an intelligent and subtle "script" although it seems like a complete improv.

The Two Faces of January (2014) ***

A vacation in Greece in 1962 turns into a twisty noir with familial subtexts. Beautiful scenery, beautiful actors, sharply paced and well shot.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Is Warner a first-ballot Hall of Famer? : Sports

“'What solidified his Hall of Fame career ... is when he went to Arizona and took that organization to a Super Bowl,'” Faulk said."

Most definitely. Plus there's this spectacular conference championship game that might never be topped.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Julia (1977) ***

A thin thread of a story (apparently fictional) but the film is engrossing and thoughtful. A fine script, direction and good cast all turn in top notch work.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

San Francisco priest bars altar girls, sparks another controversy | National Catholic Reporter

"The first, he said, is that 'boys usually end up losing interest [in altar service] because girls generally do a better job.'

"The second and more important reason, Illo said, is that 'altar service is intrinsically tied to the priesthood and serve as feeder programs for the seminary.'

"'If the Catholic Church ordained women, altar girls would make sense, but the Catholic priesthood is a male charism,' he said. 'Nothing awakens a desire for the priesthood like service at the altar among the brotherhood of young men. At the risk of generalizing, I suspect young men serving with young women might just distract them from the sacrifice of the Mass, and perhaps even from a priestly vocation.'"

Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dangerous Crossing (1953) **

Slick studio noir suffers from a lack of star power in the leads, but it's a fast paced closed box yarn (all the action takes place on a cruise ship) with some interesting scenes.

The Great Silence (1968) **

Snowy spaghetti western suffers from a horrible dub job, but is watchable for its cinematography, the lovely Vonetta McGee, and an ending that actually follows the logic of the bleak and despairing story.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Election (1999) ****

Sharp, merciless satire is perfectly cast and perfectly executed. Hilarious and profoundly sad often at the same time. Brilliant film.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Paul Thomas Anderson Reveals the Secrets of 'Inherent Vice' | Rolling Stone

"You can go big, or you can just do a lot of close-ups.

"There are a lot of close-ups in Inherent Vice, aren't there? It wasn't by design, but right here [holds hand in front of his face] always seemed to be the best place to be. You know, a lot of these locations, there's not much else to look at. They're kind of dingy little motel rooms and apartments and stuff, so. . . . Plus, what's better than a Jena Malone close-up? Not much. Pretty high on the list of great things."

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's joking. I mean, he HAS to be joking, right? "Not much else to look at"??? Isn't that YOUR job pal?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) ***

Effective mashup of Groundhog Day and Aliens unfortunately goes for the Hollywood ending when they had a terrific, poignant and meaningful one already. It's still a great ride to get there and Cruise's best picture in years.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

George Lucas details plans to make, but not release, two new films | Hero Complex – movies, comics, pop culture – Los Angeles Times

“'The way [the films] are, they’re not really movies that can be released,' Lucas said of his upcoming projects during a recent phone call from New York City, where he was promoting 'Strange Magic.' 'They’re movies more for myself and maybe I’ll show them to some of my friends.

“'It costs more to put them out there than it does to make ‘em,' he continued. 'These are movies that are never going to make any money or anything.'”

Whatever happened to George Lucas? I mean, how did he become such an idiot? If anything, it is EASIER to distribute a film nowadays than ever before. What he is talking about is major studio distribution which is essentially marketing and so riddled with bloat and corruption. But with a little imagination and effort, films can be distributed directly to theatres quite easily since they're all digital now. I don't think European filmmakers have the same concerns.

Foxcatcher (2014) **

Another in the despicable "based on a true story" genre that changes those true events to fit "the requirements of narrative". Aside from that the film is too long and drawn out but features 3 transformative lead performances that are all excellent and worth seeing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Inherent Vice (2014) *

Apparently you are either on this film's wavelength or you're not. I was not. I could not make sense of the plot, and that's not always necessary, but it is necessary that it appears as though the plot (or whatever the protagonist is doing) makes SOME sort of logical sense even if that logic only exists in the film's world. Otherwise, unless the actors/characters are especially charismatic (not in this case), the viewer tends not to care. Plus I don't like films that are almost exclusively shot in closeups.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunset Blvd. (1950) ****

Deliciously creepy smack down of behind-the-scenes Hollywood. Iconic performances by Swanson and von Stroheim and a script that still surprises 60+ years later.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Australian actor Rod Taylor dead at 84: Legendary star suffers a heart attack at LA home | dailytelegraph.com.au

“I couldn’t live without it. And I don’t do it just for money. I love it. It is an honorable art. I am proud to be an actor. I pray and try every day to be a better actor. ... I am a poor student sitting at the feet of giants, yearning for their wisdom and begging for lessons that might one day make me a complete artist, so that if all goes well, I may one day sit beside them.”

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Young & Beautiful (2013) ***

Subtle and direct at the same time is a tough trick to pull off but Ozon manages it. Beautifully shot with beautiful women.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Cardinal Raymond Burke: 'Feminized' church and altar girls caused priest shortage | National Catholic Reporter

"'Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women,' he said. 'The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.

"Burke, a liturgical traditionalist and a doctrinal conservative, also said that 'men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and to children.'"

Wow. Read the whole thing. There's lots more incredible quotes. Sit down before you do though. Can Francis take away Burke's zucchetto? Please?

Oscar Films & the Prison of Historical Accuracy -- Vulture

"Because, surprise! These movies are not documentaries, nor are they acts of journalism. (And even documentaries don’t always need to be totally accurate — just ask Werner Herzog.) They’re narrative works, and just like any other narrative work, they need to be true to themselves — to the demands of drama, to the demands of (yes) entertainment, and even to the demands of the broader truths they’re trying to evoke."

If that is the case it is quite simple to just change the names of the people involved and don't make the claim "Based on true events" because the ONLY reason a film does that is to fool the prospective viewer into believing she will see THE TRUE EVENTS! It is wrong.

Murder, My Sweet (1944) **

The crackling Raymond Chandler dialogue is all there, the femme fatales, the confusing plot lines, the shady moral landscape, the elusive MacGuffin, but Dick Powell is no Bogie and Anne Shirley is no Bacall. Dull.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Loved One (1965) ***

Outrageous, bizarre, creepy and very funny satire on Hollywood and the high end funeral business. Beautifully shot in black and white with terrific performances from Jonathan Winters and Rod Steiger who nearly steals the show as Mr. Joyboy. Too bad the film is nearly sunk by the complete miscasting of Robert Morse in the lead. Thousands of able British actors and you have to cast a guy who can't even fake an accent? Really detracts from the overall effect.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) **

Silly, colorful, crammed to the gills with CGI, this comic book flick at least has a good retro soundtrack to listen to as you try to decipher just what is happening in the nearly non-stop action sequences.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The One I Love (2014) ***

Nicely executed extended Twilight Zone episode is subtle and truthful. Well acted and cast.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) ***

Way better than it should be, fast paced, appropriately silly riff on BTTF with a manic, hilarious performance by Rob Corddry.

2014 In Review: Movies

**** Birdman
**** The Grand Budapest Hotel
*** A Most Wanted Man
*** The Box Trolls
*** The Double
*** Ida
*** Non-Stop
*** Under The Skin
** Big Eyes
** Interstellar
** The Lego Movie
** Life Itself
** Lucy
** Magic In The Moonlight
** Noah
** St. Vincent
** The Wind Rises
* The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
* The Monuments Men
* The Quiet Ones

Big Eyes (2014) **

Pretty dull, straightforward biopic hardly identifiable as a Tim Burton movie. Interesting but un-involving.

Zelig (1983) **

Droll curiosity, quite a technical achievement but not particularly memorable.