Monday, September 27, 2010

Titanic's Gloria Stuart Dies

Other publications are much better at celebrity obits, and actually take the time to do real research.

I'd just like to point out that she was also on my celebrity death pool list that I made about 6 and a half years ago. Took her long enough. She was 100.

By the way, she was a stunner in the golden age of Hollywood.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island Movie Review

It’s hard to avoid seeing the parallels between Shutter Island and Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio’s two films from this year. Both deal heavily with illusion versus reality and the way we perceive the world. They both deal with madness, the former more than the latter. In both films the driving force behind DiCaprio’s characters’ actions is the tragic loss of his wife. And the soundtracks of both films are characterized by the droning sound of low horns in the orchestra, which in this film is a reminder of a ship’s foghorn. Although the two films have similarities in their subject matter, they could hardly be more different in terms of tone and directorial approach.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Runaways Movie Review: Revisiting a Minor Rock and Roll Band

“You bitches are gonna be bigger than the f---ing Beatles!” Not exactly prophetic words spoken by record producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon, channeling the psychosis of his Oscar-nominated role in Revolutionary Road) early on in The Runaways, Floria Sigismondi’s feature film debut (she also wrote the screenplay based on Cherie Currie’s autobiography Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway) about the eponymous 1970s all girl rock band.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: Woody Allen Movie Review

It’s become a matter of routine clockwork that around this time every year the new film from Woody Allen finds its way to cinema screens around the United States. Usually his films open earlier in Europe, as was the case with his latest, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, his fourth London-based film.

As much as I have liked some of Allen’s recent films, none of them have made as indelible an impression on my mind as his earlier classics. I’m relieved and satisfied to accept that he seems to have permanently left behind the sad gimmicks that marred his work in the first half of the last decade: hysterical blindness; hypnosis; parallel stories, to name a few.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pixar's Up Movie Review

You have to wonder just how Pixar Animation Studios manages to churn out hit after hit – and not just money-making successes with highly profitable merchandising tie-ins, but quality animated works that never pander and are always thoughtful, interesting films even for the adults who accompany their children (or even those who just enjoy a well told story).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

3:10 to Yuma Movie Review

In the pantheon of classic Westerns, the 1957 3:10 to Yuma, directed by Delmer Daves, sits on the shelf of forgotten films. There’s simply no room in the history books for entertainments that rank slightly better than mediocre. Unfortunately it also suffered a close resemblance to High Noon, which went on to fill the quota for films about a lone idealist standing up for justice when no one else will.

For better or worse, the 2007 James Mangold remake is also likely to suffer a similar fate 50 years from now. There’s little in this update which will make it into a classic, but that hardly means it isn’t worth seeking out today.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another from the Celebrity Death Pool Bites the Dust

Many years ago I heard about these celebrity death pools in which people throw their money into a pool to bet on which celebrities will die in the next 6 months. The younger the celebrity who dies and the sooner within the 6 months, the more points you earn. It's a sick game. It's morally depraved at best, but it was so intriguing. I thought about throwing myself into the thick of it and made up a preliminary list of those likely to die.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

NY drivers better than DC drivers

The Atlantic's Megan McArdle has an amusing post on DC driving/drivers vs. NY driving/drivers.

I've never driven in DC - as far as I can remember - but being from Long Island I've driving in NY many times. She points out that as crazy as NY drivers are, there is a method to the madness. She contrasts this with DC which has no discernible rules for crazy driving.
There are strong local norms about things like merging, when to slowdown for a yellow light, and so forth, which newcomers are eventually forced to learn.  "Learning to drive like a New Yorker" is a sort of rite of passage, like knowing where to get good bagels.  People who arrive from elsewhere may lament the aggression of New York drivers, but they also recognize that navigating within the system is a skill that must be acquired, and they're a little proud when they master it.
I discovered once that when I enter Manhattan, I unconsciously adjust and prepare my body. Usually I've just been driving relaxed on the LIE. When you come out of the Midtown Tunnel or off the 59th Street Bridge, you have to have to be alert for the maelstrom. I tend to perk up and my eyes take in a lot more of the street than locally at home.

Before reading Megan's piece I thought that Seville drivers were crazy and unpredictable, but now I realize there is actually a set of norms here.

Basically, two-wheeled  vehicles don't have to obey traffic laws. If there's a red light, they can go right through it as long as there's no cross traffic.

Also, you don't have to wait for your light to turn green to go, you just have to wait for the cross traffic light to turn red. This is wonderful for pedestrians who are crossing late. Because the pedestrian walk signal turns red at the same moment the traffic light turns green.

The other problem is that traffic lights here are not suspended above the intersection like in most places in the US. Instead they are on posts on the right side of the road. In the US drivers may be looking straight upwards at the traffic light, but the direction is straight ahead which means you still have peripheral vision both left and right for pedestrians. Here the drivers (especially the motorbikes) keep their eyes fixed on the light and the very second (even before in most cases) it turns green they SLAM on the gas. If you're a pedestrian (or a cyclist like me) coming from the driver's left they never see you.

Also in Seville, if your car fits, you can park it there. The city could generate so much revenue in parking fines if they would just crack down on that.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A History of Violence Movie Review

The title of David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence superficially refers to the main character Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen). Alternatively it may refer to the mob men, led by Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) who come from Philadelphia to drag him back to his old life. Or does Cronenberg, a Canadian raised so close to the United States yet educated from a different historical perspective, have something bigger up his sleeve? Is he thinking of the story in terms of the violent history of the United States – from a violent overthrow of British rule in the 18th century to the invasion of Iraq in 2003? Remember A History of Violence was filmed in 2004 and released the following year.

Classic Movie Review: The Night of the Hunter

The actor Charles Laughton directed The Night of the Hunter, based on the novel of the same name by Charles Grubb, in 1955. He never directed another movie. This was the result of poor audience and critical reaction to the film. It was considered a disaster at the time. More than half a century later, the film often finds itself on lists of the best movies of all time and in 1992 was deemed culturally significant enough to be marked for preservation by the Library of Congress.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Classic Movie Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Steven Spielberg has said that if he made Close Encounters of the Third Kind today the ending would be completely different. After becoming a father himself, he could no longer conceive of a father leaving his family to embark on the great journey that Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is about to take at the film’s end. But I think Spielberg’s mistake in such thinking is the presumption that everyone’s experience of fatherhood is identical to his own.

Comedian Robert Schimmel Dies

I just read that Robert Schimmel, a not particularly well-known stand-up, has died from injuries sustained in a car accident on Thursday.

I distinctly remember the majority of his 1999 HBO special, "Robert Schimmel: Unprotected" in which he culls his personal life (including his daughter's sex life, life after his heart attack and his marital sex life) for hilarious material. If you can get your hands on a copy of that routine, check it out. It's worth it.

Maybe his publicist should let the webmaster know that his official site needs to be updated as it still indicates he's performing at a club in Chicago later this month.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Inception Movie Review

A unifying theme has slowly emerged from the film work of Christopher Nolan. He is fixated on the idea of perception and the conflict of illusion vs. reality. In Memento, a man believes he can be sure of certain facts despite being incapable of creating new memories after about 15 minutes (in the end we learn his foolproof system allows for self-delusion). Insomnia looks at the effects of sleep deprivation on the conscious mind and The Prestige is about the way people can be deceived by distracting the mind with misdirection. Nolan’s latest film, Inception, perhaps shares more in common with his first feature than with anything else in his impressive body of work. But for the chance at a spoiler I shall say no more than that.