Category Archives: movies

T is for Titans


Uncharacteristically, I was flipping through the TV channels recently. This is highly unusual, because generally, when I watch television, I go to a particular show, usually prerecorded. I came across this 2000 movie I saw in the theaters, Remember the Titans. Part of the IMBD synopsis:
“It’s 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia and successful high school football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) has just been deprived of the head coaching job at the new integrated T.C. Williams High School to make way for equally successful black coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). Yoast debates pursuing opportunities elsewhere, but when most of his white players vow to sit out the season unless he coaches, he changes his mind and stays on as Boone’s assistant.”
The Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: “An inspirational crowd-pleaser with a healthy dose of social commentary, Remember the Titans may be predictable, but it’s also well-crafted and features terrific performances.”

Well, yes, predictable, including having the Big Game. I enjoyed it well enough, and it at least tried to tackle the issue of race.

Looking back at it, though, I noticed an interesting coincidence Continue reading T is for Titans

30-Day Challenge: Day 2: Favorite Movie

Considering all of the movies I’ve seen, all the GREAT movies I’ve ever seen, it is surprisingly easy for me to pick my favorite:

Annie Hall (1977).

It was my touchstone picture for a number of years. I saw it four times in the movie theater, and it was one of the first films I purchased on VHS.

It’s the roller coaster in Coney Island, which I loved as a child. It’s early Christopher Walken, bizarre as he would later become.

The opening of the film was more story, fewer jokes, my kind of humor. It reminded me of seeing Woody Allen on Ed Sullivan in the 1960s. The film also features Paul Simon, one of my music icons of that decade.

I related to Alvy Singer. Continue reading 30-Day Challenge: Day 2: Favorite Movie

30-Day Challenge: Day 1 – Favorite Actor


I took on this 30-day challenge because I thought it would be interesting. And, just as important, quick and easy. But I got stuck on the first question.

I assume “actor” is gender neutral in this case.

Starting to parse the category, I began with theater actors. But I don’t really see stage actors that often, though in fact this year’s Tony nominations feature a lot of familiar names from TV and movies.

Favorite television performer: I could pick actors I watched in more than one series: Bob Newhart (Bob Newhart Show, Newhart); James Garner (Maverick, The Rockford Files); Mary Tyler Moore (Dick van Dyke Show, MTM Show); Jimmy Smits (L.A. Law, NYPD Blue). There are others who qualify because of other functions Continue reading 30-Day Challenge: Day 1 – Favorite Actor

R is for Reboot


It must have been about 1996, give or take a year. I was working as a librarian, for the same company I work for now, but three locations ago, and I was having trouble with my computer. (Historical fact: I ALWAYS have trouble with my computers; when the IT people set a schedule for replacement, my difficulties almost always exceed their expectations. I like computers, but they don’t always like me.)

So I ask one of the techies if he could fix my computer, which had frozen up. He said, “Did you reboot it?”, and I said, “Huh?” Up until that very moment, I had never heard the term “reboot”. I thought he wanted me to kick it, and if necessary, kick it again, which I was willing to do, though I doubted its efficacy.

That was not what he meant; he meant for me to turn the computer off and then to restart it, thus reloading the operating system. Years of being trained by IT guys now informs me that I don’t even go see them until I can honestly say, “I rebooted it, and it still doesn’t work.” Later, I learned the sometimes magic of Ctrl-Alt-Delete.

Now the term reboot has evolved into another meaning: “A term that comes from computer usage. To reboot a computer is to start it up again after a computer crash. Hence, “reboot” has the connotation of starting a process over again.*

This take on “reboot” is particularly popular with popular culture, such as motion pictures and television shows. The 2009 Star Trek movie, going back to before Kirk, Spock et al were on the Enterprise is a popular example. The 2010 Russell Crowe version of Robin Hood has been called a reboot, though it’s been remade about 287 times. 2010’s Karate Kid, with Will Smith’s son Jaden as the Kid and Jackie Chan in the Pat Morita role is a recent example, as is the 2010 version of Nightmare on Elm Street, without Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. The 2010 fall TV schedule features Hawaii 5-0, a popular show over 30 years ago.

What is the difference between a remake and a reboot? I’m not quite sure.

I will opine that the revamping of this blog at the beginning of the month is NOT a reboot. It’s still the same person writing (me). It may be on WordPress rather than Blogger, but that’s like a show moving from one television network to another. I may now have my own URL, but doesn’t change much either.

In case you were wondering how this change came about:
Rose DesRochers, an “avid blogger, published poet and freelance writer” from Canada had a free blog hosting contest back in February. I wrote about it, and actually won six months of free service from VisionThisHosting.com. Shawn DesRochers, Rose’s husband, is the Web Hosting Administrator. I did nothing about it for a while, then probably made Shawn’s life miserable getting this site up.

Rose and Shawn have been going through some stuff recently, which I would not bring up except that Rose mentioned herself in her blog. Their 19-year-old daughter has just been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which I’m sure affected not only Rose, but Shawn as well. Rose writes that, coincidentally, May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month.

So thanks, Rose, for the site. Shawn, thanks for your continued assistance. My good wishes to you both and for your daughter.
***
Oh, and happy birthday to my “baby” sister Marcia!


ABC Wednesday

* “reboot.” The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 16 May. 2010. .

VIDEO REVIEW: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs


Here’s an interesting experiment; go with your spouse and child to an elementary school gym, along with four dozen other elementary school kids and their parents to see a 2-D version of a 3-D movie based on a 30-page book. That’s what we did a couple Friday nights ago as we viewed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

I had no preconceived notions about this film. I hadn’t read the book, first published in 1978, written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett. In fact I never even heard of it until the film was being promoted.

This iteration tells the story of Flint Lockwood, science nerd, whose mother (Lauren Graham) believes he’ll be someone special; she dies early on, and his monosyllabic, unibrow fisherman-father (James Caan) believes in more practical efforts, wanting his son (Bill Hader) to work at the sardine store with him. Everyone on the island of Swallow Falls eats sardines.

Flint is tortured by an annoying character, Baby Brent (Andy Samburg), who was famous as the Gerber baby, and keeps milking his fame. (Independently, my wife and I thought he was very much like the character in the Back to the Future movies who kept harassing Marty McFly’s father.)

Flint, undeterred from his dream, manages to invent a machine that converts water into food. Needing to hide his creativity from the local policeman (Mr. T), he accidentally launches it into the atmosphere. Instead of rain, food of every sort starts falling from the sky. This phenomenon inspires a television station to send a weather reporter trainee (Anna Faris) to cover the phenomenon.

I laughed out loud several times in the first half of the movie at lines that probably went right over the heads of the purported target audience. At least once, I swear I was the ONLY person laughing.

At some point, the movie becomes some illustrated cross between the movies Twister (which I saw) and 2012 (which I did not). This part was less interesting to me, though not without its charms, and frightened the daughter some to boot.

Still, I enjoyed the intelligently-made film overall, and it reviewed well enough. Within the film of writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were none-too-subtle digs at the food industry (processed foods with no connection to the source, a la Fast Food Nation), gluttony (see also: the latter part of WALL-E), environmental destruction, and sexism in the entertainment industry.

I finally got around to reading the book this week, and while there were nods to the source material (food as rafts, yellow Jell-O, and of course a spaghetti storm), the movie is a whole ‘nother animal altogether. Friends of friends of mine who are devotees of the book often HATE the movie because it’s not the book; I think the movie should be appreciated on the merits of what’s on the screen, NOT based on how it is or is not true to the source material.
***
The movie trailer.

ROG

Movie music QUESTION

It’s no secret that my favorite movie music is from West Side Story. I’m also quite fond of Fiddler on the Roof. But it occurred to me: these are Broadway musicals adapted for the screen. What do I like the best that’s MOVIE music?

Difficult question. But, excluding the Beatles – I’ve recently seen again A Hard Day’s Night and Help! – here are some examples:

This is the famous Germans bomb Pearl Harbor speech by John Belushi from Animal House. But try to listen to it without the dramatic music of Elmer Bernstein, and I think it falls flat. In fact, throughout the film, Bernstein, who’s probably best known for the score for The Magnificent Seven (a/k/a the Marlboro theme), has all sorts of flourishes in this movie, giving the dopiest action a counterpoint.

Quality of Mercy by Michelle Shocked from Dead Man Walking. I THINK this was written for the film (though this performance is not), as opposed to what the compilers of the music of, say, Easy Rider, called “found music”, existing songs put on a soundtrack.

Forrest Gump, BTW, is the worst example of that trend; it’s not that the songs are bad, only that they’re obvious. California Dreamin’ by the Mamas & the Papas, Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel, For What It’s worth by Buffalo Springfield, and Get Together by the Youngbloods? I mean, I already own all of those songs; not everyone does, but some Time-Life collection might have been a better venue.

Ridin’ the Rails by k.d. lang and Take 6 from Dick Tracy, a movie I never saw. I’m a sucker for trains, and songs about trains.

The Funeral from Cry Freedom. This is a bit of a cheat. The bulk of the song is the anthem Nkosi Sikeleli Africa (God Bless Africa). But it is the most stirring version I know, taking place after South African activist Stephen Biko’s death. (It starts at 2:25 on the video.)

But the movie music I have the greatest, perhaps irrational attachment for, is from the film The Night They Raided Minsky’s, which I saw with my friend Carol and her friend Judy when I was 15 in 1968. I had a mad crush, unstated, for Judy. The film was rated M, a precursor for PG. Because I have the soundtrack, I can admit that though I haven’t seen the film in 40 years, I know this song, and others in the movie, by heart:
TAKE TEN TERRIFIC GIRLS (But Only Nine Costumes)
I have a secret recipe
Concocted with much skill
And once you’ve tried my special dish
You’ll never get your fill

Take ten terrific girls
But only nine costumes
And you’re cooking up something grand

Mix in some amber lights
And elegant scenery
Then stir in a fine jazz band

Then add some funny men
And pepper with laughter
It’s tart and tasty I know

Then serve it piping hot
And what have you got?
A burlesque show!
Music: Charles Strouse Lyrics: Lee Adams

What movie music moves YOU?

ROG

MOVIE REVIEW: Invictus


When the South African rugby team, the Springboks, played in Albany, NY in September 1981, 1200 people braved the torrential weather to protest the apartheid regime that the green-and-gold represented; almost certainly the bad weather tamped down the number of protesters, as there were nearly as many law enforcement folks as picketers. The singer Pete Seeger was there and so was I.

If some Americans were opposed to the Springboks, the black South Africans loathed them, routinely rooting for the foreign opposition when the Springboks played. So when apartheid ended, and Nelson Mandela was released from prison 20 years ago this month, and subsequently became President of South Africa, there was reason to believe that the minority whites would be purged from their government positions and that the Springboks would be disbanded. But former prisoner 46664, who spent over a quarter century in a small prison cell, had a different strategy, one honed by observing his captors. Vengeance was anticipated; instead, he disarmed his former foes with compassion.

Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood, for the longest time feels like a “conventional movie”, maybe a little too deliberately paced, complete with the “big game”. It’s not until near the end that you internalize the awe-inspiring wisdom that was Mandela. I must argue with those who suggest that the final match was anti-climatic; it’s not the game itself that matters, it’s the people’s reaction to the game that counts. Oh, and while I learned far more about rugby than I thought possible, I’m still slightly mystified what constitutes an infraction worthy of a penalty kick.

The South African leader was played by Eastwood’s old friend, Morgan Freeman; he’s already played God, so this is a slight step down. Still I understand why he got his Best Actor nod. Matt Damon, as captain of the Springboks, was good, but I’m surprised by his Best Supporting actor nod. Actually, I was more taken by other characters in the piece.

Nowhere is religion specifically mentioned, to my recollection. Yet there is a powerful message of faith that one can draw from this movie, partially summarized in the 1875 poem for which the movie is named.

I saw this movie Saturday afternoon at the Spectrum in Albany in large part because it’s the last week it’s playing; I’m glad I did.

ROG