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Classic Flicks Archives

November 17, 2007

'Missouri Breaks' directed by Arthur Penn



Directed by Arthur Penn

Starring Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando

With Randy Quaid and Harry Dean Stanton

This movie has many of the elements of greatness and is a worthwhile watch. Among it's major themes is that of a young man facing the harsh realities of life on the frontier of the American West. This theme is shared with a current release, 'Into the Wild', by the director's son, providing an extra dimension to the film absent in its initial release.

Nicholson and Brando in a Western plot as complex as Eastwood's 'Unforgiven' could be a true diamond. The setting of this movie - the great plains foothills of the upper Missouri basin and the surrounding mountains of the Glacier National Park area do make a grand stage But the movie falls short, albeit not drastically.

The very young Quaid and Stanton both give performances of full depth - Nicholson and Brando are not at all bad, but perhaps just a touch comfortable in their success. Perhaps it is Penn's history in TV and the formulaic history of the Western in film, but this is a stone in the rough - needing just a bit more buffing to bring out the true shine.

The casting of an apparently jewish beauty in the romantic lead, opposite Nicholson, just seemed incongrous to me. Perhaps I am wrong, but I don't think there were all that many jews on the Western frontier, save perhaps Mel Brooks. That might be an interesting story but it isn't one explored here., The more apparent back story was that this character's father was cuckolded, perhaps most likely a jewish lawyer from Seattle? -That said, she does make a good attempt at what is apparently a losing cause.

The sound track also adds to the 'made for tv movie' feel of the flick, though if measured in that class this movie would be among the very best.

Perhaps a remake by the son, Sean, with another Vedder soundtrack? Someone will do it, sometime.

December 14, 2007



by Isaac Asimov


Also a 2004 movie starring Will Smith

Watching Will Smith's 'I, Robot' was strangely revealing. I had read the book when I was quite young, 12, give or take. The realization of the impact the book has had on my life was quite shocking - all the more so when you consider the nature of the plot.

Writing in 1950 the case could easily be made that Asimov was extrapolating the warnings of Eisenhower and others regarding the military industrial complex into their manifestation with computer, and 'robotic' (a word Asimov is credited with coining') technology. As you will recall the movie explores the potential risks of even a responsible implementation of 'motive' computing technology. His foil was a doubting aquaintance of the inventor, Will Smith's gritty detective character.

The 'Three Laws of Robotics' are the 'hardwired' safeguards built into every robot. What surprised me watching this movie was realizing that Asimov, a crafty secularist, had 'programmed' me to respond to the military industrial complex?

Go figure.

BTW - Asimov died of tranfusion contracted Aids, a fact not publicized. He was born as a Russian Orthodox Jew, his parents emigrating before he learned to speak the language. He was trained as a Chemist and worked both as an engineer and a University Professor starting during WW2.

December 29, 2007



Written and Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky


The Russian Director Tarkovsky is best known for his movie 'Solaris' remade in the US starring George Clooney. Like the original Solaris, released in 1972, 'Stalker' deals with the deeper questions of life like others in it's sub-genre of Science Fiction, including '2001' (released in '68) and the more recent 'Fountain'.

I highly suspect the title has different connotations in the original russian - it refers to the lead character - a 'proletatarian' tracker/guide. The other two main characters are refered to anonymously as 'writer' and 'professor', symbolizing the artistic and scientific elites of pre-Reagan Russia.

This movie is complex. Perhaps the simplest summary of it would be an allegory about the Chernobyl Disaster - though it's release pre-dated that tragedy by 7 years. (Tarkovsky also died that same year, 1986). Another of Tarkovsky's movies was about the Russian religous icon painter Rubleyev - this movie may well place Tarkovsky himself in that same league. Call him, if you will, a prophet of the godless Soviet State.

Again, this movie is complex and difficult to write about - but another good comparison would be Shelley's 'Frankenstein' in the way it deals with the potentials and pitfalls of science. Nuclear engineers were perhaps the most prominent scientists in that era of Soviet history, as symbolised in the 'professor' character.

The DVD I saw has a two voice English soundover track. Though rough, and by native russian speakers, the voiceover does add to the the depth of the movie. Definitely a five star movie, if not my all time top ten.

January 2, 2008

No **County** for Old Men

This isn't about the Joel and Ethan Coen film still in current release, though I do recommend it.

Rather this is a comparison of the psychological profile of power presented in this piece of fiction with the power structure of King County.

Perhaps the most curious thing about this movie was that I identified with all 3 characters. I wish I was more of the Tommy Lee Jones character, but the truth is I've got a bit of all 3 inside me - thankfully enough of the Tommy Lee to keep my own 'country' looking pretty good.

In the movie the character played by Javier Bardem, Anton Chigurh, is very efficient, very rational, and very, very much a violent psychopath. Logic, law can be consuming, and Chigurh has been consumed completely and effectively. In his world he is fair and consistent but around him spins nothing but chaos and destruction.

Simply put he is a control freak.

And yes, I am saying that King County is being run by control freaks(mostly unknown). No Anton Chigurh's there, save for the occassional wannabe like a likely victim of Gregoire's projessional cohorts, Dan Evans own Ted Bundy. But the profile is similar and revealing.

Does that mean I'm comparing Microsoft to a bunch of drug runners? Go figure....

January 14, 2008

'ATONEMENT' for Benazir?

There will likely be no atonement for Benazir Bhutto, just an ongoing tragedy.

I've never been in Pakistan, but I have been only a camel ride away in Western India - a region populated with villages of Muslim, Hindhi and Sikh faiths. My camel voyage, with muslim guide, is a story worth telling, but not today.

I've also been aquainted with two younger Pakistani's - the first likely a left member of Benazir's coalition, though this was prior to her first election. He was following in educational footsteps not all that different from Benazir's time at Harvard, where I'd guess she was popular. The second was more recent, in business - most likely son of a moderate successful right wing merchant who paid his way to the US via work in Kuwait or the like. Although my current politics are probably closer to number two, this guy was arrogant, incompetent and stupid, though I guess I'm being redundant. I've filed him away as a profile of the arab mindset, right or wrong, though I do have others that are more positive.

Pakistanis, like the followers of the Sikh faith, have found a balance between the typical arab mindset and the more mellow hindhi which is admirable. However I fear the 'force' of the taliban and al qaeda may well have doomed this country.

Remember, Pakistan is a member of the nuclear club.

If we do pull completely out of Iraq I fear for the future of this region - their redemption, their 'Atonement', most likely leads through nuclear conflict, on arab soil, though not necessarily in Pakistan (hopefully not on US Iraq bases).

Some lessons have to be learned again, the hard way. Call it going back to basics, if you will.

January 16, 2008



Directed by Constantin Costa-Gravas

Starring Yves Montand and Irene Papas

1969, based on events in 1963

Some stories never change - in time or place. Roger Ebert makes a similar comment in his 1969 review of this movie, the first foreign film ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

The plot concerns the May 1963 assassination of the Greek leftist, Grigoris Lambrakis, as well as the successful investigation, and the subsequent military and political consequences. As even the most casual observer of history will note this was only some six months prior to the murder of the first Kennedy.

The actual date of the assasination got my attention, though I won't say why. For trivia buffs it was also the date of the first American ascent of Everest, via the West Ridge - by Washington's own Whitaker, if I recall correctly.

February 19, 2008



A discussion of the book with

Author Tom Brokaw

Moderator David Brewster (Founding Team Member of the Seattle Weekly and Crosscut)

Available for Download from TVW

David Brewster and Tom Brokaw are both big fishes in their respective ponds - Brewster in the world of local alternative weeklies and Brokaw as a long term top dog of the news team at 30 Rock. One might think Brokaw to be a big fish in a bigger pond, but Brewster is a bit more of a pioneer, and at least in Seattle may have more influence than Brokaw. As to the rest of the region their influence may be relatively equal.

Like my Parents Brewster and Brokaw are not technically 'Boomers', born before the war, but to young to have worked during it. Their leadership in that history, as well as the differing approaches towards journalism, makes for a very interesting discussion.

Alternative weeklies, including Brewster in Seattle are an experiment in journalism - dropping the pretense of inpartiality for advocacy journalism (turf the bloggers may yet win). Brokaw, in comparison follows the tradition of Cronkite and Murrow in attempting to be objective. Their discussion from those two perspectives from two top players at the top of their game is as interesting as the discussion of the baby boomer generation.

I'll leave it up to you to decide who is the more impressive. I do think though that from the perspective of politics in America (Brewster is unashamedly pro-Democrat) Brokaw wins hands down.

FWIW I haven't read either of Brokaw's two books, I do think I know the story already and don't have the time to rehash. They are both on my list though, and hopefully at some point I will - perhaps if I should ever be so fortunate to have a couple of children of my own - 21st century boomers or busters, however the case may be.

February 20, 2008

'The Hill'

The Hill

Directed by Sydney Lumet

Starring Sean Connery

With Ossie Davis, Sir Michael Redgrave


In the opening scene a British Lorrie pulls up in front of a WW2 North African Military Prison - two men leave heading back to the front and five arrive. This is a story of these five men's 'breaking in'. Their odds may well be worse than 2 in 5, though at the end their future is left to the viewer.

There are only two really bad men in this story, the third in command at the prison and a particularly slimy repeat offender. The story is complex. Lumet has crafted a social commentary typical to the the later 1960's on the ruling 'military-industrial complex' and those who 'work' for it. In hindsight that commentary was at the leading edge of massive societal upheavals to come - represented in this movie by a prisoner riot.

FWIW Ossie Davis in a supporting role just about steals the show from the lead Connery. (The 'N' word is used, more than once.)

This is a man's story. Only two women appear, for a total of maybe 30 seconds. One is the Chief Officer's prostitute, the other a belly dancer for the guards, during a drunken interval at this isolated outpost.

March 8, 2008

'Vanishing Point'

Vanishing Point

Starring Barry Newman and Cleavon Little, aka the DJ SuperSoul

Directed by Richard Sarafian


This classic flick is a pass along from the recent Tarentino film, 'Grindhouse' which paid major homage to the movie.

Newman plays James Kowalski, an early Vietnam Vet and busted former, honest, cop working as a car delivery person. The car, a white 1970 supercharged Dodge Challenger is as much the star of this movie as Newman.

Newman is engaged to drive this muscle car from Denver to San Francisco. For some reason, left to us to speculate upon, he decides to do so in record time. This, of course, garners police, and a multi-state, escalating, chase develops from Western Colorado to Eastern California.

The locations for this two lane chase are all superb - scenic highlights of the route. In contrast the soul DJ played by Cleavon Little gives us running social commentary on the events as he tracks them on the station's police scanner.

March 26, 2008

'The Scar'

The Scar

Directed by Krystof Kiezlowski


Call this a movie about comparative office politics in the Polish Soviet sattellite. Kiezlowski is a contempary of Roman Polanski, another Polish film school product who emmigrated to the U.S.(Rosemary's Baby, etc.)

The plot of this movie might appear boring - it concerns the actions of a group of state appointed managers building a large new factory in an underdeveloped rural area. There is some conflict - between the managers as well as some of the local residents. But the most fascinating part of this is comparing this portrayal of the Soviet State to corporate America - public or private. The similarities are downright horrifying!

Kiezlowski's other works include 'A Short Film about Killing', 'Double Life of Veronique', and my personal sub-title favorite, 'Blue', part of a 3 part series, in French. The success of that movie is largely the result of the score, composed by long term collaborator Preisner. Juliette Binoche is perhaps at her most empathetic as well. Roman Polanski's Polish production, 'Knife in the Water' is also recommended.

April 17, 2008



Starring Richard Burton

with Peter Firth and Jenny Agutter, and a horse

Directed by Sydney Lumet from a Play by Peter Schaeffer


I believe in the future historians will have a field day with this film as an expose of the ethos of the era. Today, those perspectives are a bit droll, especially at the begining. The movie does still engage, and builds from there..

I'd put it in a class with 'Last Tango in Paris' for its frankness. This story is about a young man making his way into the sexual world. Richard Burton plays his psychiatrist and is not totally out of the Story. Like Brando in Tango he may well be ending his sexual life.

The movie does contain full frontal nudity, male and female.

April 25, 2008

Blame it on Rio

Blame it on Rio

Starring Michael Caine and Demi Moore

Directed by Stanley Donen


This is another historical sexual oddity. No way would this ever get produced today, save perhaps something similar in the adult genre. In one of her first roles Demi Moore plays 17 year old daughter to Michael Caine - both go on a vacation to Rio with their mutual best friends, another father/daughter pair.

Caine and his best friend's daughter seduce each other. Hillarity ensues, as one might imagine it. Movie includes a fair number of topless shots, but alas, not of Ms. Moore.

May 29, 2008

Night Moves

Night Moves

Starring Gene Hackman with Melanie Griffiths and James Woods

Directed by Arthur Penn


Gene Hackman's career is close to its 50th Anniversary, starting in 1959. This 1975 Warner Brothers production is a bit of a soap opera, but it is also a self aware one. The fact that it concerns the L.A. art and movie scene makes the self references meaningful and the soap makes this some fun 1970's popcorn. James Woods is very young in this movie, and Melanie Griffiths, even younger.

Moseby plays a straight up guy dealing with some rather nefarious dealings concerning the trust child daughter (Griffiths) of a former minor hollywood actress. His office, I believe, is the same one used by the TV series Starsky and Hutch.

June 6, 2008



Starring Warren Beatty

Directed by Peter Rossen

With Peter Fonda, Jean Seberg, and Gene Hackman


This movie is a gem.

Beatty is portrayed as a returning vet, perhaps WW2, who joins the staff of a private East Coast Asylum. Fonda is his rival for the amorous patient Seberg. Hackman is the man who married Beatty's High School Sweetheart while he was at war in a relatively minor, but noteworthy, role.

A running speculation of mine is that Ted Bundy identified with Beatty, the 1974 star of the 'Parralax View'. Although only speculation, this movie does make an interesting addition to that 'profile' - and perhaps a profile of America's sexual politics.

Everyone in the cast nails their part to a 'T'.

June 22, 2008

'La Femme Nikita'

La Femme Nikita

Directed by Luc Besson

Starring Anne Parillaud with Jean Reno


This is the original version, not the competent U.S. remake starring Bridget Fonda or the Candian TV series by the same name. (I've not seen the TV series).

Besson is the maestro of stylish european action films and this movie may well prove to be his biggest masterpiece.

Parillaud plays 'Nikita' a very drugged out survivor of a drug store robbery gone bad shootout where everyone else dies, including the police, one cop by her hand. After conviction she is given the opportunity by the French State to enter a training program for assassins. As one might expect the State does not necessarily have her best interests at heart, viewing her as an expendable 'asset'.

Jean Reno plays the 'cleaner', at the ultimate moment of Nikita's 'sobering' - will she survive this gunfight or not?

June 24, 2008



Directed by John Singleton

Starring Ving Rhames with Jon Voight and Don Cheadle


Like the John Hopkins vehicle 'Amistad' this movie will make white audiences uncomfortable.

Based on a true story, Rhames plays a drifting decorated WWI vet who arrives in the Florida town of Rosewood just prior to a false rape allegation by a white woman against another black male. This triggers what could basically be characterized as a genocidal raging mob killing many of the black citizens of the small town.

Rhames plays the protector.

This move is very much underrated and underappreciated - a must see.

June 27, 2008



Directed by Ted Kotcheff

Starring Sylvester Stallone


Rambo is not the sort of classic movie I review. However a comment by a Veteran, in Pierce County, seat of my hometown of Tacoma prompted a great deal of speculation. Pierce County, home of the Army base, has a large former army contingent and their presence is not one to ignore - especially in the trades and blue collar fields.

His historical comment was simply this, that 'Rambo' captured the Reagan era angst of Veterans and their treatment upon return from combat in Vietnam - a cohort of people at war with their own country.

This is true, and this movie marks a crucial point in the history of the United States. One caveat though - in the Army it can also be fellow soldiers - outside of your unit - who just might NOT have your back. That's a tougher subject, and a longer discussion....

July 4, 2008

"The Secret of Roan Innish"

The Secret of Roan Innish

Directed by John Sayles

With an Irish Cast


John Sayles is perhaps best known for his Texas desert drama, 'Lone Star' - which in the canon of classic films gets shelved right next to 'No Country for Old Men". 'Secret of Roan Innish' was actually released just before this film, and is quite the climatic contrast - I viewed them in reverse order, and am reminded of the movie now by a recent travel transition, in that same reverse order. Hopefully all interpretations are valid...

Roan Innish is a children's story, but the literary quality is one that educated adults should love, perhaps more. It concerns a youngster's return to rural Ireland just after WW2 and captures the magic of the Country and one's roots - while also not hiding the hard working lives of the adults.

The family legend here concerns a 'selkie' - a seal capable of turning into a human, and the loss of her own brother as an infant. All of this unfolds as the family itself attempts to reclaim their homestead on an abandoned island near the ancestral village.

July 31, 2008

El Espinazo Del Diablo

El Espinazo Del Diablo
(The Devil's Backbone)

Written and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro


Like M. Knight Shymalan Del Toro has the ability to capture the light of humanity in well crafted horror. This movie is darker than Shymalan. Like the more recent 'Faun's Labryinth' the period is the Spainish civil war, one of the most interesting chapters of the 20th century.

American Psycho

American Psycho

Based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis

Starring Christian Bale

Directed by Mary Harron

With Reese Witherspoon, Wilem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny, Justin Theroux and Jared Leto


Bret Easton Ellis's 1990 novel is a wickedly delicious account of 1980's yuppie culture.. It is quite graphic and definitely deserves it's 'R' rating - and a rating to take literally. Enough said.

El Topo

El Topo
(The Mole)

Written, Directed, and Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky


(re-released on DVD 2007)

European art films can suffer from dense cinematic symbolism - and this movie certainly has much of this strangeness It also definitely works. Stylistically it is a spaghetti western but it is much more of an allegory than any other contribution to that genre.

The start of the movie left me perplexed. I think my interpretation may help to make sense of the movie, so a bit of a spoiler, which may or may not be true.

After Jodorowsky's wife is killed by a rampaging gang of thugs he is left only with his naked son, his horse and guns, and a picture of his beloved.

Though the movie starts with his pursuit of the killers but is really about the many challenges he and his son face in the decades following.

In company of the recent 'Dark Knight' release 'The Mole' sits very well. Being a hero is not so simple as it seems, and it will change your life of your entire family forever.

August 10, 2008

Belle Epoque

Belle Epoque
(The Age of Beauty)

Starring Penelope Cruz


This 1992 romantic comedy was set during the Spanish civil war - a favorite period for Guillermo Del Toro whom I've also recently covered. (This period also holds my attention - arguably the most significant chapter of the 20th Century.)

This was Cruz's first leading role, the youngest of four sisters 'hosting' the only man in town, a deserter from the Spanish Army. There is no nudity in the movie, but nonetheless it is very, very sexy, as well as funny.

If you are not familiar with the Spanish Civil War it immediately preceded WW2 ending in the victory of the military dictator Franco in 1939 - backed by the Axis and the Catholic Church. The opposition, the 'Republicans' were largely communist, including some 30,000 American Union sympathesizers who volunteered in the 'Abraham Lincoln Brigade'. Although often disparaged the so-called anarchist faction of the Republican side did stand up to the communist influences, though perhaps this is what caused their defeat.

BTW, the film adaptation of the Hemmingway Book regarding this war, 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', is also pretty good. Although Ingrid Bergman is not particularly convincing as a spanish peasant girl she is perhaps at her absolute best. This leaves me in a dilemna - which is the more romantically beautiful - Bergman or Cruz. Cruz or Bergman. Please, excuse me while I think on that one a bit..

Being There

Being There

Directed by Hal Ashby

Book and Screenplay by Jerry Kozinski

Starring Peter Sellers

with Shirley McLaine and Richard Dysart


This movie was the capstone of a career of shere comedic genius. Sellers is perhaps best known as the bumbling French Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series, starting in 1963. 1964's 'Dr Strangelove' (directed by Stanley Kubrick) may well exceed this movie in the eyes of history, but both are clearly part of it.

'Being There' is a critique of TV driven culture and politics and in it's time it was biting. In this age of emerging internet media influence the look back makes this a different movie than at the time of it's release. I recently watched it again, and enjoyed it immensely, all the more so for this being an election year.

If you aren't familiar with the plot it concerns a reclusive gardner forced into a world he only knows from TV, after his lifelong employer dies. He actually does pretty good, much to the chagrin of the black maid who took care of him previously.

In reviewing Sellers Filmography for this piece I noticed a 1967 James Bond Spoof he did of "Casino Royale'. The cast includes Ursula Andress as the Bond Girl, David Niven, Orson Welles, Woody Allen, John Huston, Deborah Kerr and William Holden. I'm gonna watch this one soon, sorry Mr. Meyers.

August 18, 2008

Eating Raoul

Eating Raoul

Directed by Paul Bartel

Starring Paul Bartel

Written by Paul Bartel, with Richard Blackburn


Imagine the Wine aficionado couple from the recent movie 'Sideways' (Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen) ten years later and you have the start of this movie.

Then put on your bell bottoms and other 'inspired' items from the 1970's, light up some Thai Stick and get ready to swing baby! Or, if you prefer, a glass of Pinot Noir or a Fume Blanc!

FWIW Giamatti and Madsen could probably put together a pretty mean Country Restaraunt, but I'd hope they treated the help better than Bartel and his screen wife.

August 22, 2008



Directed by Veit Helmer


This is a very odd, very sweet, gem of a Movie. The production team are fans of cinema and this film plays homage to the entire map, all with very little dialogue. The entire script is composed of the names Anton, Gregor, and Eva, plus yeah, no, kind of grunt like, 'idiot', 'technology' 'system' 'profit' and 'modern', plus 'Imperial', as a noun. That's it, and it's all done with an Eastern European accent that adds a wonderful air of mystery.

The soundtrack too is gorgeous, a mix also of eastern european music and enoesque atmospheric themes.

There aren't really any major messages here, save perhaps that of the life crisis of finding one's mate at a slightly older age, under a communist style state.

But if you wish, you might call this blog the 'Imperial Blog'....

September 3, 2008

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies

Directed by Isao Takahata

Adapted from a Novel by Akiyuki Nosaka


Though this Pacific NW summer has been worse than normal it pales to the summer of 1945 in greater Tokyo, the setting for this Anime classic.

Though Japanese Anime is know for tackling tougher subjects this movie is perhaps the darkest of the genre. I'd definitely recommend previewing it yourself before even thinking about showing this to anyone under the age of 17 or so.

The loss of war can inspire great art, and this is not the only movie example from the period, all of which may be more significant than NYC's memorial to September 11, Ground Zero.

September 11, 2008

Twin Towers of Sexual Insecurity, South Tower

"Deconstructing Harry"

Deconstructing Harry

Written, Directed and Starring Woody Allen

With Robin Williams, Amy Irving, Billy Crystal, Kirstie Alley, Richard Benjamin, Demi Moore, Elisabeth Shue, and Mariel Hemingway


Woody Allen has a small, very loyal, audience, enough to keep him making movies on a regular basis. I've not seen all of his recent works, but did enjoy this one immensely, perhaps the capstone to his career.

With substantial poetic license this is Allen's ode to himself - he plays a poetic version of himself, a writer about to be honored by the school that kicked him out as a youth for his lifetime accomplishments. However the life of this fictional character is not so smooth, he's just written a book in which virtually all of his life's relationships can find themselves portrayed - in not flattering terms.

Thank god Mr. Allen has plenty of friends willing to make a movie with him, combined with his writing this will truly be a classic. The 'out of focus' character played by Robin Williams is shere cinemagraphic comedic genius.

September 12, 2008

Twin Towers of Sexual Insecurity - North Tower

"Lucia, Lucia"

Lucia, Lucia

Directed by and adapted for the screen by Antonio Serrano

Based on the book 'Hija del Canibal' by Rosa Montero (Daughter of the Cannibal)


This movie uses a detective mystery concerning the lead character's missing husband to explore the middle aged angst of a creative soul. Like Almodovar the director, Antonio Serrano, captures feminine neuroses with incredibly accuracy. At times it all seems a bit soap operaish, but don't let that distract your attention, there is something very real going on here.

September 18, 2008

Un Chien Andalou

Un Chien Andalou
(An Andalusian Dog)

Directed by Luis Bunuel

Written by Bunuel and Salvador Dali, with a cameo by Dali - the priest


As far as this blog is concerned this is the granddaddy of all classic flicks. I'm just discovering Bunuel, the Madrid classmate of Dali and Garcia Lorca. This movie was his first, a very short 15 minutes, but also as impactful as any 21st century full length Hollywood feature. His last movie was in 1977, nearly 50 years.

"L'Age D'Or" was his second, banned in France until 1980. In 1972 he received a foreign language nod from the Motion Picture Academy for "The Discrete Charm of the Bourgesie".

There may well be no plot to this movie, though definitely it is about perception, sex, as well as marriage and the church."Un Chien Andalou" does include some 'second base' sexual shots that were provocative in their day. I'd highly reccomend this for a short introduction to a Halloween horror party, it will blow your guests minds.

It may be a crime to seperate a clip from the entire movie, but here's the famous opening shot.

September 23, 2008

The 36th Chamber of Shao Lin

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Starring Chia Hui Liu


This Kung Fu classic combines the best of cheesy action with a story from Chinese myth/history of worth to the U.S.

The monks of Shaolin are warrrior priests very important in Chinese history. This is the tale of a chapter in that history where a surviving member of the oppostion to the Ming Tartar rule learns Kung Fu and becomes a master by moving through the 35 different schools in the traditionally elitist monastery.

San Te, the individual played by martial arts expert Chia Hui Liu, founds the 36th Chamber, one dedicated to teaching the arts of kung fu to the masses of the people resisting tartar rule.

September 29, 2008

THX 1138

THX 1138

Directed by George Lucas

Written by Lucas and Sound Engineer Walter Murch

Produced by Francis Ford Coppola

Starring Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance


THX 1138 is the first production of Coppola's 'independent' American Zoetrope project as well as Lucas and Duvall's first major release. The film is as noteworthy for its place in production history as it is for it's art. (Recall that the Lucas Sound Recording/Theater certification system is called, also, 'THX'.)

At this point in Hollywood the older production staffs were nearing retirment and independent films oriented towards the youth market were becoming quite successful, including 'Easy Rider'. Basically Warner Brother's gave a bunch of money to the two stars of L.A. Film Schools, Lucas (USC) and Coppola (UCLA). They used the money to set up shop in San Francisco, circa the summer of love and established the most technically advanced studio in America at the time.

As a production effort the company failed, however participants went on to much greater later success, albeit more commercial in nature. Lucas, of course, with Star Wars. Coppola and Duvall with 'Godfather'. Apocalypse Now was orginally conceived as part of this project, though it's long gestation resulted in a movie that arguably is the best ever made.

Filmed in the just completing Bart tunnel projects of San Francisco the movie paints a stark vision of the future - reminiscent of Kubrick and similiar in psychological profile to another best of all time movie, 'Brazil'. In the Lucas/Coppola future, drug 'evasion' is a crime, as is the resulting love affairs that occur in it's absence.

As Lucas says, this movie is a parable about the present. That holds true nearly 40 years later.

Although I don't know this for a fact I'm guessing that the opening shot of this clip was shot in the Zoetrope editing studio.

October 7, 2008



Written by Paddy Chayefsky

Directed by Sydney Lumet

Starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, and Ned Beatty


Peter Finch won the 1976 Best Actor Oscar for this 'speech':

(Thanks to Dori Monson of KIRO 710 & FM 97.3)

October 8, 2008

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

Directed by Bryan Singer

Written by Christopher McQuarrie

Starring Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chaz Palmintieri, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, & Pete Postelthwaite

This is the story of a sole survivor of what appears to be a drug deal gone bad on the docks of LA. This role made Kevin Spacey's career and won him a best supporting actor award, though arguably he was the lead. The story begins with an apparently random line-up of five 'usual suspects', including busted bad cop the classy Gabriel Byrne (a similar character to the Coen flick, Miller's Crossing).

This is a very well crafted tale, also winning an Oscar for best screenplay. Bryan Singer was only 27 when he began this project. He should be proud, and hopefully a better rep than the mysterious kingpin 'Keyser Soze', whose story Spacey relates here:

October 10, 2008

Stranger Than Paradise

Stranger Than Paradise

Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Starring John Lurie, Estzer Balint and Richard Edson


West German Jim Jarmusch gives us an immigrant's perspective on America, coincidentally including perhaps the two most crucial key states of the 2008 Presidential Election, Ohio and Florida.

It is also a relationship movie, between Lurie's character, here long enough to become jaded, and Balint's newly arrived world wise, but optomistic, young cousin, as illustrated here:

October 15, 2008

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

A TV Movie, based on the Jane Austen Novel

1986 & 2007

This is a lesser known Jane Austen work which I enjoyed immensely. Like others by the author it concerns love in the class based society of historical England. It is perhaps the most humorous of her works, making romantic fun of literature.

In courting the modestly well off female lead a wise general's son compares fiction and reality to air and water - "confuse the two and you drown", but "if you wish to catch a fish, by all means, drop in a line".

Predictably each character does 'catch' the other, but with some dark distractions arising from the young woman's fascination with gothic novels.

I saw the 1986 BBC production - the 2007 version, also for TV, is supposedly better, according to IMDB.

BTW, one could also 'dive in' to the fiction, and pull the fish up with your teeth, if you wished.

October 19, 2008

Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Maureen O'Hara and Charles Laughton


This was Hitchcock's last English production before his timely immigration to America. The production is lush, a superb example of the pre-war golden age of film.

Maureen O'Hara has lost her family and has come to stay with her aunt, mistress of the Jamaica Inn on the English coast, circa 1800. Unfortunately it turns out that the Inn is actually a den of thieves, run under the rule of a very greedy 19th century Lord, played by Laughton.

Some critics don't consider this a good example of the Hitchcock style, which may be true. It is also though a very well made classic thriller which exposes the various criminal foibles to which the upper classes are subject - presumably the same class as some of the so-called 'critics'. Note also that the resemblance between Laughton and Hitchcock, in his older years, is uncanny. :-)

October 23, 2008

Dead Pool

Dead Pool

Starring Clint Eastwood and Liam Neeson, with Jim Carrey


This is the last of the Dirty Harry movies, 5th in the sequence. The plot concerns a strange game to murder celebrities in high risk professions, including Callahan, himself. Though definitely 1980's Hollywood, it is also a superb musing on fame, the press, and law in order with a great sound track including Guns and Roses and some of Eastwood's favorite jazz. As with all Dirty Harry movies it is set in San Francisco, the jewel of the West Coast.

The movie also features a quality relationship with a strong, non-hollywood type 'Eastwood Girl'.

In this clip Liam Neeson and Eastwood discuss the rules of the 'game'.

The in-movie music video of a young Jim Carey, lip syncing Axl Rose of Guns and Roses, is classic.

The movie's take on SF car chases is equally as good, though you'll have to see the movie to catch that one.

October 25, 2008



A TV Miniseries

Directed by Alastair Reid


The highly acclaimed 2001 release 'Traffic' was loosely based on this english produced miniseries - set in Europe and the Pakistan region as opposed to the US/Mexico area. Another major difference is that instead of a local honest cop's perspective we are given the story of a displaced opium farmer. FWIW, I was emotionally reminded of another threaded production, 'Babel', which also addresses arab and gun issues from a family perspective.

At 315 minutes for the 6 part mini-series may seem long, but it is not - a gripping story all the way reminding us that there actually was a reason for the drug war at one time. Looking back at this with the perfect vision of hindsight I also found myself wondering just how much heroin profits were used to fund Afghan rebels in, as the movie puts it, the 'wild west' parts of that area.

October 27, 2008



Starring Daniel Craig (James Bond) and Stephen Rea (The Crying Game)

A KCET Los Angeles/PBS production of a Play by Michael Frayn

Adapted by Director Howard Davies


This play concerns a meeting between two pioneers of Atomic Physics, Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr.

Bohr was the jewish teacher and employer of Heisenberg - who would 'invent' Quantum Mechanics and the Uncertainty Principle under his tutelage. Heisenberg would also head the German atomic program under Hitler, which did not invent the bomb. Bohr would flee occupied Denmark and join the Manhattan project in the U.S.

The play is a literary exploration of the uncertainty principle and quantum mechanics as they apply to a 1941 meeting of the two men, where they very definitely 'measure' each other.

The outcome of this conversation of inquiry would have many, many consequences, perhaps as many as any in history.

October 31, 2008

American Madness

American Madness

Directed by Frank Capra

Starring Walter Huston


This movie has a similar plot to 1946's 'It's Wonderful Life', starring Jimmy Stewart. Huston plays the money making depression era NYC banker with a heart of gold. Thugs spark a run on his private bank, with the help of morally challenged middle manager.

The plot in this movie is perhaps not as developed as in the later version, however the energy of the time, 1932, comes through loud and clear.

Walter Huston is himself a remarkable character. He was the old salt who leads Bogart in search of 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre', a movie directed by his son, the more modern classically famous John.

Huston was born in Toronto and was trained as an engineer as well as dabbling in the arts.He began his hollywood career after a somewhat spectacular failure as a civil engineer.

November 4, 2008

Year of Living Dangerously

Year of Living Dangerously

Directed by Peter Weir

Starring Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver


This movie is an Australian take on another Vietnam era 'problem' - the crackdowon of Indonesian strongman Suharto. Weir very deftly uses the symbolism of Balinese 'Shadow' puppetry to tell his tale, one of the strong points of the movie.

Another is the relationship between Journalist Gibson and Aussie Diplomat Weaver - which sizzles. Both actors were fresh from their initial grasp at stardom. Gibson with the first Mad Max movie and Weaver with her Lt Ripley character in the movie Alien. This production cemented their star status with the critics, as well as this 'observer'.

November 5, 2008

Dark Victory

Dark Victory

Starring Bette Davis

With Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan


1939 was a great year for film - it gave us Gone with the Wind and the Wizard of Oz, and Bette Davis at her prime in this chick flick, with horses. 'Dark Victory' may well also be the inspiration for the Kim
Carne's pop song, 'Bette Davis Eyes'.

Davis, like Bacall and Hepburn was a model of a strong woman before the age of feminism. This role was one of her more positive, as a character that is. She plays a spirited heiress equestrienne who develops a brain cancer at 23.

Both Bogart and Reagan were supporting characters at this time - Bogart is okay as the horse trainer and Reagan is likeable as a playboy type, seemingly always with a drink in hand. As they say in the movie 'PROGNOSIS NEGATIVE' - even after brain surgery....but of course, not for the career, or power, of Ms. Davis.

November 6, 2008

Conversations with Other Women

Conversations with Other Women

Starring Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart


This is a unique romantic comedy. Helena Bonham Carter plays an expat American returned to the States for a wedding where she 'has a history with one of the guests'. 98% of the movie involves dialogue between her and Aaron Eckhart, starting off as a wedding flirt.

The movie is a bit of an experiment - split screen throughout - the idea being the two perspectives of each of the co-stars, and, occassionaly others (including the viewer?). At first this is confusing - knowing that this what was intended from the start might've helped. At the end, it definitely works very well.

November 11, 2008

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder

Directed by Adrian Lyne

Written by Bruce Joel Rubin

Starring Tim Robbins


For Veteran's day a tale of a traumatized Vietnam Vet - perhaps one of the most psychologically powerful and chilling tales ever told. Tim Robbins, husband of Susan Sarandon, plays the vet, in his breakout starring role.

November 17, 2008

Alpha Dog

Alpha Dog

Directed by Nick Cassavetes

Starring Justin Timberlake and Emile Hirsch with Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone (the parents of the perpetrator and victim)


This movie is a manifestation of good art, imitating some very sad life, imitating, originally, some very questionable art.

The plot involves a true story of some post high school drug dealers in the greater Pasadena area of Los Angeles County who are fans of violent hip hop videos. What starts out as a game between debtor and debtee becomes paranoid and tragic as the perpetrator realizes that he's commited kidnapping, even though the 'victim' is definitely enjoying the party. The movie is constructed from, and directly references, witness statements, which gives it an added air of authenticity.

November 24, 2008



Screenplay by James Dickie, based on his novel

Starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, and Ned Beatty


From the year of Nixon's re-election comes this classic outdoor flick. Burt Reynolds is at the top of his game, taking his yuppie buddies on a river trip, just before it is damned by the most recent project of the Tennessee Valley Authority (The SE US's equivalent to the BPA).

Locals aren't happy about being displaced in name of progress, but they do share a love of music. The banjo playing in this movie is incredible.

December 1, 2008

Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich

Written by Charlie Kaufman

Starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Katherine Keener, and with John Malkovich

Directed by Spike Jonze


This classic flick is inspired by the current Kaufman creation, 'Synechdoche'. 'Being John Malkovich', Kaufman's first big screen writing credit is perhaps the most, uh, original film of all time.

The movie doesn't work for all, but if you are reading this blog, and you haven't seen it, you'll likely enjoy the ride.

'Synechdoche' has been reviewed as being depressing - personally, I thought it was quite funny, the writer/director making fun of himself presumably, in a Woody Allen post modern kind of way. It's not monumental, but it is still original entertainment - for those with a healthy self esteem.

Now, if I can only figure out to get the same rate for myself that Keener and Cusack got for providing entry into the mind of Malkovich...

December 8, 2008

I Know Where I'm Going

I Know Where I'm Going

Written and Directed by the Team of Powell/Pressburger


Beautifully set in the Hebrides Isles consider this romantic comedy a Scottish partner to Braveheart. The movie was shot in 1945 during the closing days of the war. The heroine is forced to choose between a local officer returned for leave and her fiance, a corporate military industrial titan renting out his own island. The early portrayal of a strong, positive, female character is also notable.

This quote from IMDB, a source I use a lot, says it all:

Let's face it ... they don't make enough movies like "I Know Where I'm Going." Sweet but dry as scotch; scratchy as thistle. Mystical as an ancestral curse but clear-eyed as the first clear day after a storm breaks. How many romantic comedies ask you if you know how to skin a rabbit, and then show you a golden eagle eating one, quite graphically, on camera?

The video clip below introduces our heroine to the journey ahead, including a nicely done dream sequence.

December 9, 2008

Tea House of the August Moon

Tea House of the August Moon

Starring Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford, with Eddie Albert and Harry Morgan

Written by John Patrick and based on his Tony Award winning Play


In the spirit of the 2008 bailout a Hollywood movie that chronicles the restoration 'bailout' of post WW2 Japan. Culturally, this movie wouldn't fly today - casting Brando as an Asian is still funny. But as a statement about the economic forces at work 'Teahouse' is very relevant, and also very funny. The roles played here would typecast all of the cast junior to the great Glenn Ford. Brando's Sakini is as profound as his Colonel Kurtz gone native from 'Apocalypse Now', Eddie Albert, the gardener, would be sent off to the TV show 'Green Acres', and the old army calvary soul Harry Morgan would be promoted to head a 'Mash' unit.

In hte movie Ford is assigned to a small village, charged with setting up a municipal democratic government, building a school, and re-starting industry. However the charming peasants, very experienced at dealing with occupying cultural forces work their magic. The '"Ladies Democratic Action League" votes that they all want to be trained as Geishas, all the villagers shortly thereafter decided they'd rather have a Teahouse with a performance space than a school, and the only business that they can find is a home brewed sweet potato Brandy.

The brewing operation is organized as a community cooperative, much to chagrin of Ford's superiors - accusing him of being a communist. Curiously, the proceeds from which are 'banked in Seattle'.

December 12, 2008



Directed by Luis Bunuel

In Spainish, with Subtitles


I'm on a Bunuel kick, having just discovered the prolific multi-lingual director this summer. So another one of his great ones - this time the 1961 Cannes winner.

Viridiana is a devout novice just about to take her lifetime vows as a catholic nun when she is ordered to visit her rich uncle patron by Mother Superior. This trip back into the real world is a spiritual challenge for the absolutely stunning nun, spitting image of the uncle's former spouse.

Viridiana does decide to leave the nunnery, but also continue her own good works. She decides to use the reclusive uncle's estate as a homeless shelter. Her playboy cousin doesn't think it is a good idea, but does not interfere.,

Yes, Viridiana, there are still many lessons to be learned about life, and you will learn them well, and with class.

BTW, I know subtitles are tough for some, but it is also not a bad way to get some language practice in. I maybe get a third of the dialogue, but it's still a bonus. Bunuel, born in Aragon, also did work in French and English.

December 18, 2008

Funny Ha Ha

Funny Ha Ha

Written, Directed, and co-starring Andrew Bujalski

Starring Kate Dollenmayer
(An Animator in Richard Linklater's Waking Life)


An IMDB reviewer identified this move as a 'quarter-life' crisis of the female lead, played by Kate Dollenmayer. Dollenmayer got her start working for Richard Linklater as an animator for 'Waking Life'. This movie has a strong slacker vibe and the semi-pro production values enhance the message of the movie, the challenges of work and romance immediately after college graduation.

My first impression was that this was a Christian rock type version of Linklater's first movie, Slacker. The topic of religion comes up, but only very briefly. It is definitely a modern and realistic moral tale told well by those living it.

Bujalski does a great job at playing the failed suitor of Dollenmayer, as a nice but nerdy co-worker starting an alcohol problem.

December 19, 2008

The Devil's Playground

The Devil's Playground

Directed by Lucy Walker


The fundamentalist Amish culture in the United States has an important rite of passage - 'Rumspringa' where 16 year olds are given the chance to run free in the 'Devil's Playground', the subject of this documentary.

This period is a crucial feature of the Amish religion - they believe one must be an adult and freely choose to take the vows of the church for it to be valid. (Which, curiously, evidences the 'fitness for survival' of this particular religous practice.)

According to the non-scientific documentary 90% of the Amish children (often ten or more to the couple) choose the faith. Go figure!

December 23, 2008

Pennies from Heaven

Pennies from Heaven

Starring Bing Crosby with Louis Armstrong (first top billing for a Black Perfomer in Film)

Directed by Norman McLeod
(also known for two Marx Brothers films)


No White Christmas in this flick, but perhaps an even more timely weather metaphor. Bing Crosby plays a jailed busker from Mukilteo, Washington (Crosby was actually born in Tacoma and raised in Spokane). A death row inmate makes a final request of Crosby to assist the family of his victims, a young female 'orphan' and her grandfather.

Like many successful depression era movies it is upbeat, and a window into the time. It is no wonder that Crosby would go on to inspire many, including just about every American GI in WW2 and Frank Sinatra.

Below is the title song. The film's piece by Louis Armstrong is every bit as good and not to be missed.

December 30, 2008

Other People's Money

Other People's Money

Starring Danny DeVito and Gregory Peck


As entertainment this movie misses the mark - it is however very relevant, including in how it misses. Personally, I enjoyed analyzing these flaws, both as a production and in the Hollywood presentation of the Wall Street ethos. It is not a movie of good and evil, of black and white, but the moral conclusion the producers intend from that balance definitely falls short.

The biggest failing of the movie is Danny DeVito as a romantic interest, sorry, but it just doesn't fly. There are certainly power couples though not all that different from what Devito and his prey's representative signify.

The 1980's were famous for corporate raiders and this movie is a part of the cultural reaction. That history is all the more relevant today - and, personally, I'm wondering if perhaps some of the protections for corporate boards enacted in this time actually reduced the accountability of corporate boards to their shareholders.

This speech is very, very good - but it's about as true as a George Bush election promise:

January 7, 2009

The Sweet Hereafter

The Sweet Hereafter

Directed by Atom Egoyan

Starring Ian Holm and Sarah Polley


This Canadian Cannes winner is a story about loss in a small, but diverse, tight knit community. The movie compares how this community chooses to do 'business' compared to the bigger world. It is quite sad, but reaches ably for the resolve of the survivors to live a good life. In this case the loss is a tragic bus crash that kills or maims virtually every child in the village.

Polley, the eldest of the survivors, is our moral voice for the community. (Hopefully someone we will see again) Ian Holm, an ambulance chaser from the big city signifies the outside world. The setting in the Canadian Okanogan brings this story closer to home. FWIW, though sad, I'd definitely recommend this movie for kids.

This YouTube clip is a bit of a spoiler, but not a huge one. If you are thinking of sharing this with your kids, this will give you a definite feel for the course of the movie.

January 12, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Based on a book by Charles Dickens


"Dickensonian", an adjective defined by this movie, appropriate for the current times. I'll say no more, less the academic english analysts will likely take me to task. I'll let Dickens speak himself, from 1859.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way -- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

January 19, 2009

Sunshine State

Sunshine State

Written and Directed by John Sayles

Starring Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, Timothy Hutton, and Alan King


This is another gem from the legendary John Sayles who has a profound ability to capture a place and its people. This ensemble movie will likely only appeal to those that have gotten involved in their local community as it does refer to many of the typical conflicts that manifest themselves as real drama in our real lives.

The story involves two old established neighboring beachfront communities facing development threats, one black, the other white - race is a factor in the story, but it is secondary.

One idea that this story implicitly raises is whether neighborhood segregation is not always a bad thing - in this case the two seperate neighborhoods do seem to work - including forming a larger community between them.

January 21, 2009

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross

Written by David Mamet

Starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin, with Jonathan Pryce


New York financial salesmen are forced by tough competition to cheat in the selling of Florida real estate in this taught gritty drama.

The speech given by Alec Baldwin, the big boss, as he introduces the contest:

First prize is a Cadillac, Second Prize is a pair of steak knives, third prize is, you are fired.

February 5, 2009



Starring Ryan Phillippe and Salma Hayek with Mike Myers and Neve Campbell


'54' captures the epitomy of post rebellion baby boomer generation excesses - and business practices, a story unique to its time. Historians will certainly have a heyday analyzing the brief popularity of disco at its particular point in time, and this movie provides clues to what was really going on.

The movie chronicles the experience of a young, lower middle class, 'jerysey boy' who climbs to the heights of Manhattan's social world in a haze of sex and cocaine, by working at the club.

I'm not a fan of Mike Myers typical products, but here he is superb as the club owner, Steve Rabbell.

FWIW, let's hope the Obama generation never generates such tales....

This isn't a clip from the movie, but a slide show from the actual club, set to a medly of disco music. I wonder if Bernie Madoff is in one of these pictures....?

February 12, 2009

The Big Tease

The Big Tease

Starring Craig Ferguson


For Valentines day, a comedy - not romantic, exactly but close enough. This movie isn't high art either, but, if you will picture William Wallace reincarnated as a gay hairdresser come from Scotland to Los Angeles to conquer, you have the gist.

Ferguson, now a late-night talk show host, makes the movie.

March 2, 2009

RKO 281

RKO 281
(The Making of Citzen Kane)

Starring Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, and John Malkovich

Produced by HBO


This movie is about the "Greatest Movie Ever Made", Orson Welle's 'Citzen Kane'. It is timely given the current collapse of the Hearst corporation, whose founder, Randolph, was the thinly (very) disguised movie subject.

Most interesting is the film's explanation of what 'rosebud' really means. I can't say whether this story is any more true than any of Hollywood 's (or HBO's) - or for that matter, Hearst's - but it is a good one.

The time of this production was the lead-up to WW2 - the movie has Hearst referring to Roosevelt as a 'Bolshevik'. My very slightly historical perspective was that Hearst and Roosevelt worked together to bring us into the European conflict - perhaps that was only later.

Ah, the politics of the story.

FWIW, I wonder what Joel Connelly, long time democratic political columnist with the Seattle Hearst paper has for a 'Rosebud'?

The spoiler for Hearst's 'Rosebud' is in the clip:

March 18, 2009

Lilies of the Field

Lilies of the Field

Staring Sydney Poitier


This movie may well mark the 'tipping' point of racial relations in America, released the year of my birth. Poitier won the best actor Academy Award for his lead role in this film, playing an out of work construction worker/GI, heading west.

On the way he runs into a group of east german nuns recently escaped from behind the Iron Curtain who need him to build a church.

Curiously, there are only two white men in the entire film. A poor Irish priest with an impoverished Latin parish and a rich white Contractor. The Contractor is goosed a bit, but it is done very respectfully and realistically. FWIW, the construction scenes of the chapel reminded me of a well run Habitat for Humanity site.

The scenes where he teaches the nuns some black baptist gospel are particularly memorable and the sound track is top notch all the way through.

March 30, 2009

The Wire

The Wire

Produced by HBO

Created by David Simon


The Wire is a cop show about the grit of life in the streets of Baltimore, the drug dealers and the politically manipulated bureaucracy intent on not rocking the boat.

This realism comes from long time Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon and he brings the City to life with a great voice.

The title 'Wire' refers to the use of wiretaps in investigations, but the production was also at a time of great popularity for the magazine 'Wired'. These wires were provided by one honest State's Attorney and one honest Judge.

March 31, 2009

Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin

Starring Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, Ben Kingsley, with Stanley Tucci


This movie is organized around the plot of a con, the Kansas City Shuffle. Rival gangs and individuals have their stories which compete for survival, and the attention of the viewer. The resulting multi-layered product is pure genius show casing much of Hollywood's finest.

This movie is so finely done and so masterfully complex it is worth seeing every April 1, not just this year. That is, until they come up with the 'Oklahoma City Shuffle'.

April 11, 2009

Cry the Beloved Country

Cry the Beloved Country

Starring James Earl Jones and Richard Harris


This is a story set to a backdrop of politics and nature - and nature wins out in the telling. Harris and Jones are a couple of older gentleman living in the beautiful Natal province of South Africa in the 1940's - Jones roots his preaching and spirituality in the land, Harris his farmer businessman ways.

Both have young sons that have gone to the big City to live the modern life, Jone's son one of rebellion, Harris's one of reform. Both men meet in the City over a tragedy, but it is back in Natal where the future is made.

April 18, 2009

Manny and Lo

Manny and Lo

Starring Scarlett Johansson (age 10?), Aleksa Palladino, and Mary Kay Place

Written and Directed by Lisa Krueger


Amanda and Laurel are pre and post pubescent orphan sisters on a 'Thelma and Louise' run from foster care. Circumstances dictate they settle down in a country house and now all they need is to find parents!

This youtube video is an audition tape of Johansson's from a year or two earlier. She's a very cute kid, and, as they say, an 'old soul'.

June 30, 2009

Classic Flick - Walking Tall

Walking Tall

Starring Chris "The Rock" Vaughn


This movie remakes the 1973 classic in a Washington State logging town, with 'The Rock' reprising the lead character based on the true story of Sheriff Buford Pusser in Tennessee.

Vaughn's mixed race parents add some dimension to the story, but above all this is an action flick, perhaps a bit over the top, but still a story worth telling.

Here's a clip from the original - which I haven't seen as neither the local Library nor Netflix carries it. Go Figure!

September 17, 2009

Classic Flick -


Starring Emma Thompson

Adapted by from the Margaret Edson play by Emma Thompson

Directed by Mike Nichols


A first person account of the cancer experience - coincidentally also the most expensive in American health care. Emma Thompson is superb in this role, but be warned it is a very tough and honest movie.

December 16, 2013

Why has Bodhi Dharma Left for the East?

Why has Bodhi Dharma Left for the East?

A Korean Zen masterwork by Bae Yong-kyun.


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