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1) My concussion turns a year old today. I still occasionally have words just stop, but all the other symptoms seem to have gone. This isn't what most of my parents' generation describe as "getting old" which seems to be the feeling that the right word is "just on the tip of my tongue," but a literal blank wall where I can't remember any words related to the topic for anywhere up to a minute. I don't like it, but I'm really grateful everything else has gone away and hope never to be concussed again.

2) [livejournal.com profile] neotoma73 was very kind and saw Now You See Me 2 with me last night. I know the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is only 38%, but I loved it and grinned all the way home. Visually it's very stylish using objects as framing devices to give an impression of an eye. One of the big complaints in the reviews is that the illusions aren't really shown, but talked about afterward. The biggest misdirection sequence is all visual, though and it's beautifully done. I felt exhilarated after watching it. There's also a very nice line in subtle foreshadowing throughout. In some ways, I feel like the critics didn't pay attention and then got cranky because they missed stuff.

3) I've started really walking again, just this week. I've done the 1.3 miles between my apartment and the Archives metro stop four mornings this week and did the 1.7 mile walk home from the movie last night. I iced my foot when I got home and had no more pain than usual on my walk this morning. I hope that I can keep this up.
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I was never a huge fan. I didn't even really hear about him until the late 1970s (what? I lived in DC. I listened to The Osmonds on records and Funk and/or Soul on the radio. BTW, Osmonds was being a preteen white girl; it's the Funk and/or Soul which was the DC signifier.). I saw the "Jazzing with Blue Jean" video in the movie theater when I went to see Company of Wolves (my first X rated film - British X, I don't know what it was rated in the US). I've still never seen Labyrinth, but I grinned to see him as Tesla in The Prestige. I'd recognize him if we passed on the street.

And yet, I feel terribly sad to hear of his death. Whether or not I liked him, he was a force in the arts, not just music, and his passing leaves a ripple over all their surfaces.

The In Memoriam article at Esquire sums it up:
The Beatles are classics now, like Handel or the Louie Armstrong Hot Fives. The Stones are a touring museum piece. But look around. In the major cities of the western world, we live in a world that David Bowie made. It is a better world for his making. Stephen Marche
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First of all -- if you haven't seen it in the theater and it's still playing near you, go see it. The scene in Paris alone is worth the price of admission.

I'll be honest. I'm not entirely sure what I expected from the film. I know that the three adults I've met who'd seen it would only say some variation on "it's a head trip" with no spoilers. Now that I've seen it, I completely agree. I can't give away spoilers because I think it will reduce the impact of the movie.

So. This is Brad Bird's first live action movie. It's well directed and cast. He's also one of the screen writers with Damon Lindelof.

The young actors are all excellent, particularly Raffey Cassidy who's only 12 (probably 11 when it was being filmed) and is still able to carry a good portion of the action -- both in terms of plot and kicking ass -- on her shoulders.

The effects, since many of the gadgets are supposed to be prototypes from home inventors, are very imaginative. Plus, that scene in Paris. *sigh*

I cried at the end. I see too many people talking about "the millenials" as self-centered. (One report on the Charleston shooting suggested that it was at least partially because the shooter was a millenial and trying to be "unique" which is a hallmark of the generation. Working in employment services, I can show you that the millenial generation is the only age group who's hiring level has not increased in the last two years. We may be in a burgeoning economic recovery, but not for them.) I see them, in general, interested in ideas, in learning new things -- whether it's programming, knitting, or both -- and, in my city at least, working locally to make things better for themselves and their younger siblings. This movie sees this generation in the same way, but what I found thrilling and touching was that people my age and older were also seen as part of Tomorrowland's ethos.
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I saw this movie as part of the DC Docs festival last summer. (My thanks again to [livejournal.com profile] neotoma for attending it with me.) My original, brief, review is behind this sentence.

It was not a great movie, but it is important. It covers a part of the war that we, as Americans, tend to paper over.

If you do watch it, let me know what you thought in comments.


Feb. 14th, 2015 08:58 pm
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[livejournal.com profile] pleasance, another friend, and I saw this today before the snow hit.

It's bloody. It has moments of vulgarity (no, I'm not referring to the language, although there's some of that, too.). In short, there are a few issues with it.

I loved it.

For one thing, the villain had an actual plan. Through the villain's plan there was actually some good information about climate change.

There were a huge number of references to classic spy stories, mostly from the 60s. I saw references to the Bond franchise, of course, several of them through Mark Cross. There were also references to:

* The Avengers (Steed and Peel, not Cap and Hulk)

* The Man from UNCLE (and we also saw a preview for the new movie. Their Illya Kuryakin isn't pretty enough.)

* The Harry Palmer movies (Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, Billion Dollar Brain)

* Secret Agent (John Drake as played by Patrick McGoohan)

There's a lot to see, but I think one of the big takeaways for me is that most of them don't enjoy killing -- even with a blood ballet that Sam Peckinpah would envy.
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She was 89. Her obituary in The Guardian is here.

I can't even begin to tell you how much her movies meant to me and she has long been Sis' favorite actress -- she went to see her in Woman of the Year when it was on tour.

When I trained as a singer, this was the first song I worked on. Rumor had it that Andy Williams (who was then 16) recorded the song, but it was later confirmed that his version wasn't used: it was Bacall singing.
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I've been thinking some more about the fictional characters on whom I've had crushes. Phileas Fogg and Sherlock Holmes vied with D'Artagnan and Donny Osmond in my pre-teen fantasy life.

There's one very interesting one to me, though, partially because it's an adult "crush" and partially because the character was neither a real person nor particularly literary and that's Daniel Jackson of Stargate and its later iteration, Stargate SG-1. He even, eventually, made it to the Pegasus Galaxy.

I saw the original movie on its opening weekend with my sister down in Orlando, FL. Sis didn't enjoy the film as much as I did. For her, it was more a "two hours off the tour" movie than a cool mix of old serial sci-fi and archaeology by way of Caesar's Palace. (Seriously, some of those costumes would make Liberace go "It's a little much, don't you think?")

Not only did I come out of the theater with a smile on my face, I'd fallen for Daniel Jackson. He exchanged gifts with the natives, in his case a 5th Avenue candy bar that he'd had in his pack. Unlike the TV series (most of the time), there was a real effort to make the linguistic side of his knowledge important, and, as someone who's been known to translate languages I don't know, I found that thrilling. He taught the natives how to read the inscriptions around them. He died. He resurrected and figured out another way to destroy Ra without destroying the people. And he opened the Stargate because he was able to make a connection no one else had. It's one of the very rare portrayals of a particular type of genius -- non-mathematical, non-hard science, deeply intuitive -- that, other than the instance on his allergies, didn't make the "geek" selfish, a coward, or completely out of touch with the rest of humanity.

But the real cherry on top of this lovely banana split is that I really, really cannot stand James Spader as an actor. There is not a single other role I like him in. I usually find him wooden and detached. And yet, I fell in love with Daniel Jackson.

SG-1 had been on for over four years when I saw my first episode (a season 4 episode in repeats prepatory to season 6 being shown). The first one I saw (Window of Opportunity) wasn't that great, but SciFi (before it became SyFy) was showing the series in four hour blocks, and the next one (Watergate) wasn't much better. The evening ended with The First Ones, an episode highlighting Daniel Jackson's linguistic ability ("Now, don't say 'ka' till you've tried it."), his anthropological background, and even a bit of archaeology at the very beginning. And I remembered sitting in a theater near Disney in Orlando that was packed to the gills with a smile on my face.
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This is going to be shown on PBS as part of "The American Experience" series.

The first twenty minutes were, as an audience member pointed out at the end, way, way too whitewashed about the situation in Saigon in the wake of the Paris Peace accords. The filmmakers didn't even mention that one reason it would have been impossible to send troops back to Vietnam was that the draft had been abolished.

Ambassador Martin came across as venal. Stuart Herrington came across very well (he was a captain at the time and privately got several people out as well as helping on the final day), but I also know the man (not my father) who authorized his black op, so it wasn't as much under the radar as the film implied.

I couldn't have sat through the whole thing and the panel without [livejournal.com profile] neotoma sitting beside me. It was sweet of her to volunteer and even nicer that she actually made the long trek for a movie that began at 10:45 a.m. Brunch afterward was all the sweeter. Must find a way to afford Co Co. Sala again.
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I just came from an AFI Docs screening of this movie. It talks about the life and activism of Aaron Swartz, and I cannot praise it highly enough. The film goes on wide release next Friday, including a paid video on demand option, and, for those of you in Boston, they are arranging a showing with a discussion panel at MIT which should be interesting as no one from MIT was willing to comment on screen about Swartz's prosecution.

I've come away with a very emotional impression of the whole thing. The movie certainly has a point of view and presents Swartz as a mensch who followed through on his ideas for a more just internet -- and by extension a more just society. It certainly makes me question the definition of public domain and makes me want to support Project Gutenberg more directly.


May. 18th, 2014 07:08 pm
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Star Trek Into Darkness -- the movie that colons forgot. Spoilers, for a year old movie, under the cut.

Read more... )
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It's opening today. The Meter at Rottentomatoes is 13%. Ouch.

I really wanted a brilliant movie made from this wonderful book.
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I last saw Advise and Consent in the mid-1970s when it was already a period piece. It must have been in 1973 or 1974 because it had been awhile when I finally read the book, and I know I did that in 1976.

It was one of the first things I remember seeing about "gay" issues. Although, to be fair, it's much more about the process of governance in DC. Wikipedia tells me that Anita Bryant's big campaign was a year later, but I was already aware of gay people in my neighborhood (one couple was very nice and another hated when kids played in the cul-de-sac near them -- you know, just like real people are different). It was shameful. Forbidden. The jokes at my all-girl boarding school and summer camp about lesbians were uneasy, at best.

I thought the movie would be heavily coded, but Preminger presents a small Greenwich Village bar pretty straightforwardly. There's no doubting what the milieu is which is probably why I remember bits of it so vividly. Of course, the married Senator who had a relationship in Hawaii during the war had to die. It was a plot point. But the film is sensitive to him, if not to closeted men or gay men in general. He's trying to do the right thing, being blackmailed, and, ultimately, commits suicide rather than give in to the blackmail.

In its own way, the most fascinating thing is that the movie was clearly filmed on location here in DC. I not only knew the big buildings, but some of the smaller homes they used as the fronts for the characters' residences. The mall has so many more buildings on it now, of course. The political power structure has changed. There are no more hostesses like the character of Dolly Harrison. But I've been around and reading the newspapers through some of those changes. I'm, mostly, glad that the hostesses power has gone.

And I'm ecstatic that there are now movies where the gay person doesn't have to commit suicide to further the plot.
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I tried to read Le Carre in high school, because I knew they were among the few books my father read for fun. He never understood the appeal of James Bond, and always said that Le Carre got it right. Spies were "boring little men in trench coats with bad breath."

In 1983, he'd just retired from the military to work for BU overseas programs. I was in drama school in London and visited them in Mehlem, a small suburb of Bonn (then the capital of West Germany). We drove past the Israeli Embassy, and I noticed the razor wire threaded through the rose bushes. I'd also run out of books to read, so Dad loaned me A Small Town in Germany. It was my first Le Carre. I then read The Little Drummer Girl, and attempted one of the Smiley books. Smiley was beyond me at that point.

I had another minor Le Carre binge about seven years later when The Russia House came out as a movie. I loved it. I recognized several RSC actors in minor roles, and I really loved the film. I saw it first as a test preview and even answered follow-up questions put to me a few days afterward. I saw it again for free with an advance pass, and then paid to see it a third time. I also read the book and was thrilled that Ned Palfrey (played in the movie by James Fox), who was my favorite character, had a book entirely from his point of view, The Secret Pilgrim.

Smiley's in The Secret Pilgrim and, once again I tried to read the Karla trilogy, the main books featuring Smiley as a central character. I didn't succeed.

The film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy finally, finally got me to read the books. Gary Oldman makes him more sympathetic than the books do, but Smiley is the consummate intelligence agent, and, truly, the perfect mix of compassion and the particular brand of ruthlessness that the British have honed to a point. (See the series MI-5 to understand more of what I mean.) Americans are also ruthless, but it's much more indiscriminate. (*waves at the NSA*)

I just saw the movie of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Smiley is in it. It's a small role, probably a little larger in the book, but it's key to the outcome. And I am once again reminded that Gary Oldman made the character FAR more sympathetic than he actually is.

The Berlin of 1962 had more in common with the Berlin I lived in, briefly, in the late 1980s than it does with immediate post-war Berlin or modern Berlin. The fact of the wall, the fact that Berlin was not a German city, but a city under occupation (the traffic laws were actually different in the three sectors that made up the Western side which was one reason my parents rarely drove in the city). My first time coming up the escalator from the U-Bahn at Kufurstendamm, I noticed a list. I couldn't figure out why I knew the name Theriesenstadt, but by the time I got to Dachau I realized that this, the busiest entrance at the busiest stop on the Western side of the city, was a punishment: A constant daily reminder of the camps and a war that had ended more than forty years earlier.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is bleak. It's well acted, but it's not fun. If you've seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, there's a little bit of fun to be had figuring out that Cyril Cusack is playing the same character as John Hurt, etc. But that's really the only fun. I still want to recommend it. The movie came out in 1965. The book came out in 1963, the same year that Philby defected, the same year that Le Carre left MI-6. It's fiction. Of course, it is.
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Look, I don't know why I'm looking forward to the next Hunger Games movie, but I am.

If anyone in DC would like to see it with me on opening weekend (preferably opening night) at the Regal Gallery Place, let me know. It'll have to wait until after work (i.e., the movie has to start after 6:00 pm), but I want to be there.

Also, Lorde's version of Everybody Wants to Rule the World from the soundtrack is being sneak-peeked in various places. It's very stark, nearly suicidal sounding, which makes it a good match with the lyrics. I still prefer the original, but hers is definitely a different and fascinating take on the song.

Two Things

Oct. 18th, 2013 10:07 pm
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1) Why did no one tell me that Ron Perlman was in Pacific Rim?!?

2) I got my [livejournal.com profile] yuletide assignment. I'm a bit surprised on what I ended up matching with.
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I'm watching the movie "Flammen og Citronen" at Amazon Prime. It's in Danish, which I can read (a little), but don't speak. Still, I'm picking up words here and there.

Then I came to a section that I understood. It wasn't every word, but I was following the conversational ebb and flow. It was in German.

This is the opposite of an experience I had years ago when I watched the movie "Soldaat van Oranje." My understanding of Dutch is much better than my speaking of it. Then about a third of the way through the movie, there was a conversation that I didn't understand -- because it was in German.

It's amazing what relative familiarity does; the tricks it plays on the mind.
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I have my ticket for July 19 for all three films back-to-back-to-back.

I'm thrilled at the potential political, psychological, and philosophical exegeses that will be coming out of this movie.

I want to slap some kid on YouTube (just saw the "Behind the Scenes" video there) who said no middle aged people are going to want to see it. *hmmmph*

Anyone else claiming July 20 as a religious holiday?


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