Thursday, April 27, 2017

Johnathan Demme ("Philadelphia") passes away from cancer


Director and screenwriter Johathan Demme, who gave us “Philadelphia” (1993) and “Silence of the Lambs” (1991) has passed away at age 73 of esophageal cancer. The New York Times obituary is here.

He was about five months younger than me.

The film “Philadelphia”(written by Ron Nsywaner, from Sony TriStar Pictures) stars Tom Hanks as a gay lawyer Andrew Beckett who sues a law firm that employed him for discrimination for having HIV.  He will go on to succumb to HIV.  The film did have a shocking scene involving Kaposi’s Sarcoma.



I remember seeing the film on a bitterly cold Saturday in early 1994 at the old Pentagon City complex in Arlington.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"The Ten Most Dangerous and Extreme Railways in the World"



Here’s a nice 10-minute short from Facts Factory, “The Ten Most Dangerous and Extreme Railways in the World”.


 
One of these is a railroad in Thailand, where housing obstacles in a poor neighborhood are removed so that a train can pass.  There are three trains through the Andes, one in Peru used to be the highest in the world.  There are a couple of funiculars or cog railways to go up steep grades (Mount Washington NH didn’t make the list).  There are a couple in Bangladesh and India where people ride on the roof and fall off.
Or try this one.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Lucille Ball's long trailer fetish


I used to like situation comedy (like “My Little Margie” even more than “I Love Lucy” on old black and white television), but I remember at about age 10 my mother took me to see the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz comedy “The Long, Long Trailer” (1954, MGM, directed by Vincente Minelli) downtown Washington at the old Columbia theater. (Remember, in those days, the theaters were the Capitol, the Palace, and the Columbia).  (There are just two "Long's", not three.)

Nicky (Desi Arnaz) and Tacy (Lucille Ball) start their honeymoon in the trailer than Tacy wants to live in so that life can be a perpetual honeymoon.  (My own parents had done Shenandoah National Park in 1940.) Nicky wants a traditional single family home (and these were the days of suburbanization and tract homes).  But the honeymoon in the trailer becomes harrowing indeed.  I remember laughing out of my seat when Lucy fell in the mud.



The honeymoon disasters will challenge their marriage (as will rumors of other women), but not necessarily more than in the “I Love Lucy” sitcom.  It seems now that the 1950s attitude about marriage was rather condescending.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The Official 11-Year Time-Lapse Movie of One World Trade Center"



Here’s an uplifting short film for today, fitting as I spent the last two days in NYC.

The Official 11-Year Time-Lapse Movie of One World Trade Center” by EarthCam (which has other similar videos).


Note how the crane is placed on top of what has already been completed, in a repetitive process.  It must have started in 2004.

It rather reminds me of playing with toys.


An early screenplay attempt by me, “American Epic” (2002), was centered around the plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center site. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

OK, here's a short film made out of a chess game


I’ll let this chess game count as a “movie” once: “Magnus Carlsen vs. 2027 Player: 6 Things to Learn”.



Carlsen is the World Champion Chess Player right now, ay age 26.  Here he is playing an expert in a speed game or simultaneous.

It’s an English opening, and Carlsen leaves the books quickly with a bizarre wing move, and proceeds to completely outplay his opponent with “pawn shredding” and developing wing pieces without moving them.

Here’s another game against a B Player (link).

It's a Pirc defense, and neither side wanted to stay in the books.

Carlsen sees chess as sports or athletics.  Imagine him playing shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. Oh, Europeans don't play baseball, they play soccer. Look up his images on Google.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"The Student Prince", based on the Romberg operetta, was the first film I saw "alone" as a child


The first movie that I ever saw alone was the musical “The Student Prince” (1954, MGM) directed by Richard Thorpe.  I saw it on a Saturday afternoon in the old Glebe Theater in Arlington in the summer of that year, just before I turned 11.  An attendant got after me for running down the stairs from the balcony.  The film is in "AnscoColor" and Cinemascope, an early film from a company other than Fox in the process.

The movie is based on the operetta by Sigmund Romberg, and there was a legal battle over the use of Mario Lanza’s voice for the songs in the film (check Wikipedia).



But the story is about love vs. family duty, and about introversion.  In 19th Century Germany, still broken into duchies,  long before “The Great War” (PBS recently) Prince Karl (Edmund Purdom) hasn’t done well in courting a princess Johanna (Betty St. John) despite a rigorous life in the military (warning of what could be to come). His grandfather (Louis Calhern) sends him away to university in Heidelberg to learn social graces.  Wouldn’t he need those in the military?  I found out that I did when I went through Army Basic in 1968.  He falls in true love with Kathie (Ann Blyth)  But when his grandfather dies, he must face the idea of marriage (to Johnanna) for political survival as a king.

An old idea, indeed.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Rhine by Felix Koenig, CCSA 3.0.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

"The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952) didn't envision the end of the Circus today


The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus will close down at the end of May 2017, and the company even says that the change in the family unit is one of the reasons.  It’s not supposed to be a victory for animal rights, as in this ABC story. You could compare this to the Cirque du Soleil, which I saw in Minneapolis in 2002.

But there is a classic film about the circus, “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952), by Cecile B. De Mille

The film has a massive train wreck scene where a motorist drives into it trying to “stop the train” and is killed instantly; many animals escape.


The plot is a little contrived, as the circus director Brad (Charlton Heston) engages “Sebastian” (Cornel Wilde) creating personal conflicts among the staff.  And then there is the mob outside.

I saw the film at about age 9 with my parents in a “neighborhood” theater

Monday, April 03, 2017

Rialto and StudioCanal will re-issue "The Graduate" in a new digital format


Rialto Pictures and StudioCanal will re-release a 4K print of the 1967 classic comedy “The Graduate


The comedy presents Dustin Hoffman as a recent college graduate who falls in love with both “Mrs. Robinson” (Anne Bancroft) and her daughter (Katharine Ross).



The original film came from MGM  and Embassy Pictures and was directed by Nike Nichols.  Much of the filming took place in Beverly Hills.  I believe I saw it when I was home from graduate school for Christmas in 1967, just a month before finishing my MA at KU and then entering the Army as a draftee at age 24.