Tuesday, December 29, 2009

one eye to the future

So you want to go to Mars?



I can save you $80 billion. Just go to Spain, where they shot the Michael Caine film "Play Dirty".



It looks just the same.

"Play Dirty" is one of the better of the fictional-but-set-in-the-world-of-WWII films that seemed to be rather common in the 1960's

Directed by André De Toth, the one-eyed director who kicked off the 3D boom of the 1950's with "House of Wax".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

like a white thumb

Speaking of black Americans, I just watched "Stormy Weather", one of two all-black cast movies made by major studios in the 40's. The headlining stars are dancer Bill Robinson and singer Lena Horne...



... but the movie is devised to showcase many other entertainers like Cab Calloway and the biggest bow-tie in show business:



The Katherine Dunham dance troupe has an extended sequence. I don't recall Fred and Ginger ever pawing each other like this:



From this vantage point it's hard to know how much of the movie is stuff the studio thought had to be in a "colored" movie and how much is what the performers were doing in their acts all along. I'm guessing the black-face flowers was a studio idea.



Film ends with the completely amazing Nicholas Brothers.




I said this was an all-black movie. Almost. If you pause the DVD you can catch one white guy in the middle of Cab Calloway's Band.





The band sounds great, I'm sure he's doing his job, but he does stick out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

the duke of dc

I just noticed the Washington D.C. quarter has Duke Ellington on it.



As far as I know this is the first working musician to be shown on a US coin, although some of the other state quarters have musical references.

I say "working" since Thomas Jefferson allegedly played the violin.

Not the first black American on a US coin however. A commemorative half dollar was struck in 1946 to honor Booker T. Washington.



But I've never found a Booker T. Washington half dollar in my pocket change.

"Booker" is an unusual name, obviously from an age before people were afraid their children would ever learn anything.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a nose for the cinema


The guy with the poodle pelt on his head is Abraham Sofaer playing a judge in heaven in A Matter of Life and Death (1946). He's got the biggest nose I've ever seen in a movie not attached to an elephant or Jimmy Durante. I guess that was the film makers' way of saying God is Jewish.

If you have some red-blue glasses you can even see him in 3D in these views I reconstructed from frames off the DVD.




I don't know if this was intended as a wink at the whole nose thing, but in the very next shot this guy...




... just has to scratch his nose while the judge speaks.


A Matter of Life and Death is another movie cinematographed by Jack Cardiff, mentioned in my last post, and yet another movie that does not look like other movies of the time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

over the edge

You just know this isn't going to end well as soon as you see it.



One of the Sisters of St. Faith is going to take a dive off that cliff, and it won't be the flying nun.

None-the-less, "Black Narcissus" is a beautiful movie.

A few posts ago I wrote about the film "Four Feathers" that looked not like other films of the time. "Black Narcissus" is famous for not looking like other movies of the time. It's a Technicolor© movie that does not try to contain a rainbow in every frame.

I've read that "3-strip" Technicolor© sometimes didn't get the color elements aligned properly. This is the first time I've actually seen the fringing on a DVD.





My big screen projection TV does that. I'm going to tell people it's really just the Technicolor© acting up.

"Black Narcissus" is also famous for its many matte and background paintings. Believe it or not, the guy who painted the matte shot at the top also did the painting in this shot for Méliès 45 years before.




I caught this movie because of comments about the cinematographer, Jack Cardiff, on animation artist Jenny Lerew's blog. Go there to read more.

Mind the cliff, though.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

obama's bad decisions

Whatever awful decisions President Obama makes during his term in office I at least have confidence that they aren't because he's trying to prove he's the...

roughest, toughest,

mesquite cuttin'est,

Major League Baseball team owningest (<2%),

imaginary WMD huntingest,

petty dictator (who just happens to have lots of oil) gittin'est,

had *no* idea his father's friend got him out of Vietnamiest,

can't explain why he didn't show up for Air Guard Training-est,

meanest, eat with the troops some army beans-est,

gonna show 'em I'm bigger than my daddy-est,

...manliest jumpsuit-wearer that ever claimed to be "a war President!"*



In other words, Obama's not operating on right-wing fantasies, focus-group tested for maximum trailer park appeal.

Being wiser than George W. Bush is setting the bar pretty low, but it's a much needed step in the right direction.

I'm glad Obama won and McCain didn't.

I'm glad Sarah Palin isn't attending Cabinet meetings today. I'm glad we have a President who's going to honor the agreement to get out of Iraq instead of dreaming up phony reasons to stay. I'm glad he wants to get out of Afghanistan in three years instead of ten. I hope he actually does.

I'm glad he didn't just let the US auto industry collapse, even though some free-market pundits, who couldn't make a car if you gave them a Revell Model kit for it, wrote an op-ed that that would be a normal thing to do.

I'm not going to blame Obama for inaction caused by right-wing obstruction. I'm not going to hold him to campaign promises he never made (eliminating the National debt? In ten months? After George Bush spent 8 years doubling it?)

I will blame him for continuing affirmative action for rich bankers. Possibly it's true that it had to be done, but I don't like it.

It's a right-wing fantasy that Obama is now a disgrace or a failure. They hope and pray for it like they hoped and dreamed of WMDs in Iraq. Their chronic, colossal mistakenness about everything is impossible for them to swallow. Easier to keep living in fantasy.

Pretty much the same right-wing fantasies that have been misguiding and ruining this country for the last 30 years.


* Update: Commenter John offers bonus alternate ending below.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

economy tip for cat owners

After I gave my cat a bath he ran off and didn't come back for a week.

This could save on expensive kenneling fees when going away for vacation.

Monday, December 07, 2009

john stossel admits he will just make things up

John Stossel, the former ABC correspondent, talking about his new show at FOX Business Network in an interview on Daily Beast:


Stossel: ...50 years ago, Ayn Rand predicted today. It sort of sums up what I’m going to be reporting about.

Interviewer: Ayn Rand predicted what?

Stossel: Big government, nice-sounding legislation like “The Preservation of Livelihood Law,” which mandated that Hank Rearden’s production must not be bigger than any other steel mill, to make it a level playing field. It’s silly.

Interviewer: Is that a new law passed by this Congress?

Stossel: No, but it’s what Wesley Mouch, the evil bureaucrat in the book, passed. And what Tim Geithner and what Barney Frank might like to pass.


Frank or Geithner have never proposed such a thing nor suggested that they want to, but if some character in a novel or a comic book tried it, that's all the proof Stossel needs to say it might be true.

Hey did you know John Stossel might actually enjoy getting slapped around by pro wrestlers?:

Friday, December 04, 2009

aside from the way it looks




Does anything say "Age of Excess" better than a $12 protective case for a 20¢ banana?

Well, OK, there was that pointless trillion dollar war in Iraq.

But besides that?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

wannabe victim of the day

Woman is suing Post Office because her son in the army turns out to be not dead after all.



Hey lady, your son is *alive*.

That would be more than enough for all the parents whose sons are not. Even they don't get $50,000 when they hear their son is dead and it is actually true.