Wednesday, October 31, 2012


All right, it's Halloween, and I will never forgive myself if I go the whole month of October without a single post about horror movies. Though this will not be anything like the last couple years, where I actually put some work into it - and dealt with true masterpieces of the genre... I am eye deep in Ezra Pound (not to mention a hurricane, though that didn't do us much harm in Boston), and haven't spent much time on anything else - but still....

Instead - here is an old favorite - one of the high points of the comic-horror sex and gore mashups of the 80s, Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator. Which provided many a drunken evening of pleasure back in the day... There's not a huge amount that needs to be said about it - it's a mix of a Frankenstein remake and a zombie film (mashing up horror sub-genres as well as everything else) - and a success on almost every score. It is genuinely funny, full of oh so quotable lines ("trysting with a bubble headed co-ed - you're not even a second rate scientist!"), and very dark comedy... I wouldn't call it exactly frightening, but it is certainly creepy often enough... and if it isn't quite the meditation on the limits of man and science and knowledge and the boundary between life and death that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was, or even the fairly moving bildungsroman the Universal Frankensteins are - it is a not unintelligent examination of hubris and sexual passion and love and loss, in among the grue and the jokes.... A very fine film to celebrate the season with.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Random Ten

Another hectic week, so not much more than a bare list can I offer you - songs, etc.

Though it is Mahalia Jackson's birthday - that's worth linking to...

And no?

1. Captain Beefheart - Too Much Time
2. Paul McCartney - The Back Seat of My Car
3. Jimi Hendrix - Manic Depression
4. Swell Maps - HS Art
5. Yo La Tengo - Alyda
6. Pink Floyd - Time
7. Three - Domino Days
8. Stephen Malkmus - Hopscotch Willie
9. ...and You will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Worlds Apart
10. Camper Van Beethoven - Devil Song

Well - happy birthday to Mahalia Jackson - some beat up video, but good clear sound, for ancient TV....

And - as we are coming up on halloween, even though this is just audio - some Camper Van seems right... there's a devil in the closet.

Though for seasonal videos - this might prove more timely, if the weather is all it's hyped up to be:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Top Ten Again

Here we are, Friday again, getting well into October, the world is full of stuff - closing in on the Presidential elections, baseball post-season in full career, NBA about to start, it's getting cooler, it's Halloween season, it's - all this, and all I come up with is another Random Friday 10! And the odd compilation of lists... one of these days I am going to embark on a similar project, all on my own, for music... Not sure the point, other than the declaration of loyalties... But not yet....

Today it's all on iTunes:

1. John Cale - You know More than I Know
2. Dungen - Barnen Undrar
3. John Lee Hooker - Whiskey & Wimmin
4. Beastie Boys - Shadrach
5. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Sue
6. George Harrison - Apple Scruffs
7. Roger & The Gypsies - Pass the Hatchet
8. The Seeds - Sad and Alone
9. Keiji Haino/Tatsuya Yoshida - Canal Street
10. Dave Brubeck Quarter - Kathy's Waltz

And video - Beasties on Soul Train?

And - not the song above, but still - Keiji Haino and Tatsuya Yoshida, plus Damo Suzuki and Helena Espvall and Seiichi Yamamoto doing what they do....

Monday, October 15, 2012

1950s Voting

And, the Wonders in the Dark yearly poll has finished another decade - the 1950s - a very impressive stretch of films. Here are my votes - I think - this is what I made for myself anyway. Plenty of these choices are capricious enough that I could very well have changed them between composition and hitting "post" over there...

PICTURE: Early Summer
DIRECTOR (Single Film): I think I will say Ozu, for Early Summer - though it is a very tight competition. But this film - overwhelms me when I see it. The precision of the construction of space, the mastery of story telling, the use of movement, the jokes and games he plays with the construction of the story - it is surprising and thrilling from start to finish.
DIRECTOR (Decade): Ozu, slam dunk.
LEAD ACTOR (Single Film): James Stewart, Vertigo
LEAD ACTOR (Overall): Toshiro Mifune
LEAD ACTRESS (Single film): Kinoyu Tanaka, probably in Life of Oharu
LEAD ACTRESS (Overall): I think this would be between Hideko Takamine (especially in all those Naruse films) and Setsuko Hara - probably Hara, but Takamine is a force.
SUPPORTING ACTOR (single): Takasahi Shimura, Seven Samurai
SUPPORTING ACTRESS (single): Thelma Ritter, Pickup on South Street
SHORT: Duck Amuck - pretty much top of the heap.
SCORE (Single): Bernard Herrmann, Vertigo - one of the all time greats
SCORE (Overall): Herrmann - he's in the running over and over...
CINEMATOGRAPHY (Single): Sergei Urevsevski, Cranes are Flying - as I said at the time, this is one of great tour de force moments in cinema...
CINEMATOGRAPHY (Overall): Russell Metty - all those Sirk films can't be denied.

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Sweet Smell of Success, I think, is going to have to win - damn, that's a clever piece of work. I'll do a quick run down, though, of the best of the decade - it's hard to separate script from film (the film, for me, tends to obliterate and encompass all the arts that go into it - separating them out is a bit artificial - in this case, it probably means something like the 5 I would most like to read, something like that...) I am, however, somewhat arbitrarily, going to eliminate the films that make the overall top 20...
2. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
3. Ace in the Hole
4. Good Morning
5. Beat the Devil

Editing: Ozu - this is, I think, the key to all his work. His construction of his films. He doesn't get credit, he's not as flashy as some, but he makes so much happen with the way one shot connects to another... Early Summer, in particular, is a film, like M and the Mabuses, and 20s Eisenstein, where I remember cuts and transitions, that give me chills.

1. Early Summer
2. Seven Samurai
3. Vertigo
4. Ugetsu Monagatari
5. Tokyo Story
6. Touch of Evil
7. Pather Panchali
8. Rear Window
9. The Searchers
10. Fires on the Plain
11. Late Chrysanthemums
12. Sweet Smell of Success
13. Night of the Hunter
14. Rebel Without a Cause
15. Imitation of Life
16. Sansho The Bailiff
17. A Man Escaped
18. Ordet
19. Rashomon
20. Life of Oharu


This is a very tough year for picks. It might lack the films at the very top (like Vertigo vs. A Touch of Evil, last year), but they just keep going.

PICTURE: Fires on the Plain
DIRECTOR: This one is painful - I am tempted to indulge myself in a tie, since I do not want to choose. Ozu at his most Tati-esque, playing all kinds of games with depth and space? or Sirk at his most Sirkian, playing all kinds of games with color and space and set design... I will not choose.
LEAD ACTOR: Cary Grant, North by Northwest - though it pains me not to vote for Lemmon or Curtis, or Funekoshi, or Leaud, or Nakadai, or John Wayne....
LEAD ACTRESS: Marilyn Monroe, Some Like it Hot
SUPPORTING ACTOR: James Mason, North by Northwest
SHORT: Pull My Daisy, almost by default.
SCORE: I shall be a bit perverse and go off the nominations to Toshiro Mayazumi, for Good Morning - it's a strange score on an Ozu film, but it works, contributing, I'd say, to that Tati-esque feel of the film... I should probably say, this is probably not Mayazumi's last appearance on one of my ballots. We're getting into Imamura territory now, and he's integral to those films.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Metty, Imitation of Life

Plus bonus pick:
Script: Good Morning, Ozu and Noda

1. Fires on the Plain
2. Imitation of Life
3. Some Like it Hot
4. 400 Blows
5. Good Morning
6. North by Northwest
7. Pickpocket
8. World of Apu
9. The Key
10. Shadows


PICTURE: Vertigo
DIRECTOR: Hitchcock
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Joseph Calleia, Touch of Evil
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kinuyo Tanaka, Equinox Flower (this is one where she actually gets to be happy! it's a gift.)
SHORT: A Movie, Bruce Conner
SCORE: Vertigo, obviously
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Robert Burks, Vertigo (though Shinsaku Himeda tempts me - he'll win most of the 60s, I suspect, whatever the competition - that fish ain't on top of my blog for nothing.)

Plus bonus pick:
Script: Giants and Toys. This is not an easy year for scripts - the films at the top seem to me to be there more because of their direction, photography, set designs, and acting than usual - whether those things are elevating less deserving scripts or obscuring the virtues of the scripts, I don't know. I just know I don't quite know what to make of Vertigo or Touch of Evil, or even Some Came Running... So - Giants and Toys is some kind of masterpiece, and since Masumura is a filmmaker I really like, but I doubt he'll be in the running for any top spots - I'll put in a plug for him here.

1. Vertigo
2. Touch of Evil
3. Some Came Running
4. Summer Clouds
5. Ashes and Diamonds
6. Endless Desire
7. Mon Oncle
8. Equinox Flower
9. Giants and Toys
10. Cairo Station


PICTURE: Sweet Smell of Success
DIRECTOR: Mikhail Kalatazov, Cranes Are Flying
LEAD ACTOR: Burt Lancaster, Sweet Smell of Success
LEAD ACTRESS: Tatiana Samoilova, Cranes Are Flying
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Niall McGinnis, Night of the Demon
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Isuzu Yamada, Tokyo Twilight
SHORT: What's Opera, Doc?
SCORE: Elmer Bernstein, Sweet Smell of Success
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Sergei Urevsevski, Cranes are Flying - this being one of the over the top extravaganzas of all time, after all - whether it adds up as art or not (and mostly it does), it has to be gazed on and marveled at.

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Sweet Smell of Success - this is another outsized tour de force; it's rather a shame it is so good - I have somehow managed not to get anything from Will Success Spoil Rock Hudson? on this ballot - it should be somewhere - it makes a good companion to Sweet Smell of Success - less self-important, less vicious, obviously less moving, but almost as sharp... "Wow - contains 'fallout'!"

1. Sweet Smell of Success
2. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter
3. Cranes Are Flying
4. Tokyo Twilight
5. Throne of Blood
6. Seventh Seal
7. The Tall T
8. Paths of Glory
9. The Lower Depths
10. Full Up Train


PICTURE: The Searchers
DIRECTOR: Sirk, There's Always Tomorrow
LEAD ACTOR: James Mason, Bigger than Life
LEAD ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck, There's Always Tomorrow
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Lee Marvin. Seven Men From Now (my taste for hamming comes out, I admit it)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Dorothy Malone, Written on the Wind
SHORT: I'm going off ballot for The Phantom Ship, a glorious cut-out animation from Japan I managed to see somehow...
SCORE: Steiner, The Searchers
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Russell Metty, Written on the Wind

Plus bonus picks:
Script: A Man Escaped

1. The Searchers
2. Written on the Wind
3. A Man Escaped
4. The Burmese Harp
5. The Killing
6. There's Always Tomorrow
7. Flowing
8. Early Spring
9. Seven Men from Now
10. Aparajito


PICTURE: Pather Panchali
DIRECTOR: Dreyer, Ordet
LEAD ACTOR: Robert Mitchum, Night of the Hunter
LEAD ACTRESS: Hideko Takamine, Floating Clouds
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lillian Gish, Night of the Hunter
SHORT: Night and Fog
SCORE: Ravi Shankar, Pather Panchali
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Stanley Cortez, Night of the Hunter

Bonus pick:
Script: James Agee, Night of the Hunter

1. Pather Panchali
2. Night of the Hunter
3. Rebel Without a Cause
4. Ordet
5. The Man from Laramie
6. Floating Clouds
7. Rififi
8. All That Heaven Allows
9. Smiles of a Summer Night
10. Cobweb


PICTURE: Seven Samurai
DIRECTOR: Kurosawa
LEAD ACTOR: James Stewart, Rear Window
LEAD ACTRESS: Haruko Sugimura, Late Chrysanthemums
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kinuyo Tanaka, Sansho Dayu
SHORT: Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century
SCORE: Gojira
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Kazuo Miyagawa, Sansho the Bailiff

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Late Cshrysanthemums
Editing: LC - or SS

1. Seven Samurai
2. Rear Window
3. Late Chrysanthemums
4. Sansho the Bailiff
5. Sound of the Mountain
6. Twenty Four Eyes
7. A Billionaire
8. Magnificent Obsession
9. Voyage to Italy
10. The Maggie or Godzilla


PICTURE: Ugetsu Monogatari
DIRECTOR: Mizoguchi
LEAD ACTOR: Richard Widmark, Pickup on South Street
LEAD ACTRESS: Chieko Hagasiyama
SHORT: Duck Amuck
SCORE: Ugetsu Monogatari
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Kazuo Miyagawa, Ugetsu

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Beat the Devil ("I'm going upstairs to read my bible")

The top two films here are as close as they can be...

1. Ugetsu Monagatori
2. Tokyo Story
3. Beat the Devil
4. Little Fugitive
5. M Hulot's Holiday
6. Mr Pu
7. The Naked Spur
8. The Big Heat
9. Pickup on South Street
10. 5000 Fingers of Dr. T


PICTURE: Mother [I guess I can work a Naruse into the top spot! This year is more wide open, with a bunch of very good films, so the choice is just a bit more arbitrary than most, and that makes a fine opportunity to spread the wealth.]
DIRECTOR: Welles, Othello
LEAD ACTOR: Takashi Shimura, Ikiru
LEAD ACTRESS: Kinoyu Tanaka, um - pick em. Say Life of Oharu, for balance's sake.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: this is harder than it look - Michael MacLiammoir is superb, but I think I have to go with Arthur Kennedy in Bend on the River...
SUPPORTING ACTRESS:Gloria Grahame, Bad and the Beautiful
SHORT: Water, Water Every Hare
SCORE: Tiomkin, High Noon

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Ikiru

1. Mother
2. Life of Oharu
3. Ikiru
4. Othello
5. Singin' in the Rain
6. Le Plaisir
7. Lightning
8. Bend on the River
9. Flavor of Green Tea over Rice
10. The Bad and the Beautiful


PICTURE: Early Summer
LEAD ACTOR: Kirk Douglas, Ace in the Hole
LEAD ACTRESS: Setsuko Hara, Repast (competing with herself, but since the other is a bit more of an ensemble, I think this takes the prize.)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Karl Malden, Streetcar
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kim Hunter, Streetcar
SHORT: Rabbit Fire (these films are so deeply buried in my head, how can I not vote for them?)
SCORE: North, Streetcar Named Desire
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Claude Renoir, The River

Plus bonus picks::
Script: here, I would have to choose - the efficient perfection of Ozu/Noda? or the bitterness of Ace in the Hole? All things considered - has to be Early Summer
Editing: again, the Ozu of course - there are 3 or 4 cuts in this film that floor me as completely as anything in any film anywhere. And every cut (in just about every Ozu film) is so perfect... there's nothing like it.

1. Early Summer
2. The African Queen
3. Repast
4. An American In Paris
5. Ace in the hole
6. Strangers on a Train
7. The Lavender Hill Mob
8. Man in the White Suit
9. Diary of a COuntry Priest
10. The River


PICTURE: Rashomon
DIRECTOR: Kurosawa
LEAD ACTOR: Sterling Hayden
LEAD ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck, The Furies
SHORT: Rabbit of Seville
SCORE: (Rashomon?)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Miyagawa, Rashomon

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Winchester 73

1. Rashomon
2. Asphalt Jungle
3. Winchester 73
4. Sunset Boulevard
5. Flowers of St. Francis
6. La Ronde
7. Orpheus
8. The Furies
9. In a Lonely Place
10. Three Came Home

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Very Quick Baseball Post

To follow up - I am rather unhappy to have guessed all the first round right. (Lots of waffling re. St. Louis/Washington, but the Nats are who I wanted to win, the Cards were who I expected...) It knocked out the teams I was rooting for - after the Rangers went out in the wild card game... I suppose it makes it easier to pick, without the strong rooting interests - and it happens that my preferences are the same in both. I think the Tigers will take out the Yankees - I see they are on their way, and greatly aided by Derek Jeter's injury... In the National League - I still fear the Cardinals, but I think the Giants are going to win. I certainly hope they do.

And in the World Series? I think the National League team is going to win - though I will probably be pulling for the Tigers if they make it... And, obvious,y, against the Yankees if it's them.

Finally - last week someone on facebook made a comment about why people call a team their team - it's not like they are owned by taxpayers. But in fact - most of those parks, some of which cost as much as a team might, are owned - or at least paid for - by the taxpayers. Though I mention it here because the teams still alive are, in fact, the least offensive in those regard: Giants and Yankees paid for their parks outright; the Cards paid for 88% of theirs; Tigers 37%. The rest were much more publicly funded. I suppose if the pattern holds, it will be Yankees and Giants, and the Giants winning, since the Yankees did get some public money for the parking (or something like that.) Still - an interesting aside.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Professor Arthur Chipping's Back to School Quiz

Time for another of Dennis Cozzalio's quizzes - PROFESSOR ARTHUR CHIPPING’S MADDENINGLY DETAILED, PURPOSEFULLY VAGUE, FITFULLY OUT-OF-FOCUS BACK TO SCHOOL MOVIE QUIZ this time. I am, as usual, dreadfully late in this assignment - I offer as my only excuse that I am back to school in the atom world, and have been eye deep in William Butler Yeats this past week... so there is that. Still - sooner or later we'll get there!

1) What is the biggest issue for you in the digital vs. film debate?

A: I am not sure, though I think it is probably the question of which films will make the jump. And - the oft-overlooked question of whether digital films will be worth anything in X years. I am haunted by the erosion of digital storage - I have spent quite a bit of time this year digging through photos, for instance - and it makes you wonder. I have 2 video cameras, both mini-DV cameras - both of them still work fine as cameras, but the motors have died on the tape drives. And so - I have a box full of mini-DV tapes full of video that is as inaccessible to me as if they had been thrown in the trash. Meanwhile, a couple weeks ago my brother found a tintype in an old desk our grandmother used to have. Also, a sheet of paper covered in drawings she made in 1936. Digital is very useful, no question - once you get these things on a computer, and as long as you can keep files and software in synch (the latest version of Word has trouble opening files from - pre-2000? more or less...), all is well - but - unless you keep updating everything you have to the latest formats, it fades, in ways that a piece of paper in an envelope stuffed into a desk drawer will not fade, in 100, 120, 130 years. (We have one at home dated 1887, I believe...) And - film is obviously a more volatile format that paper, but it is still an object and it is there, even when the tools to make it work are not. (I refer you to the recently discovered color film from 1902 - an object that no one could use until someone created a projector to play it. I suppose, as long as you have means to reverse engineer the machines and software to run digital files, not much will be lost... but do I trust that?)

2) Without more than one minute’s consideration, name three great faces from the movies

A: Deitrich - Keaton - Karloff

3) The movie you think could be interesting if remade as a movie musical

A: How about Playtime?

4) The last movie you saw theatrically/on DVD, Blu-ray, streaming

A: Theater - Keep the Lights On...; DVD - Good Morning; Streaming - I haven't streamed a film in a while - other than shorts, for the Wonders in the Dark polls...

5) Favorite movie about work

A: This is a good question - there should be more movies about work. Some candidates? Fallen Angels - Blue Collar - Office Space... Fallen Angels is probably the winner, though - those Takashi Kinoshiro parts do something right.

6) The movie you loved as a child that did not hold up when seen through adult eyes

A: truth is, I didn't see enough films as a child to make any judgements like this. The ones I liked, I still like, even if they do seem less than they used to - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, something like that. Still holds up fine.

7) Favorite “road” movie

A: Pierrot le Fou, probably. Obviously there are an awful lot of these, all with their own special appeal - O Brother Where Art Thou? Week End? It Happened One Night? etc. But Pierrot is probably the best of the bunch.

8) Does Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National Convention change or confirm your perspective on him as a filmmaker/movie icon? Is that appearance relevant to his legacy as a filmmaker?

A: It doesn't seem to have much to do with him as a filmmaker. It's almost like a different person - he's always been at least three people - celebrity, filmmaker, actor - the actor and celebrity sometimes seem to blur, just like the filmmaker and actor sometimes seem to blur - but the filmmaker and celebrity have almost nothing to do with one another - and that appearance was completely as a celebrity.

9) Longest-lasting movie or movie-related obsession

A: I don't know; they don't tend to go away...

10) Favorite artifact of movie exploitation

A: My junk obsessions don't run toward movies, really - they run to toys and books and such I liked when I was a kid. I suppose that's normal, and not being a movie watcher as a kid will do that. I do have a nice Marlene Dietrich picture, advertising a retrospective from 20+ years ago...

11) Have you ever fallen asleep in a movie theater? If so, when and why?

A: I don't believe so; it has been a close thing a few times, though I would have to think long and hard to remember those times.

12) Favorite performance by an athlete in a movie

A: It's kind of a tough question - given the week's events, I should say Alex Karras in Blazing Saddles - which is a good answer anyway. Though I have a soft spot for Terry Crews in Idiocracy (and his cool cameo in Inland Empire...)

13) Second favorite Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie

A: I think it is probably The Marriage of Maria Braun, these days...

14) Favorite film of 1931

A: Favorite film period: M. Quite possibly the best year in cinematic history

15) Second favorite Raoul Walsh movie

A: Thief of Baghdad?

16) Favorite film of 1951

A: Early Summer

17) Second favorite Wong Kar-wai movie

A: Happy Together? these days, I think that would be the answer...

18) Favorite film of 1971

A: McCabe and Mrs. Miller - so far my favorites from all three of these years are in my all time top 5.

19) Second favorite Henri-Georges Clouzot movie

A: Mysteries of Picasso

20) Favorite film of 1991

A: A Brighter Summer Day

21) Second favorite John Sturges movie

A: The Magnificent Seven

22) Favorite celebrity biopic

A: Does Che count? Carlos? I'm also incline to say Superstar...

23) Name a good script idea which was let down either by the director or circumstances of production

A: This sort of thing happens all the time - good scripts that just don't do anything... I don't know if that's what you have in mind though - I'm thinking films like Five Year Engagement - clever, well written, well acted, but with nothing to look at. You could close your eyes and get as much out of it...

24) Heaven’s Gate-- yes or no?

A: Haven't seen it; reserve judgment

25) Favorite pairing of movie sex symbols

A: Happy Together? might be, you know...

26) One word that you could say which would instantly evoke images and memories of your favorite movie. (Naming the movie is optional—might be more fun to see if we can guess what it is from the word itself)

A: Well, two - Ich Musst!

27) Name one moment which to you demarcates a significant change, for better or worse, on the landscape of the movies over the last 20 years.

A: Closing of the Harvard Square cinema last summer? it's emblematic of the past 20 years, I know that - this one might be more disturbing, because the theatrical landscape had stabilized - lots of places closed in the 90s, but things had stayed the same for the last 10 years or so. This closing is very ominous... the loss of all those theaters - mostly small, a lot of them either specialist theaters or art cinemas - changes things profoundly. It's hard to see what you want on film - though DVDs have done a pretty good job of supplying the films, you lose all the benefits of theatrical shows, and, obviously, of Film.

28) Favorite pre-Code talkie

A: Duck Soup or Trouble in Paradise

29) Oldest film in your personal collection (Thanks, Peter Nellhaus)

A: Oldest meaning, first one made? That's Fantomas. Oldest meaning, had the longest? VHS of Blue Velvet, I think....

30) Longest film in your personal collection. (Thanks, Brian Darr)

A: That also might be Fantomas, if it counts as one movie. Histoires du Cinema, if it doesn't (and the Godard counts as one movie.) World on A Wire is up there too...

31) Have your movie collection habits changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

A: I buy a lot more now than I did 10 years ago. The answer to 27 above is probably related.

32) Wackiest, most unlikely “directed by” credit you can name

A: There are probably better answers, but the latter half of David Gordon Green's career would have been very hard to predict (even imagine) from the first half...

33) Best documentary you’ve seen in 2012 (made in 2012 or any other year)

A: I am faced with the shocking fact that I have seen exactly one documentary in a movie theater all year, and I saw it just last weekend - How to Survive a Plague.

34) What’s your favorite “(this star) was almost cast in (this movie)” anecdote?

A: Cary Grant in Bicycle Thieves?

35) Program three nights of double bills at a revival theater that might best illuminate your love of the movies

A: It's a Wonderful Life/Early Summer
Celine and Julie Go Boating/Inland Empire (gonna be a long night, that one)

36) You have been granted permission to invite any three people, alive or dead, to your house to watch the Oscars. Who are they?

A: James Joyce, Frank Capra and Jean-Luc Godard?

37) Favorite Mr. Chips. (Careful...)

A: Um -

Friday, October 12, 2012

Music For Friday

Randomly selected through the miracle of iTunes!

1. Public Enemy - DOn't Believe the Hype
2. Liars - Brats [from an actual new record I bought this year - very rare breed, these days, I am sorry to say]
3. Mission of Burma - Fame and Fortune
4. Pavement - Transport is Arranged
5. PJ Harvey - No Girl So Sweet [surprised how long it's been since I listened to this record... listened to it a lot back in the late 90s for a while...]
6. Minutemen - Cohesion
7. The Pogues - Wild Cats of Kilkenny
8. Fugazi - Styrofoam
9. Dr. Nerve - Three Curiously insubstantial Duets
10. Yo La Tengo - Everyday

and video? Public Enemy live on MTV? sounds good...

And why not another 80s icon (well, they were for me), still at it in 2012?

Monday, October 08, 2012

Perryville, Kentucky

To day is the 150th anniversary today of the Battle of Perryville - the western theater's answer to Antietam, in some ways. Just as Antietam halted the Rebel's movements into Maryland, Perryville stopped their adventuring in Kentucky, an invasion that could have caused almost as much mischief if things had gone a bit better. It's an odd battle - the Union army outnumbered the confederates 3 to 1, but during the battle itself, only about a third of the Union men got involved, the rest all within reach of the battle, but not involved. The results were a savage stalemate, both sides gunning down about a fourth of the other with little actual result. At the end of it, Bragg and the confederates left, to rejoin Kirby Smith, also in Kentucky, with as many men again - but rather than renew the fight on roughly equal terms (which they could have), Bragg chose to retreat. It would not be the first time he would fight a battle, sort of win, but abandon the field at the end - something similar happened at Stones River...

I've gone on a bit about generalship in some of these battles - Bragg is a reminder that it wasn't just the north that had trouble finding adequate commanders. In fact, in a lot of ways (going well beyond generalship, actually) the eastern and western theaters of the war are opposite one another. In the east, Lee and Jackson, and a host of strong underlings fought a series of incompetents, or competents who lost their nerve at the crucial moment (Fighting Joe Hooker comes to mind.) There were good generals in the Army of the Potomac, but they were always somehow just off - tangled up in the politics of the army (Porter and Franklin might have been good men, but were infected with McClellanism from the start); brave, but in over their heads (Sumner, particularly); or they took a couple years to rise to positions of true authority (Sedgewick, Reynolds, Meade, Hancock - the best, really, of the corps level officers). And even when they did get better generalship at the corps level, there were always men who had no business being there - Dan Sickles the most notable and unfortunate example.

In the west it was almost the opposite. Grant and Thomas were in important positions almost from the start - though both tended to stall for months at a time. Sherman and Sheridan and MacPherson all rose to some authority in 1862 - and even more dubious characters, like Rosecrans, had good moments. And the South - may have had talent, but it was always flawed. Bragg was as good an organizer as McClellan, but was hated almost as much as McClellan was loved - and though unlike McClellan he was willing to fight, like McClellan, he tended to back off before the fight was over. He made enemies quickly and kept them throughout the war - but none of the generals under him ever did anything to show they deserved his position. And they maintained a mediocre record throughout the war. (There were outstanding cavalry men in the west, fighting for the south - but the Forests and Wheelers and Shelby's never rose to command the larger armies, and weren't able to do much more than cause trouble for the north. Getting th best men in command was not a southern strength in the west.)

And, as usual when generals underperformed in war, the men in the ranks paid the price. The west featured some of the bloodiest toe to toe fighting in the war - Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga were all bloodbaths, at least relative to the size of the forces - all of them concentrated straight up fights that sooner or later involved head on attacks on strong positions.... That described Shiloh - you can put Corinth in that category too - and of course at the end of the war, you would get the carnage of Franklin and Nashville as well. Bad, unimaginative generalship got lots of men killed - though to be fair, inspired, audacious generalship got lots of people killed as well - Lee had as bloody a record as you could ask.

And so - 150 years ago - they fought at Perryville, fought to draw, with one side never committing their significant manpower advantages, and the other side moving off, then retreating after reuniting with another army.... and Kentucky was safe for the Union, and whatever chance the south might have had to force the north to negotiate or convince the European powers to stick their noses in, was gone. And the war went on.

Friday, October 05, 2012

A Friday Music Post this Friday.

This should probably be something else - I have a new toy:

It is a great joy, and a distraction - still can't get my yahoo mail working on it. Hours, days of distraction! Fun fun.... actually, I have a couple new toys - rather more than I should, if I'm honest - it's been an eventful summer on the technology front. Therein may lie a post...

But not today - today is Friday, and today is a day for music. And - being distracted by the iPhone is as good an excuse as any for sticking tot he basics, as usual.

1. Bill Frisell - Ron Carter
2. Young Marble Giants - Brand New Life
3. Television - Torn Curtain
4. Carter Family - Church in the Wildwood
5. Madvillain - Do Not Fire!
6. Descendents - Wendy (live)
7. Fugazi - Merchandise
8. The Slits - So Tough
9. fIREHOSE - 4.29.92
10. Elton John - Tower of Babel

and video? Quietly lovely Carter family song, though with the usual cool stuff going on with the instruments - guitar and autoharp always seem to be trying to jump straight to the 60s...

Or maybe the Slits?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Baseball Postseason

This has been an odd year - I must have known something, not posting my usual beginning of the year predictions. I would have done something insane, like picked the Red Sox to finish out of the cellar - I got lucky there! In any case, it is a shame that the sox have been so awful - I pay less attention, and the game punished me by mounting what really is a fantastic year. Washington winning their division - A's and O's in the playoffs (A's winning the division, by sweeping the Rangers on the last series - amazing!) And individual brilliance everywhere - a Triple Crown winner? who might not win MVP (and probably doesn't deserve to win MVP?) A knuckle balling Cy Young? a bunch of 20 game winners, in both leagues? Mike Trout and Bryce Harper? Yes.

And here in Boston, we get Bobby V handing the division to the Yankees and bitching his coaches. What a guy. The front office seems to have noticed his failures, a couple months too late, so off he goes. Go Liverpool!

Enough of that - the rest of the baseball world deserves some attention. So let's go on record with some post-season predictions:

AL: So Texas and Baltimore play the play in game. All right - I like this system. I like how it expands the playoffs, and makes winning the division that much more important, at the same time - that is how you should do this sort of thing! Anyway - I think Texas has to be considered the better bet - though - same record; the Orioles have even played up to their record lately (though still 11 games ahead of their pythagorean record.) Rangers should win, though. They should be the best team in the league - they have been coasting for awhile.

Now then - after that - who plays who? Apparently, division rivals aren't protected anymore - so Detroit will play Oakland, and the wild card will play the Yankees. That still makes predictions a bit tentative - but that's what they should be anyway. I get another shot at this in a week or so anyway, if I care... So:

Detroit-Oakland: I think Detroit will win this. Too much pitching at the top; too much Cabrera and Fielder.

NY-Wild Card: I think Texas will take the Yankees out without much trouble. I'm less confidant in the O's. I think if Texas beats Baltimore tomorrow night, they will make it to the world series, and probably win - which puts them in a very odd position tomorrow I guess... If Baltimore wins tomorrow, I suspect Detroit will be in the series.

NL: I hate to admit it, but suspect St. Louis will beat the Braves - I hope not, though. I don't hate SL now that LaRussa is gone, but....

San Francisco vs. Cincinnati: Cincy has a very nice team there, but I suspect San Francisco will take them out. Better track record and all that.

Washington vs. Wild Card: Nats should win this, though I always fear the worst with St. Louis around.

In the end - logic says Washington, I think - they have the most balanced team of the bunch. But it's hard to know what will happen with teams that have just arrived at the top - sometimes they do well (Tampa in 2008?) - often, they crack (Tampa in the world series in 2008? Detroit 06?) Still - the truth is, there aren't any bad options really - other than the Yankees, and especially a Yankees St. Louis world series. The Yanks, thankfully, have played the part of the bloated has been for most of the last decade and I expect they will again. I certainly know the world series I want: Washington - Texas! Washington vs. (Ron) Washington!! Nationals vs. Senators!!! How can you not?

As for individuals, a topic that might be even more fascinating this year than the pennant races:

AL MVP: I vote Trout over Cabrera, though - there's not much to pick. The triple crown is a big deal - very cool - but the fact is, it's a pretty arbitrary set of numbers. Trout has had almost the same year at the bat as Cabrera - batting leadoff, so he has the runs scored and stolen bases in place of Cabrera's HR and RBI. Which comes close to being a wash - but then, Mike Trout is having what appears to be a very good year with the glove - Cabrera is a first baseman playing third base like a first baseman. And - while that might actually help the team, letting them get that much more offense into the lineup - Trout's defense is helping his team directly, by, you know, catching the ball and stuff. There will be those, meanwhile, who will say, Cabrera got his team to the playoffs, Trout did not - they forget - the Angels had a better record than the Tigers, in a tougher division - I vote Trout.

AL ROY: I wonder who should win this? is Trout having the best rookie season ever?

AL Cy Young: This comes down to an interesting choice - Weaver has 20 wins, is at or close to the top in ERA and WHIP - but has pitched 50 fewer innings than Justin Verlander - who has very similar numbers, a little lower - in 50 more innings. Verlander has to win.

NL MVP: This is also a pretty good contest, Posey vs. Braun I think. Braun's got somewhat better counting stats, but Posey is close, and he's a catcher - and he's in the playoffs, on a team that is notoriously short of offense - so - he probably should win, though there's no disgrace in Braun winning.

NL ROY: He was supposed to be the greatest thing to hit baseball since, at least, A Rod - instead, he turned out to be the second best outfielder below drinking age. But Bryce Harper seems like a pretty clear choice.

NL Cy Young: Gotta be Dickey - top 3 in wins, ERA, WHIP, top in Ks and IP? Easy choice.

And there you go.