Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween

As has been my practice for the month of October, I spin up some of my horror collection in the old DVD player. Of course, she-who-must-be-obeyed frowns upon me including the kids during this time of excess. But, no matter. It's been a tradition of mine going back many years, and started before I married--and if she read this, that'll be another point of discussion (duck!).

The John Carpenter classic, pictured here, is a favorite--with good reason. Though I didn't play it this year, this movie became the archetype for the slasher genre. Unfortunately, while this film was original for a low-budget horror piece and had a very creative director, the genre only had limited quantities of quality in story-lines and structure. And, even this one was somewhat derivative from the earlier 1974 movie by the late Bob Clark (of , A Christmas Story fame, another annual treat), Black Christmas. Both of these great films, compared to what came later, displayed little blood and gore, but plenty for the viewer's imagination and tension.

Okay, on to this year's October horror-fest of movies. The 1981 An American Werewolf in London is first on the list. At only 97 minutes, director John Landis created one of the best werewolf films, ever. Effectively moody, and with great bits of American and British humor thrown about, it still holds up well in story, even after a good many years. The one thing about this particular horror genre, that goes back to the original, The Werewolf, is its tragic, sad nature. And, Landis, though remembered for a lot of excesses in his films, recognized this fact when he brought this to the screen. If you saw this in the theater (as I once did), many were more than a little stunned by its final outcome (especially since it's so easy to care for those plucky Yanks). The other wonderful thing about this film is its great soundtrack. Using many of the older, moon-themed songs, this really connected with the pop culture in a way seldom done before. If you've seen this movie, you know what I write about when you recall the use of CCR's Bad Moon Rising as the pre-cursor to Rick Baker's now famous transformation sequence of actor David Naughton. The year 1981 had another solid entertaining werewolf movie, The Howling. But, it is this one that I remember more dearly.

Next, I did try to have one for the family movie night, the early Tim Burton favorite, Beetlejuice. Unfortunately, the kids couldn't hang through to the end. I thought that since the kids loved The Nightmare Before Christmas, that they'd enjoy this one. They just about went screaming out of the room. Damn... Dad strikes out, again (his wife, chided). Anyway, it's one of my favorites, with one of my favorite actresses, Geena Davis (who I happened to see a couple of weeks ago at my daughter's school carnival / book festival). And, yes, she's tall. But, the others here, namely Michael Keaton as the bio-exorcist, are a joy to watch. Burton's imagination and unique production values make him something special. Not all of his movies work, but few look anywhere close to them in style and design. Finally, I got out his other great work, Sleepy Hollow. Depp and company really shined on this Burton production. Though not truly Halloween-themed, it has shown itself to be one of the better ones for this time of year. Some of the splendid, haunting visuals here, not counting the beheadings (of course), make some in the industry truly jealous. Many sets/scenes are eerily beautiful. That, and any movie that has the great Christopher Lee and the uncredited Christopher Walken (as the Horseman) in the same movie is going to make it as one of my all-time scary fun favorites just on principle, alone.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Geography Has Always Surprised Me

Even when I was in high school and college, geography always fascinated me. For me, the least surprising in this list (only because I was familiar with Mediterranean Climates):

Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Cape Town, and Sydney are each thousands of miles apart and are known for having unusually pleasant year-round climates, and they are all almost identical distances from the Equator

Easily the most stunning for me:

About 90% of the world’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere.

That simple piece of human geography just about floored me. Then, I thought about the major centers of commerce, the dominant nation states of the world, and the points of long-lasting crises, and suddenly it was no longer that stunning. And only I failed to take it all into account. Makes me recall comedian Paul Rodriguez's quote:

"Sometimes I think war is God's way of teaching us geography."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Commonsense... from a Director, at that

No hysterics, no hype. Ron gives a sincere plea through a couple of his classic characters. Andy Griffith and Henry Winkler join in on this great gathering and straightforward message. Even though I was already sold on the product, I found this a good political ad. And, as opposed to the one I will not vote for, it's not negative. Nor does it treat its audience as one to be scared into voting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm Tagged and I'm Late

The very kind and gracious Gay tagged me back on the 15th of this month. Unfortunately, I'm just getting to this now. No worries, Gay--and I'm happy to respond.

In the spirit of it all, I'm to post the rules (as they've been relayed to me, that is):
  1. Display the award
  2. Link back to the person who gave you this award
  3. Nominate 7 other blogs
  4. Put links to those blogs on your blog
  5. Leave a message on the blogs of the people you've nominated
  6. Copy the questions, answer and post them here

Thank you, Gay @ Words in Place.

For this tag, I'll nominate 7 interesting bloggers who also share It's a Wonderful Life as a favorite [and you all have a chance to win ;-)]:

Answer in one word:
1. Where is your cell phone? belt
2. Where is your significant other? bed
3. Your hair color? peppered
4. Your mother? heaven
5. Your father? hell
6. Your favorite thing? curiosity
7. Your dream last night? cold
8. Your dream/goal? lightheartedness
9. The room you're in? living
10. Your hobby? golf
11. Your fear? emptyness
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? graduation
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you're not? great
15. One of your wish-list items? awareness
16. Where you grew up? SoCal
17. The last thing you did? thought
18. What are you wearing? smirk
19. Your TV? lit
20. Your pet? canine
21. Your computer? Mac
22. Your mood? eager
23. Missing someone? spouse
24. Your car? silver
25. Something you're not wearing? watch
26. Favorite store? grocery
27. Your summer? fleeting
28. Love someone? yes
29. Your favorite color? red
30. When is the last time you laughed? today
31. Last time you cried?

Thank you.

Two Words: Bone Saw

In honor of this month's Halloween festivities, Drew Tewksbury (honest...that's suppose to be his name--Linkedin says he has a M.A. in Journalism from USC) has an interesting list of imaginative and under-appreciated movie deaths. To prove my jaded view, I've seen all but four of them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blowback Comes in All Forms

BLOWBACK: Unforeseen consequences and events that blow up in one's face, like a faulty weapon.

I'm intrigued when a term that means one thing, is re-tooled to mean another with perfect pitch. Blowback is such a term. Originally meant to describe, "a process in which gases expand or travel in a direction opposite the usual one, esp. through escape of pressure or delayed combustion." Later, it was described by intelligence services as the unintended, adverse result of political or covert action (see Soviet-Afghan War and read Charlie Wilson's War). Why paraphrase it here? Because it came to me watching last night's second Presidential Debate--specifically when taxes were brought up.

In this case, pertaining to corporate taxes, many fail to see what is obvious to those who monitor the national debt. When Bush lowered taxes for corporations and the richest (his first major economic initiative in 2001) in the U.S., it started the biggest contribution to raising our debt--after two terms, he just about doubled the debt, now 10 trillion as of September 30. 2008. All of this to put us on track with the trickle down theory, again. Inequity widened under this policy (those that didn't need the help got richer, the middle class took on more burden, and those that really needed it, got none). Because of this, our gross national debt compared to GNP (how rich we are) has reached its lowest level.

Back to the debate, the problems I have with the Republican candidate are these:
  1. he wants to continue the tax cuts of Bush (thus making us poorer)
  2. wants to continue a war that was started on false premises (continuing our military outlay in blood and treasure)
  3. believed in de-regulation of Wall Street (see McCain's economic advisor, Phil Gramm)
  4. wants to fix the economy, but is blind to the impact of the first three items here
I'm sure those in the current lame-duck administration didn't want to mortgage the future of American citizens for years to come and wreck the global economy (along with the same Wall Street they hoped to benefit). But, that was the consequence of their fiscal policies. Blowback. I do not know about them, but when most people get stuck in a hole, the smart ones stop digging! McCain does not seem to want to stop digging. Of course, their wonderful counter-argument is to say, "if you raise taxes on the wealthy, they'll cut jobs." Really? Then why was it, during the Clinton years (which had a higher tax rate on corporations and the richest compared to now), we had balanced budgets, high productivity with low unemployment, an expanding middle class, lowering debt, and a budget surplus?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Home Movie Weekend

With she-who-must-be-obeyed away in the rainy Pacific Northwest visiting family, it was a Dad & Kids weekend. Yes, it means more fast food in their menu--but, my wife didn't marry me for cooking skills ;-). Homework, the scourge of children and parents, alike, was completed. And with that out of the way early, that meant our usual movie weekend. For Friday evening, it was Jon Favreau's really fun Iron Man, in a crank up the home theater session for the whole clan. Robert Downey, Jr. is even better than the special effects in this. But, IM deploys its effect intelligently. As opposed to other recent fare (cough...I am Legend...cough), this director knows when to use CG figures, and use them sparingly. IaL is one of the worst in overusing CG (and it's just bad looking CG, at that). A great start for this weekend.

And while the kids were watching Support Your Local Gunfighter (sort of sequel to the more
 successful Support Your Local Sheriff) on Saturday, dad took in Doug Liman's great update of The Bourne Identity. A wonderfully plotted thriller that brought the character to the forefront and created a very fun film franchise. In fact, the film and its sequels actually improved upon Robert Ludlum's book trilogy. While the first book is easily one RL's best, the subsequent literary follow-ups went down in quality with each sequel publication. Eric Van Lustbaden has picked up the mantle for this book series, which I'll eventually give a try. For the movie, like with Downey, Matt Damon surprised a lot of people with his wonderful performance in this series. And if anyone is interested in trying the abridged audiobook for first book, try to avoid it (it's not worth the time).

Next, I  introduced the kids to some 80's film fare with the modern fairy tale, Splash. Way before he started to be taken seriously, Ron Howard directed this successful movie that raised all boats (careers) for those involved. And, the kids enjoyed it--though my son really liked the Daryl Hannah's sans-clothes scenes...hope my wife doesn't read this post. And after I got the brood in bed, I got one of my all-time favorites into the player, 
Stanley Donen's Charade. Not only did it have two of my favorite actors, the classy Audrey Hepburn and the great Cary Grant, but it is that rare film where story, cast, dialog and director came together, perfectly. Even the supporting cast had more of my favorites (Matthau, Coburn, Kennedy). Additionally, Donen matches Hitchcock in producing the type of comedy thriller that Alfred became famous for (some think Charade is more fun than any of that genre that became synonymous with the British great). It also was the only time on celluloid that Audrey and Cary were matched together (even though many a producer tried to pair them for years). Both actors worked with Donen multiple times, but the three came together magically in this one instance. And even though he was almost sixty when this 1963 film was lensed, the old circus performer Grant was as spry and nimble, as ever. The man was something. And, this ended things on a high note. Oh, and stay far, far away from the very poor remake Hollywood attempted to produce (The Truth About Charlie). Someone deserved to shot for that one.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Starbursts Are Not Leadership

... and if the Republican VP nominee winks at the camera just one more time, instead of answering a question, I'm going to puke. The more I see of her, the more I see another future Fox News TV analyst reading off the prompter. The folksy tales (you betcha) only go so far as the real effects of our global financial crisis have only started to hit, and our national debt skyrockets. And if I hear the word Maverick come out of her mouth just one more time, I'm gonna... (taking...deep...breath).

BTW, is it just me or do you not ever hear the Republican candidates ever mention the word Republican--or Bush--in their speeches, or debate answers. The only thing you hear is something like, "mistakes were made", or "we're going to look forward" instead of making any inference as to the disaster of the last eight years under the party of Lincoln. I'm old enough to remember when GOP candidates made valid points or self criticisms during the course of their election campaigns. Now it's simply talking points, bromides and truisms in response to questions that demand real answers. I'll get off my soapbox, for now.


Krugman has this thing pegged, unfortunately.