Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Survey of Film History, Parts V-XI; Also, Enthusiasm for Points and Points for Enthusiasm

The ghosts of cinema past haven't finished making their point yet:

Stage Door (1937) - has charm, a good performance by Kathryn Hepburn and the unexpected (by me) bonus of Lucille Ball in a supporting role.

The Thief of Baghdad (1924) - the earliest film on my list, and the second of only two silent films. It made number 9 on AFI's list of the Top 10 Fantasy movies. Overall, a good movie, and the special effects are impressive for the time. However, it lacks the skill of Charlie Chaplin's City Lights.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) - a thriller starring Humphrey Bogart. It made #31 on AFI's top 100 films of all time, and #6 on their Top 10 Mysteries. It didn't turn out to be exactly what I was expecting, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good movie.

Woman of the Year (1942), Holiday (1938) - two more Kathryn Hepburn movies; it's not a coincidence, she's the one actor I looked up by name when building this list. Woman of the Year was fairly good (with an extremely funny kitchen scene) but the ending lacked; of the two, I enjoyed Holiday much more. There are two categories of stage-to-screen adaptations: those directed like stage plays, and those directed like movies; Holiday falls into the former category, but doesn't really suffer for it.

It Happened One Night (1934) - starring Clark Gable, it made AFI's Top 10 Romantic Comedies (#3), Top 100 romances (#38) and Top 100 Movies (#46), and was also the first movie to win all of the five major Oscars: Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. I divide romances into three categories, in descending order: Films, Chick Flicks and Girl Movies. To list examples would be to admit that I have seen movies that fall into the Girl Movie category; I'll simply say that It Happened One Night is a Film. Recommended. Clark Gable also starred in the next movie on my list:

Gone With the Wind (1939) - although nearly four hours long, I found this movie surprisingly short. The historical aspects were interesting, some of the plot points less so. Of the ending, I will simply say: weak, very weak. On a scale from "Girl Movie" to "Recommended", this movie gets a "Worth Watching Once".

I surprised myself this week by getting very interested in the Olympics. The first hour of the opening ceremony was supreme artistry (watch the entire hour here), and on a couple of occasions I found myself involuntarily talking to the TV: first, during Alexander Artemev's pommel horse routine in the men's Gymnastics prelims (view the same routine from a different night here, at about 4:17) when he kept the US team in the running for a team medal — not once, but twice — and second, during the last few seconds of Michael Phelps' seventh gold medal race — the one he won by 0.01 seconds (view coverage here; watch the whole first four minutes of the video, including his mother's reaction). Sadly, NBC's obsession with Michael Phelps was also one of the low points of their Olympic coverage, as they insisted on asking every US gold medal swimmer how they felt about Phelps' performance, and even characterized the relay team's gold medal performace as being "for Michael" — to their faces.

Not quite so Olympian were the feats of advertising that went on in between the interesting stuff, the most outstanding example of which was a commercial for a certain electric company. The commercial featured a spokesperson who "loves to read" — an admirable trait to be sure, but she listed her three favorite genres as follows: "fiction, non-fiction, and autobiographies about people."

That reminds me: I'd like to point out that my favorite things to eat are food, beverages, and pineapples that are fruit. And if I can contrive to eat them while reading an autobiography about a pineapple, all the better.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008


As I was getting ready for work this morning, I heard my cats making the noises they only make when there is something to chase. Upon investigating, I discovered that what they were so interested in was the two inch long cockroach that had crawled in under the front door. Taking advantage of the distraction I provided, it ran and hid — under the heel of a shoe.

Problem solved.