Saturday, October 25, 2008

Surveys, a History of Film, a Survey of Film History (Parts XII-XIX), and Oh Yeah, People Can't Seem to Stop Stealing My Cable.

So I went and voted yesterday. On the way in, I was given a survey to keep me entertained while I waited in line; the survey was supposed to tell me what my political leanings are. That's the opposite of what I would have expected, but if you're curious you can take the same quiz online. There was also a guy there who was running for Congress by standing one foot outside the line beyond which no campaigning is allowed (X feet from the polling location) and handing out fliers that said essentially nothing about him. It was a moot point, because as it turns out he is a Democrat and I live two blocks outside his district.

Also this week I had the joy once again of being robbed of services legally mine by right of purchase. There is something about the apartment upstairs that drives people to patch into my cable. The first of my neighbors did it twice, necessitating two visits from a cable technician to restore my service (both times he removed a splitter from my line, which was later replaced with a new one "accidentally"). The new residents also found it more convenient to put a splitter on my line than to pay for service of their own. A technician once again removed a splitter from the line four weeks ago. Most recently, I removed another splitter from the line myself earlier this week, hoping to avoid the three day wait for a technician to come out. No such luck, because as it turns out, this was no ordinary piracy. This time, the thieves upstairs moved out (it's interesting to note that with less than four weeks remaining in the apartment, they still felt the need to resume stealing my cable) and, having decided they were done stealing from me, somehow managed to have a cable technician come out and disconnect my service altogether. That, at least, is what the technician found when he came out three days later to check out the problem. So the irony is that at the exact moment I noticed my service go out, there was a technician 100 feet away actively disconnecting it.

Finally, over the past couple of months I have managed to make further progress in my survey of film history (via my Blockbuster queue), but that same progress will likely be soon undone. I say that because on the second to last day of my vacation, it rained for 12 hours. Coincidentally, that same day the owner of the B&B I was staying at, knowing I am interested in film, had brought me a book she had run across at the local library. It was a 300-and-something page coffee table book, American Cinema: One Hundred Years of Filmmaking, by Jeanine Basinger; I read the entire book. It began with an analysis of the aspect of filmed storytelling that fascinates me most, the use of the "invisible" technical aspects of filming to manipulate the audience and further the story, but pulled a bait-and-switch and became a detailed history of the development of the film industry and the Hollywood studio system. Still very interesting, but not quite as interesting as listening to someone agree with me for 12 hours. The author said many things in the first two chapters that I agree with, and I'm still wishing I could have read the book that should have followed them. In any case, thanks to that book I may now be adding as many as 16 new movies to my queue. Movies seen since the last update:

Two very similar movies in Gentleman's Agreement (1947), starring Gregory Peck, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), starring Jimmy Stewart. Taken on face value, these two movies may not seem that similar; Gentleman's Agreement is about a reporter who goes "undercover" as a Jew to write a story about anti-semitism, while Mr. Smith is the much-loved classic about a Boy Scout leader appointed to congress; however, both tell the story of a passionate individual encountering corruption and fighting to stop it. Where the two films diverge the most is in my opinion of them: Gentleman's Agreement was spectacular; Mr. Smith was barely mediocre. The reason, I think, is that Mr. Smith is a wide-eyed, golly-gee love poem to a hyper-idealized version of the founding fathers and American democracy; it's more of an over-dramatized PSA than a story. Gentleman's Agreement on the other hand takes a (comparatively) realistic and very human perspective on a very human problem; it very much deserved its three Oscar wins (including Best Picture) and its five additional nominations.

I also surprised myself by very much liking Casablanca (1942); I honestly didn't expect to.

The Philadelphia Story (1940), starring Kathryn Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart. Entertaining and well-made; recommended.

Also viewed: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Brief Encounter (1945), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941). These movies were all good, but not particularly outstanding.

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