Archive for May, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday.  I’m trying to decide if this would indeed be a good time to re-watch Live Free or Die Hard.

Or perhaps I should be outside sweeping up the leaves that were knocked down this morning…

The wonderful world of Mamet

I’ve been thinking about The Winslow Boy a lot recently.  It’s one of my favorite dramas, actually.  My love of the movie has far less to do with its setting (early 20th century England) than with its screenplay author and director, David Mamet.

I’ve grown to enjoy Mamet’s work more over time, even though much of it is rife with profanity (in fact, an article about him said that he uses the f-word so much in his writing that it’s known as the ‘Mamet-word’).  However, Mamet uses realistic dialogue, and has a good eye for cinematography.

He is probably better known as a screenwriter–he won awards for Glengarry Glen Ross–but he’s a wonderful director as well.  This comes out in The Winslow Boy.  The movie is a little stagey at first, but that’s not surprising since it’s based on a play, and it’s dealing with the rather ordinary lives of the Winslow family.  The opening scene has the family all returning from church and discussing topics ranging from the sermon to when their guests will arrive.

The meat of the story is about the youngest member of the Winslow family, Ronnie, who is supposed to be away at school.  The family soon finds out that he’s been expelled for something he claims not to have done.  This is the impetus of the movie–the father and the older sister make it their goal to see that justice is done.

This might sound like a bit of a drag, but The Winslow Boy is a wonderful movie.  It has a good script, good acting, crisp dialogue, believable characters, and some rather dry English humor.  It’s interesting that a man from Chicago was able to capture all of that so well.  And that’s why I like David Mamet.

Quote Quiz 5.27.11

The last quiz of May!

1.  ”Do not come between the Nazgul and his prey.” – Witch King of Angmar, The Return of the King

2.  ”I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille.” – Jim, Blazing Saddles

3.  ”What kind of jet?”  -  ”We don’t know-but it comes out of the basketball court.” – President and Stryker, X-2

4.  ”Well the first man comes along that can read Latin is welcome to rob us, far as I’m concerned. I’d like a chance t’ shoot at an educated man once in my life.” – Gus McCrae, Lonesome Dove

5.  ”Gather around, everyone. There’s ‘good noose’ tonight! It’s a double-header. A couple of Frollo’s spies. And not just any spies. His captain of the guards, and his loyal, bell-ringing henchman.” – Clopin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Favorites

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what type of movies are my favorites.  I really only have one answer to that: good ones.

One can argue that what defines a “good movie” varies from viewer to viewer, which is true.  I am talking, however, about movies I like.  I have a rather eclectic taste in movies, but what ties most of them together is that they have a purpose which they end up fulfilling.  For example, Robin Hood: Men in Tights is both a parody of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and of the Errol Flynn type of swash-buckling heroics.  Both purposes are fulfilled, and I can prove it with two lines from the movie: 1) “Because unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent,” and 2) “Ah, right rope!”

But even more vital for a good movie is a good plot.  As one of my college professors said, “You can have the best director, best actor, best costumes, best music, best special effects, but if you don’t have a story you don’t have anything.”

What he said.

Pirates 4.0

The Pirates of the Caribbean saga continues, but is it the same with a different director?

I don’t know if the change in director, moving from Gore Verbinski to Rob Marshall, made a big difference in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  However, the movie seemed to lack a cohesive plot.  What plot was there was driven by the extravagant use of special effects.

Does this mean I didn’t enjoy the movie?  No!  After all, Captain Barbossa and Captain Sparrow were up to their usual (no good), and brought along a whole crew.  I still think The Curse of the Black Pearl is the best of the POTC movies, but they all have a certain charm.

After all, it is amusing to see Sparrow swinging through palm trees, and to see Barbossa roaring around with a wooden leg.  My favorite line of the movie was said to Barbossa by Sparrow, about his leg: “You don’t have termites, do you?”

I think one thing that tied this new Pirates movie to the previous ones was the soundtrack, done by Hans Zimmer, one of the masters of movie soundtracks.  He wrote new pieces for this movie, but still used the same theme.

On Stranger Tides is an enjoyable (yet certainly not deep) movie.  Let the swash-buckling commence!

When the mind goes blank…

Do you ever have moments when you can’t remember the title of a movie, and it’s driving you crazy?  That usually happens to me when I don’t have access to a computer so I can’t check www.IMDb.com.

I usually remember the title (or the name of an actor) later, when it theoretically doesn’t matter any longer.  It makes me feel a right prat, but the feeling passes “most likely sooner than it should,” to paraphrase Mr. Bennett.

A legend turns 70

I’m straying a little bit from my usual topic to mention one of my favorite musicians who is turning seventy tomorrow.  That would be the one and only Bob Dylan.

I know some people dislike Dylan, but the truth is he’s influenced many, many other singers.  And his own work is amazing.  I’m always amazed at the range of his songs; from Girl from the North Country to Pressing On to Jokerman and everything in between.

Since Bob Dylan is so famous, there have been a number of movies made about him, most recently I’m Not There, which featured a number of actors portraying Dylan in different “stages.”  The movie was bizarre.  The fact that Cate Blanchett was the best Dylan is also a little ironic.

I’ve also watched Scorsese’s documentary, No Direction Home, which was interesting, but only covered Dylan’s early years.  There is another documentary of sorts called The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival. This one is interesting because it shows how much Dylan changed in a few years, to the point of being booed by some of his fans for *gasp* “going electric.”  The other nice thing about The Other Side of the Mirror is that it shows other artists of the time, particularly Joan Baez and Pete Seeger.  Of course, they can’t compete with Dylan!

Quote Quiz 5.21.11 – ANSWERS

1.  ”You, boy, are arrogant, hot tempered and entirely too bold. I like that. Reminds me of me.” – Porthos, The Three Musketeers

2.  ”What I want to do and what I do are two separate things. If we all went around doing what we wanted all the time, there’d be chaos.” – Simon, Simon Birch

3.  ”If music be the food of love, play on.” – Duke Orsino, Twelfth Night

4.  ”Now that’s a lie!” – Dr. Lightman, Lie To Me (repeated line)

Quick votes

I’m currently watching Upstairs Downstairs (the original).  It’s an interesting show, even though it took a while to get moving.  It seemed that the writers or actors had to somewhat settle into their roles.  But it’s enjoyable.

There are a number of characters, some of whom move through and come back.  I already have a few favorite characters.  From downstairs, Hudson and Rose.  From upstairs, the wonderful Mr. Bellamy.

Looking forward

Is it weird that I’m looking forward to Cowboys & Aliens more than the fourth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean?

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see POTC, especially since Geoffrey Rush has not been killed off (permanentaly, at least).  Captain Barbossa is one of my favorite characters.  He has some of the best lines, after all.  “We’re disinclined to acquiesce to your request.  Means no!”

However, I’m more curious about Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in a western.  Especially since they end up fighting aliens.  It could be epic, no?